Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wounded Warrior ~ Master Sgt Daniel Robles

Wounded Warrior
Master Sgt Daniel Robles
Receives Purple Heart
and Bronze Star
at Center for the Intrepid
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody helps Master. Sgt. Daniel Robles, who lost both his legs after an attack in Iraq, stand Jan. 28 during the first awards ceremony at the Center for the Intrepid, a new, state-of-the-art rehabilitation center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Cody awarded Robles the Purple Heart and Bronze Star as his wife, Ernestine; daughter, Mary; and Bill White (far right), president of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, look on. Photo by Cheryl Harrison

By Elaine Wilson, Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Jan. 29, 2007 – With the star-studded grand opening just a day away, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody yesterday officiated over the first awards ceremony at the Center for the Intrepid here.

Yesterday, however, Cody’s focus was not on the grand opening or the celebrity cast, but on Army Master Sgt. Daniel Robles, who was being honored with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in the lobby of the new center.

“We have a warrior ethos in the Army that Sergeant. Robles has lived up to all of his career, and certainly on that day in April 2006 in Baghdad when he was serving as an NCO, leading soldiers when he was injured,” the general said.

The mortar platoon sergeant was injured April 8, 2006, while on a patrol in southern Baghdad. Robles was riding in the lead vehicle of a convoy when it hit an improvised explosive device. Robles was riddled with shrapnel and lost both of his legs below the knee as a result of the explosion.

“Since then he’s been going back and living that ethos of ‘mission first,’ never accepting defeat, never quitting and never leaving a fallen comrade,” Cody said.

That same mission applies to the Center for the Intrepid, Cody said. The center was made possible through private donations and the commitment of Arnold and Ken Fisher, a father-son team who head up the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Fisher House Foundation.

Both the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Fisher House Foundation are members of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, which works to highlight ways in which Americans support U.S. troops, veterans and their families.

“Mission first is getting soldiers like Sergeant Robles back on their feet; never quitting is his job; never accepting defeat is our job to help him; and never leaving a fallen comrade is what the Fisher House Foundation and the CFI Foundation (have done), and all of those great Americans who have donated their dollars and their hearts to let our soldiers know that if you are wounded on the battlefield, we will stay with you,” Cody said.

Despite his injuries, Robles stood to receive his Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which Cody called a “badge of honor.”

“I hate giving out Purple Hearts, but I’m also proud to give out Purple Hearts because I know the pain and suffering that not only the soldier goes through, but also his family in helping him in coming back, never quitting and giving him back his life.”

Regardless of their injuries, Cody said, many of the soldiers he meets profess their love of this country and the Army. “Most of them say, ‘General, can we stay in? I have so much to offer,’” he said.

The general said Robles asked him the same question. Cody gave his answer at the awards ceremony. “You have my commitment as vice chief of staff of the Army,” he said, “we’ll keep you in the Army as long as you want to stay.”

Robles, who has 17 years already under his belt, said he’s excited he will be able to complete a 20-year career. “It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “(Cody) even gave me his card."

“I couldn’t ask to be in a better place coming to Fort Sam Houston and Brooke Army Medical Center,” Robles said. “I can only imagine what will be accomplished once this place is fully open. Tomorrow is a big day for Fort Sam and all of the services.”

Along with the Center for the Intrepid, two new Fisher Houses will open today at Fort Sam Houston. The 21-room houses, which resemble an upscale hotel, provide a home away from home for families of wounded warriors.

“People ask me why we do what we do,” said Ken Fisher, chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation. “Look to my left,” he said referring to Robles. “Can you imagine this sergeant going through his rehab and not having his family with him? This is exactly why we do what we do.”

Wednesday Hero ~ LCpt Nicholas J Manoukian

This Weeks Hero Was Submitted By Mark Bell

LCpl. Nicholas J. Manoukian
LCpl. Nicholas J. Manoukian
22 years old from Lathrup, Michigan
1st Marines 6th Batallion 2nd Marine Division
Oct 21, 2006

is a website that LCpl. Manoukian's mother set up for her son after he lost his life in Ramadi.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
It Is Foolish And Wrong To Mourn The Men Who Died.
Rather We Should Thank God That Such Men Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. If you would like to participate in honoring the brave men and women who serve this great country, you can find out how by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Center for the Intrepid Opens

The Center for the Intrepid
The National Armed Forces
Physical Rehabilitation Center

From Dream to Reality
Built with private donations from the
American public for our wounded warriors,
that they will receive the best care.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has completed construction of a world-class state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility for wounded warriors at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. The Center opened on January 29, 2007.

The Center will serve military personnel who have been catastrophically disabled in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Center will also serve military personnel and veterans severely injured in other operations and in the normal performance of their duties, combat and non-combat related.

The Center encompasses a 60,000 square foot structure, providing ample space and facilities for the rehabilitation needs of the patients and their caregivers. It is constructed on a site sufficient in size to meet the needs of patients and caregivers and will include top-of-the-line indoor and outdoor facilities.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has successfully reached its goal of $40 million for constructing the Center. We thank the over 600,000 who contributed to this effort with gifts large and small.

Although sufficient funding has been received for the construction costs, the Fund is accepting donations to provide additional services for our wounded military and veteran heroes and their families. These services may include facilities for patients' children, additional medical equipment and supplies, medical research to improve the care of patients, or other areas relating to the Center's activities including the patients and their families. One hundred percent of contributions to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund will continue to go to these services, with nothing taken out for the Fund's administrative costs. We thank you for continuing to support our efforts.



Monday's dedication of a new, $50 million rehabilitation center at Brooke Army Medical Center will be as glitzy as one gets on an Army post, with celebrities and politicians shaking the hands of soldiers with severe burns and amputated limbs.

As construction workers toiled at a breakneck pace for some 14 months to finish the cutting-edge facility on time, they kept thinking about the wounded.

"That was a big emotional mover for the job," said Dean Poillucci, vice president of Skanska USA Building, construction manager on the project.

About 1,000 tradesmen helped with the center, which took 325,000 man-hours to build. "This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a facility for the people in our armed services," he said. "The challenges were many, and it took a lot of long days and long hours, but we knew what it was for."

The dedication also underscores a nation's gratitude. The center is the largest, costliest facility ever built for war veterans with private funds ­ more than 600,000 individual and corporate donations, from $1 to $1 million.

Features in the four-story center include an indoor gym with a running track and 21-foot rock climbing simulator; a gait lab that makes three-dimensional animated images to help guide and improve movement; a virtual reality dome, where veterans can improve their balance; shooting and driving simulators; and a water aquatics area, with a "flow rider" that resembles a ride at Schlitterbahn.

The ornate, oval-shaped center is more than twice the size of BAMC's 29,000-square-foot amputee care center, which opened two years ago.

Next to it are two new 21-room Fisher Houses. The Fisher House Foundation raised about $6 million to give relatives of the wounded a place to stay, with freshly planted palm trees, a rambling courtyard and a children's playground.

The foundation partnered with the Intrepid Fund and built two new houses side-by-side for the first time, in conjunction with the opening of the Intrepid Center.

Ken Fisher, Arnold Fisher's son and chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, said the new houses have wide hallways, rooms that are spacious and wheelchair-friendly and large common areas: kitchens and dining and living rooms, so families with similar difficulties can share, and bond.

