color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: July 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Iraq...

In case you didn't see it broadcast... or you only got the sound bites, I'd like you to take the time to be reminded what the President has always said about Iraq and our troops there: "When the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down."

Here Here Here Here

(The emphasis in the remarks below are mine.)


July 31, 2008
8:04 A.M. EDT


THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This has been a month of encouraging news from Iraq. Violence is down to its lowest level since the spring of 2004, and we're now in our third consecutive month with reduced violence levels holding steady. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker caution that the progress is still reversible, but they report that there now appears to be a "degree of durability" to the gains we have made.

A significant reason for this sustained progress is the success of the surge. Another is the increasing capability of the Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces now have 192 combat battalions in the fight -- and more than 110 of these battalions are taking the lead in combat operations against terrorists and extremists.

We saw the capability of those forces earlier this year, when the Iraqi government launched successful military operations against Shia extremist groups in Basra, Amarah, and the Sadr City area of Baghdad. Because of these operations, extremists who once terrorized the citizens of these communities have been driven from their strongholds. As a result, our Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, was able to walk the streets of Sadr City last Wednesday, as something that would not have been possible just a few months ago.

This week, the Iraqi government is launching a new offensive in parts of the Diyala province that contain some of al Qaeda's few remaining safe havens in the country. This operation is Iraqi-led; our forces are playing a supporting role. And in the moments -- in the months ahead, the Iraqis will continue taking the lead in more military operations across the country.

As security in Iraq has improved, the Iraqi government has made political progress as well. The Iraqi Council of Representatives has passed several major pieces of legislation this year, and Iraqi leaders are preparing for provincial elections. And Prime Minister Maliki recently returned from a successful visit to Europe, where he held important diplomatic discussions with Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Berlusconi, and His Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

The progress in Iraq has allowed us to continue our policy of "return on success." We now have brought home all five of the combat brigades and the three Marine units that were sent to Iraq as part of the surge. The last of these surge brigades returned home this month. And later this year, General Petraeus will present me his recommendations on future troop levels -- including further reductions in our combat forces as conditions permit.

As part of the "return on success" policy, we are also reducing the length of combat tours in Iraq. Beginning tomorrow, troops deploying to Iraq will serve 12-month tours instead of 15-month tours. This will ease the burden on our forces -- and it will make life easier for our wonderful military families.

We're also making progress in our discussion with Prime Minister Maliki's government on a strategic framework agreement. This agreement will serve as the foundation for America's presence in Iraq once the United Nations resolution authorizing the multinational forces there expires on December the 31st.

We remain a nation at war. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq -- but the terrorists remain dangerous, and they are determined to strike our country and our allies again. In this time of war, America is grateful to all the men and women who have stepped forward to defend us. They understand that we have no greater responsibility than to stop the terrorists before they launch another attack on our homeland. And every day they make great sacrifices to keep the American people safe here at home. We owe our thanks to all those who wear the uniform -- and their families who support them in their vital work. And the best way to honor them is to support their mission -- and bring them home with victory.

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Doctor is IN... er, HOME

This pic is from between Doc's 2nd and 3rd deployments.... or maybe 3rd and this 4th... dang... lost count... sure are proud of you, Sean!!

Go on over and welcome DocInTheBox home from his 4th trip to the Sandy Place...

WELCOME HOME, DOC!! Bravo Zulu!!

Labels: ,

Monday, July 14, 2008


Outward Bound Wilderness Excursions for OEF/OIF Veterans

Outward Bound, an international non-profit outdoor education program, is offering fully funded outdoor adventure excursions to all OEF/OIF veterans. It doesn't matter what your current military status is (active, inactive,discharged, retired) - you're eligible to attend as long as you deployed in support of OEF/OIF combat operations while in the military. These five-day excursions offer adventure activities such as backpacking, rock climbing, canyoneering, canoeing, and dog sledding in beautiful wilderness areas in Maine, Texas, Colorado, California, and Minnesota. Scheduled courses from Sep 08-Feb 09 are listed below, and future courses will be scheduled soon.

All expedition costs for lodging, equipment, food, and instruction are completely funded by a multi-million dollar Sierra Club grant, including the participants' round-trip transportation between home and the wilderness site. The excursion is offered at no cost to the participant. To sign up for one of the pre-scheduled courses, please contact Doug Hayward at 1-866-669-2362, ext. 8387, or simply e-mail him at

To learn more about the OEF/OIF program, visit the website at

You can also contact two of the retired Judge Advocates, Joe and Amy Frisk, who are working for Outward Bound on this incredible program at,
or at (303)968-4420.


Leadville, Colorado: Backpacking and Rock Climbing in the Colorado Rockies

* September 3-7, 2008
* October 4-8, 2008

Newry, Maine: Backpacking and Canoeing

* October 7-11, 2008
* October 19-23, 2008

Big Bend, Texas: Back packing and Cayoneering

* November 2-6, 2008
* November 15-19, 2008

Joshua Tree National Monument, California: Backpacking and Rock Climbing

* December 3-7, 2008
* December 14-18, 2008

Ely, Minnesota: Dog Sledding

* February 3-7, 2009

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Can You Believe...

he's seven months old already???


Saturday, July 05, 2008


Beginning Flag Day, June 14, 2008, a dedicated team of runners will run across America from Fort Irwin, CA to Arlington National Cemetery, one mile for every Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, and Marine killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. For ten weeks, team members will mark each mile with an American flag and signcard in an apolitical reflection of remembrance of each service member.

The Fallen are shown by the date of their sacrifice and the route for that day is given as well as a Google map link...

This group is apolitical... they are simply honoring our Fallen Heroes.

These are the dates/locations of my son's friends and his mentor, Sgt. Salie.

David Salie, KIA 14 Feb 05
Day 25 July 9 Route 160/389, CO to Grenville, NM

Matt Bohling, KIA 05 Sep 05
Day 31 July 15 Follett, TX to Woodward, OK

Jason Benford, KIA 27 Sep 05
Day 32 July 26 Woodward, OK to Hopeton, OK

Tommy Byrd, KIA 15 Oct 05

Jeff Corban, KIA 15 Oct 05

Rich Hardy, KIA 15 Oct 05

Vince Summers, KIA 15 Oct 05

Tim Watkins, KIA 15 Oct 05

Day 33 July 17 Hopeton, OK to Medford, OK

My friend Tom Martin

Thomas Martin, KIA 14 Oct 07
Day 65 August 18 Old Church, VA to Yorktown, VA

If anyone is going to be where these men and others will be honored, I hope they can get out and show their support, perhaps take pictures for those who cannot be there.

God Bless Our Heroes.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 04, 2008

I Love Baseball...

I love baseball. I love watching it -- whether it's Little League, Minor League, Major League, Industrial Leagues... I loved playing it, teaching it, coaching it... I love baseball. On the theory that everyone gets to name their own version of Heaven, mine is that you get to play baseball every day and they don't care if you're a girl. I live a clean life on that theory (and also on the theory that there is a Hell, which, in my version, is Boston beating the Yankees every day (SHUDDER).

So I was extremely delighted when I read this

Major League Baseball announced... the launch of a national campaign called "Welcome Back Veterans." This is an apolitical series of national fundraising and awareness initiatives over the Fourth of July weekend and Sept. 11 to support the ongoing return of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, an effort started by a group of citizens led by Mets chairman Fred Wilpon with the full support of MLB, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and the McCormick Foundation.

For games throughout the July 4 weekend and on Sept. 11, all MLB clubs will wear "Stars & Stripes" caps that are available for sale to the public, with a portion of the proceeds going to Welcome Back Veterans. These official New Era caps can be purchased at the Shop, a way to help others.

All home teams over the July 4 weekend will host ceremonies honoring veterans in their community, with veterans throwing out the first pitches. For games that day, "Welcome Back Veterans" will adorn the bases and home plates. There will be custom lineup cards, with a place for a local veteran to place his or her signature. Among many fundraising activities, each club will auction off a set of bases, game-worn caps and a specially designed team jersey to benefit Welcome Back Veterans.

"Major League Baseball considers it both an obligation and a privilege to assist our troops in any way we can," said MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy, a veteran who served a year in Vietnam and received the Army Commendation Medal for his service. "Welcome Back Veterans was created to help our brave men and women make a successful transition to civilian life when their service to their country has ended. We ask that all Major League Baseball fans join us on the July Fourth weekend and on Sept. 11th in this grand-scale effort to raise funds and bring awareness to this vital cause."

"I congratulate Major League Baseball on this extraordinary act of compassion for our troops throughout our Independence Day weekend," said General David L. Grange, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation. "It's a need I don't think many Americans understand yet, but they will. We believe everyone is accountable to the future of our nation. No one can sit on the sidelines. We're going to care for our retiring troops and their families, because it's the responsibility of the nation. If you go back to President Calvin Coolidge, he said, 'A nation who forgets its veterans will itself be forgotten.'"
"We as players are extremely proud not only to wear these caps but also to represent and pay our respects to our returning veterans," said Mets third baseman David Wright, who comes from the Naval community of Norfolk, Va., and was among the speakers at the news conference. "Growing up in a military town in Virginia, I have friends and family who have given up their lives to serve a cause. Because of these men and women, I get the opportunity to play a game and live in freedom. I hope we remember these veterans."

Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon has been a staunch ally of returning vets with his own support of the "Wounded Warrior Project." "When it comes to supporting our troops," he said, "everyone in Major League Baseball is on the same team." That includes Giants pitcher Barry Zito, who in 2005 founded "Strikeouts for Troops." It has raised nearly $1 million, with 100 percent of those funds going to wounded veterans and their families.

You can buy the Stars & Stripes hats for your favorite team HERE. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of each cap goes to the "Welcome Back Veterans" fund.

Read the whole story here.

PS Note to MLB: While I love this whole campaign and laud the idea and intent behind it, I think the MLB story is just too heavily weighted (once again) to the "psychotic veteran" angle. Veterans sure can use the job initiatives and the college programs aimed at returning vets, but the last thing they need is more piling on the stereotype of mentally deranged and unemployed loser...

And to those who will want to lecture me, don't give me grief about the mental health status of veterans. If you read my blog you know I have lived the PTSD story with our son. Yes, there is a need for services and treatments for returning combat veterans but it's not ALL veterans and not everyone who has experienced combat stress is non-functioning. Let's give that angle a break -- and let's all just celebrate that these guys deserve our thanks and appreciation for their service.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Book for the Ages: FINAL SALUTE

They are the troops that nobody wants to see, carrying a message that no military family ever wants to hear. It begins with a knock on the door. "The curtains pull away. They come to the door. And they know. They always know," says Major Steve Beck.
If you need a book to read over this Independence Day weekend
-- heck put down whatever else you're reading -- and pick up a copy of Jim Sheeler's FINAL SALUTE: A Story of Unfinished Lives. If you are at all familiar with this photo and Jim Sheeler's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Final Salute" in the Rocky Mountain News, you must read this book.

While I read this book, I thought of a lot of people... I thought often of Matt at Blackfive and remembered why Matt blogs... and I thought of him and Mat Schram's family and of Noah and Tommy Byrd's family as I read... remembering vividly when my son Noah was escorting his friend Tommy Byrd home to his final rest when he said, "I know this is a real honor, but it's so hard, Mom -- the hardest thing I have ever done." and I remember writing about our conversation along his journey with Tommy,
He tells me that when they all went off to war, they promised each other that they would bring each other home. "This isn't how we thought it would happen, Ma." I detect such emotion in that statement that it is hard for me not to weep. I can not fathom the pain of such memories... or the love and loyalty that inspired such promises.

In Final Salute, Sheeler tells the stories of the fallen, of their homes, of their families, of the memorials and the memories... it is also the story of Major [now Lt. Col.] Steve Beck -- a Casualty Assistance Case Officer (CACO) and his unwaivering efforts to help heal the wounds of those left behind. This is a moving and detailed book (major tissue alert)... I was so moved by the stories... and the writing... honest... honorable... sad... proud... and the photos included are just as awe-inspiring and moving as the one above.

