Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ SPC Justin Slagle

Spc. Justin Slagle
Spc. Justin Slagle
U.S. Army

Spc. Justin Slagle returns to Forward Operating Base Lane in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter after an air assault mission in the Zabul province of Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2009. Even as leaders in Washington struggle with the next steps in Afghanistan, troops there are moving to better protect the Afghan people by separating them from Taliban influence and intimidation.

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army

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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Monday, October 26, 2009


It is the annual fundraiser for VALOUR-IT
The Soldiers' Angels program to provide voice-activated software
to wounded soldiers who can no longer use their hands,
enabling them to communicate and be part of the world.

The fundraiser is broken up into team competitions.
Click on the 'team' name if you would like to support the event.

If you are a blogger and would like to join, click here

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Christmas for the Troops Gift Program

Christmas for the Troops Gift Program 2009
The Scott Vallely Soldiers’ Memorial Fund
Is sponsoring for the Fifth Year its
Annual Christmas Gift Program
For the Troops
Our Elves will be shopping, packing and shipping…
We need your continuous generosity and donations to support
This worthwhile effort
To support this Project…go to
to donate or send your donation to
Box 1596
Bigfork, Montana 59911
(Checks payable to Soldiers Memorial Fund – a 501 c 3 org)
Thank You!

This project is run in memory of Scott Vallely,
who was killed during Special Ops training in 2004.
Scott was the son of Major General Paul Vallely and Marian Vallely
and they oversee all activities of the fund.
ALL funds go directly to the project.

Once again this year - our adult family are getting donations to the troops for Christmas!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baghdad Zoo Roars Back!

Once-tame Baghdad Zoo now a roaring success

By Prashant Rao (AFP)

Baghdad's Al-Zawraa zoo is enjoying a boom, and not just in attendance -- its Siberian tigers gave birth to twins this summer, part of a rush of new arrivals swelling the park's population.

From the dark days of 2003, in the aftermath of the US-led invasion which left the zoo in shambles, the central Baghdad attraction is enjoying a surge in visitor numbers as security in the capital improves and its animal population soars.

"It means a lot to me," the zoo's director Adil Salman Mousa says, as the twin tigers, who have not yet been named, prowl and play behind him.

"After the war, we reached a point where the US told us to close the zoo because there was nothing left, but we were convinced we could bring it back."

The 53-year-old proudly lists the accomplishments at Al-Zawraa in recent years: in addition to the Siberian tiger babies, who are three months old, the zoo has also seen the birth of a Bengal tiger, now aged two months, as well as bears, gazelles and stags.

Then there are the animals the zoo has received from around the world: two jaguars arrived just days ago and are in quarantine, while other new arrivals include crocodiles and chimpanzees, with zebras due within days and giraffes and elephants on the way next year.

In all, Al-Zawraa houses more than 1,000 animals, a far cry from the dozen or so in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, when hundreds of beasts were killed, stolen or died of hunger and thirst in their cages.

At the time, shortly after the invasion, Mousa returned to the zoo, once the biggest in the Middle East, at great personal risk to try and save the few surviving animals, and in time, he secured overseas funds and support from international conservationists to build it up again.

The growth in animal numbers has paralleled an increase in the number of visitors as Baghdad and Iraq have become safer -- Read the rest here

More good news from Iraq! Hat Tip to General Ray Odierno - who wrote: .... a story about Baghdad's al-Zawraa Zoo, which has become a popular attraction for Iraqis. As the security continues to improve in Iraq, Iraqis are working to return to a normal way of life. The zoo's popularity demonstrates the country's commitment and resolve to make life better for its citizens.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Remembering the Beirut Bombing