"They will have a feeling of warmth," he said. "We want these houses to be homes." One wounded Marine at BAMC, Cpl. Aaron P. Mankin, 25, said he's had more than 20 surgeries since he was badly burned over 25 percent of his body, including his face, hands and arms, the result of an explosion in Iraq two years ago.

But with his wife and infant daughter nearby, he's adjusting to his disability and disfigurement, while learning to be a father. Since he was wearing goggles when injured, he still has eyes to see his baby, Madeline.

"There's a lot of questioning and self-doubt any dad has. Those are compounded," he said in a raspy voice, from inhalation burns.

"The exciting part is there's no other place you can go to get this type of quality care," said Mankin, of Rogers, Ark.

Excerpts from article in
By Scott Huddleston, Express-News 01.28.07
You can find a photo array and several videos of the facility on the site.

Video of Intrepid Center

Video of the new center.
Click on the link below to view the story.

It will come up in a dropdown window.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Hero to Remember ~ Col James H Coffman, Jr.

A Hero to Remember
Col James H Coffman, Jr.
Distinguished Service Cross
Standing in the blood of his Iraqi counterparts, back to the wall with just four bullets and a folding knife to defend against onrushing insurgents, Col James Coffman had just one thought going through his head - "I am not going to be on TV with them cutting my damn head off."

Col James H Coffman with his Distinguished Service Cross and the two Medals presented by Bayan Jabr, Iraq's Minister of the Interior and Major General Adnon Thebit, commander of the Special Police Forces

General George Casey, commander of Multi-National Forces, Iraq, congratulates US Army Col James H Coffman, Jr after pinning him with the Distinguished Service Cross in front of a formation of Iraqi Special Forces Commandos. Photo by Sgt Lorie Jewell

For exceptionally valorous conduct while assigned as the Senior Advisor to the 1st Iraqi Special Police Commando Brigade during a lengthy battle on 14 November 2004 in Mosul, Iraq, during which the unit likely would have been overrun were it not for the courageous leadership of Colonel Coffman and the one Commando officer not wounded. At approximately 1030 hours on 14 November, Colonel Coffman moved with a Commando Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to reinforce a Commando platoon under attack at the Four West Police Station in Mosul.

As the QRF neared the besieged platoon, it came under intense rocket-propelled grenade, mortar, machinegun, and AK-47 fire by a large insurgent force. Over the next four hours, the enemy repeatedly assaulted the Commandos' position, at times culminating their attacks twenty meters from Colonel Coffman's location. With all but one of the commando officers killed or seriously wounded by the initial enemy fire, Colonel Coffman exhibited truly inspirational leadership, rallying the Commandos and organizing a hasty defense while attempting to radio higher headquarters for reinforcements. Under heavy fire, he moved from Commando to Commando, looking each in the eye and using hand and arm signals to demonstrate what he wanted done.

At one point, an enemy round shattered Colonel Coffman's shooting hand and rendered his M4 rifle inoperable. After bandaging his hand, Colonel Coffman picked up AK-47s from Commando casualties and fired them with his other hand until each ran out of ammunition. With the assistance of the one remaining Commando officer, Colonel Coffman redistributed ammunition among the uninjured commandos until he had only loose ammunition that he loaded by placing magazines between his legs and using his one working hand. Throughout this period, he repeatedly demonstrated exceptional courage and an extraordinary example to the commandos as they repulsed attack after attack by the enemy.

Four hours after the start of the battle, a second Commando element arrived and Colonel Coffman guided them to his position. Even after their arrival, he continued to direct the fight, refusing to be evacuated until the enemy was defeated. Shortly thereafter, attack helicopters also arrived, followed closely by a Stryker Brigade QRF, and Colonel Coffman used Iraqi radios to direct air strikes and to provide vital information on the location of enemy and friendly forces. After supervising the evacuation of several dozen wounded Commandos, Colonel Coffman led a squad-sized element to the Four West Iraqi Police Station, fifty meters ahead of the Strykers, to make contact with the Commandos still in the station. After they linked up, the Strykers moved forward, and attack helicopters engaged the buildings occupied by the enemy, following which Colonel Coffman returned to his original position to ensure that all of the Iraqi casualties had been evacuated.

Only then did he consent to be evacuated for surgery for his own serious wound. During the fierce four-hour battle, twelve Commandos were killed and 42 were wounded. Twenty-five enemy were killed and many dozens more were wounded.

Col James H Coffman, Jr, 51, a 1978 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, received the Distinguished Service Cross on August 24, 2005 for his heroism in battle, leading the Iraqi Special Police Commandos through a 5 1/2 hour battle against insurgents trying to overrun an Iraqi police station on November 14, 2004. He was the senior advisor to the Iraqi Special Police Commandos with the Multi-National Security Transistion Command - Iraq's Civilian Police Assistance Training Team. He accompanied a commando Quick Reaction Force with the 3rd Battalion, !st Iraqi Special Police Commando Brigade to help a commando platoon under attack in a Mosul police station.

Col Coffman doesn't see himself as a big hero, just a Soldier who did what he had to do to keep himself and his men alive. "There are equal acts out there. This one just got written up," Coffman said. "I would like to see more people get written up."

Col Coffman is from Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Army in 1972. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chinese Area Studies from the United States Military Academy, a Master of Science degree in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California. He was also a US Army Fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and attended the Boston university Overseas Program for Master of Science in International Relations in Vicenza, Italy. He has a wife, Patricia, and two grown daughters.

His other awards include the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge and Special Forces and Range Tabs.

To read all in the Hero to Remember Series, click here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Help Our Soldiers Help Afghan Children

Helping Our Soldiers
Help Afghan Children
One Pair of Shoes,
One Pair of Mittens,
and a Cap at a Time

Meet Todd Larkin... Todd is a soldier serving in Afghanistan. He is also a humanitarian and my hero for the projects he undertakes for the Afghan children. He needs our help with these projects.

He is trying to get shoes, mittens, caps, coats and sweaters and other warm clothing to hand out to the children of Afghanistan - warm clothes for those without in the grip of winter. The clothes don't need to be new, but they do need to be clean. Toys are good, too!!!

Todd has also put together a cultural exchange program with some of the kids back home in Oklahoma and a school in Afghanistan. This is an excerpt from one of his posts on the project:

While I was looking through the papers and posters I came across one of the most perfect examples of why we are here and what we have done, here is what this wonderful little girl had to say. (Pardon the grammar but this is amazing English for an Afghan 6th Grader)

I am pleased on the arrival of the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. Because five years ago I and my sisters all sisters of our country couldn’t go to school. The Taliban were controlling all of Afghanistan. They didn’t wanted the girls to go to school and study. And now that we can go to school we are proud for all our sisters. After the collapse of the Taliban we were studying in ruined school buildings and now we are thankful to the Coalition Forces for building us a new school to study. And now all student can study in this new building we become very happy when some help and serve us.

I was pretty amazed and shocked to say the least, what amazing and inspirational words from such a little girl. She should be a perfect example of why we’re here and why we need to stay here.

If you can help him with his projects, please send to:

Michael T. Larkin
Camp Phoenix, AF
APO, AE 09320

And, please visit his website for some wonderful stories and pictures! (which I borrowed/stole to put here - thanks, Todd!!!) Task Force Phoenix

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Funeral Services for Pfc. Ryan Hill

A funeral for Army Private First Class Ryan Hill of Keizer, Oregon, is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Friday, February second, at the Peoples Church in Salem.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be escorting Ryan from the Oregon Air Guard Base to the Asum-Dufour Funeral Home in Albany on Wednesday, January 31. They will escort him on Friday from Albany to Salem, making stops at the Capitol and touring destinations in Salem, to arrive at the Peoples' Church, 4500 Lancaster Drive, Salem, Oregon for the 10 am service. After the service, he will be escorted to the Willamette National Cemetery for internment.

