This Is Just Too Much

March 31, 2008

Just a few minutes ago, I went through my evening routine of stopping by to see what CJ and CplM had posted for the day. It’s one of my routine reads. I was pissed off, to say the least when I encountered this:

A Soldier’s Perspective

A Soldier’s Perspective has been shut down indefinitely. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have been ordered to cease and desist. We have secured legal representation to aggressively combat the charges against us. We appreciate your support over the past few days, and ask for your continued support as we fight for truth, justice and the American way.

CJ (cj-at-soldiersperspective-dot-us) and Marcus (marcus-at-artitumis-dot-com

I’m asking our readers to continue to show their support to CJ and CplM. Let them you that you’re behind them and support them, as they continue to fight this battle. I’ve spoken to CJ and he vows that he’s not backing down, that he’ll continue to stand up for what he believes is right. Let’s show him that we’re behind him and ready to stand beside him.

Movie Review: Stop-Loss

March 31, 2008

Unrealistic… Inaccurate… Inconsitent…

Those are the words that come to mind after seeing this movie on Sunday. The movie starts out portraying a military unit, dressed in DCU uniforms (Desert Camoflauge Uniform), conducting checkpoints in the middle of Tikrit, Iraq. That leads you to believe that the timeframe the movie is based in, is during the initial years of the conflict in Iraq. From the beginning, the movie is unrealistic, as it portrays the wrong way to set-up a checkpoint. As far as portraying what our Troops might encounter in this situation, that’s probably the most realistic part of the movie. Suddenly, they’re confronted by a white taxi-cab who refuses their orders to stop, as it approaches the checkpoint. As the Troops fire warning shots, the car turns and a passenger in the rear seat begins firing upon the Troops at the checkpoint. Realistic enough. They immediately radio in that they’re being fired up and in pursuit of the taxi. As they mount up and begin following the taxi, it’s driver turns into a narrow street or alley and the passengers pile out and run into a house. It turns out, they were led into an ambush. That’s when things begin to get even more unrealistic and it just gets worse from there.

Marty was with me at this movie, he’s been to Iraq 3 times and knows appropriate proceedures for entering and clearing a dwelling or building. Part of his job was to ensure that the Soldiers in his unit worked as a cohesive team an that they were skilled in the appropriate ways to enter and clear a building. Team work was and is stressed at all times.

“The initial stack, before they entered the building was allright. After that, they used poor techniques for entering the clearing the building. That’s not the way we do it.”We never went through a doorway like that. We always had 4 and sometimes 5 at a time in a doorway, cleared each corner of the room and then proceeded from there. They didn’t do it that way. Instead, they made it look as if our Troops are “cowboys” and that they don’t work as a team.”

During the course of the battle, their gunner, who was manning the gun atop the Humvee was blown up by an enemy RPG. The insurgents were well placed on top of the buildings surrounding the alley they were in, managing to kill or severely injure several other Troops. The next scene shows memorial ceremonies where the remaining Troops grieve their losses and honor each of the men they lost during the battle.

You then cut to a scene aboard a bus, headed to Brazos, Texas, the hometown of the two main characters in the movie, where they would be honored in a welcome home parade. At the start of this scene, a date in 2007 flashes across the screen. In 2007, our Troops were wearing ACU (Army Combat Uniform) which is now the only authorized uniform in the Army. One, the platoon leader, SSG Brandon King and his childhood friend SGT Steve Shriver. These two, the main characters in the movie, grew up together, enlisted together and were both looking forward to out-processing and getting out of the Army together. You see their commander speaking with the men on the bus, giving them instructions on how he expects them to conduct themselves. The typical pre-block leave briefings, stay out of trouble, watch your drinking, don’t beat your spouse, your kids and don’t kick your dog. Those in the military, know the routine well.

I found this to be, where the movie really began becoming unrealistic. The portrayal of the entire military unit going to the hometown of only two of it’s members, quite frankly doesn’t happen. While active duty Soldiers return to their home base and do often attend welcome home parades, it’s most generally not going to happen someplace where there’s not even a military base and it’s highly unlikely that the entire unit will go, even if such a parade was held. (After the Troops go on block leave, shortly after returning, they tend to go back to their own hometowns, spend time with their family and friends and possibly attend such parades in their hometowns). To give you some perspective, Brazos, Texas is 130 miles North of Fort Hood, 161 miles South of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 239 miles North and East of Fort Sam Houston, Tx and 559 miles North and East of Fort Bliss, Tx.

