Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday Hero

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Toni

LTC Tim Karcher
LTC Tim Karcher
U.S. Army

Lieutenant Colonel Tim Karcher was shot in the shoulder in Iraq back in 2006. After just 5 months of healing at home that included 7 surgeries, he chose to go back to war.

"My unit was over there, they were taking casualties. It felt terrible to be here, it felt wrong," he said.

Reunited with his troops, Karcher was in Baghdad last summer for the historic transfer of power from the U.S. to the Iraqis.

But 10 days after that historic day, Karcher's vehicle was bombed and he lost both of his legs in the explosion.

"I'm very proud of him, he's fought for his life, he fought the whole summer to stay alive and he's taking it and running with it, he's so positive," said Alesia Karcher, Tim's wife.

Karcher says the tragedy of losing his legs made him realize what he still had including a wife and three children who need him.

"I could sit around and have a pity party everyday, but it's not going to grow my legs back," he said. "Life kicks you in the teeth every now and again, you get to decide how you react to it."

You can read more about LTC Karcher here and here.

All Information Was Found On And Copied From Here

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NASA's First Class of Female Astronauts

NASA's First Class of Female Astronauts

From left to right are Shannon W. Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Sally K. Ride. NASA selected all six women as their first female astronaut candidates in January 1978, allowing them to enroll in a training program that they completed in August 1979.

Image Credit: NASA

This Country Is Going to Crap Quickly


Matthew Snyder, of Finksburg, Maryland, died from a non combat-related vehicle accident in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to Combat Service Support Group-1

"He was a hero and he was the love of my life." - Albert Snyder, Matthew's Father (go read more here)

Make no mistake: Albert Snyder is also a hero. The header of today's piece is from CJ, an active duty American soldier, and his words echo my own feelings on the disgraceful ongoing dishonouring of Matthew Snyder and his family. CJ writes:

This Country Is Going to Crap Quickly

March 30, 2010 By CJ
Posted in Uncategorized

I can’t tell you how pissed I was to read this:

The father of a Marine killed in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters was ordered to pay the protesters’ appeal costs, his lawyers said Monday.

On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Snyder to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006.

Seriously?! What lawyer, judge, decent human being would EVER come to the conclusion that ANYONE owes Westboro Baptist Church anything, but especially the Gold Star Father of a fallen Marine? According to the article, no reasons were given behind the decision, but that father should not have to pay a dime if this country has any wits left about it. I’m literally sickened to death by this.

Marine's dad ordered to pay protesters' court fees

BALTIMORE – The father of a Marine killed in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters was ordered to pay the protesters' appeal costs, his lawyers said Monday.

On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Snyder to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder's funeral in 2006.

The two-page decision supplied by attorneys for Albert Snyder of York, Pa., offered no details on how the court came to its decision.

Attorneys also said Snyder is struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision adds "insult to injury," said Sean Summers, one of Snyder's lawyers.

The high court agreed to consider whether the protesters' message is protected by the First Amendment or limited by the competing privacy and religious rights of the mourners. (here)

I have written about the incredible Snyder family before on Tanker Bros - most recently in April 2008:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

File this under...

..."Warms the heart to see"!

Justice IS being served. Remember Lance Cpl Matthew Snyder and his father Albert? In March 2006, Albert buried his beloved son Matthew, a Marine who gave his all in service to America.

Then dad Albert sued Westboro Baptist Church. I first posted about the Snyder family back on November 1, 2007:

By Jon Hurdle

BALTIMORE, Oct 31 (Reuters) - A jury on Wednesday ordered an anti-gay Kansas church to pay $2.9 million in compensatory damages to relatives of a U.S. Marine after church members cheered his death at his funeral.

The jury in federal court determined that the Westboro Baptist Church based in Topeka, and three of its principals, had invaded the privacy of the dead man's family and inflicted emotional distress when they protested at his funeral last year....

You can go here to remind yourself. Well, it seems the wheels of justice are moving along.

Judge orders lien on Westboro church

“The property could not be sold, no further mortgage could be placed on the property, and it essentially would be frozen in time,” Bennett said. He ordered liens on the $443,000 church and a $233,000 office owned by Fred Phelps, the church’s founder.

He also ordered two of Phelps’ daughters to post cash bonds within 30 days. Shirley Phelps-Roper was ordered to post $125,000; Rebekah Phelps-Davis, $100,000 because the original judgment against her was less than her sister’s.

If the church is successful in its appeal, the money would be returned and the liens would be lifted.

The church’s finances have raised questions of how members can afford to travel the country to protest hundreds of funerals each year, but only have a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts....
You can read more on the latest developments on these ***** (fill in your own adjective!) here.


There are other columns over there, with all the background, and many links to learn more about this fallen hero and his family. You can find them all here.

This Gold Star Family has given more than enough in service to their country. It outrages me beyond measure that they STILL have to battle their country in order to be given some modicum of respect from the very justice system, values, that their precious Matthew gave his life defending.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong!

[Bratnote: Major tech issues here. My apologies!]

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Get over it"

Grief is a universal part of our human condition. Grief is also a very personal journey that most of us walk through, and with, at some point in our lives. Since the terrorist attacks on Ft Hood on November 5th last year, a whole new group has been forced to grapple with the most intense grief that follows the unexpected, violent loss of a loved one. The road is so hard, and the roller coaster ride of grief is unavoidable, no matter how much any of us may wish it so. The impact of unimaginable loss plays no favourites, as the stricken confront each day following such shocking events.

