Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ SPC Ross McGinnis

Spc. Ross A. McGinnis
Spc. Ross A. McGinnis
19 years old from Knox, Pennsylvania
1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
December 4, 2006
U.S. Army

His mission was to patrol the streets of Adhamiyah in northeast Baghdad and find a place to put a 250-kilowatt generator that would provide electricity for more than 100 homes. But it's a mission he wasn't able to accomplish.

Shortly after Pfc. McGinnis's convoy left the compound, and less than a mile from FOB Apache, an insurgent standing on a nearby rooftop threw a grenade into the sixth, and last, Humvee. "Grenade!" yelled McGinnis, who was manning the vehicle's M2 .50-caliber machine gun. He tried to deflect the grenade but it fell into the Humvee and lodged between the radios.

"McGinnis turned and looked down and realized no one in the truck knew where the grenade was," said Capt. Michael Baka, his company commander. "He knew everyone had their doors combat-locked and they wouldn't be able to get out."

Instead of jumping out of the truck to save his own life, like he had been trained to do, McGinnis threw his back against the radio mount, smothering the explosive with his body. The grenade exploded just as Pfc. McGinnis covered it. The blast filled the vehicle with black smoke and debris and blew the driver's door and right passenger's door wide open and blew the machine gun off its mount. The explosion hit McGinnis on his sides and his lower back, under his vest. He was killed instantly.

The other four soldiers in the Humvee suffered relatively minor injuries.

On the morning of December 4, 2006, before his convoy had left, Cpt. Baka has signed a waver promoting Pfc. McGinnis to Specialist and he was posthumously promoted to E-4.

For his heroic actions on that day, McGinnis was awarded the Silver Star and was nominated for a Medal of Honor which he received on June 2, 2008.


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.

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To read more about Spc McGinnis go to
Scroll down to see his pictures in Iraq - to see the faces of heroes...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ Air Force Officer/Teacher in Afghanistan

Deployed Teacher

As an avid reader/writer/lover of Milblogs, I am always on the lookout for new ones.

I have just discovered this blog from an Air Force Officer in Afghanistan.
Deployed with the National Guard, he writes a series of observations on his experiences.
In his home life he is a teacher, a special ed teacher,
and at the end of each post he gives recommended study questions.
While these are wonderful for the classroom, they are thought provoking for the rest of us.

I took the time to start at the beginning and read through it - well worth the time!

Stop by, leave a comment, and put it on your reading list!

From the site:

I created the blog as a kind of diary, to share my thoughts with you while deployed. I am hoping to offer observations and insights that might pique your interest, or a student’s interest. No pat answers here, that would be easy. I hope to propose questions I think will entice you to learn more about the subjects presented.

If you are looking for a political slant, I certainly have my opinions and they will surface at times. I want this site to be informative; to give you some of what you might not see elsewhere. Hope you enjoy, thanks for visiting, now read on....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ Maj Robert Kirkpatrick

TALLIL AIR BASE — Friends and co-workers of a deployed Illinois Soldier sent donated toys to southern Iraq, generating loads of smiles from Iraqi youngsters who visited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region South (GRS) district’s headquarters here, Feb. 17.

Approximately 30 students from Nasiriyah’s Mama Suna Primary School arrived at GRS headquarters beaming with huge smiles. The children held flowers, which they presented to the Americans who greeted them. The children sang songs in English and Arabic, and also recited their A-B-Cs.

The gifts were all items Maj. Robert Kirkpatrick’s friends and co-workers back in Illinois shipped over for the children here. Kirkpatrick, a member of the 416th Theater Engineer Command, headquartered in Darien, Ill., explained that he’d received numerous e-mails from home asking what he needed. He suggested sending toys that could be delivered to neighboring schools during visits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees.

His co-workers took up a collection and sent him a couple large boxes containing “a great variety of nice toys,” including cars, dolls, stuffed animals, a big fire engine, colorful sleeping bags, pillows, and a CD player. “It’s a great company to work for and they’ve been very supportive of my deployment here,” noted Kirkpatrick, who has 23 years of military service.

Kirkpatrick is the operations officer at GRS. The district is overseeing more than 130 construction projects in Iraq’s nine southern provinces. The projects include new schools, hospitals, courthouses, roads, bridges and new water treatment facilities that in some cases are providing communities with access to clean water for the first time ever.

