He Fought To Deploy

May 20, 2008

Often when we turn on our televisions, we see stories in the media about Soldiers who’ve refused to deploy with their fellow Soldiers to Iraq, saying that they refuse to fight in, what they term is an “illegal war.” We’re constantly reminded that the media is very much against the policies of the current administration and anything that they do. We’re constantly hearing about groups like IVAW and others who “claim” that our Troops are constantly committing horrible acts against the people in Iraq. Yet, we never see in the media, stories about our Troops who want to go to Iraq, because they know the good that’s being accomplished there. The Troops, who wouldn’t have to go, due to medical reasons or situations in their families, yet they make the choice to go, and they serve honorably.

I’m constantly amazed at the courage, dedication and sense of duty that so many of our Troops have. Yet the media never tells us about them. Instead, they chose to focus on the very small percentage of screw ups and do their best to make it look like all of our Troops are that way. They never tell us about the men and women who feel that it’s their duty and obligation to deploy … Soldiers like Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christian Smith.

CWO3 Smith is a maintenance technician, with Troop R, 4th Squadron, 3rd ACR, who could have stayed home when his unit received orders for Iraq. But that’s not what he wanted to do and he fought long and hard to make sure that he’d be able to deploy with his fellow Soldiers.

CWO3 Smith’s story started in 2003 when he was deployed to Iraq with a military police brigade. He began experiencing times when he would trip and fall for no reason at all. His fellow Soldiers saw this happen and were worried about him. Smith and his fellow Soldiers had no clue what was causing him to fall. Smith noticed that over the course of the deployment, his muscles began growing weaker and weaker.

“It was very humbling, to say the least,” he said. “There wasn’t much I could do about it then, but I knew that once I got back from [Iraq], I was going to have to go see a doctor and find out what was going on.”

After returning home from Iraq, Smith began visiting doctors. In February 2005, he underwent surgery for a herniated disc in his back to relieve pressure on what the doctors at the time thought was a pinched nerve. The surgery didn’t help and by that time, he had lost the ability to move the toes on his left foot. His muscles continued to grow weaker. Finally after even more visits to the doctor, he was sent to a neurologist. In late September 2005, he was finally given the diagnosis of multifocal motor neuropathy.

“It’s a condition where my body thinks there’s something wrong with the nerves,” Smith explained. “It’s attacking my nerves, and it doesn’t allow good conduction for the signals that tell the muscles to move. But there’s treatment for it.”

Once he had a diagnosis, he began the treatment for his condition. Every three weeks, he had to have an intravenous immunoglobulin treatment. By then, Smith’s unit was once again scheduled to be deployed. Smith was ready to deploy, but instead he was slated to stay back home with the rear detachment. His protests, that he was getting better, didn’t help and he ended up staying at Fort Hood while his unit deployed without him.

“Within four or five days, I started noticing a lot more strength, and by 10 days after that, I could wiggle my toes and keep my left foot up,” he said. “I went back to the unit and told them the treatment was working. At that point, it was a matter of how the Army medical system was going to handle this.”

His doctors told him that his condition was a legitimate medical condition that would definitely be enough to keep him from deploying. His doctor couldn’t seem to understand why he would want to deploy, when he had a reason that he didn’t have to.

“It’s one of those things where, having grown up playing sports, you spend all that time practicing with a team; and, all of a sudden, they go to an away game, out of town, and you’re stuck at home,” he added. “It’s not a good feeling.”

A year and a half later, Smith was again faced with his new unit getting ready to deploy and he was determined that he wasn’t about to be left behind again. His treatments were working, he was free of symptoms and he was ready to deploy. So he began and long and very frustrating campaign to ensure that he would be deployable. One again, his doctors told him No. There were a chain of emails from one medical professional to another, all stating that he shouldn’t deploy. Their reasons were risk of contamination, with the secondary possibility of anaphylaxis or renal failure. They felt that Smith didn’t have a good grasp on what his medical condition was. Smith, however had researched his disease and discussed a plan with the squadron surgeon Major (Dr) Sean Hollonbeck and they had come up with a plan for administering his treatments during deployment. Even then, doctors said no. His commander was skeptical that he’d get the clearance necessary to be able to deploy, but they supported him in his efforts.

“The Army is attempting and perfecting new things in theater of operation every day,” Smith wrote. “Why not this?

“I guess I just felt like I’m in the Army to do a job,” he said. “Having been left back once, I told my wife, ‘If I can’t deploy and go do what I’ve trained to do, then I shouldn’t be doing this anymore.’”

This was personal for Smith and he had the support of everyone is Troops R. It finally came down to a month at Fort Irwin, California at the National Training Center. While there, an enlisted combat medic administered his treatment and he had no problems whatsoever. The Army finally gave in and Smith deployed with his unit, as part of Task Force 12, in November 2007.

