Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hospital Corpsman Brings Smiles, Friendship

By Lance Corporal Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division

Husayba, Iraq

Navy Seaman Samuel L. Blanco is a healer. The hospital corpsman geared up in layers of body armor has a bag of tricks he carries that's not just healing the bumps and bruises, scrapes and cuts, but also relations and trust between Americans and local Iraqis.

Blanco provided health care for dozens of Iraqis during a combat patrol with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, through an Iraqi village here September 23.

"From an American view, it gives us a sense of pride to know that Iraqi's would come to us," said Blanco, a 26-year-old from Justin, Texas, assigned to Weapons Company.

He said less that two months ago, Iraqis in this area west of Fallujah were hesitant to even speak to him or the Marines when they first started serving under Regimental Combat Team 5. The mood is changing though. Now, instead of leery stares, parents are bringing their children forward to get a once-over from "Doc" Blanco.

"When they get a serious problem, they can come to us," said Lance Cpl. Paul J. Burns, a mortarman with 81mm Platoon. "They're starting to get close to us and recognizing the 'Doc'." The 22-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, said the locals could pick out the resident medical expert by his calm persona.

"Soon as they found out that I was a 'Doc' everybody was like, 'fix me, fix me, bandage," Blanco said. He doesn't mind it. He said he enjoys contact with the Iraqis.

"Doc's not afraid to get hands-on with the residents," said Lance Cpl. Liam E. Izar, a mortarman with Weapons company. The 20-year-old gunner from Chardon, Ohio, said it's great having him around. "he helps us focus on doing our job," he said.

One time he helped divert a health concern to him while Marines continued conducting combat operations. It was a scary situation for the child in need, but one that left him feeling better and his parents a little more trusting of Marines.

"A guy brought me his kid to fix," Blanco said. "He had a bruise with a laceration. The kid was crying and scared to death of me. I fixed him up and he was smiling when we left."

Blanco cherishes those moments. He said he's doing what he signed up to do. He's helping people, no matter nationality or situation. He's healing bodies and minds.

"It's a humbling experience when people depend on you out here," Blanco said. "It's very rewarding."

Blanco said that helping Iraqis is bigger than himself. It's that one act of common human concern that's bringing American and Iraqis closer.

"It's good to know that we're doing good things for people," he said. "It puts a good feeling in your heart."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Words to Remember

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

- Ronald Reagan
Thank you to all of you who fight for my freedoms.
You are my heroes.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Strike Outs for Troops

Barry Zito meets with soldiers Wasim Khan (left), SGT Larry Gill (center) and CPL Michael Oreskovic, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center before the Oakland A's ~ Washington Nationals Game in Washington, DC.

Strike Outs for Troops is a military support group founded by Barry Zito, pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. he has personally pledged $200 for every strike out be throws in the 2006 season, and has gotten other baseball players to participate as well. You can see their stats at the web site! The money goes to "the benefit of our war wounded being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Hospital and other military hospitals for injuries received during service in Afghanistan, Iraq and other assignments around the world." Zito says, "Please help us to let them know we care and thank them for their bravery and service to our country."
The players involved in this project are:
Barry Zito, Oakland A's
Dontrell Willis, Florida Marlins
Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres
Shawn Estes, San Diego Padres
Curt Shilling, Boston Red Sox
CC Sabathia, Cleveland Indians
Danny Haren, Oakland A's
Matt Miller, Cleveland Indians
Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves
Horacia Ramirez, Atlanta Braves
Chad Codero, Washington Nationals
Rich Harden, Oakland A's
Kirk Saarloos, Oakland A's
Huston Street, Oakland A's
Joe Blanton, Oakland A's
Justin Duchscherer, Oakland A's
Brad Lidge, Houston Astros
Chad Qualls, Houston Astros
Russ Springer, Houston Astros
Dan Wheeler, Houston Astros
Trevor Miller, Houston Astros
Jason Hirsh, Houston Astros
Minor League Pitchers:
Errol Simonitsch, New Britain Rock Cats
Trevor Bell, Angels Rookie Team
Position Players:
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves
Manny Ramirez, LF, Boston Red Sox
Jermaine Dye, RF, Chicago White Sox
Jason Kendall, C, Oakland A's
Nick Swisher, RF, Oakland A's
Mark Kotsay, CF, Oakland A's
Eric Chavez, 3B, Oakland A's
Mark Ellis, 2B, Oakland A's
Eric Byrnes, CF, Arizona Diamondbacks
In 2005, the group raised $137,775. At the half way point of the 2006 season, they had raised $190,836.50.

From Ballpark to Battlefield: Baseball & WWII

On War Stories, October 1 at 8pm and 11pm ET (5pm and 8pm PT), Oliver North presents From Ballpark to Battlefield: Baseball and World War II.

More than 500 major league players and 4,000 minor league players served in the military. Several were stars whose names live on today.

Ted Williams
Bob Feller
Joe DiMaggio
Warren Spahn
Johnny Pesky
Monte Irvin
Morrie Martin
Yogi Berra

They all served in the military during World War II. They interrupted their careers, traded one uniform for another. Watch their stories Sunday on FoxNews channel.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Afghan-Iraqi Freedom War Memorial

Construction is underway for the Afghan-Iraqi Freedom War Memorial in Salem, Oregon. The Memorial is the idea of Clay and MJ Kesterson whose son, Erik, was killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Mosul, Iraq on November 15, 2003. To honor their son's service and sacrifice and that of the others lost in Oregon, they have secured the land near the state capitol and gathered donations for the cost. Their web site is Freedom Isn't Free.

The majority of the people working on the project are volunteers, and most are veterans themselves. This has become a very personal project to many Oregonians who want to honor the lives of those who have served and those who were lost in these battles in the Great War on Terror.

The push is on to finish the Memorial by Veteran's Day. You can see a video and an article on the construction here.

Army CW1 Erik Kesterson was 29 when his Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Mosul, Iraq on November 15, 2003. He was with the 9th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Erik had served eight years in the Marine Corps as a crew chief and gunner on helicopters. He was awarded the Marine Corps Medal of Heroism for pulling seven men out of a burning helicopter crash. After September 11, he re-enlisted in the military, joining the Army's warrant officer program. "He felt he needed to do more for his country. He was very patriotic and believed in this country," his father, Clayton Kesterson of Independence, said. "He's a good man."

As the Kesterson's build something meaningful, we should all remember and pay tribute to the fine young men and women who have sacrificed so much for all of us.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

President Karzai Speaks to America

Hamid Karzai
President of Afghanistan

Today, President Karzai and President Bush had a joint news conference at the White House. To read the full transcript, go to the White House site. President Karzai said several things that all Americans should hear. If you wonder why we are fighting the Great War on Terror, here is a reminder for us all.


"Mr. President, I was, the day before yesterday, in the Walter Reed Hospital. There I met wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there also I met a woman soldier with six boys, from 7 to 21, that she had left behind in America in order to build us a road in a mountainous part of the country in Afghanistan. There's nothing more that any nation can do for another country, to send a woman with children to Afghanistan to help. We are very grateful. I'm glad I came to know that story and I'll be repeating it to the Afghan people once I go back to Afghanistan."


"Terrorism was hurting us way before Iraq or September 11th. The President mentioned some examples of it. These extremist forces were killing people in Afghanistan and around for years, closing schools, burning mosques, killing children, uprooting vineyards, with vine trees, grapes hanging on them, forcing populations to poverty and misery.

