30 September 2009

LOL of the Day

A woman talks with a sniper from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh in Chester, northern England, September 25, 2009. 300 troops from the regiment marched through the City to say farewell ahead of their deployment to Afghanistan in October. REUTERS/Phil Noble.

Good luck and Godspeed to The Royal Welsh!

Iraqi Air Force Assumes Control of C-130 Air Operations Mission

Yesterday at New Al-Muthana Air Base, Iraqi Air Force Squadron 23 assumed full responsibility for C-130 operations from US Air Force training and advisory units.

Presiding over the event were U.S. Air Force Maj Gen Robert C. Kane, commander of the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing and director of the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force; Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed, Iraqi Air Force Commander; Brig. Gen. Kareem Ali Abud, commander of the Iraqi Air Force’s New Al-Muthana Air Base; and Col. Christopher Pehrson, commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Group.

“Today I say we are proud to have had the honor to work with you side-by-side as brothers, not less,” said Kareem. “I have worked with about eight advisors, and we have here more than 60 groups at Al Mathana, great in all fields: discipline, versatility, specialties and more than that, humanity.

“We can’t forget the support you gave in the training of pilots, craft engineers, logistics, security forces and English classes,” he continued. “We respect your sacrifices -- leaving your families behind just to support Iraqi air forces. We are grateful for you and your families. We don’t like to say goodbye -- see you again with better situations in Iraq.”

With the deactivation of the squadron comes another claim to the Iraqi air force’s independence.

Squadron 23 is the largest C-130 squadron in the Iraqi air force and its mission includes delivering troops, cargo, distinguished visitor support and medical evacuation. The squadron began after the United States gave three C-130E aircraft to the Iraqis through the Excess Defense Articles program. The Iraqi Air Force C-130 airlift mission was born with the arrival in January 2005 of those same three jets at Ali Air Base. This paved the way for the first aircrew members to receive flight training at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. After being assigned to Ali Air Base since 2005, the squadron moved to NAMAB March 7, 2006.

Congratulations to the Iraqis and Americans responsible for achieving this important and impressive milestone. We appreciate your dedication and your sacrifices!

Related: 'The war the times forgot' at Mudville Gazette.

Both stories h/t The Thunder Run

Tangi Medevac

In this Wednesday Aug. 19, 2009 photo, Spc. Paul Pickett, 22, of Minden La., right, of the U.S. Army's Apache Company, 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, covers an injured U.S. soldier as a helicopter lands to evacuate the wounded after their armored vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in the Tangi Valley of Afghanistan's Wardak Province. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Photo Essay from an FST (Forward Surgical Team)

Kanani of The Kitchen Dispatch has used photos from her husband, currently deployed at a FST in Afghanistan, to make a photo essay called War: Taking Care of the Wounded. It's very nicely done and not at all graphic, so I encourage you to take a look.

Related here at SAG: The Golden Hour, about Bagram's SSG Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital where the motto of Task Force Med is "Give us the first hour... and we'll give you the rest of your life."

h/t Laughing Wolf at Blackfive.

29 September 2009

Dear Soldiers' Angels...

I just wanted to say thank you. I was WIA on XX Sept 09. When I got to Bagram airfield in Afghanistan, there was a Purple Heart/ Soldiers Angels bag in my ICU room when I woke up.

It is so nice to know that after what I saw, what I did, and what me and my crew went through, there were people who already had us in mind. I sleep with the fleece blanket I got, the hygiene bag was wonderful, especially since mine burned to the ground with my vehicle. And the letters and cards from Karate for Kids in Utah made me smile.

On behalf of myself, SPC [redacted], the medic for my team, my TC, SGT [redacted], my gunner SGT [redacted], and most of all, my driver, PFC [redacted], who had the worst injuries of our crew, thank you so much.

Remembering Mike Monsoor

John Donovan reminds us with his daily "Medal of Honor Moments" that Master-At-Arms Second Class Michael Monsoor, US Navy SEAL, earned his Medal of Honor on this day in 2006.

Maryland community gears up for fourth "Blankets of Hope Marathon"

180 volunteers made 242 Blankets of Hope for wounded and ill service members medevaced to Landstuhl hospital in Germany from Iraq and Afghanistan. The "Blankets of Hope Marathon" was created by Soldiers' Angels Lisa Dodson and Matt Dick and took place at the Ascension Church Hall in Bowie, MD on Septemnber 20, 2008. The blankets will be provided to patients by the Soldiers' Angels volunteers at Landstuhl hospital in Germany.

For the fourth year in a row, volunteers from near and far will be gathering in Bowie, Maryland for what has become an annual tradition - a day of making blankets for patients medevaced from Iraq and Afghanistan to Landstuhl hospital in Germany.

This year's Marathon will be held again at Ascension Church Hall in Bowie, Maryland on Saturday October 3, 2009 from 8:00am to 4:00pm, or "until the fleece runs out".

If you are interested in participating with a donation of your time, fleece fabric, or funds for shipping the blankets to Germany, please email me.

See more photos of the 2008 Marathon here.

Thank you Lisa and Matt for taking this on again for the fourth year in a row. I'll be calling in on Saturday!

28 September 2009

Soldiers' Angels Mourns US Navy SEAL Ryan Job

We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the death of US Navy SEAL Ryan Job, critically wounded in 2006. Ryan went on to overcome many of his disabilites - climbing Mount Rainier, training for a triathlon and becoming a spokesman for other wounded veterans. He died last Thursday following major reconstructive surgery.

Please read more about Ryan at Blackfive.

Godspeed, Ryan. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family and your fellow SEALs.

SA's Wounded Warrior Weekend Retreat at Point Beach, NJ

From my friend Lynette, head of SA's Warrior Medical Support in the US:

Soldiers' Angels sponsored a weeked at the shore for 15 wounded service members and their families from Walter Reed Army Hospital and Bethesda National Naval Medical Center. Arriving in Point Beach mid-day Friday, they hit the beaches and boardwalk, enjoying the unrestricted time to do family things, relax and eat the Beach Boardwalk food. Saturday was a day of kite flying, amusement rides, massages, relaxing and eating. :0) They do love good food.

