31 December 2009

Auld Lang Syne

To friends and loved ones who can't be with us; and to those who are no longer with us.

You are always in our hearts.

Auld Lang Syne (to days gone by)... farewell 2009.

"Into Thine Hand I Commit My Spirit"

From Michael Yon:

Arghandab, Afghanistan
New Year's Eve, 2009

On this small base surrounded by a mixture of enemy and friendly territory, a memorial has been erected just next to the Chapel. Inside the tepee are 21 photos of 21 soldiers killed during the first months of a year-long tour of duty. The fallen will belong forever to the honor rolls of the 1-17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and they will join the sacred list of names of those who have given their lives in service of the United States of America.

Update: Greyhawk has two posts up with the political backstory on this unit's deployment and some of what's happened since they've been in country.

30 December 2009

Incoming at COP Michigan

Sgt. David Nix, from Charlotte, NC, from the 2nd Battalion 12th Infantry aims his gun towards the hills as incoming fire hits inside Command Outpost Michigan at the Pech River Valley in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009. AP photo.

Christmas with TF Saber

Capt. Dan Urquhart, left, a chaplain, leads soldiers from 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade's Task Force Saber in prayer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Photo: Marcus Castro.

Nice story by John Ramsey of the Fayette Observer. You can read the rest of it here.

It's just another day for a platoon in Afghanistan

ARGHANDAB RIVER VALLEY, Afghanistan - In their mud-walled compound next to a pomegranate orchard, the men in 1st Platoon are having company tonight.

It's not the kind of company associated with mistletoe and eggnog.

Another platoon from the same unit - Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division - is set to move into the outpost to help secure the area just north of Kandahar.

For the 1st Platoon, that means a Christmas Day foot patrol to a spot called Route Philly, clearing the way for their new roommates to arrive.

Mission first.

But the platoon's soldiers are not going to ignore the holiday altogether. A wooden table is decorated with a 2-foot-tall Christmas tree, and a giant white stocking hangs next to a door.

Most, if not all, of the men will have the chance to call home. Sgt. Barry McDonald and other soldiers have been saving their cell phone minutes for it, just in case they can't make it to the satellite phone.

If they can find a goat in the village for a reasonable price, they'll cook it over an open flame - a substitute for the traditional can of ham.

It's not like home, but it's something.

Christmas at Landstuhl

I've been remiss in posting these but here we go, better late than never...

Staff on one of the medical/surgical wards at Landstuhl with their Soldiers' Angels coffee mugs :-)

"Thank you for taking care of our guys! Love, Soldiers' Angels" - Heidi and Jens with one of the cases of Soldiers' Angels coffee mugs and coffee distributed to the hospital staff.

Heidi, Merelen, and MaryAnn at the APO picking up SAG mail on Christmas Eve - YOUR donations for our wounded warriors.

Your donations for our wounded warriors at Landstuhl from a single day filled a truck! Thank you to all of our supporters, our volunteers, and our friends at the post office. Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year.

Thanks to young couple, WWII vet's remains, and those of his wife, finally have an honored resting place

Mike Colt, 19, and girlfriend Carol Sturgell, 18, found the urns of Delbert and Barbara Hahn in a pile of trash. Their search for information about the couple led to a military funeral on in Bushnell. Photo: John Pendygraft, St. Petersburg Times.

World War II vet's remains, and those of his wife, finally have an honored resting place

By Lane DeGregory, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, December 17, 2009

BUSHNELL — The two teenagers got to the cemetery first.

He wore his dark green dress uniform from the National Guard. She wore a long black dress.

They stood on the edge of the road, across from rows of matching military headstones, waiting for the funeral of the man they had never met.

Mike Colt, 19, and his girlfriend, Carol Sturgell, 18, had driven more than an hour from their Tampa homes on Wednesday to be at Florida National Cemetery.

They weren't really sure why they had come. They just knew they had to be here.

"It's kind of sad, huh?" asked Sturgell, scanning the sea of white gravestones.

Colt nodded. "Yeah, but it feels kind of important."

At 12:20 p.m., a Tampa police car pulled up, then a white Lincoln Town Car. Another police cruiser followed. Two officers stepped out.

"Thank you for being here," Colt said, shaking both of their hands.

"No, thank you," said Officer Dan College. "If it weren't for you guys, none of us would be here."

The story began three weeks earlier when the young couple found the urns of Delbert and Barbara Hahn in a pile of trash. They also discovered a citation for a Purple Heart issued in 1945; and a certificate for a Bronze Star medal "for heroism in ground combat in the vicinity of Normandy, France ... June 1944".

Saying "No one should be thrown away like that", Colt decided to do something about it. And so on December 16, "A bugler played taps. The riflemen fired three shots. And 56 people watched the honor guard fold a flag over the urns of the man and woman they never knew."

Make sure to read the whole thing.

Thanks to Dean for this story of kindness, and of honor.

One last note. According to a comment from Mike Colt's father Donald on the orginal article, Mike is scheduled to deploy in early January. Good luck, Mike, and let us know if you need anything!

"He was my gift from God"

Joshua Dae Ho Carrell, a 2005 graduate of Port Angeles High School, died of complications of malaria while serving with the Seabees in Africa.

Malaria claims Navy Seabee from Port Angeles

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES -- A Navy Seabee from Port Angeles who died of complications of malaria caught in Africa will be remembered as a loyal brother and son who loved his country, his family said.

Joshua Dae Ho Carrell, 23, died of complications of malaria on Saturday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

"He was my gift from God," said Rhonda Carrell, his mother.

Mr. Carrell was a third class petty officer with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3.

He was building a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, with his fellow Seabees -- the naval construction force that carries the motto: "We build, we fight."