None the less, the entire platoon went back to Brazos, Texas and attend the parade. As they rode down the city street to the cheers of the citizen of Brazos, they were smiling and enjoying the welcome home. After the conclusion of the parade, Brandon meets a Senator, who tells him that if he needs anything at all, he’s welcome to call him at his office in Washington D.C., and if he ever makes it to Washington, to stop by his office, and he’ll show him around the capitol. Things change drastically after that. The next scenes takes you into the local bar, where the Soldiers are drinking (a considerable amount) and enjoying themselves and the company of their family and friends, who all somehow ended up in Brazos for the welcome home celebration as well. Suddenly, another patron of the bar walks up to a lady with the group and asks her to dance and she told him that she didn’t dance. The man asks her again and her husband, one of the Soldiers told him that his wife told him that she didn’t want to dance. The man apologizes and backs away. As he walks off, the Soldiers suddenly runs towards him and jumps him and begins fighting with him. His fellow Soldiers jump in, break up the fight and shortly afterwards, they leave the bar, all of them extremely intoxicated. This is where they begin showing almost all the Soldiers in the unit, start having flashbacks to the ambush and their reactions. I hate to tell the screen writers and directors, but even after an extremely horrendous battle, not every Soldier in the unit is going to walk away with PTSD and especially not the extreme symptoms that they portrayed. It just doesn’t happen that way and most generally, extreme PTSD symptoms occur over a much longer period of time than portrayed in the movie. (Mental Health experts say extreme PTSD symptoms will generally begin surfacing between 3-6 months after the traumatic event occurs, not less than a month afterwards). While the PTSD symptoms were fairly accurate portrayals of extreme cases of PTSD, the inaccuracy comes in the timing of the symptoms, as well as the fact that virtually all of the Soldiers were portrayed as suffering from these symptoms. That would be extremely rare for that many in the same unit to suffer PTSD to that extreme.

Everyone leaves the bar and goes their seperate ways. Suddenly King receives a phone call from Steve’s fiancee, asking for help. When he arrives at their house, his friend is in the middle of the front yard in his underwear, digging a trench and armed with a loaded pistol. He goes inside with his friends’ fiancee and leaves him in the yard, with his shovel and his pistol. (I don’t see that happening) There he finds out that his friend has continued drinking and has hit his fiancee. As they walk back outside, his friend has finished digging his trench, layed down in it with the pistol in his hand. Not once did he remove the pistol from his friend’s hand or attempt to assist him in any way. Instead, he makes the excuse to the fiancee that he’s just a “really drunk robo-soldier.”

Scenes like this continue, portraying each of the Soldiers suffering from severe symptoms of PTSD. Keep in mind, this is still only a few days after they returned home from Iraq and only about a month after the ambush in Iraq that opened up the movie.

Now we cut to Brandon going through the process of out-processing in order to get out of the Army and begin life as a civilian. You see Brandon and Steve walking across the base, dressed in BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform), yet around them, you see some Soldiers wearing the ACU’s and some wearing the DCUs. As I stated earlier, not only is that unrealtic but it’s inaccurate. Soldiers are no longer authorized to wear DCUs or BDUs and would face corrective action for doing so, on any military installation. At one of the last places he goes during the out-processing proceedure, he’s told that he’s not getting out, but instead is to report to a unit and return to Iraq. Marty and I both immediately said “Bull Shit!” Stop-loss doesn’t happen that way. Soldier’s aren’t stop-lossed on an indiviual basis, but instead as an entire unit. Brandon storms into the office of the commander, a Colonel to confront him about the stop-loss and to plead his case, saying “Just last month, we were being ambushed in Iraq and I’m not going back.” That’s really where bells and whistles start screaming. That’s just not realistic. A Soldier isn’t going to be stop-lossed and immediately sent back to Iraq, less than a month after returning from the battlefield. While it’s true, that sometimes, if a Soldier transfers to another unit, that is gearing up for deployment, they may be redeployed before the normal year downtime, it’s not the norm. As those of us who’ve have knowledge of the military know, the standard is to allow returning Soldiers at least a year dwell time at home, prior to redeployment.

The commander then turns to a Lt who is standing in the room and asked him if he heard Brandon refuse a direct order. The Lt. says that he did. The commander then orders the Lt and another Soldier to accompany Brandon to the disciplinary barracks for confinement, as he considers him a “fligh risk.” (Currently, most Army installations don’t operate their own disciplinary barracks to confine Soldiers. Instead if a Soldier has to be confined, they are confined in the jails operated by local law enforcement agencies). No MP’s were called, which in itself is unusual. As the Lt. and the other Soldier escourted him to the disciplinary barracks, Brandon suddenly attacks them and escapes. He’s officially AWOL.

When a Soldier goes AWOL from the Army, there is no manhunt, there is no APB, no civilian law enforcement agencies are called to assist in searching for them. That wasn’t the case in this movie. Brandon takes Steve’s jeep and leaves the post and after a short while calls Steve on his cell phone. Steve tells him that the commander has issued a APB for him and that he’s in serious trouble. Steve then drives to his parents ranch, hiding Steve’s jeep of course. As he’s walking to the house, he sees the local sheriff drive up. Brandon goes in the back door of the house and hears the Sheriff tell his parents that if they see him, the military has issued an APB for him and asks them to have Brandon turn himself in. After the sheriff leaves, Brandon lets his parents know he’s there and they discuss him leaving for Mexico, with his mother offering to take him, herself. He tells his parents that he’s not going to Mexico, but instead to Washington D.C. to see the senator. When his mom offers to take him there, he tells her no, saying that the military and the law enforcement authorities will be watching them. It’s then that Steve’s fiancee offers to take him to Washington D.C.

As they make their way from Texas to Washington D.C., they detour to Nashville, where visit the family of one of the Soldiers from Brandon’s unit that was killed in the ambush. While Brandon is talking to the parents of his fellow Soldier, Steve’s fiancee is talking with the fallen Soldier’s brother, who informs her about an underground network of AWOL Soldiers making their way to Canada. After leaving there, they meet up with a Soldier in this underground network, on the run, with his family, including an ill child, who provides him with a phone number to an attorney in New York City, who assists AWOL Soldiers in obtaining a new identity and helps them to get across the border into Canada. As they go back to their vehicle, they encounter 4 street thugs who had broken into their car. Brandon singlehandedly takes them on, even though one is armed with a pistol and has them on their knees, calling them hadji and threatening to send them to meet Allah. His female companion manages to convince him to hand her the gun and they eventually leave the street thugs in the alley, as they get into the car and get back on the road.