Friday dinner was a wonderful buffet catered by Spanos in the Lido Café. Saturday dinner was a clambake, catered by Melanie's Clambakes. Simply delicious. Many thanks go to The White Sands--hotel and spa!, Spanos, Melanie's Clambakes, Briggs Transportation and Point Pleasant Boro Fire Co #1--who jumped in and provided a place for the clambake when the first venue fell through. A marvelous time was had by all who were able to attend. More pictures when I receive them.

I'll link to Lynette's full report when it's available, but for now, I'd like to focus on one of the guests - our friend LTC Augustin Pegulescu of the Romanian Army.

(Update: Lynette's story available now here.)

From left to right, Augustin at the Jersey Shore with Lynette, Lynda, and Rich of Soldiers' Angels.

Romanian Chief of General Staff, Admiral Gheorghe Marin, Ph.D. visited Saturday, August 8, Lieutenant Colonel Nicusor Augustin Pegulescu at the War Veterans Rehabilitation Center of "Walter Reed" US Army Medical Center. Photo: Romanian MoND Press Office.

Augustin spent about 5 months here at Landstuhl after being wounded on January 9, 2009 in an IED attack during a mission about 50 km south east of Lagman Base in Afghanistan. He was later transferred to Walter Reed to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.

Before being wounded, Augustin previously served in Bosnia, Kosovo, two tours in Iraq, and a prior tour in Afghanistan.

It's great to see Augustin doing so well and enjoying himself while enduring the extremely challenging work of learning to walk again with a new leg. We look forward to seeing him again at Landstuhl on his way back home to Romania after completion of his rehab at Walter Reed.

Three US Soldiers were killed in the January 9 attack which severely wounded Augustin and another US Soldier.

Fallen Americans honored by Romanian Army

Three U.S. soldiers who lost their lives were honored recently by the Romanian military. Lt. Gen. Teodor Frunzeti, PhD, Chief of Staff of Romanian Land Forces (ROULF) awarded post mortem, in a ceremony held on Jan. 16 at ROULF HQ in Bucharest, three U.S. Army soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan. Chief of Staff of ROULF conferred the Emblem of Honor of Land Forces to Maj. Brian Michael Mescall, and the Emblem of Merit “In Service of Peace” 3rd Class to Sgt. Jason Ray Parsons and Cpl. Joseph Michael Hernandez, “in appreciation to the esprit de corps, courage and priceless supreme sacrifice proven and dedicated together with the Romanian Land Forces’ comrades in arms in the war against terror in Afghanistan.”

“By conferring these awards, we want to express our deep respect and consideration for the supreme sacrifice made by the three soldiers in the name of freedom. As American and Romanian soldiers of Land Forces train and fight together, we also honor our heroes together,” said Lt. Gen. Frunzeti. The awards were handed over to Ms. Jeri Guthrie-Corn, the Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, to be sent to the families. The ceremony was also attended by Col. Kevin Leek, Chief, Office of Defense Cooperation, Lt. Col Taft Blackburn, Defense Attaché for Army, and other ROULF generals and officers.

We thank the Romanian Army for standing with us in Iraq and Afghanistan, for all of their sacrifices, and for honoring their brothers - our own Fallen Heroes.

Fighting for the Angels!

T-shirt company Ranger Up and Mixed Martial Arts fighter Tim Kennedy are at it again! In a fight to be broadcast live on Showtime this Friday (September 25), Tim will once again be sporting the Soldiers' Angels logo on his shorts as he goes into the ring under the sponsorship of Ranger Up.

Last June, Tim showed his Soldiers' Angels support after winning his fight against Nick Thompson--as a veteran himself, he's well aware of how important it is for Americans to support their troops. During the June post-fight interview broadcast on Showtime, he particularly thanked Soldiers' Angels volunteers for the great work they do to ensure America's service members know they are supported and appreciated.

Soldiers' Angels gratefully salutes Tim Kennedy, and sends him best wishes for a winning fight against Evangelista Cyborg on Friday night.

And here's the fight results:

NEW YORK – United States Army veteran and rising middleweight mixed martial arts (MMA) star Tim Kennedy (11-2) dominated a previously unbeaten Zak Cummings (10-1), submitting Cummings with a north-south choke in the second round (2:43) of their STRIKEFORCE Challengers main event battle live on SHOWTIME from Tulsa, Oklahoma’s SpiritBank Event Center on Friday, September 25.


Kennedy, a 29-year-old former sniper for the Seventh Special Forces who recently accepted a position with The Texas National Guard in order to be able to pursue his MMA career more thoroughly, rocked the 25-year-old Cummings early in the first round after the two engaged on their feet.


The 'Baggers' in Helmand

The Royal Navy's Mk7 airborne surveillance and control helicopters, known as 'Baggers', have recently deployed to Helmand for the first time, where they are detecting, following and intercepting insurgent activity. The Mk7 helicopters are known as Baggers thanks to the large grey 'bag' which contains the aircraft's state-of-the-art radar. Photo and story: Helmand Blog.

27 September 2009

Gold Star Mothers' Day

(click for larger view)

Words cannot express how much we love and honor you.

‘Salute to Children of Our Fallen’ ceremony at the Capitol

Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr. talks with one of the children honored during the ‘Salute to Children of Our Fallen’, portion of the fourth annual ‘Time of Remembrance’ ceremony held at the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 26, 2009.

The Gold Medal of Remembrance she’s wearing is given to children who have lost a parent in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The ribbon’s colors are significant with purple, representing the wounded heart of the child who has endured the loss of a parent; black, symbolizing remembrance; and the colors red, white, and blue, representing the United States. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson; OCPA)

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. shakes the hand of one of the children honored during the ‘Salute to Children of Our Fallen’ during the fourth annual ‘Time of Remembrance’ honoring America’s fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The ceremony is sponsored by the White House Commission on Remembrance established by Congress. It was held at the west lawn of the U.S. Captiol, Sept. 26, 2009.