“Working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a great assignment. We have an important mission,” Kirkpatrick explained. “Things are improving here and you can see that the Iraqis are on the right path. It’s encouraging.

“I’ve had great support from my family, friends, and co-workers in Illinois since deploying in November,” Kirkpatrick continued. “Through phone calls, emails, and letters we’re able to stay in touch. They’ve all stepped up and are helping fill in for me stateside so I can concentrate on my duties here. I sincerely appreciate all they do.”

(By Norris Jones, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region South division)


It has been a rewarding experience to be involved in these toy drives. I have helped out a few of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with toy drives. The end result is always a positive one!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Coast Guard Makes a Wish Come True!

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Cory Gunkel, left, and Chief Petty Officer Bruce Helterbridle pin anchors on Hannah Bontrager, a 11-year-old leukemia survivor from Cortland, Ohio, officiall promoting her to a Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer for the day, Thursday, Feb 19, 2009.

Hannah is in Hawaii courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America and asked to ride aboard a Coast Guard vessel. She spent the day with Station Honolulu personnel, sat at the helm of the 47-foot rescue boat as the crew took her for a ride around the island of Oahu.

U. S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Additional Troops to Afghanistan

02/15/2009 - U.S. Soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Platoon, Personnel Security Detail, 101st Airborne Division exit a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to provide security in Bagram, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2009.

02/15/2009 - A U.S Soldier pulls security as fellow Soldiers from his unit unload a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Bagram, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2009. The Soldiers are assigned to Special Troops Battalion, 101st Airborne Division.

DoD photos by Sgt. Prentice C. Martin-Bowen, U.S. Army/Released

President Obama has ordered additional troops to Afghanistan. This partially fulfills the request made by Army Gen. David McKiernan to increase the troop strength. He has also requested another combat brigade team.

A total of 12,000 troops will be deployed later this Spring. The orders are for up to 17,000 troops, with the remaining 5,000 to be support troops.

The 4,000 soldiers are part of the 2nd Infantry Division's 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Lewis, Washington, and the 8,000 Marines serve with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Snow covered and cold - dusty and hot - Afghanistan is a varied and difficult environment. This will not be an easy deployment for these troops.

To read more about Obama's position on the troop increase go here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ Sgt Kelly Keck

Sgt. Kelly Keck
Sgt. Kelly Keck
34 years old from West Liberty, Kentucky
U.S. Army

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren congratulates Sgt. Kelly Keck after presenting him the Purple Heart.

On September 13, 2008, Sgt. Kelly Keck, a combat medic serving in Afghanistan, was wounded while trying to aid his fellow soldiers who's truck had just been struck by an IED. "I stepped off the road to try to get to the side of the truck, and the next thing I know I hear a loud boom, and I'm laying on the ground," he said. Sgt. Kelly had stepped on a land mine. He was flown to a field hospital in Jalalabad where he ended up loosing three fingers on his left hand and his right leg below the knee. "It was quite an ordeal," the soft-spoken soldier said.

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

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Tribute to a Coalition Partner ~ Australia

Tribute to a Coalition Partner

Australian Forces in Iraq and Afgahnistan
Photos from Australian Defense

"We believe in a free and democratic world, a world where people can pursue their own interests in a free and open way. I think we share the same value set (with the United States), and we stand against the people who want to change that."
-Angus Houston, Chief of the Australian Defence Force

"Just looking at recent history, clearly Australia has been able to operate in Iraq, has been able to operate in Afghanistan at the same time, and provide a peacekeeping force in East Timor and help solve some of the problems of other island nations. I think Australia has clearly demonstrated the ability to lead globally."
-Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Australians are one of our greatest allies in the War on Terror. They are involved in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom through Operation Slipper. They are invloved in Operation Iraqi Freedom through Operation Catalyst. Australian Special Operations Soldiers are considered to be world-class. I am proud to call them Allies!

To read about their specific contributions:
Links to the military, political and diplomatic sites are there.

