Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thank You For Your Patience

I have at least these posts to get to:

Tee It Up Fore The Troops - A night at the Man Cave

Tee It Up Fore The Troops - on the links at the Dallas Cowboy's Golf Course

Tim Hetherington's Memorial in NYC

The unveiling of the War Memorial in Cheboygan, MI upon which SFC Matthew Blaskowski's name is etched

Fun with the Blaskowskis

I'm really not sure in what order I might post them but please stand by.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Memorial Day Events Tied to Our ROCK Paratroopers

As Memorial Day approaches I know of many events tied directly to the 173rd, 2-503rd.  I wish I could attend them all.  Since I cannot I want to at least mention them all here.  I hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend but please remember, this is a time to remember all of those who have given their lives on behalf of this great nation.

Beats for a Bench Veterans Memorial Benefit will be held on Saturday, May 21, from 4pm – 11pm at the Expo Center in Long Beach, 4321 Atlantic Avenue Long Beach CA. 

This is a memorial fundraiser being hosted for Sergeant Israel Garcia, who was killed in the battle of Wanat in Afghanistan in 2008. To acknowledge his sacrifice and accomplishments “Beats for a Bench,” will raise money for a memorial bench to honor Sgt Israel Garcia at his High School, Long Beach Poly. Additional funds raised at the event will support the Long Beach City College Veterans Group to create an on-campus memorial to honor veterans, and to US Vets towards helping them accomplish their goal of  "The suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion of mil­i­tary vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies through the pro­vi­sion of hous­ing, coun­sel­ing, career devel­op­ment and com­pre­hen­sive support."

While it's not a Memorial Day event, Defenders of Freedom is hosting Tee It Up Fore The Troops at the Dallas Cowboy's Golf Course on Monday May 23rd.  Several former ROCK Paratroopers as well as men from 4-4, 3-61 CAV who survived the battle of COP Keating will be attending this incredible event along with many more Wounded Warriors and Veterans.  I am grateful to Donna Cranston and her organization for including them this year.

The field is full but there are still ways to support this incredible event.  More information can be found here.

On Tuesday May 24th family, colleagues and friends will gather in New York City to celebrate the life of Tim Hetherington.  Many ROCK Paratroopers will be in attendance at Tim's celebration of life.

Tim Hetherington - taken at OP Restrepo

On Saturday May 28th two events will take place to honor fallen members of the 173rd, 2-503rd from OEF VIII. 

CPL Jason Hovater, who died in the battle of Wanat, Afghanistan on 13 July 2008 will posthumously be presented the Silver Star for his actions that day.  CPL Hovater had been awarded the BSMV.  It is more than fitting that the award has been upgraded to the Silver Star.  The event will take place at the World's Fair Park in Knoxville, TN at 10:00 AM.  I know that many of The Chosen Few and their families will be in attendance.  You can read CPL Hovater's Silver Star Citation here.

Also on May 28th a War Memorial will be dedicated at Washington Park, Cheboygan, MI from 2:00 PM until 5:00 PM.   This Memorial is for all those who have and continue to serve in the War on Terror, OIF & OEF as well as for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. SFC Matthew Blaskowski's name will be etched on the monument. SFC Blaskowski died as a result of a sniper's bullet during a firefight while serving at Firebase Vegas, Kunar Province, Afghanistan on 23 September 2007.  At the time of his death SFC Blaskowski was serving with the 173rd, 2-503rd Battle Company.

SFC Matthew Blaskowski

From Saturday May 28th through Monday May 30th many of the Battle Company ROCK Paratroopers will gather near Madison, WI to remember SGT Josh Brennan.  Josh died on 26 October 2007 as a result of  multiple wounds from an ambush in Afghanistan on 25 October 2007. 

SGT Joshua Brennan

While this coming Memorial Day weekend is a time set aside for us, as a nation, to remember all of our fallen heroes it is also a very difficult time for the widows, the families of the fallen and all of their friends.  Please keep them all in your prayers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Final Inspection

As Memorial Day draws near I thought this was an appropriate way to begin to prepare:


The Soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass..

