31 August 2009

The Ugly of War

Please see this important story at Blackfive.

Update: The link used at Blackfive's story is no longer working, so I've republished his post below in order to point you to a working link of the video here.

This is why grunts love medics... we also know that they pay a big price for what they do.

This is something that I think everyone should watch (warning: the descriptions are graphic), but it's not easy.

It's not easy at all...

After the jump, I'll post a piece that I think is from LTC (ret) Grossman's book "On Combat" that might allow some context. It's not a military story, though...

The department was all astir, there was a lot of laughing and joking due to all the new officers, myself included, hitting the streets today for the first time. After months of seemingly endless amounts of classes, paperwork, and lectures we were finally done with the Police Academy and ready to join the ranks of our department.

All you could see were rows of cadets with huge smiles and polished badges. As we sat in the briefing room, we could barely sit still anxiously awaiting our turn to be introduced and given our beat assignment or, for the lay person, our own portion of the city to "serve and protect."

It was then that he walked in. A statue of a man - 6 foot 3 and 230 pounds of solid muscle, he had black hair with highlights of gray and steely eyes that make you feel nervous even when he wasn't looking at you. He had a reputation for being the biggest and the smartest officer to ever work our fair city. He had been on the department for longer than anyone could remember and those years of service had made him into somewhat of a legend.

The new guys, or "rookies" as he called us, both respected and feared him. When he spoke even the most seasoned officers paid attention. It was almost a privilege when the rookies got around him and he would tell one of his police stories about the old days. But we knew our place and never interrupted for fear of being shooed away. He was respected and revered by all who knew him.

After my first year on the department I still had never heard or saw him speak to any of the rookies for any length of time. When he did speak to them all he would say was, "So, you want to be a policeman do you hero?" I'll tell you what, when you can tell me what they taste like, then you can call yourself a real policeman."

This particular phrase I had heard dozens of times. Me and my buddies all had bets about "what they taste like" actually referred to. Some believed it referred to the taste of your own blood after a hard fight. Others thought it referred to the taste of sweat after a long day's work. Being on the department for a year, I thought I knew just about everyone and everything.

So one afternoon, I mustered up the courage and walked up to him. When he looked down at me, I said "You know, I think I've paid my dues. I've been in plenty of fights, made dozens of arrests, and sweated my butt off just like everyone else. So what does that little saying of yours mean anyway?" With that, he merely stated, "Well, seeing as how you've said and done it all, you tell me what it means, hero." When I had no answer, he shook his head and snickered, "rookies," and walked away.

The next evening was to be the worst one to date. The night started out slow, but as the evening wore on, the calls became more frequent and dangerous. I made several small arrests and then had a real knock down drag out fight. However, I was able to make the arrest without hurting the suspect or myself. After that, I was looking forward to just letting the shift wind down and getting home to my wife and daughter.

I had just glanced at my watch and it was 11:55, five more minutes and I would be on my way to the house. I don't know if it was fatigue or just my imagination, but as I drove down one of the streets on my beat, I thought I saw my daughter standing on someone else's porch. I looked again but it was not my daughter as I had first thought but merely a small child about her age. She was probably only six or seven years old and dressed in an oversized shirt that hung to her feet. She was clutching an old rag doll in her arms that looked older than me.

I immediately stopped my patrol car to see what she was doing outside her house at such an hour by herself. When I approached, there seemed to be a sigh of relief on her face. I had to laugh to myself, thinking she sees the hero policeman come to save the day. I knelt at her side and asked what she was doing outside.

She said "My mommy and daddy just had a really big fight and now mommy won't wake up." My mind was reeling. Now what do I do? I instantly called for backup and ran to the nearest window. As I looked inside I saw a man standing over a lady with his hands covered in blood, her blood. I kicked open the door, pushed the man aside and checked for a pulse, but unable to find one. I immediately cuffed the man and began doing CPR on the lady.

It was then I heard a small voice from behind me, "Mr. Policeman, please make my mommy wake up." I continued to perform CPR until my backup and medics arrived but they said it was too late. She was dead. I then looked at the man. He said, "I don't know what happened. She was yelling at me to stop drinking and go get a job and I had just had enough. I just shoved her so she would leave me alone and she fell and hit her head." As I walked the man out to the car in handcuffs, I again saw that little girl. In the five minutes that has passed, I went from hero to monster. Not only was I unable to wake up her mommy, but now I was taking daddy away too.

Before I left the scene, I thought I would talk to the little girl. To say what, I don't know. Maybe just to tell her I was sorry about her mommy and daddy. But as I approached, she turned away and I knew it was useless and I would probably make it worse.

As I sat in the locker room at the station, I kept replaying the whole thing in my mind. Maybe if I would have been faster or done something different, just maybe that little girl would still have her mother. And even though it may sound selfish, I would still be the hero. It was then that I felt a large hand on my shoulder. I heard that all too familiar question again, "Well, hero, what do they taste like?"

But before I could get mad or shout some sarcastic remark, I realized that all the pent up emotions had flooded the surface and there was a steady stream of tears cascading down my face. It was at that moment that I realized what the answer to his question was.


With that, he began to walk away, but he stopped. "You know, there was nothing you could have done differently," he said. "Sometimes you can do everything right and still the outcome is the same. You may not be the hero you once thought you were, but now you ARE a police officer."


28 August 2009

I Carry This With Me

Soldiers with the 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan talk about the one special item from home they always carry with them in combat.

26 August 2009

Angels of Comfort: A Message from the Soldiers' Angels Living Legends Team

Soldiers' Angel Cynthia is a part of the Living Legends team, which provides condolences and comfort to families of the fallen through letters, cards, and very special gifts of remembrance. Cynthia is personally responsible for contacting families and offering them a tree or wreath in memory of their loved one. She also makes sure any young children involved receive a Patches teddy bear, which is specially crafted to help them express their emotions amid the tragedy of losing a parent.

The last two months have seen a high rate of casualties, especially in Afghanistan, and the Living Legends team has been very busy. Cynthia recently shared with the rest of the team:

...After talking with family after family the last few days, I thought it was time to make sure each and every one of you understands how very important you are and what a special thing it is you are doing. Mother after mother, wife after wife, father after father, and husband after husband have told me how much those cards mean to them.

Not once in the two years I have been doing this have I ever had to explain Soldiers' Angels to any of our families--each and every person knew, and the appreciation is so enormous. One Grandfather told me this weekend that we have done so much for them that they hated to impose anymore by taking a tree. I'm told over and over how amazed they are that people all over the country--people they don't know--would be so kind, go to such trouble for them.

