Saturday, March 31, 2007

Flight Operation Bagram Afghanistan

Flight Operations
Bagram Afghanistan

A C-130 Hercules transport aircraft manuevers for a landing onto the Bagram Airfield flightline

A C-130 Hercules prepares for takeoff from the Bagram Airfield flightline

A UH-60 Blackhawk manuevers from the Bagram Airfield flightline

An Airman cleans the windshield on a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft at Bagram Airfield flightline

A C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft takes off from the Bagram Airfield flightline

A C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft takes off from the Bagram Airfield flightline

A UH-60 Blackhawk prepares for landing at the Bagram Airfield flightline

All Photos by Tech. Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr., United States Air Force
March 22, 2007
Courtesy of Digital Video and Imagry Distribution System

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tuskegee Airmen Honored

Tuskegee Airmen Honored
Congressional Gold Medal

President George W. Bush speaks during the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for the Tuskegee Airmen Thursday, March 29, 2007, at the U.S. Capitol. Said the President, “The Tuskegee Airmen helped win a war, and you helped change our nation for the better. Yours is the story of the human spirit, and it ends like all great stories do – with wisdom and lessons and hope for tomorrow.”

White House photo by Joyce Boghosian

The Tuskegee Airmen, the 332nd Fighter Group, were honored today with the Congressional Gold Medal. Over 300 of the pilots and support crew were in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol Building for the ceremony.

This group of men were the first Negro pilots in the United States Army Air Corps. They flew as bomber escorts in the European theater, and have the distinction of being the only escort group to never loose a bomber to enemy fire in over 200 missions.

Yet, they were subject to segregation and discrimination - both during the war and afterwards. It was common for salutes not to be given or returned.

President Bush said he would like to "offer a gesture to help atone for all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities," saluted the airmen. The airmen stood, returned the salute and applauded.

Dr. Roscoe Brown, a former commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, thanked the President, the House and Senate for "voting unanimously to award this medal collectively to the the pilots, bombardiers, the navigators, the mechanics, the ground officers, the enlisted men and women who served with the Tuskegee Airmen."

President Bush added, "I benefited from what you and so many others did. It is a rich history. I stand so proudly before you today, but I know in the depth of my heart that the only reason I'm able to stand proudly before you today is because you stood proudly for America 60 years ago."

The combat record of the Tuskegee Airmen speaks for itself:

  • over 15,000 combat sorties (including 6000+ for the 99th prior to July '44)
  • 111 German airplanes destroyed in the air, another 150 on the ground
  • 950 railcars, trucks, and other motor vehicles destroyed
  • 1 destroyer sunk by P-47 machine gun fire (Lt. Pierson's flight)
  • sixty-six pilots killed in action or accidents
  • thirty-two pilots downed and captured, POWs
  • NO bombers lost while being escorted by the 332nd, a unique achievement
  • 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses earned
  • 744 Air Medals
  • 8 Purple Hearts
  • 14 Bronze Stars

Sgt Nicholas Lightner ~ Services

The Funeral Services for Sergeant Lightner will be at 1200 (noon) on Friday, March 30, 2007

The location will be at Bateman Funeral Home 915 Yaquina Heights Drive, Newport, OR 97365

Sgt Lightner was escorted to Newport, Oregon on Monday evening by the Patriot Guard Riders. It was late and dark and cold and rainy as they made their way through the Willamette Valley and across the Coast Range to Newport, Oregon - over 150 miles to travel. Along the route, they were greeting with people paying tribute to Nick, holding signs and waving flags. Fire trucks were out with flashing lights.

Once they reached Newport, and secured the escort to the funeral home, the Patriot Guard Riders were honored by the family. Nick's Aunt Deb had made arrangements for accomodations and a hot meal for the Patriot Guard Riders. In the midst of their grief, the family was concerned about the well-being of the people who came to honor Nick.

The family has suggested memorial donations in Nick's nam
e to the Fisher House.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be honoring Nick at his services on Friday.

Ron (L2), one of Nick's friends, has left a very poignant comment about him:

Prior to serving his country as a soldier and a medic, Nick served the community of Newport as a firefighter. It was my honor this morning to join firefighters and medics from around Lincoln County to welcome Nick home. The Patriot Guard riders came through the darkness and the rain to lead a lengthy procession to Newport. Thank you all.