Their next stop is to a military hospital, presumably Walter Reed, where they visit one of Brandon’s Soldiers who was burned, blinded and lost 3 limbs in the ambush. Afterwards, Brandon decides to call the attorney in New York, instead of visiting the Senator, as he initially planned. Unbeknownst to Brandon, his female companion decided to call her fiancee after three days and Brandon is taken by surprise when he shows up at their motel door, dressed in his Class A uniform, with plans to take Brandon back to Texas. He explains to Brandon that the Colonel has agreed to drop any charges against him if he comes back. It’s then that Steve also tells his fiancee that he decided to reenlist and go to sniper school. She gets mad and tells him to leave and she and Brandon decide to once again take off for New York. They call the attorney, who tells Brandon that he’ll help him for $1,000. Not having that kind of money, they buy a motorcycle and sell the girls car, getting the required $1,000 that they needed. After meeting with the attorney and getting his new “identity papers,” Brandon calls home to speak with his parents. It’s then that he finds out, his fellow Soldier (remember the guy who started the bar fight) has shot and killed himself at his parents ranch back in Brazos.

The scene now moves back to Brazos, where the funeral for their fellow Soldier is underway. Steve and the other Soldiers in the unit are the honor guard and Steve presents the flag to the tearful widow. As everyone leaves, Steve remains behind and Brandon suddenly comes out from behind a tree. Steve and Brandon get into a fist fight in the middle of the cemetery.

Next we see Brandon and his parents, along with Steve’s fianacee driving towards Mexico. As they approach the border, they stop the car and Brandon gets out. He tells his parents that if he crosses the border then only a shell of himself will be living in Mexico, a fugitive. Brandon gets back in the car and they drive off.

The next thing you know, Brandon, Steve and the rest of their platoon are back on the bus, preparing to deploy. You see Steve sitting next to the window, seemingly deep in thought, and Brandon walking through the bus, visiting with various Soldiers as he makes his way to the seat beside Steve. Ironically enough, after jumping the two Soldiers escourting him to detention, escaping and going AWOL, Brandon didn’t lose any rank and remained a SSG.

For someone, having no knowledge of the military, they might find this movie convincing and realistic. For those of us, with even the most remedial knowledge of the military, it’s obvious that this is Hollywood’s latest attempt to make the military look bad and to glorify desertion.

This movie is not only degrading to our Troops, but portrays them as drunken and mentally-ill cowboys, who are’t team players, but as deserters as well. That is by far NOT the norm, though they would like you to believe that. The portrayal of PTSD issues was overall unrealistic. The portrayal of the stop-loss process is unrealistic and the glorification of a Soldier deserting and being able to maintain his rank as an NCO was laughable. This is definitely not a movie that I would recommend seeing.

OPSEC Violations or Censorship??

March 30, 2008

Last year, we commented on the new Army regulations about milblogging, where Soldier/Bloggers were instructed to register their blogs with their chain of command and in order to maintain OPSEC, to clear all postings with their chain of command in order to ensure that they weren’t violating policy. This new regulation, Army Regulation 530-1, was a matter of much debate in the bloggosphere and many milbloggers felt that it would “tie their hands” so to speak, in what they could or could not blog about. Here at ASM, we weren’t too worried about that, as we took pains to ensure, that anything we blogged about, especially when it came to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, had already been released publically by the military.

Well, apparently, one of our fellow Milbloggers, CJ from got caught up in this new policy. On Friday, CJ posted this article about a letter he received from the Pentagon’s OPSEC Coordinating Authority on Nontraditional Media, ordering him to cease and desist operating his milblog, due to complaints that they had received from an unnamed source. To make matters worse, CJ and his co-author Cpl M were ordered to refrain from communication with each other, until the investigation was complete.

CJ has since, received a Memorandum For Record detailing the complaint against A Soldier’s Perspective. CJ has vowed that he won’t quit blogging without a fight, and as we all know, he knows that he, or any of the authors at A Soldier’s Perspective, have violated Army Regulation 530-1, or said or done anything that would in any way, put OPSEC at risk. I know for a fact that they all take great pains to ensure that nothing inappropriate is released on their blog.

I’m asking our readers, to show CJ some support. If you visit A Soldier’s Perspective, take some time to read the articles there. CJ’s posts are always informative, interesting and provide an accurate view of the military. Don’t hesitate to leave comments and let him know that you support what he’s doing.

Bad Voodoo’s War

March 30, 2008

They’re a group of National Guard Infantrymen from California and many of them are well-known milbloggers. In June of 2007, these men, who call themselves the “Bad Voodoo Platoon” deployed to Iraq. Their mission was to provide convoy security - a mission quite different from what they done in the past - taking the fight to the bad guys. Prio to their departure for Iraq, the director for FRONTLINE and ITVS, Deborah Scranton decided to create a “virtual embed” with the members of Bad Voodoo Platoon, by supplying them with video cameras, so that they were able to record what they experienced in Iraq and tell their story first-hand. On April 1st, FRONTLINE will air the results of this “virtual embed” when they air Bad Voodoo’s War.