OFF THE COAST OF BEIRUT -- The crew of USS Higgins (DDG 76) stand in formation on the flight deck twenty-six nautical miles off the shores of Beirut during a wreath laying ceremony in honor of those killed in the barracks bombing of Oct. 23, 1983. Higgins, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, is homeported out of San Diego, Calif. and is currently operating in the 6th Fleet area of operations and is participating in the U.S.-Israeli bilateral exercise Juniper Cobra 10 (JC 10). JC 10, held every two years, is the fifth iteration of its kind and is designed to test the active missile-defense capabilities of both armed forces.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Holmes

More on The Anniversary of the Beirut Bombing:

The 25th Anniversary Post

The Beirut Memorial

Bombing of the US Embassy

Keeper of the Flame Award 2009

Remarks by Sec. Donald Rumsfeld, Sen. Jon Kyl and Vice President Richard Cheney
All have won the Keeper of the Flame Award from the Center for Security Policy

"We can NOT hope to win a war
by talking down our country and those who do its hardest work -
the men and women of the military and the intellegence services -

they are the true Keepers of the Flame.
- Vice President Richard B Cheney

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cartoonists on USO Tour!

National Cartoonist Society to Draw Smiles on USO Entertainment Tour to Germany and Persian Gulf

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 14, 2009 – The USO and the National Cartoonist Society (NCS) will soon deploy ten of today’s most recognized cartoonists and caricaturists on a week-long entertainment tour to visit troops stationed in Germany and the Persian Gulf. The group will visit wounded troops at the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and more than a dozen military bases in the combat zone. Committed to showing their support to America’s Armed Forces, they will also make personalized sketches for troops.

The tour will include:
Jeff Bacon of “Broadside” and “Greenside”
Chip Bok of the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time and Newsweek
Bruce Higdon of Army Times, Army Magazine, Soldiers Magazine, and Stars and Stripes
Jeff Keane of “The Family Circus”
Rick Kirkman of “Baby Blues”
Stephan Pastis of “Pearls Before Swine”
Mike Peters of “Mother Goose and Grimm”
Michael Ramirez of Investors Business Daily
Tom Richmond of MAD Magazine
Garry Trudeau of “Doonesbury”

The NCS traces its association with the USO to World War II, when professional cartoonists made repeated trips overseas to entertain troops. Whether visiting military hospitals, entertaining troops with chalk talks, or sharing words of encouragement, approximately one hundred professional cartoonists and caricaturists have participated in military-related trips. In 2008, the USO sponsored eight cartoonists to travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, National Naval Medical Center and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. A similar trip was organized earlier this year.

"I'm so proud of our men and women in uniform," said Jeff Keane, President of the National Cartoonists Society. "They, much like my dad who served in the Army back in the mid-1940s, have worked so hard and sacrificed so much. I am honored to be part of this USO tour and I can't thank our troops enough."

In times of peace and war, the USO consistently delivers its special brand of entertainment and comfort to service members around the world. In 2008, celebrity entertainers traveled to 27 countries and 23 states, entertaining more than 236,000 troops and their families.

To see some great photos of the cartoonists on tour:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Heroes ~ Sailors and Marines

Sailors & Marines Playing Volleyball With Local School Children
U.S. Navy

Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) play volleyball with students from Sangley Point National High School during a lunch break at a community service project. Tortuga, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) are participating in Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) 2009. PHIBLEX is designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness and develop professional relationships between the U.S. military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Photo Courtesy Taken By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Geronimo Aquino

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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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

National Guard Bobsledding

Vonetta Flowers (left) and Spc. Jill Bakken power up in the push zone for their 80-mile-an-hour ride down the Winter Olympic bobsledding track. Bakken, the driver, and Flowers, the brakeman, won the first gold medal presented in Olympic women's bobsledding Feb. 19, 2002.
Photo by Petty Officer 1st class Preston Keres, USN.

The 2010 Winter Olympics will be held in
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
February 12-28

Right now, the National Guard Bobsledding Teams are gearing up.

