31 December 2015

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 2015.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy 2016.

25 December 2015

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

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

26 November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Soldiers of 10th Mountain Division celebrated Thanksgiving holiday at the TB Gamberi dining facility Nov. 26, 2015. The staff of TB Gamberi DFAC gave the Soldiers a special Thanksgiving holiday d├ęcor along with a top-notch six-course meal that consisted of traditional holiday feast and varieties of ambrosial irresistible desserts. Maj. Somnuk served the Soldiers. Photo by U.S. Army Maj. Asha Cooper.

Like all Americans, this year we will be giving thanks for our families, our freedoms, and the blessings of liberty that are secured by those who proudly wear our Nation's uniform. Across our country, thousands of families have an empty space at the table because a loved one is far away from home answering the call of duty. And although they are far away, they are in the forefront of our minds and prayers today.

Today, and every day, we thank those who fight for our freedom.

Wishing you and your families a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

11 November 2015

Because of the Brave

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.

"We believe in fighting to keep all people safe and free to be themselves, because it is the right thing to do."
- Linda Ferrara

10 November 2015

Happy 240th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps!

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 2015

Well Done, We Love You

Captain Matthew Charles Ferrara
14 October 1983 - 9 November 2007

On November 9, 2007, 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, 2/503, 173rd ABCT, was ambushed by an overwhelming enemy force as they returned to Combat Outpost Bella following a meeting with tribal elders in the nearby village of Aranas.

Five Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and one Marine from the Mountain Warfare Training Center were killed. Eight more paratroopers and 11 Afghan National Army soldiers were wounded. Despite the heavy casualties taken during the opening minutes of the ambush, with nearly every man either killed or wounded, the patrol was ultimately able to repel their attackers and call in support.

Ammunition was dropped to the survivors by the arriving Apache helicopters, and eight separate air crews subsequently conducted what was to become a combined 31-hour MEDEVAC and recovery mission involving multiple lifts.

Our love, thoughts, 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.

* * *

Im Memoriam:

1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, 24, of Torrance, Calif.
SGT Jeffrey S. Mersman, 23, of Parker, Kansas
SPC Sean K.A. Langevin, 23, of Walnut Creek, California
SPC Lester G. Roque, 23, of Torrance, California
PFC Joseph M. Lancour, 21, of Swartz Creek, Michigan
all of Chosen Company, 2-503rd PIR, 173rd ABCT, and
Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, 28, of Troy, Michigan

* * *

With gratitude to the MEDEVAC crews for their professionalism, selfless service and dedication to duty during our Heroes' final hours and to the AH-64 crews not only for their protection, but whose gun cameras documented this mission.

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

- Ronald Reagan

29 October 2015

Air Med, Always Ready

A medical evacuation crew prepares to take off for a training mission Oct. 22, on Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. When a medevac call comes in Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment are ready to respond with in a moments notice. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Bunn, 19th Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army Central Public Affairs Office)

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – On the battlefield, an air medical helicopter can mean the difference between life and death for an injured Soldier.

Getting to an injured Soldier in what is known as “the golden hour” after an injury greatly improves that Soldier’s odds. This requires a well-trained team of medics, pilots and crew chiefs who are ready to respond at a moments notice.

When a medical emergency that requires an air evacuation arises in the U.S. Army Central area of operations, Soldiers rely on medics and aircrews stationed at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

Story here.

28 October 2015

Prince Harry tells US wounded veterans: 'Afghanistan changed my life'

"I am in no doubt that my two deployments to Afghanistan changed the direction of my life. There is very little that can truly prepare you for the reality of war.
The experiences can be stark and long lasting."

The Prince went on: "Returning to the UK after my first deployment, I shared the flight home with three critically injured British soldiers, all in induced comas, and the body of a Danish soldier, killed in action.

"It hit me then that this flight was one of many, carrying home men and women whose lives would be changed forever, and some who had made the ultimate sacrifice. From that moment, I knew I had a responsibility to help all veterans."

