30 January 2007

"I chose to be here"

Here are some thoughts from a Soldier on the ABC piece recently discussed here in which Some Soldier's Mom appeared with an anti-war Mom. At the end of the piece, Soldiers' Angel and Army Mom Sara Ehrlich was given her own segment to eloquently explain why supporting our fighting men and women is so important.

It was sent via email to Sara from Jeleena, a heavy wheeled vehicle operator who convoys fuel, cargo, and personnel between bases in Iraq.

I just want to say a few things [about the ABC piece in which you appeared].

As a Soldier, I knew what I was signing up for when I joined the Army. It wasn't for college money, to travel, or to meet new people. Although those are great incentives. It was to fight a war. To defend our country at the drop of a hat when needed. The Army used to train you for active duty, but those times have changed, we train for war.

I joined July of '03 and we all know what happened on Sept. 11th, 2001. We knew something had to be done. We are America. It seems to me that when we're fighting, defending, or serving our country, this is when we are the strongest as people. Some soldiers will say they joined for citizenship, others so they can support their families, but when they sat down with the recruiter it was a job interview. He asked questions, they answered, he told them they could have the job and they said yes, when they still had the opportunity to say no.

I can only speak for myself and my family, but I know that everyone in my family didn't think it was a good idea. But I chose to be here when I swore in. I am here for whatever the Army asks of me. Who knows what may happen to me while here, but I tell my family and friends don't hold any feelings against the military or our President if something is to happen to me.

There was no draft. I said yes. Being a service member is a 24/7 thing. It's not turned off because you're a Reservist or in the National Guard. And I think a lot of parents of soldiers and soldiers themselves need to take a minute and realize the reason we're free is because of war. It's all about sacrifice. I love America. And although I may not agree or understand a lot of the things the military does or says, I said yes. And so did every other Soldier, Marine, Airman, and Seaman...

I could go on forever, but simply put we all said yes when we didn't have to. There is always a choice...

Jeleena serving our country in Iraq.

Jeleena, thank you for your service, and thank you for giving me permission to share your thoughts. Stay safe over there.

29 January 2007

Telling the Story

This is the second piece contributed by reader and friend Robert Connolly. Bob's first post was Morale and our Mission.

There is a wonderful post at Andi’s World where she relates the difficulties of whether to accept MSM interview invitations. She notes the use of ambush tactics, and relates the tale of one soldier’s mother who was forced to hold her own in a very difficult situation. Andi also relates two other incidents in the same vein.

In my line of work (professor of finance and economics), I have had periods where I was fielding interview requests fairly frequently (sometimes several in a week). I won't do television interviews any more, and I have gotten pretty particular about print media requests, too. Why? I have been at this for a while now (1981 and counting), so I have had a chance to see changes in this print vs. television interviewing for a whole generation. In a nutshell, print media can occasionally be educated that their premise behind their questions (i.e., how the thought the story should work) was simply wrong. It is harder to persuade them now than it was 25 years ago, but it can be done. That's why I will talk to some of them.

In my experience, local television reporters are absolutely worthless. They are all invariably pretty (even the men), but have no grasp of anything more complex than a lunch menu. So, when your answers don't fit the script, they will walk away, or even worse, edit the interview in such a way as to twist words to fit their script. That's why I won't do interviews with them any longer. Period. No. More.

[Sidenote: I did a interview with a producer for Aaron Brown’s since-cancelled evening news program on CNN right after Hurricane Katrina. It was OK, but it took a while to get them off their tangent. Now, if they called me for any reason other than to apologize profusely for putting jihadist propaganda on the air and to beg forgiveness for such a callous and traitorous act, I would tell them, GO. TO. HELL!]

In my line of work, there really isn't anything all that serious at stake. If I had responsibility for speaking about military families and related issues, I think I would feel really stuck. Local television isn't to be trusted (I suspect most people with direct military connections might feel the same way about the network reporters, too), but how are we to tell the stories that need telling? Radio, newspapers, and movies did this sort of work in WWII, so the issue never arose in quite the way we see now. Blogs are great, but way too many people rely on local and network television news programs for an understanding of issues. The Department of Defense has been wrestling with these issues, but has not been successful in providing a regular, credible alternative to local and MSM television nonsense.

Perhaps you might have suggestions and ideas on how to handle these situations. If you do, drop by Andi’s World and leave your thoughts. We should be helping out those who speak so eloquently in the cause of supporting our military personnel and their families.

Bob can be reached via email or you may leave him a comment below.

28 January 2007

Soldiers' Angels Mourns Col. Brian D. Allgood

From Terri of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen Hero from Soldiers' Angels, Col. Brian D. Allgood.

Col. Allgood and 11 other soldiers died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 20, when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter they were in crashed.

Col. Allgood, 46, of Oklahoma, who was assigned to the 30th Medical Brigade, Europe Regional Medical Command, Heidelberg, Germany.

He is survived by his wife, Jane and 11 yr old son, Wyatt who live in Germany, and his parents, retired Col. Gerald Allgood and Cleo.


“It was evident to me from the moment I met him that he was an incredibly capable and remarkably dedicated military officer and medical professional,” Col. Jonathan Fruendt, who served under Allgood in Iraq, said in remarks he made on behalf of [Gen. George] Casey.

Under difficult circumstances in Iraq, Allgood “provided rock-solid leadership with an aura of calm orderliness in an environment that was anything but calm or orderly,” Fruendt said.

After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1982, he went to medical school, became an orthopedic surgeon and served in a number of challenging assignments, including as commander of the Army hospital at his alma mater.

For the last six months he served as the top U.S. medical officer in Iraq as command surgeon for Multi-National Force-Iraq in Baghdad.

Source: Stars & Stripes

The Patriot Guard Riders are standing by to ride for Col. Brian D. Allgood.

Remember our Heroes.