Each of you, when you send a card, is a wonderful ambassador for Soldiers' Angels and you make my job at little easier. Some families have told me that at especially rough times, they go back to their box of Angel cards and read them again for comfort. It doesn't matter that none of us have the perfect words--when I call, I certainly don't because there simply are none--but the fact that you reach out to them means so much, they are so grateful that people care; you just can't imagine.

So, if ever you feel that your one card doesn't matter, that you can't possibly say anything that will make a difference, don't you dare stop! You are a lifeline to so many, and those cards and letters will carry into the future. Sadly, many of our heroes have children they never met or who are too young to remember who Mom or Dad was. Your cards are being kept to give to those children and hopefully your words will help these children fill that empty place with the understanding that Mom or Dad was very special--so special, so appreciated, that people from all over the States wrote to say so.

So, thank you again. I, too, appreciate the caring and thoughtful way you pave the road for me. The bios [on each fallen hero, researched and assembled by Living Legend team members] are so helpful to me because I can read each one, and when I talk to one of our families I know something about them, which makes me a little more like a long-lost friend that a stranger. Plus, I see the photos and sometimes it helps me know what to say. I know putting those bios together is not an easy job, reading them isn't easy either and you know what?--It really shouldn't be.

- Cynthia

Soldiers' Angels proudly gives its most respectful salute to the amazing Angels of the Living Legends team. They willingly step into the most painful of situations, honoring America's heroes and comforting their grieving families during the most difficult time. They are truly Angels of a most special breed.

No greater love

Left to right: Lance Corporal James Fullarton, Fusilier Simon Annis, and Fusilier Louis Carter of the British Forces. Photo: PA.

Fusilier Simon Annis, 22, and Fusilier Louis Carter, 18, were killed as they tried to bring Lance Corporal James Fullarton to safety.

It is understood that Fusilier Carter threw himself onto the front of the stretcher to protect L Cpl Fullarton, 24, who was already badly wounded.

All three died in an explosion on Sunday August 16, 2009 near Sangin, Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more:
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toll, nor night of waking.

- Sir Walter Scott, The Lady of the Lake

Story at the Telegraph.

25 August 2009

"He has no personal effects."

From someone who has been there:

You don't really "arrive" in Germany, as much as you are born there: naked, bleeding, in pain, unsure of your surroundings, not knowing anyone and wondering what in the hell just happened.

Our friend Major Chuck Ziegenfuss was severely wounded in 2005 and is now reliving that experience through the injury of a close friend. The story is here.

Soldiers' Angels now part of the Combined Federal Campaign

Reminder for the CFC campaign season starting September 1: Soldiers’ Angels is CFC #25131 in the Combined Federal Campaign.

The mission of the Combined Federal Campaign is to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee focused, cost-efficient, and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all.

CFC is the world's largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign, with more than 300 CFC campaigns throughout the country and internationally to help to raise millions of dollars each year. Pledges made by Federal civilian, postal and military donors during the campaign season (September 1st to December 15th) support eligible non-profit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

Side By Side

An Iraqi policeman, left, pulls security with U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Fletcher Sargent during a joint patrol south of Baghdad in Radwaniyah, Iraq, Aug. 6, 2009. The soldiers were in the area to examine irrigation canals for a possible clearing project to bring a better water system to people in rural villages. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Kelly LeCompte.

21 August 2009

Home on leave

Bill Lawver Sr. hugs his son, Spc. Billy Lawver, seeing him for the first time since he was deployed to Afghanistan in January. Spc. Lawver is home on 15-day leave. When he returns, he will have about four months left in his deployment. (DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS -- KATE PENN)

On leave, soldier's thoughts remain in Afghanistan

Spc. Billy Lawver is on leave.

He has 15 days away from Afghanistan. Fifteen days away from searching for homemade bombs and weapons caches with Nero, his bomb-sniffing dog.

Fifteen days away from his forward operating base in Logar Province, where the U.S. military has spent months increasing pressure on Taliban forces, with more boots on the ground and more casualties going home.

Fifteen days out of the year when he's supposed to relax.

But as the 22-year-old sat on his mother's porch Thursday afternoon in West Manchester Township, only hours after the Afghanis had gone to the polls in a national election, Lawver's mind drifted through his apprehension.

"You get here and you start wondering what's going on with my people in Afghanistan," Lawver said. "I haven't heard anything so I assume everyone's OK."


After waiting eight months for leave, Lawver had 16 hours of plane ride to get home. It left a lot of time to think.

"Am I still going to like normal life? What's driving going to be like? What's going to all the same places you used to go going to be like?

"You've just been living quite an exciting life that most people don't get to do. What's sitting around going to be like? Am I still going to like relaxing? I've been turning and burning for eight months. Is just sitting around watching TV going to be as fun as it was before I left?"

Really, really nice story. Read the rest.

In the Company of Heroes

Soldiers' Angel Greta Perry with WWII Veteran JJ Witmeyer at the 2009 Military Order of the Purple Heart Convention. Witmeyer, who landed on Utah Beach during the Normandy invasion, is a recipient of two Purple Hearts, four Bronze Stars, two Presidential Unit citations, a European Campaign medal, a Combat Infantryman's badge, a French Legion of Merit (their highest honor), and scores of other military decorations.

Last week Soldiers' Angels participated the 2009 National Convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart with a display of the Soldiers' Angels traveling museum, "Tribute to Heroes and Angels". The museum is quite impressive and if you haven't seen it, you can find more information here.

SA was represented by Toby Nunn, Jeff Bader, and Greta Perry. Greta had the honor of traveling to the convention with JJ Witmeyer, pictured above. Greta's summarized her reflections about the veterans she met there in a moving post called "They carry the war in their eyes".

Wardak Barbershop

Sgt. Joshua Engbrecht 18, of Riverside Calif., left and Pfc. Jack Shortridge, 21, of Long Beach Calif., of the U.S. Army’s 1st Platoon Apache Company, 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, part of the 3rd combat brigade 10th Mountain Division based out of Fort Drum, NY, gave each other haircuts under the stars in Wardak Province in Afghanistan. David Goldman AP.

20 August 2009

De Oppresso Liber

SFC William B. Woods Jr., 31
St. Louis, Missouri
US Army
Company B, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Glen Arm, Md.

KIA 16 August 2009 Ghanzi, Afghanistan
Operation Enduring Freedom

Bob Woods, SFC Woods' uncle and Ohio State captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, spoke with the Washington Post about his nephew.

Gunshot Wounds Kill Va. Soldier
Sergeant From Chesapeake 'Loved What He Was Doing'

By Greg Gaudio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Virginia soldier has died of wounds he suffered in Afghanistan last week.

