30 August 2005

The Candy Guy - Parts VI and VII

Li'l something for the Richard fans out there...

Hey Sara, just got your latest package, and I thank you for it.

All is well here, and everyone that wanted an Angel is getting one. Thanks a million! Your organization is really, really appreciated by everyone here. It is helping us soldiers personally, and it is helping our entire mission.

Us medics have routine medcaps, where we see hundreds of Iraqis in one day. We give them meds and blankets and things. And we give out ya'lls candy. This gives them a favorable impression of us, and makes them less likely to support terrorism against us.

You are a part of this and are saving American lives - thanks.

Write you later, Richard....

Hey Sara, there is one more soldier here that you could add to the Soldiers' Angels list, if you would.

He is not a medic but is in one of the line companies that regularly goes out on missions. A real good fellow, through and through. He is another one of the gunners that loves to give candy out to the kids. This would make his day to have a constant supply of candy and stuff sent to him to give out to the kids.

We were out on patrol today and he was there above me, in the gunner hatch, giving out his own candy, and some of the candy I gave him to give out. After he was finished he looked down at me and said: "that sure was fun!"

When we got back in, today, he repeated this same statement, about how much fun he had giving out the candy. This would make it for him, the rest of the time he is here, if he has a supply of candy to throw out to the kids.

The people here, by the way, are very friendly toward us, and ya'll are helping us strive to keep it this way. It is August now, and only a year ago there was a major war with the people here.

Well, thanks a lot again.

If you would like to send some hard candy to Richard for him to hand out please email me.

Contributed by:
Sara of Soldiers' Angels USA and "her" soldier Richard from Iraq

29 August 2005

Where's Noah?

"There he is!", said Tim, pointing.

From left: Tim, Willie, Noah, and me.

Last week we found out from Noah’s Mom at Soldier’s Mom and Matt at Blackfive that Noah had been injured in a VBIED attack in Iraq.

It was now Saturday, and we'd been trying to track down Noah for two days. The day before at LRMC we were told he was at the Kleber outpatient barracks about 15 minutes from the hospital. This afternoon at Kleber they told us he had been sent back to the outpatient barracks adjacent to LRMC.

We had spent most of the afternoon visiting the outpatients at Kleber and by 6pm we were getting anxious. Today was our last chance to find Noah, and it was getting late. I put in a call and got connected to Noah's room. His roommate Tim answered the phone. Being the good guy that he is, Tim took my number and said he would give Noah the message. "He's gone over to the hospital, not sure how long he'll be gone." We waited until 6.30 and then decided to just drive over to LRMC and take our chances.

When we got to the Post gate and called again, there was no answer at Noah's and Tim's room. Willie decided it was time to throw ourselves at the mercy of the guards. Well, Angels are truly everywhere because one of the guards offered to drive over to the barracks, find Tim, and bring him back to sign us in. 15 minutes later we're driving through Post with Tim (did I mention he’s a good guy?). Our plan was to wait for Noah in the lounge of the barracks.

After all this action, Tim and I needed a smoke before going in. It was then that Tim spotted Noah across the street on his way back from the hospital. Willie and I saw a figure with a neck brace in a wheelchair and began waving and yelling like a couple of idiots.

Noah waved back, popped a wheelie, barrelled across the street (narrowly missing a passing vehicle), down the parking lot, came to a screeching halt in front of us and jumped out of the wheelchair.

Ok, I exaggerate a bit. But if you've ever met Noah, you'll understand.

"We're from Soldiers' Angels, and Mom sent us!", we said and gave him a big hug. Then we gave him the backpack, a Soldiers’ Angels coin, and the Teddy Bear we brought.

It was a warm summer evening so we hung out in front of the barracks with Noah, talking and smoking. Another soldier was grilling on the BBQ, and others wandered in and out for a smoke and a chat.

Noah talked about the attack... and about the hospital in Iraq and the medevac flight to Germany. He told us about his buddy, whom he had been visiting over at the hospital. We talked about his treatment and his prognosis. He removed the brace and showed us the swelling on his neck. We examined the stitches on his head. We talked about skateboarding and girls. We asked when he last called Mom ;-)

It was almost 8.30pm now, and time for us to get back to Kleber. As we left we turned around for one last look and there was Noah, pushing his wheelchair with the backpack and the Teddy Bear towards the door of the barracks.

Soldier’s Mom has an update – she’s coming to Germany.

27 August 2005

Cati and Ray: A Love Story

Ray is a deployed Soldier who misses his kids. Cati is a little girl who misses her deployed Soldier Dad. It was love at first sight.