The Gold Medals of Remembrance adorning each child’s neck have this inscription etched in back, “IN REMEMBRANCE OF YOUR FAMILY’S SACRIFICE FOR OUR COUNTRY”–a gold star on its front dates back to World War I when the family of a service member killed in action would display a banner with a gold star on it in the front window of their home. The golden flame within the star is the official emblem of the White House Commission on Remembrance. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Margaret C. Nelson, OCPA)

Please remember our Gold Star families this weekend.

From ArmyLive.

25 September 2009

Gunbloggers Raise over $8000.00 for Project Valour-IT

A group of gun enthusiasts led by blogger "Mr. Completely" recently turned their love of firearms into laptop computers for wounded warriors. For the third straight year, the Gunblogger Rendezvous in Reno, NV has made Soldiers' Angels Project Valour-IT its fundraising focus. In addition to a raffle, the registration form for participants this year included an option of donating to Valour-IT while paying the registration fee.

Things got off to a rocky start when PayPal shut down the online raffle that had been set up, but Brian David Crane of Lucky Gunner (one of the Rendezvous sponsors) stepped up to fill the gap, making for a fantastic fundraiser that brought in nearly $7000 from tickets alone.

And the gunbloggers didn't stop there! Thirty-seven blogging participants at the Gunblogger Rendezvous raised additional funds through raffle tickets purchased at the event in Reno, direct donations during the weekend, and funds from registration fees once expenses were covered. At the end of the Rendezvous, event sponsor NSSF announced their direct donation of $1000 to Valour-IT, leading to a grand total of $8243.80 raised for Valour-IT!

The Gunblogger Rendezvous is an annual "real life" meeting of an online community of about 125 bloggers who discuss firearms and 2nd Amendement issues (37 attended this year's event). Each year they include a charitable aspect to the festivities, and for the last three years that has been Valour-IT.
This year their activities included shared meals with lively discussion, a visit to the world's largest sporting goods store, target shooting events, and several friendly competitions.

Major Chuck Ziegenfuss, the co-founder of Project Valour-IT, was in attendance for the 2nd time and found himself stunned when he pulled his own name out of the "hat" during the 2nd part of the drawing.

Soldiers' Angels is proud and honored to receive such generosity from patriotic Americans who have found a way to celebrate their rights and favorite pasttimes while supporting the troops!

At the Gunblogger Rendezvous, Chuck demonstrates use of the voice-controlled software that wounded warriors can use on Valour-IT laptops.

American Legion: We must not lose Afghanistan

LTG Stanley McChystal. Photo: Washington Post.

Legion to White House: We must not lose Afghanistan

INDIANAPOLIS (September 24, 2009) - The head of the nation's largest veterans organization is urging President Obama to give commanders the troops that they need to succeed in Afghanistan.

"According to The Washington Post, General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO Commander, is warning us that without more forces within the next year, the mission in Afghanistan ‘will likely result in failure.' Considering that Afghanistan was the breeding ground for the 9/11 attacks, we cannot allow that to happen," said American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill.

"We have seen a successful troop surge and counterinsurgency strategy work in Iraq. We owe it to our men and women who are serving in Afghanistan to do the same there. We must give them the tools they need to succeed."

More at the link.

With a current membership of 2.5-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

24 September 2009

Warrior Legacy Foundation helping Veterans receive delayed GI Bill payments

WLF partners with White House and VA to get GI Bill payments expedited

24 September 2009, Washington DC - The Warrior Legacy Foundation (WLF) is working with the White House and the VA to assist veterans who have been experiencing delays in GI Bill payments. Recently a number of veterans have not received payment for college expenses they are due in a timely fashion. This has caused financial hardship in an already difficult economy. This is unacceptable and WLF is committed to helping fix the problem.

Our leaders have been in contact with veterans officials at both the White House and VA and they agree this is a priority that must be addressed. They have dedicated resources and we will be working with them to expedite these payments and to ensure that systemic problems are addressed. We will provide assistance to veterans affected by this and connect them with the proper authorities to get them the benefits they earned. We appreciate the attention and help from both the White House and VA in rectifying this.

Veterans who have not received payment can contact us at info@warriorlegacyfoundation.org with GI Bill in the subject line.

David Bellavia
Executive Director
Warrior Legacy Foundation

The Warrior Legacy Foundation is a non-profit organization (filing for 501C3/C4 status) that is committed to the protection and promotion of the reputation and dignity of America's Warriors.

Additional information & press inquiries:
Jim Hanson
Sr. Director Communications

23 September 2009

Sunday's cookout, Part 2

All set up and ready for the guests.

How do you get to a room full of happy and full Soldiers, Marines, and others?

Well, it starts small, as in a small crazy idea that gets support.

Laughing Wolf has such a great post up about the cookout I don't want to excerpt any more of it. Just go over and read.

THANK YOU SA volunteers Carolina, Olivia, Becky, Lauren, Lori, Tina, Sharina, and Jens.

THANK YOU to Carol and Mel of the USO and all of your volunteers.

And most of all, THANK YOU Laughing Wolf for showing the warriors and staff at LRMC the love.

Sunday's cookout, Part 1 is here.

Stolen Valor

Do you have any idea how many lowlifes there are running around impersonating military personnel? And did you know it's a crime? As it should be.

So along with the good folks over at the Burn Pit, the American Legion's new blog, I'm wondering: Why won’t the US Attorney for CO prosecute Stolen Valor Act cases?

Rick Duncan was a Marine with a compelling story to tell, and tell it he did, to anyone who would listen. A graduate of the Naval Academy, Rick had been in the Pentagon when the plane hit on September 11, 2001. Volunteering for duty in Iraq, Duncan rose to the rank of Captain, and although openly gay, was assigned to lead a Marine Battalion in the battle of Fallujah. During the house to house battles there he had a finger shot off and suffered a severe head injury that required a plate be put in his head. He returned to the states disillusioned with the war and became executive director of the Colorado Veterans Alliance.

Partisan, MoveOn.com-ally VoteVets asked Duncan to be a blogger for them where he wrote under the handle of “USMCinCO.” The radical anti-war group “Iraq Veterans Against the War” (which does not require service in Iraq) asked Capt. Duncan to appear at several of their events to talk about his experiences. Various candidates for state and Federal offices in Colorado during the last election cycle asked Duncan to appear in their political commercials.

