Friday, November 30, 2007

The Iraqi Army Stands Up

Iraqi Army Col. Musfab Yousif works with 1st Lt. David Pierce to repair a 12.7 mm Machine gun during a raid in Ad Dawr, near Tikrit, Iraq, November 21. Yousif is the executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi army, and Pierce is with the 1st BN Military Transition Team
Iraqi army soldiers and U.S. Army Soldiers work together to repair a machine gun on an IA Humvee in Ad Dawr, near Tikrit, Iraq, Nov. 21. The Iraqi soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi army, led a pre-dawn raid that was accompanied by U.S. Soldiers from the 1st BN. Military Transition Team.

Iraqi army Col. Msfab Yousif uses a 12.7 mm machine gun to destroy a vehicle that was used in illegal checkpoint activities by insurgents in Ad Dawr near Tikrit, Iraq, Nov. 21. Yousif is the executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi army, and was leading the raid to find insurgents operating illegal checkpoints.

Iraqi Army Col. Msfab Yousif reloads his AK-47 after using it to destroy a vehicle that was used in illegal checkpoint activities by insurgents in Ad Dawr near Tikrit; Iraq; Nov. 21. Yousif is the executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigae, 4th Iraqi army and was leading the raid to find insurgents operating illegal checkpoints.

An improvised explosive device is detonated under a bridge in Ad Dawr, near Tikrit, Iraq, Nov. 21. Iraqi Army soldiers were tipped off to the device that was emplaced on the route the unit was traveling on. A U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team detonated the device in place.

Iraqi army Col. Musfab Yousif exchanges information with Capt. Adrian Cole during a raid in Ad Dawr, near Tikrit, Iraq, Nov. 21. Yousif is the executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi army, and was leading the raid to find insurgents operating illegal checkpoints. Cole is with the 1st BN Military Transition Team, who was coordinating coalition assets to the IA.

Army Sgt. Dustin McCormick searches a cornfield for hidden caches in Ad Dawr, near Tikrit, Iraq, Nov. 21. McCormick was working with the 1st Battalion Military Tranistion Team, who was assisting the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi army during a raid to find insurgents operating illegal checkpoints in the area.
Photos by Spc Eric Rutherford

Multi-National Division – North Public Affairs Office
By Spc. Eric A. Rutherford, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi army soldiers led a raid into an area of Ad Dawr with Iraqi police and a small contingent of U.S. Soldiers, Nov. 21, to put a stop to insurgent activities there.

The 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi army led the pre-dawn raid into the area to capture insurgents and disrupt illegal traffic checkpoints used by those insurgents to rob and kill local Iraqis. The Iraqi police provided security for the team. The U.S. Army Military Transition Team of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division provided guidance and support for the Iraqi army who planned and executed the mission.

Maj. Jackie Kaina of the 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi army MiTT said the operations are driven by intelligence, which is mostly gathered by the Iraqi army. The mission was coordinated by the IA when an informant who had been ostracized by the insurgents came forward with information.

The operation, called Hellstorm, was a success in that the IA captured several of the High-Value Individuals on their list, and in the process seized several vehicles used in the illegal operations. They also discovered an emplaced improvised explosive device hidden under a bridge. The MiTT called in a U.S. Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, who detonated the IED in place.

The IED is one of the reasons that the MiTT accompanies the IA on larger operations. Their mission is to train, advise and mentor the IA. They bring with them capabilities like aeromedical evacuation, air weapons teams and other military assets that the IA doesn’t have yet, said Kaina.

The present-day IA formed in 2005 when it transitioned to an actual army, Kaina said, who worked with Iraqi army soldiers during his last deployment.

“As an Army they have come a huge way since 04-05,” said Kaina. “They have come a lot further than I thought they would. Two years later, I really didn’t think they would be at this point. Maturity-wise, the officers act like officers, and the NCO corps is starting to grow.”

Since his last deployment with the IA, Kaina said he has seen them grow by leaps and bounds.

“Their improvement is in their command and control,” Kaina said. “Now they are much more objective focused and much more professional. They are very visible—that is one of the biggest improvements. To the Iraqi populace, they know who the IA is.”

Kaina said that he believes that at this point, The Iraqi army is mature enough on the ground that they are taking the lead, and the U.S. forces are no longer in the lead by any stretch of the imagination. The MiTT is there to assist if the IA needs it, but it is the IA making the decisions and conducting the missions on their own.

The IA is already conducting daily patrols and company-sized raids on their own, without the help of the MiTT. “They are very much in the lead and very much taking control,” Kaina said.