Leila is JD's sister, and another eloquent voice raised amidst the most unwelcome of lessons none of us would ever willingly volunteer for. There is no right or wrong way to live with grief, ever. Leila writes with such clarity from the very early stages of her own grief. She shares:
Get Over It

Twelve weeks. That is what "survivors" are told is the amount of time that we should "get over it." I heard this in my grief support group and I keep hearing it from other survivors who have it told to them. All of us laugh at this. I don't think 12 years is enough time to "get over" losing someone you love, let alone 12 weeks. I haven't even had enough time to get over my leftover Halloween candy in 12 weeks. I am just learning so much about the difference in hearing about someone mourning a loved one and actually experiencing it. I'll just tell you, 12 weeks is ridiculous, so let's just "get over" that idea.

I received a great email from a friend, JJ, that I have reconnected with. She was telling me about her friend who lost her mother 2 years ago, and recently blogged about this same subject. To quote her, "And I am so weary of seeing others, and myself treated like we need to be institutionalized because we are actually handling the hard things that life has thrown our way." She has quite a point. I have found so many people want to reach out and comfort me or my family, and are honestly scared to death. I can't blame them for that. But more aggrivating are the "get over it" looks or comments. I will never let go of my brother's memory. Ever.

If you're reading this, you're probably aware of the JD bumper stickers all over my car, the necklace of his face that rests on my heart every day, the hand painted portrait of his face that I am staring at just above my computer as I type this, the countless Army shirts I have that I wear every day, and if that's not enough - I have a button that goes with everything. I don't display my grief merely for attention. I chose to do these things because I want to give people permission to ask why I'm crying. I want to make it okay to ask "Who's that on your shirt?" Not because I want to play the victim, but I'll say it again: I DON'T WANT YOU TO FORGET ABOUT JD HUNT! And if I am crying for MY loss, then I don't want to be pitied, but rather just ask for permission to do so without judgment. Sometimes I don't really even want you to comfort me - just have compassion for my pain and do something to honor my brother - remember him. Mostly, I just want to make it okay for you to ask, because so many people think they can't or shouldn't. YOU SHOULD....

There is no right or wrong way to live with grief, ever. I seriously doubt any of us ever 'get[s] over it.' Not one of us ever needs 'permission' to feel what we feel. Period. Yes, I choose to deliberately emphasise that because it is important. Leila writes with such honesty as she shares her own healing, her own unique gaping wound. There is more here, and this IS a must read.

Lonsberry on Healthcare

Yet another voice of REASON in the era of 'Hope and Change':

Written March 22, 2010

Must be the Democrats don’t know history.

At least they don’t know the significance of March 22.

History will show that it was on March 22 that the Democrats pushed health-care reform through the United States House of Representatives.

History also shows that it was on March 22 that the Whigs pushed the Stamp Act through the British Parliament.

The one, in 1765, was the spark that started the American Revolution. The other, in 2010, may well be the spark that starts the Second American Revolution.

Because last night’s victory was one of politics over people, it was the shrill, extreme ambition of a minority forced upon an angry and disenchanted majority. It was also a fundamental change, the creation of an entitlement that sabotages both the stability and the ideology of the Unites States.

It was suicide in the name of progress.

First, the practical.

Democrat health-care reform is built upon a paradigm of impossibility. It claims to decrease cost by increasing coverage. It promises more people a spot at the trough while simultaneously pledging to put less in the trough.

Crooked numbers, fudged for PR purposes, claim health-care reform will reduce the federal deficit. Somehow, in Washington, spending a trillion dollars in a decade constitutes saving money.

It will never happen....

You KNOW there is more. Here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

You've got a friend

Music and Me bonus: For Diane and Ken with love....

If the sky above you
Should turn dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind should begin to blow
Keep your head together and call my name out loud
And soon I will be knocking upon your door. [lol]
You just call out my name and you know where ever I am
I'll come running...

And yes, I'll be singing, of course :)

Every Day Hero

Photo credit Adam Skoczylas

After receiving the Bronze star March 12 for serving as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, retired Chief Warrant Officer Phillip Daniel O’Donnell discusses his service with Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, the Army's chief of Legislative Liaison, and Col. Laura J. Richardson, Senate liaison chief.

Meet retired Chief Warrant Officer Phillip Daniel O’Donnell:

ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, March 18, 2010) -- A retired warrant officer received a Bronze Star last week for actions he took some 40 years earlier as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Phillip Daniel O'Donnell of Stafford, Va., his wife Monica, son Antonio, other family members, friends and Army representatives gathered in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., March 12 for a ceremony that awarded him the medal.

O'Donnell, who turns 70 in August, had been trying to obtain the medal for several decades with little success until the office of U.S. Sen. James Webb (Va.) intervened. Webb staffers helped find lost paperwork documenting the warrant officer's exploits.

O'Donnell said that through the decades he engaged service organizations like the VFW, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Military Personnel Records in St. Louis, Mo., and other entities in attempts to get the medal.

Representatives at Military Personnel Records would say, "Send me a copy of the citation," he related "And I'd say, 'Well I don't have a copy of the citation, so I can't do that."

He gave up for awhile. But last year O'Donnell was diagnosed with lung cancer, a service-related disability attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam.

"When I got diagnosed with cancer, I thought I'd make one more try because I'd like my 4-year-old son to have [the medal]," he said. "I tried for 40 years and the senator's office got it for me in two weeks."

"An award was authorized many years ago, but it was lost in the process," Webb explained in opening remarks at the ceremony. "I want to thank the [Department of Army] for going back to the records and Debbie Burroughs on my staff [for resolving the issue]."

"We're a staff that feels very strongly about military service," said Webb, a former Marine officer who received the Navy Cross and served as secretary of the Navy. He introduced staff members at the ceremony with military backgrounds, looked at the guest of honor and said, "Mr. O'Donnell, you're among friends here."

