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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Tis the Season... (updated)

...for some suggested reading on Islam and practicing Muslims.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the festive activities of the season, both my own Christmas doings, like attending a choir concert at the National Shrine in DC and participating in a Soldiers' Angels adopt-a-CSH (CSH=Combat Support Hospital) care package effort, as well as the Hannakah traditions being shared by friends and colleagues. It reminds me of when I first learned about the Jewish faith as a pre-schooler in South Carolina. It reminds me that while we have different faiths, we're muddling our way through living together in harmony as Americans.

During the last 6 years, there have been many commentaries on whether that harmony, particularly as acheived in a republic like ours, is ultimately incompatible with Islam. The discussion has extended to whether US intervention in predominantly Muslim areas can offer contructive solutions based on principles and liberties similar to those we take for granted. Since our men and women continue to be in harms way based on the premise that we can, a three part Q&A series with a Muslim American over at National Review Online was very encouraging and resonated with what I believe: that faith in God does not have to divide us.

So, it's slightly off-topic for my blog, but I wanted to recommend reading Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. [HT: Small Wars Journal Blog]

And, actually, as Dr. Jasser is a former lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, these articles may not be that far off-topic for a Soldiers' [Sailors'!] Angel's blog after all. :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Not for Nothing, Take 5

Haven't done one of these posts in a while, but these words from LtCol JJ Dill, USMC, posted over at Blackfive.net reminded me of something that I think about alot...

...our current success is a result of nearly 5 years of counter-insurgency operations. A general officer recently summed it up perfectly last week as we toured the industrial area of Hit, an area that just a few short months ago was abandoned and now is by all accounts flourishing and improving everyday, by stating, "Every step we took, every footprint we left over the past four years have allowed us to get to this point today." It was not chance or luck. The Sheiks and tribal leaders didn't just wake up one day and decide to join the CF and risk their lives to fight against AQI and the insurgents...we had to earn their trust, prove to them that our objectives were genuine and noble, and we had to fight the enemy with everything we had to show our determination.

So what is it that I think about? I think about the emails and letters that I wrote to my adopted soldiers and marines. I think about the times I struggled with what to say, especially in late 2006 when one of my soldiers was beyond frustrated with the apparent futility of his efforts. The frustration was aggravated but increasingly frequent changes of duty. No consistency in his day to day activities and no apparent progress being made. It saddens me just a little that he returned home in early 2007, before he had a chance to see the fruits of his labor, the impact of his persistent presence for over a year. While things weren't going well and progress seemed ellusive, his steps in the sand and his truck's tracks down the road were part of what got Iraq to where it is today. As his frustrations were peaking, Bill Roggio was posting about the Anbar Salvation Council and the Anbar Awakening (The Anbar Tribes vs. al Qaeda, Continued, November 2006) and solid glimmers of hope. I continued to write letters and emails, offering encouragement, gratitude, and cookies, and prayers.

A year on... Well! My soldiers and marines (yes, they're "mine" forever) and all the others who have done one or many tours in the desert have helped give the Iraqis a chance. A chance that the Iraqis seem to be embracing.

I hope that my soldiers and marines (and all the rest!) who've done duty in Iraq can see that from wherever they are today.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Probably because the goal is simply to be together with someone or someones you care about and to appreciate the blessings that allow that togetherness. This year I'm with one of my sisters, and we're going to the home of one of her best friends for dinner. We'll be bringing the mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, apple pie, rolls, and raspberry & strawberry jam (all homemade thanks to lessons from our Mom!). Over coffee and homemade brown bread this morning, my sister and I read the President's Thanksgiving Proclamation for Thanksgiving Day 2007 (which you can read here).

The other thing that makes Thanksgiving really special is that it's non-denominational. I don't have to hesitate to wish anyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Whether it's the Pakistani-looking man at the Post Office yesterday who helped me ship a package of magazines, hot sauce, and candy to a medic and his guys in Diyala province, the ancient Hispanic handyman who was installing new light bulbs in the ‘EXIT’ sign on my eighth floor corridor, or the cheerful man ringing the bell at a Salvation Army kettle outside the Giant grocery store last night. They smile and return the greeting. It's a unifying wish, a wish to be grateful, a wish for togetherness and joy.

I am especially grateful this year for the progress in Iraq, not only as someone who would like those living in the "cradle of civilization" to have a better shot at a peaceful life, but because I've met so many people who have contributed to the changes in Iraq over the last 4 and half years: my sister's friends who served on Navy ships in the Gulf and Med during the original assaults on Saddam's regime in 2003 (Blythe, Rachel, Kristen, and Becky to whom I sent my first care packages), my adoptees thru Soldiers' Angels (Marines Frank and Ryan, National Guardsmen Ben and Anna, and Army dudes David and Taylor), and my friends and colleagues I've met in DC, military and civilian. And this Thanksgiving, rather then praying for a change for the better, we can express boundless gratitude for the remarkable changes on the streets of Iraq. Michael Yon shared a photo in a recent dispatch that captured this change perfectly for me. He has many photos, but the one that struck deep for me is one with this caption:

Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St. John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.” [Michael Yon]

If I am able to post the photo here I will, but go have a look here at the whole dispatch.

I'm not Muslim or Catholic (though I am Christian), but you don't have to know much history to appreciate the gesture that these Muslims made by attending that Catholic service and asking for that gesture to be photographed and shared with the world.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is amazingly wonderful.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

P.S. If you'd like to send a Happy Thanksgiving wish to our troops, check out this program from AmericaSupportYou.org (or see banner at top of page).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

With Respect and Gratitude - a belated Veterans' Day ramble

Well, I missed the boat on blogging something on Veterans' Day. I'm somewhat annoyed with myself about that, but work has been incredibly busy and life happens.

Still, Sunday was roughly the third anniversary of my joining Soldiers' Angels. It seems longer ago, but it was just before Veterans' Day 2004 when Hugh Hewitt directed his blog readers to this great organization as a way to show support and express thanks to our veterans.

Why do I think it's so great? I think it's because Soldiers' Angels is one of those organizations that allows you to contribute with a personal touch. I can safely say that while my care packages occasionally have been similar, they are always tailored to whoever is on the receiving end... and are regularly impacted by what I happen to see as I walked through a card shop or down the grocery store aisle. They also contain just a little bit of me.

That last part is important to me because I want our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to know that I - Jane Citizen - appreciate their service. Soldiers' Angels allows me to make clear that that message of thanks comes straight from me to them. To me it's the difference between a casual wave and a gentle squeeze on the arm. The former seems trite, the latter is motivated by heartfelt respect and a wish and a prayer for their safe return.

Anyway, I can't remember exactly what prompted my search for a new way to say "thank you", but I do remember that it was a fairly strong compulsion. I needed to say thanks, and I needed to do more than make a monetary donation.

