October 31, 2007
In March 2006, Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania was grieving the death of his son, Marine Lance Cpl Matthew Snyder in Iraq. At the funeral, a demonstration was held by the fundalmentalist church from Topeka, Kansas, Westboro Baptist Church. As we all know, Westboro Baptist Church members have made national media at various times for their vulgar and downright disrespectful behavior at the funerals of our Fallen Heroes. They typically picket the funerals holding signs that state things like “Thank God For Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Fags.” They claim that they protest, because of the our country’s tolerance for homosexuality and that they feel is the reason that the deaths of Soldiers have occurred. Frankly, these pigs disgust me, I don’t care that they live in my home state. They are vile, cruel and disgusting people.
So it was with great pleasure when I found out today, that the law suit Mr. Snyder brought against the church, for unspecified damages after their picketing of his son’s funeral is only just and right. It was announced today that Mr. Snyder had been awarded nearly $11 Million in a verdict by a jury against the church. The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. Later in the afternoon the jury returned with it’s decision to award $6 million in punative damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress. After the verdict was announced, US District Judge Richard Bennett spoke.
“The size of the award for compensating damages far exceeds the net worth of the defendants.”
Because of the actions of the members of Westboro Baptist Church, a number of states across the nation have passed laws in regards to funeral protests. Congress as well, as passed a law that prohibits such protests at Federal cemeteries. The lawsuit by Mr. Snyder, filed in Maryland, is believed to be the first filed by family members of a fallen servicemember.
According to the verdict that was read, the church and three of it’s leaders, Rev. Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebecca Phelps-Davis, were found liable for invasion of provacy and the intent to inflict emotional distress. In his law suit, Snyder claimed that the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.
Church members testified at the hearing. They said that they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that the deaths of Soldiers are due to the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Their attorneys argued on their behalf, that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion. After the verdict, the judge said that the church’s financial statements, which were earlier sealed, could be released to the plaintiffs.
Prior to the reading of the verdict, church members staged a demonstration outside the federal courthouse. Founder and minister of the church, Fred Phelps, held a sign that read, “God is your enemy” while his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper stood on an American flag and read a sign that said, “God hates fag enablers.” As per usual, when they protest at funerals, the church members sang “God Hates America” to the tune of “God Bless America.”
Growing up in Kansas, I recall hearing news about the exploits of this crazy groups of whackos. I have yet to understand their twisted version of what they call Christianity. The things that I was taught as a child about Christianity, are completely opposite of the hate-filled rhetoric that these disgust people spew. Mr. Snyder sobbed as he heard the verdict being read. I am so glad that Mr. Snyder finally found a small bit of solace, in the jury’s verdict today. I hope that parents of other Fallen Warriors, will follow the lead of Mr. Snyder and let these evil people know that they’re not going to stand for this type of behavior. I commend the jury for doing the RIGHT thing, by stating very clearly that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated.
October 31, 2007
The part of a deployment that Family members and Soldiers alike look forward the most, is when that Soldier finally steps off that plane, back on U.S. soil after spending a year or more in a hostile environment. Part of the final countdown, to ensuring that things go smoothly when the Soldier returns home is Reunion & Reintegration training, that is mandatory for the Soldier and offered to the Family members as well. At Fort Hood, that Final Countdown is in progress, even as I write this.
For the Families of Soldiers who are deployed, they are given information on what to expect when their Soldier returns home. Let’s face it… War Is Hell and many of our Soldiers have seen things, experienced things and had to do things that leaves them a changed person. By educating Family members on what to expect, when their Soldier returns home, the Army hopes that problems can be avoided or at least lessened.
Reintegration and Reunion training is a multi-faceted, team approach. Representatives from various agencies across the post come together to provide information and resources to the Family members, so that if difficulties arise, the Family member knows where to turn for assistance. These workshops are provided to Family members and Soldiers to ensure that the reunion and reintegration process goes as smoothly as possible with hopefully few problems.
On October 25th, spouses and Family members from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade came together to learn these things. Mary Prater, a representative from the Family Advocacy Program at Fort Hood spoke to spouses about how to slowly reintegrate their Soldier back into the household.
“This is a stressful time for not only the Families here, but for the Soldiers as well,” Prater said. “There have been many challenges for both the Soldiers and the Families in the last year. You must work together to adjust to these changes.”
“Many children may have a lot of questions. They many act out for attention, or be resentful of the parent for leaving,” Prater continued. “Continue with the routines, discipline and activities, and slowly integrate your spouse back into these areas of life.”
Representatives from Army Community Services also spoke to the group about how to correctly plan for reintegrating the deployed parent back into the Family. There is a right way and a wrong way. Sometimes spouses are resentful that they’ve had to handle problems in the home while the Soldier was deployed. By the time the Soldier arrives home, they’re ready to dump all that responsibility back into their lap, as soon as they walk in the door. That can cause problems.
