Tuesday, December 28, 2010

God's Will: Flying High

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Unfinished Stories

I still wake up some mornings and wonder how all of this could be happening. It still doesn't seem real.

Billy has been gone for just over 24 hours, and I still can't believe it. I miss him like crazy, and I can't imagine life without him! The whole journey seems too short...

Just after Billy was diagnosed on September 23, they told us that he probably had a year to live. A year! It seemed so short. None of us imagined we'd have even less time with him....

Read the rest of sister Michelle's heart-wrenching column here.

Billy and Buddy.

Soar through the heavens, Billy. Your fight here is done.

Keeping all who love Billy in my heart.

Allowance for Housebound Veterans

Very useful information for Housebound Veterans from the U.S. Veteran Compensation Programs:

Allowance for Housebound

What is housebound allowance?

The VA’s Housebound Allowance is an additional amount available to eligible Veterans and dependents that are entitled to VA pension or VA compensation. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-827-1000.

Who is eligible for the housebound allowance?

A Veteran, dependent spouse or surviving spouse [ emphasis mine] who because of their physical limitations is unable to walk or travel beyond their home. This allowance may be granted for those unable to meet the requirements of the greater aid and attendance allowance. If their disabilities are severe enough to confine them to their immediate premises for the foreseeable future, they may be entitled to higher income limitations or additional benefits, depending on the type of benefit received.

How do I apply?

You should furnish a medical statement covering the findings, diagnosis and prognosis of any recent medical treatment or examination. The doctor’s statement or medical report should describe how your ability to perform the personal functions of daily living, such as dressing, feeding, bathing, and attending to the needs of nature, is limited by your medical condition. It should also include the number of hours you spend in bed and describe your posture and general appearance. You may also furnish any other information indicating that you are unable to care for yourself or walk or travel beyond your home because of your condition.

Note: You are not required to incur the expense of the physical examination by a private physician in order to receive consideration. If the detailed medical information about your ability to care for yourself is not available from the doctor’s or hospital’s current records, VA may arrange for a physical examination
Does this help me with medication expenses?
Veterans who have been adjudicated through the VA Regional Office for Aid and Attendance Compensation Pension, Allowance for Housebound or approved by the MEDVAMC for Fee Basis are entitled to receive medications through VA Pharmacy without being assigned to a Primary Care Provider. The medication prescribed must be on the VA formulary.

This site has all sorts of information that every veteran can use. Check it out here.

H/T Christina

26,000 veterans wrongly denied benefits

Groups Says 26,000 Vets Were Wrongly Denied Benefits

Over the past decade, DoD has wrongly discharged about 26,000 veterans, inaccurately classifying them as suffering from personality disorder, a description that makes them ineligible to receive veterans benefits, according to the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The group said that personality disorder is a disability that begins in adolescence or early adulthood and is often confused with post-traumatic stress disorder, which has many of the same symptoms. VVA filed a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on Dec. 15 seeking DoD records on those discharged with a personality disorder diagnosis.

The group noted that testimony heard by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2007 alleged that DoD deliberately misused personality disorder diagnoses in order to reduce to the cost of health care and disability compensation. Since then, DoD has dramatically decreased the number of soldiers it has discharged on the basis of personality disorder, the group said. However, DoD has done nothing to reverse the discharges of those wrongly diagnosed, VVA said.

“While DoD protects its reputation and its pocketbook, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury continue to be denied the benefits and medical care they are due,” said Thomas Berger, executive director of VVA’s Veterans Health Council.

From Vietnam Veterans of America:

Defense Department Wrongfully Discharges Nearly 26,000 Veterans, Refuses to Release Records

Washington, D.C.--The Defense Department's (DoD) failure to comply with the law in releasing records that show it has blocked disabled veterans from receiving disability compensation and other benefits, earned as a result of service to our nation has prompted Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and VVA Chapter 120 in Hartford, Connecticut, to file a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

The complaint, filed today at the U.S. District Court in New Haven by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, charges that, since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism, DoD has systematically discharged nearly 26,000 veterans, wrongfully classified as suffering from Personality Disorder, a characterization that renders the service member ineligible for receiving rightful benefits. Personality Disorder is a disability that begins in adolescence or early adulthood and can present with symptoms which may mimic Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"DoD's Personality Disorder designation prevents thousands of wounded veterans from accessing service-connected disability compensation or health care," said VVA National President John Rowan.

