30 September 2012

Gold Star Mother's Day

”The service rendered the United States by the American mother is the greatest source of the Country’s strength and inspiration.

We honor ourselves and the mothers of America when we revere and give emphasis to the home as the fountainhead of the State.

The American mother is doing so much for the home and for the moral and spiritual uplift of the people of the United States and hence so much for good government and humanity.”

Whereas the American Gold Star Mothers suffered the supreme sacrifice of motherhood in the loss of their sons and daughters in World Wars, Public Resolution 12 provides: the last Sunday in September shall hereafter be designated and known as “Gold Star Mother’s Day”.

- The preamble to Public Resolution 123, approved June 23, 1936, the first legislation to provide recognition for Gold Star Mother’s Day.

To our Gold Star Mothers: Words cannot express how much we love and honor you.

29 September 2012

Working dog reunites with handler during bedside hospital visit at Landstuhl

JaJo rests his head on the hand of his injured handler in the intensive care unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. JaJo and his handler were injured by blast injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Photo: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs.

A wonderfully heartwarming story from Chuck Roberts of Landstuhl Public Affairs.

LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Germany (Sept. 24, 2012) -- When an injured handler of a military working dog regains consciousness from a blast or other incident downrange, the first thing they ask is, "How is my dog? How is my dog?"

A Soldier recently injured in Afghanistan asked the same question in the intensive care unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. When his nurse told him JaJo (pronounced "zsa-zso") was being treated for injuries at a nearby military veterinary clinic, but was doing fine, she said a tear of relief rolled down his cheek.

Only one day after surgery, JaJo, with a bandaged foot and shrapnel wounds visible across his body, was allowed to visit his handler and friend -- an infantry Soldier recovering from the same incident, whose name is being withheld for patient privacy reasons.

Although JaJo had half of his spleen removed and suffered two broken bones in his right-rear foot, the young German shepherd appeared uninjured as he eagerly made his way bedside. Although his handler wasn't initially aware of his visitor, JaJo licked his outstretched hand and was ready to jump up and share the bed. Moments later, an eye opened as JaJo licked his hand again and the Soldier was alert enough give his friend a loving cuddle.

"If he could, JaJo would lay on that bed all day," said Capt. (Dr.) Catherine Cook, officer-in-charge of the Military Working Dog Ward at the Dog Center Europe facility at Pulaski Barracks. Cook said JaJo is expected to recover from his wounds and could be able to deploy again as a Tactical Explosive Detection Dog, but first would be medically evacuated, or medevaced, stateside to convalesce. His handler will also soon be medevaced to the U.S. to continue his long-term recovery.

It was because of the unlikelihood of their paths crossing again that prompted Cook and her staff to help them reunite. She could recall only a handful of previous occasions when both handler and dog were seriously injured and one was physically capable of visiting the other.

JaJo and his handler weren't a traditional K-9 team, in which a handler remains part of the duo until his or her permanent change of station. JaJo's handler is an infantry Soldier who attended an intensive dog handler's course for approximately four weeks. He would be paired up with JaJo only for the duration of his deployment.

It is during the training period where Cook said teams develop a special bond and handlers learn to give commands for seeking out improvised explosive devices.

Cook gives huge credit to the on-scene medics and other medical personnel downrange for helping make the reunion possible. JaJo's treatment in Afghanistan included a chest tube, catheter and other medical treatment for penetrating shrapnel wounds.

"The medics who worked on him did a fabulous job -- high speed. They treated him as well as any human Soldier," said Cook.

The effort to treat military working dogs continues in Germany where Cook and her staff put in long hours caring for canines seriously injured downrange. Being able to experience the reunion helps put the hard work and effort into perspective.

"It's rewarding because you could tell he recognized JaJo," Cook said. "If he only remembers just a little bit of this in the future, it was all worthwhile."

There's another photo of JaJo at the link.

26 September 2012

FOB Zangabad Awards Ceremony

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno shakes the hand of a Soldier after presenting him with the Purple Heart medal during a ceremony at Forward Operation Base Zangabad, Afghanistan Sept. 18, 2012. The medals were presented to Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade.

13 September 2012

Personnel wounded in Benghazi consulate attack treated at Landstuhl

From Cheryl Pellerin of American Forces Press Service:

During a teleconference given on background to reporters, the official described the scene of an attack whose elements are unclear or unknown but that killed U.S. Amb. J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service information management officer Sean Smith and two others whose names are being withheld until State Department officials notify their families. Three other Americans were wounded in the attack.

All Benghazi consulate personnel have been evacuated to the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli in a series of flights that included the three wounded personnel and the remains of the fallen State Department officials, the official said.