They came to America on September 11th, but they were attacking you before September 11th in other parts of the world. We are a witness in Afghanistan to what they are and how they can hurt. You are a witness in New York. Do you forget people jumping off the 80th floor or 70th floor when the planes hit them? Can you imagine what it will be for a man or a woman to jump off that high? Who did that? And where are they now? And how do we fight them, how do we get rid of them, other than going after them? Should we wait for them to come and kill us again? That's why we need more action around the world, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, to get them defeated -- extremism, their allies, terrorists and the like.

On the remarks of my brother, President Musharraf, Afghanistan is a country that is emerging out of so many years of war and destruction, and occupation by terrorism and misery that they've brought to us. We lost almost two generations to the lack of education. And those who were educated before that are now older. We know our problems. We have difficulties. But Afghanistan also knows where the problem is -- in extremism, in madrassas preaching hatred, preachers in the name of madrassas preaching hatred. That's what we should do together to stop.

The United States, as our ally, is helping both countries. And I think it is very important that we have more dedication and more intense work with sincerity, all of us, to get rid of the problems that we have around the world."


"We come across difficulties as we are moving forward, and that's bound to happen. And we get over those difficulties, we resolve them, and we go to the next stage of this fight against terrorism for all the allies.

At one stage four years ago, we had a war against them to dislodge from Afghanistan, to remove them from being the government of Afghanistan. And then there were major operations against them to arrest or to chase them out. And then we began to rebuild the country, to have roads, to have schools, to have health clinics, to have education, to have all other things that people need all over the world. And now we are at a stage of bringing more stability and trying to get rid of them forever. The desire is to do that sooner. But a desire is not always what you get. So it will take time, and we must have the patience to have the time spent on getting rid of them for good.

On narcotics, it is a problem. It is an embarrassment to Afghanistan. And I told President Bush earlier in my conversation with him we feel very much embarrassed for having narcotics growing in our country. But again, it has come to Afghanistan because of years of our desperation and lack of hope for tomorrow. I know Afghan families, ma'am, who destroyed their pomegranate orchards or vineyards to replace them with poppies, because they did not know if they were going to have their children the next day, if they were going to be in their own country the next day, if they were going to be having their home standing the next day. It has become a reality because of jobs and years of misery.

We have worked on the problem. In some areas of the country, we have succeeded; in other areas of the country, we have failed, because of the circumstances, and because of our own failures. We have discussed that, and we will continue to be very steadfast. It is Afghanistan's problem, so Afghanistan is responsible for it and Afghanistan should act on it, with the help of our friends in the United States and the rest of the world."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Oregon Korean War Memorial ~ With Honor

When we travel on business, we attempt to see the historical things that are in the area - if we can find the time. This trip, we were able to visit the Oregon Korean War Memorial in Wilsonville, Oregon. This beautiful memorial is a gift from the Korean War Veterans Association, Oregon Trail Chapter. It sits in the midst of a beautiful park. When we visited, the park was nearly empty, but we saw several people stop and pay their respects. Just south of Portland, Oregon, it is a visit worth making.

The 94' long Wall of Honor contains the names of the 298 servicemen from Oregon killed in the Korean War. It also contains a remembrance and honor to the Oregon Medal of Honor winner, SFC Loren Kaufman, from the Korean War. The large area is paved with story boards of the highlights of the war and paver stones from donors. The flags of the United States, MIA/POW, Republic of Korea, State of Oregon and the United Nations fly above the memorial. It is a place of honor - serene and respectful. It makes you value and remember the sacrifices made for us.

SFC Loren R Kaufman

July 27, 1923 - February 10, 1951

U.S. Army, Company G, 9th Infantry Regiment

Earned The Medal of Honor During the Korean War For Heroism

September4 & 05, 1950 at Yongsan, Korea

Citation: SFC Kaufman distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. On the night of 4 September the company was in a defensive position on 2 adjoining hills. His platoon was occupying a strong point 2 miles away protecting the battalion flank. Early on 5 September the company was attacked by an enemy battalion and his platoon was ordered to reinforce the company. As his unit moved along a ridge it encountered a hostile encircling force. SFC Kaufman, running forward, bayoneted the lead scout and engaged the column in a rifle and grenade assault. His quick Vicious attack so surprised the enemy that they retreated in confusion. When his platoon joined the company he discovered that the enemy had taken commanding ground and pinned the company down in a draw. Without hesitation SFC Kaufman charged the enemy lines firing his rifle and throwing grenades. During the action, he bayoneted 2 enemy and seizing an unmanned machine gun, delivered deadly fire on the defenders. Following this encounter the company regrouped and resumed the attack. Leading the assault he reached the ridge, destroyed a hostile machine gun position, and routed the remaining enemy. Pursuing the hostile troops he bayoneted 2 more and then rushed a mortar position shooting the gunners. Remnants of the enemy fled to a village and SFC Kaufman led a patrol into the town, dispersed them, and burned the buildings. The dauntless courage and resolute intrepid leadership of SFC Kaufman were directly responsible for the success of his company in regaining its positions, reflecting distinct credit upon himself and upholding the esteemed traditions of the military service.

Five months later, SFC Kaufman was killed in the action in Korea. He was from The Dalles, Oregon and had also served in WWII. Never forget his sacrifice, his honor, his courage.

Sparing with the Moonbats!!!

We spent the weekend at a festival. As a fiber artist, these festivals are my link to business, where I sell my creations. I always enjoy and dread them, though. The vendors are made up of three groups - those who create, those who create badly and those who make money off of others creations. The latter are loud and aggressive and represent those who feel too fragile to put their face on their products - what a shame. In both groups are those who like to masquerade like enlightened pacifists, but are aggressive and hostile in their demeanor. Fortunately, most customers are oblivious to any of the dynamics.

What I have seen seeping into the festivals of the last several years is something I hate to see, and that is politics. Five years ago, hardly a person walked through without wearing an American Flag t-shirt, pin, hat... how quickly we forget. I have heard the political nonsense seeping in for the past several years, but this year, it was inappropriately evident with bumper stickers and pins like "Knit Gloves, Make Peace" and "Spinners for World Peace." I didn't say they made any sense.

During set-up, it is not unusual to see the true faces of people that you are located near. Some go out of their way to make a point - never terribly deep nor well thought out. While I was setting up, another vendor came over and the following occurred:
Vendor: "I want to see your new designs."
Me: "I only have a couple this year."
Vendor: "Aren't you designing anymore?"
Me: "Of course. But, I've been busy with my charity knitting. You know, we all have a gift from God, and I think we have a responsibility to give back with it when we can."
Vendor: "Oh, what are you knitting for charity?"
Me: "I make hand and foot warmers for the wounded soldiers in transit. I also knit a lot of comfort blankets for the hospitals."
Vendor: "That's a shame."
Me: (puzzled look)
Vendor: "Don't you think?"
Me: (still puzzled) "I don't know what you are talking about."
Vendor: "THE WAR"
Me: (now being bratty!) "Which War?"
Vendor: "The Iraq War"
Me: "What about Afghanistan?"
Vendor: (now puzzled)
Me: "What about the Horn of Africa? What about Kosovo? What about the Philippines? What about...
Vendor: "This is about Iraq!"
Me: "What is?"
Vendor: "THE WAR"
Me: "Which War?"