Australia has lost soldiers in OIF and in OEF.
Please remember them:
WO David Nary SASR (Trg prior to deployment) 16 Nov 05

Flt Lt Paul Pardoel RAF (Serving with UK MOD Air Force) C130 crash Baghdad Iraq 1Feb 2005

Private Jake Kovco 3RAR (Para) Regt Shot/Misadventure Baghdad Iraq 21 Apr 2006

Ex-ADF PMC’s killed in Iraq:

Chris Ahmelman Edinburgh Risk Mngt Killed in Ambush Baghdad Iraq 21 Apr 2005

Wayne Schultz Armor Group Killed in Ambush Baghdad Iraq 8 June 2006

Jon Hadaway Armor Group DOW Germany Baghdad Iraq 15 Aug 2006

Steve Gilchrist Armor Group Killed in Ambush Baghdad Iraq 17 Dec 2006

Brendan Hurst BLP Int Killed in Ambush Baghdad Iraq 15 Jul 2007

Justin Saint BLP Int Killed in Ambush Baghdad Iraq 15 Jul 2007


Sgt Andrew Russell SASR May 2002

Tpr David Pearce 2/14 LHR (QMI) Oct 2007

Sgt Matthew Locke SASR Oct 2007 (Medal of Gall Holder)

Private Luke Worsley SASR. Nov 2007

L/Cpl Jason Marks 4 CDO Regt May 2008

Sig Sean McCarthy SASR July 2008

Lt Michael Fussell 4 CDO Regt 27 Nov 2008 Oruzgan Prov

Rfmn Stuart Nash 1st Bn Rifles (Serving with UK MOD Army) Dec 2008

Pte Greg Sher 4 CDO Regt Jan 2009 Urgzgan Prov

For those of you who would like to write to an Australian soldier:
Messages can be sent via e-mail to:

Alternatively postcards (not enveloped letters or parcels) can be addressed to:

Messages to the Troops
Department of Defence
Russell Offices
Canberra ACT 2600

I try to drop a few postcards to them from time to time. Standard postcards require 94 cents in postage from the US. I have actually heard back from an Australian soldier - they are quite grateful to receive supportive mail from us. We owe them much and they need to hear that we support them, too!

Updated February 2009, thanks to the Legion of Frontiersmen of Australia who provided current information.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Faces of Freedom ~ Canadians Cpl Billy Kerr & Master Cpl Mike Trauner

Cpl. Billy Kerr, left, and Master Cpl. Mike Trauner, right, Canadian soldiers who lost limbs to improvised explosive devices in separate attacks in Afghanistan, say they believe in the mission and will continue serving in the Canadian army. With them is Capt. Stephanie Smith, a critical care nurse who helped bring them home to Canada for care.
DoD photo by Donna Miles
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Canadian Chief of Defense Gen. Walter Natynczyk speak with Canadian army Master Cpl. Mike Traumer, left, and Cpl. Bill Kerr during a visit with Operation Enduring Freedom veterans in Ottawa, Canada, Feb. 10, 2009.
DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released

Americans often forget that there is a coalition of countries who are fighting and sacrificing in Afghanistan and Iraq along side of us. This is the story of two Canadian soldiers who have paid a price, but are not letting it stop them....

OTTAWA, Feb. 10, 2009 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff heard firsthand accounts today about the mission in Afghanistan from Canadian soldiers who recently returned from deployments there, including two amputees who have elected to stay on duty.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen met with about 40 soldiers. Among them were Cpl. Billy Kerr and Master Cpl. Mike Trauner, who lost limbs to improvised explosive devices in separate attacks outside Kandahar.

“As has been the case for me in recent years, whenever I sit down with those who have been injured, I come away more inspired by them than I had expected and anticipated,” Mullen said during a joint news conference. “These are two great men who look forward to fulfilling their own dreams. It was an honor to be with them.”

Kerr and Trauner share not only similar injuries and therapies, but also a belief in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan and a desire to continue serving in the Canadian army.

Kerr, 41, is a reservist who volunteered for his second deployment to Afghanistan, where he served as an embedded mentor for the Afghan National Police. “I thought it was something worth doing,” Kerr said of his decision to return. “I felt like it wasn’t done.”

Kerr’s second tour of duty was a near-constant fight, with the enemy uncomfortably close to his base. “At 300 meters you got shot at, at 400 meters you were in a big fight, and at 500 meters you were at their door,” he said.

But as an infantryman, he said “wanting to get in the thick of it” was simply “what you do, … part of your mentality,” so he embraced the mission as he patrolled with the “Razorbacks,” a unit that blended infantry and military police troops.

During a foot patrol in October, Kerr was the fifth soldier into a doorway when a remote-controlled blast severed both legs and his left arm from his body. He never lost consciousness, and remembers looking at what was left of his body and expecting -- even wanting -- to die.