Before Webb pinned the medal on O'Donnell, Col. Laura Richardson of the Army Senate Liaison Office read the citation, signed by Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, awarding O'Donnell the medal. O'Donnell was cited for his performance as a helicopter pilot flying gun support in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971.

O'Donnell's "rapid assessment and solution of numerous problems inherent in a combat environment greatly enhanced the allied effectiveness against a determined and aggressive enemy," the citation read. "Despite many adversities, he invariably performed his duties in a resolute and efficient manner. Energetically applying his sound judgment and extensive knowledge, he has contributed materially to the successful accomplishment of the United States mission in the Republic of Vietnam. His loyalty, diligence, and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army."

"It's a very emotional day," said O'Donnell after receiving the medal. "I have lung cancer so that makes it even more special. I don't have many days left."

O'Donnell, who was promoted to lieutenant colonel but reverted to Chief Warrant Officer upon his retirement, downplayed the actions for which he received the medal.

"You just get up and go do it," he said. "There's no question about it. There are other guys out there who did the same thing I did."

O'Donnell spent 10 years in the Marines before entering the Army's warrant officer program in 1969. He said he did so largely for the opportunity to become a helicopter pilot.

Before enlisting in the Marines, O'Donnell spent ages 8 through 17 as a circus and Vaudeville performer. He comes from a family of acrobats and jugglers. "I was raised by Ringling Brothers," he joked.

In fact, O'Donnell has been nominated for induction into the International Jugglers Association Hall of Fame. "It's still pending," he said.

Because of this background, O'Donnell said he was in top physical condition with good hand-eye coordination when he entered the service. "I didn't have the ability to take orders though," he admits. "I had to adapt to that."

After retirement from active duty, O'Donnell was a building maintenance specialist with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Hel expressed his support for troops currently deployed overseas.

"They're doing a hell of a job and I'm proud of them. I wish there was some way I could be there also."

(Michael Norris is assistant editor of the Pentagram newspaper at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.)[source]

It is NEVER too late to honour any of our veterans. Thank you for your service, sir!

Music and Me

"Anything at all... you got it" !! :)

Are you singing with me? I don't hear youuuuuuuu... Laughing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"What we do"

Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 3/22/10
Stationed in: a civilian military hospital in the U.S.
Milblog: From Our Perspective

I held the hand of a dying warrior who fought death. Flown to us from the battlefield he was gravely wounded, with no chance of survival. His family, at his side every step of the way, elected to fulfill his wishes of being an organ donor. As loved ones gathered at his bedside saying final goodbyes, the OR and organ procurement team readied the operating room and started the process of organ compatibility.

No eye was dry in the ICU as he was wheeled from the room and down the hallway toward his final
surgery. In organ donation at our hospital the family has the option of going into the OR to be with the patient until they take their last breath. His family elected not to do so. After being placed gently on the operating table he was disconnected from the ventilator and life sustaining medications were turned off. The wait had begun.

Just as the “golden hour” in trauma dictates that for maximum recovery the trauma patient should receive care within an hour of injury, there is a “golden hour” in organ donation. Only it should be called "the black hour," as it is the darkest of all hours. Once totally disconnected, the patient has an hour to die before the organs become unusable.

Our fine warrior, so valiant in his career, who fought so hard in life, continued to fight in death. Disconnected, he started to breathe on his own. Sixty minutes never felt so long as we watched his agonal breathing become stronger. When we reached the end of that blackest hour we gazed at each other, once again in tears, hardly able to bear what we knew came next.

This family who had already said goodbye once must now say goodbye again...

I have only one thing to say: Go and read the rest of this one here..
Then thank God for such dedicated nurses who walk these journeys with our warriors and their families.

H/T Thunder Run

No Change on Jerusalem Policy Despite US Pressure

PM Netanyahu
PM Netanyahu
Israel news photo: file

No Change on Jerusalem Policy Despite US Pressure

by Maayana Miskin

( Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office said Friday that Israel will not change its policy vis-a-vis Jerusalem despite United States pressure. Netanyahu returned Thursday from a round of meetings in the US during which he was asked to restrict the construction of housing for Jews in parts of the capital city. Right wing MK's and groups are making efforts to show Netanyahu that mainstream Israel is with him on this issue.

Most Israeli mainstream media, however, described the meetings as a failure. The US hoped to talk Netanyahu into making major concessions to the Palestinian Authority, but Netanyahu refused to concede and said he would discuss the matter with his mini-Cabinet of seven senior ministers.

The prime minister is to meet with the seven ministers on Friday to discuss the outcome of his talk with Obama, and to submit America's demands for their consideration.

Obama pushed Netanyahu to agree to extend the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, to release hundreds of terrorists affiliated with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah organization, and to deny Jews the right to build in parts of Jerusalem that were under Jordanian control between the years 1948 and 1967.

Obama Criticized over 'US-Engineered Deadlock'
Obama's attempt to win Israeli concessions was criticized in America as well as in Israel. The Washington Post published an editorial this week terming the deadlock between Israel and the PA as “a US-engineered deadlock.”...

You know there is more, here.

[Interesting op/ed over at the Beeb:

Israel remains defiant amid allies' growing anger

Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem

As relations between Britain and Israel continue to unravel, in Jerusalem many Israelis feel that the outside world still fails to understand the problems - and threats - their country is facing.

Uzi Arad is a very important man. He's now the director of Israel's National Security Council, and National Security Adviser to the prime minister - a position he's held since Benjamin Netanyahu took office.

Uzi Arad
Uzi Arad's cordial relationship with Britain's MI6 is no longer

Uzi Arad has a reputation for fighting fiercely and territorially among the sharp edges that exist at the height of the Israeli power pyramid.

He was always hospitable whenever I, on occasion, used to visit him at home - before he took up his current job.

He'd spent more than 20 years in Mossad - Israel's secret intelligence service, and before he was appointed one of its directors, he was stationed for a time in London.

