Thursday, January 31, 2008

SGT Mikeal Miller ~ Farewell and Walk with God

SGT Mikeal W Miller
Died January 27, 2008

Sgt Mikeal W Miller, 22, son of Albany , Oregon, died January 27, 2008 at the Bethesda Naval Hospital from wounds suffered in Baghdad, Iraq in July. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division of Fort Carson, Colorado.

From the Oregonian: Sgt. Mikeal Wayne Miller, a 2003 graduate of South Albany High School, died at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, more than a week after his family had doctors remove life support, said his mother, Rene Pool.

Miller was injured on July 8, 2007, when a vehicle he was riding in along the streets of Baghdad was struck by small arms fire. He was shot in the head and sustained a brain injury, officials with the U.S. Army said.

He was flown back to the United States where he was treated at Bethesda and a medical treatment center in California. Later, he was flown back to Bethesda, where he died, his family said.

Miller was a member of the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, said Karen Linne, a spokeswoman for Fort Carson, Colo., where Miller had been based. He was injured during his second deployment in Iraq.

Linne said Miller entered the Army in August 2003, a few months after his high school graduation. He was deployed to Iraq in August 2004 for a year and later redeployed in October 2006 until the time of his injury.

Once he returned home, Miller was transferred to the Fort Lewis Warrior Transition Unit, which aids wounded soldiers, Linne said.

While serving in the Army, Miller received numerous commendations, including the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Korea Defense Service Medal.

He also received the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon and a Combat Infantryman's Badge.

He is survived by his wife, Meg Miller; his mother; his father, Steve; and three brothers, friends said.

We wish comfort to the family, friends and fellow soldiers - you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wednesday Hero ~ SSgt Justin R Whiting

SSgt. Justin R. Whiting
27 years old from Hancock, New York
3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
January 19, 2008

Staff Sgt. Justin R. Whiting, a Special Forces medical sergeant sustained fatal wounds when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive devise 16 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq. He was a Special Forces medical sergeant assigned to Company B, 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

SSG Whiting enlisted in the Army on December 15, 1999 and was on his third tour to Iraq. His military education included: the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course; the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course; Basic Noncommissioned Officer's Course; Warrior Leaders Course; Basic Airborne Course; Special Forces Qualification Course.

SSG Whiting received numerous awards and decorations - the Bronze Star Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, two Noncommissioned Office Professional Development Ribbons, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Medical Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Special Forces Tab.

He is survived by his mother, Estelline, of Colorado Springs, Colo., father, Randall, of Hancock, N.Y., sister, Amanda, of DuPont, Wash., and brother Nathan of Dover, Tenn.

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 site, you can go here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I Heard the News......

Monday morning I heard the news - "Five Soldiers Killed by an IED in Mosul, Iraq" - for some reason it sent shivers up my spine - much like those announcements did early in the war. But, I passed it off - until the email came. And, now, I hover between denial and grief.

I keep checking your MySpace page - surely you have logged in. And, I laugh everytime I do, as you are the only reason I have a MySpace page - it was your way of communicating on your last deployment. I still don't understand the thing.

Now, I am waiting for the DOD Release - the last proof to know for sure - though my source has impecable information.

I look at your wedding picture - just six months ago. I remember when you met - on leave in the fall of 2006. You were as giddy as a school boy. I watched your love grow and your relationship mature. I think of this young widow with only a few months of together time for the two of you. I am so very sad.

I think of you - of the funny pictures you sent and the long journals of your time in Iraq and about your faith and your love for your wife. I see your smile. I hear the dramatization and exaggeration in your stories - Lord, you could tell a story worth listening to. I remember when you wrote and said, "I got shot - don't tell my parents."

And, now it is Tuesday morning and your wife has acknowledged on her MySpace page what I already knew. The DOD Release has yet to come - still pending notification for all five of you, I'm sure. I know the names already and they were people you told me about - men who ate the junk food I sent to you!

I won't write your name until the DOD does. But, that does not stop me from grieving. I take some comfort in the profound faith that you had in God. I pray for your wife and your parents and your sisters and your military family and all of us who learned to love you over the years.

Military Guests at the State of the Union Address

Servicemembers Receive Invitations to State of Union Address

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2008 – A Marine who lost both legs in Iraq, a 61-year-old doctor who joined the Navy after his oldest son was killed in Iraq, a soldier and an airman wounded in Iraq, and a Marine whose unit was part of the troop surge in Iraq’s Anbar province will join first lady Laura Bush tonight during the president’s State of the Union address.

The servicemembers were selected as special guests for the annual address to both houses of Congress, President Bush’s eighth, and the last before he leaves office.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said today the president will discuss the vast improvements in Iraq during the past year and remind people that the challenges there continue. Bush is expected to push the Iraqis to do more to speed up progress and to warn against withdrawing U.S. troops there too quickly, she said.

“This is a chance for the president to remind people that it was a bold decision to send more troops into Iraq at a time when things were so dire, and it would be a really bad decision to rashly pull troops out at the moment,” Perino said.

Troops who have served in Iraq will be among the president’s specially invited guests who sit with the first lady during the address. They are Marine 1st Lt. Andrew Kinard, Army Staff Sgt. Craig Charloux, Air Force Senior Airman Diane Lopes and Staff Sgt. Andrew Nichols. Also invited are Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bill Krissoff and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Willard Milam.
Marine 1st Lt Andrew Kinard

Kinard, 25, of Spartanburg, S.C., is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who received his diploma from the president in 2005. He deployed to Iraq on Sept. 11, 2006, with the 2nd Marine Division’s 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Two months later, he was on a patrol when he was struck by an improvised explosive device. He lost both of his legs, one above the knee and the other at the hip, and received several other internal and external injuries. Kinard was flown to the United States, where he remains on active duty as an outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Lt Cmdr Bill Krissoff

Shown with his wife and family

Krissoff, who joined the Navy Medical Corps in November in response to his son’s death in Iraq, also will attend the State of the Union address. His oldest son, Marine 1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff, was serving as a counterintelligence officer with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion when he was killed in December 2006.

