26 November 2008


'A Day of Thanksgiving'

The national holiday actually began at a dark hour during our war for independence. Here's the story.


When was the first Thanksgiving? Most of us think of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621. But if the question is about the first national Thanksgiving holiday, the answer is that the tradition began at a lesser-known moment in 1777 in York, Pa.

In July 1776, the American colonists declared independence from Britain. The months that followed were so bleak that there was not much to give thanks for. The Journals of the Continental Congress record no Thanksgiving in that year, only two days of "solemn fasting" and prayer.

For much of 1777, the situation was not much better. British troops controlled New York City. The Americans lost the strategic stronghold of Fort Ticonderoga, in upstate New York, to the British in July. In Delaware, on Sept. 11, troops led by Gen. George Washington lost the Battle of Brandywine, in which 200 Americans were killed, 500 wounded and 400 captured. In Pennsylvania, early in the morning of Sept. 21, another 300 American soldiers were killed or wounded and 100 captured in a British surprise attack that became known as the Paoli Massacre.

Philadelphia, America's largest city, fell on Sept. 26. Congress, which had been meeting there, fled briefly to Lancaster, Pa., and then to York, a hundred miles west of Philadelphia. One delegate to Congress, John Adams of Massachusetts, wrote in his diary, "The prospect is chilling, on every Side: Gloomy, dark, melancholy, and dispiriting."

His cousin, Samuel Adams, gave the other delegates -- their number had dwindled to a mere 20 from the 56 who had signed the Declaration of Independence -- a talk of encouragement. He predicted, "Good tidings will soon arrive. We shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we act worthy of its aid and protection."

He turned out to have been correct, at least about the good tidings. On Oct. 31, a messenger arrived with news of the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. The American general, Horatio Gates, had accepted the surrender of 5,800 British soldiers, and with them 27 pieces of artillery and thousands of pieces of small arms and ammunition.

Saratoga turned the tide of the war -- news of the victory was decisive in bringing France into a full alliance with America. Congress responded to the event by appointing a committee of three that included Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Daniel Roberdeau of Pennsylvania, to draft a report and resolution. The report, adopted Nov. 1, declared Thursday, Dec. 18, as "a day of Thanksgiving" to God, so that "with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor."

It was the first of many Thanksgivings ordered up by Samuel Adams. Though the holidays were almost always in November or December, the exact dates varied. (Congress didn't fix Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November until 1941.)

In 1778, a Thanksgiving resolution drafted by Adams was approved by Congress on Nov. 3, setting aside Wednesday, Dec. 30, as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, "It having pleased Almighty God through the Course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold Mercies on the People of these United States."

A year later, Gov. Adams offered a similar Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring Thursday, Dec. 15, 1796, as "a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Praise to Our Divine Benefactor." He recommended "earnest Supplication to God" that "every Nation and Society of Men may be inspired with the knowledge and feeling of their natural and just rights" and "That Tyranny and Usurpation may everywhere come to an end."

These statements were greeted with cynicism and derision by some of Adams's younger political opponents, who saw them as archaic. One of them, Christopher Gore, wrote a friend that it would be an occasion for a real day of thanksgiving when Adams finally retired.

It turned out, though, that the ideas of thanking God for America's blessings -- and of praying for the spread of freedom everywhere -- would long outlast Adams's career. The concepts still meet with skepticism from time to time. But they are reason enough to pause during tomorrow's football game or family feast and raise a glass to the Founding Father who began our Thanksgiving tradition.

Mr. Stoll, formerly the managing editor of the New York Sun, is author of "Samuel Adams: A Life," published this month by Free Press.

24 November 2008

Valour-IT: More than a laptop

Here's part of a note from the fiancee of a Valour-IT recipient based in Germany.


I just want to tell you a quick story: Last Christmas (2 months after my fiance got of the hospital), we got a Christmas tree and decorated it.

We were missing the star to put on the top of the tree, so we used the little angel you sent us in a letter.

I just thought you should know that... and, that we have promised ourselves the angel will be used every Christmas on our tree :-)

How much is it worth for this couple to look at their Christmas tree each year and know that the American people love and appreciate them?


Valour-IT is a lot more than just a laptop.

