Monday, January 31, 2011

Someone VERY Special

I snapped this shot as we were returning from making the rounds of the wards at Landstuhl tonight.  We had been delivering blankets, backpacks, knit caps, etc to the wounded who will be on the medevac flight to American tomorrow.

I couldn't help but wonder how many hundreds of miles she has logged in the hallways of this hospital or how many lives she has touched in ways we'll never know or understand.

Such a special lady.  Such a cherished friend.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

RESTREPO Garners A Nomination For An Academy Award

Knowing that RESTREPO had made the "short list" of 15 towards being nominated for an Academy Award gave me great hope that, for once, Hollywood would do the right thing.  Yesterday we came one step closer to that reality when it was announced that RESTREPO is one of five nominees for Best Feature Documentary.  The awards will be presented on 27 February 2011 and nothing will keep me away from the TV that night. 

Yes I'll happily suffer through all of the Hollywood drama until the Best Feature Documentary is awarded.  I can't remember the last time I watched the Academy Awards.  Everyone who knows me knows that I'm not a movie afficianodo but this year is different.  The men of RESTREPO and all of the men of the ROCK matter to me.  I just want to hear, "And the Oscar goes to.........Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger for RESTREPO".  And I hope to see as many of the Soldiers as possible in the crowd and, maybe even on stage, when (I will not say "IF") Tim and Sebastian accept the Oscar.

Many people have done much to get RESTREPO to this point.  First and foremost the Solders about whom the documentary was based.  Those Soldier represent many who have served in much the same situation over the years in one war or another.  They allowed Tim and Sebastian into their private space and trusted them to do the right thing.  Then there are Tim and Sebastian who dug into their pockets to fund the trips to Afghanistan, paid for the editing and to get the film into its final form.  To me they did right by those Soldiers.  Another thank you to National Geographic for picking up the film and promoting it via their channel as well as through promotion with Laura Kim and her staff at Inside Job - LA.  Laura and Kanani spent countless hours working to get RESTREPO shown at theaters around the nation.  They had emmense help from military families, friends of the men of RESTREPO and every day Americans who were eager to see the film.

A huge WELL DONE to everyone involved.  I hope I am not leaving out people/organizations I should mention here and if I have I apologize for that.

Tune in folks.  27 February 2011.

For those of you in the LA area you might want to check out this link which indicates that beginning on 1 February you can purchase tickets for $5.00 each for an opportunity to meet the Directors of the nominated short and feature length documentaries.  I have no idea if Tim and Sebastian will be attending but will update here if I find out.

The Academy spotlights the work of the nominated filmmakers in the Documentary Short Subject and Documentary Feature categories with the second annual “Docs!” night. The program will include film clips from each of the nominated documentaries in both categories, and a panel discussion with each group of nominees (schedules permitting).

Wednesday, February 23, 7:30 p.m.

Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
All seating is unreserved
For more information, call (310) 247-3600
I wasn't aware of this fact:

"The Academy’s entire active membership is eligible to select Oscar winners in all categories, although in five – Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, and Foreign Language Film – members can vote only after attesting they have seen all of the nominated films in those categories."

Naturally I'm curious as to how the Academy determines that the members "attest" they have seen all of the documentaries.

Remembering SFC Matthew Kahler

24 July 1978 – 26 January 2008
Sergeant First Class Matthew R. Kahler was born on 24 July 1978 in Carroll, Iowa. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 5 June 1997.  SFC Kahler was a resident of of Granite Falls, Minn., when he was killed by small arms fire on Jan. 26, 2008 at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Waygul, Afghanistan.

SFC Kahler left behind a wife and daughter as well as legions of family members, fellow Soldiers and friends who miss him as much today as they did two years ago. His death left a huge hole in many hearts.

Please take a minute today and remember SFC Kahler; an incredibly man who was loved, respected and admired by legions and a mentor to so many. Say a prayer for him, his family, friends and fellow Soldiers.

Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment

After SFC Kahler completed Basic Infantry Training, Advanced Individual Training, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to A Company 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 17 November 1997. While assigned to the 504th PIR, he held the positions of Assistant Machine Gunner, Machine Gunner, and Fire Team Leader. He deployed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1997 in support of OPERATION DESERT FOCUS and OPERATION DESERT THUNDER.

SFC Kahler was assigned to 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in June 2001. While assigned to the 503rd, he held the positions of Fire Team Leader, Rifle Squad Leader, and Platoon Sergeant. He helped form and train Able Company during countless training deployments to Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels. SFC Kahler deployed and served in the Brigade as a Rifle Squad Leader during both OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM I and OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VI. SFC Kahler deployed with The ROCK to Afghanistan in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII as the Platoon Sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 503rd Infantry Regiment.

SFC Kahler’s awards include: Bronze Star (2, Posthumous), Purple Heart (2, Posthumous), Army Commendation Medal (2), Army Achievement Medal (4), Army Good Conduct Medal (3rd Award), National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with numeral three, Army Service Ribbon, Over Seas Ribbon with numeral four, NATO Medal, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, and Senior Parachutists Badge with Combat Bronze Star Device. SFC Kahler was also recently inducted into the U.S. Army, Europe Sergeant Morales Club as a lifetime member.

Seriously Olive Garden in Bolingbrook, IL? Military IDs aren't good enough?

UPDATE:  This update is long over due and I apologize to Lou Petricca, the General Manager, for that.  I did hear back from the Soldier who was denied a beer based on his military ID not being "good enough,"  Mr. Petricca contacted him and, in the Soldiers words, "He offered to have my family back for dinner and I respectfully declined. I suggested that instead he find a few local disabled veterans and host a dinner for them." 

Since the Soldier was on block leave when this occurred and had to get back to his home base he was not able to "hang around" to return to Olive Garden.

I appreciate all of you for contacting Olive Garden about this.  I must say the "canned" response from their corporate office left me wondering if they really took this seriously or if they were just attempting to save face.  Either way, I appreciate the General Manager, Mr. Petricca, for contacting the Soldier personally and attempting to work out a solution.

I got a message today from one of "my" Paratroopers who is home on block leave.  He's served two tours of Afghanistan in a little over 3 years.  Yep, 27 out of the last 39 months he's been in harms way in eastern Afghanistan.

So he comes home to visit family and friends.  To relax and enjoy the holidays with those he loves.  Last night he went to the Olive Garden in Bolingbrook, IL and....well, I'll let him tell you what happened:

From his facebook status today:  "So last night I was denied a beer at the Olive Garden because I only had a Military ID and not a valid stateside license...I don't have a valid stateside ID because ive lived overseas for 4 years now. My Military ID shows my date of birth and it is issued by the US GOVERNMENT! I wrote a nice long letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune and they just called me back VERY INTERESTED in this story..."

He also sent me a message on facebook - "Hi Leta,  Read my status, I'm sure that will fire you up! Happy Holidays!"

You're right B.  It did fire me up.

So here's what I'd like for all of you reading this to do.  Call the General Manager.  The website lists him as Lou Petricca, General Manager.  The phone number is (630) 759-5191.  I did not find an email address.  BE NICE!  No cursing or screaming.  Be firm but professional.

Maybe read this to him (in red italics below) regarding Types of Valid Government Photo IDs

U.S. Military ID Cards

•A military ID card qualifies as a valid form of photo ID in applying for a U.S. passport. A military ID card is also valid proof of age when attempting to buy alcohol in the U.S. since it contains a birthdate and a photo. The same is true in the case of applying for a library card. A U.S. military ID card may also be used in proving identity in order to obtain a social security card." Yeah, I highlighted that in red because I'm seeing RED about this.

I could tell you a few stories about Soldier "B".  Stories about where he was, what he went through, people (one in particular) he served with.  But that would embarrass him and it's really not the point.  NO member of our military that is 21 or older should be denied a legal right because some dufus with no knowledge of military IDs says so.  Perhaps some training needs to be done in at least one Olive Garden.

