Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Senate Declares March 30th as "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day"

Senate Declares March 30th as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day”

Resolution Introduced by Senator Richard Burr


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

David Ward
Chandler Smith
(202) 224-2074

Washington D.C – The U.S. Senate yesterday declared March 30th as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day,” agreeing unanimously to a resolution introduced by Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

On March 30, 1973, all U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. This March 30th, the Senate has encouraged Americans across the country to recognize Vietnam veterans for their sacrifice and demonstrate a warm welcome to these soldiers who returned from war to a politically divided country.

“I’m pleased that the Senate has agreed to set aside a day to give our Vietnam veterans a warm, long-overdue welcome home. I strongly encourage communities throughout North Carolina and across the country to observe this day with activities and events that honor these veterans for their service. It’s time they receive the recognition they have earned and deserve. This day also provides our nation with an important teaching moment. Never again should our men and women serving in the armed forces receive the same treatment as those returning from Vietnam,” said Senator Richard Burr.

Senator Burr introduced the resolution for the second consecutive year on February 16, 2011. For Senator Burr’s remarks on the introduction of the resolution, click here.

The United States became involved in Vietnam because policy-makers believed that if South Vietnam fell to a communist government, communism would spread throughout the rest of Southeast Asia. The US Armed Forces began serving in an advisory role to the South Vietnamese in 1961, and in 1965, ground combat troops were sent into Vietnam. On March 30, 1973, after many years of combat, all US troops withdrew. More than 58,000 members of the United States Armed Forces lost their lives and more than 300,000 were wounded in Vietnam.

Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Thad Cochran (R-MS), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) co-sponsored the legislation. The resolution now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Richard Burr
Ranking Member
825A Hart Senate Office Building • Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-2074 • FAX (202) 224-8908

Monday, March 28, 2011

Seaside Heroes Park Honors

Torrance, CA dedicated park to fallen Heroes on 21 January 2011.  One of the Heroes honored, CPT Matthew Ferrara, was a member of the 173rd, 2-503rd, Chosen Few.  CPT Ferrara was killed in action on 9 November 2007 in an ambush near Aranas, Afghanistan.

The new Seaside Heroes Park in Torrance was dedicated Saturday morning with a ceremony attended by a large crowd and families of those honored. The park honors Army soldiers Cpl. Joseph Anzack, Jr., 20, Cpl. Micah S. Gifford, 27, and Capt. Matthew C. Ferrara, 24, All three attended South High School and were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan within 11 months of each other.

The monument is enscribed as follows:

Seaside Heroes Park

This park has been named in honor of our heroes:
Corporal Joseph A Anzack, Jr.
Captain Matthew C Ferrara
Corporal Micah S Giffod
This was their neighborhood

These three young men grew up in this area, attending Seaside Elementary Calle Mayor Middle, and South High Schools.  As boys they enjoyed scouting, baseball, track and field, wrestling and football but as young men they all chose to serve our country.

Answering this call to duty, they all became members of the United States Army.  Each made the ultimate sacrifice giving their lives while at war in Iraq (Joseph and Micah) and Afghanistan (Matthew).  They died within an eleven month period.

(December 2006 - November 2007)

Let everyone who visits this park realize the sacrifice made by these Soldiers so that we may live in freedom, and may our "Seaside Heroes" be remembered and inspire future generations.

The Daily Breeze dot com has a wonderful collection of photos from the day of the dedication of the memorial.

Only a few months before Matt was killed in action he was involved at the battle of Ranch House for which he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.  MaryAnn at Soldier's Angels Germany has a must read story about Matt here along with footage of the rescue and recovery on 9 November 2007.

I applaude Torrance, CA for dedicating this park in memory of these three American Heroes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nyssa, Oregon Dedicates Veteran's Hall in Memory of SGT Josh Brennan, KIA 26 Octobeer 2007

From The Argus Observer

A Fitting Tribute
Nyssa hall dedicated Saturday to honor of fallen Ontario soldier

By Larry Meyer
Argus Observer
Saturday, March 26, 2011 9:43 PM PDT

NYSSA — It was cloudy, rainy, windy and sun showed through the clouds a time or two, but the weather did not deter the large crowd that gathered to honor the late Sgt. Joshua Brennan and dedicate the hall in his honor, a facility in Nyssa that will be used to serve people in U.S. Military Service and veterans at midday Saturday. Brennan, from Ontario, was killed in action in Afghanistan.

