30 January 2009

Football Greats Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell Host Angels and Heroes

Update: Interview with Chuck about the tournament (including photo) at his blog.

Football Greats Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell Host Angels and Heroes

2009 Grid Iron Golf Tournament in Tampa Spotlights Soldiers' Angels

Led by football greats Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell, the 2009 Grid Iron Golf Tournament in support of the troops kicked off last night with the Immaculate Reception & Dinner at Timpano Italian Chophouse in Tampa.

Military support non-profit Soldiers' Angels is this year's beneficiary of an event that has been conducted concurrent with each Super Bowl since 1997 and has resulted in over $180,000 raised for a variety of charitable causes. The golf tournament itself is underway today at the renowned Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Tampa, Florida.

"It's wonderful that these football heroes chose to honor America's heroes on the battlefield and the homefront. We are so appreciative of the generosity shown to Soldiers' Angels by these stars," says Soldiers' Angels volunteer Andi Hurley, a military spouse and founder of Spousebuzz.com. Other Soldiers' Angels representatives attending the event include co-founder Jeff Bader, Treasurer Mark Concialdi, Team Development Director and veteran Toby Nunn, and wounded active-duty soldier Major Charles Ziegenfuss.

As a Pennsylvania resident and proud Steelers fan, Major Ziegenfuss is thrilled to be in Tampa during Super Bowl week. "I just met Franco Harris," he exclaims. "For a Steeler fan that's like meeting the Pope. I tried to thank him for the tournament, and he thanked me!"

Fellow veteran Toby Nunn agrees that this is a special event. "Some lucky celebrities are getting the privilege of playing golf with real heroes like Major Ziegenfuss and Staff Sergeant Adam Bruha. The golf course is terrific, and the fellowship couldn't be better."

Established in 2003 by the mother of two young veterans, Soldiers' Angels is fast becoming one of America's premiere military support organizations. With an army of volunteers operating through over 30 different teams and projects, the organization supports deployed soldiers and their families, comforts families of the fallen, provides care and support in military hospitals and VA facilities, and much, much more.

ABOUT SOLDIERS' ANGELS: A volunteer-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Soldiers' Angels provides 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

Early voting in Mosul

An Iraqi soldier from 1st Battalion, 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division, shows on his finger that he's voted in the Al Faisalia neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 28. Photo by Staff Sgt. JoAnn Makinano.

About 600,000 of the 15 million electorate went to the polls Wednesday in the first stage of Iraq's historic provincial elections. Turnout was reported as high during the early voting which took place for people with special needs as well as government workers such as the Iraqi Army and Police, who will be working during the main polling tomorrow.

After joint planning with U.S. forces for over a month, the Iraqis are taking the lead on election day security.

"We are asking the coalition forces for air support, especially in [medical evacuations], should we need them," Iraqi army Col. Abdalah Ramadan Atia said. "However, the coalition will have very little involvement in this operation. We have experience from the 2005 elections. The units are trained and prepared."

Meanwhile, from yesterday's Notable & Quotable section of the WSJ.

The late novelist John Updike in a 1966 letter on the Vietnam war:

Like most Americans I am uncomfortable about our military adventure in South Vietnam; but in honesty I wonder how much of the discomfort has to do with its high cost, in lives and money, and how much with its moral legitimacy. I do not believe that the Vietcong and Ho Chi Minh have a moral edge over us, nor do I believe that great powers can always avoid using their power.

I am for our intervention if it does some good -- specifically, if it enables the people of South Vietnam to seek their own political future. It is absurd to suggest that a village in the grip of guerrillas has freely chosen, or that we owe it to history to bow before a wave of the future engineered by terrorists. The crying need is for genuine elections whereby the South Vietnamese can express their will. If their will is for Communism, we should pick up our chips and leave. Until such a will is expressed, and as long as no willingness to negotiate is shown by the other side, I do not see that we can abdicate our burdensome position in South Vietnam.

