Friday, August 31, 2007

Blue Star Service Banner

This is a beautiful reminder of those who serve and those who are left behind. To read more about the Blue Star Banner:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

SFC Adrian M Elizalde ~ Farewell, and Walk with God

Sergeant First Class Adrian M Elizalde
Died August 23, 2007
Baghdad, Iraq

Sergeant First Class Adrian M Elizalde, 30, of North Bend, Oregon was killed in Baghdad, Iraq on August 23, 2007, while conducting a combat patrol. He was assigned to to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Lewis, Washington. Also killed was SFC Michael J Tully, 33, of Falls Creek, Pennsylvania. Both were in Special Forces and part of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Arabian Peninsula.

SFC Elizalde attended North Bend High School in North Bend, Oregon. He played on the varsity football and wrestling team. He graduated in 1995 and entered the Army in May 1996.

He served four years as an infantryman and scout with the 3rd BN, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment (AIR). Then, he spent three years as a Long Range Surveillance Detachment team leader with Company D, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. After graduating from the Special Forces Qualification Course as a Special Forces Engineer in 2005, SFC Elizalde earned the "Green Beret".

This son of Oregon is remembered as good-natured, a loyal friend, a good father, strong student and hard worker.

Sgt First Class Tim Freeland met and befriended Elizalde about 9 1/2 years ago at Fort Bragg. "He's my best friend. He's somebody that I look up to and that I can always turn to. He's one of those guys. He'd always get you into trouble, but he'd always get you out of trouble, too."

SFC Elicalde enjoyed wrestling, mixed marital arts and hunting.

SFC Elizalde is survived by his daughter, Sydney Grace, 6, of Klamath Falls, Oregon, and his parents, Jorge and Terese of Renton, Washington, and his sister Rachel Elizalde of Renton.

Thursday, August 30, the Patriot Guard Riders will be meeting the plane at the North Bend Airport at 1pm and escorting him to North Bend Chapel, 2014 McPherson St, North Bend.

Funeral Services will be at North Bend High School on Saturday, September 1 in the afternoon.

Burial will be at Sunset Memorial Park following the service.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be providing escort at all services.

We hold the family and friends of SFC Elizalde in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why They Served....

Heroes stick to their ideals, even in tragedy
By Bill McEwen / The Fresno Bee

Whether you're pro-war or anti-war, whether you know the Hubbards or not, I can imagine only one reaction to the gut-wrenching news from Iraq.

No! No! No!

Not to this dutiful band of brothers. Not to a family that already has sacrificed too much.

Then a pause for thanks. Jason, eldest of the three brothers at 33, wasn't on the Blackhawk helicopter that carried 21-year-old Nathan to his death.

Followed by questions.

With their brother Jared and his friend Jeremiah Baro buried headstone to headstone at Clovis District Cemetery, why did Nathan and Jason enlist in the Army?

How could they put their family through the second-by-second trials and anguish of war?

Then the answers.

You raise children to your standards; the Hubbards' are noble and enduring. You teach the importance of accountability and, with a little luck and a lot of leading by example, the lessons stick.

Then you do what every parent must.

You pull back, offering your counsel but not imposing your will. The swaddled baby you brought home years ago is an adult and must be freed to seek his path. Even a path that leads to a war thousands of miles away.

I don't know Jeff and Peggy Hubbard.

But I know about their sons' choices.

The Hubbard men have strong ideas about right and wrong, freedom and patriotism, purpose and honor.

But unlike many of us who put such notions on a pedestal and merely pay homage, the Hubbards clutched their ideals close to heart and carried them off to Iraq.

The Hubbards are military men. They leap into action, overcoming danger with bravery, pride and skill.

Their mission: protect the country and its freedoms -- and repay all who served before them.
I won't forget what Jason told The Bee two years ago when asked why he and Nathan had joined the Army.

Pointing out that Jared was killed on his second Iraq tour, Jason said: "We felt that if more people did their part and joined and served their country that maybe somebody wouldn't have to go a third time."

He also said, "Our enlistment isn't because we agree or disagree with what is going on over there. Our enlistment is because our country is at war. There are young men being sent to fight this war, and we feel we should be part of that."

Now Jeff and Peggy face the heartache of burying a second child.

Once is tragic. Twice? There aren't words to describe what's ahead for them.

Those who know the Hubbards say they are resilient.

When Jared was killed, they didn't get over it -- who would? -- but they moved forward with their lives.

They'll rebuild again. Not what they had before. But a life and a family underpinned by high standards and service to others, and memories of two departed sons and brothers who made choices that spoke well of them all.

There will be torment, bittersweet get-togethers and questions about losing so much.

They'll need privacy, time and support. Keep them in your prayers.

If you don't know the story of the Hubbard Family, you may read it here.

This tribute to the character, the heart and soul of the Hubbard's can be applied to most of those who serve in the military and their families. People often speculate about why people serve, perhaps this will help them understand.

Wednesday Hero ~ Ken Leonard

Ken Leonard

Ken Leonard (On The Right)
From High Point, North Carolina

Every once in a while you run across one of those "feel good stories". Those stories that show us just what a person can do when they really want it bad enough. And Ken Leonard has one of those stories.

