Inspiring Others, Using Himself As An Example…

June 30, 2007

This young man is truly inspirational. Though he was not injured in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, he suffers from an injury he received while training, that many of our troops who are returning from these wars, suffer from. He’s using his experiences, to help other injured Troops. He’s showing them, by personal example, what they can accomplish, even after suffering an injury such as his. He’s an amazing young man, one who all of us should hope to emulate in our daily lives.

Seven years ago, PFC Chris Lynch, a former 82nd Airborne Division Soldier, was attending a French Commando school in July 2000 when he fell 26 feet and landed on his head. Following his fall, Lynch was in a coma for 45 days, before he arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He was later diagnosed, as suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). An injury that many returning Troops are suffering from.

Not only do falls, such as the one PFC Lynch suffered cause TBIs, but things such as roadside bombs, mortars and other explosives. These explosions affect not only the troops bodies but also their brains, in many instances. While troops are wearing kevlar to protect them from serious injury and death, the kevlar cannot adequately protect the brain from the impact of these blasts. The injuries occur much like an egg inside it’s shell, slamming against the skull from the impact of the sudden jolts, shock waves and explosions of the blasts.

“When they explode, your skull gets pounded against your Kevlar (helmet),” Lynch said. “Your brain gets tossed around like an egg in a bucket of water.”

TBI symptoms are many, from decreased reaction times to severe emotional and cognitive problems. Lynch remembers well what he experienced, as he recuperated from his injuries. Upon awakening from the coma, he had a breathing tube that had been inserted. He had a lost a considerable amount of weight, approximately 1/3 of his total body weight and he was paralyzed on his left side. He was unable to speak, walk, eat or even dress himself without assistance from someone else. He endured months of intensive therapy both at Walter Reed at a the James A. Haley Veterans Administration Hospital in Tampa, Fla. Slowly, over time, Lynch was able to once again relearn how to walk, talk and do everyday, mundane tasks that all of us tend to take for granted.

“The 82nd gaveme the mentality to drive on,” he said. “There are a lot of speed bumps in life. TBI is just a bigger one.”

Lynch is now back in his hometown of Pace, Florida, and has been medically retired from the Army. Lynch understands only too well, how traumatic it is for Troops to deal with TBI and the frustration they face in their recovery. He’s hoping, that by using himself and his experience as an example, he can inspire them to understand and recognize that there is hope and that there is life after a TBI diagnosis. He hopes that he can inspire them to “press on.”

“It’s definitely eye opening,” Lynch said of his own injur. “But it makes you more empathetic and gives you a love for life.”

Today, 7 years after he was injured, Lynch is living with his parents and continues to “drive on”, as he rebuilds his life. He spends days walking 5-10 miles along the beach in Pensacolo. Last year he competed in 8 marathons and attended the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic that was held in Snowmass, Colorado in April. He attended college at Pensacola Junior College where he just graduated, studying recreational technology. His goal is to continue his studies and one day teach physical education to underpriveleged and handicapped children.

Even as he looks to his future goals, his main focus right now is to continue to help other Troops who are suffering from TBI. Part of what he’s done to do so, is to travel extensively sharing his story and increasing awareness of TBI. He has also started a website, called Chris’s Story that details his struggle through recovery. Even though his is a success story, he has moments where he too continues to face personal hard times. He becomes frustrate when people who don’t know what he’s dealt with, think he’s intoxicated, because his speech remains distorted. He continues to miss his fellow 307th Engineer Battalion Soldiers and thinks often about the military career he was forced to leave behind.

“I’ve learned a lot about interpersonal communications and become a public speaker,” he said. “The bottom line is to try to inspire other people.”

“I miss it,” he said. “I miss it every day.”


The All Knowing, All Seeing, All Hearing NCO

June 29, 2007

Okay, time for another chuckle or two. Anthony will understand the humor in this one and I KNOW that Marty will. Too funny!

To Those Who Support The Troops… The Few, The Proud & The Strong

June 29, 2007

One thing that Anthony, Brat, Kari and I all do, is Support Our Troops to the fullest. Not just by saying that we do, but by our actions as well. Those actions take many forms, be it, the stories we post here at ASM, being involved in Troop Support efforts, in our jobs (some of us are in the Military, others of us work with the military, others are former military, others just go above and beyond to provide support and comfort to our troops in any way possible), in every facet of our life. One thing we’ve repeated here time and time again and many of our readers have stressed as well, is that we don’t buy the “I support the troops, but not the war” adage. We don’t feel that you can truly support the troops, if you’re not supporting the job that they’re doing. We”ve argued that point with many people who’ve came to the blog to attempt to change our way of thinking. When I ran across this, I felt it was something that was appropriate to post here. It’s the thoughts of a Private in the Army Reserve and he speaks quite eloquently, the points we’ve been making here for quite some time. Though I realize it’s probably going to change what these people think, I still feel that this young man needs to be heard, and he WILL be heard here.

