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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Contribute to a civilian surge...of support!

MaryAnn posts a great reminder of why your support of our deployed troops is so appreciated. I'll include the photo here, but click over to her blog to watch the video that showcases our Marines and Sailors at a combat outpost in Afghanistan.

A U.S. Army Soldier sleeps, while the first pot of coffee of the day brews, on Combat Outpost Cherkatah, in Khowst province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2009. The Soldier is deployed with Delta Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith/Released.

Join the civilian surge today!

As well, Michael Yon's email to subscribers mentions the holiday support that is so appreciated:

"Christmas packages to the troops are arriving by the crate, and the soldiers are sharing with workers from places like Nepal, India, and Philippines. The soldiers are very happy with all the support flooding in from home. It must have taken a lot of big airplanes to get all this mail here."

Sign up for his email list here. Or check him out on Facebook.

I got word earlier this week that our Angel holiday support had reached some of our coalition medics in Afghanistan. They were very appreciative as they'd had a rough few days. We sent them holiday garland, lights, cocoa, candy, cookies, crackers, sausage, mustard, and fancy coffee creamer. And some cards from my Mom's 5th graders in Texas.

Large or small, your support means a lot.

Adopt a troop today! Click HERE!

We've got 2000+ waiting.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How about a civilian surge? [updated]

No, I'm not talking about non-military deployments to Afghanistan (though that's important, too).

How about prepping for a non-deploying, civilian surge of support for the military men and women who will be serving in Afghanistan over the next two years?

At a minimum, we know that there will be more requests for Angels. Even before the Afghanistan surge has started, we have a backlog of requests for Angels. As of 7:11pm EDT on December 2, 2009, that backlog is 1713.

We also will continue to have wounded who deserve some extra TLC from people like you.


Option 1: Plan to adopt.

Option 2: No registration or membership required, plan to send Angel supplies to our Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. All the details and instructions are HERE. I just sent some sweatpants, zippered hoodie sweatshirts, and boxer briefs last week. If you don't have a lot of free time, but have a few extra dollars, send thru Walmart and save yourself a trip to the store and the Post Office. To give you an idea of items that are gratefully received by our ill and wounded at Landstuhl, here's the list at that link above:

- Sweatpants and Zippered Hoodie Sweatjackets (M, L, XL - grey, black, dark blue)
- Lounge/sleep pants/pj bottoms (M, L, XL - any color or pattern)
- Undershirts and plain T-shirts (M, L, XL - crew neck, any color)
- Shorts, baggy basketball-type (M, L, XL - any color)
- Men's Boxerbriefs (M, L, XL) 2nd choice boxers. Please do not send "tightie whities".
- Socks (white ankle or crew length preferred. Other colors ok)
- FlipFlops to wear while showering (men's large sizes)

- Toothbrushes (individually wrapped)
- Toothpaste (any size)
- Bar Soap, Shower Gel & Shampoo (any size)
- Dental floss
- Gold Bond or similar Foot Powder and Body Powder
- Body lotion (any size)
- Lip balm
- Nail Clippers (large & small)
- Disposable razors (at least double-blade, individually wrapped)
- Shaving cream (aerosol cans, travel size preferred)

- Calling cards (click for details)
- Blankets of Hope (click for details)
- Travel pillows
- Ipods & iTunes gift cards (click for details)
Option 3: Purchase "First Response Backpacks", which are supplied to medics in theater for cases like THIS. Purchase HERE (check out the "customer reviews" at the bottom of the page, too).

So, ready to sign up?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Remembering with Gratitude: A year like few others in American history (Updated)

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God...

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 1863

A small reminder of an important year in the history of our Union over HERE and of those who fought to preserve it. (HT: The Blog)

With gratitude for the sacrifices of those then and now who preserved and continue to defend our Union....a Union that has blessed so many here and abroad.

Update: Here's some context for and the complete text of Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation. Of note: "The first observance of the national holiday came one week after the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg."

You can read President Obama's Proclamation for Thanksgiving Day 2009 here.

For me, this still captures my feelings on the day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Welcome! and thank you for your service.

To some of our newest fellow citizens, who were willing to write that blank check to the U.S. of A... with gratitude and prayers, Godspeed!

"A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount ‘up to and including my life'."

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Military servicemembers take an Oath of Allegiance to become American citizens during a naturalization ceremony held at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 12. Nine Task Force Yukon Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and attached units received their citizenship at the ceremony. (Photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Andrya Hill, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Not for Nothing - Take 11

With Saddam Hussein in charge, it was easy to forget that the "cradle of civilization" (click that link - it's a cool map) that we learned about in history class and the settings for many Biblical passages can be found within Iraq's borders.

When I am reminded of this fact, I often think that I'd like to visit Iraq (and Afghanistan) as a tourist some day.

Our troops have been among the first to test the waters:

“I heard about (the site) in college classes, but I never thought I'd get to actually be on the Ziggurat of Ur,” said Sgt. Brandon Metroka, from the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Another site, near the Ziggurat of Ur, is considered even more historically significant. It is believed to have been the home of Abraham, a central figure in the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.