“Where before they would have come to us and asked what to do next. Their leadership has matured to the level at which they no longer need to ask us those questions, they have done enough, know enough and are successful enough to know where they are going.”

Another great story from my friend, Eric. Great News - Thanks for sharing, Eric!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Soldiers Celebrate Two School Openings in Baghdad

Army Col. Ricky D. Gibbs, commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, hands backpacks to school girls at the National Reconciliation High School in southern Baghdad, Nov. 26, 2007. Photo by Cpl. Ben Washburn, USA

Students from the National Reconciliation High School line the walkway leading to the school's entrance. The "Tuskers" of the 4-64th Combined Arms Battalion were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the re-opening of the southern Baghdad school after extensive renovations.

Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Haynsworth of Company C, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, currently attached to the 4-64th Combined Arms Battalion, provides security outside the Ishtar Elementary School in southern Baghdad. Soldiers from the "Tusker" Battalion were on hand to distribute supplies at the school.

Army Lt. Col. Johnnie Johnson, commander of the 4-64th Combined Arms Battalion, passes out backpacks during his visit to the Ishtar Elementary School in southern Baghdad. The "Tuskers" also opened the National Reconciliation High School nearby, after extensive renovations were completed.

By Cpl. Ben Washburn,
USA Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Nov. 28, 2007 - Despite being on the ground here for only a month, the 4-64th Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, has hit the ground running.

The "Tuskers" -- currently operating in the southern region of the Iraqi capital attached to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division -- continued their efforts to improve the life of Iraqi citizens by visiting two schools in the Saydiyah neighborhood Nov. 26.

The improvements in the Sunni neighborhood are important to Army Col. Ricky D. Gibbs, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team commander.

"I want to be sure the government is taking care of all the people," Gibbs said.

With students lined up outside holding welcome signs, the soldiers first stopped by the National Reconciliation High School for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the reopening of the school. Inside the school for 220 students, which stands away from the city, is new paint, windows, and electrical wiring. The renovation of the school was the result of efforts by the "Tuskers" and the "Vanguards" of the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which returned home to Germany earlier this month.

Smiling school girls gathered in groups outside and asked the soldiers in broken English, "What's your name?" One soldier said he was able to see the results of his hard work.

"The better the area gets, the better it makes you feel, because it means you are doing your job," said Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Haynsworth, Company C, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

Just a short walk from the National Reconciliation High School sits the Ishtar Elementary School, tucked away in a block of buildings, providing stark contrast to the stand-alone campus of the larger school yards away. Again, soldiers were met outside by the student body and the school administrators. The soldiers greeted many of the students outside, shook their hands, and communicated with universal hand gestures.

The children received new backpacks from the soldiers as a sign of friendship.

"We've made friends with the people in the area, which in doing so has drawn the fighters and terrorists from the area," Haynsworth said.

With Iraqi National Police present in this Sunni neighborhood, citizen volunteers assisting with security and coalition forces working with local leaders, the area is a symbol of the transformation that is taking place all across Baghdad.

"Before, the INP couldn't come in here; now that we're friends, there's no problem with the Shiia and the INP coming down here in this area," Haynsworth said.

The opening of the school is a result of the increased security in the area, and the citizens, as well as coalition forces, are safer since the unit arrived, he added.

"Since then, we've not had one small-arms fire incident from this area here, period. No improvised explosive strikes, no small-arms fire."

(Army Cpl. Ben Washburn serves with 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Public Affairs.)

UH-OH - more good news from Iraq!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Operation Santa / Hospitals Needs Our Help!!!

Operation Santa
for the Hospitals & Our Wounded Troops

Operation Santa for the Hospitals is putting together Christmas stockings with gift cards and treats and cards to deliver to the OEF/OIF veterans at Bethesda, Walter Reed, Balboa Naval Hospital and Brooke Army Medical Center.

And, they need our help!!!! There are two ways to help -

Money - They can use our donations to purchase stocking stuffers and pay for postage. To donate, you can click this Pay Pal link for Marine Corps Family Foundation - a 501(c)(3) - so your donations are tax deductible - be sure and designate "For the Hospitals" in the notes box or, you can tuck a check into the envelope of Christmas cards!

Christmas Cards - They wish to put lots of Christmas Cards in the stockings! So, if you can sit down and write a joyful Christmas card (or a box or two!) and send them to:

Operation Santa - c/o Marine Moms-Bethesda - P O Box 22 - Cordova MD 21625

Please note: The cards must be glitter and coating free - these come off and can cause secondary infections in the wounds. Don't seal the envelopes - they are screened. Please consider tucking a check in (Marine Corps Family Foundation - Hospitals) to help with the project! They should be postmarked by December 3.