Okay, so it became a little like an Abbott and Costello skit. I couldn't resist. Fortunately, we were interrupted by someone else walking up who said, "What's going on?" The Vendor says, "We have a difference of opinion on THE WAR." I said, "I haven't given any opinions on any war, I don't even know which war she is talking about."

It was stupid and a waste of time, but I never did tell her my opinions or discuss them with her. Later, she handed me one of those stupid pins to wear. You know what happened to it.

Home now - safely back in my cocoon of sanity!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

History is Our Stories ~ A Remarkable American

He shares his birthday with that of our Constitution. And, each year when September 17 rolls around, I am thankful for our Constitution and I am thankful for him. He's been gone for eighteen years, but I think of him often - especially in these years when our country is in such grave danger from outside forces. He would be on the "front lines" of this war, just as he was through all of the wars in his lifetime. He didn't carry a gun, but he carried support for our troops, their mission, prayer and love of country throughout his life.

My grandfather was the most remarkable American I ever knew. He wasn't a large man - about 5'8" tall, but he was always a giant to me. He was a modest man. He came from a town in Iowa that was (and is) so small it is difficult to find on a map. He left school after the sixth grade because he was needed on the farm. Yet, he was self-educated and more astute than most of the highly degreed people I have known. He sold turkeys door to door in this rural farming community to "win" an engagement ring for my grandmother. Can you imagine trudging through the snow in 1926 to sell butchered turkeys to farmers?! I have the ring now. He married at 18, stayed married to the same woman until his death - 62 years. He raised my mother. He loved his family. He carried his God in his heart everyday. He worked as many jobs as it took to support his family through the depression, eventually moving the family to California for more opportunity. He worked hard and he learned fast. He became a diesel mechanic and worked himself up to the upper levels of management, yet he still came home with the smell of diesel and grease under his fingernails.

And, he loved his country! Sunday, December 7, 1941, he stayed out all night. This was a man who liked to be in bed by 8:30. It was the only night anyone can remember that he didn't come home (save the nights he was called out of bed to go fix a truck that was broken down on the road). He was out in the cold fog of the San Joaquin Valley standing in line all night at the recruiting office. He was turned down - too old (he was 33), too valuable at home. He tried all of the branches of the military - too old, too valuable at home. He drove to various communities trying to enlist - too old, too valuable at home. It bothered him all of his life that he wasn't allowed to serve in the military. What he did do was keep the trucks running that were carrying war supplies, and did it with limited gasoline and tires and parts - too valuable at home. "We kept 'em runnin' with spit when we had to," he'd say. Friends told me he used to write notes to the men overseas and tuck them in the boxes of supplies they were hauling. He worked long hours and never faltered. He also put the family on additional restrictions in addition to government rationing and bought war bonds every week to help support the men overseas.

And, he loved the flag. He flew the flag on every holiday that called for it. The last home he bought was across the street from a grade school. I thought it was an odd place to purchase a retirement home and asked him about it. He got the twinkle in his eye and said, "Most days I can watch the flag flying over there. That gives me peace in my heart." He made me promise that when I owned my own home I would put up a flag pole and fly the flag. I kept that promise - you can see it at the top of the blog. He loved sports and I spent many hours watching football and baseball with him. Even at home, when the Star Spangled Banner played, he stood up and placed his hand over his heart, and you could always detect the hint of tears glistening in the corner of his eyes.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day he would buy small flags on sticks and go to the cemeteries. He would walk the rows and place flags at any veterans grave that didn't have a remembrance on it. He would say "Thank you for my country." I went with him one year, and was amazed by the love and tenderness he felt for men he never knew. He wanted them to be remembered always for what they had done for his country.

I asked him one time why he did all of these things. He looked at me and said, "Everything good you have in life is because you are an American - a free woman who can do what she wants to do. And, you owe it to the military and to that flag to never forget."

During the Vietnam War, we were having an intense conversation about the war. He looked at me with an intensity and an anger I will never forget and said, "I hate this war. I hate it because people haven't supported the men who are fighting it. I hate it because politicians are using it to act important and aren't supporting the men they sent to fight it. I hate this war because all future wars will be haunted by it." (Did I tell you he was a forecaster of the future?)

I'm glad he didn't live to see September Eleventh, or the bombing of our embassies or the USS Cole. I'm glad he didn't live to see the War on Terror. I'm glad he didn't live to see the country torn apart once again - haunted by the Vietnam War. I'm glad he didn't live to see us on the brink of a religious war, something he said I would see in my lifetime. I know it would have broken his heart.

I remember him for his remarkable patriotism - for his ability to forgive his country for her weaknesses and to celebrate her strengths. I remember him for the love he gave to his family - right or wrong. I remember him for the ever present smile, the internal happiness that came from "being an American". I remember him for the old hymns he was always singing, even though carrying a tune was not one of his gifts - "God doesn't care if I can't sound good, He cares that I sing my love."

I value what he taught me more and more each year. After his funeral, I went back to the cemetery with one of those flags he kept for the holidays and put one on his grave, and said, "Thank you for teaching me to love my country." He was a remarkable American!

We all know a remarkable American or two - don't ever forget what they teach by the way they live. Take the time to remember their stories. If you feel inclined, write them down, send them to me and I will post them here. My email link is at the top of the blog - next to the flag!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Beauty in the War Zone

Americans have an incredible ability to turn whatever they have into the beauty of home.

Here are two amazing stories that illustrate what I mean.

Sgt. Otis C. Wells, base reaction force, 122nd Engineer Company, South Carolina Army National Guard shows off some of the okra he harvested from his garden in front of his living quarters on Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit, Iraq.

By Sgt. Waine D. Haley
133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
TIKRIT, Iraq, Aug. 10, 2006 —
Any war veteran can tell you how important personal time is and how it helps soldiers cope with the separation from home and family.

Sgt. Otis C. Wells, base reaction force, 122nd Engineer Company, South Carolina Army National Guard, uses his personal time to grow a garden in the middle of a desert. “I used my time between missions to work on my garden,” Wells said. “That’s what I like to do … I do it every year back home.”

The native of Wagener, S.C., had to create all the tools needed to work his garden. He found pieces of an old rake and fixed it to use as a hoe. A shovel served as his tiller. The water was carried by hand from the house until a local national helped him configure an irrigation system using a water tank and a trenching system.

The only thing he could not find here were the seeds. Wells’ wife, Diann, sent him the beans, okra, corn and watermelon seeds from home. “The ground here is great … all you need is water,” Wells said. “I didn’t even have to use fertilizer.” Wells said his corn popped out of the ground in a matter of days. The only problem he had was timing. He noted that he planted his crops a little late for the desert growing season, and that the July sun is considerably hotter than in South Carolina at this time of year and difficult to manage.

“I started the garden in April, when I should have started it in February,” he said. “I saw the local farmers were already harvesting their crops and mine were just starting to come up.”

Wells said he is proud of his garden and noted that although he had to overcome some harsh conditions and foreign pests to reach his harvest; the fruits — and vegetables — of his labor were just as sweet here as they are back home.

Thank you to DefenseLink for the Story.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Donald J. Hodory sits in the newly upgraded base chapel at Al Asad, Iraq, Aug. 30. Hodory, a native of Woodstock, Ill., is a builder with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25, 9th Naval Construction Regiment, and made the stained-glass windows for the chapel. Hodory was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for constructing 60 artistic windows for the chapel.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chad McMeen

By Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach andLance Cpl. James B. Hoke, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
AL ASAD, Iraq, Sept. 5, 2006 —

In the midst of a combat zone it may be hard for one to find beauty, but with the help of one Naval petty officer, servicemembers deployed here will get a little taste of heaven when visiting the base chapel.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Donald J. Hodory, builder, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25, 9th Naval Construction Regiment, saw a need and took the necessary steps to make the newly constructed chapel more like a religious sanctuary in the states.