The Benghazi consulate staff will be transported to Germany, she said.

“The staff that is well is going to stay in Europe on standby while we assess the security situation,” she said. “The wounded will be treated [at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center] in Germany, and the remains will come home.”

Also here this afternoon, Libyan ambassador to the United States Ali Suleiman Aujali held a press conference to condemn the attack on the Benghazi consulate and the deaths of embassy personnel.

“It is a sad day in my life. I knew Chris personally. He's my tennis partner. He comes to my house. We have breakfast together. I’ve known him for more than six years. He may be the first American diplomat to [have arrived] in Tripoli … after the revolution. He’s very welcomed by the people. He visited the Libyans. He [ate] with them. He [sat] with them,” Aujali said.

Aujali also offered his country’s “deep condolences” to the American people, to the families, and the president.

“We are very sorry for what happened,” Aujali said. “We will do everything possible … to [ensure] that we have better relations, better protection [for] the American diplomats and [for] the international community … working in our country.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed and wounded in the service of our country.

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center has played a major role in many world events. Today, LRMC provides medical treatment to casualties injured during Operation Enduring Freedom. LRMC treated the victims of the USS Cole bombing in October 2000. The hospital has also played a integral part in the repatriation of the three American soldiers who were taken prisoners of war in Yugoslavia in March 1999, and treated American and Kenyan victims of the U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi in August 1998. In 1994, it served as the treatment point for hundreds of Bosnian refugees injured in the Sarajevo marketplace bombing, as well as treating victims of the 1988 Ramstein Air Show disaster, and the victims of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. During Operations Desert Shield and Storm in 1990/1991, more than 4,000 service members from that region were treated at the facility, and more than 800 U.S. Military personnel deployed to Somalia were evacuated and treated here.

Update, more:

The three diplomats injured in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya are being treated at an American military hospital in Germany and one of the two most seriously wounded is expected to leave the intensive care unit on Thursday.

A State Department status report obtained by The Associated Press says the third injured staffer is awake and alert at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near the Ramstein Air Base, where 33 uninjured consulate personnel are staying and receiving military counseling. All were evacuated from Benghazi early Wednesday and arrived in Germany late that afternoon along with the remains of the four diplomats.

According to the report, the injured staffers "are doing relatively well" and most want to return to Libya.

11 September 2012

We Remember

As we remember those we lost on September 11, 2001, please take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of our warfighters and their families during the past 11 years, especially the wounded and the Fallen.

Image courtesy Ranger Up.

05 September 2012

Wounded warrior returns to Juneau

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Thomas McRae sits outside the Alaska State Capitol with his daughter, Aidan, 4, after meeting government officials on Tuesday. Photo: Michael Penn / Juneau Empire.

When U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Thomas Howard McRae rolled into a Juneau pizza parlor earlier this week, people couldn’t help but stare.

The two missing legs. The prosthetic arm. The wheelchair.

Then, the grey T-shirt that says, “If you keep staring, they may grow back.”

“You may as well have fun,” McRae said with a sly grin.

The 30-year-old Explosive Ordnance Technician returned to Juneau this week to visit his parents and the place where he was born and raised. It was his first time back since he was wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Jan. 16.

Take a few moments to read this Hero's story about his injury, his recovery, his homecoming - and his incredible spirit.

04 September 2012

With the Marines in Afghanistan

A photo essay from Geoffrey Ingersoll, a military journalist, documentarian, writer, photographer, and Marine Corps veteran. The best front-lines coverage I've seen in a long time, so make sure to see the whole thing at Business Insider.

With the Marines in Afghanistan. Photo: Ken Jasik.

Ingersoll is with the Marines as they assault into Taliban territory:

"We fall in line on top of the hill and start firing down on Lewar Jel Jay. As the rounds fly we can see that last groups of villagers fleeing from the fight."

With the Marines in Afghanistan. Photo: Geoffrey Ingersoll.

Later, as one of the Marines is shot, Ingersoll reports on the life-saving work of the other Marines, Navy Corpsmen, and Army MEDEVAC crew:

"I'm convinced he won't land because of all the hot metal flying through the air, but here he comes, flying straight through it all. Army Medevac helicopters are renowned for flying straight into danger to save lives."

See the rest of the photos and story here.

Critical Care Nurse receives Purple Heart

Brig. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, presents a Purple Heart to Maj. James Webb, a Critical Care nurse assigned to the U.S. Army's 966th Forward Surgical Team, Task Force-Medical Alpha, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Aug. 28, 2012. Webb was serving as part of the medical evacuation crew in the central Ghazni province of Afghanistan when he was shot by an enemy AK-47 while loading a patient aboard his helicopter. Photo: Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Nevison.