To the few, the proud, and the strong,

As the Iraq War grows in length, I find that every day the support for the troops in Iraq weakens. And with this weakening support for the troops, I think of a saying I saw not too long ago, “Hate the war, not the solider, we’re just doing our jobs.” But even so, there are people who walk among us, who think that our soldiers are doing evil in Iraq, when in fact the evil I am referring to is one that goes beyond the insurgency in Iraq. It is one that is our very own country. This evil I am talking about is the seeming hatred for our soldiers by certain groups who call themselves “Churches.” They stand in protest at the funerals of our fallen heroes, who deserve the right to rest in peace. As do these “church” members. However, what these evil doers don’t acknowledge, is that without the ultimate sacrifice of the young man or woman they are protesting against, they themselves would not be able to rest in peace when they die.

It is not only the above who refuse to support the troops, for there are many others also. These people walk among us every day, yet what they do is crippling this country. The people I am talking about are the anti-war protesters. The ones that speak out against what the American troops are doing in Iraq, the ones that wear shirts that have a picture of President Bush with a caption that reads “International Terrorist”, instead of a picture of Bin Laden. You may be asking yourself, “How they are crippling our country?” Well the answer is simple as this: each and every day they weaken the troops’ moral, and they cripple the will and strength of the cause.

The cause that without, we would not have this great nation to live in or the freedoms we have. There have been millions of Americans killed for this cause that we have been fighting for hundreds of years and that we will continue to need to fight for years to come. And with that, there will be millions of more lives taken. However, what they do not acknowledge is that the fact that without the ultimate sacrifice these men and now women have made, along with their families, they would not be allowed to wear those shirts, or say the things they say.

So to the few, the proud, and the strong who do support the greatest cause, the cause that keeps us free day after day, I am grateful. I am grateful for the fact that there are people like you that will help to take a stand against them. It sickens me each day to know that I am sworn to serve these people, the same as I am sworn to serve you. I can only hope that one day they will acknowledge that the oath that I and millions of others have taken are to protect there rights as well as yours equally, and that they will one day acknowledge that fact. Thank you for all you have done, all you do, and all I am sure you will continue to do, in this fight against those who don’t support the men and women who keep the American people free. Also thank you for your continued support of the soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors.

© PV2 Zengerling, Richard J
U.S. Army Reserve DEP

Hope Arrives Wearing ACU’s

June 28, 2007

The children in Iraq and Afghanistan are the innocent victims of terrorism and groups such as al-Qaeda. The children, because they’re too young or weak to properly defend themselves against such evil, many times suffer the worse of all. Sometimes, these evil people deliberately target the young and the weak, because they know that they’ll be unable to “fight back” and defend themselves. Though this young boy wasn’t targeted by a terrorist group, due to injuries he received, he would have most certainly lost his leg, if it weren’t for two angels of hope, who arrived wearing ACU’s. The boy was injured when his family attended a wedding several months ago, when he was struck by at least two bullets from celebratory gunfire. When he was taken to a local doctor, a metal brace was screwed into his leg in four locations. Due to the fact that medical care isn’t always available in Iraq, or what is available isn’t the best, except in areas where Coalition Forces have rebuilt hospitals and clinics, the boys father had pretty much resigned himself to the fact that his son would lose his leg.

(US Army photo by Spc. Mike Alberts)

While on a routine patrol, Sgt Donald Campbell and Capt. Geoffrey Dutton, with 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Inantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat team, spotted someone who appeared to be doing surveillance on the platoon’s activities. Upon investigation, they found a 9 year old boy with a severe injury to his leg.

“During the search of a house, I noticed a little boy,” said Campbell. “His leg was all bent up and it looked like he had a pipe wrapped t it,” he continued. “My immediate instinct was to rewrap it and change the splint for him because it looked uncomfortable. When I removed the wrap, I noticed that the pipe was actually a metal bar that was scrwed into the lower part of the boy’s leg beow the knee. What concerned me most though was the obvious infection.”

“I cleaned the leg the best I could, gave the family extra field dressings, iodine, alcohol and instructions on how to take car of the infection,” said Campbell who wouldmeet with the family on more than 2 dozen occasions to check on boy’s status.

Each time he checked on the boy, his leg appeared to be getting worse. The family was doing the right things, but the infection appeared to be getting worse. That’s when Campbell decided to contact brigade civil affairs.

“Based on what Sgt. Campbell told me and from what I saw of the photos and
x-rays, my biggest concern was that the infection was systemic, whch could be a life-threatening situation,” said Capt. Geoffrey Dutton, a civil affairs officer with the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion attached to 3IBCT. “This child had no antibiotics, no pain killers and no aftercare other than what Sgt. Campbell was providing.”

Dutton is a reserve officer, and also a licensed practical nurse, who before being deployed, was working as a nurse at the Augusta, Georgia Veteran’s Administration. In the past, he’s served in medical units the majority of his military career and had just recently switched into civil affairs. Campbell and Dutton then began the task of locating help for the boy. With Dutton’s medical experience, he understood that time was of essence and began to quickly explore options for getting the young boy the medical help he so desperately needed.