Blackfive has posted two eyewitness accounts of the elections from Marines in Anbar, where only 2% of the Sunni population voted in the 2005 elections:

Witness to History - Marine in Anbar On the Iraqi Election
Witness to History - Part 2 - Marine General Sounds Off About Iraqi Election

And here's two more, found in the Dawn Patrol:

Iraqi Elections
Election Day

28 January 2009

10th Mountain back in Afghanistan

Armored Security Vehicles move into Forward Operating Base Shank as part of a convoy that carried Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division from Bagram Air Field to the FOB on 24 January 09. Soldiers of the brigade will continue to move into their respective FOBs until early February. Photo and story by Sgt. Amber Robinson, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs.

10th Mountain Division Troops Move Into Logar, Wardak Provinces

Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division have left their home station at Fort Drum, N.Y., and are now moving into position for operations in Regional Command-East, Afghanistan.

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division have left their home station at Fort Drum, N.Y., and are now moving into position for operations in Regional Command - East, Afghanistan.

Task Force Spartan will serve under Combined Joint Task Force - 101 as a unit in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and be responsible for the provinces of Wardak and Logar in RC East. The area has been sparsely occupied most recently by units from the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

The brigade is the first element of its size to deploy exclusively into these two provinces, increasing the U.S. presence there by thousands. All forward operating bases throughout these provinces will be reinforced to accommodate the influx of troops.

Soldiers began to fly out of Fort Drum as early as mid-November. Task Force Spartan, originally slated to deploy to Iraq, was officially re-routed to Afghanistan in early September. The brigade is the first substantial illustration of the new military focus in Afghanistan.

The brigade’s mission has been called expeditionary, given how undeveloped their new area of operations is by U.S. military forces.

Good luck, men.

25 January 2009

If I could

So lately, been wondering
Who will be there to take my place
When you're gone you'll need love to light the shadows on your face
If a great wave shall fall and fall upon us all
Then between the sand and stone could you make it on your own.

If I could, then I would
I'd go wherever you will go
Way up high or down low, I'd go wherever you will go

And maybe, I'll find out
A way to make it back someday
To watch you, to guide you, through the darkest of your days
If a great wave shall fall and fall upon us all
Well then I hope there's someone out there
who can bring me back to you

If I could, then I would
I'd go wherever you will go
Way up high or down low, I'd go wherever you will go

If I could turn back time
I'd go wherever you will go.

24 January 2009

10 Green Berets honored for actions during Afghan battles

10 soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group receive Bronze Star Medals with V device for valor. During the Friday ceremony, four received Bronze Stars and six others received the Army Commendation Medal with V decive. Staff Sgt. Andre Cilliers also received the award and is currently recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from combat injuries he sustained last summer. Photo: John Vandiver/ S&S

Green Berets get Bronze Stars for Afghan battles
10 honored for actions during 22-hour fight
By John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Saturday, January 24, 2009

BÖBLINGEN, Germany — You don’t know when they’re coming or going.

Their deployments aren’t public, and afterward the men from the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group are almost invisible in the Stuttgart military community, rarely talking about what they’ve seen or done.

But during a small ceremony Friday at the Panzer Kaserne gymnasium, four Green Berets from 1-10’s Company A were honored with Bronze Star Medals with Valor for their actions during a recent combat tour in remote parts of Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Jarred Shewey and Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Jackson were awarded for their bravery during a battle in the Uzbin Valley, which was the sight of an ambush that made headlines around the world.

On Aug. 18, the 12-member Green Beret team led by Capt. Richard Nessel was on patrol in the Uzbin Valley with two French platoons and an Afghan army platoon. At 2 p.m., enemy fighters opened fire in the valley known to be a safe haven for insurgents. Rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire came pouring in. A French platoon leader was killed at the start and nine other French soldiers were killed during the battle.

Shewey and Jackson both declined to discuss the actions that led to their Bronze Stars.