“It’s important to communicate with the Soldier - both now and when they get home,” said Dave Gretsch, the ACS representative. “There will be obvious changes. Time changes everything - take the time to take in these changes before reacting to them.”
Spouses of Soldiers who have experienced deployments in the past were available to speak with the group. Bridgit Lawson, spouse of SSG Darren Lawson, 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment shared what she had learned about the “C2″ of reunion.
“We can’t come together and have a successful reunion if we don’t communicate and compromise,” she said. “The Army has a version of C2 - command and control. But in reunion, you can’t have command and control if you want it to work. You have to communicate and compromise through the hard times and changes that have happened while you have been apart.”
Social workers were on hand to discuss how the stresses of the deployment may have affected the Soldiers and how to tell the difference between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Deployment (Combat) Stress. According to Stacy Nelson, Social Work Case Manager, all Soldiers returning from deployment will experience some form of PTSD or combat stress. The spouses will experience combat stress. According to Nelson though, only about 5-10 percent of returning Soldiers will develop full-blown PTSD.
“Many of your husbands will not want to talk about what they have experienced, others will have family or friends tell them to not think about it,” she said. “But not talking about it and holding everything in can be harmful.”
Nelson compared the mind to a filing cabinet, where every file has a place. Sometimes, the mind takes awhile to figure out where the appropriate place is to file things… where it all goes.
“When people hold in bad experiences and don’t talk about what they have seen, done or been through, the mind doesn’t have a chance to process the information and put it away so that it no longer affects day to day activities,” she said. “Talk to your spouse and remember you don’t need full details to communicate and help them through the process.”
As important as it is to talk about it and be there for the Soldier when they’re ready to talk, it’s also important to note that they shouldn’t be pushed into talking about it, before their ready to. That can cause as much harm and lead to difficulties as well. It’s important, as the spouse or Family member of a deployed Soldier to let their Soldier know that they are there for them and that when they are ready to talk, that they will be there to listen to them.
While the spouses and Family members attended their reunion and reintegration trainings, Soldiers are preparing to return home themselves. They too, are being provided with Reunion and Reintegration training, prior to leaving theater and they will continue with that training, upon their arrival back at Fort Hood.
The key to a successful reunion, is communication and compromise and to utilize the resources that are available on every military installation. Patience is also important, as Mr. Gretsch said, readjustment takes time and that with patience, things will begin to start feeling normal again 30-90 days after the Soldier returns home.
For myself, the Final Countdown has started. Marty will be returning home soon. While there have been changes here at home ,(i.e. purchasing a house while he was deployed. Sean going off to basic training, etc.) we’ll take the time to communicate and compromise, as the reintegration process happens. I have the advantage of knowing what the resources are, of being part of the team that conducts the trainings for the Family members, as well as the Soldiers when they return and to have been able to take part in the trainings as a Family member as well. I know that there may be bumps along the way, but I also know that by working together, communicating, compromising and utilizing the available resources, that our reunion will be a successful one.
It should be noted, that Reunion and Reintegration training occurs across the entire military, at all bases, in all branches of the Military. Resources are available on each installation and I suggest that all Family members and Soldiers learn what those resources are and how to access them, to help make the transition during reintegration successful. The resources available on the military installations are there to help the Soldiers and their Families and they should be encouraged to seek out those resources when necessary, before problems get out of hand.
October 30, 2007
I remember well the training I went through to become a Paramedic. After 3 months of classroom work, we spent 3 months in our clinicals, working in various areas of hospitals, such as the Emergency Room, Surgery, Obstetrics, a Burn Unit, Neonatal ICU and Cardiac Care. For my Emergency Department rotation, I was fortunate to do my 2 weeks of ER clinicals in one of the busiest Level 1 Trauma Centers in the state of Kansas, where the most severely injured patients from all over the state were sent. The time we spent in the Emergency Department prepared us for what we would face, as we went into jobs working as Paramedics on various ambulance services. It was time well spent. Without that type of training, we’d have had no clue what we would be facing out in the field. The training allowed us to have hands on experience with actual patients and allowed us to practice and hone our skills that we’d been learning in the classroom.
AP Photo by Wilfredo Lee
The Army is seeing the value in this type of hands on training as well. For 2 weeks, Army medics, nurses, doctors and nurse anesthetists have been experiencing hands on trauma medicine and teamwork under pressure at the Ryder Trauma Center at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. It’s a place that sees so many traumatic injuries, that many times, it resembles a war zone. Ryder is one of the busiest trauma centers in the United States. They see an average of 11 trauma patients per day. About equal to the amount seen in the biggest military hospital in Iraq.
Jackson Memorial Hospital lies in Miami’s most crime ridden sections. Patients who arrive there have often been stabbed, injured in horrific automobile accidents, wounded in gang shootouts with high-powered assault weapons or injured in falls and fights. Many of the injuries they see every day, resemble those seen on the battlefield.