"The idea for stained-glass windows came more as a dream than anything else," said Hodory. "When I heard that the new chapel was being built, it just made perfect sense to fabricate stained-glass windows for it."

The native of Woodstock, Ill., has been in the stained-glass industry for roughly 12 years, and he now owns an architectural stained-glass studio. "The planning phase of this required us to get the supplies donated from stateside companies," said Hodory. "

A friend of mine owns (a stained-glass manufacturing company) in Wisconsin, where they coordinated all the donations and shipped the supplies to the Army's 67th (Air Support Group) headquarters in Nebraska."

"When Hodory first approached me about making the stained glass, I was a little skeptical," said Army Capt. Brian Kane, chaplain, 67th ASG. "The way this entire project fell into place still amazes me. So many people had a part in making this happen. I wasn't even sure that the chapel would be finished by the time our year was over, let alone that it would have stained glass."

With the help of the soldiers with the 67th ASG, Hodory was able to receive the supplies and complete the windows well before his departure from Iraq.

"The gratification I received is far greater than any other project I have worked on in my life," said Hodory.

"There is no other place in the world where spiritual health is more important than in Iraq."For his accomplishments, Hodory was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, a medal that is for servicemembers who go above and beyond in their service to the Army.

"This project has been above and beyond from the start," said Kane. "Hodory had to continue all of his regular duties and find time to work on the windows, sometimes working late into the night. He also took time to teach others some of his skills so they could help, but also because they wanted to learn."

According to Hodory, the journey to the completion of this project was one of the main obstacles that kept him focused upon it.

"I have met so many new people because of this project, and they have all enriched my life in one way or another," said Hodory. "It was unbelievable, the outpouring of help that I received from so many people on this project."

Although many friends were made along the way, Hodory had other motivations to spur him towards the completion of this project.

"My inspiration for the stained-glass windows came from the desire to contribute my talents for something that will have tremendous longevity," said Hodory. "It was an opportunity for the Seabees to leave a unique legacy, along with all the other major accomplishments they have had in the history of this deployment. These windows will remain long after we have returned to our lives in the (United States.)"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Celebrating the Military Working Dog

Michele and Max in Afghanistan

Sgt Joseph L. Fowler and Dak.

Sgt. Fowler was severely burned by an IED explosion on Dec 11, 2005. His working dog Dak, was killed in the same explosion.

The Military Working Dogs and their handlers in the Army, Air Force and Marines are some of the unsung heroes in our military. They search for explosives, IEDs, mines and weapons caches. They serve as trackers, as sentries, as scouts and are used for protection. Most of the dogs are German Shepards or Belgian Malinois.

These mighty warriors have saved countless lives. They are on the front lines with our troops and we should all be aware of the sacrifices they make, as dogs such as Dak have given their lives for the mission they were on.

AL ASAD (May 24, 2006) -- Written by Lance Cpl. James B. Hoke
The sand-filled air and scorching heat of Iraq creates hard conditions for the service members deployed to the war-torn country, and the environment is no less pleasing for the furry four-legged friends of the Military Working Dogs and handlers who support them.

During a deployment, MWDs with Military Police Task Force, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, play the exact same roles as the service members, as they get used to the climate of their new home away from home and carry out their missions to the best of their abilities.

"We have different dogs that do different things," said Staff Sgt. Gregory S. Massey, regional kennel master of the Western area of operations, Military Police Task Force. "Some find bombs, some find people, some find drugs and some do a combination thereof. A lot of the units take them on raids, route clearing and stuff like that.

"They do a lot of different types of missions," the 36-year-old native of Nashville, Tenn., continued. "On base, it is just like garrison back at home. It's clearing for VIPs coming in. We can use them for crowd control or moving people around, too.

"Between the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the MWDs' training did not focus as much on operational missions as they do today.

"It was mainly law enforcement," said Massey, a Danahills High School graduate. "They just went out and did cop stuff, drug searches, bomb searches and normal MP patrols. So when this all began, we had to shift our training to focus more on the operating forces.

"Although the dogs are now in a combat environment where they perform mission after mission, they still maintain their training on a daily basis."Training is continuous so that you can keep the dogs sharp," said Sgt. Alex M. Reeb, MWD handler, Military Police Task Force. "For the dogs, the work is the play, as they don't understand the concept of work. To them, finding an (Improvised Explosive Device) is their play."

According to Massey, the dogs prefer to be in a deployed environment more than their comfortable concrete kennels in the United States.

"They miss their family and don't get paid the combat pay," said Massey. "On a serious note, they actually like it better out here in a lot of ways. The climate is harder to get used to, but they get used to it. It is more of a home environment. Right now, we have dogs inside, sleeping in beds with their handlers in their racks. Back in the States, they are sleeping in a nice kennel, but they are by themselves. So when they come out here, they are with their handler 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"While the dogs are in Iraq, they form an extremely close bond with the main person who looks out for them -- their handler.

"We use the term 'Dog Team,' as we've spent so much time with our dogs that it is pretty much one mind," said Reeb, a 24-year-old native of San Angelo, Texas. "It's not about who is the best handler or the best dog, but who is the best 'Dog Team.'

"While the dogs enjoy being deployed with their handlers to distant lands, they are still subject to combat stress.

"It was funny because we never attributed combat stress to dogs, but it does affect them," said Massey. "We had a dog diagnosed with combat stress. Back home, we can only simulate the environments and situations so much. Some dogs are just like some people and shut down. Not very many, but it does happen.

"The dogs are most credited for the abilities they possess that help them complete their mission, as well as their morale building friendliness. "They can do some amazing things," said Massey. "They can smell so much better than we can. They increase security for the base and individuals on patrol. They also build morale, as the units kind of adopt them. When they do find something, it may just be one bomb to save one Marine, but that is enough. They save lives."


The pictures above are of people I am honored to know.
**Michele and Max were soldiers I adopted in 2005. They served in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
** Joe is doing well on his burn recovery and still mourns the loss of Dak. They served in Iraq.

There are plans for a Military Working Dog memorial to honor all of the dogs who have served and those who were lost. For more information, go to the The United States War Dogs Association site.

You can also visit the official DOD site for Military Working Dogs.

Monday, September 18, 2006

History is Our Stories ~ Guy Gabaldon

Guy Louis Gabaldon
March 22, 1926 - August 31, 2006

This is the tale of another World War II vet who has left us. His story falls in to the truth is stranger than fiction category - and, my, what a story! His story was turned into the movie, Hell to Eternity. His tour in the Pacific was a colorful one! I need to rent the movie - I never realized it was a true story!

Guy was known as the "Pied Piper of Saipan" for single-handedly capturing Japanese soldiers. The number varies with each report, from 800 - 1500, but it is impressive. Guy was an Hispanic "street kid" in Los Angeles. He was eventually taken in by a Japanese-American family as a foster child. He says that his street-smarts and his smattering of Japanese allowed him the ability to capture all of these soldiers. He was a small man - less that 5'4" and about 130 pounds when he enlisted at age 17. His story is told in the movie and in his autobiography Saipan: Suicide Island. His remains are to be scattered on Mount Tapochau on Saipan and in the U.S.