These photos taken yesterday at Kleber Outpatient Barracks in Germany.








24 August 2005

Home Worthy of the Hero

If you haven't read Michelle Malkin or Instapundit today, you might have missed this story from Gateway Pundit about the homecoming of Lance Corporal Timothy Maguire on Tuesday night in Festus, MO.

The Welcome Home parade for Maguire, who was wounded 2 months after arriving in Iraq, started as a small gathering but ended up drawing hundreds to the streets of the small rural town south of St. Louis.

Go over and read the whole thing, and make sure to watch the video.

23 August 2005

"Support our troops, make their home worthy of them."

As Ralph Peters notes in his NY Post column today, it’s been a while since we’ve heard the latest on Army recruitment numbers. In the spring, media coverage of recruitment shortfalls was everywhere.

And now? Overall year to date, first-time enlistment and re-enlistment rates are all at over 100% of targets.

Guess we have to face it: Patriotism is alive and well. Soldiers believe in the Army, and they believe in their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. They love their comrades, too. And yes, the word is "love." They would die for the man or woman serving beside them. They're risking their lives to save a broken state, to give tens of millions of human beings a chance at decent lives, to do the grim work that no one else in the world is willing to do.

Their reward? The Cindy Sheehan Extravaganza. Predictions of disaster. The depiction of Michael Moore as a hero and our soldiers as dupes. And a ceaseless attempt to convince the American people that there's no hope in Iraq.

The ugly truth is that much of the media only cares about our soldiers when they're dead or crippled. That's a story.

As you read this, 500,000 soldiers are on active duty because they chose to serve their country. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Reservists and Guard members have been called into uniform. And they're all behaving as true soldiers do: Running toward the sound of the guns, not away from them.

We should be humbled by their choices, honored by their sacrifices, and proud of what they're fighting to achieve. Instead of the jerk's refrain "Support our troops, bring them home," the line should run "Support our troops, make their home worthy of them."

Our young men and women in uniform — in every service — deserve far better than we've given them.

Read the whole thing.

22 August 2005

The Candy Guy - Part V

Last night we went down this narrow alley and stopped when some kids threw rocks and nearly hit the gunner on my vehicle, who stands up through the roof of the hum-v, next to a 50 cal. machine gun. So we stopped to find out why they were throwing rocks. I got out and was standing guard by the truck.

These kids came up to me and all started carrying on. They all shook hands with me and were all laughing. One kept saying, over and over, "I love you, and my father and mother love you: we all love you." Another gave us the thumbs up and said, “Yeeeaaahh Bush! Down with Saddam!" And they just kept on and kept on with saying things like this.

And, believe it or not, but this is very typical of the people here. They are totally prospering and are very happy with what we have done for them. As we road down the dark alley, that was lined with hundreds of Iraqis, they all started cheering us. It was pretty incredible. ....

We went out today and went down another very narrow road and stopped and I pulled guard again. Not much happened, except me and Sgt. B. - that they call "Old Fart," and who is a Vietnam vet - got to talking about French quarters and Bourbon street in New Orleans. We got on this subject because the closest thing that the U.S. has that looks anything like it is here is French Quarters in New Orleans. So I am telling ya'll this to give you an idea of what this city is like. It is many open markets and is barely room to drive down many of the roads and back alleys. People are everywhere, and donkeys and donkey carts with their riders too.

Last night, right next to us, and down a very dark alley, I heard the most awful racket. It wound up being this donkey that was standing there, all by himself, and he was braying with the most awful racket I have ever heard before. You could hear him everywhere, he was so loud.

The sides of the narrow roads are loaded with open markets and people. I was standing by a bread bakery today, when we got out. They make flat bread and throw it against a stone wall to flatten it before they put it in the oven to bake. It taste really good, you ask me.

So this is what it is like here: like French Quarters in New Orleans.

The people are well fed, too, and seem very content with their lives, if not happy. It is a very, very close-knit society, and is something that we have seemed to have lost in the U.S., in many respects.

Well, ya'll, I better cut it short here, and I need to go. Was just letting ya'll know what all goes on here.

Oh yeah: all that candy many of you send me: I have given loads of it out at med-caps, in our aid station when they come in, and sometimes just individually, when I go on missions.

If you would like to send some hard candy to Richard for him to hand out please email me.