Army Sgt. 1st Class William B. Woods Jr., 31, of Chesapeake, died Aug. 16 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, the Pentagon announced Wednesday. He succumbed to gunshot wounds he suffered Aug. 14 while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, according to a news release.

A family member remembered Woods as a soft-spoken, level-headed man who was devoted to his wife, Elizabeth, and daughters, Lilly, 6, and Elle May Sky, 8 months.

"He would always be beaming when he was around his kids," said Bob Woods, 58, an uncle who lives near Cincinnati. "And he and his wife... they really just made a nice couple. They really worked well together. They were happy and in love."

Woods said that he talked with William before he left for Afghanistan and that he was proud to serve his country in spite of the risks.

"He was a very, very good young man," Woods said. "He loved his country, he loved what he was doing, and he knew the ramifications of what he did."

Woods, who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Glen Arm, Md., was shot in Afghanistan's Ghazni province. The enemy has not been identified.

"The overall mission of that task force is training and enabling the Afghan forces," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Baker, a Special Forces spokesman at Fort Bragg, N.C. "They work with Afghan commandos."

Woods said William was a medical sergeant who completed a treacherous three-year training program. "That's more than just a paramedic.... There's serious stuff you've got to do there."

Woods's family has a long military lineage. His father, William B. Woods Sr., served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War; his grandfather, John Woods, was in the Navy in World War II; and his uncles, Johnnie and Bob Woods, served in the Army in Vietnam.

Bob Woods is Ohio State captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, a national organization made up mostly of motorcycle riders that attends military funerals to show support for families. "My fellow patriots this one hit close to home," he wrote in a posting on the group's Web site.

"I understand war, and I understand people dying, and unfortunately it tapped my door this time," he said. "Our family believes that when it's your time to die, it's your time to die. We don't know the reason."

Bob Woods said his nephew grew up in Catawissa, Mo., about 40 miles southwest of St. Louis. He had an adventurous spirit and loved sports, the outdoors and skydiving. He served in the Marine Corps and the Army before joining the Special Forces.

"The family is coping with it the best we can," Bob Woods said. "And we'll get through it, and we would... like to ask the nation not only to pray for my nephew's wife and two children but also to continue to respect and pray for our military men and women around the world. They need our support in the worst way, and a lot of times people don't realize how much support they need until something hits home like this."

The Patriot Guard Riders will be riding for SFC Woods.

Our condolences and prayers go out to the Woods and PGR families.

Election Day, II

A woman leaves a voting booth at a polling station in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, on Thursday. Farzana Wahidy / AP.

Voting extended by one hour, until 5pm, in oder to allow more people to cast their ballots. Turnout has apparently been light, particularly in the south.

Update: Mrs G at the Mudville Gazette has a "master list" of election day reports from the front as well as news media outlets.

Election Day

An election worker adjusts her burqa as she arrives for class at an election facility in Faizabad in the northeastern province of Badakhshan August 15, 2009. Afghanistan will hold presidential and provincial elections on. August 20, the second since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001, amid mounting attacks from the insurgents. Reuters.

19 August 2009

Experimental Novalung system in preparation phase for US FDA approval

A life-saving device developed by the Regensburg University hospital in Germany and used in emergency military medical situations where the patient has experienced lung damage due to the trauma of blast or gunshot wounds, may be FDA approved within 6 - 12 months, according to a spokesman quoted in Stars & Stripes' Thursday edition.

When I first heard about the Novalung system a couple of years ago, I imagined something like an "iron lung". But the Novalung works similar to the way a dialysis machine works - it simply filters a patient’s blood to remove carbon dioxide and replaces it with oxygen. In fact, the patient's own blood pressure is enough to force the blood through the membrane so that the device does not even require a pump.

Because Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center is located in Germany, and with the experience gained through treatment of thousands of trauma cases over the past several years, a partnership has developed between US Military physicians and the Regensburg hospital.

The Landstuhl Acute Lung Rescue Team – incorporating the use of the Novalung system – was established in 2005 by husband and wife team U.S. Air Force Col. Warren Dorlac and Lt. Col. Gina Dorlac, former Landstuhl doctors. Col. (Dr.) Dorlac is currently serving in Afghanistan. The current ALRT personnel are doctors, nurses and specialists who work in Landstuhl’s intensive care unit, and is now led by Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Fang.

Landstuhl's Lung Team and the Novalung system have received attention in recent weeks after extraordinary efforts were undertaken to save the life of a British Soldier seriously wounded in Afghanistan. See our post "The needs of the one... ", which Michael Yon has republished as "Do Americans Care About British Soldiers?", adding his invaluable personal perspective as a combat journalist embedded with the Soldier's unit in Afghanistan.

Poland's Armed Forces Day at Landstuhl hospital

Polish Soldiers (from left) Krzysztof, Mariusz, and Rafal at Landstuhl hospital with Mariusz's sister and wife.

This past Saturday was Poland's Armed Forces Day. As part of the celebration we awarded some wounded Polish paratroopers St. Michael the Protector t-shirts from RangerUp!. St. Michael is not only the patron saint of warriors in general, but of paratroopers in particular. As you can see, they loved the shirts!

The Poles, along with troops from many other countries, are in the thick of it fighting in Afghanistan, and Landstuhl hospital has treated casualties from 12 nations since the beginning of the War on Terror. Because of the specialized trauma care only available at facilities like Landstuhl (or WR and BAMC for US troops), some of our coalition patients stay here for long-term care. It's an opportunity for us to get to know them better, and it's especially gratifying for the Landstuhl staff - as opposed to US patients who leave after a couple of days for stateside medical facilities, we're actually able to see these guys get better!

John Donovan has posted a great story about the Polish Prime Minister visiting his troops in Afghanistan for Armed Forces Day along with another photo of our Polish patients at Landstuhl. Check it out!

18 August 2009

Heidelberg-based V Corps "lives to fight another day"


About 180 soldiers from V Corps’ Special Troops Battalion and soldiers tapped from its subordinate units will spend a year as the first International Security Assistance Force Intermediate Joint Command, to be headed by Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez.


The move is a startling turnaround for the corps. It was set to be inactivated just weeks ago as part of Army transformation. Then there was an announcement that the corps’ inactivation was postponed for a year. Now under this plan, it would remain intact and in Germany for at least the next several years, officials said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates hasn’t approved the enduring mission, officials said. But V Corps soldiers are to deploy over the next few weeks, and some are already in Kabul.