'Step forward now, Soldier ,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?'

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
'No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear..
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

'Step forward now, you Soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell.'

Author Unknown

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Military Spouse Appreciation Day - May 6, 2011

President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 23, 1984.  It is now celebrated each year on the Friday just prior to Mother's Day each year. 

I have the pleasure of knowing so many amazing military spouses.  I'd love to list them all here but won't for fear of leaving someone out.  They inspire me.  They make me laugh.  We've cried together.  Cussed together.  Oh, and we've shared many adult beverages together.  They have held me up at times when I should have been doing so to them.

Our Military Spouses throughout history have shouldered a burden that many would falter beneath.  I tip my hat and lift my glass to an incredible group of women and men.  Keep those home fires burning.  You are such an integral piece to the fabric that holds this nation together.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 05, 2011 Presidential Proclamation--Military Spouse Appreciation Day

Military spouses serve as steady and supportive partners to the heroes in uniform who protect and defend our great Nation every day. Across America and around the world, military spouses serve our country in their own special way, helping families and friends through the stress of a deployment, caring for our wounded warriors, and supporting each other when a loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Our service members and their families seldom ask for support or recognition. They carry out their duties to family and country with the quiet courage and strength that has always exemplified the American spirit. On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, we have an opportunity to not only honor the husbands and wives of our service members, but also thank them by actively expressing our gratitude in both word and deed.

When a member of our Armed Forces is deployed, an entire family is called to serve. The readiness of our troops depends on the readiness of our military families, as millions of parents, children, and loved ones sacrifice as well. This means supporting our military spouses is also a national security imperative. Earlier this year, my Administration released the report on military families, Strengthening our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment, which marshaled resources from across our Government to identify new opportunities to support these patriots.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are working tirelessly to enlist all sectors of American life to address the unique challenges of military families. Their national initiative, "Joining Forces," mobilizes Americans to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. Americans can find service projects, send messages of thanks to military families, and learn more about this initiative by visiting:

On Military Spouse Appreciation Day, let us join together to show our service members we are taking care of their families back home as they serve our Nation across the globe. As neighbors, teachers, parents, and fellow citizens, we can reach out to military husbands and wives in our communities. We can show our appreciation in countless ways, from offering to help with household maintenance and childcare to encouraging the community involvement and career development of military spouses.

It is through our actions that we show our commitment to our service members and their spouses. By embracing military families, we demonstrate our partnership in the defense of our freedom and the security of the United States.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 6, 2011, as Military Spouse Appreciation Day. I call upon the people of the United States to honor military spouses with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.


CPL Jason Hovator's Award For Valor & Bravery During The Battle of Wanat, Afghanistan Upgraded to Silver Star

CPL Jason Hovater was one of many brave and valorous American Heroes who fought in the Battle of Wanat, Afghanistan on the morning of 13 July 2008. Although a tactical victory, as occurs in war, CPL Hovater was one that "lived his life for others" and was felled in the battle defending his fellow Paratroopers and his nation.

CPL Hovater was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for Valor for his actions that day but it was recently announced that the award had been upgraded to a Silver Star, the Nation's third highest award for valor. The Silver Star will be presented to his family at a ceremony over the Memorial Day weekend.

Much incorrect information (distracting information) has been written about the Battle of Wanat, the men, and the unit. It is rewarding to many to see the story be told of camaraderie, sacrifice, and valor that characterized those great men and that great unit.

CPL Hovater was a rifleman with Chosen Company of the 173rd, 2-503rd ABCT

Details of the event are:
Date:  28 May 2011
Time:  10:00 AM
Place:  World's Fair Park, Knoxville, TN.