- Prince Harry at an event to promote the 2016 Invictus Games at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The second Invictus Games will be held in Orlando, Florida in May next year. At the inaugural games in London last year more than 400 athletes competed over five days in front of 65,000 people.

The rest of the story and more photos here.

24 October 2015

Marine Lance Corporal Ricky Slocum - Forever in our Hearts

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 eleven 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 2015

Army’s Top Nurse Commissions Therapy Dog

Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan, deputy commanding general (operations) of the U.S. Army Medical Command and chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, commissions Walter Reed National Military Medical Center's (WRNMMC) newest facility dog, Annie Fox, to First Lieutenant. The canine was named after the WWII heroine who was the first woman to receive the PUrple Heart for combat. Photo: Bernard S. Little.

First Lt. Annie G. Fox, of the Army Nurse Corps, was the first woman to receive the Purple Heart for combat. She earned the medal for “outstanding performance of duty, meritorious acts of extraordinary fidelity and essential service” during the attack on Hickam Field, Dec. 7, 1941. At that time, the awarding of the Purple Heart did not require the recipient to be wounded in action.

As chief nurse at Hickam Field, Hawaii, Fox cared for patients during the heaviest bombardment of Pearl Harbor. She “administered anesthesia, assisted in dressing the wounded, taught civilian volunteer nurses to make dressings, and worked ceaselessly with coolness and efficiency, [setting a] fine example of calmness, courage and leadership of great benefit to the morale of all with whom she came in contact,” states her Purple Heart citation.

In honor of Fox and her heroics, a canine in the dog therapy program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) bears her name. Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan commissioned the mix-breed Labrador and golden retriever to first lieutenant Oct. 15 in front of the historic Tower on Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB). Keenan is deputy commanding general for operations at the U.S. Army Medical Command and chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

Canines in the dog therapy program provide comfort, support, hope and “unconditional love” to wounded, ill and injured patients, as well as to staff at WRNMMC and NSAB, according to Keenan. The dogs can also assist with retrieving objects, providing balance for some beneficiaries, pulling wheelchairs, opening and closing doors, and turning lights on and off. All bolster the healing process, Keenan explained.

Read more here.

13 October 2015

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.

27 September 2015

Gold Star Mothers' 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 2015

" ...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 2015

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 the first WTC attack in 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 14 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.

Fourteen 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, 2015 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

24 August 2015

Warrior Sled Hockey Team Prepares for New Season

Christy Gardner, of the Women's National Team, plays with her dog Moxie as she anticipates Gardner throwing a puck to fetch. The San Antonio Rampage sled hockey team is made up of wounded warriors and is sponsored by the Rampage and Operation Comfort. They practiced at the Ice and Gold Center at Northwoods on Thursday, August 13, 2015. Photo: Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News.

Made up of injured, ill and wounded veterans, service members and civilians — men and women alike — the San Antonio Rampage Sled Hockey Team is preparing for a new season of competition. The team just completed a grueling three-day training camp, with three-hour practices. From Sept. 2-22, they’ll test their skills against the South Korean national team at practices and games at the rink at 17530 Henderson Pass.

The team formed in 2007 with a handful of members. It’s grown to a roster of more than 20. Three of the players: Rico Roman, Jen Lee and Josh Sweeney, played on the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey team at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The team has won two Northwest league championships.

Read more at the San Antonio Express News.

18 August 2015

Air Force Medical Evacuation Team provides critical bridge between battlefields, higher-level care

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron provide in flight medical care to injured service members on a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that departed Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, heading for medical care in Germany, August 2015. The 455th EAES Airmen are charged with the responsibility of evacuating the sick and wounded from Central Command to higher echelons of medical care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman/Released)

455th EAES provides critical bridge between battlefields, higher-level care

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - After an Aug. 7 attack on a U.S. military installation in Kabul left service members injured, getting them from the battlefield to higher-level care in Germany was a task assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

While the injured service members were stabilized and prepped for movement in the Craig Joint Theater Hospital here, the 455th EAES alerted aeromedical evacuation and critical care air transport teams to get a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft ready to carry patients and provide medical care in flight to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

“Aeromedical evacuation has a vital mission here at Bagram; it’s a significant part of our nation's airpower and mobility resources,” said Col. Diane Difrancesco, 455th EAES commander deployed from the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. “The 455th EAES is the sole AE hub in the Afghanistan theater of operations. We serve as a specially trained team to sustain human life. We’re mission critical for patient movement to a higher level of care.”