Contributed by:
Sara of Soldiers' Angels USA and "her" soldier Richard from Iraq

“If I have to explain patriotism to somebody, they will never understand anyway”

Soldiers' Angel Connie received these comments today from a deployed Soldier in response to yesterday’s Washington Post article about CPT Ziegenfuss and Soldiers’ Angels.

A very nice article and good press for a good organization that is doing its best at being a friend with a helping hand. It is warming to know that there are still people like you that do care and share the time and patience needed to deal with people that they do not know.

Angels like you are the example I will tell my children about, when I try to explain what makes this country great and why I chose to do what I could by serving in the military.

They may ask me why I did this while looking at someone that spends all their time trying to gain wealth and power without ever giving anything back. They may see someone else that just likes to protest about the war and calls the soldiers baby killers and war-mongers. I have had people that wanted to start a fight over the fact that I was a soldier saying that anything I did was wrong and how could I support this administration.

I mostly just walk away because I feel that if I have to try to explain patriotism to someone then they will never understand anyway. There are people that I often feel should be moved to these countries so they can see for themselves what it is like over here and they might catch a glint of what my pride in America is based on.

I love to have people like YOU that serve with pride in the way that you can, even if it is not in the service, you are serving your country.

Thank you for the article and God Bless you All!

21 August 2005

Washington Post on The Angel and the Milblogger

Staff Writer Neely Tucker tells this story (free registration required) about a Soldiers’ Angel and wounded Milblogger CPT Charles “Chuck” Ziegenfuss.

The captain was airborne somewhere between Germany and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest Washington, he was badly injured, and she knew almost nothing about him.

Kathleen Bair, a human resources manager for a Baltimore bookbinding company, made child-care arrangements for her two sons, 16 and 9, on that day in late June, canceled her hair appointment and drove the 45 minutes to the hospital.

Capt. Charles Ziegenfuss had arrived. He was on a stretcher in intensive care. An explosion in Iraq had blown him open three days before.

She sat beside him for hours. When he could open his eyes, she told him his family was on the way. Then she sat down again, waiting.

"It doesn't have to be a lot," says Bair, who is 44, the daughter of a man who served in the Army, and a volunteer for Soldiers' Angels, a California-based nonprofit. "Sometimes it's just holding their hands and when they say, 'It hurts,' you just squeeze and say, 'I know.' "

"I almost never get a no when I ask for something," says Patti Patton-Bader, who founded Soldiers' Angels in 2003 when her son was shipped out for the war. She has since enlisted more than 40,000 volunteers across the country to do everything from write letters to donate computers, backpacks and kevlar blankets to troops in the field. "Companies or individuals. You tell them it's for soldiers, and they'll just do it."

Bair, coming down after work or on weekends, brought the two women [CPT Ziegenfuss’ mother and wife] everything from toothbrushes to sandwiches. She got Soldiers' Angels to arrange for domestic help for Carren's sister while Chuck and Carren's kids were staying with her. When Ziegenfuss emerged from the fog of pain medication, Soldiers' Angels got him a computer -- and, because of his heavily bandaged left hand, where he lost a pinky, added voice-activated software. He got back online with his popular blog. It's gotten 90,000 hits in the past three months.

For Bair, the relationship is winding down. There are other soldiers she looks in on, other wounds to mend. None of it will change the world. Hand-holding and sandwiches and toothbrushes rarely do.

They just make it a little more bearable, these acts of kindness from strangers in a time of war, these things that bind us.

BZ, Kathleen. You are one special Angel.

17 August 2005

Strike Swiftly

Pam at Iraq War Today posts this sad news about the loss of three more members of the Soldiers’ Angels extended family.

1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment
Army National Guard, Calhoun, Georgia

Please consider making a donation to the Soldiers' Angels Foundation Living Legends Project which honors fallen heroes by providing living trees to their families.

16 August 2005

The Candy Guy, Part IV

Another installment from Richard, the "Candy Guy", in Iraq.

Hey ya'll, just wanted to do a quick write-up for everyone.

We went out this morning to the IP station in our city. I had a bunch of candy, from the Soldiers' Angels, that needed giving out. So I gave our gunner D. the box to throw out of the gunner hatch as we rode by the houses down the road, on the corner by the school. Every morning they are waiting for us there.

They all have very colorful clothes on - esp the little girls. I have just learned that the further you are out in the country the more colorful is the clothes, and the colors often signify what tribe they belong to. This was from my Iranian friend back in the U.S.. I have noticed this, and the further we get in the country, the brighter their clothes become, and even some of the grown women wear them.