In 2007, the Veterans Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives charged DoD with deliberately misusing personality disorder diagnoses in order to reduce to the cost of health care and disability compensation by at least $12.5 billion. Since then, DoD has dramatically decreased the number of soldiers it has discharged on the basis of Personality Disorder. After discharging an average of 3,750 service members per year for Personality Disorder between 2001 and 2007, DoD has discharged only 960 service members in 2008; 1,426 in 2009; and 650 to date in 2010. However, rather than repairing the harm it has caused to the veterans it misdiagnosed, DoD is refusing to admit that veterans were inappropriately discharged with Personality Disorder before 2008.

"While DoD protects its reputation and its pocketbook, veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury continue to be denied the benefits and medical care they are due," said Dr. Thomas Berger, Executive Director of VVA's Veterans Health Council. Since 2007, VVA has publically criticized DoD's systematic misuse of Personality Disorder discharges, in correspondence to DoD Secretary Gates and in testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, with the intent of curbing the wrongful discharge practice and assisting those wrongfully discharged veterans in receiving the benefits to which they are entitled.

"If DoD truly believes that all Personality Disorder discharges were lawful, why does it refuse to provide records responsive to VVA's Freedom of Information Act request?" asked Melissa Ader, a law student intern in the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, which is counsel in the case. "We hope that this lawsuit will allow the public to assess for itself whether DoD has treated veterans unjustly."

For more information visit: http://www.vva.org/ppd.html

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”


H/T Jane

Monday, December 27, 2010

CBC Radio – Canada producer seeking military spouses for a story

Are you a Canadian military spouse, or do you know one? If so, this message is for you:

... I`m a producer with Radio-Canada in Montreal. I`m doing some research for a story that I`m working on about support for military families.

I`m wondering if you can help me with my research…

I know that the Canadian Forces has done a lot the last few years through the Military Family Resources Centres to support spouses and women in particular. But I`m trying to get a sense of how the Canadian Forces treats spouses in general now that their partners are coming back from one or more deployments to Afghanistan. I know that this puts a lot more stress on families, when they`re already very stressed. So far, I`ve talked with a lot of women who are feeling quite isolated.

I`m wondering, if you have an insights on this topic, could you give me a call? We could chat off-the-record and totally confidentially. I`m free any time and you can reach me on my cell at 514-895-0341 or email me at lysanne.louter@radio-canada.ca

Merry Christmas!! And thank you!


Please pass this on.. Thank you.

(H/T Mike Blais CVA)

New Stress hotline for Marines

New hot line available in times of stress

By Tony Lombardo - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Dec 26, 2010 9:19:55 EST

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Brofer/Marine Corps Marines and family members who find themselves battling stress can talk to a trained counselor for free through the "DSTRESS Line," a Marine Corps-sponsored phone hotline staffed 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Marines and their families can call the hotline at 1-877-476-7734 or visit www.dstressline.com.

You’ve got bills to pay, too little family time and new orders from your commander. The stress started as a slow burn, but now your head is on fire.

To help, the Corps is touting a new hot line called “DSTRESS.” Available to Marines on the West Coast, the hope is to expand it Corps-wide.

Faced with mounting stress and not enough support, a Marine can quickly “spiral downhill,” said Col. Grant Olbrich, section head of the suicide prevention program at Headquarters Marine Corps.

“There are widely varying challenges being in the Marine Corps family, and that applies to our Marines currently in uniform, family members and Marines who used to wear the uniform,” Olbrich said. “DSTRESS is for all of them.”

Olbrich points out that DSTRESS is not a suicide hot line, but rather a source for any Marine “feeling the effects of stress.”

The Corps is just launching a media campaign to get the word out. It’s good timing for the holiday season, Olbrich said, when stress typically is high.

The hot line, 877-476-7734, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or you can visit the DSTRESS website.

If you want help

• Call the hot line at 877-476-7734. It is operational 24/7.

Visit the program’s website.

Much more information here.

    Football in Kabul

    soldiersmediacenter | December 08, 2010 |

    Female Soldiers with International Security Assistance Force play a game of soccer against the Afghan National Women's Football Team. Sgt. 1st Class Jose Colon reports from Kabul. (Here)

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    Heroes every day

    AssociatedPress | December 24, 2010 |

    International troops in Afghanistan celebrated Christmas Eve in Kabul with intimate religious services, Christmas carols, a special meal and a glass of bubbly. American soldiers based in camp Phoenix in the capital Kabul attended a Protestant Candlelight service.

    And from Winnipeg Free Press:

    Canadian troops in Afghanistan gather for special Christmas Eve mass in Kandahar

    Posted: 24/12/2010 9:30 AM

    U.S. Navy commander and chaplain Lewis Dolan leads a multi-denominational mass Friday at Kandahar Airfield. Troops at this NATO base in southern Afghanistan are celebrating Christmas by decorating trees and doing last-minute shopping on the boardwalk.