We fell in at the rear at Toledo's west junction and experienced this communities' pride in this young man - taken too early.The stories of Nick's efforts and my memories of his service in Newport will continue to motivate me to do MY best, to help others when they call, knowing that this is what Nick would do.

Bless you and God speed buddy. L2

Ron, thank you for your tribute to your friend.

Farewell, Nick, and Walk with God ~ you have touched so many in your short life.
To read more about Nick Lightner:

Soldiers in Afghanistan Help Women's Center

U.S. Army Sgt. Jeremy Hancock, civil affairs specialist for the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team, hands a bag of supplies and materials, everything from blankets to toiletries, to one of the workers at the Department of Women’s Affairs in the Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, March 5.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matt Lichtenberg

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Matt Lichtenberg

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, March 7, 2007 — Bagram’s Provincial Reconstruction Team visited Kapisa Province to deliver materials and supplies to the Department for Women’s Affairs, March 5.

Several workers welcomed the soldiers as they arrived with a trailer full of food, blankets, toiletries and other items. These much-needed items will be distributed during a ceremony March 8 to the women of the province.

“It’s necessary, and I also enjoy helping these people,” said Army Sgt. Jeremy Hancock, Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team, Kapisa team civil affairs specialist.

The Kapisa team provides this type of aid once a month all over the province. This is their third drop to this area.

“I’m proud to be a part of this team,” said Army Capt. Birma Gonzalez, truck commander for the trip to Kapisa. “They deliver items all throughout this area, so anything I can do to help I’m excited to do.”

Afghan women, who have endured under extreme conditions over the past few decades, will make good use of the supplies.

“The women of Kapisa have suffered both psychologically and economically for many years because of war, so we’re very thankful for the Bagram PRT,” said Saifora Kohistani, director of the Department of Women’s Affairs in Kapisa Province. “We appreciate everything they’re doing for us.”

The benefit of helping the Afghan people is two-fold: they get much-needed supplies, and it shows them that Coalition forces are here to help them.

“The biggest thing is the government and the people are more willing to work with us because of our help,” Hancock said. “The locals are more permissive to Coalition forces, and they’re also more loyal to their government.”

The Bagram PRT Kapisa team has $6 million in projects planned for the province. This includes building roads, health clinics and schools. Overall, these projects will help the Afghan economy grow to become more independent.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hunts for Heroes

Hunts for Heroes was founded by today's Wednesday Hero, Billy Hodges.

It currently has branches in Texas, California, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and hopes to have branches in all states.

The organization provides an opportunity for Wounded Warriors to experience hunting and fishing once again.

We are dedicated to providing quality hunting and outdoor related activities to men and women that have been wounded on the field of battle in service to our country in the war against terrorism. We organize hunts with professional guides and outfitters throughout the country for heroes that enjoy the outdoors.

are to hold events involving outdoor related television shows with heroes as the "stars of the show”. Through events such as these we would like to raise money for scholarships, grants and endowments. Heroes working for degrees in fields such wildlife management, habitat management, game law enforcement and other outdoor related jobs will be considered first.

I was on the highway one afternoon and I must have seen a hundred "I SUPPORT THE TROOPS" bumper stickers between Houston and El Campo , TX . I even commented to my wife (Patti) my doubt about the sincerity of those sporting such a sticker. After all, I told her, words without commitment are nothing more than lip service. It made me think back to the night in the Atlanta airport in 1971 when I first experienced the feeling of being unsupported.

I was on the way home for Christmas leave from Fort Jackson , S.C. and I was in line at Delta?s luggage check-in. I was talking to a Marine Captain in line behind me when the pretty girl in line in front of us asked the man at the desk if she could have a seat that was not next to someone in the military?.. I was stunned. I stared at her in disbelief as she walked past me on the way to board the plane. I remember the words F#*(&~G GI Joe Creep.

Growing up in El Campo , Texas , a small, very conservative, town in South Texas had insulated me from the war protests and anti-military sentiment that were so prevalent in the rest of the country at the time. The Marine told me to not feel so bad because I was getting off the plane in Houston . He was flying on to San Francisco where they will not only avoid sitting next to you but will not want to be on the same plane as a Marine.