Under a billowing parachute canopy, courtesy of Roger Smith and Roadrunner Crane Service, Brennan was remembered and honored by his parents, Janice Gates and Mike Brennan, and the several federal and state dignitaries who spoke or were present, but did not speak, at the event held in the parking lot next to the hall.

Formerly the Masonic Hall, the Josh Brennan Memorial Hall is now owned by Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida to compile packages for programs such as Treats for the Troops, Christmas for the Troops and Pencils for Peace, which provides educational items for children in the war zones. The meeting room is also available to community non-profit organizations and military families.

“I was humbled and proud,” Mike Brennan said, when he learned that his son, Joshua Brennan was being honored. “I think Josh would be humbled. Josh was always putting other people first, was a leader and always the point man,” he said. “I thank Janice and others for keeping Josh’s memory alive.”

“I was amazed beyond belief (when asked about naming the hall to honor her son),” Janice Gates said. “The community has continued to honor Josh.” After her comments, Gates sang “Heaven Was Needing A Hero.”
Congressman Greg Walden said, “It is an honor to honor Josh Brennan. “We need to honor his call to do more to support our troops,” Walden said.
One of the speakers was Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who as governor spoke during Josh Brennan’s memorial service in Fruitland, as he did for most, if not all, service people from Oregon killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Kulongoski said Brennan should always be remembered for how he died in war but also for how he lived.

“It matters because he was a man of character, a man of integrity . . . he made the right choice for the right reason, with the right spirit.” Kulongoski said.

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger said Oregonians have a duty to take care of its veterans.

Other speakers were Kathleen Cathey, field representative for U.S. Ron Wyden who read a statement from Wyden; State Sen. Ted Ferrioli, Maj. Gen. Raymond Rees, Oregon Adjutant General, Idaho State Sen. Monty Pearce and Martin Ornelas, Oregon Department of Veteran Affairs.

Others participating in the ceremony were state Rep. Cliff Bentz, Danny Cutler, who sang the National Anthem, Brenda Goertzen and Katalin Plummer who sang, and Tom Cook, retired Navy Chaplain, who gave the invocation and benediction.

The flag presentation was performed by a community color guard and the Patriot Guard Riders also participated. The City of Nyssa blocked off streets around the site for the event, with the police and reserve officers providing security, as well as participating in the ceremony.

From KIVI tv:

You can read more about Josh and the building dedication herehere and here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

8 Years Ago Today the 173rd Airborne Brigade Made the First Combat Jump Into Iraq

The jump into Iraq was forty years to the date of when the Brigade was first stood up. 

The 173D Airborne Brigade was activated on the island of Okinawa on March 26, 1963.  The Brigade was the first Army Unit sent (jumped) to the Republic of South Vietnam in May, 1965. The major portion of the brigade landed at Bien Hoa Airfield and found an area that had been battered frequently by enemy raids and shelling attacks

Forty years later, on 26 March 2003 (not 23 March, as sometimes reported), the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted a jump into Northern Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This action was advertised as "the largest airborne assault since D-Day," but that was manifestly untrue. Operation Market Garden, which followed D-Day, was larger than the Normandy assault. It was also called the "...largest mass combat jump since WWII," but operations in Korea were larger than the 2003 airdrop. Other accounts claimed that it was "... the largest combat airborne operation since the Vietnam War...." but the airdrop in Panama in 1989 was several times larger. It does appear that it was the C-17's first-ever combat insertion of paratroopers.

Soldiers landed in the Bashur Drop zone effectively opening a northern front in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Kurdish controlled area was expected to be friendly and little resistance was anticipated. The 173rd's jump into Northern Iraq was the first wave of conventional American forces into the area. With all of the US and coalition presence, the support team, SOF team, and Peshmerga, on the ground, the jump was considered "permissive," meaning the soldiers did not expect to be shot at as they descended. Parachute insertion made sense because it saved time given the relatively small ramp capacity on the airfield.

