Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An Awesome Update On Honorary COL Evan Pertile

If you are a fairly new reader to this blog and aren't aware who Evan is you can find a lot of background info on this amazing young man here, here and here.  We were first introduced to Evan by Matt over at Blackfive.  There are posts about Evan over there at this link, this link and this link.

This morning I received both an email notification as well as a text message from Evans mom, Rachel, directing me to this awesome update on Evan's most recent check up at St Jude Children's Research Hospital.  I'll bet many of you heard my loud "WOO HOO" when I read the update.

Here's what Rachel wrote today (in the wee hours of the morning):

"Will the wonder ever cease?

Dear Evan's Army,

Wow. A Miracle. That's is all I could say today when Alex told me the news. His MRI (thank you God!) is clear. The crazy, unbelievable, out of the world, science fiction is that EVAN HAS GROWN THREE INCHES IN 6 MONTHS!!! And, if possibly even more unbelievable, his spine has grown. You may recall from previous journal entries that children's spines do not like radiation. They cease to grow. His growth is unexplainable The pediatric endocrinologist is stunned. His 6 hour test scheduled for later today (ok - it's 2:00 am but I am too excited to sleep) has been canceled. Why? Because he is growing!!!! Hallelujah. Alex told me his growth rate is off the charts and his bone age (xray of his hand which compares chronological age with rate of growth) is normal.

Evan once again is stunning the medical community. We truly thought he would be getting the daily growth hormone shots starting back in 2010. As a physician, I can't begin to explain it. As a mom, I relish and embrace it. I picture Evan, wearing an orange shirt with red and blue plaid shorts, standing defiantly and yelling "Bring it!" (okay, so he's not a GQ Man at heart).

Of course, I secretly hope that he will never need to get the growth hormone shots. Alex has tried to tell me all the risks and side effects of growth hormone but I won't let him. I can do pretty well with future hypothetical worrying all on my own, so I don't need any ammunition!
We are so thankful for the positive news today. A big hug goes out to all of Evan's prayer warriors.

Now, as it is 2:17 am and I have 4 children who will expect their mother tobe coherent in about four hours from now, I am going to go to bed. I'm pretty sure that Alex and Evan are sound asleep in Memphis!"


Yep, that definitely deserves a few WOO HOOs!  So many answered prayers. 

Evan and his family have been such an inspiration to me and so many others  To say I am thrilled to read this fantastic news is such an understatement.

Hurry up and get home Evan.  You've got soccer, swimming, etc., etc., etc. to get back to.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reporters Instructed on Saving Colleagues - In Memory of Tim Hetherington

"Tim’s wound did not have to be fatal, but it killed him nevertheless." Sebastian Junger

After the initial blow of the news of Tim's death and learning that Tim bled out from his wounds, Sebastian Junger spearheaded a project to train and equip freelance journalist to treat life threatening injuries on the battlefield.  Tim bled out in the back of a pickup truck while on the way to the hospital in Misrata because none of the Libyan Rebels or journalists with him knew what to do to stop the bleeding and save his life.  It was a second huge blow (his death being the biggest one) to know that he could have lived if only someone had known how to apply pressure to his wound to stop the bleeding.

When Sebastian learned of how Tim died he made it a mission to do anything he could so that this might never happen again.  "Tim is not the first friend I have lost in combat, but his death was certainly the most devastating. It has prompted me to start a medical training program for freelancer journalists so that the next tragedy can be averted. Our course is modeled after informal training that Tim and I received in Afghanistan and is taught by experienced medics, many with extensive combat experience." (Sebastian Junger)

Today, on the one year anniversary of Tim Hetherington's and Chris Hondros' deaths from a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya, the first class of 25 will finish their three day Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues seminar held in New York City.  This fall and winter additional seminars will be held in London and Beirut.  The classes will continue to be held on an annual basis in NYC, London and Beirut.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tim Hetherington - A Gaping Hole That Won't Completely Heal


Tim Hetherington at OP Restrepo
December 5, 1970 to April 20, 2011

"There is no way to express my devastation and sorrow at the death of my dear friend, Tim Hetherington in Misrata, Libya. Tim was one of the most courageous and principled journalists I have ever known. The good that he accomplished – both with his camera, and simply as a concerned person in some of the most devastated countries in the world – cannot be measured. I can’t believe he is truly gone." Sebastian Junger; April 20, 2011

The morning of April 20, 2011 I received the following text message, "Is Sebastian in Libya?"  I replied that he wasn't and asked why.  A text came back, "We're getting information that Tim (Hetherington) has been killed in Libya." 

From that point on the rest of the day is a blur for the most part but I do remember picking up the phone and calling Sebastian.  When he answered I knew from the tone of his voice that it was true but I remembering asking, "Is it true?"  I clearly remember his response, "yes." I also remember the remainder of our short conversation which I choose not to share here.  I hung up the phone and, as many others were also doing, I wept harder than I have in a long, long time.  As hard as I was crying I still kept thinking to myself that it could not possibly be true.

By 11:00 am CNN had Tim's face all over their website with the news of his death and that of Chris Hondros.  I didn't know Chris Hondros but everyone I knew who knew Tim was in a state of shock and saddened beyond belief.  It just could not be.  The loss of both of these men resonated around the world - literally.

By Thursday night Tim's and Chris's bodies had arrived at the port city of Benghazi, Libya where international journalists and photographers along with Libyan Rebels held a memorial for them.  Tim was laid to rest on May 13, 2011 in Great Britain.

Last known photo taken of Tim in Misrata, Libya

On Tuesday May 24, 2011 a Celebration of Life Departed was held for Tim Hetherington at The First Presbyterian Church in New York City.  In his eulogy Sebastian Junger said, “He was terrifyingly brave, and he made them (the Soldiers) laugh. If you can do only those two things and not fall behind on patrol they [the soldiers] are good to you.”

Junger said, “Tim changed the world with his work, and the world changed him. He was seeking those changes.” He said Hetherington “allowed people access to his heart.” In his work in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, Junger said, Hetherington was a better journalist thanks to his openness to experiences and people.

Brendan O'Byrne, one of the Soldiers Tim spent time with at OP Restrepo, spoke on behalf of the Soldiers in attendance and all of those who couldn't be there.  As he spoke three other Soldiers who were at OP Restrepo, Marc Solowski, Santana Rueda and Aron Hijar, stood solemnly behind him.  Brendan said, in part,  "He came a stranger and left a brother" said O’Byrne. “He went out there again and again and again. He didn’t have to.” He noted, “If it weren’t for him, our stories would have been lost in the chaos of war.”

O’Byrne said Hetherington continued their friendship after their time in Afghanistan. “I came home with a massive amount of PTSD. Tim let me stay in his house,” and asked for nothing in return. “He said, ‘Get your feet on the ground, and don’t drink.’ ” O’Byrne said he had no words to describe what Hetherington meant to the platoon. “We cared about him so much.”

The love of Tim's life, Idil, said "many mourned him as a talented photographer, filmmaker, teacher, colleague, friend, “and brother from the front line.” To Ibrahim, however, Hetherington was, among other things, “partner, love, future, friend,” as well as “movie star,” “preferred dance partner,” “poet,” and “fashion stylist.” Though she said, “I mourn the loss of our future together” and “the children we’ll never have,” she noted that shortly before Hetherington left for Libya, they had a conversation about death. “I’ve truly lived,” Hetherington told her. She said Hetherington “exuded joie de vivre,” and was “the most brilliant person I know.” She said, “He taught me most about love and for that I’m truly grateful.”


And Tim's sister, Victoria, shared with the over flowing crowd in the church,  that Tim's energy, curiosity and desire to engage with people were evident even at a young age. Both siblings emphasized that Hetherington, who was born in England, “loved his life in New York,” and in particular, Victoria noted, “the lifelong friends” he made there. Victoria noted how much Hetherington enjoyed the company of his friends’ children and his own nephew and niece. After she informed her children of their uncle’s death, she said, her four-year-old daughter worried that God wouldn’t let him into heaven: “Because he’s the naughtiest person. He throws us in the swimming pool with all our clothes on.”

Victoria quoted a line attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “In the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years,” and expressed her gratitude that her brother had experienced so much in his 40 years.

 was one of the kindest, funniest, most caring and deeply loving people I've ever know despite his own personal struggles. I have missed Tim deeply every day since his passing and doubt that emotion will ever subside. I hope it doesn't. Tim was one of those people who made me a better person.  I'd give most anything to hear his laugh one more time, see his smile one more time and for one more hug.

Tim filming in Afghanistan:

One of my many favorite photos of Tim:

CSM Caldwell, me and Tim at Fort Campbell's screening of Restrepo

Tim's life continues to be remembered and celebrated in many ways through exhibits of his work, a program developed by Sebastian Junger and others to train journalist and photo journalists on combat first aid and through other avenues.  His spirit will live forever in the hearts of people from countries in which he made such a difference such as in Liberia.

These are for you Tim.  We love you and miss you every single day.  Please continue to watch over the Soldiers, journalists and photographers and legion of other friends who consider you their brother.

One Love by Bob Marley

Redemption Song by Bob Marley

Rest in peace dear friend.  You are missed beyond any words I know of to express the loss we continue to feel.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Army Names Fort Bliss Soldier Family Care Center In Memory of SPC Hugo V. "Doc" Mendoza

On Thursday April 12, 2012 the Army held a Memorial Naming Ceremony at Fort Bliss/Biggs Airfield, TX to rename the Soldier Family Care Center to the "SPC Hugo V. Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center" in memory of SPC Hugo "Doc" Mendoza. SPC Mendoza was killed in action in Afghanistan on October 25, 2007.  The 143,000 square foot clinic is the largest free standing clinic in the Army.

SPC Hugo V. Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center

It could not have been a more beautiful day for the ceremony.  As you can see from the photo above, the sky was blue.  The temperatures were moderate.  There was a bit of a breeze from time to time.

SPC Mendoza was killed in action on October 25, 2012 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan while tending to his wounded battle buddies during an ambush during Operation Rock Avalanche. 

SPC Hugo Mendoza in Afghanistan during OEF VIII

SPC Mendoza enlisted in the U.S. Army on 31 May 2005.  During his time in service, he completed Basic Infantry Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Medical Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 6 March 2006, SPC Mendoza reported to his first duty station at Caserma, Ederle, Vicenza, Italy. He was assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry – The ROCK.   SPC Mendoza was then assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with duty as a combat medic in Battle Company.   He immediately found his home among the combat warriors of 1st Platoon – The Celts.   SPC Mendoza trained, deployed and fought side by side with his band of brothers in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII.   SPC Mendoza distinguished himself in The ROCK as a heroic medic, charismatic Paratrooper, and an overall altruistic human being.

On October 25, 2007 as the paratroopers were making their way back to the KOP (Korengal Outpost) when they were ambushed by the enemy (use right and left arrows to see more about the ambush).  The enemy had set up a classic "L" shaped ambush in anticipation of the paratroopers.  SPC Mendoza, while not shown in the slides at the link above, was wounded almost immediately but continued to both return fire and treat the wounded until he succumbed to his wounds.

As the Army band and the high school choir played and sang the Nation Anthem a huge gust of wind came barreling through the venue.  The wreath in front of the speaker's podium slammed face first into the ground. Then the tents were lifted off the ground. The poles came loose from the tents in a couple of places. Some Soldiers ran to secure the tents to keep them from slamming down on the crowd. No one (other than the Soldiers securing the tents) seemed to move and the choir never missed a note. I have to confess that the hair on my neck stood up. The ceremony continued with a few much less strong gusts from time to time. After the ceremony was over all of the paratroopers were in agreement that the blast of wind was Hugo checking in to say "all is well". An incredibly poignant moment.

COL (Dr) Bruce Adams, the outgoing chief of medical staff at William Beaumont Army Medical Center spoke at the ceremony.  He said,
"Soldiers join the Army to serve the nation," Adams said. "Medics join the Army to serve soldiers. It's a sacred bond." It took a year and a half to get this honor for Mendoza approved by the Army, Adams said.  Three criteria had to be met to have the clinic named after him -- display distinguished service, have a local connection and be a doctor, nurse or medic." 

COL Adams also said about SPC Mendoza, "The El Pasoan exemplified what it means to be a combat medic."

COL (Dr) Bruce Adams

After COL Adams spoke SSG Sal Giunta, who served with SPC Mendoza and was in the ambush that fateful day, spoke about Hugo.  In part, Sal said, "I promise you he was an honest-to-goodness hero," said Salvatore Giunta, a former Army staff sergeant and a Medal of Honor recipient who attended the ceremony. "And he was a great man.  Seeing Mendoza have a medical clinic named after him is "bittersweet," said Giunta.

"He was the type of man who wanted to do good things for other people," said Giunta.   "He's no longer here to do that, and we'll now have to step up and live our lives by helping others out and treating people with respect like he did."

SSG (r) Sal Giunta - Medal of Honor Recipient for his actions on the same day that SPC Mendoza was killed by the enemy

After COL Adams and SSG Giunta finished their remarks they accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Mendoza and SPC Mendoza's two brothers to the beautiful garden in front of the Soldier Family Care Center to unveil the plaque honoring SPC Mendoza.

Mendoza family unveiling the plaque

The plaque located in the garden outside the center

Plaque in the garden

Then the Soldiers in attendance who had served with SPC Mendoza unveiled the wall in the garden.

SSG Sal Giunta, Chris Izell, John Michem, Chris Shelton and Kyle Zaski unveiled the wall

The crowd was invited to move into the lobby of the center for the remainder of the ceremony.  Once inside the following collage was unveiled:

Collage of portraits and replica of the plaque in garden outside in the lobby of the SPC Hugo V Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center

During the reception held afterwards there were many interviews by the media with SPC Mendoza's family and battle buddies.

Hugo's oldest brother, Carlos, talking to the media

"Even though he didn't have a family of his own, he was very family-oriented," Carlos Mendoza said. "He treated my three kids like they were his own. He never missed a birthday, a holiday, a Christmas -- not until 2007."

His brother wanted to be a firefighter, and he joined the Army to get medical training, Carlos Mendoza said.   "He thought that was one path to do that," he said.

Hugo Mendoza was also a man of tremendous faith, his brother said. "He believed in God, had his Bible and always read it," Carlos Mendoza said.

The Mendoza family didn't pursue this honor, he added. "It was presented to us by the military," he said. "They must have seen something in him, too."

A couple of Hugo's battle buddies had this to say about him:
Former SGT Kyle Zaski of Grand Rapids, Mich., said Mendoza was "fearless" and "never hesitated to do his job, even when under fire."

Former SPC Chris Izell of Austin said Mendoza was a "good guy" whom everybody liked. "I never heard anyone ever say anything bad about him," Izell said. "He had a great sense of humor, very down to earth. He's still one of the best soldiers I've ever known."

The program:

Cover of Program

Inside front

Inside back - so touching and poignant

Back Cover

The 2-503d Battalion OEF VIII Paratroopers sent this wreath in honor and remembrance of SPC Mendoza.  After the ceremony his family, accompanied by his battle buddies, took the wreath to his grave site.

In Remembrance from the ROCK

It was such an honor and privilege to be present for this.  The Mendoza family is one of the most loving and accepting families I have ever met.  I am happy for them that some of the Soldiers who were with Hugo that fateful day were able to attend as well as the large number of the Mendoza's family and friends from California, Arizona and Texas.  Most of all I am happy that the Army chose to honor SPC Mendoza by naming the Soldier Family Care Center in his memory so that his name will live on forever even to those who didn't know him.

Rest in Peace Hugo.  You will certainly never be forgotten

Three Korean War MIAs Identified

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office recently announced the identificationof remains belonging to three soldiers who had been missing in action since theKorean War. Recovered are:

Army Cpl. Patrick R. Glennon, 18, of Rochester, N.Y.  On Nov. 1, 1950, Glennon and G Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, were holding a defensive position along the Nammyon River near Unsan, North Korea, when they were attacked by Chinese forces. Glennon was listed as missing in action following the heavy fighting.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard L. Harris, 23, of Spokane, Wash.  In late November 1950, Harris and elements of the 2nd Infantry Division, were in a defensive line north of Kujang, North Korea, when they were attacked by Chinese forces in what became known as the Battle of the Chongchon. It would be learned that Harris had been captured, but died of malnutrition in a North Korean POW camp on Jan. 22, 1951.

Army Pfc. Frank P. Jennings, 20, of Parsons, Tenn.     In late April 1951, Jennings and E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, were battling Chinese Communist Forces near Jeon-Gog, South Korea. Jennings was reported as missing in action; his status was later changed to killed in action.

May God rest the souls of these American Heroes and bring comfort to their loved ones.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

SGT Justin "Doc" Henry 172d ABLE Co 3-66 Soldier of the Week 14 April 2012

SGT Justin "Doc" Henry

SGT Henry, 24, is the proud son of Debrah Wetzle.  After studying Criminal Justice for a year at a community college, he made the choice to serve his nation during a time of war.  He enlisted in the National Guard as a Chemical Equipment Repair Specialist in 2006.

SGT Henry wanted a greater challenge; he became an 11B, Infantryman when he joined the Army full-time in 2008.  He earned the Combat Infantryman Badge while deployed to Afghanistan a year later.  His mettle was tested and proved under fire; also, he witnessed how significant of a role the combat medic has during Infantry operations.  That epiphany resulted in a request to change his Military Occupational Specialty to 68W, Health Care Specialist.

As a Combat Medic, SGT Henry provided medical coverage for 3rd platoon, ABLE Company during Operation Enduring Freedom XI-XII.  He continuously conducted preventive medicine operations which kept his platoon fit to fight throughout the year-long deployment.  SGT Henry provided exceptional amounts of personal attention to the individual needs of his brothers-in-arms.

SGT Henry earned the esteemed Combat Medic Badge in September of 2011.  He used his experience from previous mountain warfare operations to emplace a fortified platoon-level casualty collection point on top of jagged ridgeline.  He dug-in, filled sand bags, and camouflaged the CCP which resulted in his being able to sustain the platoon’s medical readiness during a five days long blocking position.  After a firefight with the enemy during the first day, SGT Henry assessed the platoon and ensured it was able to complete its mission.

SGT Henry is a hybrid Soldier.  He is an experienced Infantryman who has previously closed with and engaged the enemy; he knows the kinetic fight and can position himself to best serve his Soldiers as their Combat Medic.  SGT Henry is a unique and accomplished NCO who brings great credit upon himself and the Blackhawk Brigade.

Monday, April 9, 2012

SPC Erik Wiley 172d ABLE Co 3-66 Soldier of the Week 7 April 2012

SPC Erik Wiley

Duty Position and MOS: Team Leader, 11B

 SPC Wiley has performed above his peers while serving with the 172ND Blackhawk Brigade.

SPC Erik Wiley is the pride of his parents Connie Roberts and Landon Wiley.  He played linebacker and point guard on his high school football and basketball team.  His participation in team sports prepared him for the brotherly commitment that came with serving in the Infantry.

SPC Wiley enlisted in the Army as an 11B, Infantryman in January of 2010.  Prior to deploying to Afghanistan, he was hand selected to be trained to operate as a member of a mortar team.  His ability to quickly master the conduct of indirect fires during Infantry operations resulted in assignment to the headquarters platoon of Bravo Company, 1-2 Infantry as a gunline squad leader.

SPC Wiley had the honor of maintaining and operating the Venom Company Battle-Gator (VCBG), a custom built weaponized utility vehicle that was armed with a belt-fed, fully-automatic 40mm grenade launcher and a .50 caliber machine gun.  He conducted four air assault operations in which he was inserted into enemy controlled terrain by dismounting the VCBG from a Chinook helicopter during hours of limited visibility.  Once in the support by fire position, he emplaced his 60mm mortar system and was prepared to immediately suppress any enemy which dared to engage Venom Company.

SPC Wiley demonstrated outstanding leadership in the performance of his duties as a mortarman and headquarters “go-to” guy; this resulted in his selection for promotion to Sergeant ahead of his peers.

Currently, SPC Wiley is assigned as a Team Leader for Alpha Company, 3-66 AR, TF 1-2 IN on FOB XXXX.  He represents the third generation of Wiley to serve his country during wartime, he is a true American patriot and stellar icon for his Blue Star Mom!   Blackhawk.

SPC Williams 172d ABLE Co 3-66 Soldier of the Week 31 March 2012

SPC Williams

SPC Williams has demonstrated a commitment to the 172D Brigade which distinguished him from his peers.

SPC Williams graduated from Southern Tech in August of 2009 with a BS in Business and a minor in Engineering.  Upon graduation from college, his call to valor and patriotism lead him to enlist in the Army as a 19K Armor Crewman in March of 2010.

SPC Williams has participated in four air assault operations in the rugged mountains of XXXX Province, Afghanistan.  He carried combat loads in excess of 100 pounds during missions that lasted over five days each.  He wrote analysis of the enemy activity he observed as well as the patterns of life of the local communities.  His analysis helped the company commander to understand the company’s battle space which resulted in the company’s success by disrupting enemy operations in the Battalion’s Area of Operation.

In December of 2011, at his new home at FOB XXXX, SPC Williams headed the CoIST team for ABLE Company.  While in charge, he was able to implement procedures that standardized reporting for the company.  He helps the commander to write the daily Blue One report by ensuring that relevant data is extracted from the patrols briefs.  SPC Williams is responsible for analyzing Able Company’s battle space to determine threats to our forces and company mission.  Through his attention to detail, he is able to accurately inform the commander and the platoon leaders of intelligence passed down from Battalion, and to inform Battalion of intelligence gathered from daily patrols.

Physical fitness is a high priority for SPC Williams; he understands the importance of being fit to fight.  Weighing in at 160 pounds, he bench pressed an impressive 315 pounds and ran five miles in less than 40 minutes.  SPC Williams set the benchmark for all Soldiers to emulate.

SPC Williams was engaged by the enemy during multiple air assault operations; these events helped to give him an operational understanding of the battlefield which enabled him to transcend merely conducting analytical analysis.  His personal experience during combat operations resulted in the award of the Combat Action Badge and developed him into a well-rounded asset for the Blackhawk Brigade.

SPC Bishop Hunter 172d ABLE Co 3-66 Soldier of the Week 23 March 2012

My dear friend Bob Connolly and I have been sending support to the men of ABLE Company over the past few months.  Just this week the 1SG began to send me emails regarding "Soldier of the Week".  I wish he'd done this sooner.

So here is the first one:

SPC Hunter K Bishop

SPC Bishop, Machine Gunner, 11B, has demonstrated a commitment to the 172d Brigade which distinguished him from his peers.

SPC Hunter Bishop is the youngest son of Ky and Terri Bishop.  He landed the lead role and starred in the independent movie Chasing Case.  Despite a shot at stardom, a patriotic calling to duty led him to enlist in the Army as an Infantryman in April 2010.

SPC Bishop has participated in four air assault operations in the rugged mountains of XXXX Province, Afghanistan.  He carried combat loads in excess of 100 pounds during missions that lasted over five days each.  In XXXX Province he conducted over 100 foot patrols, lasting over four hours each, through an agricultural based landscape laden with wide trenches as deep as 30 feet.  SPC Bishop inspired his battle buddies to perform to highest standards possible by setting a perfect example on a daily basis during operations that were partnered with the Afghan National Forces.

Physical fitness is a high priority for SPC Bishop; he understood the importance of being fit to fight.  While conducting rigorous combat operations, he scored 265 points on an Army Physical Fitness test conducted at over 7000 feet of elevation with an ambient temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit.  SPC Bishop always volunteered to help his platoon complete their missions during the worst weather conditions, hot or cold.  His sense of duty and pride in being part of a team are the hallmark of what makes this Soldier stand out from the formation.

His personal experience during numerous combat operations inspired the permanent artwork which adorns his right shoulder and bicep.  In XXX the 172d BCT will case its colors; SPC Bishop will proudly continue to carry the symbol of the 172d and share his story as part of the Blackhawk Brigade.

Fort Bliss, TX (Biggs Airfield) To Rename SFCC In Memory Of Army Medic SPC Hugo V. Mendoza

The Surgeon General has approved the renaming of the Soldier Family Care Center at East Fort Bliss, TX (Biggs Airfield) in memory of SPC Hugo V. Mendoza.

The renaming ceremony will take place on:

Date: 12 April 2012
Time: 13:00 to 15:00 Mountain Time
Where: The Soldier Family Care Center (SPC Hugo V. Medoza Clinic)
11135 SSG Sims Rd.
East Fort Bliss (Biggs Airfield), Texas

Army Medic, SPC Hugo V Mendoza, in Afghanistan during OEF VIII

SPC Hugo Mendoza was killed in action during an ambush on 25 October 2007 in the Korengal Valley of eastern Afghanistan.  At the time of his death he was serving with 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment of the 173rd ABCT.  SPC Mendoza was participating in Operation Rock Avalanche when his platoon was ambushed.  He died as a result of RPGs, machine gun and small arms fire.  He was 29 years old.  SPC Mendoza was laid to rest at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, TX.

SPC Hugo V Mendoza's final resting place
23 March 1978 - 25 October 2007

SPC Mendoza was born in El Paso, TX where he lived until he moved to Glendale, CA where he attended school until his junior year. He then moved to Phoenix, AZ where he finished high school then began to work in construction. He joined the Army 2 years before his death in order to get medical training and to be able to attend college after his service. His ultimate goal was to become a firefighter. He is survived by his parents, Jesus (Sr.) & Sara and two brothers, Jesus (Jr.) and Stevie.

SPC Mendoza is remembered by all who knew him as a kind and loving soul. He died while trying to pull a wounded Soldier from harm’s way. SPC Mendoza's family recalls him as a very giving person; a man who treated everyone the way he wanted to be treated.

During his time in service, SPC Hugo Victor Mendoza completed Basic Infantry Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Medical Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 6 March 2006, SPC Mendoza reported to his first duty station at Caserma, Ederle, Vicenza, Italy. He was assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry – The ROCK. SPC Mendoza was then assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with duty as a combat medic in Battle Company. He immediately found his home among the combat warriors of 1st Platoon – The Celts. SPC Mendoza trained, deployed and fought side by side with his band of brothers in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII. SPC Mendoza distinguished himself in The ROCK as a heroic medic, charismatic Paratrooper, and an overall altruistic human being.

SPC Mendoza’s awards include: The Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Medical Badge, and Basic Parachutist Badge, the Bronze Star Medal for Service in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII.

Friday, April 6, 2012

SSG (p) Robert "Doc" Lemon Earns Pathfinder Badge

On Friday, April 6, 2012 SSG (p) Robert "Doc" Lemon graduated from the Pathfinder course at Fort Campbell, KY.  I am SO PROUD of Rob for this accomplishment.  I'm also proud to call Rob my friend.  We're going to do a little celebrating this weekend in honor of Rob earning his Pathfinder badge.

Rob joined the Army in 2001.  He completed Basic Training and Airborne School at Fort Benning, GA before moving on to Fort Sam Houston, TX to complete his training to become a combat medic.  His first duty station was Vicenza, Italy as a member of the 173d, 2-503d.  Rob's first deployment was to Iraq in OIF I.  He has also deployed to Afghanistan with the 2-503d.

In 2009 Rob left Vicenza to join the Ranger Training Battalion (RTB)/5th RTB Mountain Phase in Dahlonega, GA.   Rob is currently stationed at Fort Campbell, KY.

Rob has earned his Ranger Tab and his Expert Field Medical Badge.  I'm sure Rob has additional accomplishments but he's fast asleep as I type this so I may have to update it later.

SSG (p) Robert "Doc" Lemon in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan

Congratulations Rob! You ROCK! The Pathfinder Badge is going to look awesome on your uniform!
Current Pathfinder Badge without enameling

The original Pathfinder badge was designed in 1944. In 1964 the current badge design was adopted and made of felt. In 1968 the current badge was approved and is made of metal with enameling. The wings on the badge represent airborne capability and flight while the wings represent leadership and guidance.

In order to earn the Pathfinder Badge, the student navigates dismounted, establishes and operates a day/night helicopter landing zone, establishes and operates a day/night CARP, GMRS, and Army VIRS parachute DZ, conducts slingload operations, provides air traffic control and navigational assistance to RW and FW airborne operations. Students participate in a three day FTX (I think that means in the field) as a member of a Pathfinder Team.

Specifically Soldiers learn the following skills at Pathfinder School:

Navigate cross country on foot

Establish and operate a day/night helicopter landing zone

Establish and operate a day/night parachute drop zone

Conduct slingload operations

Aircraft rappelling

Provide air traffic control and navigational assistance to aircraft within an operational site control zone

It is my understanding that there is only one Pathfinder school within the Army. It is located at Fort Benning, GA. However, the Air Assault School at Ft. Campbell, KY is authorized for Pathfinder training and the Army National Guard Pathfinder Mobile Training Team (MTT) provides Pathfinder training to Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fort Polk Names Mission Training Center In Memory of Viet Nam Sky Soldier

An OEF VIII Sky Soldier sent me the link to this story from the Leesville Daily Leader in Leesville, LA.  Thank you Jay!

The Mission Training Complex at Fort Polk, LA was recently named in memory of CSM Thomas Berry who passed away in 2005.  CSM Berry was a member of th 173d Airborne Brigade that was stood up on Okinawa and the first Army unit deployed to Vietnam.  He served in Vietnam for seven years straight.

From the Leesville Daily Leader: "When the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk decided to name its Mission Training Complex for retired Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Berry, they chose to honor the life of a soldier who earned a reputation as a source anyone could turn to for help — from privates to four-star generals.

 According to those who served with Berry, the decorated Vietnam veteran spent his life committed to the soldiers under his guidance. He continued that commitment after retiring from active duty, taking a job at the JRTC where he could continue to work with his beloved soldiers."

The accolades bestowed upon CSM Berry from military personnel are numerous.  And the stories of his committment to anything and everything he did are inspiring.

“He never quit anything he started and he always gave it his best shot,” Taylor said. “We had an annual 52-mile race in Panama that pitted the senior NCOs against officers. The officers had an advantage because, typically, we could choose from a younger group, plus we had Special Forces, Rangers and Infantry troops to choose from.

“The commanding general and command sergeant major always ran the last five-mile leg. When the baton was passed to me, Command Sergeant Major Berry was nowhere to be seen. I was taking my time when I happened to look over my shoulder and here comes Berry. He was running barefoot because his shoes had rubbed blisters on his feet, but he didn’t stop. His feet looked awful, but that was how he was about everything.”

I hope you will go read the entire story from the Leesville paper about CSM Berry.  I regret that I never had to privilege of meeting this great American treasure.