Many of our readers are very familiar with some of the members of Bad Voodoo Platoon. It’s members include Sgt. J.P. Borda of, SFC Toby Nunn and as well as other members of the Bad Voodoo Platoon, who are consumate milbloggers. For those familiar with J.P. from several years ago, he operated a Milblog during his last deployment in Afghanistan called the National Guard Experience. Many of us took part in the Beef Jerky Wars that got started after J.P. made his infamous post outlining the Golden Rules of Care Packages.

This film is sure to be an intimate and frank look at the reality of what our Troops encounter each day in Iraq, as they dodge IEDs and snipers, deal with the Rules of Engagement, encounter the political side of their jobs when dealing with Iraqi security forces; all the while, operating on less sleep than those of us at home and dealing with their own humanity, as they face their fears. I’m looking forward to the film and encourage all of our readers to watch it as well.

FRONTLINE presents
Tuesday, April 1, 2008, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

“Here we are. It’s about 2:30 in the morning on the 2nd of October. We have been on the road for a while. … Wasn’t too excited to get this change of mission. The stretch of road between Anaconda and Speicher, known as IED Alley, it’s probably one of the worst stretches of road in theater.”
-Sfc. Toby Nunn, during his second Iraq deployment, to his personal mini-DV camera

FRONTLINE goes to war in Iraq with a band of California-based National Guard soldiers who call themselves the “Bad Voodoo Platoon” to tell their very personal story in Bad Voodoo’s War, airing Tuesday, April 1, 2008, at 9 P.M. ET (check local listings). To record their war, from private reflections to real-time footage of improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on the ground, director Deborah Scranton (The War Tapes) creates a “virtual embed,” supplying cameras to the soldiers of the Bad Voodoo Platoon and working with them to shape an intimate portrait that reveals the hard grind of their war. Says Scranton: “What compels me is telling a story from the inside out, to crawl inside their world with them to see what it looks like, feels like and smells like. It’s really important to give soldiers the chance to press their own record button on this war.”

Through their daily experiences, acting platoon leader Sgt. 1st Class Toby Nunn, originally from British Columbia and the father of three, and Spc. Jason Shaw, a 23-year-old from Texas, give us a firsthand look at the impact of the U.S. military’s policy of multiple deployments to Iraq and how the Army’s role has changed on the ground.

Spc. Shaw is on his third deployment to Iraq. After the invasion in 2003, he was awarded the Silver Star for valor during the battle for the Baghdad airport. Shaw volunteered for his third tour in Iraq, but is haunted by the loss of so many comrades during his earlier deployments. “I’ve had six of my good friends die,” he explains. “When I lost all of my buddies, I just kind of lost hope. I used to be religious. My last deployment totally made me think otherwise. You know, you pray all the time to keep everybody safe, and then something happens.”

Sfc. Nunn, responsible for the safety of the 30 men in his platoon, worries endlessly about their welfare. “I’m worried about my guys,” he confides to the camera one night. “Right now I’m out here talking to you while they’re inside sleeping because I can’t sleep. Can’t rest, you know.”

Many of his men, highly trained veteran combat infantrymen, are deeply frustrated by their primary mission: providing security for convoys transporting supplies throughout Iraq to fuel President Bush’s surge. “A lot of our guys don’t like this mission,” says Nunn. “We’re used to kicking in doors, taking the fight to the enemy. Now you’re driving on the road for hours and hours and hours and days, waiting to get blown up and not allowed to fight back.”

The platoon is also struggling with a new relationship with the Iraqi security forces, whom the Americans depend on for their own safety. Nunn reflects: “I told myself last time I wanted to train the Iraqis the best I possibly could, because it was my ticket home. … But here I am, three years later, saying, ‘Will the Iraqi security forces enforce anything out there?’ Every time I talk to these guys, you know, my trust meter isn’t reading in the green all the time.” This constant second-guessing, combined with the relentless monotony of the desert highway, the fear of deadly IEDs and the memories of lost friends, keep the soldiers in an unending state of anxiety. This is Bad Voodoo’s war.

Bad Voodoo’s War is a Clover & A Bee Films production for FRONTLINE and Independent Television Service (ITVS). The writer, producer and director is Deborah Scranton. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers and described for people who are blind or visually impaired by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation. The executive producer for ITVS is Sally Jo Fifer. The FRONTLINE executive producer for special projects is Michael Sullivan. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.

Please visit the FRONTLINE: Bad Voodoo’s War site, to view additional footage, as well as check for the time that it will be playing in your area.

Working For The Children Of Iraq

March 29, 2008

When I first read this story, I thought to myself, how great it is to live in a country, with men and women like this gentleman. How great it is that we have people with this type of character, pride, conviction and grace, serving in our country’s Armed Forces. This young man exemplifies what it means to serve with courage, honor, dignity, respect and pride.

He graduated from West Point in 1989 and served in the Army as a Ranger, until 1993, when he left the Army and entered the Individual Ready Reserve. He never dreamedthat he would serve in Iraq. In October 2005, when he was 38, Tom Deierlein was working as the chief operating officer for Dynamic Logic, a market research company. One day, out of the blue, he received a telegram, ordering him to report for active duty and prepare to deploy to Iraq. When he first received the telegram, he thought there had been a mistake and called the Army.

