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Check out the latest round-up of milblog & web reports on the War on Terror

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...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

From Memorial Day post by embedded reporter Michael Yon...

Michael Yon, an embedded reporter and photographer, posts stories from Iraq every week or so. I always read them, but this bit at the end of his Memorial Day message caught my attention (emphasis added is mine):

"Q has already made it to Germany and is about to be flown home. CSM Pippin is on his way to Germany. Along the way, excellent groups like Soldiers’ Angels will welcome them home, I expect. My readers will find out here where to send messages once that news is released.Both men often lamented to me how frustrating it was to be back home and realize that the average American is not aware of practically any of the progress that’s been made in Iraq.

Both men darken with something closer to anger when they consider the sacrifices made by fallen soldiers and the fact that while the media most likely counted the deaths in all instances, they also most likely failed to mention any of the good things their fellow soldiers had accomplished while in Iraq."

I know that if these guys cross angel MaryAnn's path in Germany, she'll look out for them. My prayers and best wishes for Q and CSM Pippin.

This is a good opportunity to let you know that not only has Soldiers' Angels adopted all the Combat Support Hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also all the Military hospitals worldwide. SA Germany supports the patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

So! another way to contribute as a Soldiers' Angel is to send supplies or letters for MaryAnn to share with the ill and wounded that get sent to Germany for treatment. Guys like Q and CSM Pippin.

For a list of regularly needed supplies, go here.

For instructions on sending letters to troops at Landstuhl, go here.

As a side note, I met MaryAnn a few weeks ago when she was stateside -- I am pleased to report that she is even special-er-er in person than you would already expect. :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Memorial Day Traditions: Year Two

Ok, so I’m new to this, but I’ve got a couple.

New Tradition #1: Wear my “Fallen… but Not Forgotten” t-shirt

This shirt was created by some graduates of the United States Naval Academy to honor their fallen Navy Football brethren. “What?” you say. “Your sister went to the Academy, and she rowed crew – what are you doing with a football shirt?” Right, I know, but what I’ve learned is that loyalties are strong (recall that I also have a t-shirt that simply says “BEAT ARMY”) and family members of Mids instinctively support all Mids. I still remember getting the forwarded email about the t-shirt project from my sister while working in my office in Atlanta. I didn’t hesitate and wrote to the designated e-mail address with my order. The only consideration was whether I should order one or two shirts. I ended up with two, because the t-shirts were created as a salute to the Fallen but also as a fundraiser for memorial funds. Here’s what it says on the back of the shirt:


Winchester ‘01
Zellem ‘91
Blecksmith ‘03

“An inestimable prize, the understanding that health, good fortune, long years, domestic tranquility, all the attributes of personal happiness, do not make a life well lived if we are afraid to risk it all for the love of something finer, something bigger than our own desires.” - Senator John McCain

Navy Football Brotherhood

I still have the email that I got thanking me for my purchase and expressing surprise at the slightly “viral” support their project was getting: “Wow, I love seeing support come from so many places.” That was in December 2004. In June 2005, they sent an update that over 750 shirts had been sold and that they’d raised over $10,000. That response reassured me. It reassured me that there were other “random” respondents outside the Navy/Marine Corps football crowd that wanted to express their support. I get that same reassurance as a member of Soldiers’ Angels. Every little bit of support that is offered combines to generate a chorus that says over and over again, “Thank you and Godspeed." Alone it’s hard to send that message. Together it is quite amazingly possible.

The effort’s ringleaders included this quote at the end of their June ‘05 message:

“…may the blessings of Almighty God be with you all, may your love and generosity continue to flourish, and might you ever be proud to support and defend those who protect America and her freedoms.”

That last part, at least, is not a problem.

