31 May 2007


This just in from our friends at IraqiMuscle.com, who are at one of the CSHs supported by my colleague Roger. Make sure to check out their new t-shirts and don't forget that proceeds go to Soldiers' Angels.


This is Sgt. Skoczen and Ssg. Simon at iraqimuscle.com. We just wanted to let everyone know that the new shirt designs are in.

If you are at our location we have shirts on ground and if not they are available online. Our contibutions are going well and we have plans of making some hefty donations in the next coming weeks. We would like to thank everyone for their support.

Ssg. Jeffrey Simon & Sgt. Michael Skoczen

They also wanted me to give a shout out to their buddies at MileHighMuscle.com for their outstanding support.

Oh, and here's their latest slideshow. Yowza, guys...

Alpha Company, 10th Mountain Division at Korengal Outpost in Afghanistan - Updated

Photographer Chad Hunt sends the link to this NBC News video, Waiting for the Taliban. Featured is Captain Jim McNight and the soldiers of the 10th Mountain, Alpha Company at Korengal Outpost (KOP) in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

Watch the video.

One of Chad's photos of CPT McNight in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

CPT McNight is on his second tour to Afghanistan and was also involved in the surge into Baghdad in 2003. You can read more about the impressive work of McNight and the other 10th MTN soldiers at KOP in this interview at the Saratogan.com:

"The people here are scared of the enemy. The Taliban are a group of terrorists. They've always imposed their law through corporal punishment and then reassert themselves in the same way, McKnight said. There have been civilians murdered and beaten for helping the Afghan National Army in my area. That's what terrorists do. They kill one to scare 1,000." (...)

"We do see the Taliban regularly because we are in the enemy's safe haven," McKnight said. "Our outpost is like the final insult to Taliban insurgents that remain in Afghanistan." (...)

"It's war, and it's dangerous and, yes, I've lost soldiers. But, for the most part, we don't think of ourselves in danger on a daily basis. I'm the one with the air support, supplies and intelligence that updates by the minute. The enemy has none of that stuff. Sure, we're afraid sometimes, but I'm afraid of letting my dad drive a standard transmission, too."

You should also visit Chad's blog where he has more photos and stories about his embed with the 10th MTN, of which he has said, "I can’t begin to explain how this experience has changed me."

"One of the strongest memories I have of the trip was when I took this picture.
We were taking cover as we called in mortars and artillery on a enemy position on the side of the mountain. I felt like the stars were going to drip out of the sky they were so bright."

If you're in the upstate New York area, Chad has two gallery openings coming up, one at the Center for Photography at Woodstock and the other at the Kingston Museum of Contemporary Arts. Chad will be at both of the openings (June 2 and June 9), so check the link for complete information.

I met Chad through FlagGazer, who contacted me about Chad's fellow photographer John McHugh, recently wounded in Afghanistan. John is now recovering back home in London.

Update: Another great photo of CPT McKnight from Chad, who also tells me McKnight's parents will be at the opening on Saturday.

CPT Jim McKnight

30 May 2007

DJ Emery Awarded Purple Heart

In my book nothing can top the update below, but we've also been waiting for these pictures since Connie wrote this the other day:

Speaking of walking DJ got a personal invitation today to go to the White House from President Bush when he learns how to walk again!!! Bush came today and awarded DJ his purple heart. Bush kissed Leslie and I and she was going crazy. DJ asked me what her problem was. He didn't get too excited. He doesn't get too emotional. That's my boy!!! I asked Bush to hold Carlee so Leslie would have a picture for her scrap book and he did.

Well thanks for all the support and there should be pictures sometime soon. Thanks everyone, Connie

President Bush presents Marine Sgt. David D.J. Emery Jr., of Bellefonte with a Purple Heart Friday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Emery's wife, Leslie Shivery, holding their daughter, Carlee, and his mother, Connie look on. Emery was injured Feb. 7 in a suicide bombing near Anbar province, Iraq.

President Bush holds 1-month-old, Carlee, of Bellefonte, Friday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., while her mom, Leslie Shivery, and grandmother, Connie Emery look on. Carlee is the daughter of Sgt. David D.J. Emery Jr., who was injured in a suicide bombing Feb. 7 in Iraq.

