31 December 2013

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 2013.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy 2014.

25 December 2013

For God So Loved The World

[This is an annual post.]

It was late evening when I walked by and looked into the room.

Both legs gone, way up. The rest covered with bandages and surgical draping, even his face. What was left of his arms, post-op, was on boards out to both sides.

My body felt like lead. So heavy I was afraid the floor might give way beneath me. And I thought, this must be like the pain - and the love - Mary felt watching her son die for us.

Then, a voice in my head, saying over and over, “For God so loved the world, for God so loved the world... ”

I asked his nurse if I could gown up and go in.

It was Christmas Eve.

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.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

24 December 2013

Santa's Helpers

U.S. soldiers, dressed for the holiday as Santa Claus and an elf, watch the Afghanistan countryside from the tail of an aircraft after delivering bundles containing care packages, Christmas stockings and mail to soldiers stationed at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan, Dec. 24, 2013. The soldiers are assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Thomas Cieslak.

28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Soldiers enjoy a Thanksgiving meal on Combat Outpost McClain, Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Roland Hale.

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 who support them. THANK YOU to all of our donors for caring about our warriors here at Landstuhl hospital!

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 remember the families of our Fallen who will have an empty place at their Thanksgiving tables.

17 November 2013

429 Blankets of Hope and Counting!

Since 2010, the Ladies of Our Lady of Perpetual Help #2206 of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas have been meeting monthly at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Newport News, VA to make blankets for the patients at Landstuhl.

"Of course the Army has blankets", said Christine Hyatt. "But these are special. They are made by someone from home, with love."

Thank you Christine and the rest of the Ladies for your dedication to our wounded warriors who have given so much for all of us!

See more in this article about the group (including a note from a recipient of one of their blankets) on page 10 of CDA Share magazine.

Students Mobilize Community to Build Home for Wounded Warrior

When Jerral Hancock came home from Iraq missing an arm and in a wheelchair, he found he couldn't get around his tiny mobile home. This is an incredible story about local high school students who decided to build him a better home. They have raised over $260,000 so far and are still going strong...

More on Jerral and the students here, with lots of photos.

Jerral, you are so loved!

11 November 2013

Thank you, Veterans!

To everyone who has ever dedicated themselves to serving our great nation, we salute you. Thank you for your service!

Never have so many owed so much to so few.

10 November 2013

09 November 2013

In Loving Memory of Captain Matthew Ferrara

Captain Matthew Charles Ferrara
14 October 1983 - 9 November 2007

Today we remember Matt Ferrara and six other Heroes killed 9 November 2007 while conducting combat operations near OP Bella in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. Eight more Sky Soldiers and 11 ANA were wounded.

Then-1LT Matthew C. Ferrara, SGT Jeffery S. Mersman, SPC Sean K.A. Langevin, SPC Lester G. Roque and PFC Joseph M. Lancour of Chosen Company, 2-503rd PIR, 173rd ABCT and Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks of the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center were killed in the attack which occurred while returning to their outpost from a meeting with elders in a nearby village.

In 2008, Linda Ferrara wrote an article about her son Matt for New Zealand's The Listener titled "Our Matty is Gone". Linda is a native New Zealander, and as a dual US-New Zealand national, and Matt was the first New Zealander to die while serving in the war in Afghanistan.

In the article she shares moments like the dreaded knock at the door early that November morning ("One of my babies was gone. I knew it – they didn’t have to say anything."), the calls she and her husband had to make to Matt's siblings ("I discover there is no kind or gentle way to say, “Your brother is dead.”"), and the subsequent gathering of the family ("Friends arrive, food appears.").

But mostly she shares memories about Matt's life, as only a proud and loving mother can.

He sent us all into a panic when he was barely two, leaving the house on his own and walking over to the tennis courts at the local high school.

He could disappear in a store in a flash, leaving me at first angry, then frantic when I could not find him, and no amount of reasoning or threats could dissuade him from this practice. He felt safe and completely at ease and could not understand my anxiety.

I never cured him of this habit; the only thing that changed was that it was not as bad to lose a 10-year-old as a two-year-old.

He was smart, very smart, and I often felt he knew more than the rest of us, and along with his strong will, he was also brave.

Evidence of his bravery and his intelligence continued later when he followed in his older brother's footsteps and was accepted at West Point.

Just a few months after he entered West Point, the future of the United States was violently changed by the events of September 11, 2001. Matt was not intimidated by the thought of what this meant.

He graduated from West Point in May 2005, near the top of his class, with a major in Chinese and economics. He joined the infantry, and after graduation became a Ranger, and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne in Vicenza, Italy, a choice post.

Matt lived life to the fullest, and in the year before going to Afghanistan he travelled all over Europe "running with the bulls, jumping off cliffs in Croatia, scuba diving wrecks in the Mediterranean, skiing the Alps, spending weekends in Paris, and touring Ireland with a friend."

What a wonderful mother's tribute to the life of her son, the willful boy who became a Man - and a leader of Men.

The Ferrara family at West Point Cemetery. The inscription at the bottom of the headstone reads, "Well Done, We Love You". Photo courtesy of the Ferrara family.

Our love and prayers 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.

CJTF-82 Heroes of the Week
Why we fight: Because "all of humanity is our tribe", by Linda Ferrara

08 November 2013

America's Veterans, the Heroes Among Us

[Originally posted 11 November 2007.]