Inspired by his son’s dedication and commitment, the elder Krissoff decided to join the military himself. When his recruiter initially told him it was unlikely he’d qualify because of his age, Krissoff refused to give up. He raised the issue during a private meeting with the commander in chief in Reno, Nev., and soon got the waiver he needed to begin the application process. Now commissioned in the Navy Medical Corps, Krissoff is preparing to deploy as an orthopedist in a Forward Resuscitative Surgical System, a Level II combat surgical team that treats injured Marines in the field.

Krissoff closed his private practice, and he and his wife, Christine, moved to the San Diego area, where he is assigned to 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group. His youngest son, Marine 2nd Lt. Austin Krissoff, is stationed at nearby Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Staff Sgt Craig Charloux, Bobbie and Steven

Charloux, of Bangor, Maine, also is invited to tonight’s address. He was deployed to Muqdadiyah in Iraq’s Diyala province for 14 months during 2006 and 2007, serving as a squad leader in an armored reconnaissance squadron. In September, as Charloux led a squad into the town of Baloor, his unit was ambushed, and he received two grenade blasts that injured his arm, face, eyes and leg.

Despite his wounds, Charloux completed the raid, killing eight al Qaeda operatives. He returned from Iraq in November. His entire unit, 1st Calvary Division, returned to Fort Campbell, Ky., in January and is not being replaced.

Senior Airman Diane Lopes

Lopes, of Danbury, Conn., is an outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Lopes joined the Army in 1991, transferring to the Air Force Reserve in January 2003. She deployed to Iraq in August as a member of a security force at Kirkuk Air Base that provides security and patrols the base perimeter to detect and prevent physical security breaches.

One month into her deployment, Lopes was wounded by a rocket attack on the base. She suffered shrapnel and puncture wounds to her right arm and lower body and was transported to Walter Reed, where she continues to receive physical and occupational therapy.

Another Marine, Staff Sgt. Andrew Nichols, of Klamath Falls, Ore., will be among tonight’s guests. As infantry platoon commander for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, Nichols is responsible for his Marines’ training, welfare and tactical employment. He has served multiple tours of duty in Iraq, most recently with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Anbar province in support of the troop surge.

Following their successful deployment, Nichols and his unit returned to their Camp Pendleton base in November without being replaced by another U.S. unit. Before redeploying, they turned over tactical control of their operating area to 1st Iraqi Army Division.

Another guest tonight will be Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Willard Milam, from Phoenix. Milam is a rescue swimmer credited with braving 40-degree waters in the Bering Sea to rescue four people adrift on a life raft after their boat sank in February. Milam spent six years in the Navy before entering the Coast Guard in 1992.

Other guests tonight include Eric Whitaker, a Foreign Service officer who leads a provincial reconstruction team in Baghdad, and Dr. Thomas “Tom” M. Stauffer, president, chief executive officer and professor at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.


An impressive group of extraordinary Americans. While searching for pictures, I was able to read more about them. And, how many knew about the American University in Afghanistan?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dear Barry ~ An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dear Barry~

I am writing to you as a fellow alumni of Punahou School. I was gone long before you were there, but we shared the same rooms, some of the same teachers, the same atmosphere and environment. We grew up with similar experiences. I am motivated to do this because of the disturbing things you are doing that erode all credibility you might have had for me.

I can not think of any political issue that you and I will ever agree upon. You believe in giving people everything - just as everything was given to you. It always amazes me that most spoiled liberal children grow up without ever learning to work for anything or to earn anything. And, I am disgusted that you have pared your biography down to exclude the parts that might let people know where you come from. There is something dishonest about that.

[For my readers, Barry (his name in high school - Oahuan yearbook picture above) was a 1979 graduate of Punahou School, which is a top prep school (remember how GWB was excoriated for attending one of those) in Honolulu, Hawaii. Barry was sent to this premier and expensive school by his white grandparents with whom he lived. He attended from grade school through high school. His black African father had abandoned him and his white mother when he was a toddler. While I don't normally write political pieces, I feel strongly about his sins of omission.]

I do know that you were given one of the finest educations available in the United States. I know that you grew up a child of privilege. I do know that you were taught to speak in public, to think and to act. We should BOTH be grateful for the quality of education that we received. Yet, you seem to hide yours under the rock of omission. Are you worried that the masses might think less of you if they knew where you came from? How sad that you chose not to say - 'see where a great education and great teachers can inspire you to go?' And, are you going to tell people that those GREAT teachers were not part of a Union - they were there to mentor us and educate us and THEY DID.

Of the many things that we instinctively knew with our shared background, the most important things were the lessons learned about race. In any classroom we were in, it was a given that everyone in the room would be of varying racial combinations. It was so dramatic that no one cared - we weere each a minority of one - except the twins in my class. We learned that character and the ability to excel with whatever gifts we had were the important things. We had the benefits of learning from multiple cultures - we ate one another's foods, learned about holidays and celebrations and had our pidgin' peppered with words from cultures around the globe. We had few cultures withheld from our experiences. We were each unique and yet none of us was more unique than the others. We learned the strenght of the individual. We learned that it is character, not color, that defines us. How sad that you have not shared this valuable lesson with people on the campaign trail, but have rather chosen to fall into the Clinton trap of isolating the races?

I guess it is easier to let people think that you 'fought' your way to the top, when we know it is not true. But, how dishonest - how horribly dishonest.

When I heard your speech at the 2004 Democrat National Convention, I was impressed - most of the country was impressed. You are a profoundly gifted orator. But, as I watch your campaign, though you have the gift to stir the crowds, I have yet to hear you say anything of substance. You say "CHANGE" a great deal. You get the crowds to chant, "YES WE CAN."

But, you never define the change. Fascism is a change, Communism is a change, Depression is a change, Massive Unemployment is a change, Undermining Capitalism is a change, Attacks on our Soil are a change. Change is not necessarily a good thing. What is it that you mean? Or, are you satisfied to have an electorate that has no ability to think or reason or question you? Or, horrors, don't you know what you mean? And, what, exactly is it that we can do?