Once, at his house, he took me into his expansive library. He reached onto a shelf and extracted a book called Mandarin - the memoirs of the British diplomat Sir Nicholas Henderson...

Read the rest here.]

Friday, March 26, 2010


Photo Credit: Pfc. Amy M. Lane.

Tired dogs rest beside their handlers after returning to the classroom after a long day of training at Fort Hood, Texas, March 10. The 85th Medical Detachment, 1st Medical Brigade, is learning to work with therapeutic dogs in anticipation of their upcoming deployment to Iraq.

Stress dogs can be a Soldier's best friend

Mar 22, 2010

By Pfc. Amy M. Lane

FORT HOOD, Texas -- It can be difficult for some Soldiers to open up after a traumatizing event, or even if they are having problems at home while they are overseas. But the 85th Medical Detachment, 1st Medical Brigade, a combat stress control unit, is learning to work with some very unique ice breakers.

The 85th Soldiers, who are deploying to Iraq at the end of the month, have been training all week with four therapeutic dogs. The dogs are bred, trained and donated to the Army by America's VetDogs.

Stress control dogs can help Soldiers open up and start conversation flowing, said 1st Lt. Camille Betito, the executive officer for the 85th, whether they come into the clinic seeking help, or they're just out walking around the compound and someone approaches the animal.

"We're there for you if you need someone to talk to," Betito said. "The dogs can help people feel more at ease to start talking. Or sometimes just playing fetch or taking a few minutes to pet a dog can be a real comfort and morale booster when you're far away from your loved ones."

Betito said the animals are well loved by their handlers, and they even are assigned a rank, which helps humanize them.

Two representatives from America's VetDogs, Lisa Harvey and Valerie Kramer, came from New York to spend the week teaching Soldiers to work with the dogs. They brought four dogs with them, because the dogs the 85th will be working with are already in Iraq.

The Soldiers learned about the special gear the dogs wear, including: "Mutt Muffs", hearing protection made for dogs, "Doggles", their eye protection, and the boots that protect the dogs' feet from the desert sand....

Go read the rest of this B*N*S*N story here.


First Presidio chairwoman opened doors for other female language instructors

Story Highlights

  • In 1947, Ann Arpajolu became the first woman instructor at the Army Language School
  • In the 1970s, Ann Arpajolu made history as the first department chairwoman
  • In 2010, there were about 550 women instructors and 600 servicewomen attending DLIFLC
First Presidio chairwoman opened doors for other female language  instructors

Photo credit Courtesy photo

In 1947, Ann Arpajolu became the first woman instructor at the Army Language School. In the 1970s, Ann Arpajolu made history as the first department chairwoman. In 2010, there were about 550 women instructors and 600 servicewomen attending DLIFLC.

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- March is recognized as a time to reflect on the roles women have played in history and the contributions they have made to societies in the United States and the world.

Among notable women who are remembered at the Presidio is the late Ann Arpajolu, who in September 1947 was the first woman to be hired as an instructor at the Army Language School, forerunner of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.

When Arpajolu was selected chairwoman of the Greek Department in the early 1970s, she made history at the institute as the first woman to attain the position of department chairperson. The author of influential textbooks on the teaching of Greek language, Arpajolu retired in 1973.

In contrast to 1947, at the end of the first decade in the 21st century, DLIFLC employed about 550 women instructors. About 600 servicewomen were assigned to DLIFLC as students.

According to the National Women's History Project Web site, such an extraordinary number attests to the tireless work of thousands of women and men, organizations and institutions in establishing Women's History Month as an annual celebration.

When Women's History Month was first celebrated in the early 1980s, the topic of women's history was mostly limited to college curricula, the site says. Juxtapose that to 2010 with a Google search using the words "women's + history + month," which results in more than 40 million citations. As the saying goes: You've come a long way, baby.

It has been estimated that less than 3 percent of the content of teacher-training textbooks available at that time mentioned the contributions of women, according to the site, which also says that when they were mentioned, women's contributions were often relegated to mere footnotes. And, the contributions of women of color and women in fields such as mathematics, science and art were seldom discussed.

Celebrating Women's History Month is a step toward correcting the historical record and drawing attention to viable female role models. (source)


03/15/2010 - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bobbi Johnson shows students from Sapang Bato Elementary School how to use a communications radio at a static display on the flight line of Clark Air Base, Philippines, March 15, 2010. The students are visiting as part of an Armed Forces of the Philippines community outreach program being conducted for Balikatan 2010, a bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance program between the U.S. and Philippine militaries. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Claudia M. Palacios, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

03/20/2010 - Senior Airman Kahliha Love checks the vital signs of a Chilean child at the expeditionary hospital March 20, 2010, in Angol, Chile. About 60 medical Airmen are working alongside local Chilean medics to provide support to meet the daily medical needs of the 110,000 people in the region. The local hospital in Angol was deemed structurally unsound after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake Feb. 27, 2010. Airman Love is an aerospace medical technician assigned to the 81st Medical Operating Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tiffany Trojca)


Royal Welsh uncover large stashes of Taliban IEDs

A Military Operations news article

23 Mar 10

In two operations just a week apart soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh have uncovered some of the largest quantities of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and IED components found in Afghanistan to date.

Soldiers with IED cache

Soldiers of B Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, with the cache of IEDs and IED components found in Nad 'Ali
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

In Nad 'Ali, central Helmand, where Operation MOSHTARAK has been taking place, the Royal Welsh soldiers discovered 260 IEDs, 38 detonators, and 57 weapons ranging from anti-tank mines and rocket-propelled grenades to AK47 machine guns and grenades.