22 November 2008

VI Day - Victory in Iraq

November 22, 2008

While we take a moment to celebrate our accomplishments, it's prudent to remember there's still work to be done - both on the ground and back home. Please continue your support for those who made our victory possible. This week, one good way is to participate in the annual fundraising drive for Soldiers' Angels Project Valour-IT.

VI Day - The Tribute

November 22, 2008

Who can say why your heart sighs,
As your love flies?
Only time...

Who can say why your heart cries,
when your love lies?
Only time...

And who can say where the road goes,
Where the day flows?
Only time...

We can't say where the road goes from here. But Iraq now has something it didn't have before.


VI Day – The Beginning

November 22, 2008

Late March, 2003. I’m travelling within Germany on business and get into a taxi. I notice by his accent the driver isn’t a German national. Because there’s kind of a bond between ex-pats, we start talking. I ask him where he’s from.

“Iraq. What about you?”

“I’m an American.”

The anti-war sentiment in Germany is high during this time, so we start slowly. But soon the words come tumbling out as he tells me his story.

He spent many years in Saddam’s Army and fought in the never-ending and bloody war with Iran. But when the order came to invade Kuwait, he’d had enough. He left the country and made his way to Germany, hoping to send for his wife and two children once he was settled.

His wife and children were “disappeared”.

He becomes increasingly emotional, gesturing and saying if he could only find Saddam, he’d kill him with his bare hands.

I ask him about his children; their names, how old they’d be now. He tells me.

Then, suddenly, he pulls the taxi over, puts his head on the steering wheel, and starts sobbing uncontrollably.

“Nobody cared”, he says with tears running down his face. “Nobody cared about us – except George Bush and America."

21 November 2008

Valour-IT Fundaising Competition: When the going gets tough...

Send the Marines!

USMC Rules for Gunfighting
1. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
2. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
3. Have a plan.
4. Have a back-up plan, because the first one probably won't work.
5. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
6. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a "4."
7. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.
8. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)
9. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
10. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
12. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
13. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating or reloading.
14. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
15. And above all ... don't drop your guard.

Navy Rules For Gunfighting
1. Go to Sea
2. Drink Coffee
3. Send the Marines

Army Rules For Gunfighting
1. Select a new beret to wear
2. Sew combat patch on right shoulder
3. Reconsider the color of beret you decide to wear
4. Send the Marines

US Air Force Rules For Gunfighting
1. Have a cocktail
2. Adjust temperature on air-conditioner
3. Determine "what is a gunfight"
4. Send the Marines

Support the Valour-IT Marines blogging team during this year's fundraising competition by clicking on the image below! (The money all goes to the same fund, but it's nice to have a little fun while raising it.. )

Thank you and Semper Fi!

VI Day Tomorrow

Don't forget we're celebrating Victory in Iraq Day tomorrow!

Information here.

18 November 2008

Best-Selling Authors Provide Autographed Books to Support Project Valour-IT


Best-Selling Authors Provide Autographed Books to Support Project Valour-IT

Seven noted authors have stepped up to support Project Valour-IT by donating autographed books for auction, and more are anticipated to join them. The books are being auctioned on eBay to help raise money to help Soldier's Angels provide adaptive laptops to wounded or disabled service members.

David Weber, David Drake, John Ringo, David J. Williams, Dean Ing, Mark L. Van Name, and Travis "Doc" Taylor have all agreed to provide works for auction as part of the annual fundraiser, which kicked off on Veterans Day and ends Thanksgiving Day. The works are being auctioned on the eBay Giving Works listings (seller spliffslips) with the money raised going directly and fully to the Project Valour-IT fund.

Currently, there are seven items up for bid on eBay:

The Last Centurion by John Ringo.

The Quantum Connection by Travis S. Taylor.

Warp Speed by Travis S. Taylor.

Von Neuman's War by John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor (autographed by Travis S. Taylor only).

The Complete Hammer's Slammers Volume 1 by David Drake.

Vorpal Blade by John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor (autographed by Travis S. Taylor only).

Slanted Jack by Mark L. Van Name.

Works by David Weber, Dave Williams, and Dean Ing will be posted for auction soon. The end time for each auction is different, so please check each listing to determine its end date.