This is how I remember Veterans when I was a kid. Some of them were younger than this, like my Dad and his friends. But of course they seemed a lot older to me at the time.

They were just regular guys, like my Dad. They were his buddies at the Volunteer Fire Department, or they were cops, or they were the local shopkeepers. Some of them, like my Dad, got on a bus every day and commuted to the city to work office jobs. They were my parents' friends who showed up at the neighborhood 4th of July picnics and played horseshoes, or who got tipsy at the New Year's Eve parties.

A couple of times a year, though, they were different. Memorial Day. Veteran's Day. That's when they put on their uniforms and, although there was joking, they got a little more serious. They stood up straighter. They were proud. Not of themselves, you understand. They were proud to have served, proud of their fellow veterans, and they were proud of our country. You could tell they were thinking about old times, and old buddies. And there was a bond; they were a band of brothers.

Here's a story about one of these regular guys from a town near where I grew up.

An Army medic, Staff Sergeant Max Warshaw, was awarded 11 medals and a Combat Medic Badge in World War II.

He received his first Bronze Star medal in 1942, in the North African Campaign. His regiment was fighting the Germans in Algeria. He risked his life by exposing himself to the enemy to help his regiment's wounded lying in open areas.

Two days later, Warshaw was wounded by shrapnel. "An artillery shell blew up right near me," he recalled, "it didn't knock me out and I didn't require hospitalization. However, for many years I would still need to have artillery shrapnel removed."

In 1943, Warshaw received his first Silver Star medal for gallantry in action in Tunisia.

On D-Day, he landed with his outfit in Normandy, where he was one of the first to hit Omaha Beach. It was for his heroism on June 14 and 15, 1944, that he received his second Bronze Star medal.

His division kept pushing the German Army back to its own country. It was in Aachen, Germany, on October 13, 1944, that Warshaw received his third Bronze Star medal. He constantly exposed himself to the enemy to administer first aid to the wounded.

Three days later, he was again awarded the Silver Star medal for heroism and gallantry beyond the call of duty.

On November 25, 1944, Staff Sergeant Max Warshaw was captured by the Germans. They gave him a medical kit to care for the other prisoners of war. He was liberated five months later and sent to England for medical care.

Can you tell which one is him?

I can't, either.

It doesn't matter. It's all of them.

03 November 2013

Dream comes true for wounded warrior and family: A 'forever home'

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From Click2Houston.com via our dear friend Bill Toppin, Andy's Dad:
It was a dream come true for a veteran and his family, who were handed the keys to their mortgage free home today. 
"From the moment that we hit the street, and then the driveway and then you walk in the front door, it was just gorgeous," said Ashley Toppin, the veteran's wife. 
For Andrew and Ashley Toppin, a permanent place to call home for their family, is more than they could have ever dreamed, especially after their whole world nearly was torn apart just a few years ago. 
"I drove over a road side bomb and it came through, hit the center of the vehicle and the vehicle caught fire, I got out," said Andrew. 
In December 2009, Andrew was wounded in Iraq. He suffered the loss of his right leg and injuries to his face, arms and left leg. 
"I remember getting loaded onto the helicopter and getting transferred and I kind of passed out, and I woke up in January 2010," Andrew said. 
Nearly four years later, the Toppins are grateful to have each other, their daughter and another son born in August. Their dream of owning a home became a reality through a special partnership with Building Homes for Heroes and JP Morgan Chase & Co. 
They plan to move in as soon as they get everything packed up.

We're just thrilled for Ashley, Andy and their beautiful family and wish them many, many years of happiness in their new home!

24 October 2013

Marine Lance Corporal Ricky Slocum - Forever in our Hearts

Marine LCpl Richard "Ricky" Slocum
Feb 2, 1985 - October 24, 2004

“It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired.

But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives – the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to everything for our country, for us.

And all we can do is remember.”

- Ronald Reagan

Thinking of you Kay, Bob, and all of Ricky’s family and friends today. I promise to remember him always.

Ricky will be forever in my heart.

Ranger delivers 'salute seen around the world'

From the Facebook page of Taylor Hargis, wife of Army Ranger Cpl. Josh Hargis:

I received this picture today along with a letter from the commander of the team Josh was a part of on the night of his injuries. A letter to explain to me what kind of man I have the privilege of being married to. He explained to me what happened and what was going on in the picture.

"Josh was seriously wounded as you know and survived for almost two hours after his injury before arriving to the hospital. Josh was immediately pushed through a series of surgeries and emerged hours later into an intensive care unit here at our base in Afghanistan. Despite being in intense pain and mental duress, Josh remained alert and compassionate to the limited Rangers that were allowed to visit him bedside.

Prior to Josh being moved to Germany for his eventual flight to America, we conducted a ceremony to award him with the Purple Heart for wounds received in action. A simple ceremony, you can picture a room full of Rangers, leaders, doctors, and nurses surrounding his bedside while the Ranger Regimental Commander pinned the Purple Heart to his blanket. During the presentation the Commander publishes the official orders verbally and leaned over Josh to thank him for his sacrifice.