Just one little problem with this "Marine" sharing his "experiences" and "expert" opinions.

...Rick Duncan never existed. He was in fact Rick Strandlof, a man wanted on an outstanding warrant. In March and April of this year his story started to fall apart, with military bloggers chronicling every facet of his downfall. VoteVets and IVAW quickly scrubbed the internet of his presence, and the campaign ads featuring him speaking were removed from YouTube. Anderson Cooper of CNN delivered the coup de grace…

Read the whole sordid story. I can't decide what angers me more - the impersonators or those who aren't upholding the law.

The smallest sparrow

A Canadian army medic examines one of eight children brought to a forward operating base after they fell gravely ill from eating explosive powder at a home in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province September 12, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly.

Take another good look at the face of this precious, innocent little angel. Being treated by a Canadian medic after eating gunpowder in his home. Gunpowder for roadside bombs used to kill said Canadian and other ISAF forces.

Remember to whom the family - likely working with the insurgents themselves - turned in their hour of need.

Remember this when asked why we fight.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?
And yet not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

- Matthew 10:29

22 September 2009

Wounded Warrior's Spouse: "My husband is GI Joe in a National Guard uniform"

The Rev. David Allen’s son Joseph speaks to the congregation about his father’s decision to leave the church for six months to be by his other son Mark’s side, at the New Vision Worship Center on Sunday. Photo: LEE FERINDEN.

Prior posts about SFC Mark Allen here and here.

From today's Ocala.com:

Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, 36, Bravo Company, 48th Brigade Combat Team of the Georgia Army National Guard, out of Newnan, Ga., was in a valley of evil south of Kabul in Afghanistan on July 8.

Engaged in a furious firefight with the enemy, his M4 Carbine was his rod; his staff was the group of troops he trained and led.

He never sensed the sniper's bullet, which split the air, pierced his armored helmet and penetrated his brain.


The wounded warrior's father, the Rev. David Allen, is pastor of the New Vision Worship Center in Fort McCoy.

"All I ask of God is to let me have my son back," he said. "My prayer that he live has been answered and if this is the final answer, we are prepared to accept God's will. We are praying for Mark's recovery, but we will take him however God leaves him for us."

It was announced on Sunday at the worship center that the pastor has been allowed to take a six-month leave of absence. He needs to be with his son.

"I am in total awe of the doctors, nurses and staff we have met. They have treated us with compassion, and Mark with the utmost competency," David Allen said.

"The Soldiers' Angels Fund in Newnan, Ga., paid for my room. The taxpayers pay for his care. Many, many people have offered prayers and support.

"I have every confidence that everything is being done for Mark that can be done. Doctors from Kabul (Afghanistan), Landstuhl (Germany), Bethesda (Naval Medical Center in Maryland) and here in Tampa are taking superb care of our wounded. You can believe that, as I have seen it."


Shannon and Mark's fourth wedding anniversary is Wednesday. In her season of patience and prayer and endurance, she will celebrate it in her own way.

Her husband is present and accounted for, but his brain, emotions and memories are involuntarily AWOL.

Perhaps she will share the event with Journey, their 15-month old daughter, who is with her mother in Tampa when not in day care in Ocala.

"I am living in the now. We know exactly where we are in our love and our commitments. My husband is GI Joe in a National Guard uniform," said Shannon.

Family members could use some help with items such as gift cards for gas, lodging and food. The military provides lodging for Mark's wife, Shannon.

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

Mike Stokely Foundation
100 Fountainhead Way
Sharpsburg, GA. 30277

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

Thank you.

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?

This is the enemy - triggerman detonates hidden rocket although he sees child standing just feet away

Anti-Afghan Forces detonate a rocket on a convoy in Afghanistan with children in the immediate area. The 951st EN Sapper Co, attached to Task Force Spartan, treat Afghan children wounded when they are conducting a routine patrol near Charkh Afghanistan and their convoy is struck by a rocket. Spc Chris Baker of Task Force Spartan, 10th Mountain Division, reports.

This horrific act was captured on video by a camera mounted on a coalition vehicle. Eyewitnesses report the triggerman had full line of sight to the child standing just several feet away from the hidden rocket - but he detonated it anyway. You can see the child stagger out of the dust cloud resulting from the explosion. (Not shown: His injuries were treated by US soldiers on the scene and he was brought to a US medical facility for further treatment.)

Not the first time this has happened, but a shocking reminder of the nature of the enemy. This is why we fight, and why we must prevail.

Exit question: Has anyone seen this story covered in the media?

21 September 2009

Sunday's cookout, Part 1

A couple of quick photos to get started on recapping this fabulous day.

Here's Laughing Wolf during Saturday prep. We started early that morning at the farmers' market and moved on to the commissary before taking over the kitchen at the USO's Warrior Center. I have never washed so many mushrooms, grapes, berries, and lettuce in my life. (Thank goodness Team Potato arrived early on Sunday to take on that massive task.) Meanwhile, LW was making spaghetti & sauce (the Saturday night teaser meal), mac & cheese and babying his NY strip steaks with olive oil and herbs for the overnight marinade...

Sunday: Men at Work. LW with his new buddy and kindred spirit Mike.

From Laughing Wolf's post at Blackfive written after I dropped him off near Frankfurt airport late last night:

All I can say is that there is nothing you can't accomplish with a Team of Angels, some great USO volunteers, and a frustrated Army cook at your back. Working together, we did:

125+ steaks

app. 150 baked regular and sweet potatoes, with homemade cinnamon butter for the sweet potatoes (a huge hit)

2 pans of sauteed mushrooms, one local (delicious) and one a mixture of fresh crimini, porchini, oyster, and shitake

2 large pans of truffled macaroni and cheese

1 huge pan of salad of fresh local greens

mixed fresh local berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and more), a variety of local grapes, ice cream, and balsamic syrup made the day before

Desserts made by the USO volunteers

Not only did we get to serve the wounded transient barracks, but we also took meals up to the ICU staff and to some special people in and out of the hospital. Not to mention doing an impromptu spaghetti dinner that went from a small offering to a massive undertaking Saturday night.