Eight kilogrammes of homemade explosives were found hidden underneath piles of dry poppy and fertiliser sacks containing approximately 165 IED components, which had the potential to make hundreds of IEDs.

The troops from A Company and B Company made the find as they were flushing out insurgents from their areas of operations.

As the Royal Welsh soldiers from B Company got close to the enemy positions they came under a barrage of small arms fire. Taking cover where they could, the troops quickly set about identifying the enemy's firing positions. When they were unable to do so they called in the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

These UAVs have proved to be an invaluable resource for British and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops on the ground throughout the Afghan campaign.

Lance Corporal Zack O'Brien

Lance Corporal Zack O'Brien takes a closer look at the cache of improvised explosive devices found by Royal Welsh soldiers
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

Four men were also soon detected acting suspiciously by some compounds, south of where the soldiers were located.

The troops moved rapidly to positions closer to the compound. The gunmen had disappeared and Lance Corporal Zack O'Brien and Fusilier Stephen Handley conducted a methodical search of the compounds and uncovered the cache of weapons, IEDs and their components.

Just days before, A Company had pushed forward without resistance to a compound near the bazaar in central Nad 'Ali....

For more on this great B*N*S*N story, go here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pray for Gabe

Bulletin from Chuck:

The vet today gave the worst news ever....Gabe has a cancer tumor....he goes to surgery in the next week.....please pray for my boy, my world would be turned upside down if I lost my best friend...

Gabe is set for surgery on 1st April. He is an absolute hero to so many, (including many of our own furbabies.) Please pray to whatever Higher Power you believe in, for both Gabe and Chuck.

We all love you, Gabe, and we all have faith. (And bratdog sends you a special slurp, with love.)

The family also serves

From Helmand Blog:
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If you think the 3 Rifles heroes of Afghanistan are brave, meet their families

By Robert Hardman

Captain Craig McBurney quietly leaves the room, his mobile phone pressed to his ear.

A mother is on the line, understandably distraught having just learned that her son has been shot.
Keeping busy: Kim Harrison and daughter Brooke, four

The young man will pull through and has been well enough to call her from his hospital bed in Afghanistan.

But she is in shock. 'The poor woman was on the floor in pieces,' says Capt McBurney when he returns.

He introduces me to a group of Army wives who can now dare to contemplate that longed-for moment - next month's reunion with their husbands.

Are they ticking off the days? Some shake their heads.

'Tempting fate,' says one. Deborah Fleming, on the other hand, tells me she is counting down to the two big stars on her calendar. One marks Rifleman John Fleming's return home. The other, days later, is the due date for their baby.

Capt McBurney has to slide out of the room again. It turns out that a recuperating double amputee needs help with a hospital appointment. His phone rings once more.

The parents of a dead Rifleman are desperate to retrieve their son's camera and its precious images from Afghanistan.

In fact, Capt McBurney's phone hardly stops. It might be a soldier's wife having a late-night panic attack. It might be a dawn alert from a Casualty Notifying Officer at the door of a family whose life is about to fall apart....

My regular readers already know what respect I have for our military families, from all our coalition countries.

This column is about families from the UK, but the experiences of the home front heroes cross all geographical boundaries. Go read the rest of this one here.

Oh, and every chance you get, THANK the family. I do!

H/T Thunder Run

RAF personnel honoured for bravery

RAF personnel honoured for bravery

A History and Honour news article

23 Mar 10

Among the British Service personnel to be honoured for their gallantry and meritorious service in last week's Operational Awards List are six members of the Royal Air Force.

Flight Lieutenant Marc Heal

Flight Lieutenant Marc Heal has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions whilst on operations in Afghanistan
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

The RAF personnel, who come from various stations across the UK, have been honoured for their bravery and service in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in Search and Rescue missions around the UK.

The highest honour for the RAF went to Flight Lieutenant Marc Heal, aged 29, currently stationed at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, who was awarded the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions whilst on operations in Afghanistan in July 2009.

Flt Lt Heal was the Captain of the Chinook helicopter Immediate Response Team (IRT) during Operation PANTHER'S CLAW.

Based at Camp Bastion, he commanded eight IRT missions and was regularly tasked into areas with a very significant enemy threat. His citation states that:

"He consistently demonstrated exceptional levels of professional ability, combined with unflinching courage throughout, successfully extracting 29 casualties from the battlefield and delivering them into medical care.

"Throughout this most intense operational period, his superior flying skills, inspirational command of his crew and calmness under fire set an outstanding example of gallantry, professionalism and courage that undoubtedly saved lives."..

To read about the other heroes who were justly recognised, go here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

US judge orders release of 9/11 recruiter

The insanity continues. From The Long War Journal:

US judge orders release of 9/11 recruiter


From left to right: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Osama bin Laden, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Mohammed Atta.

A US federal judge has ordered the release of a top al Qaeda recruiter for the 9/11 attacks from custody at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was identified by the 9/11 Commission as a key recruiter of al Qaeda’s Hamburg cell, was ordered to be released from the prison by US District Judge James Robertson, according to The Wall Street Journal. Slahi was also allegedly an important facilitator of the failed millennium bomb plot at Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. Robertson’s ruling on Slahi’s detention has not been disclosed, and is currently classified.

Slahi is known to have recruited several al Qaeda operatives before his detention in Mauritania in November 2001. His most high-profile recruits were the top members al Qaeda’s cell in Hamburg, Germany -- the key planners and operatives of the 9/11 attack. He was “a significant al Qaeda operative,” who was “well known to U.S. and German intelligence,” according to the 9/11 Commission’s final report.

While in Hamburg in 1999, Slahi arranged for Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the key facilitators of the 9/11 operation, and three of his cohorts to travel from Germany to Afghanistan so that they could train in al Qaeda's camps and swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Binalshibh's three friends were: Mohammed Atta, Marwan al Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah--the suicide pilots of American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, and United Airlines Flight 93, respectively.

Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah met with Slahi in late 1999. Slahi convinced the three terrorists to travel to Afghanistan for training instead of rushing off to Chechnya to fight the Russians. Slahi told the operatives to obtain a Pakistani visa and then provided instructions on “on how to travel to Karachi and then Quetta, where they were to contact someone named Umar al Masri at the Taliban office,” according to the 9/11 Commission....

There is much more detail, here.

I suppose this is one way of BHO keeping his campaign promise to close GITMO. I know I am not the only one who sees this as no way to ensure our safety from future terrorist attacks. The insanity continues.

Spring has sprung - on Mars

From NASA:

A Burst of Spring

Spring has sprung on Mars, bringing with it the disappearance of carbon dioxide ice (dry ice) that covers the north polar sand dunes. In spring, the sublimation of the ice (going directly from ice to gas) causes a host of uniquely Martian phenomena.

In this image streaks of dark basaltic sand have been carried from below the ice layer to form fan-shaped deposits on top of the seasonal ice. The similarity in the directions of the fans suggests that they formed at the same time, when the wind direction and speed was the same. They often form along the boundary between the dune and the surface below.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (source)

Wednesday Hero

This Weeks Post Was Suggested & Written By Debbie In Honor Of Her Great Uncle.

Sgt. William Robert Cain
Sgt. William Robert Cain
August 1, 1922 - July 4, 1944
U.S. Army

William Robert Cain (August 1, 1922 - July 4, 1944) was a husband to Genevieve (Anderson) and the only son of Cleveland and Margaret Cain. He was the baby brother to three sisters, Lena Mae, Anna Phyllis (who died in 1932) and Lora Genevieve.

He was born in the town named after his ancestors called Cainsville, Missouri. He grew up, went to school and played baseball there until he decided to join the U.S. Army. He made the decision to join the Army after graduating high school earlier in the year of 1940 but he would not be turning eighteen until August so he waited and enlisted right after his 18th birthday.

The letter his parents received was dated August 27, 1940 asking them to fill out before a Notary Public, Postmaster or Justice of Peace an Age Verification and Consent Papers and sign BOTH PAPERS in PEN or INK. They were asked to kindly give this their immediate attention as this young man cannot be enlisted till the papers were returned.

Sgt. Robert Cain, (lovingly called Billy Bob by his family and Doc by the Army men), enlisted in August, 1940 and ranked as Sergeant in the medical corps. in charge of hospital on shipboard. His last duty was at Letterman Hospital, Presidio, California. In all he had been assigned to four different ships and made 34 trips over the ocean, the last one a supply ship called SS Jean Nicolet. Sgt. Cain was serving aboard the SS Jean Nicolet when it was attacked by the Japanese on July 2, 1944. The Jean Nicolet was sunk and Sgt. Cain was one of many men taken hostage. He was also one of many men who were tortured for two days before he was killed or died in the Indian Ocean.

From Debbie: I have heard family stories about him, one of which of course is how he died in WWII and that he received the Purple Heart of which I am very proud of. More stories where about how he loved his family. I personally, as his Great Niece, have the love of medicine and caring for others as he did. I am a nurse. This is why it means so much to me that he is remembered as well as the others who were on the Liberty Ship Jean Nicolet that fatal day!

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Your Mission: For Robert and Georgia Gold Star Families

Georgia HB 1012 - Gold Star Family License Plate - Stuck on Motor Vehicle Chair Tom Rice's Desk


In 2006 I asked the Georgia Legislature to enact a Gold Star Family Tag to honor the fallen and allow the families to show their pride and love for their fallen. But someone gutted part of it. The spouse, mother and father were allowed one tag and one only, no matter how many cars they owned. The children, siblings and parents by marriage (I hate the word step-parents) were not even allowed to buy a tag. But it is known as Honoring the Family of the Fallen Tag officially and generically known as the Gold Star Family License Plate. This year I asked my friend and State Rep to help get this bill amended to allow the entire family access to the tag and to allow them to have one for each car they may own. This is not going to cost Georgia one penny, and in fact would actually bring them some money in a badly depleted treasury.

Not sure what has happened, but what seemed a no brainer seems to have hit a snag. Georgia House Rep. Tom Rice, Chairman of the Motor Vehicle Committee allowed other tag legislation to pass on through his committee today, but did not allow HB 1012 to be considered and it has sat there idle and will remain idle until he allows it on the calendar for his committee to vote on. We need to get it on with do pass so the Rules Committee can put it on the House Floor Calendar for a full vote. It has to get from there to the Senate side of the Georgia Legislature before "cross-over day" in another week or else it is automatically dead on arrival. I need your help to encourage honoring the fallen from Georgia, especially our Georgia National Guardsmen and their families, by contacting Rep. Rice :

Light up his phone and email and help me and so many other families of the Georgia Fallen out on this one.

Robert Stokely

This came to me via The Thunder Run, who says:

Robert is asking that we disseminate this as much as possible...
Now, Its your turn.

The Stokely family has given so much in service to America. Now, it IS your turn. Let's get 'er done!

Monday, March 22, 2010

I was...In the Middle of Nowhere

Cpl James Arnal

Cpl Arnal's mother Wendy and brother Andrew besides James' plaque.