For more information about Guy Gabaldon, visit his web site.

This is the article that appeared in The War Times Journal.

By James Burbeck

On July 7, 1944, the battle to secure the Japanese occupied island of Saipan peaked in one of the largest banzai charges of the Pacific War. This charge, which lasted over 15 hours, brought the total losses for this bloody World War Two campaign to over 30,000. The next morning, American Marine reconnaissance patrols edged their dangerous way forward to map out Japanese lines. As one patrol approached the seacliffs which line the north side of the island, they were greeted by a rare sight. On the flats at the top of the cliff, was a single American Marine surrounded by hundreds of Japanese troops, many of them still armed. One might have thought that this Marine was experiencing his last moments on earth. But as they watched, it became obvious that this lone Marine was actually ordering his hundreds of "prisoners" into smaller groups, even as more Japanese streamed quietly up from their ocean-side caves. Eventually, 800 Japanese soldiers and civilians surrendered on this one morning, an astonishing number considering that the battle for Tarawa, a few months earlier, had produced only 146 prisoners from a total garrison of nearly 5,000!

That lone Marine was Private Guy Gabaldon, and by the time of his July 8 "bagging" of 800 prisoners, he had already become famous on Saipan for his capture of hundreds of die-hard enemy troops using a brisk combination of fluent "street" Japanese and point-blank carbine fire. Indeed, his performance was so impressive that he was awarded almost total discretion for the remainder of the campaign, and his solo raids into Japanese lines soon became a hot topic throughout the island.

Previous to July 8, his routine had been simple but effective; carefully approach a cave, shoot any guards outside (if any), move off to one side of the cave and yell "You're surrounded and have no choice but to surrender. Come out, and you will not be killed! I assure you will be well treated. We do not want to kill you!" At this point, anyone running out with a weapon would be immediately shot, but anyone coming out slowly would be talked into returning to the cave and bringing out others.

On his first sortie, Guy captured seven prisoners using this method, only to be told by his commander that if he deserted his post again he would be court-marshalled. The next morning, Guy returned from another unauthorized trip, this time with 50 Japanese prisoners. From that moment, Guy was granted the envious privilege of "lone wolf" operator. He could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. The perfect task for a tough Chicano kid from the East Los Angeles barrios!

On July 6, Guy left on another of his evening patrols, and entered an area near Saipan's northern cliffs. It seemed fairly deserted at the time, but before daybreak, he realized that hundreds of enemy infantry were moving onto the flats and gathering for an assault. By this time he was cut off from any path of retreat, and any attempt to show himself would have resulted in a quick and noisy death. He remained under cover and listened as thousands of Japanese troops and some civilians drank sake and noisily prepared for the largest banzai charge of the campaign. This tragic and unsuccessful charge ended late that evening, with most of the remaining Japanese returning to their cliff-side positions.

The next morning, Guy crept to the edge of the cliffs, where he quickly captured two guards. It was then that he embarked on the most dangerous of his many ventures. After talking to the two men, he convinced one of them to return to the caves below. This was a personal moment of truth for both of them. If the soldiers below were too "worked up," then everyone involved would face immediate death, and a disgraceful one at that for the two guards. A short while later, a Japanese officer and some of his men walked slowly up from the caves and sat down in front of Gabaldon. Within an hour, hundreds of Japanese infantry accompanied by some civilians began surrendering en-masse; the gamble had paid off.

This climactic morning did not end Guy's prisoner-taking days. By the time he was machine-gunned in an ambush, he single-handedly captured over 1,500 soldiers and civilians from the most fanatically inclined army in the world! Decades later, stories of the "Pied Piper of Saipan" continued to be told and retold within the Marine Corps, although they were considered by many to be some of the great "fish stories" of World War Two.

Saipan veterans, however, knew these stories to be true. Guy's actions were witnessed by dozens of officers and hundreds of line soldiers, many of whom repeatedly went on record affirming the dozens of lone sorties and hundreds of prisoners. While the war still raged, his commanders requested that Guy receive the Medal of Honor, but somehow a silver star arrived, which was only later elevated to a Navy Cross. And while many contrasted Guy's 1,500 prisoners to Alvin York's 132, the United States Marine Corps of the 1940's did not seem interested in further investigation and so the matter has lain dormant ever since. Only in the last year have veterans become anxious to resolve this long delayed case and pushed for Guy's Medal of Honor. More recently, the City of Los Angeles and district Congressional representatives have petitioned the Navy to investigate this matter to help assure a fair resolution

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Constitution Day ~ September 17

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Born from a long and costly struggle, the United States Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. 55 delegates from twelve of the the states (Rhode Island did not participate) met and through long and arduous hours developed the Constitution. 39 of the delegates signed it. It was finally ratified by the states and took effect in 1789. It is the form of government that we have today. I am always amazed that this group of men could write something that we live by 219 years later.

The Department of Defense has a great mini course on the Constitution - you can even print out a certificate of completion if you want to!

For lots of information, visit the National Archives site.

Today is Constitution Day - a much forgotten day in modern America, but a day that gave us all that we still hold dear.

How is Your Knowledge of the Constitution?

Here are links to two tests about citizenship, based on your knowledge of the Constitution.

The first is a short and graded test you can take in a few minutes.

The second is a link to the study guide for the citizenship test.
(Begins on Page 61 at )

Could you pass the citizenship test?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Honoring Oregon's Fallen

I have listed the fallen from the state of Oregon on the side bar of my blog. I hope you will take the time to scroll down and honor them - those who gave the ultimate for our country, for each of us. Let us always remember their sacrifice.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Words from Cicero ~ Lest History Repeat Itself

“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.” —Marcus Tullius Cicero

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Book Review - Iraq: Providing Hope

I stumbled upon this book recently and was delighted when I read it. It is a compilation of 54 people who were in Iraq as soldiers, contractors or from the Iraqis themselves. It presents a view of our efforts in Iraq quite differently than anything you have ever seen in the Media. These are the stories that make the history real.

From the website:

"This is not about the generals, journalists or politicians. This is about the everyday Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, governent employees, aid workers and Iraqis. Seen through their eyes, here are their stories of fear, courage, bravery, anxiety and, most of all, hope. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have been bravely combating danger, living in miserable conditions and doing a great job. The bottom line is that we, as a nation, have freed twenty-five million people from a murderous dictator and have embarked on a plan to provide them a new beginning with a new constitution that protects human rights and provides hope."

Book Excerpts:

“There is no kind of job satisfaction then when a child hands you a bundle of flowers and thanks you freeing his country. Nothing I have done in my life outside of the Army can compare to having that kind of impact on someone’s life. Not politics and not business. So, I guess it is worth the sacrifice and pain." -Fred Wellman

“Although I was not surprised, I was humbled by the fact that a man with no right hand drove standard better than I could. I had learned early on during my time in Iraq that its people are intelligent and resourceful. I saw the evening’s events as another step toward progress in Iraq, a blending of resources and talents to accomplish a common goal. But more importantly, I saw an Iraqi, overcoming the scars left by years of tyranny, taking the driver’s seat toward his own destiny." -Anne Trenolene

Reading this book was a wonderful ride of all of the emotions. The realities of Iraq became more real for me than any other source has done. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in what is happening in Iraq.