About 400 military personnel attended a service for Petty Officer Carrell on Tuesday at Naval Station Rota in Spain.

After the service, his body was flown to Dover, Del., en route to Port Angeles.

Petty Officer Carrell will be laid to rest in Port Angeles on Monday or Tuesday with a full military honor guard. The family has not finalized the details.

The rest of the article can be found here.

Our prayers go out to the family of PO3 Josh Carrell. Fair winds and following seas, Sailor.

29 December 2009

Sky News Report: German Hospital Saving US Frontline Troops

For thousands of American soldiers injured in Afghanistan, the road to recovery begins at a military hospital in Germany. The Landstuhl medical centre treats men and women dealing with the reality of life on the frontline. Alistair Bunkall is there.

Thanks to Mrs. Greyhawk's Dawn Patrol.

American Warriors

Great pictures set to great music - a photo montage from Combined Joint Task Force-82 Public Affairs Office, December 2009.

28 December 2009

Counterinsurgency and the American public

In an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal, Jim Hake, founder and CEO of Spirit of America, talks about how ordinary citizens can contribute to our victory in Afghanistan.

In 2003, Sgt. First Class Jay Smith and his Army Special Forces team were based in Orgun-e, Afghanistan and were taking regular rocket fire from al Qaeda fighters. But Sgt. Smith and his men were armed with an effective counterweapon—gifts of school supplies and sports gear for children, and clothing, shoes and blankets for nearby families, all provided by American donors.

After receiving these items, the grateful villagers reciprocated by forming a night-watch patrol to protect our soldiers. Good relations with locals helped save American lives. I've witnessed this success on the front lines, aided by support from home, repeated many times since Sgt. Smith.

Accordingly, when President Barack Obama presented his plan for Afghanistan earlier this month he left out one critical element: the American people. Our initiative, resourcefulness and goodwill are incredibly powerful. In fact, the tangible support of the American people can make the difference between success and failure in Afghanistan.

Our troops in Afghanistan are engaged in counterinsurgency, a type of war that depends on winning over the local people. Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command (which supports ongoing military operations and helps shape military forces for future conflicts), has said that, "One way we create the necessary credibility among the people and dissuade them from supporting our enemies is to show them hope of a better future." This is where the American people can play an indispensable role.

For the past six years, Spirit of America, the group I head, has supported our troops' humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. With donations from American citizens and businesses, we have provided sewing machines, medical supplies, tools, shoes, blankets, toys and more—all at the request of our troops for the benefit of local people.

Other organizations have also given Americans a chance to help the troops. Operation International Children, Soldiers' Angels, and Operation Gratitude, to name a few, have provided a link between the troops on the battlefield and Americans at home.

Read the rest of this great piece. Jim Hake is also the author of the book 101 Ways to Help the Cause in Afghanistan.

General Casey with the 1st AD in Germany

Dec. 21, 2009 -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. displays some holiday spirit as he speaks to the Soldiers of 1st Armored Division in Germany, about their role in their upcoming deployment to Iraq and how the Afghanistan troop surge will affect it. Photo by D. Myles Cullen.

One of the many great photos from the Army's "Year in Photos 2009".

Third Operation Proper Exit begins

(Left to right) Sgt. 1st Class Mike Schlitz, Sgt. Bill Congleton, 1st Lt. Jim Kirchner, Capt. Sam Brown and Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Olson stand next to Multi-National Force-Iraq Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Wilson as they are introduced to a crowd of service members Dec. 28 at Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace in Baghdad. Photo: Lee Craker.

Five wounded warriors returned to Iraq today with "Operation Proper Exit", a program that brings troops to visit the places they were injured. Prior participants state that one of the most important things about the visits was the ability - this time around - to leave Iraq of their own free will, versus being medevaced out of theater before completing their missions.

This is the third time this year Operation Proper Exit, sponsored by the Troops First Foundation, has brought troops to Iraq to participate in the week-long event.

The five soldiers come from different backgrounds, different ranks and have different stories to tell. What they share is an understanding of living life as a wounded combat veteran.

The soldiers will spend the next six days travelling throughout Iraq with Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Wilson, Multi-National Force-Iraq command sergeant major, visiting the places these soldiers experienced their own "alive day."

"We welcome these heroes. They are here to heal, and we are here to help them do that," Wilson said.

More about the program and these five heroes.

Update, 30 Dec 2009: Here's a video story about Operation Proper Exit from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs.

27 December 2009

Warriors' Mass

U.S. Army Capt. Carl Subler, a chaplain with the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, leads a Catholic Mass for Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment awaiting transportation at the helicopter loading zone at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Zabul, Afghanistan, December 12, 2009. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Jones/Released.

New studies may lead to breakthrough in PTSD treatment

The results of two studies shed new light on the complex interplay between PTSD, TBI, pain, and depression/other mental health issues. The findings have implications not only for treatment, but also may help to predict who is most susceptible.
In one study, Christine Marx of the Duke University Medical Center and Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center wondered why PTSD, depression and pain often occur together.

Researchers already knew that people with PTSD show changes in their neurosteroids, which are brain chemicals thought to play a role in how the body responds to stress.

Marx is researching treatment for people with traumatic brain injuries using the same kind of brain chemical, and early results show that increasing a person’s neurosteroid level decreases his PTSD symptoms.
A second study, conducted by Alexander Neumeister of Yale University School of Medicine, found that veterans diagnosed with PTSD along with another syndrome, such as depression, alcohol abuse, substance abuse or suicidal ideation, had different brain images on a CT scan than did those who had been diagnosed only with PTSD.

Neumeister became curious after realizing that veterans dealing only with PTSD responded differently to treatment than did those with PTSD and another diagnosis.

