Thursday, April 30, 2009

Danger, Excitement and Gratitude

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2009 – Country music megastar Toby Keith has performed for rowdy, appreciative troops more than 130 times over seven straight years. But during this year’s “America’s Toughest Tour,” he said, “The boys and girls were rockin' and laughin' like never before.”

Keith set out on his latest tour, sponsored by the USO and Armed Forces Entertainment, from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., April 21. His goals: meet as many troops and perform at as many remote bases as possible. The “FOB-hopping” trip took the performers to within six miles of the Pakistan border.

As he sat aboard an Air Force C-17 preparing for departure from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Keith took time to write a message for American Forces Press Service and the USO to share with servicemembers around the world.

Written in blog style, Keith’s message starts out with a tally of the hectic schedule of shows at forward operating bases and combat outposts in Afghanistan, reveals he’s written a new military-themed song, and shares his impressions of the tour:

“5 Days: 15 shows completed in Afghanistan -- 13 FOBs/2 COPs. The boys and girls were rockin' and laughin' like never before. This being my 7th year and 130+ shows, I've never seen them as energetic. That being said, The danger factor was at an all time high.

“Not since my early trips to Iraq have we been escorted in by gunships as often as we were on this visit. Thank you Cobra's and Apache's. Thanks to all our bird teams for the rides.

“I also wrote a new military song for this visit. It's called "The Ballad of Balad." Funny song about an Army recruiter. It made hard core crusted jaded FOB Sgt. Majors laugh out loud. I love it.

“I have tons of info to report back back home to the press. And as always, it's all good here. The U.S. military and their commanders are in complete control like always. 'Nuff said!

“I will close for now as this damn C-17 is shaking my penmanship somethin' fierce as we're leavin' Bagram.

“Mission accomplished Team USO – USA.”

Visitors to DefenseLINK, the Defense Department’s official Web site, can get more of the inside story from the tour. In a daily blog, Amy K. Mitchell, USO’s vice president for publications, chronicles the tour’s sights and sounds in a DefenseLINK Special Report.

American Forces Press Service

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wednesday Hero 04/29/2009

This Week's Post Was Suggested & Written By Mary Ann

sgt. Kenneth G. Ross
Sgt. Kenneth G. Ross
24 years old from Tucson, Arizona
7th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment
September 25, 2005
U.S. Army

"He believed in serving his country," said Ross' father, David C. Ross. Gary Anderson, Ross' best friend and an Army infantry veteran who served nine months in Afghanistan and 11 months in Iraq during his active duty stint, was a classmate of Ross at Marana's Mountain View High School. "You know, I heard this news of Ken and I broke down and cried hysterically," said Anderson, now a firefighter for the Ak-Chin Indian Community in Maricopa. "He loved everyone; everyone who came in contact with him loved him. He'd always help everyone out that he could."

A 1999 graduate of Mountain View, Ross played drums in the marching band and orchestra, his father said. Ross enlisted in the Army right after graduation. "He just wanted to take part in history," Anderson said.

At the time of his death, he was a helicopter mechanic — acting as a door gunner on his last mission, his father said. SSgt. Ross was killed when his helicopter went down southwest of Deh Chopan, Afghanistan. Also killed in the crash were Sgt. Shawn A. Graham, Warrent Officer Adrian B. Stump, Sgt. Tane T. Baum, Chief Warrent Officer 2 John M. Flynn and Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart.

Along with his father, SSgt. Ross is survived by his mother, Mary Ross, 57, and his sister, Stephanie Ross, 30. "I know his last thoughts were for everybody else and not for himself," Anderson said. "I know he wanted to make sure everybody was safe and would go home."

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.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

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, April 27, 2009

Special Guest: Bob Ouellette

It is my honor to present a post today written by a gentleman I met at least twelve years ago; when my son John and his son, Joe were Cub Scouts. Bob has served our nation and continues to serve by helping those who serve our nation now. Please welcome him by reading his words.

What do we do when it is over?

Look around your town and you will see Blue Star Banners in the windows of families and businesses. What does this banner stand for? The Blue Star Banner lets others know that a family member in the home is proudly serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The more stars, the more family members in the service.

As Americans we do our best to support the troops during overseas contingency operations, such as OIF, OEF, and the Blue Star Service Banner tradition reminds every one of us that war touches every neighborhood in our land.

It is easy to support our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We send care packages full of cookies, shampoos, lotions, DVDs and many more comfort items. The hard part is what we do for their families while they are deployed and for that soldier when they come home. When our soldier (I use soldier to refer to all services) comes home, what do we do… we have a big party. After the party comes the hard part of reintegration into the world. (The ‘world’ is somewhere that the soldier isn’t at the time, i.e., two guys in Iraq talking about getting back to the world: the United States).