Most of my disdain is for the only thing that you ever express in your platform - tucking our tail between our legs and running from the battlefield in Iraq. BAD IDEA. Yet, you never speak of Afghanistan. You never speak of the War on Terror. Don't you believe they exist? Certainly you would have a policy position on them if you did. You scare me. I know that you have the capacity to be a deep thinker. Why is it that we are seeing the shallowest of rhetoric?

If you want to be the President of this country, you will have an obligation to ALL of America - not just those who vote for you. Barry, it is time to excel - to be the thinker and communicator, else that will never happen.


A Fellow Alumni of Punahou School (and owner of this blog)

Anonymous - a gift for you!

To the Anony-mice who think leaving messages with vile language and calling me names is dialogue and debate - finda dictionary and look up the words you are using - it will save you looking foolish.

To the Anony-mice who think that asking a Presidential candidate to be the best he can be is wrong - you will destroy this country if you don't believe that too.

To the Anony-mice who want to argue with me about Foreign Policy, this is the topic index on Obama's website : Ending the War in Iraq, Iran, Renewing American Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Building a 21st Century Military, Biparisanship and Openness, On Israel. No Policy Paper on Afghanistan OR the War on Terror. I have done my homework - you have not done yours.

To anyone who is supporting Barry for President - if you have not read his policy positions, you are a fool. A complete and total fool. A responsible voter reads the policy positions of the candidate. An irresponsible voter falls for things like 'hope' and 'change' - words that mean nothing in the realm of governance.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

SGT Eric E Rynearson ~ Farewell and Walk with God

SGT Eric E Rynearson
August 12, 1985 - January 19, 2008

A son of Oregon, SGT Eric E Rynearson, 22, died in a motorcycle crash - he lost control and collided with a guardrail. The accident is still under investigation.

SGT Rynearson was born August 12, 1985 in Eugene, Oregon and listed his home as Veneta, Oregon. His current assignment was to the U S Army Recruiting Headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii.

SGT Rynearson attended Fern Ridge Middle School and Elmira High School where he participated in cross country and track and field. He loved biking, motorcycles and cars. He loved technology. And, he was always reading about something, putting something together or more often taking it apart. He attended Fern Ridge Faith center when in Oregon.

SGT Rynearson came from a long line of military men. His great grandfather, Henry O Phillips, was an Army 2nd Lt in the Field Artillery in WWI (left in picture) and his grandfather, John M Phillips, was an Army 1st Lt Field Artillery in WWII (right in picture). Eric was proud of his heritage and family history and always wanted to be in the Army. He signed up before he was out of high school.

SGT Eric Rynearson is survivied by his mother - Katherine Phillips, his father - Stephen Rynearson, and sister Krista - Rynearson.

Services will be held Sunday, January 27 at 1 pm at the Musgrove Family Mortuary, 1152 Olive St in Eugene. Internment will follow at the Oak Hill Cemetery, 88558 Oakhill Cemetery Road in Eugene. The Patriot Guard Riders will be there to honor and to escort.

We will be holding the family, Eric's friends, and those who served with him in our thoughts and prayers through this difficult time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

100th Anniversay of Army Reserve ~ Soldiers Enlist

Soldiers Re-enlist to Commemorate 100th Army Reserve Anniversary

By Master Sgt. Anthony Martinez, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Jan. 18, 2008 – More than 100 mobilized Army Reserve soldiers deployed in Iraq and Kuwait raised their right hands and recited the oath of enlistment in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Army Reserve, in a ceremony here today.

In the grand rotunda of Al Faw Palace here, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, issued the oath of enlistment and remarked on the continued commitment Army Reserve soldiers make in reenlisting.

“In places like Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines and Latin America, Army reservists are bringing their warrior skills and their civilian trades to the fight,” Petraeus said.

“As everyone here knows,” Petraeus told the citizen-soldiers, “that combination is particularly effective in the exceedingly complex environments we face today -- environments that require our troopers to be not just warriors but also diplomats, builders, trainers, advisors, intelligence gatherers, service providers, economic developers and mediators.”

“Citizen-soldiers perform these diverse roles expertly, and in so doing, they demonstrate the critical role members of the Army Reserve play in safeguarding freedom at home and defending it abroad,” the general added.

“Indeed, I cannot think of a better way to honor the Army Reserve’s first century of service than being part of a ceremony where so many great reservists raise their right hands and commit themselves to continue serving our nation,” Petraeus said.

During the ceremony, Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of Army Reserve Command, commented on the transformation of the Army Reserve over the past 100 years.

“The Army Reserve was founded in 1908, but I can tell you that the Army Reserve of 2008 is vastly different than the Army Reserve of 1908,” Stultz said. “The Army Reserve today really is an operational force, an integrated part of the Army,” Stultz added. “And there’s no better way for us to kick off our 100th anniversary year and to symbolize what the Army Reserve today really is than to be able to conduct a re-enlistment ceremony here in Baghdad in the palace with 100 of our Army Reserve soldiers.”

For many of the soldiers here today, the opportunity to participate was about more than just re-enlisting for themselves. It was a way to honor the service of those who came before them.

“I’m just one soldier, just one average ‘joe,’” said Sgt. Jonathan Britt, a 25-year-old medic from Fayetteville, N.C., mobilized with 535th Military Police Battalion.

“I’ve only been in for two years, so for 98 years there were people upholding these traditions, and that’s one of the reasons for me to re-enlist, to uphold the tradition, honor and integrity behind that -- not for my own personal sake but for those that served before me,” Britt said.

Soldiers selected to participate in the commemorative ceremony are a sampling of the more than 1,876 Army Reserve soldiers who have reenlisted over the past 12 months while deployed in Iraq and Kuwait, according to the Army Reserve Retention and Transition Office here. Army Reserve re-enlistments in Iraq and Kuwait reflect approximately 20 percent of all re-enlistments for the Army Reserve worldwide, officials said.