Watch here

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

US Army Soldier Inspires African Teens in Uganda

Army Staff Sgt. John Okumu, a Kenya native, speaks with teenagers in northern Uganda, where he is among the first U.S. soldiers setting up operations for Natural Fire 10, an annual multinational exercise, Oct. 13, 2009. Okumu speaks the teens' native language, Luo. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. David Konop

U.S. Army Soldier inspires African teens in Uganda

By Lt. Col. David Konop

KITGUM, Uganda – When Staff Sgt. John Okumu joined the U.S. Army nearly five years ago, he never dreamed he would one day deploy to Africa, the continent he once called home.

Okumu, who hails originally from Kenya, is among the first U.S. Soldiers setting up operations for Natural Fire 10, a multi-national partnership exercise held this month in Uganda.

During a recent visit to Kitgum High school, Okumu, a logistics NCO, found himself surrounded by curious teens eager to learn more about the American sergeant who spoke their language.

Okumu,35, welcomed such an ambush, responding to a barrage of questions from the uniformed high school students. Within minutes, a small circle of a dozen students grew into a crowd of 60 or more.

“How can I go to the United States and become a soldier like you,” one teen asked.

What began as an impromptu discussion grew into a huddle of dozens, hanging on Okumu’s every word. He told them how important it was for them to do well in school and reach for their goals.

“Education in the key,” Okumu said. “Everyone has a talent. You just need to find out what yours is.”

The students paid close attention and asked many questions. At one point, they broke into laughter after one student asked a question the others thought was silly. Okumu was quick to jump in, telling the students never to be afraid to learn by asking.

“There’s no such thing as a stupid question, except to the question that’s never asked,” Okumu said.

The conversation went on in English, which the teens learn in their classes. But they were initially drawn to Okumu when they heard him speak Luo - the language spoken in northern Uganda which is what Okumu learned as a child in Kenya. He moved to Missouri in 2000.

Okumu is assigned to a group of 21st Theater Sustainment Command Soldiers tasked with constructing a base camp in Kitgum and providing logistical support for Natural Fire 10. In the coming days, hundreds of

Soldiers from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda will join U.S. troops for the 10-day exercise, which has been held in East Africa every two years for the past decade.

This year, Natural Fire 10 offers an opportunity for East African Community (EAC) Partner Nations and the U.S. military to work together on a humanitarian assistance mission. The exercise takes place in three locations; Entebbe, Kampala and Kitgum.

In Kampala and Entebbe, military and civilian leaders from the U.S. and five Africa partner nations will take part in a table top exercise that simulates a mock natural disaster requiring international support and coordination. In Kitgum, U.S. Army Africa and partner nations will undertake a field training exercise geared toward enhancing their abilities to work together and increase capacity on tasks that support disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

Together, they will practice tasks such as convoy operations, crowd control, weapons handling and vehicle checkpoints.

Also in Kitgum, U.S. troops and East African partners will provide medical, dental and engineering support to local communities. Engineer projects will be conducted at the Kitgum High School, Mucwini Primary School and Kitgum Government Hospital – where students anxiously anticipate more interaction with Okumu and his fellow Americans.

And Okumu looks forward to seeing them again soon. During their recent chat, Okumu made sure they understood the importance of education to their future success.

“Good grades and test scores may qualify you for scholarships to the U.S.,” Okumu said. “Do your best.”

Cleared for public release.

Photo by Lt. Col. David Konop, U.S. Army Africa

To learn more about U.S. Army Africa visit our official website at

It is easy to forget that we have a great many troops in Africa. And, they are doing good things.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wednesday Hero ~ Cpl Benjamin S Koop

Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp
Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp
21 years old from Rosemont, Minnesota
3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
July 18, 2009
U.S. Army

Ben Kopp has been a fighter since the day he was born. When he was born his mother was given morphine to stop her labor so the doctors could deliver her via a cesarean section. But it caused his heart rate to slow and when he was born he wasn't breathing. But he recovered to the amazement of everyone. "Ben has always been up for a challenge," said his mother, Jill Stephenson. "He came into the world a fighter."