The AE team is responsible for prepping the aircraft with the required medical equipment and providing additional support to the CCATT members, who act as an airborne intensive care unit for critically injured Service members.

The CCATT is a three-person, highly specialized medical team consisting of a physician who specializes in an area of critical care or emergency medicine, a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist. Their primary focus is on the care of critical patients while onboard the aircraft.

“As the medical crew director, my responsibility was overseeing the overall mission of getting the patients moved from Bagram to Ramstein,” said Maj. Jonathan Freeman, 455th EAES flight nurse deployed from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 156th AES. “As the MCD, I was responsible for coordinating requirements with the C-17 aircrew, ensuring the aircraft was properly configured and to integrate the AE team with the CCATT team to provide safe medical care for the patients.”

According to Freeman, the patients on the flight were some of the worst he had seen but he had confidence the entire medical team’s expertise would ensure a successful mission.

“I was impressed with everyone on the team and it made it easy for me to focus on my responsibilities as the MCD. These are sharp professionals who know what they are doing. I felt really good about our mission because it is the best care you can get,” said Freeman.

One of those highly trained professionals on the mission was Senior Airman Margaret “Maggie” Mathewes, 455th EAES AE technician deployed from the Air Force Reserve’s 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

“Each AE crew consists of two flight nurses and three med techs. As nationally certified EMTs, we’re able to assist the flight nurses in the care of patients while enroute to a higher level of care,” said Mathewes. “It is the teamwork of the entire crew that ensures proper aircraft setup and functioning medical equipment for a safe and successful movement of the patients."

Mathewes said it’s satisfying to be part of the AE community.

“The entire AE system is a wonderful service that is provided to the men and women that serve our country. Being a part of that system—being able to move the sick and injured to a higher level of care and thus increasing their chances of recovering—is just very humbling," said Mathewes.

Freeman said the motivation, enthusiasm and professionalism of the Total Force team of active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen serving as aircrew, AE and CCATT ensured the best continuation of care for the service members.

“It is tough dealing with the bad stuff that comes with this job, but it’s definitely rewarding to know you made a difference by providing critical care for those men and women who are serving on the front line for our country,” Freeman said. “It was a very good mission…we got them from the battlefield to higher-level care and that is what we do.”

According to Difrancesco, she was proud of the contributions of the AE team and said they were critical to saving the lives of the injured service members.

“This team of Airmen made a monumental life-saving contribution to those battle injured service members. Without our team those wounded warriors may not be alive today,” said Difrancesco.

15 August 2015

Wounded soldier fulfills dream of coaching football

Sergeant Kevin Downs suffered nearly fatal injuries in an attack on his Humvee in Iraq in 2005. Three other soldiers with him died.

When the Harpeth High School Indians take the football field this season, among the coaching staff is an American hero who almost lost his life 10 years ago this week.

Sergeant Kevin Downs was serving in Iraq in 2005 when the Humvee he was riding in with three other soldiers was hit by a bomb attack.

Everyone in the vehicle died, but Sgt. Downs. He survived but lost both his legs, suffered second and third degree burns over much of his body and suffered severe damage to his arms.

As for this football season, Sgt. Downs wants a lot of wins and for his players to remember this lesson.

“Don’t give up,” he said. “Get back up and try it again. Just get better each time because giving up is not something you can do.”

Read his incredible story and watch the video here.

07 August 2015

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.