More soon, I promise, once I get back. I can't say enough about the volunteers (Carolina and Team Potato both did yeoman work and rock!), and Mike the Army cook who finally got to do some of the cooking he loves, who helped with making it all come together and serving it to our guests. They fed the initial 60 people in a matter of just a few minutes.

To all who donated, thank you! To all the Angels and USO volunteers, thank you! To Mike, thanks brother!

In the weeks and months before, Laughing Wolf raised donations through the Internet, radio, and word of mouth to fund the entire event. Soldiers’ Angels and USO volunteers at Landstuhl pitched in to help with the food preparation, serving, and cleanup.

THANK YOU Laughing Wolf from all of us at Soldiers' Angels!

More to follow from both of us as the dust settles...

Update: Part 2 is here.

18 September 2009

Get ready for Laughing Wolf's cookout at Landstuhl!

We're very excited to be hosting Blackfive's Laughing Wolf, chef extraodinaire, while he cooks for our patients at the Landstuhl USO's Warrior Center on Sunday.

Our thanks to all of the Blackfive readers and others who generously made donations for this event, to the SA and USO volunteers who will be helping out on Sunday, and to the USO for their support!

Photos to follow...

"Bullet Magnet" gets hit again and makes it five

Back in August I did a post about Staff Sgt. Brandon Camacho, who had been dubbed the "Bullet Magnet" after receiving a fourth Purple Heart for a gunshot wound sustained in May:

"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

On September 8, he made it five. (And to be honest, when I first heard about this, I thought it was a reference to the older August story. I just couldn't believe it had happened again and was thinking, 'didn't I just write about this guy??' )

Staff Sgt. Brandon Camacho, 24, of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. Camacho, who also served in Iraq, is on his second tour in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment. Photo: Gaskell/News.

'Bullet Magnet'-Sgt. Camacho has earned 5 Purple Hearts in 5 years
BY Stephanie Gaskell In Afghanistan

Sunday, September 13th 2009, 4:00 AM

Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan - The soldiers in his New York-based combat unit call Staff Sgt. Brandon Camacho the "Bullet Magnet."

Camacho - either the luckiest or unluckiest soldier in Afghanistan - is on his second tour here with the Fort Drum-based 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The reason for the nickname: He's just earned his fifth Purple Heart after being shot in the left knee in a firefight 100 miles south of Kabul, military officials said.

"One of my friends said, 'You're the luckiest unlucky person I know,'" said Camacho, 24, who grew up in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. "I don't know what to make of it."


Camacho's first Purple Heart came in 2004, after he was hit by shrapnel in the left knee when a mortar round hit his outpost in Iraq.

His second was earned two years later in Afghanistan. A bullet grazed his left knuckles as he peeked around a corner during a firefight. A few months later, he was hit in the left shoulder by a tracer round.

Camacho returned to Afghanistan in December. In May, he was again shot in the left shoulder, just inches from the last shot, during a close-range firefight in a wheat field.

"I lost a lot of blood," he said. "It missed my bone by a half inch."

On Sept. 8, Camacho was out on a recovery mission after two Apaches took out several insurgents who had attacked a local government center.

"We heard voices and I took a peek around the corner and a guy popped out about 5 feet in front of me," he said.

A round ricocheted and hit him in the left knee, not far from his earlier shrapnel wound.

"I don't know why it's always my left side," he said, laughing.


Amazingly, he hopes to come back to his unit before their deployment is over at the end of the year. "I absolutely do not want to go home," he said. "I want to stay and finish it up."

Brandon... Dude... STAY HOME.

17 September 2009

'If this works out the boys will love it'

Lt Adamson, who is single and comes from the Isle of Man, was moving between two eight man sections when a group of Taliban fighters attempted a flanking attack Photo: CHRIS SAVILLE/APEX.


British officer wins two gallantry awards for fending off Taliban attack with bayonet
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Published: 9:00PM BST 12 Sep 2009

Lieutenant James Adamson was awarded the Military Cross after killing two insurgents during close quarter combat in Helmand's notorious "Green Zone".


In a graphic description of the intense fighting in Helmand, the officer told of the moment killed the second fighter. He said: "It was a split second decision.

"I either wasted vital seconds changing the magazine on my rifle or went over the top and did it more quickly with the bayonet.

"I took the second option. I jumped up over the bank of the river. He was just over the other side, almost touching distance. ...

"Afterwards, when he was dead, I picked up his PKM (Russian-made belt-fed machine gun) machine gun and slung it over my back.

"We then had to wait for more of my men to join us. We thought there could be more Taliban about and we were just watching our arcs of fire, waiting for more to come out of a big field of maize which came right up to the river we had been wading through.

"One of my men, Corporal Billy Carnegie, reached us, looked at the two dead Taliban on the ground and then saw the blood on my bayonet and said "boss what the **** have you been doing?"

Lt Adamson, who is single and comes from the Isle of Man, was moving between two eight man sections when a group of Taliban fighters attempted a flanking attack.


"Myself and Corporal Fraser 'Hammy' Hamilton were wading nipple deep down a river which connected the two positions. Hammy was ahead when the Taliban fighter with the PKM (Russian machine gun) appeared from a maize field.

"There was an exchange of fire and 'Hammy' fired off his ammunition and then the weight of fire coming from the Taliban forced him under the water.

"The machine-gunner had also gone to ground but was still firing in our direction periodically. I had just caught up when 'Hammy' came up out of the water like a monster of the deep.

"Then another Taliban man came through the maize carrying an AK47. He was only three to four metres away.

"I immediately shot him with a burst from my rifle which was already set on automatic. He went down straight away and I knew I had hit him.

"Hammy said I shouted: 'have some of this' as I shot him but I can't remember that. I fired another burst at the PKM gunner and then that was me out of ammunition as well.

"That was when I decided to use the bayonet on him. It was a case of one second to bayonet him or two seconds to put on a fresh magazine.