The Army send 10 forward surgical teams through Ryder’s ER every year. It was selected 6 years ago, because of the levels of trauma that they see. It is the only trauma training center that the Army uses. The Air Force sends their teams through similar programs at St. Louis University, as well as in Baltimore and Cincinnati; the Navy’s trauma personnel train in Los Angeles.
In this rotation, the medical professionals being trained are all Ohio reservists, part of the Army’s 848th Forward Surgical Team. In their civilian lives, some raise their families, others tend bar, attend college or work for the Post Office. Their team leader, Col. Michael Oddi is a thoracic surgeon in Akron, Ohio.
?My practice consists of a lot of surgery, but we don’t do a lot of trauma surgery. So a program like this, to prepare us for acute, multiple casualties, really helped us on our last deployment and it will help us again,” Oddi said. “It is extremely busy here.”
On this particular day, the trauma center’s radio crackled to life. A 34 year old woman who was injured in an automobile accident was being flown in by helicopter. A portion of her scalp was torn back exposing her skull. She had various broken bones, some which were sticking out of the skin on her left leg, according to the report they were given. Oddi and two medics, a nurse and a nurse anesthetist from his team don green long sleeved hospital gowns and blue gloves as they make their way onto the roof to await the arrival of the helicopter.
When the helicopter arrives, they ease her onto a gurney. Her head and neck are immobilized in a cervical collar. Her arms is bandaged, but the report about the let appears to okay, the radio report was inaccurate. They wheel their patient into the elevator and make their way into the trauma room, once they arrive back at the ER. They assess the patient, paying particular attention to her head injuries and assessing whether she has suffered any sort of brain injury. After about an hour, she is wheeled away for X-Rays and scans.
The team then prepares for the next patient that will come through the doors. The team members say that their time training at Jackson Memorial Hospital prepared them well, to care for wounded Soldiers and Iraqi civilians that they encountered on their last tour in Iraq in 2004. In Miami on that trip, they saw similar injuries - head trauma, multiple gunshot wounds. They learned to work at the frenzied pace that was required for the environment. In Miami, they even sometimes had to deal with language barriers, just as they encountered in Iraq. One of the team members, Sgt. Robert Bartl, also came through Ryder Trauma Center in 2004.
“Coming down here before we got deployed and getting hands-on with real patients, doing IV’s again with actual people instead of rubber plastic arms, it did wonders for my confidence,” Bartl said.
This type of training, actual hands on experience, is invaluable. Not only will the medical teams be more prepared for what they may encounter. They also have the opportunity to refresh their skills and learn to work together as a team. In places such as Ryder Trauma Center, everyone is part of the team… even those who are there to learn. Everyone is expected to pull their share of the load. Many times, with multiple casualties coming in at the same time, there is no choice, except to roll up their sleeves and get busy saving lives. When they arrive in Iraq, they’ll be glad that they did.
October 29, 2007
As he prepared to go out on the mission, all the premission jitters were there. That was natural. He felt a little bit anxious, a little nervous, but as his fellow Soldiers in his platoon and those all across Iraq, he understood that he had a mission to accomplish and this time, they were the ones who were up to do it this time. What he wasn’t aware of at the time, was that those premission jitters just might save his life that day. Specialist Justin McDaniel, a team leader with Company B, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado recalls all those things he was feeling, as he recounts the events that unfolded in the early morning hours of October 20th.
Col. Ricky Gibbs (left) commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry division, congratulates Spc. Justin McDaniel, a team leader with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, on recieving the Army Commendation Medal with Valor at FOB Falcon, in southern Baghdad, October 26th. (Photo by PFC Nathaniel Smith, 4-1 In. Div. Public Affairs)
“I think the whole part of being scared and nervous actually helped it along with what the situation was, and I think it played a part in me actually being able to act on what was going on,” McDaniel said.
That morning, he and his platoon leader were in the process of clearing a room that was occupied by a terrorist. As they entered the room, the terrorist pulled out a handgun and fired a round at McDaniel, hitting him in the side. McDaniel then returned fire and killed the terrorist.
On October 26th, for his presence of mind and quick reactions under fire, Spc. Justin McDaniel was awared the Army commendation Medal with V device for Valor, at a ceremony that was held at FOB Falcon. For McDaniel, the award confirmed in his mind that he did the right thing.
Spc. Justin McDaniel, displays the bruise from a round that struck his side while on a mission in southern Baghdad, Oct. 20th
(US Army Photo)
“It lets me know that I did my job how it’s supposed to be done. It’s a statement saying that this person knew his job and was able to act under pressure. I think it’s something that other people will strive to do as well,” he said.