Contact Carrie at for any one interested in supporting the efforts or for more information about the stockings.

Contact Jane at for more information about the cards. And, Jane's detailed post is here

Please help Carrie and Jane make our wounded troops Christmas a little brighter!

Aaron Tippen with the Troops ~ Again!!!

Country music singer Aaron Tippin puts his microphone up close while Lufkin, Texas native Spc. Ross Gray, a generator mechanic with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, plays his new acoustic guitar at the Camp Liberty Post Exchange in western Baghdad. Gray won the autographed guitar in a drawing during Tippin's concert for the troops.
Photo by PFC April Campbell, 27th Public Affairs Detachment

Country music artist Aaron Tippin performs a Thanksgiving concert on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Tikrit, Iraq, November 22. More than 900 Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors and civilians attended the event.

Photos by Spc Eric Rutherford, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

If it is Thanksgiving, Aaron Tippen is entertaining our troops. Last year, he was in Afghanistan. This year, he was in Kuwait and Iraq. The pictures are from concerts in Baghdad and Tikrit.

Tippen began entertaining the troops with Bob Hope in 1990 in Saudi Arabia. He not only entertains the troops in the war zones, he takes their stories to his concerts at home.

“I tell (the audience) what I saw,” Tippin said. “I tell them just how much they are doing over here and how much good they are doing.”

Tippen stayed after each concert until everyone in line had an autograph. Thank you, Aaron Tippen for taking care of our troops!!!

Don't you just love his outfit???!!!!!!!!

Enjoy the music!

Wednesday Hero ~ SGT Antwan L Walker

Sgt. Antwan L. Walker

Sgt. Antwan L. Walker

22 years old from Tampa, Florida
2nd Forward Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division
May 18, 2005

Sgt. Antwan Walker was excited about coming home from Iraq to celebrate his 23rd birthday with his family and friends. His mother, Andrea Pringle, was busy planning the party when an Army official unexpectedly came to her house.

She said he told her Thursday that her son was killed the previous day by a bomb blast in Ramadi. The Department of Defense hasn't publicly confirmed his death.

Sgt. Antwan Walker, known as Twan to his friends and family, joined the Army in 2000. Pringle said her son joined to earn money for college.

"Twan had a lot of goals in life," She said. "He was very ambitious and very smart."

Sgt. Walker had been in Iraq for about a year. He called his family often but didn't want to talk about war. Instead, he talked about starting a real estate career and his three children.

"He was such a good dad," his mother said. "All he wanted to do was make a good life for his kids."

In April 2005, Walker wanted to talk about the fighting. He told his mother five soldiers he was traveling with were killed. His phone calls became more frequent after that.

Pringle said she had days when she couldn't eat or sleep because of her worries. But she never forgot to give her son her support.

"I always told him I'm proud and be safe".

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. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your blog, you can go here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sewers = Good News

Work is under way to provide Fallujah, Iraq, with its first wastewater treatment plant and collection system. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing this $85 million project, which should be operational in the summer. Some 450 Iraqis are on the construction crew, and that number will soon expand to 700.
U.S. Army photo

Can you imagine never having a sewage system? The people of Fallujah, Iraq never have. Their sewage has run down the streets. Children have played around it. It has been dumped into the Euphrates River. That is soon to change, thanks to the US Army Corps of Engineers and the citizens of Fallujah.... Having read such amazing books as My Men Are My Heroes and On Call in Hell, it makes my heart soar to think of construction in Fallujah. Our troops have given these people a great gift of security, which will allow them to prosper.

Iraqis Build Fallujah's First Sewage System

By Norris Jones Special to American Forces Press Service

FALLUJAH, Iraq, Nov. 26, 2007 - About 450 Iraqis are working to get Fallujah's first sewer system operational by summer.

That number is expected to grow soon to a construction force of 700 Iraqis. The $85 million project includes a collection system, trunk mains, pump stations and a wastewater treatment plant processing 10.5 million gallons of water a day.

"People are happy because our community is safer now and there are more American projects creating jobs in different areas," said construction manager Awaf Abdul Rahim at the wastewater treatment plant. "It's helped Fallujah's unemployment. When the security situation improved earlier this year, we were inspired to work hard. Our construction crews became more serious and active and are now getting more done."

