28 November 2009

“I’m not a hero. A hero is a sandwich. I’m a paratrooper.”

Baghdad, Aug. 31, 2004. Then-1LT Alvin Shell and his platoon from the 21st Military Police/Airborne had come to the aid of a disabled American convoy when they were ambushed.

When an RPG ignited ignited the diesel fuel spilling from an 18-wheeler, Shell's world was suddenly on fire. His Platoon Sgt. Wesley Spaid was engulfed in flames and screaming for help.

“I ran up the road as the fire was coming toward me,” Shell remembered. “I ran through it and got to him. I tried to pat him out. I threw dirt on him. I hugged him. I rolled on him — anything to get the fire out. But he was covered in gasoline.”

Shell didn’t give up, finally extinguishing the fire and directing his sergeant out of the flames. But as he turned to look for others to help, the wall of fire grew around him. There was no way out.

Soaked in gasoline himself, Shell grabbed his rifle with one hand, covered his face with the other, and ran into the flames.

“I lit up like a Christmas tree,” Shell said.

Some of these stories from early on never really got the attention they deserved, and the rest of this one is so amazing I don't want to excerpt any more because you really need to read it all. But I'll leave you with one more teaser.

“I was in excruciating pain,” Shell explained. “The pain in my leg was unbearable. I felt like I couldn’t do it any more. I was done. I wasn’t doing any more physical therapy.

I was complaining, and this kid, maybe 19 years old, told me he wished he had a leg. And I look over, and he didn’t have a leg. And I felt so terrible.

He told me, ‘For the time you can’t run, don’t worry about it. But for the times that you can run, run. For the times you can walk, walk straight. Give it 100 percent.’

And that’s what I do.”

You've got to read the whole thing.

27 November 2009

Thanksgiving at the Kandahar Air Field hospital

PFC Zachary Nemeck, Charlie Company, 2-508, 4/82 at the Kandahar Air Field hospital on Thanksgiving morning. Photo courtesy of the Nemeck family.

The other day, PFC Zachary Nemeck and several others in his squad were wounded in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. He is currently being treated in the hospital at Kandahar Air Field. Two of his friends sustained more serious injuries requiring medevac to Landstuhl.

Zachary's father Erik contacted us yesterday because Zachary and the rest of the guys back in Kandahar were so worried about their buddies here and wanted us to pass along their message of love and concern.

While we were speaking on the phone, Erik mentioned Zachary had received a Soldiers' Angels backpack with clothing and a blanket at KAF. He later wrote:

It was a blessing for Zach to receive the items SA provided. He had nothing as all of his clothing was cut from his body. Everything you see in the picture came from SA. He has a big fleece blanket at home that he loves, and the Hope blanket at least gave him some comfort that we cannot from this far away. SA is amazing, Thank you.

Thank you Erik for sharing the photo... and thank you to all of our blanket makers and other supporters for caring about our warriors fighting for us far from home.

Wishing Zachary and the rest of the guys a speedy recovery, with special prayers for your friends here at Landstuhl.

24 November 2009

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home

U.S. Army Pfc. Stephen Martin cleans his weapon inside a small shelter at an observation post near Combat Outpost Munoz in Paktika province, Afghanistan, Nov. 15, 2009. Martin is assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith.

Saw this photo at Blackfive and had to share.

Which reminds me, Soldiers' Angels has about 1500 service members awaiting adoption and when you're out in a place like this, a couple of care packages can go a long way. Of course, the internet access is a bit sketchy and you may never hear back from "your" Soldier but you can be sure that what you do will be very much appreciated.

Happy Thanksgiving!

23 November 2009

Swapping patches in Ramadi

An Iraqi commando, Ahmed, and U.S. Army Spc. Patrick Cullen trade unit patches during joint air assault training between Iraqi commandos and scouts, and U.S. paratroopers on Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2009. During the exercise, Iraqi and American soldiers inspected equipment, discussed warfighting techniques and traded uniform patches. Cullen is assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which is serving as an Advise and Assist Brigade. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod.

22 November 2009

Gary Sinise, Mensch

He was here again yesterday. Not sure how many times he's been here all together now. You just can't help being impressed with his low key visits and how much time he spends with the patients and staff.

I was sitting with a patient in the ICU when I noticed a bit of a hubbub and looked up to see him walk by looking into each room. They didn't bring him in to see "my" patient because of the patient's serious condition. From what I was able to observe, Gary appears to have visited one or two others in the ICU who were awake, and spent quite a bit of time with them. Then he went through the regular wards and met all of those guys.