Nessel, their team leader, said Shewey and Jackson, as well as the rest of team, did it all during the fight. "The battle lasted for 22 hours because we just didn’t leave," said Nessel, who was one of six soldiers who received the Army Commendation Medal with Valor at the ceremony.

"The biggest thing that was different — everyone on the team went above and beyond. They dove right in and they didn’t stop," he said.

From providing medical care to the dozens of wounded coalition partners around them, to coordinating air support, to engaging with the enemy, the soldiers took charge, Nessel said.

In their barracks at Panzer Kaserne, a French flag hangs on the wall with the names of the French soldiers they fought alongside.

Another Company A team, led by [Capt. Philip] Buswell, was recognized for its efforts in battles that happened in the Tagab Valley on June 6 and Aug. 9.

Buswell, who was shot in the arm but continued to fight in one of those battles, said during the course of his unit’s deployment any number of soldiers could have been honored with similar awards.

"Looking back, I’m really proud of my guys," he said.

One of Buswell’s soldiers — Sgt. 1st Class James Cannon — had few words about the actions that led to his award. But Cannon apparently had a reputation in the region for his toughness.

"The insurgents were on alert and told not to attack the patrol if the short, bearded one was with them," said Holevas, referring to Cannon.

22 January 2009


The Soldiers' Angels hero adoption waiting list is over 900 today.

All these heroes waiting to be adopted are currently serving overseas, away from their families. It means so much for them to know "regular" people back home are thinking of them.

Won't you please consider adopting a hero today? All is takes is the commitment from you to write a letter a week and send one small care package a month during the length of the deployment. To adopt a hero, click here now.

If adoption does not suit you but you'd still like to help, there are many opportunities for everyone to get involved. Just click here to find out more.

785 waiting now, down from 900 yesterday and 1000 the day before. Still, way too many :-( I meet so many service members at Landstuhl who talk about Soldiers' Angels and how much it meant to them "just to know people are thinking about us". You'll likely never hear from your guy (females are more likely to correspond), but I can tell you it makes a difference. A huge difference.

Cool! Sgt B reports, "I have an an Angel!!!"

18 January 2009

The day I learned having 3 boys is almost as cool as having your own squad!

From left to right: Andy, Brian, and Steven Erly.

Well, they're young men, not boys, but that's what their mom Lisa Erly called them ;-)

We met a couple of months ago when Lisa emailed to say her husband Bill was coming to Landstuhl through a Red Cross volunteer program and the family was coming along.

Bill (Prof. William Erly, MD) is a Professor of Neuroradiology at the University Medical Center, University of Arizona in Tuscon. There are exchange programs for various kinds of civilian doctors at Landstuhl, but Bill was the first radiologist. He thought if he volunteered his services over Christmas, a doctor deployed here might be able to take leave for the holidays.

Lisa and the guys prepared for the visit by starting a drive for some of the items on our "how you can help" list, including lounge pants. Andy and Steven collected get well cards from their wrestling team and Boy Scout troop.

Some of the $1000 donation of lounge pants from the University Medical Center at the University of Arizona in Tuscon. The photo's not great, but you get the picture. That's a lot of lounge pants!

While at Landstuhl, Bill spent his time reading CTs and MRIs as well as giving some continuing education lectures for the Military radiologists.

Lisa and her sons volunteered with Soldiers' Angels. I can't believe how much we got done!

We stocked the donations shelves for the outpatients in both buildings with blankets, clothing, and personal care items. We opened and sorted an entire mountain of incoming freight. And the guys moved a bunch of REALLY heavy boxes from one storage room to another which was a huge help in getting things organized.

Lisa and her sons filled about 35 backpacks with clothing, personal care items, and get well cards AND delivered many of them to the Service Liaisons. We also made rounds to the nurses' stations and other staff bearing Christmas gifts.

In all, I think the 5 of us made 5 trips through the hospital. Imagine how many trips that would have been for one or two people! See what I mean about having my own squad?

Not only did I very much appreciate their hard work and enjoy their company, it was also a true pleasure to meet a family with such a strong sense of service to others.