Canada has been in Afghanistan for eight years, and in that time 140 of our men and women have given their lives in extraordinary acts of courage and bravery for their country. Cpl James Arnal was the 88th soldier to sacrifice all. His mother Wendy, and brother Andrew, went to Kandahar last September. What follows is Wendy's account of their journey, in her own words:


(c) Wendy Hayward

I was fortunate to travel to Kandahar Air Force Base with our military and experience something awesome, and I mean that in every sense of the word. This phrase covers the whole spectrum of impressions, and that is why I feel compelled to share my experiences and the validation it gives to our cause and the global crises of not only 50 million landmines in over 70 countries, but also the need for the help necessary in a country that has been riddled with wars for over 30 years. The more I research this crisis, the more daunting the task seems to become. I was told by someone recently that it would take 500 years to rid the world of all the landmines! There are reported to be over 650,000 landmines in Afghanistan ... the middle of nowhere.

To me Afghanistan, and more specifically Kandahar Air Force Base, is an area that prior to being there was more surreal than it is to me today. Upon my arrival, “the middle of nowhere” became real in many ways – physically, mentally and emotionally. This was no longer a place described to me by my son, but rather a reality that he lived and that I needed to experience for myself. “The middle of nowhere” wasn’t just the geographical location of Afghanistan to me, but rather the place my son died; and I knew I needed to experience it as part of my journey to not heal – because I don’t think I ever will – but cope with this loss. This trip made the middle of nowhere real.

I was taken as far and as close as I could go safely to where my son died. This story does not depict the level of risk, physical endurance, and courage it takes to go outside the wire. I was left feeling that heaven and hell is just outside that wire. My son is out there ... in the middle of nowhere.

My trek to Afghanistan provided me with even more validation and motivation to continue our work to help demine countries of this weapon of terror, destruction and devastation. I met a young boy about 7 years old in the Kandahar Hospital that had stepped on a landmine last May and lost his right leg. I have to tell you that I was horrified and cried as I immediately felt that we were too late. And what struck me so oddly was the sense that this is an event that is maybe not every day, but a fact of life in Afghanistan. I immediately thought that something this horrific would not be tolerated back home. Why is it here? Over the course of the next couple of days the answer resonated with me. I remembered my son being quoted in an article on Remembrance Day November 2006, “We’re here so that these people can have the same opportunities we have back home ... and not have dictatorships such as the Taliban telling them what to do. I hope they’ll be remembered as brave people who stood up for things that other people can’t or are too afraid to defend.” There’s the answer ... Afghans are not equipped to defend themselves and they live in fear. After over 30 years of war it has become a way of life.

Later that same day the military showed us actual landmines that they have found over the years and explained how the designs and the construction of them change over the course of time as the military become wise to the Taliban’s strategies of the construction and planting of IEDs. I had always wondered why they just don’t explode them from a safe distance rather than risk the lives of soldiers and dogs and I had the opportunity to ask and get yet another answer, it is critical that the knowledge of what and how they use these weapons is shared so that soldiers, local farmers and children can be on the lookout for them. The defusing of them provides the intelligence to combat the random detonations that do not recognize whether it is a soldier’s foot or that of a child’s. The soldiers giving us the briefing on IEDs shared many successful stories. One young girl recognized a wire sticking out of a pile of garbage. She reported it and ultimately lives were saved!

More and more landmines are becoming undetectable as the Taliban now use as much plastic as possible, still even the copper wire used as the contact to detonate is detectable by detectors sometimes and remote controlled surveillance machines. I was also amazed that the military have “contraptions” that counteract radio transmitted controlled devices and are used to protect human lives. These “contraptions” appear to be something out of a Star Wars movie and emit a signal that disrupts other signals. And of course the use of a robot equipped with cameras is utilized as much as possible when approaching suspicious objects thought to be a landmine.

My first day in Kandahar ended off by accidentally running into Werner, a reservist and mine detection dog handler from South Africa. His dog Ricky and he were sniffing out landmines along a fence line around the outer edges of the base. What an incredible dog! We all thanked him and Ricky, and were only too happy and proud to have our picture taken with them! Werner and his best friend were dusty with the fine desert sand but full of heart.

Our troops, among so many other countries and quite a large number of civilians from around the world were hard at work and busy in Kandahar in a number of different projects. A number of NATO forces working in concert toward a common goal and currently being commanded by a NATO General from Norway. We had the opportunity to meet him and after only talking with him for 15 minutes he shared his passion and belief they do make a difference. I learned about a school, Sayad Pascha, just outside the wire that was built by the military and supported to house classes for the local children. I was told by our military escorts that they would appreciate our support for that school and ultimately the next one. It is currently being supported by “Skills Generation” and you can learn more by visiting their website, I was shown the school’s progress and what it takes to be productive and meaningful and I find it amazing how a substantial project could evolve out of a mission that at first glance appears to be chaos. But being there and seeing everything, it is anything but chaotic.

The small “city”, in this huge sandbox, runs methodically, organized and focused on tasks going on all around you. A number of barb wired fences surround compounds and the outer edge of the camp. Proud soldiers and armies everywhere you look, carry rifles. Friendly locals providing meals, cleaning, construction, etc, always grant you a friendly smile and nod. Machinery and vehicles are covered in fine desert sand, which covers and sticks to absolutely everything. Cubed housing and facilities make up small city blocks surrounded by tall cement rocket barriers, some proudly displaying graffiti from those before us. A few roads are paved, though most are gravel. Every cubical houses many air conditioning units providing relief from the heat. Now and then you’ll walk past a “Canada Post” mail box and you are reminded of home. A “poop pond” fills the air with a stench which is grotesque at first and unbearable. If you stay there long enough you have no choice but to become accustomed to it.

The infamous boardwalk is the only sign of our western world boasting Tim Horton’s, Burger King and a number of other brand name restaurants, and both local and brand name shops. It’s a dry camp, meaning no alcohol, and one corner of the large boardwalk houses a karaoke corner where those that need not the induced courage to sing, belt out their favourite tunes! The center of the boardwalk provides beach volleyball, floor hockey and other sports for the troop’s rest and relaxation. The mess halls seem to feed an endless line of people and even provide sinks prior to entering for washing up before dinner. I was surprised to find out that there are over 260,000 cases of malaria in Afghanistan. Every effort is taken to lessen the challenges this country presents and everywhere I went there was the most valuable commodity ... water. The heat is so intense, you don’t go anywhere without your bottle of H2O.