“I called them up and said, ‘Man, I think you got the wrong guy,’” Deierlein said. “I read them my Social Security Number. They were like, ‘No,that’s you,’ and I’m like, ‘No I don’t think so.’”

However, he quickly resigned himself to the fact that he’d been activated and called back to active duty. He then began quickly making last minute arrangements. A few days before he was scheduled to show up for duty, an Army official called him to say that he didn’t have to report afterall. Deierlein continued to follow through with his initial orders.

“Something told me not to fight this, but rather to embrace it and go ahead and serve my country with honor, dignity and pride,” Deierlein wrote to his family and friends in an email.

Deierlein reported for active duty and soon found himself in Iraq, assigned to the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion in Sadr City. The job of his unit was to find ways to rebuild schools and hospitals and help businesses to reopen, help local governments and utilities back into action. One thing he immediately noticed, as that the Iraqi people neeed supplies. While the military was doing what they could, they couldn’t get the supplies to the people fast enough. That’s when Tom asked his family and friends to help out.

“I was trying to shortcut the Army bureaucracy of getting basic humanitarian aid supplies,” Deierlein said.

The heart of the American people showed their true colors, once he asked for help. Once he put the word out to family and friends, people began responding by sending large quantities of supplies, including vitamins, school supplies and clothing.

“When we gave out vitamins, that’s when the women showed up,” he said. “We wouldn’t look them in the eye and they wouldn’t look us in the eye. But they risked contact with us because their children were so thin and small.”

Though the children didn’t repond as excitedly as their parents did, when it came to vitamins and school supplies, they did respond to the toys that Deierlein handed out to them as well. One toy that they asked for over and over again was soccer balls.

Unbeknownst to him, things were getting ready to change drastically for Tom Deierlein. In September 2006, they’d been receiving reports of garbage collectors being shot in Adhamiya. On September 9th, Deierlein went ut with a patrol to check out the situation. That’s when a sniper shot him in the left hip. Everyone on the patrol immediately jumped to action, popping smoke to obscure the area. He was exmined by a medic and then tranported to a medical aid station and eventually evacuated by a helicopter.

The bullet had shattered his pelvis and sacrum, damaging nerves along it’s path. At the time, he was unable to walk. He was eventually evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he began his recover, finally completing it at the James A Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Florida. In June 2007, his recovery complete, he returned to work, though he was still attending physical therapy.

“In the beginning, I was very obsessed with them finding the guy and killing him, but does it really matter?” Deierlein said. “The reality is that we just have to get things fixed over there.”

While Tom was hospitalized, several friends of his had the idea to continue where Tom left off - helping the Iraqi people. They knew how passionate Tom was about providing the help to the Iraqi people, that was so sorely needed. So they began the TD Foundation.

This foundation was started after Tom Deierlein, a West Point graduate was activated in late 2005 to active duty military service after 12 years in the inactive reserves. While deployed as a Civil Affairs Officer focused on reconstruction, he reviewed the terrible conditions in Sadr City a slum of 2.3 million people in East Baghdad Iraq. The goal was to help children affected in war torn East Baghdad with basic life needs from shoes and clothes to school supplies and vitamins. After Tom was seriously shot in September of 2006, Sean Finnegan, Bill Flately, and Paul Bremer, advertising executives took the lead and started the Foundation with a fund raising kick off event at the Forbes Gallery in NYC in November 2006. Now that Tom is recovered and back in New York, the important works continues and grows. These innocent children are in desperate need of life’s most basic necessities.

That foundation, today has grown and is accomplishing many great things to help the Iraqi people, especially the children. Tom is now recouperated and runs the TD Foundation. Funds are raised to help arrange for medical treatment and the purchase of items such as clothing, food, water, school supplies and vitamins, as well as toys.

This year alone, the foundation sponsored 5 children from the country of Jordan, to come to the US for heart surgery. The foundation also sent 18 boxes of soccer balls, uniforms and equipment to Iraqi children. All participants in the organization are volunteers. The foundation partners with organizations and individuals in other countries to distribute the goods ad services to the people who need them the most. The first fundraiser conducted by the foundation, held in November 2006, raised $23,000. In May 2007, a fundraiser raised $100,000. All to help make the lives of those less fortunate, than we in the United States, a little bit better.

To learn more about the TD Foundation, the work they do and perhaps to participate, please visit their website.

Source: April 2008 Issue, VFW Magazine

Earning His Stripes

March 28, 2008

Recently, in a demonstration, dangerous “mock” terrorists infiltrated a heavily guarded Central Texas base. But one Soldier, was able to save the day and get the job done. That Soldier, SSG Gaven Cox, recently took a break from his fight with leukemia, to “Soldier up” with his 1st Cavalry Division teammates, to participate in the top-secret search and destroy mission. Through Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, Gaven was able to join Troop C, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, to defeat the bad guys.

Alongside his fellow comrades with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, he saddled up with the division’s horse detachment, flew a virtual Apache helicopter combat flight over the Iraqi capital, and maneuvered on a Black Hawk – all before lunch time. Gaven and his personal flight crew with Company C, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, took flight in search of the make-believed insurgents, which was the first half of his mission.

“The pilot actually did some pretty hard banks,” Sgt. David Raines, a cavalry scout, said, who rode with the soon to be 6-year-old. “I’ve done about 20 different rides in combat and none of them were ever like that.”