Thank you to the entire Erly family on behalf of Soldiers' Angels and the patients at Landstuhl, and thank you to the University Medical Center at the University of Arizona for the generous donation!

16 January 2009

AF dentist and Army veterinarian team up to treat K-9

Military working dog, Kitti, awaits her root canal at the feet of her handler, Senior Airman Adam Belward, 882nd Security Forces Squadron, at an air base in Southwest Asia, Jan. 15. Kitti's operation required the collaboration of both an Air Force dentist and an Army veterinarian. Photo by Senior Airman Courtney Richardson, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing.

Funny, I have the exact same look on my face before a root canal.

15 January 2009

Linda Ferrara interview with AFN (Armed Forces Network)

AFN's TSgt Colleen Armstrong interviews Gold Star mom Linda Ferrara and patient SPC Stephen Stout during Linda's Soldiers' Angels-sponsored visit to Landstuhl hospital.

3 Germany-based Soldiers killed in Afghanistan

3 Germany-based servicemembers killed in bombing

By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, January 14, 2009

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Three members of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment — including the unit’s senior officer in Afghanistan — have been identified as the U.S. troops killed when a roadside bomb struck their Humvee in Zabul province late last week.

The Department of Defense on Tuesday announced the names of the three men who died Jan. 9 in the blast near Jaldak, a small town near the provincial capital, Qalat.

The men are: Maj. Brian M. Mescall, 33, of Hopkinton, Mass.; Spc. Joseph M. Hernandez, 24, of Hammond, Ind.; and Spc. Jason R. Parsons, 24, of Lenoir, N.C.

Mescall had been the 1-4 chief of staff in Zabul since June, said Fisher, who was the unit’s previous chief of staff in Afghanistan.

Mescall was also deputy commander of a Romanian-led battalion task force that included 1-4’s Team Cherokee, made up of three platoons fighting out of isolated outposts in the mountainous southern Afghan province.

The fatal attack came as the 1-4 soldiers were doing reconnaissance on a potential new patrol base to be staffed by Romanian and Afghan forces, Fisher said.

A memorial for the three fallen 1-4 soldiers will be held Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. in the Hohenfels Community Activity Center.

The Team Cherokee Commander, CPT Terry Howell, recently returned to Afghanistan after recovering from gunshot wounds sustained in August.

14 January 2009

Information Operations

Where do misperceptions come from, and how do they eventually become accepted as truth? For example, we all "know" that most Vietnam Veterans are homeless, jobless drug abusers who have violent and suicidal tendencies. Right?

Well, there's a lot of sources, such as the portrayals in movies, TV, and newspapers.

Old Blue, who was deployed to Afghanistan, has been watching articles written by Lizette Alvarez of The New York Times over the past year. Here are the names of just a few of those articles:

A Focus on Violence by Returning G.I.s
Despite Army’s Assurances, Violence at Home
Mental State of Soldier Questioned
Army and Agency Will Study Rising Suicide Rate Among Soldiers
After the Battle, Fighting the Bottle at Home
Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles

These articles regard the Army, occasionally the Marine Corps, and trend towards a focus on combat veterans and their misadventures following the their combat experiences. There is also a tendency to focus on violence committed by combat veterans.

This is combined with articles which point the finger at the Armed Forces and their apparent mishandling of such issues as PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury.) Among these are articles depicting alcoholism, drug abuse, and felony waivers granted by the Army and Marine Corps.

It is my assertion that this is a pattern of depiction that is designed to send a consistent message to the readers: "Combat veterans are potentially dangerous. They are trained in violence and are subjected to mind-warping combat that turns their violent training into potentially anti-social behavior."

No one's saying combat doesn't affect people. But the thing is, statistically, a lot of these assertions don't pan out to the extent the author suggests.