For security reasons, few lights remain on at night and everyone then dons their yellow florescent belt, a signal to the many vehicles always on the move. The airport is a business in itself, airplanes, Chinooks and Apache helicopters and jets constantly landing and taking off. No pictures were allowed in certain areas, for security reasons. The airport was one of them. The airport terminal is called the TLS. The Taliban’s Last Stand. The building that armies forced them in too, marked with gun shots and a hole in the roof where a bomb hit. The hospital is near the airstrip and helicopter pads for emergencies. I was surprised but pleased to see only four patients, two soldiers with minor wounds and two children. It is more than a MASH unit and quite impressive, even equipped with dentists and a CT scanner. And again, every precaution is taken for a healthy and safe environment. There is construction everywhere. The most prominent is the new hospital being built of brick and two stories high. Around the edges of the camp were fields that had been demined and filled with scrap metal as a result of those efforts. We also saw fields currently being demined as the “city” continues to grow in size.

The cenotaph is the only place on base that a salute was required. This rule was changed recently but soldiers still salute as they go by paying tribute to all fallen. The flag was at half mast that Sunday, having been lowered for a British soldier killed in the line of duty. I was also impressed to see a number of times the fund raising efforts being done in Kandahar for Soldier On, the School, etc. A female soldier actually offered her long locks to be shaved upon reaching a goal of $15,000 and we witnessed the shaving! She was only too pleased to do it, not only for Soldier On but also to give her hair to another organization that makes wigs for cancer patients! I was amazed at their focus, aren’t they doing enough by just being here?

In what was such a busy place where everyone had a point B to get to at all times, what I did not see was vehicles speeding, blatant disrespect for those whose turn it was at a four way stop, who was next in line at Tim Horton’s or the mess hall, idleness, or even just one cranky person. Everyone wore a smile.

When the sirens went off because of a rocket attack, we were quickly ushered into a bomb shelter, however not once did I feel at risk. Although being debriefed, I instinctively did not know what to do. But my military escort, Chris, knew exactly what to do as did all the personnel. At one minute we were eating and enjoying each other’s company and the next they were moved to action to protect us. I do not intend to minimize the risk of an attack but there was no whistle in the air and the ground did not shake beneath my feet. But the threat was real. Reports after confirmed a rocket found about four kilometres outside the wire was aimed at the camp but detected before it could be fired. According to our military escorts there has not been one in 4 to 5 weeks and they hardly ever come near the base if they are fired. But again, every precaution is taken to protect lives. I recalled my son writing in his journal when he came close to a bullet, “Good thing these bastards can’t shoot!” But what if they got lucky? They did hit a mess hall once and destroyed it, and it is now a parking lot to the new one that replaced it.

Our group was also granted a debriefing on the Canadian Contingent’s Mission and was very impressed with the progress made in an area that is now to be considered completely free of the Taliban and landmines. The way I understood it was there is almost a police station presence in the village that provides protection and assistance to establishing irrigation, building schools, creating roads, electricity, jobs, etc. All the things we consider as basic necessities. With this strategy it enables us to build trust and hope in the local people where they can see the fruits of their labours and build an infrastructure that works for them that will not crumble upon our departure. The influx of American troops allows us to focus more on this strategy. Our government and military have been lobbying for more support of troops from other countries for some time now. In a way we are somewhat peacekeeping in this location. It’s what we are experienced at and do well. The military proudly boasts the success of this in at least this one town and district, and are already moving on to another location to do the same.

The Canadian mission in Afghanistan is and always has been to my knowledge, “To Protect and Enable”. Not peacemaking or peacekeeping. To me this appears to be a humanitarian mission. How could it be anything but protecting and enabling when you don’t know who you are fighting and horrible things are happening to innocent people. Even the Afghan people, that can, don’t know who to fight as their land is occupied by a power that brings their own rules of engagement and survival. Unfortunately at the cost of good men and women, we have been forced to engage the cowards of this desert in order to meet the goals to protect and enable. Call it what you want, engaging in combat has happened in other tours, and in the last 50 years Canada has lost over 100 other soldiers in 70 other tours that we called peacekeeping. Afghan people that want protection and assistance to be enabled are getting it.

Being part of a group of fallen families visiting such a desolate place, it is a paradise for all those living and working there for the good of others. We visited a compound that housed the unit where Cpl Nathan Hornburg worked in and they presented his mom and dad with a little air conditioned retreat for the troops named after him ... Hornburg’s Corner. I couldn’t help but think that the littlest corner in the world housed the biggest of hearts. The troops provided us all comfort for the “Mending Hearts Club”, families of our Fallen Hero’s. Outstanding and impressive heroes ... in the middle of nowhere.

I returned home with more love and pride for our troops, the civilians and other countries all doing their part and a better appreciation of what they go through to make a difference ... an inspiration to support our mission, our troops, and the Afghan people. Whatever our mission evolves to in Afghanistan I believe the people in the know that are and have been there and experience this place, truly care and know what they are doing. And those involved choose to be there. One of the Officers I had the pleasure and privilege to meet told me that you can always fit a square peg into a round hole if you hit it long enough, and hard enough. These civilians and NATO forces in Kandahar work long and hard and that square peg is fitting in ways we don’t always hear about. Thank you to you all and Godspeed your safe return. My heart is with them ... in the middle of nowhere.

Wendy Hayward

Mother of Cpl James Hayward Arnal: KIA – July 18, 2008

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