Corporal Hovater's Silver Star Citation reads as follows:

"The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, 9 July 1918 (amended by act of 25 July 1963), has awarded the SILVER STAR to CORPORAL JASON HOVATER, 173D AIRBORNE COMBAT TEAM. For Gallantry: in action on 13 July 2008 at Wanat, Afghanistan while assigned as a Rifleman with Company C, 2d Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Corporal Hovater volunteered to reinforce an isolated platoon observation post and moved with his platoon leader to that position while under heavy direct fire from insurgent forces in nearby buildings. After arriving at the observation post, Corporal Hovater engaged the enemy with his personal weapon while also assisting in the emplacement of a mounted weapon. Corporal Hovater's actions ensured that the position was defended from enemy fire and helped prevent it from being overtaken by enemy forces. Corporal Hovater demonstrated courage and unparalleled dedication in the face of imminent and mortal danger. Corporal Hovater's actions reflect distinct credit upon himself, the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team and the United States Army."

Please take the time to read more about CPL Hovater here and here.

The other eight American Heroes who died that fateful day were:

1LT Jonathan Brostrom
SGT Israel Garcia
CPL Jonathan Ayers
CPL Jason Bogar
CPL Matthew Phillips
CPL Pruitt Rainey
CPL Gunnar Zwilling
PFC Sergio Abad

You can read much more about all of these men here.  Pleaes take a few minutes to read, remember and honor them.

May God rest their souls and continue to give comfort to their families, brothers in arms and friends.

I've had the honor of listening to stories told by many of the men who served with CPL Hovater and the other Heroes listed above.  All were stories told with so much love.  The stories were about the honor and valor of those men.  And there were comical stories, too.  I am thrilled for the Hovater family and for the Chosen Few that so many of them will be able to attend this ceremony.  I know there will be many laughs, tears and hugs.  What a fitting tribute during the Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

To Whichever ROCK Paratrooper(s) Was Responsible - THANK YOU & I Love You TOO - FOREVER!

You ROCK Paratroopers never cease to amaze me and make each day of my life better than the last.

There I was, at my desk, fighting with software when our receptionist turned the corner into my office with these:

No one EVER sends me flowers. It's not my birthday.  What the heck?  And then I read the card.  My heart melted and the smile on my face was so big my cheeks hurt::

The local florist has no record of who ordered these since they were ordered on line.  I'd love to know who you are.

You men continue to teach me unconditional love EVERY day.  It is so much of an honor to know you I cannot even put it into words or emotions.  Thank you for the flowers.  More so, thank you for the honor. 

I love you always and forever

A close up:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sixth Annual Milblog Conference, Washington, DC & Arlington, VA - Speakers, Panelists & Milblog Winners

I've been remiss at posting about the Sixth Annual Milblog Conference that just concluded in DC and Virginia.  I hated that I wasn't able to go this year but I had a prior commitment that was then shoved to the side due to this crazy weather.  So instead of being in DC and Virginia with some wonderful people I've been dealing with contractors, insurance adjusters and repair people.  NOT COMPLAINING.  Compared to so many across the south I'm VERY FORTUNATE that my damage is repairable and I'm alive.

The "official" conference kicked off on Friday night 29 April 2011 with a mixer and benefit concert by Mark Wills at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, DC.  Mr. Wills debuted his new song Crazy Being Home.  Jonn Lilyea of This Ain't Hell has video of Mr. Wills debuting the song here.  Jonn admits the video could be a bit improved but the cameraman was distracted by USO Girl #1 Jamie.  Keep your eye on the V A You Served website in the coming days.  I imagine they will have several videos posted from many, if not all, of the events. 

I've seen a few photos and heard some stories about Friday night.  All in all sounds like it was a superb time and a huge success.  Many thanks to JP, Andi and all of the others who, once again, went above and beyond to make this year's conference even better than ones in the past.  Not an easy challenge since every conference has been stellar.

Around 10:30 PM my phone rang.  It was Matt Burden calling to tell me that From Cow Pastures To Kosovo had been voted as Best U S Military Supporter Blog.  I was genuinely humbled and equally as excited.  As all of you know who read this blog it's not "mine".  It is a blog that brings together hundreds of great Americans to support and honor our active duty and deployed military personnel, our Veterans, our Wounded and their families.  This win was a win for all of you.  We were nominated with some might fine and awesome blogs folks.  I am grateful to everyone who voted and for all of the incredible support.