After that it was on to the USO for a meet & greet. I have no idea how long he stayed there - it must have been a couple of hours. I ran over at one point with a staff member who wanted a picture with him. Even after an hour or two the line of patients and staff was almost out the door. Nonetheless, he spoke with each person for a couple of minutes as though he had all the time in the world, then signed personalized autographs and posed with each person for a photo if they wanted.

At one point I saw him quickly reach over to the table next to him and hurredly take a drink of water before turning back to greet the next person in line. I can't imagine how much energy it must have taken to personally interact with so many people over the course of so many hours without having a moment for himself - he barely had a second to grab a sip of water.

When I observed someone tell him he had only 20 more minutes before he had to leave, he stepped forward to look at the long line of people still waiting. I don't know how he responded, nor do I know how it turned out because I had to go, but it was clear he was concerned about turning people away.

I always knew he was a good guy but it's very moving to observe it first hand. He doesn't have to do this, nor does he make a big PR deal out of it. He simply comes to spend time with the people here. Thanks, Gary. We appreciate all you do.

Update (via SondraK): Gary and the Lt Dan Band traveled on to Afghanistan, where they put on a concert in Bagram and visited patients at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital. Gary also made a trip out to a remote outpost near the Pakistan border to meet with the troops there and distribute humanitarian aid to Afghan children.

20 November 2009

Linda's "Blanket Ladies"

Linda and some of the "Blanket Ladies".

Readers of this blog are familiar with Linda Ferrara and her Blanket Ladies. There are many more than pictured here, including one group called the Sunshine Club. The groups meet regularly to make blankets for the patients coming through Landstuhl.

So they were very excited recently when they spotted one of their blankets in the longer version of the video in the story here about the 86th CASF in Ramstein passing the 100,000-patient milestone.

Donna, seen in the lower right of the photo above, captured a screen grab from the video for posterity ;-)

Patient at the 86th CASF in Ramstein sleeping with a blanket from Linda's "Blanket Ladies".

Blanket Ladies Joan and Anne working on the blanket seen above.

Thank you to Linda's "Blanket Ladies" and ALL who send blankets for the patients here. The guys and gals appreciate them so much!

Expecting the unexpected

Oregon National Guard Sgt. Zach Holden, Portland, Ore., a Task Force 38 crew chief with Company C, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment loads a box of blood during a contingency aeromedical staging facility flight Thursday, Nov. 12. The CASF flight moved up due to an earlier medevac flight to deliver blood. The Oregon Guard company conducted CASF flights and medevac flights in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeff Lowry.

In Balad with Task Force 38's medevac unit, Company C, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment. Typically, the unit flies routine missions pick up patients, medical supplies, doctors and nurses from outlying bases and bring them to Balad. The patients come to Balad for a higher level of care - surgery or evaluation such as an MRI. Some are staged there for transport to an even higher echelon of care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

The crews must be prepared at all times to switch between the routine CASF missions and emergency MEDEVAC missions.

"Medevac, medevac, medevac," came across the hand-held radios, and a quiet barbecue dinner celebrating Veterans Day, a day late, with pork ribs, pork and beans, macaroni salad, and fellowship with other Soldiers, suddenly turned serious and bustling as crewmembers ran toward the flight line.

"Can you take care of this?" Casha asked one of his fellow Soldiers as he motioned to his plate of half eaten food.

No longer were the crews leisurely readying themselves for a CASF flight, now it was time to go, even if dinner wasn't finished.

"The real difference between the two [missions] is one [CASF] we have time to plan, and with the other, medevac missions, we don't know where we're going to go," said Zeiner.

Yet within minutes the pilots were in the cockpits, knew where they were they going and knew their mission - to deliver blood to another base. The medevac Soldiers learned where they were going, and they also learned to prepare for the spontaneity of their mission.

"You have to keep yourself physically and mentally ready all the time," Zeiner said.

18 November 2009

LTC Tim Karcher Update

LTC Tim Karcher and family.

Wonderful update on LTC Tim Karcher, Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, wounded June 28 in Sadr City.

4 weeks later, after fighting for his life in Iraq, here in Germany, and at Walter Reed, the loss of both legs was the least of his problems:

Karcher lost 120 pounds, dropping from his original weight of 225 to 105 pounds. Massive blood loss and the blast trauma affected his internal organs. He was nauseated and had difficulty eating. His kidney function was so poor he was on dialysis. One medication caused him to go blind for a day, which he later said was the only part of this journey that scared him.

All that's behind him now, and he's learning to walk again at BAMC's Center for the Intrepid.