I knew I'd found something special when I received an email from a young Marine Lance Corporal, my first adoptee. He wrote an email to say thanks for whatever I'd crammed in that first box -- snacks, I think, and a Thanksgiving card. I still have that email. Absolutely tickled to have heard back from him (Angels know that they may never hear from an adoptee for a variety of reasons, including that our adoptees are, well, fighting a WAR...), I responded with questions about what he'd like to receive, and got a big "NO MORE!" on toilet paper and a "yes please" for chocolate chip cookies. Turned out that the choc chip cookies got in the mail just before his unit went on “mail stop” for a return to the US in early February 2005. Cookies were received in good time and summarily demolished by he and his buddies. After getting over my pout at being unable to send any further packages, I continued to send an occasional email message (and requested a new adoptee!). I went on a business trip to NYC in mid December and on a whim took several picture-phone photos of NYC at Christmas. I wrote an email to my LCpl and attached the photos. I got a reply rather quickly as unbeknown to me, my LCpl had always wanted to visit NYC at the holiday time. The photos, despite their low resolution, provided a snapshot of a special place and a little bit of home at a special time of year.

In return, and unprompted, I received a fantastic photo of a pair of combat boots catching the rays of an Iraqi sunset, a snapshot of a Christmas tree that had been set up in his barracks, a photo of he and his buddy, and a photo of my LCpl and his beautiful wife.

Why highlight that reply? Because I think it demonstrates how “adopting” a soldier, sailor, airman or marine during their deployment can be a special way to show support. It might seem inadequate except that there are 10s of thousands of individuals making contact in exactly the same way. The effect is a very personal “thank you” going out to a large number of our newest veterans. They deserve nothing less.

If that wasn’t enough, I realized this year that this highly visible support to current active duty service members is prompting older veterans, whether it be from Vietnam, Korea, WWII or any of the actions in between, to talk about their experiences. Which is, in turn, letting me know about veterans among us who I had had no idea had served. Because they didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. Until now.

So thanks to Patti Patton-Bader for creating a way for us to show our support.

But most importantly, thanks to you, our veterans, for answering the call, for serving regardless of the sacrifices required, for standing up for the liberties we hold so dear.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Could you?

Yes, you could. Diane did.

When Angel Diane in Georgia sent out an email early this year to kick-off a Holiday support project for 20,000 deployed troops, my first reaction was, “Cool!” This was quickly followed by “OMG!”

You see, just a couple months before receiving Diane’s email, I’d successfully corralled a group of friends and mutual acquaintances to help send a last minute holiday delivery to a navy ship that had deployed to the Pacific shortly before Thanksgiving. I’ll share more on that in another post… I mention my 2006 holiday project for the ship because it made me well aware of how much was involved in sending goody bags to 260 sailors. Doing the same for 20,000 troops would be what geeks like me call an increase of two orders of magnitude. In other words, Diane was planning to collect and bundle up not just 10 times as many goodies as I had, but another TEN TIMES that.

Diane never seemed to get overwhelmed by it all and corralled so much awesome support and so many donations. Remember the socks? Go back and look at the whole list. And many thanks to those who read my posts about her efforts sent notes and cards to be included!

After 8 months of collecting, counting, organizing, and planning, Diane and crew packed up the 20,000 goody bags. Yep, all 20,000 – no shortfall here! They had some extra-industrious volunteers as well as cheerleading from a well-known bovine.

150 volunteers got the job done in 9 hours. I’m sorry that I was too far away to help -- I know that they had to be tired by the end, but I bet they had FUN.

It’s efforts like these that make being a part of Soldiers’ Angels so special. You can be a part of something BIG in a very tangible way. Alone, 20,000 would have been overwhelming. With friends, neighbors, and Angels worldwide (yep, some Aussies sent some cards in too!) you can collaborate to pull off a big one.

Still it takes people like Diane to step up and see it through,

So a big WAY COOL! to Diane, hubby Steve, Georgia Angels, and the residents of Douglasville.

Ya’ll done good.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

20,000 Mugs and 2 Angels

At least in the picture.

Dianne and husband Steve, and a crowd of other Angels took the first step in assembling holiday care packages for those 20,000 Georgia-based soldiers.

They took the 20,000 mugs that are in the boxes in the picture above and filled them with candy. As Diane puts it, those helping "got their first real taste at just how big of a number 20,000 really is".

Whoa. My holiday project last year was only for a ship full of 270 sailors.

There's still time to send in a holiday message to be added to one of the goody bags for a soldier.

Mailing address:
Det-1 HHC 1-108th,
6784 W. Church Street, Douglasville, GA 30134

Or email it to me and I'll format it into a card and send it along with others I've collected:

But don't dawdle! All package contents need to be in Georgia ASAP!

Angel Gifts for a Soldier's little Angels

Angel Michelle from Iowa is at it again...

Two wonderful quilts in-process for the children of national guardsman recently returned from theater.

For a horse-mad little girl:

For a Spidey fan:

Pretty special, huh?

Yay, Michelle!

[Michelle's first Angel quilt was the subject of my first few posts:


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thank you, Mr. President

I can’t imagine living through the current Global War on Terror without milbloggers. Without them, I frankly don’t think I’d know what was going on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines, or elsewhere. Especially not at the level of detail that milbloggers provide. They provide a “pulse” that civilians like me can check to see how things are going, especially when the incessant political rhetoric starts to obstruct our view of the facts and the viewpoints of those actually in the midst of all the action.

I’ve said thank you to them before and I support their efforts with donations, but it feels rather feeble at times considering the time they must spend blogging.

So! I was particularly delighted to read THIS POST by Mrs G last Friday night after work. In fact, I thought it was so terrific that this morning I dropped a "thank you" note in the mailbox. I’m posting my note here, too, because it’s a fun way to bring Friday’s event to your attention and to remind you to check out the most recent posts from Mrs. G, Bill Roggio, Blackfive, and, of course, Greyhawk (also here).

September 17, 2007

Dear Mr. President,

It was not your intent, but you did me a huge favor last Friday morning.

You see, I am a regular reader of several of the bloggers that you invited to the White House for a chat. While some of them may manage to cover the costs of their blogging with donations from readers, overall they give much more than they will ever get in return.

What do they give? The best coverage I can find about what is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the Global War on Terror. Whether it is the daily news reports at Bill Roggio’s site www.LongWarJournal.org, the voices of assorted milbloggers via Mrs. G’s “Dawn Patrol” at www.MudvilleGazette.com, or profiles of our military heroes in Blackfive.net's “Someone You Should Know” series, I get informed reports with valuable context and commentary. Frankly, I can not imagine how many unpaid hours they spend in providing these reports, and my thanks and donations only go so far.

However, the priceless gift of your time and recognition helped balance the scales quite a bit.

With much gratitude,


P.S. My only disappointment is that you did not get to meet Mrs. G’s husband and my favorite milblogger, Greyhawk. He is busy with his second tour in Iraq. Maybe another time? :-)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 and the National Freedom Walk

Before leaving for work today, I dug out my American flag to hang in my window. When I put it up, I tuck the flag between the vertical blinds and the glass as I have no balcony. It works pretty well – you can see it from the sidewalk even though it’s on the 8th floor.