(Army Master Sgt. Anthony Martinez is assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve Command.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Iraq Graduation Celebration

An Iraqi national policeman waves an Iraqi flag in celebration during his graduation ceremony at the Numaniyah National Police Training Center in Numaniyah, Iraq, Jan. 21, 2008. DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony J. Koch, U.S. Navy. (Released)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Farming Success in the Anbar Province

John Jeans, of the Inma Agribusiness Program, and Navy Cmdr. Kevin Anderson inspect a lettuce field in Ramadi, Iraq, as part of the effort to revive agribusiness in Anbar province.
Photo courtesy of Inma Agribusiness Program

Navy Cmdr. Kevin Anderson; a translator; John Jeans, of the Inma Agribusiness Program; and a sheikh discuss reviving agribusiness in Iraq's Anbar province.

Herschel Weeks, of the Inma Agribusiness Program; Navy Cmdr. Kevin Anderson; and a sheikh discuss a fish pond as part of the effort to revive agribusiness in Iraq's Anbar province.

Farm Business Revival Holds Key to Anbar's Economic Recovery
By Elaine Eliah Special to American Forces Press Service

RAMADI, Iraq, Jan. 22, 2008 - Reviving agricultural enterprises that have deteriorated from years of sanctions, conflict and neglect is crucial to the economy in this region in western Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials here said.

"I've seen several (poultry) growers who have returned to production during my seven months here, and more will return as things continue to improve," said Marine Maj. Daryl F. Remick, an agricultural planner with the Fallujah-area provincial reconstruction teams.

As a farmer's son and poultry specialist, Remick is keenly aware that raising chickens is but a single link in a complex chain of activities that can make or break farmers. "We have to evaluate the entire agricultural value chain for al Anbar," he said.

Assessing a value chain means considering not only what is taking place on the farm, but also looking at how farmers receive inputs, such as seed, fertilizer or poultry feed, and how they market the products they produce, he said. Identifying weak links in each agricultural product's value chain is critical for making that industry profitable.

U.S. military civil affairs personnel and civilians embedded with provincial reconstruction teams interact with local communities, investigate where the value chains need upgrading and recognize restorable agribusinesses. When several enterprises fitting this description were identified by the Ramadi PRT's embedded personnel, Navy Cmdr. Kevin Anderson, detailed to the State Department, and Marine Maj. Lee Suttee, a Marine Corps civil affairs specialist, requested members of the Inma Agribusiness Program visit the area. Inma is an Arabic word meaning "growth."

The program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is working to restore Iraqi agribusiness, a sector estimated to support 27 percent of the population. During a recent two-day tour in and around Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, Anderson and Suttee escorted USAID's Ron Curtis and David Smale and Inma party chief Herschel Weeks to several private-sector agribusiness investment opportunities.

The group listened as three farmers described the same "weak link" problems. Day-old chicks are expensive and often require costly shipping. Farmers must use costly imported feed of unknown quality. Immunizations and veterinary care are expensive, and disease-testing labs are unavailable.

"Inma wants to make sure that the feed and other needs are in place for the farmer to make money," Weeks said, "and that there is a market for the products."

During the summer, the provincial sheiks council requested PRT assistance in re-establishing a competitive local poultry industry. Available, affordable feed looked like the best first step in the process. Inma's maize-growing demonstration project introduced hybrid seeds and precision planting to local farmers. Iraq's traditional maize yield tripled, and by planting between the annual wheat crops, farmers used their fields off season and produced much-needed animal feed, Inma officials said.

Availability of Ramadi-grown feed strengthens the poultry value chain. As increased poultry production expands the market for feed, further grain production is encouraged. Inma officials said they want to improve other links in this chain by developing feed-mill capacity to prepare grains and legumes for chicken feed and improving hatchery operations to supply young chicks.

The commitment that Anderson and Suttee's team have to revitalizing Anbar's economy was evident in the two-day assessment tour of Ramadi's Zangora and Jazeera districts. In addition to all the poultry interests, they also had identified a potentially profitable fish pond and a mushroom farm that in 2003 employed 80 workers. At one local market, Iranian mushrooms sell for $2.50 a pound.

"Private industry can flourish," Weeks said. "Agriculture can become profitable and provide food for the Iraqi people."

"Our goal," Anderson added, "is to see Iraqi-grown produce in not only the local markets, but also in markets of Jordan and Syria."

(Elaine Eliah, public relations/communications manager for the Inma Agribusiness Program, has worked in Iraq for more than three years.)

Wednesday Hero ~ US Airmen

Capt. Lyle L. Gordon

Airmen from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at an air base in Southwest Asia prepare a C-17 Globemaster III for an airdrop mission Jan. 14 to deliver humanitarian supplies to coalition forces in Afghanistan

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 site, you can go here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trading Congress for the Marine Corps

Illinois Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, admires a farewell greeting during a Republican County fundraising dinner in Jacksonville, Ill. Watson is going off to war. The 42-year-old spent his last week in Illinois by taking care of the last minute details before his deployment to Iraq.

By Nguyen Huy Vu - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jan 21, 2008 7:53:14 EST

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Jim Watson is going to war, and that means taking care of details familiar to any Marine: updating his will, packing his duffel bags, saying goodbye.

Then there are a few unusual chores, like figuring out how to raise campaign money while in Iraq and arranging for other lawmakers to watch over his legislative district while he’s away.

Watson is a staff sergeant in the Marine Reserves, but he’s also a Republican member of the state House, representing a swath of farmland and small towns in central Illinois.

He leaves Sunday to train in Camp Pendleton, Calif. When he arrives in Iraq a few weeks later, Watson will become one of just 23 state legislators deployed overseas by the military over the past four years, according to a survey done last summer for the National Network of Legislators in the Military.

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates Watson will be one of five state legislators currently deployed in Iraq.
Watson, 42, expects to be shipped to Al-Anbar, Iraq, and spend nine months working with local leaders to strengthen their government.

He’ll miss his son’s 14th birthday and his youngest daughter’s tumbling meets. He’ll also miss the spring legislative session, leaving his district without a vote in the House, a situation that irritates some constituents.

“I hope that people in the district look at that and say, ‘That’s a sacrifice we can live with so that he can do what he’s doing,’” he said. “If that’s not the case, then I am not the right guy. This is important to me, and I hope that is important to them.”

Watson already has served overseas once.