In 2005, Ken Leonard left his job as a police officer in High Point, North Carolina to go to Iraq to work with a private security firm. In December of that year, Ken, along with five other men in his vehicle and six others in the vehicle behind him, was hit by a roadside bomb outside of Baghdad. "After the bomb went off, I knew exactly what had happened," Leonard recalled. "My feet got jarred, so I knew they were hit." While others in his vehicle were injured, he had received the worst of it. He had lost both his feet.

The vehicle behind them pushed Leonard's to a safer area. But flames were coming out of the air conditioning vents and they had to get out. Leonard crawled from the car and fell to the pavement. "That's when I saw my feet," he said. "I could tell they were gone. They were still attached, but they were shredded."

On July 19, 2007, Ken Leonard went back to North Carolina to get his job back with the police force. To do that he needed to pass the Police Officers Physical Abilities Test, which, among other things, consisted of a run to be finished in under 7 minutes, 20 seconds. And he did just that with 24 seconds to spare.

"Somebody told me one time they said, 'You know, what you've lost is just bone and muscle. You've still got heart, and you've still got, you know, what's up here,'" Leonard said, pointing to his head.

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.

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Coalition Engineers Work Together in Afghanistan

Korean Sgt. Chi-Keun Lee interprets for Korean Capt. Bo Geol Choi as he meets with U.S. Army Capt. Eric Parthemore of Task Force Pacemaker, to discuss engineering work.

Korean engineers work on welding K-Spans, metal building systems, as part of expanding Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan.

Polish soldiers work on a culvert that will keep the Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, from flooding during the next rainy season.

Korean soldiers work on a 20-foot K-Span metal building structure that will improve maintenance support for Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan.

Polish Pvt. Piotr Oparski works on the final touches of a culvert in Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, as a scoop loader hauls the rest of the dirt.
Photos by 1st Lt. Kenya Virginia Saenz, USA

International Military Engineers Work Together in Afghanistan

By 1st Lt. Kenya Virginia Saenz, Task Force Pacemaker Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan, Aug. 27, 2007 - Afghans and multinational forces are working hand in hand on a variety of construction projects here.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 864th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy); 1st Construction Company, 100th Republic of Korea Engineering Group; and Polish 1st Engineer Brigade are working together to construct metal building systems, known as K-Spans; roads; ditches; culverts and sewage lagoons.

Task Force Pacemaker Headquarters Support Company soldiers led by Army Capt. Eric Parthemore support the battalion and manage multinational force missions.

Polish engineers provide additional capacity and leadership to multiple construction projects. Polish soldiers led by Polish army 1st Lt. Radoslaw Telezynski are working to improve roads by ensuring that proper drainage and sewage structures are constructed before the rainy season begins. The Polish army has been deployed in places such as Lebanon, Syria, and Africa to support many humanitarian missions since the war on terror began.

"I didn't know what to expect or what missions we would have, but working with American soldiers has been a great experience. They have been very helpful," Telezynski said. "I have been able to learn different training techniques from the American soldiers and compare them to our techniques. I changed our technique to what works best to accomplish the mission successfully."

Polish Pfc. Rafaz Sobon agreed. "This is my first time deployed," he said, "and it has been a new and interesting experience. We learned about different cultures in class, but it is better to learn from first-hand experience."

First Construction Company from the Republic of Korea focuses on K-Span construction. Korean engineers are especially meticulous and bring a "vertical construction" capability to the command that it did not have, Parthemore said. The company is commanded by Korean Capt. Bo Geol Choi.

Once completed, the K-Spans will enhance maintenance operations and provide more space for supply support activity here. Even though K-Spans are not common in Korea, the soldiers were previously trained by civil engineers in their country, Choi said.

"We are very proud to be part of this mission. Our main goal is to bring the proper engineering assets for future coalition forces," he said. "There have been a few challenges over the language gap as well as different working systems, but overall, the construction progress and the relationship with American forces are going well."

Korean soldiers Sgt. Chi-Keun Lee and Cpl. Min-Gi Kim agreed. They said it is fun learning about different cultures, even though sometimes they have to use hand signals to communicate.

"The addition of Polish and Korean engineers along with Afghan contractors gives our task force a tremendous capability that we do not normally have," Parthemore said. "Simply working on a single job site with engineers of four nationalities working together toward a common goal is very satisfactory. Also, our common understanding and respect for safe operations keeps us accident free despite the communication difficulties."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Oregon Marine Inspires His Team with Art

Lance Cpl. Cory Howland, a squad automatic weapon gunner with 1st squad, 2nd platoon, Kilo Company, adds details to his recent “devil girl” drawing on a company table. Kilo Company and 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines have been conducting counter-insurgency operations in the Al Anbar province here.
Photo by Sgt. Andy Hurt.

Lance Corporal Cory Howland hails from North Bend, Oregon. Currently, he is a Marine - a gunner for Kilo company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines - and the company artist - at Combat Outpost Lincoln in Iraq.