He didn’t. Rushed for care at Kandahar Airfield, then Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany, then back to Canada, Kerr cheated the death he had expected.

Less than two months after his injury, he was took his first steps on two prostheses. He expects to be able to walk with a cane by late April.

Trauner, 29, shares a similar story. Less than three months after deploying to Afghanistan in September, he encountered an IED during a dismounted patrol west of Kandahar. The blast -- most likely from an artillery shell strapped to a mortar, he believes -- knocked Kerr 20 feet into the air and destroyed his weapon.

It also took both of his legs and broke 25 bones in his left hand.

Asked by medics who rushed to his care in Kandahar to rate his pain level from 1 to 10, Trauner told them it was 100. He said he died twice -- during his initial surgery, then during the flight to Landstuhl -- but was brought back to life.

Eight surgeries later, Trauner expects to receive his prosthetic legs later this week. He’s still being treated for his hand injuries at a rehabilitation center here.

Both Trauner and Kerr want to stay on active duty. “I really, really do,” Trauner said, while conceding that he most likely will have to move into an administrative position. “I’m very proud to stay.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” echoed Kerr. But unlike Trauner, he envisions himself being back in an infantry job. “I want to be kicking in doors again,” he said. “I would be back there now if I could.”

Kerr dismisses what he sometimes hears on TV or reads in the papers about the mission in Afghanistan going downhill. “Opinions are always opinions,” he said, adding that people who haven’t been there don’t really know what’s going on there.

“I think we are doing some good and making progress there,” he said. “I felt really good going into this mission. I left like I was really contributing.”

Trauner said that as a soldier, his job is to follow orders and do what he’s told. But deep down, he said, there’s a deep personal motivation that inspires him to continue serving.
“If we didn’t do the job, who would?” he said. “We do it because we don’t want our families and other people’s families to be at risk.”

-Donna Miles

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ SGT Patrick Tainsh

This Weeks Post Was Suggested And Written By Brat

Sgt. Patrick Tanish
Sgt. Patrick Tainsh
33 years old from Oceanside, California
Troop E, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment
February 11, 2004
U.S. Army

Five years ago today, Sgt. Patrick Tainsh sacrificed all as the mounted unit he
was part of was hit by an IED in Baghdad. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze and Sliver Stars saving the lives of his commanding officer and other soldiers before succumbing to his own wounds. Also killed in the attack was Pfc. William C. Ramirez from Portland, Oregon.

On Veteran’s Day, 2007, Deborah Tainsh, Sgt. Tainsh's mother, attended a school in Columbia, Georgia, and shared a story she had written called "A Boy Named Patrick."

Here is part of the story :

…a little boy named Patrick who loved football, beaches, surfing, and
skateboarding, and especially reading. Patrick watched his dad be a Marine for
over twenty years. During this time Patrick kept reading not only surfing and
skateboarding magazines, but history books, too. One day when Patrick was a man, he told his dad and best friend, “I want to do something that will make a
difference in the world, I’m going to be a soldier.” And so he did. And in 1999
he went to Fort Knox, Kentucky for boot camp and then went to Fort Polk,
Louisiana where he worked and trained hard to become a United States Army
Cavalry Scout. Then in 2003 Patrick had to say good bye to his mom and dad
because he had to go fight a war in Iraq to protect his country, friends, and
family from terrorists and to help fight for the freedoms of the boys and girls
in that country where they and their families were treated very badly by their
country’s leader. Patrick once wrote a letter to his mom and dad telling them
that he cried for the children because they were hungry and he didn’t have food
to give them. He said he couldn’t understand how a country’s leader could treat
the people so badly and make them live in such dirty conditions with trash and
wild dogs everywhere. And so Patrick's mom and dad keep a photo in their living
room of Patrick surrounded by Iraqi children.

You can read the story in it's entirety here.

Sgt Tainsh came to the military later than some, but rose through the ranks fast. In his last letter to his parents, Sgt Tainsh shared his thoughts about his mission. And in 2006, Sgt. Tainsh's mother wrote a book called Heart Of A Hawk about her son's life and her and her husband's struggles since their son was killed.