On July 10, 2009, Cpl. Benjamin Kopp was wounded in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. He was hit in the knee that hit his popliteal artery and the loss of blood caused him to go into cardiac arrest on the operating table at a battalion surgical center. As a result of his injuries, Cpl. Kopp developed swelling in his brain was put into an induced coma to try and save his life. But he died on July 18.

But his service didn't end with his passing. Upon his death, by his own desire, his organs were donated to people in need saving their lives.

"Please continue to say prayers for all of the men and women who so proudly serve our country," Stephenson wrote online. "Ben had a deep love of country and has just left a legacy of heroism for all of us to cherish. Be as proud of him as I was as his mother."

You can read much more about Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp 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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Oregon & Iraq Professors Meet

Iraqi Engineering professors learn about solar technologies while attending Oregon State University's International Promotion of Sustainable Engineering Seminar in August 2009.

Nineteen engineering professors from 11 Iraqi universities participated in a sustainable engineering conference at Oregon State University, August 1-14, 2009. The group learned about green technology and building design while visiting a road construction project.

Nineteen engineering professors from 11 Iraqi universities participated in a sustainable engineering conference at Oregon State University (OSU), August 1-14, 2009, as part of OSU's International Promotion of Sustainable Engineering (IPOSE) Seminar.

Organized by the Michael Scott Mater Foundation (MSMF), which has key leaders serving in civilian and contractor capacities with the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, the conference discussed green technology and building design, recycling, and wind, biomass, solar and geothermal energy generation.

Sponsored by OSU, Oregon BEST Center, and the US Embassy - Baghdad, Cultural Affairs Office, the event served to strengthen and expand the cultural and academic exchanges between the US and Iraq, while demonstrating to the Iraqi professors new sustainable technologies that can be applied in their country as it continues its reconstruction. Other universities that participated in the seminar were Portland State University, University of Oregon, and the Oregon Institute of Technology.

Going forward, over 20 Iraqi universities have formed the Iraqi Coalition on Sustainable Engineering Education (I-CSEE), which has the support of both the Iraqi Government and Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministries of Higher Education. The I-CSEE mission is to integrate the Iraqi reconstruction and infrastructure development initiatives through the development of a series of testing laboratories at strategically selected universities, each focusing on different sustainability platforms.

I-CSEE represents the first coalition of its kind in Southwest Asia and has the potential for inclusion of Iraq's neighbors and other countries throughout the world.

"The IPOSE seminar and I-CSEE program represent a full enterprise approach towards implementing sustainable practices into the community, provincial and national reconstruction efforts of Iraq," said Joshua Mater with the MSMF. "Iraq is not only codifying its development efforts, but demonstrating its capability as a responsible member of the international community."

From General Ray Odierno - thank you, sir.

Monday, October 12, 2009

United States Marine Corps Band ~ The President's Own

United States Marine Corps Band
"The President's Own"

Colonel Michael J Coburn, Director

Friday night, we had the great pleasure to attend the performance of the United States Marine Corps Band. We live in a rather isolated area, but the past several years, we have been fortunate to have our local newspaper, The Bend Bulletin, sponsor the touring military bands when they tour the west. We have seen the Army and the Air Force in past years. This year, we were given the honor of seeing "The President's Own" Marine Corps Band! The Bulletin gives out free tickets to the concerts, which is a very nice thing to do!

The venue was a little difficult - a high school gymnasium - and it became clear that they had given out more tickets than they had seating. But, we all managed and enjoyed a wonderful concert. There were several JROTC Marines in uniform at the concert. People kept commenting that they looked too young to be in college (high school kids have a tendency to be too young and look to young.)

When we left our house, we waited for three Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge buses to pass before we could pull onto the highway. We assumed they were getting a night out and wondered if they were going to the concert --- and, indeed they were.