Peter Collins, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the project manager overseeing the work. "The long-term benefit is huge. At the moment, Fallujah's raw sewage is flowing into the Euphrates River, polluting it, impacting communities downstream who depend on it as a drinking source," Collins said.

Apart from the Iraqi work force, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has 35 Iraqi engineers visiting the various project sites daily, checking on the quality of the ongoing construction and encouraging worker safety.

Collins said the new treatment plant will have the capacity to serve Fallujah's needs until 2025, even if the community has a 50 percent growth in population from 200,000 to 300,000 residents.

"People in Fallujah may not fully appreciate the impact of this project because they have never lived in a sewage-free city. Next year there will be no wastewater flowing in the streets and their children will be able to play safely outside," Collins said. "It represents a monumental step forward, and that's what motivates us as we work to achieve that goal."

(Norris Jones serves in Iraq with the Gulf Region Central District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Remembering Mike Spann Six Years Later

It has been six years since the first American was killed in the Great War on Terror. That American was Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann - a CIA operative who was killed in a prison uprising at Qalai Jangi Fort, just west of Mazar-e-Sharif. He was killed at the end of the interrogation of Johnny Walker-Lindh - the American Taliban who never revealed his nationality to Mike Spann. (Site of uprising shown below).

We all remember Mike's wife coming out of the shadows of the secret world of the CIA and announcing his death publicly and burying him publicly. Mike is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (his headstone is shown below).

Mike was the recipient of the 79th Star to be engraved on the marble memorial wall of the CIA. He was postumously awarded the Intelligence Star and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

On Mike's funeral progam, the words of George Orwell were printed:

"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night
to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

Mike Spann was one of those men who did that for each of us.

Six long years we have been involved in the Great War on Terror. The country, we are told, suffers 'war fatigue', too easily forgetting the events of September Eleventh, and the early warnings of the LONG WAR we were facing. A few of us have not forgotten. We stand with the troops and the warriors that protect us. God Bless you all.

Mike Spann's epitaph:

"In honor of
Mike Spann
A hero who sacrificed his life
for freedom;
for Afghanistan;
for the United States of America
We will not forget
his courage or sacrifice.
May God be with and bless him."

A translation of the same in Dari, Afghanistan's official language, is inscribed above.

On the left is where American Taliban John Walker Lindh was captured. He was flooded out of the hole.In the middle is the memorial to fallen CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann On the right is one of many buildings at Qala-i-Jangi with visible scars from a huge battle with the Taliban

The CIA Memorial Wall
"In honor of those Members
of the Central Intelligence Agency
who gave their lives in service to their county."
A star is engraved for each of the CIA operatives killed.
The book contains the names of those whose names
have been declassified.

To read more about Mike Spann: - his family's site - his Arlington site

Thank You, Prime Minister John Howard

Prime Minister John Howard of Australia lost his bid for reelection. With his departure, the United States looses one of its staunchest allies. PM Howard is a man of great courage, strength and eloquence.

Now is the time to send him a message of thanks for all he has done... go here

Thanks to Dude, Where's the Beach for the link!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks to the Troops from Neil Cavuto

I cannot imagine eating
Thanksgiving dinner in a mess hall.
In a foreign country.
In a hostile foreign country.
Away from family.
Away from friends.
Away from all I hold dear.

I cannot imagine wondering whether this meal might be my last.
Or the buddy sitting next to me won't always be with me.
I cannot imagine going through what our soldiers go through every day.
But, especially "this" day.
When we should all give thanks.

But, they barely have the time to eat.
Before they're back on the line.
Back protecting us.
We who debate their role.
Some of us who even mock their cause.
This isn't about war.
This is about those who fight it.
And live through it.
In a place we forget.
On a day we should not.

I am very lucky to have this day with my family.
My creature comforts are secure precisely because theirs are not.

It's not fair.
It's not right.
It just is.

They are due our thanks every day.
Our prayers all days.
But they are due both, especially this day.

It's amazing to me that those paid so little, give so much.
Never complaining.
Always giving.
So that we can sit down in peace.
While they stand guard, in war.

Thank you, my friends.
And, Happy Thanksgiving.

-Neil Cavuto, Cavuto on Business, Fox News
Thank you, Neil Cavuto, for summing it up so well for all of us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday Hero ~ SPC Roger G Ling

Spc. Roger G. Ling

Spc. Roger G. Ling
20 years old from Douglaston, New York
Company C, 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team
February 19, 2004

When Spc. Roger G. Ling's Humvee was struck by a homemade bomb in October of 2003, he survived the attack and he worked to keep his superior officer, Lt. Matt Homa, alive. Spc. Ling was riding in the backseat of the Humvee when it was hit. It destroyed Lt. Homa's door.