New Tradition #2: Attend the Memorial Day Parade in DC

Last year I watched the parade after hiking into the city from Arlington (wearing my t-shirt, of course). As I stood to watch, I remember having to hide my legs behind one of those giant concrete planters/safety barriers along Constitution Avenue because the day was boiling hot, and I could FEEL myself getting sunburned. From my strategic location, I watched as vets of every war since WWI marched past (the WWI vet was over 100 years old and got to ride in a car). I was dripping in a t-shirt and shorts, while Vietnam and Korean vets marched by in suits or uniform, many carrying flags - hard work especially in that sun, but you could tell that they wouldn’t have done it any other way.

I was pleased to be there last year – it was somewhat of an accident that I arrived there in time to see it as I thought it was earlier in the day and that I’d missed it. As we waited for the marchers to get to us, I remember seeing a couple come by on a motorcycle. They slowed and the woman riding on the back handed out small American flags to some children standing along the curb. I just found out a couple of weeks ago that those flags were being handed out by Soldiers’ Angels.

This Monday, if you’re at the parade in DC, it just might be me handing you a flag.

Will I see you there?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Honoring Our Wounded

I've been fortunate enough to join in on this show of appreciation on occasion.

Go read about "Cheers on Corridor Three".

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Anatomy of a Care Package

A frequent question from new Angels with an adopted soldier, marine, sailor, or airman is “What should I send???” There is lots of advice out there, and I’d bet that no two care packages are ever the same. Angels inspire and incite each other, and you wouldn’t believe what we learn to cram into flat-rate Priority Mail boxes – it’s an art, a sport, and a challenge.

Sometimes we get a little intel up front. When the adoptee is submitted, sometimes there are some comments about what they’d like to receive. Sometimes there’s an email address, and sometimes they have time to reply to questions about “What would you like me to send?” I’m six for seven so far. That means I’ve only had one of what Angels call ‘Silent Soldiers’. In that case, and until I heard from my others for the first time, I told him that he was at the mercy of my bizarre ideas. Never had any complaints, but I can be a little dangerous if I wander aimlessly down the grocery store aisles…

So what do we send? Well, for those in the sandbox at this time of year, it’s already routinely 100+ in the shade and will push to 140 during the summer. So, we send sugar-free drink mix packets to spice up the gallons of water they consume. Or Gatorade/sports drink mixes for a little liquid boost.

I send a lot of rice krispy treats this time of year ‘cause they don’t melt. They must be kind of gooey in the heat though…

Then there are these cooooling inventions, called “Cool Scarves” that help keep body temps down.

What else? Water guns. Silly toys, like koosh balls. Or everyone once in a while, a goofy toy.

Other basics are quick protein for those who miss meals. Tuna, beef jerky, or a jar of peanut butter and a spoon.

Or fruit and granola bars for those looking for healthier snacks.

Hot sauce is a big favorite – I guess seasoning isn’t a key ingredient for food prepped in theater. Your neighborhood fast food place can help out there :-)

Then there’s gum, mints, and breath strips for when they’re out on the range and away from normal amenities and supplies.
Same with wet wipes and liquid hand sanitizer – everyone sends lots of these. Between sweat and the sand (which seems like it should really be called "silt" it’s so fine), a quick clean up is nice.

And for the sandstorms (or dust fogs), another favorite item is a sand scarf.

To lend a hand, we also send the occasional phone card….

...or paper, envelopes, and pens so that they can write home. They don’t need stamps, but quite often paper is hard to come by!

And last, but not least – maybe the most important item – a letter from you. Some people get stuck as to what to write after introducing themselves, but I’ve gotten used to blathering on about whatever I’m doing or whatever funny thing I’ve seen.

My last letter included this pic from one of my recent hikes around DC (picture phones are an awesome way to perk up a letter). Yep, that's a mailbox.

I have truly horrible handwriting, so I try to type up most of my letters, but dashing off a note works just as well. And if you ever think “I wouldn’t know what to say”, just think how you felt the last time there was a snail-mail letter in your mail box. EVERYONE loves getting a letter or a card , and it really wasn’t terribly important what details were shared, right? Just so, a few words from you and they’ll know you care. And that is, after all, why it’s called a “care” package.