You can purchase the book at the Iraq Providing Hope website. Profits from the book go to TAPS - Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

History is Our Stories - One from the Pentagon

Our history is a compilation of our stories. When someone becomes enamoured with history, it is because of the stories of the individuals, the letters, the individual accounts - far more than names and dates and places.

Through the 2,996 project, we had the opportunity to hear many of the stories of the people who were lost that day. But, there are also the stories of the survivors. I received this in an email from a Pentagon survivor, and with her permission, am posting it here for you to read. Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing your story. It is the story of the American spirit - personified by the military.

There is often talk about the Brotherhood of Arms for Soldiers who have faced combat together. Similarly, there is a “Brotherhood of 9-11” among Soldiers, civilian government employees, contractors who were in the Pentagon on September 11, five years ago. I was in uniform then, the deputy for Army Public Affairs and on the “E” (Outermost) ring of the Pentagon, one wedge over from where the plane came in.

We watched the second plane fly into the Tower in New York while preparing for a meeting, and immediately we knew this was not an accident. It was an attack. My colleague commented, “You know, we are a target.” The comment passed and we started the meeting. Eight minutes later, the shock wave hit, the air was sucked out of the room and I looked up to see silver debris raining down outside the window.

My organization was lucky. We lost all our offices, computers, equipment. My general and I lost all our dress uniforms, as we kept them at the Pentagon and rotated them through the cleaners there. But we only had two people injured, and none killed. One major whose office was in the direct path of the plane had wandered down to the snack bar for a morning coffee, and missed being killed by minutes.

We went to our rally point in the parking lot and took accountability of our people. I kept the group moving until they were out of the line of sight of both the road and the Pentagon, fearing a second attack by another plane or by vehicles, as thousands of Pentagon employees lined the road after evacuating the building. Then the XO and I circled the entire building to find the rest of our people. Two were injured; four were standing by the crash site, waiting for a chance to go in and help the victims. One was helping the firefighters navigate the maze of corridors to get hoses to the interior areas. One snuck back in the building to retrieve the purse of a civilian employee who was 9 months pregnant and needed her ID cards and prescriptions.

Everyone outside was on a cell phone, and none of the signals were getting through. Finally, about 1 pm, I was able to contact my husband, a schoolteacher, and let him know I was alive and out of the building. Ten minutes later, I went back into the building, to work in the Army Operations Center to help set up a call-in line to help account for the dead and living. Later that night, I drove a colleague home, finally realizing that I was in shock as I could not retrace my route to the freeway, to continue on home. I circled his housing area, cursing for 30 minutes, before finding my way out and getting home.

There I found my teenage son and my husband stoically waiting. I had been to war before, but this was different. I had no way to shoot back. No target.

The next morning I went back to work—to the Pentagon. I was proud to see that even those we had ordered to stay home were clamoring to be assigned somewhere to do something to help. As they did that day. As they continued to do while scattered around six different sites to find desk space and computer access to help tell the story of what happened to us on 9-11, and more importantly, that our work and our mission continued.

Stephanie L. Hoehne

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Farewell to Two Oregon Soldiers

The events in Afghanistan this past weekend have resulted in the deaths of two soldiers from Oregon --- SSGT Robert J Paul and SGT Nathaniel "Brad" Lindsey.

While we were all paying tributes to those lost on September Eleventh, it was sobering to learn of two more deaths caused by terrorism. We take the loss of all soldiers quite personally, but it is especially difficult to loose those whom we feel bonded to by statehood.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families, friends and their units at this difficult time of loss. We will ever be grateful for the sacrifices they made to protect us and keep us safe and free.

Please read the tributes below to each of them.

SGT Brad Lindsey, Farewell and Walk with God

SGT Nathaniel "Brad" Lindsey

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier, who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Sgt. Nathaniel B. Lindsey, 38, of Troutdale, Oregon, died on September 9 in Shajoy, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his HMMWV encountered undetermined ordnance from enemy forces during patrol operations. Lindsey was assigned to the Army National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team, Portland, Oregon and part of the 205th Regional Corps Advisory Group, part of Task Force Phoenix, responsible for training the Afghan National Army. He was a gunner in an uparmored HMMVV.

SGT Brad Lindsey is the first of Oregon's 41st Brigade Combat Team to die since the brigade deployed in June 2006 for a yearlong mission. Part of the Oregon National Guard, he was part of the largest wartime deployment of the ONG since WWII. 900 soldiers are in Afghanistan to help train the Afghan military. The initial reports say that his unit, along with Afghan soldiers came upon a false checkpoint set up by the Taliban, and were attacked with IED's and RPG's. Four Afghan soldiers were killed, and one American and six Afghans were wounded in the attack.

SGT Lindsey first served four years in the Navy aboard the USS Enterprise. He had been in the Oregon National Guard for eleven years. He deployed five times in that time. Recent deployments: to Iraq as an infantryman in 2003, to Katrina last year, and to Afghanistan this year. He volunteered to go on the Afghanistan mission. In civilian life, he was an armored-car driver.

SGT Lindsey is survived by his wife Joyce, three step-children, his daughter, parents and grandparents. His oldest stepson was also a member of the Oregon National Guard.

His wife, Joyce, said, "Bottom line is God decides when it's his time. The Taliban doesn't decide that.

A story about Brad. He was a fan of a local radio show. When home on leave from Iraq, Joyce made arrangements for Brad to visit with Lars Larson. Brad brought him gifts - a cigar liberated from a palace, a mug with his unit insignia and some old Iraqi dinars. He told Lars to keep the dinars so he would always know the face of evil (Saddam). Lars keeps them in his wallet.

Photos and Story Reference: Salem News
Other Information: The Oregonian

The Legacy Page to leave a tribute for SGT Lindsey.

SSG Robert J Paul, Farewell and God Speed

Staff Sargent Robert J. Paul

The Department of Defense announced the death of two soldiers, who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 8, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near their HMMWV. Both soldiers were assigned to the Army Reserve's 405th Civil Affairs Battalion, Fort Bragg, N.C. Killed were: Sgt. 1st Class Merideth L. Howard, 52, of Alameda, California and Staff Sgt. Robert J. Paul, 43, of The Dalles, Oregon.

As Oregonians, we take the death of each of our soldiers quite personally. As we bid farewell to another, it is important to remember the man he was and the family he left behind.

Staff Sgt Robert J Paul, an Army Reservist, was assigned to the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade, HHC, based in Portland, Oregon. These units serve as the main liaison between the military and the civilian populations of the country where the military is operating.

SSG Paul was originally from Hammond, Indiana. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya from 1987-1989. He earned a Master's Degree in Urban Planning and Economic Development in 1995 from the University of Maryland. He joined the Army Reserve in April 1997. In 1998, He began working for the City of The Dalles, Oregon as an associate planner and became the senior planner. In 2001, he joined the Wasco County Planning Department as the senior land-use planner.

SSG Paul was a great lover of the wilderness and an avid kayaker. "Bob loved this area so much. He moved out here because he loved the west, he loved Oregon, and he loved the gorge (the Columbia River Gorge). He was very much into hiking and trailrunning and whitewater kayaking, all the outdoor experience," said Todd Cornett, Planning director.