"It almost killed me. From what I've been told, Roger helped keep me awake until my medic arrived." said Lt. Homa. "Ling was a good kid. You could count on him to do anything."

Spc. Ling was killed, along with Second Lieutenant Jeffrey C. Graham of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, when their unit came under fire from insurgents in Khalidiyah, Iraq. Only two miles from where he'd survived the attack just four months earlier.

Leona Ling said she was grateful her brother came home in August of 2003 just before leaving for Iraq.

"He had to have his tonsils taken out," she said. "It was a blessing in disguise because we got to see him again."

In phone calls home, the soldier spoke wistfully of returning to New York and going to college. "He wanted to hear about what was going on at home and all the latest family gossip," Leona Ling recalled.

Survivors include his father, Wai Ling, a U.S. Army veteran.

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. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your blog, you can go here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Face of Freedom ~ SPC Christopher Hoyt

RELEASE No. 20071119-01
November 19, 2007

Soldier re-enlists hours after IED injury (Balad)
4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division
PAOMulti-National Division – North PAO

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq – A U.S. Soldier re-enlisted in the Army just hours after being seriously wounded in an improvised explosive attack near Zaganiyah, Iraq, Nov. 13.

Spc. Christopher Hoyt, an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., suffered severe lacerations to his legs and torso when an IED exploded near him while conducting a dismounted patrol. Two of his fellow Soldiers were killed in the attack.

Hoyt was rushed to the emergency room at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, where he decided to re-enlist for four more years in the Army.

“He said he wasn’t finished,” said Hoyt’s battalion commander Lt. Col. Mark Landes, who re-enlisted the Soldier. “He said, ‘I still have a job to do.’ I’ve never seen the like.”

Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the brigade’s top noncommissioned officer, was also on hand for Hoyt’s reenlistment.

“It takes a person of very strong character to go through an incident where another Soldier five feet away was killed and he was severally wounded and still say ‘I believe in what we are doing and I want to stay on the team. I want to support the United States Army and my country.’ “Spc. Hoyt is the epitome of what a Soldier should be,” Troxell continued. “He is a model for what all men and women should be, and that is very patriotic and very selfless.”

Hoyt, whose hometown is Clemente, Calif., is currently recovering in an Army hospital in Germany.
I am truly humbled by this young man and his patriotism and commitment to our country.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Text Your Thanks to the Troops

This holiday season, America Supports You is giving you a new way to send your thanks to the troops - by text message! When you send your message of thanks to 89279 (TXASY) between November 17th and 22nd, you'll receive a special thanks in return. Also, we'll be displaying those messages on our ASY Thanks widget far and wide across the internet. Just another way that you can support our brave military men and women around the world.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book Review ~ My Men Are My Heroes

My Men Are My Heroes

The Brad Kasal Story

-as told to Nathaniel R Helms

When Brad Kasal was carried out of the 'house of hell' in Fallujah by LCpl Chris Marquez and LCpl Dan Shaffer, on Novemver 13, 2004, he had lost approximately 60 percent of his blood from more that 40 shrapnel wounds and seven 7.62mm AK-47 gunshots. The men had to put down their weapons to carry Kasal out, but Kasal came out armed, ready to protect them if need be. Lucian M Reed, an AP photographer, took the above photo which has become a symbol of the perservetance, heroism, valor, honor and fortitude of the United States Marine Corps and the rest of our military troops.

This book is a journey through Brad Kasal's life and through the streets of Fallujah, into the 'house of hell' to rescue his pinned down Marines. It is also an insight into the mind of a leader of men, a warrior, a Marine. The section dealing with the assault on Fallujah and the time in the 'house of hell' gave me sweaty palms with the intensity of the situation. The book does a remarkable job explaining who the enemy is and how they fight - and, how we fight.

Brad Kasal, while leading from the front, a position he is most comfortable in, led an assault on a house where Marines were pinned down. During the fight, Kasal was hit by direct fire and used his body to absorb the blast of a grenade, shielding a wounded Marine. He later won a Navy Cross for his actions (Hero to Remember: Sgt Maj Brad Kasal).

This is a moving description of the "tip of the spear" - a place most of us would never want to be, but thankfully, we have men like SGT Major Brad Kasal there keeping the rest of us safe and free. This book is graphic and hard to read in some places, but I have no doubt that it is honest to the reality. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the battle for Fallujah.