“As civil affairs we are all about developing relaltionships. I have only been here for a couple months, but I spoke with several people and eventually got contact information for a non-governmental organization(NGO). They agreed to help him,” said Dutton.

The family was put in contact with the NGO and arrangements have been made to take the child as well as other children suffering from extreme medical needs to doctors and experts located beyond Kirkuk. Dutton went on to explain that they didn’t help the boy because they were mandated to do so, but instead because it’s what soldiers do.

“A large segment of the American public thinks its military just breaks and destroys things.” said Dutton. “I’ve consistently seen that it’s our compassion that separates us. Sgt. Campbell and his efforts here represent that and show what’s best about the American Soldier.”

Campbell of course feels that his role in helping to save the boys leg wasn’t anything special. He feels it’s just part of his job as a Soldier, but also as an American citizen.

“Of course we’re here to capture bad guys, but it’s also our job to help the people,” said Campbell. “It’s not about me. It’s about Americans. This is what American people are all about, and I’m going to help everyone I can, because that’s what an American Soldier is about.”

The boys father, is no longer resigned to thinking his son would lose his leg. His former mistrust of Coalition Troops has also changed to gratitude. He had this to say, through an interpreter.

“Sgt. Campbell and the others were always by me and always helped me,” he said. “They came to my house to treat and clean the leg and help when no one else would,” he said. “This is all to get my son help. For that I am grateful.”


Myself, I’m grateful each and every day, for the men and women like Sgt. Campbell and Captain Dutton. Men and women who give so much of themselves to ensure that others have a better way of life.

Tunes For The Troops: “Comin’ Home” by M.R.S. Project

June 27, 2007

Sometimes when you hear a song, it speaks to you; it puts all of your thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams into music. Sometimes it will bring up the sentiments and feelings that you have about certain things in your life, as if it was written specifically for you. Comin’ Home by is one of those songs.

Most of you know that I have a loved one who is currently serving in Iraq. I can imagine these thoughts and feelings going through Marty’s head as he boards that plane and heads back to the US, after serving more than a year in Iraq. I know, that I’ll be having some of the same thoughts going through my head, as I’m sitting there waiting for him to come home. In fact, I just experienced that to some degree, as he was home just last month for his R & R. I remember the days leading up to the day he was supposed to arrive. The anticipation and excitement building, as it got closer and closer. I wasn’t concentrating much on work or anything other than finally seeing him again, after 8 months. I remember, sitting in the airport, waiting for his plane to get here, thinking it was never going to land. I remember, seeing him walk through the gates at the airport, and how elated I felt as we wrapped our arms around each other, for the first time in 8 months. Comin’ Home puts those thoughts and feelings into words in a very powerful way. Just read the lyrics to the song as you listen to it and I think you’ll understand why it made such a powerful impact on me.

Comin’ Home

Comin’ Home

Written by: Bob Simmons and Palmer Johnson

It’s a cold November morning, but I’m warm inside
I just got word I’m Comin’ Home
I take one last look at your picture, it’s worn and frayed
For the last 12 months I’ve been alone

Staring out the window, of a big jet plane,
I think of how my kids have grown
I wonder if they’ll recognize their father
Or be afraid of a man they’ve barely known

Home, back where I belong
I’m Comin’ Home back to her open arms
I’m Comin’ Home to live my life again
Meet me at the runway, cause I’m Comin Home

Daylight comes so early, when the kids wake up
She can’t believe he’s Comin’ Home
A ribbon falls from the oak tree, in the yard outside
Untied by little hands, where the flag has flown

They sit and wait for him, each minute seems like hours
a crowd begins to grow as his flight draws near
They share a warm embrace, he hands her wilted flowers
The tears fall down his face as the crowd all cheers

Home, back where I belong
I’m Comin’ Home back to her open arms
I’m Comin’ Home to live my life again
Meet me at the runway, cause I’m Comin Home

Repeat Chorus 2X

I heard this song some time ago on MySpace and had contacted the band. A few days ago, I heard back from the vocalist of M.R.S. Project, Palmer Johnson, who said that they would be honored for us to feature Comin’ Home here at ASM. Palmer apologized for not contacting me sooner. After learning a little bit about him, he’s a firefighter, it’s very easy to understand how he might not have the time to answer an email from a total stranger right away. Being a fire fighter, Palmer knows only too well, what it means to do a job that keeps you away from your home and loved ones, many times for extended hours at a time and many times in conditions that may ultimately cost you your life. Palmer Johnson is a Hero, in his own right. It takes a special breed of person to do the job that he does every day. Here’s what Palmer had to say about our troops and the plans for this song. Read more

Iraqi’s Pulling Weight In Northern Iraq

June 27, 2007

In a press conference on Tuesay, Army Brig. General John Bednarek said that Iraqi soldiers and units are working side by side with Multinational Division North troops and “holding firm.”