Throughout high school, he faced a decision between art school and the Marine Corps. He chose the Marines, and the Marines chose him at an 'Artist Recruit' - tasked with creating motivating range flags and other projects. On the side, he draws tattoos for his fellow Marines as a source of income for his art supplies.

Now in Iraq, Howland splits his time between patrols, guard duty and 'COP Beautification' (filling sandbags), and draws is inspirational art whenever he can. He is shown above working on a tabletop drawing that is part of a competition at COP Lincoln.

Howland stays up all night working on his drawing. His joy of drawing and the works he does are inspirational to his fellow Marines and they look forward to seeing his progress.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Family Looses Two Sons in Iraq

Army Cpl. Nathan C. Hubbard, 21, of Clovis, Calif.; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; died Aug. 22 in Multaka, Iraq, of injuries suffered when his helicopter crashed.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jared P. Hubbard, 22, of Clovis, Calif.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Nov. 4, 2004 of injuries sustained due to enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq. Also killed was his best friend, Cpl. Jeremiah A. Baro.

Peggy and Jeff Hubbard with a photo of sons Jason, left, and Nathan in 2005. Army Cpl. Nathan Hubbard, 21, was killed Wednesday in northern Iraq. Jason, 33, was serving in the same unit as Nathan.

Photo by Tomas Ovalle, The Fresno Bee

The Hubbard Family of Clovis, California, has just suffered the loss of a second son in Iraq.

LCpl Jared Hubbard, US Marine Corps, was killed in November, 2004. After his death, his two brothers, Jason and Nathan, enlisted in the Army. They enlisted together, went to boot camp together, and were serving together in Iraq.

In a Fall 2005 interview in the Fresno Bee, Nathan Hubbard was asked this question:

Q: Do you support our presence in Iraq?
A: Of course. I joined the military to go over there, but it doesn't matter what the reason is for our presence. The reason for joining is because there are lots of young men in the Army and they keep getting deployed and they're doing their part and they're dying and I want to be there to help and support them.

August 22, 2007, Cpl Nathan Hubbard was killed in a Black Hawk Helicopter crash. Family spokesperson Tim Rolen says, "His brother, Jason, was in another helicopter on the same mission." The men in Jason's helicopter immediately responded at the crash site. Jason escorted Nathan's body to Kuwait and is now on his way home.

The Hubbard family has given two sons to the cause of freedom in Iraq. Our hearts and prayers are with them at this difficult time.

Condolences may be sent to:
The Hubbard Family
c/0 New Hope Community Church
4620 E Nees Avenue
Clovis CA 93611

The family requests that monetary donations be made to the donor's favorite veterans organization or military rehabilitation facility. If donors wish to send money to the Hubbards, the family asks that "Nathan Hubbard Fund" be written in the memo line; the money will go to help disabled veterans.

We have a friend in this Brigade. When he was able to contact us about the crash, he said, "We will continue to fight - and WIN."


Funeral for Cpl Nathan Hubbard

11am Friday - August 31
St. Anthony of Padua at Bullard and Maroa avenues in Fresno. Graveside services will follow at Clovis Memorial Cemetery, at Herndon and Villa avenues.

Read about the Vigil here:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Blackhawk Crash Claims 14 Soldiers

Blackhawk Crash Claims 14 US Soldiers

The Department of Defense announced the death of 14 soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Aug. 22 in Multaka, Iraq, of injuries suffered when their helicopter crashed. All of the soldiers were members of Task Force Lightning.

The military said initial indications showed the UH-60 helicopter experienced a mechanical problem and was not brought down by hostile fire, but the cause of the crash was still under investigation. It was one of two helicopters on a nighttime operation.

Killed were the following soldiers assigned to the 4th Squadron, 6th U.S. Air Cavalry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash.:

Capt. Corry P. Tyler, 29, of Georgia.

Chief Warrant Officer Paul J. Flynn, 28, of Whitsett, N.C.

Sgt. Matthew L. Tallman, 30, of Groveland, Calif.

Spc. Rickey L. Bell, 21, of Caruthersville, Mo.

Also killed were the following soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii:

Capt. Derek A. Dobogai, 26, of Fond du Lac, Wis.

Staff Sgt. Jason L. Paton, 25, of Poway, Calif.

Sgt. Garrett I. McLead, 23, of Rockport, Texas.

Cpl. Jeremy P. Bouffard, 21, of Middlefield, Mass.

Cpl. Phillip J. Brodnick, 25, of New Lenox, Ill.

Cpl. Joshua S. Harmon, 20, of Mentor, Ohio.

Cpl. Nathan C. Hubbard, 21, of Clovis, Calif.

Spc. Michael A. Hook, 25, of Altoona, Penn.

Spc. Jessy G. Pollard, 22, of Springfield, Mo.

Spc. Tyler R. Seideman, 20, of Lincoln, Ark.