25 January 2007

Army Strong

More SOTU thoughts from MasterGunner
I think his speech has even more meaning to Soldiers who are fighting on the front lines of the War on Terror, especially when seen in the context of the time we are living in. ( ... )

I was thinking about the huge contradiction in our culture as Americans, about a nation founded on courage and loyalty, and the cries to run away like frightened children.

And I was perplexed at the huge disparity between the thousands and thousands of US Soldiers who want to stay and fight, and a loud segment of the American public who no longer supports our efforts. ( ... )

So why does the American Soldier, who feels the sting of War more than anyone else, grind it out here in Iraq? Why don’t they just opt out of reenlisting?

Why, back at home station, do they reenlist to stay with units who are already confirmed to be on orders to deploy back to Iraq?

Find out why.

Two regular Army Moms on TV discussing the war...

...only one of them isn't.

Turns out it was Barbara Boxer’s friend, Anne Roesler (thanks MaryAnn for the heads up!) not to mention Nancy Pelosi’s darling. While there was a small legend that appeared and quickly disappeared under Ms. Roesler’s picture, turns out that Anne Roesler is no ordinary, average “military mom”, but a practiced anti-war speaker and writer -- AND HAS BEEN SINCE BEFORE THE WAR ACTUALLY BEGAN. And -- as it turns out -- not just any anti‑war speaker, but a member Military Families Speak Out, a contributor at MichaelMoore.com… a friend of Ms Sheehan… and she’s also a spokesperson for United for Peace & Justice. She’s even been honored as a “social activist” by the Communist Party.

Some Soldier's Mom tells about the encounter here.

24 January 2007

The Best SOTU Wrapup

Is here at Jules Crittenden.

I don't get to watch these events live; they're on in the middle of the night here. I read the transcripts the next day, then feel like I'm in another world when I turn on the TV.

Jules' piece at PJM was closest to my pre-TV take.


Rudy, where are you when we need you?

Remember CompStat?

Are the Iraqi security forces honestly making any progress at all, or are they (and thus, we) right back where we started? Are they truly standing up or are we merely propping them up a la Weekend at Bernies 2? What happens after we finally remove the training wheels; will they fall flat on their faces? Or can we expect I.A. Joe to still be riding a Big Wheel when he's 30?

The answer to all this is a resounding... kinda/sorta/maybe/not really.

Buck Sergeant explains.

"Dear Soldier... "

Samantha Anderson and Taylor Pearson

Dear Soldier,

The letter you are holding in your hands (or being read to you) contains some holiday cheer. At the beginning of this holiday season, we started a fundraiser called Cards Connecting Families.

With the help of our community business owners and the individuals surrounding us, we raised over $2,500. With that money, we bought 235 phone cards for you and many of the other soldiers overseas.

We did this to show our courage and commitment, just like you do.

Have a happy holiday and a happy New Year!!!

With Love,

Samantha Anderson and Taylor Pearson
7th grade students at South Middle School
Grand Forks, North Dakota

HOOAH! and thank you Samantha and Taylor on behalf of the patients at Landstuhl hospital who received your phone cards via Soldiers' Angels Germany.

More thanks to Soldiers’ Angels Tri-State Manager, Shelle Michaels, and Officer Sue Shirek of the Grand Forks Police Department.

The Grand Forks PD teaches a variety of programs to local schools. The assignment for this class was to create a project that would involve the students with the community. Samantha Anderson and Taylor Pearson chose to do a fundraiser to purchase phone cards for the wounded soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

On Thursday, December 21, 2006 Shelle Michaels and North Dakota Army National Guard SFC Mike Selnes presented a very well-deserved award to the girls for their outstanding dedication and commitment to our wounded service members.

Soldiers' Angels Mourns Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph D. Alomar

From Renee of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen Hero from Soldiers' Angels, Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph D. Alomar.

Joseph, 22, of Brooklyn, N.Y., died in a non-combat related incident Jan. 17, 2007, at Camp Bucca, Iraq, where he was assigned to the Navy Provisional Detention Battalion. His death was not the result of hostile action, but occurred in a hostile fire zone.

Joseph is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and 5 yr old daughter, Jalleeha. He is also survived by 7 siblings and his stepmother Aileen Encarnacion of Cypress Hills.


On Thursday afternoon, two officers disclosed the news of Alomar's passing to his stepmother, Aileen Encarnacion, 39, who raised him since the age of 4 and still lives at his childhood home in Cypress Hills. The family's living room is adorned with trophies from his days playing high school baseball and basketball.

Also at the home were three of Alomar's seven siblings and three step-siblings. Alomar's wife, Jennifer, who could not be reached, and 5-year-old daughter Jalleeha live in Virginia Beach, Va.

Sabrina Figueroa, 15, last heard from her brother, who she called "Little Joey," on Jan. 14 in an e-mail. She said he wrote to his younger sister, affectionately calling her "Brina," about how proud he was to have "such a pretty sister."

"He was a good brother and now a good hero," Figueroa said. "With Little Joey, there's nobody that didn't like him."

Source: Newsday.com

The Patriot Guard Riders are standing by to ride for Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph D. Alomar.

Please take a moment to read the Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph D. Alomar tribute at the Soldiers' Angels Fallen Heroes blog.

Remember our Heroes.

23 January 2007

Hero's Highway

This video, "Balad ER Trauma Time", was created by one of Soldiers' Angels POCs at Balad upon her return home.

Soldiers' Angels is honored to support these incredible men and women.

If you would like to help, email Roger, Soldiers' Angels Tactical Medical Support Director, or make a tax-deductable donation to Soldiers' Angels.

Cpl Christopher Trevino - Returned to Duty

I know many of you are interested in follow ups about wounded troops who pass through Germany.

I recently received this note from Rose Trevino, mother of Cpl Christopher Trevino. Chris was treated at Landstuhl after suffering a fractured vertebrae as the result of an IED blast in October of last year.