13 July 2015

Remembering the Heroes of Wanat

"I just hope these guys’ wives and their children understand how courageous their husbands and dads were. They fought like warriors." - SGT Jacob Walker

Im Memoriam:

1LT Jonathan Brostrom
SGT Israel Garcia
SPC Matthew Phillips
SPC Pruitt Rainey
SPC Jonathan Ayers
SPC Jason Bogar
SPC Sergio Abad
SPC Jason Hovater
SPC Gunnar Zwilling

All Sky Soldiers of Chosen Company, 2/503 Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. They were killed in action at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler near Wanat in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. 27 Americans and four Afghan soldiers were wounded.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and with all of the men who were there that day. We will always remember.

Originally posted 13 July 2009.

11 July 2015

85-year old widow donates home to wounded Veteran

The home is being renovated by the Lifetime TV show "Designing Spaces: Military Makeovers". According to them,

A few months ago, our producers received a call from Wilma (“Tinky”) Stuart of Orlando, FL. She was touched by what she saw on the Military Makeover series that aired in November 2014, coming from a military family herself. Wilma wants to make a difference for a needy veteran — and has generously donated a home to our next Military Makeover family.

WFTV - Orlando:

"It's the beginning of the largest chapter of my life. It's the best part of my life," [Army veteran Tommy] Travis said.


A woman whom he's never met, Tinky Stewart, 85, is giving her house to Travis to show her gratitude for his sacrifice. Stewart is the widow of a Marine.

"I'm of the age where it takes very little for me anymore. So, I thought, 'Why not donate it to a nice veteran and his family?'" Stewart said.


For Travis, his wife and two daughters, the home will mean the end of countless moves, courtesy of the U.S. Army. It will finally be a home upon which they can build.

"She's an angel for what she did. I can't say thank you enough. I could say it a hundred million times and it still wouldn't be enough to show the gratitude I have toward her," Travis said.

The house will be mortgage free.

The episode on the makeover will air in October.

03 July 2015

Happy 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!

21 June 2015

2015 DOD Warrior Games

Army visually impaired cycling teams finish together to take gold, silver and bronze during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 21, 2015. DoD photo by EJ Hersom.

14 June 2015

Happy 240th Birthday to the U.S. Army!

"Two hundred forty years ago, our nation's leaders established the Continental Army. Today, the Army is the strategic landpower of the joint force; called upon to prevent, shape, and win against our adversaries.

"This year, we celebrate 240 years of selfless service to the nation. Selfless service is at the core of what it means to be a Soldier - putting the welfare of others ahead of oneself. The willingness of our Soldiers - to place themselves in harm's way and to protect our nation's freedoms - is what makes us the premier all-volunteer force. The Army has served proudly, faithfully, and selflessly for 240 years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment."

Much more at Army.mil.

Flag Day

The emblem of the land I love!

03 June 2015

Wounded Warrior Receives New ‘Smart Home’ Thanks To Local High School Students

Then 27-year-old Iraq war veteran Jerral Hancock, sitting on an electric wheelchair, and members of Operation All The Way Home chant their slogans after a meeting at Lancaster High School on Oct. 21, 2013.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong.

Last Friday was Jerral Hanckock's birthday, Alive Day, and the day he received the keys to his new smart home after years of trying to maneuver his wheelchair inside his cramped mobile home.

From Dennis L. Anderson of Task & Purpose:

For the past two years, history students from Lancaster High School raised more than $300,000 to build this tribute home to one of their community’s most severely wounded veterans of the Iraq War. The Gary Sinise Foundation and allies kicked in the rest of the close to half-million dollars to finish the grassroots housing drive that resulted from a classroom visit by Hancock.

“I just went to talk to the class to tell them about my experiences,” Hancock told the audience gathered at Friday’s event. “I wasn’t expecting anything from it.”

Supervised by history instructor Jamie Goodreau and led by student Nicole Skinner, the group that was inspired by Hancock’s account of ordeal and triumph organized their own organic nonprofit, Operation All The Way Home.

The students started raising funds two years ago, immediately after hearing Hancock share the grim facts of combat and catastrophic injury.

A remark Hancock made during a “living history” presentation to the students organized by Goodreau awed the students. A few of his words became the signature phrase of their determination to build a home for the vet who rolled his electric wheelchair into their class to talk to them.

