31 December 2014

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 2014.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy 2015.

25 December 2014

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.

At Christmastime and always, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines serving all over the world hold a special place in our hearts.

Your Soldiers' Angels Team in Germany

24 December 2014

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

23 December 2014

Never Forget Our Wounded Veterans and Their Caregivers

Dahlia and Justin Constantine. Photo: Forbes.

From Forbes Magazine:

It was supposed to be a routine combat patrol, but it became a life-changing event for a Marine Corps Reserve officer, Major Justin Constantine.

Less than two months after volunteering to deploy with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines to Iraq in 2006, the civil affairs team leader was shot in the head by an enemy sniper near Fallujah. The bullet caused catastrophic damage, destroying his jaw and much of his face. He was not expected to survive. But Justin Constantine is a Marine. And thanks to the immediate efforts of a Navy corpsman, his own warrior spirit, and the self-less dedication of the woman who became his wife, he has made an amazing recovery.

Read the rest of his inspirational story at Forbes.

18 December 2014

Bagram Aerovac to Landstuhl

Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight respiratory therapist, adjusts respiratory equipment during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Dec. 14, 2014. Members of the 10th EAEF provided in-flight medical care to an American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan while he was being transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katherine Tereyama/RELEASED.

15 December 2014

The Mighty Moms of Walter Reed

There couldn't be a better name for these women:
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Some of the unsung heroes inside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center are the mothers of wounded warriors - military members who have been severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Around the halls of Walter Reed, they've been dubbed the Mighty Moms, a fearless, feisty group of mothers fighting for their wounded children. 
"They understand your life. You don't have to explain it," said Stacy Fidler, whose son Mark is still recovering from serious war injuries. 
"We're strong. We will do anything for our kids. We fight a lot of battles," said Vallence Scott, who's been caring for her wounded son, Robert. 
"Our sons can't speak up, but we can," said Tammy Karcher, the primary caregiver for son, Jeffrey. 
Most Americans focus on the service and sacrifice of our military, but these women have put their own lives on hold, often for years, ever since receiving the call every family dreads. 
"Leaving your other children, I was running two households. The stress was way out of control," added Karcher. 
"When I talk about it, I really get teary about it because I just thank God he's here," said Scott. 
"That's the most important thing for me." 
Their love for their children, and each other, is unconditional.
Much more at the link. And don't forget there is a great new book about them, called Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed. A portion of the proceeds go to the families featured in the book.

14 December 2014

Christmas at Arlington

Holiday wreaths adorn the graves of fallen service members across Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 13, 2014. Volunteers placed about 700,000 remembrance wreaths on National Wreaths Across America Day. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Volunteers prepare to unload a truck of wreaths on Wreaths Across America Day in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Dec. 13, 2014. Thousands of volunteers helped place about 700,000 wreaths at the graves of fallen service members as part of the annual event. U.S. Army photo by Alfredo Barraza.

22 November 2014

Wounded Marine retires the same way he was sworn in - standing on his own two feet

Capt. Derek Herrera, paralyzed in an Afghanistan ambush, is the first American to own a special robotic exoskeleton that allows mobility. (Source: CNN)

From WISTV.com:

A MARSOC Marine who was left paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan fulfilled a promise to himself on Friday and walked using robotic leg braces in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, where he was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor.

The crowd of 300 Marines was silent as Capt. Derek Herrera walked. All that was heard was the faint whirring of electric motors from the device.

Herrera then stood, holding onto one crutch. With his other hand, he saluted his commanding officer, who presented him the award.

In another WISTV story, Herrera talks about the day that changed his life.

"We were on the rooftop observing some suspicious activity in the valley to our north," Herrera of 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion said.

Just after sunrise on June 14, 2012, he was leading a patrol in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

"Then all of a sudden, I felt kind of a pulsing sensation on my back," he said.

It was an ambush. A bullet from an AK-47 had lodged in his spine.

