Wynonna Judd To Honor The Troops At Alaska’s Operation Gratitude

June 25, 2008

I just received word this evening, about Alaska’s Operation Gratitude, which will be held on Friday, June 27th in Anchorage, Alaska at Elmendorf Air Force Base. The show will also be streamed live at the AT&T Blueroom site, beginning at 12:30 am Eastern Time (June 28th), 11:30pm Central Time, 10:30pm Mountain Time, 9:30 pm Pacific Time and 8:30 pm Alaska Time. The concert is the Anchorage kickoff, of the statewide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s statehood. An estimated crowd of 75,000 people are expected to attend the concert, which will be headlined by country music star Wynonna Judd. American servicemembers who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will be able to view the show as well AND interact with Wynonna, via video teleconferencing.

The concert was announced by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, joined by Air Force Brig. General Thomas L. Tinsley, Commander of Elmendorf’s 3rd Wing, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, AT&T Alascom President Mike Felix and other dignitaries. For those living in Anchorage, the concert will be free and open to the public. AT&T is a proud sponsor of the concert and web casting.

“We are honored to share the gift of music with the many fine men and women serving in uniform,” said Governor Palin. “Alaska is blessed with a vibrant military and veteran community and it is a privilege to share with those who have given so much for their fellow citizens. We are excited to have an American music legend, Wynonna Judd, to help us entertain the Troops and celebrate Alaska’s 50th year of statehood.”

“We are honored to host Wynonna Jude while she’s here to thank the American Armed Services with this concert,” said Brig. Gen. Tinsley. “This is a great opportunity to partner with the 50th Anniversary Statehood Celebration Committee for a great kick-off to the “We’re In!” weekend.”

“Anchorage and all of Alaska are proud of the servicemen and women who serve our state and nation,” said Mayor Begich. “Sharing this concert as a gift to our military as we celebrate 50 years of Alaska statehood is the least we can do to show our enormous gratitude.”

“AT&T is very excited to be sponsoring this concert and web casting it to a worldwide audience,” said Mike Felix. “For the last several years AT&T has been streaming community events like high school graduations and sports championships, making them available to people who would otherwise miss out. This event takes this effort to a whole new level, bringing Alaska’s statehood celebration and its commitment to the military to audiences everywhere.”

I urge each of you, if you get the opportunity, to tune it and watch the concert on Friday. What a great way to celebrate not only Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood, but to honor our Troops for the contributions that they’ve made for both the state of Alaska and our country. I know that I won’t miss it!


AT&T Blueroom

Book Review: Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11

June 16, 2008

September 11, 2001 is a day that will be forever etched into the minds of almost every American. It’s a day that most of us will never forget, a day that changed so many things in our country and in the world. For some people, September 11, 2001 changed their entire life forever.

When we think of that fateful day, most of us immediately think of the World Trade Center in New York City. Most of us give little thought to the many people who were killed and injured at the Pentagon and in that lonely field in Pennsylvania. We’ve often heard the conspiracy theories about the Pentagon, people claiming that there never was a plane that slammed into the building killing and severly injuring hundreds of innocent people.

In their book, Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11, Patrick Creed and Rick Newman tell the story of that day, from the moments right before the plane slammed into the building, to the weeks following. They tell the story of countless Heroes, firefighters, police officers, Paramedics, as well as Soldiers and civilians working inside the Pentagon, as this tragedy unfolded.

Eyewittness accounts of the moments following the tragedy, of very ordinary men and women who risked their own lives to save the lives of friends and collegues at the Pentagon. The authors tell the personal stories of the firefighters and rescuers, as they fought to save lives and save the parts of the Pentagon that were undamaged by the plane, yet were at risk due to the rapidly spreading fire, that was sparked by jet fuel that spewed from the plane upon impact. The story is one that needed to be told and Creed and Newman do a fine job, portraying the thoughts and feelings of the men and women who spent countless hours at the scene and the horror and trauma that they encountered, all the while fighting to ensure that the cornerstone of the U.S. national security command structure remain intact and operational. The challenges faced in the aftermath, at times seem overwhelming, yet the pride and dedication of the workers on the scene, drove them on, even when there was no chance of pulling any more survivors from the wreckage.