In his report, Neumeister also said that depression with trauma is “biologically distinct” from depression without a history of severe trauma.

In other words, PTSD, depression and substance abuse can all be seen as a physical, chemical injury to the brain that occurs when the brain is exposed to trauma. As researchers work more with PTSD, they may be able to determine why some people are more susceptible to this chemical change than others, researchers said.

The whole article is here.

25 December 2009

Medics celebrate Christmas in Iraq

Sgt. Matthew Machtan, of Center City, Minn., noncommissioned officer in charge of radiology with the 204th Area Support Medical Center, makes use of a "chimney and fireplace" in the radiology section in the medical center at Contingency Operating Base Basrah, Dec. 23. Photo by Spc. Samuel Soza.

Stille Nacht

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!
Alles schläft, einsam wacht
Nur das traute, hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh.

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht,
Durch der Engel Halleluja.
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da,
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund,
Christ, in deiner Geburt,
Christ, in deiner Geburt.

- Joseph Mohr, 1816

24 December 2009

For God so loved the world

This is an annual post.

It was late evening when I walked by and looked into the room.

Both legs gone, way up. The rest covered with bandages and surgical draping, even his face. What was left of his arms was on boards out to both sides.

My body felt like lead. So heavy I was afraid the floor might give way beneath me. And I thought, this must be like the pain - and the love - Mary felt watching her son die for us.

Then, a voice in my head, saying over and over, “For God so loved the world, for God so loved the world... ”

I asked his nurse if I could gown up and go in.

It was Christmas Eve.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

23 December 2009

Gold Star Christmas

To our Gold Star families, with love.

Merry Christmas from Heaven

I still hear the songs
I still see the lights
I still feel your love
on cold wintery nights

I still share your hopes
and all of your cares
I'll even remind you
to please say your prayers

I just want to tell you
you still make me proud
You stand head and shoulders
above all the crowd

Keep trying each moment
to stay in His grace
I came here before you
to help set your place

You don't have to be
perfect all of the time
He forgives you the slip
If you continue the climb

To my family and friends
please be thankful today
I'm still close beside you
In a new special place

I love you all dearly
now don't shed a tear
Cause I'm spending my
Christmas with Jesus this year.

--John Wm. Mooney, Jr

22 December 2009

In a Christmas miracle, wounded Marine returns home for the holidays

"It's like I'm a famous person or something. I can't believe all of it. But really, I don't understand why people treat me this way. I'm not special. I was just over there doing my job."

- Marine Staff Sgt. John Stanz

Marine Staff Sgt. John Stanz arrives at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport with his mother Sandy and father John by his side Tuesday evening, Dec 15. Photo: Stacy Waite.

A wonderful Christmas story from Kristen Johnson of The Post-Jourmal in Jamestown, NY.
Stanz's homecoming is something of a miracle. Just four short months ago, it wasn't certain whether he'd survive the ambush attack that left him suffering from severe enclosed head trauma, multiple facial fractures, a fractured right hand, a fractured left foot, a dislocated right knee and damage to both of his lungs.

The attack happened Aug. 15, when the vehicle in which he was riding was blown up in an ambush attack by a land-planted improvised explosive device, or IED. At the time of the attack, Stanz was serving with the Marine Special Operations Company F, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion in Afghanistan.

After the attack, he spent almost two weeks in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, the largest American hospital outside the United States. There, doctors placed him in a medically-induced coma and were able to keep the pressure in his brain low enough so he could make the 12-hour flight between Germany and America.

After spending almost a month at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, Stanz was transferred to Moss Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia.

Doctors were also concerned about the brain damage Stanz sustained in the attack. He has made progress there, too - he has progressed from being unable to communicate to being able to answer yes-or-no questions with gestures to being able to answer open-ended questions and carry on a conversation.

Now that Stanz is home, he will continue outpatient therapy for at least the next year at Erie County Medical Center. But Stanz isn't daunted by the thought of more therapy.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "It's just therapy. I can handle it. 'Bring it on,' that's what I say."

Stanz credited all of the doctors and nurses - but especially the therapists at the Moss Rehabilitation Hospital, with being "just wonderful people."

"Welcome Home Uncle Johnny": Nieces and nephews greet Staff Sgt. Stanz upon his arrival. Photo: Stacy Waite.

His brother, Joe, along with his parents, John and Sandy Stanz - who now live in Hamburg but are formerly of Chapman Street in Jamestown - were at his bedside constantly. Stanz's siblings - sisters Lisa Destro, Stacy Waite and Amy Pavlovich of Hamburg, Tara Archfield of Maryland, Cassie Stanz of Connecticut and Christy Quinter of California, and brother Mike Stanz of Warren, Pa. - have also steadfastly supported their brother.

"You just wouldn't believe it," Stanz said Tuesday. "I mean, I knew I had a great family before all this. But my parents were there every single day from the time I'd wake up until the time I'd fall asleep. They and my siblings proved their love for me over and over and over again. I could never thank them enough."

Asked what he is most looking forward to doing now that he is home, Stanz paused for a moment and said he ''can't wait to eat dinner with my family.''

"I want to have Christmas dinner with my family and all the kids," he said. "I'm home for Christmas and I can't tell you what that means to me. It's going to be so great."

And that's what Christmas is all about, isn't it? God bless this family and all the best to Staff Sgt. Stanz for a full recovery.

Spartans Transfer Authority to 173rd ABCT

Task Force Spartan, the 3rd BCT of the 10th Mountain Division, formally handed over authority of Logar and Wardak Provinces to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team at FOB Shank on December 20th.

Thank you and well done, Spartans! We appreciate your courage, your sacrifices, and your commitment over the past year. Have a safe trip home. "With your shield or on it! - SPARTANS!"

