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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

I'm off to Seattle for the long weekend, so I thought I'd do this post now. I'm dragging my computer along, so I may do an additional post on Monday, but I'm not sure about access.

I'm looking forward to my visit out west (a friend's wedding, hanging out with my mom and younger sister, spending time with a college friend), but I do regret that I won't be able to pay my respects at Arlington on the Day. I'll miss watching Rolling Thunder rumble into town for their annual POW/MIA awareness ride to the White House. And I'll miss joining other Soldiers' Angels to hand out the little American flags at the Memorial Day parade along Constitution Avenue in DC.

I did pack my shirt, though, so whatever my friend Patty and I do on Monday, I'll have suitable attire. Whatever you do, I hope you'll pause to remember why Memorial Day is a national holiday.

In case you missed it last year, here's the text from 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

May we always remember and honor those who served. God bless and God speed.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Operation Fresh Air 2008 - Part 1

I think we could all agree that too much time inside... is just too much. For me, even exercising in a gym is punishment. I'll bundle up in layers, but please, just let me go outside for a walk, okay?

So perhaps, more than others, I was excited when I read about Operation Fresh Air last year.

Some military wives (mostly of the Marine variety, I believe!) in the DC area conceived of Operation Fresh Air, an opportunity for those recovering and rehabilitating at our DC-area military hospitals to spend a day fishing at a Virginia State park. I don't fish much, but how cool is that?

The events, OFA I and OFA II, were very popular with those who had a yen to get outside, and this year was no different. Despite a sprinkle (okay, shower) or two, the guys that came to fish yesterday never left the dock. Folks had to carry food out to the pier so they'd eat! I joked that Chicken Parmasean sandwiches might have been a bit better than chicken parm over spaghetti, but it was still yummy and the fisher-guys adapted. Just as some of them do for other things. They are such an inspiration, and it's such a pleasure to be able to help in any small way with an event that they clearly enjoy so much.

Someone caught an eel, which was suitably gross for the young boys. Check.

Someone flew a kite along the pier. Check.

Someone caught a fish 10 minutes before it was time to climb back on the bus. Check. Check.

Several little someones giggled and played and spent time with dad and mom, fishing, playing on the beach, munching on tasty fixings, and just generally chilling out.

Please note, for those who made donations through Soldiers' Angels for OFA last year, there were funds left over so yesterday's main course was your gift.


I missed this to attend yesterday, but it was a decent trade, I think.

A special thanks to all the great staff and volunteers at Leesylvania State Park for their support of the event!

Oh yeah, and another of the founding wives that I hadn't met before was there, though I didn't know it :-).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ahem. Ahoy! Write an Email to a Sailor?

Thanks to Neptunus Lex for the update and reminder. Details HERE.

Send your email to the USS Russell, and be quick about it, k? You got this assignment, what, a month ago?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Updated Blog Round Up for FOA Bike Ride for Our Troops

Two new links: an angel write-up, plus more pictures HERE.

Thank a Veteran. Help a Veteran.

Another Soldiers' Angel brought this site to my attention today, and most importantly the song, "Before You Go" by Dr. Sam. Go HERE to listen and see a picture tribute.

The detailed background on the song is HERE (*tissue alert*), but the song was written and is performed as a message of thanks to all our aging WWII and Korean War veterans "who saved our way".

A newer version dedicated to Vietnam Veterans is HERE as "[a] long overdue thank you to veterans of the Vietnam War".

So grab a tissue, and go watch the video. Maybe there is someone you'd like to send a copy to?

Since I get my exercise by walking around Arlington and the National Mall, I have had the privilege and pleasure of seeing veterans of all our wars visiting our war memorials, some for the very first time. I saw some earlier today. At the Marine Corps Memorial. At the Vietnam Memorial. At the Korean War Memorial. At the WWII War Memorial.