Josh, whom everybody in the room (over 50 people) assumed to be unconscious, began to move his right arm under the blanket in a diligent effort to salute the Commander as is customary during these ceremonies. Despite his wounds, wrappings, tubes, and pain, Josh fought the doctor who was trying to restrain his right arm and rendered the most beautiful salute any person in that room had ever seen.

I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day. Grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh's courage and character. The picture, which we believe belongs on every news channel and every news paper is attached. I have it hanging above my desk now and will remember it as the single greatest event I have witnessed in my ten years in the Army."

Hargis, whose special operations unit is based at Fort Benning, Ga., was wounded October 6, 2013 when an Afghan woman detonated a suicide bomb vest in Panjwai in Kandahar Province and triggered 13 other explosive devices. The blast killed four members of Hargis' 3rd Army Ranger Battalion and wounded 12 other American soldiers.

To those of us at Landstuhl and other military hospitals, the valiant behavior of our wounded warriors is something that remains with us forever. We're so grateful to Josh's commander and his wife Taylor for sharing an intimate moment for the rest of the world to see. Our thoughts and prayers are with Josh, his family, and all the Heroes wounded and killed in this attack.

23 October 2013

They Came in Peace

This is an annual post.

Beirut, 23 October 1983

"Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers-in-arms"

From Brothers-in-arms: 'They came in peace' by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola.

Originally posted 23 October, 2005.

Update 23 October 2012, from Jeremy in comments.

Update 23 October 2013, from Stars & Stripes: Beirut bombing survivor: 'The worst part for me is that nobody remembers'

18 October 2013

Wounded warrior makes final jump

Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock Jr. prepares for his final jump before being medically retired Oct. 16, 2013, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Yellock endured 28 surgeries and two years of intense physical therapy to be able to walk again after his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan. Yellock is a 23rd Special Tactics Squadron combat controller. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. John Bainter) (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. John Bainter)

From AirForce.mil, by Capt. Victoria Porto, Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs.

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- One by one, Airmen from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron lined up at the back of a C-130 Hercules, paused, then stepped off the aircraft Oct. 16, completing their free fall training jump into the picturesque water of Florida's Emerald Coast.

For Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock Jr., this jump was two years and 28 surgeries in the making.

In 2011, Yellock, a 23rd STS combat controller, was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While on a mission checking Afghan local police outposts, his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

"When I opened my eyes, I was on top of the truck with my legs hanging down onto the bed," Yellock said. "I had open fractures on both of my feet through my boots."

Despite his injuries, he continued to pass information to his team, including the details for a helicopter landing zone for his own medical evacuation.

"I'd been in the career field for years and I was trained for this type of situation, trained on medical trauma care," he said. "I took pride in the knowledge I had, and I was confident I'd be able to help a teammate if needed. I didn't expect it to be myself."

For two and a half months his parents and sister stayed by his side while he was recovering in the hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Once released, he began his outpatient rehabilitation and the long road to recovery. The first year, he stayed mostly in a wheelchair before he was finally able to walk, first with crutches, then unassisted.

The idea for the jump originated in the 23rd STS as his leadership was coordinating his return to Hurlburt Field to outprocess and medically retire Oct. 18.

"We have a lot of wounded warriors in various stages of recovery, and maintaining care and contact with our wounded brothers is important to us," said Lt. Col. Mason Dula, the 23rd STS commander. "Of course, the jump is important for (Yellock) and a nice exclamation point for his career, but it's also equally important for the guys in our squadron to see him come back and see the commitment we have with all of our wounded warriors. They are still our teammates."

Yellock said his leadership made sure his doctors approved and that he could accomplish multiple tasks to prove he was ready, like swimming 100 meters with his gear on and going to wind tunnel training to show he could handle a free fall.

"People have said this is a symbol of resilience -- my attitude -- since the injury hasn't gotten me down," Yellock said. "But I tell them anybody in my situation, any of these other special tactics operators would handle it in the same way. I just hope they wouldn't have to."

During the jump, Yellock was surrounded by his fellow operators and teammates from the deployment, and supported by the same leaders who were there when he was hurt. He said that was even more meaningful than the jump itself.

"It just represents (Air Force Special Operations Command's) never-ending support for our wounded guys and our fallen comrades," he said. "I may be retired from the military, but I'll always be a combat controller."

13 October 2013

Remembering Staff Sergeant Brian Cowdrey

This is a repost from 2011 in memory of a friend and Hero, Brian Cowdrey. Always loved, always remembered.

Prior stories about Brian:
All-American DUSTOFF (II)
All American DUSTOFF
The Gypsies
‘No one dies in my aircraft’

We are deeply saddened to learn that Staff Sergeant Robert 'Brian' Cowdrey was killed on October 13 while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. According to his wife Jill, he was on a mission treating patients when he came under enemy fire.

In the above photo taken in February of 2010, Brian was captured by AP photographer Brennan Linsley while comforting a patient aboard his MEDEVAC helicopter during Operation Mushtarak in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. As Brian himself said about the photo, "this picture sums it all up".

Brian can also be seen in action during his 2009/2010 Afghanistan deployment here, and another article about his unit can be found here.

Brian was serving his fourth deployment in a combat zone. Prior deployments were Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004/2005, Operation Enduring Freedom 2007/2008, and Operation Enduring Freedom 2009/2010.