That night in 1971 I made a promise to myself to do all I could to see that a member of the military never again be treated in such a way as we were. I was never spat upon in airports as returning Vietnam veterans were but all of us in uniform (My Team) were ostracized in one way or another in those days. I served in the United States Army and the Texas National Guard from 1971 through 1979.

Discounting the Civil War, I feel my time in the service were the darkest days for military servicemen/women in the history of this country. When I was thinking about a mission statement for HUNTS FOR HEROES it occurred to me that HUNTS FOR HEROES started in 1971 when a few of my friends did not turn their back on me and my high school classmates whom did not have the option of opting in or out of military service?

I will never forget them. This site is dedicated to those few friends that helped us make it through those dark years.

Billy Hodges

Is more than a slogan for HUNTS FOR HEROES
Go to their web site
This is a great group helping our wounded heroes.

Wednesday Hero ~ Billy Hodges - Hunts for Heroes

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Kathi

Billy Hodges
Billy Hodges, kneeling center.

Billy Hodges, who served in the U.S. Army and Texas National Guard between 1971-1979, is not only being profiled for his service, but also for what he's done since then. Mr. Hodges runs an organization based in El Campo, Tx called Hunts For Heroes. They also have chapter in South Carolina , Arkansas , Mississippi , and California and what they do is take soldiers who've been wounded in battle on hunting and fishing trips and other outdoor related activities. All free of charge.
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, March 27, 2007

Great American Award

Cool Slideshows

I was just honored by Sarge Charlie with his Great American Award

A few days ago, I was honored by Task Force Phoenix 5
with his Afghan Hero of the Week Award.
Thank you so very much for the awards and for your friendship.
You are both Great Americans and Heroes in my book!
God Bless you both.

The Season of Sand

The Season of Sand

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - "Take cover" Maj. Michael Best, logistics officer, Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, heads for shelter on Camp Taji as a sand storm blows toward him.
(U.S. Army courtesy photo by HHC, CAB, 4th Inf. Div.)

SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq - A sand storm engulfs the Sather Air Base, Iraq, flight line May 8. The storm quickly engulfed the Baghdad area and caused near-zero visibility.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Bennett)

SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq - A sand storm engulfs the Sather Air Base, Iraq, flightline May 8. The storm quickly engulfed the Baghdad area and caused near-zero visibility.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Bennett)

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter door-gunner from 3rd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, observes a massive sand storm as it rolls its way towards Camp Taji May 8.
(U.S. Army courtesy photo by 3-4 Avn., CAB, 4th Inf. Div.)

SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq - An aircrew walks in from the flightline during a sandstorm at Sather Air Base, Iraq, May 8. The storm quickly engulfed the Baghdad area, causing near-zero visibility.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Bennett)

NEW AL MUTHANA AIR BASE, Iraq - A maintainer walks to secure an Iraqi Air Force C-130E Hercules at New Al Muthana Air Base, Iraq, May 8 during a sand storm. The storm engulfed the Baghdad area and caused near-zero visibility.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Serrit)

Sgt. Keith I. Knowlton, gunner, 392nd Chemical Reconnaissance Company, Little Rock, Ark., checks his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon while his team works through a sandstorm August 8, 2005, at Camp Victory, Iraq.

A member of the Iraqi Emergency Services Unit braves a sand storm while conducting a cordon and search in Kirkuk, Iraq

Thank you to the Army and the Air Force for these amazing pictures!
To our troops who endure these sandstorms, thank you for what you endure each day to keep us all free.

Dust in the Wind...

Dust shrouds an armored security vehicle during a March 5 windstorm at the Besimaya Range Complex. Soldiers from A Co., 1/115th FA, 867th CSB were caught by surprise as the powder-fine sand found its way into everything.
Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Conner
15th SB, Public Affairs

Besimaya Range, Iraq – In the stillness, it’s as fine as talcum powder; clouding at the ankles with each foot-fall. Churned and driven by the wind, it becomes legion; stripping exposed skin of moisture and seamlessly working it way into everything: eyes, noses, clothing, weapons; anything in its path.

In a landscape almost void of trees or plants, here at Besimaya Range Complex, dust is king. Troops from Alpha Company, 1/115th Field Artillery, 867th Corps Support Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade got a taste, literally, of what nature has to offer.

Providing gun truck security to convoys delivering supplies and equipment to the desert outpost the night before, the Soldiers’ spent the night next to their vehicles.