Firefight provides the reader with close and personal look at what these men and women faced that day and some of the demons that they have to deal with as a result of that day. If you want an upclose and personal look as the events unfolded at the Pentagon and what was a stake as those events unfolded, this book is a must read. It’s a book that will cause a wide range of emotions. From anger at the murders who commited these attacks that day, to awe and pride at the courage and dedication of the Heroes who set aside their day to day lives, in order to save the lives of the numerous victims in the Pentagon. It’s a book that you won’t regret reading, one that will give you a much better understanding of the chaos that occurred that day and the days following. This book is an important documentation to an event that will live in our Country’s history. It’s a must read, for anyone who wants to know what happened at the Pentagon that day.

Firefight The Book

Telling The Story Of The Women Who Serve

May 18, 2008

Traditionally in the military, women have been banned from serving in direct combat units. Because of this, women are barred from certain jobs in the military … jobs that would take them into direct combat. However, in Iraq and Afghanistan, those lines are blurred, there is no defined front line Women are placed in situations that take them into combat situations. They’ve stood side by side with their male counterparts and more than proved themselves in combat. Author, Kirsten Holmstedt wanted to tell their story and she did so in her book, мебелиBand of Sisters which was released July 4, 2007.

In her book, Kirsten tells the story of 12 different females in every branch of the military. She tells of their experiences in combat, how their roles in the military are continuing to evolve, as they heroically prove themselves as warriors. The story of women in combat, has really never been told before, because until now, women haven’t been the in position to be in combat. With no defined front line, they are in combat and their proving themselves every day. One Marine, who’s story was told, Gunnery Sgt Rosie Noel was injured in Iraq, her face bleeding and her jaw broken as a result of being struck by a 1 1/2 inch piece of shrapnel. Her only thoughts were to get back to her Marines. 48 hours after being injured, she returned to her Marines.

“Whenever you are in Iraq, you are on the battlefield,” she said. “And so far the consensus is, women are doing it and they are doing a good job.”

The author wanted to avoid politics with her book and tell the stories of the 12 women portrayed in the book. Due to the controversy over women being in the situations that place them in the heat of the battle in Iraq, it’s a touchy subject that unfortunately has a tendency to become politicized. At the time of the book’s release, Pentagon statistics showed that more than 167,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they’ve performed their jobs well.

“Females are definitely breaking down barriers,” Noel said. “I still have people come up to me and ask: ‘You’re a Marine? Women can do that?’”

While I’ve not had the opportunity to read the book yet, I look forward to doing so. Having worked in Law Enforcement myself, I’ve been subject to the attitude that I was a women and therefore not able to do the job. I think this book shows the roles that woemn are taking more and more in today’s society as a whole. Taking on jobs that have been traditionally considered “Men’s Jobs” and performing those jobs with the same dedication, purpose and professionalism that their male counterparts do.

Band of Sisters

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.

Fort Hood’s Annual “Salute To Our Heroes”

April 11, 2008

Today, from Noon to Midnight, Fort Hood will be hosting an event that they hold anually, in honor of those who have served, those who are serving, as well as their family members. There will be performances by a host of musical artists, including the rock band Tantric and country singer Mark Chestnut. Fun activities are planned for the event, with a carnival and plenty of food and drink. The event will be streamed online live on Live Sync. I will be working the event during the day, and then attending as a family member of a 1st Cav Soldier, in the evening. I”ll do a write-up on the event this weekend.

I had the pleasure of getting a preview of what’s to come last night, when Tantric held a mini-performance and afterwards a meet and greet, at the Clear Creek PX. Tantric has long been a band that I really liked, so when I found out that they’d be there, it was something I couldn’t miss. The performance was awesome, with the band performing songs from their soon to be released album, as well as a couple selections from their previous albums. For those who know their music, you’d have loved the performance. Speaking with them afterwards, I found that they’re staunch supporters of our Troops and have been looking forward to coming to Fort Hood, to be able to tell our Troops first hand how much they support them. Line up of the performances is as follows:

1 - 1:30 pm Maren Morris/Country
1:40 - 2:10 pm Rissi Palmer/Country
2:30 - 3:05 pm Jennifer Pena/Latin/Pop
3:20 - 3:40 pm Billy Cook/R&B
3:55 - 4:25 pm Kritickill/Rock
4:35 - 5:05 pm Framing Hanley/Rock
5:15 - 5:55 pm Mylin/Pop
6:15 - 7:15 pm El Grupo Mania/Latin/Pop
7:35 - 8:05 pm Wild Horses/Country
8:15 - 9:00 pm Mark Chesnutt/Country
9:10 - 9:30 pm II Face/Hip-Hop
9:55 - 10:20 pm FosterChild/Rock
10:30 - 11:10 pm Tantric/Rock

If you get the chance, watch the events unfold today on Live Sync, and I’ll have a first hand report tomorrow. To find out more about the event, vist the Fort Hood MWR website.