He started his military career in 1985 with the Marine Corps. He returned to active duty in 1990 and served in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for seven months with a combat engineering unit as part of Operation Desert Storm.

Watson started thinking about re-enlisting in 2005. His pangs to return to active duty grew as he watched his old unit being sent to Iraq three times. Two of them died.

“You get into this because you have a sense of duty, and just because you take the uniform off doesn’t mean that sense of duty is put in the closet with it. It’s still there,” Watson said. “And so when these things flare up you find yourself saying, ‘I should be there, I can help.”’

Last summer, he signed up for the reserves again, joining a civil affairs unit that could use his experience in government.

He got word around Christmas that he was being shipped to Iraq.

Watson spent the last few weeks raising money, voting on legislation and trying to make time for his family. “It’s complicated to put it all together, but it’s coming together,” he said.

More than 200 supporters packed a banquet room Monday night to wish Watson luck during an annual political fundraiser that doubled as a farewell party. They lined up to shake his hand and promise to take his son hunting or invite his youngest daughter to sleepovers.

The next day it was back to business. Watson wants to make sure his district isn’t forgotten by state officials while he’s gone. He plans to keep in touch through e-mail, and other representatives from both parties have promised to visit the district.

Watson caught heat from a few constituents and local papers because he can’t vote while serving in Iraq. He understands the concern, and it’s one reason he delayed re-enlisting. But he doesn’t consider it a crisis that the district will be without a vote for 270 days. If he served any longer, Pentagon policy would require him to give up his political office.

Watson sits with advisers over pork loin and cornbread as they try to tie up loose ends. Have they thought of everything? Are the office hours covered? Do we have the right reps? Is the right staff in place?

Next, they head over to his campaign headquarters a few yards away and discuss how to stay visible through blogging, e-mails and video teleconferencing. The group then tosses ideas around about moneymaking strategies.

Watson listens intently and struggles to swallow a few yawns.

An hour later he picks up his youngest daughter. Recently divorced, Watson usually gets the kids once a week but he has the entire week with them before he ships off.

The hardest part was telling the kids. Katie, 16, Jacob, 13, and Lexie, 9, gathered around at Watson’s Jacksonville duplex when he told them the news. Katie and Lexie had the toughest time. They couldn’t stop crying.

Jacob sat quietly. He began to ask questions. If you have to go, where will you be? How long are you going to be there? What kind of gun are going to carry?

Jacob said he is disappointed that his dad has to go.

“I really don’t have a choice, I have to accept it because he’s already going and you can’t turn back,” Jacob says.

His children were the main reason it took so long to commit to the service.

“There’s nobody that can replace your parents,” Watson says. “Missing some games, missing tumbling meets, missing a swim meet, not being able to help them on a test, not being there to help out their mother. She’s got to carry this load and that’s tough.”

While Watson helps Jacob study for a Spanish test, there is a knock at the door. It’s a stranger. The man introduces himself and, out of the blue, offers to help any way he can while Watson is away.

Watson thanks the man. Then he simply grins.

Just visiting my blogger friends and found this story is also at Lubbock Marine Parents!

Monday, January 21, 2008

SeaBee in Iraq

A Seabee from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 works together with an Iraqi Soldier to move trusses into place to complete the roofing structure of a Southwest Asia Hut. NMCB 1 is part of nearly 1,200 Sailors and Marines supporting critical construction efforts in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Chad Runge.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Vote for Sgt Jill Stevens ~ Last Week to Vote!

Remember Sgt Jill Stevens? She is Miss Utah and a member of the National Guard 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment. The Miss America Pageant takes place on January 26 in Las Vegas, Nevada. She has an opportunity to win a finalist position by popular vote.

"America's Choice! Battle Buddies,I need your help!
This year, America has the opportunity to select a surprise 16th pageant finalist with "Miss America: America's Choice", an online competition that allows viewers to vote for their favorite Miss America contestant. I could really use all the support from my battle buddies in the Army family to help me stay in the fight."
- Sgt. Jill Stevens

To vote for Jill - click the link, click on Utah and follow the directions.
You can vote once each day now through January 26.

UPDATE - Jill Stevens won the America's Choice Award, but the judges couldn't handle her class and sophistication and she was eliminated.
Thank you, Jill, for trying!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Robin Williams and the USO Tour to the Middle East

Over Christmas, the Charirman's USO Tour, consisting of

Robin Williams, Kid Rock, Miss USA - Rachel Smith, Lance Armstrong and Lewis Black

visited many bases in the Middle East.

I heard first hand about what a great show it was!

Below, is Robin Williams talking about the tour and showing some footage

and expressing pride and admiration for our fine military.

That part starts about 4 minutes in, if you don't want to wait.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

SGT Zachary McBride ~ Farewell and Walk with God

SGT Zachary McBride
Died January 9, 2008 - Iraq

SGT Zachary McBride, 20, is a son of our town - an Oregonian from Bend. SGT McBride lost his life on January 9, 2008 in Sinsil, Iraq. Six soldiers were killed in a house rigged with explosives. Four soldiers were wounded in the attack. SGT McBride served with the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division of Vilseck, Germany. His promotion to Sergeant was a postumous honor.

SGT McBride graduated from Mountain View High School in 2005. He was known for being 'incredibly intelligent, witty and equally comfortable playing with little kids or discussing politics.' His friend Erin Davis remembers, "He was so passionate about joining the Army, and serving his country, which is why this is so bittersweet. He was very quiet," Davis wrote, "but to see him smile, was the best thing in the world."

Zach belonged to Eastmont Church in Bend, where his father is the worship pastor. He participated in the church's youth group and traveled on several mission trips, including one to Ireland.

Zach is survived by his parents, Marshall and Laura, and his sister, Sarah, of Bend, Oregon. The McBride family moved to Bend in 2002 from Oak Harbor, Washington.

Service Information:

Memorial Service - Saturday, January 19, 1pm, Eastmont Church, Bend, Oregon
Updated Information for Memorial Service - Due to the limited space at the Eastmont Church, the Oregon National Guard Armory located at 875 SW Simpson, Bend, Ore. will be used to accommodate the overflow from the Church service. The service will be simulcast from the Eastmont Church to the Armory location. Doors will open at 11 a.m. at the Armory. Point of contact for additional information is Capt. Sean Nixon @ 541-383-0954, ext. 1373.