Click to read more stories about DJ here at SAG.

29 May 2007

The DJ Emery Family

Leslie, little Miss Carlee, and DJ

A miracle.

I was going to add more of an update about what's been going on, and how DJ's been a bit frustrated with some setbacks, but honestly, it should really be left at that.

A miracle.

Click to read more stories about DJ here at SAG.

Two important interviews at Pundit Review Radio

Kevin and Gregg of Pundit Review Radio and Bruce from QandO speak with Mike Yon on The Awakening, live from Hit, Iraq

Then Bruce with this week's edition of the Someone You Should Know series featuring Marine Sgt. Robert J. Mitchell Jr..

26 May 2007

A Memorial Day Message from Michael Yon

The latest from Michael Yon:

Both men darken with something closer to anger when they consider the sacrifices made by fallen soldiers and the fact that while the media most likely counted the deaths in all instances, they also most likely failed to mention any of the good things their fellow soldiers had accomplished while in Iraq.

I plan to stay in Iraq for the rest of 2007, doing my part to tell of these and other accomplishments, and both of these men would not have it any other way.

But when I do finally get home, I want to see these heroes, and be reminded what Memorial Day is all about.

He's baaaack..., continued

U.S. Forces Raid Al-Sadr's Stronghold

BAGHDAD - A day after radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr resurfaced to end nearly four months in hiding and demand U.S. troops leave Iraq, American forces raided his Sadr City stronghold and killed five suspected militia fighters in air strikes Saturday.

U.S. and Iraqi forces called in the air strikes after a raid in which they captured a "suspected terrorist cell leader," the U.S. military said in statement.

The statement claimed the captured man was "the suspected leader in a secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training."

Analysis on Sadr's return from Bill Roggio. I'm sure Bill will have more on these newest developments later.

In the meanwhile, hold this thought.

Update 27 May: Bill's latest post is here. Interesting thoughts in the comments, too.

Memorial Day

You've seen the price of freedom.
Tell them.
Tell them about the sacrifices made,
and still made every day for us.
Tell them that being a Soldier is about love,
about the greatest love there is:
The willingness to lay down your life for another.

Photo from Military.com's Tattoo Gallery.

25 May 2007

Google Searches

Just saw this post over at Butterfly Wife's and thought I'd add an anecdote of my own.

A lot of Google searches end up on this page of SAG, and generate outclicks to this site.

Most of them are from usmc.mil addresses ;-)

While we're on the subject of shopping, I should add I've had a complaint from a deploying Soldier about this company. They have yet to respond to my inquiry. More to follow, but if you have any experiences with them you'd like to share, email me.

In The Name Of Freedom

I was driving in my van thinking about what a wonderful life we have. My three kids were playing in the back – and I began to think about all the men and women who have given of themselves for our country, for our freedom.

I wondered if they knew there were people today thankful for their sacrifice.

I wondered if the men and women serving today knew.

To the men and women who have served our country and to men and women who continue to serve in every capacity – I want to say thank you.

It's time to say thank you.

- Lisa Huertas, singer and composer "In The Name of Freedom"

24 May 2007

Guardian Angel for Soldier's Pet

Touching interwiew with an Army couple, their two dogs, and Linda Ludwig of Guardian Angels For Soldier's Pet.

Click here to watch the video.

Guardian Angels For Soldier's Pet is an all-volunteer 501(c)3 tax exempt nonprofit located in the state of Arkansas with affiliated chapters in Minnesota and Mississippi.

Their mission is to support our military service members by recruiting and monitoring foster homes for their pets during deployment.

"Thank you Guardian Angels For Soldier's Pet for caring about our pets as much as we do."

Military Identifies Missing Soldier

The Associated Press is reporting that the body recovered by Iraqi police from the Euphrates River south of Baghdad has been identified as one of three missing American soldiers, PFC Joseph Anzack Jr.

Military officials told PFC Anzack's family that a commanding officer had identified him, but that DNA tests were still pending.

Rest in Peace, young Warrior.

23 May 2007

Bad news

There's been some bad news emerging about our three missing soldiers throughout the day. Bill Roggio has a summary.

