25 November 2011

All-American DUSTOFF

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ABC News' Jake Tapper reports from Bagram, Afghanistan about "Angels in Hell": the men and women of All-American DUSTOFF. This piece includes a tribute to fallen Flight Medic SSG Brian Cowdrey.

In the story below, Tapper gets a tour of a MEDEVAC helicopter from Flight Medic SSG Erin Gipson.

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24 November 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving 2009: A wounded warrior at Staff Sgt. Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan.

We're thankful for so many things - for the blessings that come with being citizens of our great nation, for those who defend our freedoms, for those who care for our wounded, and for generous and patriotic Americans like you who support them. We hope you and your family have a warm and happy Thanksgiving and reflect on the many blessings that we share as Americans. We ask that you pray for our wounded, and remember the families of our Fallen who will have an empty place at their Thanksgiving tables.

23 November 2011

'Angel' Serving US Troops Abroad

KVUE-TV News' Andrew Horansky reports on the Soldiers' Angels mission at Landstuhl. We love how the story turned out and thank Andrew for coming over!

22 November 2011

Portraits of the Fallen Memorial

Eight more portraits from the Portraits of the Fallen Memorial project were unveiled at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Veterans Day weekend. You'll recognize at least one of these Heroes and his family! Our thanks to Sherry Moore and all of the artists for this labor of love. The portraits are just beautiful.

From their web site:

The Portraits of the Fallen Memorial has a mission to tell the story of those who serve our country, with the painting of the California Fallen from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Each soldier is matched with a professional artist, who does the portrait in the medium they choose. We are developing a travelling exhibition that will address issues of patriotism, why one volunteers to serve, and to tell the stories of these fine American heroes. The long-range vision is to transfer the portraits to tile for a permanent memorial to honor our California Fallen Heroes.

With the help and dedication of all the artists and volunteers we now have 100 finished portraits. As a partner with the Pasadena Arts Council's Emerge fiscal sponsorship program, we can now raise the funds needed to accomplish these goals.

We invite to you to be a part of our mission to paint the remaining 570 (to date) Californian Fallen Heroes who gave their lives for our country and to ensure there will be a permanent memorial where all Americans can come and pay their respects to these brave men and women.

14 November 2011

'Standing for the Fallen' at Landstuhl

We recently had a great visit from our friend and supporter, Mark Dolfini of Standing for the Fallen. Since May of last year, Mark and the Marines of the Lafayette, IN Marine Corps League have have worked diligently almost every single weekend raising funds to purchase supplies for our warriors at Landstuhl.

Mark Dolfini at Landstuhl with one of the boxes of donations raised by the Standing for the Fallen events put on by his local Lafayette, IN Marine Corps League. October 27, 2011. Photo: Mark Dolfini.

Mark went right to work, unpacking boxes and taking care of the never-ending task of stocking the donations shelves. October 27, 2011. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

Two of our patients show off their comfy new sweats. Soldiers' Angels distributes about $300,000 in donations each year at Landstuhl. October 28, 2011. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

The only thing I told Mark one afternoon was that we needed to go over to meet the Medical Transient Detachment commander around 1600... little did Mark know the Commander had prepared a little ceremony...

Captain Yourk, LRMC Medical Transient Detachment Commander, presents Mark Dolfini of Standing for the Fallen a Certificate of Appreciation for his support of wounded warriors at Landstuhl through Soldiers' Angels at the Friday afternoon formation. October 28, 2011. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

Presentation ceremony - The LRMC Medical Transient Detachment Commander presents Mark Dolfini of Standing for the Fallen a Certificate of Appreciation for his support of Landstuhl patients through Soldiers' Angels at the Friday afternoon formation. October 28, 2011. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

"In recognition of your unbridled efforts in collecting donations for Wounded Warriors."

The following weekend, Mark was back on the road. First in New Mexico...

Mark Dolfini at the Standing for the Fallen event in Rio Rancho, NM, November 5, 2011. Photo: Helen Orozco, Soldiers' Angels.

...and then in New York City.

Mark Dolfini of Standing for the Fallen outside the recruiting office on Times Square, NYC, raising donations for our wounded warriors at Landstuhl. November 11, 2011. Photo: Standing for the Fallen.

THANK YOU to Mark, the Marines of the Lafayette, IN Chapter of the Marine Corps League, and all of their generous donors for their support of those who have sacrificed so much for all of us. We appreciate you!