Our career ends, we say goodbye to comrades or worse yet leave parts of ourselves behind. What do we do…with our military identity behind us? As a serviceman in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard, we served proudly. If we needed support, we knew who to turn to. It was all there for us, the Commanders and Sergeants ensuring that we have what we need and are paying our bills. There are Medics and Chaplains to heal our bodies and souls. And in the service we rely on comrades, for whom we would lay down our lives. Then after a ceremony and party …it is over. Our friends that we see every day are gone; we have crossed over to the other side and now a new mission.

For soldiers and especially whether National Guard or Reserve, it can be a very abrupt welcome home from the high war pace of 20 hour days to the dismal 2 hour commute of work. How can we help them cope? At the end of WWI, LTC Theodore Roosevelt Jr had a desire to raise morale. He convinced General Pershing that they should create an association to help wounded comrade and their spouses and children. 90 years later, The American Legion is Still Serving America. We are there to provide financial assistance, outreach and support and each year nationally The American Legion donates millions of dollars and countless hours to programs such as the Special Olympics, Children’s Miracle Network, and Scouting of all types. (To see more American Legion programs visit

In each conflict since WWI, veterans have reached out to the newer veterans, for a time during Vietnam older veterans did not know how to help returning soldiers. The silent problems are the most difficult to deal with. Most of us can remember our fathers going down to the Legion, Elks or other Lodges to have a drink with the boys. They did this to help cope with what they had experienced. At the time, that was the accepted way to deal with their problems. During Vietnam some veterans turned to drugs and alcohol to wash away unsettling memories. No one sat around at home and talked to their wives about seeing a friend die in front of them, they just bottled it up.

Today more injured soldiers are returning from the battlefield through advances in modern medicine. On 9 April 2003, one Marine on his second tour in Iraq was the victim of an ambush resulting in losing both hands to an RPG blast that also punctured his femoral artery. Thanks to modern medicine, less than 2 weeks later he was sitting up in bed in Walter Reed and beginning to move around. Legion Post 295 Gaithersburg MD, started a program called Operation Provide Comfort. We worked to get the word out that the soldiers needed supplies that the Government is prohibited from buying, i.e. pants, shoes, socks and underwear. Operation Provide Comfort supplied needed items at the right time. Now there are countless programs doing the same as many more seriously wounded are making their way home. They continue to need our help. This can come in many ways: being there for them, helping them get a warrior dog for assistance, assistance with finding work, reasonable living accommodation or with furthering their education. Another way is financial aid to help them get back on their feet. We’re limited financially from such things as buying a home or a car for a soldier. Getting wounded is not akin to hitting the lottery. Providing funds to adapt a home or vehicle to a soldier’s disability is certainly in line with out programs. We need to help these soldiers get acclimated back into civilian life, providing guidance and in some cases, yes financial assistance to put them on track.

Just as I was working on this message, I received word that a young family needs to pay for a new transmission for their vehicle. They are being charged $3500 for the second time in 8 months. Just 8 months ago the replaced the transmission with a new one for $3600. Can you say ripoff? And they do not have the funds to pay for it. Their story, Johnny (not his real name) is in the Maryland National Guard and Mary (alias as well) was regular Navy when they met. The got married after they both completed their tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom, moved to Maryland to start a family. They now have a 2 year old child. They cannot afford daycare so only he is working and not making much, she is looking for employment. The family turned to the Army Emergency Relief and was turned down because he was not serving on active duty. They have already borrowed thousands from their parents and there is no more. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial American Legion Post 295 is able to donate $200 at this time to assist them and is working on more.

Although I never went into combat, my specialty was terrorist devices. I was a Bomb (EOD) Technician with the US Army. I was fortunate to travel to locations like Jerusalem, Cairo and parts of Africa. Much of my service was performed in the Washington DC area providing bomb disposal support and supporting Presidential and VIP missions throughout the world. Everyday of my career was worth it, even if I was bitching at the time. On the last day of June 1998, I took off my uniform for the last time, no ceremony, no parade, just over.

I was motivated by a desire to serve those still on active duty as well as those who had come before me. I could use my skills to serve, by volunteering with the American Legion. As time went on, I was elected to positions of more authority, but what drew me to want to participate is one of the lines of the Preamble to the Legion’s Constitution, “We sanctify our comradeship, by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.” I encourage everyone who reads this to volunteer to assist all veterans, especially those who are living alone, those who are homeless, and don’t get care packages. You can do this by joining with almost 3 million Legionnaires in The American Legion, as a member (veteran) a Son of the American Legion or as an American Legion Auxiliary member. Together we can continue to make a difference.

Still Serving America!