“Army doctrine is to train in times of peace and to win at war,” Smith said. “I see a lot of value in what I did as a rear detachment soldier, but if the Army’s at war, I want to go.”

“I know it motivates me,” Sgt. Nelson Dawson, a soldier in Smith’s troop, said. “Even though he has this condition and could have stayed home with his family, he chose to come here and be with his soldiers. He said, ‘You know what? … I can still do my job. Why can’t I go?’”

During his struggle to get clearance to deploy, Smith was asked by a Doctor what he hoped to get from the fight to deploy. His only response was that he wanted to be able to run and play basketball and do the things he’s done all his life. The doctor appeared shocked that Smith wanted to stay in the military, especially with a medical condition that would allow him to get out altogether.

“I said, ‘Well yeah, if I can do all those other things, of course I want to stay in the military,’” he went on. “If I wanted to get out, I would have done it a long time ago, but that’s just not me.”

This young man is someone to be admired. There are many other men and women just like him, who despite things that would allow them to get out of the military, continue to fight to stay and serve a country that they love in it’s time of need. What an inspiration!


Marcus Luttrell Tonight On BlogTalk Radio

May 13, 2008

I just wanted to let everyone know that Marcus will be interviewed this evening on BlogTalk Radio with FlyLady Marla Cilley and BlogTalkRadio CEO Alan Levy. You can listen to the interview online by clicking the following link; You’ll be able to hear from Marcus himself, as he talks about his book and the events that inspired his book. The show is free to listen to online and free to participate in. After the interview, the hosts will talk your calls.

So, if you can’t make it to Chicago to hear Marcus in person, tune in tonight at 8pm Eastern Time, 7pm Central Time, 6pm Mountain, 5pm Pacific Time. I’m sure that it’ll be a great interview.

Marcus Luttrell Update: Appearance In Illinois

May 12, 2008

I know from the responses we’ve gotten here on our stories about Marcus Luttrell, that many of you are chomping at the bit, to get an opportunity to hear Marcus speak and perhaps get the opportunity to meet him, shake his hand and tell him how much you appreciate his service to our country. Well, if you’re in the Chicago area, that opportunity will be upon you before you know it!

I just recently got word from one of our reader’s Haole Wahine that Marcus has an appearance scheduled at the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago on Monday, May 19th at 3pm. The event is free to the public. So, if you’re in the Chicago area and you’re able to attend this event, I encourage you to do so. Believe me when I say, you’ll be quite impressed with Marcus.

On Monday, May 19, Marcus Luttrell will appear at the Pritzker Military Library to discuss his memoir, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, in an interview with executive producer Ed Tracy. This event is free and open to the public. The presentation and live webcast will begin at 3:00 p.m. It will also be recorded for later broadcast on WYCC-TV/Channel 20. Please not that there will not be a reception prior to the event, but copies of Lone Survivor will be available for purchase and signing by Luttrell afterward.

On the same day, the Pritzker Military Library will also partner with The Book Stall at Chestnut Court and a downtown club for a luncheon featuring Marcus Luttrell.

For more information about this event, as well as ones planned in the future, visit the Pritzler Military Library website.

Honoring Matt Maupin

April 29, 2008

Sunday, thousands of people descended upon the Cincinatti, Ohio area to pay their respects and to honor an American Hero …. SSG Matt Maupin, as a memorial service was held at the Great American Ball Park. Military members and supporters from all across the United States attended the services honoring Matt.

As our readers know, on April 9, 2004 the convoy then PFC Maupin was in near Baghdad was attacked and Matt was captured. A short time later, Al-Jazeera aired a tape showing Matt being held captive, surrounded by masked men holding automatic rifles. Matt’s family never gave up hope that he would be found and Matt’s hometown rallied around Matt’s parents, Keith and Carolyn Maupin and turned their community into a sea of yellow ribbons. After his capture, Matt’s parents started the Yellow Ribbon Support Center, in support of deployed US Troops. They’ve vowed that their work will continue, in Matt’s honor.

Sunday, Matt’s flag-draped coffin was on a platform in the area of the pitcher’s mound at the stadium. On the field were members of the 338th Army band and about 100 family members, military representatives and other dignitaries. The crowd of supporters occupied the lower portion of the baseball staduim, behind home plate and stretching from first base to third base.

SSG Maupin is a Hero and one who deserves to be honored and remembered. My heart goes out to his family, who never gave up hope over the past 4 years, that somehow Matt would be found alive. While that hope wasn’t realized, his family can finally have closure in knowing that their son, their Hero is finally home and being honored in the way that he deserves. Rest in Peace Matt, Welcome Home and thank you, brave warrior for your service and sacrifice.