Good luck and Godspeed to the 173rd. SKY SOLDIERS!

21 December 2009

SPARKy the robotic ankle

Following last week's story about exciting new improvements to prosthetic knees comes news of another breakthrough technology - SPARKy, the robotic ankle:

[Arizona State University professor Thomas] Sugar and his ASU team have been working with the Military Amputee Research Program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to develop a technology called Spring Ankle with Regenerative Kinetics, nicknamed SPARKy after the ASU Sun Devil mascot.

They believe they are close to perfecting it.

Sugar says the device is one of a kind because it uses lightweight energy-storing springs to provide a flex that traditional devices just can't give.

"About 1,000 servicemen and women have had below-the-knee-amputations in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and every year about 100,000 diabetics have the same amputation," said Sugar, an engineering professor based at ASU's Polytechnic campus in Mesa. "We believe this device could mean a different life for many of those people."

The shortcomings of current prosthetics are numerous because the mechanics are "largely passive," Sugar said.

Amputees use 20 to 30 percent more energy than able-bodied people just to walk. Their gait is uneven because they must swing their hips to propel their prosthetics. When they're climbing stairs or even walking backward, the challenges increase.

But SPARKy's technology is radically different because it relies on a "robotic tendon" that stretches with each step, generating energy stored in a small motor in the ankle.

"I would hope that by three years from now there would be at least several hundred new users a year and it would allow more and more people to enjoy effortless walking - taking long walks in the park, walking their dog.

"The everyday things that are your life."

Army to open TBI clinics in Graf, Vilseck

Great news, and much more convenient for Soldiers stationed at these bases than making the long trip to Landstuhl for treatment:

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The Army is preparing to open several multimillion-dollar facilities to treat soldiers for combat stress and traumatic brain injury at Grafenwöhr and Vilseck.

One of the facilities, a $2.5 million behavioral health clinic in Grafenwöhr, will include therapy and conference rooms along with office space. It will house “everything we are doing to help soldiers with the new emphasis on Army mental health — all these issues like depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr commander Col. Nils “Chris” Sorenson said earlier this year.

The clinic, set to open in mid-February, will have an 11-member staff including psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioral health social workers and a behavioral health technician, Grafenwöhr Health Clinic commander Lt. Col. Kendra Whyatt said.

Operation Christmas Drop: The longest-running humanitarian airdrop mission in Air Force history

"For most of us, Christmas falls on a specific day on our calendar, but this year, on 51 islands, Christmas will begin as it has for over half a century, when you, the (U.S.) Air Force, show up carrying Santa in the sky."

- Bill Hagen, long-time volunteer and supporter of Operation Christmas Drop
A bundle of donated goods drifts to an island after being dropped out the back of a C-130 Hercules Dec. 16, 2009, during Operation Christmas Drop. The operation, the longest-running humanitarian airlift mission in the world, delivers supplies to remote islands of the Federated States of Micronesia. U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Spinner.

A heartwarming 58-year tradition started by a WB-50 crew in 1952.

Operation Christmas Drop is under way once again

by Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
36th Wing Public Affairs

12/18/2009 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) -- More than 12 months of preparation have gone into ensuring this year's four-day air drop mission, known as Operation Christmas Drop, goes smoothly, with countless fundraisers and many drop-off points made available to those wishing to donate supplies and help support Guam's island neighbors in the Marianas, Carolines, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and the Federal States of Micronesia.

Operation Christmas Drop's mission officially kicked off with a Push Ceremony held Dec. 15. Members of the Andersen family and representatives from the local community were on hand to assist in loading boxes onto a C-130 Hercules, in essence preparing the first sortie's load of donations for delivery.

Donated goods drop to a planned location on the Chuuk Islands Dec. 16, 2009, as part of Operation Christmas Drop. The operation, which began in 1952, is the Air Force's longest-running humanitarian mission. Airmen today continue the tradition delivering supplies to remote islands of the Federated States of Micronesia. U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Julian North.

This is the 58th consecutive year that Operation Christmas Drop missions will fly, making it the longest-running airdrop mission in the history of the Air Force. The concept of Operation Christmas Drop began in 1952 when locals on the island of Kapingamarangi waved to the crew of a WB-50 flying overhead. In the spirit of the holiday season, the crew gathered what they could, packed it into a canister, attached a parachute and dropped it to the islanders.

More at the link.

Too cute not to share...

From Pam Sessions, fellow Angel and one of our donors. She always includes photos of her dogs when she writes to us, and called this one "SA Christmas Pups 2009" ;-)

I can easily say that being involved with the Soldiers' Angels teams has been the best thing that I have done in a long, long time. I appreciate you and all those who take care of our heroes.

The pups have sent you their Christmas portrait in the attached file.

Merry Christmas, friend. May God Bless and Keep You in 2010.

Pam Sessions
Gardnerville, NV

Thank you Pam and all who support the SA mission. Merry Christmas!

20 December 2009

Life on the Combat Outposts of Afghanistan

A U.S. Army Soldier sleeps, while the first pot of coffee of the day brews, on Combat Outpost Cherkatah, in Khowst province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2009. The Soldier is deployed with Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith/Released.

Armed Forces Network's USMC Gunnery Sergeant James Stare takes a look at daily life on a combat outpost for U.S. Marines and Sailors.

Soldiers' Angels hero adoption waiting list is over 2,000. Many of our heroes are on their third or fourth deployment. Sure, they may be getting some mail or care packages from home, but nothing means more than knowing a complete stranger cares enough to show their support. When you adopt a hero, you are asked to commit a letter a week and 1-2 small care packages a month during the length of their deployment. Soldiers' Angels Store has plenty of pre-made packages and will ship them directly to your hero. For as little as $20 a month you can bring some support for someone who is putting their life on the line for us. Adopt a hero today.

Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-led 501(c)(3) of over 200,000 people 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 626-676-0239. Tax ID# 20-0583415. CFC# 25131.

Christmas message from CSM Mellinger

Michael Yon posts an inspiring and touching message he received from Command Sergeant Major Jeff Mellinger to pass on to our troops downrange. Read it here.

Michael's readers are familiar with CSM Mellinger, who spent 34 (!) months in Iraq - from Aug 2004 to May 2007 - as the CSM for the entire Multi-National Force.

What many people don't know is that CSM Mellinger is still serving since he was drafted in 1972, making him the Army's only draftee on continuous active duty.

Meet CSM Mellinger up close and personal in this recent interview with Army Newswatch. One of my favorite parts is about the wind chime he made from the many screws and plates saved after they were used to repair various injuries sustained during his long career.

I had the pleasure and honor to briefly meet Jeff at Landstuhl back in 2007. He is just like this in person, and probably one of the easiest people to talk with that I've ever met. Jeff was also one of the few "DVs" who made a point to visit the outpatients when he came to Landstuhl, who back then were housed at a nearby post. That alone told me pretty much everything I needed to know about him, and I'll never forget it.

19 December 2009

Humanitarian MEDEVAC

Flight medic Sgt. Aaron Burrows of Amarillo, Texas with C Company Dustoff 3rd Battalion of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade 82nd Airborne Division treats a young Afghan boy, his body rigid from tetanus, as he rides on a MEDEVAC helicopter to a field hospital December 17, 2009 near Delhi, Afghanistan. Photo: Getty.

A Message from Soldiers' Angels RE: Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover AFB

Hello Angels and friends,

I would like to take this time to wish you a happy holiday season. It has been a great year for the Soldiers' Angels and we couldn't have done it without supporters and volunteers such as yourself.

While everyone plays an very important role in the Global War on Terror, a group of very dedicated service members appear to fly under the radar day in and day out, that team is located at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center. It is the center's mission and privilege to fulfill the nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor, and respect to the fallen and care, service, and support to their families. A solemn dignified transfer of remains is conducted upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del., from the aircraft to a transfer vehicle to honor those who have given their lives in the service of the country. The vehicle then moves the fallen to the Port Mortuary.

AFMAO has a total force staff consisting of active duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines as well as Guardsmen, Reservists and civilians. The staff also consists of representatives from federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner who are responsible for the complete processing of remains. The staff utilizes state-of-the-art equipment to establish positive identification through DNA, dental and fingerprint analysis and autopsy the remains to determine cause of death. The staff also prepares fallen members for transport to their final destination as determined by the family.

Soldiers' Angels has taken these service members under our wings and encourage you to send notes of support throughout the year to:

Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center
Mr. Todd Rose-Chief of Air Force Mortuary Affairs
116 Purple Heart Drive
Dover AFB, DE 19902

We recently received a note of appreciation back from the team:

The Public Affairs Office at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at Dover AFB, Del. has been receiving your cards and well wishes over the last several days. We post these notes where all in the center can see them and read your kind words of thanks. Many of staff here at AFMAO are Guard, Reserve and Active Duty military members deployed from across our nation to support this vital mission. They are away from their families during this time and your notes are certainly helping to bring holiday cheer. Thank you for your support!

- Lt. Shannon Mann

Please live every day like it is a holiday, being thankful and spending time with your family and friends; appreciating what you have been given with the gift of freedom that our service members provide to us every day.

I wish you health, comfort, and prosperity this holiday season. Season's Greetings.

Shelle Michaels
Soldiers' Angels National Communication Officer

Happy Alive Day, JR!

JR Salzman: Seven-time Logrolling World Champion, 2005 ESPY Award winner for Best Outdoor Sports Athlete of the Year, and Iraq War Veteran.

Happy Alive Day to the man Mothax of the American Legion's Burn Pit blog believes should have been named Athlete of the Decade. I agree.

Between 1998 to 2002, JR won five logrolling titles at the Lumberjack World Championships. During the six-year run of the Great Outdoor Games, he won 14 medals in total, tying for the most among any competitor.

And in 2005, JR received the ESPY Award as the Best Outdoor Sports Athlete of the year after winning three Great Outdoor Games gold medals. That October, he deployed to Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard.

On December 21, 2006 he posted the following entry on his blog:
it is hard for me to tell you all this but i was hurt by an ied here. my right arm has been amputated below the elbow, my left has four working fingers. my legs are fine so l can still logroll! i am on my way to the hospital in germany, then back to the states for more care. i am in high spirits. i am going to be ok, but i will have a long road to recovery. please remember me in your prayers, as well as those who were injured with me. i will let you know more as time passes.

In July 2009, JR went on to win his seventh title at the 50th annual Lumberjack World Championships.

Happy Alive Day, JR. Have fun on the slopes today!


U.S. Army Sgts. Michael Marshall, left, and Issac Johnson, both with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Aviation Brigade Task Force Corsair Medical Evacuation Detachment, conduct a preflight inspection on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Nov. 29, 2009, at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Zabul, Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez/Released.

18 December 2009

Walter Reed performs rare transplant of pancreas cells to save wounded Airman

After Airman Tre Porfirio was shot in the back three times by an insurgent at a remote outpost in Afghanistan, he underwent two operations there, including one that removed much of his pancreas, before being flown to Germany and then on to Walter Reed.

However, his damaged pancreas was leaking digestive enzymes which threatened his other organs. That's when Craig D. Shriver, chief of general surgery at Walter Reed teamed up with Camillo Ricordi, who heads the University of Miami's Diabetes Research Institute, to perform what is believed to be the first procedure of its kind.