Sending clear messages, continued

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul J. Perkins

Stennis, Nimitz and Bonhomme Richard Enter the Persian Gulf

USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea (NNS) -- The USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Groups and USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Expeditionary Strike Group entered the Persian Gulf May 23.

While operating in the Persian Gulf, the carriers and amphibious strike groups and their associated forces will conduct missions in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and will also perform Expeditionary Strike Force (ESF) training. (...)

The air wings from the aircraft carriers and BHR will conduct air training while the surface components will conduct training in three general disciplines: anti-submarine, anti-surface and mine warfare. (...)

Along with JCS, other ships in its strike group which made the transit include the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) and the guided-missile destroyer USS O’Kane (DDG 77).

Stennis’ Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 squadrons include the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, “Blue Diamonds” of VFA-146, “Argonauts” of VFA-147, “Death Rattlers” of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 323, “Yellowjackets” of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 138, “Golden Hawks” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 112, “Topcats” of Sea Control Squadron 31, “Eightballers” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 8, and “Providers” of Logistics Support Squadron 30.

Accompanying NIM is guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76).

Nimitz's CVW-11 squadrons include VFA-14 “Tophatters,” VFA-41 “Black Aces,” VFA-81 “Sunliners,” Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117 “Wallbangers,” VMFA-232 “Red Devils,” Electronic Warfare Squadron 135 “Black Ravens,” Logistics Support Squadron 30 “Providers,” and HS-6 “Indians.”

Accompanying BHR is the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LPD 47) and fast-attack submarine USS Scranton (SSN 756).

Embarked aboard BHR is Amphibious Squadron 7. Also embarked aboard BHR, Denver and Rushmore are units from Beach Master Unit 1, Assault Craft Units 1 and 5, Tactical Air Control Squadron 12, Naval Beach Group 1, and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23. The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) makes up the Marine force embarked with the ESG. Units of the 13th MEU include Combat Logistics Battalion 13; Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 - Reinforced.

That's a lot of firepower.

Previous: Sending clear messages

Update: In some other not-so-clear messages, the Blotter at ABCNews.com reported yesterday that the CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government.

And the Guardian, also quoting unnamed US officials, says that Iran has a secret plan for a summer offensive aimed at forcing the US out of Iraq. "Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces."

One could speculate for days about the motivation behind these "leaks".

You Are Not Alone

Bill Whittle has posted a new essay, You Are Not Alone.

While I was over there I also read that Rachel Lucas is back.


h/t The Armorer

22 May 2007

The Sandmen of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group

This just in from my Mom, a die-hard Mets fan. As all Mets fans know, "Enter Sandman" is the entrance music for their closer Billy Wagner.

That song is something Wagner has in common with his friend MAJ Warren Kadrmas of the 332nd EMG in Balad:

"Basically a lot of the special forces personnel play 'Enter Sandman' as their theme song," Kadrmas said by telephone from the base. "We play it in the O.R. a lot. It's kind of always going around. Some people have referred to us as 'The Sandmen' just because we're always deployed to the desert environment."

The two of them came up with an idea. Not only is MAJ Kadrmas badly outnumbered by Yankees and Red Sox fans in Iraq, but he also wanted something to give his patients before they are medevac'd to Germany for further medical treatment.

Yesterday the Mets sent a shipment of specially designed T-shirts to Iraq - with a picture of Wagner delivering a pitch, the "Sandmen" nickname, and "332nd Expeditionary Medical Group."

MAJ Kadrmas adds:

"Obviously they lose their uniforms because of the trauma and things they've experienced," Kadrmas said. "People who don't have clothes to wear for the other trip, we have some things for them to wear, but I thought that would be a nice thing to send them off with as well on their way through surgery and to Germany."

Billy Wagner models one of the T-shirts he'll be sending to his friend, Air Force Major Warren Kadrmas, who performs surgery at Balad Air Base in Iraq, often to the tune of 'Enter Sandman.'

As my Mom would say, Let's Go Mets!

Oh, and she wanted me to remind you all they won (almost swept!!) the recent Subway Series against the hated Yankees ;-)

Reƶated: Balad: First Step of a Long Journey Home


Sgt. Robert Cowdrey, flight medic with Company C, 3rd Battalion, Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, is hosited on board a UH-60 Black Hawk. His DustOff team is one of the many medical units supported by Soldiers' Angels.