He loved his job, and he loved his family. To say he impacted the lives of countless people is an understatement. To some, he swooped down from the sky to rescue them on the worst day of their lives. To others, he provided inspiration through his career of compassionate and courageous dedication. One of his three sons has followed in his father's footsteps and is currently serving in Germany. To all three of them, he has been a Dad - and a Hero. To his friends, his faith, enthusiasm and caring nature were a joy. And to his wife, he was a loving partner and best friend.

Brian's shadow and that of his DUSTOFF helicopter as he goes down the hoist to treat the patients seen at the lower left in September 2011. Like many other MEDEVAC missions, it was carried out under enemy fire. Photo courtesy Brian Cowdrey.

This is how we will always remember Brian - his Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces. Our love, prayers, and deepest condolences are with his family.


Update: Others honoring Brian include Assoluta Tranquillita and Blackfive. Brian had just finished conducting this first of what was to be a series of interviews with War on Terror News when he was killed.

Members of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade held a memorial service in Afghanistan for Brian yesterday. The moving photographs can be seen here. And here is the Dignified Transfer at Dover Air Force Base.

29 September 2013

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.

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

11 September 2013

Sorrow and Resolve

Like all Americans, my memories of that day are vivid: The unbelievable sight of the burning towers, the horror and despair of the jumpers, the shock of realization when the Pentagon was hit: America is under attack.

And as the towers fell – first one, then the other – time seemed to stop as I slumped forward in my chair and felt the cries of a thousand souls from a black void.

Then something else swelled up: Fury. They finally got what they wanted; what they’ve wanted since 1993.

Over time, it became clear to me that until then I’d been living in what now seems like my own little world, concerned with my own petty little problems. I’d taken so much for granted. In particular, I realized I’d never fully understood what it meant to be an American. I had no personal experience with the concept that our country was something worth living – and dying – for. It was a kind of Pinocchio moment: "Now I know I'm a real boy, because I can feel my heart breaking."

What I didn't know then is that a heart can break a thousand times.

Although 9/11 is often called ‘the day the world changed’, the fact is that for most Americans, our lives since then have changed in what are essentially inconsequential ways. But for almost 3,000 families – killed in an act of terror simply because they went to work that day, or because they responded to help their fellow citizens – every minute of every day for the past 12 years has been lived with the painful loss of a loved one.

And as the global war on terror that began as a result of 9/11 started, brave men and women stepped up to risk their lives to protect America and prevent future acts of terrorism. Their families stepped up with them, enduring long, multiple deployments filled with challenges, loneliness, and worry.

Over 45,000 warriors have sustained life-altering physical injuries, and many more suffer from invisible wounds. Another 6,728 made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and 6,728 more families joined the original 3,000 in suffering every day from their indescribable loss.

For all of them, the world truly did change after 9/11.

It is said there is no greater love than that of someone who is willing to lay down his life for another. As a volunteer at Landstuhl, I have had the privilege to be in the company of Heroes, for whom the words Duty, Honor, Country are a way of life.

Twelve years later, each and every time I see a Wounded Warrior, my heart still breaks with sorrow - and swells with pride and resolve.

“Today is a day to be proud to be American!” cried a warrior from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

September 11, 2013 is a an even prouder day to be American.

"Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look."
- Ronald Reagan

06 September 2013

Thank you!

Back in May we asked for your help, and over the summer you delivered! The boxes kept rolling in - both large and small - and we've been grateful for each and every one. Your generosity has enabled us to support the influx of patients during the busy summer months. We'd like to thank all of you who stood up and answered the call. We feel so blessed!

We hope we can continue to count on your support as we prepare for the cold months ahead. We still have about 60,000 military personnel deployed to Afghanistan and those who are medically evacuated to Landstuhl will be especially grateful to receive warm clothing.

Most-needed items:

- Sweatpants and Zippered Hoodie Sweatshirts (M, L, XL - black or gray)

- Plain white undershirts and plain t-shirts (M, L, XL - short sleeved, crew neck, any color)

- Lounge/sleep pants/pj bottoms (M, L, XL - any color or pattern)

Details and the complete list can be found here.

(Many of our needed clothing items can be purchased online at Hanes or Walmart and sent directly to us. Here's an example from Walmart and another example from Hanes. If you choose this method, please email us with your order number and/or call your order a "Gift from... " with your name while placing your order so we can track and confirm your shipment.)

Thank you again for your support of those who are sacrificing so much for all of us.

27 August 2013

Medal of Honor

Staff Sgt. Ty Carter receives Medal of Honor. (credit: Pool)

“I am an American soldier, just like thousands who have served, will serve and are continuing to serve this great nation.”

- Staff Sergeant Ty Carter

Yesterday, SSG Carter received the Medal of Honor for his actions at COP Keating in 2009. Leo Shane of Stars and Stripes reports:

Carter is the second Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Kamdesh, one of the few fights in Afghanistan to catch the attention of the American public. Clint Romesha received his award earlier this year, for fighting done on the other side of the remote Army firebase.

On Oct. 3, 2009, more than 300 Taliban fighters descended on Combat Outpost Keating, a soon-to-be-abandoned site near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in a well-coordinated ambush. Eight U.S. soldiers would be killed in the daylong battle, and 22 wounded.

When the fighting began — a hail of bullets from above, almost immediately overwhelming the 54-man force inside the COP — then-Spc. Carter was asleep. He rushed into battle wearing a tan T-shirt and PT shorts but did manage to grab his body armor.