Pictures of the services for Ryan

Funeral Services for Sgt Sean Patrick Fennerty

A service for 25-year-old Sergeant Sean Fennerty of Portland is scheduled for this Saturday morning, January 27, at 11 am at Jesuit High School in Portland. ( for directions/map)

Today, the Patriot Guard Riders, with American flags waving, escorted Sean from the Portland airport to the Riverview Abbey. Port of Portland Police escorted the procession onto the freeway and through town. Saturday, the Patriot Guard Riders will be at the funeral services.

Pictures of the services for Sean

PFC Ryan J Hill ~ Farewell, and Walk with God

PFC Ryan J Hill
Age 20 - Died January 20, 2007
Baghdad, Iraq

Photos from Ryan's My Space Page.

The bottom one is titled "this is what i see when im workin"

PFC Ryan J Hill died January 20, 2007 in an IEC explosion in Baghdad, Iraq. Hill served with the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based in Schweinfurt, Germany.

PFC Ryan was from Keizer, Oregon. He graduated from McNary High School in 2003. He was raised by his mother, Shawna, and has a sister.

Not much information has been released in the newspapers about Ryan, but some misquotes from his My Space page have been released - hurtfully to his family.

Reading his My Space page gave me a sense of this fine young man. He loved his mother and expressed his tribute to her repeatly. "Heroes - my mom she did a great job with her lil hellan yep thats me." He lists God "without him nothing would be possible." He loved his friends and his fellow soldiers - "my fellow outlaws thanks for getting my back." He has posted several tributes to soldiers in general and by name. He had a great sense of humor. He loved music. I came away from Ryan's My Space page genuinely liking him.

The largest photo on Ryan's My Space is a tribute to Sgt Wilson Mock.

At this difficult time, we will be keeping Ryan's mother and sister and his friends in our hearts and prayers. Walk with God, Ryan. Thank you for all you sacrificed for our country. We will never forget you.

A poem Ryan posted:

The soldiers of our country
Stand tall across the land
They protect America
They aren't afraid to take a stand.

They have their families and friends
Whom they keep safe from harm
But those that fight alongside
Are brothers and sisters in arms

America's defenders
America's protectors
America's fighters
They are American soldiers

When a soldier dies across the sea
Many loved ones shed a tear
We can't forget their sacrifice
That they made for their country dear

These brave men and women
Always stand tall and proud
They fight for their loved ones
To keep them safe and sound.

America's defenders
America's protectors
America's fighters
They are American soldiers

They are the heroes of our country
Heroes for her always
They keep our country free
And fight for her everyday.

America's defenders
America's protectors
America's fighters
They are American soldiers

C/SMSgt Tabitha N.
(Civil Air Patrol cadet)Age 14

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

SGT Sean Patrick Fennerty ~ Farewell, and Walk with God

SGT Sean Patrick Fennerty
February 2, 1981 ~ January 20, 2007

Sgt Sean Patrick Fennerty, 25, of Portland, Oregon will killed by an IED explosion in the Anbar Province of Iraq. Sgt Fennerty served with the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Sgt Fennerty was born in San Diego, at the Naval Hospital. His father was on active duty at the time. He grew up in Tucson, Arizona and Portland, Oregon. He graduated from Jesuit High School in Portland in 1999 and from Oregon State University with a Bachelor's degree in History in 2004.

He joined the Army in July 2004. Don Clarke, director of campus ministry at Jesuit High School, said, "I think that what happened with 9/11 challenged him at a deeper level. He saw enlisting in the Army as being a way to answer his acute awareness of duty. I think, for him, with his sense of what was right and wrong, and sense of duty, it was a pretty good fit. And, I think that also is reflected in the way his peers in the Army saw him as well."

Fennerty's family said he always wanted to be in the military and serve his country and felt this was part of honor and service.

His school remembers him as "a faith-filled person who participated in all areas of the school. He took it upon himself to strengthen the school community with his generous and giving spirit. His awareness of duty to make our world a better place is what led him into the military service of our country."

Fennerty loved to ski, fish and spend time with his friends and always wanted to be in the military and serve his country as he felt this was a part of honor and service.

He is survived by his mother, Mo, father, Brian, two sisters, Kelly of Seattle, WA and Colleen of Chicago, IL and brother, Conor of Washington, DC.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fennerty family, Sean's friends and fellow soldiers at this very sad time.

Walk with God, Sean. Thank you for your service and your devotion to our country.

Wednesday Hero ~ Lt Col Michael E McLaughlin

This Weeks Hero Was Suggested By Kathi

Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin
Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin
44 years old from Mercer, Pennsylvania
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard
January 4, 2006

Sitting in the car with Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin's 18-year-old daughter, her father's friend of 21 years had just broken the news of his death.

During years of friendship and service in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Lt. Col. McLauglin and retired Capt. Brad Mifsud had a bond so close that they promised each other if something were ever to happen to either one of them, they would be there for the other's family.

Lt. Col. McLaughlin died when a suicide bomber rushed through a crowd of Iraqi police recruits in Ramadi and detonated a bomb that also killed a Marine and nearly 80 Iraqis. The day before the attack, Lt. Col. McLaughlin said he was fully confident that Ramadi had finally turned a corner in the insurgency. As hundreds of local men streamed into the Ramadi Glass Factory on Wednesday to join the city’s long-defunct police force, a wide grin spread over a pinch of tobacco stuffed into the 44-year-old’s lower lip.

"This may not look like much, but it's history," McLaughlin told a reporter. "We're making history right here."

With a significant wound to the back of his head, Lt. Col. McLaughlin turned to his injured personal security detail officers and inquired about their well-being. Waving off medical attention, he asked them to check on the soldiers under his command.

"In an act of extreme selflessness, he stated that he was OK, but to concentrate on saving the lives of his men," said Col. Grey Berrier, a close friend of Lt. Col. McLaughlin.

Lt. Col. McLaughlin died shortly after giving that instruction, according to the Guard.

A long-time artillery officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, McLaughlin was assigned to Task Force 2-222 Field Artillery and was the primary liaison between the 2-28 Brigade Combat Team and local tribal and government leaders in Ramadi. His efforts were instrumental in getting local sheikhs to support the recruitment drive and encourage more than 1,000 area men to volunteer for the force, commanders said.

"Mike is a true hero in every sense of the word, and he died while doing his job the only way he knew how - out front and with great enthusiasm and courage," said Col. John L. Gronski, commander of the 2-28 BCT. "This loss only strengthens our resolve to carry on and complete the mission in order to honor his memory."

A gregarious wisecracker, McLaughlin said his hope was to one day return to a peaceful Iraq, where he planned to walk the streets of Ramadi in a traditional Arab "man dress," or dishdasha, and sip coffee and chai with those sheikhs he had met during the war. McLaughlin said that one particular tribal leader he had developed a close relationship with dubbed him "The Sheikh of Sheikhs" - a nickname that was soon picked up by fellow officers in the brigade.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.