    U.S. Navy commander and chaplain Lewis Dolan leads a multi-denominational mass Friday at Kandahar Airfield. Troops at this NATO base in southern Afghanistan are celebrating Christmas by decorating trees and doing last-minute shopping on the boardwalk.

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - They gathered in a simple wooden chapel in a faraway land to do something quintessentially Canadian: sing Christmas songs.

    These being the famed Van Doos from Valcartier, Que., they sang traditional French Christmas carols, such as "Peuple fidele" and "Il est ne le divin enfant."

    Maybe for a few minutes they forgot they were so far from home.

    The night before Christmas at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan was a festive affair, capped by a late-night mass attended by about 100 Canadian troops.

    It was a day when soldiers paired desert camouflage fatigues with red Santa hats. The wooden boardwalk was abuzz with last-minute shoppers looking for that perfect gift for colleagues or to send back home — albeit a bit late.

    Others packed the Internet cafe to email or call loved ones at home.

    Soldiers have been in the Christmas spirit all week. Every corner of the boardwalk was festooned with ornaments and paper signs from various NATO countries. The Canadians hung a sled with a red maple leaf painted on its front. The Americans went with a cardboard mantle and faux fireplace. The British had a Christmas tree.

    A gargantuan Christmas tree bedecked in ornaments and lights stood next to the ball-hockey rink at the far corner of the boardwalk. After sundown, the tiny lights strung along wooden beams twinkled like stars.

    Down at the Canadian part of the base, troops lined up at Tim Hortons to be served by cashiers sporting Mrs. Claus-inspired pink toques with white trim and pompoms.

    Later, as the setting sun set tinged the sky with splashes of red and purple, soldiers from all countries gathered at the boardwalk for a special, multi-denominational mass. (here)

    And HERE'S news video from the CBC..[*I don't know how to download that.]

    Then there is this:

    M1A96819 | December 2010 |

    Video compiled for the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who are in the Iraq/Afghanistan War. Let us all remember that these troops are away from there friends, family, and loves ones who are protecting our freedom and in harms way. We all wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. God Speed to our United States Armed Forces around the globe. You can also view this video at www.sageebr.com.

    Heroes every single day.

    Saturday, December 25, 2010

    A Soldier's Christmas Letter

    © 2010 WMG
    Single released on the 7th December with 25 pence of each sale of going to the Army Benevolent Fund.

    Download available from iTunes here:

    The CD single is available exclusively at HMV in stores and through their website:

    Taken from the album 'Coming Home' available now.

    Friday, December 24, 2010

    From "Anonymous Grunt": Spare a moment for the men and women...

    I came across the following message and video - posted by a young American veteran - and was given permission to share his words, as well as the video.

    "Anonymous Grunt - C co. 2-14 Inf."

    I'm gonna get this out of the way so that I don't drag folks down on Christmas Eve. [Bratnote: I don't have such qualms, obviously....] Spare a moment for the men & women who are fighting overseas who have had to make do with passing different brands of cigarettes between each other as Christmas presents. (I've been there, it sucks...) Say a prayer for them, If you know... one, look in on the needs of their family, or mail them a letter just asking how they're doing.

    Take stock of what their Christmas situation seems to be, and do what ever you can to make it better. Now's the time where homefront heroes are made.....Tak

    "...Spare a moment..." today and every day.

    Hark the Helmand Angels: Irish Guards stage Nativity

    Jesus was born to a laughing crowd in Afghanistan’s Camp Shorabak, Mary had a five o’clock shadow and the donkey was short a couple of legs! The Irish Guards are not known as amateur thespians but made do and, in festive spirit, adapted the Christmas story into military idiom.

    Hark the Helmand Angels: Irish Guards stage Nativity

    In the absence of any primary school children in the Afghan National Army base they call home, the Irish Guards hammed up their weekly Church Parade, with Officers and Guardsmen playing all the major parts of the Nativity with an added counter-insurgent theme.

    Irish Guards perform a humorous military version of the Nativity in Helmand provinceThe Padre, Captain Alexander Battey, adapted the play, more commonly seen performed by soldiers’ children than the troops themselves, to include intelligence briefs, roadside bomb detection, Shepherd callsigns, patrol skills, and Wise Men following the “ISTAR” – that’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance - while watched over by the Almighty.

    Keeping some traditions, the hilarious play retained favourite carols, albeit sung by dusty voices on a cold Helmand morning. And in true primary school style, the light hearted play brought out many individually-designed costumes, with unexpected professionalism tempered by more enthusiasm than skill, as well as bellyaching overacting.