“When we went to sleep around 5 a.m., it was nice and clear”, said Spc. David Geisman, a gunner from A, 1/115th. “By 8 a.m., everything was brown.”

With winds blowing around 20 miles per hour, and gusts closer to 30, visibility at times was limited to just inches. Waking up and finding everything he left out covered in a thick layer wasn’t exactly the best way to start the day.

“It’s your attitude that determines a lot; whether you’re going to deal with it”, mused the Hattiesburg, Miss. native while shaking out his uniform. “You just keep telling yourself you’ll get a shower in a few days.”

Apart from the discomfort of the sandblasting, the dust storm caused additional concern for the men. Their mission called for them to escort the same combat logistics patrol later that evening. Vehicles, weapons and electronics needed to be stripped down and cleaned before departing.

“Nothing's gonna go untouched by this”, said Spc. Brandon Melber, an armored security vehicle gunner from Clarkville, Tenn. “Still, it’s not as bad as 2003”; referring to the massive three day dust storm that halted coalition forces on the march to Baghdad.

With other unit members starting the futile task of shaking out embedded layers of earth while the wind still howled, Geisman maintained his positive attitude of mind over matter.

“You can’t let it drag you down. You gotta find other things to think about. I just remember that I’m not the only one; I’ve got all my friends around me …going through the same thing,” he said.

As the Soldiers passed around wet wipes to dig the dust out of eyes, noses and ears, Giesman said that at least the situation was a learning experience. With the high probability of visiting Besimaya in the future, troops will definitely be wrapping up and tying gear down a little better.

“Next time, I’m sleeping in a truck!” he grinned.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sgt Nicholas J Lightner ~ Farewell and Walk with God

Sgt Nicholas J Lightner
Farewell, and Walk with God

While on combat patrol in Baghdad, Iraq, an improvised explosive device detonated near the unit of Sgt Nicholas J Lightner. Killed immediately were team members Staff Sgt. Blake M. Harris, 27, of Hampton, Georgia, Staff Sgt. Terry W. Prater, 25, of Speedwell, Tennessee, Sgt. Emerson N. Brand, 29, of Rigby, Idaho and Pfc. James L. Arnold, 21, of Mattawan, Michigan. Sgt. Ryan P. Green, 24, of Woodlands, Texas, died Mar. 18 in Landstuhl, Germany of wounds received in the attack. Sgt Lightner died at Walter Reed Hospital on March 21, 2007 from his wounds.

At Walter Reed, Sgt Lightner learned that he was the sole survivor of his team. He spoke of his regret at not being able to save his team, Chaplain Geoff Bailey told his family. "He told me that he became a medic in order to help people and was frustrated that he was unable to do so after being injured."

Sgt Nicholas "Nick" Lightner was 29 years old. He was from Toledo, Oregon - a small coastal town near Newport. He graduated from Toledo High School where he was a big offensive lineman, but also known for his big heart and compassionate nature. He loved the Oregon outdoors - hunting, fishing, camping and hiking.

"After 9-11, he felt the need to do something and that's what he did. He went for the right reasons," his father said. He joined the Army four years ago and deployed to Iraq in November.

Sgt Lightner served with 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

He is survived by his father and stepmother, Bill and Sheri Lightner; brothers Joshua and Nathan; three stepbrothers, Justin, Alex and Cory Lake; and his girlfriend Ginger Warfield.

Nick Lightner's family and friends are in our prayers at this difficult time.

Farewell, Sgt Nick Lightner, and Walk with God.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be meeting the family and Sgt Lightner to escort them from the airport to Newport tonight. This ride is about 150 miles and will take over three hours in the dark. Thank you, PGR, for all you do for our fallen and their families.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Bumper of my SUV

Complete with her story and the song...

Chely Wright Performs in Iraq

Country singer/songwriter Chely Wright performs for more than 1,000 Third Army/ U.S. Army Central servicemembers at Camp Buehring, Feb. 26. Wright's concert was the first of a 10-day, Stars for Stripes tour throughout Kuwait, Iraq and a welcome home ceremony in Germany. This is her fourth tour to the Middle East since 2003.