It Is Foolish And Wrong To Mourn The Men Who Died.
Rather We Should Thank God That Such Men Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. If you would like to participate in honoring the brave men and women who serve this great country, you can find out how by clicking here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Vote for Hero of the Year

Vote for Hero of the Year

The Marine: Jamie Nicholson
Drill instructor Jamie Nicholson had been up half the night with his platoon. He was wearing his camouflage utility uniform, and Marine Corps regulations prohibited him from entering a public building. So he pulled into a McDonald's drive-thru to order breakfast. Then he heard a scream. A man had leaned out his window to pick up some change, and the car rolled into a pillar, trapping his head between the door and the wall. Nicholson grabbed a tire iron, bashed in a window, and climbed into the backseat. The engine was revving, which meant the driver's foot was pressing on the gas. If the car shot backward, it could hit a brick wall. They might both be killed. Kneeling on broken glass, he strained to reach the gearshift. Finally he got the car into reverse, then park. Nicholson, a veteran of the Iraq war, was able to revive the young man. "An outstanding effort to save a life," said a spokesperson for San Diego Fire-Rescue.

The Reader's Digest is currently having a contest for the 2007 Hero of the Year Award. To read about the heroic people who have been nominated and to vote, go to their site. Guess you know who I voted for!!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Secret Santa Passes On...

"Secret Santa" Passes On...
Leaves Legacy of Kindness

Larry Stewart died a very rich man. Yes, he was a millionaire, but his true riches were in his heart and in his deeds. He lost his battle with esophageal cancer last week. But, everyone who came in contact with him was richer for it. Richer for his Acts of Kindness.

He was the 'Secret Santa' who would hand out money each December to those he thought might need it. Over 26 years, he gave away $1.6 million dollars in $100. bills.

Thirty five years ago, down on his luck, homeless and cold, Larry Stewart walked into the Dixie Diner in Houston, Mississippi. He had planned to eat and then 'discover' he had lost his wallet and had no money. But, the owner of the diner, Ted Horn, walked by, reached down to the ground and handed Stewart $20, telling him he was sure he had dropped it. That single act of kindness changed Stewart's life. "By the grace of God, I came face to face with one of His Angels. I said a prayer of thanks and vowed that if I was ever in a position to help others I will do it, and in that way help people keep their dignity.

In December of 1979, he was at a drive-in restaurant feeling badly that he had just been fired - the second December in a row. The car hop that was waiting on him had on a light jacket in the cold of winter and he thought, "I think I got it bad. She's out there in this cold making nickels and dimes,'" he said. He gave her $20 and told her to keep the change.

Larry Stewart became a millionaire in cable television and long distance telephone services. Each December, he gave people in need money. No one ever knew who the Secret Santa was, and he only revealed his identity because he hoped it would inspire others to be generous. "That's what we are here for, to help other people out," Stewart said.

To learn more about Larry Stewart and his AKO's - Acts of Kindness - visit his website.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Iranian Hostages Free

January 20, 1981
American Hostages Released
from Iran after 444 days

I vividly remember this day and all of the days leading up to it - the very long 444 days that this country seethed with anger at the taking of our Embassy and holding Americans hostage. The release came shortly after the Inaguration of President Ronald Reagan. President Jimmy Carter had spent over a year trying to secure the release of the hostages. Final payments were made and the hostages were released after Carter was no longer President. The 52 hostages were at long last free. The country sighed a collective sigh of relief. Looking back, we never would have predicited that it was only the beginning... As Bruce Laingan said, "My God, it began with us."

Reference works:
The Iran Hostage Crisis
America's Incredible Day, Time Magazine

The Skills to Rebuild Afghanistan

Engineer Helps Give Afghans
Skills to Rebuild
US Air Force Captain Dave Lin
Capt. Dave Lin discusses details regarding the camp's new conference center with site engineer Renato, Jan. 11, in Afghanistan. Lin is an engineer with the International Security Assistance Force headquarters. U.S. Air Force photo

By Capt. Stacie N. Shafran, International Security Assistance Force Headquarters

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 12, 2007 — A day in the life of a project engineer fills up pretty quickly. Between meetings and constant walks around the base to survey projects, there's concrete to be poured, gravel to be delivered and contractors needing guidance. This will be the norm for Capt. Dave Lin over the course of his six-month deployment in Kabul, Afghanistan. As an engineer assigned to NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, headquarters, he is responsible for $20 million worth of construction projects around the camp. With nearly 1,200 people assigned to the headquarters from 30 contributing nations, Lin not only interacts with international colleagues, but also seven Afghan contractors and 300 laborers.

"One of the best aspects of this deployment is interacting with the locals," he said. "I'm challenging them by teaching them new and more efficient means of construction and together we're striving to provide the best product for HQ ISAF."

Among the projects on their to-do list are constructing more accommodations, a new conference center, a fitness center, a perimeter wall and most importantly, installing an underground sewer system. Despite the cold, snow, mud, and language barrier, the captain is confident in his team's abilities to fulfill the mission. This sense of optimism, along with his strong leadership and technical skills, is something he's cultivated since graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2000 with a bachelor of science degree in engineering. "Even though I'm deployed in a combat zone, I find it really rewarding to work with the locals. They always have a smile on their face and it's great to see that they're rebuilding their own country," he said. "We're teaching the Afghans basic construction practices that they can use in the future projects, but in a safer manner and of better quality."

ISAF is comprised of more than 32,000 troops from 37 NATO countries and non-NATO nations. Its primary role is to support the government of Afghanistan in providing a secure environment to facilitate the rebuilding of Afghanistan

Friday, January 19, 2007

Conversations in Our Living Room

On occassion I post very personal things - this is one of those posts. This month, we have been blessed with visits from some of the troops that we have supported during their deployments. We first met through letters. Now, we have conversations in our living room.

Earlier this month, we had houseguests for about nine days. These are very special friends. We met her while she was a SGT deployed in Iraq - stationed in Mosul in 2004. She and I became close friends and emailed most every day. She shared many warm and many sad and many frightening experiences with me. She also shared her engagement news and hopes for the future. In 2005, I traveled across country to attend the wedding - the red, white and blue wedding! He is a 1SG and left for Iraq later that year and returned this past November. While they were here, he and I spent many hours talking about his recent deployment.

He spoke about being on a small fire base, away from the city-like amenities of the large bases - of leaving and turning the base over to the Iraqis they had trained - "I hope there isn't a terrorist living in my room now," he said half-jokingly. He spoke with admiration of the Iraqi woman who was trying to lead her community to a better life and the target she made of herself for her determination and bravery. He spoke of the 'civil war' - "The Iraqis will never have a 'civil war.' They are too unorganized to ever have a 'civil war.' It is more like gangland violence." He spoke of the fear that the Iraqis live under - a fear in their souls that is left over from the age of Saddam - a fear that colors everything that they do. He spoke of training Iraqi soldiers and that teaching them to engage in the fight was the most difficult thing to teach. He spoke of the progress the troops are making - in spite of what the news media says. Before the President's speech we spoke of the potential of his unit being turned around and sent back - "I'm ok with it as long as they don't leave us in Kuwait - I'd kill myself!" (The unit was not called back.) We laughed over pictures that had been sent and fought tears over the lives that had been lost. The last night he was here, he tried to share the story of the loss of his two men, but the time is not yet right for that revelation, though I was deeply touched that he wanted to share it with me.

A young specialist, after traveling with his family from North Carolina to Oregon in the midst of this difficult winter weather, stopped by to meet, to give hugs, and to introduce us to his family - his wife, his year and a half old daughter and the son that was born while he was in Iraq. We were so surprised when they knocked on our door!