Read about the courage and determination of this Wounded Warrior and his amazing family.

17 November 2009

Support SA while Christmas shopping this year!

Through Soldiers' Angels, patriotic Americans can do their Holiday shopping or planning and support the troops at the same time!

The easiest way to do this is shop online at all your favorite stores. If you stop by GoodShop and Shop to Earn before you start, you can visit all your favorite online stores, purchase anything you want at the usual great prices, and a portion of what you spend will be donated to Soldiers' Angels--at no extra cost to you! On GoodShop, be sure you select Soldiers' Angels as the charity you are "GoodShopping for."

Another great way to do your Holiday gift giving while supporting the troops is to make an honorary donation to Soldiers' Angels in honor of friends or family. Simply follow the directions and you can receive a beautiful commemorative certificate to present as a gift.

Two great companies--SunNight Solar and Bake Me a Wish--have teamed up with Soldiers' Angels to allow customers to double-up their purchases in a "Buy One, Give One" format. Through the SunNight Solar BOGO program, customers can buy a solar-powered flashlight for themselves or as a gift and have another flashlight sent to a soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bake Me a Wish donates a percentage of each cake purchase toward sending a deployed soldier a birthday cake through Operation Birthday Cake.

There are also a number of companies who donate a percentage of their sales to Soldiers' Angels. Check out the SA Discounts page for more information. Items for sale include great gift ideas such as clothes, books, gourmet food, jewelry and music (look closely at each company listed--some merely offer discounts, while others donate a percentage of sales).

Purchasing anything from the Angel Store as a holiday gift is also a great option. All "profits" from the sale of jewelry, clothing, office items and other great products at the Angel store go right back into all the wonderful Soldiers' Angels programs that support the troops.

And don't forget a CamoSock for the servicemember in your life! They come personalized for each service branch, and Soldiers' Angels receives $3 fo each CamoSock sold.

So this year, shop for the troops and check off your Christmas list at the same time!

13 November 2009


A welcome bath moments after Sabi's return to the Australian Special Forces compound near Tarin Kowt. Photo: ADF.

Sabi the army dog returns home after 14 months lost in Afghanistan

Special Forces units make a point of never leaving one of their own behind — and Australia’s Sabi is no exception.

The bomb-sniffing black labrador has been found after being declared missing in action, presumed dead, following a gun battle in Afghanistan 14 months ago.

Four-year-old Sabi was rescued by American soldiers in the remote mountains of Uruzgan province, deep inside Taleban territory in the south.

After more than a year of eluding the Taleban and living off her wits, Sabi received a celebrity welcome from General Stanley McChrystal, head of Nato troops, and Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister, who saw the dog during an overnight trip to visit his country’s servicemen.

Moments after touchdown in Tarin Kowt and being reunited with one of her original trainers, Sabi catches a tennis ball nudged towards her. Photo: ADF.

Her trainer verified her identity by testing her with a familiar game. “I nudged a tennis ball to her with my foot and she took it straight away. It’s a game we used to play over and over during her training,” the handler said. “It’s amazing, just incredible, to have her back.”

Nine Australian soldiers — including Sabi’s handler — were wounded in the battle, which earned one of the Australian SAS troopers the highest bravery award.

Mark Donaldson won a Victoria Cross for deliberately and repeatedly drawing enemy fire so that his wounded comrades could be evacuated — and then running across 80 yards of open ground to rescue a wounded Afghan interpreter.

Once the dust cleared, there was no sign of Sabi, a dog trained to detect explosives. The troops later searched repeatedly around the ambush site, but assumed that the dog was dead.

Last week an American soldier — named only as John — spotted the dog close to an isolated outpost in the northwest of the province. Officials said he knew the Australians had lost a dog, and it matched her description so he called her towards him. “I took the dog and gave it some commands, and it understood,” he said.

Sabi was airlifted to the Australian headquarters in the provincial capital, Tarin Kowt. She was then reunited with the Army’s working dogs unit.

Trooper Donaldson welcomed the news of the dog’s safe return. “She’s the last piece of the puzzle,” he said. “Having Sabi back gives some closure for the handler and the rest of us that served with her in 2008. It’s a fantastic morale booster for the guys.”

George Hulse, from the Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association, said: “She’s been a fantastic dog and given us great service, and that she’s a survivor shows that she’s got the true Australian spirit.”

What a great story!

12 November 2009

Number of incoming wounded to Landstuhl hospital remains high

Chaplain (Cmdr.) Joseph Sheldon comforts a wounded inbound patient from Afghanistan last week at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. Photo: Ben Bloker / S&S.