Bob Ouellette
Commander American Legion Post 295 Gaithersburg MD or

Commander, Montgomery County Council, The American Legion Department of Maryland mcamericanlegion

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ed Freeman

You're an 19 year old kid. You're critically wounded, and dying in the jungle in the Ia Drang Valley , 11-14-1965, LZ X-ray, Vietnam . Your infantry unit is outnumbered 8 - 1, and the enemy fire is so intense, from 100 or 200 yards away, that your own Infantry Commander has ordered the MediVac helicopters to stop coming in.
You're lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns, and you know you're not getting out. Your family is 1/2 way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you'll never see them again. As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.
Then, over the machine gun noise, you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter, and you look up to see an un-armed Huey, but it doesn't seem real, because no Medi-Vac markings are on it. Ed Freeman is coming for you. He's not Medi-Vac, so it's not his job, but he's flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire, after the Medi-Vacs were ordered not to come.
He's coming anyway.
And he drops it in, and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 2 or 3 of you on board. Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire, to the Doctors and Nurses. And, he kept coming back.... 13 more times..... And took about 30 of you and your buddies out, who would never have gotten out.
Medal of Honor Recipient , Ed Freeman , died last Wednesday at the age of 80, in Boise , ID ......May God rest his soul.....
I bet you didn't hear about this hero's passing, but we sure were told a whole bunch about some Hip-Hop Coward beating the crap out of his "girlfriend"

Medal of Honor Winner
Ed Freeman
A special thank you to Jeanne for sharing the story of this incredible hero!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Man

(Please pause my Playlist on the right sidebar)

If it wasn't for the good Lord and the man
There wouldn't be a breath of freedom in this land
And I see people on my TV taking shots at Uncle Sam
I hope they always remember why they can.

~John Rich

A special thank you to my dear friend, Karen for sharing this video!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday Hero 04/22/2009

Operations Specialist 3rd Class Leonel Yanez
Operations Specialist 3rd Class Leonel Yanez
U.S. Navy

Operations Specialist 3rd Class Leonel Yanez (Right), from Huntington Park, Calif., monitors a radar screen in the Combat Direction Center aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean.

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.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

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, April 21, 2009

Talking Tuesday

Who would be considered as important allies to the United States?

Monday, April 20, 2009

His Star Has Turned From Blue to Gold

Staff Sgt. Bryan E. Hall, 32, of Elk Grove, California. He loved camping, fishing and hunting and was very proud of serving his country. As a 14 year veteran of the Army, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado. He deployed to Iraq in September 2008. He was one of 5 soldiers who died April 10th when their military vehicle was struck by a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in Mosul, Iraq. Bryan had earned the Army Commendation medal three times, eight Army Achievement medals, Combat Infantryman's Badge, Air Assault Badge and was currently working on courses to achieve the Army Ranger title. He is survived by his wife, Rachel and their daughter, Addison; his parents, John and Betty and a sister, Kristi.

The other soldier's killed along with Bryan were: Corp. Jason Pautsch, SSgt. Gary L. Woods, Sgt Edward W. Forrest and PV2 Bryce E. Gautier.

May Almighty God Bless these heroes and the families who love them so.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Two Blue Star Moms

It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in Maryland!
The sun was shining and the temperatures were in the mid 70's.

I have THE best job in the world! I'm the Store Operations Manager for a Garden Center. I work with a dynamite team; we are always learning, always having fun. Needless to say, a Saturday in April with picture perfect weather equals a busy day! Love it!

A family came into the shop this afternoon; mom and dad, a younger son and a teenage son wearing a NAVY tee shirt. I asked the young man if he had intentions of enlisting. Mom told me her oldest son is currently serving in the US Navy. She went on to share that her son just returned home from being deployed. The quiet teen, chimed in that they did not know where he was, during the deployment. I told them I understood, since both of my sons are Airmen. We continued to chat about our sons for a few moments.

As the family left, this Blue Star Mom and I squeezed each other's hand tight and she whispered, "I know".

To all the Blue Star Families...I thank you for the service of your loved ones.

To all the Blue Star Families...I thank you for the love and support you give our military.

To all the Blue Star Families...I know.

Saturday, April 18, 2009



It all began 1862 during the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land.

During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moan of a soldier who lay mortally wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention.

Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment. When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead.

The Captain lit a lantern. Suddenly, he caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, he enlisted in the Confederate Army.

The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status. His request was partially granted.

The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for the son at the funeral. That request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. Out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him only one musician.

The Captain chose a bugler.

He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of his dead son's uniform. This wish was granted.
This music was the haunting melody we now know as "TAPS" that is used at all military funerals.

In case you are interested, these are the words to "TAPS":

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lakes
From the hills
From the sky
All is well
Safely rest
God is nigh.

Friday, April 17, 2009

TBI - Traumatic Brain Injuries

Article contends mild brain injuries among troops are overdiagnosed

ATLANTA — Mild brain injuries — once considered an under-recognized problem in returning military troops — are being overdiagnosed because the government is using soft criteria instead of hard medical evidence, an Army doctor and two other officials contend.