He talked about the joy of having a penpal, and one who was from the same area he was from - the joy of getting pictures from home. He spoke of the difficulty of this deployment over his first - since his son born while he was in Iraq. He radiated a joy of fatherhood and was tender and sweet with his children. The fears that they wouldn't know him or love him that he had confided had not materialized. He spoke briefly of the friend who was lost and the anger he still felt over it at the terrorists.

Both kept thanking us for the support they received from us. It made me feel odd. A letter a week and an occassional care package hardly seemed worth all of the gratitude. Of course, it made us feel wonderful that it was valued and appreciated, but I can't help but feel that they had given us so much more by serving our country, by sacrificing their personal lives for our country, by leaving friends behind, and by giving us the precious gift of their friendship.

The media keeps telling us that "we" (Americans) are disconnected from the military. I say it is the fault of the individual if it is true for you. There are so many ways to connect to the military - see the "Support Our Troops" links on the left. We are connected to the military and are inspired by them daily. Whether connected or not, I can not imagine not respecting and admiring those who serve to protect everything that we hold dear.

So, we say Thank You, though Thank You will never seem enough....

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rambo Saves Camp Phoenix

Rambo Saves Camp Phoenix

Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, Christmas 2006
Picture from

Two Afghan citizens prevented a terrorist attack yesterday morning when a vehicle loaded with explosives attempted to crash through the front gate of Camp Phoenix.

"Without any regard for their personal safety, a local Afghan security officer and an interpreter immediately recognized that this was a terrorist attack," said 1st Lt. Cathrin Fraker. "Together, the two prevented the driver from detonating his explosives after they failed to explode during the crash. With the assistance of the US Security Forces, they dragged the terrorist from the vehicle where they were detained."

"If it wasn't for the quick actions of the local nationals working for the US Forces, several lives would have been lost," stated Col. David B Enyeart, the deputy Task Force commander.

That is the official press release, but there is more to the story....

The Oregon National Guard is currently stationed at Camp Phoenix. They have a strong bond with an Oregon talk radio host, Lars Larson. They started calling him with the news of the event - "It was Rambo," they told Lars. "Rambo saved us again." As the stories rolled in, it was unquestionable that our troops admired, respected and trusted this man.

Jamil Udin, nicknamed Rambo by the 10th Mountain Division, is an Afghan citizen who suffered under the Soviet invasion and the Taliban. His beloved wife was killed by the Taliban. He took his children to a refugee camp in Pakistan to escape the Taliban and save what was left of his family.

“While I was in Pakistan, I saw President Bush and his wife on TV,” Udin said. “They said: ‘We will help Afghanistan. We will rebuild Afghanistan.’ That’s why I like Americans, and why I like to work for them.”

When the US Forces pulled up to the gates of the former Russian-Afghan transport depot - now Camp Phoenix - Jamil Udin was there waiting for them, as it was the place he had worked before fleeing Afghanistan. He has been there ever since.

Each rotation of soldiers adopts him and takes care of him. He has prevented numerous attacks on the base. He scrutinizes every vehicle that enters and leaves and salutes each one. “They are always taking care of me,” he said. The attention, he added, “makes me work harder and harder for them.” For months he refused compensation, but now has been convinced to take a salary.

"Now he is probably the most beloved man on this camp. I don’t know the interpreter involved, but these two show the outstanding side of some of the people here. Once again Afghans, not NATO or the US, risked their lives and thwarted a bombing," says Cpt. Doug Traversa.
You can read more about his experiences with Rambo on his blog Afghanistan Without a Clue.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Roy Velez ~ Texan of the Year ~ Gold Star Father Who Lost Two Sons

Roy Velez
Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year
Gold Star Father to
Army Cpl Jose Alfredo Velez
Army Spc Andrew Velez

Roy and Carmen Velez hold pictures of sons

Roy Velez

Army Cpl Jose Alfredo Velez
10/21/81 - 11/13/04
Killed in Fallujah, Iraq
Awarded two Purple Hearts
Bronze Star
Silver Star

Army Spc Andrew Velez
10/16/83 - 7/25/06
Died in Afghanistan

I learned about Roy Velez through the Wednesday Hero post (next post below). I had to know more about this man who had lost both of his sons to war, yet has found, through his faith in God, the ability to reach out to others in their grief, to provide comfort and strength.

His is a remarkable story and I urge everyone to read it here.

"I can't be angry. I feel like my hearts been pulled out. We've done what the Lord allowed us to do for our country." - Roy Velez

Wednesday Hero ~ Roy Velez, Gold Star Father

This Weeks Heroes Were Suggested By CavMom
This week I have three people to talk about. Roy Velez and his two sons, Jose and Andrew. One who was lost in Iraq and another who lost his life in Afghanistan.

It happens almost daily. A stranger reaches out to comfort Roy Velez, unintended symbol of unspeakable loss and grief.
Today it's a woman who approaches as he's halfway through breakfast at Montelongo's Mexican restaurant.
"My brother told me about you and your sons," she says, extending her hand.
He takes her small hand between his - this sturdy man who has buried two boys who went off to war - and listens gently as her own story of sorrow spills forth. Her 8-year-old daughter, a traffic accident, her son at the wheel.
As waiters bustle about with trays of huevos rancheros and barbacoa plates, Mr. Velez does what he does best: offers up a soft prayer to help this mother endure her emptiness.
Strangers learn about Mr. Velez from newspapers and TV. They come to him to share their gratitude or their grief. They come to thank him and console him, tearfully, for his family's sacrifice.
This is how Mr. Velez chooses to live after losing two sons in two years, not riven with anger or paralyzed with sadness. But as someone ready for those who might slip into the darkness of despair.
For his strength for others, compassion and grace - and for serving as inspiration for anyone who knows his story - Mr. Velez is the 2006 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.

We Have Every Right To Dream Heroic Dreams.
Those Who Say That We're In A Time When There Are No Heroes,
They Just Don't Know Where To Look

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. If you would like to participate in honoring the brave men and women who serve this great country.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wounded Warrior Serves Again

Jorge DeLeon
Wounded Warrior

Meet Jorge DeLeon. American. Soldier. Wounded Warrior. Hero.

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Jan. 12, 2007) -
By Elaine Wilson, fort Sam Houston Public Information Office

Jorge DeLeon may have lost a leg in the war, but he never lost a desire to serve his country.

Two years after his military aspirations were crushed by an anti-tank mine, DeLeon is back in Army service - this time as a Department of Defense civilian.

The former sergeant is the second civil service employee hired at Fort Sam Houston through the Army Wounded Warrior Program, and the first amputee. The program, dubbed AW2, is designed for Soldiers severely wounded in the Global War on Terrorism. AW2 provides information and assistance to aid Soldiers and their families through the recovery process and beyond, from medical evacuation to reintegration into the work force.

"We continue to work closely with managers to locate employment opportunities at Fort Sam Houston that match the skills of the many wounded warriors in our area," said Sharon Ferguson, director of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center here. "Commanders and managers are encouraged to use all available tools to provide employment opportunities for these courageous Soldiers."

DeLeon, the newest edition to the Fort Sam Houston Police Department, is now at work at Fort Sam Houston as a radio operator.

"I'm very happy to be working here," DeLeon said. "I'm not doing exactly what I want, but it's close."

DeLeon would have preferred to remain a Soldier. The 33-year-old joined in 2001 after eight years on the police force in Puerto Rico.