Landstuhl staff busy as Afghan fight intensifies

By Seth Robbins, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Friday, November 13, 2009

LANDSTUHL, Germany — On a drizzly, frigid morning, about 20 injured servicemembers were unloaded from buses at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Some walked off. Others lay on gurneys covered in green blankets that had kept them warm on the long flight from Afghanistan. As the hospital staff eased the wounded off the buses, the mood grew solemn, as it often has lately.

“Hey ‘Devil Dog,’ how you doing?” asked a staff member as he pushed a sandy-haired Marine through the hospital’s front doors.

The number of combat-wounded troops from Afghanistan treated at the hospital has spiked during the past three months. Doctors from Landstuhl — the first stop for the wounded from the war zone — saw 163 troops with battle injuries during August, 152 in September and 109 in October.

The uptick coincides with some of the deadliest months for coalition and NATO troops fighting there. A record 72 were killed in August, 61 in September, and then 62 in October, according to independent Web site icasualties.org.

“It has definitely been busier the last few months than it had been six or nine months ago,” said Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Fang, Landstuhl’s trauma director.

Soldiers, airmen and Navy medical personnel unload wounded inbound troops from Afghanistan last week at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The hospital has seen an uptick in wounded patients from Afghanistan in recent months, coinciding with a heavy number of deaths in the country. Photo: Ben Bloker / S&S.

The number of combat-wounded from Afghanistan in August was the highest of any month since the war began in 2001, statistics show. Still, the hospital staff is not as busy as it was when fighting in Iraq was at its most intense, such as the “surge” and Fallujah’s battles, Fang said. During the surge in May 2007, there were 326 war-related inpatients at the hospital, and during the first attack on Fallujah in 2004, there were spikes in April with more than 400 war-related inpatients and in November with about 500.

Taking a tactic from the Iraqi insurgents, the Taliban are using crude but powerful improvised explosives. As a result, the number of troops in Afghanistan injured by roadside bombs has swelled, Fang said.

“The [bombs] cause polytrauma, which include blast injuries, burn injuries, and penetrating injuries from fragments,” he said.

The general surgery team is shouldering the brunt of the work as a result, Fang said. These surgeons, who have backgrounds in trauma care, are able to treat several different injuries and coordinate care with specialists. The time surgeons spent in the operating rooms has also climbed these past months, but Fang and his team were ready, with systems already in place to handle the influx of wounded troops.

Read more at Stars & Stripes.

Thank you for your prayers and support for our wounded warriors.

Remembering CPT Dave Boris and SGT Adrian Hike

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

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

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

A Forward Operting Base in East Paktia, Afghanistan was later named in CPT Boris' honor.

While embedded with the 1-91 Cav that year, photographer John McHugh documented their memorial service through his extraordinary photography.

Please take a moment to watch the slide show he created (with audio) here.

Rest in Peace CPT Boris and SGT Hike. We will always remember you.

11 November 2009

Thank you, Veterans

‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’

- Edmund Burke

Thank you, Veterans. God bless you, and God bless America: Home of the Free because of the Brave.

Home of the Free, Because of the Brave

Thank you, Dr. (Lt Col) Chesser.

Military doctor still tending to veterans as parade marshal

A year ago, Chesser, 43, was a physician with the Phoenix VA Health Care System, a U.S. Air Force Medical reservist, a Glendale husband and father and a volunteer preparing for his first tour.

As the doctor on a critical-care air transport team, or CCATT, Chesser worked with a nurse and a respiratory technician to provide intensive care to wounded warriors in the back of a C-17 cargo plane. The plane flew between Joint Base Balad, north of Baghdad, to Ramstein Air Base near Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany.

Today, Lt. Col. Chesser is a grand marshal representing Iraq veterans in the annual VA Veterans Day Parade in Phoenix. This year's theme is "Home of the Free, Because of the Brave" and will honor veterans who have fought in the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

"It's a privilege to serve the people who are serving," said Chesser of his most recent experience as a military medic. "In a deployed environment, they're nervous. They're scared. They have a dangerous job and they know we're volunteers to be there with them."

Chesser comes from a military family. His father served in the Air Force for 22 years. A brother and sister both served in the military. While poor eyesight kept Chesser from becoming a pilot, the Air Force paid for most of his medical-school expenses.

At the veterans hospital, Chesser treats veterans on the inpatient wards and trains new medical residents about hospital care. He said he volunteered to go to Iraq out of a sense of duty.

"I knew the wars were dragging on and I had some skills they could use," Chesser said. "A majority are emergency room doctors, but I'd done enough critical care to qualify."