He sees a parallel to the information disseminated about Vietnam Veterans:

This whole line of articles appears to be cleverly designed to gently manipulate public opinion regarding combat veterans. I am not a believer in conspiracy theories or overarching cabals, but I do believe that there are those who hearken to the days when the press was "raising awareness" about Viet Nam. Alvarez even references Viet Nam several times in her writing, showing her hand as far as the influence it has on her "awareness." Awareness is in the eye of the beholder, and some beholders have the ability to influence, through media, the perceptions of larger numbers of people.

Repeat something often enough, and it becomes conventional wisdom.

Old Blue has written to The New York Times and tried to explain, through the eyes of a combat veteran, how these characterizations are "less than helpful", as he puts it. He hasn't received a response yet, and is hoping a few more emails will get their attention. Contact information for The New York Times Public Editor can be found in his post here.

Thanks for your help.

13 January 2009

Keep on riding, Gunnar

Dear Gunnar,

Well, another year has gone by. I'll probably call your Mom later and see what's going on today. I guess some of the "boyz" will be coming over and they'll go out to visit you together.

Not sure if she told you I ran into Jeff here a while back. Not that you need to be told. Heck, you probably set the whole thing up.

I bet you were laughing your ass off when you saw the looks on our faces as Jeff, laying in the hospital bed half-puking into a pan, asked in disbelief, "You know Debey???" and I, equally stunned, replied, "Gunnar was your Soldier???"

Very funny, dude.

After that he talked about you the whole time. It was Becker this and Becker that. "I smoke Camels because of Becker". And, "Becker told me that joke".

Finally, another Soldier asked us who we were talking about.

Jeff just looked me in the eye and said, "A friend of ours."

And so, my friend, whom I never met and won't meet until it's my time, keep on riding - and playing your practical jokes on us.

See you on the other side.


Love you, Debey!

12 January 2009

Gladiator Games at FOB Kalsu

U.S. Soldiers from the 172nd Infantry Brigade pull a chariot during the gladiatorial games as part of the New Year's Eve celebration at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq on Dec. 31, 2008.

10 January 2009

Leave no man behind

“Words can't describe the thanks I have for them for doing that, for retrieving him.”

- Robert Mersman, on the crew that recovered the body of his son, Sgt. Jeffrey Mersman

Most readers here are familiar with the events of November 9, 2007, in which Captain Matthew Ferrara and five other troops were killed during an ambush near Forward Operating Base Bella, home of Chosen Company, 2-503rd PIR, 173rd ABCT in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.

Yesterday, Tom Bowman of NPR published an interview with some of the Pave Hawk pilots who participated in the recovery mission. During the course of the firefight one of the Soldiers, Sergeant Jeffrey Mersman, had fallen from the narrow trail they were traversing and landed on a ledge below. Four of the other Soldiers climbed down to him, were unable to carry him out in the rugged terrain, but weren't going to leave without him.

"They were basically trapped," [Air Force Capt. Ed] Blanchet says. "They couldn't get back out of there, they couldn't get back up the terrain. So that's when it was necessary for us to have to go in and try to hoist them out."

A second helicopter flew into the narrow space, shaped like a wedge and tapered like a funnel. They dumped gas to make the helicopter lighter and easier to maneuver.

Master Sgt. James Karmann was the flight engineer on the second helicopter. He says it was like parallel parking — rock faces surrounded the helicopter on three sides.

"We had about 10 feet on the front and the right side and the tail of the aircraft," Karmann says.

Just 10 feet from disaster. Karmann leaned out the door, trying to position the hoist to the upturned faces of the rescuers below. That's when the wind picked up.

"It started pushing the aircraft backward. We managed to stop the aircraft just within a matter of inches between our tail rotor and the rocks there," Karmann says. Still, he guided the pilot ever closer to the ledge. "Tried to talk him in as close as I could to the rocks and just couldn't, just couldn't get in there close enough."

Low on gas, the helicopter pulled away. Then Blanchet, a 30-year-old pilot from Florida with six years in the cockpit, angled his Pave Hawk toward that wedge of rock and decided on a new approach.

"We actually backed the helicopter kind of around the corners of the cliff," Blanchet says.