He spent most of the day out of uniform, just trying to survive.

Carter and three others were pinned down around a sandbagged Humvee serving as a guard tower, dodging between cover as the enemy advanced.

He watched two friends die in the early assault and two more die trying to support his position. Another, Spc. Stephan Mace, was gravely wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade and left stranded in the middle of the kill zone.


Carter ran onto exposed ground to pull the almost lifeless Mace to safety. He had to make two trips — out to stabilize the fallen soldier, back to coordinate cover fire with Larson, out again to drag Mace across the kill zone back to relative safety.

On his next scavenging mission, Carter found a fallen comrade’s radio and managed to connect with the men across the COP. They set up an evacuation plan, got themselves out of the Humvee prison and took Mace to the medics.

“I had told myself long before that if I ended up in that kind of situation, I wouldn’t let fear make my choices for me,” Carter said. “All I thought about was supporting [our] men.”


Carter still describes his actions largely as a failure, especially when reflecting on Mace’s death. Mace’s mother, Vanessa Adelson, disagrees.

“My son didn’t die in the dirt alone, because of what Ty did,” she told reporters last week. “After seeing another soldier get killed trying to rescue my son, Ty still went out there to save him.

“Because of what he did, Stephan had a few more hours with his brothers. He was able to speak with them (before he was evacuated). He was joking about getting a beer with the surgeons afterwards.

“Because of Ty’s actions, my son died thinking that he was coming home. He was at peace.”

Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, part of the White Platoon fire team, 8-1 Cavalry, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides overwatch on a road near Dahla Dam, Afghanistan, July 2012. COURTESY OF THE U.S. ARMY.

Carter didn’t attend Romesha’s Medal of Honor ceremony, saying the 4-year-old battle still felt too raw for him. He talks about the nine losses his troop suffered in that battle — fellow soldier Ed Faulker Jr. battled PTSD and took his own life a year after the attack.

He has been open about his own struggles with PTSD, and said he hopes to use the new honor as a forum to talk about the stress of war and the stigma of seeking mental help. He deployed again to Afghanistan last year and has been in counseling to help him handle the battlefield horrors he can never unsee.

“America’s citizen soldiers are doing amazing things to make them proud,” he said. “But people need to be more aware of the wounds of combat, both the visual wounds and the unseen ones.”

That’s the man he wants people to see receiving the nation’s highest military honor: a U.S. soldier who did his job and is struggling with the aftermath.

There's lots more to the article here.

And here are SSG Carter's remarks after yesterday's ceremony. MUST SEE.

Oh beautiful, for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self, our country loved,
And mercy more than life,
America, America, may God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain devined.

(From Ray Charles' rendition of America the Beautiful)

America falls in love with Jesse and Kelly Cottle

Jesse and Kelly Cottle. Photo: Sarah Ledford.

BOISE, Idaho -- A photo of former Marine Jesse Cottle and his wife is going viral on Facebook.

Jesse joined the Marine Corps in August 2003. He had a very dangerous job: To find and dismantle improvised explosive devices.

It was on patrol in Afghanistan in 2009 when Jesse's life changed forever.

"About five hours into that patrol, into that mission, I was struck by an anti-personnel IED," Jesse said. "It was a pressure plate, I stepped on it and lost both legs right away."

One of his fellow Marines was wearing a helmet camera, and the explosion that injured Jesse was caught on tape.

"I remember most everything," he said "I was awake the whole time."

Jesse says it was rough going at first, but support from friends and family helped him through it.

"It was tough and it is tough in general, but I just kind of always had the attitude that it's really tough now but things will just be okay, and I had my family around me I had good friends and basically just my faith really helped me to carry me through and I was lucky to be able to go through the tough recovery, and then still live my life, and meet my beautiful wife."

He met his future bride, Kelly, during his recovery. She was a swimmer for Boise State and the pair met during a swim meet in San Diego.

"I just remember being very intrigued by him," Kelly said. "He was just very different and not just because of his legs, just who he was."

They were married last year and now make their home in San Diego.

Recently, while in Idaho visiting Kelly's family, they took family portraits.

"It was a normal photo shoot, we finally got together and Jessie had his legs on and everything," said Kelly.

Photographer Sarah Ledford suggested a picture in the water.

"So we said 'well, you can just pop off your legs and get on one of our backs and we'll take you in' and so, 'cause that's just how we get around sometimes, like at the beach," said Kelly. "It's just pretty normal, so he hopped back on my back and then Sarah's like 'oh, we'll take some couples shots.'"

Ledford posted one of those shots on her Facebook page. She had no idea the image of Kelly carrying Jesse on her back would get the reaction it did.

"Overwhelming, I can't even keep up with my page," said Ledford. "The picture just blew up, America just fell in love with Jesse and Kelly."

More at the link, and you can watch the entire interview below.

There's also a documentary about Jesse, his injury, and his recovery called "Coming Home". You can watch it here.

18 August 2013

“God kept me a live for a reason”

First Lt. Ryan Timoney and wife, Kelby, is greeted by his mother, Diane Timoney, after the hero's welcome he received along the route to his parents' house in St. Johns County. He's gone through six months of surgery and rehab for wounds received in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan. Photo: Bob.Self@jacksonville.com.

