Sunday, November 30, 2008

WOW! Endeavour "Mission Accomplished"

Backdropped against Earth’s horizon and the blackness of space, Endeavour’s Canadian-built robot arm appears amidst elements of the International Space Station. Endeavour had been docked for almost two weeks during the STS-126 mission at the orbital outpost when this image was taken.

Image Credit: NASA (I got this one from Little Green Footballs here.)

Space shuttle Endeavour lands at Edwards AFB

Image above: Space shuttle Endeavour and the STS-126 crew land at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. after completing a mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Landis

Unless otherwise stated, all images are from NASA site here. And yes, have now got this in my "faves"!

Winston Churchill: Needed More Than Ever Today

On this day in 1874, a child was born in England who would ultimately change the course of world history: Winston Churchill.

Part of my childhood was spent as a resident of the neighbourhood for which Churchill was a Member of Parliament. As I grew up, Churchill was always a fixture, an integral part. Many books have been written about him. He was an officer in the British Army, an artist, a Nobel Prize winning writer (1953). Even though Churchill was part of my history lessons at school, I had no idea what a prolific writer he was:...

Go read the rest at NewsBlaze here.

Every Day Heroes

Meet HM2 Luis Fonseca:

Luis Fonseca

HA Luis Fonseca, from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s Task Force Tarawa, was awarded the Navy Cross for bravery during the battle of Al-Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 23, 2003.

On that day, Fonseca was a hospitalman apprentice on his first combat deployment with the U.S. Marines. His unit, Company A, 1st Platoon, was attached to the 2nd MEB’s 1st Battalion, Company C, 1st Platoon, which was tasked with capturing and holding the northernmost of Al-Nasiriyah’s three main bridges.

As the unit’s corpsman, Fonseca was aboard an amphibious assault vehicle, or amtrack, reserved for evacuating battle casualties quickly to the rear.

“I was supposed to stay back,” away from the fighting, Fonseca said in a telephone interview from Al Asad, Iraq, where he was on his third deployment (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq) in three years.

The Marines took the northern bridge at about 11:30 a.m., and almost immediately started taking rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire, Fonseca said. Within moments, a call came over the radio reporting that an amtrack had received a direct hit with an RPG, wounding five Marines.

Grabbing his bag of medical supplies, Fonseca jumped from his track and raced to assess the condition of wounded Marines who had been pulled from the smoking vehicle and laid out on the ground by their comrades.

Without concern for his own safety, Fonseca calmly and methodically stabilized two casualties with lower limb amputations. He continued to treat and care for others who were wounded and awaiting evacuation until his vehicle was immobilized by enemy direct and indirect fire. Under enemy fire, he directed the movement of four wounded Marines and personally carried one critically wounded Marine over open ground to another location. All five Marines survived.

Fonseca was awarded the Navy Cross August 2004 at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Excerpts from Stars and Stripes - June 14, 2005

(source) At that link you will also find a couple of audio interviews with this hero.

Thank YOU for your service.

Music and Me

"Those were the days, my friend,
We thought they'd never end,
We'd sing and dance forever and a day..."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai: "Unless we stop it..."

Yuva Hindusta

The shooting in Mumbai (Bombay) is apparently over, and even as the blood still runs in the streets, political pundits and talking heads rush to declare the "who, what, why, and how".

One local paper says:

"Who's the brain behind the Mumbai attacks?

The prime suspect Abdul Subhan Qureshi a 36 year old computer engineer who is also believed to have masterminded multiple bombings throughout India earlier this year." [here]

The article and graphics go on to suggest that the group claiming responsibility for the latest attacks is an "offshoot of SIMI - linked to Pakistani Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Tolba. The group calls itself Deccan Mujahideen."

Britain's Daily Mail loudly trumpets:

Massacre in Mumbai: Up to SEVEN gunmen were British and 'came from same area as 7/7 bombers'

. British-born Pakistanis among arrested militants

And you KNOW I have more to say! Go to NewsBlaze here for the rest....