I believe this book should be required reading for every high school student in the U.S. It will also be greatly appreciated by anyone who has served and their families... and those who support them and understand the nature of the sacrifice... and it should be read by anyone and everyone who questions the honor or intent of those who serve in our military. I don't know if those groups will be touched by the stories told by the Fallen and their wives, their parents, and the buddies they left behind, but perhaps they might gain some appreciation for the sacrifice and maybe approach some part of their lives differently and filter some of the pap they get in college and elsewhere through the filter of knowing that some gave all -- for them. Final Salute is a perfectly fitting read for the Independence Day weekend... reminding us all that the Freedom we all enjoy is not free.

At one point, when a Marine questions why they are having a large ceremony for the families telling the stories of each soldier and Marine who had died and formally presenting the medals they had earned, asking, "Why do you have to keep reminding them" [of their loved one's death]? To which Major Beck replied, "This isn't about reminding them," he said. "This is about reminding you."

and then there was this passage -- just one of the many that made me cry...
Unlike his superior officer, [Marine Sergeant Damon Cecil] had seen the war from both sides. Before he went to Iraq, however, Damon Cecil had never spoken to the dead.

"When you're carrying them home without going over there, you have this respect, but it's a respect you don't understand," he said. "When you go over there and come back, you say, 'Man, now not only do I understand, but I want to talk to them.' I feel like I know them. I feel like I'm going to walk with him all the way to the grave."

Only a few weeks before the [Remembering the Brave] ceremony, he returned to Colorado for another funeral. When the private jet arrived, Sergeant Cecil was one of the first Marines in the belly of the plane to remove the casket.

"When I got up there, I talked to him. I said, 'Hi, brother,' and I smoothed the cardboard [that protects the casket] before taking it off," he said. "I talk to them all the time. I say, 'I'm here for you, brother. I'm here to take you home."

It's a one way conversation that continues as he posts guard near the casket.

"I come into the room, and I post right next to him. I say, 'Hey, brother, I'm going to be taking care of you for a while. I'll be here for a while and then another Marine will take over.' "

Note: I would hold off reading this book if you have someone deployed or someone about to deploy... it was hard enough for me to read this book almost 3 years after the funerals for all Noah's friends. It's a very emotional book and could be too intense for those with loved ones in harm's way... but get it and read it when they are home and safe.

PS Not heard much about this book? Well, the major media outlets "aren't interested" in this book or the story it tells. So I'm telling it... and I hope you'll help spread the word.

Finally, a great big "THANK YOU" to LTC Beck (and the other CACOs and those who assist them) for remembering and honoring the Fallen so well... and to Jim Sheeler for telling the story -- and telling it so well.

(Don't take my word for how moving and important this book and its stories are... tap the Amazon link for FINAL SALUTE and read some of the many reviews posted there...)

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Thoughts for today (and yesterday)

Photo: Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

Forest Fires. up earlier than usual today... the Big Guy left really early -- at oh my word dark:30... he's a volunteer on the local Sheriff's 4x4 Search & Rescue unit and he's been working almost every day since the start this past weekend of a major forest fire 30 miles or so from our home... in very, very rough terrain overgrown with plenty of fuel... pristine area of the forest... no fire hydrants... no improved roads (called primitive roads)... homes have very large propane tanks... homes range from trailer homes to multi-million dollar "retreats"...

Photo: Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

started by one or two idiot hikers who thought the "don't even think about farting in the forest 'cause it's tinder dry and waiting to burn" didn't apply to them and -- lost, chilly (50 degrees -- not even cold you wuss!) started a "warming" fire without any precautions... 7,300 acres burned so far and still raging... an entire town in jeopardy... millions of dollars in costs (and rising!) not to mention putting so many peoples' lives at risk -- both residents and the firefighters on the job!!!