A wonderful homecoming for a Soldier who almost didn't make it. Ryan's recovery is one of those miracles we always pray for.

Veteran's welcome home: 'People you don't even know appreciate what you have done'

Posted: August 16, 2013 - 3:35pm
By Beth Reese Cravey

He had been home for quiet visits before, in between surgeries and rehabilitation, since he was severely wounded while serving in Afghanistan in 2012.

But Army 1st Lt. Ryan Timoney, who grew up in Mandarin and St. Johns County, had never received a hero’s welcome home. The kind with a police escort and screaming fans and signs made especially for you and getting to ride in a cool convertible.

Until Friday.

“I never ever imagined myself having something like this,” Timoney said. “Coming home and seeing people you don’t even know appreciate what you have done. It feels really good.”

His first clue that this 10-day visit would not be typical was the Florida Highway Patrol escort from the Jacksonville International Airport. His second clue was when his father, Greg, who was driving Timoney, his wife Kelby and mom Diane to their Julington Creek home, made a pit stop at the Fields Cadillac dealership on the Westside.

Dozens of military veterans on motorcycles were there, as well as many more state troopers and officers with the Jacksonville and St. Johns County sheriff’s offices. Also there was Kathy Signorile, who founded the St. Michael’s Soldiers volunteer nonprofit that organized the event, and her husband, Jim, general manager of the dealership, who had arranged a special ride for Timoney and his wife.

They were driven the rest of the way home in a 2012 BMW convertible, escorted by a large contingent of the veterans and law enforcement officers on motorcycles and in vehicles. A rolling roadblock cleared the way on Interstate 295 south.

As the motorcade passed St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Mandarin, which Timoney attended, the entire student body was standing in line at the edge of the campus to wave to him.

“Going by my school ... It was wonderful. They were screaming,” he said.

Kathy Signorile said everyone who she and her 150 volunteers asked to help with the event jumped on board.

“That’s all you have to do in this town. People step up. They love our military,” she said.

The veterans said they participate because they and other war heroes have not always been greeted enthusiastically upon their returns.

“One generation of veterans will not abandon the new generation,” said Darryl Ingle, one of the other veterans on hand. In the past, returning veterans were not appreciated, much less welcomed.

“That should never happen,” he said.

Timoney, 28, left for Afghanistan in April 2012. Less than a month later, he and five other soldiers were attacked by a suicide bomber. Two of them were killed, three injured. Timoney had a fractured left leg, shrapnel wounds to his abdomen, arms, legs and back and a devastating head wound from a ball bearing that crossed through his brain and lodged behind his right ear.

In Kandahar, surgery saved his life by relieving pressure on his brain. He was later moved to a hospital in Germany and then to Walter Reed in Bethesda, Md. Since then, Timoney has had multiple surgeries and hundreds of hours of physical therapy. One surgery replaced the portion of his missing skull with titanium, another amputated his left leg a few inches below the knee. At least one more surgery is expected within the next year or so, to remove that ball bearing.

Still, he has a positive outlook.

“God kept me a live for a reason,” he said.

12 August 2013

Airman killed in Okinawa helicopter crash was Pararescue Hero

Coalition Special Operations Forces pararescue jumpers lower a stretcher during a medical evacuation in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, April 13, 2012. Then U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark A. Smith, 33rd Rescue Squadron flight engineer, is pictured here hoisting the PJs down. Smith died when the HH 60G Pave Hawk helicopter in which he was flying went down during a training mission Aug. 5, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Clay Weis/Released)

Team Kadena mourns loss of downed helicopter crew member

by 18th Wing Public Affairs

8/10/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Officials confirmed today the death of a technical sergeant assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron here following Monday's crash of a helicopter in the Central Training Area, Okinawa.

Tech. Sgt. Mark A. Smith, 33rd RQS flight engineer, died when the HH 60G Pave Hawk helicopter in which he was flying went down during a training mission. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

"Smitty was a total professional and true warrior," said Lt. Col. Pedro Ortiz, 33rd RQS commander. "He led by example and was wise beyond his young age of 30. In combat or out, I am proud to call him my brother."

Smith, originally from Bakersfield, Calif., joined the Air Force on July 5, 2000, after graduating high school.

"He was a quiet guy outside the aircraft, but in the aircraft, a totally different person," Ortiz said. "In the aircraft, he was blunt and told you how it was. I loved that. His ever-present drive was to make you better and to take care of everyone in combat."

During Smith's 13 years of service, he advanced as a structural maintenance specialist before entering flight engineer upgrade training in 2008. Since arriving here in the fall of 2011, Smith deployed twice to Afghanistan with the 33rd RQS, where he participated in numerous missions to save the lives of service members on the ground.

"One that stands out is the rescue of a commando in the Kamdesh," Ortiz said. "They were under fire by rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. Smitty was rock solid with his hoist despite the imminent and close threats."

During this rescue, a photo was taken by a combat photographer who was nearby in an overwatch position, Ortiz said. The photo has since gone viral in the rescue community. Upon returning from this deployment, Smith was presented the Air Force Commendation Medal by then-18th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Matt Molloy in a ceremony here.

Off the battlefield, Smith is remembered as a caring father, mentor and friend.

