31 December 2011

Auld Lang Syne

To friends and loved ones who can't be with us; and to those who are no longer with us.

You are always in our hearts.

Auld Lang Syne (to days gone by)... farewell 2011.

30 December 2011

"I'd do it all over again"

U.S. Army Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry is tended to by medics after being wounded in a blast from an improvised explosive device on June 15 in Afghanistan in this picture taken by a Stars and Stripes photographer. Photo courtesy of the Hockenberry family to the Marietta Times.

Remember this photo of PFC Kyle Hockenberry being MEDEVAC'd after sustaining critical wounds in an IED blast in Afghanistan?

Today there's a great follow up in the Marietta Times.

Speaking to The Marietta Times from San Antonio, Texas, the 2010 Frontier High School graduate said he doesn't regret joining the Army, even after the June 15 blast from an improvised explosive device that cost him most of both legs and his left arm.

"I just always wanted to fight for my country," said Hockenberry, 20. "I'd do it all over again if I could."

Hockenberry continues to progress in his recovery since the June explosion. He was discharged from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in Nov-ember and is staying in a two-bedroom apartment while he undergoes rehabilitation at the nearby Center for the Intrepid. He's been fitted with a prosthetic arm and is expected to take his first steps on prosthetic legs this week.

"Physically it's been difficult at times," he said. "I've been having to relearn how to do things."

But Hockenberry said he's come to terms with his situation.

"It's not in my hands," he said. "I'm OK with it. I'm alive and I'm with my family."

Read the whole thing. Kyle looks great!

29 December 2011

Front Page Magazine's Man of the Year: The Wounded Warrior

Couldn't agree more.

The official end of the Iraq war this month is an occasion to reflect that, for many of America’s wounded veterans, the war will never be over, that they will always carry its scars. Over 32,000 servicemen have been wounded post-9/11, spanning all branches of the military. In the sands of Iraq, and in the mountains of Afghanistan, they have suffered horrific injuries, of which the most painful often left no outward mark. Limbs lost, lives turned upside down, futures permanently altered. For those of us safe in the comforts of civilian life, the enormity of their sacrifice is utterly beyond comprehension.

Just as awe-inspiring, though, is their resilience, their relentless determination not to surrender to the hardships imposed by their injuries, mental or physical. Where lesser spirits might have yielded, they have worked to embrace life, going to school, finding jobs, raising families. While others their age were playing at rebellion on the streets of New York and Oakland, they, who have so many reasons to complain, refused to turn their personal struggles into a public spectacle. They’re not the protesting kind. For these daily acts of heroism, no less than for the heroism they showed in battle, America’s wounded warriors are Front Page Magazine’s “Man of the Year.”

Taking Them Home

24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas Tree at Landstuhl Hospital Fisher House. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.

For unto you
is born this day in the city
of David a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord.

Thank you and Merry Christmas to all of our generous supporters. May you find joy this holiday season knowing you have uplifted our Wounded Warriors through the priceless gift of love.

23 December 2011

Gold Star Christmas

To our Gold Star families, with love.

Merry Christmas from Heaven

I still hear the songs
I still see the lights
I still feel your love
on cold wintery nights

I still share your hopes
and all of your cares
I'll even remind you
to please say your prayers

I just want to tell you
you still make me proud
You stand head and shoulders
above all the crowd

Keep trying each moment
to stay in His grace
I came here before you
to help set your place

You don't have to be
perfect all of the time
He forgives you the slip
If you continue the climb

To my family and friends
please be thankful today
I'm still close beside you
In a new special place

I love you all dearly
now don't shed a tear
Cause I'm spending my
Christmas with Jesus this year.

--John Wm. Mooney, Jr

21 December 2011

Christmas DUSTOFF

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade "Warriors", 1st Cavalry Division, takes flight, stirring up the snow as it passes over another Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan Dec. 21. U.S. Army photo.

SFC Mark Allen homecoming scheduled for Friday - Updated

If you are in the Loganville, GA area please turn out to welcome Mark and Shannon back home!

Wounded Hero Returns to His Loganville Home Friday

December 20, 2011

Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen will be making his way through Grayson and Loganville at about 2 p.m. Friday to be home in time for Christmas.