In that position, the helicopter began to descend lower into the funnel, so the cable could reach the men on the ledge.

"It was really loose shale rock, so their footing was really precarious," Ringheimer says. "So we really had to be careful not to blow those guys off the rocks."

Ringheimer moved to the other side of the helicopter to help with the cable.

He was stunned when he saw the rock wall looming out the window.

Read the rest of this story about honor, courage, and dedication to duty.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

- From The Soldier's Creed

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

Robotic suit helps paralyzed Vet walk


The Soldiers' Angels January Newsletter is up!

Included this month are photos from the Soldiers' Angels Gala in DC, updates from the Sewing and Chaplain Support Teams, news and photos from "our" Soldiers downrange, and much more. Click here to read.

Linda's Visit to Landstuhl

Mother of fallen soldier hands out donations at Landstuhl

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, January 9, 2009

LANDSTUHL, Germany — On Thursday afternoon the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan lent a hand to a soldier wounded in Afghanistan.

Linda Ferrara, the mother of the late Vicenza, Italy-based Capt. Matthew Ferrara, helped Spc. Stephen Stout sort through a box of donated goods at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Stout will fly back to the States soon for surgery, and wanted to find a teddy bear for his son — whom he’ll meet for the first time.

"I’m a big believer in God and that’s how God works — through somebody with her strong will," Stout said. "I don’t think I’d be able to do that. I’d still be in deep depression if my son died."

Ferrara, of Torrance, Calif., has been interacting with soldiers and handing out donated items at Landstuhl all week during a Soldiers’ Angels-sponsored trip to Landstuhl. Soldiers’ Angels is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting U.S. troops.

"I’ll hone my operation to suit what [Soldiers’ Angels] needs," Ferrara said. "Every day we come down here, talk to the guys and see what they need."

The trip came about because of a series of improbable events surrounding Matthew Ferrara’s 2007 death in Afghanistan, a robbery in southern California and a blog run by an American living in Germany.

Steve has written a great story covering Linda's visit with photos from S&S's photographer Michael Abrahms, so be sure to click through and read the whole thing. In addition, he also wrote an article prior to her visit and published on January 4 which a lot of the Landstuhl staff had seen, so many of them already knew about her as we made rounds during our visit. Thank you, Steve!

I'll share some photos of the behind-the-scenes stuff. It's been such a full week I don't know where to start. Hmmm... how about some of that "interacting with soldiers" Steve mentioned?

Here we are in the outpatient barracks kitchen the other night with our buds Kev (left) and Davey (right). Russo, the guy in the ACUs, had just arrived from Afghanistan a couple of hours before and is enjoying a bowl of Lucky Charms.

Linda's friend and fellow West Point mom Nancy Brewer was baking cookies and every time a Soldier came in for some she tried to make him take a glass of milk. If you're wondering why we're all so squished together it's because 5 of us are sitting on 3 chairs :-)

I swear they must have pumped laughing gas into the building or something because we kept posing and taking pics and just could not. stop. laughing.

Linda with Stephen, whom you'll recognize from the Stars & Stripes article. All he wanted was a teddy bear for his new baby and kinda fell into the whole Stars & Stripes and AFN thing. Thanks for being such a good sport, Stephen!

This is Lewis wearing a Soldiers' Angels shirt he received in one of our First Response Backpacks downrange. He's with the 1st ID in Afghanistan and, in another incredible coincidence, his unit relieved Chosen Company, 2-503rd, 173rd ABCT, which was Matt Ferrara's unit. Lewis, you just concentrate on getting better and try not to worry too much about your guys downrange.

We'd like to give a shout out to someone else we spent time with - milblogger John of Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army. Hope all is going well and our best wishes for a speedy recovery!

The Commissary Run. Linda is shelling out $700 of the donation money to buy fruit, microwave meals, break 'n bake cookies, and other snacks for the "boys" back at the outpatient barracks. There's a DFAC in the hospital, of course, but it's always nice to be able to run a midnight raid on your own kitchen.