The Soldiers' Angels organization started and remains dedicated to providing support to those currently serving in our armed forces. However, in more recent years, we've added programs that reach out to our more senior veterans. In particular, we have Angel programs that help fulfill wish lists for special items that VA facilities might like to have. We send individual presents at the holidays. For Christmas 2006, I sent a homemade afghan and a journal & pen to a VA facility in Portsmouth, VA.

A newer effort sends "Vet Packs" to veterans who reside at or gets services from our VA facilities. You can make a donation at the Angel Store to fund the delivery of one of these bundles of love and gratitude to an appreciative veteran. For more details on our Angels Veterans Team, go to http://www.noneforgotten.com/.

Wondering if something like a Vet Pack, full of personal care items, makes a difference to a veteran? Go HERE and read some letters.

This effort isn't motivated by lack of federal funding for our VA systems. It's about providing a way for you - YOU - to say thanks to a Veteran by sending a gift, but most importantly by letting them know that you haven't forgotten what they did and that you're grateful. If you'd just like to make a monetary donation, click the yellow DONATE button near the top right of this blog.

Would you like to do more? Sign up to become a member of the Angel Veterans Affairs Team HERE.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Anatomy of a Care Package - Take 2

I did this once before but figured that new and old Angels might appreciate a re-hash and a couple new ideas...

So you've adopted a troop, and you're trying to decide what to put in that 1st or 20th care package...

Recently, I found these individual packs of white cheddar popcorn for my soldier - they're small enough to pack well, and are great for troops who don't have a microwave at their tent/hut away from home.

And even though it's "smartfood", it still tastes good. I tested some to make sure (an Angel hazard).

One of my troops likes Oprah's magazine. To make it easy to send, I subscribed to the magazine, so it arrives at my house as a reminder to send it and it saves a bit over buying it in the bookstore or at a newsstand.

On a year-long tour, troops also churn through socks so replacements can be welcome.

And a bit of flavoring to break up the monotony of all that water they drink seems to hit the spot. If you've got an active troop who has to worry about hydration and energy, there are several brands of individual drink mix packets with electrolytes, etc. Otherwise, the sugar-free type are very popular. Target has multiple versions, and Crystal Light packets are at most grocery stores. All are in pre-measured packets for adding to 16 to 20 oz bottles of water.

Of course there are always toiletries to send, and the "travel size" section of your superstore usually has an assortment of items. If you learn your troop's preference, the full size items are more economical, but the small ones are an easy add to a package. Note: don't forget to tape shut all lids of lotion, shampoo, hand sanitizer, etc! and then double bag them (some type of ziplock bag is best - I buy them in bulk at Sam's Club!).

Finally, one of my favorite items: whatever catches my eye as I walk down the market aisles. Recently I found these fish and this "naked" granola.

I saw a TV show on the founders of "Bear Naked Granola" (I'm a Food Network junkie) -- and the product looks really good. I think I need to go back to Target and get some for me...

Happy shopping and happy care-packaging!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Patti Wins, So Soldiers' Angels Wins too!

Tonight Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels, was voted America's Favorite Mom. It was the grand finale (Patti won a prize in a preliminary event) and the big prize was $250k plus other gifts!

I'm not sure what others plan(ned) to do with their winnings (each of 5 semifinalists won $25k), but Patti had promised her winnings to support Soldiers' Angels, which is why she had so much support in the voting, especially among milbloggers as you can see here, here, here, and here.

The prizes are really wonderful for SA. Donations help fund all those first care packages that get sent to each troop that gets submitted to SA for a deployment adoption. They help fund airfare for families needing to get to injured troops. Special events and BBQs for our wounded in our military hospitals. Cheer and care items for our more senior veterans in VA hospitals. Sponsorships for events like Face of America Bike Ride. The list goes on and on. Every dollar helps.

PLUS. What an awesome Mother's Day for Patti: Army son #1, Brandon, nominated her for the prize, and Army son #2, Brett, was live via satellite from Iraq when she was announced as a semi-finalist and then as the grand prize winner. Pretty terrific all around.