"As I was lying there, I immediately knew I had some pain, almost electrical stimulation, pulsing through my back," he said. "... In an instant, an inch one way, it would have missed me completely. An inch the other way, it would have gone straight to my heart and killed me."

Months of rehabilitation would follow, a new battle for the officer adjusting to being completely paralyzed from the chest down.

"Over time, I came to realize that of the many friends that I've had who've made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, any one of those guys would be happy to be in my position, continue to live a life," Herrera said.

11 November 2014

Veterans Day

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

This 2012 "Veterans Day Note To Self" by Iraq War Veteran Alex Horton is a must-see.

10 November 2014

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life
And have never lost our nerve.
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes,
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

Happy birthday to the United States Marine Corps!

09 November 2014

In Loving Memory of Captain Matthew Ferrara

Captain Matthew Charles Ferrara
14 October 1983 - 9 November 2007

Today we honor and 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 Afghan Soldiers 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 took place as they returned 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 citizen, and Matt was the first New Zealander to be killed while serving in Afghanistan.

In the article 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."

Today, Matt's legacy lives on in many ways, from the military service of his three brothers to Linda's devotion to supporting deployed and wounded troops. She's recruited over 40 "Blanket Ladies" over the years whose combined efforts generate about 100 blankets each month. Thousands of these blankets have been distributed by Soldiers’ Angels at Landstuhl hospital to patients aeromedically evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wilmington, CA VFW “Blanket Ladies”

West Point Parents‘ Club „Blanket Ladies“

Gold Star Mother „Blanket Ladies“

Torrance, CA „Blanket Ladies“

Linda helps a patient select a blanket during her visit to Landstuhl hospital in early 2009.

Here, in an AFN interview carried out during that visit, Linda discusses an initial setback to her plans and how she ultimately succeeded in her goal to make a difference - one blanket at a time - in loving memory of her son.

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 2014

Remembering Fallujah 10 Years Later

In this iconic photo taken during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq on November 13, 2004, then-First Sergeant Bradley Kasal is carried out of a house by LCpl Chris Marquez and LCpl Dane Shaffer. In the house, Kasal sustained seven gunshot wounds and over 43 pieces of hot fragmentation from a grenade while using his body to shield an injured fellow Marine. Although he is estimated to have lost approximately 60 percent of his blood at this point, he is still holding his M9 pistol and KA-Bar fighting knife. Kasal was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions. Photo: Lucien Read.

Marine Corps Times:

It has been a decade since Marines fought for their lives — and their brothers-in-arms — in Iraq's bloodiest battles, which would spark a turning point in the eight-year war.

Nearly 100 Americans, mostly Marines, would die in the battles of Fallujah during some of the toughest fights in the campaign. Fallujah secured its place in Marine Corps heritage, alongside battles fought during the same era, like that in Sangin, Afghanistan, as well as those of past wars, like Iwo Jima and Tarawa.

On Sept. 14, 2004, Maj. Gen. Larry Nicholson, then a colonel, was medevaced from the city that had become an al-Qaida stronghold after he was wounded in a rocket attack the day after taking command of 1st Marine Regiment. Back stateside, Nicholson recovered at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, as Operation Al-Fajr, a door-to-door fight in Fallujah, kicked off on Nov. 7.

Within months, Nicholson was back in Iraq, seeing the last moments of the operation and how the city would change for years to come.

"I think Fallujah will always be remembered as that gritty, hard fought, room by room, house-by-house battle where our Marines and soldiers prevailed," Nicholson told Marine Corps Times. "It will always be synonymous with an urban fight where small unit leaders won the fight."

It was Marines and soldiers fighting block-by-block, street-by-street, kicking in doors during the most intense urban warfare the Corps waged since the battle of Hue City in Vietnam in 1968.

"After the city was cleared, it really began the awakening. Giving that city back to the Iraqi people was critically important. It facilitated elections in Fallujah, and also in Ramadi and all over Anbar province.