This is a tragic loss to the family and friends of these Soldiers, the Brigade, and to all of America. All of you will be in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Soldiers' Heroism and Charity in South Korea

Pfc. Russell McCanless Jr. receives flowers from the children of Seon Jae Dong Ja Buddhist Orphanage in Uijeongbu, Korea. Pfc. McCanless and Pfc. Reid Erickson donated the anonymous award money they received for rescuing two women from a fire to the orphanage.
Photo by Pvt Huh Hojin

Maj. Gen. James A. Coggin, 2nd Infantry Division commander, presents Pfc. Russell McCanless Jr., Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, with the Soldier's Medal Aug. 16 at Camp Red Cloud, Korea. Pfc. McCanless and Pfc. Reid Erickson, HHSC, DSTB, rescued an elderly woman and her physically handicapped daughter from their burning apartment.
Photo by Anthony Hawkins, Jr.

Heroism and charity seem to infuse the souls of so many in our military. I am constantly impressed by the giving nature of our men and women who have the roughest job, for little pay. I have often seen them work to earn money for charity and to give money to charity. They take time to help the people in the countries in which they serve. Their generosity seems to be boundless. When they are recognized for what they do, they are always modest and see others as doing more than they do. They do the 'right thing'. We could all learn much from them.

Meet PFC Russell McCanless Jr and PFC Reid Erickson. Stationed in South Korea, the two entered a building to check to see if anyone was in the apartment above a burning restaurant. They encountered an elderly woman who pleaded for them to help her daughter who was disabled. PFC Erickson assisted the mother and PFC McCanless carried the daughter to safety.

'They answered their call to duty," said Maj. Gen. James A Coggin, 2nd Infantry Division commander, during the award ceremony at Camp Red Cloud, Korea. "They put their lives on the line to help save the lives of others. Their personal courage proved to the world, proved to their fellow Soldiers and proved to themselves what being a Soldier is all about."

An anonymous person read their story and sent the Soldiers 600,000 won, the equivalent of about $600. They gave the money to the Seon Jae Dong Ja Buddhist Orphanage - giving back to the community in which they serve.

At the award ceremony, PFC McCanless said, "I didn't expect anything like this for one little action. There are other people who deserve it more that I do. There are people over in Iraq and Afghanistan who are doing great things and not getting recognized for it. Here I am in Korea, and I just saved a couple of people's lives. I didn't anticipate getting an award for this. It was just the right thing to do."

Thank you PFC McCanless and PFC Erickson - you are heroes.... you make us proud.

What is the Soldier's Medal? Read about it here.

Soldier's Medal

Soldier's Medal

Criteria: The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States, or of a friendly foreign nation who while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, distinguished himself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. The same degree of heroism is required as for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. The performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy. Awards will not be made solely on the basis of having saved a life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wednesday Hero ~ SSGT John T Self

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Kasee

SSgt. John Self
Click Image For Full Size

SSgt. John T. Self
29 years old from Pontotoc, Mississippi
314th Security Forces Squadron
May 14, 2007

A kindhearted patriot. That's how SSgt. John Self was described by those who knew him. "John was a good boy, a good boy who loved his country and who loved Christ and for that he'll move on to a better place," said Laron Self, Sgt. Self's grandfather, fighting back tears.

SSgt. Self was killed, and three other airmen wounded, when an IED hit the Humvee they were traveling in while on his 79th patrol in Baghdad, Iraq. "John volunteered for this deployment while he was deployed to (Southwest Asia)," said Chief Master Sgt. Keith Morris, 314th SFS security forces manager. "We discussed this deployment via e-mail. He said he made his decision to deploy again to gain experience."

"He could always find the humor in anything regardless of the situation," said Senior Airman Daniel Hunsperger, a member of Self's fire team. "He believed in everything he did. This was obvious to us after learning he had only spent two weeks home between his last deployment and volunteering for this one."

On May 23, SSgt. Self was laid to rest with a crowd of hundreds to pay their respects. People lined both sides of the highway for more than 5 miles waving flags as the hundred-car procession traveled to the burial. Shouts of, "We love you John," and "Thank you, John, could be heard as the train of cars passed by. "That's a hero," Susan Chambers, one of the many mourners, said to her son as she pointed at Self's casket.

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.

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll.

To find out more about Wednesday Hero, you can go here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Care Package a Soldier Will Never Forget!!!

Army Spc. Alfonso Sanchez, of 16th Military Police Brigade, thanks Army Maj. Kristian Sorensen, the brigade's civil affairs officer, July 24 for sending the names of the unit's soldiers to Operation Gratitude, a troop support group. Sanchez, who is currently serving in Iraq, had just received Operation Gratitude's 250,000th care package, which came with a surprise --
Photo by Spc. Beatrice Florescu, USA

A Soldier hears his name called at Mail Call - not expecting anything, he is surprised to be called. But, the real surprise was in the box - keys to a 2007 Jeep Patriot Limited!!!

SPC Alfonso Sanchez was the 250,000 recipient of a care package from Operation Gratitude.

What a great story provided by a great support group!!!

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2007 - Thousands of servicemembers get care packages with surprises in them every day, thanks to caring folks back home. Some of the surprises, however, are bigger than others.

Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit troop-support group, celebrated the packing of its 250,000th care package by teaming with Tri-State Jeep Dealers Association to put Army Spc. Alfonso Sanchez in the driver's seat of a 2007 Jeep Patriot Limited.

"We were thrilled to give a Jeep Patriot to a true American patriot," said Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude's founder. "It is an honor to be able to recognize him and, through him, all servicemembers in uniform."

Sanchez, who received the package containing keys to the Jeep on July 24, is assigned to the 16th Military Police Brigade, which is serving in Iraq. He will receive the actual vehicle upon his redeployment to the states, hopefully by the end of the year, Blashek said.

Not expecting any packages, Sanchez didn't initially respond when his name was called.

"When they called my name, I was shocked, stunned, and I froze for a second, double-checking that my last name was Sanchez," he said. "The first thing I saw when I opened the box was a Jeep brochure, but they give those at the post exchange.

"I expected anything else but this vehicle," he said. "I don't have enough words, but with all my heart, thank you (Operation Gratitude) for all you do."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Faces of Freedom ~ The Noches Family ~ Tuskegee to Iraq

Airman continues grandfather's Tuskegee legacy at Balad
Tech. Sgt. Rose Noches sets up equipment for an exploratory laparotomy procedure at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Sergeant Noches is a granddaughter of 1st Lt. Ramon F. Noches, a Tuskegee Airman killed in a B-25G aircraft accident June 6, 1945, during night-flying training from Gunter Army Air Field at Montgomery, Ala. Sergeant Noches is a surgical service craftsman with the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group and a living legacy to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame. She is deployed from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Gerard Anthony Sabido)

by Senior Airman Olufemi A. Owolabi
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- The saying that Air Force history is easily found among its Airmen and their units became a reality for an Airman deployed here as she followed in her grandfather's footsteps and joined an elite group called Tuskegee Airmen.

Tech. Sgt. Rose Noches, a surgical service craftsman with the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group at Balad Air Base, is a living legacy to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame.

The legacy and history began in Tuskegee, Ala., 66 years ago when African-Americans proved themselves worthy in the sky and on the battlefield as an all African-American unit. They proved they could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft during World War II.

With a rally cry of "The Legend Continues," the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group not only fought the Germans during World War II, but also they fought and overcame prejudices and prevalent racism within their own military. Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance, support staff, instructors and staff who kept the mission going.

Balad AB's 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing draws its heritage from these heroes of World War II, and now every Airman assigned here is referred to as a Tuskegee Airman.

"Coming here has really opened my eyes to my history," said Sergeant Noches, who deployed from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. "It is great to see how much the Tuskegee Airmen's heritage is embraced here at Balad."

Sergeant Noches is the granddaughter of 1st Lt. Ramon F. Noches, a Tuskegee Airman who after his flight training in 1943 was assigned to the 477th Bomb Group at Godman Field, Fort Knox, Ky.

Lieutenant Noches flew numerous training missions in a B-25G aircraft until he was killed in an accident June 6, 1945, during night-flying training at Gunter Army Air Field in Montgomery, Ala.

Lieutenant Noches died, but left a legacy behind. His son, born four years before his death, and now a retired Air Force colonel, followed in his footsteps. Col. Ramon C. Noches was commissioned 18 years after his father's death. He retired in January 1990 after almost 27 years of serving his country. His legacy continues with his children, one of whom is Sergeant Noches.

"I never met my grandfather," she said. "The most that I've heard about him was not only being a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, but that he was a great mathematician."

Deploying to Balad AB has been an eye-opening experience for her about how important her family history is to the Air Force.

Not long after Sergeant Noches arrived here, she e-mailed her first sergeant, asking if she could display her grandfather's picture somewhere on the base. She described the response she got as amazingly surprising. Not only did she get a positive response from her first sergeant, but also she has her own picture inserted in a big frame with her father's and grandfather's pictures. This frame is displayed in the 332nd AEW Headquarters building.

"It has been amazing, the way the Tuskegee spirit is preserved here," she said. "I feel extremely proud."

Sergeant Noches' father commanded many units during his service, and according to him, he was the first African-American officer assigned to most of his units back then, such as the advisor to the 12th Air Force commander, Tactical Air Command; and as the deputy director of administration of information management at Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., among others.

As a legacy to her father and grandfather, Sergeant Noches, as a surgical service craftsman, is always available to assist surgeons during surgical procedures. Also, she is the senior "float" in the operating room. She is called upon anytime to assist the supply custodian in maintaining supply levels and to train volunteers on how to retrieve blood.

Serving here on her second deployment, the sergeant is all about saving the lives of those who serve. During her first deployment four years ago to Iraq at Ali AB, formerly known as Tallil AB, she helped complete about 50 surgical procedures in 93 days. Here they have the capability to do 50 procedures in two days.

"It certainly feels like everything has come full circle, being a part of the 332nd AEW as my grandfather was," she said. "The day-to-day experience has been a challenge; just about all the knowledge and skills I've acquired since I was an Airman is being put to use. The payoff is saving Americans, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines or Iraqi men, women and children. The work is rewarding."