The three are taking aim at Department of Veterans Affairs’ rule for treating such veterans and determining disability pay. They want to call many mild cases “concussions” rather than “brain injuries.” They say the latter implies an ongoing, incompletely healed problem rather than a temporary one that’s in the past.

However, some scientists who study brain injuries dispute that assertion.

According to the trio, here’s the problem: The questionnaire asks whether the person became dazed or confused at the time of an injury or blast, and it attributes such symptoms to concussion.

But a soldier can become dazed from stress, lack of sleep, the confusion of war, or other causes, they argue. In fact, Dr. Charles Hoge, a top Army psychiatrist, published a study last year in the New England journal showing that many brain injury symptoms were actually due to post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD.

The Rand study said some troops may incorrectly blame their problems on head injuries.

“I think it’s fair to say there’s overdiagnosis of concussions going on,” said Hoge. He’s one of three authors of an article published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Trained doctors should be able to sort out the cause of symptoms. But Hoge and his colleagues argue that a concussion diagnosis can still occur, because of subjectivity and the fuzzy concussion definition.

“The problem is we’re attempting to measure concussion many months after injury,” said Hoge, director of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md. He wrote the article with Herb Goldberg, a communications specialist at Walter Reed, and Carl Castro, a psychologist at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Md.

The questionnaire should be revised and questions should be asked closer to the time of the incident, the authors said, and the military should refine its definition of concussion. They feel “concussion” better reflects the mild nature of the injury and promotes an expectation of recovery.

“It’s a very, very, very mild physical injury” that often doesn’t need medical treatment, Castro said.

Some veterans groups applaud efforts to better diagnose traumatic brain injuries, but say it’s more likely that the military has been undertreating the problem.

“It stretches credulity to believe that all the people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting the treatment they need. That’s a laughable notion,” said Jason Forrester, director of policy at Veterans for America, an advocacy group.

The military defines a concussion — or mild traumatic brain injury — as a blow or jolt to the head that caused loss of consciousness, altered consciousness or amnesia.

More than 300,000 U.S. veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered head injuries, many of them concussions that have gone untreated, according to a Rand Corp. study released last year.

Part of that estimate stems from a questionnaire given to servicemembers as they finish their deployment, which may be months after a blow or jolt occurred, Hoge and his colleagues wrote. Servicemembers can’t always get a thorough medical assessment on the battlefield.

Treatment of mild traumatic brain injuries can cost up to $32,000 per case, the Rand report said. But if the diagnosis is wrong, patients are exposed to drug side effects and other risks, according to Hoge.

VA officials issued a statement this week saying they are proud of their efforts to treat traumatic brain injuries. Forrester, the veterans advocate, said estimates of concussions are probably low because some servicemembers fear that being diagnosed with a neurological or psychological problem would hamper a military career.

By Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
Mideast edition, Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Soldiers assigned to the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team salute during their deployment ceremony in Fayetteville, N.C. , Tuesday, April 14, 2009. This mobilization marks the second deployment for the soldiers of the 30th Heavy Brigade who are scheduled to deploy to Iraq in the coming days. AP Photo

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wednesday Hero 04/15/2009

Pfc. Alan R. Blohm
Pfc. Alan R. Blohm
21 years old from Kenai, Alaska
425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
December 31, 2006
U.S. Army

Alan R. Blohm enlisted in the Army in 2004 because "He wanted to serve the country," his brother Jeremy said. "His grandfather had been in the Army, and it's just something he wanted to do."

Blohm graduated in 2004 from Bay City Western High School, where he was a 250-pound defensive player for the football team. Blohm's size prompted coach Jim Eurick to nickname him "Biggins Blohm," his brother recalled. "I know he paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life," Mark Boileau, Blohm's former school Principal, said. "We know Alan will be in a better place because of the sacrifice he made, because of his love for our country."

PFC. Blohm died of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his unit while on combat patrol in Baghdad Besides his brother, he leaves behind his parents and a younger sister.

Information Was Found On And Copied From & The Iraq Page

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.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

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, April 14, 2009

Damn IED's

As I prepared the "Wednesday Hero' post for tomorrow, I read that PFC. Blohm died of wounds suffered when an IED detonated near his unit.

My mind immediately drifts to Zachary, who is hopefully out of an Afghanistan hospital by now. Zachary was injured on Saturday, when I an IED hit him causing a concussion and minor lacerations.

So I ask, what the hell is an IED? I learned an IED can be almost anything with any type of material and initiator. It is a “homemade” device that is designed to cause death or injury by using explosives alone or in combination with toxic chemicals, biological toxins, or radiological material. IEDs can be produced in varying sizes, functioning methods, containers, and delivery methods. IEDs can utilize commercial or military explosives, homemade explosives, or military ordnance and ordnance components.

They are unique in nature because the IED builder has had to improvise with the materials at hand. Designed to defeat a specific target or type of target, they generally become more difficult to detect and protect against as they become more sophisticated.