"Thanksgiving wasn't the same, Christmas wasn't the same," said [Chesser's wife] Johnnie. "But he has a lot of compassion for the soldiers. I was glad to know someone like him was there."

I'm glad, too. Thank you Dr. Chesser and all of our Veterans.

10 November 2009

The Few. The Proud. The VICTORIOUS.

The Valour-IT MARINE TEAM has just blown through the $35k team goal.

Thank you to our team leaders Cassandra and Carrie of Villainous Company for their outstanding leadership.

Thank you to all of the MARINE TEAM bloggers.

Thank you to the Army, Navy, and Air Force teams for the spirited competition.

But most of all, thank you to everyone who donated.

One last request: If you have not yet donated to Valour-IT, our team leaders are requesting that all donations from now on be given through the ARMY TEAM. Hooah?

Carrying on a legacy of valor: The 234th birthday of the United States Marine Corps

Please take a moment to view the 2009 United States Marine Corps Birthday Message.

The Valour-IT MARINE TEAM is within sight of our 35k goal, and with your help we will get there today! I can't think of a better way to celebrate the birth of our Corps than to boost the MARINE TEAM to its first victory ever.

Valour IT provides adaptive technology to help wounded vets recover faster, establish a support system, and regain their independence. Since the program began, every single dollar raised by Valour IT has been used to provide:

· 4,100+ voice activated laptops

· over 30 Wii systems

· and nearly 100 handheld GPS devices to wounded vets at:

Balboa Naval Hospital
Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton
Brooke Army Medical Center
Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital
Madigan RMC
Walter Reed AMC
National Naval MC (Bethesda)
and VA centers nationwide.

The men and women of the United States military have given their all to defend the values we Americans hold dear. Please give generously. They did.

Thank you for your support. Semper Fi and Happy Birthday MARINES!

09 November 2009

Why should we care about the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Hint: It's not just about Germany.
Twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall was breached and Soviet communism, at long last, entered its death spiral.

After claiming approximately 100 million victims in the 20th century, communism was dismissed to the ash heap of history. But those who suffered under its boot heel have largely been confined to the history books when not forgotten altogether.

Lee Edwards, Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at Heritage’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies and Chairman of The Victim of Communism Memorial Foundation discusses the anniversary of the Berlin Wall, the fall of Communism and the Gulag painting collection, currently being exhibited at The Heritage Foundation with ReasonTV.

Well Done, We Love You

Captain Matthew Charles Ferrara
14 October 1983 - 9 November 2007

Silver Star
For exceptionally valorous conduct during Operation Enduring Freedom on 22 August 2007 at the "Ranch House" near Aranas, Afghanistan. While assigned as a platoon leader in Chosen Company, 2D Battalion (Airborne), 503D Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 1LT Ferrara's courageous leadership and calm demeanor under fire were instrumental in repelling an overwhelming attack by an enemy force three times larger than his own. During three hours of intense combat 1LT Ferrara expertly led his men in the defence of the Aranas Outpost until he was able to call for air strikes Danger Close to his own position to neutralize the enemy threat. His actions reflect great credit upon himself, the Rock Battalion, the Bayonet Combat Team, and the United States Army.

I am a UH-60 pilot who flew over nine hours in support of a mission on the night of November 9th 2007 in the vicinity of FOB Bella Afghanistan. The events that happened there are something that I have thought of daily even though I saw many things over my 13 months in country.

My company was responsible for all of the resupply missions, air assaults, and air movements in Matt's area. I had the unique opportunity as an Aviator to see almost all of the terrain Afghanistan has to offer and can say without a doubt the area of Bella and Ranch House were the worst. I flew on many days in and out of Ranch House before it was closed down and on many days while they were under contact and know I flew Matt and his Soldiers on multiple occasions.

Shortly before November 9th I was asked to sit on a board to approve or disapprove awards that were recommended and the one that stood out during the hours of reading citations was that of Matt's Silver Star recommendation. His is without a doubt one of the most courageous actions I heard during the hours of reviewing them.

To see and know the area Matt had to work in daily and the smarts and ability to defend it with the relatively small numbers up there were amazing, and he did this from the front. I am thankful we had leaders like him up there to take care of his guys. The hair on my neck stood up when I read what he had done even though I listened to much of that morning's events over the radios.

I was not the MEDEVAC pilot on November 9th but was the Air Mission Commander that night for the operation and was one of the first UH-60s there dropping ammo out our doors for the guys and getting everybody consolidated when the ground reinforcements from Bella showed up.