“When I first got shot, I was scared,” he recalls. “When I actually figured out I was shot, I thought it was a whole lot more serious. There was a burning sensation in my side. I thought the round had actually gone into my flesh. I’m really thankful it didn’t.”
Recalling the incident, as he received his award, he says he wasn’t too concerned about receiving a medal at the time it was occurring. He was more concerned with doing his job and ensuring that the insurgent didn’t injure anyone else. His commander, Captain Jim Keirsey, says he wasn’t surprised at all, when he heard about McDaniel’s actions that day.
“It’s comforting knowing we’ve got high-quality human beings like him out there, positively identifying and neutralizing threats without hesitation,” he said.
This insurgent won’t be shooting randomly anymore at our Troops or victimizing innocent citizens, thanks to the quick and immediate reactions of Spc. McDaniel. I’m thankful that his injuries were relatively minor, compared to what they could have been. I guess this insurgent found out the hard way, that paybacks are hell…….
October 29, 2007
This is a story about a Wounded Warrior and his brother, who had drifted apart as they both finished High School and went their separate ways. This is an inspirational story about how the war in Iraq, brought those two brothers back into each other’s lives and reintroduced them to the gift of brotherly love.
They grew up in the home of a Cambodian refugee. Their mother and known war and survived it, coming to the United States as a teenager. As they grew older, they each went their separate ways, drifting apart and rarely communicating. Dara went off to college at Penn State University and Pisey joined the Army. For years they had barely spoken to each other, but that all changed, courteosy of a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004, that left Pisey a double leg amputee.
Smiles all around during the ribbon cutting, with Tan; his mother and brother, Bo Mao and Dara Soun; and Karen and Frank McKee, of the McKee Group.
Today Pisey and Dara Tan share a home in Pennsylvania and are a close as two brothers could possibly be. Dara is now 22, changed his life to help care for his brother, who is 4 years his elder. He’s carried him, pushed him, picked him up, encouraged him and even sometimes fought with him, the way that brothers do. Pisey has learned to walk with ease on his prosthetic legs.
“He thinks I’m a psychopath maniac sometimes and I think he’s a stubborn hardheaded dude sometimes,” said Pisey. “It’s brotherly love, though.”
They reconnected and strengthened those brotherly bonds, while Pisey was still at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, recovering from his injuries. Dara at the time was attending Penn State University in Abington, but he didn’t hesitate to drop out of school and move to Walter Reed for almost a year to help his brother.
“He’s family,” Dara said. “It’s a given.”
He rushed to his brother’s bedside before Pisey even regained consciousness. It was hard, he cried every time he walked into his brother’s hospital room. Once he regained consciousness, Pisey wondered how he was going to tell his mother that he has lost his legs. Being a war refugee from Cambodia, he didn’t want to upset her and worried that telling her would bring back unpleasant memories of her own.
“I thought I was just going to keep it low-key and just disappear off the radar, don’t even mention it to my mother,” he said.
His younger brother though had already taken care of telling their mother, translating the news for her, in a conference call with an Army Official. But telling his mother wasn’t Pisey’s only worry. He has his future to worry about and wondered what that now held for him.
“We heard about how the people treated the people that went to Vietnam… All that stuff went through my head and I was like what am I going to do now? How am I going to live? Who is going to take care of me?”
His little brother stepped up to the plate once again. Even though they had went their separate ways and barely communicated with each other; mainly keeping up through their mother, Dara wasn’t about to let his brother down. He stepped in to be there for his brother, without a second thought. Dara’s dedication to Pisey quickly made him the envy of many of the other patients at Walter Reed.
“That was the fastest way I could get things done. My brother pushing me around in my wheelchair,” Pisey said. “My brother was like the biggest key when I was there because he would have to go do some of the things that I couldn’t do, like run to buildings, getting papers signed and stuff like that.”
It was hard for Pisey to accept the fact that he had to rely on his brother. Being used to doing for himself, it was a big change to have to rely on someone else to do those things for him.
“I felt pretty low and always like sad … having to depend on my brother,” said Pisey. “There were days I felt embarrassed.”
After his release from Walter Reed, Pisey and Dara moved in with their mother in North Philadelphia. There they faced new challenges, as their mother lived in a two-story row house, which was not compatible with Pisey’s wheelchair. He was still working on learning to use his prosthetic legs at the time. There were many a night that Dara carried Pisey piggyback-style up the stairs to his bedroom. Another night, Pisey became ill, experiencing sharp pain in the area of his kidneys. Dara carried him to the ambulance. If Pisey fell as he was learning to walk on his prosthetic legs on the uneven streets of Philadelphia or trying to get on a bus, his brother was always there to pick him up.
“Without Dara, I would have been screwed, basically,” Pisey said.