Valour-IT: It Isn't Over

From Laughing Wolf at Blackfive comes this:

In the immortal words of our founder:

What? Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Er, sorry, wrong founder.

The fact is, the fundraiser is now over. Well, no, only a part of it is. The friendly competition between the services is indeed over, with more than $78,000.00 showing right now. That total is not final, however, as I believe a few more checks have come in/are coming in and the final total is still some days away.

No, we didn't make our goal, but we knew we wouldn't from the start. There were a number of factors in play that meant we would not make the $250,000.00 goal. While I wish we could have raised more, I am glad we raised what we did, and I point out cheerfully that Team Army is -- so far -- leading the way. While it would have been nice to make the goal, I think we are all glad for what we did raise and I want to thank each of you that contributed.

Go read the rest, here. And THANK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!


That is the question being asked today. Why did over 150 people have to die with hundreds more wounded. Why did a group of savages attack 2 hotels, a hospital, a train station and a Jewish Center? Other than instill terror into the nation of India, what did they hope to accomplish? Did they achieve their aims and goals? Were they able to release just one of their compatriots from prison? No! But they killed and maimed just the same.

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the beloved directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, were killed during one of the worst terrorist attacks to strike India in recent memory.

Their toddler son, Moshe, managed to escape with his nanny some hours before Indian commandos stormed their building, known as the Nariman House, in the popular touristy neighborhood of Colaba. The Associated Press reported that the boy was unharmed, but was wearing blood-soaked pants.

"Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice," said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch. "As emissaries to Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs of Israeli tourists. Their Chabad House was popular among the local community, as well as with visiting businesspeople.

"For five years, they ran a synagogue and Torah classes, and helped people dealing with drug addiction and poverty," continued the statement. "Their selfless love will live on with all the people they touched. We will continue the work they started."...

And there is more, plus a way you can make a statement for their little boy. ...

Go here and read it all.

*From Monkey in the Middle.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Doctors in Iraq never expected Amenah to make it past age three, but when a group of U.S. Marines noticed the sick little girl, they arranged for her to get treatment in America.
(ABC News)

Marines Help Heal Girl's Broken Heart

Iraqi Doctors Didn't Expect Amenah to Live to Age Three


A "two-fer" :) :

Coalition Kills 32 Militants, Captures 10 Others in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2008 – Coalition and Afghan forces killed 32 militants and captured 10 suspected militants today and yesterday during operations to disrupt terrorist networks in Afghanistan, military officials said.

Coalition forces were fired on today while clearing a compound believed to be a command and control center for roadside bombs in Kandahar province. Forces returned fire, killing 15 insurgents and detaining six.

Also today, militants fired on coalition and Afghan forces with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire in Helmand province. The forces returned fire, killing seven militants. During the operation, forces protected more than 300 local villagers from enemy fire, officials said. ...(more here)

Forces searched the area and seized caches that included bomb-making materials, homemade explosives, mortar rounds and 175 pounds of opium. (more here)

And then this:

Troops in Iraq Capture 14 Suspected Terrorists

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2008 – Coalition forces captured 14 suspected terrorists today during operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist networks, military officials said.

Forces captured two suspected al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists today near Haditha, northwest of Baghdad. The men, based in Beiji, are believed to have ties to bombing networks, officials said. Forces also detained four other suspects.

Elsewhere, forces captured a wanted man and an associate in Tuz Khurmatu, southeast of Kirkuk. The man is suspected of being an al-Qaida in Iraq administrative operative and explosives facilitator with ties to al-Qaida operatives outside of Iraq.

Also today, forces netted two men suspected of being associated with an al-Qaida in Iraq bomb operative. Forces also captured four suspected terrorists near Dawr, north of Baghdad, while targeting a Sumarra-area terrorist cell leader...(
(more here))


New Elementary School Offers Hope to Nablus Children
Thursday, 27 November 2008

Multi-National Division – Baghdad PAO

BAGHDAD — The Nablus School in northwest Baghdad’s Yarmouk community opened Nov. 23.