The 173rd augmented and provided a visible and credible conventional capability to the already-robust SOF presence in the Kurdish Autonomous Zone, the area on the Kurdish side of the Green Line. However, the weather was bad when the planes took off for the jump and the weather continued to be bad hours out from the jump as the C-17s approached the jump site. The team knew that calling the mission off was not an option. Nearly 1,000 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade loaded up onto C-17 jets lining the Aviano Air Base runway. The weather called for a pitch-black night, with no moon or stars and there was expected to be fresh mud on the drop zone from the heavy storms in the prior weeks. In the approach the C-17's had to go into an intense, steep dive from 30,000 feet to 600 feet because of being in hostile airspace and because the drop zone was nestled in a valley.

While the jump was good, the aircraft "jumped long" and the brigade was strung out all over the airfield with some airplanes releasing 2,000-3,000 yards early, while others released that late. As the sun rose, it revealed "LGOPPs" or "little groups of pissed-off paratroopers," strung out all over a now-10,000-yard-long drop zone. LGOPPs form when paratroopers link up with whomever is closest, regardless of unit affiliation, and move as a group to the assembly points.

Once on the ground, the troopers started trudging through the mud trying to locate their units and assembly areas. It took all night to move approximately 8 kilometers. Elements were scattered everywhere. They had jumped into plowed farm country and there was deep mud everywhere. The mud was so bad troopers were pulling each other in and out of it. Some lost a boot in it and ended up walking half of the way barefoot. The Kurdish soldiers, however, proved themselves to be friendly allies. The Peshmerga brought firewood, rice in an old oil pan, bread and cheese, and some mystery meat.

The C-17s gave Washington the power to open and sustain a northern front when Turkey would not permit US ground forces to use Turkish soil to invade Iraq. Fifteen C-17s airdropped 954 troops and equipment from the 173rd Airborne Brigade near Bashur on 26 March 2003. Only 32 jumpers did not make it out of the aircraft. They were followed by an airland insertion of forces.

Eventually, over 2,000 troops and equipment, including 5 M1A1 tanks, 5 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 armored personnel carriers and 41 HMMWVs were airlifted to the field. The unit remained in Iraq until February 2004. Nine Soldiers and one Airman gave their lives as they fought here to make the mission a success

I am proud to know so many of these men from both wars/jumps and am thankful for all of them!

Google vidoes

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Remembering The Heroes of Green Ramp, 23 March 1994

A very special person asked me to post this so that we could all take a minute to remember the 24 Paratroopers who died as a result of an airplane crash at Pope Air Force Base on March 23, 1994.  This special person has saved many lives as a member of medevac teams in Afghanistan (and maybe Iraq, i've never asked him).  It is an honor to grant his request to remember the fallen from Green Ramp.

Please take the time to read the events of that fateful day in it's entirety and footnote references.  Here are a few excerpts:

"The twenty-third of March 1994 was a fitting day for an airborne jump. The skies were clear, with good visibility; the temperature was in the mid-sixties; and the winds were moderate, 4 to 6 knots. The XVIII Airborne Corps, stationed at Fort Bragg near Fayetteville, North Carolina, had scheduled two parachute missions, one in the late afternoon and another in the evening, using aircraft on the adjacent Pope Air Force Base (see Map). Required to undergo prejump exercises within twenty-four hours of taking off, Army paratroopers had assembled at Pope Air Force Base for training in the early afternoon. Units on the day's manifest were the 82d Airborne Division's 504th Infantry, 505th Infantry, and 782d Support Battalion (Main), as well as the XVIII Airborne Corps' 525th Military Intelligence Brigade and 1 59th Aviation Group (Combat) (Airborne)."