"Nothing was really going through my mind but briefly I did think 'if this works out the boys will love it' – as in the rest of the platoon that I commanded.


Two weeks earlier Lt Adamson had won a Mention in Dispatches (MID) by leading his men in an ambush against the Taliban in the same area.

It is understood that the young lieutenant is the first member of the armed forces to receive two awards for gallantry during the same operational tour.

‘The greatest and most horrific experience’

Dr. Hammond at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Opthamologist Dr. (Maj.) Matthew Hammond talks about his three-year experience serving at Landstuhl Hospital. He returned home to Logan, UT at the beginning of August.

‘The greatest and most horrific experience’: Logan physician recounts experience treating soldiers injured in Iraq
By Arie Kirk
Published: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 4:49 AM CDT

Emotions still run deep for Maj. Matthew Hammond when talking about a three-year experience in Germany serving the men and women he sees as America’s finest — United States soldiers.

“It makes me a little emotional. These guys are, I’m sorry,” he said, pausing. “These guys are awesome guys so, it’s kinda hard.”

Hammond, a native of Providence, served as chief of ophthalmology at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center helping American soldiers, contractors and members of coalitions forces with eye diseases and eye injuries.

He called his service in Germany “incredible and the greatest and most horrific experience.”


“Treating a soldier or civilian who has been injured by an IED is like treating a patient with multiple gunshot wounds, picking out each of the hundreds of fragments of metal, dirt granite, pebbles and grains of sands from a patient’s eyes,” Hammond said.


Hammond said these cases, being so badly injured in the eyes, usually meant the soldier had severe burns or had lost limbs as well.

But the soldiers didn’t let it get them down.

“They’re the real deal,” he said.

Hammond spoke of one man who came through Landstuhl that lost two limbs and an eye.

“He wanted to go back and fight again. Not because of some great mission ... but because his buddies were down there and he wanted to be with them and take care of them,” he said.


But Hammond said his work over there isn’t finished. He hopes to volunteer in Germany for a couple of weeks every year.

“I love taking care of the soldiers,” Hammond said. “I would do that for the rest of my life.”

Thanks to Greta for the link.

16 September 2009

SFC Jared Monti to receive Medal of Honor Thursday

SFC Jared Monti enjoyed interacting with people and was a giving person, friends and family say. He rarely made it home for holidays because he gave his Christmas leave to soldiers with children, and once gave away a brand new dining room set to a soldier whose kids were sitting on the floor. Staff Sgt. Chris Grzecki / Courtesy photo.

SFC Jared Monti of 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division was killed in Nuristan province on June 20, 2006 along with a flight medic and two of his fellow soldiers. Tomorrow, Monti's family will receive the Medal of Honor he earned for heroic actions on that day two years ago.

This is the second Medal of Honor awarded for actions occurring during Operation Enduring Freedom, and the first to a member of the US Army.

From Stars & Stripes comes one of the best accounts of that firefight I've read, so make sure to read the entire thing.
The battle and the crushing accident that followed marked every soldier there. All came back changed by the violence, the loss and the astounding sacrifice they saw in themselves and each other during the most dire juncture of their lives.

“There’s only a few people in the world who have been with a person in their most trying time,” said Staff Sgt. Chris Grzecki, 26, now an instructor at Fort Sill, Okla. “To see the things those guys did — it’s amazing to see that kind of dedication and courage.”

Monti will be receiving the medal. But those present will honor not just Monti, posthumously promoted to sergeant first class. They will also honor [Pvt. Brian] Bradbury, whom comrades said kept firing with his good arm until his ammunition ran out, and the rest of the men pinned on that bloody mountain, outnumbered and outgunned.

Some of the younger ones, like Pfc. Derek James, 22, who with a bullet in his back was the only one wounded to make it out alive, Spc. Sean Smith, 23, and Sgt. Joshua Renken, 22, would be back to fight again two years later with the 10th Mountain Division, this time in Logar province.

The soldiers were ambushed on a ridgeline while setting up over-watch for a larger operation in the valley 2,600 feet below.

Suddenly, just before dusk, the place lit up with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire from the trees just above the ridge to the north.

James tried to take cover behind a small rock, but it wasn’t enough. An RPG blew a chunk out of his left arm. Then a bullet struck his back. If he was going to survive, he was going to have to make a run for it to the southern position.

“I remember thinking ‘Shit, I am going to die,’ ” James said. “We are all going to die.”

Bleeding, he got up and ran past the ridgeline, then crawled up to the main position, where a medic began to bandage him.

The gunfire was so intense that Grzecki could not reach his rifle about a foot away. A soldier beside him had his rifle shot right out of his hand, Grzecki said.

[Sgt. Patrick] Lybert was using a big rock for cover, but kept popping up to see where the enemy was, James recalled. “Then, all of a sudden, he just stopped.”

He’d been shot in the head and killed.

“We were taking so much fire we couldn’t make out where the mortars landed. It was coming in so close that ... you could hear it right over your head, just like whizzing through,” James said. “They were so close at one point you could hear their voices.”

Smith, who grew up the son of a Special Forces officer in the Middle East, heard the enemy chanting in Arabic. The soldiers were throwing grenades to keep them at bay.

Most of the guys made it back to the main position. But as Bradbury, 22, of St. Joseph, Mo., ran, an RPG exploded and he fell just over the ridge from his colleagues. They called out, kept him talking, but separated from the group by what James called “the death zone,” they could not reach him.

“You can tell Bradbury is slowly slipping away,” Renken said, allowing himself to drift into the moment. “We are doing everything we can to keep him talking.”

Monti, whose call sign was Chaos 35, was on the radio calling in artillery and airstrikes. But when Cunningham said he would go after Bradbury, Monti wouldn’t hear of it.

“That’s my guy. I am going to get him,” Grzecki recalled him saying. “That’s when he threw me the radio and said ‘Hey, you are Chaos 35 now.’ ”

Twice Monti tried to make the run, but gunfire pushed him back. The third time, with the men all laying down cover fire, he went for it, almost making it to Bradbury before he fell in a hail of RPGs and bullets.