"When we came back with the 5th Marine Regiment in 2006, we started to see a lot of dramatic change in terms of Iraqis taking responsibility for their own security. We started to see Iraqi tribal leaders turning against al-Qaida.

"That really hit full throttle in late 2007. The Sons of Iraq was exploding all over Anbar, all over Iraq. By 2009, it was relatively quiet, and we left and turned Fallujah over to the armed forces of Iraq. None of that would have been possible without taking Fallujah away from the enemy."

From Fallujah: The commander US Marines followed without question at the Christian Science Monitor, then-Capt. Gil Juarez recalls telling his men after the deployment,

"Life now is about not taking a step back. You’ve been through a tremendous event, part of our history now ... but life is hard, and that doesn’t get you much. The world may not know or care to know what happened here. That’s tough, especially for young guys that have been through that.”

05 November 2014

From Home, With Love

These blankets for our patients from long-time donor Carol Ziemendorf always bring a tear to my eye. Thank you to all of our wonderful donors!

31 October 2014

Groundbreaking ceremony marks beginning of construction of Landstuhl hospital replacement

A group consisting of senior U.S. military leaders, German dignitaries and wounded U.S. warriors turns the first shovels of earth Oct. 24, 2014, to mark the start of construction of the Rhine Ordnance Barracks Medical Center Replacement at Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Weilerbach, Germany. The ROBMCR, a new combined U.S. military medical facility that will replace the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the Ramstein Health Clinic, is scheduled to be operational in 2022. The center will serve U.S. Service members wounded in combat, as well as the health care needs of eligible service members and their families. The facility represents the military's commitment to provide the best possible care to the U.S. forces community, during peace and war, for decades to come. Photo Credit: Sgt. Daniel Cole, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs.

From Chuck Roberts of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs at Army.mil.

RHINE ORDNANCE BARRACKS, Germany (Oct. 27, 2014) -- The last time ground was broken for a major military medical center in Europe was in 1951, when Germany and other nations were still recovering from the devastation of World War II.

About 63 years later, and eight miles away, Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr., the commanding general for U.S. Army Europe, performed the same rite of passage alongside U.S. and German dignitaries, breaking ground Friday, to signify the start of construction of the Rhine Ordnance Barracks Medical Center Replacement, or ROBMCR, which is scheduled to replace the U.S. Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, referred to as simply Landstuhl, and the Ramstein Air Base Clinic.

Although current hostilities in Afghanistan are more than 3,000 miles away, Campbell, noted that the site of the groundbreaking ceremony remains vital.

"This important location in Germany is, and has been, a strategic lifesaving place for the United States. The last 13-plus years of conflict have validated and proven the vital need for world-class military medical care in this region of the world," Campbell said before a crowd of approximately 150 U.S. and host nation guests.

Those sentiments were echoed by U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Karen Guice.

"This new hospital and clinics will continue to provide a place of healing for our warriors wounded in battle -- continuing 60 years of service and commitment into the future," said Guice.

She noted that the new medical center will be the largest and most sophisticated military system outside the United States and an "unmatched medical asset for our military."

Equally important to the facility's unmatched structural sophistication, said Guice, will be the continued selfless service by doctors, nurses, medics, technicians, administrators and support staff who will be the "heart and soul" of the new facility.

Their dedication will "turn bricks and mortar, stones and steel into a place where patients will be cared for, treated and supported; a place where care is safe. A place where quality is high. A place of pride, of service, of hope. A new beginning for an ongoing history of excellence," she said.

More than 72,000 U.S. Service members and civilian employees medically evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq have landed the past 13 years at Ramstein Air Base, adjacent to the site of the new medical center. From there, patients are loaded onto ambulance buses for the approximately 30-minute ride to Landstuhl.

When the ROBMCR is open for business, those same patients will land at Ramstein and travel only about 15 minutes to the new medical center, without ever leaving the secure confines of a U.S. military installation.