"Smitty was a mentor to all the young Airmen and pilots; he was a father figure to those that didn't have one," Ortiz said. "He and his wife took care of those in need. They always had lots of single Airmen over to his house."

He is survived by his wife, Jessica, also from Bakersfield. The couple has two daughters.

"Team Kadena has lost a hero," said Brig. Gen. James Hecker, 18th Wing commander. "Our hearts are with Smitty's family, friends and loved ones. We all suffer through the loss of one of our precious own."

Hecker urged anyone needing assistance at this difficult time - or who knows someone who may need assistance - to ask for help by contacting their supervisor or any Team Kadena chaplain.

The other three crew members involved in the mishap were rescued by emergency responders and received medical care at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.

Here in Japan, the 33rd Rescue Squadron is most recently known for its role in providing disaster relief and search and rescue functions during Operation Tomodachi following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated mainland Japan.

The Pave Hawk's primary mission is to conduct day or night personnel recovery operations. It also supports civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response and humanitarian assistance.

11 August 2013

Navy EOD building dedicated to Fallen Marine

From the Battle Rattle blog:

The Navy organization responsible for leading the Defense Department’s explosive ordnance disposal research and development recently dedicated its administration building to a Marine killed in combat in Afghanistan.

The Explosive Development Facility Administration Building and Change House in Indian Head, Md., was dedicated Aug. 7 to Lance Cpl Terry Edward “T.J.” Honeycutt, Jr. who was killed in Oct. 27, 2010 from wounds sustained during combat in Helmand province. Honeycutt, a Charles County, Md., resident deployed with 2nd Battlaion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Lance Cpl. Terry E. Honeycutt Jr. of Waldorf, Md.

Honeycutt’s former unit commander, Lt. Col. Jim Fullwood, spoke at the ceremony.

“When T.J. deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010, our battalion was sent to Northern Marja, which at the time was the most hostile area of Afghanistan,” Fullwood said, according to a Navy news release. “It had been a base of operations for the Taliban for many years prior. T.J.’s company was placed in the roughest part. Until the day T.J. was killed in action, he carried out hundreds of patrols and fought daily battles. That’s what Marines do."

Fullwood said the work of Honeycutt and other Marines transformed that area.

07 August 2013

Purple Heart Day

Today is Purple Heart Day. On August 7, 1782, General George Washington - then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army - established the Purple Heart award, originally designated as the Badge of Military Merit.

The Purple Heart exists in its current form since 1932, and is awarded to service members "wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces".

During World War II, almost 500,000 Purple Heart medals were produced in anticipation of the huge number of casualties estimated to result from the planned Allied invasion of Japan. The invasion never happened due to the dropping of the atomic bomb on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, the total combined casualties of the sixty-five years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number, so the Purple Heart medals awarded today are part of that stock.

As of 2010, a total of over 1,900,000 Purple Hearts have been awarded in our nation's history - over 35,000 to service members for wounds sustained in the Iraq War and over 7000 for the war in Afghanistan.

Bringing home critically wounded troops: "They're very young, very stoic"

The interior of a C-17 aeromedical evacuation flight back to the U.S. from Germany. Photo: USN&WR

Great story from US News & World Report about one Soldier's medical evacuation from Afghanistan via Germany, and the chain of care that saves nearly 99% of critically wounded troops.

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Barry and Lorria Welch sit solemnly in the jump seats of the massive C-17 cargo plane. Their son, who joined the Army three years ago to pay off thousands of dollars in student debt from getting his associates degree, is strapped to a stretcher a few feet in front of them. He is in a medically induced coma with a ventilator tube regulating his breathing.

This most grievously wounded soldier involved in a fatal attack outside Kabul in late July returned to the U.S. this week, following two failed attempts to transport the blast victim for fear the flight would kill him.

The military flew his parents from their home in Salem, Ore., to this medical facility after he was wounded by an insurgent fighter who detonated an explosive-laden donkey next to a U.S. Army patrol. The Welches then accompanied their son for his return journey to Walter Reed Army hospital in Washington, his body riddled with shrapnel from the attack.

The blast killed three of his fellow troops based at Combat Outpost Soltan Kheyl in Wardak Province, and blinded and likely paralyzed this soldier. The unit's translator and four other Afghans were also killed in the attack.

This journey for the Welches would not have been an option 30 or 40 years ago, at a time before the military put a top priority on sending wounded troops home quickly, and allowing families to reunite with their grievously injured loved ones.

This system of aerial medical evacuation from the war zone saves nearly 99 percent of the critically wounded troops. It employs 21st century medical techniques that allow a soldier injured deep in enemy territory abroad to get the critical care he needs within hours. Medical technicians who spoke with U.S. News say the remainder are usually those who will likely succumb to their wounds but can be stabilized long enough for a reunion with family members in Germany or the U.S.

"It means the world to us," says Lorria Welch, from the deck of the C-17 carrying her son. This traumatic but important journey for her marks the second ever time she's been on an airplane, after first flying to Kentucky to witness their son's graduation from his basic training. "As a parent we say we'd beg, steal, or rob a bank to get here."

A medic from the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron tends to a wounded Marine being flown back to the U.S. from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Most of the military's medical treatment was exported to the war zone in Vietnam, says Air Force Col. William Rogers, a doctor at Georgetown University and Vietnam veteran. This included advanced therapies, such as fitting for prosthetics as well as rehabilitation. Wounded soldiers could spend months at these facilities before returning home.