For more pics and information, go visit my friend Roger at the Soldiers' Angels - Medical Support blog.

Update, October 2011: Godspeed, SSG Robert 'Brian' Cowdry.

21 May 2007

Let's show the love, people

I now have a mailing address for the Marine you read about in this post, Into the light: A wounded Marine and his Vietnam Veteran father

Please email me if you would like to send Josh a card.

I also have a very special opportunity for you to show the love to a hard-hit unit downrange. I'm not blogging the story - at least not now. I'll just say here it involves two brothers, and the one still in Iraq could use some support.

You may email me for that address as well.

In both cases I'll have to "know" you in order to release the addresses. Thanks.

16 May 2007

Iraq War Today at One Million Visits

Congratulations to Pam of IWT for reaching one million visitors today!

Pam compiles one of the most extensive daily news roundups in the blogosphere, and probably posts more official photographs from downrange than anyone else.

She'll be posting links to some of her favorite posts and more popular rants later today, but I'd like to mention something that many of you may not know.

Project SOS:KIDS - Soldiers helping children in war zones around the world - is also Pam's creation. Through SOS:KIDS Soldiers and donors work together to provide humanitarian relief directly to children in local towns and villages who have so much less than many other children.

Thank you Pam for all you do and CONGRATULATIONS on this impressive milestone!

Soldier Search

B-roll of Stryker Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment out of Fort Lewis searching for three U.S. Soldiers recently captured in Baghdad. Scenes from 13 - 14 May include Soldiers searching homes, vehicles and fields in the Yusifiyah and Mahmudia area of Baghdad.

15 May 2007

Read This Now

Nope, I'm not even gonna give you a hint. Just go.

h/t & thanks Flag Gazer and Mrs. G's Dawn Patrol

The Iraq Chirac

Now I'm a law-and-order kind of person, and I've been more than disgusted at times with our over-restrictive ROE, but part of me can't help believing it's this type of thinking that has gotten Iraq - and the entire region - into the mess they're in today.

One the other hand, things are going well in Anbar, and he is our ally.

As the old saying goes, "yeah he's an SOB, but he's our SOB."

American forces too soft on terrorists, says Iraqi sheikh

The key to saving Iraq from the scourge of Al-Qaeda is to subject captured fighters to the swift and deadly rule of tribal justice, according to ... Sheikh Hamid al-Hais [who] leads the Anbar Salvation Council...

The Salvation Council is part of a movement called the Anbar Awakening run by Sheikh Abdulsattar Abu Risha, whose alliance of tribal leaders united against the threat posed to Anbar province by Al-Qaeda's militants.

"I always tell the Americans 'Why detain the enemy? Leave him to me, don't detain him,'" he chuckled during an interview with AFP in a Baghdad hotel.

Anbar's mainly Sunni population once largely supported attacks on US forces and Iraq's Shiite-led government.

Many, however, have become sickened by Al-Qaeda's attacks on civilians and tribal leaders and are angered by the insurgents' interference in the region's traditional ways of life. (...)

Since October, sheikhs have funnelled thousands of tribal fighters into the police and "emergency response units", which now fight alongside US and government forces while retaining their loyalty to their sheikhs. (...)

After four years of fierce fighting but little political progress in Anbar, US commanders welcomed the rise of the Council with enthusiasm.

No counter-insurgency campaign can ever be successful without winning over the bulk of the local community. (...)

"The Americans don't know the terrorists like we do. A very dangerous terrorist was freed by the Americans and our police captured him," he said.

"We asked him during the investigation, 'Why did the Americans release you, you are very dangerous?' He said, 'I told them just two lies and they believed me and they set me free'," Hais recounted.

"We knew him very well, and he couldn't deny it. We told him 'You killed this person and that person'. Yes, he had to die. It's outside the law, but it's the only remedy for them," he added, with satisfaction.

"There's no way to cure them, they have to be killed."

Not only that, he's also the new Chirac:

"We'll make Ramadi the Dubai of Iraq," he said, a twinkle in his eye. "I believe in development. I am very liberal, extremely liberal.