IED's have been used in conflicts, going back to VietNam. IEDs are the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Since the war began, 589 U.S. service members have been killed there, 434 of them in combat. More than 2,700 have been wounded in action, according to the Pentagon.

I also learned from a USA Today article, there is a 146% increase in soldiers who had been wounded; over this time last year. For whatever reason; Spring seems to spike IED activity.

Think for a moment, of our Soldiers returning home. They have witnessed brothers wounded or killed by these little monsters. Our Soldiers have been on the lookout constantly for anything that may resemble an IED; hidden in animal carcasses or right out in the middle of the road. Imagine, if you in such a world and then coming home!

How horrifying!

Damn IED's!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Prayers Are Needed!!!

Several months ago, I introduced Zachary to you. He is a Marine, who is currently serving in Afghanistan. Zachary graduated from high school with my son, John.

John sent me the following note, which he received from Zachary's dad:
"The Marines called me this morning to tell me Zach got hit by an IED. He was in a Humvee on the machine gun turret. Luckily he got away with just a grade III concussion and lacerations to the scalp. He called today and said it was not that bad. He sounded normal so I think he will be fine. He is in a hospital in Afghanistan."

I ask each of you to pray for this young man and his family.

I ask each of you to take a few moments and pray for all of the sons and daughters, husbands and wives, grandsons and granddaughters, cousins, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors who proudly and bravely serve in our military.

May Almighty God Bless each and every Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine.

May Almighty God Bless the families, who love them so.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday.

I thank God for my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I thank God for my husband and the good life we share.

I thank God for my four children and the good people they have grown to become.

I thank God for my four grandchildren (yes, I do include the babe arriving in September).

I thank God for my SoldierSon, MudPuppy (Almighty God, please bring him home safely!)

I thank God for each and every Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine, who protect our nation and the goodness our forefathers and veterans have worked so hard to achieve.

I thank God for the world He created and the goodness I wake to each morning.

I thank God to be an American; enjoying the freedoms and pride of our country.

I thank God for my home and the good feeling each time I enter.

I thank God for my family, friends and neighbors; and the good times we share.

I thank God for my job and the good people I meet there each day.

I thank God for all the little things; such as the smell of fresh sheets and sweet aromas from flowers and food.

I thank God for all the talented bloggers, who make me laugh, cry and think.

I thank God for the 94 people who follow my Blog, who care about our Military as much as I do.

I thank God for the 10,000 visits to my Blog; people who have taken the time to read my words, pray with me for our country and share their words with me as well.

I thank God.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Their Service Goes On and On and On......

Members of Montgomery County Chapter 641 of the Vietnam Veterans of America join with the Montgomery County Army Air Corps for a moment of silence after cleaning the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Saturday. The group has been scrubbing the wall once a month from April to October for 15 years to honor those who died in the war.

Please read the entire story HERE

Jen Beasley/The Gazette

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wednesday Hero 04/08/2009

Cpl. Aaron L. Seal
Cpl. Aaron L. Seal
23 years old from Elkhart, Indiana
6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve
October 1, 2006

With sleet gushing from gunmetal gray clouds, some 30 Marines standing in three trim lines saluted the U.S. flag that four of their brethren used to christen a new pole.

A large engraved stone set at the base of the 38-foot pole explained the occasion: "In memory of Corporal Aaron L. Seal. Who gave his life for our country. 1982-2006."

The Marines from Engineer Company B joined several dozen community residents and well-wishers at a ceremony Wednesday honoring Seal, the 23-year-old Elkhart reservist who died last fall in Iraq. Seal's family also attended the 20-minute tribute at Elkhart Community Schools' administration building adjacent to Memorial High School -- the fallen Marine's alma mater.

Read the rest of the story 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.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

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, April 7, 2009

Talking Tuesday

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of 'HERO' is:

1 a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability b: an illustrious warrior c: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities d: one that shows great courage

What is your definition of HERO? Who is your HERO?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Prayer is the Best Gift

The average age of the U.S. soldier is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155mm howizzitor. He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must. He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low. He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job. He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.

He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them. He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed. He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful. Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding. Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

And now we have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so. Daddy may still consider her his little girl, but for her country, she is an unyeilding warrior, willing to pay the ultimate price to protect people she will never meet.

As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot.. A short lull, a little shade, and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.

"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen."

When you read this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and every other hostile region of the world. This can be very powerful....... Of all the gifts you could give a US Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, or Coastguardsman, prayer is the very best one.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How Will You Spend Your Saturday Afternoon?

U.S. Marines pause after a metal detector found a possible buried land mine on April 2, 2009 in Now Zad in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have buried IEDs throughout the city so Marines patrol in single file behind a mine sweeper to keep from stepping on the hidden explosives. The military says the remaining civilian population left the city in 2007. It is now a battleground between Taliban fighters and Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

On This Day, I Looked into My Daughter’s Eyes for the First Time

Happy Birthday, Kel!