She has given me permission to share it here.

The kids gave us this photo of the four of them for Christmas! Best gift we could ever get!
Top: Anthony, turned 16 in December. Christina, 18, begins second semester at SPC next week. Bottom: Crystal, 24, great mom, wife & daughter and works at the dispute resolution center since she was 16. Seated: Christopher, 25, good husband, dad, son and active United States Marine.

Wanted to let ya'll know that Christopher took off Thursday morning of last week to Camp Pendleton in California. He arrived safely on Saturday afternoon. It took him longer than expected to drive there because of snow he encountered in New Mexico and Arizona.

He is doing well. He is a remarkable young man and we are so proud of him. Every doctor, nurse, military health official that has examine him says his progress is "amazing".

He started his new duties on Monday. Tuesday he called and said he loves his new job.

When asked what he thought about the President's Announcement of more troops to Iraq Chris replied, "We gotta do - what we gotta do! If Bush asked me today to be in the front lines - I'd be there!

"Mom, remember to support me. I'm still an active Marine, Bush is my Commander in Chief. Just in case you're asked about this... "

I can read between the lines... I know he means he doesn't want anything negative said about any of Bush's decisions. So, for the record, "I support my son and support our President 100 percent!"

He was happy to get back to work and have his family in their new home. Chris loves outdoors and enjoys the weather and going to the beach and has taken to California like a fish to water.

Thank you for your prayers. Continue to pray and support all our troops... especially the few, the proud, the brave, the Marines!!!!

How we miss Chris, Crystal, Amaryah and Abram! Thank God for work... we have our grand-daughter at our school, otherwise we would be so sad as we have had Abram & Amaryah in our home every day since Chris left to Iraq in August. We became very attached to them. Funny what you miss when someone leaves. It's the little things and silly things you miss the most.

We were so busy enjoying all our children and grandchildren this holiday season that we didn't have time for anything else - not even much shopping or time to send Christmas cards.

These were the best holidays ever for our family and the best beginning of a new year. We didn't mean to neglect ya'll ... we just missed "US"


- Rose

We love you too, Rose, Chris and family!

8500 U.S. Army Units in Europe to Deploy

U.S. Army in Europe units scheduled to deploy

January 22, 2007
Release No. 20070102

HEIDELBERG, Germany – As part of the 07-09 force rotation announced by the Department of Defense Nov. 17, several Army in Europe units have been ordered to deploy for the next Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom rotations. ( ... )

The rotation for the listed units is scheduled to begin in mid-2007, and the units are planning for a 12-month deployment. They will be assigned to an area that best supports the combatant commander’s objectives.

The following units are scheduled to deploy as part of the next OIF rotation:

Units from V Corps
12th Combat Aviation Brigade
HHC, 12th CAB, Katterbach, Germany
3-158 Assault Aviation Battalion, Katterbach, Germany
2-159 Attack Aviation Battalion, Katterbach, Germany
412th Aviation Support Battalion, Katterbach, Germany
243rd Theater Construction Management Detachment, 18th Engineer Brigade, Hanau, Germany
535th Engineer Support Company, 18th Engineer, Brigade, Vilseck, Germany

Units from SETAF
173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy
HHC, 173rd ABCT, Vicenza, Italy
1-503 Infantry Battalion, stationed in Vicenza, Italy
2-503 Infantry Battalion, stationed in Vicenza, Italy
1-91 Reconnaissance Surveillance Target Acquisition Battalion, Schweinfurt, Germany
4-319 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, Bamberg, Germany
173rd Special Troops Battalion, Bamberg, Germany
173rd Brigade Support Battalion, Bamberg, Germany

Units from 21st Theater Support Command
HHC, 18th Military Police Brigade, Mannheim, Germany
HHD, 95th Military Police Battalion, Mannheim, Germany
212th Military Police Company, Wiesbaden, Germany
230th Military Police Company, Kaiserslautern, Germany
HHD, 14th Movement Control Battalion, Kaiserslautern, Germany
HHD, 28th Transportation Battalion, Kaiserslautern, Germany
240th Quartermaster Company, Bamberg, Germany
606th Movement Control Team, Mannheim, Germany
627th Movement Control Team, Bamberg, Germany
635th Movement Control Team, Wiesbaden, Germany
41st Transportation Company (PLS), Vilseck, Germany
51st Transportation Company (PLS), Mannheim, Germany
68th Transportation Company (MED TRK), Mannheim, Germany
69th Transportation Company (MED TRK), Mannheim, Germany
70th Transportation Company (MED TRK), Mannheim, Germany
109th Transportation Company (MED TRK), Mannheim, Germany
515th Transportation Company (POL), Mannheim, Germany
5th Ordnance Company (DS), Kaiserslautern, Germany
95th Military Police Battalion, Mannheim, Germany
- Eleven Patrol/Explosive Detection Dog Teams

Unit from HQ U.S. Army in Europe & 7th Army
19th Battlefield Control Detachment, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Units from 7th Army Reserve Command
1172nd Movement Control Team, Kaiserslautern, Germany
209th Army Liaison Team, Wiesbaden, Germany

Unit from 5th Signal Command
44th Signal Battalion, Mannheim, Germany

Unit from Europe Regional Medical Command (30 MED BDE)
71st Medical Detachment (Preventive Medicine), Vilseck, Germany

Unit from 266th Finance Command
Bravo Detachment, 39th Finance Battalion, Katterbach, Germany

Following units are scheduled to deploy as part of the next OEF rotation:

Units from 21st Theater Support Command
527th Military Police Company, Giessen, Germany
720th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, Mannheim, Germany
95th Military Police Battalion, Mannheim, Germany
- seven patrol/explosive detection dog teams

Unit from 266th Finance Command
Alpha Detachment, 208th Finance Battalion, Kaiserslautern, Germany

According to Stars & Stripes, these deployments are not part of the surge.