In December 2006, things too a turn for the better when Pisey was presented with a custom built two-story home in a Philadelphia suburb by the nonprofit group, Homes For our Troops, who teamed up with builder The McKee Group to build a customized home for Pisey and his family. The home, with it’s wide doorways and wheelchair accessible shower, makes it much easier for Pisey. He no longer needs to have Dara constantly at his side. But Dara, wanting to stay near his brother, moved in upstairs.
“He’s there for me and I’m always there for him,” Pisey said. “It’s the least I can do after everything that he’s done for me.”
They spend a lot of time together nowdays, playing video games, working on their cars or heading to the local Italian deli for sandwhiches. Together time, time well spent, reconnecting with each other after so many years of being apart. Pisey still attends regular therapy and has plans to attend college to become a High School history teacher and Dara’s plans are to train to become a mechanic. Dara is glad to be with his brother and happy to help in any way that he can. They’re enjoying being brothers again.
“I don’t think of it as time wasted or anything,” he says. “Everything turned out pretty good for him.”
“We’re a bunch of old, young kids,” Pisey added.
October 28, 2007
In the United States, it’s common to have both men and women in the workforce. In most families, both the husband and wife hold down jobs outside of the home, just to make ends meet. In Iraq, there are strict tribal and religious cultural taboos, strongly discouraging women from working outside their homes. In their culture, it is felt to bring shame upon the men who allow it. In Ramadi, there are 14 women who’ve made the choice to step outside those cultural and religious boundaries and become police officers. Their culture has yet to embrace the idea that men and women are equals, in the home and in the workplace.
“Right now, our province is safe and peaceful. But anything could shake that up and we could be in danger,” said Genan, who is a 37 year old mother of 3 children and who’s also 7 months pregnant.
Genan and 4 other women graduated from the police academy in October and agreed to speak to the press about that decision, on the condition that only their first names were used. Despite their determination to work as police officers, they fear reprisals if their full name were known. They work in the west Ramadi police station.
The men in Iraq are being recruited in very large numbers to work as police officer and Soldiers, in preparation for the day when Iraqis will take full control of the security responsibilities for their country. That recruiting effort is going well, especially in Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar province, where the numbers of police officers has increased from around 200 in 2006 to around 8,000 now. Currently, 14 women have stepped forward and joined those ranks. When they learned that recruits were being sought for the police force, Genan, Kadmia age 35 and Fatma age 27 say that they jumped at the opportunity.
“In Iraq, a woman’s job is to stay home and be a housewife. Men and women are not equal,” said Genan, as the others nodded in agreement. “It’s nothing like in the U.S.”
They were also emboldened and encouraged when they saw women serving in the ranks of the US Troops tht were patrolling and fighting in the streets of Ramadi.
“They left their children at home, not a few houses way, but thousands of miles away,” Genan said. “If American women can do it, we can do it.”
As they observed things happening in their neighborhoods, they felt they could help make a difference. They saw women insurgents blow themselves up with suicide vests. Many times those women were being allowed through the security checkpoints, because of the cultural and religious rules prohibiting men from searching the women. They felt they could help prevent such attacks.
In training, the women have learned to fire several types of weapons. They’ve learned to conduct searches, identify vehicles that are likely to contain explosives and they learned how to identify a person who is acting suspiciously. Currently, their role is limited to searching females who visit jail inmates. Two days a week, they spend their time patting down women at another downtown location outside of the police station. They spend much of their time on duty in a small room which has no windows and two couches, their personal cell phones and each other for company. Once Genan, Kadmia and Fatma made up their minds to join the police force, they went to their neighbors to attempt to convince them to join as well. They ended up with a group of 14 women.
Kadmia, who is the mother of 2 sons and 3 daughters (two who’ve also joined the police force) decided that she would make uniforms for the women. She did so by altering the men’s long sleeved light blue shirts and making them fuller and longer. Each bears an Iraqi police patch on the right shoulder. Ankle length slim black or dark blue skirts complete their uniform, along with a long black or light blue headscarf, which they provide.
One of the instructors at the academy, was surprised at how well the women were prepared and at their enthusiasm. One of the trainers, 2nd Lt. Kristy Goddard, says she was really surprised.
“They studied ahead of time,” she said. “They were way motivated. They knew thee would be a lot of obstacles to overcoe and they wanted to do it anyway.”
The women participated in an abreviated training program. What the US Military Police cram into 12 weeks, they did in 5 days. The next class will increase to eight days and one of the female graduates will help to train others.
The women, as police officer are equals to their male counterparts, earning the same about of money, approxiamately 785,000 dinars a month. In Ramadi, rent averages around 100,000 a month or about $80 US per month and feeding a family costs about 250,000 dinars or around $200 US per month.
When interacting with their male counterparts, the women maintain an air of professionalism, but once they’re in their office, they chatter and rave about their new jobs and the sense of freedom that they feel. They say their male counterparts treat them with respect, but they’re sure they probably gossip behind their backs (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?).
