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!