I didn’t move to the DC area until 2005, so all I can do is imagine what it was like that day 6 years ago at the Pentagon. To honor the memory of those we lost that day and to remember why we have boots on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, I volunteered to coordinate a Soldiers’ Angels booth at the end of the National Freedom Walk on Sunday morning. They’ve had the walks in honor of 9/11 victims and our men and women fighting in the Global War on Terror since 2005. SA and 20 other home-front support organizations were invited to have booths after the walk in the Pentagon’s South Parking lot. The walk in DC went from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon. I had to skip the walk so that the table would be set up and ready for when the first people arrived. About 10,000 people participated in the DC walk, although only a portion of the walkers stayed for the festivities at the end. American Supports You sponsors the event and had invited members of the Harlem Gospel Choir as the main performers as well as a country singer, John Luskey, and the Army Jazz Ambassadors. A really good show - the Harlem Gospel Choir opened with “Amazing Grace” (which I love) with a bagpipe intro and accompaniment which was awe inspiring. There is just something about bagpipe music that sneaks in and grabs a hold of my heart each time I hear it.

I got interviewed three times while waiting for the walkers to arrive, and the Pentagon Channel/America Supports You website did an article and a photo essay that each feature a picture of our booth! How cool! Check them out as the quality of their pictures is terrific:

Photo Essay

Article on home front groups

I met all kinds of people that morning; one guy had recently returned home from 18 months in Afghanistan and was looking for an address to send a thank you note to Soldiers’ Angels for the support he and his guys received while deployed! I met those with sons and daughters about to deploy, people interested in being Angels, and a Marine carrying two American flags – one flag had all the names of the fallen emergency services personnel who died on 9/11 and the other had the names of all the others who died in the twin towers, the Pentagon, and airplanes on 9/11. Really classy looking flags. And he told me that he’d just met the parents of a man who died in the Pentagon, who’d taken the time to find their son’s name on the flag. Pretty special for them and that Marine.

I had decided to take a bunch of holiday cards to have at the booth so that we could invite folks to write a note for the holiday care packages for the 3ID. We got about 75 cards, and I was touched by those who spent several minutes writing a long note. This card was particularly popular with the younger boys (ha!) – gotta love Hallmark’s Shoebox greeting cards.

Our booth neighbors, the ladies representing the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, were very gracious when people started using their table to write holiday notes! The ladies manning that booth are in the picture below. Operation Helmet was directly behind us. Nice neighbors!

It was a good event all around, and I had a fellow Angel, Camille, join me in staffing the booth after she did the walk. Two other Angels stopped by, one of whom took the photo of Camille and me below. The booth turned out pretty well, even though I was kind of winging it. I used Angel shirts as “signs/banners”, and I made up a flyer and took it to a local print shop on Saturday morning (last minute!). The owner was working, and he was awesome. He gave me a discount “because it was for a good cause” and stopped work on another job to get all mine done. Nice, huh?

Like those Angel shirts? If you’d like one of your own, go to http://www.angelsstore.org/. All proceeds are donations to support Angel operations!

A fitting end to this post, taps has just finished playing across the highway at Ft Myer/Arlington Cemetery. It’s days like to today when I tear up just a little during this daily ritual. God Bless America.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Could you spare $5 or $10? or a few more for Soldiers' Angels?

It's that time of year when donations are lowest for all non-profit organizations.

If you have $5 or $10 or more to spare, you might...

Send a check to: Soldiers' Angels, 1792 E. Washington Blvd, Pasadena, Ca 91104


Donate via PayPal or Credit Card by clicking the "DONATE" button on THIS PAGE.

What does your tax deductible donation get used for? Here are a few details from Soldiers' Angels Hero Flights program:

"Just as an example of what SA has provided THIS month alone for our Hero Flights....

Flights for wounded Heroes [either themselves or getting family members to them]: 77

Flights for family members of our Fallen Heroes: 24

Deployed heroes with an emergency: 11

We HAVE to be there for these Heroes and their families after they have sacrificed so much for US!!!! Each of these flights average around $500 or so, because we certainly don't have that 'advanced notice' needed for the cheaper fares.

We helped a very seriously injured Marine a couple weeks ago, who was medevac'd into Bethesda, completely unconcious...we got his fiance there as soon as they landed...two days ago this hero, Chris, actually called me with assistance from his family to say "thank you"...he said Soldiers' Angels 'SAVED HIS LIFE'...if we had not gotten his family to him, he doesn't think he would have had the strength to pull out of this....getting these family members to their wounded warriors is amazing therapy and better than most modern medicine and it helps the Heroes and the families, which is what Soldiers' Angels is all about!"

THIS PAGE also has links to set up recurring PayPal donations ($5, $25, $50, and $100 options are just a click away...).

Note! if using a credit card, click on the DONATE button, enter your dollar amount, but then IGNORE all instructions to log in; scroll down to find the "continue" link for credit cards.

Please donate as generously as you are able.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. Still accepting those holiday letters for the soldiers in the 3ID!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

NEW Update on Holiday Project for Georgia Soldiers - Aug 23rd

Toothbrushes? More than DONE!!!

Diane & company in Georgia are doing their bit... Have you written that holiday note yet? Do it now, before you forget :-)

letters-to-send AT mindspring DOT com

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Greyhawk rocks.

Do yourself a favor and take a tour through Greyhawk's Mudville.

Greyhawk's credentials are here. (HT: Mrs. G)

His latest entries are HERE and HERE.

One ought to make you laugh out loud, wince, and then sigh, and the other ought to make you think. And if you're like me, you'll read bits of a particular speech for the first time.

On the latter, it helps if you've read "To Kill a Mockingbird" and remember a bit of the story.

Did I mention he's a milblogger on his second tour in Iraq?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Give 'em an inch…

…and they’ll go a mile.

That's my spin on that common catch phrase. To me, it perfectly describes many people who join Soldiers’ Angels. Show them what can be done, and they'll do five times as much as expected. Frankly, they amaze me.

Case in point. There is a new crowd of Angels out in Manassas, VA (about 30 miles west of DC). Through a corporate initiative, they were given a little encouragement and "space" (not funding) to do volunteer work, particularly in support of our men and women in uniform and their families. Different locations chose different ways to volunteer. The Manassas location chose to participate in Soldiers’ Angels programs. Part of the pitch for Soldiers’ Angels came from an employee, who just happens to be a mom, a veteran of OIF, AND a Soldiers’ Angel.

So what have she and the others been up to?

They’ve become members of Operation Top Knot.

They’ve created an SOS-KIDS team to collect items for Iraqi and Afghani children.

They’ve made their first “Blanket of Hope”.

And the biggie, they’ve adopted their “local” HHC, 3-116th out of Winchester, VA, who will be deploying in the fall. They’ve already started fundraising to support this “adoption” and have already managed to find a way to support the unit by making the unit’s pre-deployment days a little nicer.

And these Angels just got started in June. Whew.

My favorite tidbit from this crowd to date had to do with that Blanket of Hope you see in the pictures. When considering which Soldiers’ Angels programs to participate in, they learned about Blankets of Hope: homemade or personalized blankets that go in each First Response/Transitional Backpack that is given out to our ill and wounded in Combat Support Hospitals in theater or at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. As lead-Angel-in-Germany MaryAnn describes,
“[t]he backpacks include a T-Shirt, letter of support, Blanket of Hope, snacks, underwear, socks, etc. Receiving these items from everyday Americans via Soldiers´ Angels volunteers provides a level of personal support that has a very positive impact on a patient´s morale, and therefore on the recovery process.”

Making blankets sounded great, but some of our new Manassas Angels were heard to say, “But we don’t sew!”

Looks like they figured it out, huh? And wonderfully so.