Sgt Major Brad Kasal wrote a remarkable Epilogue to the book. He tells us that he wrote the book to counter the lack of information in the news.

The biased media have made an impression on the American citezens and the terrorists themselves. Every time the media give airtime to a protestor, it gives another victory to the terrorists rather than to the protestors. And people believe what they read in the paper because it is all the information they have to go on. One time while I was at dinner with a few friends a lady approached me and asked what happened to my leg. At that point, I looked like something out of horror movie and was in a wheelchair. At first she was very conderned. But as soon as I told her I was in the military and injured overseas, she began to go into a long antimilitary tirade about how we don't need a military, and how there's never a reason for a war, and all the service members are dying unnecessarily. Biting back my anger for all the fine men who gave the ultimate sacrifice that she just dishonored, I simply replied with "Ma'am, you're very welcome; I'm sure what you meant to say was 'thank you' to myself and all the other service members who have made sacrifices to give you the freedom to openly make whatever statement you desire."

I'll be the first to say, as I've seen it numerous times firsthand, that war is an ugly thing. But sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in. We are facing a worldwide enemy who has only one agenda: the complete annihilation of the American way of life. and that enemy will stop at nothing short of that goal.

Freedom has never come free. Whatever your beliefs or political stance, our young service members of all branches are performing remarkably and making a difference. In Iraq combat was only a small part of our overall role. Military service members performed countless humanitarian projects ranging from large-scale items -- such as building new schools, hospitals, and community services -- to everyday things as small as handing out candy and pencils to children or helping a farmer with a flat tire.

These valiant young men are helping to bring freedom to a country that was previously without it. They are constantly facing the dangers of IEDs, suicide bombers, and ambushes while they capture or kill terrorists who have no regard for human life.

Many people are amazed that I whis to return overseas as soon as I'm healthy again. But serving my country is where my heart is. It is my wish that the American media would show the true and complete story of what is really going on overseas and tell the story of how our service members are performing selfless acts of heroism and helping to bring freedom and a better way of life to a country.

Sgt Major Brad Kasal dedicated the book "to the memory of the members of 3d Battalion, 1st Marines who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the fight for Fallujah." I am listing their names here ~ may we honor them all.

Headquarters and Service Company

SSgt Russell L Slay
SSgt Trevor L Spink
Sgt Krisna Nachampassak
Cpl Bradley T Arms
Cpl Nicanor A Alverez
Cpl Terry Holmes
LCpl Louis W Qualls
LCpl James E Swain
PFC Christopher J Reed

Weapons- George Company

Sgt Byron W Norwood
Cpl Brian Oliveira
Cpl Steven Rintamaki
LCpl Joshua W Dickinson
LCpl Abraham Simpson

Kilo Company

Sgt Christoper T Heflin
Sgr Morgan W Strader
LCpl Jeramy A Ailes
LCpl Juan E Segura

India Company

Cpl Dale A Burger, Jr
LCpl Justin D McLeese
LCpl andres H Perez
LCpl Phillip G West
PFC Fernando B Hannon
PFC Geoffrey Perez

Lima Company

Sgt Juan Calderon, Jr
Sgt William C James
Cpl Theodore A Bowling
LCpl Benjamin S Bryan
LCpl Lusi A Figueroa
LCpl Michael W Hanks
LCpl Nicholas D Larson
LCpl Nathan R Wood

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Travis Brass Quintet

Travis Brass Quintet
Earlier this week, we had the privlege of seeing a performance by the Travis Brass Quintet. It is one of the six performing musical groups that make up the USAF Band of the Golden West.

Airman 1st Class James Lantz
Master Sergeant Brian Wood
French Horn
Senior Airman Edwin Ochsner
Airman 1st Class Ryan Williams
Senior Airman Jill Corbett

It was a great evening with some wonderful music. They played Big Band, Dixieland, Broadway Hits and brass Classics. At the end, they played a medley of the theme songs of the Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. They asked veterans to stand when they heard their theme song. It was touching to see veterans across the generations acknowledged and I was pleased to see people actually applaud them.

If you ever have a chance to see any of the performance bands of the military - GO! They are wonderful!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Face of Freedom ~ 1Lt Mark Little

Wounded Warrior Stands to Pin on Silver Bars

09 November 2007
By Dennis Ryan

FORT MYER, Va. -- Exactly two months ago 2nd Lt. Mark Little was patrolling in Iraq, when he was wounded by an improvised explosive device. He lost both of his legs.