There was a knot in my stomach when I connected Matt's name with the award citation I had read and recommended for approval shortly prior to the 9th. I knew as soon as I heard his name that night who he was.

An impressive story that night was who I talked to when I first got there and tried Matt's frequency on the radio. Somebody with broken English answered, an Afghan gentlemen named Alex who ended up being Matt's interpreter. He had taken the radio when he heard me calling. He wasn't sure of their position on the mountain so we found them by having Alex key the microphone: We listened to the sound of our rotor system in the radio and found them by making our noise "louder" or "quieter" in the headsets.

I guess what I'm getting at is Matt trained everybody down to the interpreter to a level that an interpreter from Afghanistan was able to get the helicopters there.

(Compilation of emails sent to the Ferrara family, edited.)

Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest respect are with Matt's family and the families of his brothers-in-arms who gave their lives for each other, their loved ones, and their country on 9 November 2007. We will remember them always.

* * *

SGT Jeffrey S. Mersman, 23, of Parker, Kansas
SPC Sean K.A. Langevin, 23, of Walnut Creek, California
SPC Lester G. Roque, 23, of Torrance, California
PFC Joseph M. Lancour, 21, of Swartz Creek, Michigan
Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, 28, of Troy, Michigan

* * *

To the MEDEVAC and other flight crews who worked that night: You have our undying gratitude for bringing them all home. May God bless you and keep you.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.

- Ronald Reagan

"We believe in fighting to keep all people safe and free to be themselves, because it is the right thing to do."

- Linda Ferrara

08 November 2009

Heroes of Ft. Hood honored at Landstuhl

The American and German flags are flying at half staff Saturday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany in honor of the 12 Soldiers and one civilian killed at Ft. Hood last week. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

The American and German flags are flying at half staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany in honor of the 12 Soldiers and one civilian killed at Ft. Hood last week.

Among those killed was a former Landstuhl staff member, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55 of Pittsburgh.

Lt. Col. Warman served a year at Landstuhl as a certified psychiatric nurse practitioner, where she regularly volunteered for round-trip flights between downrange and Germany, as well as between Germany and the US in order to care for her patients during transition. An expert in post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, Lt. Col. Warman's military career spanned 25 years in active duty and Army reserves. In 2006, she was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for her meritorious service at Landstuhl.

Warman had been at Fort Hood for only 24 hours to be processed for duty in Iraq, a deployment for which she had volunteered.

On Oct. 29, Lt. Col. Warman made her final Facebook posting:

"I am so excited to be leaving the country again soon. Just now got a few minutes. So much to do, so many lives to touch. Just wish it didn't take me away from home so much."

Lt. Col. Warman is survived by her husband, two daughters, three stepchildren and eight grandchildren, her mother and six siblings. In addition to her family, she will be missed by her former colleagues at Landstuhl, her fellow Soldiers, and all those whose lives she touched.

Godspeed, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Update: Cassandra has written a beautiful tribute to LtCol Warman.

06 November 2009

Ft. Hood Shooting

Secretary Gates on Ft. Hood Shooting

"I am deeply saddened by the tragic events today at Fort Hood. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen, the wounded, and all those touched by this incident. There is little we can say at this point to alleviate the pain or answer the many questions this event raises, but I can pledge that the Department of Defense will do everything in its power to help the Fort Hood community get through these difficult times."

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

Soldiers' Angels joins the Secretary in sending thoughts and prayers to Ft. Hood.

We are collecting cards and stuffed animals for the families and children of the fallen/wounded heroes.

Please send cards and stuffed animals/blankets/anything NEW that may brighten the life of a child to:

Soldiers' Angels Warehouse
4408 PanAm Expressway
San Antonio, TX 78218

For more details contact ShelleMichaels@SoldiersAngels.org

Safe and Well List: If you are based at Ft. Hood or if you are looking for a loved one there, you many register yourself on the "safe and well list" at the Red Cross website.

Blood Donations: The Red Cross has supplied nearly 150 units of blood and blood products to Darnall Army Medical Center and Scott and White Hospital.

Although not all blood donations over the next several days will be needed for the victims of this tragedy, your blood can be used to help treat others with illnesses and injuries. If you are eligible to give blood or have questions about donating, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (800-448-3543) or go to givelife.org.

05 November 2009

Firefight in the Watapur Valley

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Pvt. John Stafinski, a native of Seville, Ohio, fires his M-249 squad automatic weapon during a three-hour gun battle with insurgent fighters in Kunar province, Afghanistan's Waterpur Valley, Nov. 3. Stafinski in an infantryman with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, based out of Fort Carson, Colo. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew Moeller, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

04 November 2009

Canadians transfer command of Kandahar's 'Role 3' hospital to U.S.