One group of girls and two groups of boys came in in their uniforms. Standing in formation and marching in formation, they had tongues wagging - and most of the people there had no idea who they were. They precision marched to their seats and sat at the same time. They were disciplined and proud. When it became evident that their were not enough seats for everyone, the cadets moved -- again in precision -- and sat on the floor for the concert. Several of us applauded them loudly and the band narrator thanked them.

If you don't know about the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe - you really should. Some of the readers might be interested in becoming mentors. This is that chance that so many at risk kids need and the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe gives it to them. They made me proud to see them grabbing a hold of that chance and showing the pride they had in themselves.

The Marine Band was outstanding, but seeing these kids moving forward with their lives was an honor it is hard to describe!

Most states have a Youth ChalleNGe and now there is the Patriot Academy for high school dropouts ages 18-24 who want to join the military.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Disclosure Policy

I know that the FCC disclosure policy for bloggers hasn't taken effect yet, but I decided to post this, update any posts I may have missed and get in the habit of telling you when a publisher GIVES me a book to review.

Anyone who has read my reviews will know that no matter what the price of a book is, I'm not sold that easily and will pan a book as easily as I will praise it, regardless of how I acquired it.

Ask Elizabeth Samet about how fond I am of the piece of crap and political propaganda she put out.

Or read the review on Rule Number Two - I would have paid double to read this gem.

I also have links to They 'pay' a percentage of the sale to me IF you click on the link on my site and purchase it. After a couple of years, my account is up to $26.53 and they don't pay until I acquire $100.00. Don't think this rapid influx of money is going to benefit me soon!

The Congress has crafted yet more legislation to regulate the dishonest and the corrupt - but, will only cause difficulties for those of us with our little blogs and tiny readerships.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My Last War ~ Charles M Grist

My Last War:
A Vietnam Veteran's Tour in Iraq

Charles M Grist

The long awaited book by Charles M Grist, my blogger friend, has been released!
I've been reading his blog for several years, and the man can write!!!
This book is about his Iraq tour with the C.O.B.R.A. team.
Knowing what an accomplished writer he is, I know this is going to be a great read.
My copy is on order (hurry up, please!)

To read his blog - American Ranger - please visit here:

To visit his book web site - My Last War - please visit here:

To visit the C.O.B.R.A. Team site - please visit here:

The book is available at
Barnes and Noble
(where he has been listed in the Rising Star Special Collection - no easy feat for a war book)
and Amazon.

Wednesday Hero ~ SGT Michael Egan

Sgt. Michael Egan
Sgt. Michael Egan
36 years old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
104th Cavalry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard
September 19, 2005
U.S. Army

News of Egan’s death came to Pennsauken shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday, Krista Egan, Sgt. Egan's sister-in-law, said. His mother, Irene, was on the telephone when an Army sergeant walked up to the door. "My mother-in-law was talking on the telephone to Mike’s wife, Maria, when he came. Maria had just got the news. The Army sergeant told my mother-in-law it was his first time notifying a family."

Sgt. Egan served in the Marine Corps for eight years, was a civilian for a year, then joined the National Guard. As a Marine, he had been previously served in Afghanistan.

"He was well-liked by everyone," Patrick Egan, Sgt. Egan's brother, said.

Sgt. Michael Egan was killed when an IED detonated near his vehicle while on patrol in Ramadi. Also killed in the attack were Spc. William Evans, 22, of Hallstead, PA, Spc. William Fernandez, 37, of Reading, PA and Lt. Mark Dooley of the Vermont National Guard.

You Can Read Much More About Sgt. Michael Egan 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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Monday, October 05, 2009

Afghanistan - Through the Eyes of Michael Ramirez

I don't often post on politics on this blog, but the current politics are adversely affecting out troops - people I know and care about.

It's time for the President to lead - something he doesn't seem to know how to do - but, when you have troops in the field and the generals ask for reinforcements, you provide them or you go home.