    Mary - more hair on his chest than on top

    The production was kept a secret by the ‘actors’ until curtain-up, and the opening narration had a few wry smiles when it announced in pure military Jargon: “Intelligence Brief: 1 BC, The Roman Army is conducting an ongoing counterinsurgency campaign in Judea in support of local forces and the undemocratically non-elected government, headed by Herod. In a town called Nazareth here live two Local Nationals, a young woman called Mary and a Judean male of fighting age known locally as Joseph. Mary is expecting a baby.”

    A teenage Mary was played by a Company Quartermaster with more hair on his chest than on top and it was downhill from there. An almighty cheer went up upon the birth, assisted by the Innkeeper who, in his real job as the Battalion Doctor. Baby Jesus was Paddy McBear, the Irish Guard’s Welfare Mascot who travels around Helmand posing for photos with the dads in the Irish Guards and writes letters back to their children in the Home Front.

    'Humorous break'

    Lieutenant Jonathan Boardman, who played the Imperial Roman Messenger, said: “The play was a humorous break for the Irish Guards and members of the other units attached to us, from our usual work training up the Afghan National Army. We spend most of our time taking our jobs extremely seriously so a bit of light relief was very welcome. ...

    There is MUCH more of this MUST READ here.


    12/13/2010 - U.S. Navy Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Ty Ramsey finishes a day of work at Combat Outpost Khavajeh Molk, Afghanistan Dec. 13, 2010. (DoD photo by Chief Mass Communication Michael B. Watkins, U.S. Navy/Released)


    NZ Army Officer receives honour from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

    Photo Caption. Lt Col Gillard with wife - Lucielle, and sons - Matthew 14 and Robbie 8.
    Photo Caption. Lt Col Gillard with wife - Lucielle, and sons - Matthew 14 and Robbie 8.

    14 December 2010

    His Royal Highness The Prince Of Wales has invested Lt Col Nick Gillard, Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery as an Additional Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

    The award was announced in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2010 and because Lieutenant Colonel Gillard is currently based in London as Military Advisor attached to New Zealand Defence Staff, he had the opportunity of having the honour presented to him at the Palace.

    “I talked to His Royal Highness for a couple of minutes and he was keen to thank New Zealand for its efforts in Afghanistan. He was well briefed about our contribution to ISAF.

    “I remain thankful to all members of ARIKI 14 and those contingents who preceded us, whose collective efforts and professionalism made my job an easy one. I am also thankful to my family for their continued support and it was wonderful that they could share such a unique occasion.”

    Lieutenant Colonel Gillard deployed to Afghanistan from April to October 2009 as Chief of Staff for the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (NZPRT) based in Bamyan.

    The citation for the award states he effectively practiced mission command at all times, which allowed his staff the freedom to conduct operations to best effect. He was personally responsible for planning and coordinating the security aspects of the Bamyan Province elections in conjunction with the Afghan National Security Forces.

    The result saw elections being conducted with a high level of security and in an efficient manner. He also oversaw the successful embedding of United States Military Police into Bamyan, to begin their mission of training the Afghan National Police.

    His understanding of the complex relationships between international forces and the Afghan people saw immense progress being made by the NZPRT. (source)


    Soldier's nerves of steel save Afghan child's life

    A People In Defence news article

    21 Dec 10

    A British soldier who recently encountered a Taliban gunman using a child as a shield took a split-second decision to get shot himself rather than risking the child's life.

    Lance Corporal Craig Murfitt gives first aid to an Afghan girl

    Lance Corporal Craig Murfitt gives first aid to an Afghan girl
    [Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

    Lance Corporal Craig Murfitt, a rifleman and medic serving in Afghanistan's Helmand province, demonstrated nerves of steel and the coolest of clear heads in a startling sequence of events, after being called to assist fellow soldiers during a recent patrol

    The 25-year-old, serving with the Tidworth-based 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, was amongst a crew of soldiers patrolling in one of the Army's new Warthog armoured vehicles.

    They were out on a routine security patrol, providing reassurance to local communities, when suddenly they were re-tasked to reinforce infantry colleagues who had been pinned down by fire from hidden insurgents and needed urgent back-up.

    Lance Corporal Murfitt, from Barnstaple in Devon and known to Army mates as 'Murf', said:

    "It had been a pretty standard patrol, but when the call came in and we were re-tasked, we were told to get in there fast and provide support.

    "I was in the rear half of my Troop Sergeant's vehicle ready to give precision fire with my rifle, and the driver stepped on it to get there as quickly as possible.

    "Our arrival, with our heavy firepower, seemed to bring the fight to an end fairly quickly, but we stayed alert.