“I love what I’m doing now,” Fatma said. “Just like the men are protecting their country, I want to protect my country. That’s why I’m doing this.”
Fatma, though has to deal with disapproval from her family. Six of her sisters and 2 of her brothers, as well as the majority of her extended family, won’t speak to her now. Only her mother and one sister will have anything to do with her. Her husband isn’t happy with her decision either. After 7 years of marriage, he’s threatening her with divorce.
“‘Either quit the job or divorce me,’ he said. I will pick the job,” Fatma said.
Another of the women is fearful for her life. A photograph of the group was published in a local newspaper, even after they were assurred by the newspaper editor that it wouldn’t appear. The women say that initially, their families and especially their husbands were reluctant for them to go to work, but now they’re beginning to come around. Fatma says that she earns more per month than her husband does. He works temporary construction jobs. Genan feels lucky because he husband doesn’t mind helping out with the children, who are ages 3, 9 and 11.
“They used to support us. Now we’re just returning the favor,” Genan said.
These 14 women are breaking ground in their country. They’re stepping outside the cultural boundaries that have virtually held women in their country prisoner for thousands of years. I support these women 100 percent in their endeavors and I hope that people in Iraq will be able to look past the traditional roles of women, and see what an asset they can be for their communities and their country.
Was Today “National Moonbat Day?”
October 27, 2007
Did somebody forget to tell me that it was “National Moonbat Day” today, or something? It seems like they were out in full force at various places across the country today. I guess while I was taking part in what’s supposed to be, National Make A Difference Day, and taking donations to the local Domestic Violence shelter, some of the moonbats decided that they’d stage some anti-war protests, and behave in the typical fashion moonbats worldwide…. making total fools of themselves.
In the Washington DC area, those protestors were to be met by a group of Moms, whose children are currently Active Duty Soldiers, in a counter demonstration, to show their support of the mission that their children are currently involved in. You can bet if I’d been out there, I’d have been marching right along side those Moms of our Troops, showing my support for them and their mission.
In some of the cities where the protests took place, various veteran’s against the war groups participated. Their slogans today, were right in line with their buddies Code Pink and the typical Code-Pinko mantra. Protestors carried signs reading everything from “End The War Now” to “Healthcare, Not Warfare” and once again were calling for the impeachment of President Bush for some sort of imagined war crimes and they demanded that funding for the war but immediately cut off.
Their supposed reason for organizing the protests today was the 5th anniversary of the Senate’s vote that authorized the invasion of Iraq, claiming that the money should have been spent to fund educational and health care programs. Of course, they also had to throw in the possibility of the US invading Iran, to bolster their bravado. Actually, I don’t think these people need much reason to stampede the streets and make total asses of themselves.
Apparently protests were held in New York City. Boston, Chicago, LA, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia. I don’t know about you all, but I’ve had enough of these “useful idiots” as ChrisG so fondly calls them. Wouldn’t it be nice, to see these people do something constructive with their time for a change….. like maybe, send some Care Packages or letters to the Troops who are serving them, their fellow Americans. Or perhaps, take some time to drop in at Walter Reed, BAMC, Bethesda or any of the other military hospitals and let the Wounded Warriors know that they have their support and appreciation. Somehow, I don’t see that happening anytime soon, so I’m not going to hold my breath…..
His Dedicatication Is To Serve His Country
October 27, 2007
I’d like to introduce our readers to another one of our dedicated warriors, who daily puts his life on the line to serve our country. He gave up a career, where he was making a comfortable living for his family, in order to serve our country. Meet Lt. Col. Tom Jessee.
Even though he was already working in a good job that provided with him with a good salary, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he wante to become a full-time warrior. Since a week after his graduation from High School, Lt. Col. Tom Jessee, has been in the Army, following the example his father set for him, of serving his country.
“A friend of mine at church introduced me to the National Guard. My father spent 20 years in the Air Force, so I kind of thought that I’d join the military of some type,” said Jessee.
He did follow in his father’s footsteps by enlisting in the National Guard as an air traffic control radar operator. By serving in the National Guard, he had some benefits that full-time military didn’t offer him, such as allowing him to remain close to home.
“At the time I wasn’t too keen on going active duty and moving away from home. I kind of wanted to stick around locally,” he said.
As he took part in monthly drill weekends at the airfield, he realized that he was interested in flying. Being around the airfield and seeing the pilots go out on flights, drew his attention. So he decided that he was going to get his commission and attend flight school.
“The unit that I was in also had to companies of helicopters stationed at the same base. So I went down on drill weekend while they were out there flying. I was very enamored with that whole environment,” Jessee said.
Jessee received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army National Guard in 1987 and completed flight school in March of 1989. While he really enjoyed being a member of the National Guard, Jessee knew that he wanted to become a full-time leader and pilot in the Army. A short time after completing flight school, he and a warrant officer friend went to the local recruiter’s station to find out about switching from the National Guard to the regular Army. That trip to the recruiter’s office turned out to be a disappointment for him, as his friend was signed that same day. Jessee, on the other hand was rejected, as they said they didn’t need any commissioned officers at the time.