The refurbishing project, also underway in more than 200 schools in Baghdad, added six new rooms, a computer lab and a science lab in addition to the school’s auditorium being refurbished at no cost by the local contractor.

“The Nablus school should be the model that the other 220 schools currently under reconstruction follow,” said Dr. Nihad, Karkh District Deputy Minister of Education.

The Government of Iraq has placed a high level of importance on the rebuilding and refurbishing of its educational system, said Dr. Nihad. The Nablus school, along with the refurbishing, also received boxes of paper, more than 350 backpacks and 100 informative Iraqi comic books, distributed by members of Iraqi Security Forces and the Ministry of Education.

It was also a marquee day for Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, operationally attached to the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, responsible for security in the area.

“The refurbishing of this school gives hope to the elementary students in Yarmouk,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Anderson, a civil military operations officer with 2nd Bn., 42nd FA Regt. “Furthermore, it demonstrates the concern for academics from the local leadership.”

During the event, students who will attend the refurbished school performed for the crowd. An Iraqi band provided entertainment as well. The entertainment brought a sense of normalcy, which serves as a reminder to the Soldiers who have worked so hard in recent months to improve the standard of living for the people of Iraq.

The Soldiers know they are getting the job done in their operational environments, said Anderson, and they know also know that by empowering the Iraqis, they are making the transition that much easier.

“This was an outstanding Iraqi-led event,” he concluded.



Tunis Tots

Iraqi girls stand together outside of their home in Tunis, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2008. Photo by James Wagner. (source)

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather together and express gratitude for all that we have been given, the freedoms we enjoy, and the loved ones who enrich our lives. We recognize that all of these blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God.

Every Thanksgiving, we remember the story of the Pilgrims who came to America in search of religious freedom and a better life. Having arrived in the New World, these early settlers gave thanks to the Author of Life for granting them safe passage to this abundant land and protecting them through a bitter winter. Our Nation's first President, George Washington, stated in the first Thanksgiving proclamation that "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor." While in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition of proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, asking God to heal our wounds and restore our country.

Today, as we look back on the beginnings of our democracy, Americans recall that we live in a land of many blessings where every person has the right to live, work, and worship in freedom. Our Nation is especially thankful for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who protect these rights while setting aside their own comfort and safety. Their courage keeps us free, their sacrifice makes us grateful, and their character makes us proud. Especially during the holidays, our whole country keeps them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

Americans are also mindful of the need to share our gifts with others, and our Nation is moved to compassionate action. We pay tribute to all caring citizens who reach out a helping hand and serve a cause larger than themselves.

On this day, let us all give thanks to God who blessed our Nation's first days and who blesses us today. May He continue to guide and watch over our families and our country always.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 27, 2008, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to strengthen the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Valour-IT: Good News, and A Challenge or Three

From BlackFive comes this:

Well, as you can see, there have been some changes, some very nice changes. If you go here to see the Team standings you can get the whole picture (Navy, we do have smelling salts standing by).

There are some people that have come through for both Team Army and -- most of all -- Project Valour-IT. They have a challenge for you, and it is best expressed by malclave:

Just sent another hundred bucks for Team Army... I'd been holding it, figuring I could help out the Coast Guard team if we met our goal soon enough.

Anyway, I was just lower enlisted stationed at a hospital in the late 80s... surely there are plenty of folks who can outdo an REMF like me, right?

Malclave and others have issued challenges. My question to you is, will you rise to the challenge, or slink away and not even give a dollar? Folks, if everyone who comes to this site in a day pitches in a dollar, it puts us roughly ten percent (okay, closer to five) towards the goal. We are only at 27 percent for the year....

Go read the rest of what Laughing Wolf has to say, here.

Dealing with Grief over the holidays

As the holiday season swings into high gear, there are many of our military families who are now facing new realities. Days that once held joyous celebration with family, now approach with different dynamics. TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) has put together what they are calling "Practical Tips To Help."