Gaven’s mom, Melissa Heminger said that Gaven was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2007. She said that since he was three years old, he’s always been a Soldier, but has proven it even more in the past few months, since his diagnosis.

“I look at him everyday and he’s fighting it,” Melissa said. “I know that there are days it’s hard for him to just walk to the bathroom, but he just keeps going strong and keeps smiling. The things that children can overcome are amazing.”

Gaven’s courageous fight with leukemia and his warrior spirit definitely impressed his fellow 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers as well. His determination, courage and guts are what being a Soldier is all about. He proved that not once, but many times over, during his time at Fort Hood.

“Gaven’s courageous story pretty much mirrors what were fighting for,” 1st Lt. Christopher Hall, the officer in charge the Make-A-Wish project, said. “We go through a lot, but Gaven also has been through a lot. It shows what we’re doing overseas, what we do everyday is worth while when you see the kind of strength in a kid like that - five years old and fighting as hard as we are.”

After thwarting the enemy and riding in the Apache, Gaven’s day wasn’t quite complete. Later in the afternoon, he spent time at the Engagement Skills Trainer, where he was able to use a variety of military weapons to take out an antimated enemy. According to his fellow Soldiers, he got 6 confirmed kills. Gaven said that his favorite part of the day was being able to ride in a Humvee.

Once his mission was complete, Gaven proudly stood to receive his promotion to SSG and his official Cav Stetson. His stripes and stetson, he more than earned, as a handful of his fellow Soldiers stood at attention. You can see, from the look on his face in the photo that he was excited about his accomplishment, one that only took him about a week.

Fort Hood Sentinel

Co-Founder Of Vets For Freedom Announces Bid For Congress

March 27, 2008

We’ve often said that what the country needs in Congress, is Veterans who understand, from first hand experience, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What the country needs is men and women who have served and who will do what is needed to ensure our Troops are taken care of, both at home and on the battlefield. Currently, there are several Veterans serving in Congress, but we can always use more. We need men and women who can advocate for the Troops, from the standpoint of the Troops, and don’t have an agenda tied to some special interest group, who wants to line their pockets. Hopefully, with te information I just recently received, that will in fact become a reality.

New York native and Iraq War Hero, retired Army SSG David Vellavia announced that he will run for Congress, in New York’s 26th Congressional District, following the retirement of Republican Representative Thomas M. Reynolds. Bellavia will suspend his participation in the Vets for Freedom’s National Heroes Tour.

David Bellavia is the recipient of both the Silver and Bronze Stars, and the Conspicuous Service Cross, New York State ’s highest award for combat valor. He has also been nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor, as well as the Distinguished Service Cross, for actions he took in a hand to hand battle in Fallujah in November 2004. As most of you know, Bellavia is also the author of House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, which is the story of his experiences in Iraq.

“The National Heroes Tour has been enormously rewarding,” Mr. Bellavia said, “but it is necessary to take a sabbatical from it now to spend time with Republican Party officials and community leaders here at home. I am hopeful that my next service to the country will be as a congressman from the State of New York. Working towards that end will take every ounce of my strength, energy and focus during the next seven months.”

It was my honor to be able to meet David Bellavia, just last week on the Vets For Freedom National Heroes Tour, made a stop at Fort Hood, Texas. I was impressed by his passion to advocate for what the Troops need, his passion about allowing our Troops to finish their jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan and his willingness to take the time to visit with each and every person who asked him to sign their copy of his book. In my mind, what better person for this job, then a man who’s been there, done that and knows full well what our Troops need.

Besides his involvement with Vets For Freedom, David has accomplished other great things. In Batavia, NY, where David lives with his wife and two sons, he has founded a local Veteran’s Coordination Center that focuses on the early treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other veteran-related issues and outreach programs. He’s passionate about the work he does and that passion is just what Congress needs at this juncture.

When asked if he was concerned about his political inexperience, David didn’t seem too concerned. He’s faced much tougher situations, life and death situations in the past. He’s more than proved the type of person he is.

“When you literally realize that your life depends on character and your life depends on consistency and motivating you find out that.” says Bellavia “You know what politicians don’t often times make the best leaders. Leaders are born, leaders are bred and I was baptized by fire and I think that I’m doing this because I believe I’m being called to serve.”

I think that David will make a great Congressman. I’ll be watching that race closely and letting our readers know, as things develop. Good Luck David and know that we’re behind you 100 %!
Go to the first link below to see a video of David’s announcement.



CQ Politics

Vets For Freedom

Texas Radio Hosts Wrap Up “Iraq Deployment”

March 26, 2008

They’re the hosts of the Morning Show on Waco 100, a popular country music radio station in Waco, which is near Fort Hood. Because Troops with 4th Infantry Division and 3rd ACR can no longer listen to the radio station from where they’re deployed, the hosts of the Morning Show, Zack Owen and Jim Cody decided to “deploy” to Iraq and broadcast their program live from the media operations center at Camp Liberty from March 10th through March 21st.

Neither Cody or Owen have ever served in the military, but they wanted to do something to show their support and patriotism. They felt that by taking their radio show to Camp Liberty, they were able to serve their country and allow their fans, deployed from Fort Hood, the opportunity to hear their show once again.

“We’ve talked for years about wanting to come over here,” Cody said. “We knew by virtue of our job, broadcasting, we could come over and be a venue for Soldiers to get in a little piece of home. We said on the air a few times that if anyone knew how to get the ball rolling, we’d appreciate their help.”

Those comments on air apparently helped. Towards the end of November, Zack and Jim were attending a fundraiser in central Texas and were introduced to Delena Kanouse, who is the chief of community relations for III Corps. III Corps is the headquarters unit in charge at Fort Hood. With Kanouse’s help, they were able to begin the process and eventually “deploy.” They had three months to prepare for their trip. Kanouse assisted them in completing the required paperwork and got them scheduled to deploy with Troops from 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team.

“We wanted to get the whole feel of the thing,” Owen said, “so we went through the whole (soldier readiness program) process and everything.”

Zack and Jim were more than happy to don ACU’s and obtain the standard pre-deployment shots. They boarded the same flight as the Soldiers from 1st BCT. Most generally, when members of the media visit deployed Troops, they stick to civilian attire and fly on commercial flights. Zack and Jim received the same warm send-off that the Troops get, as they boarded the flight which departed from Robert Gray Army Airfield at Fort Hood. According to Owen, they were treated as if they were a part of the 4th Infantry Division family. Army Major David Olsen, 1st BCT public affairs officer, kept them under his wing. in Kuwait and once they arrived in Iraq.

“Olson said there wasn’t much going on in Kuwait, but to two guys who have never done this before, it seemed a little scary to have guys with guns all around you on the bus you’re riding,” joked Owen.

“Honestly, I have full faith and confidence in the ability of these military men and women to keep me safe from harm,” added Cody. “I expected to see more of the bombed-out rubble, but you can really see the progress of the past five years. A lot has been rebuilt,” Cody said. “People are out shopping, kids are playing. It seems like business as usual out in the streets.”

Though both Zack and Jim enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience, they remained focused on their primary mission … telling the stories of the Soldiers there. During their time at Camp Liberty, they interviewed almost 200 servicemembers within Multinational Division Baghdad. Each one of those Soldiers had a story to tell and they were able to send their love, over the airwaves to their loved ones back home in Central Texas.

“I think there are lots of ways people can demonstrate their commitment to supporting what our Soldiers are doing,” said Army Brig. General Mike Milano, deputy commanding general in charge of support for the 4th Infantry Division, “but there is no more sincere way anyone else can do it than what these two gentlemen are doing.”

“They are communicating for us the hardships our Soldiers face daily - and what better way to do that than to come see for themselves?” Army Command Sgt. Major John Gioia said. “You can tell they truly care for, and support, our Soldiers, and what more can you truly ask for? I truly appreciate the smiles they have brought to the faces of our Soldiers and their families.”

By sometime this week, I’m sure that Zack and Jim will be back on the Morning Show broadcasting from Waco once again. I’m sure the trip to Camp Liberty was a memorable one, not only for them, but for the Soldiers whose lives they touched while they were “deployed.” It’s just too bad that others in the media, don’t follow the example set by Zack and Jim from Waco 100. Great Job, Zack and Jim!


Waco 100 Iraq Trip Summary

Negative Media Reports Linked To Increased Insurgent Attacks

March 25, 2008

We, as well as other milblogs have often discussed how the negative bias of the media in regards to the war in Iraq, causes many problems for our military. It causes anger and resentment among citizens, who often have no real clue what’s going on in Iraq. It spawns groups such as Code Pink and A.N.S.W.E.R. and their hate-filled protests. We’ve often said as well, that the negative reports in the media, encourages the insurgency in Iraq to continue doing what their doing and how the insurgents will manipulate the members of the media to gain more attention. When we’ve said those things, the trolls have come out in full force, ranting and screaming that we don’t know what we’re talking about. Perhaps this information, will provide them with the credibility, that they claim we don’t have.

According to researchers at Harvard University, publically voiced doubts about the US occupation in Iraq, have a measurable “emboldenment effect” on insurgents in that country. The researchers say that when there are periods of intense media coverage in the US criticizing the war, or the media releasing information about public opinion polls on the conflict, have been followed by a small but measureable increase in the number of attacks on both civilians and the US military forces in Iraq. The study was conducted by Radha Iyengar, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in health policy research at Harvard and by Jonathan Monten of the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

According to their findings, the increase in attacks is even more pronounced in the areas of Iraq who have better access to the international news media. Their findings were released in a report entitled, “Is There an Emboldenment Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq.” The researchers studied data about insurgent attacks and US media coverage up to November. They tracked what they called “anti-resolve statements” by US politicians and reports in the media on American public opinion about the war.

“We find that in periods immediately after a spike in anti-resolve statements, the levels of insrugent attacks increases,” says the study, that was published earlier this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The Iraqi provinces that were comparable in social and economic terms, attacks increased between 7% and 10% after, what the researchers called “high mention weeks,” such as the two weeks prior to the November 2006 election. According to Erica Chenoweth, a postdoctoral research fellow, who studies terrorism and insurgency at the Belfer Center and is a specialist in the statistical analysis of violent events, after reading the study, the data and findings were very good.

“They have picked up on some important and interesting data,” she said. “I would say the findings are preliminary, and they need to be made more robust.”

Chenoweth said that the study could be improved if the authors include what she called pro-resolve statements” as well and compare the data between the two. She said that this would help to control for the possibility that insurgent violence was provoked by anger over declarations of US intent to stay in Iraq, as well as fueled by the encouragement the feel from statements that might suggest the US was leaving Iraq. The authors have submitted their findings to the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chenoweth feels that the study will be accepted.