Visitation - Friday, January 18, 2-5pm and 6-8pm. Community members wanting to pay their respects are urged to attend the visitations, as there is limited seating in the church and should be reserved for family and friends.

Internment - Sunday, January 20, 12 noon, at Willamette National Cemetery. Full military honors will be performed by the Military Funeral Honors Team from the Oregon National Guard.

The Patriot Guard Riders will be escorting Zach when he arrives at the Roberts Airfield on the 17th and through each stage of the services and internment.

Also killed in the attack were:

Spc. Todd E. Davis, 22, of Raymore, Missouri

Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, 30, of Rutherford, Tennesse

Staff Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, 29, of Reno, Neveda

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk, 30, of Superior, Wisconsin

Sgt. Christopher A. Sanders, 22, of Roswell, NewMexico

SFC Matthew I Pionk ~ Farewell and Walk with God

SFC Matthew I Pionk
Died January 9, 2008 ~ Iraq

The Department of Defense announced the death of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died January 9, 2008 in Sinsil, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated in a booby-trapped house during combat operations. They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Vilseck, Germany.

Killed were:Spc. Todd E. Davis, 22, of Raymore, Mo., Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, 30, of Rutherford, Tenn., Staff Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, 29, of Reno, Nev., Sgt. Zachary W. McBride, 20, of Bend, Ore., Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk, 30, of Superior, Wis., Sgt. Christopher A. Sanders, 22, of Roswell, N.M.

From the Superior Telegram -- An Iron Range resident and Superior-area native has been killed in Iraq. Family members were notified of Sgt. First Class Matthew Pionk’s death Wednesday night, according to his father, Duane Pionk of Oliver, just south of Superior.

Pionk, 30, served with the Third Cavalry, Second Squadron based out of Ft. Lewis, Wash. Pionk departed for Iraq five months ago.

Pionk and his wife Melanie were married in 1998. They recently moved to Eveleth, Melanie Pionk said tonight. “This is where he was going to come home to,” she said.

Pionk enlisted with the military on April 1, 1998, according to Melanie. “His whole life was the military,” she said.

Duane Pionk said his son was awarded a Bronze Star medal on his first tour of Iraq about three years ago.

Matthew and Melanie have three children. “He was a great dad and a great solider,” Melanie Pionk said. “That’s about all I can tell you.”

SSG Sean M Gaul ~ Farewell and Walk with God

SSG Sean M Gaul
Died January 9, 2008 ~ Iraq

The Department of Defense announced the death of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died January 9, 2008 in Sinsil, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated in a booby-trapped house during combat operations. They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Vilseck, Germany.

Killed were:Spc. Todd E. Davis, 22, of Raymore, Mo., Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, 30, of Rutherford, Tenn., Staff Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, 29, of Reno, Nev., Sgt. Zachary W. McBride, 20, of Bend, Ore., Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk, 30, of Superior, Wis., Sgt. Christopher A. Sanders, 22, of Roswell, N.M.

From theReno Gazette Journal -- Army Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, 29, of Reno, and five other soldiers were killed Wednesday in Sinsil, Iraq, when their vehicle was struck by a homemade bomb during combat operations.

Gaul was in his fifth deployment, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, after enlisting in the Army in late 1999. He was killed while on patrol in the Diyala Province.

“Sean loved his job, knowing the risks he re-enlisted during his fifth deployment,” said his wife Jessica Gaul, in a statement. “It seemed Sean was a lifer for sure. He did not waiver from his responsibility. He always trained hard as he led the way by example. He was focused and determined as he sought out more special forces training. Sean was a very good man, loving husband, father and true friend,” she said.

Gaul was the 57th soldier from Nevada to have died in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Middle East since Sept. 11, 2001.

Gaul attended Reed High School where he was a member of the J.R.O.T.C and earned a General Equivalency Diploma in 1997. He was devoted to martial arts, loved Scuba diving, was a triathlete and liked to fly fish, his family said.

Gaul leaves behind his wife, daughter, mother, father and four sisters as well as other family.

“Staff Sergeant Gaul was an extraordinary and dedicated soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country while serving his fifth tour of duty in support of the Global War on Terror,” Gibbons said. “It is with profound gratitude that we honor his devotion and his service to our nation.”

Gaul initially served with B Co., 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. and was first deployed to Afghanistan soon after the Sept. 11 attack. He then was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. In September 2003, he was sent to Afghanistan with a coalition security forces team to help guarantee free elections. He then transferred to a Stryker brigade at Fort Lewis, Wash., and was deployed to Ramadi and Mosul, Iraq. After graduating from the Army Ranger school, Gaul returned to his unit, which had transferred to Vilseck, Germany. He then completed the U.S. Army’s sniper school before deploying one last time.

SSG Jonathan K Dozier ~Farewell and Walk with God

SSG Jonathan Killian Dozier

Died January 9, 2008 ~ Iraq

The Department of Defense announced the death of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died January 9, 2008 in Sinsil, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated in a booby-trapped house during combat operations. They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Vilseck, Germany.

Killed were:Spc. Todd E. Davis, 22, of Raymore, Mo., Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, 30, of Rutherford, Tenn., Staff Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, 29, of Reno, Nev., Sgt. Zachary W. McBride, 20, of Bend, Ore., Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk, 30, of Superior, Wis., Sgt. Christopher A. Sanders, 22, of Roswell, N.M.

From WTKR -- Chesapeake native Staff Sergeant Jonathan Kilian Dozier died in Iraq. The 30 year old soldier was killed during ongoing operations in the Baqouba area and Diyala province in central Iraq, his father, Carl Dozier, said this afternoon.