In early 2004, SSG Paul was called to active duty and sent to Iraq to help build infrastructure, focusing on urban planning. He was deployed to Afghanistan in Spring of 2006. While in Iraq, he wrote, "It was pretty obvious what was broken and rundown. Saddam did absolutely no maintenance to his cities. Everything was broken or about to break. I had expected to do a lot of repair from military actions. Not at all. Those buildings were, for the most part, destroyed. I was performing maintenance and repair on systems that were not maintained for decades. They were also poorly designed. Naturally, I worked with community groups and the like to get projects aimed at what civilians wanted most rather than what I thought they should want most."

In a statement released by the Army, his family said, "Bob was the kind of guy, who if called for duty, would serve. he never turned down an opportunity because he always wanted to make a difference in everything he did -- the Peace Corps, the Army, his civilian job and, most importantly, his family and friends."

SSG Robert Paul is survived by his daughter, Ilena; mother and father, Esther and Sheldon; and sisters, Monica and Debra.

As we say farewell and God Speed to SSG Robert Paul, we value what he sacrificed for us and what he gave to so many while he was here.

For more information:
The Dalles Chronicle
The Oregonian

Legacy page to leave a tribute for SSGT Paul

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering the Fallen on September Eleventh

Throughout the "Blogsphere" you will find tributes to those who lost their lives on September Eleventh. We have each taken a name and embraced them.

For a list of the tributes, go here and here.

Please remember the lives that were taken from us five years ago.

It is my humbling experience to pay tribute to Major Dwayne Williams who was lost at the Pentagon.

Major Dwayne Williams ~ I Remember

Major Dwayne Williams
March 19, 1961 - Septemer 11, 2001
US Army

Major Dwayne Williams was working in the Pentagon the day terrorists flew United Flight 77 into the side of the building. He is survived by his beautiful wife, Tammy, a son Tyler, 17, a daughter Kelsie,13. He is also survived by his parents, Pearl Williams and Horace Williams, and three brothers, Air Force Staff Sgt. Troy Williams in Germany, Army SFC Kim Williams in Arizona and Roy L Williams, a writer for the Birmingham News.

Major Williams was a paratrooper, a Ranger, served in the Persian Gulf War. He was in the Army for 18 years and had graduated from the University of North Alabama before enlisting in the Army in 1984. His awards and decorations include: Bronze Star, two Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal. After his death, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Medal of Merit.

But, there is more to the story of the life of Major Dwayne Williams. He was a man of deep faith and love for God. He loved his fellow human beings and reached out to help them and encourage them at all times. He loved his wife, his children, his parents, his brothers. He had a laugh that, once heard, would never be forgotten, and a smile that lit the path for all who saw it. He loved his antique green mustang. He spent time keeping in touch with his friends with email and IM. He reached out to all, bringing love, help, encouragement, humor and laughter to all around him. He filled his space in life with great things.

I have been honored to do this Fifth Anniversary Tribute to Major Dwayne Williams. Learning about him has been a blessing in my life, and I have learned so much about the goodness that you left behind in the multitude of lives you touched so deeply. I am a better person for knowing about you. My faith is deeper from learning about you and your family. I am only sorry that I will never know you in this life - I would have liked you very much. But, it is an honor to know you now. I will never forget you and I will always keep your family in my prayers. I have no doubt that you now walk with God.

Major Dwayne Williams - The Memorials

Major Dwayne Williams - A Family Remembers

Major Dwayne Williams - His Friends Remember

Major Dwayne Williams - A Final Farewell

Major Dwayne Williams ~ The Memorials

Major Dwayne Williams was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in Section 64, in the shadows of the Pentagon, where he lost his life.
You can read more at this Memorial Site.

The first monument erected in memory of an individual lost on September Eleventh, was erected in Major Dwayne Williams hometown of Jacksonville, Alabama on September 11, 2002.

Major Dwayne Williams ~ A Family Remembers

When terrorists flew a plane into the Pentagon on September Eleventh, 2001, the life of a family was permanently rearranged. This family, forever changed by their tragedy, reached into their grief and found the strength, through their deep and abiding faith in God, to give us all a way to share in the wonderful life that Dwayne Williams lived.

Dwayne's mother, Pearl Williams, wrote this beautiful book, A Hero Called Fish. Written for young people, she shares his childhood and his adult life with us. It is illustrated with pictures from his childhood, college years, army years to the memorial services held for him. It is a wonderful book to help explain September Eleventh to young people, but thoroughly enjoyable for adults as well. It is a tribute only a mother could make. Why Fish? Dwayne learned to swim when he was four and loved to swim. It became his nickname.

Roy L Williams, Dwayne's brother, wrote an amazing testament to Dwayne's life, loss and to faith and God in 911, God Help Us. The subtitle is "How Losing a Brother in the September 11 Terrorist Attack Transformed a Reporter Into a Witness for God." This is a powerful book about Dwayne's life and about his family after his death. I was able to share in the power of faith and God in the grieving process of this family. I was humbled by the depth of their faith, the closeness of their family, and the resolve they had to honor Dwayne. When I got this book, I was so caught up in it, I sat up all night reading it.

Kim Williams, another of Dwayne's brothers, released a CD of original music, including the title song My Brother. It is a beautiful tribute to the closeness they shared. I listen to this CD often. It is so full of love, that it always makes me smile.


Each, in their own way, celebrates the joy that Dwayne brought into their lives and shares the wonderful man he was with each of us. I thank them for letting me share their love, their joy, their sorrow, their faith in God.

The Epitaph in A Hero Called Fish:

Weep not for our fallen hero for he did not die in vain. Rejoice in his memory and live life as he did with courage, humility, love and peace.

Not only a Persian Gulf War Veteran who received a host of military honors including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Legion of Merit, but Dwayne was a loving son, a faithful husband and a devoted father. His devotion to God, family and country stands as a testament of his life's achievements.

We shall not mourn his passing but shall stand in the light that he created.

Dwayne served the Lord faithfully for many years. Fish is now a soldier in the army of the Lord.

Major Dwayne Williams ~ Friends Remember

Learning about Major Dwayne Williams has been a journey I will never forget. Along the way, I found so many tributes written to Dwayne ~ floating in the space of the Internet, like many little silent prayers. I am sure there are many more that I have not seen, in addition to the many silent prayers sent above. They seem to combine to create a large prayer for a man much loved, much remembered and much missed. I will share a few of them here.

You were always a good family friend and a strong role model for myself and your son. I know that you are in Heaven now serving the Lord...thank you for your service to our country. You are and always will be missed. God bless you and God bless America.
--2dLt Jason Constantine

MAJ Williams:
You knew me as CPT McGinis when I was one of your Advance Course students. Now, I'm a Major! But, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. Remember when we were out in the field and you simulated a gas attack. I started running first instead of putting on my gas mask. My eyes burned so bad, so I closed them. But, I forgot to stop running and put my mask on. So I ended up being clothes-lined by a wire supporting a telephone pole. I ended up straight on my back. I was praying no one saw me. But during our after action report of the simulation, YOU BROUGHT IT UP! I was so embarrassed, but it was so funny! You just kept looking at me laughing and shaking your head from side to side. You also told me that Tammy, your wonderful wife, would watch my kids on a day we had to be in class and my boys were out of school. I said, "Don't you want to ask her first?" You told me no, it's alright. and sure enough my boys had a great time with Kelsie and Tyler. Thank you so much. I miss seeing you on AOL and telling you where I am and what has been going on. Rest in peace my dear friend.
--MAJ Claudia (McGinnis) Jefferson