“They are in the fight. They are doing what thy’re told. They’re following their leaders,” Army Brig. General John Bednarek said. “But more importantly, as we’ve known for years that they have that direct link and rapport with the citizens that the coalition forces do not have, they can get that immediate link, … the human dimension, that information potentially leading to intelligence.”

According to Bednarek, troops have engaged and killed a large number of al-Qaeda operation in Western Baqubah. Almost 100 al-Qaeda members have also been detained by US and Iraqi forces participating in Operation Arrowhead Ripper. According to Bednarek, al-Qaeda leaders have already deserted their fighters.

“You’ve got the senior leaders of a terrorist organization that cowardly leads their mid-level leaders and followers to take on the fight that’s larger than they are,” h said. “I don’t know of any organization that’s going to be successful when the leaders, when it gets too hot, are the first ones that leap. It doesn’t speak too well of an organization.”

Bednarek said that the Iraqi army soldiers are performing well. The Iraqi soldiers are also the immediate link to the people of the country. They are able to aid in determining if an item is important or not. According to Bednarek, the citizens of Baqubah are tired of being terrorized by al-Qaeda in their midst, and are showing that by giving tips to the Iraqi soldiers about terrorist locations, what houses they have booby-trapped, who is involved with al-Qaeda and who is building car bombs.

“One of the signigicant increases just in the past 24 hours is the amount of caches that we have found and … those al-Qaeda holding locations and strong points that had been rigged with masses of explosives … that we had been able to find and dismantle or destroy based on tips from the citizens,” he said.

Progress in Diyala province is not limited to Baqubah. Forces have also uncovered a car-bomb factory in Mosul, which was made up of three large houses that were linked together by a tunnel. Due to the tips received from local citizens who were growing tired of al-Qaeda in their midst, countless of lives of innocent Iraqi’s have been spared. According to Brig. General Bednarek, so far, Operation Arrowhead Ripper has been successful and they remain cautiously optimistic that the operation will continue to be successful.


Where is the outrage?

June 26, 2007

Remember this?

Or this?

Or this?

One week ago today, I woke to these pictures, just as the rest of us did. As always when I witness any kind of cruelty to children, my broken heart shattered into even more tiny pieces.

One week! One week - and CBS reported on this horrific scene that our troops almost missed. Almost missed, but didn’t; I can only guess that was by the grace of God that they did NOT walk by unknowing what horrors lurked behind the wall.

On a daytime patrol in central Baghdad just over than a week ago, a U.S. military advisory team and Iraqi soldiers happened to look over a wall and found something horrific….”They saw multiple bodies laying on the floor of the facility,” Staff Sgt. Mitchell Gibson of the 82nd Airborne Division told CBS News … “They thought they were all dead, so they threw a basketball (to) try and get some attention, and actually one of the kids lifted up their head, tilted it over and just looked and then went back down. And they said, ‘oh, they’re alive’ and so they went into the building.” [source]

One week ago, msm like CBS gave this story front page status. One week on? Nothing. Zip. Zero. NADA. You might be forgiven if you think it was all a bad dream, now that the media has gone on to the next big ’scoop’. They might have moved on, but I will not - and I will not allow self-righteous, self-serving politicians of the world to move on.

Yes, these are ugly pictures showing, for all to see, the basest of human nature, and we ALL want to turn away. The msm has, but I will not.

In the course of my life, I have worked with many abused and neglected children. Because of what I do, complete strangers still email me regularly with a never-ending litany of horror stories of neglected children. Children treated as so much garbage by the ‘adults’ supposed to nurture them and care for them. Every time I hear (or see with my own eyes in some cases) the neglect and mistreatment of kids, it just makes me stronger in my mission to work on behalf of the children. It outrages me all over again - even when I am so heart-sick of the never-ending stories, that I swear I can no longer be outraged. And then - and then. THIS shows up with my morning coffee, and I want to do unspeakable things to the adults who would do such things.

People like this:

Or this:


orphanage worker
The caption on THIS picture?

A woman working at an orphanage smiles for pictures in front of the naked boys as if there was nothing wrong.

“Nothing wrong”????????? There is just sooooooooo much wrong with this story on so many levels, is hard to know where to begin. But begin we must, and never stop looking at pictures like this. Yes, it stinks to see these over morning coffee. Hell, it hurts any time of the day to see these pictures. But look we must. And we must act. To quote an old song “Tears are not enough”. Treating this story, and the many so far untold stories like this, as one day wonders, as various media outlets have done, and then moving on, is most certainly not enough. As I looked at these the first time, I immediately had to wonder how many OTHER - thus far unknown - children will bear witness to the horrors of the state-sanctioned evil that our troops are fighting against. Our troops. I dont need to imagine the reactions of our soldiers as they deal with this day in, day out. I don’t need to imagine. I know. For me, pictures like this are EXACTLY why our troops are in Iraq. And I want to go to some politicians’ offices and get in their faces and DEMAND they support the mission with every cell in their bodies.