“I'm actually in school to be a history teacher. I'm a senior in college right now so this means everything to me... to be able to show my students (photographs) for the next 30 years,” said Sgt. Kiersten Dozack.

Read the whole story and see the pictures HERE.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A different kind of "shock and awe" (updated)

No precision bombs required. Ha.

"I was just in shock and awe that people would take time out of their day just to come out and support you," he said.

"I had the biggest smile on my face. I haven't felt this good in a long time."

Read the rest HERE. (Hat Tip: The Dawn Patrol)

If you live near the DFW airport, you can help generate that particular type of "shock and awe", too, but adopting a troop through Soldiers' Angels can do the same thing.

One of the niftiest things that you can get as an Angel is "free mail". "Free mail" is what deployed troops write in the upper right hand corner of an envelope where you and I put a stamp (you see, they can send their letters home for free). So, when you get mail from theater, it's "free mail". I'd adopted a number of troops before I received my first "free mail" (the others were kinda busy or sent email instead - which is still very cool). In fact, I think my first free mail came from a medic to whom I'd sent a one-time care package.

There is something special about a real letter; no matter how short, it's still very sweet. Free-mail is inevitably full of one thing: thank yous. And they go on and on with the thanks. Because of the extra support and TLC* that we provided. They don't expect it, even the smallest thing.

For Veteran's Day, I posted this quote on my "status" on Facebook (don't know the author):

"A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount ‘up to and including my life'."

A weekly letter and monthly care package for the length of a deployment - or a high-five from a five year old - seem like an inadequate trade, but they like it just the same.

1500+ are waiting. Are you ready to be an Angel? I think you probably are - no experience required! Go show 'em a little love.

*TLC = "tender loving care".... someone asked me what that stood for the other day!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adopt a Troop. Send Letters. Send Care Packages.

Adopt HERE.

Care package ideas HERE and HERE and HERE.

Letter ideas HERE or at the very end of the post HERE.

Why do it? Go HERE.

THANK YOU!! Valour-IT Fundraiser raises $103K+

Y'all are the best. Details HERE.

Missed the fun? How about adopting a troop? We've got 1500+ waiting for an Angel. :-) (updated!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Home stretch!! Just two days of Valour-IT Fundraiser

Just two days left, and only the *Marines* are close to their goal. Sheesh.

If you can spare a dollar or two, maybe you'd like to....

...push the Marines over the top (tomorrow's their birthday, so that'd be a nice gift)
...drag the Air Force out of last place
...be nice to Army because their football team is....yeah.
...or support MY TEAM, TEAM NAVY!

I'd be okay with any of the above. Really.

Click on the blue, green, red, or gray bar in the graphic below (or click on the name of the service in the text above) to make a donation to your favorite team!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Show your support for the Fort Hood Community

From the Soldiers' Angels web page:

Soldiers’ Angels is assessing the needs and--with our founder currently residing in Texas--standing by to offer physical and emotional support to our heroes and their families at Fort Hood.

RIGHT NOW: Collecting encouraging notes and NEW stuffed animals for the families and children of the injured or killed. Please send cards/letters and stuffed animals (and anything NEW that may brighten the life of a child) to:

Soldiers' Angels
4408 PanAm Expressway
San Antonio, TX 78218

You can check back HERE for updates.

Prayers for the Ft Hood Community

Psalms 91:11

"For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Favorite Moment as a Soldiers' Angel...starring the US Navy

I've written before about the blessings of being an Angel, especially after some of the unique opportunities I've had as a Soldiers' Angel living in the Washington, DC area.

However, my all-time favorite day as an Angel was in January 2007. I had just returned to the DC area after spending Christmas at my parents home in Houston, Texas.

I'd already done a little jig on Christmas Eve after receiving emails from about half a dozen of the 240+ sailors deployed to the Pacific on the USS Rentz that were on the receiving end of this project. Angel Michelle in Iowa, my co-lead for the project, had received emails as well. My favorite quote was:

“Thank u thank u thank u, I was happy to receive the stocking with your letter in it, I was sleeping and I woke up and it was on my leg. lol. Put a smile on my face. This is my first Christmas away and I felt a lot of love from yall"

Fun, huh? So what could top that?

Well, on January 7th, I got, not one, but two more emails.

The first had the subject: "THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING THE TROOPS". The message started,

"Lisa, My name is XXX and you're probably wondering who I am..."
Well, low and behold it was a from a member of a small Navy unit deployed somewhere in the Pacific. The USS Rentz had provided re-supply for them shortly after Christmas. We'd overestimated how many goody bags that were needed for the Rentz, so they shared some of the Christmas cheer along with food staples, fuel, etc.

How cool is that?? We never could have planned to provide some holiday cheer and a little morale boost for that remotely deployed unit, but that we did, well,... YAY!