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Every day, hundreds of U.S. military nurses work around the clock providing care to wounded warriors operating in Afghanistan. Each of these professionals have memories that stay with them; for U.S. Air Force Maj. James Webb, his experience has given him a new perspective and greater appreciation for his calling.

Webb, a Critical Care Nurse attached to the Army’s 966th Forward Surgical Team with Task Force-Medical Alpha, was shot when his team began taking enemy fire while loading patients onto a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of a MEDEVAC crew in eastern Afghanistan, Aug. 15, 2012.

It was because of the incident on that August day in Ghazni province that Webb was awarded the Purple Heart recently at a ceremony at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

Since its inception in 1782 by General George Washington, the Purple Heart remains the oldest award still given to military members, awarded when injured or killed while serving in the line of duty.

After receiving the medal, Webb said he draws strength from the men and women in his unit.

“It’s very inspirational to be around everybody in our crew. I love and believe in the mission,” said Webb.

Webb said he is motivated by the people he works with, but he also wants to deliver that inspiration to the men and women on the ground who need his help.

“It’s important that our guys and girls out there can trust that there are those willing to risk everything to make sure they make it back to their families.”

Maj. Chris Chung, commander of the 101st General Support Aviation Battalion, MEDEVAC Company, and Webb’s commander, says he has high esteem for the efforts of both Webb and his teammates.

“Critical care nurses are the key part of the MEDEVAC team in the amount and the type of care we can provide to the wounded soldier, sailor, airman or Marine on the ground,” said Chung.

Chung said he considers it a privilege to work with an airman like Webb, and admires him for his positive attitude and desire to get back to work.

“I have the greatest respect for him, especially because he is continuing to move forward to rejoin the fight down in Ghazni where he was wounded. That’s admirable.”

Brig. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, was happy to present Webb with his Purple Heart.

“It was an incredible honor to award the Purple Heart to an airman like Maj. James K. Webb. Even more amazing was his desire to quickly recover and get back to his remote outpost in Afghanistan, where he and his teammates put their own lives on the line every day to save and care for others. His selfless devotion in support of our nation’s effort here is an inspiration for all airmen,” said Guastella.

For Webb, receiving the Purple Heart is an experience he never anticipated. And though humbling, he says he just wants to be with his crew again.

“It’s extremely overwhelming, and it’s just great to be part of this organization. I get to be around men and women who put themselves at risk daily for probably the greatest job in the military; helping injured warriors get home,” said Webb.

After being presented with the Purple Heart, Webb was also presented the Air Force Combat Action Medal by the 455 AEW Command Chief, Command Sgt. Marcus Snoddy. The AFCAM is awarded to airmen who have come under direct enemy attack while performing duties.

Webb has made a full recovery and will be returning to Ghazni to resume his duties; helping his fellow wounded warriors.

More photos at the link.

03 September 2012

Quadruple amputee SSG Travis Mills fulfills promise: Greets his combat unit at homecoming

"Travis has said all along that he would be there standing tall when his fellow soldiers in the 82nd Airborne returned, and he stayed true to his word. Travis and Kelsey were there late last night to welcome home the returning soldiers from his unit." Photo: TavisMills.org.

From the Dallas Morning News:

Standing on his new prosthetic legs, wearing artificial arms and dressed in combat fatigues, Staff Sgt. Travis Mills showed up in the pre-dawn darkness to greet soldiers as they stepped off the plane in Fort Bragg, N.C.

He was fulfilling a promise he had made to himself just weeks after an April explosion in Afghanistan left him a quadruple amputee.

Mills flew last week from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to North Carolina to meet his fellow paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division. They had just completed a tough seven-month assignment in southern Afghanistan.

He shook hands and received hugs, trying hard to control his emotions. Mills spotted Sgt. Daniel Bateson, the medic who first came to his aid. Mills embraced him. “Here’s the guy who saved my life,” he shouted.

And then there's this:

Mills has been inspired by Todd Nicely, a Marine veteran who lost his arms and legs after stepping on a buried bomb in Afghanistan in 2010. Nicely visited Mills and told him, “It’s hard, but it gets better.”

Mills and Nicely have signed up for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City on Sept. 30. The 5K run/walk honors the memory of Siller, a New York City firefighter who was killed while trying to rescue workers at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Check out the rest of the story and the photo gallery at the link.

To follow Travis Mills on Facebook, go to: Support For Travis Mills and Family.
For daily updates and information about donations, visit travismills.org.

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