    "Everything was quiet, but then I spotted three men with a child on a compound roof, about 300 yards to the front of the vehicles.

    "Suddenly two of the men moved off, leaving one man with the child – it was a girl, no more than 10-years-old. At this point I realised something was wrong - the man picked up a rifle and moved behind the child, taking aim at me."...

    To read what happened next in this mindboggling story , go here.

    Truly qualifies as B*N*S*N!!!


    HMS Montrose home from Anti Piracy patrols

    A Military Operations news article

    23 Dec 10

    HMS Montrose returned home to Plymouth yesterday after a hugely successful five months away as the scourge of Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.

    HMS Montrose arrives home at Plymouth Sound

    HMS Montrose arrives home at Plymouth Sound
    [Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

    The crew were welcomed to their base-port of HM Naval Base Devonport by a cheering crowd of families and friends after an action-packed deployment. The party atmosphere was completed by families being given gifts and children entertained while accompanied by Her Majesty's Band of the Royal Marines.

    The ship's commanding officer, Commander Jonathan Lett, said:

    "It is fantastic to be back home and wonderful to see so many people here to welcome us back home today.

    "I am very proud of my ship's company for what they have achieved with tangible results after deterring pirate activity by our presence and by our actions.

    "The ship's company deserve their Christmas break and so do the families who have given us such great support. It is very heart-warming to see them reunited on the jetty."...

    Read more on another of my most favourite stories, here.

    WELCOME HOME and Merry Christmas to you all...

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    BHO sends (another) strong message to Israel - and it's no surprise

    From Israel this morning:

    Massive EU Aid to PA; US Omits Aid to Israel

    by Hillel Fendel

    First installment of massive European Union aid to the PA for 2011 is announced, while US delays previously-pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for Israeli defense.

    European Union foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton announced on Wednesday an initial 100-million-euro ($131.3 million) aid package to the Palestinian Authority for 2011. Sixty million euros will enable the Palestinian Authority "to cover wages and pensions for essential civilian workers, particularly medical and teaching staff," Ashton said, and the remainder will be channeled through United Nations relief programs.

    "This decision is a sign of the strong political and financial commitment of the European Union to the Palestinian Authority and to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's leadership in building a democratic and viable Palestinian state," Ashton said, taking clear sides in the ongoing debate as to whether a Palestinian state is desirable for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. “Palestinian statehood is critical for any peaceful, workable and lasting solution to the conflict."

    The latest aid will be added to 696 million euros already given by the EU to the PA, as well as another 265 million from individual EU member states.

    At the same time, a special three-month budget for the United Stateshas been prepared – but is lacking promised funds for Israeli defense that U.S. President Barack Obama earlier pledged. The short-term budget is designed to keep the government afloat until a final budget is prepared.

    Specifically, a promised $205 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense project has not been allocated. Similarly missing are increased allocations for other missile defense programs that the House of Representatives approved several months ago. U.S.officials said, however, that the funding would appear in the final national budget.

    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that he would work to wean Israelfrom dependence of U.S.foreign aid.

    (source )

    Is ANYone surprised by BHO's dealings with Israel?


    Timmy's Share A Cup for our troops

    Via Canadian Army News:


    Share a Cup asks Canadians to contribute $10 for a Tim Hortons gift card and write a letter of appreciation to Canadian Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan.

    5,000 Canadians send Tim Hortons gift cards to troops in Afghanistan

    December 22, 2010

    Kathryn Stocks
    Toronto Star

    More than 5,000 Canadians will be having coffee with a stranger thousands of kilometres away in Afghanistan over the holidays.

    They’ve all contributed $10 to Share a Cup With a Brave Canuck, an innovative program started three years ago by Ric Rangel-Bron, a Toronto Emergency Medical Services commander. It has since spread to paramedic groups across the country.

    Share a Cup asks Canadians to contribute $10 for a Tim Hortons gift card and write a letter of appreciation to Canadian Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan.

    Over the past two years 23,000 cards and messages have been sent. This holiday season’s 5,000 contributions are now on their way to Kandahar following a handover ceremony to the Canadian Forces at EMS headquarters last week.

    It's a year-round program but more cards come in at this time of the year. “People associate Christmas with being away and being alone,” Rangel-Bron says. “At this time of year people want to do more.”

    They’re a varied group. For Grade 7 and 8 students at St. Jane Frances Catholic Elementary School in Toronto, the idea of participating in Share a Cup grew out of their Remembrance Day ceremonies. “The kids kept focusing on the soldiers who had passed away in WWI and WWII,” says teacher Linda Pletzer. “I said, ‘Aren't there soldiers around right now that we need to think about?’” So students wrote letters and baked cookies.