Those of you failiar with the Soldiers' Angels Germany shipping address will recognize the name of our friends at the 21st TSC.

22 January 2007

No Average Joe

"Back in the real world, I am just your average Joe, no different than any other person on the street."

"Here, the men and women who put on the Uniform make a difference, not only to those that we come in contact with here, but also for those of you at home."

"All the sacrifices, pain and loss that is reported on CNN cannot compare to all the worthwhile things we do here."

"From teaching Iraqi soldiers how to defend their own country to helping a child get to the US for an operation to getting things that would take the whole deployment to get so I can better take care of a village of people and my own soldiers."

"This will be the 16th Christmas I have been away from my family in the past 20 years. This year I have a new family of friends and you all mean as much to me as my own flesh and blood. Thank you for everything you have done for my men and me."

If you'd like to support SGT Art and others like him at the field hospitals and surgical units of Iraq and Afghanistan, email Roger, Soldiers' Angels Tactical Medical Support Director.

More photos, feedback, and information at Roger's blog here.

21 January 2007

Meeting the President

On January 11, 2007 Deborah and David Tainsh, parents of fallen hero Army Sgt. Patrick Tainsh, met with President Bush along with other Gold Star families.

This is Deborah's account of the meeting, published here with her kind permission.

After a final hug and handshake with the Johnsons, President Bush stepped in front of us. Dave introduced himself and spoke about Patrick as he locked a handshake, after which the President looked straight into my eyes, asked how I was doing, then gave me, as he had the other moms, a bear hug and kiss on the side of the face.

I held in my hands Patrick’s green military issued notebook. The one he had written briefing notes inside, the one he left a 3 page letter in for his family in case he was killed. ( ... )

“This is the book our son wrote in while in Iraq, and this is the letter he left for us in the event of his death.

"Mr. President, our son believed in the Iraqi people, in this letter he states that he hopes the Iraqi people will someday experience the same freedoms that he was blessed to experience, that it was an honor to live, fight and die with an American Flag on his shoulder. He tells how he cried for the children because he didn’t have food and water for them. He said they were worth the fight.”

I soon saw President Bush fighting back thick puddles of tears. With his hands entwined behind him, he straightened his shoulders as though to re-compose himself.

As my voice began to break and tears moistened my cheeks, I pointed to the last words printed in red on the page, Love, your son, Patrick, and said,

“Mr. President, would you please write a note to Patrick. Tell him you won’t let him down.”

I then handed the book and a pen to President Bush and he wrote:

Patrick, thank you for your courage. I won’t let you down.
George W. Bush.

Read the rest.

God bless you, Deborah and Dave. Godspeed, Sgt. Tainsh.

Bill Roggio's Back in Iraq

I'm back in Iraq for a brief embed with a Police Transition Team in the Habbaniyah region, which is just west of Fallujah. This will complement my coverage from Fallujah in December of 2006, and will allow me to compare and contrast the state of the Iraqi Police in the two regions.

Head over to see his latest posts about the Iraqi Army and the joint US Army and Marine Military Transition Team who are working with them.

Hit his tip jar while you're there, if you can. We need more reporting like this.

Update: Badgers Forward reports that Bill has just left Iraq, making this "Maybe the shortest embed of the war." I'm sure Bill will have more posts on this short embed.

19 January 2007

Soldiers' Angels Mourns Spc. Matthew T. Grimm

From Cathy of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen Hero from Soldiers' Angels, Spc. Matthew T. Grimm.

Matt, 21, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. died Jan 15 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations.

He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

Matt is survived by his parents, Eldon and Jean, and his brother, Andrew, who is serving in Iraq. Andrew is coming home this week to be with their family.


Matt joined the Army after graduation from Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School in 2004 and was sent to Iraq in late October of 2006. His brother, Andrew, 23, serves in Iraq as a specialist with the Wisconsin National Guard.

In summer of 2004 Matt worked with Reffner Motor Sports in Stevens Point, the stock car racing team of his cousin, Bryan Feffner, the 1995 champion of the American Speed Association.

"He was always ready to take on a new challenge," Reffner said Tuesday. "Matt worked in the shop, and in racing, that's 90 percent of the work."

Source: Today's TMJ4

The Patriot Guard Riders are standing by to ride for Spc Matthew T. Grimm.

Three other Task Force Lightning soldiers based out of Fort Bliss were also killed in the same attack: 2nd Lt. Mark J. Daily, 23, of Irvine, Calif.; Sgt. Ian C. Anderson, 22, of Prairie Village, Kan.; and Sgt. John E. Cooper, 29, of Ewing, Ky.

Update: Blackfive has more on all four soldiers here.

Update 2: An 'angel' remembers communication with Grimm

“We wrote back and forth pretty much everyday,” [Soldiers' Angel Jennifer] Krzys said via telephone Monday. “It was such a short period of time, but it was intense... We became really close, you just felt that way with Matt, you just had this bond. He was so caring and so loving and so funny, you just couldn’t help but be drawn in.”

A veteran angel, Krzys has sent hundreds of letters to dozens of soldiers over the past few years. ( ... )

As part of her curriculum [as a teacher], Krzys has her students write letters to soldiers as well. Even though she became emotional during class, she informed her students of the news Monday.

“I wasn’t ashamed to let them see me sad,” she said. “I told them, ‘If you only learn one thing from me this year... it’s what the flag stands for... when you see the flag, or sing the pledge, think of Matt.’

Remember our Heroes.

18 January 2007

The Wind

The windows rattle. I hear it outside in the trees. Always in the trees... the pine trees.

I have to go out, be with it, be in it.

It's louder outside. It's everywhere, all encompassing, omnipotent. The sound of the wind in the bare, leafless trees. The much louder sound of the wind in the pines.