I can’t wait to report on what they decide to do next. “Mile” two coming up.

P.S. If you’re interested in joining or supporting this crowd of Angels in Manassas, check their website for contact information: CLICK HERE

Friday, August 17, 2007

Blessings of being an Angel

A Soldiers' Angel that is.

As I think almost every Angel will tell you, when we get a chance to thank one of the members of our military for their service, we often get thanked in return. We could get into a humorous cycle of, "No, no, thank YOUs", but we all usually just smile and say it's our pleasure, honor, duty, joy, or all of the above. WE know who needs to be thanked, don't we Angels?
Anyway, I had the privilege of having this type of exchange with two generals recently, one active duty, one retired. A little background...

One of the cool things about being an Angel in our nation's capital is that special support/participation activities by Soldiers' Angels seem to proliferate.

I wrote about Angel events and participation at the 2nd Annual Milblogs Conference.

I've also written about giving out flags at the National Memorial Day Parade, visiting Arlington Cemetary on Memorial Day, supporting our veterans at the first Gathering of Eagles event, cheering on our wounded and active duty service members in the Face of America bicycle ride from Gettysburg to DC, adding Angel Wings to the efforts of some amazing military wives and their neighbors, and more.

Two events I haven't shared allowed me to shake hands with generals. I thanked them, but once again I got the immediate "No, no, thank YOU."

Back on July 3rd, super-Angel (my term!) Monica, who does soooo much to support our veterans at Walter Reed , and I got to attend the USMC's Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial at the invitation of Major General Benes, Director, Expeditionary Warfare Division. We each invited our sisters to attend with us (we both have very cool sisters!). For some reason, my sister and I got particularly good seats... right behind MGen Benes and the special guests, Janis Roznowski, founder of Operation Comfort, and her husband. That's a picture of my view of the parade at the top of this post (see the stars on the general's shoulder? Nifty huh?

The Marines you see in the center of the pic are members of "The Commandant's Own" Drum and Bugle Corps and the Silent Drill Platoon out of Marine Barracks Washington, DC (check out the photo of the Silent Drill Platoon here). Extremely impressive. On Tuesday nights at 7pm through much of the summer, anyone can grab a seat on the grass and watch the parade. But because MGen Benes was honoring Mrs Roznowski, there was a pre-parade reception to which members of other military support organizations were invited. Which is when I got to thank MGen Benes and shake his hand. An amazingly soft-spoken Marine, but he still said, "No, no, thank YOU."

My other opportunity to say thanks was at the Pentagon last week. Soldiers' Angels was one of several non-profits that received grants sponsored by Newman's Own, Fisher House Foundation, and Military Times Media Group to fund programs that support of our military service members. A total of $75,000 was distributed. And no, Mr. Newman did not attend. Darn! But! extra-special Angel Lynette was there to accept the grants for Soldiers' Angels' VALOUR-IT program (which distributes specially equipped laptops for our recuperating wounded vets).

I wish I could say that I got to shake the hand of the man who presented the grants, but as General Peter Pace is our outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was getting lots of attention, I didn't get the chance. However, special guests at the ceremony were General Richard B. Myers, USAF (Retired) and his wife. If you'll recall, Gen Myers was Gen Pace's predecessor as Chairman. In civilian clothes, he was a little less occupied, so before he could escape I walked up and said, "Sir, I just wanted to say thank you for your years of service". And, yes, you guessed it, he replied, "No, no thank you..."

But really, Sirs, I'm getting the last word. Thank YOU.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No Child Left Behind...

...even in Iraq. What an amazing educator -- going above and beyond for "her" students. (HT: Blackfive.net)

And, sorry, I couldn't resist the title. :-) But how truly mindboggling is that? That standardized tests for grade promotion in elementary and secondary schools -- of all things -- are alive and well in Iraq. It's so darn ordinary, so normal. Sounds a little like progress to me.

And this isn't just anywhere in Iraq, this is Baqubah in Diyala Province, one of the focal points of the major surge of operations that started in mid-June (Bill Roggio or Michael Yon can fill you in).

This amazing woman reminds me of "Tonto", an Iraqi in one of Michael Yon's recent posts, who put his life on the line to make a difference. In his case it was getting food to the people of Diyala Province.

Iraqis helping Iraqis. What was that about needing the Iraqis to stand up? Phase one: elections. Check. Phase two: individual initiative to do the right thing. Underway.

Need another example? Read this article (HT: Mudville Gazette).

Note: The initial links in this post and the last are to Blackfive.net. If you don't check this site often, you should. They post some terrific content, especially the "Someone You Should Know" series. Outstanding stuff. But don't start reading that series unless you have a few minutes; otherwise you'll be late for your appointment, burn your dinner, or stay up too late reading stuff on the internet. Take it from one who knows. Oh, and you might want to have some kleenex handy. Many of these entries should be flagged with what we Angels call "tissue alerts". :-)

In case you missed it...

...and in case you don't get to meet any of our men and women in uniform very often,

check out this video (HT: Blackfive.net)

Pardon me, but that's WAY COOL.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Written that letter yet?




Only 17 days left in August!
Join us in the AUGUST CHALLENGE by writing a holiday greeting to a member of the 3rd Infantry Division that deployed out of Ft. Stewart, Ft. Benning, and Hunter Army Airfield down in Georgia.
letters-to-send AT mindspring DOT com

Tell them hello. Tell them you’re sorry they’ll not be at home with family for the holidays. Tell them thanks for volunteering to serve. Remind them that, in the words of Victor Davis Hanson [thanks, Hugh Hewitt!],

“I think everybody who’s for the war or against the war agrees on one thing. This is the finest American army that we’ve fielded in the history of this country.”
I’m no military historian, but I think every one of our men and women in uniform is pretty special. So say hello!

Do it NOW before you forget again.

BREAKING NEWS!!! (ha) [HT: Lex at Milblogs]

While you’ve got your fingers all limbered up, tap out a note to a Marine, too. Details
HERE. I sent mine to the 1st Battalion 1st Marine Regiment last night. Address is:

letters AT thinking-right DOT com
Lex speaks from experience on what letters like yours will mean to our troops:

“It occurred to me then that we had in a way traded away our innocence to protect theirs, and that this was a worthy thing to do. Those letters and posters were deeply touching to all of us.”
Thanks in advance,

“Angel” Lisa

Monday, August 13, 2007

All about the cookies

(two that didn't fit in the box -- REALLY!)

Since becoming a member of Soldiers’ Angels, I’ve sent…

… Starbucks coffee to medics all over Afghanistan and Iraq
… birthday brownies and cupcakes to Marines in Anbar and Sailors in Baghdad
… holiday goody bags to 270 sailors somewhere in the Pacific
… letters to National Guardmen, active duty Army Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen
… and cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

Homemade cookies often look a little homely. With no preservatives, it’s always a bit of a gamble as to what they’ll look and taste like when they arrive. But they always taste a little better, I think. And my guys seem to agree - at least that’s what they tell me. They say they try to hide them, but in the end they always say that they share them around. That’s why I always try to send a big box – so that the cookies don’t disappear too quickly.

I sent two boxes last Friday, and obviously sometime not too long ago, Greyhawk’s mom sent him some, too. Check out his latest, for his usual boots on the ground (and in the air) insights and pithy comments and for a reminder that sometimes it’s really all about the cookies.