    Madeline Traub, a Grade 4 student in St. Catharines, raised enough money for 230 gift cards this year. “I asked my school and instead of collecting Halloween candy, I actually collected money for Tim cards.” Her mother, Mayram, is with Niagara EMS and got Madeline interested in the program.

    For Rangel-Bron and EMS staff who volunteer their time to read all the notes, it can be a moving experience.

    One child sent this message: “I am 5. You are my hero. Thank you.”

    Then there was the 11-year-old boy who asked,

    “Do you use AK47s or RPGs?”

    An adult participant wrote this heartfelt note of appreciation: “Thank you for all you do to keep us safe and free. As you sip your coffee, close your eyes and try to feel all the warm hugs and good wishes I'm sending your way.”

    Another sent laminated maple leaves from the backyard.

    And, naturally, families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan also send money for gift cards.

    The cards are issued by personnel support people to troops as they come in from rotation. They can be used at the Tim Hortons at the base there. They are also an excellent way of cheering up troops. Says Rangel-Bron: “It's as much a morale booster as anything else.”

    People who include their address sometimes get a message in return. One soldier thanked Rangel-Bron for the card and told him he bought Tim’s Ice Caps — iced cappuccinos — for his buddies.

    “The best part was how he kept the card with the message inside his vest. And he kept that with him for his whole tour. The card is a nice gift, but a message from a Canadian saying ‘Thank you for being there, I appreciate your service,’ that's what was important.”

    Visit www.shareacup.ca for more information

    (Toronto Star here)

    Mary Did You Know?

    NASA: Moon Shadows

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Scholarships for Military Children Program opens Dec. 7

    From the DoDEA:

    Scholarships for Military Children Program opens Dec. 7

    By Tammy L. Reed, DeCA marketing and mass communication specialist

    FORT LEE, VIRGINIA — As families and friends come together to celebrate their favorite winter holidays, it's also time for parents to remind students to apply for the 2011 Scholarships for Military Children program.

    Scholarship applications will be available Dec. 7 in commissaries worldwide and online - choose the "News & Info" tab above and then the "Scholarship Info" tab. Applications are also available on www.militaryscholar.org.

    Since the program was announced in 2000, it has awarded $8.3 million in scholarships to more than 5,400 children of service members.

    "The Scholarships for Military Children program was created to recognize the contributions of military families to the readiness of the fighting force," said the Defense Commissary Agency's Acting Director and CEO Thomas E. Milks. "It also celebrates our role in the military community, as the scholarships are awarded annually through each commissary operated by DeCA."

    Only dependent, unmarried children of active-duty service members, reservists, guardsmen, retirees, or survivors of service members who died on active duty or while receiving military retired pay, may apply for a scholarship. Applicants must also be younger than 21, or 23 if enrolled as a full-time student at a college or university. Eligibility is determined using the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System database. Applicants should ensure they, as well as their sponsor, are enrolled in the DEERS database and have a current military ID card. An applicant must be planning to attend, or already be attending, an accredited college or university, full time in the fall of 2011 or be enrolled in a program of studies designed to transfer directly into a four-year program.

    Applicants must also submit an essay on the following topic that answers the question: "Our nation has a goal of improving health and wellness. What are your ideas and, more importantly, how do you propose to put these ideas into action in your local community?" Applications must be turned in to a commissary by close of business Feb. 22, 2011. At least one scholarship will be awarded at every commissary with qualified applicants.

    Scholarship awards will be based on funds available, but the scholarship program anticipates awards of at least $1,500. If there are no eligible applicants from a particular commissary, the funds designated for that commissary will be awarded as an additional scholarship at another store.

    Scholarship Managers, a national, nonprofit, scholarship-management services organization, manages and awards these military scholarships. If you have any questions about the scholarship program application, call Scholarship Managers at 856-616-9311 or email.

    Commissary vendors, manufacturers, brokers, suppliers and the general public donate money to the program, and every dollar donated goes directly to funding the scholarships.

    About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices - savings worth more than $4,400 annually for a family of four. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country. (here)


    H/T Jane

    Up up and away!

    (Have no clue where I got this picture from - but had to share it. If anyone can recognise this, let me know.)