Deployed before, the former infantryman deployed to Afghanistan in April 2004, with the 25th Infantry out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Just a few weeks in country, DeLeon and his unit were on their way back to camp after a patrol through the region. DeLeon was driving a Humvee, the lead vehicle of the convoy.

As they neared the camp, the sergeant noticed a strange sight, a funeral in progress in the middle of the desert, not far from the entrance to the base. "Usually, no one is out there. But, that day, there were more than 50 people at a funeral. I immediately thought something was wrong."

DeLeon told the lieutenant in the Humvee his suspicions, and at that moment, the Humvee ran over an anti-tank mine.

"It was like slow motion," he said. "The Humvee lifted about 12 feet in the air before it fell."

The dashboard crushed DeLeon to his seat. His fellow Soldiers raced to pull him out. As he lay on the ground, he felt no pain - until he looked down. The bone on his left leg protruded from his skin and his right leg was gone.

"Then the pain hit me. I was conscious the whole time. On the way to the hospital, all I could thing about was my wife and kids," said the father of three children ages 5, 3, and 1. "I didn't want to die."

Having taken the full brunt of the mine, DeLeon was the only one injured in the explosion.

He underwent a long, painful recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His desire to stay in the Army and support of his family kept him on the path to recovery. He finished his treatment and was soon on his way back to Schofield Barracks to join his unit - under one condition. He had to pass a PT test.

Fitted with the latest in prosthesis, a computerized leg, DeLeon could walk, bike, drive, do just about anything - but run. Despite extensive running training at Brooke Army Medical Center, he was unable to pass the test and was medically retired in March.

"I really loved the Army, loved the pride of the infantry," DeLeon said. "I'm able to do anything in my mind and heart, but my disability prevents me from doing it all."

Disappointed that his military dream was over, DeLeon turned to a former passion - law enforcement. An eight-year veteran of the force prior to the military, DeLeon tapped into his experience and applied for a job with the police department at Fort Sam Houston.

Between his military and police experience, disability aside, DeLeon was a perfect fit. He started working as a radio operator last month.

"He's doing a fine job," said Master Sgt Troy Brumley, DeLeon's supervisor. "His background in law enforcement is a real asset. If we get a few more like him, we won't turn it down."

Ferguson said she will continue to encourage wounded warriors to apply. "We are pleased with our success thus far, but recognize that there are many more positions that can be filled with wounded warriors. Our experience is that the brave warriors with whom we have worked truly exemplify the AW2 vision: 'Our Wounded Warriors and their families are self sufficient, contributing members of our community; living and espousing the Warrior Ethos knowing our Army and Nation remembers there selfless sacrifice.'"


Ah, but as always, there is MORE to the story.

Who would have ever envisioned that 11 operations and less than a year later Jorge DeLeon would be all pumped to participate in the Los Angeles Marathon on March 6? He had come to compete in the hand-crank wheelchair division of the 26.2-mile race that weaves through the City of Angels' downtown streets.

Who would have imagined that he would be one of the participants in Soldier Ride - a cross-country bike ride of wounded warriors to raise funds to assist their fellow wounded?

DeLeon served with the 1st Brigade/504th Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne. He logged a total of 71 jumps. As a paratrooper, he went to Kosovo and Macedonia and did his first tour in Afghanistan. He served with the 506th Infantry (Air Assault) based at Camp Greaves on the DMZ in Korea. He finally served with the 25th ID, which sent him to Afghanistan the second time around.

The pride and determination that Jorge DeLeon exhibits can be a lesson to each of us! I'm proud to live in a country with such fine citizens at Jorge DeLeon.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Got Freedom? - Thank a Soldier

The 1-34 - the Redbulls of Minnesota have been extended. Their FRG - Family Readiness Group - is having an ongoing fund raiser - and they need help now more than ever, as they face the extension of their loved ones in Iraq. You can purchase this outstanding ball cap in Khaki or Black. They also have tees and sweatshirts - pictures here.
For a printable order form, click here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Minnesota Redbulls Extended in Iraq

Redbulls Extended in Iraq
Formation at Camp Shelby, MS on March 16, 2006
at farewell ceremony prior to deployment to Iraq.

The force adjustments for Iraq have been announced for Iraq. The 1-34 - 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, consists of about 3,000 members of a National Guard unit from Minnesota and 1,000 National Guard members from Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, Nebraska and other states, has been extended for "up to 125 days."

"The 1st Brigade, which consists of the Minnesota National Guard and a number of other National Guard units, were selected because of their agility and their ability to get the job done right,” Lt Col Kevin Olson said. “Our citizen-soldiers are perfectly magnificent.”

“We acknowledge that it is a sacrifice for our families and places a great deal of burden on them,” Olson said.

The Army has sent assistance units to Minnesota to aid the families with the difficulties caused by the extension.

We have friends in this unit that we support. We know that this will be difficult on them and on their families. They are in our prayers.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Operation Iraqi Freedom Force Adjustments Announced

No. 028-07 January 11, 2007
DoD Announces Force Adjustments

As a result of the President’s Iraq strategy review, the Department of Defense announced today an increase of 20,000 U.S. military forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Specific decisions made by the Secretary of Defense include:

-The 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., and currently assigned as the call forward force in Kuwait, will move into Iraq and assume a security mission there.

-The 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard, will be extended in its current mission for up to 125 days and will redeploy not later than August 2007.

-The 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based at Ft. Riley, Kan., will deploy in February 2007 as previously announced.

Three other Army combat brigades will deploy as follows:

· The 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry
Division, based at Ft. Benning, Ga., will deploy in March 2007.

· The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Ft. Lewis, Wash., will deploy in April 2007.

· The 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, based at Ft. Stewart, Ga., will deploy in May 2007.

The Marine Corps will extend two reinforced infantry battalions for approximately 60 days. Additionally, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) will remain in Iraq for approximately 45 additional days.

Other combat-support and combat-service-support units may also be deployed as necessary once new requirements are assessed.

The additional forces will help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods while protecting the local population. These actions will build the capacity available to commanders to 20 brigade or regimental combat teams to assist in achieving stability and security and accelerate Iraqi Security Force development.

Finally, the USS Stennis Carrier Strike Group and the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Regiment will deploy to the region to bolster security.

These deployments reflect the continued commitment of the United States to the security of the Iraqi people. In consultation with the Iraqi government, commanders will continue to assess the situation and make recommendations about the appropriate force levels that best support the Iraqi government.

The department recognizes the continued sacrifices of these units and their family members.
From the Department of Defense site.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Justice for MAJ Stone & CPT Seifert

Justice for
Major Gregory Stone
Captain Christopher Seifert
Air Force Major Gregory Stone, attacked March 23, 2003, died March 25, 2003 from wounds received in attack. Maj Stone, 40, was a son of Oregon, but resided in Boise, Idaho. He was a graduate of Benson High School and Oregon State University. He served as the air liaison officer for the 101st Airborne Division, 1st Brigade.
Army Captain Christopher Scott Seifert was murdered on March 23, 2003. He served with the 101st Airborne Division, 1st Brigade. He was 27 and from Easton, Pennsylvania.
Headstone in Arlington Cemetery for Maj Stone.
The beautiful service can be seen at his Arlington page.

Memorial Service for Captain Christopher Seifert.

SGT Hasan Akbar, murderer

Above - His capture at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait

Below - Being led from the courtroom

Everyday I see Major Stone's face on my sidebar, and everyday I recoil in horror for the atrocity committed upon him and Captain Seifert by Hasan Akbar. Akbar, a SGT in the US Army and convert to Islam, was so horrified by war against a Muslim nation, that he took it in his own hands to kill his commanders.