John Ringo is a New York Times best-selling author with more than a million copies of his works in print. A veteran (Airborne!), he is known for his solo "Posleen" and "Ghost" series, as well as his "Empire of Man" series co-authored with David Weber.

Travis S. "Doc" Taylor is a rising light in the science fiction sky. He's earned not only a Ph.D. in optical science and engineering, but Master's degrees in physics, aerospace engineering, and astronomy and a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering as well. The author of several books, he may be best known for the "Looking Glass" series co-authored with John Ringo. The start of a series of video interviews with Taylor can be found here.

David Drake is the New York Times best-selling author of the "Hammer's Slammers" series. Having written on a variety of subjects, his Hammer's Slammers work is based on his service in Vietnam and he is known to describe the series as the 11th Armored Cavalry with ray guns. The start of a series of video interviews with Drake can be found at here.

Mark L. Van Name is an author who also runs a technology assessment company in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. A former Executive Vice President for Ziff Davis Media and national technology columnist, he's published over a thousand computer-related articles in addition to his "Slanted Jack" series and numerous short stories. The start of a series of video interviews with Van Name can be found here.

David Weber is the New York Times best-selling author of the acclaimed "Honor Harrington" series. The author of multiple best-selling books and series, he has seen his works develop a world-wide reach and following. The start of a series of video interviews with him can be found here.

David J. Williams is another rising star in the science fiction universe. Born in Hertfordshire, England, he now resides in Washington, DC. Mirrored Heavens is his first novel.

Dean Ing is the author of multiple science fiction and techno-thriller novels. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he earned a doctorate in communications and worked in aerospace engineering. He served on the Citizen's Advisory Council on National Space Policy.

Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries. Technology supplied includes:

- Voice-controlled Laptops: Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.

- Wii Video Game Systems: Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions.

- Personal GPS: Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to TBI and severe PTSD.

The experience of Major Chuck Ziegenfuss, a partner in the project who suffered serious hand wounds while serving in Iraq, illustrates how important these laptops and other technologies can be to a wounded service member's recovery.

Established in 2003, Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-based 501(c)(3) non-profit providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, as well as veterans and military families. For more information, see www.soldiersangels.org or call 626-529-5114. Tax ID# 20-0583415

Any of these books would make an excellent Christmas gift, and it's all for a good cause. Or, you can make a cash donation to Valour-IT by clicking on the graphic below.

17 November 2008

Saturday nights at Landstuhl hospital

A gurney stands ready to transport a patient to the Sunday morning US-bound medevac flight in front of a showcase with a Soldiers’ Angels backpack on one of the medical/surgical wards at Landstuhl hospital.

Flights leave Germany for CONUS 3 days each week. At 2200 the night before a medevac mission, Air Force personnel pick up "baggage" and park a gurney for each outgoing patient in the hallway of their ward.

13 November 2008


Well over 50,000 patients have passed through Landstuhl since the beginning of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Three times each week, medevac aircraft leave Germany for the US. They carry those requiring "transfer for continued care". We can't keep them here; we need to make room for "incoming".

In some cases I keep in touch with the families of those who have gone home. But mostly, I can't. There are others here now, more arriving today, and still more arriving tomorrow.

And just as the caregivers downrange need to have faith that we will take care of the patients they send to us in Germany, we, in turn, must have faith that you will take care of those we send home to you.

If you are not familiar with Soldiers' Angel's Project Valour IT, you can find information here.

Your contribution can help provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from severe injuries.

If you're a blogger, you can help spread the word by joining our annual Valour IT fundraising drive which will continue until Thanksgiving.

Please help if you can. Thank you.

12 November 2008

“On the 12th of November we lost two great warriors. We lost a Troop Commander and his gunner, and it hurts.”

Those were LTC Michael Fenzel's opening words at the memorial service for CPT Dave Boris and SGT Adrian Hike of Anvil Troop, 1st Squadron 91st Cavalry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, killed on 12 November, 2007 in the Bermel District of Paktika Province, Afghanistan.

He went on to say, "We don't mourn the loss of Dave Boris and Adrian Hike today. Instead, we thank God that these men lived, and we celebrate the fact that we were honored and privileged enough to have served with them and alongside them."