So, wouldn't you like to join the party and adopt one of those 800+ troops waiting for an Angel?

That number went up above 1000, so we need more help to get it down - adopt a troop today!

Face of America Bike Ride 2008 - Blog Round Up - MORE! Updated AGAIN

What I've found including links in previous post:

  1. Great pictures HERE from a rider's perspective. Shows some of the scenery too.
  2. A couple more pictures.
  3. Chuck and Carren.
  4. Laughing Wolf.
  5. Soldiers' Angel volunteer Kathi who is creating a post like this one!
  6. Angel Kathi's Pictures.
  7. tjdale of Bent Riders Forum talking about bikes and vets he met.
  8. Great pictures from jakeinmaryland. He and tjdale were members of Team Laid Back.
  9. One more picture site from Team Laid Back. Like his teammates, he has great pics from along the route -- which I really enjoyed as I only saw the beginning, lunch stop, and end of each day.
  10. More from The Pedaling Professor.
  11. More from Laughing Wolf at Blackfive. Pictures, too.
  12. Bunches of pictures here by several different folks following the event. :) At least some of them are professionals (can't tell if they all are) so enjoy the great quality shots [note that top three sets are from this year - photos from previous years are further down the page].
  13. Pictures from Ed. As a member of the motorcycle team that provided the escorts and helped manage (block!) traffic to protect the bicycle riders, Ed was obviously in a perfect position to take a terrific set of photos! Check them out - LINK FIXED!
  14. Angel Ann's photos!
  15. The Angel Ringleader for the event reports in.
  16. More photos, this time from Marc Sullivan Photography.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008

What would you get up at 4:30am to do?

We (two Angel buddies [photo below] and I) and other volunteers woke up early last Saturday morning to help with the kick-off of the 110-mile, 2-day Face of America Bike Ride from Bethesda, MD to Gettysburg, PA.

The riders were up early too, though I hope they slept as late as they could!

General Robert Magnus, Assistant Commandant, United States Marine Corps was on hand to provide opening remarks in Bethesda and closing thoughts in Gettysburg. Oh yeah, and he rode, too (you might not have recognized him in his cyclist gear!).

I'd given you a heads up about this event HERE. This banner made it back from Texas signed by Mom's 5th graders to join all the rest hung at the start...

....lunch stops.......

and finish lines each day...

This red barn was just short of the finish, and provided a perfect spot for hanging banners -- which was fortunate as we had to resort to stringing banners between parked cars :-)

I asked for prayers for "cooperative weather", and we were gifted with TWO - count them - TWO terrific sunny days. After a week of predictions for rain the entire weekend, this was fabulous.

It was fun to hang out with old friends and new and to be inspired by the efforts of those who rode, especially our recovering wounded. Can you imagine? 110 miles. The finish was spectacular: a last push along a straight stretch of road between two open fields midst the battlefields of Gettysburg on a gloriously sunny day. We lined one side of the road to cheer, holler, and take pictures, while riders zipped by grinning and waving and taking a few pictures of their own.

In front of Seamus' house (an awesome retired Marine who hosted the grand finale), riders posed for a group photo beneath a huge American flag held aloft by a ladder truck from the local firehouse.

And if that wasn't cool enough, one of these flew in to say hi and salute the riders' efforts:

We'll see, but I'd seriously consider riding next year, though volunteers are always needed, too. Mark, Dawn, and Lynette were the event leaders that I worked with most, and they did a awesome job!

I wish I had better and a more complete set of pictures to share, but check out my Angel buddy Kathi's pictures HERE and here's hoping that Laughing Wolf finds some decent pictures among all those I took with his fancy digital camera while he rode in the race. Hopefully that "point and shoot" thing made up for my rusty photography skills!

Carren was wielding Laughing Wolf's video camera, so look for mid and post-race interviews with Major Chuck Z and Laughing Wolf at Chuck and Carren's site or at Blackfive in the days to come.

See you there next year?