Get that phone ringing folks.  Leave messages. nice but make your point.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Former 173rd, 2-503rd Paratrooper, SSG James Takes To Be Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross

Tomorrow, 22 January 2011, at 10:00 former Army SSG James Takes will be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross at the Town Hall in Mooresville, NC.  The Distinguished Service Cross is our Nation's second highest honor behind the Medal of Honor.  I'm told that the review board was split as to whether SSG Takes should be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross or the Medal of Honor.
I'm sad that I won't be able to be there to honor and support James but I know that there will be many in attendance - those who served with him, family and friends and citizens of Mooresville will be there.  I'm grateful for that.

SSG James Takes during OEF VIII

On November 9, 2007 SGT Takes (his rank at the time) was a Team Leader in Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment.  Their patrol had left the village of Aranas and had been hiking through the incredibly rugged and remote terrain of the Hindu Kush mountains when they were ambushed.

Following is the story in my own words as best I know it:

When the ambush happened the entire patrol was almost immediately pinned down along a narrow trail in the mountains.  SGT Takes and his men returned fire and he began giving orders first to lay down suppressive fire then for his men to follow him towards an area that would provide better cover.  SGT Takes put himself in harms way by drawing the enemy fire as his men moved to better cover.  He was shot in one of his arms while doing so but was able to join them while moving through the hail of bullets

By the time SGT Takes joined back up with is men everyone of them had been wounded and one had been killed in action.  They, as well as another element of the US patrol, were still be fired upon from multiple locations by the enemy estimated to be 150 strong.  At one point during the ambush that lasted for hours an RPG landed so close to SGT Takes that it rendered him unconscious for a time.  When he recovered he realized that another of his men had been knocked down a hill by the RPG.  SGT Takes moved to pull that Soldier back to safety with his good arm.  While doing so he was shot in his good arm.  SGT Takes was shot multiple times during the ambush.  Thankfully his IBA "caught" most of the rounds.

Although he was shot in both arms it is my understanding that SGT Takes helped to treat the wounded from his team before leaving them to help out another team in the patrol that had taken more casualties and was continuing to take fire.

When the ambush was over six great men, true American Heroes, had been killed and many more had been wounded.  I wrote about those six American Heroes here.

1LT Matthew Ferrara
SGT Jeffery Mersman
CPL Sean K. A. Langevin
CPL Lester Roque
SPC Joseph M Lancour
Marine SGT Phillip A. Bocks.

Please go to the link and read about these men who gave their all that day for our nation.  It is my understanding that (former) SSG Takes has asked that they be remembered tomorrow.  Just one more testament to the man that he is. 

I have ZERO doubts there is much more to the story of this ambush.  The Citation has not been published yet.  I know it will tell a much more detailed version of that day.  I will update this post once it is released.

There's more I would like for you to know about James.  James was honorably discharged from the Army in January 2009.  Two weeks after returning home he was involved in an motorcycle accident - a truck turned in front of him.  From this article in the Statesville Record and Landmark: published April 3, 2009

"Takes sustained serious injuries, including a broken arm, shoulder, collarbone, ribs, back and pelvis. He also suffered an injured spleen.

His injuries were so severe that physicians said he would not walk for six months and would require the assistance of a wheelchair.

Now, Takes is proving physicians wrong. He is not wheelchair-bound but relies on a crutch to get around.

He said he refuses to use a wheelchair because he wants to do things on his own.

"I like to be independent," he said. "I don't like anyone to do anything for me."

After the accident, physicians suggested Takes withdraw from college and move into a nursing facility during his recovery process, but he had other plans.

He ended up dropping one class, but was still registered for 18 credit hours, which is more than a full load.

"It (coursework) wasn't going to get done with me sitting at home," he said.

The article doesn't say it but I know that the award James was given was created just for him due to his actions both as a Soldier and for his inspiration during his recovery from the accident.

I could not be more proud of James and am grateful that he is being recognized for his Valor, Bravery and Actions on 9 November 2007.  Damn proud of you James.  Damn proud!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Soldier Father And His Daughter

I shamelessly stole this photo from a friend of mine's facebook page.  Dad had just arrived at the airport for his R&R.  One of my all time favorite photos and some of my all time favorite people,too