The operation involved removing the airman's pancreas at Walter Reed; flying the organ to Miami, where the cells were extracted and preserved; and then returning the cells to Washington, where they were infused into the patient's liver. There the cells become permanent residents, secreting hormones into the bloodstream and performing part of the function of the original pancreas. The process occurred over less than 24 hours and involved about 60 people.

Speaking by telephone to reporters, the airman's father, Karl Porfirio, thanked the surgical teams and everyone who helped his son, "from the first soldier who touched him when he hit the ground."

Amazing. All the best for a speedy and full recovery, Airman Porfirio!

The USA Warriors

“I’m probably the only person you’ll ever meet who opted to have their leg amputated so they could play hockey.”

— Sgt. 1st Class Joe Bowser

Another terrific program that gives our wounded warriors the opportunity to keep doing some of the things they love most - in this case, playing hockey.

The Warriors Way
By: Mark Miller

Battling back from injuries is nothing unusual for hockey players. But “comeback” is an understatement when you’re referring to Sgt. 1st Class Joe Bowser, who’s learned to play with one leg.

Bowser is part of the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program, which organizes hockey clinics for military personnel who have been wounded in action – mostly while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Affiliated with USA Hockey’s Disabled Hockey Program, the team practices at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Md., and a second team is forming in Minnesota.

For Bowser and the other USA Warriors, hockey is playing a major role in their recovery, both physically and emotionally. At 49, Bowser is a role model and mentor to many of the other USA Warrior players.

While serving in Balad, Iraq (about 50 miles north of Baghdad), his unit was hit with mortar fire on April 12, 2004. Before he knew what was happening, shrapnel had fired through his right heel bone and out the bottom of his foot, and also opened a quarter-sized hole in the back of his right leg, piercing his femoral artery.

Sgt. 1st Class Joe Bowser prepares for practice with the same attention to detail that served him well as a solider in the U.S. Army. Bowser is now a proud member of the U.S. National Amputee Team.

Bowser was flown to Germany, where surgeons immediately went to work to try to save his leg. He was then transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and a few days later he had a conversation he remembers vividly.

“The doctor said, ‘We’re going to give you an option. We can try to salvage your leg, but you won’t be able to use your foot, and you’ll be in pain the rest of your life. Or you can have your leg amputated and do everything you could before.’ I asked, ‘So I could get out and play hockey again? And he said, ‘I’m sure you could.’

“The best way I can describe it is when I get out on the ice and I’ve got my gear on, all people see is a hockey player, and I feel normal,” he says. “I play pickup with ‘two-leggers,’ as I call them, and a lot of time people have no idea I have a prosthetic. The only way people would know is if they see me in the locker room.”

In 2007 Bowser served his country in a different way, when he was named to the U.S. National Amputee Team.

Most of the USA Warriors players hear about the program at Walter Reed or Bethesda National Naval Medical Center, both of which treat wounded personnel from all branches of the military.

Anne Moore, a physical therapist assistant at Walter Reed, has helped Bowser and many other players incorporate hockey into their rehabilitation.

As a former hockey player, Moore says, “The general conditioning, core strength, balance and agility developed by playing either standing or sled hockey parallels our goals in physical therapy. The program can also give a patient the motivation to put their all into rehabilitation.

“Recently, a patient said to me, ‘I thought I would never play sports again, much less ice hockey. Now I am going to work twice as hard in physical therapy.’

Head coach Steve Monahan puts the USA Warriors through their practice paces at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va.

The head coach of the USA Warriors, Steve Monahan, says teamwork comes naturally for players who have served in life-and-death situations overseas.

“No one in this program expects to be in the National Hockey League, but the camaraderie and part of being on a team is what draws these guys together,” he says.

Monahan, who travels from southern New Jersey to work with the team in Maryland, says, “Even though it’s three hours from my house and it takes my whole day, it absolutely makes my day to be able to give back to these guys who’ve sacrificed for us so we can live the way we do.”

While Monahan has had his own challenges, he is inspired by the strength and courage of the players who have suffered incredible injuries from roadside bombs and shrapnel.

“It’s amazing sitting in the locker room with these guys, getting dressed and changed,” Monahan says. “You see half of them with bodies that are held together with duct tape, and the will and determination they have to get out there and play is inspiring.”

With both the USA Warriors and his younger players, he says, “I tell them you have to play with the cards they deal you. You have to adapt and overcome any kind of injury or disability you have and make the best of it.”

Bob Banach, president of the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program, says the vision for the program is to start teams in cities across the country.

To learn more about the USA Warriors Program, contact info@usawarriorshockey.org

16 December 2009

Milblogs Go Silent for CJ - Updated

On Wednesday 16 December 2009, many milblogs -- including This Ain't Hell, From My Position, Blackfive, Miss Ladybug, Boston Maggie, Grim's Hall, Bouhammer, CDR Salamander, Delta Bravo Sierra, and those participating in the Wednesday Hero program -- are going silent for the day. Some are choosing to go silent for a longer period of time.

The catalyst has been the treatment of milblogger C.J. Grisham of A Soldier’s Perspective (http://www.soldiersperspective.us/).

Army Master Sgt. C. J. Grisham has always led from the front, from combat that earned him the Bronze Star with V device, to the White House on down for his honest, and sometimes blunt, discussion of issues — particularly PTSD.

Please read this article at Military Times to get the full story.

Milblogs have been a vital link in getting accurate news and information about the military, and military operations, to the public. They have provided vital context and analysis on issues critical to operations and to the informed electorate critical to the Republic.

You may donate to C.J.'s legal fund by logging onto PayPal, going to the send money page, and entering his email address: dj_chcknhawk (AT) yahoo.com; or, you can send donations directly to:

Grisham Legal Fund
c/o Redstone Federal Credit Union
220 Wynn Drive
Huntsville, AL 35893
Please write "Grisham Legal Fund" in the memo line if you use this option.