    12/17/2010 - A U.S. Marine Corps V-22 Osprey aircraft prepares to land at forward operating base Nawa in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien, U.S. Navy/Released)

    12/17/2010 - A U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft, with Strike Fighter Squadron 22 (VF-22), launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Dec. 17, 2010, while underway in the Pacific Ocean. Carl Vinson is conducting a three-week composite training unit exercise to be followed by a deployment to the western Pacific Ocean.(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class, U.S. Navy/Released)

    12/17/2010 - A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft with the 335th Fighter Squadron releases flares during a local training mission over Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., Dec. 17, 2010. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller, U.S. Air Force/Released)

    12/18/2010 - A U.S. Navy C-2A Greyhound aircraft, left, with Fleet Logistics Support Squadron Four Zero (VRC-40) and an E-2C Hawkeye aircraft, with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126 (VAW-126) prepare to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Dec. 18, 2010, while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. The Truman is returning to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., following a seven-month deployment. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kilho Park, U.S. Navy/Released)

    12/19/2010 - U.S. Navy pilots with Strike Fighter Squadron Thirty-Two (VFA-32) greet friends and family members during a homecoming ceremony at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va. Dec. 19, 2010. VFA-32 completed a seven-month deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Indra Bosko, U.S. Navy/Released)

    Holiday for our troops: "We're proud of you"


    A holiday reminder of those men and women serving our country away from their families this holiday season. (here)

    "Silent Night" Allison Crowe

    H/T Jane

    This was made last year, but in my books ANY time is a good time to remember our 'kids' serving far from home..

    Welcome Home Canadian Hero Cpl Steve Martin

    Cpl. Steve Martin

    UPDATE on story below:

    Fallen Soldier's Flight Home Delayed

    2010/12/21 | CityNews.ca Staff

    Courtesy Of The Department Of National Defence

    The body of the latest Canadian solider to be killed in Afghanistan will return home on Wednesday.

    A repatriation cememony will be held for Cpl. Steve Martin at CFB Trenton around 2pm.

    Previously, the ceremony was to be held on Tuesday. However, de-icing issues at a Germany airport prevented the plane from leaving as scheduled...

    More on this update here.

    Repatriation Ceremony for Corporal Steve Martin held today

    Corporal Steve Martin of St.-Cyrille-de-Wendover, Quebec, fell in battle on Dec. 18, in Canada’s ongoing mission in Afghanistan. Later today his body will be repatriated.

    The procession is scheduled to begin at 2pm in CFB Trenton, Ontario. Cpl. Martin’s body will be taken down the Highway of Heroes and led into Toronto.

    Martin was killed only two days before his 25th birthday, which would have come on Monday, making his death that much more tragic.

    Many of us from CanadianHeroes.com will be attending the ceremony. We will be there to show our support for our troops, the mission, and to chronicle the event, but more importantly we will be there to pay our respects. We urge those of you that have the time and the means to do so to show your support. Our heroes are out there fighting for us, so it’s up to us to honor and remember our heroes when they fall. See you out there...(Canadian Heroes here)

    Welcome Home, Corporal. Always remembered and honoured.

    "...It's our turn to stand on guard for thee..."

    O Holy Night

    Wednesday Hero

    From Chris, who puts Wednesday Hero together every week. Follow the link at the end of this to find his site:

    I sat here trying to think how to start this post. What did I want it to say? How long did I want it to be? I wasn't sure how to begin. I turned on some Christmas music to help get me in the right frame of mind to write a Christmas Wednesday Hero post, but it wasn't really helping. I mean, how do you properly thank a group of people who have given up everything in their lives to serve you and protect people all over the world with just a single post on a silly blog? Many of these Men and Women haven't seen their friends and families in months and many won't be seeing them for many more months. How do you thank them? They are away from home during the time of year when everyone should be together. How do you thank them for that? Some of them will never see their home or loved ones again because they laid down their life for a complete stranger. How do you thank them for that? I guess the better question would be are we able to thank them enough?

    To all those who have completed their service, the ones who are serving, the ones who have payed the ultimate sacrifice and those who may have never served but help those who have and are, Thank You and Merry Christmas.

    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.
    Wednesday Hero Logo

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    I am Canadian!

    From the archives, and just because I like it:

    And a more recent love poem to Canada:

    We are more by Shane Koyczan: Vancouver 2010

    God's Will

    For the past while I have been following the progress of another of God's Wills: Billy McCotter.

    Back in September Michelle wrote:

    Billy is my brother. He's 25. A newly-awarded blackhawk pilot in the army. He just finished flight school in Alabama, and is on leave until mid-October, when he is supposed to report to Hawaii. He's been visiting friends, and had plans to stop and see several of you. As we all know, sometimes life doesn't go according to plans.

    There are many details in this story. I will give the basics now, and share more in future posts.

    Billy (or Cooter, as many of you know him), just spent the past weekend in the Florida Keys with friends. He was losing his appetite, and his stomach was hurting more and more.