Other nominees in the Best U S Military Supporter Blog were:

Boston Maggie - A dear friend who is facing quite a challenge in her life right now & inspires me every day.
USO Girls - Mu buds Jamie (according to Donald Rumsfeld the #1 USO girl) & Caro (USO Girl #2 as endorsed by Donald Rumnsfeld)
Assoluta Tranquillita - A Canadian, and great friend, who supports our allied forces every single day
Little Drops - My friend Lynnis who, well as the title of the category states, is a huge troop supporter
Family Matters Blog
Words for Warriors
Tails From The Front Line

If you don't currently follow these blogs I encourage you to do so.  They, and so many other Military Supporter Blogs have so much to offer.

The winners in the other milblog categories were:

Best U.S. Army Blog – Chief Wiggles
Best U.S. Military Spouse Blog – Katie and Ben
Best U.S. Military Parent Blog – My Yellow Ribbon
Best U.S. Marine Corps Blog – One Marine's View - Major Pain
Best U.S. Navy Blog – USNI Blog
Best U.S. Coast Guard Blog – Coast Guard Compass
Best U.S. Air Force Blog – I'm Big In Japan
Best U.S. Military Veteran Blog – Neptunus Lex
Best U.S. Reporter Blog – The Unknown Soldiers

All of those blogs as well as all of the others ones nominated in each category deserve a "look see" by everyone.  As a matter of fact all of the blogs registered at Milblogging dot com deserve support.  But there are thousands so I'm not sure we could read through them all.  Check out Milblogging dot com, though.  Register and peruse the various blogs in each category.  You're sure to find a few that you will want to follow each day.

Troy and Marcus of V A You Served provided live streaming of the events on the conference on Saturday.  Those of us who weren't able to attend are grateful to them for making it possible for us to view and listen in to all of the speakers and panels.  They also provided a chat room that allowed views to pose questions to the speakers and panelists.

Saturday morning began with Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who took questions for about an hour before signing his book Known and Unknown - A Memoir.  Thanks to V A You Served I was able to watch and listen in on the live stream.  I was a bit surprised at the incredible sense of humor Secretary Rumsfeld has.

After Secretary Rumsfeld there was a panel Social Media and the Military - "Social Media specialists from branches of the Armed Forces examine how the rise of social media has changed the way they disseminate information and communicate with their audience."  Moderator was Lindy Kyzer and panelists included Captain David Werner, LTC Andrew Morton, Gregory Reeder and Robert M. "Bob" Bohanek.

Next up was the DoD Bloggers Roundtable with LTG William B Caldwell IV the Commander, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and Commander, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan who was live via satellite from Afghanistan.  LTG Caldwell talked about about the future of NTM-A, the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), transition from International Security Forces to the ANSF, and other topics of interest. NTM-A’s role as the trainer of the ANSF is foundation of transition because transition can only occur with a professional Afghan National Army and Police force.

After lunch was an incredibly moving and informative panel of Gold Star family members.  The panel was moderated by Bonnie Carroll the President and Founder of T A P S (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).  The panelists included Joanne M Steen a military widow and the founder of Grief Solutions, LLC, Shelly Hall Gold Star widow of fallen hero CW2 Kelly Hall, Tricia Hall Gold Star daughter of fallen hero CW2 Kelly Hall and Robert Stokely Gold Star father of fallen hero Mike Stokely.

The Gold Star panel was followed by an address by House Armed Services Committee members The Honorable Rob Wittman and The Honorable Adam Smith.

The milblog conference concluded with War and Film: A distinguished panel of film directors and producers discuss the process of bringing the stories of combat veterans to life on the big screen.  Moderated by: Brandon L. Millett Panelists: Gary Mortensen, Lorrel Manning, Rodney Ray.

What an incredible conference.  I hate that I missed it but, again, am thankful to VA You Served for allowing those of us not able to be there to view via their live stream. 

MANY, MANY thanks to JP, Andi and all of the others who worked so hard to make this such an informative and successful conference.