Wednesday morning at the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial, Lt. Little stood proudly outside on his new prosthesis for the first time to receive the silver bars of a first lieutenant.

Brig. Gen. John D. Johnson, special assistant to the commanding general of the Installation Management Command, called Lt. Little a "proven leader" and someone who "has already made sacrifices for his nation" before pinning the bars on the Soldier.

"This is a guy who gives so much to his country," Brig. Gen. Johnson said after the ceremony. "The attitude he has is inspiring to see. That's the epitome of a Soldier. We've had Soldiers such as Gen. [Frederick M.] Franks [Jr.] who've lost limbs and gone on to great careers. It's what's in your heart and what's in your head that matters."

In May 1970, Gen. Franks was wounded in action in Cambodia. His leg was amputated below the knee and, after rehabilitation, he remained on active duty. Franks went on to lead 146,000 U.S. and British forces during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. His units rolled more than 250 kilometers in 89 hours to liberate Kuwait in February 1991.

1st Lt. Little served as a sergeant in an engineer battalion with the Virginia National Guard while attending George Mason University.

His father, a veteran of the Korean War, Fred Little, proudly pinned a silver bar on the lieutenant's hat. "Everything was just the way it should be," the father said.

Girlfriend Rebecca Kelley also helped with the promotion."I think it's fantastic," she said. "He surprises me every single day. He got into the states on the 11th of September. His progress has been amazing, the blood transfusions, infections, the things he had to overcome."

Lt. Little was admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center Sept. 11.

Kelley said Little did not want to receive his promotion sitting down. "He was determined to stand up today," she said. "He just got the left leg Monday."

The young officer was fully aware the statue behind him contained Marines. He grew up in the Arlington-Fairfax area and said he has always loved it and the locale. "It shows overcoming adversity and this is what I am doing," Lt. Little said. "This is my first day with the left leg outside of the hospital. I got it Monday. Yesterday was the first day I stood up on it. I took 20 steps on parallel bars yesterday."

"Walter Reed is a wonderful, wonderful place," the new first lieutenant said. "I've experienced nothing but great care there."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rebuilding the Bamyan Buddhas

Bamyan Buddhas, circa 1963

Bamyan government officials and coalition and NATO International Security Assistance Force leadership discuss the history of the Buddhas of Bamyan. The Buddhas of Bamyan were two monumental statues of standing Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley of central Afghanistan before they were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001. Photo by Senior Airman Dilia DeGrego, USAF

An Afghan National Army soldier stands guard at the ruins of the Buddhas of Bamyan. The Buddhas of Bamyan were two monumental statues of standing Buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley of central Afghanistan. Photo by Senior Airman Dilia DeGrego, USAF

Along the Silk Road stood the magnificent Bamyan Buddhas. Towering over the valley they rose 175' and 120' in the heart of the Hindu Kush mountains for over 15 centuries. The faces were carved away in the the early centuries of the Islamic occupation. Finally, in March 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamyan Buddhas. They also destroyed all statuary in the country and in the museum at the order of Mullah Omar.

Bamyan was once an area of tourism and cultural exploration. The sandstone cliffs are full of caves, originally created by Buddhist Monks. The caves are a wealth of writings and paintings.

Now, Bamyan is stuggling to come back. The people of Bamyan have turned the once war-torn area into a peaceful one, where there are no armed people walking around and agriculture, although in need of modernization, is doing well. In addition, there is no longer any poppy seed cultivation in the province.

But, what they would really like to do is reconstruct the Buddhas. Several countries have offered, but none have acted.

"We want people to come help repair these statues," an Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture representative said. "The people ask when they will be rebuilt. They are guarding and preserving the pieces of the Buddhas so in the future, if they are rebuilt, we can use some of the original pieces.

"We are doing what we can to preserve what is left of the historical paintings and writings, as well, putting up doors to the rooms that those paintings and writings are in," he said. "It is very important to preserve this historical area. Everyone wants to this area to be preserved. We want to rebuild it so the others can come and see the area and its historical value."

The US and NATO have been meeting with the Afghans regarding this area. I hope that we will help them rebuild and protect this ancient wonder.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Protesters Mar Veterans Day Parades

Veterans Day parades across the country were dealing with the political rather than the honor due to our veterans. A group known as veterans for peace were refused entry into the Veterans Day parade in Boston, which is run by the American Legion. They were also denied a place on the speakers dias.