Country Singer Chely Wright signs an autograph for Cpl. Sammuel T. White with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS)-273 after a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation show inside the theatre for service members stationed on Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. MWSS-273 is deployed as a part of MNF-W in support of Operation Iraq Freedom in the Al Anbar province of Iraq to develop the Iraqi Security Forces, facilitate the development of official rule of law through democratic government reforms and continue the development of a market based economy centered on Iraqi reconstruction. (Official USMC photograph by Cpl. Sheila M. Brooks)

Chely Wright just returned from a 10 day tour of Kuwait, Iraq and Germany on a "Thank You Tour" for the men and women serving overseas.

She stopped at: Camp Beuhring, Kuwait; Camp Slayer, Camp Liberty, Camp Prosperity, Balad Air Base, Camp Speicher, Al Asad Air Base, Iraq; and Ray Barracks, Germany. This was her fourth tour to the middle east.

"As long as there are boots on the ground and boots in the air, there are a bunch of us that just want to say thank you," Chely Wright told her audience. "I am commited to coming here as long as we have troops in Iraq. The folks back home pray every day for you, and I just want to thank so many who have asked me to come over here."

She always sings "Bumper of My SUV" for her military audiences. But, getting through it without being emotional is difficult.

Thank you to all of the entertainers who take the time to entertain our military!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I'm from Oregon ~ Somedays I Don't Like to Admit it....

Some Days it is Embarassing

to be from Oregon

Warning -
This Post is Offensive

The pictures above have been floating around the internet all week. They were proudly posted - along with a hundred others - at Indymedia following the protests. If you wish to see all of them they are at portland - dot - indymedia - dot - org/en/2007/03/355964.shtml - sorry, you'll have to type it in, I refuse to post a link to this ___ (put whatever expletive in you would like to - obviously, you couldn't possibly offend them.)

This march took place in Portland, Oregon - the 'crown jewel' of Oregon - a beautiful city near the Willamette and Columbia rivers with Mt Hood standing proudly above it. It has become the home to the liberal elite, and through numbers controls the politics of the entire state. The majority of the colleges are private and incredibly expensive - did you know that this is what your tuition money was paying for, parents?

At the anti-war protests, these people decided to prove once and for all, that they really don't support the troops. To do so, they burned an American Soldier and an American Flag in effigy. In case you think this was folly, look at the face of the man in the black shirt in the top picture - pure glee. This is representative of their desire to see the government of the United States overthrown. Many of them are anarchists. The city government pretty much allows them to do what they want to do in the guise of "Free Speech." I find it hard to believe that advocating the overthrow of the government is what the founders had in mind. We have lost a sense of decency when we defend these types of actions. They may be free to say and do reprehensible and disgusting things, but I have a right to call them by those names.

To top off their day, they broke out the windows of the recruiting station. Again, free speech. Free to destroy private property. This recruiting office has been beseiged by the Code Pink Grandmas for years. And, it is free speech, don't you know?

Prior to the protests, I was interviewed by the major paper in the state, the Oregonian. the article was titled "War Supporters Feel Adrift as Tide Turns" - if they had told me the title, I would not have done the interview. My interview was distilled into a few sentences - For that I received some rather vile email - "You should be stoned for this!" "You're working for the devil if you believe that our mission in Iraq is moral." It went on and on. As a follow-up the paper printed the letters to the editor condemning us. They were especially hard on Gold Star Mother Elfriede Pulmondore. They believe she is deluded because of her grief over the loss of her son. By that rationale, doesn't it prove that Cindy is deluded?

Then, we have our local activists. I wrote about them here -

This week, they got extra creative. The Code Pink Grandmas took over US Representative Greg Walden's office. Here they are singing John Lennon's 'Give Peace a Chance" - how creative. They stayed for 12 hours demanding that he defund the troops. During this time, they are said to have sang, prayed (what? - don't they know anything about Code Pink?) and read the names of the US service members who have been killed in Iraq. Rep. Walden tried to speak with them via conference call from Washington, DC, but they refused. After the office's closing time, they wanted to leave to use the restroom, but wanted to come back in. When they were told that if they left, they could not return, they chose to urinate in bottles. They were arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass.

In the meantime, Code Pink has been picketing Nancy Pelosi's home in San Francisco. Even Pelosi is not liberal enough for them. Perhaps that is why she was really so gleeful over the disgusting pork bill that the House passed today - Code Pink might go away.

Protest, Free Speech - yes, valuable rights that we enjoy every day. But, everything can be misused and over done. I think these people have lost the value of these things and make a mockery of it all.