What’s more, under the proposal, the relocation to the U.S. of two Europe-based brigades, delayed for years, would be on indefinite hold. The brigades would likely remain in Germany as well for as long as the Corps is deployed to Afghanistan. The brigades — the 170th Infantry Brigade, formerly the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in Baumholder and the 172nd Infantry Brigade in Schweinfurt — were scheduled to relocate to the U.S. in 2012. That plan, part of worldwide rebasing, has been opposed consistently by U.S. leaders in Europe, who said the troops were needed for training with allies, deployments and deterrence.


The change in V Corps’ fortunes is intertwined with counterinsurgency doctrine suggesting that the regular Army should, like the Special Forces, provide the war effort with experienced and knowledgeable U.S. soldiers, familiar with the local people, local fighters, and political, social and economic situations.

“It’s the JSOC model,” the official said, referring to Joint Special Operations commands. “That’s what [Gen. David] Petraeus wanted.”

The rest of the story is here.

NATO (and others) @ War

John Donovan has a nice story up about our Polish coalition partners fighting in Afghanistan including a photo (taken by yours truly) of some Polish patients currently being treated at Landstuhl. He mentions the Czechs as well.

And if you haven't seen Michael Yon's latest dispatch about our British friends, go over and find out what The Kopp-Etchells Effect is.

I, for one, am so proud to stand with the Poles, Romanians, Czechs, Brits, Aussies, Canadians, Danes, French, Italians, Germans, Dutch and those of over a dozen other countries fighting against opression in Afghanistan. We appreciate you and value your friendship more than words can say.

17 August 2009

Thursday's Election Day

Afghan boys walk with their donkeys carrying ballot boxes to the remote areas in Baba Ali village, Dara district in Panjshir province, north of Kabul, Aug. 17. Afghans will head to the polls on Thursday to elect the new president. Rafiq Maqbool/AP Photo.

Background story from Drew Brown of S&S: Security tightens in Kandahar province ahead of Afghan election.

Bouhammer's worried the next four days are going to be Four Days of Hell.

So am I.

Female Marines tasked with reaching out to the Afghan female population

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Brigitte Ratzlaff, of Winter Haven, Fla., exchanging greetings and names with an Afghan boy while on patrol with Golf Company, 2nd Batallion, 3rd Regiment of the 2nd MEB, 2nd MEF last week in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Julie Jacobson/AP Photo.

What you don't see in the photo above is that LCpl Ratzlaff is wearing a head scarf under her Kevlar. She's part of an all-female Marine unit tasked with reaching out to the Afghan female population. Afghan women are viewed as good intelligence sources, and more open to hearts-and-minds efforts such hygiene, education and an end to the violence.

“I’ve found you get great intel from the female population,” said Capt. Zachary Martin, who commands the Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, stationed in Now Zad. “The women don’t want their men out there conducting jihad and getting killed.”

Martin said units have frequently received tips from women about weapons caches or hidden bombs.

But just to find the women is a challenge. There were none in sight as [Capt. Jennifer Gregoire's Female Engagement Team] entered Khwaja Jamal, a village of mud brick homes with no electricity or government presence.

While heavily armed Marines fanned out, the four women started by trying to strike up conversations with the few old men and young children who ventured outdoors.

The several hundred villagers grow wheat and opium poppies in the crossfire between Marines and Taliban fighters who are in the woods less than a mile away.

“They look at us through binoculars. They’ll kill anybody who talks to the Americans,” said Abdul Gayom to explain why the villagers were so wary of meeting the patrol.

1st Lt. Victoria Sherwood was undaunted, talking to him through her Afghan translator. She gave him painkillers for his back, and small presents for the children timidly clustering around. Some of them begged to try on her sunglasses, and promptly made off with them.

Sherwood, from Woodbury, Conn., got Gayom to promise he might let her into his compound to meet his wife, who he said with a shrug is “so old, the Taliban probably won’t care.”

But there was a snag: The translator was male. Could he be in the wife’s presence? “No way,” said Gayom, then asked the Marines for more medicine and goods.

Deeper in the village, an elderly woman eventually appeared on a doorstep. Gusha Halam claimed she was 120 — so old she could do what she pleased. Her black head scarf left her wrinkled face uncovered and revealed some hair, dyed bright orange with henna.

“The Taliban took everything from us. Make them leave,” Halam said, before her sons and grandsons arrived, stopped the conversation and hustled her indoors.

Read the rest at Stars & Stripes.

15 August 2009

Celebrating the life of Mike Stokely

From his Dad Robert last week, on the anniversary of his last phone call with Mike:

While at the post office I was also mailing out nine scholarship checks from the Mike Stokely Foundation, Inc. which brings to 29 scholarships for graduating high school seniors headed to their first year of college. While they are not full rides, they do carry out the mission of the Mike Stokely Foundation - giving a lot of kids a little help to go a long way in life.

Hughes, Ark., native, Staff Sgt. James Robinson, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, hands out school materials donated by the Mike Stokely Foundation at a school in Mullah Fayad, March 27. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback)

I thought about the kids in Yusufiyah who were so happy last year to get school supplies from the Mike Stokely Foundation, and the student at Georgia Military College who was the first recipient of the Mike Stokely Memorial Scholarship endowed by funds raised in the "Ride to Remember...." two years ago, and the one for this coming year.

I thought about young children in need who got a book a month this past year to help them get a boost in life with reading skills, and wondered about a group of children whose socio-economic situation was pretty grim and were elated to get a book from the Mike Stokely Foundation for a birthday present (some the only present they got that day).

I thought about several hundred inner-city kids who come to an annual Christmas Party called Flight to the North Pole and their gift bags contain a book from the Mike Stokely Foundation. I thought back to 1983 when I first got involved with the Flight to the North Pole and the many times Mike came to help with that annual party, even after he was grown.

I thought about the MilBlog community and friends I have come to know through Mike's death. I thought about all my Soldier's Angels including head Angel, Patti Bader.

I thought about all of Mike's former unit, E 108 CAV 48th Brigade GAARNG, many who now continue to serve and are deployed to Afghanistan and a good number of those are with Bravo 2 / 121 INF 48th Brigade GAARNG in Afghanistan.

I thought about the opportunity I was given to serve as Co-Chair of Bravo 2 / 121 Family Readiness Group.

I thought about how this came about because of Mike.

And there are so many other things that Mike's sacrifice has brought my way.

Remembering SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq

Because of Mike's sacrifice I, too, have been blessed with a gift: I've gotten to know his Dad Robert. My thoughts are with you and your family today, Robert. We'll always love and remember Mike.

14 August 2009

Life on ANP Hill

Under the moonlight, Lance Cpl. Sean McMullen of Colorado Springs, Colo., Golf Company, 2nd MEB, talks to his girlfriend on a satellite phone from combat outpost ANP Hill last weekend. Photo: Julie Jacobson / AP.