Then a little bit later that day, I got this email, which I did get permission to share with "as many people as you wish":

“I can not begin to express the gratitude the Commanding Officer and I have for the gifts you delivered to this ship. I have been in the Navy for over 26 years and I have been deployed away from family and friends during Christmas eight times during that 26 years. Your gifts, notes, thoughts and the heart felt effort made this deployed Christmas the easiest to weather. Our crew has a large number of young sailors that experienced their first Christmas away from home. The homemade Christmas bags brightened so many faces and helped everyone on board forget about the distance between them and their families. You and your organization are wonderful. I am proud to be serving this country and helping to protect people like you and those that make Soldiers Angels possible. Thank you.”

THIS is why I'm a Soldiers' Angel. I want to make sure that those who serve know - without a doubt - that we appreciate their service to our country.

So maybe this will inspire you to adopt a troop (we have 2000+ waiting!!!), donate to the Soldiers' Angels Foundation (Go TEAM NAVY!), and/or remember to express your thanks the next time you have an opportunity. Maybe?

If you need to do some Christmas shopping, check out the Valour-IT Auction on eBay - great cause and some great items! (autographed first edition "Hunt For Red October" and baseball autographed by Nolan Ryan!)

Thanks in advance for any and all the support you can provide.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Valour-IT: Finding a new normal

A common comment from Valour-IT recipients is that the technology offers a new way to do something that they were able to do before their injuries but now find impossible or simply exhausting. Our wounded warriors simply can't do some things the "old way", and Valour IT enables a new way. A new normal.

I shared this story with friends via email Thursday night, and Cassandra of Team Marine Corps wrote about him today, too.

Please read to the end of this post and find the link to the long write-up on Bryan at Esquire in January 2008, two years after he received his laptop and a year after being Esquire's cover story. SGT Bryan Anderson offers you an extended window on his world and the ongoing challenges of being a wounded vet.
Have a look?

From the November 2005 request for a Valour IT voice-activated laptop for triple amputee, SGT Bryan Anderson:

It was the last day of Valour-IT's first Veterans Day (2005) fundraiser, when I was still stunned by its success and thrilled Valour-IT was now a viable project. Amid that emotion, arrived an email requesting a laptop for Bryan:

'...He has a long road ahead of him. His mother said that they are doing everything for him and it is getting very frustrating for him. He wants to talk to his friends but he just is not ready to do it yet. With this laptop he will be able to communicate with family and friends and will be able to do it without the help of anyone. This is going to be the first step in showing him that he will be able to do things on his own.'

Less than four months later, in February 2006, Bryan was walking. The same correspondent shared:

B[ryan] came in town for a benefit dinner to help raise funds for his family. He walked into the room with his prosthetic legs, he was smiling and overwhelmed at the support he and his family received...

The laptop was the first step to the road to recovery. It proved that he was going to be able to do all the things that he did before.'

And today, out of the blue, I found him on the cover of Esquire. As my correspondent predicted, he did do all the things he'd done before... and so much more:

I've been wakeboarding, water-skiing, jet-skiing, tubing, rock climbing, snow skiing, playing catch with my brother. I try to do the same things. I'm not going to let it stop me. We did a 110-mile bike ride from Gettysburg to Washington, D. C. Sixty miles the first day, fifty miles the second day. Hand cycle, three wheels. I ended up ripping the glove, breaking the hand, breaking the whole socket. I might do it a little differently, but I'm still going to do it...
He knows who he is:
This doesn't define me. It may be how I look on the outside, but it's not who I am. I guess you could remember me easily as being a triple amputee, but it's not who I am, has nothing to do with who I am. I've always been the same person..'

And I discovered that Bryan continued to share his story here in Esquire Magazine.

It’s a long road, but you can help with that first step.

Special thanks to Brian Mockenhaupt at Esquire for writing about Bryan's story.

Click on the thermometer widget below to make a credit card donation today!

Address for donations by check or through PayPal are at the bottom of the page HERE.

[Note: 100% of all donations go to the purchase of Valour IT equipment. Soldiers' Angels is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations are tax-deductible and may be eligible for matching funds from donors' employers (ask your employer). Consult your tax advisor for details.]

Friday, October 30, 2009

And in case you didn't know what a Prowler is...

A U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler aircraft from Electronic Attack Squadron 129 prepares to launch from catapult one aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 19, 2009. The Stennis is underway conducting fleet replacement squadron carrier qualifications off the coast of southern California. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter M. Wayman, U.S. Navy. (Released)

Aircraft carriers. Subs. Tomcats, Hornets, Prowlers. Crypto geeks! Combat medics aka "forward deployed Angels", and, SEALS... *and* Steeljaws!

What are Steeljaws? Go HERE.

Better yet, why do I now know what a Steeljaw is? Because fellow Team Navy blogger Steeljaw Scribe posted some inspirational videos to rally the team!!