"Around 1410 an F-16D Fighting Falcon collided with a C-130 Hercules transport while both tried to land at Pope Air Force Base. The Hercules touched down safely. The F-16 pilots ejected as the fighter plummeted to the ground, ricocheting across the tarmac and sliding into one of the parked C-141 Starlifters. Both planes exploded in flames, hurling searing-hot metal through the air and spewing 55,000 gallons of fuel onto Green Ramp. The debris-filled fireball, "described by some as 75 feet in diameter," roared through the staging area where the paratroopers were preparing for airborne operations, stopping in the vicinity of the Airborne Gate on Rifle Range Road, which separated Fort Bragg from Pope Air Force Base (Diagram 1). The "rolling blaze" became "a swirling ball of death."

S. Sgt. Daniel E. Price of the 2d Battalion, 505th Infantry, sacrificed his life to save a female soldier he had never met before. Spc. Estella Wingfield, an information systems operator with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 525th Military Intelligence Brigade, remembered:

"All around the brigade chaplain "people were doing the same thing": rescuing soldiers, using their bare hands and canteens of water to "put out the last smoldering places." Meanwhile, ammunition exploded, and people shouted to get away. But no one paid attention. "It seemed irrelevant," Bebber said. Soldiers were responding the way they were trained to do in combat. Bebber became aware of the dead around him. Some were badly burned; others were "horribly cut and torn"; a few had no apparent injury but were just dead. About 10 feet away one soldier was "already the death-color of gray," although someone was attempting to revive him with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). The Episcopal priest, who had entered the Army nine years before the tragedy, moved from group to group, speaking to the injured and helping to lift the wounded into the tactical and personal vehicles that began arriving to evacuate them to Womack. Other chaplains joined Bebber in praying and listening to the accounts of those who felt like talking."

"He looked me in the eye, grabbed me by the shirt, threw me several feet in the air and jumped on top of me.... An instant later, I heard the blast, felt the extreme heat from the explosion and the debris falling on us.... After the explosion and the rounds stopped going off, he whispered in my ear, "Crawl out from underneath me.'' I did and took off running.  Wingfield thought that Price was running behind her. When she realized he was not, she ran back to the spot where he had protected her from the explosion. He was dead. "He saved my life," she said."

"Proud of the heroes of Green Ramp, the commanding general of the 82d Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. William M. Steele, said:  It was soldiers saving soldiers. Soldiers putting out fires on other soldiers; soldiers dragging soldiers out of fires; resuscitating; giving soldiers CPR; putting tourniquets on limbs that had been severed; putting out fires on their bodies, sometimes with their own hands. Anything they could do to care for their buddies that were more seriously injured they were doing. They can't do that without knowing how. They responded the way they would in combat"

And now take a few minutes to remember and honor those who perished that day:

Capt. Christopher D. Dunaway, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Capt. Kenneth J. Golla, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Charles W. Elliott, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Daniel Camargo, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Price, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Harry L. Momoa Jr., Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Mark G. Gibson, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Waddington Sanchez, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. Alan D. Miller, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Staff Sgt. James C. Howard, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Sgt. Alexander P. Bolz, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Sgt. James M. Walters Jr., Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Sgt Gregory D. Nunes, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Sgt. Vincent S. Strayhorn, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Sgt. Gustavo Gallardo, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Spc. Martin R. Lumbert, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Spc. Matthew J. Zegan, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Spc. Sean M. Dixon, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Spc. Bee Jay Cearley, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Pfc. Andrew J. Jones, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Pfc. Paul B. Finnegan, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Pfc. Tommy Caldwell, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Pvt. Mark E. Fritsch, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Pvt. Phillip J. Harvey, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Please Join Me In Supporting The Richmond Military Society as They Support the American Widow Project

If you are in the Richmond, VA area please spread the word about this upcoming event.  And if you aren't in the area or are not a runner PLEASE read to the end and sponsor one or more flags in memory of a fallen Hero.  I did..  Each flag is $5.00 - not much to pay to honor a real American Hero.

The University or Richmond - Richmond Military Society, a group of student veterans at the University of Richmond, is holding a 5K run/walk to raise money for military widows through the American Widow Project (AWP). The AWP is a non-profit organization dedicated to "unifying a new generation of military widows" and providing a community where no widow will feel alone. Come out and honor our Fallen Heroes and the loved ones they left behind.

Event information, registration and opportunity to purchase a flag to line the raceway can all be found here.