If you’ve got the urge to bake, adopt a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine today – he or she will be pleased to share them around. Maybe.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"Tough Americans" [new link to author's site]

Update: My thanks to Michael Fumento for stopping by and directing us to his site which has the photos from the print article plus a few more. "Strong Americans", indeed.

Article with photos is HERE.

For anyone who has met any of our wounded veterans, this quote from Michael Fumento's new article will come as no surprise:

"In the film Home of the Brave, a soldier who lost her hand in Iraq is asked if she underwent physical rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Yeah, Walter Reed," she says. "Talk about tough Americans." Tough Americans, indeed. When I visited that same ward, the first soldier I met was Sgt. Luke Shirley, who had stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) blowing off his right side limbs and spraying him with shrapnel. "It kinda sucks not having an arm or leg," he told me, "but it hasn't bothered me like you'd think it would." I was dumbstruck. What kind of person is this?"

An amazing one. I've told anyone who cares to listen (ha) that our veterans impress me everyday. Their strength and resilience inspire me and make me so proud to call them "ours".

Go read this whole article by Michael Fumento, which is about his recent visit to Walter Reed. He offers an interesting perspective, too, as he has also spent time as an embedded reporter in Iraq.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

AUGUST CHALLENGE! (Corrected Email Address!)

[Note: For emailing messages for the holiday shipment to our troops, both e-mail addresses that have been posted here will now work ( letters-to-send AT mindspring DOT com & letters-to-send AT earthlink DOT net)]

Well wouldn’t you know… I had just posted that last update on the Holiday Project for those 20,000 Georgia-based soldiers, when I got an email alert from Diane. Guess what?

Lip balm – DONE!!

Yep. The Holiday Project received a… well, I’ll let Diane tell you:

“WOOOOHOOOO!!!!! Oh... my... GOD!!! We have just hit the mother-load of lip balm! A VFW in Rome, GA is giving us 2 and 1/2 pallets of the stuff... which is about 500,000 tubes of Blistex!!”

Tee hee! Cool, huh?

With Diane plugging away at the donation of items, I thought that I would ask anyone who reads this blog to focus on one item, the one that I think is most important: letters.

So, the AUGUST CHALLENGE from the 8th floor is for you to write up a note to be included in the holiday stocking for a Georgia soldier. Plus, get five friends or family members to do the same thing.

Do it today while you have a spare minute. Then go pester your family and friends!

You can either send your letters/cards to the address for the Armory:

Det-1 HHC 1-108th,


6784 W. Church Street, Douglasville, GA 30134

or email the letters to the following address:

letters-to-send AT mindspring DOT com

(note: when you actually use the email address above, get rid of the spaces and replace the “AT” with “@” and the “DOT” with a “.” …so it looks like in a normal email address)
I’ll format and print out the emails and send them to Diane in September.

The emailing of messages worked well for the holiday care package shipment that Angel Michelle and I did last year for a Navy ship. Many included a digital photo that I printed out along with their notes to make a photo card. The picture at the top of this post shows some of the picture cards based on emails, plus a bunch of cards made by my mom's 5th graders in Texas and some high school students in Georgia. :-)

I know the holidays seem a long way off, but all the letters have to be collected long before most of us will shop for our Thanksgiving turkeys, let alone Christmas gifts.

So, start writing! Don’t know what to say? Here’s one message that might give you some ideas, but also consider talking about what you’ll be doing for the holidays, family traditions or whatever.

You can do it. I know you can.

Non-Profit News - A College ROTC Kid Steps Up

You may recall a previous post on the formation of Public Multimedia Inc (PMI), a new non-profit organization that will support Bill Roggio's war news site, The Fourth Rail, and embedded reporters.

You may also recall that one of PMI's first embeds was to be a ROTC student from Princeton. Well, Wes, a sophomore and writer for The Daily Princetonian, has arrived in theater and is writing away.

His first featured post is here.

All of his dispatches, including those leading up to his arrival in Baghdad can be read on his blog, Notes from Downrange. As Blackfive likes to say, "grab a cup of coffee it's a long one", but Wes's fresh eyes and eye for detail make for good reading. Check it out. And donate to PMI to support other such efforts as you are able.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


You may recall a previous post on Operation Fresh Air. Well! The organizers of that nifty event and members of a local neighborhood had an Operation Fresh Air II last week. About thirty-five folks - vets and family members - who are currently staying at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, came down for a little fishing, a burger, a hot dog, some fun and games, and, of course, a little fresh air.

For those of you who had donated through Soldiers’ Angels to add a few extras to these events, a few funds were used for OP Fresh Air II. However, almost all of the event was sponsored by a group of neighbors from a subdivision right near Leesylvania State Park where the event was held. I got to drop in and hang out. Fun crowd!

In addition to the fishing, there was music provided by a live band (young men from the neighborhood), and there were crafts, face painting, and a piƱata for the kids. I was really impressed with the thought and attention given to entertaining the children of these wounded vets. It can’t be easy living away from home for what is often an indefinite amount of time. And while it is clear that they enjoy the time with their moms and dads, an evening of silliness with other kids in the woods by the water is pretty special. Not to mention a nice break for mom and dad.

Well done, neighbors!

Monday, July 23, 2007

An Al Qaeda Job Promotion Process Worth Supporting

It requires a little Coalition help, but I'd say it's a winner:

On July 17, Coalition forces captured three more al Qaeda operatives in Mosul, one "who is believed to have been promoted within the organization after recent Coalition operations created numerous vacancies in the terrorist leadership structure."

Read the whole thing here and keep track of this and other nifty war news items at The Fourth Rail . And support these journalistic efforts by making a tax-deductible donation HERE.

Or adopt a Soldier today :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Christmas in July: Update on Holiday Project for 20,000 Soldiers!

Remember that Holiday Project for those 20,000 soldiers? Well there's still plenty to do to get the stocking items collected and cards written.

From Diane's July 7th inventory...top priority items to be collected:

Status on complete list of items is available HERE.

TO DO: How about planning a letter writing and lip balm/choc candy/hot cocoa collection event for August?

TO DO: Sam's Club delivery - scratch that. You can't order the things Diane and Co need on-line. However, Sam's always has Swiss Miss cocoa for ~$5 for 60 packets! Not a bad deal, huh? I should know - I bought 500+ packets there for my holiday shipment to a Navy ship last year :-) They usually have a great assortment of chocolate candies, too. Georgians! Time to shop! :-)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Not for Profit News

I haven’t quite wrapped my brain around the full significance of an email I received this morning. Bottom line? My most important source of news on the “global war on terror” (more recently dubbed the Long War), is now the product of a newly-minted, non-profit organization: Public Media Inc (PMI).

Someone who isn’t aiming for corporate growth or TV ratings is providing daily, in-depth reporting on major events in the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the turmoil bubbling and erupting in Pakistan. When there isn’t a major event, there’s still a weekly report on Iraq and news round-ups on the war-on-terror (or the Long War) in places like Lebanon, The Philippines, Thailand, Yemen, Iran, Morocco, the United Kingdom, and, yes, the US.

Who’s behind this comprehensive reporting? Bill Roggio.