They're all HERE, and I like the navy planes, but I know you'll like this one:

Thanks to all the folks who answered the call (er, email) from last night and nudged Team Navy forward!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Wife's Perspective....on Valour IT laptops

On the Soldiers' Angels website, you'll see this quote from Major Chuck Ziegenfuss:
"It was the first time I felt whole since I’d woken up wounded in Landstuhl."
Now go read what Carren - Chuck's amazing wife - had to say about the impact of the Valour IT laptop:
"I was able to relax a little bit more. Instead of trying to figure how to get Chuck some sort of outlet, I knew he had one. Instead of going to the Mologne House every night, wondering how Chuck will manage throughout the night, I knew he had an outlet. Instead of feeling guilty as hell when I went somewhere without him (for ME time), I knew Chuck had his connection to the outside world."
Her whole post is HERE. (BTW, that "amazing" is no exaggeration. One of the benefits of being a volunteer with Soliders' Angels has been getting to know people like Carren.)

A voice-activated Valour IT laptop is a gift that you can help give to other wounded warriors. Donate today!

I think you should support Team Navy (click thermometer widget at top right! or HERE), but I really don't care who gets credit. You can make a donation through any service's team HERE.

But really, Navy is still the best. Aircraft carriers. Subs. Tomcats, Hornets, Prowlers. Crypto geeks! Combat medics aka "forward deployed Angels", and, duh, SEALS.

'Nuf said.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Come on NAVY!

The friendly (cough, cough) inter-service Valour-IT fundraising competition has begun! Support our wounded warriors and Team Navy today!

Soldiers' Angels's Valour-IT program provides voice-activated laptops and other helpful technology gadgets to our more severely injured troops. Technology supplied includes:

- Voice-controlled Laptops - Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.

- Wii Video Game Systems - Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions (donated only to medical facilities).

- Personal GPS - Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.
For the very first recipient (and inspiration for the program), the Valour-IT laptop meant being able to blog again and get back in touch with his buddies down range, even when tapping on a keyboard was not an option. It made a huge difference to him and has to many others since.

Won't you support this wonderful program with a small (or LARGE!) donation today? And Team Navy could really use the help. Sheesh! Click on the thermometer widget below to make a credit card donation today!

Address for donations by check or through PayPal are at the bottom of the page HERE.

[Note: 100% of all donations go to the purchase of Valour IT equipment. Soldiers' Angels is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations are tax-deductible and may be eligible for matching funds from donors' employers (ask your employer). Consult your tax advisor for details.]

Friday, October 23, 2009

Send a Care Package. Annoy A Mail Clerk...at least at first :-)

A great letter from a Medic in Afghanistan who was on the receiving end of some care packages from Soldiers' Angels. Here's an excerpt, but go read the whole thing:

"I must admit the Soldier who is our mail clerk was cursing my name when he went to check the mail yesterday and discovered that many of the packages had my name on them. Oh how the tune changed when it was discovered that the contents of the packages were for our wounded warriors and the Soldiers assigned to the team."

I have a suspicion that I've caused similar consternation on one or two occasions over the last 5 years. Last year I sent 12 or 14 boxes to a medic for their holiday party, but those boxes at least went out in three batches. However, my favorite Post Office experience was from December 2006, when an my Angel buddy, Michelle (in Iowa), and I inadvertently adopted a Navy ship for Christmas.... Whole ship.

With contributions from family and friends, we collected cards and goodies to fill 270 homemade gift bags. Because it was a last minute "adoption" and the goodies were heavy, I needed to send everything Priority Mail in those great flat rate boxes. 23 flat rate boxes to be precise (thanks, Dad, for the postage money!). Fortunately for me, the National Capital Post Office (a block from Union Station in DC) is open until midnight each weeknight. I drove over on a Tuesday night at about 9:30pm and wheeled in my load of boxes. When the clerk who was to help me saw my pile, I could see him thinking "oh no!". However, he quickly caught on to the project at hand and didn't give me a hard time at all when we realized that I'd printed out my customs forms incorrectly and had to hand-write all 23 of them over again. Anyone who knows what postal clerks have to put up with as far as clueless unprepared customers also knows what a "pass" I got. No "go stand over there and come back when you're done". Nope, I wrote fast, and he methodically processed my packages.

So we got the packages all set to go and I said thanks with a smile.

I was back at that post office after the first of the year and happened to get the same clerk helping me. I asked, "I don't know if you remember me, I..." He interrupted, and said, "Oh yes, I remember you." Ha! I'm confident that there was a twinkle in his eye. Better yet, his face brightened when I told him that I'd gotten several emails from sailors on Christmas Eve letting me know that the US Postal Service and US Navy had done yeoman's work to get the packages to the ship (somewhere in the Pacific) on time. I got a thank you message from the ship's Command Master Chief too. And I got one more email about 10 days later that I'll share later, in honor of TEAM NAVY and the Valour IT fundraiser. But just to tease... To this day, it's the coolest email that I've ever gotten as a result of a Soldiers' Angel project.

So, be an Angel, go annoy a Postal Clerk...until they catch on and smile too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It starts Monday! Get ready to support TEAM NAVY!!

Bookmark DBS and read it every day.

This edition will remind you why we NEED MORE ANGELS!!! Adopt today :-) Or donate, and we'll pass along your TLC that way!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not for Nothing - Take ...10

HT: Dawn Patrol (good job GH)

For all those who serve or have served in Iraq, and remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice while serving there, once again we have a reminder of the tremendous progress made:

"In a demonstration of how far the mission in Iraq has come, the first minutes of the leaders’ media availability after their meeting concerned Afghanistan - something that would have been inconceivable two years ago."