Saturday March 26th at 8:00 AM
5K "Path to Freedom" to raise money for the American Widow Project

Race Registration:
5K Run/Walk - $25
Fun Run/Walk* - $15 (Does not include race time, gift bag or eligibility for event prizes)

Race Day Registration:
5K - $30
Fun Run/Walk*-$15 (Does not include race time, gift bag or eligibility for event prizes)

To sponsor a flag or flags in memory of a fallen Hero click here.  I won't be there but I've bought my flags and I hope you will, too.

The American Widow Project was founded by Taryn Davis after the 2007 death of her husband Michael as the result of roadside bombs while serving in Iraq.

From the website:

Taryn Davis, 23, was living the “normal” life; She had married her soul mate, was about to graduate college,and had her future with him to look forward to. That was until May 21, 2007. Her husband had been killed by multiple roadside bombs just an hour and a half after they last spoke. Feeling lost and alone in the new world she’d been thrown into, she began traveling around the country to hear other women’s stories of love, tragedy… and overall survival. In hearing their accounts, she hoped to learn more about the title that been had given to her… that of a military widow.

What began as her own personal journey, has expanded into a non-profit organization, a documentary film, and a growing website. She has grasped on and embraced her new life with all the enthusiasm and passion she had when Michael was still alive. Inspired solely off the willpower and strength of the women “in her shoes” she has found that true love is eternal, that the lessons and things her husband said and did still run through her veins, and mostly….she is not alone.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Time at Landstuhl, Germany With 3 Special Friends

I've been VERY negligent in posting this from my trip to Italy and Germany.  Apologies to MaryAnn, Jay and Stephanie!  This one's gonna be long folks.  You've been warned.  :)

After an absolutely fantastic time in and around Camp Ederlie/Vicenza, Italy I hopped a Ryan Air (highly recommend) flight from Venice to Frankfurt Hahn airport.  Well, actually before the flight my "landlord" SGT Iles grilled up some great burgers and hot dogs.  He, his lovely honey, Carilsa, Martin Diaz de Leon and I stuffed ourselves with those.  Last farwells then Martin drove me to the airport.  I'm grateful for his kindness.

Landed at Frankfurt Hahn very late in the night.  MaryAnn had arranged for a cab to pick me up and drive me to the hotel.  She was a lifesaver to do that.  Although it was dark there was a clear sky and a wonderful moon for most of the drive.  The countryside was covered in snow and the evergreen tree bows were laden down.  It was a breath taking drive.

When we pulled up to the hotel MaryAnn came running out to greet me.  It was wonderful to see her and get a hug.  We were both exhausted but stayed up until 2:00 or 3:00 chatting and catching up.  I don't remember my head hitting the pillow that night.

The next morning MaryAnn and I stopped on the way to Landstuhl Hospital for pastries and coffee.  Oh how I love European coffee!  Then off to the front gate to wait for one of the Soldiers who works at the outpatient barracks to come sign me in.  Final stop WORK!  MaryAnn had piles of boxes stacked in the office - mail that needed to be opened, inventoried then stocked.  Each customs form had to be checked against the contents of its box then placed in a bin for MaryAnn to write a thank you note.  I came to realize VERY quickly that I don't know how MaryAnn had the time to do it all.  Thank heavens for the volunteers she has.

Mail call!

Photo above is part of the mail that was received the second day I was there.  The larger boxes in this photo were filled to the top with sweat pants and hoodie tops from Mark Delfini.  They arrived just in time!  The stock, particularly on the XLs was gone.  Mark sends a steady stream of these to MaryAnn - thank goodness!

Other boxes included hand made blankets, socks, athletic shorts and hygiene items.  One of the boxes was from Sandy Mandigo.  The box contained the 100th hand made blanket sent from Sandy  WOW!  Just WOW!  MaryAnn has the story at the link a couple of lines up.  Please go read the story because it's about MUCH more than Sandy making and sending 100 blankets.  You'll be sorry if you don't read about Sandy.