In the meantime, world-class health care will still be offered at Landstuhl and Ramstein, where approximately 600,000 patients are treated annually. Landstuhl is the largest U.S. hospital outside the United States, and serves the needs of beneficiaries in U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command and the western U.S. Pacific Command areas of responsibility. The Ramstein Air Base Clinic is the largest Air Force clinic outside the continental United States.

However, both healthcare facilities are beyond their intended services lives. Landstuhl was built as a semi-permanent hospital in 1953, and is one of the oldest inpatient facilities in the DOD inventory. Fundamental building layouts and infrastructure cannot be modified through repair and severely limit the fielding of up-to-date medical and building technologies needed to meet current standards.

"The facilities are aging and becoming outdated, thus the need for modernizing our current capability, replacing Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the Ramstein Clinic with a single, more cost-effective solution that will continue to provide world-class medical care for our Service members wounded in combat, along with their families and retirees stationed here in Germany and throughout Europe," said Campbell.

The $990 million ROBMCR will include nine operating rooms, 68 beds and 120 examination rooms, and will include a surge capacity that will allow it to rapidly expand to 93 beds. The hospital design complies with stringent German environmental quality requirements.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been instrumental in every step of the process of bringing the new medical center to fruition. From conceptual planning and design until construction is complete, the Corps of Engineers will continue to play a key role. One of corps' vital contributions is working hand-in-hand with its German partners.

"Many may not know that the German government is the lead agency for most aspects of the planning, design and construction which truly makes this a world-class facility through our professional and vital partnership," said Campbell. "As stated before, much hard work and great work through teamwork has gotten us to this point and those efforts will continue to be the foundation of success in the way ahead as this great facility develops."

"The earth that will be turned today and the construction of the medical center are only possible through the partnership and support of not only the German construction agencies, but also the federal, the state, and the local communities and officials representing them," said Lloyd Caldwell, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers director of Military Programs. "They are all stakeholders in this project."

The next phase for construction of the ROBMCR will be mass grading, scheduled to begin in February, and last for about one year. The center is projected to be operational in 2022.

27 October 2014

Leaving Helmand

U.S. Marines and sailors load onto a KC-130 aircraft on the Camp Bastion flightline, Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marine Corps ended its mission in Helmand province the day prior, and all Marines, sailors and service members from the United Kingdom also withdrew from southwestern Afghanistan. The U.S. troops are assigned to Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. John Jackson.

Marines Hand Over Camp Leatherneck

Camp Leatherneck , the Corps' last remaining base in Afghanistan, was transferred to the Afghan National Army on Sunday. (Cpl. Meredith Brown / Marine Corps)

From the Marine Corps Times:

Marines in Afghanistan handed over the Corps’ last remaining base there to Afghan National Army troops Sunday, marking the official end of the service’s primary work in support of the war.

Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province and the adjacent British airfield, Camp Bastion, were both transferred from International Security Assistance Force control to Afghan authority in a ceremony attended by Marine, U.K., and Afghan military leaders.

The transferr marks the close of the NATO and allied war mission in Regional Command Southwest, overseeing Helmand and Nimroz provinces. It also represent the start of a more rapid withdrawal for the Marines remaining in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, Marines and British troops remaining in Helmand are tasked with maintaining security for Leatherneck and Bastion until they return to their home stations.

Helmand province has been the location of some of the most costly battlegrounds of the war in Afghanistan, including Marjah and Sangin district. The latter region alone saw the deaths of 50 Marines and 100 British troops as they fought to weaken an insurgency fueled by a thriving drug trade from Sangin’s opium-producing poppy plants.

Over the course of the 13-year war, 458 Marines died supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, according to data from the Defense Casualty Analysis System.

We are deeply proud and grateful for every single Marine who served in Afghanistan over the past 13 years, and we honor the sacrifices of the many fallen and wounded. God bless and Semper Fi.

24 October 2014

Marine Lance Cpl. Richard P. Slocum, 2/2/85 - 10/24/04

This is Kay Slocum’s favorite picture of her son Ricky, taken the last time they saw each other before he deployed to Iraq with the 1/3 Marines out of Hawaii.