Looks like register 6 is going to need another bagger.

Linda, Nancy, and Becky Kendrick of SA Germany discuss how this is all going to fit into 2 POVs. The guys at the barracks got a big kick out of our "discussions". They told us they'd watch us from the barracks windows walking across the parking lot to the hospital building and take bets on how many times we'd stop to talk.

The Commissary thanks you for your business... and the customer behind us is definately having a "what the heck??" moment.

Heading over to the Service Liaisons to deliver some backpacks for their inpatients. Because it was about 10 degrees and there's a lot of walking between buildings at Landstuhl, the California girls are bundled up against the cold.

Quilts from Soldiers' Angel Nancy McHenry. I asked Linda to unpack the box and inside she found a note which read,

"13 handmade quilts from Nancy and the "Band of Quilters" in Lancaster County, PA. This shipment contains 3 more quilts than we originally planned. We kicked into "high gear" to help replace some of the blankets taken when we heard about Linda."

That note is a fitting way to wrap this up because it's so typical of the outpouring of support Linda has received since the theft of her donations in late November.

Words cannot convey how grateful we are for all those who turned the robbery into a blessing in disguise. And we'd like to send a special hug to Patti of Soldiers' Angels who sponsored Linda's trip to Germany.

We'd also like to thank everyone at Landstuhl for their gracious hospitality. Linda and Nancy had the opportunity to meet dozens of patients and most of the Service Liaisons. We spent almost an hour with the Commander and the First Sergeant of the Medical Transient Detachment for outpatients. The DWMMC staff gave them a briefing on their operations, which track and manage all incoming and outgoing medevac flights. They experienced patients' arrival at Landstuhl and had a tour of the medevac bus from two wonderful Air Force Med Techs. We made daily rounds to the wards delivering phone cards for the patients and coffee and other treats for the nurses.

Finally, as promised, "Hi Nancy, Hi Linda!" I miss you guys already.

My prior posts about Linda and her family can be found here (keep scrolling).

05 January 2009

Remembering Major Mike Mundell

Major Mike Mundell, right, with his friend Major Todd Fredette who called this "Just a picture of two middle-aged married guys, far away from home, missing their families."

From a "little note about my friend Mike", by Major Fredette.

Mike was killed on January 5, 2007 in Fallujah, Iraq when an IED exploded near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 108th Division (Institutional Training), of Spartanburg, S.C.

03 January 2009

Army.mil's Year in Photos 2008

This annual year-end special features the best of Army.mil's feature photos, drawn from a variety of Defense Department sources. These photos capture the essence of America's Army - the Soldiers and their Families - the Strength of the Nation.

02 January 2009

"Let's Be Worthy of Their Sacrifice"

Very nice and touchingly personal opinion piece by Karl Rove in today's Wall Street Journal about those who put themselves in harm's way for our nation with the subtitle, 'The wounds I received I got in a job I love.' I don't want to excerpt from it, because it should be read in its entirety. (Registration may be required, but it's free.)

01 January 2009

Iraq Takes Control of Green Zone

Jan. 1: U.S., right, and Iraqi soldiers, left, shake hands after the ceremony in which Iraqi forces took control of the Joint Security Station in Ghazaliyah, in Baghdad, Iraq. AP Photo.

BAGHDAD — The U.S. formally transferred control of the Green Zone to Iraqi authorities Thursday in a pair of ceremonies that also handed back Saddam Hussein's former palace. Iraq's prime minister said he will propose making Jan. 1 a holiday marking the restoration of sovereignty. ...

"A year ago, the mere thought of forces withdrawing from Iraq was considered a dream," al-Maliki told reporters afterward. "The dream that no one had the right to think about became true." ...

"Iraq is taking another step toward the future, signaling to its citizens and the international community that it is indeed a new day for sovereign Iraq," U.S. Army Col. Steven Ferrari said at a separate ceremony handing over control of the Green Zone.