This day is one of the most important dates of my entire life.

I became a mom.

I met my first child.

I looked into the most beautiful eyes, I had ever seen.

I held this newborn in my arms.

I kissed my sweet baby’s cheek.

I discovered a love; I had never known before…a love I could not have even imagined.

Those early days and weeks passed so quickly. I remember one day particularly well, when Kel was two weeks old. She was crying her little eyes out, as most two week old babies do; I was crying my eyes out, as most new moms do. Between our tears, I softly began to sing, “You are my Sunshine. My only Sunshine. You make me happy. When skies are grey. You’ll never know, Kel. How much Mom loves you. Please don’t take. My Sunshine. Away.”

Sixteen years later, Kel spent the summer with a Missionary Group in India. At 3 in the morning one day, I woke hearing my daughter’s voice calling my name. I got out of bed, walked around the house…knowing she was on the other side of the world. After a glass of milk, I returned to bed. The phone rang at 6am, the static on the line made the message almost impossible to hear. I learned my daughter had been hit by a car, three hours earlier. I was later told she was calling for me, immediately after the accident. As I recall, within the next few days, I was able to speak with my daughter on the phone. Kel asked that I sing our song.

My daughter is now a wife and mother. Her husband is one of the most gentle and kind souls’, God has created. She has also been blessed with two precious daughters and is carrying her third child. Kel has always been a strong-willed, independent spirit, with the softest of hearts. Her inner beauty radiates in her smile and twinkling eyes.

I am so very proud to be this woman’s mom. Our road together has known grey skies, but it knows plenty of Sunshine.

Kel, you are my Sunshine! I do love you so!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I’M STILL HERE...(MudPuppy's Words)

Alright, so I asked Airmanmom to ask all you, her readers, for questions that they wonder about. I did this because I have been battling a rather tough case of writers block for the past several weeks. Actually, check that, I haven’t been really blocked, its just been that there hasn’t been anything worth writing that much about because anything of any real consequence was depressing.

We hit a bunch more IED’s, someone actually got hurt this time. (Broken leg, he’ll be fine) We have to move to another FOB that is even closer to the Pakistani border, which will mean all the more fun for us in the coming months and another unit is here to replace us and we are having all sorts of power struggle issues with them. So needless to say nothing fun has been going on and nothing funny has happened lately. And as so many of you said when I was still able to write publicly, prior to some sensitive little officer getting his feelings hurt, I was always much better at writing about funny things than anything else.

Well I was getting bored, a typical state of mind for a soldier in a combat zone. Whoever said that war was 90% boredom and 10% sheer terror was a master of minimization. It’s more like 99.9999999999% and .1111111111% But enough of that. So I asked for some inspiration. And I got it. Not exactly the questions I expected, but regardless of that they were some good questions. (Be advised, the question that I expected was, “Have you ever killed anyone?” And just so you know, don’t ever ask a soldier that question, because if he answers it he is probably full of S$#%)

Without further adieu,

From Butler and Bagman: I'd like to read about daily boring routine, shaving, details...Actually I've always wondered how soldiers keep dirt out of everything. Where do they do laundry?

The routine stuff? Really that’s what you want to hear about. Alright, so I’ll run down a average day (if there is such a thing). Now this is a day that we are not charged with guarding the FOB and spending 12 hours stuck in a tower staring at Afghani dirt and throwing cans of pop to the local ankle biters. This is also a day that we don’t have a mission outside the wire. We usually have to be up by like 0800. Breakfast begins at 0630 and goes to 0800, but most of us, myself included would rather sleep as long as we can so they can take their day old toast and runny eggs and shove them...(I have to keep the language under wraps.) Then the details begin. If there is nothing for us to do, well no matter, then they (the bosses) will just make stuff up for us to do. Clean this, organize that, move this here, move that there, check the trucks for the 9 zillionth time, test your weapons, do this, do that, blah, blah, blah...Normally these days are spent with the bosses running all over the FOB trying to figure out where the hell we all disappeared to. And us moving from this place to that while trying to avoid any and all contact with that evil thing called, “WORK”

That is the only thing I can think of that even remotely resembles a typical day. Mission days are either really boring or really insane, depending on whether or not the Taliban decided to come out and play that day or not. Or if they left us an exploding present in the ground or not. They basically consist of us getting up, getting the vehicles, weapons and all the other stuff ready, then driving around and talking to people. Pointing a gun at them and asking, “Are you the Taliban?” Real Gomer Pyle type BS. Then we come back. Fun all around.

Tower days are ridiculously boring, maddeningly so. You spend 12 hours sitting in a tower the size of a closet looking at the same thing all day, then you spend the other 12 hours of the day on standby just in case something happens.

That is pretty much what we do on “typical” days.

How do we keep dirt out of everything? We don’t.