Always a "tough guy," Ricky viewed the military as a way to serve his country while gaining new skills and discipline, his father, Robert, said after his death.

"Ricky felt the Marines would make a man of him," he said. "It definitely did."

Ricky was just 19 when he was killed ten years ago today.

Marine LCpl Ricky Slocum
2/2/85 - 10/24/04

My thoughts and prayers are with Kay, Bob, and all of Ricky’s family and friends as they celebrate his life today during the annual candlelight vigil at their home. I promise to remember him always.

Ricky will be forever in my heart.

23 October 2014

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'

22 October 2014

Ultimate Men's Health Guy: Wounded Warrior Noah Galloway

From Men's Health magazine:

The last night Noah Galloway's body was whole, he was behind the wheel of a Humvee in Iraq. His night-vision goggles didn't reveal the trip wire. "The roadside bomb was big enough to send our 10,000-pound Humvee flying through the air," he says in his Alabama drawl. "We landed wheels down in a canal."

Back in the States a disabled vet, he stopped going out. "I'd sit at home and drink and smoke and sleep. That's all I did."

But one day in 2010, he finally saw it: what was left of him.

He remembers the night vividly. He was standing at the mirror. The remnant of a man looking back at him was dirty, flabby, sallow, beer-soaked. He'd been so consumed with what he had lost that he couldn't see what he was doing to the remainder.

But there it was: the mirror moment of clarity.

Read the rest of this great story at Men's Health, and watch the interview below.

06 October 2014

American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial dedicated

A disabled veteran takes in the quotes and pictures on glass panels at the new American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated in Washington D.C. on Oct. 5, 2014. The memorial includes a black granite reflecting pool and perpetual flame burning in the middle of a star-shaped fountain. Each of the star's points represents a branch of the military. Photo: C.J. LIN/STARS AND STRIPES.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which honors disabled veterans both living and deceased from conflicts throughout the nation's history, was dedicated yesterday in Washington, DC.

The memorial was organized by philanthropist Lois Pope, former Veterans Affairs secretary Jesse Brown, and Art Wilson, who retired as CEO and national adjutant of the Disabled American Veterans organization in 2013. The group first started work on creating the memorial in the late 1990s and raised more than $80 million for its construction.

The monument features a star-shaped fountain and ceremonial flame surrounded by a grove of trees. It is located behind the U.S. Botanic Garden near the Rayburn House Office Building.

Read more at Stars and Stripes.

30 September 2014

A Monument to Wounded Warriors

Our nation's wounded warriors need time to heal; and the rest of us need a place in which to reflect upon their sacrifice.

CBS News:

It's a thing of beauty designed to honor an ugly fact: the wounds of war. The name of Washington's newest memorial -- American Veterans Disabled for Life -- makes the point.

Project director Barry Owenby gave Martin an advance look at the memorial, which opens next Sunday. It's for disabled veterans of all wars, of whom an estimated three million are alive today.

"It doesn't end with the war; they live with it forever," Owenby said.

"They have a trauma of injury, a healing process, and then their rediscovery of purpose. So that's the story that we're trying to tell here."

A view of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C. CBS NEWS

Joe Bacani, shot through the pelvis by a sniper in Iraq in 2007, is pictured above receiving his Purple Heart ceremony at Walter Reed. He said, "I hope people can see beyond the wheelchair -- that there's still a young man in there with many more years left to live, to make something out of himself."

Much more at the link.

28 September 2014

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.

13 September 2014

"...our Flag was still there."

200 years ago today, The Battle at Fort McHenry (9/13-9/14 1814) – Perhaps the greatest moment in our flag's history is the one which inspired our national anthem. After witnessing Fort McHenry being attacked by British warships the night of Sept.13, 1814, from a neighboring ship, Francis Scott Key woke up the next morning to see through "the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there” - intact and waving proudly.