But these kids are really cute, and they stand on the side of the road, every morning, just waiting for us: their entire lives revolve around this. And this is because we always throw them stuff. Our driver, R., told D., "only give it to the little girls, they don't never get anything!" And this is what I always do when I am out: the girls are oppressed in this society, and only give it to them.

I am being run off the comp and will have to finish this in a min.. Richard...

If you would like to send some hard candy to Richard for him to hand out please email me.

Contributed by:
Sara of Soldiers' Angels USA and "her" soldier Richard from Iraq

15 August 2005

Project Valour IT

Soldiers’ Angels is proud to announce the launch of Project Valour IT which will provide voice-controlled software and laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations at major military medical centers in the United States and Germany.

Operating laptops by speaking into a microphone, our wounded heroes are able to send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the Internet, and communicate with buddies still in the field without having to press a key or move a mouse. Read about the experience of CPT Charles "Chuck” Ziegenfuss, a blogger and partner in the project who suffered hand wounds while serving in Iraq, which illustrates how important this voice-controlled software can be to a wounded servicemember's recovery.

11 August 2005

The Candy Guy, Part III

Via Sara from Soldiers' Angels, another email from Richard the "Candy Guy" providing a glimpse of the Iraqi experience from one of our heroes.

I have written before on this subject, and established that I don't know which I would rather be if I had but two choices: either be an Iraqi woman or an Iraqi donkey. They are both worked to death and beaten pretty regular.

When I get out and give out any candy I try my best to fully discriminate and give as much to the little girls and none to the little boys. This may be mean, but...

We were out last week by the IP (Iraqi Police) station. There was a house there and this Iraqi female teenager was looking out the window at us. She was really pretty. She didn't have on her crow suit but had on what looked like regular clothes. We motioned for her to come down and talk with us but she shook her head no, and gave us the cut off your head sign, running her clinched fist - like she was holding a knife - all the way across her throat. And that is what they will do to them if they talk with us: either beat them or cut off their heads: consequently, the women here are terrified of their own men. Her brother came out and we learned from him that his sister, in the window above us, was seventeen years old. She waved at us for a while and then disappeared into the house.

A while back I was out with the scouts. The IPs were close by, but a group of teenage girls - all in their crow suits - stopped by and talked with us for a while. When the IPs saw this they came running toward them and hollared at them and waved them off. They were pretty ticked about this. But then the unexpected happened: all three girls, in real good English, lit into the IPs and dog cussed them like I have never heard anybody cussed before. I thought, despite the fact they would probably be beaten for this: good for you!

We went through ancient Babylon yesterday. The modern city there is Hilla. There, some of the women don't wear the crow suits and they are really beautiful, as is their very colorful clothes they wear. I have a pic of two on the side of the road. They wore long skirts that were full of color, and one was black with a big white flower painted on it. It is a shame they destroy this with those ugly crow suits for the most part. They both had on head scarves, however. But the scarves are very colorful as well, and I have bought a bunch of them and sent them home. In Babylon we can see, from the road, all the big mounds - or tells - where the ancient ruins are. It is pretty neat. These big and little tels are everywhere in this region. Saddam Hussein reconstructed old Babylon, where the ruins are, there.

Well, got to go, and will write back later. Richard....

If you would like to send some hard candy to Richard for him to hand out please email Sara.

Contributed by:
Sara of Soldiers' Angels USA and "her" soldier Richard from Iraq

07 August 2005

“Look around, stand up, do something to help.”

Interview with the founder of Soldiers’ Angels

That statement is typical of Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers’ Angels. Patti has started an organization that is about empowerment: “get involved, take control” is another quote from this interview. She goes on to say that cash donations from companies and individuals are wonderful, but what she really wants to see is people putting together their own care packages, writing letters, and really “adopting a new family member”.

Find out more about this virtual community of over 40,000 Angels and the teams who send out 9000 letters each month, plant trees in memory of fallen soldiers, assist military families, and have even started a Soldiers’ Angels Coffee Shop in Iraq.

Milblogger Blackfive has also written a wonderful tribute to Patti called, “If it wasn’t for her…” which is a must read.

03 August 2005

The Candy Guy, Part II

Thanks to all of you who have helped Richard and his medics by sending candy for the Iraqi children they medically treat and see while on missions.

Here is another email from Richard.

Am back. I have time limit on these comps, esp in this new FOB.