Now, where do we do laundry? This is one where I have lucked out big time. I managed to get to a FOB where they have a “laundromat” and it is staffed by local workers. So I take my bag of nasty clothes over to them, drop it off, and the next day I get clean clothes back. They don’t fold them though, what a bunch of lazy...(yeah) So in that respect I am spoiled here. I am moving to a place though, where there are two washing machines for 150 soldiers. Needless to say, the stink level there is going to be epic. I think we are probably going to end up doing most of the laundry in buckets and hanging it outside.

From Mary Ellen: where and what do you eat? where and when do you sleep? what do you do for fun, if you have time for that? what are your buddies like and what do you do together? what kind of interaction with locals do you have? And, I'm always interested in what kinds of things we can send our soldiers to make their lives easier or more fun. I'm running out of original ideas for my adopted soldier, and she always writes 'thank you' without letting me know what she especially wants!

Where do we eat? Well they’ve got a whole building set aside just for eating. We go there between the hours of 0630 and 0800 for breakfast. 1130 and 1300 for lunch, and 1700 and 1830 for dinner. We actually get some pretty decent food, so its not half bad.

However, when we are out on mission you either eat MRE’s which are “meals ready to eat” or as most GI’s prefer to call them Mr. E’s or mysteries, because whatever it says on the bag is not necessarily what you actually eat. Or you eat whatever you grab from the chow hall and put into your truck which means you subsist on a diet of salt and vinegar chips, orange fanta and M&M’s for up to three days at a time. Always a healthy diet when you are in the military.

Where and when do we sleep? Wherever and whenever we can. There is an old adage in the military. Never run when you can walk, never walk when you can stand still, never stand still when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, and whenever you can lie down, GO TO SLEEP. Usually we sleep in our rooms. We’ve got buildings that serve as sleeping quarters. So we spend as much time as we can in there and horizontal.

What do we do for fun? What? Like this whole war thingy isn’t fun! Ha, but when we do get a minute or two to ourselves everyone does something different. I like to write and piss and moan about everything going on here, others like to play basketball or volleyball, others play poker, others play video games on their computers, others watch movies, some (like me) come up with practical jokes to play on their fellow soldiers. I couldn’t tell you for sure what everyone does because hell if I know. But we basically just kill time between one thing and the next. I wouldn’t worry though, for the most part the military has enough stupanity (stupidity & insanity) to keep us busy for the bulk of our deployments.

What are my buddies like and what do we do together? I have to delay answering this question just because this is one that I am actually going to sit down and think through because the personalities that we have here are so unique that there is no way I could answer this unless I had about 100 pages and 12-15 hours of your time. But never fear, I am going to work on answering this one. So stay tuned.

What kind of interaction do we have with the locals? This is fun for us. Our first interactions with the locals consisted of the local kids coming near to our towers and begging for Pepsi and Coke. And us responding by winging several cans of this stuff at them. Which we thought better of later after we had sent a few children to the medics with dented foreheads. (kidding)

Then when we started going outside the wire shortly after getting here our interaction increased exponentially. We started going on humanitarian aid missions where we got to give away clothes and blankets, and food and all sorts of stuff. That was pretty cool just because these people here have next to nothing and what we give them is appreciated. That and seeing these kids faces when you give them M&M’s or gum or any sort of candy is priceless. The unfortunate part is that we probably gave some of this stuff to Taliban members and they in turn, used our own stuff to blow us up. But such is life in Afghanistan. After that we started working with the Afghan Army and police and that was interesting to see how they fight, and how they manage this whole situation. We also run a clinic near the FOB, which is where I found that dog that was in the picture with me, now this place sucks because its where you see what the harshness of this country does to people. Normally I haven’t got much sympathy but when you see the women and children you can’t help but feel for them.

As far as what your soldier wants. I have no idea. She’s a she and I am not, I haven’t a clue what she would want. I could say that some movies wouldn’t hurt. Funny ones are usually the best, this place is depressing and could use some lightening up.

From Julie: I would love to hear what he plans to do in 163 days...can’t tell you because most of it is not the kind of thing I would like for my virtuamom to know about! Suffice it to say it involves several nice young ladies I know, a lot of booze, and I will be eating everything in sight.

From MightyMom: HOW us regular old civilians can let you our defenders know just how much we appreciate you. I mean, really and batteries and calling cards do it? letters from strangers? WHAT???

Well, I can’t answer this one for anyone but myself, so here goes. Its not necessarily the batteries and the calling cards, or the beef jerky or the candy, or the whatever that makes a difference. But all of that helps and is appreciated. Its the fact that each and every GI knows that someone, anyone back home is thinking about them. Send them emails, send them letters, send them whatever. Just take the time to think about us and I’ll be happy with that.

From Grandpa-Old Soldier: What do you do when you are not working? Hows the chow? How are you being treated by the locals? Have you been promoted during your deployment? Have you created a short timers calendar yet?