“With complete disregard for his own safety, SFC Monti moved from behind the cover of rocks into the face of withering enemy fire,” his commendation says. “SFC Monti’s acts of heroism inspired the patrol to fight off the larger enemy force.”

Just minutes later, the air support Monti had called in arrived.

It took time for the last fire to subside. Finally, the beating of a chopper blade pulled close and a jungle penetrator was lowered down onto the ground before them.

“I remember hearing the flight medic they dropped down say ‘Hey, don’t worry. I am gonna get you guys out of here,’ ” said Smith. “That was nice. It made me feel better. At this point it began to sink in that it was [messed] up, the whole situation.”

Staff Sgt. Heathe Craig, 28, a medic with the 159th Air Ambulance Medical Company out of Wiesbaden, Germany, took James up first. He deposited him on the helicopter, then came back down with extra straps to take Bradbury. The private was too hurt to hold on, so Craig rode up with him, the report said.

They ascended into the darkness, relief washing over the men left below, who, even as the helicopter flew away, believed that their man Bradbury had made it out of there alive.

“I heard a thump, like you dropped a ship anchor to the ground,” Smith said. “I heard someone call the medic again. I asked what was going on.

“The steel cable ... snapped and that killed Bradbury,” Smith recounted. “It also killed the flight medic that had just told us we would be OK.”

They laid out the dead and took turns watching the mountain with their thermal vision goggles. They could see the bodies of their comrades slowly growing cold in the long, deep night.

The following day, helicopters returned for the Fallen, and the exhausted men made their way down the mountain on foot. They were reunited days later for an emotional goodbye at Bagram Air Field.

A combat outpost has been named for SFC Monti and the Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram now bears flight medic SSG Heathe Craig's name.

Update: Here's the link to SFC Monti's Medal of Honor page at Army.mil.

Update 2: Combat Outpost Monti was rededicated today in Afghanistan.

Update 3: Blackfive has video of the White House ceremony.

15 September 2009

The Fourth of July Attack at Combat Outpost Zerok

Watch these two videos and it will be the best use of 20 minutes' of your time all day. Make that all week, or all month.

Then go to Bouhammer's and read the rest of the story (and follow the links there), thanks to the mother of PFC Justin Casillas, mortarman and fallen Hero of Able Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Casillas and his fellow mortarman PFC Aaron E. Fairbairn were 19 and 20 years old, respectively, when they were killed on July 4, 2009. They lived more fully - and with a greater sense of purpose - in those few short years than most of us will in a lifetime.

Alamo, Alamo, ALAMO!

"Go away kid, go away kid, go away kid... "

Afghanistan - B-roll from Apache gunships with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Pegasus, observing insurgents in the act of emplacing an Improvised Explosive Device in southern Afghanistan. But before the Apaches moves in for the strike, the insurgents' bomb goes off, killing them in the act.

It's unclear to me whether the child - who the insurgents had assisting them - was killed in the explosion or not. But it looks as though he does walk away before the explosion. US forces hold their fire while the child is in the area. The insurgents have no such reservations.

h/t Mudville Gazette

The Soldiers' Angels September Newsletter is up!

I'm late on this, but better late than never, here's the link to the latest SA newsletter. Great issue this month, so be sure to take a look!

11 September 2009

Thoughts on 9-11 from Afghanistan

LTC Steve Osterholzer is currently deployed with Task Force Spartan, 3rd Combat Brigade, 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan and sent these thoughts early today. The interview referenced in the last paragraph is scheduled for broadcast on the CBS Nightly News this evening.

Hi All,

Some of you have asked what my thoughts are of fighting in Afghanistan today, the anniversary of 9-11. It was one thing to mark the anniversary of that horrific day when I was in the states, perhaps going to a memorial ceremony or simply for a walk in the woods. To remember, to reflect on how I felt, to reflect on the state of our world then and now, to reflect on the morals, love, and evil of mankind. Well, it is all of that and more... so MUCH more, actually being HERE in Afghanistan, where those attacks all started. Serving here, the origin and the genesis of those attacks, where they plotted and trained for the attack that killed over 3,000 innocent Americans on our own soil, truly does feel like I am at "Ground Zero."

A whole lot has happened since that day, a day in which "night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself was under attack." A whole lot of people have answered the call, to do "whatever it takes" to prevent another attack from stealing our loved ones from us in an attack on the American way of life. Police officers like my brave brother Tom, FBI agents, Homeland Security personnel, intelligence officers, bankers who assist in figuring out the financial web, and even those who simply participate in Community Watch Programs. Countless people, including my brothers and sisters in arms that serve with me here in the dust and heat of Afghanistan, have worked tirelessly with one simple goal: to prevent another 9-11.

I am especially moved by the 19-year-old privates that I talk to sometimes, about why they joined the Army. Many of them simply say, "9-11." Think about that: they were only 11 years old at the time of the attack and yet they are still so moved by what happened on that day that they are over here fighting the IEDs, the Taliban, and the mountains and deserts themselves.

Eight years after that attack changed our world, we as a nation are still laboring to prevent that attack. And we have been successful: despite the fear that an onslaught of attacks would happen in the weeks, months, and years that followed 9/11, essentially there has not been one single successful attack. Some naively believe that the threat simply "evaporated," that it went away. That it no longer exists. Well after working in the bowels of Cheyenne Mountain and United States Northern Command for three years and earning a Masters in Homeland Security Studies, I can assure you with certainty that several attack equal to or exceeding 9-11 were discovered and prevented.

So 8 years after 9-11 we as a nation can look back with pride and satisfaction that our diligence and serve to our nation has kept the terrorists from attacking our shores. This protection has allowed our nation to enjoy safety and security, but that success has been accompanied by complacency. Not just in the U.S. but with other nations as well. Many nations have grown understandably weary of war... that the safety that has been EARNED at such great cost has led them to believe that the threat is over... that there is no longer a need to send their soldiers to fight in distant lands. I see that more and more in the media.