Col. Danielle Savard, left, departing commanding officer at the Role 3 hospital, poses for photos with her replacement, U.S. Navy Capt. Darin Via at a change of command ceremony at RC South headquarters at Kandahar Airfield, Afgahanistan, Oct. 15, 2009. Photograph by: Bruce Ward, Canwest News Service.

Thank you and well done, Canada!

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The multinational hospital here has "a hard-earned reputation" among coalition soldiers, Col. Danielle Savard, the hospital's departing commanding officer, said Thursday at a change-of-command ceremony.

"They rightfully believe if they arrive with a heartbeat, they will probably survive," said Savard, who handed over command of the Role 3 hospital to U.S. Navy Capt. Darin Via.

The U.S. also takes on lead-nation status from the Canadian Forces.

Canada has been running Role 3 for the past three years.

"We have saved more lives than we possibly thought we would do," said Savard, who took command of the multinational medical unit in the spring of 2009. "We are a multinational unit when you look at the uniforms. However, we are working as one team, with one vision and one goal: saving lives and taking care of each other."

Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, the International Security Assistance Force's RC South commander, noted in a speech that since he took command last November, coalition forces have lost "253 colleagues and saw more than 600 soldiers evacuated back to their country with life-changing wounds."

Although these figures "sometimes take your breath away, it could have been much, much worse," he said.

In 2009, more than 4,000 patients were taken from the battlefield by medevac helicopter, most of them coalition soldiers, he said.

"All of them needed urgent medical attention. Only a few of them did not survive. These figures show that we have a robust and courageous medical system in place. It also tells you something about our Role 3."

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Savard spoke with pride of the tremendous amount of hard work carried out by medical staff.

"Sometimes we worked 18 hours without a break, just to be sure that the patient comes first. We have saved so many lives, it's hard for us if somebody dies."

Savard said it was an emotional day for her: "It's my big family I'm leaving behind."

Via, who has Role 3 experience in Iraq, said he was "honoured and humbled by taking over from Col. Savard and the Canadians.

"They've done a phenomenal job and it's going to be big shoes to fill but I think we have the right people to make it a successful mission."

Excellent video story from Global News that might take a while to load but is worth the wait. At the end, Maj. Brent Crawford of 1 Field Ambulance - who'd been up all night the night before delegating medical staff and the use of equipment to save the life of a severely wounded American soldier - movingly talks about the reason he's there:

"The thing I miss most about being here in Afghanistan is being with my son. And, ironically, that's the reason why I'm here today. I want to be able to say to myself that I made a very small but personal contribution to making the world a more stable and secure place for him to grow up."

Calling out the Valour-IT Army Team!

PV1 Caven Cox of the U.S. Army's 2nd Platoon Apache Company of 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment performs a rendition of the song "I'm a Little Tea Pot" in front of his platoon as penalty for making a mistake on a recent patrol at Combat Outpost Tangi in Afghanistan's Wardak Province Saturday Aug. 15, 2009. AP.

If the team for the teeniest, tiniest service branch - namely the MARINES - ends up whipping your butts in the Valour-IT fundraising competition, it's gonna be time for the Teapot Dance!!

Welcome and THANK YOU to the newest members of the MARINE TEAM - the WINNING Team!!

Ercille's Universe
"And Another Thing..."
Coalition of the Swilling
Drunken Wisdom
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Interesting News Items
Si Vis Pacem
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A Mom and Her Blog
Wake up America
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GO MARINE TEAM!!! Make that Marine thermometer move!

03 November 2009


Just like back "in the day" in Iraq, General Petraeus walks the walk.

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan- Gen. David Petraeus, commander of United States’ Central Command, met with U.S. and Afghan Soldiers, as well as Baraki Barak Sub-Governor Mohammed Lodin and local businessmen at Combat Outpost Baraki Barak, Oct. 30.

Petraeus removed his body armor and made his way out the gate into the bustling marketplace (without his protective equipment). He shook hands, waved to children and invited shoppers down the block to a local bakery for bread and chai. Once seated, with Lodin standing nearby, Petraeus spoke to several locals about their government.

Baraki Barak’s district center, which officially opened the day before Petraeus’ visit, was a topic of many discussions.

“What do you think of your sub governor?” and “How do you feel about the election?” were among the many questions Petraeus asked while sipping chai tea.

Although the Baraki Barak’s district center just barely opened its doors, but the government is already eager for citizens to begin to use the new center to broach their concerns and ideas.