"I wanted to forbid the girls from wearing headscarves in Anbar University. They told me I'm the new Chirac," he said, in a nod to the outgoing French president whose government banned Islamic dress from public schools.

h/t FReeper Forums

DJ Emery Update

From DJ's CarePage:

DJ is having a little bit of a rough day. He developed a 104.8 fever last night and it is currently at 101.8. He is now back on antibotics, three of them to try and cover what it might be.

DJ was unable to have the surgery on his arm scheduled for yesterday because the infection has returned. He's been looking forward to getting this surgery over with so he can transfer to Walter Reed and start working on his legs. And to do that, he's going to need all the strength he can get.

Please continue to keep DJ and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Click to read more stories about DJ here at SAG.

14 May 2007

1st Sgt. John Mangels Awarded Silver Star

"He actually still had shrapnel in his head, but he wouldn't even let me look at him until he knew all his Soldiers were fine."

1st Sgt. John Mangels being awarded the Silver Star by Adm. William Fallon on April 22, 2007 in Afghanistan.

Spartan first sergeant receives Silver Star from CENTCOM commander

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan — A leader is an individual that embodies strength of character, resiliency and presence of mind during battle.

On April 22, one such leader was awarded for valor under fire when he was presented with a Silver Star by the Central Command commander, Navy Adm. William Fallon, on his vehicle patrol base along the Pech River road.

1st Sgt. John E. Mangels of "Combat" Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment first sergeant, was awarded the Silver Star for his courage and determination in the face of an intense fire fight and even after serious injury.

On the night of Oct. 6, 2006, the vehicle patrol base Combat Main, located on the Pech River Road in Kunar province, came under enemy fire from multiple locations on both sides of the river. Mangels led retaliation fire from the M240B mounted on his vehicle, designating enemy firing positions for his Soldiers.

Due to his accurate aim and the threat he personally posed to the enemy, lethal and direct fire was aimed at Mangels. During this onslaught, Mangels received a shrapnel wound to his head which knocked him out for several minutes. Once Mangels regained consciousness, he continued to move between fighting positions to rally his men and provide guidance.

"He actually still had shrapnel in his head, but he wouldn't even let me look at him until he knew all his Soldiers were fine," said Army Staff Sgt. Guy Lamb, a fire support noncommissioned officer with Combat Company, 1-32 Infantry. "He's always been like that. It's like he has no fear in a fire fight."

Only when the last wounded Soldier was evacuated from the fight did Mangels allow himself to be treated and eventually evacuated.


From Bill Roggio's daily Iraq Report:

On the political front, the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the largest Shia political party, has changed its name and shifted its center of political and religious support from the Qom school of thought, led by the Iranian Ayatollah in Iran, to the Najaf school of thought, led by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

This would "mark a shift from SCIRI's current platform, which says the group gets its guidance from the religious establishment of Welayat al Faqih, led by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran," Reuters reported on Friday.

SCIRI has renamed itself the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, dropping the "Revolution" from the name. While the source stated the name change was due to Saddam's overthrow, the change is far more significant.

The term revolution is closely associated with Ayatollah Khomeini's rise to power in 1979 and the radical change Khomeini introduced in Shia politics.

At Best of the Web Today, James Taranto has covered the same development, aptly headlining it "We Won't Take Any More of Your Shiite, Iran"

Wonder if it's getting a bit chilly in Tehran.

Update 15 May: Jules Crittenden gives 12 good reasons why it just might be.

Do Not Try This At Home

Next time one of the guys in MedHold complains about not being permitted to drive a POV while in Germany, I'm showin' him this as one example (along with firing warning shots at other vehicles on the road, etc.) of what is NOT considered acceptable social behavior in a non-combat environment.

Just as a gentle reminder.

13 May 2007

"Gurlz Gone Wyld", indeed

The Armorer has actually posted the pics referred to here

We will have our revenge. Hell hath no fury and all that...

US News Tribute to SSG Darrell Griffin, Jr

26-minute unedited interview with Army Staff Sgt. Darrell Ray Griffin Jr. 18 days before he was killed by a sniper on March 21, 2007 while patrolling in Sadr City. Griffin was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.