While embedded with the 1-91 Cav last year, photographer John McHugh documented their memorial service through his extraordinary photography. Please take a moment to watch the slide show he created (with audio) here.

Sky Soldiers! Airborne!

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

11 November 2008

The Diggers of Belgium

Some people refer to this band of Belgians as “The Diggers” for its dogged determination to recover the remains of U.S. infantrymen who remain missing from the Battle of the Bulge. Pictured from left to right are: Jean-Luc Menestrey, Marc Marique, Jean-Philippe Speder and Jean-Louis Seel. Photo: Kevin Dougherty / S&S

It's been a long time since I've read such an inspirational story - a story about decades of quiet, selfless dedication. A story about those who honor the price of freedom.

It began when two men were teenagers going on souvenir hunts through the Belgian forests, at that time still scattered with WWII litter. Then, one day, they found the skeletal remains of a German Soldier. And four years later, in 1988, the remains of an American Soldier.

"When we found our first American, it was a turning point."

Since then, they've never stopped looking through the quiet woods, although years often go by between finds.

"Sometimes I think I see shadows," Speder said. "In a sense, they are still here."

When you ask them why they do it, why they've devoted countless hours of their time over decades to locating Americans they never knew, Americans who died well before they were born, they say they consider it an honor.

"They liberated my parents and grandparents," Speder said. The soldiers "are kind of my family."

Annually, the U.S. spends more than $100 million a year on POW/MIA matters, much of it in Southeast Asia, based on Defense Department figures. Despite the sum, JPAC won’t send recovery teams to Europe — or, for that matter, anywhere in the world — without solid leads.

When a site is confirmed, the mortuary affairs office in Landstuhl is contacted and it coordinates with JPAC to ultimately bring the remains to Hawaii for further examination and tests.

[Finding solid leads] is where Speder and his team enter the equation.

The telegrams that reached the front stoops of many homes during World War II rarely conveyed good news to anxious families. In this January 1945 telegram, the family of Pfc. Dominick Posillipo learned that the previous month he had been reported missing in action in Belgium. Photo and story: Kevin Dougherty / S&S

One of the cases involves Pfc. Dominick Posillipo.

When his unit retreated during the early days of the German counteroffensive, Posillipo’s body was left behind and never recovered, his nephew, John Lozito, said. A month later, the Posillipo family received a telegram from the War Department stating he was missing in action.

A subsequent telegram said he died in Denmark, though unit buddies say he died near Steinbruck, Belgium, on the northern flank, where the 99th was situated.

Lozito continues to research the incident. While JPAC officials have visited the general area, Lozito is also in contact with The Diggers.

"They are my family’s last hope," Lozito said of the Belgian search team.

"They are the only hope for my uncle to come home."

Full story with more photos here.

Happy Veterans' Day

A Veteran — whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve — is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to, and including his life.”

- Author unknown

10 November 2008

09 November 2008

Heroes Remembered

Im Memoriam:

1LT Matthew C. Ferrara, 24, of Torrance, Calif.
SGT Jeffery S. Mersman, 23, of Parker, Kan
SPC Sean K.A. Langevin, 23, of Walnut Creek, Calif.
SPC Lester G. Roque, 23, of Torrance, Calif.
PFC Joseph M. Lancour, 21, of Swartz Creek, Mich.
all of Chosen Company, 2-503rd PIR, 173rd ABCT
and Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, 28, of Troy, Mich.

Killed 9 November 2007 while conducting combat operations near OP Bella in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. Eight more Sky Soldiers and 11 ANA were wounded.

Eight separate air crews subsequently conducted what was to become a combined 31-hour medevac and recovery mission involving multiple lifts.

With gratitude to those CJTF-82 crews for their professionalism, selfless service and dedication to duty during our Heroes' final hours and to the AH-64 crews not only for their protection, but whose gun cameras documented this mission.

CJTF-82 Heroes of the Week
Why we fight: Because "all of humanity is our tribe", by Linda Ferrara
A Mother's Tribute

06 November 2008

Welcome, new citizens

One-hundred eighty-six service members sit as brand new U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory, Iraq, Nov. 4, 2008. Photo by Pfc. Christopher Gaylord, Multi-National Corps - Iraq Public Affairs.