More mail

The boxes pictured above contained mostly hand made blankets

Hand made blankets by a lot of awesome Americans
The photo above was taken in one of the storage rooms in the basement of one of the outpatient barracks.  Looks like a lot of blankets but they'll be gone in days. MaryAnn is very persnickety about how and where things are stored until needed.  And she HAS TO BE.  The volumn of items that come and go through those storage rooms is mind boggling.  Need an Army blanket?  Right over here.  Marine blanket - over there.  Navy and Air Force - right behind you on those shelves.  Definitely a system that works.

Out patient Barracks #1

Each of the Outpatient Barracks has three set of shelves like the one pictured above of SA items available.  And each of the three are mirror images in both of the barracks with one exception.  One of the barracks is for Army, Navy and Air Force enlisted men only.  The other is for Marines, Officers and females of all branches.  So the second building has items for females that the first barracks doesn't.

Now here's an interesting twist.  All of the SA stock rooms are in the barracks that house the enlisted males.  In order to get items from the stock rooms to the other barracks one has to pull the stock, place it in exotic containers (ok, they're really big black garbage bags used solely for the purpose of transport), throw the bags over your shoulder (the more you carry the fewer trips you have to take), up the stairs to the main lever, down the hallway, through the lobby, down the stairs, turn left, left, right, pass the USO, cross the street, into the lobby of the other barracks, down the stairs, turn left, down the hall and turn right into the room where the shelving is (also the laundry room). 

Tidy up the shelves, fold items which have been unfolded and place them back in the bin...which reminds me...YO, men....if a clear plastic bin has ONLY WHITE tshirts in it or ONLY BLACK hoodies in it and the bin is clearly marked with S, M, L or XL why do you have to pull out EVERY item in the bin to get the item you want?  I'm just curious???  :)

Repeat as many times as necessary regardless of the weather - rain, snow, ice, howling winds, etc.  I cannot tell  you how much more respect I have for MaryAnn and her volunteers.  Never thought I could have more but I certainly do now.  By the way, I've just discussed the mornings at Landstuhl.  The stocking, pulling stock, tidying shelves and restocking in both barracks has to be done at least one more time each day and often twice more.

Three nights a week MaryAnn loads up her cart with blankets, backpacks, knit caps, etc and heads off to the wards to pass those out to the wounded who will be on the medevac flight from Landstuhl to the USA the following day. 

Find the cart on the main level.  Schlep the boxes of blankets, backpacks, etc up the stairs to the cart.  Through the lobby, down the ramp, to the security gate.  Gain access to the hospital.  Up another ramp, through the door, onto elevator, out of elevator, walk VERY LONG corridor to first ward.  Turn left.  Stop at nurses station to inquire about those on the medevac flight while counting the number of gurneys staged in the corridor of the ward to know how many on that ward are going.  Pass out items including SA coins to those who are awake and desire to have items.  Wish them well and thank them for their service.  Return back past the nurses station pausing the thank them, too.  Out to main corridor, left turn, walk to next ward, turn left down corridor and repeat, repeat, repeat.  Oh darn! Not enough back packs.  No worries, we'll go retrieve more and come back.

As we were leaving the wards that night I took the following photo.  I'm no photographer by any stretch of the imagination but as I followed MaryAnn down that very long corridor this image brought on a wave of emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other.  I had to wonder, after all these years that MaryAnn has spent at Landstuhl, not only how many times she has traversed this corridor but how many miles she has walked and what her thoughts must be each night as she returns to the stock room.

MaryAnn after late night rounds of the wards

It's more than rewarding but incredibly exhausting work.  The first day I was there we left the hospital around 22:30 and we hadn't remembered to eat since breakfast.


In the photo above MaryAnn is untying three of the hand made blankets that some, apparently bored, service member had tied together - AT EVERY piece of fringe.  We laughed so hard!

On my last day at Landstuhl I spent time with two other very special people.  Stephanie McCulley (man I'm embarrassed not to remember her current rank) and CPT Jay Kopcha.

Stephanie McCulley and me at Landstul hospital

Back when Stephanie was a PFC I had the privilege of supporting her and her Platoon when they were deployed to 2007.  Stephanie was a medic with 3rd Heavy Brigade Com­bat Team.  From the article linked below, "Pfc. Stephanie McCul­ley, a com­bat medic with 3rd HBCT, from Union­town, Pa., fol­lowed the steps of her grand­fa­ther, who raised her. They both served in the Army. They both served in com­bat, and they both earned a Bronze Star Medal as a pri­vate first class."