Away from the houses, in a field. A huge, full, lone pine tree writhes in the wind. Like an amoeba.

Loud, deafening, insistent. It bends the trunk and moves very branch, every needle.

I know what it wants, I know what it's saying.

Remember... remember...

16 January 2007

This is what we're fighting...

"You're the only thing standing between me and a burqa."

- Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels, to her son before his deployment.

LGF has video clips from the UK's Channel 4 documentary called Dispatches: Undercover Mosque.

Taped with hidden cameras, much of this shocking coverage shows so-called mainstream Muslim preachers openly calling for Islamic supremacism, heinous misogyny, and violence against democracy and the UK government at Britain’s leading mosques and Muslim institutions.

This is what we're fighting. It's the Long War, and it has many fronts.

Patriot Guard Riders: Must-See ABC News Video

ABC Video - Click Here to Watch

And here's the accompanying article, which is also well worth your time to read.

At first, the sight of these burly bikers had some, like Marine Col. Greg Boyd, Stephen Morris's commanding officer, wondering who these bikers were and why they were at the funerals.

"I had a misperception about them when I first saw them. I didn't know what to expect," he said. "But after I got a chance to … see them in action, talk to them and meet them, shake their hands, I know their hearts are in the right place. Nothing could stop them from being there." ( ... )

Boyd said he understands why they do this. "I think for the Patriot Guard Riders it is love of country. That's really what I think is in their heart, they really want to honor this country.

"People stop their cars and get out, put their hand over their heart, stop what they're doing and pay attention," said Boyd. "They'll remember that when they read it in the paper. Tomorrow it'll be about Lance Corp. Stephen Morris. And they'll know that that's him, that he's gone by. And I don't think they'd probably know that if they didn't see those Patriot Guard Riders and all those flags."

See the Patriot Guard Riders website for more information about this incredible organization.

Soldiers' Angels Mourns Cpl. Jeremiah J. Johnson

From Renee of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen Hero from Soldiers' Angels, Cpl. Jeremiah J. Johnson.

Johnson, 23, of Vancouver, Wash., died Jan. 6 in Landstuhl, Germany of wounds suffered when his vehicle rolled over Dec. 26 in Baghdad.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Jeremiah is survived by his wife, Gale and 2 year old daughter, Rya and son, Isaiah, 5; his parents, Elizabeth and David Johnson, his sisters, Naphtali, 21, and Lauralee, 20; and his brothers, Zachary, 17, and Timothy, 15, all of Vancouver. WA.


Elizabeth Johnson was taking down Christmas decorations in her Vancouver home when she got a call from the Army on Dec. 26 saying her son had been critically injured in a rollover accident while on patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.

She, her husband, David, and Jeremiah's wife, Gale, flew to Washington, D.C., the next day, got their passports issued to them in an hour and were on a flight to Germany, arriving at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in time to spend almost a week at Jeremiah's bedside before he died Friday.

Elizabeth brought along family photos, magazines and sweets for her son, not realizing how grave his condition was. The reality set in only after two neurosurgeons briefed the family, telling them that Cpl. Johnson had suffered severe hypothermia and brain damage after his Humvee tipped over on a road along a canal, pinning him underwater for 10 minutes.

"I said, 'You mean that I will never hear Jeremiah talk to me again?' and they said, 'That's correct. You'll never know Jeremiah the way you have known Jeremiah,' " Elizabeth said Tuesday from Vancouver.

"I have never cried that deep inner [cry], you know? Jeremiah was the most awesome son you could ever hope for. He was the boy next door, the kind of boy you'd want your daughter to marry."

Source: The Seattle Times

Please take a momen to read the Army Cpl. Jeremiah J. Johnson tribute at the Soldiers' Angels Fallen Heroes blog.

The Patriot Guard Riders rode for Cpl. Jeremiah J. Johnson.

Remember our Heroes.

Soldiers' Angels Mourns Spc. Eric T. Caldwell

From Renee of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen Hero from Soldiers' Angels, Spc. Eric T. Caldwell.

Caldwell, 22, of Salisbury, Md., died Jan 7 in Iraq of wounds sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire.

He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Eric is survived by his mother, Vanessa Caldwell of Gloucester, Va.; his father, Brian Caldwell of Philadelphia; two sisters, his twin Andrea Caldwell of New Orleans and Katie Caldwell of Philadelphia; his aunt and uncle Melvin "M.J." Caldwell Jr. and Pamela Caldwell of Salisbury, MD; and his paternal grandparents, Melvin and Naomi Caldwell of Salisbury, MD.


Caldwell's military service was inspired by his grandfather, Melvin Caldwell Sr., 83, a U.S. Army Air Corps radio operator and navigator on B-25 bombers in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Known affectionately in the family as "Boss," Melvin Caldwell Sr., a former attorney in Salisbury, wore his bomber jacket into old age.

His grandson worked hard to enter the military. Eric Caldwell struggled with a learning disability and spent months studying to earn his graduate equivalency diploma and pass written tests to enlist, M.J. Caldwell said.

"He found his calling. He loved it. He enjoyed the fraternity, the camaraderie, the quasi-family atmosphere."

Despite a new home in the military, Caldwell never forgot his family. Whenever possible, Caldwell e-mailed from his post outside Baghdad. He bought a pricey Iraqi cell phone so he could call at least every 10 days, at $2 per minute.

When Caldwell phoned last Thursday to say he would be home soon on leave, his aunt promised to pick him up at the airport and prepare a holiday turkey dinner, but he joked that he would be happy eating at Chuck E. Cheese's as long as he could spend time with family.

Source: The Daily Times.

The Patriot Guard Riders are riding for SPC Eric caldwell.

Please take a moment to read the Army Specialist Eric T. Caldwell tribute at the Soldiers' Angels Fallen Heroes blog.

Remember our Heroes.