Photo: Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

Wesley Clark. what a tool. really. I listened to him on some show (MSNBC?) briefly yesterday (I get motion sick very easily and all Clark's twisting, back pedaling and spinning made me nauseous)... first, I'll note that when he wasn't dissing McCain, he was busy extolling his own experience and decision-making time in the military: "I was NATO commander..." "I was a Captain in Vietnam..." I was... I did .... I was..." Wes, booby, babe: what the hell does YOUR so-called experience have to do with Obama's fitness for the presidency?? If you want to compare apples/apples, etc., let's compare McCain's and Obama's experience. Not up to it, Wes? Thought not. You think Barack's few years as a "community organizer" is comparable to McCain's 23 YEARS of military service?? Clark kept talking about how McCain's captivity and status as a POW was sad... but his time in a fighter jet and his service in the military doesn't qualify as decision-making experience relevant to the Presidency... Pardon me? Come again?? Well, Wes... should we talk about what else might be relevant experience? Armed Services Committee? Commerce Committee... and its Chair?? Indian Affairs Committee... Chairman -- twice!? Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. Should we be talking about Obama as part of the Democratic political machine as a STATE senator? Should we compare Obama's 26 MONTHS in the US Senate to McCain's 26 YEARS??

McCain's military service (and growing up military) instilled in him respect, discipline, and honed his sense of patriotism, duty, and honor. Barack? has a wife who is just now proud of her country? Barack? spent 20+ years listening to a preacher who regularly proclaimed "God damn America!" And while some might argue whether McCain's military service was "executive" experience,
NO ONE running for President has a better sense of what the decisions as Commander-in-Chief entail... knowing the consequences means he won't be spoiling for battle... but he won't be afraid of a fight, either... compared to a "peace at any (and all) costs" candidate. Should we talk about how Obama has finally been shamed into finally making a visit to Iraq? In the world around us as it exists today, do you want a guy who probably has never been ON a military base to be making those decisions? I have a child still in the military and I want to have faith that the person deciding his fate -- and the fate of us all in a violent world -- has some idea of the consequences of his decisions -- but not be afraid to make those decisions when necessary... and not maintain a stance just to make a point... and Barack simply does not have the experience (domestic, international, military)... but Clark, you go head and keep on yapping, baby, 'cause you are drawing attention to all of McCain's strengths and Obama's weaknesses. Otherwise my inclination is to tell you to STFU.

The IRS. I am so LIVID at the moment. We keep getting these letters from the IRS about those stimulus checks that say, "You do not need to do anything. If you received a refund on your 2007 federal income tax return and had it directly deposited into a bank account, we will directly deposit your stimulus payment into the same bank account. If not, your stimulus payment check will be mailed to you." So we are waiting for the check in the mail. We do not overpay taxes during the year; we pay the balance on the appointed date each April. We do not file electronically, we file on paper (it's a quirk of mine, ok?). Yesterday, the stimulus shows up in our bank account. WTF?? I know it;s the IRS and they are omni-whatever, BUT WE DID NOT AUTHORIZE THEM TO ACCESS OUR ACCOUNT!!! Is writing a check for our taxes an authorization to access our account??? MAKES ME NUTS. I am waiting for the IRS local office to return my call and let me know what the hell is going on... (but not holding my breath 'cause (a) I don't look good in blue and (b) the word "service" in their name is a misnomer. And, pray tell, why would the government be sending stimulus checks to dead people? Do they expect these people to rise up and spend it? And the letter is addressed to my late mother-in-law as Ida _______, Deceased... so it's not like it's a surprise...

Saw the new Will Smith movie "Hancock" last night. It was ok... some pretty funny lines and scenes... but the ending was a disappointment. Go ahead and see it if you're a Will Smith scene... but know going in it is not "I, Robot" or "Independence Day". Dang.

Despite my reservations about the effect on military retention, I am delighted that they passed (and the President signed) the new GI Bill... Many post 9/11 veterans and servicemembers will soon see a new package of education benefits. What's so soon about August 2009???

Free Banners for Military. is running a promotion that gives military families a free customizable banner to help welcome home their loved ones returning from overseas. If you know anyone who could take advantage of this service then please send them over to They are giving away 10,000 banners and also donating 15% of proceeds to the DAV. The full price of the banner will show up, but when you click on "Add to Cart" a credit in that amount automatically appears. The "free" only covers the 3x6 vinyl banner (which is plenty!) so it's more if you choose another material or size. Please pass this info on to anyone who might have a need!

Labels: , ,