Sergeant Noches said she is proud to be a Balad AB Tuskegee Airman and a member of the 332nd EMDG, and she also plans to leave a legacy for her two daughters and their future generations. She believes in the 332nd AEW battle cry: "Combat airpower for America, right here, right now; the legend continues."

"At the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, we talk about how the legend continues. In the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group, we have been blessed with one of our own who is the living legacy," said Col. Brian Masterson, the 332nd EMDG commander. "Sergeant Noches is the realization of the dreams of brave Americans long past. Sixty-six years ago, these men dared to dream, of a world without oppression and terror, but more importantly a world were those willing to take a stand for human liberty were not judged by the color of their skin."

"When Rose Noches approached me at the beginning of AEF rotation 7 and 8 about her family history, little did any of us realize the time odyssey that she and her family would travel," the colonel said. "The story of three generations of the Noches family is one of honor and one that is very humbling when we realize how far we have come with the dream."


With gratitude to the Noches family and their commitment to our country...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Air Force and Army Task Force Provide Aid in Peru

Air Force Staff Sgt. Tristen Wachter uses a forklift to load medical supplies onto a pallet on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 16, 2007. Wachter is assigned to Soto Cano’s 612th Air Base Squadron. Airmen and soldiers based in Honduras are deploying to Peru to support relief efforts in the wake of an Aug. 15 earthquake.

Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Freeman and Capt. Ebony Weston, Soto Cano Medical Element, pack supplies on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 16, 2007, for the Mobile Surgical Team’s deployment to Peru to assist with earthquake relief efforts.

From left: Army Sgt. Patrick Dickens, Master Sgt. Alvaro Magana and Master Sgt. Dan Cockrell, load supplies onto a pallet Aug. 16 for the Mobile Surgical Team’s deployment to Peru to assist with earthquake relief efforts.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edward Slavin secures a vehicle inside a C-130 aircraft on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 17, 2007. Slavin is a crew chief assigned to the 135th Airlift Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard. About 30 soldiers and airmen are responding to the Aug. 15 earthquake in Peru, bringing equipment and 4,470 pounds of medical supplies for relief efforts.

Air Force Senior Airman Kenneth Cumbie drives a forklift to load medical supplies onto a C-130 aircraft on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 17, 2007, to deliver aid and supplies to Peru in the wake of an Aug. 15 earthquake. Crumbie is assigned to the 612th Air Base Squadron on Soto Cano

Air Force Senior Airman Kenneth Cumbie, 612th Air Base Squadron, loads medical supplies onto a C-130 aircraft on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 17, 2007, to deliver aid and supplies to Peru in the wake of an Aug. 15 earthquake.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edward Slavin inspects the exterior of a C-130 aircraft on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, before a relief mission to Peru Aug. 17, 2007. Slavin is a crew chief with the 135th Airlift Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard.

Air Force Senior Airman Brandon Krantz, left, and Tech. Sgt. Will Morales configure the interior of a C-130 aircraft on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, before a relief mission to Peru Aug. 17. Krantz and Morales are both loadmasters with the 135th Airlift Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Will Morales, left, and Senior Airman Brandon Krantz, both loadmasters with the Maryland Air National Guard’s 135th Airlift Squadron, configure the interior of a C-130J aircraft on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, before a relief mission to Peru Aug. 17. Soldiers and airmen are responding to an Aug. 15 earthquake in Peru, bringing 4,470 pounds of medical supplies for relief efforts.

Senior Airman Jason Caswell drives a high humvee inside a C-130J aircraft while Staff Sgt. Andre Talltree checks for clearance on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 17, 2007. They are with 612th Air Base Squadron. The vehicle is being deployed to Peru to support a humanitarian relief mission in the wake of an Aug. 15 earthquake, along with a Mobile Surgical Team from Soto Cano.
U.S. Air Force photos by Tech. Sgt. Sonny Cohrs

By Senior Airman Shaun Emery,
USAF Special to American Forces Press Service

PISCO, Peru, Aug. 18, 2007 - A team of airmen and soldiers from Joint Task Force Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, arrived here yesterday to provide medical care to those suffering in the aftermath of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that devastated the region Aug. 15.

The task force is the first American force to touch down in Pisco, joining other relief personnel from all over the world. Members of the Soto Cano Medical Element are equipped to treat up to 500 people without resupply.

"We will be able to provide basic medications, treat minor wounds, as well as perform a few minor or major surgeries," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Robert Rush, the medical element's chief of surgery.

As citizens of Pisco begin the tedious process of reconstruction, there is a chance for additional injuries, officials said.

"If we need to treat additional traumas as people sift through rubble and debris, we will be able to take on those cases as well," Rush said. In an area where basic medical care is in short supply, members of Joint Task Force Bravo are ready to provide everything they can.

"This is an opportunity for the United States military to use its medical care capabilities in an austere environment," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jesus Antillon, assistant noncommissioned officer medical technician charge for the element.

"This is what we train for. It is the reason we conduct exercises for all different scenarios -- so we can support other nations in times of need."