"Dur­ing World War II, Jobes fought with the 398th Infantry Divi­sion in France. From Jan­u­ary 1945 to March 1945, Jobes rou­tinely vol­un­teered for dan­ger­ous night patrols to hin­der the Nazi defen­sive prepa­ra­tions in his sec­tor. Jobes went out an aver­age of three nights a week for three months. His ser­vice and com­mit­ment did not go unno­ticed by his supe­ri­ors. As a pri­vate first class, Jobes was awarded the Bronze Star for his exem­plary per­for­mance in East­ern France."

"Sixty-two years later, Jobes' grand­daugh­ter would earn the same award for her ser­vice in Oper­a­tion Iraqi Freedom."

You really need to go read the whole story here.  You REALLY DO!

Stephanie is a nurse at Landstuhl now.  She is married to a former Marine and they have two handsome young sons.  I enjoyed every minute of my lunch with Stephanie.  It was so good to catch up with her and find out how things are going in her life.  The time passed way too quickly.  It was like seeing an old friend but Stephanie had to go pick her sons up from school.  I am so thankful that she made time in her schedule for me.

After lunch with Stephanie it was back to the salt mine with MaryAnn - who hadn't left or missed a beat.  I took her a wrap so she wouldn't "forget to eat" again. 

I had been emailing with CPT Kopcha who had insisted on driving over from another Army post in Germany to visit.  I knew he was en route.  I was in one of the stock rooms unpacking hoodies and sweat pants and putting them on the shelves when Jay snuck up on me. 

Golly it was good to see him.  It's been years.  I "met" Jay through a fellow troop supporter friend, Agnieszka.  Jay was deployed with the 10th MTN, 1-32 to eastern Afghanistan (Kunar) in OEF VII.  Funny, as I wrote that it occurred to me that I was supporting he and Stephanie around the same time. 

Anyway, some of you may remember that the 10th MTN, 1-32 was initially deployed to eastern Afghanistan for 12 months.  At the end of the 12 months they were extended for another 3 months.  Some of their Soldiers has already landed at Fort Drum; others were literally in the air when the extension was announced; some were in Bagram ready to head hone and others, including Jay, were still "inhabiting" Camp Blessing.  It was a brutal deployment.  The 3 month extension was relentless with respect to the fire fights and casualties they took.  Camp Blessing at that time was little more than a clearing with Hescoes - certainly not the built up camp it is now.

For you ROCK Paratroopers who have always asked, "how'd you get hooked up with us?"  You may either wish to thank or curse this man.  During the RIP between 10th MTN 1-32 and the 173rd, 2-503rd Jay "introduced" me to Mike Zeidler.  Jay asked Agnieszka and me to please continue our support of their replacements.  Mike Zeidler, in turn, connected me with the 3 Battle Co Platoon Sergeants including SFC Matt Blaskowski.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Bottom line - it's all Jay's fault.  :)

CPT Jay Kopcha and me

Slave driver, MaryAnn, excused me from duty - well, once I finished the boxes I was working on, and Jay and I went to dinner.  It was wonderful to catch up with all that is going on in his life.  I had a wonderful time and am very thankful to Jay for making the trip over.

MaryAnn and I stayed up until close to midnight chatting about my time there as well as another subject of common interest - our beloved military and their families.  It is a privilege and a pleasure to call MaryAnn my friend.  I cannot wait to go back to visit her again.

The following morning I had to be awake at 04:00.  MaryAnn was sleeping soundly in a room across the hallway in the hotel.  It seemed wrong not to say goodbye but I knew we'd been up late the night before and that she had a long day ahead of her.  So I quietly whispered my farwells at her door and lumbered down to the lobby and into the shuttle for the ride to the Frankfort airport.

I am one of the most fortunate humans on this planet for the opportunities I have had and the very special people in my life.  Thank  you MaryAnn, Stephanie and Jay - not just for the time together on this trip but for all you do each day.  I love you all!