13 January 2007

Better than a Hero

"Mike wasn't a hero, he was better than a hero... Mike was a professional." - MAJ Todd Fredette about his friend and fellow Soldier MAJ Mike Mundell, KIA 1-5-07

MAJ Todd (l) and MAJ Mike.
"Just a picture of two middle-aged married guys, far away from home, missing their families."

Hi Everyone,

I would like to tell you about my friend and teammate, Major Michael Mundell. Mike was killed last Friday by an IED while on our way to assist another unit in trouble. He was the 3007th death in Iraq.

I met Mike at Fort Hood Texas, where a bunch of strangers were thrown together to form a tight-knit 11-man team and ironically we did just that. I have to admit I didn't like Mike at first, but we ended up being the closest of friends and we jokingly referred to our relationship as a "marriage of convenience".

He was originally from Pittsburgh, the son of a cop and a housewife. Mike's parents instilled a sense of duty in him that motivated him to become Army officer. He served in Germany. Later, he worked for the Federal Reserve Bank in Cincinnati and then as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Army Armor Training Center at Fort Knox.

He was married with four children; his oldest will be graduating High School this spring. He loved history and his knowledge of the civil war was phenomenal. He was a voracious reader. He would start one book in the morning and have the second one done before bedtime. He was 46 years old and he took a lot of abuse from the Marine Corp augments who are young enough to be his children. He loved the Pittsburgh Steelers and loved being a soldier.

What I want you all to know is that the people who fight and die here aren't special and they aren't different. They're people just like you and me: they have families, they pay bills, and they have Bar-B-Qs. They aren't heroes and they aren't saints, they're just people who have a job to do.

Mike wasn't a hero, he was better then a hero... Mike was a professional. Mike took his job seriously and the lives of everyone on the team seriously. His Iraqi counterparts paid him the highest complement; they called him... Brother. I will miss him every day.

I have a dozen pictures of Mike and me together, we were together on every mission including the one where he was killed, but I have only one picture of us without all our war gear on.

It's just a picture of two middle aged married guys, far away from home, missing their families.

A "little note about my friend Mike", sent by MAJ Todd Fredette.

Previous: Soldiers' Angels Mourns MAJ Michael L. Mundell

12 January 2007

Landstuhl News

Receipt of donations to SA Germany are confirmed by email, to which I often add news about our most recent visit.

The following is an email sent after our Christmas visit to Landstuhl. Although intended for private distribution it has subsequently been circulated and published in a couple of newspapers, so I thought I'd post it here.

* * *

From: MaryAnn Phillips
Date: Dec 30, 2006 10:20 PM
Subject: Shipments to SA Germany & Landstuhl Christmas News

Dear Angels & Friends,

Thank you for your thoughtful and generous donations for our soldiers recovering in Germany!

It's been a very busy month, so I'm taking the liberty of sending a group mail to acknowledge receipt of your shipments. If you have specific questions about your items, please feel free to respond and ask away!

As many of you know, my Dad suffered a stroke on 11 Dec, so I flew to the States for about a week. He's doing much better, and I'd like to thank you all for your well wishes and prayers. I'll be going back within the next couple of days to see him again.

I was at Landstuhl from the 22 - 28 Dec spending time with the patients and distributing donations. Our freight rooms were full of mail from all of you, including cards, baked goods, candy, Christmas decorations, Blankets of Hope, clothing, and much more.

Patients were arriving from Iraq and Afghanistan daily over the holidays. Unfortunately, several of them were severely injured and one died at Landstuhl hospital on Christmas day. We don't lose many patients here, and everyone took it very hard. Each and every loss is difficult to bear, but it hurts just that much more at Christmas.

Some of the ancillary services at the hospital and outpatient barracks were closed for the Christmas weekend so we went through a lot of supplies and many of your donations were put to immediate use. On Chirstmas Day we delivered a trunkload of Blankets of Hope to the hospital Chaplains and directly to the ICU.

Lots of outpatients came to our freight rooms while we were working to request clothing and hygiene items, and we continually replenished the "SA Donations Shelf" in the barracks. Sweats, knit caps, and gloves were especially appreciated due to the very cold weather.

Food - gosh, did we have food at Kleber! An extra table was set up in the barracks for baked goods sent by you and brought by local supporters. Several local groups brought in complete meals on the 23, 24, and 25. An Air Force Squadron based at Ramstein even brought their own chafing dishes! We were kept busy helping the groups set up, clearing used platters, consolidating plates of cookies, etc.

On the 24th, the Marines Liaisons hosted a lunch for their inpatients and the staff at the hospital. Several of their patients attended in wheelchairs, as well as many of the nurses. We made up plates for the ICU staff and brought them up. The delicious ham, sweet potatoes, etc. meal was prepared by one of the Marines volunteers, and she made enough for the Kleber outpatients as well.

The guys at Kleber were eating the stuff as fast as it came in, and were awed at the volume of support. "You don't know how it feels to be able to just come in here and eat a chocolate chip cookie, " said a Soldier who had been running missions near Ramadi and eating MREs for 2-3 weeks at a time. "Or to be able to get on the phone and call home any time I want", he added.

You can read a short vignette about this Soldier on the blog here.

The Chaplains had set up 2 gorgeous Christmas trees in the dayrooms, and we had a lovely informal service on Christmas Eve.

One of our Christmas projects was to hang up Christmas cards from home at Kleber outpatient barracks, assisted by the outpatients. It looks great and we had a lot of fun. I posted a photo on the blog here.

We were also able to distribute many, many Christmas/Thank You cards to the staff at Landstuhl hospital who were very, very touched. I explained to each group that people back home wanted to let them know how much their work is appreciated.

Last but not least, we assembled and distributed 500 Christmas Goodie Bags complete with phone cards to the patients at Landstuhl and Kleber.

In spite of the circumstances, we had a wonderful Christmas at Landstuhl/Kleber.