Operation Iraqi Freedom Looms Closer

April 25, 2008

We are less than 30 days from deployment and I’m nervous, one would think that being deployed to war before would make a person less anxious the second time around.  The truth is, every deployment is fearful.  It is easier for my wife because she knows what to expect, but I know this is taking a toll on her.  Let’s not forget my dearest little girl Bella.  I’m going away for 15 months, she’s going to wonder why her daddy isn’t here.  Let me tell you a well known fact about children.  Majority of parents with children under a year who deploy believe that their child will not remember the deployed spouse when they come back from deployment.  But my family is a prime example that this is not the case.  When I deployed to Afghanistan in April 06, Bella was only 2 weeks old.  We were apart for more than 8 months before I took midtour leave and came home.  It took a minute or two but Bell knew who her daddy was and we bonded.  A simple but effective means to keep in touch with your child is, 1. make sure you talk to your child.  Your voice will soothe them and they will remember you, nomatter how old they are.  2. leave a photo with them, though they may be too young to hold it, they will remember your face. 3. never force your child to pay attention to you when you come home, they must get adjusted to you being home, eventually they will come around and your family will be complete once more.  I would like to leave you with this last announcement.  On behalf of the Begley Family, to the family of Mathew Maupin, “Please accept my deepest sympathies and most sincere apology for the loss of your son.  You have recieved a copy of my music in good faith and if I can do anything to help your family in your time of suffering, don’t hesitate to contact me.  You will always be in my thoughts.  Godsbee to you and your family, your son has paid his debt to our nation, HE WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN!!!!”.  May God be with all of our men, women, and families who support the founding principals of our nation. “GOD AND COUNTRY”.  As I prepare for Iraq, I will go with pride.  I am an American soldier, and I will always remember my place in the world……….”America’s Guardian Force”.

Miracles On The Mountain

April 3, 2008

Less than 6 months after losing a leg to an IED in Afghanistan, Army PFC Michael DInkel is on the slopes ad exploring new possibilities at the 22nd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic at Snowmass Village.

Snowmass Mountain in Colorado was the site of miracles, as disabled veterans took part in the 22nd annual National Disabled Veterans Sports Clinic. For Army PFC Michael Dinkel, participating in the events only 6 short months after losing his leg to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, taking part in the event is therapeutic for him. Dinkle is currently a patient at Walter ReedArmy Medical Center, but right now, he’s enjoying himself, shimmying down the slopes of Snomass Mountain and vowing that he won’t let his disability stand his way, now or in the future. He’s determined to lead a full and productive life.

“I’m having a blast!” Dinkel exclaimed as he took a break after a run down the mountainside. “This is somethig I dreamed about.”

Dinkel isn’t the only active duty wounded warrior who is taking part alongside almost 400 disabled veterans at Snowmass for the clinic. They’re experience what the organizers of the event term, “Miracles on the Mountainside,” as they try Alpine and Nordic skiing, rock climbing, scuba diving, trapshooting, snowmobiling, hockey, curling, fencing as well as many other events.

By taking part in the Winter Sports Clinic, they’re demonstrating, not only to the world, but most importantly to themselves that a severe injuiry doesn’t have to prevent them from having a full, productive and fulfilling life. For Dinkel, it didn’t take much convincing that his amputation didn’t have to limit his life. He’s always loved skiing, so he was anxious to take part.

“Three months after I got blown up, went skiing,” Dinkel said, recalling a trip to Windham Mountain, NY, an event that was organized through Walter Reed.

Dinkel’s next ski trip was to Liberty Mountain in Pennsylvania. There he continued to fine-tune his technique with his new adaptive skis. At Snowmass Mountain, Dinkel can concentrate on enjoying himself and participating in something that he loves, instead of the numerous surgeries he faces at Walter Reed, before he’ll be able to return home to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Even though taking part in the events at Snowmass Mountain, are a chance to get away for a few days, it’s also a huge part of the rehabilitation for Dinkel and the other wounded warriors, according to Lisette Mondello, the assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs.

“This is a rehabilitative event. It’snot about a week of camaraderie and ski lessons,” Mondello said. “It’s about taking someone who’s had a catastrophic injury and saying, ‘ Your life isn’t over. It’s time to start again.’”

For many of the warriors, they encounter moments of self-doubt and the feeling that their lives are going to be limited. Events such as this, are often the catalyst that they need to approach their rehabilitation and their lives with renewed vigor and determination. Events such as this make them realize that their lives don’t have to end because of their injuries. Being able to meet and work with military members who have overcome devastating injuries, such as
Major David Rozelle and others, gives them the inspiration to continue to strive to achieve their dreams.

Miracles on the Mountain DO happen, as disabled veterans take part in the 6 days of the 22nd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

Many of the participants were first-timers, such as Vietnam-era veteran Harry Williamson, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. He admitted that he had some trepidation and doubts about his first time going down the slops inn an adaptive sit-ski.