On the night of March 23, 2003, SGT Hasan Akbar, disabled the generator, plunging the command tents and the area around them into darkness, threw grenades into three tents of sleeping officers, and shot those who ran from the tents. He shot CPT Seifert in the back. Maj Stone was shredded by a grenade.

During his court martial, the chief prosecutor Lt Col Michael Mulligan said, "He is a hate-filled, ideologically driven murderer." In his diary, Akbar wrote, "My life will not be complete unless America is destroyed." In 1996, he wrote, "destroying America was my plan as a child, and as a juvenile and in college. Destroying America is my greatest goal."

SGT Hasan Akbar was tried for two counts of premeditated murder and fourteen counts of premeditated attempted murder. In addition to the deaths of CPT Seifert and MAJ Stone, fourteen were wounded, five severely.

April 21, 2005 - SGT Hasan Akbar was convicted of two counts of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted premeditated murder.

April 28, 2005 - SGT Hasan Akbar is sentenced to death by a unanimous vote of a military panel.

November 20, 2006 - Lt Gen John R Vines, commander of XXVIII Airborne Corps and court martial convening authority approved the death penalty.

Next - The appeals case will automatically be heard by The U. S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and if upheld, with a petition to the United States Supreme Court. If upheld along the way, he cannot be executed without an order from the President of the United States.

While the wheels of justice move slowly and thoroughly, SGT Hasan Akbar has not been a model prisoner. He stabbed one of his guards and has caused other problems while incarcerated.

The families have suffered an unbelievable loss at the hands of this hateful man. The Stone family had to endure further suffering at the hands of Michael Moore who included unauthorized tape from Maj Stone's funeral in his hate filled film Fahrenheit 911.

'Hasan Akbar stole my love, my family, my dreams and my future ... but he could never steal my spirit' said Maj Stone's fiance. "A sacred trust was broken that night. That night that band of brothers was broken," said CPT Seifert's wife. "And I am terribly lonely. I have a wonderful family and lots of friends, but I never knew you could be in a room filled with people and still feel alone."

These two remarkable men, willing to fight for their country, willing to give freedom to those who were oppressed, were taken from us in the most horrible of ways. We keep our prayers for the families. We wait for the final outcome of the justice system to punish the crime. And, now I can see Maj Stone's face and feel that the justice his life and memory deserve have been granted.

Is this another example of the Religion of Peace?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Why I Came to Afghanistan

By Renee' Willis-Williams
U. S. Army Corps of Engineers

My story is like most people who come to Afghanistan; in some small way, I wanted to make a difference by aiding in the recovery of the Afghan National lives, with an emphasis on women's health issues and the improvement of the infant mortality rate, which is one of the highest in the world - 147 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

As a woman and a mother of twin 3-year old boys, John Thomas and Rodgers Timothy Williams, who are being cared for by my husband, Rodgers Williams, who I affectionately call "Mister Rodgers" from the famous 1970s children's television show, I couldn't begin to imagine what it would be like to lose a child.

Any woman, who has ever cared for a precious life, can empathize with the plight of the Afghan woman. The children here are threatened with obstacles that take them all too soon, something I could not fathom before arriving here.

As I've watched my own two boys grow, in leaps and bounds, over the last 36 months of their lives, I received so much joy from them, and it breaks my heart to know that many of the expectant mothers here in Afghanistan will not get the chance to experience the joy of motherhood, which is why I was so moved to come to Afghanistan and assist with the Kabul Rabia-E-Balkhi women's Hospital project in anyway that I could.

Knowing that the work we do here immediately impacts the nationals lives, awakens me every morning felling blessed.

To see the medical staff, with Afghan women back at work, is overwhelming. The prior systematic discrimination against these women by the Taliban halted the education and progression of Afghan women. And, for those women who came back to this country to work, they were persecuted and killed.

My witnessing, first hand, how the Afghan people have worked so hard to maintain what little functionality they have in this hospital facility is truly remarkable.

I now have a new found respect for old-fashioned ingenuity. For instance, in the daytime something as simple as keeping the lights off and not powering up the radiology department until absolutely needed protects the 30-year-old electrical boards they have from burning out.

The electrical and boiler plant replacement is another one of the Corps' projects, but until it is finished 'just in time power', which means don't stock it or supply it until you have an order for it, is given to the hospital.

Besides working on the women's hospital, I am also involved in various other projects.

Since arriving in country, I've been working on the Afghan National Army (ANA) initiatives to build brigade housing, training facilities, a new Judicial Center, and the ANA hospital.

Working on the ANA Hospital project, for the last month, has been the most fascinating and rewarding thing I have done in my life, next to being a wife and the twins mother, of course.

What allows me to be thousands of miles from my husband and twins is a large family, particularly my mother-in-law, Meredith Williams, nieces and nephews, two brothers, four sisters and my girlfriends who are all with me in spirit and without their loving support I could not make it here because I miss them all dearly. We stay in contact mostly via email.

Native of Richmond, Virginia, I am a Contract Specialist attached to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineer's Afghanistan Engineer District for 140 days on a temporary duty assignment with permission from my Command, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in Arlington, Virginia.
Unlike most countries armies, when the United States goes to war, it also takes people to help rebuild the shattered lives of the people it liberates. There are many of these people and many of these stories who are helping people around the world every day. It makes me proud of my country and her citizens.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I Support Iraqi Freedom

A New Blogroll
For a complete list - scroll down the sidebar - after the heroes pictures.

Book Review ~ The Blog of War

Brought to us by Matt Burden - - this book gives you multiple views of the troops in the Great War on Terror. Excerpts collected from multiple blogs will make you laugh and cry. It will touch your heart in many ways and give you an insight into the nature of the fine young people who are serving our country today.

"The Blog of War provides an uncensored, intimate, authentic version of life in the war zone. dozens of voices come together in a wartime choir that conveys better than any second-hand account possiblycan what it is like to serve on the front lines."

Some of the entries were from bloggers I followed, some were new to me. But, all were well-written and expressed a very personal view of their war. I recommend this book to everyone in America.

Thank you, Matt, for an outstanding read.

Tagged ~ Five Things You Don't Know About Me

"There are many things few people outside my immediate friends know about me. Last Christmas there was a game of tag that I thought was fun, though it's value to a political blog, or the lack of value thereof, confused some people. Hey, we are so serious all the time with our blogs, or at least I seem to be, it's nice to cut loose every once in a while," says Douglas ~ as he tags me to be one of the next players in the game..... just when I thought you were my friend, Douglas... LOL

Games People Play
I have been tagged by Douglas in a game of tag that asks the player to announce little known facts about themselves. So, here it goes,

"Five Things You Don't Know About Me"

1. A memory prompted by Douglas' first entry - During the 1971 earthquake, I was living in an apartment in Inglewood, California. I was awakened by the water bed (the early ones were a big bladder of water!) having a major tidal surge while I was being tossed around in it, and eventually struggled to get out of it. Funny now, terrifying then!

2. I am a Night Owl and I am most productive at night.

3. I always wanted to be a veterianarian, but never pursued it after a school counselor said to me, "Young ladies don't do those sorts of things," and assured me that I would never get into vet school. Times have changed, and now women can pursue any career they want to and, hopefully, succeed ONLY if they are qualified. I spent decades doing jobs that were not "traditionally women's" - pc speak for I pushed my way into jobs reserved for men.