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.

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

Rocking The Troops

March 9, 2008

On March 10th, Troops in Kuwait, who are preparing to go into Iraq, or those who are on their wa home, will be in for a treat. Teaming up with America Supports You and Armed Forces Entertainment, MySpace will launch a 3 hour concert event, called Opertion MySpace that will not only entertain the Troops, but can be seen while it’s happening by live streaming at the Operation MySpace website. MySpace has long been a popular social network that is used by many of our Troops, as a way to keep in contact with family and friends, during their deployments.

“For years troops stationed all over the world have utilized MySpace as a lifeline to communicate with their loved ones back home. Many of them have been generous enough to share their unique experiences with me through messages on MySpace,” Anderson said. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to thank them in person and bring along the entire MySpace community.”

“We’re incredibly proud to host this one of a kind concert,” added DeWolfe. “Unlike past variety shows or concerts of this nature, Operation MySpace will connect people, content, and culture a world apart through the live webcast of the show and interaction on the Operation MySpace profile.”

The MySpace founders are excited to be able to provide such a concert for the Troops and have lined up popular entertainers, to do their part in Supporting our Troops. The entertainers, some of the music scene’s most popular acts are: Pussycat Dolls, Filter, DJ Z-Trip, Jessica Simpson and Disturbed. Joining them will be comedian Carolos Mencia, as the host of the 3 hour event. The entire concert will be streamed live on the Operation MySpace website, beginning at 2pm Eastern Time on Monday, March 1th.

“This MySpaceLive! concert is an exciting event because it communicates to our troops that people from all walks of life and from all types of companies support their service to our country,” said Allison Barber, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. “MySpace is a great medium to connect our military members and their families, who serve in 177 countries, to the folks back home. We are so glad to have MySpace as part of the team working with both America Supports You and Armed Forces Entertainment.”

For those who are unable to watch the live streaming of the concert, or who aren’t in Kuwait, you can see a condensed version of the concert at a later date. FX television has plans to air a condensed, one-hour version o fht econcert on April 12th. Check your television listings tofind out times for the broadcase.

The musicians, are as excited about performing for the Troops, as the sponsors are. Several of them have expressed their excitement and desire to thank our Troops. Now they’ll have that opportunity.

“It’s truly an honor to perform for the Troops,” Jessica Simpson said. “Through Operation MySpace, I get to serve my country by doing what I love to do in front of thousands of brave men in uniform. It’s every girl’s dream!”

“We’re so excited to be performing for the Troops and supporting our Armed Forces overseas,” the Pussycat Dolls said in a statement.

It sounds like this is going to be a great concert and one that our Troops in Kuwait will enjoy attending. Hopefully, other entertainment groups and artists will take the lead of MySpace and the artists participating in this concert and more will be planned. Remember, if you’d like to see the event as it’s happening, go to the Operation MySpace website tomorrow at 2pm Eastern Time.

Armed Forces Entertainment


“The Sonata of War and Peace” by Brandon Begley

January 13, 2008

Here at A Soldier’s Mind, we’ve made it a point to highlight the musical works of people who perform their music in support of our Troops. We also love to highlight the musical works of many of our Active Duty Troops, who themselves are extremely talented musicians. Often people think that our Troops know only how to shoot their weapons, kill the enemy and follow orders. That is the furthest thing from the truth, as so many of them are accomplished musicians, artists and scholars. Hopefully as we continue these types of stories, you our readers, will gain much more insight into the men and women who are serving our country. I’d like to introduce you to one such Soldier.

Back in March, I wrote a story about a young US Army Soldier serving in Afghanistan who composed a sonata in honor of two fellow Soldiers who had given their life in the name of freedom. That young Soldier, Brandon Begley has visited A Soldiers Mind several times and left his thoughts here on the blog. Brandon, currently stationed in Hawaii, is preparing for another deployment. One that will take him to the battlefields of Iraq.

Brandon and I have remained in contact since I first wrote the story about him and his music and has told me that he has now finished the sonata and is preparing to release it on CD. Also on the CD will be other musical pieces that Brandon has composed over the course of the past 16 years. I’d like to give our readers a more in-depth view of the person that Brandon Begley is and the incredible talent this young man has.

Brandon’s musical ambitions began at a very young age, when at 6 years old, he began playing the piano. Brandon’s musical direction leans towards classical music. He composed his first piece of music around the age of 8 years old, a song about his first childhood crush on a girl. According to blog entries on Brandon’s MySpace page, he never officially recorded the song, because it was only played with 2 fingers and was what he considers a primative piece.

“The piece portrays a child like crush I had on her back when I first moved to Kentucky many years ago. That was the beginning of the romance period and the first girlfriend I ever had. The mood of the piece is peaceful and soothing. A relaxful meditative piece which was the beginning of my musical career, although at the time I didn’t think of it that way.”

Brandon has memorialized many events in his life through his music. Events such as marrying the woman of his dreams, to the shock of finding his father deceased, to the joy he felt upon the birth of his daughter, to the pain of learning during his deployment that his wife had miscarried their second child. Brandon’s music covers an entire gamut of emotions, as different events have taken place in his life. The new CD will be entitled “War and Peace” and will soon be released. In total there will be 11 and possibly 12 pieces that Brandon has composed and performed. Take some time to visit his MySpace page and listen to some of the songs he has posted there. I think you’ll agree with me, when I say that not only is Brandon an extremely talented musician, but that his dedication to his continued service to our country, makes him an asses to not only the US Army, but to our country as well.

Unfortunately, due to file size limits of our blogging software, I’m unable to upload the three movements of The Sonata of War and Peace, from Brandon’s CD War and Peace. To listen to all three Prelude To War, Longing For Peace and Fallen Comrade, please follow the link below to The Music of Brandon Begley at MySpace and listen to them. I’d like to personally thank Brandon, for sharing his incredible talent with us.

To The Fallen Records Offers ‘Work From Home’ Job Opportunity For Military Spouses

January 5, 2008

Back in July, I introduced our readers to a new record label, To The Fallen Records, which is the first all military record label. All artists on their CD’s are current or former military members. The first CD they produced was a rap CD. Just recently, To The Fallen Records has released Rock and Country CDs as well. I’ve got all three CDs and can honestly say I am very impressed at the extreme amount of musical talent in our Armed Forces. I recently received a newsletter update from To The Fallen Records, announcing a new program for 2008, which offers work from home opportunities for Military Spouses.

TTFR kicks off 2008 with Base Rep. Program for MilSpouses!

To The Fallen Records has announced a new program for MilSpouses who love our music and want to spread the word about the world’s only military record label.

TTFR MusicCards are a credit card size download card that allows the user to choose 1 of 3 TTFR compilations to download. Base reps will be able to offer a discounted price ($10 compared to $12.99) to their customers along with FREE shipping on all future TTFR purchases during 2008.

The program allows MilSpouses to work from home with a flexible schedule. There are no quotas, no set schedules and no hidden fees. A spouse purchases the “Starter Package” for $100 (valued at $263) which includes 20 cards, all 3 CDs, and a short sleeved logo T-shirt FREE. Base Reps will earn $5 per card sold. We are looking for people who are “early adopters” at each base/post. You are the person who tells all your friends about a great new pair of shoes you found, tv show, or children’s product. In our case, of course, it is music that you can relate to and feel everyone should know about!

This is our way of giving back to the MilSpouses who really want to be involved and help support these military artists!

If you are interested, email Christine Sullivan, our Marketing & Outreach Director, at To learn more about the Base Rep Program, visit their webpage.

To The Fallen Records has come a long way since I first interviewed it’s founders Sean Gilfillan and Sidney DeMello for my story in July. Not only are you able to purchase the CDs on their website, you can also purchase other merchandise, download free songs each pay period and download entire albums as well, by following this link. Take some time to visit To The Fallen Records and check out some of the awesome things they have going on over there. Once again, I would like to thank Sean and Sidney for this wonderful avenue, which allows the music of our talented Troops the opportunity to be heard by the world. I look forward to many more great things to come from To The Fallen Records.

« Previous Page — Next Page »