“We’re trying to give them a positive image of what the government is doing here,” said Lodin.

Petraeus made a point of letting the people know how pleased he was with the progress being made in the area.

“The American people have felt privileged to help the people who want to provide for their families,” Petraeus said. “We want nothing more than to help the people who reject the extremism that has caused problems here and elsewhere.”

Although the new district center is a positive start, the work is not done. The Afghan government is still in its early stages and extremists still live amongst the people of Logar province.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take cooperation,” Petraeus said, in regards to attaining complete success in ridding Logar of extremism and improving its economy and infrastructure. “It’s going to take sweat from the community, not just money from the outside.”

“This has to be your work,” he added, addressing a local shopkeeper. “We are privileged to help, but as you know, it means more if you build it. We call this sweat equity when you invest your own sweat, your own work.”

Before leaving, he made a point of letting the people know he realized many issues were emotionally charged.

“As we used to say in Iraq, ‘it’s okay to talk ... it’s even okay to shout, it’s just not ok to shoot,” Petraeus said.

I feel for his PSD (Personal Security Detail), but leadership is something done from the front. Thank you General Petraeus for your leadership and for your courage.

Ramstein Air Base sends off last C-130E

The flight crew of the 37th Airlift Squadron’s last E-model C-130 cargo plane steps out to the aircraft en route to Poland on Monday from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The 36-year-old plane is being leased to Poland. Photo: Ben Bloker / Stars and Stripes.

With the wing and U.S. Air Forces in Europe shifting to the bigger, faster and stronger C-130J Super Hercules, 14 E-models were phased out this year.

The last to go, Tail No. 72-1299, saw initial duty in the Pacific, where it was first assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines to help shuttle American prisoners of the Vietnam war out of Hanoi. It later was assigned to Yokota Air Base in Japan, and most recently, Ramstein. It participated in Operations Desert Shield, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, among other airlift and airdrop missions over the years, military officials at Ramstein said.

Full story at Stars & Stripes.

02 November 2009

Marine Cpl Aaron Mankin, A True American Hero

"Those who say we are in a time when there are no Heroes... they just don't know where to look."

- President Ronald Reagan

Please join us in supporting those who have sacrificed so much for all of us. The Valour-IT MARINE TEAM.

Update: More about Aaron and Diana Mankin from Cassandra.

Update: Thank you Michelle Malkin for your support of Valour-IT.

USS New York comes 'home'


NEW YORK — The USS New York, a naval vessel whose bow was forged in part with steel from the World Trade Center towers destroyed on 9/11, sailed for the first time Monday into the city's harbor.

The newly built 684-foot (208-meter) amphibious assault ship, designed to carry up to 800 marines and helicopters, marked its maiden voyage into New York with a 21 gun salute just off Ground Zero.

Thousands gathered along the Hudson River to remember the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11, 2001 and to salute the ship, whose bow section contains 7.5 tons of steel from the towers destroyed by the hijacked airliners.

Do you remember?

Valour-IT Fundraising Auctions

"Guardian Angel": A Marine from 1st BN, 4th Marines stands guard outside an emergency ordinance disposal site. By Michael D. Fay.

Lots of great items now up for auction at the Soldiers' Angels Valour-IT eBay site, all of them generously donated by their owners to raise money for Valour-IT.

The print above, called "Guardian Angel" is signed by USMC combat artist Michael D. Fay. Image size: 9” x 13”. Print size: 16 x 20. Bids are starting at $20.

Chief Warrant Officer-2 Fay is one of only two combat artists employed by the United States Marine Corps to produce fine art based on their experience of combat and the life of fellow Marines in the field. His work is displayed in various museums such as the James A. Michener Art Museum, the Marine Corps Combat Art collection, and in the new National Museum of the Marine Corps.

One of Fay's works is also proudly displayed at Landstuhl hospital.

All of the items up for auction can be found here, and the list is growing daily!

01 November 2009

Gin rummy at the FST

Medics Spc. Jessica Damitz, left, and Spc. Chasity Moment play cards with Spc. Mathew Murphy of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion on Aug. 12. Murphy, who was injured in an IED explosion while on patrol and suffered a traumatic brain injury, beat both the medics at gin rummy. Photo: Erin Grace Trieb / PANOS.

The therapy started by these caring medics by playing gin rummy with their patient will continue long after this Soldier's return to the US. In addition to providing laptop computers to wounded service members, Soldiers' Angels Project Valour-IT also provides technology such as "Personal GPS" devices, which help build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI.