Monday, February 21, 2011

An Evening With Brett, Matt and Sebastian

I made a quick trip to Chicago Sunday/Monday.  Initial reason for deciding to go was to attend a lecture by Sebastian Junger.  As a bonus I was able to meet Brett Perry (former ROCK Paratrooper and all around great guy) and Matt Burden for cocktails prior to the lecture.

I was having so much fun with Brett and Matt that I forgot to take a photo.  The following one will have to suffice.

In support of our special friend Boston Maggie who is currently in 30 day "incarceration" for a stem cell transplant to treat Muliple Myleoma, Matt had at least 10 Guiness as he promised!.  We had a wonderful time. 

So I left the guys at the Sports Bar and dashed over to listen to Sebastian's lecture.  He, as always, was phenomenal.  He had the huge crowd laughing at times and on the edge of their seats at other times.  He's just a natural.  After the lecture a line formed for book signing.  It snaked across the entire width of the auditorium then back down along one entire side.  Yep, he's a rock star.

Some photos:

Sebastian during his lecture on jounalism and his book WAR

My attempt to get a photo showing the long line of those waiting to have their book signed and a photo made with Sebastian

The line

After the book signing we had a cocktail and called it a night.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Few things warm my heart as much as reading about or seeing our military personnel interact with the local children in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A US Soldier playing "helicopter" with a local boy.

A US Soldier exchanging "hats" with a local boy

Blog Owner's Note: I have permission to post these photos.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Italy - Friday Morning. An Unexpected & Much Treasured Gift

On Wednesday some of the guys mentioned that there was to be an awards ceremony on Friday morning and asked if I would like to attend.  They mentioned that there would be awarding of Purple Hearts and at least one BSMV.  Well OF COURSE I wanted to attend.

Then on Thursday night Ranger Iles "sort of" hinted that maybe I should dress "nicely" for the event on Friday.  I knew something was up and I just didn't like it.

Friday morning Ranger Iles drove me to post.  We went to the gym and found most of "the boyz" and their wives there.  Turns out it was the awards ceremony for the FRG leaders, the civilian support organizations on and around post and for the unveiling of the Dietz print for this deployment.

The ceremony began as LTC Butler and CSM Ferrusi presented certificates and gifts to all of the FRG Leaders and the FRSA.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me and don't have any photos.  Then awards were presented to a myriad of civilian support groups such as the USO, Red Cross, Ederle Inn, Outdoor Adventures, etc.

As I heard LTC Butler begin with something along the lines of, "We have a civilian supporter from the USA with us...." I reached over and squeezed the heck out of Ranger Iles' knee.  Dang it!  I hate surprise recognitions.  Alas, LTC Butler called me forward so that he and CSM Ferrusi could present me with an American flag and certificate.  I was touched, grateful and totally embarrassed as I walked the length of the gym.  When I got back to my seat and read the certificate I gasped.  Holy Cow!  Not only was it flown over FOB Airborne (awesome name!) it was flown on the 8th of November!

Receiving the flag and certificate from LTC Butler and CSM Ferrusi

The flag and certificate

Most of the men around me had no idea about the significance of the 8th of November.  Grrr.  I realize it was a significant day for 1st Battalion but, still, a HUGE historical day for the 173rd Brigade.  If you aren't aware of the significance of 8 November 1965 (Vietnam) please take the time to go here and read about it.  Some of you may recognize the song that Big and Rich wrote and made famous about that day.  The video for the song can be found at the "go here" link above.

Thank you Kyle!  So VERY special!

Mr. James Dietz stepped to the podium to remark about the print for 2-503 for OEF X.  Then it was unveiled.  Once again Mr Dietz did an exceptional job of capturing the essence of the deployment.  Everyone LOVED the print.  I wasn't able to get very close to it because the men and their wives were getting their first look at it.  However, I was able to find some photos on facebook.

James Deitz print for 173rd, 2-503rd OEF X deployment

Many of the Soldiers got in line to have Mr. Dietz personally sign their prints.

James Dietz signing prints
There are more photos of the James Dietz print unveiling here.

A great beginning to another fabulous day in and around Caserme Ederle, Italy.  I am grateful I was able to share in the FRG awards as well as the unveiling of the Dietz print.

Oh, and about those Purple Hearts and BSMV?  They were awarded on another day after I had left.  I hated to miss that.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

UPDATED - 173rd, 2-503rd, The ROCK Awarded Valorous Unit Award for OEF VIII


I just received this from COL Bill Ostlund:

ROCK- Congrats - VUA approved. Distro far and wide. PUC is still pending.

Those that served in the ROCK, 2-503 - to include FUSION, C/3-321, B/4-39, and HHC,RSTB from 25 Jan 2008 to 30 July 2008 have EARNED the Valorous Unit Award. The PUC for 2007 is still pending. Print the memo, bring it to your S1, and add it to yo9ur ERB/ORB.

Congrats - Ostlund!

NOTE:  I will attempt to publish the Memorandum here later tonight.

The image I have is a scanned image of a PDF so the following is the best I can do tonight

So deserved!  So earned!

I have never been more proud of you men!

If you need a copy leave your email address for me in comments or message me your email address on facebook.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Italy - Friday Night Dinner With Special 173rd, 2-503rd Battle/Bravo Company Men Past and Present

What a special night this was!  Sadly, LTC (retired) Roy Lombardo, Jr. was not with us or it would have been perfect.  Roy's flight was cancelled due to the winter storm on the east coast so he never made it to Italy.  He was missed by everyone but we didn't hesitate to talk about him fondly.

Erick Gallardo had picked a very quiet and off the beaten path restaurant.  PERFECT!  The atmosphere was laid back and the food was delicious.  It allowed everyone, especially Sal, to relax and just enjoy good conversation and "war" stories from the older generation.  Lots of laughs and good times.

I'm more grateful than I can relay in words that these men allow me to be a part of their lives.  They are tons of fun and so very special to me.  SGT Eckrode, Jr's parents are dear friends of mine so it's always good to be able to let "mom" know that her GROWN SON is fine.  OK mom?  :)

 Herbert Murhammer and Jim Robinson - Vietnam Era 173rd, 2-503rd Bravo Bulls

SSG Erick Gallardo, SPC Garrett Clary and SGT Frank Eckrode, Jr

SGT Frank Eckrode, Jr, me, SSG Sal Giunta (recent recipient of the Medal of Honor)

Seated - Erick Gallardo, Garrett Clary, Frank Eckrode, Jr, me
Standing - Jim Robinson, Herbert Murhammer, Chris Izell, Sal Giunta

 Herbert Murhammer, Jim Robinson and Sal Giunta

A great evening me.  THANK YOU!

Italy - Thursday Night Cookout With The Chosen Few Then Off To William Wallace

Thursday night began with a cookout at Zeamer and Vega's casa.  Zeamer is quite the chef.  Steaks, skewered beef marinated in a tasty concoction, pasta salad, etc.  Oh, and beer.  Not sure the loud rap music was my thing but, hey, I can "hang" with the younger generation.  OK, it was easy to avoid the music by "hanging" out on the wrap around balcony.

Chef Zeamer

Lovely ladies - in every respect

Ranger Iles didn't like leaving me alone with Remmie - phfffft

Speaks for itself!

The CHOSEN FEW presented this flag to me.  It was in their TOC during the deployment.  They all signed it and also wrote many very touching messages on it.  It is something I will treasure always just as I will them.

Van Esch and Diaz

See?  There's Ranger Iles AGAIN.  So annoying since he has a fabulous lady of his own.  Vega and I pretended he wasn't even there.

Bring on the Irish Car Bombs!


I had to break things off with Ooley a couple of nights later.  Just wasn't working out.  LOL (Inside story and joke there folks)

I think that was one of several Jaeger Bombs

Irish Car Bomb #???

Jaeger Bomb #???

They are so awesome!

One of a FEW "tender" moments.  LOL

Those lovely ladies again!

Battle Co had a dinner that night but a couple of the guys dropped by after.  YAY!  Michael Cunningham in the house

A fabulous night all the way around!  Yes, we drank but we also enjoyed each other's company to the max.

Italy -Wednesday Night Dinner Out With Kyle, Justin, Adam & Tim (the new guy)

On Wednesday night my "landlord", Ranger Iles, chauffered Remmie and me downtown to the Orange Bar to meet up with "the officers".  Most of you know that if Remmie is "in the area" I HAVE to have him along. 

It's a darn good thing I trust Ranger Iles.  I couldn't get back to where we were if my life depended on it.  He navigated the narrow and twisting streets of downtown Vicenza like a pro.  We parked and set off to the Orange Bar to meet the "officers" who were already there and at least one glass of wine ahead of us.  I had a glass of wine then we set off for dinner at the Pizza Pub down the street.

I'm not sure why it's called the Orange Bar but deducted it must be so due to the building being painted ORANGE.  Duh!

The Pizza Pub was AWESOME!  Food was great but the conversation and laughs were even better.  I'm so grateful that you men took the time to hang out with me!  I had a blast!  Not sure what Tim, the new guy must have thought.  He was quiet all night.  Poor guy!

Adam, Justin, Jeff, Me, Remmie, Kyle and Tim at the Pizza Pub

Um, Jeff, I'm fairly certain no one was really listening to you - just being nice by appearing to do so

Irish Car Bombs



Irish Car Bombs - a tradition!  (Well, my tradition and the guys are kind enough to humor me)

Adam, Justin, Kyle, me, Iles and Tim.  I guess Remmie took this one

For some reason, after the Irish Car Bomb I felt it necessary to practice for Ranger School.  Justin was kind enough to be my "victim"

After an absolutely wonderful evening Ranger Iles chauffered Remmie back to his apartment then me back to his casa.  Slept like a baby!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Italy - Tuesday Night Dinner Out With, Mostly, Some of The Chosen Few

Ranger Iles, my "landlord" for most of my time in Italy, lives outside of Vicenza in a lovely village.  I enjoyed hours of sitting outside listening to church bells, a running water source, neighbors calling out to each other and a myriad of peaceful sounds.  All of this while either drinking morning coffee or enjoying an evening glass of wine and/or scotch. 

This particular night my evil landlord, Ranger Iles, and I were enjoying some wine and shots of honey grappa.  Just relaxing and letting the world go by.  And then......the party started.  Vega and Zeamer, their ladies, Diaz, Whitney, Remmel and Ranger Iles' lovely lady arrived.  We lit a fire in the fire pit, drank some more wine and shared tons of laughs.

Then it was off to dinner:

I'm not really sure what Zeamer (head of table) and Diaz (standing to the left) are doing but I AM sure that whatever it was it was entertaining.

While the guys were doing their darn best to order in Italian it turns out the owner spoke perfect English.  He finally let the cat out of the bag and it was hysterical.  He was wonderful to us.

There is no life/fun/party without Remmie!

Vega, Iles and Carlisa, me and Remmie, John Whitney, Diaz

Gotta have a "back up" in case Remmie's not around.  Love you, too Vega!

Christina and Zeamer wasn't man love Thursday

Silly kids

After a wonderful dinner and tons of great conversation and laughs a few headed back towards post and their home while I ensconced myself back on Ranger Iles' patio.  Ahhhh  I could get used to this.