And now he’s doubling down and making a commitment to continue to provide this kind of invaluable reporting. He’s obviously decided that he can’t do it on his own, the embedding and the reporting (hard to do both well, continuously!), or with his current small crew. So he’s formed a non-profit

A non-profit, so he can give us a gift. Day in, day out.

I’ve read numerous entries on Hugh Hewitt’s blog over the last year on the eroding profitability of major news outlets like the New York Times, The LA Times, and other major newspapers.

I’ve never subscribed to any of these major newspapers. The last newspaper subscription I had was to The Christian Science Monitor.

I’ve donated to my favorite Long War blogs over the last year: The Mudville Gazette (by Greyhawk & Mrs. G), Michael Yon: Online Magazine, and The Fourth Rail (by Bill Roggio), and I will continue to do so.

Now, though, I will take additional pleasure in my next donation to PMI as it will be supporting not only the web reports that I read daily, but sponsoring multiple embedded journalists reporting from the front lines in places like Iraq and The Philippines. And it will add an entry to my itemized deductions for 2007. Gotta love that.

To top it all off, I’m trying to figure out just how envious I am of a current Princeton ROTC student who apparently will be embedding with General David Petraeus as one of PMI’s first embeds. Sure beats my summer jobs in college…

If you needed a nudge to consider donating to PMI, or Michael Yon, or Greyhawk, maybe this will do the trick. Before the Fourth of July, I had been contemplating a blog post encouraging you to provide financial support for these independent bloggers. Supporting independents on Independence Day, you know? Anyway, that post didn’t happen and now I’ve had to do a re-write, but…

As I rode the bus to work this morning, I tried to imagine what it would have been like if we’d fought the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without blogs.

Makes you wonder what we’d know, doesn’t it?

When I got home from work today, there was a letter in my mailbox from one of the soldiers’ I’ve adopted through Soldiers’ Angels. He’s serving near Ramadi in Iraq, and, thanks to Bill and the rest, I have a small clue what it’s like for him and the others as they fight for our way of life on the other side of the world. Oh, and a clue as to the progress they’re making. Had you heard about that? Bill, Michael Yon, or Greyhawk’s Mrs. G can fill you in.

Made a donation yet? Support all three if you’re able.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Not socks! The 10,000th email message to our RCT-6 Marines and their buddies in Iraq has arrived. (HT Grim at Blackfive)

Knew you could do it!

And once again, if you've been lollygagging, they are still aiming for 20,000 messages.

They're doing hot, sweaty, and dangerous work - wouldn't you like to say hello and thanks?

I thought so.

If you haven't surfed over to see what they're up to, go now and check out their blog.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Monster Sock Delivery - Updated

Aug 20, 2007: To see details on the AUGUST CHALLENGE to collect holiday messages for our deployed soldiers, go HERE.

Otherwise, just email your hellos and good wishes to this address:

letters-to-send AT mindspring DOT com

Thanks, Rog!

Only 5,291 pairs to go!

Check this out. With help from Angel-helper Warner, who drove to North Carolina to pick it up, the Holiday Project received a monster donation of socks last week!

Haven’t you always wanted to know what a pile of 14,709 pairs of socks looks like…? This is close! It would be more fun if the socks were out of the boxes, but much too messy… Darn.

Angel Diane and Company

I’ve updated the items still needed here – Diane will have a more comprehensive update in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cha-ching! 6000!

and counting!


See, it wasn't so hard was it?

If you were lollygagging or missed the original requests, don't despair! Leave it to a marine - they're gunning for 10,000 and then 20,000 messages.

Seeing as there are around 300 million of us back home, that SHOULDN'T be too hard, right?!?

And no surprise, the RCT-6 is spreading the love around. From the comment section in Grim's "6000" post:

Comment below written by: rct-6 public affairs
No photo of the stack at 6000! I've already started handing them out. Gave out probably... 1500? tonight. A huge stack to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and another to 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment (US Army). There's a stack for our Marines working in combat operations center, and I made sure a stack got out to our Police Transition Teams.

See? They are awful busy over there (see the latest from Bill Roggio and Michael Yon), but our troops would still love to hear from *YOU*.

Check out the RCT-6's blog and their official site.

Now go write that email message.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Don't know what to say to a Marine?

Well, here's the message I sent to the RCT-6, if that will help...


Hey Marine!

Greetings from Arlington, VA :-) I hope this finds you safe and well.

I don’t know exactly what you’re up to, but I’m grateful you’re willing to be there for all of us back home. I live within sight of our nation’s capital and work at XXXX. I moved here about two years ago, and I am really enjoying the DC area. The Mall with its monuments and museums never gets old, especially the Lincoln Memorial, which is my favorite. And the Marine Corps Memorial is just a 10 minute walk from home, which is pretty cool. It’s a regular reminder of you all and what you’re fighting for. I always feel remarkably blessed to have been born an American citizen, and since “there but by the grace of God, go I”, I do feel compelled to champion the efforts of those who are not so fortunate. We can’t always do a lot, but we can always talk the talk. And we can’t always send you guys in to try to kickstart a “do over” for a whole nation. However, when we do, your dedication and willingness to tackle the job are humbling. I’ll do my part back here as what I like to think of as your distant rear guard. I’m behind you 100% - don’t ever forget it. I can’t change the evening news or newspaper headlines, but as a member of Soldiers’ Angels and as a fledgling blogger, I hope I’m helping send a different message. :-)

At the very least, know that I am SO proud to call you “ours” and include you in my prayers each day.

Take care and God bless,

Monday, June 18, 2007

Not for Nothing, Take 4

I wonder why we don't talk more about events like this? (HT: Major John at Miserable Donuts/Milblogs). The plight of Afghan women was big news in the mid-1990's. What happened?

As an over-educated, all-American girl, who's attended 12 schools/colleges/universities and has two diplomas and three degrees, I simply can't imagine life without school.

How fortunate I am.

Thanks all for giving the women and girls of Afghanistan a chance.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Update! Only 1000 so far...

or, according to Grim, about "2 inches". Check it out - he's got photographic evidence to prove it.

Go on, get on that keyboard and send a little love to a Marine.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Care to shout out to a Marine...?

...nicely, that is. Really, there are a bunch of Marines that would love to know that you support their efforts and appreciate the amazing work they've done in Anbar province. (HT: Grim at Blackfive.net)

Not up to speed on the latest from Anbar? Bill Roggio to the rescue, as usual, HERE. Thanks, Bill! And THANK YOU to the United States Marines, and the Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen, who are giving some brave Iraqis a chance.

So drop them an email at RCT-6lettersfromh AT gcemnf-wiraq DOT usmc DOT mil

(for the novices, remove the spaces and replace the "AT" with an "@" and the "DOT"s with ".")

Go on, do your part to clog up their new inbox. :-)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Georgia (Soldiers) on My Mind ---- UPDATED 08-07-07!

Fear not! For all of you who've already readied your shopping list, I've got the address where you can ship all those stocking goodies:

Det-1 HHC 1-108th, ATTN: SOLDIERS' ANGELS, 6784 W. Church Street, Douglasville, GA 30134

Thanks, Diane! (see, I told you she was organized!)
Candy canes? DONE!
Tissues? DONE! !
Lip balm? DONE! ! !
Non-chocolate candy? DONE! ! ! !
Toothbrushes? DONE!!! :-)

When I first joined Soldiers’ Angels, I was a Georgia Angel. There are some terrifically enthusiastic Angels at work in the Peach State, and I’m still on their e-mailing list so I hear what they are up to. They always have plenty going on, because, well, Georgia has a BUNCH of Army bases. And you know what? By next Christmas, there will be around 20,000 Georgia-based soldiers overseas.

So what are my Georgia Angel buddies up to? They’re halfway through a year-long prep to ship 20,000 Christmas stockings to those 20,000 soldiers. Angel Diane has got the lead and is fabulously organized. I decided to post about this for two reasons: 1) to inspire you, and 2) to prompt your participation if you’re interested. I think it’s going to be one of my main Soldiers’ Angels holiday projects.

Home base for this effort is in Douglasville, GA, which is about 20 miles west of Atlanta. If you’re going to be in that area on July 4th, they’ll be collecting items at the Armory from 9am to 1pm. The Armory is along the parade route, so bring your donation and then stake out a spot to watch the festivities!

What can you donate? A list of what Diane is collecting is below. The “still needed” numbers will change when Diane does her July inventory, but this gives you an idea of what’s to be done. So, how EASY would it be to do a small collection or buy something each week until you had a box full of donations to send?

Candy (chocolate) (still needed: 60,000)
Candy (non-choc) - DONE!
Mini Candy Canes - DONE!
Hot Chocolate (still needed: 17,000)
Snacks (still needed: 18,000)
Socks (still needed: 5,223)
Toothbrushes - DONE!
Lip Balm - DONE!
Tissue Packs - DONE!
Pens (still needed: 14,000)
Christmas Cards (still needed: 39,162)

Short on cash? Then have I got a deal for YOU.

How about committing to writing a few Christmas cards? No, don’t just sign your name. Write a note. You could even make your own cards and throw a “Christmas in July” party so that some friends can write a few notes, too.

As someone who barely managed to coordinate and assemble 270 holiday goody bags for delivery to a Navy ship last December, I totally understand the need to collect these items for TWENTY THOUSAND stockings long before December! Heck, assembly and packing take TIME. Trust me. But! it’s well worth the effort! I shipped my 23 packages full of goody bags to that Navy ship late one night in December. It was last minute by the Post Office’s holiday shipping schedule, so it all had to go Priority Mail. The National Capitol post office is open until midnight during the week, so I went about 9:30pm to ship my packages. Done! And it all arrived in time for a little extra cheer somewhere in the Pacific on Christmas morning (I’ve got the emails to prove it!).

But anyway, I was in that post office about a week ago and happened to have the same postal worker help me again, though with just one care package this time. I said, “You might remember that you helped with a bunch of care packages for a Navy ship back in December…?” He said, “Oh, yes, I remember YOU.” LOL! I was pleased to tell him that the effort had been a spectacular success (more on that in a later post, but yes, that’s a pic from the post office last December – gotta love picture phones!).

So make yourself a to-do list with “Georgia Soldiers” at the top and write down what you’re going to do before August 10th. Buy some items to ship to Diane? Make some cards or write some letters?

I’ll be back later in the month with details on how to get your contributions to Angel Diane.

Ready. Set. Go! :-)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Not for Nothing, Take 3

Six amazing days. Just go read it for yourself... and check out some older posts by this terrific milblogger, Badger 6, stationed in Iraq. Some of my favorite posts are:

Hero Flight


Badgers Forward

Some people ask why I'm so involved in Soldiers' Angels. The simple answer is that it provides me with a way to support people like Badger 6 and his troops. If they don't inspire you, I'm not sure what will.

And while you're poking around the internet, don't forget to check in with some of our medics:

Desert Flier
Me Over There
M. Green

Excuse me while I do just that.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

AAR for Operation Fresh Air **UPDATED**

UPDATE/NOTE: Greetings, visitors from Castle Argghhh!!!! Just wanted to clarify that Operation Fresh Air was dreamed-up, organized, and run by four mil wives: Carrie, Cyndi, Cassandra, and Andi, not Soldiers' Angels. And, the major sponsors were Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, Military.com, and Leesylvania State Park!

Carrie's full AAR is below - check it out.


A previous post had prompted readers to volunteer or donate for a special event called “Operation Fresh Air”. According to all who I’ve heard from, the event was a stupendous success! I had to leave shortly after dropping off the items purchased with donations made through Soldiers’ Angels (thanks to all who donated!!!), but co-organizer Carrie shared her "After Action Report", or AAR, (can you tell she’s a military spouse? LOL) and has given me permission to post it here. And darn it, I wish I’d been able to spend the day with this crowd…

Andi of Andi’s World and Milblogs also was there and posted her AAR here, and she has a few pictures, too (HT: Kathi).

“Operation Fresh Air took place on June 2nd, 2007 at Leesylvania State Park in Prince William Co., VA

It was hatched in early March as the absolutely brilliant idea of a Marine wife, Cyndi, in response to the breaking scandal at Walter Reed. She was casting about for a way to do something for our wounded heroes at Walter Reed and Bethesda.

Cyndi, who works for the Prince William Co. Park System, realized that she was looking out her office window at the solution. Fishing!! Beautiful scenic trails and views!! A perfect tonic for what ails the spirits of our wounded heroes. Fresh air and relaxation.

Op Fresh Air was supported by Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Semper Fi most graciously sponsored the food and drink for the event. Dixie Bones was hired to cater the event with their delicious Pulled Pork and BBQ Chicken as well as equally yummy sides.

On the morning of June 2nd, over 20 volunteers descended on Area 4 of the park and began setting up the pavilion. Round tables topped with red, white or blue tablecloths and a star centerpiece with an American flag were set up. Two banners were put up (one at the front of the park and one in the pavilion) that read simply..."Welcome Heroes".

The park is located on the banks of the Potomac and several pop up tents were placed at the dock along with coolers of water and soda. 10 fishermen volunteers stood by ready to assist the guests with their every fishing need. Two were young Marines from The Basic School at Quantico.

Cyndi's nephew, Kyle, came up from Alabama to play his guitar and mandolin as long as we wanted. He has won several musical competitions and really only started playing 3 years ago. A very gifted young 15-year old.

The bus was late. When they finally arrived (about an hour later than we expected), our volunteers clapped and cheered to welcome them. The ages of our guests went from a 2 month old infant son to an over 50 native of Kansas who was wounded providing security for convoys in Iraq. All of our guests were starving as they hadn't had breakfast. They tucked into the BBQ with an appetite that only the great outdoors can inspire.

Immediately after lunch, the fishing started. I mean, that entire pavilion emptied out. Even though it was very warm down at the dock, nobody came back up until it was time to go back to Walter Reed. I had one young wife tell me that she didn't even know how stressed out she was until she got to the park and truly began to relax. Others wanted to know when we were doing it again. They wanted to come back!!!

One young hero, in a wheelchair, got the opportunity to teach his little boy how to fish. A normal Daddy thing to do on a Saturday, but not if you're living at the Mologne House.

They all stayed an hour later than planned to make up for the hour they missed that morning. When they arrived at the park, they were a little unsure of what to expect. When they left, they were all smiling broadly and hugging and shaking hands.