By contrast, troops in Operation Enduring Freedom are subject to a long train of medical experts, from the corpsmen who treats their wounds in the mountains or deserts of Afghanistan, to the medevac operators who rescue them by helicopter, to the field hospitals dotted throughout the country. All are able to incrementally treat and stabilize the complicated kinds of wounds from the ever-present improvised explosive devices that have defined the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At each stage, these experts work solely to stabilize a patient long enough to move them onward to more advanced care.

More than 90,000 patients have been transported back to Ramstein since 2003 from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, says Air Force Capt. Denise Covert, who oversees the medical facility at Ramstein where troops receive treatment. Of those, more than 51,000 have been sent back to the United States, while the rest of the wounded received the necessary treatment to rejoin their unit back in the war zone.

In total, the medevac service under the Air Force's Air Mobility Command moves roughly 17,000 patients per year, according to an AMC spokesman.

"What helps the warfighter most is they know they'll be able to get out of the [war zone]" if they're hurt, says Air Force Maj. Mike Lucore, a 17-year veteran of air medical evacuations.

An HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter hovers over the air strip at Bagram Air Field in eastern Afghanistan.

You can read the rest of the article here.

04 July 2013

Independence Day

Today, Independence Day, we remember that our freedom and liberty are owed to a remarkable group of men and women who had the courage to stand up against the tyranny and injustice of the British Crown over 200 years ago.

56 men signed a document that denounced the “repeated injuries and usurpations” of their God-given rights and liberties. This bold and courageous act was not self-serving, but a pursuit to establish a new way of life where all men, created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

They pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to fulfill the principles of freedom our Warriors still fight for today.

God bless America, and happy Independence Day!

16 June 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all of our Military Dads, especially those who can't be with their children (or their own Dads) today.

14 June 2013

Flag Day

It's not always Red, White, and Blue.

The United States Army infrared multicam combat uniform reverse flag patch.

Happy Birthday to the United States Army

Love you guys. Thank you.

06 June 2013

The Longest Day

Army troops wade ashore on "Omaha" beach, 6 June 1944. Photo: National Archives.

"You are about to embark upon the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you... I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle."

- General Dwight D. Eisenhower

On June 5, 2012, a cold and overcast day, John Perrozi walked between rows of white marble gravestone at the Normandy American Cemetery, on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach. He stopped at one cross and then another, paying his respects to several buddies who died fighting in Normandy. It was his first trip back since the war. As an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, Perozzi fought on D-Day with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. During a June 3 ceremony at the La Fière drop zone, a battlefield near where Perozzi fought, he received France’s highest military medal, the Légion d'Honneur. Photo: Warrant Officer Patrick Brion, Belgian Armed Forces.

26 May 2013

Memorial Day 2013

On Memorial Day, we pause as a grateful nation to honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in our defense.

We often think of them as stoic Heroes of wars fought long ago represented by white gravestones standing in silent memory across our land.

But they were also sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends.

And in their sacrifice lies not just our liberty, but also the pain of those left behind.

As we honor our fallen Heroes, we also remember their loved ones and pray for those living with the pain of loss.

Nothing can ever replace their loss, but we pray they can find strength knowing that their loved ones died while fighting in defense of our country's founding principles.

If not for their commitment to a cause greater than themselves, we would not be here to enjoy the freedoms we have today.

As we pause to remember the high cost of freedom and honor those who paid the ultimate price to protect it, let us resolve to live lives worthy of their sacrifice.

God bless our Fallen Heroes and their families. We honor your sacrifice, and will love and remember you always.

For some, every day is Memorial Day.

24 May 2013

Flags In at Arlington

Soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), march into Arlington National Cemetery, Va. in preparation for "Flags In", May 23. Soldiers from the regiment placed flags in front of more than 260,000 gravestones and approximately 7,300 niches at the cemetery's columbarium. The Old Guard has honored America's fallen heroes through this tradition for the past 65 years. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

Hundreds of members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, or The Old Guard, placed flags at each of the more than 220,000 graves in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., May 23, 2013. The flags will remain through the memorial weekend. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.

15 May 2013

We're Still Here!

We know you don't hear much about the war on the news anymore, but over 60,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are still deployed to Afghanistan.

Patients are still being medevaced to Germany every day, and we're currently experiencing a severe shortage of clothing items such as sweatpants, sweatshirts, and t-shirts.

Most-needed items:

- Sweatpants and Zippered Hoodie Sweatshirts (M, L, XL - black or gray)

- Plain white undershirts and plain t-shirts (M, L, XL - short sleeved, crew neck, any color)

- Lounge/sleep pants/pj bottoms (M, L, XL - any color or pattern)

Details and the complete list can be found here.

(Many of our needed clothing items can be purchased online at Hanes or Walmart and sent directly to us. Here's an example from Walmart and another example from Hanes. If you choose this method, please email us with your order number and/or call your order a "Gift from... " with your name while placing your order so we can track and confirm your shipment.)

Airmen and soldiers assigned to the 76th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron offload a patient by litter from an ambulance to a HC-130 for medical evacuation. The 76th ERQS serves as an ambulance of the air for Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: Senior Airman Tyler Placie

Please help if you can. Thank you for your prayers and your support!