To top it off, the Oregon state legislature has wasted untold amounts of time and money holding hearings and debating their non-binding Iraq War Resolution. No one in Oregon voted for these people to do anything but pay attention to Oregon - oh, yeah, that's right, we have zero crime, perfect roads, the best educational system in the country - I think not. I wrote to my representatives and told them to get back to work, that this was not in their job description. They did not bother to reply to me. They did pass their bill demanding withdrawal from Iraq.

Like I said, some days, it is hard to be from Oregon.


Postscript - Currently 950 Oregon National Guard are serving in Afghanistan. Additionally, thousands of fine Oregonians serve in all branches of the military. They have given up time with their families, bled and died (see the sidebar) for us. They deserve more respect and admiration than they get here.


UPDATE: For Video of the Effigy Burning go to:

It is incredibly disturbing, but it is a true portait of who these people are.

Thinking Blogger Award

I won the award from Sgt Dub - who is currently in Afghanistan. Thank you, sir!

Since the idea is to list blogs that make you think, this is hard for me, as most of the blogs I read serve that purpose. I am listing people who I think will "play" and haven't already been tagged.

Soldier's Mind - - A beautifully written site by Anthony and Terri that focuses on our military.

GunzUp - - Written by a Gold Star Mom, it is a combination of tribute to her Marine son, a story of her military life, a history lesson on the battles of America, and a thoughtful and warm site.

Cop the Truth - - A wonderful summation of the important and often overlooked news stories.

Yankeemom - - A blog by the mother of a soldier, it is also the journey of her fight against the left in her northern California town.

Bear Creek Ledger - - A military supporter and defender of the borders, this blog gives you much to think about each day.

Cluttered Eclectic Mind - - a great blog written with great insight into the everyday and the world of politics.

OK - so that's six - too bad!

Congratulations, you have won a Thinking Blogger!

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Well I hope you managed to get to the end of the post, be safe and have a great day.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Face of Freedom ~ Army Sgt Maj Manuel Daponte

Sgt. Maj. Manuel Daponte, from Westport, Mass., the senior enlisted U.S. advisor to the 8th Iraqi National Police Brigade, gives a battlefield promotion to Mutada Ali, 4, the son of 8th INP Bde. Commander Brig. Gen. Ali Ibrahim Daboun, by giving him his sergeant major rank on the streets of Sadr City March 5

By Sgt. Mike Pryor
2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs

BAGHDAD – As a sergeant major with years of experience in the Army, Sgt. Maj. Manuel Daponte is used to people being a little intimidated when they approach him. But Mutada Ali, 4, son of Iraqi national police commander Brig. Gen. Ali Ibrahim Daboun, isn’t intimidated by much.

“I was sitting in the general’s office when Mutada came in. He came right up to me and climbed into my lap,” Daponte recalled. “That was the beginning of the friendship.”

Since that day, Mutada and Daponte, of Westport, Mass., the senior enlisted U.S. advisor to the 8th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, have been pretty much inseparable. As the senior non-commissioned officer in charge of four 11-man U.S. training teams responsible for advising more than 2,700 Iraqi Army and police personnel, Daponte works closely with Gen Ali, who commands the 8th Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi National Police Division.

Wherever Gen. Ali goes, so does Mutada.

“He’s always stuck with me. He doesn’t want to stay home,” the general explained with a laugh.

When Ali heads out to watch his forces train or conduct operations, Daponte acts as Mutada’s battle buddy, watching out for him and keeping him out of trouble.

Mutada even accompanied his father during recent clearing operations in the notorious militia stronghold of Sadr City. Daponte was right beside him for much of the time, helping the boy collect U.S. unit patches from Soldiers and making sure he picked up his candy bar wrappers.

It’s an odd sight to see an American sergeant major “babysitting” a mischievous Iraqi boy in the middle of a war zone, but Daponte said the time he spends with Mutada reminds him of what he is fighting for.