“Life does have to go on,” Hancock said at the class event in 2013. “Whether I choose to sit and pout or go with the flow is up to me.”

On the morning of May 29, 2007 - Jerral's birthday - his unit was on a mission supporting Special Forces troops in the search for high-value targets in Sadr City.

Spc. Jerral Hancock, 1st Cavalry Division, was the driver. When the IED detonated, Hancock was immediately showered with white hot steel. The armored vehicle’s interior transformed to shrapnel that ripped and burned Hancock.

It was the present Hancock got for his 21st birthday. He was trapped, his body shredded and burning inside the vehicle.

The United States lost few tanks during eight years from 2003–2011, but the IED munitions supplied to Iran-backed Shiite militias found the 70-ton behemoth’s weak point: the thinly armored underbelly between the treads. Hancock’s crew mates jumped or were thrown free, but Hancock roasted in the burning hulk for 90 minutes before he was cut free, with some rescuers already believing him dead.

He surprised them.

Shrapnel severed his spinal cord to paralyze him below the chest. Burning metal and wiring charred his torso into a scarred, fleshy canvas creating ornate “tanker” tattoos he still bears today. His left arm was sheared off above the shoulder. He calls it his “chicken wing.”

Hancock’s 21st birthday became his “Alive Day,” the day the enemy almost, but not quite, succeeded in killing him.

Eight years later, Jerral has finally come home.

“This is going to go a long way to help with my quality of life, and my independence,” Hancock said Friday, soon after hundreds of supporters, contributors, sponsors, donors and volunteer builders cheered, and sang “Happy Birthday,” with 8-year-old daughter Anastasia chorusing “Cha Cha Cha.”

“I’ll be able to help my dad,” fifth grader Julius said, darting in and out of the crowd, clad like his father, in a camouflage ball cap and t-shirt.

“This patriotic American military community … it’s something you don’t see,” Hancock told the group gathered Friday. “You guys basically did something that’s never been done, all the OATH students … mainly the community support was beyond what I expected, beyond what anybody expected. The community as a whole stepped up. I am really grateful for everything that everybody has done, and I just want to say ‘Thank You.’”

Happy birthday, Happy Alive Day, and welcome home, Jerral!

22 May 2015

Memorial Day: "Flags In" at Arlington

Pfc. Johnny Allen, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Charlie Company, places American flags at headstones in Section 12 of Arlington National Cemetery, Va., during “Flags in,” May 21, 2015. The Old Guard has conducted “Flags-in,” when an American flag is placed at every headstone, since 1948. U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue.

04 May 2015

Honoring a Ranger

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn presents Sgt. Travis Dunn with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart on Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., April 29, 2015. Dunn was wounded while conducting combat operations in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 2, 2014. He maneuvered on multiple enemy fighting positions over six-hours of direct fire. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Eric Overfelt.

24 April 2015

Aeromedical Evacuation out of Bagram Air Base

U.S. Air Force Capt. Maria Vazquez, 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse, tests an oxygen mask in preparation for an AE mission April 19, 2015 at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The Aeromedical Evacuation team had traveled to Kandahar Airfield on April 19 to provide in-flight medical care to three service members.The U.S. Army Soldiers sustained multiple injuries when their mine resistant ambush protected vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device during a mission in the Central Command area of responsibility. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Amstutz/released.

Read more about this team here.

23 April 2015

War Heroes return to Afghanistan for 'Proper Exit'