We lived next door to the Williams family for almost three years. I can't tell you how many times Dwayne helped us. My husband Jerry traveled a lot and Dwayne was always ready to help. He planted trees in my back yard, raced my dog Sassy up and down the fence line almost daily (for the mutual exercise benefit he said), came over at midnight to get a dead mouse from my closet (I'm afraid of mice), always mowed our lawn when Jerry was out of town and I could fill up a book with many more acts of kindness. We saw daily what a good husband, father, friend and Army officer he was. Jerry or I chatted with him via Instant Message almost every day. We will always love and miss him. We are both better people because we knew him and his family.
--Debbie & Jerry Alley

I had the great opportunity to know and serve with Dwayne. Though his time in this world was short, he made the world a better place. Dwayne taught me quite a lot of things over the years, but most importantly, he taught me what a true friend was. Though it has been six months, I still feel like I will get online on Saturday morning and he will be there to answer me. Dwayne was a true servant to his country and was proud of what he did. I doubt that I will ever know a finer person than him. I will miss him, but will rejoice in the fact that he is now with God. God bless him and his family. Rangers Lead The Way!
--Michael Saunders

I first met Major Williams when he became my Commander at Ft. Jackson. He was by far my best commander. I was an instructor at the school and he was always caring and concerned about his Soldiers whether they were cadre or students. I remember how he would come to my classroom and ask about students who were having a difficult time with the course and what could be done to help them succeed. I also remember seeing and greeting his lovely family at Daniel Circle. he always talked about this family and how much he loved them. His other love was his green mustang which I used to see him driving around Ft. Jackson. I was so saddened to hear of his departure, but my heart rejoices to know that he is in his eternal home and watching over the ones he left behind. Major Williams' death has made it personal for me and will never forget him of the family he left behind.
--Denise Humphrey-Parker, SFC/USA Retired

Dwayne and I commanded together at Fort Jackson, SC and from the very first time I met him; I knew he was a caring person. From that time on, he was always the same way: A Giver. I knew him to be the kind of person who always gave of himself in order for others to excel. One of my favorite scriptures that remind me of his heroic acts during 911 is: John 15:12-13 "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friend." I will always remember the heroic act of my true friend. Tammy, Tyler and Kelsie, you may have thought that Dwayne was taken from you, but he was given to God, to do his work in heaven. Continue to trust God, because one day, God's gonna ask you to come work for Him in heaven, too. What a great reunion that will be.
--MAJ Michael & Rita Davis

MAJ Dwayne Williams, then my Battalion XO, took me under his wing and guided me through very difficult moments. I am certain I had a very successful company command thanks to the wisdom, knowledge and leadership that MAJ Williams shared with me. I was not able to personally thank him for all he did for me, but I am sure that he knew how much I appreciated every moment I spent learning from him. Tammy, you lost a great husband, the Army
lost a great officer, and I lost a great mentor.
--CPT Elliot Q. Gomez
More tributes can be found at, or you may leave your own.

Friday, September 08, 2006

September Eleventh, Five Years Later

We are approaching the fifth anniversary of one of the most horrendous days in our nation's history ~ September Eleventh. I will not use abbreviations. We don't call in 12/7, do we? We should give it the full force of the words, use all of syllables, to express the magnitude of the horror of this day. We should say it softly and respectfully to honor the dead. We should shout it loudly to express our outrage. We should say it with the choking tears to express our sorrow. We should say it proudly to express our love of country. We should say it often to express our willingness to defend her.

Recently, my hometown newspaper posed several questions for people to answer to fill their "special for the day." They are questions many of us have thought about, but to see them written down seemed to require a response.

Where were you on September Eleventh, 2001, when you heard the news about the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers?

My first vivid memory of that day was my husband coming in to wake me up. It was quite early on the west coast, and he heard incoherent news on the radio as he started the car to leave for work about planes flying into buildings in New York and an attack on the Pentagon. In the twenty years I have known him, I have never heard fear and confusion in his voice - the tone haunts me still. He shook me and said, "The world has gone to hell. They are flying planes in buildings and attacking the Pentagon." I flew out of bed and turned on the television. I watched news readers on various channels being forced to become journalists, and mostly failing.

What did you do? How did you feel that day?

As the news was being broadcast from New York, it was all about New York. I remember yelling hysterically at the TV, "What about the Pentagon?" Even with the tragedy unfolding in front of my eyes, I needed to know about the Pentagon - the strong symbol of our safety and security. I needed to know where the President was, and that he was safe. At some point, the news reader said, "We have a report of a plane crash in Pennsylvania. if it were any other day, that would be a big story, but today, it won't be." How wrong they were.

I spent the entire day in front of the television. I don't remember getting dressed, but I did. When the south tower began to fall, I heard this horrible keening sound, and realized at some point that I was standing up and it was me. I fell to my knees and prayed to God. By the time the north tower fell, I was numb. I paced the living room watching the same pictures unfold over and over. I prayed. I worried. I knew we were at war, but questioned the resolve of the citizens of the nation. And, I waited for my husband to come home. I wanted to be in the same room with the person I love. And, when he did, I collapsed into his arms in a deep and terrible sobbing. I feared for the missing. I prayed for their families. I watched the anguish of the rescuers and the survivors. I prayed. I prayed out loud.

I remember the feeling of calm that came over me that evening when the President addressed the nation. I felt that our government was still in tact and in control.

Did it change your daily routine?

For days afterwards, I wouldn't leave the house. I was afraid something else would happen. I needed to be near the news casts. My husband started calling home several times each day to check in with me - we both needed the comfort of one another throughout the day. But, I also took comfort in the patriotic and united response of the American Spirit.

What kind of effect does it have on your life now, five years later?
What do you think when you look back?

Five years later, it has changed our lives dramatically. We spend much of our time supporting the fine young men and women in the military. We follow the news from their worlds. We know about countries that we barely thought about before, including some that we had never heard of.

We look at life differently, too. We see it as shorter and more precious. We fear for our country because we see the resolve that was evident immediately after the attacks dissolve into a false sense of security. We see people who seem to have forgotten that day. We have gained new friends and lost others because of their lack of resolve. We have watched our political process deteriorate into name calling and vicious attacks, which are incorrectly labeled "patriotic dissent." Dissent is NOT name calling. Dissent is a differing opinion which needs more substance than name calling and attacks.

Five years later, I don't think most Americans remember what they think they learned that day. I believe that they simply want it to all 'go away'. Looking back, I see it as the first salvo of a very long and protracted fight for our right to exist as a society, as a nation. I believe that this will be a long fight without any definitive lines of battle. Osama bin Laden's words, "The difference between us is that you love life, while we love death" will ever haunt me. I believe our military will be stretched to keep us safe and that many of our finest will pay the ultimate price. I fear that they will not get the honor and respect and support that they deserve.

I also remember watching the Trade Towers being built - standing and looking into the pit (all that remains today) with my little brother fascinated by the equipment. I remember the controversy in New York about building them at all.

What will you do on Monday?

Across the internet, chain emails are circulating reminding people to fly their flags on Monday. We fly our flag everyday and have for many years, long before September Eleventh. I urge you all to fly your flags proudly, all of the time, but minimally, fly them on Monday.

We will be paying tribute here to a life lost on September Eleventh. The life of Major Dwayne Williams who was lost at the Pentagon. Please come back and read about this amazing man.

Whatever you do on Monday, please take a moment to say a prayer for those lost on September Eleventh, for their families and friends, for those who were injured that day, and for those who are fighting to protect us from the continued threat today.

May God Bless America.