Read it all HERE.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Milblog to Read: "AfghanQuest.com"

HT: Dawn Patrol and Mudville
I've read Old Blue's writing in the past, but this is my reminder to do it more often. If you're wondering what's really going on in Afghanistan, his blog - Afghan Qwest - gives you at least one piece of the puzzle. Check it out. Often.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Angel Buddies!

This is a great slide show set to music/song (thank you Jeff and Patti!) that happens to include a couple of photos of some of my favorite Angel buddies... including Robin, Debbie, Monica, Emily and Trevor, plus Diane and Steve of massive-Holiday-Project-down-in-Georgia fame.

Saw mention recently, that some of those Georgia troops are on their way back to Iraq for a fourth tour. Hope you'll consider adopting a deployed troop or making a donation to Soldiers' Angels' efforts to provide them all some extra TLC while they are on the front lines for all of us.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SOS for Soldiers' Angels - need your help!

Thanks for stopping by this blog!

I’ve been an active member and volunteer with Soldiers’ Angels for nearly five years now and can personally attest to how much our deployed troops and wounded warriors appreciate support from their fellow Americans.

Could you afford to make a donation to Soldiers’ Angels today? Even $10 would be a big help.

Soldiers' Angels is a tax-exempt 501(C)(3) volunteer organization that was started by Patti Patton-Bader in 2003 when her oldest son was serving in Iraq. And while she named the organization for her son’s service, Soldiers’ Angels supports all branches of our military: Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

One of our core activities is the one-on-one adoption of troops for the length of their deployments. I’m currently participating in this program, so I send one letter a week and at least one care package a month to a soldier in Iraq and two troops in Afghanistan. I’ve got Halloween candy and decorations to ship out tomorrow!

It would be fantastic if you could adopt a troop, too (we have 2100+ troops waiting for an Angel), but if that’s not within your means, I’m hoping that you might be able to spare a few dollars.

You see, Soldiers’ Angels has 4000+ care packages ready to ship to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq but is short on cash for postage.

We also are seeing a very high demand for our First Response Backpacks, and we need to purchase items to fill them up. Here’s some info on that need from my team member Roger.

A group of Angels and friends in Bowie, MD rallied to make 330+ no-sew fleece blankets for those backpacks last weekend. I got to help (fun!) and wrote about it here.

Your donations also support activities like a monthly deli buffet lunch for our ill and wounded and their loved ones at our National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD (I’m actually the coordinator/hostess for that lunch each month). I’ve written about that here and here.

If you are able to support one of these efforts financially….

Maybe one of the above would work for you?

If you have any questions, please leave them as a comment. If you’re still wondering if your donation could make a difference, go read some of these:

Make a Difference - Adopt a Service Member

Thank you letters to Soldiers' Angels in Germany

Thank you letters to Soldiers' Angels from troops (scroll to bottom to see latest letter from troops)

"Do Americans Care About British Soldiers" (my Angel buddy MaryAnn plays a role in this story related by Michael Yon)

Thanks in advance for any assistance that you can provide!

Love and smiles,


Member, Soldiers Angels, Wounded Team – Bethesda

Tribute to Our Military Health Care Providers

HT: Soldiers' Angels Germany

They're pretty special, and a former patient shows appreciation through this video.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blanket-Making Marathon Busts Record AGAIN :-) (UPDATED again!)

Great link from the other Lisa - tons of photos of the blanket-making party!!

UPDATE from Matt and Lisa in the comments! Total? 335!!! YAY! :-)
Just a quick post to let you know.... 313+ Blankets of Hope were made in Bowie, MD on Saturday! (I don't know the final tally as I had to leave a little before 4pm)


That wipes out last year's record of 242, which is a pretty amazing effort and so MUCH needed. These blankets are a cozy, personal touch included in our much-appreciated Soldiers' Angels First Response Backpacks. Read a message from a recent recipient HERE.

All of the blankets made on Saturday got boxed up for shipment to MaryAnn in Germany, where they'll be distributed at our Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. See all those boxes below??!? MaryAnn called in to say hi and to let all the blanket-makers know how much their efforts are appreciated. MaryAnn often delivers the blankets to troops herself, so she gets their feedback first hand.

If you'd like to make a *NO-SEW* fleece blanket for a wounded troop, click HERE for instructions (size for Germany is 45" x 60" minimum) and then click HERE to send an email to MaryAnn to get mailing instructions.

Back to Saturday's fun... here are some of the busy little hands that tied a bunch of blankets at my table. Those hands belong to some 4th grade girl scouts. They took the lead tying the knots and their moms and I did the cutting. Amazingly enough, one of the mom/daughter pairs were the same two that I helped get going last year! Small world in Bowie, huh?

Maybe you'd like to have a blanket making party, too?