In the past, ChrisG has posted pictures here of a little girl in Iraq. This little girl, wrote ChrisG (and I am paraphrasing now Chris - forgive me) reminded Chris WHY he does what he does, why he went to Iraq, why he serves in the military.

As a member of Soldiers’ Angels, and with the contacts I now have, I often see requests for shoes for children in Iraq who have no shoes. Our soldiers in Afghanistan write and ask for school supplies, teddy bears, footballs (okay, okay “soccer balls. lol). All well and good, and I am happy to report that every single request for those things IS met, by generous and loving folks - strangers to these children. Compassionate strangers a world away from the deprivation of kids they may never meet, open their hearts and their wallets so that others’ children may know the simple joys of chasing a ball, swinging carelessly on a swing in a newly rebuilt playground. You know - every day simple joys that we who do not live in places like Iraq take for granted every single day.

So I have a mission for every single compassionate person. THIS mission has nothing to do with opening your wallet. It has EVERYTHING to do with opening your heart. It has EVERYTHING to do with taking the outrage that any of us feel when we witness recurring scenes like these (remember Romania? We’ve come a long way baby. NOT!) and demanding, DEMANDING that your politicians give our soliders every single dime they need to complete their mission. We ‘cut and run’ as so many of the politicians insist is the only plausable, acceptable end to this war, and I dread to think how many more of children - JUST LIKE THESE - will go unfound.

In the immediate days following the breaking of this story, a few media outlets had this - you can go here, or here, or


I don’t care where you get the pictures from, or the facts from, but this mission must not fail. I have noticed how quiet all the politicians have been on this horror story. Why is that, do you think? That was a rhetorical question! I know, oh how I know, it would be s0 easy to ‘turn the page’ and just get back to business as usual. You know the line: WE have no business being in Iraq. We went there for oil. No weapons of mass destruction. Blah blah blah. Well, I for one have always supported our troops and their mission - whole-heartedly. For me, it is and has always been about the children. Children are MY business, and damn it - I am going to do all in my power to make sure that not another politican can turn their heads away from this story. Not another politician is going to be allowed to play bs games with the lives of our troops, or the children. The children, the thousands of children just like these, don’t have the luxury of turning away. They live - and they die - in the time it is taking you to read this and drink your morning coffee. It is ONLY because our troops are there that maybe, just maybe if the politicians get their heads out of their arses, that children just like these, and you know - kids used a suicide bomb decoys (and if that doesn’t outrage you, you are NOT fit to be part of the HUMAN race) - will be allowed to grow up, go to school, swing in the playground, and scream in delight. Our troops, and these children, deserve our support. Every soldier - and every CHILD, no matter where, IS one of our own.

Capt. Benjamin Morales carries one of the special needs boys from a Baghdad orphanage after finding the children suffering in horrific conditions, in this photo given to CBS News.

“We’ll leave here and he’ll remember us ’til the day he dies.” Lt. Jason Smith [source]

Every one of these children and yes, every Iraqi child touched on a daily basis by our troops, (you know, the stories you will never see in msm) WILL remember the kind soldiers who rescued them, saved them. These children will remember that not everyone in the world treats them as so much garbage.

Please: I don’t care what your politics are. I don’t care of you are brainwashed by the anti-war rhetoric. That is your choice. I am telling you, in the matter of children, none of us has a choice. Really, we don’t. It is said that every society is judged by how it treats the weakest among them. How willl YOU be judged? Where is the outrage? Who will join me on this mission to ensure that NEVER AGAIN will any politician be allowed to play their political games. NEVER again will they be allowed - by the stroke of a pen in their cushy, air-conditioned offices, enjoying their fat paycheques (which YOU pay), to send the message to ANY child that they don’t matter. I swear that I will not sit quietly by and give the politicians the luxury of turning their head away from scenes such as these, and decide that their own games of one-upmanship matter more than any child. Enough!

This is MY mission.


SFC Adin Salkanovic “The Decision Was Not Up For Debate…”

June 26, 2007

When I hear stories like this, I am always amazed at the determination and resiliency of the men and women who serve in our Country’s Armed Forces. What amazes me even more, is the men and women who are not born in the United States, yet they come to this country, volunteer for Military service, where they fight, sacrifice and die for this country, as if this was their homeland. Something that some American citizens by birth many times refuse to do. These young men and women are truly inspirational and should serve as an shining example for our children. Our wounded warriors, those who make the choice to return to the battlezone after they heal from their injuries are another source of great inspiration to me. In speaking with different wounded warriors over the years, I’ve heard time and time again, that they want nothing more than to return to Iraq, to be with their fellow Soldiers. I find it quite inspirational when learning about those who, after being injured and recovering from those injuries, face their personal demons and return back to the warzone to continue the fight. This young soldier is yet another inspirational example, of both. A young man who was born in another country and who chose to fight for this country and as a wounded warrior, chose to go back to the fight.