4. I attract lost and stray animals. Over the last decade, our farm has often been a temporary sanctuary for lost animals (and we have adopted or have found homes for many of them.) We have had numerous dogs, dozens of cats, an Australian parakeet, several goats, a few sheep, a handful of cattle, and horses, lots of horses, stay or live here.

Here's my rant part - if you lose an animal and someone finds it, brings it to safety, cares for it, feeds and waters it and tracks you down - have the good manners to: say thank you, be nice, and depending on the animal - offer to pay compensation for board of the animal and for any damage done by the animal. For goodness sake, be gracious.

5. I am a bibliophile.

I tag Yankeemom, My Weekly Thoughts, Gunz Up (maybe everyone will play on this great team!!), Fight the Good Fight - but if you don't want to play, I like being able to give some of my favorite reads a link!!! If anyone does what to play that I haven't tagged, let me know and I will link to you here!!

Wednesday Hero ~ SPC Jordan William Hess

This Weeks Hero Was Submitted by Beth

Spc. Jordan William Hess
Spc. Jordan William Hess
27 years old from Marysville, Washington
Company C, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment
December 5, 2006

"Specialist Hess died of wounds received on a battlefield upon which no markers or memorials exist, yet his name will be etched upon the small part of each of our hearts that has hardened to stone by the realization of his passing. I will take Specialist Jordan Hess’ name to my own grave, in the hope that I can somehow preserve the honorable life that he led,” said Capt. Ian Lauer, commander of Company C.

Spc. Hess was a study in contrasts who loved a challenge. He had a warrior's spirit and was thrilled at the chance to serve his county, his parents said from their home in Marysville. He also was content to look for his muse in various forms of art, including glass-blowing, photography and poetry. It was this balance that people will remember most about the 26-year-old who was critically injured Nov. 11 in Ta'Meem, Iraq, when an IED detonated near his combat patrol.

A three-year veteran in the U.S. Army, Hess spent more than a year in Korea as well as time in Germany, always looking for an overseas assignment, Bill and Tammy Hess said. They knew their son was on his way to Kuwait the last time they spoke with him in October, and they suspected he had been deployed to Iraq as part of a tank unit when they didn’t hear from him for several weeks. After his injury, Hess was flown back to the United States and treated for several weeks at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. His parents, as well as his six brothers and one sister, were flown there to be with him.

"None of us wanted to see him hurt like that," Bill Hess said. "But one of the greatest blessings in my life was that we were able to say goodbye."

Hess was an avid wrestler from the time he was young, and news of his death circulated at Lake Stevens High School, where he attended until 1999. "He was a strong-willed, independent young man with a unique sense of humor," the Lake Stevens wrestling coaches said in a statement. "The Lake Stevens wrestling community today feels a strong sense of loss."

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Have Every Right To Dream Heroic Dreams.
Those Who Say That We're In A Time When There Are No Heroes,

They Just Don't Know Where To Look

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. If you would like to participate in honoring the brave men and women who serve this great country, you can find out how by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

From New York to Iraq.....

From New York to Iraq
via the World Trade Towers

For every soldier there is a story - a story of a life, a family, dreams and desires. Each is interesting and unique. Each story includes an episode about joining the military - some will tell you the story, but most make up some innocuous thing, for it is a deeply personal decision that cannot always be put into words, but are filled with emotions and sentiments.

For PFC Timothy Bramhall, it is the story of September Eleventh and the World Trade Towers. that morning he made his way downtown to officially end his military career. An Army Reservist, the Bronx native felt it was time for him to exit the military and start anew. Little did he know what the day had in store for him.

"On 9-11, I went downtown to out-processed, but found myself at the World Trade Center doing search and rescue," said Bramhall. "I walked out of the Madison Square Garden Train Station, and these Secret Service Agents grabbed me and asked if I would help pull security since I was in uniform. I didn't think, I just did what I was asked to do."

When he arrived at the Towers, he was asked to help with one of the biggest missions of his life - to go into the towers and help people exit them. "At the time I went into the Towers, people were jumping out of them. I saw one person jump and hit a fire fighter and kill him. I wanted to turn and run. Then it hit me. These people are scared and what would they think if they saw a guy in uniform run from a situation like this? So I went right back to the mission."

After the second tower fell, Bramhall linked up with another Soldier and two Marines, and went to work searching for people in the wreckage. On the seventh day, a miracle happened. "On day seven of the search and rescue, we found a handicap person who was not in the Towers, but in a building that was near the Towers that was damaged because of the falling debris. It was amazing that she was still alive."

Bramhall stayed at the site until January 2002, helping with the clean up.

Now, Bramhall is a member of the 5-73 Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. He says he is right where he needs to be - serving his country in Iraq. "I'm here in support of those people in the Towers who didn't make it out of there. I'm doing this for them. I'm also doing this for another person who worked with me at the Towers. One of the guys who helped us lost his Uncle, Brother and Father to the crash of the Towers. He went through some really hard times afterwards, so I'm also doing this for him, too. I do this for those guys who want to be out here, but can't be. I'm glad I'm here, doing my part."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Tribute to a Coalition Partner ~ Armenia


Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Armenia

Mr. Serzh Sargsyan, Minister of Defence, visits Iraq
"The morale and psychological atmosphere is excellent and our guys are ready to continue their mission. They realize that by participating in the multi-national coalition force they represent their country and its armed forces."

Armenia, a small, landlocked country in the southern Caucacus region is bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. It just celebrated its 15th anniversary as a free Republic, after being part of the occupied block of the Soviet Union. Armenia has a population of 3.2 million and is officially a Christian country, governed by a parliamentary system.

Excerpts from the Armenian Embassy site:

Underlying the very nature of US-Armenian relations was Armenia's unconditional support for the United States in its campaign against the international terrorism on the wake of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Immediately upon the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom the Armenian Government granted blanket clearance to fly over Armenia's territory, as well as refueling and landing for coalition aircraft. medical treatment was offered for US troops in Armenia's hospitals... The Armenia government provided expert and legal assistance to relevant US agencies and shared information. (This information proved to be relevant and important.)

In the period from September 2001 the US-led coalition aircraft performed more than 600 flights over Armenia, sparing the dangerous task of refueling in mid-air on the return from Afghanistan. "The airplanes were coming out of Turkey and dropping all the foodstuffs to different groups of Afghan people."

The reaction of the people of Armenia to the tragedy of September 11 was great. From churches and NGO's, from the legislature and political groups came a unanimous condemnation of the perpetrators and expression of solidarity with the American people. About 360 Armenian nationals volunteered to fight against the Taliban regime immediately following the attack. The small town of Ararat unveiled a moving memorial to the victims of the September 11 tragedy.

Today, Armenian soldiers are fighting side-by-side with the US in Iraq. They serve in many capacities, including truck drivers, medics and sappers. In November, Lt. Gevorg Nalbandian was wounded while returning from a mission to defuse mines in the town of Al Kut in Wasit province. He lost his foot in this attack. We will be keeping him in our prayers as this hero heals.

Like so many newly free countries, Armenia has a strong belief in freedom an justice. Armenia was subjected to a great Holocaust by the Ottoman empire at a cost of over 1 million lives. These are people who are willing to stand up against terrorism.

I am proud to call the Armenians allies and I thank them for their dedication to the cause of freedom. We could learn much from them and their dedication to freedom and justice.

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