Life on ANP Hill is Spartan. The Marines have no air conditioning despite temperatures that can reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. The men sleep alone or in pairs in tiny dugouts barely 4 feet high that they've dubbed "Hobbit Holes," a reference to J.R.R. Tolkien's dwarflike character.

Read the rest of A day in the life of a Marine combat outpost.

The Helmand Blog

Run by the UK Forces Media Ops team at the Task Force Headquarters and in London at PJHQ, the Helmand Blog provides great insight into British and Coalition operations in the province. Bookmark it and check back often!

Howitzer prep on FOB Boris

U.S. Army soldiers prepare for a fire mission to register their new M198 155 mm howitzer on Forward Operating Base Boris in East Paktia, Afghanistan, August 8, 2009. The soldiers are assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Nicholas.

FOB Boris was named after Captain Dave Boris of Anvil Troop, 1st Squadron 91st Cavalry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, killed along with Sergeant Adrian Hike on 12 November, 2007 in the Bermel District of Paktika Province, Afghanistan.

13 August 2009

The needs of the one...

In late July, a British Soldier deployed in Afghanistan sustained life-threatening wounds to the abdomen and chest. I alluded to him in this post, but his identity has not yet been made public.

The article quoted below describes the extraordinary (and to my knowledge unprecedented) efforts made to save his life. It is a testimony to the advancements made in the technological, logistical, and medical fields. But most of all, it is a testimony to the commitment of the many to care for the needs of the one.

Here is a summary of the medical, logistic, and air assets involved in this incredibly complex mission. It is almost certainly incomplete.

- One C-17 aircraft to get the medical team and equipment from Germany in place at the hospital in Afghanistan.
- One C-130 aircraft to fly a pulmonologist from a different hospital in Afghanistan to the Soldier's location.
- A second C-17 aircraft to fly the patient from Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
- LifeBird German civilian medevac helicopter to fly the patient from Ramstein Air Base to Regensburg University hospital.

- Three C-17 aircrews; four sorties
- LifeBird helicopter aircrew

Medical Teams:
- British, Danish, US surgical team at the hospital in Afghanistan.
- A pulmonologist from a different hospital in Afghanistan flown to the facility where this Soldier was located.
- The Landstuhl Acute Lung Rescue Team (Specialized Critical Care Air Transport Team)
- The LifeBird medevac team in Germany
- The thoracic surgical and ICU teams at Regensburg University hospital in Germany, for the highly specialized treatment developed and available there.

Logistics Teams:
- Combined Air and Space Operations Center (SW Asia)
- Joint Patient Movement Requirements Center (within the CAOC above, SW Asia)
- Global Patient Movements Requirement Center (Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, USA)
- 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center (Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, USA)
- Landstuhl DWMMC (Deployed Warrior Medical Management Center)

A surgeon at work in an Afghanistan field hospital. At this hospital there is a general team of five surgeons, working with another three orthopaedic surgeons. With anaesthetists, emergency doctors and junior doctors, there could be 20 staff working on a single patient. Photo: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images.

Air Force aeromedical evacuation teams give British soldier fighting chance

by Capt. Justin Brockhoff
618th Tanker Airlift Control Center Public Affairs

8/4/2009 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Three Air Force aircraft along with multiple aircrew, aeromedical evacuation teams, and agencies from around the world gave a British soldier a fighting chance at life in late July after the soldier sustained multiple gunshot wounds and had his blood supply replaced more than 10 times at a military hospital in Afghanistan.

According to officials, the soldier sustained multiple wounds to the abdomen and chest, and was transfused with 75 units of blood and another 75 units of platelets.

Emergency surgery was conducted to repair the soldier's liver and lung. After being stabilized by the medical teams on the ground, the patient's respiratory condition worsened and doctors determined that the patient had to be moved to upgraded care in Germany.

The Combined Air and Space Operations Center, staffed by U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and Coalition partners. Built at a cost of $60 million, the project created the most advanced operations center in history. It includes thousands of computers, dozens of servers, racks of video equipment and display screens, over 67 miles of high-capacity and fiber optic cable, and hundreds of people, working in satellite communications, imagery analysis, network design, computer programming, radio systems, systems administration and many other fields.

Officials at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center and Joint Patient Movement Requirements Center at an air base in Southwest Asia, and the Global Patient Movements Requirement Center and 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., immediately started working to find the aircraft, aircrews and medical crews to airlift the soldier to further care.

"We received the call on our operations floor to airlift the British soldier from Afghanistan to Germany and immediately did what we could to make it happen," said Col. John Martins, the 618th TACC director of operations who led coordination efforts for the mission. "It was a complex move. Not only did we have to find a plane and crew to fly the patient out of theater, but also we had to find another plane and aircrew to get the right medical personnel and equipment into Afghanistan because we needed specialized medical teams to care for the patient in-flight."

In less than six hours, a C-17 Globemaster III previously scheduled to fly a cargo mission was airborne with the required medical personnel and equipment from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to Afghanistan.

"We were able to quickly identify a mission that was planned to fly into Afghanistan, and after coordinating with other agencies in the 618th TACC we were able to re-task the mission as an aeromedical evacuation flight," said Maj. Kris Rowe, an aeromedical flight manager. "At the same time, we needed a pulmonologist to be part of the AE team due to the trauma to the soldier's lungs. Working with our counterparts at the CAOC, we were able to get the pulmonologist from a different location in Afghanistan to the soldier's location on a pre-scheduled C-130 (Hercules) mission."

The pulmonologist arrived to the soldier's location and continued to care for him on the ground, while the C-17 carrying the medical teams and specialized lung equipment were still en-route on the eight-hour flight from Germany.

Because of crew duty day restrictions, safety regulations that dictate how long an aircrew can be on-duty before they're required to rest, the original C-17 aircrew couldn't stay the six hours it would take the lung team to prepare the soldier on the ground, and still fly the mission back to Germany. Instead, once they arrived, the C-17 and its crew were able to wait on the ground for just over an hour while nine other patients, in addition to two amputees previously picked up during a fuel stop, were on-loaded for a flight to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, near Ramstein AB.

Once they had dropped off the medical crews and equipment to stabilize the British soldier, and its 11 new patients were prepped for flight, the first C-17 took off back for Germany. Its mission was complete.

A C-17 Globemaster III, like the one pictured here, aeromedically evacuated a British soldier in late July from Afghanistan to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Before the soldier could be evacuated, an additional C-17 and a C-130 Hercules were needed to airlift specialized medical teams and equipment into place. U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Clay Lancaster.