Dealing With Grief Over the Holidays: Practical Tips to Help
National Organization Comforting Families of the Fallen Offers Advice to Help All Who Are Grieving


WASHINGTON – Holiday cheer and merrymaking may be everywhere this time of year, but for thousands of Americans grieving the loss of a loved one, the holiday season can be an emotional minefield. And there’s no roadmap for easy navigation.

“The holiday season can be particularly challenging for families who are grieving the recent loss of a loved one,” said Bonnie Carroll, the founder and chairman of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, TAPS. “We offer tips to help surviving military families, and they are applicable to anyone who is grieving.”

For more than a decade, TAPS has helped surviving families of those who have died in military service. Carroll and TAPS offer the following tips to help anyone who is grieving during the holiday season.

Take charge of your holiday season. Anticipating the holiday, especially if it’s the first one without a cherished family member, can be worse than the actual holiday. Taking charge of your holiday plans, and mapping out how you will spend that time, can help relieve anxiety.

Make plans. Plan to spend the holidays where you feel nurtured, emotionally safe, and comfortable. An escape plan may be difficult to carry out, because American holidays are celebrated in many places world-wide, and there often is no way to escape all of the reminders of the holidays.

Find sustenance for the soul. Your church, synagogue, mosque, or other faith community may offer services, resources, and support networks to help. You may want to look for a support group for people who are grieving and have suffered a similar loss. Families who have lost a loved one serving in the military may find comfort by connecting with other survivors through our online community, online peer support groups, or care groups.

Don’t be afraid to change your holiday traditions. Some traditions may be a comfort, while others might cause pain. Consider which traditions to keep, and which ones to forego this year. Do not feel like you have to do something because you have always done it that way.

Include your lost loved one in gift-giving. Consider making a donation to a charity in memory of your loved one. Give a gift on behalf of your loved one to someone else.

Create a tribute. Light a candle, display a favorite photograph, or set a place at the dinner table to represent the missing loved one. Consider writing a letter to your loved one about the holidays and your special memories with that person.

Be gentle with yourself. Realize that familiar traditions, sights, smells, and even tastes, may be comforting, or may jolt your emotions. This is the time of year when you need to be careful with your emotions and listen to yourself.

Attend holiday functions if you can. Consider attending holiday parties and events, especially if you’ll be able to spend time with supportive family members and friends. Make an escape plan in case the event is more than you can handle, and trust your hosts to understand if you need to slip out. If you think a holiday gathering might be more than you can handle, it is ok to stay home.

Don’t pretend you haven’t experienced a loss. Imagining that nothing has happened does not make the pain of losing a loved one go away, nor does it make the holidays easier to endure. Even though holiday memories may be painful, they can also be comforting. It is ok to talk with others about what you have lost, and what the holidays mean to you.

Pay attention to your health. It’s often difficult for people who have experienced a recent loss to sleep. Make sure you get regular rest and drink lots of water. Do not over-indulge in sweets or alcohol. If you feel overwhelmed, talk with your medical care provider.

Take stock of both joy and sadness. Give yourself permission to feel joy as well as sadness. Don’t feel like you have to “be a certain way” because of your loss. Just be yourself.

Express your feelings. Bottling up your feelings may add to distress, not lessen it. To express your feelings, use your creativity to write a poem, talk with a supportive friend, create a painting, or pen a journal entry.

Share your holiday season with someone else. There are many lonely people who might like to experience the holiday season with someone else. Consider volunteering with a local charity or soup kitchen, inviting a neighbor for a special holiday meal, or including others in your holiday activities.

For more tips on dealing with grief during the holidays, go to the TAPS website at

TAPS is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, and 24/7 crisis intervention care for all who have been affected by the death of a loved one serving in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to or call the toll-free crisis line at 800.959.TAPS.

Go to TAPS here to find out more of the many programs they offer.

*Also on NewsBlaze here*