Unlike many of the Soldiers in his unit, Army SFC Adin Salkanovic won’t be spending 15 months in Iraq. But regardless of the amount of time he actually spends there, he’s only too aware of the sacrifices one sometimes make during wartime. SFC Salkanovic is the platoon Sgt with 1st Cav’s Troop B, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. He volunteered to return to Iraq and rejoin his unit, after recovering from mutiple gunshot wounds that he received in Buhriz on March 6th.

On that day, Salkanovic was leading a dismounted 8 man reconnaissance team when they were attacked by 15-20 insurgents from 3 different directions. The insurgents were armed with grenades, sniper rifles and AK-47s. Salkanovic and his men were pinned down on a rooftop, returning fire. Within about 15 minutes, Salkanovic was struck by three bullets. Two others struck nearby and were stopped by his body armor, those two bullets would probably have killed him. The team fended off the enemy, eventually killing two of them. SFC Salkanovic credits one of his soldiers, Cpl. Cory Walter, for saving his life that day.

“Corporal Walter is pretty much responsible for me being alive right now,” he said.

The wounds that Salkanovic received were serious, causing him to lose approximately 2 litres of blood. He was flown to Landsthul Germany and later back to Fort Hood, Texas to recover from his injuries. After 2 months of recouperation, Salkanovic was more than ready to head back to Iraq and rejoin his unit. According to the 27 year old native of Sarajevo, Bosnia, returning to Iraq was totally his decision and one that he says was not up for debate. Returning to Iraq and rejoining his unit was his goal from the start. He did just that on May 15, rejoining his fellow Soldiers at FOB Normandy.

“As soon as my doctor cleared me to come back, I was on the first flight out,” he said. “It’s like a family - especially being a platoon sergeant. You get attached to the soldiers,” he said.

Lt. General Ray Odierno spent some time recently in Diyala province, where FOB Normandy is located. Here’s what he had to say about SFC Salkanovic.

We enjoy these freedoms because of generations of Americans have defended our way of life, many making the ultimate sacrifice we can never forget. The memories of our fallen and their families are never far from our thoughts, and their examples always fortify our will.

Our troops here in Iraq today exemplify what is best about America — courageous and honorable volunteers dedicated to preserving freedom and our way of life.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to patrol with one of our many heroes in the theater — Sergeant 1st Class Adin Salkanovic, a cavalry platoon sergeant. I think he’s pictured in front of you. Sergeant Sal, as he’s known by everyone, was wounded in early March of 2007 while leading a dismounted reconnaissance team when 15 to 20 insurgents wielding grenades, sniper rifles and AK-47s started attacking from three different directions. In a span of 15 minutes, Sergeant Sal was struck by three enemy bullets — one to his left index finger and shoulder, and one to his right shoulder and bicep. Two more enemy rounds nearly struck him but were stopped by his body armor. Sergeant Sal’s team fended off the attack and killed two insurgents. His wounds caused him to lose two liters of blood and be evacuated back to the United States. After two months of healing and rehabilitation, he was ready to head back to Iraq. And this is what he told me: “As soon as my doctor cleared me to come back, I was on the first flight out,” said Sergeant Sal. He’s a native of Bosnia- Herzegovina. Although returning to Iraq was entirely his choice, Sergeant Sal said the decision was not up for debate and rejoining his unit was his goal from the start. He said, “It’s like a family, especially being a platoon sergeant. You get attached to these soldiers,” he said.

Today Sergeant Sal is serving in Diyala province on a patrol base to defeat AQ. A hero among many, and a true testament to the incredible men and women of our armed forces, and a testament to one who wanted the freedom of being an American, one who started in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and one who truly cherishes his freedom as a United States citizen.

There are thousands of Sergeant Sals that have the fortitude and resilience to stare down uncertainty and endure our losses, and this is what makes our Army and Marine Corps so special, and makes me so proud to serve every day.

But that’s not all that makes SFC Salkanovic such an amazing soldier. I did some research into this young man and found some really interesting information about him. As a child, growing up in Bosnia, he grew up in a country that was torn by war and strife. At age 14, Salkanovic volunteered for the Bosnian army, fighting Serbian forces that had surrounded his hometown. At 14 he endured and saw many things that most 14 year olds in the United States will never see or endure in their entire lifetimes.

“I volunteered many times, but because of my age, they said ‘no,’” he said. “But I kept volunteering, I was one of those guys who wanted to see some action.”

After he continued to volunteer, the Bosnian Army finally gave in and Salkanovic became a soldier. Initially he worked with radios or carried ammunition. After a few months, he moved to the front lines, which at that time, were only about 1 1/2 miles from his home.

“It was World War I-style fighting, trench warfare,” he said. “There were a lot of mortar attacks, howitzers and tanks - a lot of armor got involved. Both sides took a lot of casualties from the minefields and snipers.”

Salkanovic’s career in the Bosnian Army came to a halt after about a year of fighting, when his father was wounded in battle. Since he was the middle of three children and the oldest son, it fell on him to provide for his family. For two years, he ran the household. In 1995, his family emograted to the United States, in order to obtain medical treatment for his sister, who suffered from a severe case of scoliosis.

“I kind of quit after was dad was injured,” he said. “I had to take care of my family. I had volunteered in the first place and they understood that I could walk out at any time because of my age.”

Salkanovic’s family settled in San Jose, California. Initially it was difficult because none of the children were able to speak English. After about three months, when he learned English, he said they all felt more comfortable. His sister had two surgeries. After they were completed, the family decided to return to Bosnia. Salkanovic said that he told his father he wouldn’t stay and returned to San Jose and worked construction jobs until he completed high school.

“As soon as I got my high school diploma, I joined the Army,” he said. “I thought I would enjoy it. As far as training and discipline and equipment… you can’t compare it,” he said of the difference between the US Army and the Bosnian Army. “The Bosnian army was a regular army, just lacking in uniformity. Every battalion had their own uniforms and standards.”

Salkanovic was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment in 2001. He has deployed twice to Kuwait, once before and once after 9/11. In 2004, he deployed to Camp Grey Wolf in the International Zone in Iraq. His history as a child soldier has followed him to his unit, but he doesn’t tell many stories about that experience.

“He doesn’t talk about it unless you ask,” said 1st Sgt Kirby Carter. “Guys who’ve seen bad stuff don’t talk about it. If they talk about it, they’ve usually had to embelish it.”

Carter described Salkanovic as an exceptional leader, very knowledgable. He displayed those leadership skills and knowledge shortly after they were deployed in 2004, when his unit fought through a 4 1/2 mile long ambush in Abu Ghraib.

“Anyone who fought in a war at 14 will be more mature than your average young sergeant,” Carter said. “We got a lot of young NCOs who came as specialists or young sergeants and grew into real good staff sergeants and will be the future of the NCO Corps.”

Salkanovic has said that he plans to make a career of the Army, saying he feels that it fits his capabilities and his personality.


American Thinker

Making Strides in Baqubah

June 25, 2007

It sounds like Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Diyala province, which began early Tuesday, June 19th is so far seeing success. The US casualty count in this operation has remained low, while a large number of terrorists have been killed and/or detained. Hopefully, as this Operation continues, Diyala province will once again become a safe place for it’s citizens.

Photo taken June 19th Baquba, Iraq, by Army SSG Antonieta Rico

When they first entered the western part of Baqubah for the first time on Thursday, troops with the Iraqi Ary had considerable doubt. They had heard that the western part of the city was the worse and that everyone there, including the women and children were allied with the terrorists. They were surprised at the reception they got.

“Honestly, I thought this operation would never be successful because I had information that al-Qaeda had big guns and RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades)” said Iraqi Army commander Lt. Qusai. “We thoughts that all the people here are terrorists and everyone is bad, even the women and children.”

The reception they got surprised them, as many of the Sunni Arabs in that part of the city, welcomed them and their US counterparts. One man graciously offered them glasses of water that he brought out on a tray, a woman happily wept at the sight of them. The patrols were a step towards ridding Baqubah of al-Qaeda operatives, who have been terrorizing the citizens. The insurgents had declared Baqubah as the capital of their shadow government, which they called the Islamic State of Iraq.

“It was the worse part of the city,” said Lt. Qusai. “But I found … that not all the people here are bad.”

It’s imperative that the Iraqi forces are able to control the streets of Baqubah. Baqubah lies between Baghdad and the border with Iraq, in Diyala province. Last summer, Iraqi forces had been given the responsibility for security in Diyala province, only to see security break down. That began to slowly change in October, when 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team arrived in Iraq, whose commander Col. David Sutherland, declared that al-Qaeda forces would be routed from the province. It’s imperative that once Baqubah is cleared of al-Qaeda operatives, that Iraqi security forces are able to maintain security in the city.

“They will be the forcese that retain, hold and secure the neighborhoods, after US troops have swept through,” said Army Brigadere General Mick Bednarek, deputy commanding officer for operations in northern Iraq.

As a means to that end, training was stepped up for Iraqi fordces, last year. Once US reinforcements arrivevd in mid-March from Baghdad, they began to systematically pursue the insurgents, starting one neighborhood at a time and setting up permanent security outposts in those neighborhoods. According to US Commanders, 2 of the neighborhoods in eastern Baqubah have been largely pacified.

According to US Commanders, the Iraqi army Soldiers who deployed to western Baqubah are much more professional than those in the past. They are dressed in full uniform and body armor. They’re more disciplined and focused, than in the past. The Iraqi forces have been sent into areas that were previously cleared by US troops, in an attempt to gain further information.

“We are shoulder to shoulder with Iraqi Security Forces in this fight,” said Brig. General Mick Bednarek. “Specifically the 5th Iraqi Army Division led by Major Gen. Saleen Ali alotbel, along with the provincial director of police.”