In 1992, he married his wife Carol and then attended advanced officers course - a course designed to prepare junior officers for company command. Each time he attended a course, his desire to make the Army a full-time career grew stronger.
“Basically, everytime that I would go to annual training or to a school or any prolonged period where I was in a uniform doing my military job, I would come back just going, ‘I love doing my job - I want to do this,’” said Jessee. “I enjoyed my civilian job, but I always considered myself a part-time civilian, as opposed to a part-time Soldier, because the Soldier was really what was predominant in my life. That’s what drove me; that’s where my center of gravity was.”
Up to this point, still prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Jessee had flown CH-47 Chinooks and UH-1 Hueys. Two weeks after he had returned from the US-60 Black Hawk course, the terrorist attacks occurred.
“My days for getting laughed at for wanting to come on active-duty were over,” he said.
When the terrorist attacks occurred, Jessee was working as a saleman, making a decent living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A short time later, while attending a church service, an evangelist whose flight had been cancelled due to the terrorist attacks was at the church and wanted to pray for any service members in the congregation. That night, he was more determined than ever as he felt not only his own desire to serve full-time, but felt as well that God was calling him to serve his nation in a larger capacity. Still, things weren’t working out and he still was unable to transfer to the regular Army. So, he packed up his family and moved to Michigan, where he took a sales job and transferred from the Oklahoma National Guard to the Michigan National Guard. That’s when things came together for him.
“My packet to transfer to the regular Army got approved, two days before my personal deadline,” he said.
The deadline was based on the date of his current rank - he was now a major. After receiving the good news, he assessed with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky and was accepter. The 160th SOAR is an elite team of aviators that primarily moves special operations units across the battlefield. Three days before he and his family bought a house and moved to Kentucky, he found out that if he took that job, he was at risk of being passed up for his next promotion, to Lieutenant Colonel. He didn’t want to take that chance.
Instead, he packed up his family once again and moved to Korea, as commander of the Company A “Black Cats,” 2nd Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment. He had finally realized his dream, to be a full-time Soldier.
His wife Carol, was soon in for a shock. She had no clue that the transition from a relatively normal civilian life to the spouse of a commander of a company that was the size of a battalion would require so much work and responsibility on her part.
“Being the wife of a company commander whose company is the size of a battalion, was a giant piece of responsiblity that I did not realize was mine. It was a lot of hard physical and mental work, but I embraced it and went to work. There’s no time in life for pouting or crying,” said Carol.
While there was some apprehension involved with the move to Korea on Carol’s part, she soon got over that and got excited about the opportunity to travel internationally, that she wouldn’t otherwise have. She looked on it as an adventure and was determined to go anywhere necessary to be with her husband. For Carol, being able to experience other cultures, made her appreciate being an American all the more. Though she was a bit nervous about the transition her husband had made, Carol stood behind him 100%.
“I’ve always known deep down that Tom was born to fly and to lead. This is what brings him real joy; I want him to experience that job daily,” she said.
Transitioning from National Guard to active duty, requires a commitment from not only the Soldier, but his entire family, Carol said, in order to keep that Soldier in his game. It required change for the entire family and they had to quickly learn how to adapt to sudden change.
“Active duty is nowhere near just a job, it is a calling for our entire family and quickly adapting to change has been our key to success,” she said. “We both have a role in this venture; he can’t do his part if I don’t do mine. It’s like a well oiled machine that works as a whole and not as independently spinning parts.”
After just 20 short months in Korea, it was time once again for the Jessee family to move, along with Jessee’s company. This time, they moved to Fort Hood, Texas as part of the reorganization that the Army was currently undergoing. His company was reflagged to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division. As he settled into Fort Hood, he transitioned to the executive officer for 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division. He received his promition to Lt. Col. and is currently serving as the executive officer for the 1st ACB in Iraq. He flies mission in his Black Hawk as well as pushing the mountains of paperwork that comes with being the executive officer, to help keep the wheels turning in the 1st Cav ACB. He plans to continue in his job until he’s elgible for retirement. He had a few words of advice for anyone who is considering making a career of the military.
“For any Soldier or officer coming into the military, if you’re going to make it a career, you really have to love your job. You have to believe in what the Army does as an organization. You have to believe in the people around you,” Jessee said.
According to Jessee, not everyone is cut out for the military life. For those who make that choice, he feels that they are a different breed - that they are warriors.
“There have been warriors since the dawn of time and people that are on active duty and choose to make a career are warriors,” Jessee said.