“I love kids,” he said. “I have two daughters of my own, and to have someone like this come along and remind us that the world is a simpler place outside of war, is a great thing.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

SFC John Scott Stephens, Farewell and Walk with God

SFC John S. Stephens
United States Army
KIA March 15, 2007, Tikrit, Iraq

Oregon has lost another of its sons, SFC John 'Scott" Stephens. Stephens died March 15 of wounds suffered when his patrol came under attack in Tikrit, Iraq. He served with the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas. He served as a medic and a trained others to be medics. He had served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield and multiple tours to Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Known to family and friends as Scott, he was born in Prineville, Oregon and raised in La Grande, Oregon. In high school he was known for his sports - baseball, football, swim team - and his academic prowess. He often tutored his classmates. He continued his education in the Army and completed his master's degree in education two years ago. He planned to eventually become a teacher and a coach.

Typically, he was involved in teaching at the time of his death. He was part of a group training Iraqi soldiers. He was training the medics.

Scott loved sports - the Bengals and the Braves - hunting, fishing, trapping and enjoying the beauty of Eastern Oregon. He loved his country, and was known to tear up when he heard the National Anthem. And, he loved his family.

SFC Stephens is survived by his wife, Bea, and children, Brian, Cheryl and Darren; his parents, Gene and Jo Stephens of La Grande; a sister, Michelle Flowers of Hermiston; nephews, Tyler and Sean Flowers; grandmother, Gayle Stephens of La Grande; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

A memorial service was held at Fort Riley, Kansas today. The service and internment in La Grande, Oregon will be on March 26. The Patriot Guard Riders will be escorting SFC Stephens.

A message from his sister: i sat here and cried and cried because there are so many people out there that love our servicemen and women. it's good to know that people can make you feel good at a time like this because of their appreciation for what he did and what he stood for. i know in my heart that my brother loved what he did. he told me over and over again how much he loved it and it makes me feel better knowing that..... Michelle Stephens Flowers.

SFC John Scott Stephens gave his life for our country. We keep his family and friends in our prayers at this difficult time.

Freedom Isn't Free ~ Someone Pays for You and Me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday Hero ~ Major Alan B Rowe

Capt. Alan B. Rowe
Major Alan B. Rowe
35 years old from Hagerman, Idaho
1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
September 3, 2004

The Perfect Marine. That's how many describe Capt. Alan B. Rowe. Respected and dedicated to the Corps and still able to be a husband and father.

Rowe, who was on his fourth deployment since joining the Corps in 1985, died with two other Marines, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Wilt, 23, of Tampa, Florida, and 1st Lt. Ronald Winchester, 25, of Rockville Center, N.Y., when a remote-controlled explosive device detonated as they returned to their vehicle after inspecting a bridge in Anbar province, near the Syrian border.

"He was a quiet, humble person and extremely polite," his widow, Dawn, recalled from their early days of dating. "He was a traditional type of gentleman. My mom was surprised to meet such a ... perfect-picture Marine." "He did a great job balancing a pretty intense Marine Corps career with also being a great husband and father. He worked extremely hard to balance it." "He was so dedicated to the Marine Corps. He was really driven and believed in what he did. He was a Marine's Marine. Tall, blond and fit. Kind of the mental image you think of when you think of the Marine Corps."

A week after his death, Capt. Rowe was posthumously promoted to major. He leaves behind his wife and two children.

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.

Tell them of us and say,

For their tomorrows,

We gave our today.

-- The Kohima Epitaph

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flags from Iraq to America

Flags from Iraq to America
Your Chance to Own a Flag Flown in Iraq
Spc. Michael Tyree of the 73rd Cavalry Regiment's 1st Squadron lowers an American Flag flying over his unit's headquarters in Northern Iraq. Spc. Fabian Acosta catches the flag as it lowers.

An American flag blows in the wind in Northern Iraq. After the flag is lowered by a paratrooper from 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, it will become available to purchase through the units Family Readiness Group.

NORTHERN IRAQ (Army News Service, March 19, 2007) - Since paratroopers of the 73rd Cavalry Regiment's 1st Squadron set foot in Iraq, they've raised and lowered a new flag every hour on the hour. Each flag has then become available for purchase through the unit's Family Readiness Group.

"(The) flags are flying with pride in many homes," said Christopher S. Italiano from Columbus, Ohio, friend and brother-in-law to Lt. Col. Ross Davidson, commander, 1st Sqdn., 73rd Cav. Regmt.

"The 1-73 Cav will forever be honored as symbols of the country's strength and belief in democracy."

Soldiers, family members and friends have purchased the flags as gifts or to show off their patriotism.