The weeks ahead are crucial, not only to show the citizens of Baqubah that the Iraqi Security Forces can be trusted and are there to help them, but also to maintain control over the city, making it a safer place for the citizens of Diyala. So far, as Operation Arrowhead Ripper continues into it’s 7th day, Iraqi and American forces are beginning to root out al0Qaeda and to safely neutralize their traps, such as explosive rigged schools, abandoned buildings, and cars. The citizens are cooperating more and more and are learning that the Iraqi forces can be trusted to help them.

“They weren’t a ragtag bunch,” said Captain Matthew James. “We just want to introduce them to the neighborhood and maybe pick up some human intel.”

James shared that he was impressed with the Iraqi troops and their ability to pick up on details. They’ve been able to gather information which has led to the discovery of several weapons caches. On the first day, they also made three arrests. The Iraqi Army is stepping up in other areas as well, taking responsibility for supplying food and water to their troops, instead of relying on US transportation. James said that the troops showed much enthusiasm for patrolling alongside American troops. US forces allowed the Iraqi’s to take the lead. One instance James cited, was when residents had pointed out vehicles that had been used by insurgents. The Iraqi forces wanted to burn the vehicles. US forces allowed them to do so, sending a message to the citizens of the area that the Iraqi Security forces are in charge.

LA Times


So far, since the beginning of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, coalition forces have taken few casualties, while killing at least 51 al-Qaeda operatives and more than 20 detained. 7 weapon caches have been discovered, 21 IED’s destroyed and 9 booby-trapped buildings have been destroyed. I’ll try to update as more news comes in about the progress of Operation Arrowhead Ripper.

Therapeutic Weapons Training System, Gets Wounded Back In The Game

June 25, 2007

An integral part of military training is being able to shoot and qualify with a weapon. Many of our troops grew up hunting an shooting a weapon was a part of their life, before they joined the military. So what happens, when a Soldier suffers an upper extremity injury during combat? Major David Rozelle has proven that it’s not impossible for a Wounded Warrior to remain Active Duty and to even return to combat. This system can make that possibility even more likely for those who have suffered an upper extremity injury. Even if they don’t return to Active Duty, this program will enable the Wounded Warrior to enjoy things such as hunting or competition shooting again.

A program at Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Center, is allowing wounded troops the chance to get back to shooting a weapon. The Fire Arms Training System or FATS, is being used as a part of occupational therapy at the hospitals. It teaches the servicemembers how to adjust to their injuries and fire military weapons, despite the limitations they may have due to their injuries. The computer based system, runs scenarios and allows the servicemembers to fire a variet of electronic integrated weapons at a large screen. The computer digitally tallies the results and charts their progress.

Army Sgt. Dennis Cline learning to fire a weapon with a prosthetic arm

One wounded warrior taking advantage of the system is Marine Lance Corporal Eric Frazier, who was injured last year in Iraq when his Humvee was hit by roadside bomb. When he woke up, his arm was in a case and he’d lost both of his legs. Frazier grew up in Tennesse, where as a child he learned to hunt. Not being able to fire a weapon would have been devastating to him.

“The first thing I woke up and I seen my arm was in a big ol’ styrofoam holder thing and I had lost my legs. I was like, ‘I’m just not going to be able to shoot,’” Frazier said. “Your life kind of stops. You’re like, ‘What am I going to do now,’” he said.

Marie Lance Cpl. Eric Frazier firing M-16 rifle

The FATS uses combat based scenarios and helps the wounded troops not only feel like Soldiers and Marines again, but for those like Frazier who grew up shooting, it helps them feel normal again. The program, initially only available at Walter Reed, is the first therapeutic program using fire arms for military medicine.

“From the research that we’ve done, we’re using the best system to provide the most advanced therapy that the military is offering with firearms,” said Barry Yancosek, program manager.

The program was initiated in June 2005 as a pilot program. The FATS is a commercial program that is available worldwide. Each software package is tailored for the purchaser. The Army qualification standards and pop-up target ranges have been built into the program. Video based combat scenarios are also a part of the therapeutic program.

Patients are started with basic marksmanship training and practice zeroing their weapons. Yancosek said that initially he wanted to see if patients with upper extremity injuries could learn to re-qualify with their weapons. After about 10 hours of training on the systems, patients show an increase in their overall scores. On average the patients hit 90% of their targets. Only one person in the program failed to qualify with their weapon based on the Army standard qualification test. Another part of the occupational therapy, for patients participating in the program, is being able to participate in hunting trips, that Yancosek has arranged.

“A lot of them say that this is one therapy that makes them feel like a Soldier or a Marine again,” he said. “A lot of these young men were hunters long before they said ‘I do’ to the service, so it was a natural progression for them to want to go out and hunt.”

Over the past two yers, several hunts have been arranged for the patients, including duck, goose, elk, antelope, turkey and deer hunts. Not only does this show the injured servicemember that their shooting skills are still there, with some modification, but it also helps them realize the possibilities that abound for them, even the possibility of returning to active duty service.

“That’s the awesome thing about this,” Frazier said. “It lets me know that … I can still shoot, even like I am now, and I’m not even healed yet.”


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