    Tyler and Melissa Haines went with him to the ER on Monday. They found lots of fluid in his abdomen, some sort of mass, and a bunch of "nodules." He had a CAT scan on Monday. They drained 2 liters of fluid from his abdomen on Tuesday, and did another CAT scan. They say a bunch of masses in the CAT scan, but weren't sure what all that meant because of the fluid. On Wednesday, they did an endoscopy. During all this time, he was on pain meds, and the frequency started increasing. But the pain meds are harsh, and they made him throw up. He's been throwing up since Monday night.

    Billy was diagnosed with poorly differentiated gastric adenocarcinoma on Thursday morning. In basic terms, that means stomach cancer. It's in stage IV (highly advanced). The doctors say it's incurable and inoperable. It's too big and too far spread to get it out....

    Michelle and her mum keep the blog updated, and it seems that many people are following Billy's progress.

    Today, there is a post called Wishes...

    Please go over and read it HERE, then spend some time getting caught up on all that this amazing hero and his family have faced. Main link is here. They also have a FaceBook page called Will's Hope 2010 which the family keeps updated here. .

    Please add your heart to the ongoing battle for this special God's Will.

    TAPS reaches out to support families during the holidays


    We have had members of TAPS on YouServed Radio before. It was a serious tissue-alert show. It is a great organization where the whole focus is on truly those left behind. There are many organizations who claim they are there to support the families of the fallen, for TAPS it is all they do.

    On Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), won’t close its doors. The organization’s toll free line, 1-800-959-TAPS (8277), in continuous operation since 1994, will remain available to offer comfort and support to anyone grieving the death of someone who served in the military. [emphasis mine]

    The TAPS 800 number is answered live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. On a typical day, the organization receives 60-90 phone calls from surviving family members of our fallen military seeking support, resources, information and assistance.

    Holiday blues are normal for those who are grieving. Unfortunately, those feelings of loneliness and sadness can surface to plague family long after the death of their loved one. On average, it takes 5-7 years for people to reach their “new normal” following the loss of a Service Member.

    With at least ten people significantly impacted by each military death, more than 58,600 people are grieving the death of someone they love who died while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. That figure doesn’t include those who lost loved ones to stateside accidents, illnesses or suicide in the military.

    Many of the people reaching out for help and support on Christmas Eve and Christmas day are parents who have experienced the death of an adult son or daughter. An estimated 11,700 adults are grieving the death of an adult child who served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001. But the holiday blues can also impact spouses, siblings and other relatives of those who’ve died.

    “The emphasis on family gatherings during the holidays can leave bereaved families feeling left out,” said Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of TAPS. “Everyone else is expecting their loved ones home for the holidays. Instead, these families welcomed home a casket, held a funeral and received a folded flag. They are painfully aware of the fact that one seat at the family table will be empty this year.”

    And adults aren’t the only ones who can come down with a case of the holiday blues. Children can too. “Sometimes children will write letters to Santa Claus saying that all they want for Christmas is their dad,” said Carroll. “Children who are grieving need the support and care of family and friends during the holidays. TAPS is there for them.”...

    Troy has much more on this important topic here. Please go read, and share it.

    Christmas tribute to the troops

    From MCpl. Elton Adams:


    MCpl Elton Adams (Canadian Forces) Performing Blue Christmas
    *Note* This song was recorded by request on Elton's laptop so the quality is not the greatest
    You can check out his site & music at
    http://www.eltonadams.com and also other videos on our page.

    Please also check out Operation Gratitude by visiting :

    National Guard Launches Apprenticeship Program

    Army Guard apprenticeship program launched to assist Soldiers, employers

    By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
    National Guard Bureau

    WASHINGTON (12/14/10) -- While skills learned in the military have long been valued by many employers, Army National Guard Soldiers can now obtain apprenticeship certifications through the Guard Apprenticeship Program Initiative, which will allow those same skills to translate more easily into requirements many employers are seeking.

    The program, which launched in a ceremony Monday, partners with the Department of Labor to provide for national apprenticeship certification in a variety of Military Occupational Specialties, said Army Maj. Robert A. Lee, program manager at the National Guard Bureau, adding that it gives Guard Soldiers another advantage in the civilian workforce.

    "The advantage is, it takes 2,000 to 6,000 clock hours of instructional time and on-the-job training to get the license or certificate," Lee said. "With the Department of Labor having already signed off on it, Soldiers could be spotted up to two years of credit (toward those apprenticeship requirements)."

    The specific requirements and credits awarded vary between each MOS and its associated civilian apprenticeship program. The amount of time or experience a Soldier is credited with will be based on time of service, schools attended and other factors that will be reviewed during an initial assessment when entering the program, said Lee...

    Read the rest HERE.

    (H/T Jane)