11 November 2011

Google for Veterans and Families

Today is a fitting day for Google to announce its new initiative, Google for Veterans and Families.

From the Official Google Blog, via Blackfive:

Bringing the very best of what we do to the veteran community
11/11/2011 06:00:00 AM

We believe that technology can be a force for good; one that builds and binds community. As a Googler, my proudest moments are when we take that technology and put it in the hands of people who can use it to communicate, collaborate, build and explore.

Today, on Veterans Day, I am proud to share a few Google tools and platforms for the military veteran community. They can be accessed on our website, Google for Veterans and Families, which was created by veterans and their family and friends, who work at Google. This single interface brings together Google products and platforms for servicemembers and their families. We believe it will be useful to all veterans, whether still in the service, transitioning out, or on a new path in their civilian lives. Here are some examples of what you’ll find on the site:

VetConnect - This tool helps servicemembers connect, communicate and share their experiences with others who have served using the Google+ platform.

Google Veterans Channel - A YouTube channel for discussion about military service for veterans, their families and the public. Veterans can share their experiences with each other as well as with civilians to help shed light on the importance and complexity of service. If you have not served, this is a great place to offer your thanks by uploading a tribute video.

Resume Builder powered by Google Docs - We found that Docs can be a particularly helpful tool to transitioning servicemembers seeking employment. Resume Builder generates an auto-formatted resume that can be easily edited, saved and downloaded to share with potential employers.

Tour Builder powered by Google Earth (coming soon). A new way to tell your military story. Today, you can view some sample “tours”— 3D maps of veterans’ service histories, complete with photos and videos. Stay tuned for more details and updates on the Google Lat Long Blog.

Much more here at the blog, and of course at the Google for Veterans and Families site.

Veteran's Day

To our Veterans past and present - you have served at home, and in far away lands. You have kept your fellow Americans safe and free at home, and you have freed millions throughout the world from tyranny. You represent the legacy of those throughout our nation's history who know the ugly of war, but who believe there are things even uglier than war. For you, the words DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY are a way of life. Thank you for your courage and for your sacrifices. Thank you for your service. God bless you all, and God bless America.

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

- Linda Ferrara

Veteran's Day Valour-IT Fundraising Auction

The eBay auction with items donated to Soldiers' Angels in support of Project Valour-IT is now LIVE! There are 23 items up for bid, with auctions ending anywhere between early Sunday morning and mid-day Monday.  Auction items include handcrafted jewelry, a handmade camo-print purse, and consumer electronics. Today, Veteran's Day, 100 laptops will be awarded to warriors recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Thank you for supporting our wounded warriors!

About Soldiers' Angels Valour-IT
Project Valour-IT provides technology to service members recovering from serious injuries. Technology supplied includes:
- Voice-controlled and other adaptive Laptops allow wounded service members to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.
- Wii Video Game Systems which are used as part of physical therapy program, and
- Personal GPS, to build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.

To date, Soldiers' Angels Project Valour-IT has supplied over 6,000 severely wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines with adaptive laptops and other devices to aid their recovery and reintegration.

10 November 2011

Birthday MEDEVAC

US Marines cover their faces and their two wounded comrades who were hit by an IED while a Medevac helicopter lands in Helmand province on Nov. 10. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images.

Through the smoke of a flare, US Marines carry a wounded comrade who was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) to a Medevac helicopter of U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-171 Aviation Regiment in Helmand province on Nov. 10. Two US Marines were hit by IED had multiple fractures on both their legs. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images.

US Marines carry a wounded comrade to a Medevac helicopter. Two US Marines were hit by IED in Helmand province on Nov. 10 had multiple fractures on both their legs. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images.

US crew chief, specialist Saul Avila (L) and flight medic staff sergeant Noah Berg (R) give medical treatment to two wounded US Marines who were hit by IED in Helmand province on Nov. 10. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP - Getty Images.

U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-171 Aviation Regiment medically evacuate two Marines on the Marine Corps birthday, November 10, 2011.

Happy Birthday, Marines!

The Commandant of the Marine Corps and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps present the 236th Marine Corps birthday message and honor the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and how the events shaped the lives of Marines past and present.