But these kids are funny, running down the road, chasing the trucks, just like dogs would back in Mississippi: never been chased by a dog here, though, by the way. As we neared the corner, where it ran into the main road all the kids came running out toward us. And D. was throwing the candy out of the gunner hatch. R. hollered out, "Hey D., throw it to that little girl in the pink there, she don't never get anything. We come by here everyday and that little girl never has gotten anything yet." This little girl - about five or six - was standing on the side of the road by herself, with only a pair of pink shorts on. So D. threw her a load of candy.

This one time we were out by the river, out in the country, and I saw one of the funniest things. We were driving down the road in the late day when we passed through this village. And it was kids everywhere. It was like an entire village of nothing but children, running wild and crazy: but there was a couple of adults, every here and there, stuck someplace. We were riding down this dirt road way out there when all these kids saw us and took off running for the vehicles. Of course the gunners were throwing them stuff.

I looked out my window, and as we were riding slow, there was this wild haired boy running right next to me: if I could have opened the window I could have reached out and touched him. And he kept running and kept running, for a good mile down the road. We got going faster and I couldn't see him anymore, but the funniest thing: the sun was setting and I could see this wild haired shadow running right beside me, instead of the kid. Every time we would slow up some this kid would reappear, then disappear when we got going faster. But his shadow, somehow, kept up with the vehicle, for another mile, and every now and then the kid would pop up by the door of the hum-v. The last thing I saw of him was that wild haired shadow, and then he was gone. It was really funny, and no Mississippi dog chasing cars has anything on these younguns!

They were shooting out by the IP station today. But there is shooting all over the place in this entire country all the time. Here in this city there is Wedding/Funeral Thursday, and is the day they marry their wives and bury their mother-in laws. And they do this with celebratory fire, just like us shooting fireworks back in U.S.

They are running me off comp again, so, later, Richard...

If you would like to send some hard candy to Richard for him to hand out please email Sara.

Contributed by:
Sara of Soldiers' Angels USA and "her" soldier Richard from Iraq

Fair Winds and Following Seas

02 August 2005

In Memory of PFC Gunnar Becker

From left: Jason Smith, Gunnar, Mike Phelan. Thanks to Gunnar's Mom Debey for the photo.

Pfc. Gunnar Becker

Gunnar, I did not know you,
not really, just your picture focused and composed
You were a friend of a friend, a name.
You wouldn't know me, we never even met.

Gunnar, I do not know why your death broke my heart,
maybe it was the light I saw in your eyes.
Your face was young, smiling gently in the setting desert sun,
You could have been my friend, short time ago, sitting next to me in class.

Maybe it was your age Gunnar,
19, just a few months older than me.
I know how many dreams I have yet to see.
You've already done so much more in life than me.

Maybe it was the tears that welled in my eyes.
In your uniform you looked brave and strong,
Death should have simply passed you by,
how could you just be gone?

Probably it is all these things, little pieces at a time.
My broken, unknown heart a testimony to your life.
The sight of your flag draped casket still brings tears to my eyes.
All we have left now are your words, your face, our pride.

Gunnar, I wish you could have known in life, all the people that you touched.
I read once you said that if some people had to die to bring freedom, it was probably worth it.
Gunnar, the red in this flag is for you, and I will work to make your words true.
Gunnar, I miss you, I miss even though I did not know you.

Gunnar, you can rest now soldier,
Your job on earth is through.
In Memory, this is for you.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
~Ronald Reagan

Contributed by Soldiers' Angel Amber.

Update 18Aug05:
Blog from Gunnar's Mom

01 August 2005

The Candy Guy

Thanks to all of you who have helped Richard and his medics by sending candy for the Iraqi children they medically treat and see while on missions. Here is a bittersweet story about a family with a terminally ill child.

Was just letting ya'll know what all goes on here. Oh yeah, all that candy many of you send me: I have given loads of it out at med-caps, in our aid station when they come in, and sometimes just individually, when I go on missions. Didn't have any last night, unfortunately.

A couple of days ago this father with his son and daughter came to our aid station. The little boy, who was around two or three, has this strange skin condition that is caused by something else, and I need to find out about it before I can explain it. Our doc had to tell the father there is no hope for the child and the condition would soon lead to his death.

They all looked very sad. But I fixed a bag of candy and gave it to the little girl. She sucked on her sucker for a minute and then gave it to her young brother. He really enjoyed it, and I got a good pic of him sucking on the candy, that I will have to send ya'll. His face is ate up with the diseases, and it is really sad. But the candy brought him that moment of joy.

Thanks all, ya'll, and later... Richard....

If you would like to send some hard candy to Richard for him to hand out please email Sara.

Contributed by:
Sara of Soldiers' Angels USA and "her" soldier Richard from Iraq