“I’m nervous,” he said. “But I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to see if I can do it, to see if I can master it. And if I do, that’s another challenge I tried and I conqured.”

Conquering challenges is something these men and women do every day. They conquer the challenges of their rehabilitation, of learning to live their lives in a different way then they had in the past, and the conquer the challenge of the limitations that they sometimes place on themselves, because of their injuries. Overcoming those challenges, is one more step on the road to recovery for them.

Many of the volunteers helping at the clinic, are disabled veterans themselves, such as Darol Kubacz. Kubacz is a 33 year old Army veteran who was rendered a paraplegic during a training accident 15 years ago at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He remembered his own doubts as he attended his first winter sports clinic, only a year after his injury. The first time he ever skiied was after his injury, at his first winter sports clinic at Snowmass. He fell in love with it, so much so, that he moved to Vail, Colorado and is now an adaptive ski-instructor. He said that the clinic gave him something much more than just a new activity to pursue. It gave him the chance at a new life and it’s kept him coming back year after year. He’s now attending for the 13th time since his injury.

“It changed my life,” he said. “There’s so much that goes on here, on many levels. It’s about brotherhood. It’s about great people. It’s about great physical and emotional experiences. But most of all, it’s about positive mental attitude,” he said. “That’s why they’re teaching people here. Because when it comes down to it, the only way we are going to succeed and have fun in life is to have a positive mental attitude.”

It’s so inspirational to see the ways in which these wounded warriors are rebuilding their lives and the fact that they’re so willing to share their positive experiences with other wounded warriors. What better example, of their potential to achieve, then wounded warriors who are dealing with the same types of life changing injuries that they are.


Sight To The Blind

April 2, 2008

Five year old Noor Taha Najee is blind. Not as a result of the war in Iraq, but instead because of congenital condition that causes poorly-developed corneas, she’s been that way since birth. She’s not the only one in her family with this congenital condition. Her brother Mustafa also suffers from the birth defect, one that prevents their eyes from registering anything other than light sensitivity.

Even though the condition is a genetic one, it is one that can be fixed with surgery. Thanks to the help of Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Reiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Ifantry Division, Noor is getting closer to finally being able to see. Once she has her surgery, she won’t have to run her hands across a persons face and explore their features and try to guess what that person looks like. She won’t have to ask her father if the person is fat or skinny, short or tall. She’ll be able to see for herself. 1st Lt Michael Kendrick, platoon leader of 2nd Platoon and his Soldiers have been working closely wotj doctors, to make the surgery a reality.

“To have her see her family, her brothers, to put a face to the voice, it would be a blessing,” said her father Taha, of the opportunity to help give sight to his daughter and her brother.

The Soldiers have been working closely with The Eye Defects Research Foundation, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that is based in Los Angeles, that was founded in 1994 with the intention of conducting research and providing financial support for a group of neglected children with rare eye defects leading to pediatric blindness. They are working to schedule the surgery for Noor. On March 14th, Noor and her uncle were taken to the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, in order for an evaluation to be conducted. The evaluation showed that Noor has a higher potential for success, than her brother does.

“We’re on standby now, waiting for a doctor in L.A.,” said Kendrick.

Kendrick and his Troops are also in the process of finding a local Iraqi doctor who would be willing to travel with Noor to the United States for her surgery. That way the doctor will be able to be shown how to provide the necessary follow-up care for Noor.

According to Noor’s father, the gift of being able to finally see, is one that is appropriate for a girl like Noor. He describes her as a very generous, caring and giving girl. That personality trait is one of the things that has so endeared her to the Soldiers of the 2nd Platoon.

“We’ve taken a real vested interest in the people here,” Kendrick said, adding that his Soldiers spend a lot of time on the ground, interacting with the residents. “We empathize with the people. It pays dividends winning the hearts and minds. It keeps things quiet.”

Noor has grown fond of the Soldiers as well. Especially with 1Lt Kendrick, according to her father. She loves to spend time with him and asks her father many questions about him.

“She likes to sit by him, and is always asking me about him and loves it when I tell her stories about him,” Taha. “She’s only like that with Kendrick.”

While she can’t see them, Noor instinctively knows what the Soldiers of the platoon are doing for her and others in her community. She knows the goodness of their heart, something that can’t be seen with the eyes, but instead felt with the heart. Her father sums it up the best.

“Love begins in the mind, not the eyes,” Taha says.

This, my friends shows what our Troops are about, what they’re made of, the type of people that they are. Not what Hollywood, the media and the anti-Troop people would like to have you believe. Stories like this, make me so proud of our Troops and the things they accomplish daily, without a thought to gaining publicity or accolades. Instead, they do it because they care….

If you’d like to find out more about the work of The Eye Defects Research Foundation and what they’re doing to help children, not only in the US, but around the world, please visit their website.


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 MilBlogging.com, 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

« Previous Page — Next Page »