Shannon Allen, wife of wounded soldier Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, said her husband will be making his way up Highway 78, through Grayson and Loganville, at about 2 p.m. Friday.

Allen received critical head injuries in 2009 when he was hit by sniper fire furing a furious firefight in Afghanistan. After more than two years in the V.A. hospital in Tampa, Fla. Allen will be returning home to Loganville in time for Christmas.

Residents are encouraged to turn out and line the streets in support of the returning hero.

Shannon Allen said they will not be driving all the way up Highway 78, instead just passing through Grayson and Loganville before turning off at the Bay Creek Church Road exit. Information will be updated when it becomes available.

Update Dec 23, final arrangements:

Arrangements Finalized for Wounded Soldier's Homecoming
The route and time has been finalized for Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen's Homecoming Dec. 23.

By Sharon Swanepoel
December 22, 2011

Final arrangements have been made for the trip that will bring Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, a wounded soldier from Loganville, home in time for Christmas.

According to his wife, Shannon Allen, they will be meeting up with Snellville authorities at the First Baptist Church in Snellville at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23. From there the procession will continue up Highway 78 until they turn off at Bay Creek Church Road in Loganville. Anyone who wishes to show appreciation for Allen's service and sacrifice is encouraged to line Highway 78 during that time.

Allen received critical head injuries in 2009 when he was hit by sniper fire furing a furious firefight in Afghanistan. After more than two years in the V.A. hospital in Tampa, Fla. Allen will be returning home to Loganville in time for Christmas.

Update, Dec 24:

Grab a tissue and watch the huge turnout for Mark yesterday from the residents of Snellville, Loganville and Walton and Gwinnett counties, as well as Patriot Guard and American Legion Riders. Thank you to everyone who honored Mark.


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

20 December 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

The first night of Hanukkah begins today at sundown. As you celebrate the Festival of Lights may your home be bright with happiness and love.

We light these lights for the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.

18 December 2011

Daybreak at Khabari Crossing

The last U.S. soldiers rolled out of Iraq across the border at Khabari Crossing into Kuwait at daybreak Sunday.

“It’s difficult, because a declaration of it being over is different than a declaration of victory. I personally believe we were victorious in many ways, and absolutely left that place better than when we found it.

“One of the biggest things I saw when I was there, was people would wait in line, through several security check points, to vote. They would literally risk their lives. To me, if that continues to stick and there is that kind of democracy in the heart of the Middle East, that is also a huge victory.”

- Major Dan Kolenda, U.S. Army Reserve and a military lawyer, who worked on the “Rule of Law” section with the Multinational Corps in Iraq. Quote from this story.

THANK YOU to the men and women of the U.S. Military for your extraordinary sacrifices over the past 8 years in Iraq. You have freed an entire nation of people from a brutal dictator and given them a chance at freedom and self-determination. The rest is up to them. God bless our troops, their families, and God bless America.

16 December 2011

A Soldier's Dream

See how one Soldier's dream changed the Iraq war. Please take a moment to learn about Travis Patriquin... and to remember this Hero.

See also "Let history mention a hero... " at the Mudville Gazette.

The casing of the colors in Iraq

U.S. Forces Iraq colors are lowered during the flag casing ceremony on Thursday, December 15, 2011 in Baghdad. The ceremony marked the end of U.S. military operations in Iraq. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / POOL PHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES.

14 December 2011

Secretary of the Army at Landstuhl

Secretary of the Army John McHugh meets a Wounded Warrior during his Dec. 13, 2011, visit with staff and patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. (U.S. Army Photo/Phil A. Jones)

13 December 2011

Their motto: Life without a limb is limitless

The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team stands tall at the Nationals Park in Washington, DC. The team is comprised of athletic post-9/11 Veterans and active duty service members who have lost limbs. Through sports, they aim to show the resilience of our military and highlight their ability to conquer any challenge. Their motto: life without a limb is limitless. Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

11 December 2011

Wreath-laying at Arlington

Volunteer Pati Redmond of Frederick, Md., helps to lay holiday wreaths over the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington Saturday Dec. 10, 2011, during Wreaths Across America Day. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Volunteers lay 90K wreaths at Arlington cemetery

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Volunteers have laid tens of thousands of holiday wreaths at tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage joined thousands of volunteers Saturday in placing the wreaths. A convoy of more than 20 trucks left Maine last Sunday, bound for the cemetery across from the nation's capital.