Kudos to Lisa and Matt for orchestrating the event once again - what a wonderful achievement! And really fun, too :-)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years on

It was a rainy day in DC today, and remembrances seemed more muted. However, the flags still draped the office buildings, and we still remember.

My Angel buddy MaryAnn posted this letter from a soldier - LTC Steve Osterholzer currently deployed with Task Force Spartan, 3rd Combat Brigade, 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. An excerpt:

"Countless people, including my brothers and sisters in arms that serve with me here in the dust and heat of Afghanistan, have worked tirelessly with one simple goal: to prevent another 9-11.

I am especially moved by the 19-year-old privates that I talk to sometimes, about why they joined the Army. Many of them simply say, "9-11." Think about that: they were only 11 years old at the time of the attack and yet they are still so moved by what happened on that day that they are over here fighting the IEDs, the Taliban, and the mountains and deserts themselves."

His perspective is worth understanding eight years on. I also was grateful for his reminder of the pithy words of Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald, written 7 years, 364 days ago. You might remember them. I did.

Boundless gratitude to Steve and all those who serve.

And prayers for all those who lost loved ones then, and since.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mark Your Calendar! Blanket Making Bash 2009!

The folks in Bowie, MD (just east of Washington, DC) are gearing up for their 2009 marathon to make as many Blankets of Hope as they can in one day.

We (yes, I joined in!) busted their record last year, and we'd love to have your help to do it again.

These hand-assembled fleece blankets get placed in Soldiers' Angels' "First Response Backpacks" which are sent to our combat support hospitals in Afghanistan and Iraq and to our Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.

Click HERE and scroll down to see some words of appreciation for these wonderful blankets.

Mark Saturday, October 3rd, on your calendar and plan to join us in Bowie, MD between 8am and 4pm (or until the fleece runs out!) !

Additional details coming soon.

Come join the fun, even if you only have an hour or two to spare!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

If you care

The fighting in Afghanistan has escalated, and the coalition is taking an increasing number of casualties.

I know that people care that our troops are in harms way.

They care when our troops get injured.

They appreciate the hard work of our medics who continue to save lives on the battlefield, day in, day out.

But folks back home often don't know what they can do to show that they care.

They can't do anything about the bullets and IEDs, but *I* know that they can provide a little TLC that makes a big impression.

Soldiers' Angels sends hundreds of our "First Response Backpacks" each month to combat support hospitals in theater and to our Landstuhl Regional Medical center in Germany. You can send one of these backpacks with a personal message by making a $55 donation at the Soldiers' Angels store.

The backpacks include:

I know that $55 is beyond the means of some, but if you're able, I hope you'll consider it. Details are HERE. Those of us who've visited our military hospitals know that these gifts are truly appreciated by our wounded warriors... and make for a least a few grateful moms!

Haven't got that much cash? Okay, no problem. MaryAnn can always use some extra cards of encouragement for our ill and wounded at Landstuhl. Click HERE for instructions.

Or, if you're like me and just like to go shopping for items that are appreciated by patients at Landstuhl, go HERE to see MaryAnn's list. Whether it's microwavable treats or pjs or flipflops, I always enjoy putting together a package of TLC to send across the pond...

I hope you'll choose one of the above.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"...it seems like love really does make a difference."

At last month's lunch at the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, I was talking to a visitor who was visting a troop who had been badly injured and was receiving treatment at the hospital.

I commented on how wonderful it was that he lived here locally and was able to come visit his friend. We Angels hear over and over again how big a difference it makes for patients to have visitors, especially family and friends.

The friend said, "You know, it seems like love really does make a difference."

I couldn't agree more, but I must admit that the comment was extra memorable because that visiting friend was male, and maybe 30. Not your average comment from a 30-something guy.

During that same Soldiers' Angels visit (our monthly buffet lunch for patients, visiting family and friends, and medical staff), I also met yet another military family who had been touched by the love of another Angel, my buddy MaryAnn in Germany. MaryAnn always seems to be around when she's needed. This time it was to hold the phone so that a wife could talk to her husband, who was thousands of miles away in a hospital in Germany. He was unconscious, but MaryAnn held the phone so that his wife could send her love.

You can't tell me that that didn't make a difference.

If you'd like to help provide some TLC to our troops, consider "adopting" a deployed troop or signing up for the Soldiers' Angels Wounded/Medic team and help send a little love to our wounded and our medics laboring away to give our men and women the very best care that they can. There are some very busy medics in Afghanistan that could use your support. I just sent some brownies, rice krispy treats.... and a little love last week.

MaryAnn has details on those busy medics here and here and here.

Sign-up today. It's a great way to show your support whenever you are able.

Welcome Home, Captain Speicher

From FOXNews:

'Remains of the first American lost in the 1991 Persian Gulf War have been found in the Anbar province of Iraq after a nearly 20-year search, the U.S. Navy said Sunday. Captain Michael "Scott" Speicher['s]...disappearance has bedeviled investigators since his jet was shot down over the Iraq desert on the first night of the 1991 war.'

'Officials said Sunday that they got new information from an Iraqi citizen in early July, leading Marines stationed in Anbar province to a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Speicher's jet.