Troop A First Sgt. Robert Ochsner bought one for a friend whose son is in special forces, and another for his father, who is in the Patriot Guard - a group of motorcyclists that provides security at fallen Soldiers' memorials - and flies his flag whenever they ride, said Ochsner.

"I was stunned by the total reverence I felt when I received the flag, the certificate and the thank you note," said Jayme Parker, a resident of Cypress, Calif., who is Davidson's cousin. "I cannot describe the feeling I had when I touched the flag. I gave a moment of silence and said a prayer for those who proudly serve, and for those who have given their lives for the freedoms I enjoy."

Danny and Debbie Williams from Augusta, Ga., gave away several of the flags at Christmas and soon received an outpouring of thank you's.

"Just holding this flag and knowing where it has traveled just fills your heart with love for our country and her defenders," said Debbie.

The flags sell for $25 and each comes with a certificate of authentication signed by Davidson and Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Krabbe, the command sergeant major of 1st Sqdn., 73rd Cav. Regt. For information on purchasing a flag send e-mails to

Article and Photos by Spc. Susan Blair -
1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, Public Affairs

Monday, March 19, 2007

Operation Memories of Home

These magnificent pictures of scenes from Oregon are a sample of the packets that were sent to the Oregon National Guard in Afghanistan by an Oregon printing company - Shelton Turnbull Printers in Eugene. The employees wanted to do something for the 950 National Guard Soldiers.

Operation Memories of Home provided each of the Soldiers a packet. The packets include twelve 9 x 6 photos and a letter from the employees of Shelton Turnbull Printers:

"Our hope is that you do not forget why we call Oregon home; the scenic beauty, the quality of life and the wonderful people. Shelton Turnbull's employees wish you a safe return home and hope that the balance of your tour is completed quickly."

The response has been overwhelming. Thank you notes have poured in from the soldiers. "A lot of the guys talk about when they saw or were at any given place a photo was taken, and the memories it brings back to them. Again, I thank you for sharing the treasures of home with us."

Much gratitude to Shelton Turnbull Printers! A simple thing has become a prized possession!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Gathering of Eagles - We Each Did What We Could...

I am so very proud of the people who attended the Gathering of Eagles event in Washington, DC and the many local events around the country. Thank you!!!

Mike has a list of those who went to events and who are blogging about them. Please visit and go to these sites to see photos and read the stories.

My day wasn't nearly as exciting as theirs, but I did make the paper!!! I was interviewed by the big state newspaper, The Oregonian, as a person who is a 'war supporter' - they did a fair job of portraying a small part of what I said, though it is edited and changed quite a bit, it does capture the essence of what I said. Mostly I am humbled to be in the same story with Gold Star Mother Elfriede Pulmondore. She will make you laugh - what a wonderful lady!

"And they (the supporters) say simultaneous efforts by protesters to "honor the troops" ring hollow.

"I don't believe you can support the troops if you do not support their mission," says the author of a Central Oregon-based pro-war blog, She says she doesn't want to give her name because she fears being harassed for her views. "Freedom of speech only goes so far," she says.

Her blog focuses on people who are fighting in Iraq, including biographical tributes to some who died there.

"I realized no one was talking about the men," she says. "I wanted to focus on who these people are, these people who go to war for us, who die for us."

You can read the entire piece here.

Of course, I received my very own hate mail because of the interview. It says I should be stoned, that I am working for the devil if I believe the war is moral and that he is smarter than the average Joe. And, they thought I was over-reacting by not wanting to give my name and contact information...

What I said about the troops and their mission was that you continually hear people say "We support the troops, but not the war." I always ask how they support the troops - usually I get a blank stare, sometimes I hear "we want to bring them home" - then, I say, but they want to stay and finish their mission. I told the reporter to be on the look-out for the tent where the protesters are gathering donations for care packages or school supplies, clothing or shoes for the Iraqi and Afghan children, or collecting money for the Wounded Warrior Project, the Intrepid Fund, Valour-IT, or helping a widow and her children. Don't think he'll find it.

I am turning on comment verification for a while, since I had to delete some ugly stuff... so, don't be shocked if your comment doesn't post right away.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Protecting the Memorials....

Wishing all of the Eagles a good day... Thank You!

St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Blarney Castle
To kiss the Blarney Stone, you go to the top of the castle
- 10 stories up - and lean over backwards!!!
Wishing you the Luck of the Irish!!!