“It’s good enough to pass peer review,” she said.

Other findings of the study were that attacks increased more in parts of Iraq, such as Anbar province, where the citizens there have greater access to international news media. The researchers concluded that the increases in attacks are a necessary cost of the way a democratic society such as the United States fights wars.

It should be interesting to see how the media reacts to this study. I’ve thought all along that the media didn’t belong on the front lines, embedded with our Troops. Not only does that cause operational problems, when they have to ensure the safety of the embedded reporter, but they’re also have the disadvantage of their operations being broadcast to the insurgents and thus forewarning them of our Troops movements. Somehow, I doubt that this will change the way the media reports about the war in Iraq one bit.

The Washington Times

Tackling Basic Training Again

March 24, 2008

The determination and drive that our Wounded Warriors have, has always amazed me. They’re faced with injuries, that would cause many of us to give up on our selves. They handle their disabilities with the style and grace of the warriors they are. For many, it’s not a matter of being disabled at all. They prove over and over again, that regardless of what life has dealt them, they will continue to fight to achieve whatever goal they set their sights on. Melissa Stockwell is just another example of the Warrior Spirit that our Wounded Warriors exemplify.

In May 2002, Melissa Stockwell graduated from the University of Colorado and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army. Being in the Army had always been a dream of hers. While other kids had dreams of becoming nurses, doctors, professional athletes or movie stars, Melissa covered her room with an American flag on her wall and American flags covering the quilt on her bed. Her dreams were of donning camouflage and being a Soldier.

After being commissioned, she married a fellow Soldier, Dick Stockwell and they were soon both on their way to Iraq. She was sent to the Baghdad suburb of Taji and was to lead supply convoys between various US military installations in Iraq. She called her parents on April 12, 2004 and told her father that the next few weeks would be a welcome change for her. She would be transporting supplies to and from the Green Zone.

The next morning, she and four fellow Soldiers piled into their Humvee to make a test run to the Green Zone. She brought along her camera in hopes of getting photos along the route, which was the most senic part of the city. As they rode through the city streets, Melissa swung her left leg outside the vehicle in order to provide herself more stability, in the event that she had to use her rifle. About 10 minutes into the drive, she remembers hearing a deafening explosion and someone screaming, “IED! IED!” She remembers looking down and seeing blood all over her pants.

A medic who was following in the vehicle behind hers, cut the seat belt to pull her out of the vehicle and tied a tourniquet around her left leg, just above her knee. She remembers trying to wiggle her toes. She was rushed to a US hospital and into the operating room. When she woke up, her husband was sitting beside her bed. It was then that he told her, that she’d lost her leg.

During her recouperation at Walter Reed, John Register was visiting the hospital’s physical therapy center. Register, himself is an amputee and a US Olympic Committee official, encountered Melissa and spoke with her about the opportunities within the Paralympics and the Paralympic Games that would be held this summer, immediately following the Olympic Games in Bejing.

“As soon as I heard about it, I knew I was going to do it,” Stockwell said.

Stockwell is joining more than a dozen disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hoping to qualify for the US Paralympic squad. The Paralympics was founded after World War II as part of a rehabilitation program for injured Veterans. In time, it came to be populated predominately by athletes who were born with disabilities or whom had been disabled the majority of their lives. Since the wars in Iraq and Afgahnistan have began, there has been a resurgence in disabled veterans participating.

“It’s really the Paralympic movement going back to its roots,” said Register, who has visited Walter Reed more than a dozen times since the beginning of the Iraq war. “Some of these individuals, they’re going to make the team.”

USOC Paralympic Chief Charlie Huebner, estimates that between 4 and 10 disabled veterans, almost all who were introduced to the concept during one of Register’s visits to military hospitals, will qualify for the 240 person US Paralympic team this summer. Huebner feels that war veterans will eventually make up 10-15 % of the team, but feels that probably won’t be until the 2012 Summer Games in London.

For Melissa Stockwell, it’s back to “basic training” in the swimming pool at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Melissa swam laps as part of her rehabilitation at Walter Reed, and after meeting John Register, found that her Purple Heart and Bronze Star aren’t the only medals that she claims serving her country. Melissa Stockwell, knew she had a tough road ahead of her, training to make the US Paralympic Team, but it’s something that she’s determined to do. She remembers how long it took her to get used to the changes in her body, going through the corridors at Walter Reed in first her wheelchair, then on crutches and finally with her new prosthetic leg. She’s now back, training furiously in a sport, that many of the top athletes, have competed in for many years. In January, she packed her bags and moved to Colorado Springs to prepare for the US Paralympic Swimming Trails that are slated to be held April 3-5 in Minneapolis. She left behind her husband, who’s busy himself attending medical school in Chicago. She plans to compete in the 50 meter, 100 meter and 400 meter freestyle as well as in the 100 meter butterfly.

“When I found out I had a second change to go over and represent my country, I had to take it,” she said. “I went to Iraq in an Army uniform. I would be great to go back in a USA uniform.”

I’ll be watching the results of the Paralympic Trails with great interest and cheering on, not only Melissa, but the other Wounded Warriors who will once again, give it their all, with the hopes of making the USA Paralympic Team. It would be great to see the entire team made up of Wounded Warriors. We should all be proud of these brave warriors and the determination and guts that they display in every facet of their lives.

Washington Post

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