From the Army Times.
Five wounded service members, including two Medal of Honor recipients and last year's Army Times Soldier of the Year, visited Afghanistan Wednesday as part of Operation Proper Exit. 
The troops who returned to Afghanistan were retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry, retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, Sgt. Tom Block, retired Sgt. Ralph Cacciapaglia and retired Cpl. Steve Martin. 
Petry received the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 26, 2008. He is credited with saving the lives of his fellow Rangers when he picked up a grenade and threw it away from them during a fierce fight in Paktya province. Petry was then on his seventh deployment and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor, on July 12, 2011. He retired last summer. 
Carpenter was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in February 2010. Carpenter, was part of the Marine assault in Marjah in southern Afghanistan. He was honored for throwing himself on a grenade to shield a friend and fellow Marine from the blast. 
Block was the 2014 Army Times Soldier of the Year. Block, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was wounded Oct. 5, 2013, during a raid in southern Afghanistan. Block and his fellow Rangers were on a mission to root out insurgents who had been planning suicide bombing attacks in the area when a suicide bomber — either woman or a man dressed as a woman — detonated. Block was thrown 35 feet into a minefield, severely wounded. Four other soldiers died on that mission, and nearly two dozen others were wounded. "This trip for me came to a head when we visited Craig Medical Center," Block said, according to a news release from U.S. military officials in Afghanistan. "They showed me the bed that I stayed in. That kind of came full circle for me." 
Martin, of the National Guard, was wounded in September 2008 in Logar province, according to the news release. He now works as a trooper with the Arizona Highway Patrol. Since he lost his legs, Martin has participated in 29 half marathons and five full marathons, according to the news release. "I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today without the service members that helped get us through there," he said. "It's just neat to see a sea of green out here today. Going back into Craig [Hospital] this morning was huge. It was a big emotional moment for me because the last time I [arrived] was unfortunately via a Black Hawk ride on a stretcher. I was pretty banged up. They took great care of me. They took great care of my team when we were hit and rolled us out of there about four days later. It's a huge honor to be back here today and to see everybody. I just didn't think I'd get back over here to see it." 
Caccipaglia, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was wounded February 2012 in Helmand province. Four months after being shot through the leg by a 7.62mm round, he tried out for and made the 2012 All-Army Rugby Team. He's currently working on his master's degree in business administration at Boston College.

16 April 2015

Wounded Warrior Receives New Home

"It's been a rough road, but I can't thank the American people enough on their dedication to give back to the soldiers and just pay it forward," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Payne.

The 32-year-old Army veteran lost both his legs and severely injured his left hand in 2011 when an improvised explosive device detonated under him during a combat mission in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province.

He was transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center where he spent a year and a half recovering. After more than 100 surgeries his spirit remains unbreakable.

Payne will get the keys to his new home when it is finished sometime in June, according to ABC News in Raleigh, NC.

13 April 2015

Must-see Interview with Michael Schlitz

Fantastic interview with Michael Schlitz by Chuck Williams of the Ledger-Enquirer. Must-watch!

You probably don't know Michael Schlitz.

But you should.

Eight years ago, Schlitz -- a U.S. Army sergeant assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad -- almost died in a roadside attack.

He was burned beyond recognition, lost both hands and partial sight. The three soldiers in the vehicle with him were killed.

Today, Schlitz lives in southern Harris County and travels the country telling his story of service and survival.

He can talk candidly about suicide because he has contemplated it. He can talk about pain after 83 surgeries.

He recently sat down with Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams and shared his remarkable story.

30 March 2015

Former Navy SEAL who was shot 27 times to compete in half-Ironman for fellow vets

From the UK's Mail Online:

A Navy SEAL who was shot 27 times and still managed to pull out his handgun and kill two enemy fighters is now training to run a half-Ironman triathlon in honor of his fellow veterans.

Mike Day is representing Dallas-based Carrick Brain Centers, where he was treated for PTSD eight years after he survived a gunfight while serving in Iraq.

In 2007 Day was hit 27 times by enemy fire after he was the first of his SEAL team to enter a room where four enemy fighters were waiting and quickly shot the rifle out of his hand.

Day managed to kill two enemy fighters with his pistol before he was knocked unconscious by a grenade that exploded less than 10-feet away from him.
Eleven shots hit Day's body armor while the other 16 wounded him, according to WTKR.

When Day woke up a minute later in the midst of a firefight, he grabbed his handgun and shot down two enemy fighters before the gunfire ceased.

The tough SEAL then got up and walked himself to the medical helicopter.