The battle for freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas is fought on many fronts and in many ways. Please help to preserve the rights of those who have sacrificed so much for all of us.

Update: Thanks to Mrs G of the Dawn Patrol for compiling the following lists.

Participating blogs:

A Soldier's Perspective
You Served
The American Legion
Laughing Wolf
Hugh Hewitt
This Ain't Hell
Castle Argghhh
Boston Maggie
Miss Ladybug
Hooah Wife
Kiss My Gumbo
Some Soldiers Mom
Assoluta Tranquillita
Knee Deep in the Hooah
Soldiers' Angel New York
Drunken Wisdom
Grim's Hall
From my position
CDR Salamander
Confederate Yankee
Chromed Curses
Homefront Six
Pvt Murphey's Law
Delta Bravo Sierra
The Sniper
Another Voice
Support your Local Gunfighter
Knottie' s Niche
Great Reader JihadGene
America's North Shore Journal
Righty in a Lefty State
Thunder Run
Gazing at the Flag
Neptunus Lex
Soldiers Angels Germany
Bring the heat, bring the stupid
Little Drops..... Into the pool of life.
The Gun Line
In Iraq Now (at 56)
Army Houesehold6
From Cow Pastures to Kosovo
Susan Katz Keating
Kitchen Dispatch
Right Wing Right Minded
The Foxhole
The SandGram
My Own Political Party
Registered Evil
Texas Fred
Keep My Soldier Safe
Journalism Hope
Asymmetric Military
Army of Dude
Foreign and Domestic
Conservative Libertarian Outpost
The Lemon Stand
White Rose Adventures
South Park Diva
What The F*&#!?!?
On Voilence
Haze Gray and Underway
The Empty Mind
LTC John - Miserable Donuts
The Mudville Gazette
Get Lost With Easy-Writer
Yankee Mom
Steeljaw Scribe
What You Wish For
Watchman's Soap Box
Russ. Just Russ
It's OK ....
Lionheart Group
Trying my best to support our troops
The Watch Cat
Around O-Town Orlando ...
Arizona Shooter

Covering the story:

Army Times
Air Force Times
Marine Times
Navy Times
Military Times
Michelle Malkin
National Review's The Corner
Ace of Spades
Jawa Report
Winds of Change
Bookworm Room
The AtlanticWire
No Runny Eggs
Muncie Free Press
Flopping Aces
Small Dead Animals
Navy Experience
The Pink Flamingo
World Net Daily
CNN IReport
Cao's Blog
Free Republic
United Conservatives of Virginia
Miss Beth's Victory Dance
Wake up America
Dr. Melissa Clouthier
Villainous Company
The Washington Independent
In the Crosshairs
Around The Sphere
Sparks from the Anvil
Pirates Cove
Politics in the Zero
Los Angeles Times Pressmens 20 Year Club
Blog Critics
Chicago Ray Report
Scoop Deck
Marooned In Marin
Genie's Dream
Conservatives United!

MilBlogs = Free speech from those who help make it possible ~ Greyhawk

Update 2, Friday evening, Zulu time: Regular blogging resumes, even as this issue remains top of mind. If you read only one thing about C.J., make it this post by Greyhawk, The Extreme (Part two).

15 December 2009

Marines Remembered

Afghan National Army soldiers pay their respects to two Marines from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, during a memorial service on Contingency Operating Base Sher in Garmsir, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2009.

The Marines, Lance Cpl. Nicholas J. Hand, an assaultman, and Lance Cpl. Jonathan A. Taylor, a rifleman, were assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. They were killed in action while conducting counterinsurgency operations in Garmsir, Afghanistan. U.S. Marine Corps photo.

"Boldly into the fray"

Thank you NY Daily News for this editorial!

Boldly into the fray: Godspeed to 10th Mountain Division on Afghan mission
Tuesday, December 15th 2009

President Obama, commander in chief of the armed forces, has sounded the call to duty in Afghanistan. And as it has so often done before, the 10th Mountain Division has answered.

We salute the 3,500 infantrymen of the Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, who next month will begin a one-year deployment to Afghanistan from their base at Fort Drum in upstate New York. They are the first members of the legendary division ordered into the theater of combat since Obama announced an escalation in the battle against radical Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists.

They will no doubt serve with honor, with guts and with skill to burn, as they have countless times before. This brigade was last deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and served in Iraq in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

Now its members and their families are writing a new page of valor. We wish the brigade good luck, Godspeed and success in its mission.

It may be their fight, but it is our nation's war.

The 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team is currently serving in Afghanistan and is expected to return home early next year.


Chosen Soldiers receive awards

Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter pins the Silver Star Medal on Staff Sgt. Justin D. Grimm. Grimm was awarded the honor for his actions during a 2008 battle when his unit, which was preparing to leave Afghanistan after a 15-month tour, was attacked by as many as 200 insurgents resulting in the death of nine Americans. Photo: Joe Paull, Ledger-Enquirer.

Fort Benning Airborne soldier awarded Silver Star

Staff Sgt. Justin D. Grimm was awarded the Silver Star — the nation’s third highest military decoration behind the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross — in a ceremony held Monday on Fort Benning.

Grimm earned the Silver Star for his actions during the July 13, 2008, battle of Wanat in Afghanistan while assigned to Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vincenza, Italy.

Two of Grimm’s fellow staff sergeants each received a Bronze Star.

“To get an award is great,” Grimm said following the ceremony, “but a lot of these tough fights, anybody out there — everybody out there — deserves a valor award. It’s just certain members get recognized. So, I don’t know the best way to describe it. It’s humbling.”