The fishing volunteers, who were mostly military or retired military, stuck around after the bus left and also wanted to know when we were doing it again.

I think every single person who was at that event on Saturday received something. Some got a chance to breath fresh air, relax, fish. Some made a new friend, some found inspiration, and some found a renewed desire to make a difference.

In addition to Semper Fi sponsoring the food and drinks for the day, the following groups supported the effort:
-- Soldiers' Angels graciously fundraised for sunscreen and rec equipment
(like a badminton set, bubbles, and balls).
-- Military.com provided hats, t-shirts and their publication on Active duty/VA benefits and rights.
-- Leesylvania State Park provided the banners, the facility, little lunch
coolers, water bottles, maps and their newsletter.

We are all grateful for the overwhelming support!!!”

For those who donated toward this event through Soldiers' Angels , the items we purchased are shown in the picture at the top of the post, and to the left you can see some volunteers who set up the badminton set!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Early Salvo in the 2007 Valour-IT Fundraising Competition - GO NAVY!

Ok, I should be asleep, but I just saw this post. (Hat Tip Chap at Milblogs)

Team Navy is getting a gold-plated 4-month headstart on the friendly inter-service competition to raise money for Soldiers' Angels' Project Valour-IT (Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops).

Since it's for a most excellent cause... GO NAVY!

Flags for the Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day was special for lots of reasons this year, but participating in yet another Soldiers’ Angels activity gave it that extra bit of shine.

I’d mentioned in a previous post that Soldiers’ Angels would be handing out small American flags to spectators at the Memorial Day parade in downtown DC. Prior to the day, the flags had been sent out around the country so that people all over could write a note to parade spectators or to our troops… Ok, so the idea really was to write to the spectators to say “hey, thanks for waving this flag for me”, but who minds that people all over opted to shout out to our men and women in uniform instead? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I joined about 20 other volunteers who spread out along Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th Avenues to give away the flags. There were about 10,000 flags, and can I just say that we had no problem giving them all away? I kept swiping extra flags from a volunteer across the street who got started later – but we quickly went through his supply, too! People were really pleased to get them – I mean REALLY pleased - which warmed my heart.

I always enjoy a parade – I like marching bands! - but getting the chance to show appreciation to our vets from every war since WWI really is special. I also got to meet some other Angels, including one civilian recently back from Baghdad with a Marine brother off on another tour soon, and a soldier and her young son. This soldier/mom will be off on her first tour starting this summer. Needless to say, we’ll be keeping track of her so we can send a little Angel cheer her way.

It was a really great day.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Not for Nothing, Take 2

I'm often accused of being an optimist. Or an idealist. Guilty. The world is a tough place, but I do believe that most people believe in doing the right thing. Even in a war, or more accurately right now, in a counterinsurgency.

So, as an optimist, I am SO pleased to link to this story. Michael Yon, an independent embedded reporter and photographer, happened to be at the right place at the right time to capture a story in pictures and in words that EVERYONE should read. The stars of the show are Lieutenant Colonel Doug Crissman and the Iraqi people of Hit.

Thanks, Michael Yon, for providing a vivid example of why I'm so impressed by our folks in uniform and why I think there is hope for those living in some of the scariest places on earth.

Lt Col Crissman, hats off to you.

Yep, I'm an optimist, but go read the whole thing. As Matt of Blackfive would say, LtCol Crissman is "someone you should know".

Oh, and if you appreciate his quality reporting as much as I do, you might consider donating to support Michael Yon's ongoing, year-long embed in Iraq. He doesn't have sponsors to pay the bills, just readers like you and me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

BUMP: Angel Wings for "Operation Fresh Air"

Check this out:

Operation Fresh Air is offering wounded vets from Bethesda and Walter Reed and their families a day of fishing, relaxation and fun at Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge.

This event will take place June 2nd from 11 AM to 3 PM. This is a first time effort. The goal is to provide a great day away from the hospital and a chance to get outside in a safe environment for families and their wounded loved ones.

If you live in the DC area, follow the link for details on opportunities to volunteer at the event.

If you’re not close enough to donate your time, maybe you’d be interested in donating some funds to add a few extras for the event?

The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund is providing lunch for all Operation Fresh Air attendees, but Soldiers' Angels is collecting donations for the purchase of sunscreen, recreational equipment, door prizes, etc. If you would like to contribute funds for these purchases, use this **special donation link** to make a PayPal or credit card donation.

By using the special link above, your donation to the Soldiers' Angels Foundation will be designated for 'Angel Wings for Operation Fresh Air'.

Wings up!

Monday, May 28, 2007

A morning visit to Arlington

In honor of Memorial Day, I’d like to share my morning walk and first visit to Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.

I walk by the cemetery at least once a week, and two or three or four times a week in the summer. I live a brisk 15 minute walk from the north entrance to the cemetery, and I walk around the northeast boundary of the cemetery on my normal hike across town – it’s how I get my exercise. Occasionally, I’ll walk through the cemetery, like when my mom visited in March. I don’t do it very often as power-walking through Arlington with headphones on isn’t something I do.

Today I decided to go visit Section 60 of the cemetery, which is about a 15 minute walk past where I normally go. You see, the north end of the cemetery is home to those laid to rest longer ago. Veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I’ve passed the final resting place of CW4 Thomas M. McBroom - veteran of all three of those wars - on numerous occasions and have been struck by that stretch of experience.

Today, I decided to go see where our recently fallen are being laid to rest. I arrived at about 0830 this morning, and already a number of visitors – family, friends and citizens like me – were there to pay their respects. Tributes and tokens included flowers, and stones, and pictures, and one bottle of Sam Adams.

Because of the diligent efforts of milbloggers, especially Matt at blackfive.net, there were several familiar names in the most recent row of headstones. I also came across the final resting place of the best friend of a new friend of mine, someone who I met through Soldiers’Angels. I cried. I cry easily I think, but I don’t think many pass this way without shedding a few tears.

My heartfelt condolences and prayers for those who have lost those close to them; lost those who have given their “last full measure of devotion”. Godspeed.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rolling Thunder in DC - UPDATED

I meant to add this bit of background on Rolling Thunder earlier. From their website, their mission:

The major function of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is to publicize POW-MIA issues: To educate the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war-missing in action.

We are also committed to helping American veterans from all wars.

Their annual ride/rally in DC on Memorial Weekend is how I first heard about them.

If you haven't experienced the annual biker invasion of DC by Rolling Thunder, you're missing out. We got a preview during Gathering of Eagles this year, but the sight of the Mall covered in a heavy dusting of Harleys and biker jackets makes me grin each time I see it.

I managed to get to the Lincoln Memorial this morning in time to watch the riders as they crossed Memorial Bridge on their ride from the Pentagon, around Lincoln, then down Constitution Avenue, past the White House and then all the way around the Mall. I caught the train home at Smithsonian Station and saw and heard them as they traveled back down the southern side of the Mall along Independence Ave.

I got there later last year, but both times a Presidential helicopter has landed on the White House lawn. Always a cool sight - I watched from up on the hill at the base of the Washington Monument last year - this year I was down along Constitution Ave right in front of the White House. I love helicopters -- cool noise. And that's one of the reasons that Rolling Thunder is an "experience". Downtown DC literally rumbles and vibrates for about an hour...