The Iraqi said he knew of two other Iraqis who recalled an American jet crashing and the remains of the pilot being buried in the desert.

"One of these Iraqi citizens stated that they were present when Captain Speicher was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried," the Pentagon said in a statement.'

The rest of the details are on the news and the web, and while the news makes me sad, I'm very grateful to know that we take such great care to bring all our missing and fallen warriors home.

That dedication by our armed forces is demonstrated everyday by the units who focus on nothing but this sober task. The importance of this work to those who've served and to their loved ones can be seen in those who make sure that we don't forget.

My prayers and condolences go out to Captain Speicher's family, especially his children. I'm so sorry for your loss, but so humbled by and grateful for your father's service to our country.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SFC Jared Monti, Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumous

HT: Mudville Gazette, who also has details of the actions being recognized.

SFC Jared Monti of Raynham, Massachusetts, to be awarded Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions on June 21, 2006, in Gowardesh, Afghanistan.

Quote from Jules Crittenden, blogging from Monti's home state of Massachusetts:

"He didn’t just give his life trying to drag badly wounded soldiers to safety under heavy fire. He gave in life."

...and a link to full coverage in the Boston Herald.

This is a big deal. If you don't understand the significance of the Medal of Honor, go read up on it.

This is only the sixth Medal of Honor awarded for actions since 9/11. Three others have been awarded since 9/11, but for actions in Vietnam and Korea.

Here's a list so you don't have to go look them up yourself:

Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble, USA
PFC Ross McGinnis, USA
Petty Officer Michael Monsoor, USN
Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, USN
Major Bruce P. Crandall, USA
Corporal Jason Dunham, USMC (and here)
Corporal Tibor Rubin, USA
Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, USA

Be proud. Be grateful. Be inspired. Remember.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why they are my heroes: Wounded Vet is World Champ Again!

(HT: Miss Ladybug)

It's always particular sweet to see the results of hard work, but milestones achieved by our wounded vets are even sweeter.

This one ought to set you back on your heels (video included).


Congrats JR (and Josie!)!

MaryAnn found a write-up at the NY Times too.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Remembering.... on Memorial Day Weekend

Growing up, Memorial Days passed with more emphasis on BBQs than the significance of day.

Considering that I grew up in the wake of the Vietnam War, I guess that's not surprising - public rhetoric focused on the tragedy of war, not on honoring those who gave their "last full measure of devotion".

It's reassuring that that seems to have changed.

In Arlington, the hints that Memorial Day is soon to arrive are at first subtle and then persistent.

First, the quiet and subtle... When I went for a long walk after work on Thursday, I noted that the small American flags were already in place in front of every headstone in Arlington National Cemetery. The flags are placed there every year, and it touches me deep inside that those who were charged with care of our National Cemetery thought to institute this individual tribute.

Next, the persistent... Since yesterday afternoon, Highway 50 has rumbled with the sound of big shiny motorcycles cruising toward DC. With my windows open, the sound is... not subtle. The percentage of those in black leather in the DC metro area will reach its annual high tomorrow during the Rolling Thunder ride to the National Mall and the White House. Since I first witnessed this tradition 5 or 6 years ago, I've thoroughly enjoyed it. There is something uniquely satisfying about the rumble of thousands of Harleys rattling the staid and somewhat self-important core of Washington, DC. I also now have more respect for the significance of the tradition. Not only does it carry their message of "never forget" on behalf of our POWs and MIAs, but it also seems to say: let's remember together and honor the sacrifice of those we've lost.

That's not too much to ask.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bike Ride and Banners! Face of America 2009

[photo above is from Angel Ann - see link at bottom of post]

I am a bit tardy in giving an after action report on the Face of America Bike Ride 2009.

I'd posted about all the wonderful banners that Angels and friends from all over the country had sent in. I received banners from more than 65 locations, and many people sent more than one.

They came from twin sisters, a grandmother and granddaughter, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Daisy Scouts, schools and day cares, individuals, and even several locations of the Hoosier Lottery!

I got some help from some familiar Angel buddies (Kathi and her daughter, the Banner Princess), but also from all the volunteer crews that set up the 7 rest-stops along the route. I bundled up banners and clothesline and clothespins so that each rest-stop could hang up a few banners on on whatever was available. At one location on Sunday, we simply commandeered a convenient barbed-wire fence. I got help from the wife and daughter of one of our wounded marines for that one. I remember chatting with them last year as we hung banners at a lunch stop waiting for their marine to arrive with the rest of the riders.

The ride kicked off right on schedule at 0730 Saturday morning in Bethesda. Kathi, the Banner Princess, and I hung up our first batch banners along the start, then cheered the riders as they got underway. No dillydallying for this crowd!

Not long after, while on our way the Milblog Conference, Kathi and I happened to pass the riders coming up the Clara Barton Parkway. All 300+ of them were causing a slight traffic jam but that was okay as it gave me time to roll back the Mini's sunroof and for Kathi to stand up through the roof and wave a banner that we had with us. Woohoo! We honked and hollered and yelled hello to Laughing Wolf and Chuck Z, and generally enjoyed the moment. I turned to Kathi after they'd passed and asked, "Did you get a picture?" "Ah. No." LOL.