The interview is just one part of a multimedia story from US News & World Report embed Alex Kingsbury.

Thanks to Mr. Kingsbury and US News for this story; we need more coverage like this.

Godspeed, SSG Griffin.

Related article at the Washington Times, Troops salute fallen leader

h/t Michelle Malkin

12 May 2007

Light Three Candles

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

No one can take them out of my hand.

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand.

For our three Soldiers missing (duty status and whereabouts unknown) in Baghdad since early this morning.

Update 13 May: On-the-ground observations from Teflon Don, analysis from Bill Roggio

Sending clear messages

Vice President Dick Cheney addresses nearly 4,000 Sailors and Marines with USS John C. Stennis Strike Group Commander Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Official U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Hyde

Gotta love a guy who stands on the hanger deck of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, just 150 miles from the Iranian coast, in front of five F18 Super Hornet fighters and a huge American flag, and says this:

With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we're sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike. We'll keep the sea lanes open. We'll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats. We'll disrupt attacks on our own forces. We'll continue bringing relief to those who suffer, and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom. And we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.

Think they got it?

11 May 2007

"He loved being a Soldier"

Email from the grandmother of a wounded Soldier we'd been asked to check on in March:

Dear MaryAnn,

I just mailed two blankets this morning.

I also want you to know that the Stryker that got hit last Sunday was Casey's Stryker. The SGT that was killed saved Casey's life [back in March].

Casey told us that when he and two other soldiers were hit that Sgt. Harkins stood over them and returned fire all the time yelling for help for the fallen soldiers.

[During that incident] Sgt. Harkins took a bullet to his helmet-- it stayed in his helmet.

If Casey had not gotten wounded [and sent back home] he would have been with those men. We see the hand of providence in this.

Casey had asked us to continue to send boxes to his unit and we addressed the last box to Sgt. Harkins and he returned the nicest letter to us so we feel really close to him.

He will always be in my prayers for the deceased.

Thank you for all that you do for the soldiers.

Bonnie M.

25-year-old Sgt. Jason Harkins of the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, was one of six Ft. Lewis soldiers killed last Sunday in Diyala Province.

The 5-20 has seen heavy fighting since moving north from Taji in mid-March, joining with units of the 1st CAV to engage al Qaeda elements who have regrouped in Diyala after fleeing Baghdad.

The al-Qaeda group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack. An AP reporter with the Strykers described it this way:

"As the vehicles inched down a trash-strewn road, a thunderous blast consumed one of them in a huge ball of gray debris that flipped the eight-wheeled, 37,000-pound troop carrier upside down and tore out its interior.

"The explosion killed everyone inside except the driver.

As troops scrambled to recover casualties, gunmen fired from a large yellow-domed mosque across the street, sparking a firefight that saw rounds ping off the wreckage. The Strykers blasted small chunks of concrete off the mosque with 40mm grenades and heavy caliber guns. Later, three insurgents wearing armored vests -- probably stolen from police -- were found dead in the mosque."

A few weeks ago, Sgt. Harkins told family members he had something to show them proving their prayers were being heard: the bullet which struck his helmet during the attack in which Spc. Casey Turner and two others were wounded but left him unhurt.

Spc. Josh Holubz is another of those soldiers who credits Harkins with saving his life:

“I came pretty close to dying that night,” he said. “I actually thought I was going to die that night.”

Before going out on that mission in March, Harkins handed out gauze pads to his fire team, including Holubz. That gauze was used to stop the bleeding when a terrorist bullet ripped through his shoulder and out through his chest.

"I never had a chance to talk to him or thank him for that."

On another occaison Harkins had gone into the kill zone and pulled one of his soldiers to safety, heroism for which he was slated to receive a Bronze Star.

Sgt. Jason Harkins always wanted to follow his father's footsteps into the Army since he was a little boy stalking the yard with a toy rifle. He enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1998 and went active duty in March 2003.

Harkins was a veteran of a previous deployment to Iraq with the brigade from 2003-2004. Between deployments he graduated from jump school and got married.

His widow, Emily Harkins, said the words of Psalm 144:1-2 described her late husband well:

"Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war; My safeguard and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, My shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me."