In the summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill (1776–1857) was contracted to sew two flags for Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. The one that became the Star-Spangled Banner was a 30 x 42–foot garrison flag. After the Battle of Fort McHenry, the flag became a keepsake of the family of Lieutenant Colonel George Armistead, Fort McHenry's commander.

The flag remained the private property of Lieutenant Colonel Armistead's widow, Louisa Armistead, his daughter Georgiana Armistead Appleton, and his grandson Eben Appleton for 90 years. The publicity that it had received in the 1870s had transformed it into a national treasure, and Appleton received many requests to lend it for patriotic occasions. He permitted it to go to Baltimore for that city's sesquicentennial celebration in 1880. After that his concern for the flag's deteriorating condition led him to keep it in a safe-deposit vault in New York.

In 1907 he lent the Star-Spangled Banner to the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1912 he converted the loan to a gift.

Source: Smithsonian.

11 September 2014

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 13 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. Close to 7,000 made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and another 7000 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.

Thirteen 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, 2014 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

02 September 2014

Flight over Kandahar

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Misheff flies the American flag from the back of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter over southern Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Aug. 24, 2014. Misheff is a crew chief assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade. The pilots and crew chiefs fly American flags to present with certificates to service members as part of aviation tradition. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bryan Lewis.

27 August 2014

Refueling Over Iraq

A U.S. F-18 fighter jet refuels from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over northern Iraq, Aug. 21, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel.

16 August 2014

Remembering Mike Stokely

SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 2005 near Yusufiyah Iraq

My thoughts are with you and your family today, Robert. We'll always love and remember Mike.

Part of Mike's legacy - Hughes, Ark., native, Staff Sgt. James Robinson, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, hands out school materials donated by the Mike Stokely Foundation at a school in Mullah Fayad, March 27, 2008. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback)

13 August 2014

Survivors of Battle of Wanat Find Closure at Medal of Honor Ceremony

Dr. Justin Madill served on a medevac helicopter in Afghanistan. Madill recently received the Air Medal with “V” device for valor. Photo: Courtesy of Justin Madill.

Another unsung Hero of the Battle of Wanat, MEDEVAC Flight Surgeon Dr. Justin Madill. In 2008, Madill was the 2-17 Cavalry, Task Force Flight Surgeon in the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and was also the medical director for the C6-101 Helicopter Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) Platoon and the Pathfinder Combat Search and Rescue Team. During that deployment, Madill flew and supervised missions for 479 patients, personally transported 143 patients, and extracted 49 patients from the battlefield.

In the early hours of July 13, 2008, a battle was raging in Wanat, Afghanistan.

In the final hours of the battle, a medevac helicopter flew in, navigating through heavy fire from enemy and U.S. forces to rescue the injured.

Dr. Justin Madill, 39, was the doctor on that helicopter. The Billings native now lives in Great Falls and is an emergency room physician at Benefis Health System. His parents, Cecil and Linda Madill, also live in Great Falls.

"There was really no good place to land," Madill said. "I thought for sure I was going to die."

Madill and other medics had to climb down farming terraces and through razor wire to reach the troops and then help them back up to the helicopter.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts was one of the troops Madill pulled out that day.

Last month, Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House for his actions during the battle.

Madill and the other troops involved attended the ceremony.

It was the first time they were all together again, in a calm and safe situation, Madill said.

At the ceremony, he also met family members of those killed during his deployment, including Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler, for whom the outpost at Wanat was named.

Kahler was Pitt's platoon sergeant who was killed in January 2008 and was Madill's first medevac mission in Afghanistan.

"It gave everyone a sense of closure," Madill said. "It was a bigger deal than I thought it was going to be."

For his actions at Wanat, Madill received the Air Medal with "V" device for valor.

07 August 2014

Purple Heart Day

On Aug. 7, 1782, General George Washington, the commander in chief of the Continental Army, created the Badge for Military Merit. It consisted of a purple heart-shaped piece of silk edged with a narrow binding of silver with the word “Merit” stitched across the face in silver. The badge was presented to Soldiers for any singular meritorious action.