Thank you for making a difference to our fighting men and women recovering in Germany. They are always so moved by your thoughtfulness, compassion, and support. I wish you could meet them - you would be very, very proud.

God bless you all and God bless our troops.


MaryAnn Phillips
Director, International Operations
Soldiers' Angels

11 January 2007

Someone You Should Know

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Blackfive's Someone You Should Know series, but I wanted to post a reminder that many of these tributes are available as audio interviews with Matt of Blackfive in Pundit Review's radio archives.

For example, you may want to listen to the Someone You Should Know segment about Marine Corporal Jason Dunham, who will be awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously) by President Bush today.

Dunham is the first Marine to earn the Medal of Honor in more than 30 years and one of only two U.S. service members to be awarded the medal since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began.

The first was SGT 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, and you can listen to the segment about him here

In a society increasingly obsessed with irrelevant entities such as Hollywood stars, it's good to hear about the real American heroes.

Soldiers' Angels Mourns MAJ Michael L. Mundell

From Cathy of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen Hero from Soldiers' Angels, Maj. Michael Lewis Mundell.

Mundell, 47, of Brandenburg, Ky., was killed Friday in Fallujah, Iraq.

He was serving with the 108th Division, a training unit of 4,500 soldiers that is headquartered in North Carolina.

Mike is survived by his wife, Audrey, and their 4 children, Erica 17, Ryan 14, Zachary 13 & Dale 11.


Ken Sofranko said he talked to his brother-in-law shortly before Mundell deployed to Iraq in June, and he said Mundell was excited about going.

"He said, 'This is what I was born to do,'" Sofranko said.

Mundell was a 1977 graduate of Canon-McMillan High School in Canonsburg. He graduated in 1981 with a history degree from Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Washington County.

Mundell then served 10 years in the Army as a tank officer in Kentucky and Germany.

He was working as a civilian contractor to the Army when the Iraq war broke out and volunteered to return to active duty.

On the day after Thanksgiving he was wounded when a sniper's bullet pierced his portable radio and Kevlar vest. He looked in the direction of the shot and saw a sniper in a minaret of a mosque, his wife Audrey said. They were unable to find the shooter.

On January 5, after an American tank was hit by a large IED in Falluja, Iraqi Army units being trained by Mundell moved in to help secure the area. The units were hit by a second bomb while en route, killing Mundell and an Iraqi lieutenant.

According to his wife, he was supposed to be on "light duty" but refused less dangerous assignments.

Sources: Courier-Journal, Kentucky.com, Bill Ardolino for the Examiner

The Patriot Guard Riders are standing by to ride for will be riding for Maj. Mundell upon family request.

Remember our Heroes.

Better than a Hero by MAJ Todd Frenette.
Army MAJ Michael L. Mundell tribute at the Soldiers' Angels Fallen Heroes blog.

Soldiers' Angels Mourns SPC. Michael J. Crutchfield

From Renee of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen Hero from Soldiers' Angels, Spc. Michael J. Crutchfield.

Spc. Crutchfield, 21, of Stockton, Calif., died Dec. 23 in Balad, Iraq, of a non-combat related injury.

Michael was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C. Crutchfield’s death is under investigation.

Michael is survived by his foster parents, Richard and Danielle Duarte.


Local papers as well as an Army spokesman at Fort Bragg have reported Crutchfield's death as a suicide.

At his funeral, however, those close to him chose to focus not on the way he died but instead on the way he lived.

A friend who said Crutchfield moved in with him and his family for more than a year remembered him as an enthusiastic friend who would wake the house up to join him in whatever he had chosen to pursue that day, whether it was jogging or spending hours at a mall arcade.

Friends said Michael Crutchfield did not talk about his problems or his childhood.

Instead, he appeared to be the one they often depended on. His comrades in the Army nicknamed him "Crutch," because they leaned on him for information in his unit, said Brig. Gen. John McMahon.

Remember our Heroes.

10 January 2007


(Wanted to post this Tuesday afternoon EST but Blogger was down.)

Milblogger J.R. Salzman of Lumberjack in a Desert is having surgery on his left hand today. I'm getting on a plane so I wanted to remind everyone before I go to stop by J.R.'s later and see if he's posted an update.

J.R. lost his right arm below the elbow in an IED explosion, passed through Germany at Christmas, and is now at Walter Reed.

Andi visited him and Josie on Sunday and they asked her to pass on how much your messages of support on his blog have meant to them.

Ok, folks. You know what to do.

07 January 2007

My Dad's Home!

My Dad's back home again for the first time since his stroke on 11 December.

He was discharged from the hospital on 23 December and he spent the past 2 weeks at Helen Hayes Hospital doing rehab. I can't say enough good things about that facility and their wonderful staff. Special thanks to Sharon, his speech therapist (and favorite), as well as Michelle and Katie (PT and OT).

His recovery has been quite remarkable, but then again he's a very motivated guy ;-) Not sure if I've mentioned this, but at age 82 he had still been working in addition to other activities such as the Volunteer Fire Department, Republican Club, Board of Adjustment, etc., etc.

Physcially he's pretty much as good as ever. The coordination of his right hand is almost back to normal. I asked him to write the numbers 1 - 10 on a piece of paper last night, which we compared with the same thing done in the hospital 2 weeks ago. I wanted him to see the dramatic improvement as a motivational exercise. Too bad we don't have the slip of paper with his first "handwriting" just after the stroke, which was nothing more than a few meaningless squiggly lines.

The ongoing challenge is speech/cognitive ability. The mind is an amazingly complex thing, and there's so many individual wires that can get crossed. For example, when we say the letter F and ask him to write it, he says "S" and writes "S". We're like, "no, F", and he says "yeah, that's what I said - S." Most other letters are no problem at all!