The Soto Cano task force, which comprises about 30 U.S. military personnel, includes a mobile surgery team, communications specialists and a small security detail.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tribute to a Coalition Partner ~ Bulgaria

Tribute to a Coalition Partner

Bulgarian 3MP-23 Tank in Iraq

Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces visited service members of the 451st Air Expeditionary Group and Bulgarian forces at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, July 7, 2007.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer A. Evans)

Bulgaria is a valued Coalition partner. Bulgaria is a small Balkan country - about the size of Tennessee - with a population of approximately 7.9 million people. It is bordered by the Black Sea, Turkey, Greece, Moldava, Serbia & Montenegro and Romania.

The Republic of Bulgaria’s contributions to the Global War on Terrorism have been significant. The former Warsaw Pact state has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has generously allowed the U.S. use of its airspace and infrastructure - strategic assets given that the country is located in Eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea.

“Bulgaria is a small country, but we try to participate like a strong partner,” explained Col. Cvetan Colov, the Bulgarian Senior National Representative to US Central Command.

“We are in the Coalition against terrorism from the beginning with 480 military personnel. Now we are committed 260 service members to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and we implemented many civilian projects. We have trained a lot of people and we give logistics support.”

The following Soldiers have given their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Jr Sgt Paun Georgiev
Jr Sgr Tsvetan Kamov
Officer Candidate Marin Milev
Pvt Gurdi Gurdev
Pvt Preslav Stoyanov
Jr Sgt Valentin Donev
Sr Sgt Valdimir Pashov
Sr Sgt Dimitar Dimitrov
Capt Georgi Kachorin
Jr Sgt Anton Petrov
Sr Sgt Ivan Indzhov
Pvt Svilen Kirov
Lt Nikolay Angelov Saruev

With our gratitude to Bulgaria for their participation in the Coalition in the War on Terror.

To Read about other Coalition Partners, click here.

Words Have Meaning.... Multilateral

Throughout the debate on the Great War on Terror, the words unilateral and multilateral have been thrown around carelesly and repeated far too often, and they have been misused.

UNILATERAL - done or undertaken by one party or country

MULTILATERAL - involving several parties or countries

Regardless of your political stance, the word MULTILATERAL is the correct definition of the coalition that is fighting the Great War on Terror. 290 members of the coalition countries have lost their lives in Iraq and 226 in Afghanistan. I defy you to look at their families and tell them that their sons or daughters were not contributing to the fight against the War on Terror when they lost their lives.

This is the beginning of a series on the MULTILATERAL forces who are serving alongside the American forces. Thank you, all.

Albania - here
Armenia - here
Australia - here and here
Azerbaijan - here
Belgium - here
Bulgaria - here
Bosnia and Herzegovina - here
Canada - here
Germany - here
Great Britian- here
Japan - here
Korea - here
Italy - here
Poland - here and here and here

If the links do not work, click on the labels on the left at the bottom of the page.

Updated 8.18.07

Friday, August 17, 2007

Army Sgt Major gets help for Afghan Farmers

Email to Spirit of America from an Army Sergeant Major:

We would like your help providing basic subsistence items to destitute Afghan farmers and their children. Most rural Afghans are farmers, and live without amenities such as electricity, clean water, or decent schools. The decades of war here have produced a high rate of illiteracy and desperation. We would like to provide some relief with your assistance.

The people in our areas need basic farming implements such as shovels, hoes, picks, and rakes. Both adults and children need clothing, especially shoes, socks, and gloves. The schools here lack basic supplies, like pencils, paper, chalk, and blank notebooks. The schools also have no sports equipment, so they could use basic recreational items such as soccer balls and Frisbee-s. The youngest children covet any type of stuffed animals, so that would be appropriate also.

We have been fighting the Taliban [in several areas] lately, but this type assistance requested would help anywhere we go in Afghanistan next. The Taliban's biggest ally is that the local people are destitute, and hungry for any good deed. We could use some good deeds on our side, with your help. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Spirit of America responded to the Sergeant Major and is getting supplies to the Afghan farmers. So far, they have sent 300 school kits, soccer balls, beanies and jump ropes. A shipment of farm tools, seeds and saffron bulbs is on its way.

The Sergeant Major's response:

Your choice of seed variety [being sent in response to this project] sounds right on, thank you. The farmers will use them in their gardens for sustenance, but they raise something else to earn cash.

The amount of heroin that is produced from this country (about 90% of total world's production)is unbelievable. Poppy fields stretch for miles. The Taliban use poppy grown in Afghanistan to generate funding for their activities.

Although the poppy grown by these farmers doesn't give them very much money, it brings in more money than anything else, so it is the biggest cash crop they produce. I asked farmers what they would raise as a cash crop if they didn't grow poppy. They all said saffron. Saffron has been considered a good substitute by many agricultural experts in Afghanistan also, and it would take money out of the hands of drug dealers who work with the Taliban.