To express their disdain and disrespect for the American Legion, they marched at the end of the parade with inverted flags on their backs and carrying inverted flags, chanting anti mantras. Then, they took over the speaker's platform and 'gagged' themselves to show that their speech was being restricted because they were not invited into a private event. 18 of them were arrested - and, they are proud of it.

Local groups showed up at many Veterans Day parades across the nation - they were allowed to march in some, not in others, but at all of the parades, they turned it into a political statement. In some they were joined by Code Pink and other anti-war groups.

This type of insertion of politics into an event meant to honor and the blatant disrespect for our flag is pathetic. Veterans Day was not about the anti's favorite topics - Iraq, Bush, Bush, Bush, Iraq - it was about honoring the men and women down through history who have protected us and defended us and, when necessary, fought and bled and died for us. When people behave so despicably, I applaud their exclusion. No one is entitled to take over an event organized by people they disagree with.

Wednesday Hero ~ Cpl Jordan M Moehnle

Cpl. Jordan M. Moehnle

Cpl. Jordan M. Moehnle
21 years old from Los Angeles, California
Company L, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment,

Regimental Combat Team 6 ("Darkhorse" Battalion)

Cpl. Jordan M. Moehnle takes time out of leading his squad in a patrol through Fallujah's Nazaal district to spend some time interacting with local children. Moehnle, who is on his second tour in Iraq, said the changes he has witnessed since he was last here in 2006 have been dramatic. "The city was like the Wild West, we'd put our heads and and drive down (the middle of Fallujah) and hope not to get shot," he said. "Since we've been here (this year), we can stop and shoot the breeze."

You can read more here.

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. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your blog, you can go here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

US Warriors Become Citizens

Spc. Lina Jergees, a linguist with the 177th Military Police Brigade, receives a U.S. flag from the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Stacey E. Davis - Photo by Sgt Jasmine Chopra

Spc. Yasser Affifi, a linguist with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, takes the Oath of Allegiance - Photo by Sgt Jasmine Chopra

New citizen-veterans celebrated with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff at a post ceremony luncheon held at dinning facility one at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Nov. 11. - Photo by Spc Jennifer Sierra

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff led 178 service members in the Oath of Allegiance during the Nov. 11 naturalization ceremony held at Logistics Support Area Anaconda. This was Chertoff’s first naturalization ceremony in Iraq. - Photo by Spc Jennifer Sierra

Brig. Gen. Gregory E. Couch, commanding general for the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), addresses the 178 service members who traveled from various locations in theatre here to partake in the largest naturalization ceremony held in Iraq to date. - Spc Jennifer Sierra

Veterans Day - November 11, 2007 - Our Warriors Become Citizens

In the largest naturalization ceremony in Iraq, 178 foreign-born members of our military received their oath of citizenship at LSA Anaconda from Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff.

“I can’t think of people who are more deserving of citizenship then those who are fighting to defend the country even before they are citizens. They understand that freedoms don’t come free and they are willing to make sacrifices even before they reap the benefits of citizenship,” said Chertoff.

Emilio T. González, director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, himself an Army veteran, presented each recent citizen with a certificate of naturalization. Brig. Gen. Gregory E. Couch, 316th ESC Commanding General, congratulated each new American veteran-citizen.

Naturalized service members also received a U.S. flag from the 316th ESC senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Stacey E. Davis.

According to USCIS, nearly 40,000 troops are not American citizens. Many foreign-born men and women have pledged commitment to the U.S. Constitution by serving in the military and are availing themselves of a July 2002 executive order making members of the Armed Forces immediately eligible to apply for citizenship. Approximately 4,000 service members have earned U.S. citizenship while serving abroad since 2004.

These men and women have taken the oath to protect and defend us long before they were entitled to the rights of citizenship. I dare say that they have a greater understanding of the value of the freedoms we take for granted and few of us have fought for. I am proud to have them as my fellow citizens. God Speed to all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day Expressions

It wasn't the reward that mattered
or the recognition you might harvest.
It was your depth of commitment,
your quality of service,
the product of your devotion.
These were the things that counted in life.
When you gave purely the honor came in giving,
And that was honor enough.
-author unknown

I had the joy of hearing an interview on Friday with Marcus Luttrell. When he was thanked for his service to our country, he said, "You don't need to thank us for what we do - it's our honor." Then, he spoke of the honor of serving our country. It was humbling. Once again, reminding us that these are special people - better than most of us - who understand the gift of service and commitment.

We all know Veterans - take a moment today and thank them for the gift they gave to all of us of service and commitment.

Thank you, all....