Lt. Col. Tom Jessee just happens to be one of those warriors, who is giving it there all, each and everyday in Iraq, fighting to bring peace to the region. I for one am very thankful each and every day, that we have dedicated warriors such as Lt. Col. Jessee, who are willing to put their lives on the line, to serve our country.
October 26, 2007
I’m sure that most of you remember, I shared Ben’s story in this post on October 13th. Ben is an autistic child who was found wandering around an industrial area of eastern Baghdad, by Iraqi Security Forces. They brought him to the Adhamiyah Joint Security Station, where he had been staying since then, as the search for Ben’s family continued. Ben had quickly taken to the medic at the JSS, Spc. Ratliff. This morning I received an email from SPC Tyler Ratliff in response to my email about some of us wishing to provide clothing and toys for Ben.
Here’s what Spc. Ratliff had to say.
Thank you mama for your concern for little Ben’s health here at the JSS, but we returned little Ben back to his home where he belongs. Thanks a lot for the offer you gave.
I’m sure that Ben’s parents had been frantic with worry and had no idea where to turn to, for help in locating him. I’m sure they were extremely relieved to find out that not only was Ben coming home, but that he had been taken care of and cared for. I’m sure that Ben will never forget the kindness of the American Soldiers who took him under their wing and protected him.
Thank you Specialist Ratliff, for your service and sacrifice and your excellent care of Ben.
In The Middle Of Two Wars, They Continue To Enlist
October 26, 2007
Many people in this country wonder why in the world a young man or woman would want to enlist in the Military, knowing that our country is in the middle of fighting two wars and that they’re likely to be deployed at some point during their enlistment period. Parents may question their childs decision making ability, friends may scoff at their decision, others my ostracize them for making that choice, yet military recruiting figures continue to show almost every month that each branch of the military has met their recruiting goals. What would lead a young man or woman to make that decision, knowing what they’re likely to be faced with in a few short months?
The reasons for enlisting are probably as varied as the people who make the decision to raise their right hand and swear to serve our country. Some may have grown up in a military family and to them, it’s a normal way of life, a tradition in their family that they wish to continue. Others may base their decision on the events that took place in this country on September 11, 2001. Some may feel that this is their opportunity to make a difference and to “give back” to their country, instead of taking from it. Still others may see the military as a chance to break free of a bad family situation. Others might feel that need to find some direction and discipline in their life, or perhaps to learn job skills that will carry over into the civilian world. Or perhaps, they’re a young parent who wants to be able to provide a stable income for their family. Regardless of their reasons, they’ve chosen a profession that can be both rewarding and dangerous.
As a parent, having a child make the decision to enlist in the military brings forth a myriad of emotions and thoughts. Knowing what your child will likely face, there’s an element of fear, the desire as a parent to continue being able to protect your child from all that is evil in this world. At the same time, at least for myself, there is the element of intense pride, pride that your child has made the decision to serve our nation, to give to others. That’s what it was like for me, when my youngest son made the decision to enlist in the Army National Guards.
My son made that decision for several reasons. He felt the military would provide him with structure and discipline and at the same time he’d be able to learn marketable job skills. His decision as well, was based on the fact that he had been offered an ROTC Scholarship at one of our state’s colleges. To this day, he continues to serve in the National Guards and I completely support that decision.
My step-son just recently enlisted in the Army as well. Currently, he’s completing his AIT. His reasons were a bit varied from those of my son. He grew up in a military family, with his father, being a career Army Soldier (currently serving in Iraq). When he made the decision to enlist he talked to me about it. My advice to him was to check out all the branches of the military, find out what they could offer him and then make an informed decision based on what information he was provided. The military lifestyle wasn’t new to him, in fact it was comfortable, the only thing he’d ever known. He was well aware of the fact that he would probably face deployment, as he’d grew up seeing his father be deployed several times. He too, looked at the possibility that the job (MOS) he chose in the military, could provide him with marketable job skills in the civilian world as well. Another factor for him was the college benefits that were offered, so in June, he shipped off to Basic Training. His father and I are proud of the choices he made, yet, as with my son, and because we know what he’s likely to face, we do have the element of worry and concern as well.
Each individual who makes that decision, does so for their own reasons and with their own goals in mind. The Washington City Paper did a cover story yesterday on some young men and women from the Washington DC/Baltimore region of the country who were in-processing at the Fort Meade main processing center. They interviewed several young men and women about their reasons for enlisting and what they hoped to gain from the experience. The article includes an audio slideshow of their interviews with these young men and women. It’s something that our readers will probably find thought provoking and interesting at the same time.
Regardless of their reasons, these young men and women have made the conscious decision to enlist in the military and serve our nation. The slideshow perhaps will provide those who question their motivations, some insight into their thought process and their reasons for serving. Their answers to the interviewers questions are frank and straightforward, sometimes explicit in nature, but none the less, it should give you insight into why they chose to enlist, while knowing that they may soon be heading off to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.
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