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.
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Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Mother Speaks

Mother of Sailor Lost in the Bombing of the USS Cole Speaks Out

Friday, February 06, 2009

Face of Freedom ~ Col (Dr) Lionel M Nelson

Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Lionel M. Nelson, Task Force 449 brigade surgeon, assists soldiers during a mass casualty training exercise in Baghdad, Jan. 8, 2009. Nelson is a civilian doctor who closed his practice for 90 days to help in Iraq.
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall

Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Lionel M. Nelson, wearing his flight gear, poses in front of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Nelson, a civilian doctor and former military reservist, volunteered with to serve again through an Army Reserve program. Courtesy photo

Face of Defense: Retired Colonel Closes Medical Practice to Serve in Iraq

By Army Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq, Feb. 6, 2009 - Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Lionel M. Nelson returned to military service after a five-year retirement to make a medical contribution in Iraq.

The former Air Force reservist and retired Army reservist shut down his private practice in San Jose, Calif., to participate in "90 Days Boots on the Ground," an Army Reserve program that gives former military doctors the opportunity to deploy to Iraq for 90 days.

Nelson deployed with Task Force 449, the North Carolina National Guard's 449th Theater Aviation Brigade, which is in charge of Multinational Division Center's combat aviation brigade here.

As the brigade surgeon, Nelson supervises the medical components of the task force and advises the commander on medical- and clinical-related issues in country. He also is responsible for the health of aviators and flies with them to monitor the stress level of pilots.

"I truly enjoy the people in TF 449 and their spirit to get the mission done," Nelson said. "I enjoy working with people who have such pride in serving their country and am glad to say that I help to take care of America's heroes."

Nelson has served in the armed services since 1970, with a break in service from 1972 to 1984. During his time in the Army Reserve, Nelson deployed to Southeast Asia with special operations and civil affairs units and assisted with humanitarian missions.

During a humanitarian mission to Haiti in 1994, Nelson started a medical technician school to train people to repair medical equipment.

"I wanted to be able to make a long-term difference," Nelson said. "A lot of the countries receive donations of medical equipment and can only use it once because when it breaks down, no one knows how to fix it."

Nelson also helped to repair infrastructures and assisted with sanitation and medical issues in Southeast Asia.

"One of my biggest goals was to make sure that we not only helped while we were there, but we also wanted to make sure they continued to benefit from our efforts after our departure," Nelson said.

Nelson attended Yale Medical School and completed his surgical training at Stanford University Medical School, where he currently serves on the clinical faculty. In addition to a private practice, Nelson also has several patents on surgical devices that he invented; he started a company to develop one of them. He sold the company about five months before his deployment.
"I have wanted to rejoin the Army and do my part ever since 9/11, but could not because of my commitments to the investors in my company," Nelson explained. "The sale allowed me to finally fulfill that desire to again serve my country."

Nelson urges other doctors with a military background to consider taking advantage of the Reserve program.

"It is very possible to close up shop for 90 days," Nelson said. "It's an unforgettable experience, and cannot be duplicated."

(Army Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall serves in the Multinational Division Center's public affairs office as part of the North Carolina National Guard's 449th Theater Aviation Brigade.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ Gunnery SGT Nick Popaditch

Gunnery Sgt. Nick Popaditch

Gunnery Sgt. Nick Popaditch

In 2003, Sgt. Popaditch, along with 1st Tank Battalion, rolled into Baghdad from Kuwait at the start of the Iraq War. They had just taken the city and the tank that Sgt. Popaditch was in had rolled up to a 40-ft statue of Saddam. I think we all remember that statue. Popaditch was given a cigar by a fellow Marine and as he smoked it an AP photographer snapped a picture of him.

Fast forward to April 7, 2004. Sgt. Popaditch's wife was vacationing with their son when she received a phone call informing her that her husband had been injured in an attack. The turret of his tank, that he was situated in, had taken two direct hits from RPG's. He fell through the hatch to the floor of the tank. As he struggled to his feet, he began to shout orders to his men but go no response. He then realized that the attack had caused him to go deaf in both ears. But that was only temporary. He then reached up and felt that his head was wet and knew it wasn't good.

In the aftermath of the attack, Gunnery Sgt. Nick Popaditch had lost his right eye. And because of that he now proudly wears a prosthetic eye with the Marine Corps. logo embossed on it. On November 10, 2005 Gunnery Sgt. Nick Popaditch was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest award for heroism in combat. He also has a book out titled
Once A Marine.

The Gunny has a website 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 site, you can go here.

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Editor's Note - I was planning to write a Post on the Gunny when he became the topic of Wednesday Hero, so I have added information to this post.