The tradition began 20 years ago with little fanfare. Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Maine, and others laid 5,000 wreaths on headstones that first year to give thanks to the nation's veterans.

Since then, it has grown into an organization called Wreaths Across America with ceremonies across the country.

Organizers said 15,000 people joined the effort at Arlington. The wreaths will be on view until Jan. 28.

10 December 2011

Army - Navy Rivalry at Landstuhl

Amazing what you can do with a couple of post-it notes and some paper clips...

An annual post.

08 December 2011

Double Amputee Special Forces Soldier Skydives with his Working Military Dog

From Military.com via Blackfive.

“I am still rocking! For those who haven’t heard, I was blown up, with my MWD, Axe, Feb 17th of this year. I lost both of my feet, and was back to work in July... ”

Watch this Special Forces Soldier and his Military Working Dog Axe on a jump.

07 December 2011

70th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

The USS Bennington (CVA-20) passes the wreck of USS Arizona (BB-39) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Memorial Day, 31 May 1958. Bennington's crew is in formation on the flight deck, spelling out a tribute to the Arizona's crewmen who were lost in the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Note the outline of Arizona's hull and the flow of oil from her fuel tanks. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most significant events in American history. The surprise aerial attack by the Japanese on a U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii shook the foundation of the nation and killed over 2,400 Americans, wounded nearly 1,300 people, and caused massive damage to the Navy’s fleet. The next day the president declared war on Japan, entering the United States into WWII. These stories, videos and photos stand as a memorial in remembrance of those who lost their lives on that fateful day. Find out more about what happened in Pearl Harbor here including survivor interviews, archival photos and new content from the U.S. Navy at their "PH 70" special collection here.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta Message to Pearl Harbor Survivors

"Seventy years ago on a December morning, our nation sustained a cruel and destructive attack at Pearl Harbor. Our enemies thought that by this sudden and deliberate raid, they could weaken America. Instead, they only strengthened it. That day truly awoke a sleeping giant.

"As we join you in remembering the events of December 7, 1941, we honor you and your fallen comrades for your indomitable will -- and we remember the sacrifice and shared purpose of the American people, as well as the strength of our elected and military leaders during the war.

"December 7, 1941 was indeed a day that will live in infamy. But in the memories of that day we continue to draw determination and conviction to protect our freedoms, to sacrifice for our fellow citizens, and to serve a purpose larger than self. You, the survivors of Pearl Harbor and of the war that followed, embody this conviction, this determination to raise high the torch of freedom and sacrifice. From your stories, posterity records for all subsequent generations the emotion, the heroism, and the tragedy of a harrowing attack and the titanic struggle that would later unfold.

"As a young boy, I remember seeing troops move through Fort Ord during the war years in Monterey, California. My parents would invite soldiers into our home for Christmas dinner, and I remember seeing young men from all over the country about to go to war. And I remember thinking in that uncertain time: "This is going to be the last opportunity these young men have to enjoy the comforts of home for a long time.

"You are the veterans of that greatest generation. You have lived full lives and witnessed years of great prosperity because of the freedom you helped to secure for America and her allies. I know you take great pride, as I do, that your legacy lives on in today's men and women in uniform, who have borne the burden of a decade of war, and who are truly this nation's next greatest generation. The 9/11 generation, like you, has stepped forward in your image of service and sacrifice, volunteering for military duty after another sudden and terrible attack on our shores.

"We treasure you. You have brought everlasting credit to your fallen comrades. The men and women in today's military stand on the shoulders of your individual and combined sacrifice and service to our nation. Your example inspires those in uniform today, strengthens our nation's moral fiber, and proves that with united resolve our country can surmount any challenge. Thank you for your service, for your sacrifice, and for your endless zeal to see to it that our children and grandchildren can pass along a better life to the next generation. This has always been the American dream, a dream we can realize because of the determination of our citizens to defend it.

"God bless you, God bless our troops, and God bless the United States of America."