This region is where saffron originally came from, before cultivation spread to Europe. Right now Afghanistan's neighbor in the west, Iran, grows the largest quantites of saffron, that it exports globally as the world's most expensive spice by weight. The limited quantities of saffron grown here in Afghanistan so far also generate the only revenue close to poppy in monetary value. Where one kilo of poppy will earn an Afghan farmer about $750, one kilo of saffron brings about $400, which is not bad. One kilo of wheat here barely brings in $4.00, which makes living off staple crops difficult. I think that if it were more available, saffron would be grown here in greater quantities, taking cash away from the Taliban.

Spirit of America does great work helping our warriors help the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and where ever they are working. Thank you!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mail for the Marines!!!

Mail for the Marines!

Jim at Thinking Right (

is collecting email letters to send to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment,

to get every one of these Marines a letter of support from home.

You can email him your supportive letter at:

Please put 'Letters from Home' in the subject line.

He's trying to gather 1,000 emails, so write now!!!

LCpl Bryan Bertrand and Crew ~ Farewell and Walk with God

Lance Corporal Bryan Pahl Bertrand
8/12/78 - 1/9/2002
Died with his crew members in a crash of KC-130/R
Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352

Lance Corporal Bryan Pahl Bertrand, 23, of Coos Bay, Oregon was killed with his crew when the KC-130/R refueling plane crashed into a mountainside in Pakistan. LCpl Bertrand was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, California.

LCpl Bertrand attended Marshfied High School in Coos Bay, where he played football and basketball, earning all-state honors as an outside linebacker, and graduated in 1997. He dabbled in some college classes, and then enlisted in the Marines on October 5, 1998.

Bertrand could have been home when the crash occured, but he volunteered for a second tour in Pakistan. He wrote to his family that he "didn't want to sit on the bench." He loved what he was doing, his father said.

In one of his last letters home, he told his family that he had saved enough money for an electric guitar. It was to be waiting for him when he got home. As a child, he wanted to be a rock star.

LCpl Bertrand is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The rest of the crew is also buried there.

KC-130/R Marine Aerial Refueler Transport

Memorial to the Crew

Miramar Memorial Service

Crew Headstone at Arlington Cemetery

Captain Matthew W. Bancroft, 29, Redding, California

Captain Daniel G. McCollum, 29, Irmo, South Carolina

Gunnery Sergeant. Stephen L. Bryson, 36, Montgomery, Alabama

Staff Sergeant Scott N. Germosen, 37, New York

Sergeant Jeannette L. Winters, 25, Gary, Indiana
Sgt Winters was the first woman killed in the War on Terror

Sergeant Nathan P. Hays, 21, of Wilbur, Washington

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Vet Helping Vet ~ A Great Fish Story!!!

Story from ifish:

I want to thank 'Kevin's Drift Boat' and 'No Wishin Just Fishin' for making a dream come true. Several weeks ago I was told that my daughter and son-in-law were coming from Mississippi for a visit. My son-in-law asked that I take him fishing while he was here. I am a trout fisherman and this time of year the lakes I fish can be very slow so I did not know what to do for him. Then I remembered seeing the "Take a Soldier Fishing" thread and I figured I would post a request for info since John had recently gotten out of the Marine Corps after serving in Iraq. "Kevins Drift Boat" was quick with a reply and he put me in contact with "No Wishin Just Fishin". That is when the fun started.

The days target was going to be kok's on Merwin but plans changed last minute and we ended up on the Columbia River. We put in around 6:30am an searched for the perfect spot. Lines went into the river and the wishin started. Shortly after 10:00am a rod started to scream. "FISH ON". John was into his very first salmon. Our host was masterful in coaching John in the art of fighting a big fish. When the line came tight the first time the fish peeled of 70 or 80 yards of line on a dead run for the middle of the river. The look on John's face was priceless. Having fished for bass in Mississippi, John quickly realized this was no bass. Each time the fish would show signs of giving up we would tell John it was almost over. Then, the sound of the drag singing. This went on for almost 20 minutes. Then the fish gave up for the last time and the 35 lbs cromer was in the net. John has not stopped smiling since. Bruce, Thanks again for the great day. -'Gillfish3'

My friend, 'Kevin's Drift Boat', sent me this wonderful story!

He says, "I had only a tiny part in this. I matched a 3 tour Vietnam Marine with a young Marine back from Iraq. The good man above provided the rest - a huge Salmon for the young Marine to smile about for a very long time.

"I encourage all soldiers that served in OIF or OEF to take part in this free or very low cost project to get them involved in big game fishing in Oregon. It does good for the soldier and the boat captain lucky enough to have a hero onboard. I hope to see a lot more of this type of happiness."

"This is my boat, I had it built as a tribute to Kevin. His wife has his smaller boat. I specialize in running rivers for Steelhead. No motor, I only row the oars.
Its a real adventure in whitewater, besides the fishing, this part is really fun, bouncing on whitewater waves in a hard flat bottom boat."
- 'Kevin's Drift Boat'

SSG Kevin Davis, Oregon National Guard, was killed in Iraq in 2005. His friends are remembering him by helping others and giving them the gift of fishing.

Previous post about fishing and Kevin:


These fishermen are ready and willing to take any Vets out fishing in Oregon. You can contact them at ifish or or send me an email and I will help you connect with them. These Americans make me proud! Thank you!!!