She said he loved being a Soldier.

Godspeed, Sgt. Harkins.

MNF-Iraq B-roll of soldiers from the 3rd Stryker Brigade in Diyala Province in March.

Sources: The Northeast Georgian, The News Tribune

09 May 2007

Into the light: A wounded Marine and his Vietnam Veteran father

I've never written about Josh Cooley, but not a day has passed since July 7, 2005 that I haven't thought about him.

That was the day I received an email from Sandy Gay, whose husband Norman worked with Josh at the Pasco, FL Sheriff's Office. Josh had been hurt in Iraq two days before. It was bad, and his wife and mother were flying to Germany on orders.

Josh had always thought about joining the military. After all, the Cooley men have served since the Battle of Bull Run. Josh's grandfather was a Marine, as was his father Ed. And his two older brothers served with the Corps in the first Gulf War.

But Ed and his mother Christine didn't want Josh to follow in their footsteps. He went into law enforcement instead, where he became a sniper with the Paco Sheriff's Office SWAT team.

Until 9/11.

Ed tried to talk Josh out of it, although the circumstances must have been familiar to him. Ed had enlisted as soon as he could after his 18-year-old cousin, Edward Monahan Jr., was killed in South Vietnam in 1965.

Wounded near Da Nang in May of 1968, Ed's real injuries were inflicted later.

When Christine had to pay her own way to visit him in Hawaii where he had been medevac'd. When he got back home and was called a baby killer. When he was pelted with eggs. When the military sent his Purple Heart and other decorations via Parcel Post several years after he had left the service.

But after Josh's injury, Ed's wounds started to heal along with his son's.

When he found out the CINC was going to award Josh the Purple Heart, there was a lot Ed wanted to say. And he wanted to make sure he got it right. So he composed a letter:

“When I was notified you were coming today to present my son with the Purple Heart I thought, ‘This is different, but also the way it should be,’ I myself served in Vietnam... upon return I was not treated well by the military or our country.”

“As I stand here today watching you honor my son as well as the other soldiers of our country, I have nothing but pride, honor, and yes dignity, too.

“Not only have you honored my son but you have also healed some old wounds as well.”

And this too, was as it should be:

As Bush read, his eyes got wet. He pulled out his handkerchief and turned away from the cameras. [He then turned back] to Ed and called him a hero.

“I’m sorry it was never said to you before,” the president said, “but thank you for serving our country.”

Then he hugged the old veteran so tightly that Ed thought Secret Service agents standing nearby might intervene. He felt a 36-year burden lift as he hesitantly returned the embrace.

Fast forward to November 11, 2006 at the Tampa Convention Center. The 231st birthday of Marine Corps and the largest reunion of the 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion in three years.

17 months after being gravely wounded by a car bomb near Hit, Iraq, Cpl Josh Cooley was there.

Word of Josh's arrival quickly spread to his platoon mates. They crowded him in excitement. Then the reality of his condition and the memory of the bomb's billowing smoke hit, and several went outside to compose themselves. ( ... )

A hush fell over the ballroom as Maj. John Wright spoke the names of each of the battalion's dead and wounded. He saved one name in particular for last.

"And with great pleasure - as a goal we set last year has been fulfilled - one of our own, Josh Cooley."

Two hundred Marines sprang to their feet. They clapped and whistled and whooped their guttural cry.

"Ooh-rah! Ooh-rah!"

Josh stared straight ahead, his mouth curved in a half-smile.

During the first weeks the doctors had agonized about the multiple surgeries Josh would need to survive... would removing the large piece of shrapnel embedded in his brain cause more harm than good? Would Josh be blind? Paralyzed? Would he be able to speak?

I checked with Sandy every couple of months after that. Josh was now at the Tampa VA, but there was never much encouraging news. I am ashamed to admit there were times I dreaded writing the email to ask. I didn't want to hear the answer. That there was no change... that Josh was just existing but nothing more.

And even one year after his injury, in July of 2006, Josh once again looked as bad as the days following the blast. After a seven hour surgery to return his skull to its original shape, more complications had set in. A further, complex 14-hour surgery followed, and another emergency surgery after that.