On the morning of July 13, as Chosen Company was preparing to leave Afghanistan after a 15-month tour of duty, their vehicle patrol base was attacked by about 200 insurgents. The battle lasted for hours. In the end, more than 50 insurgents were killed and nine American lives were lost. Twenty seven more Americans were wounded in action.

Grimm was serving as a squad leader when the insurgents struck.

“He immediately ran forward in order to prevent the enemy from overrunning one of the outposts,” his award citation says. “He manned a Squad Automatic Weapon in order to suppress the enemy and bring relief to the beleaguered defenders, and on numerous occasions left his covered position to render first aid to wounded soldiers and help move them to safety. Despite the heavy volume of accurate enemy fire impacting all around his position and forcing him to take cover, he refused to abandon his post, detonating a mine and lobbing grenades into the enemy ranks, thwarting their advance and forcing them to retreat.”

Staff Sgt. Clifton M. Anderson Jr. and Staff Sgt. Michael J. Lawrence, also assigned to Chosen Company, each received a Bronze Star with “V” Device for their actions during a separate battle in the Chowkay Valley on June 23, 2008.

“I’ve got to give it to my soldiers, basically,” Lawrence said of his honor. “The soldiers that served with me while I was there and fought right alongside with me. They deserve it just as much as I do.”

An Army Commendation Medal with “V” Device was given to senior line medic Staff Sgt. Zachari A. Rushing for his actions following a catastrophic improvised explosive device strike in 2007 in Charbaran District, Afghanistan. Rushing was assigned to D Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment.

Grimm, Anderson, Lawrence and Rushing are all currently assigned to units on Fort Benning.

Congratulations, Sky Soldiers!

Godspeed Colonel (Dr.) Ralph L. Warren

Sad news from the Albuquerque Journal:

Dr. Ralph L. Warren, a surgeon whose practice stretched from the urban confines of Boston, to the battlefields of Iraq, to the Navajo country of New Mexico and Arizona, died Wednesday, December 2, 2009 in Gallup, New Mexico, after a long illness. He was 55.

Born on September 28, 1954, Dr. Warren was raised in Short Hills, NJ, and graduated from The Pingry School in Hillside, NJ. He attended Harvard College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and Harvard Medical School, where he earned his M.D. degree in 1981. He trained in General Surgery and then in Cardiothoracic Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

From 1989 through 2000, Dr. Warren practiced General Surgery at Massachusetts General, where he served as Chief of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. In 2000, he left Boston to take a position with the Indian Health Service at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, NM. For the last nine years of his life he dedicated himself to the care of the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo peoples served by the Gallup hospital. A talented linguist proficient in six languages, Warren distinguished himself by becoming conversant in the Navajo language, a feat rarely achieved by bilagaana (non-Navajos).

In 1990 Warren joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard as a Flight Surgeon, and served in that capacity for 10 years. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he filled in the backlines at Andrews Air Force Base. His service with the National Guard took him several times to the Antarctic, where he served as the physician for National Guard personnel at McMurdo Station, as well as on goodwill missions to Guatemala and Ecuador.

Upon relocating to New Mexico in 2000, Warren transferred to the New Mexico Air National Guard, ultimately becoming the State Air Surgeon for New Mexico before retiring from the Guard earlier this year with the rank of Colonel. During his 20 years of service to the Massachusetts and New Mexico Air National Guard units, he logged many hours in both F-15 and F-16 fighters.

Warren completed two tours of duty in Iraq, the first in 2004 and the second in 2005. During the latter tour, Warren served as a trauma surgeon at Balad Air Force Base outside Baghdad and saved the lives of countless wounded American soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike.

He also logged numerous round trips from Iraq to Germany as a physician supervising the airborne evacuation of critically wounded American soldiers to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at Ramstein Air Force Base outside Frankfurt. Warren never lost a patient while en route from Iraq to Germany.

He was twice awarded a Distinguished Service Medal by the New Mexico Air National Guard, the highest non-combat honor bestowed by the force. Dr. Warren is survived by his two daughters, Maxine F. Warren of Arlington, VA, and Madison F. Warren of Nahant, MA; his father, Edus H. Warren, Jr., of Atlanta, GA; his sisters Ann F. Warren of Freehold, NJ, and Sarah W. Fenton of Basking Ridge, NJ; and his brother, Edus H. Warren, III, of Bainbridge Island, WA.

Godspeed and rest in peace, Dr. Warren. Your selfless service to others will be remembered always. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

14 December 2009

The Price of Peace

"The Price of Peace" was written by Alyssa Gaddis (age 12) and Hart Steen. This video was created by the National Guard's Strength Maintenance Support Center near Nashville, Tennessee and filmed in October, 2008. The video was Directed by Joel Evans, who works with the National Guard in Tennessee. Alyssa Gaddis and her sister Cassy Gaddis (age 16) beautifully honor National Guard Soldiers and their military families who know "The Price of Peace." The song was funded by State Farm Insurance. Thank you to CW5 Jim Gaddis and Mrs. Annette Gaddis and to the girls for this Tribute to Soldiers and Tribute to all our Troops!

Yesterday, the National Guard celebrated 373 years of service to our Nation. Because of you, your families, and your employers, the National Guard is Always Ready, and Always There.

Thank you and Happy Birthday!

13 December 2009

Royal Canadian Dragoons on the watch

Teymurian, Afghanistan (Dec. 9, 2009) Royal Canadian Dragoons, Bravo Squadron, Corporal Judd Walsh mans the front gate of Patrol Base Marianne using a 50 caliber machine gun attached to a Light Armoured Vehicle. Photo by Master Corporal Matthew McGregor, Courtesy Canadian Forces.