I was back on banner-hanging duty with many others early Sunday morning in Frederick, MD. Kathi swung by the Milblog Conference hotel so that Greta could join us as well, and they met me at the first stop. The folks that had set-up up the stop-over site at Frederick the night before had hung banners all around the inside walls of the gymnasium where the riders had dinner and breakfast. Great idea!

After hanging banners along that barbed wire fence near a beautiful covered bridge, we dashed off to the finish line. The ride finishes at the home of a retired marine who lives midst the rolling hills at the edge of the historic battlefield at Gettysburg.

We decked out the neighbor's red barn once again, as well as a couple of parked cars. The rest of the banners were hung up around the inside of the lunch tents for folks to see as they enjoyed the live band and chowed down on some excellent BBQ.

The finish of this ride is always a special part of the event. A volunteer bagpiper, an impromptu artillery arch across the road, a cheering crowd, plus two Ospreys and a Cobra made it extra special. Check out Banner Princess's video here - she caught the audio of the bagpipes too!

Thanks again to World T.E.A.M. Sports, to all those who sent in banners, to all who donated or volunteered (Go Angels!) to support the event, and to all who rode in support of our wounded troops.

But most especially, thank you to our troops, who have overcome some tremendous challenges and have inspired us all over again.

For more pictures, go to Angel Ann's site HERE.

And a few more:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Now recruiting virtual members for Soldiers' Angels' Bethesda Lunch Team

So I had this idea.

How would you like to be part of a Soldiers’ Angels Bethesda Lunch Team?

I’m not actually inviting you to lunch. In fact, even if you lived here in DC, I couldn’t invite you along. It’s not that kind of lunch. It’s the kind of lunch where I show up with food to feed other people. Those people are some of our troops – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines – and their families and friends who, for whatever reason, happen to be at our National Naval Medical Center-Bethesda. Some have just been medevac’d from Germany because of a combat-related injury. Some were injured a while ago, but are back for yet another surgery. Some are ill. Whatever the reason, Soldiers’ Angels provides a simple buffet lunch once a month.

It’s not fancy, but we have make-it-yourself-&-your-way turkey, roast beef, ham, cheese, PB&J, even Nutella. To balance it out, there are usually mini-carrots, grapes, pickles, chips or pretzels, potato salad, and coleslaw. And cookies, of course.

We offer a sandwich to our hardworking Navy medical staff as well.

So, while I can’t invite you along, I could use some virtual teammates. I’m especially thinking of those folks who aren’t quite ready to adopt a deployed troop or aren’t able to volunteer in other ways, but who *might* have an extra $5 or $10 a month to support the lunch AND who might want to send greetings to those who drop by for a sandwich.

So here’s the plan: if you are willing and able, hit the “Chip In” button above or on the side bar. The donation goes directly to Soldiers’ Angels – an 501(c)(3) non-profit – via Pay Pal. Don’t like Pay Pal? Drop me an email at letters-to-send AT mindspring DOT com, and you can send in a check made out to Soldiers’ Angels instead.

After that, I’ll send you an email asking for your message for me to share, something that will fit on a 3x5 index card that I can stick in a notebook.

I’m always asked – every time we’re there with lunch and especially by the family members – “who’s providing this food?”

If this works out, I’ll be able to point to my notebook and say, “Have a look in there.”

A contribution of any size makes a difference. Really.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. The total in the Chip In widget is a rough budget for the year. If extra funds are donated, others - Mary Ann, Roger, or our Walter Reed team - who also provide support to our wounded troops can put the funds to good use. Click on their names to see the kinds of TLC that they provide.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wounded Warrior Bike Rides....!

Here in DC, we're gearing up for this weekend's 2009 Face of America Bike Ride from Bethesda to Gettysburg, a 2-day, 110 mile ride that pays tribute to and supports the participation of our more severely injured veterans.

I'm "Banner Queen" again this year, so I've been on the receiving end of handcrafted banners sent in from Angels all over the United States. I've received 75+ so far from 50 different individuals, families, schools, girl/daisy scout troops, businesses, and social groups. What a treat to be on the receiving end!

Wondering what this is all about? See my 2007 and 2008 blog posts.

To give you an idea of the kind of folks who ride in these rides - especially our more severely injured veterans - go read these two stories about the Ride2Recovery event, a 350-mile, 6 day event that took place in Texas: one story by actor and ride participant Adam Baldwin & another (my favorite) by writer and participant Stephen F. Hayes. It was a different group of riders, a different ride, a different state, but it highlighted the resilience and achievements of the same kind of amazing veterans that will make you hesitate to say "I can't" ever again.

Kudos to participants/article writers Adam and Stephen.

And for our wounded vets, a heartfelt, "WOW." We are so proud and so grateful.

If you see some cyclists/trike riders between Bethesda and Frederick MD on Saturday or between Frederick and Gettysburg PA on Sunday, pass with care and shout out your support, okay?