Now, the Purple Heart, which is the oldest American military decoration for military merit, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. It is also awarded to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.

Purple Heart day is dedicated to honoring service members, past and present, who have received the Purple Heart medal.

Read more at DVIDS.

21 July 2014

Former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts receives Medal of Honor for Battle of Wanat

From the Army Times.
Former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts received the Medal of Honor on Monday for his heroism during the Battle of Wanat in 2008, one of deadliest clashes of the Afghanistan War. 
As President Obama draped the nation’s highest award for valor around Pitts’ neck at a White House ceremony, the former infantryman said his mind was on his nine “brothers” who fought beside him and died in that battle. 
“Standing there, I thought of these incredible men, and those present here today, especially our brothers who fell,” Pitts said in a brief statement after the ceremony. “Valor was everywhere that day, and the real heroes are those who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home.” 
Bolstered by four soldiers who braved gunfire to help hold the position, Pitts called for air support that helped repel the attack and prevented the enemy from taking the remains of his fellow soldiers who had been killed. 
1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24
Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24
Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24
Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25
Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24
Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27
Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22
Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20 
Spc. Sergio S. Abad, 21
In an Army Times interview weeks earlier, then-Capt. Matthew Myer, the company commander who was at VPB Kahler that day, said Pitts, who continued to fight and radio in information despite his injuries, was the “linchpin that held that ground.” 
An Army statement lauds Pitts’ “incredible toughness, determination, and ability to communicate with leadership while under fire” for allowing “U.S. forces to hold the observation post and turn the tide of the battle.” 
Pitts separated from the Army on October 27, 2009, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has since begun work in business development for the computer software industry.
He is the ninth living service member to receive the nation’s highest award for valor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Seven troops have received the medal posthumously for their actions in those wars. Pitts is also the third soldier from 2/503 to receive the MoH for actions during the unit’s 2007-2008 deployment to Afghanistan. Former Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was the first living service member to be honored for his actions in Iraq or Afghanistan; before Pitts, Sgt. Kyle White had been the most recent, in May. All three men deployed together in the same battalion in May 2007 for a 15-month tour in some of the toughest parts of eastern Afghanistan.

20 July 2014

Study: Change in transfusion protocol cuts troop death rate

Medical staff at a U.S. military field hospital tend to an Afghan soldier wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack. In 2006, doctors in combat hospitals implemented a protocol known as "damage control resuscitation," which called for a change in the ratios of blood components given to hemorrhaging patients, such as red-blood cells, plasma and platelets. The change resulted in fewer deaths from the battlefield, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Photo: Joshua L. DeMotts, Stars and Stripes.

Interesting study results from the Journal of the American Medical Association, via Stars and Stripes.

Fewer warfighters have died from bleeding complications in forward-based hospitals since 2006, when the military changed its protocol of blood transfusions used for such cases, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The DCR ["damage control resuscitation"] protocol is now widely used in civilian trauma centers, said Dr. John B. Holcomb, a surgeon with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston who retired from the Army in 2008 after serving 23 years.

“Everybody says that the silver lining that comes out war is improved trauma care, and I think this war is no exception,” Holcomb said.

There's much more at the link.

18 July 2014

Operation Proper Exit: Healing warriors, inspiring Soldiers

Maj. Gen. Michael Bills, commander of 1st Cavalry Division and Regional Command South, greets retired Sgt. Adam Keys with a welcoming handshake on Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, during Operation Proper Exit on July 10. Keys was an engineer who served with the 20th Engineer Brigade before he was wounded in combat in 2010. Photo: Staff Sgt. Whitney C. Houston | U.S. Army.

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Five soldiers had a chance to be with fellow soldiers once more and leave a combat zone on their own terms, including Fort Hood’s Col. Timothy Karcher, chief of staff for Operational Test Command.