As Patti Bader likes to say, “Wings up!” Angel on.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Supporting Our Medics in Theater

One of my favorite Angel activities over the last year has been sending packages to our medics in theater. Soldiers’ Angels “adopted” all the theater hospitals, and the support is spread to any medic that our super-coordinator-of-all-things-medic, Roger, tracks down. So whether they are with a larger unit, at an aid station, or at one of the combat support hospitals (CSHs), Roger collects “wish lists” and passes them on to those of us who are interested in sending some support.

Which is why there is this pile of extension cords, power strips, and plug adapters on my floor. There’s a new CSH setting up shop in pretty rugged conditions in Afghanistan, and as someone whose AIR-CONDITIONED apartment has too few electrical outlets, I’m more than pleased to help make things a little more comfortable for our medic contact and her 75 friends in their new “hut” away from home.

Needless to say, the folks that man our theater hospitals or serve as medics in the field have incredibly challenging jobs. I like to think of them as forward-deployed Angels because they are looking out for all our other soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen, and any civilians that get hit as well.

If you’re interested in learning a little about who we support, check out super-Roger’s blog, Soldiers’ Angels – Medical Support. There are a lot of great pictures of our medics.

If you’re interested in hearing more direct from the medic-types themselves, here are three milbloggers to visit:

Desert Flier

"We just can't help ourselves when the children come in, and I ran to my "stash" to bring her a few more toys.Also injured in an insurgent attack in February, Gofran has a large chunk of shrapnel embedded in her right thigh. She of course commands all of the attention in Charlie Medical this morning."
Me Over There
"9th Flight
Had my 9th flight last night. Took an Iraqi Army guy to Al-Assad. He had a gunshot to both lower legs, the surgeons did a great job restoring circulation to his feet, which the initial injury had interrupted. Flight was smooth, no problems."

M. Green
"Life saving surgery, part of what we do here at Charlie Med. Camp Ramadi"

Thanks guys!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Flock of Angels in DC

I’d mentioned previously that Soldiers’ Angels was a sponsor for the 2007 Milblog Conference on May 5th in DC. I guess because of the critical mass of Angels that planned to attend that event, several other Angel activities were planned for that weekend, a couple of which I got to attend. So here’s the Angel round-up…

It quickly became apparent that Patti Patton-Bader was as big a celebrity at the conference as some of the milbloggers. Not only did she found Soldiers’ Angels, but she continues to be a driving force in so many of the activities. Like I mentioned about the milbloggers, she is passionate, dedicated, and appears to have a boundless reserve of energy. Oh, and she has two sons in uniform. It is a pleasure and a delight to be one of her Angel troops. She participated in a panel called “More than Just a Bumper Sticker” along with MaryAnn of Soldiers’ Angels Germany, Sandra Edens of Sew Much Comfort and Roxie Merritt of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. What an awesome line up of women, huh? Oh, and the panel was moderated by the indomitable Major Chuck Z, the very first recipient of a Valour-IT laptop.

You’re sorry you missed it, aren’t you? :-)

I also met Laurie, Robin, Judy, Roger, Lisa, MaryAnn, Chris, Matt, Beth, Rich, Rachel & Jeff, and saw Kathi, Jill, “Bob”, Monica, Lynette and Lynette’s son again. There were several other Angels that I didn’t get to meet but who also attended an Angel breakfast on Sunday. We went around the room and introduced ourselves, said where we were from, how we got involved, and what Angel things we’re up to. It was so amazing how many of these people had NEVER met each other – I’m telling you, these were some of the Who’s Who of Soldiers’ Angels, and before last weekend they had only known each other from email, phone conversations, or the SA Forum. How cool, huh? And fortunately I had a cool idea BEFORE the event, and brought with me a white SA T-shirt and a sharpie. We now have a cool collectible to raffle off for some future fundraiser. Stay tuned…

And that wasn’t the end! The coolest event was yet to come….

On Sunday afternoon, SA sponsored a BBQ for our veteran patients and their families staying at Mologne House Hotel at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda. SA has sponsored similar events in the past, but this was extra special as the very first recipient of a Valour-IT laptop got to present the 1000th laptop (plus a few more)! Chuck Z gave a little speech directed at those who are now where he was about 2 years ago. His willingness to get up and share his experiences is really wonderful. “Don’t give up, push forward, you can do it” is more meaningful coming from someone who has "been there done that" and created his own line of t-shirts, right? His bizarre sense of humor sets just the right tone, too (ha). He has an equally terrific wife who participated in a panel at the milblog conference and at SpouseBuzzLive this weekend and offers an equally helpful perspective for spouses of the wounded.

More details on the BBQ from another Angel blogger here. Great PICTURES, too! Very, very, very cool.

Not for Nothing

How persistance in Iraq is paying off...

The progress seen today in Anbar would have been unthinkable just one year ago, when al Qaeda began to reassert itself after taking large losses during the joint U.S. and Iraqi campaign to clear the western portions of the province. The turning of the tribes against al Qaeda is a crucial piece of the puzzle, but so was the perseverance of U.S. forces in the region. "We are standing on the hard work of the Marines and soldiers here last year who worked to build the Iraqi police," said Colonel Koenig.

Read the whole thing at The Fourth Rail.

Friday, May 11, 2007

My Thanks to Milbloggers

I mentioned in my previous post that I felt like a Milblog groupie at the 2007 Milblogs Conference, but really, I’m just so proud to ‘know’ them and cheer them on. I’ll tell everyone and anyone to go read milblogs if they want to get informed. More than one person, quite sincerely, has asked if I think they’re credible sources. It is a pleasure to be able to say that these folks are nothing if not brutally honest. You never have to read between the lines with this crowd.

If you’re not one for poking around the internet, pick up a copy of “The Blog of War”, by Matthew Currier Burden, creator of www.blackfive.net and probably the most well known milblogger. His book is a narrated selection of blogposts from those in the fight, those fighting to save the lives of the wounded, and those waiting back home. This book should come with a “tissue alert”, but it’s another great intro to the milblogger world. Thanks to Matt for the foresight and skill in putting it together.

Note: Are you surprised that I ran around the conference and got Matt and any of his contributing bloggers that were present to sign my copy of his book? Nope, didn’t think so. Milblog groupie, cheerleader, PR team member reporting for duty…..

And that leads me to something I’d like to say to any service member or family of a service member who blogs and who might read this: THANK YOU.

Your honesty and willingness to share your life and thoughts publicly is a tremendous gift to me, Jane Civilian. I feel a tremendous responsibility to support good decision making by our Federal government, especially when decisions put people’s lives on the line. The windows you offer into your world -- whether you be active duty, medically retired, retired, or former, or mom, dad, wife, husband, brother, sister, daughter or son – your words are my reality check. It’s my duty and privilege to understand the implications of the policies that I support, and y'all are the best sources of info we’ve got. So whether it’s a calling, therapy, better than yelling at the TV, or simply easier than writing 10 letters home, I’m a grateful beneficiary. And please, count me as one of your biggest cheerleaders.

For everyone else, now that I’ve tweaked your interest, check them out. I’ll preface this list of who signed my book with my favorite milblogger’s banner comment:

“The reader will kindly forgive any tendency to rough language or behavior on the part of the site owner… ‘Good people rest peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.’”


You’re still here?!? Pick one and go read! You’ll be glad you did. Promise.

2007 Milblogs Conference Part 2

Okay, so it’s Friday, and I’m just getting to this, but no big deal, right?

So, the Milblog Conference. I won’t give you a complete rundown, but I’ll mention some notable moments that are written up elsewhere.

Andi of Andi’s World was the driving force and organizer of the event. She also has started another site called SpouseBuzz and is running the second SpouseBuzzLive event tomorrow in San Diego (If you or someone you know is married or attached to someone in the military, check it out). I didn’t get a chance to meet her, but I think Andi characterizes what makes up the core of the milblogger community: passion, commitment, and seemingly boundless reserves of energy.

What did Andi’s efforts result in? A pre-recorded introductory address from the President. Yes, that President, President George W. Bush. I was thrilled for every milblogger out there that they got this kind of validation.

The next item on last Saturday’s itinerary was a video-conference call with Rear Admiral Fox direct from Iraq. Yep, live from the front, folks. He talked about the value of milblogs, the importance of support from the home front, the latest from the battlefield, and then did a Q&A. Not bad, huh? And then there were comments from Robert Stokely, whose son was killed in Iraq in August 2005. Not a dry eye in the place. I’m humbled and grateful for Americans like Robert and Sgt Mike Stokley.

It was an awesome conference. Thanks, Andi!
Note: Soldiers' Angels was a sponsor for the conference and there were lots of Angels present (which was oh-so-cool), but I'll write up Angel stuff separately.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

2007 Milblogs Conference Part 1

This past weekend I attended the second annual Milblogs Conference in Arlington, VA. The event hotel is about 10 minutes from my abode, which fortunately made it a no-brainer to attend. I felt like a Milblogs groupie, but it really was a neat experience to meet so many of those I read on-line on a regular basis. Fortunately, Soldiers Angels’ was also a sponsor of this event so when someone asked if I was a blogger, I could say “No, I’m a Soldiers’ Angel”. :-)

The funny thing is that I discovered Milblogs first (Mudville Gazette to be specific) and then Soldiers’ Angels. I had read one of Hugh Hewitt’s books on the run-up to the 2004 election, which led me to his blog. He linked to Greyhawk of Mudville during that fall, and then to Soldiers’ Angels on the eve of Veteran’s Day 2004. The rest, shall we say, is history.

More tomorrow! For now...

Citizen blogger I was most delighted to meet and chat with: Bill Roggio of The Fourth Rail

Funniest and amazing milblogger with an extra cool wife: Chuck Z, recipient of the very first Valour IT laptop.

Milblogger I was most disappointed not to meet: Greyhawk... 'cause, well, he deployed on THURSDAY. One day before the conference. Timing? Bueller? Darn.

Angels at Face of America Bike Ride

Two Sundays ago, I was one of about 20 Soldiers’ Angels that volunteered to support a special event. World TEAM Sports put on a bike ride to salute our wounded and active duty military personnel. The ride went from Gettysburg to DC over two days (110 miles!). Soldiers’ Angels was an official sponsor of the event, and super-Angel Lynette was in charge of our rest stop. I helped corral DC-area volunteers to set-up things at this spot near the end of the ride (at sponsor Geico's building in Chevy Chase, MD). Angel Jan coordinated the hanging of about 80 support banners made by Angels and friends all over the US. There were also a few signed t-shirt 'banners' including one signed by active folks in the sandbox (what a cool idea!).
It was a sunny, breezy, pretty day in DC as the riders arrived in large packs. The Geico Gecko was the first to greet them, and we cheered them through “banner row”. Wounded, active duty, and enthusiastic civilians participated in the ride. The extra-ordinary efforts of those who are pushing through and past their injuries to participate in events like this are incredibly inspiring. I also spoke to a civilian rider who “drove” a tandem bike so that a wounded veteran could participate. Cool.

I made the “Rock n Roll” banner for my mom’s 5th graders in Texas to sign. The kids are so great at stuff like this. Over the holidays they made over 100 cards to go with goody bags I sent to the sailors on a Navy ship operating in the Pacific.

Makes me want to gear up for the next ride like this! Though I think I'll volunteer to help not ride - I don't think my rear end could handle it. :-)

Other Angel write-ups/video here and here and here.

Several posts all at once...

Okay, so I have a ton of things to share… been a busy Angel. Fortunately, I tapped out a letter to one of my soldiers during part of last weekend’s activities, so I can cheat and post some of that….