Dozier came from a family with a history of service. His relatives fought in the Civil War, both World Wars and Desert Storm. One of Dozier's kin, Thomas Lenwood Dozier, fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War as a private in the North Carolina Regiment. Carl Dozier's maternal grandfather, Kilian Lang, served as an artilleryman in the German army in World War I. His father, Wilbur, enlisted in the Coast Guard in August 1941, just months before the U.S. entered World War II following the sneak attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Dozier said his son e-mailed him a photograph (shown above), taken on Christmas Day after his unit had a holiday meal - and just minutes before he was to go on an earlier mission. He said he did all he could to stay in touch with his son.

SSG Jonathan Dozier is buried at Arlington National Cemetery:

SSG Dozier lived his life on the 'tip of the spear', a life dedicated to his country, to something larger than himself. By the comments from the people who have visited here, SSG Dozier was a caring and wonderful man and friend.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends and the men he served with during this difficult time.

SGT Christopher Sanders ~ Farewell and Walk with God

SGT Christopher A Sanders
Died January 9, 2008 ~ Iraq

The Department of Defense announced the death of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died January 9, 2008 in Sinsil, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated in a booby-trapped house during combat operations. They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Vilseck, Germany.

Killed were:Spc. Todd E. Davis, 22, of Raymore, Mo.Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, 30, of Rutherford, Tenn.Staff Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, 29, of Reno, Nev.Sgt. Zachary W. McBride, 20, of Bend, Ore.Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk, 30, of Superior, Wis.Sgt. Christopher A. Sanders, 22, of Roswell, N.M.

From KVIA --ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) - A soldier from southeastern New Mexico who was killed while serving in Iraq is being remembered as a wonderful father and a patriot.

Sanders was on his second tour, and he was scheduled to return home in November.

Sanders leaves behind his wife, Dara, and a young son and daughter.

SPC Todd E Davis ~ Farewell and Walk with God

SPC Todd E Davis
Died January 9, 2008 ~ Iraq

The Department of Defense announced the death of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died January 9, 2008 in Sinsil, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated in a booby-trapped house during combat operations. They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Vilseck, Germany.

Killed were:Spc. Todd E. Davis, 22, of Raymore, Mo.Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, 30, of Rutherford, Tenn.Staff Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, 29, of Reno, Nev.Sgt. Zachary W. McBride, 20, of Bend, Ore.Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk, 30, of Superior, Wis.Sgt. Christopher A. Sanders, 22, of Roswell, N.M.

From the Kansas City Star -- The last time Dorothy Ochsner talked to her nephew Todd Davis, he seemed happy. He called her on Christmas Day.

The 22-year-old Army specialist, who had lived with Ochsner and her husband in Kansas City, had been deployed in Iraq nearly a year. He talked about the American, and recently, British troops he had been working with and how much he liked them. “He was enjoying his fellow comrades in duty there,” Ochsner said.

The same was true in the moments before Davis died, a fellow soldier who survived the mission told his aunt. The mood was light, and the troops were enjoying one another’s company during a reconnaissance operation in Sinsil, Iraq. “They entered that house totally convinced that they were just checking it out, cleaning it out,” Ochsner said. “And it was booby-trapped.”

Davis was one of six soldiers who died Wednesday after an improvised explosive device detonated inside the house. The Department of Defense released the soldiers’ names Friday.

Wednesday’s mission came on the second day of a new offensive aimed at rooting out al-Qaida north of Iraq’s capital. Sinsil is in the province of Diyala. Davis and the five other men who died were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division based in Vilseck, Germany.

Davis, who graduated from Lee’s Summit North High School, was handsome and athletic and had an infectious smile, his family said. “He was always laughing, he was always smiling,” said his stepmother, Kathy Shewmaker-Davis. “Every time you looked at him, he had a smile on his face.”

Sue Davis, his aunt, said she marveled at how Davis was clean-cut, even-tempered, funny, polite — and able to run five miles without getting winded. If you built a person by taking every good thing from every friend you ever knew, you would have her nephew, Sue Davis said. He seemed to be “on this planet to make people happy, and to be happy.”

At Lee’s Summit North, Davis wrestled and played soccer and football, Ochsner said. He received a scholarship to attend junior college in St. Louis, where he excelled in wrestling as well as academics. Davis also was a second-degree brown belt in karate, which he cherished as a code of living as well as a martial art, she said.

Davis almost went to the University of Oklahoma, where he planned to study architecture, relatives said. He was enrolled, had a place to live and had the car packed when he made a last-minute decision to join the Army instead. Davis’ choice was largely inspired by pride in his late father, a Marine who completed two tours in Vietnam, his family said. Davis’ uncle fought there, too, with the Navy.

On his Facebook page, Davis described his interests as waking up and saying “yesterday was awesome,” and living each day “as if it was my last.”

Davis’ mother has not been in contact with the family since Davis and his brother were children, relatives said. His father died of a brain tumor a few years ago. Losing his dad reinforced Davis’ enthusiastic approach to life, Shewmaker-Davis said. “Todd really lived for today,” she said, “and enjoyed every minute.”

Wednesday Hero ~ CPL Phillip E Baucus

Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus

Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus
28 years old from Wolf Creek, Montana
3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force
July 29, 2006

Marine Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus was the nephew of Montana Senator Max Baucus. He joined the Corps in 2002, returned from his first deployment in March/April 2005 and was sent to Iraq in March of 2006.

Cpl. Baucus was killed alongside fellow Marines Sgt. Christian Williams, 27 yrs old from Winter Haven, Fla., LCPL Jason Hanson of Forks, Washington, and Lance Cpl. Anthony E. Butterfield, 19 yrs old from Clovis, Calif. during combat operations in Al Anbar province.

"Phillip was an incredible person, a dedicated Marine, a loving son and husband, and a proud Montanan and American," Sen. Baucus said. "He heroically served the country he loved and he gave it his all."