Day described the extent of his numerous injuries on his half-Ironman fundraiser page, writing that he was shot in both legs and arms, as well as the buttocks and scrotum. He said a shot to his abdomen also left him with a colostomy bag for a year, and his left thumb was almost amputated. Day's ribs were also fractured and he suffered contusions to his lungs after his body armor was hit so many times, but the bullets missed all his vital organs.

'This was a single gunfight at an ordinary day at the office,' he wrote on the page.

Day, who spent 20 years with the SEALs and is also a Silver and Bronze Star recipient, said his life's mission is now to 'care for and lead my wounded brothers and sisters'.

19 March 2015

On this Day in 2003 - Operation Iraqi Freedom Begins

Sgt. Matthew LeVart carries injured Cpl. Barry Lange off the battlefield as members of India Co., 3rd Batt., 7th Marine Division engage Iraqi soldiers in battle at the headquarters of the Iraqi 51st and 37th mechanized infantry divisions near Az Bayer, Iraq on March 21, 2003, the first day of the ground war. Photo: Laura Rauch.

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

The air operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom began 12 years ago today, followed by the official start of ground operations 2 days later. We will always remember the courage and the bravery of our troops, and we will never forget our debt of gratitude to all of you, especially the wounded and the Fallen. We pray for you and your families every day. May God bless you all.

27 February 2015

Jump Salute

A U.S. Soldier salutes his fellow Soldiers while jumping from a C-130 Hercules aircraft over a drop zone in Germany, Feb. 24, 2015. The Soldier is assigned to 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group. U.S. Army photo by Jason Johnston.

13 February 2015

R.E.D. Friday - Remember Everyone Deployed!

Tech. Sgt. Travis Egger, 89th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, directs a bus of wounded warriors from the 86th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Ramstein Air Base toward a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III bound for Joint Base Andrews, Maryland Jan. 4, 2015. U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Elizabeth Caraway

08 February 2015

Army Approves Awards for Victims of 2009 Fort Hood Attack

Secretary of the Army John McHugh has approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, following a change in the medals’ eligibility criteria mandated by Congress.

Among those killed was a former Landstuhl staff member, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55 of Pittsburgh.

Lt. Col. Warman served a year at Landstuhl as a certified psychiatric nurse practitioner, where she regularly volunteered for round-trip flights between downrange and Germany, as well as between Germany and the US in order to care for her patients during transition. An expert in post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, Lt. Col. Warman's military career spanned 25 years in active duty and Army reserves. In 2006, she was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for her meritorious service at Landstuhl.

Warman had been at Fort Hood for only 24 hours to be processed for duty in Iraq, a deployment for which she had volunteered.

The Department of Defense has a long history of awarding Purple Hearts to victims of both domestic and foreign terrorist attacks including the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia of 1996, and the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.


Release No: NR-040-15
February 06, 2015
Army Approves Awards for Victims of 2009 Fort Hood Attack

Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced today that he has approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, following a change in the medals’ eligibility criteria mandated by Congress. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the attack by Major Nidal Hasan, who was convicted in August, 2013, of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

“The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood,” McHugh explained. “Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal. It’s an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice.”

Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, Congress expanded the eligibility for the Purple Heart by re-defining what should be considered an attack by a “foreign terrorist organization” for purposes of determining eligibility for the Purple Heart. The legislation states that an event should now be considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization if the perpetrator of the attack “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack” and “the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”

In a review of the Fort Hood incident and the new provisions of law, the Army determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack,” and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been “inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.” Previous criteria required a finding that Hasan had been acting at the direction of a foreign terrorist organization.

McHugh directed Army officials to identify soldiers and civilians now eligible for the awards as soon as possible, and to contact them about presentation of the awards. Soldiers receiving the Purple Heart automatically qualify for combat-related special compensation upon retirement. Recipients are also eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
Following his 2013 conviction, Hasan was sentenced to death by a general court-martial. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while post-trial and appellate processes continue.

For additional information regarding this announcement, please contact Lt. Col. Ben Garret at 703-614-5302 or my email at: benjamin.l.garrett4.mil@mail.mil.

01 February 2015

The Bonds That Will Never Be Broken

Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis previously deployed to Iraq, from April 2008 to May 2009, and to Afghanistan, from June 2010 to May 2011. Ollis deployed with his unit to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in January 2013, and was killed Aug. 28, 2013, defending Forward Operating Base Ghazni. (Photo courtesy of Fort Drum Public Affairs)

On August 28, 2013, 24-year old Staff Sergeant Michael Ollis of the 10th Mountain Division deliberately placed himself between a suicide bomber and Polish Soldier Lt. Karol Cierpica, saving Lt. Cierpa's life. SSG Ollis was killed when the bomb exploded. His actions that day have earned him a Silver Star and a Polish Armed Forces Gold Medal.

And now, he has a namesake.

Earlier this month, the Polish soldier became the proud father of a baby boy he named in honor of Ollis.

Robert Ollis and his wife, Linda, called the tribute to their son "unexpected" and "wonderful."

"I thought of the baby as a grandson," Ollis Sr. said "We are very happy and honored."

To thank Cierpica and his wife, the Ollis family sent the couple a teddy bear they had specially made out of their son's Army fatigues.

Newborn baby Michael Cierpica lies with a teddy bear made from the Army fatigues of Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, the soldier from New Dorp who sacrificed his life saving the infant's father during an attack in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Ollis family, via silive.com)

The Ollis family are hoping to meet "Little Michael" in person some day soon. The families have become close, and last year the Ollises traveled to Poland where they visited with the Cierpicas as well as the other Polish soldiers who served at the same base in Afghanistan.

H/t This Ain't Hell.

23 January 2015

R.E.D. Friday - Remember Everyone Deployed!

U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Arias patrols past a group of Afghan children while providing security in a rural area near the Nangarhar Police Regional Logistics Center in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, Jan. 6, 2015. Arias is assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Train, Advise, Assist Command East. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jarrod Morris.

22 January 2015

Brain Injured Veterans Use Masks to Heal Inner Wounds

Army Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman, who served in Iraq from 2006-2008, confronts the battery of medications he takes daily for blast-force injuries he sustained while treating soldiers as a flight medic. "I know my name, but I don't know the man who used to back up that name." Photo: Lynn Johnson/National Geographic

These "Healing Our Soldiers" images from the February, 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine will take your breath away. They photo essay may be viewed online here.

13 January 2015

We Are Soldiers

In Loving Memory
PFC Gunnar Becker
January 22, 1985 - January 13, 2005

The following poem was written during the 19th and final year of Gunnar's life. He was laid to rest on his 20th birthday. His life was short, but full of love and meaning for all who knew him - and for many more who didn't.

We will love and remember him always.

We are soldiers.
We are soldiers in the United States Army.
We are trained to be all we can be.

We fight for the freedom of many citizens of the United States. We are all ready to meet our fates.

We all volunteer to defend the red, white and blue.
Not only the flag, but for the citizens of our great country too.

Since our country's birth for all these years,
we have been trained to be the best on Earth.

Many times we have went to war.
We will be involved in many more.

Generation by generation soldiers continue to enlist.
Some of us will go to war and definitely be missed.

Some soldiers will return and some won't.
Those who do not, we won't forget and we hope you don't.

Many of us are going to Iraq.
Some of us won't be coming back.

We have loved ones we are leaving behind.
They will always be in our prayers, hearts and mind.

If we don't make it home safely at the end of the war,
just remember we died defending the beliefs of those of many more.

- Gunnar Becker

09 January 2015

R.E.D. Friday - Remember Everyone Deployed!

A C-17 transports medical equipment and personnel to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, based at Ramstein, is responsible for transporting critically ill or injured patients from deployed locations. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Katherine Tereyama/RELEASED. 12/17/2014.

07 January 2015

Winter at Arlington

The first snowfall of the year blankets wreaths adorning the graves in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Jan. 7, 2015. The Memorial Amphitheater, which is the venue for numerous ceremonies honoring service members, can be seen in the background. Arlington National Cemetery photo by Stephen Smith.