Last night we discussed the changes of command at CENTCOM and in Iraq, and he had some difficulty pronouncing the names right. I suppose Petraeus is not the most common name in the world, and it certainly doesn't help when you have to say Abazaid in the same sentence. Names are difficult for him but he was able to rattle off their respective backgrounds.

Lots of logistics involved in his recovery now, particularly transportation. He's taking Coumadin, so needs to have his blood checked twice a week. Plus other doctors' appointments and 8-10 therapy sessions per week.

But none of that matters. It's so great to have him home.

Thank you all for your concern, well wishes, and prayers.

06 January 2007

Soldiers' Angels Mourns SPC Richard A. Smith

From Renee of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen Hero from Soldiers' Angels, Spc. Richard A. Smith.

Spc. Smith, 20, of Grand Prairie, Texas died Dec. 31 in Baqubah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was conducting a combat patrol.

Richard was assigned to the 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Richard is survived by his wife and high school sweetheart, Amber. Amber is due to give birth in three months to their first child.

Richard is also survived by his mother, Barbara Speer of Grand Prairie; his father and stepmother, James and Tammy Smith of Frisco; his brother, Andy Preston of Grand Prairie; and two sisters, Denise Thompson of Arlington and Jessica Preston of Grand Prairie.


The Dallas Morning News:

Spc. Smith married his high school sweetheart in July 2005 after completing boot camp.

"He loved her so much," said his mother, Barbara Speer of Grand Prairie. "He told me that the worst thing he could think of was if he died there... because he wouldn't want to hurt her."

She said her son had transformed his life since marrying Ms. Smith.

"He became very passionate about the Army and about doing what God was trying to tell him to do," his mother said. "I cried because I didn't want him to go into the service at first. Then he told me, 'Mom, I'm going because God called me, and you can't cry.' "

During the short time he served in the Army, Spc. Smith gained recognition as the 1st Cavalry Division's soldier of the year.

The Patriot Guard Riders are standing by to ride for Spc. Smith upon family request. After much consideration and with much gratitude, the family has decided on a private funeral.

Remember our Heroes.

04 January 2007

Brothers in Arms

In April, I posted a story about a Soldier's extraordinary experience with a young Iraqi girl who ran up to him asking to be picked up - almost as if she knew him.

Her father explained he had been rescued from prison shortly after the end of Saddam Hussein's brutal reign by soldiers of the 101st, and since then his daughter believed the Screaming Eagle patch represented angels sent to protect her family.

Not sure what prompted me to search for a follow up, but when I did, I found this letter from the father of a fallen Canadian Soldier to the newspaper which originally published the story above. It's from May 5 of this year.

Letter From Canada: Grieving dad thanks those who rushed to help son

I have no idea who I am writing to. I was just searching the Internet, desperately trying to find information on the four Canadian soldiers who were killed on April 22, and I came upon your Web site. I started to read and couldn't stop.

Assuming I am writing to Americans, I want to share something with you.

My son Paul joined the Canadian Forces in January 1998 and deployed to BosniaHerzegovina in 2000 and 2001.

On Jan. 23 of this year, I was in Winnipeg, Canada, seeing Paul off to Afghanistan. He was with B Company attached to the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry on Operation Archer in Kandahar.

I had taken a red-eye flight from Nova Scotia to Winnipeg and surprised him by showing up at the military airstrip in the morning just before he and his comrades arrived to prepare to leave for their mission.

He was joking and smiling with his buddies, no different than if they were a hockey team preparing to go on the ice.

While standing with him and all his comrades in the hangar at the airport, I noticed a small insignia U.S. flag on his boots. Jokingly, I kicked his ankle and said, "Paul, what's that? ..."

His comrades, hearing me, continued joking, "Yeah, Davis, you better cut that tag off. ..."

Paul's warm smile suddenly turned serious for the moment.

"No, we train with these guys and we fight alongside with them. If we get in trouble over there, they will be the first to come to our aid," he said.

As he started toward the line to board the plane and as I started toward my taxi, we turned to look at each other and made eye contact for the last time.

On March 2, Cpl. Paul James Davis of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was killed.

The first to arrive at the scene was a United States Black Hawk helicopter.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

-- Jim Davis Nova Scotia, Canada

Seattle P-I EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davis of Nova Scotia wrote to the Seattle P-I in response to a recent Other Voices essay that ran on this page. The essay, "Dispatch from Iraq: A tiny bit of comfort," was written by National Guardsman Aric Catron, who is serving his second tour in Iraq. It motivated Davis to write in and share a story about his son.

God bless you, Mr. Davis. We're proud to stand with men like you and your son, and we're proud to stand with Canada.

Proud to Stand with You, Canada
Proud to Stand With You, Canada - Part 2
Our Canadian Friends Stand With Us Again To Show Support During Cindy's Protest
Side by Side
Happy Birthday America - Land of the Free Because of the Brave
Mak's Back!
Why do emails like this make me cry?
Landstuhl Medical Staff Honored for Extraordinary Treatment of Injured Canadian Soldiers

03 January 2007

Soldiers' Angels Mourns Army SGT Christopher P. Messer

From Renee of the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team:

We have a fallen hero from Soldiers' Angels, SGT Christopher P. Messer.

Christopher, 28, of of Petersburg, MI, died Dec. 27 in Baghdad of wounds received from an improvised explosive device that detonated near them while on dismounted patrol.

He was assigned to 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Christopher is survived by his wife, Amie and his mother, Michelle Vore.


A native of Petersburg, Mich., Messer enlisted in the Army in February 2003 and completed basic and advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga. In October 2003 he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment at Ledward Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany.

In July 2005, he was reassigned to 4-31 Inf. at Fort Drum.

Messer participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom from February 2004 to March 2005.

His military education includes the Warrior Leader Course and the Combat Livesaver Course.

His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with 'V' device, Valorous Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and the Driver Badge.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be riding for SGT Messer.

Remember our Heroes.