Within minutes of touching down in Kandahar, Black Hawk helicopters lifted the wounded warriors back into the air to take them to Forward Operating Base Pasab.
Karcher said just being able to thank the soldiers in the fight was satisfying enough for him, because he couldn’t otherwise be with soldiers in a combat zone.

“I miss being with soldiers more than I miss my legs, but the fact of the matter is I get to come back and see you all,” he said.

The wounded warriors enjoyed town hall meetings where they met with soldiers and answered questions, both to give them insight and encouragement.
Questions ranged from how they’ve dealt with the loss of limbs and eyesight to how their front-line care saved their lives. One question that was asked at both Pasab and Kandahar was what soldiers could do to help their injured buddies back home?

“If you guys could do one thing to increase the morale of those guys in some hospital trying to heal, contact them every now and again,” said Adam Hartswick, who was injured serving with the 1st Armored Division about a year ago. “I’ve got to tell you, when I got a call from the guys it was the highlight of my week, because you are there lying in bed, and you want to know what’s going on with your brothers and sisters over here. So just pick up the phone and call.”

More at the link.

17 July 2014

Our Bravest - Cpl. Todd Nicely

Get to know Cpl. Todd Nicely as he shares his story and talks about how he regained his independence. Such an inspiration!

04 July 2014

Happy Independence Day!

It's difficult for us to imagine today, but back in 1776, the idea of a sovereign people freely choosing to form a government tasked with protecting the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness simply did not exist. Until then, people lived under the oppression of monarchies that ruled by dictate based on birthright.

Drawing from the ideas of the greats of the Age of Enlightenment such as Locke and Montesquieu, our Founding Fathers created a completely new framework for the relationship between the people and their government. Although many countries have since attained liberty in varying degrees, the unique combination of ideas behind our Founding is the basis for the concept of American Exceptionalism.

We could not be prouder to be Americans and are humbled to serve those who defend the United States Constitution and the vision of the Founding Fathers that so many brave Americans have fought and died for.

May we never lose sight of our responsibility to preserve the blessings of liberty for every future generation.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day Weekend!

01 July 2014

"When I have your wounded!"

Major Charles L. Kelly, April 10, 1925 - July 1 1964

"When I have your wounded!" - The last words of DUSTOFF pilot Major Charles L. Kelly, after being told to withdraw from a hot combat area in Vietnam 50 years ago today.

As commander of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance), Kelly assumed the call sign "DUSTOFF." On 1 July 1964 Kelly approached a hot area in Vinh Long Province, South Vietnam to pick up wounded only to find the enemy waiting with a withering barrage of fire. Advised repeatedly to withdraw, he calmly replied to the ground element's advisor, "When I have your wounded." Moments later, he was killed by a single bullet that entered through the open window of his helicopter. Kelly was dead but his "DUSTOFF" became the call sign for all medical evacuation missions in Vietnam. "When I have your wounded" became the personal and collective credo of the gallant DUSTOFF pilots who followed him.

Major Kelly's awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star Medal (Merit), 2 Purple Hearts, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (WWII), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Medic Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Aviator Badge, Parachutist Badge.

Major Kelly was inducted into the DUSTOFF Hall of Fame on February 17, 2001.

14 June 2014

Flag Day

Betsy Ross showing the United States flag to George Washington and others in "The Birth of Old Glory" by Percy Moran, 1917.

"Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation."

- John Adams at a meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on June 14, 1777.

Happy Birthday to the United States Army!

Love you guys. Thank you.

06 June 2014

70th Anniversary of D-Day: The Men Who Saved the World

The men who saved the world, literally.

World War II veterans stand and salute during the ceremony for the 70th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy American Cemetery. Photo: American Battle Monuments Commission.

On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, emotional WWII veterans look back:

"70 years hasn't erased any of the feelings that we had for our soldiers there, for our buddies that we'd been with... and to see them die there will never leave, never leave your mind."

26 May 2014

For some, every day is Memorial Day

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

But now they are also today's 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.