When I am not working? When is that? Kidding, I write as much as I can, I call home as often as I can, I spend a lot of time wasting time. Watching movies, laying around, smoking too many cigarettes and BS’ing with the guys. There isn’t much else to do.

The chow? I have to admit, when we aren’t out on mission and having to eat out of a bag, the chow isn’t half bad. It’s hot, it’s edible and there’s plenty of it. So I can’t complain.

Have I been promoted? Ha, don’t you remember how I used to talk about my command in my blog? Bear in mind, that is how I talked about them all the time regardless of the time and place. That being said, my attitude, coupled with my severe distaste for anything resembling authority has definitely put a hold on my career advancement. But don’t worry, its been more than worth it to me.

Short timers calendar? Yep, its on a “hot buns” calendar that I found at the PX in Bagram when I was on my way back from Qatar. It’s nice, I think you would enjoy it. The “buns” are very shapely!

From Love Letters To The Middle East: Also, it'd be interesting to know what really we can do for our soldiers. Also, my big question would be, what are the views from Soldiers on Obama's pitch to start preparing an exit strategy plan for Afghanistan. And what does he think about ending the Stop-Loss policy?

I answered the first part of the question already, I think. If I haven’t just let me know and I’ll try to do better. But as far as Obama’s pitch to start preparing an exit strategy or Afghanistan. First of all, I haven’t heard a thing about it. But anyone who is developing any plan, strategy or otherwise that involves getting me the hell out of here is A-okay with me. There aren’t enough pages in the Bible to explain exactly what I am talking about here, but the impression that I have of this war is that of a retard with a football helmet on banging his head against a brick wall. Sure its entertaining, but nothing is getting done.

The stop loss thing, well here goes. I don’t know how many of you know this but I was an active duty soldier for 5 years, 6 months and 19 days before I joined the national guard and got shipped over here. Now my original contract was for 5 years. So I got stop lossed for 6 months and 19 days. Not too long I guess, compared to what has happened to other soldiers, but it doesn’t change the fact that it sucks. I know that the military has needs and those needs get all the more pressing when there is a war going on. However, it doesn’t change the fact that we did sign the contract that said a stop loss was possible. Yet how many soldiers who were stop lossed even knew that they were subject to it when they signed the enlistment contract. I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t relieve them of their obligations just because they didn’t know about it. However, I do think that the stop loss policy should have to be thoroughly explained to all enlisting soldiers. I would have to say that if there was one contract that should contain no fine print whatsoever it is a US military enlistment contract. On a personal level though, I felt like I got 6 months and 19 days of my life stolen from me on some technicality of a contract that I signed when I was 19. Once again, I was and adult and I ate the consequences of my naivete, but it still sucked and I would rather it didn’t happen to anyone again unless they were fully aware of exactly what it was that they signed. So maybe they alter the policy as opposed to getting rid of it. Hopefully, someone a lot smarter than I figures this one out.

From Debbie: I also want to know what you plan on doing in 163 days :) Do you have someone "special" waiting for you? Do you plan on staying in the military and why or why not. Okay, this is a weird one. How do you feel (and your buddies) about removing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Well, the usual answer applies to the first part of the question, I hit on that one previously from another questioner.

Do I plan on staying in? The military and I have been a weird mix ever since I joined. I am a rather large ball of contradictions. The biggest one, as it applies to the military, is my disdain for authority and my habit of questioning everything that comes down from on high. Yet, my love of the Army is such that I probably could never leave and when I am forced to by either age, death, or medical condition it will be a sad parting of ways for me. The army has provided me with such an interesting life that I would be remiss to just bail on them now or ever. Notice that I said them and not it. The military is not an it. If it were I would never have bothered to stay for so damn long. The military is all about the guys next to you. The people are all that really matter. Otherwise the army would be nothing more than funny clothes, guns and a mountain of dumb ass regulations. When you add the people to the mix, then it gets fun. I have met some of the best, worst, weirdest, and funniest people I have ever known. Without the Army I would’ve missed all of that. Not to mention, it has carried me the world over now. I am 30 years old and I can’t hardly remember all the different countries I have been in so far, and I can’t thank them enough for that. So I am staying until they throw me kicking and screaming out the front door.

Now the don’t ask, don’t tell thing. I think that the prevailing attitude amongst the soldiers is pretty much indifference to the whole thing. There are exceptions of course, but the younger generation for the most part couldn’t care less. The idea being that who you boink has little, if anything to do with how you perform in the military. The question that I would have about the whole thing is this, once you remove the policy and homosexuals are allowed to serve openly are they going to be able to handle the culture of the US military. Personally, so long as they accept the culture and norms of the military and toe the line and pull their weight just like everyone else, then screw who you want. But don’t get pissed when I crack a gay joke!

And tell Mary to shoot me her email address and she can read all about what I have been up to.

Alright, I am done now.


I love you mom...and virtuamom...