09 November 2011

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 2011

Department of Defense Announces Overseas Service Photography Project

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

November 08, 2011

Overseas Service Photography Project Announced

The Department of Defense announced today that it seeks donations of photographs of U.S. military service life overseas from current and former service members for use in a photo recognition exhibition planned in conjunction with the State Department.

The project called “Serving Abroad…Through Their Eyes” will choose images that depict six specific categories: daily life, friendship, places, faces, loss or triumph. Selected images may be used for display in a special photography exhibition planned for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Pentagon and other prominent venues, stateside and overseas. Submissions will be accepted beginning Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2011, through Presidents Day, Feb 20, 2012.

“It is simply phenomenal, and absolutely fitting that photos by America’s bravest during tough duty abroad get this sort of national recognition. I can’t wait to see them and take part in the new conversations and relationships this is sure to inspire,” said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

“America’s Foreign Service officers and military personnel represent our country all over the world and often in the most difficult of circumstances. This photography exhibition provides a unique view of their work to resolve conflicts and forge new partnerships and advance America’s interests and values. So I am delighted the office of ART in Embassies is honoring the service of these brave men and women,” said Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

New York Times photographer Joao Silva has volunteered to convene the photo jury, which will work with a panel of noted Americans to review the photographs and announce the selections on Armed Forces Day in May of 2012. The ten ‘Best in Show” photographers will be invited to Washington, where they will be honored and participate in the exhibition’s November 2012 -VIP opening celebration.

The selection panel includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, Retired Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Retired Gen. Colin Powell.

Renowned video artist, Lincoln Schatz will create a video-audio montage of the images as a signature creation for ART in Embassies (AIE) 50th anniversary celebration with the exhibition additionally available via DoD, DoS and AIE websites – and social media.

Rules, entry form and submission guidelines may be found at http://www.ourmilitary.mil/their-eyes/serving-abroad-through-their-eyes . The Defense Media Activity will provide technical services to receive submissions and assist in screening for any operational security or privacy concerns. To help ensure suitability, entrants should consult with their public affairs officer before photographic submission is made.

This unique DoD and DoS collaboration is in conjunction with the office of ART in Embassies celebrating 50 years of international cultural exchange. The ART in Embassies program plays a vital role in our nation’s public diplomacy. The ART in Embassies program was originally established by the Museum of Modern Art in 1953 – and formalized by the Kennedy administration in 1962. It is one of the premier public-private partnership arts organizations in continuous operation, with a presence in some 200 venues within 180 countries worldwide.

Media point of contact is Lt. Col. Robert Ditchey at Robert.Ditchey@osd.mil .

07 November 2011

An American medic in a French tale

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan—U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Gipson (left), a flight medic with Task Force Poseidon, shakes hands with the French company commander, along with French Col. Jeand’heur (center), commander of French Battle Group 15/2, Oct. 28. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kenneth Scar, 7th MPAD)

During combat operations on October 4 in Afghanistan’s Surobi’s District, insurgent machine gun fire tore into the throat of French Pvt. 1st Class Kevin V. American MEDEVAC assets were called in.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Erin Gipson, a flight medic from Piqua, Ohio, with Task Force Poseidon, attached herself to the UH-60 Blackhawk’s external winch and began the descent to the mountain’s slope.

“Surprises always come in small packages,” laughed U.S. Army Maj. Graham Bundy, from Holly Springs, N.C., Gipson’s company commander.

As Kevin regained consciousness, he saw Gipson come down from the sky and lift him to safety. He whispered later that she looked like an angel to him.

The French Soldier is considered a lucky man. With help from the U.S. flight medics, he was immediately flown to a Coalition hospital in Kabul where a specialist began surgery. He is now able to eat and speak.

“This is an amazing story; almost too good to be true, but there it is,” said French Col. Jeand’heur, commander of French Battle Group 15/2.

For her part in the rescue, Col. Jeand’heur, along with Kevin’s company commander, platoon leader and Master Cpl. Michael, presented Gipson with a letter of commendation in a small ceremony, Oct. 28, on Bagram.

For the French Soldiers of TF La Fayette, Gipson has become their combat angel.

02 November 2011

Made with love and hope...

Two more beautiful quilts for our wounded warriors made by the Angels of the Folk Art Class at The Campbell County Senior Citizen's Center in La Follette, TN. They're up to 40 quilts to date.

Prior story about these wonderful ladies here.

If you'd like to receive the guidelines for making and sending quilts or fleece blankets for our patients, please email me.