But here's the thing: the hatred towards America is still very REAL and very DANGEROUS. We see that here. The Taliban's hatred for free people, even Afghans through democratic elections, still motivates them to fire rockets and plant IEDs, even killing innocent Afghans to accomplish their goal (more on that in a moment). Their hatred for freedom and the American way of life lives on, unabated and fierce. Sometimes I'm asked, "why are we here?" That is a question of great debate, but to me, having been inside the intelligence circles of counter-terrorism at my last duty assignment and being here on the dusty villages and flying over the endless series of caves and remote valleys in Afghanistan, the answer is pretty simple: we're here to prevent another 9-11.

Simply put, if we lose here, if we as a global society abandon this craphole of a country to the Taliban, they will have accomplished their goal of driving us out so that they can rebuild their training camps and launch future attacks. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. They only need to come here, their boots dusty on the ground, to get a taste of the hatred these insurgents have of us and our way of life, to understand that to leave is to lose. And to lose is to greatly risk another day like the one our country suffered on 9/11.

Our president warned us back then that this war against terror would be "unlike any other that we have fought - that this would be a long war which must end in victory." And from my foxhole I see us being here in Afghanistan for a very long time. No, check that. I see us needing to be here for a very long time. My fear is that our country, understandably weary of 8 years of paying a very heavy price in treasure and blood, will lose the will that's necessary to sustain the long fight ahead.

Our soldiers here are tired... very tired... but incredibly resolved. I simply hope that our country is, too.

One of my favorite quotes is one I read on September 12th, 2001. Reading it now takes me back to how I felt that day. To be honest, how I feel now. Perhaps when you read it the anger, sorrow, and pure emotion of that day will come rushing back. Much has been written about September 11th in word and song ("Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?" by Alan Jackson). And much has changed since then. Looking at these words I think about what has changed about us as a nation since that day. And yet, so much still remains from that day.

This was written by columnist Leonard Pitts from the Miami Herald, which perfectly captures how many Americans felt that day. It was essentially a short letter of questions directed towards the terrorist leaders here in Afghanistan:

What lessons did you hope to teach us by your cowardly attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us?
Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.
Did you want to make us feel fear? You just steeled our resolve.
Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.

So I ask you again; what was it you hoped to teach us?
It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred.

If that's the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange:
You don't know my people. You don't know what we're capable of. You don't know what you just started.

But you are about to learn.

Okay, changing gears but only slightly (stay with me here). Several days ago on of our security patrols hit an IED. That's no big news - we've been averaging about 5-7 IED strikes everyday, usually with injuries but few fatalities. This IED blast was unique for three reasons though:

1. Instead of it being an explosive charge buried in the ground it was a 107mm rocket launched from the side of the road.
2. A very young boy was standing only about 7 feet away from the rocket when it was detonated by the triggerman.
3. The incident was captured on tape.

For the last couple of days I have been working with CBS Evening News on this story (working to declassify the tape and I did a phone interview with them). They tell me it will be broadcast during tonight's edition of the CBS Evening News. On 9-11. How poignant. What comes through loud and clear is that these insurgents do not even value the life of a young Afghan boy. From the command wire and the layout it's clear that the triggerman (only 35 yards away) clearly had to see the boy next to the rocket... and punched the trigger anyways. Fortunately both the driver of the vehilcle and the boy suffered relatively minor injuries (broken leg for the soldier, facial burns and shrapnel wounds for the boy). The explosion itself is shocking (for you guys who like explosions it's a pretty intense scene).

But the attack on our soldiers is not THE story here... it's the fact that the insurgents have no regard for even the life of a young boy, much less freedom. THAT is what we, not just us soldiers, but us as a country, are up against. And it's why we MUST prevail.

And that, to me, pretty much summarizes why we are here, and why we as a nation must have the will for the long fight ahead.

Anyways, that's just my two cents from being a soldier in Afghanistan on the anniversary of 9-11.

Bless you all,


Honoring Rick Rescorla

"Today is a day to be proud to be American"
- Rick Rescorla, eight years ago today, as he herded 2700 people out of WTC 2.

Read the annual posts about Rescorla by Greyhawk and Blackfive.

Eight years on

Everything's changed, hasn't it? Everything.

10 September 2009

Farewell, Auld Soldier

John Donovan's father, affectionally known as the Auld Soldier, passed away yesterday.

The Auld Soldier, Colonel Timothy Donovan, FA, Silver Star, DFC, Purple Heart w/6OLC, Combat Infantry Badge, veteran of two wars, one hell of a Rotarian and my father, signaled End of Mission, Close Station, March Order, and struck his colors at 1215 this afternoon.

Please make your way over to the Castle and leave your condolences.

01 September 2009

Portraits of Love Project

Portraits of Love/Family Pics for Soldiers

Underwitten by Fujifilm: Soldiers' Angels and over 275 professional photographers of the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association (PMDA) have teamed up to send a piece of home to our deployed troops--just in time for the winter holidays--through an effort dubbed Portraits of Love.

Volunteer photographers across the country are opening their studios this September to offer free portraits to military families who have a loved one deployed overseas. The portraits will be uploaded to pmdaportraitsoflove.com, and a free print will be sent to the family member in Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever they are deployed around the world. The ultimate goal is to send 10,000 free family portraits.

“This project is the photo industry’s way of giving back to our soldiers, and thanking them for the sacrifices they have made for our country,” said Jerry Grossman, the president of the PMDA who has spearheaded the effort. “Our industry is uniquely qualified to bring an important piece of home to our soldiers, and we’re pleased to be able to organize this effort.”

“It’s incredible how motivating a simple family photograph can be to a soldier who is far from home,” said Soldiers' Angel Toby Nunn, who has served two tours in Iraq. “This volunteer effort is one more way that we can help our soldiers cope with their situation,” he said.

Military family members can find participating photographers in their areas by visiting the Potraits of Love website (in order to attend the portrait session, families will need military IDs). Photographers interested in volunteering their time can also sign up on the site.

A wall of rock

Sgt Donald King observes an area from his gunnery position in the back of Chinook CH-47F transport helicopter from Task Force 7-17 Air Cavalry during a mission over Afghanistan's Kunar province, August 11, 2009. Reuters.