But then Josh turned the corner. He started making progress. He could feed himself, and he beat his mom Christine at arm wrestling. When his former SWAT team buddies visited him and reminisced about their past adventures, Josh's shoulders shook with laughter.

The progress made during the months leading up to Josh's first big outing at the Marine Corps birthday celebration gave Ed and Christine new hope, but it also left them frustrated.

Josh still couldn't walk, or speak.

Together with Josh's neurosurgeon at Bethesda, the Cooleys decided on a private rehab program called Casa Colina in sourthern California. There, the physical therapists had talked about Josh some day walking on his own. Even the speech therapists were positive.

Then, one day not long after his arrival, Christine leaned over, gave him a hug and said, "I love you, Josh."

And Josh replied, "I love you too, Mom."

The latest news from Sandy and Norman is that Josh has been able to stand up and support his weight for short periods. I hope to have an address for cards soon.

Update 15 May: I now have an address. Please email me if you would like to send Josh a card.

Update April 2008: Overcoming all odds, wounded Marine to return home after three long years

07 May 2007

Timing, Sleep, and Imaginary Friends

"You know, timing is everything. Recoup:... "

Ok, she means "review", but I speak Mrs. G.-ese so I understand. We're outside the hotel smoking before her departure for the airport a couple of hours ago. (Don't ask me why we paid all that money for a room when we've spent the better part of the last 5 days out on the sidewalk, but that's another story.)

"If Greyhawk had left a day later for [redacted - undisclosed location in the Middle East], he could have been at the conference.
"If my laptop had died a day later I wouldn't have had to use a strange computer to moderate the chat rooms.

"And if the sites had gone down a day later I would have been home and Greyhawk might have already arrived in [redacted - undisclosed location in the Middle East] and it wouldn't have been such a hassle to fix the problem."

All I'm thinking is how I wouldn't have started this whole thing off tired if we hadn't been up until 0430 Friday morning taking Greyhawk to catch his military charter flight to [redacted - undisclosed location in the Middle East].

I realize there are those of you who believe I don't need sleep but I can assure you, I'd love to get more sleep.

Staying up late on Friday and getting up early on Saturday didn't help. Nor did wandering around the hotel thinking until oh-dark-whatever on Sunday morning.

On Sunday Soldiers' Angels held a BBQ at Walter Reed's Malogne House to award the 1000th Valour-IT laptop. Chuck was a credit to his rank and to the Army as he presented the laptops to the soldiers personally.

Like last year, it was surreal to see so many familiar faces amongst the patients. I kept thinking to myself, "Hey, I remember that guy... "

It is a blessing that most of them remember little or nothing about being in Germany, and I was content to just sit back and drink it all in.

They all look so good.

Kevin did some interviews with these guys you've got to see/hear at Pundit Review Radio. Don't miss them.

By Sunday evening I'm comfortably cruising in the No Sleep Zone and looking forward to a relaxing evening at Carrie's. She's invited a few of what her husband calls her "imaginary friends" over for dinner. I'd promised myself a *cough* early night but hey, an early night is useless when you're in the No Sleep Zone.

Haven't laughed so much in ages. Hope I can still laugh when the pics come out.

Blogger Reax to the 2007 MilBlog Conference

...can be found at the conference blog.

CINC opens the 2007 MilBlog Conference

Thanks to Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit for this video and for being one of the conference's live bloggers.

Here's his coverage of the four panels:
"From the Front"
"All in the Family"
"Rapid Fire"
"Supporting the Troops"

02 May 2007

That other event on May 5th

There's something else going on besides the 2007 MilBlog Conference you say?

Well, as a matter of fact, there is. It's Derby Day. My sister, Jeannine Edwards, and the rest of the ESPN crew have been at Churchill Downs for a couple of days now working on their Derby Day coverage.

Dreaming of roses

Derby contender Hard Spun hams it up during a photo op with Jeannine

Those of you attending the MilBlog conference (either virtually or in person), should check here for last-minute details.

And don't forget to bring a baby gift for wounded Marine Cpl DJ Emery's new baby, Carlee. If you're not attending in person, check out the online gift registry.

Look forward to seeing you at the conference.