Enter the second C-17 and aircrew, assigned to the 385th Air Expeditionary Group, who were also previously scheduled to fly a cargo mission in Afghanistan. Officials at the 618th TACC delivered a similar notification that they'd been re-tasked to be involved in the lifesaving effort.

"The patient was loaded on the second C-17 and airborne within 22 hours of receiving the call for support at the 618th TACC," said Master Sgt. Keyser Voigt, an aeromedical evacuation mission controller at the 618th TACC. "When you look at the requirements we had, its awe inspiring to see how many people will come together to save one life. It took two airplanes to get the medical team and equipment in place, another to fly the patient to Germany, three aircrews, four sorties, AE personnel and many more coordinating on the ground to get this done. Including the fact that we had to fly in specialized teams and equipment from eight-plus hours away and it took a minimum of six hours on the ground to prepare the patient using that specialized equipment, everyone involved did absolutely everything we could to give this soldier the care he deserves."

At approximately 1 p.m. local time Aug. 2, the British soldier landed safely at Ramstein AB and was flown to further medical care at a university hospital by helicopter.

"It's a true testament to the aircrews, the medical crews, and the ground personnel around the world and at the airfield that we could get this soldier out of Afghanistan so fast," said Lt. Col. Duncan Smith, the 618th TACC's Aeromedical Evacuation Division chief. "It is truly amazing to see this coordination take place in such a short amount of time, because we're literally coordinating these moves from a world away. We are in the business of saving lives, and we will do everything we can to reach that goal."

As of press time, the soldier was still at the university hospital in Germany, where he was listed in critical condition.

This movement marked the 8,563 patient movement by U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation teams in 2009, and the 135,233 since April 1, 2003.

(emphasis added)

As of today, almost 10 days after this story was written, the Soldier remains in Germany where his condition is stable. He may be able to fly home to the UK soon.

The doctors say it's a miracle.

I'd say it's probably close to a thousand miracles: A miracle for each of the many who came together to meet the needs of the one...

Related, March 2010: A word about the UK Daily Mail / MailOnline story

12 August 2009

“I am single, I am sexy, and I am wounded.”

SPC Christopher "Kit" Lowe with ANA soldiers.

From Rex of Afghanistan: My Last Tour about his recently wounded friend SPC Christopher Santiago Lowe of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 108th BCT, 48th Brigade.

I had an opportunity to speak with Lowe on the phone yesterday. He had just come out of another surgery and was still pretty groggy from the drugs, but I was able to decipher his muttering. I told him he was a hero! He said, “Senior, I am not a hero, I was only doing my job.” The doctors were able to save his leg and this morning he is on a plane flying to Walter Reed hospital in Maryland.

As a result of my blog, his mother Sandi has becomes friends with my wife and kept her informed of Lowe’s progress. Marine “Master Guns” also talked with Lowe too. It’s obvious he still has his sense of humor about him. He is quoted as saying to the female nurses “I am single, I am sexy, and I am wounded.”

Christopher didn't sound quite that perky when we briefly met just after his arrival at Landstuhl, so this is good to hear.

But the real story is about how he was hurt:

Marine Captain Matt Freeman crawled on top of the roof looking for advantage points and was fatally hit by a bullet. “Doc” the medic was trying to provide assistance and recover the body. Doc yelled out for some help and Lowe’s reflexes took over as he scrambled up a ladder to the roof.

Read the rest at Rex's.

Wishing Christopher all the best for a speedy recovery.

Our hearts go out to the family of Captain Freeman. We'll always remember him, and may he rest in peace.

Operation Tyruna in Sangin Valley, Helmand Province

Soldiers from The 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland lay down covering fire during Operation Tyruna in the Sangin Valley, Afghanistan. Hundreds of troops have swooped into a network of narcotics labs in the Sangin valley as part of a massive air assault which saw them bag a huge haul of opium and kill a number of insurgents. MoD/Crown Copyright 2009 Photo courtesy of Army.

Summer T-Shirt Sale at the Bouhammer Gear Store

From our friend Bouhammer:

I am glad to announce that that we have a sale on all Bouhammer Gear Store T-shirts that have all proceeds going to four awesome charities that they support (Fisher House, Not Alone, Soldier’s Angels and Books For Soldiers). Vision Strike Wear has been kind enough to cut into their costs in order to make these shirts more affordable but also keep the same amount of money going to the charities.

See some of the great t-shirt designs and more information here.

Operation Eastern Resolve 2 launched in Helmand

U.S. Marines move to take positions on a mountainside at the start of Operation Eastern Resolve 2 against the Taliban just outside the village of Dahaneh Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Operation Eastern Resolve 2 launched Wednesday morning in an attempt to push Taliban from the village which is a key commerce town in the province. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

DAHANEH, Afghanistan – Helicopter-borne U.S. Marines backed by Harrier jets stormed into a strategic Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan before dawn Wednesday, battling to gain control of the area ahead of next week's presidential elections.

Associated Press journalists traveling with the first wave said Marines were met with small arms, mortar and rocket propelled grenade fire as they flew in helicopters over Taliban lines and dropped into the town. Fighting was still under way hours later, with U.S. Marine Harrier jets streaking overhead and dropping flares in a show of force.

Other Marines met heavy resistance as they fought to seize control of the mountains surrounding Dahaneh in the southern province of Helmand. Another convoy of Marines rolled into the town despite roadside bomb attacks and gunfire.

It was the first time NATO troops had entered Dahaneh, which has been under Taliban control for years. Casualty figures were unavailable due to security restrictions.

A U.S. Marine of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment fires on Taliban positions from a rooftop in the village of Dahaneh Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009 in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Operation Eastern Resolve 2 launched on Wednesday morning in an attempt to push Taliban from the village which is a key commerce town in the province. (AP Photo/Alfred Montesquiou)

Marines said they had captured several suspects in Wednesday's push and seized about 66 pounds (30 kilograms) of opium, which the militants use to finance their insurgency. Troops hope to restore control of the town so that residents can vote in the presidential election.

The new offensive, named "Eastern Resolve 2," is designed to break the monthslong stalemate in this southern valley where the Taliban are solidly entrenched. By occupying Dahaneh, the Marines hope to isolate insurgents in woods and mountains, away from civilian centers.

"I think this has the potential to be a watershed," said Capt. Zachary Martin, commander of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, who lead the assault.

The goal is to cut off the Taliban from a major rear base, and reclaim the area's main market district. It is hoped this would have a ripple effect through neighboring villages, making civilians more willing to cooperate with NATO forces. The Taliban levy taxes in Dahaneh and maintain checkpoints in the area, which serves as a main trading route through northern parts of Helmand, which produces 60 percent of the world's opium.

"In the long term, it could have tremendous effects for the entire province," said Martin, who company is based in the nearby town of Now Zad.

A combined force of some 500 U.S. and Afghan troops took part in the attack, which included helicopters, snipers, and women Marines brought in to deal with Afghan women during the compound-by-compound search conducted by Afghan forces that accompanied the Americans.

More at the link.

07 August 2009

Zerok Mortarmen

U.S. Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 509 Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25 Infantry Division, operate a 120-mm mortar system on Combat Outpost Zerok, Afghanistan, July 12, 2009. Some of the Soldiers are standing on the mortar's base plate in an effort to seat it securely to ensure accuracy during future fire missions. U.S. Army photo by SSgt. Andrew Smith/Released.

Wardak Soldiers

From our friend LTC Steve Osterholzer with the 10th Mountain Division in Wardak Province, Afghanistan:

Several months ago we brought in a film crew from the Associated Press and embedded them with our soldiers in Wardak province. They have produced an unbelievable documentary that I'm sending you the link to.

The film crew embedded down to the lowest level, the "soldiers being soldiers" level. This is a web documentary in which it shows soldiers, raw and unvarnished, without an officer in sight. They swear and they bitch yes... but they, far better than I do, tell the story of the fight here and why it matters.

There are 8 sections, each a couple of minutes long, each focusing on a different theme: sacrifice, their thoughts on Afghanistan and the world, facing death, why we fight, and what life is like here every day. The images they capture are extremely moving and powerful: villagers bringing soldiers cups of tea, children, soldiers on patrol in the mud and searching villages for weapons caches, and what it's like living in a smelly tent for 12 months where you shower only every few weeks and where friend and enemy look the same.

It is, quite simply, as close as you can get to being here without being here.

Watch the 8 segments of Wardak Soldiers here. You'll wish they were longer...

05 August 2009

Paper: "No matter what we produced on the deaths of Fort Drum soldiers, I know it was not enough."

From yesterday's Watertown Daily Times of Upstate New York. I think many of us in the milblogging community (and of course others) struggle with the same feelings of inadequacy, and I very much appreciate this unnamed editor's (there is no byline) frankness and his willingness to express them. I've posted it in its entirety; I hope the Watertown Daily Times doesn't mind.

A collective sacrifice that is still made by individuals

Fire all of the guns at once and explode into space.

AUG. 5, 2009: A Fort Drum soldier was killed in battle the other day. Or was it the week before? Maybe I have him confused with another soldier who died with his three buddies during an explosion. Or was it just two other soldiers?

And so it goes. The U.S. is losing soldiers at such a rapid clip in Afghanistan that names and faces of 10th Mountain Division soldiers are flashing by us, giving little time to reflect on the collective sacrifice being made by these individuals.

Most news mediums, and certainly this newspaper, attempt to give equal weight to each death of each soldier. But at the numbers grow, the task has become impossible.

On some occasions, we discover the death after it is reported on the Defense Department’s Web site. Other times a story of a dead soldier is found on the Web site of a hometown newspaper. Only the latter has quotes from family members.

Sometimes the death is announced early in the day, giving us plenty of time for research. Sometimes it is discovered just before deadline, restricting information to the bare essentials.

Sometimes there is a photo with the story. Sometimes the photo arrives by email after the story is published. Sometimes the dead soldier has lived in our community for several years and his kids go to our schools. We can find neighbors and friends for quotes. Sometimes the dead soldier arrived at Fort Drum just in time to hop a plane to deploy, having never met one civilian here. There are no quotes to be found.

It all makes it difficult to produce the same amount of information for each casualty.

Years ago we printed a quarter page of photos of soldiers killed in battle after a nasty spike of deaths in Iraq. The other day we printed 12 faces to show how many soldiers have been killed in the last six weeks. Are 12 deaths in six weeks more significant than one death in four weeks?

Some soldiers die in a firefight. Some die in a vehicle that is blown up. Should one get more attention than the other? The father of one dead 10th Mountain Division soldier was recently called by President Obama who said his son will be a Medal of Honor recipient. Was that soldier’s death more significant than another? His late son would likely say, “I was just doing my job. I know others who did things just as important and courageous. Why me? Why not them?”

How do you give equal attention to the death of each 10th Mountain Division soldier?

I often review our previous stories and look for balance, tone and perspective. And no matter what we produced on the deaths of Fort Drum soldiers, I know it was not enough.

Our reporters work to ensure these are not unknown soldiers, even if they were not known to anyone in our community. But in the end these soldiers, who gave the last full measure of devotion, are never known enough.

The Heart of a Ranger

We've written about Soldier organ donors and their families before.

Now meet one of these heroes at Blackfive: The Heart of a Ranger - Godspeed Corporal Benjamin Kopp

And TSO at This Ain't Hell adds a moving personal story to his post about Cpl Kopp: Deceased Ranger lives on

Rest in peace, Benjamin.

Healing Hands

U.S. Army Spc. Chad E. Brown examines a boy's wound during a dismounted patrol to a village in the Deh Chopan district in Zabul province, Afghanistan, July 25, 2009. Brown is a combat medic assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo.

04 August 2009

The Last Night at Landstuhl

John, this is Chaplain Smith, the ICU Chaplain. I'm here with MaryAnn of Soldiers' Angels. She asked me to visit before you go home tomorrow.

I'm looking at a family photo your wife Jane sent her to print out and keep at your side. I'm sure you know it; it's the one where the baby is wearing the yellow sun hat...

I want to remind you that you are in the Intensive Care Unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

You have your own nurse who is with you at all times, either in your room or sitting right at the door. While you are here you are never alone...

Today is Saturday, January 10th. Well, I guess it's January 11th now.

You're going home tomorrow.

The Critical Care Air Transport Team will come to get you ready for the flight early in the morning. That will take about 2 hours.

Afterwards, they will take you on the bus to the aircraft at Ramstein Air Base - just like when you came here. You will have your own doctor, nurse, and respiratory therapist taking care of you the whole time.

When you arrive in the US, you'll be going to Walter Reed Medical Center, again by bus. Your wife Jane and the rest of the family are waiting for you there.

They have been praying for you; you are on many prayer lists.

And now we, too, would like to pray for you...

Gold Star Father Robert Stokely interviewed about SFC Mark Allen fundraiser

In an update to the post below, an interview with Robert Stokely can be seen here speaking about a fundraiser for Mark (click on video to the right).

If you would like to make a donation for Sgt. Mark Allen and his family, it can be made in his name to:

Mike Stokely Foundation
100 Fountainhead Way
Sharpsburg, GA. 30277

Thank you.

* * *

Please join us in praying for SFC Mark Allen of the Georgia Army National Guard who remains in serious but stable condition at Bethesda Naval Hospital after being wounded in Afghanistan. Prayers are also requested for his wife Shannon and their children Cody and Journey, as well as for the two other Soldiers wounded in the same attack.

If you are on FaceBook, you are invited to join the prayer group for Mark.

Other stories about Mark:
Prayer request
Gold Star Father Robert Stokely interviewed about SFC Mark Allen fundraiser
Wounded Warrior's Spouse: "My husband is GI Joe in a National Guard uniform"
Two Newnan Guardsmen among three wounded in Afghanistan
Wounded soldiers arrive in U.S.
Injured soldiers helped by Soldiers' Angels
How Could I Know?

The Golden Hour

"Give us the first hour... and we'll give you the rest of your life."

- Motto of Task Force Med, 101st Air Assault Surgical Team at Bagram's SSG Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital

In a follow up to an earlier post about Bagram's SSG Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital, here's a photo essay from tampabay.com with additional images of the life-saving work carried out on a daily basis by the medical personnel there. (Caution: The last photo at the link - not shown here - is a graphic image of an amputation. You may not wish to scroll all the way down if you are unaccustomed to seeing traumatic injuries.)

U.S. medevac personnel pick up a wounded soldier in the Tagab Valley, north of Kabul, on June 4. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A wounded Afghan translator working for the U.S. military lays on a stretcher on June 4 as he is taken off a helicopter at the air base. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Sgt. Al Smoot from Harold, California and serving in Afghanistan with a U.S. Medevac team, gives CPR to a U.S. soldier on June 7 in the hospital's emergency room. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Maj. Maureen Nalen of Las Vegas, Nevada, with Task Force Med, talks with other emergency room personnel on June 2. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

U.S. medical personnel treat a wounded Afghan soldier on June 5. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A wounded U.S. soldier in the emergency room on June 7. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Spc. Jon Reed, of Woodland, California sits in bed at the Bagram Air Base hospital on June 7. Reed was wounded in an ambush. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Final Journey

Tears stream down the face of a Canadian soldier at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan as he helps carry the flag-draped coffin of a fallen comrade to a waiting aircraft to begin the final journey home. Photo and story: Drew Brown / S&S.

Sunset Vigil

The news is spread far and wide
Another comrade has sadly died
A sunset vigil upon the sand
As a soldier leaves this foreign land

We stand alone, and yet as one
In the fading light of a setting sun
We've all gathered to say goodbye
To our fallen comrade who's set to fly

The eulogy's read about their life
Sometimes with words from pals or wife
We all know when the CO's done
What kind of soldier they'd become

The padre then calls us all to pray
The bugler has Last Post to play
The cannon roars and belches flame
We will recall, with pride, their name

A minute's silence stood in place
As tears roll down the hardest face
Deafening silence fills the air
With each of us in personal prayer

Reveille sounds and the parade is done
The hero remembered, forgotten by none
They leave to start the journey back
In a coffin draped in the Union Jack

Written by Staff Sergeant Andrew McFarlane of the British Adjutant General's Corps and posted by his wife to her FaceBook page. Staff Sergeant McFarlane, 47, based at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, composed this poem last week after learning of the death of his eighth comrade within a 24 hour period.

God bless all of our coalition partners. We value your friendship and are so very proud and honored to stand with you.

03 August 2009

‘The Bullet Magnet’ receives 4th Purple Heart

Staff Sgt. Brandon Camacho, 22, shows off his 10th Mountain Division patch that was pierced by a bullet in a near miss in April. A month later, the squad leader with the 1st Batallion, 32nd Infantry Regiment,was shot in the same arm, earning him a fourth Purple Heart for combat wounds. Photo and story Dianna Cahn / S&S.

[The bullet] tore a hole through his 10th Mountain Division patch and through a pack of cigarettes in his arm pocket, destroying all but one.

“So I pulled it out and had myself a cigarette.”

- SSG Brandon Camacho

That has got to be the coolest line evah, and I burst out laughing when I got to it. Here's part of the story, but make sure to read the whole thing.

‘The Bullet Magnet’ is back in the fight in Afghanistan
By Dianna Cahn, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, August 4, 2009

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Staff Sgt. Brandon Camacho was in a “pissing contest” with the enemy. He shot one guy, then another popped up.

He threw a grenade, but it bounced off the man and exploded in a ditch.

As the squad leader then zigzagged through a field, he felt someone tug at his shirt sleeve. Hours later, after the firefight, he’d discover that a bullet had whizzed right through it, narrowly missing his bicep. It tore a hole through his 10th Mountain Division patch and through a pack of cigarettes in his arm pocket, destroying all but one.

“So I pulled it out and had myself a cigarette,” Camacho says, holding the patch over his arm. Then he lifts the patch to expose a scar. It’s not from that bullet in April, but from another one a month later, earning the 22-year-old his fourth Purple Heart for wounds in a war he just won’t quit.

Struck by shrapnel during heavy mortar bombardment in Iraq in 2003, Camacho has since been grazed by one bullet, hit in the shoulder with a tracer round and finally, in June, shot in the arm. His men call him “The Bullet Magnet” and joke that since all his injuries have been on his left side, if they just stand to his right, they’ll be fine.

The most received by one person is eight, according to various sources, but receiving four remains a rare occurrence.

Read the rest of the story about his prior injuries, and about some of his buddies who didn't make it back.

JBAD Medevac

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Angela Nolan, a medic assigned to C Company, 1-168th Aviation Regiment, check an intravenous valve during medical evacuation flight out of Jalalabad, Afghanistan on July 20. Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade.

Long live the Coalition!

While hanging out with a couple of Polish patients this weekend, I excitedly told them their new neighbor across the hall was a Romanian. As Americans, we tend to believe all these "foreigners" want to meet each other - and the fact is, they usually do.

Just then I saw the Romanian guy walking into his room so I excitedly called him over. One of the Polish Soldiers stood up, went over to him, and with a big smile on his face said,

"Jestem Polak!"

Well, the Romanian guy looked at him like "so what, Bud" and deadpanned,

"Eu sint din Romania."

Then basically turned on his heel and walked out.

"Ah, yes," quipped the Polish guy with a wry look on his face. "The Coalition!"

It was pretty funny. But maybe you had to be there...

Welcome Home, Captain Speicher

Capt. Michael Scott Speicher went missing the first night of Operation Desert Storm, when his F/A-18 went down in Iraq. The Navy announced August 2 that his remains had been located by Marines in Iraq's Anbar province. US Navy photo.

We never forgot about you, nor did we give up. God bless you and welcome home, Captain Speicher.