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 site, you can go here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

President Bush Visits Troops in Kuwait

President George W. Bush shakes hands with a Soldier after his speech at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Jan 12. Bush thanked the troops and their families for their hard work and sacrifice. (Photo by Spc. Giancarlo Casem)

President George W. Bush waves at troops as he walks to the stage to speak to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines during his visit to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Jan. 12.
(Photo/U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Sara A. Carter)

U.S. President George Bush greets thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastguardsmen at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
(Photo/U. S. Marine Corps Sgt. Sara A. Carter)

U.S. President George Bush greets thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastguardsmen at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Photo by Sgt 1st Class Paul Tuttle

(click to enlarge)

U.S. President George Bush addresses thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastguardsmen at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Photo by Sgt 1st Class Paul Tuttle

Gen. David Petraeus, left, commander of Multi-National Forces – Iraq, and Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace, commander of Third Army (Forward), watch as U.S. President George Bush addresses Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastguardsmen at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Jan. 12. Bush thanked Third Army for their work supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom after meeting with Petraeus and U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, earlier in the morning to receive an update of the war.
Photo by Sgt 1st Class Paul Tuttle

Gen. David Petraeus, left, commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq, and Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace, commander of Third Army (Forward), watch as U.S. President George Bush greets Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastguardsmen of Third Army at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Photo by Sgt 1st Class Paul Tuttle
U.S. President George Bush greets Maj. Gen. Dennis E. Hardy, deputy commander of Third Army (Forward), after addressing Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastguardsmen assigned to Third Army at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Jan. 12. Bush thanked the service members for their hard work supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Paul Tuttle, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) Public Affairs

Commander-in-Chief Offers Message of Hope
to Service Members in Kuwait
By Staff Sgt. Jacob A. McDonald
50th Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – President George W. Bush made a stop in Kuwait Saturday during his Middle East tour to meet with key U.S. leaders and speak to service members deployed to the Third Army/U.S. Army Central area of operations in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Bush met with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, and Gen. David Petraeus, commander, Multi-National Forces Iraq, to discuss the situation in Iraq as well as the progress made and the challenges ahead.

“We discussed the fact that whatever happens in Iraq impacts everything else in the entire region,” Bush said. He then discussed the changes and improvements that came from the troop surge and the strategy change in Iraq over the last year. “Iraq is now a different place from one year ago,” Bush said. “Much hard work remains but levels of violence are significantly reduced. Hope is returning to Baghdad and hope is returning to towns and villages throughout the country.”

Bush also spoke about how the Iraqis are taking control of their own government and coming together despite religious differences to build a common future and diminish violence.

In his statement Bush spoke about U.S. forces returning home due to the changes in Iraq. He stated that any additional reduction will be based on Petraeus’ recommendations, based on the conditions on the ground in Iraq.

“I have believed all along that if people are given a chance to live in a free society they will do the hard work necessary to live in a free society,” he said.

He also spoke about the importance of the concerned citizen groups who are stepping up to help provide local security in addition to the Iraqi surge of 100,000 local police and Iraqi troops.

“We must do all we can to ensure 2008 brings even greater progress for Iraq’s young democracy. Long-term success in Iraq is vital to our friends here in the region and to America’s national security” Bush said. “In a place where Saddam Hussein once menaced the world, the new U.S., Iraqi relationship will strengthen a democracy that serves its people, fights terrorists and serves as a beacon of freedom for millions across the Middle East.”

Bush then moved on to speak with several thousand service members gathered at the Zone 6 stage on Camp Arifjan. He encouraged the service members to continue their work in supporting the mission. During his speech he thanked Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace, commander, Third Army/ USARCENT, and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians serving for their hard work in completing the support and logistical mission in Kuwait.

“In the long term, the best way to defeat the ideology of hate is one with an ideology of hope and that is one with liberty at its fundamental core,” Bush said. The assembled troops responded with a loud, “hooah.”

“It’s hard work but it is necessary work,” he continued. “I thank you for what you are doing. There is no doubt in my mind that when the history is written, the final page will say, ‘Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world.’”

Following the speech to the troops Petraeus and Crocker spoke to media about the meeting they had with the President. They highlighted the importance of political reconciliation in Iraq.

“Reconciliation is more than national legislation,” Crocker said. “It’s also what we are seeing in provinces around the country. There is more cross-sectarian political activity. As security improves and some of the tensions reduce we are seeing more political activity and more steps toward reconciliation. There is still a long way to go. We are seeing some encouraging steps now at both the national and local levels.”

Petraeus said troop withdrawals would depend on whether things get better, stay the same or decline as U.S. troops pull out and Iraqi Security Forces take over. He stated that Iraqi citizens and security forces are preparing to take on the security of their own country. He said recommendations for continued withdrawal will be based on the situation in the country.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Farewell, and Walk with God

The Department of Defense announced the death of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Jan. 9 in Sinsil, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated during combat operations. They were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Vilseck, Germany.

Killed were:

Spc. Todd E. Davis, 22, of Raymore, Mo.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan K. Dozier, 30, of Rutherford, Tenn.

Staff Sgt. Sean M. Gaul, 29, of Reno, Nev.

Sgt. Zachary W. McBride, 20, of Bend, Ore.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew I. Pionk, 30, of Superior, Wis.

Sgt. Christopher A. Sanders, 22, of Roswell, N.M.

Whenever a group of soldiers are lost at the same time, the magnitude of the loss makes it seem so much more severe. For us, it is compounded by the loss of a young man from our town. Five other towns are experiencing the same loss. Six families are dealing with the hardest of all losses. Four soldiers were wounded in this explosion. Four families are facing difficulties the rest of us can only imagine. I hope that you will sent a prayer or a kind thought to these families, to the wounded and to the members of the 3/2 who are grieving the loss of their friends. I will bring you their stories as I can. They are worth knowing - they gave everything for us.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Snow in Baghdad ~ !!!!!

JANUARY 11, 2009
Snow in Baghdad

1909 - Snow in Baghdad
Sir W Willcocks
Royal Geographic Society

Found a video of the snow fall, but couldn't get it to post

Big, thick, wet flakes of snow fell on Baghdad today. It melted on contact. But, it still brought joy to those who were seeing snow for the first time! Some saw it as an omen of joy and peace. Anyone who can remember the first snow fall they witnessed will understand how they felt!!!

Snow is not unusual in Iraq - the northern areas have severe winters. The first year of the war, I received a picture from one of our kids in Mosul titled "It Does Snow in Hell". But, Baghdad is not in the region that gets snow. The last recorded snow was 100 years ago.

And, since I can't let the obvious go by - nice global warming!