Update: SPC Ross McGinnis

May 29, 2008

I haven’t written in a very long time and I do appologize.  I will soon be connected again and will be able to get back to the work at hand.  However, I did come across a story that both myself and Terri publish back a few months ago. 

SPC Ross McGinnis gave the ultimate sacrifice for his Country and his fellow Soldiers.  He smothered a grenade that had entered his HMWVV while on patrol, thus saving the lives of his fellow convoy members.  You can read more at our previous stories.  Archive

On 2 June 2008, SPC McGinnis’ will receive the Medal of Honor, the highest award and honor that any Soldier may receive.  The Medal of Honor will be presented at a White House ceremony to his parents, Tom and Romayne McGinnis.  You can read more at the US Army Medal of Honor 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.


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.


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.

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

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

Vets For Freedom National Heroes Tour In Texas

March 21, 2008

While the anti-war nutjobs are getting themselves arrested across the country, protesting not only the war, but just about anything else you can think of, one group of Veteran’s are taking their message of “Support The Troops AND Their Mission” across the country. Vets For Freedom, a non-partisan organization that was established by combat veteran’s of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, began their nationwide tour on March 14th with the kick-off of their tour in San Diego. As they make their way from San Diego to New York City over the next couple of weeks, they continue to reach out to the public, to educate the country about the progress towards freedom that our brave Troops have made and continue to make in Iraq and Afghanistan. Joining them on the tour, are representatives from Families United, a non-profit group comprised of Gold and Blue Star family members who support our Troops and their Mission. Unlike the anti-war protesters and many in the media, they know firsthand of the progress and great things our Troops are accomplishing in these countries. They’ve been there. They know of the extreme sacrifices our Troops have made and continued to make. They’ve sacrificed themselves. They know firsthand, how important it is to complete the mission, so that those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to bring freedom to these countries, will not have been made in vain. They’ve lost comrades in the Global War on Terror, the Gold Star Families on the tour have lost children in the Global War on Terror and they’ve spilled their own blood in those countries. They, above anyone else, are the experts, because, they’ve been there, done that. They know the terrible implications and the cost our country could pay, if our Troops aren’t allowed to complete their mission. Their goal is to bring that message to the American public, speaking with the authority that they and only they have on the subject.

The last two days have been a busy one for the Vets For Freedom National Heroes Tour. On Wednesday, they arrived in San Antonio, where they attended several events. Their day began with an appearance at the Alama, where they also participated in the “Alamo Blood Drive.” Afterwards they went to lunch and on to Brooke Army Medical Center, where they spent time visiting Wounded Warriors currently recouperating there. They visited the National Veteran’s Cemetery at Fort Sam Houston, then attended a reception at the US Army Medical Department Museum and participated in various events at the museum.

Thursday, they kicked off the day with a public speaking event on the steps of the Texas State Capitol, where Marcus Luttrell, David Bellavia and Texas Governor Rick Perry spoke to the crowd about the importance of supporting the Troops by supporting their mission. That was captured on video by Black Five’s own Uncle Jimbo.

After the event at the Texas State Capitol, the tour then moved from there to the T-patcher Memorial for a wreath laying. It was then time for them to head for Fort Hood. Enroute, they stopped at the Central Texas State Veteran’s Cemetery to visit the Iraqi Freedom war memorial there and then on to Fort Hood, where David Bellavia and Marcus Luttrell would conduct a book signing. I was waiting there.

Around 4:45 PM, a huge bus pulled up, in front of the Clear Creek PX at Fort Hood. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to get a picture of the bus, but did find one at the Vet’s For Freedom website. Below is a picture of the bus that greeted the customers at the PX as they entered or left the building.

Shortly afterwards, Marcus Luttrell and David Bellavia entered to begin their book signing. It was great seeing Marcus again and I was greeted with a big hug from Marcus. I was able to spend a little bit of time visiting with him, as I waited to get my copy of David’s Book, House To House: A Soldier’s Memoir signed. Both David and Marcus were gratious enough to visit with the people as they signed their books and take the time to pose for pictures with many of them. They were still signing books when Marty and I left the PX at 6 PM.

On my way out the door, I stopped off at the bus to say Hi to Uncle Jimbo. Inside the bus, Uncle Jimbo was spending time with an Air Cav Soldier who recently returned from Iraq with 1st Cav. It was great to spend a few minutes with Uncle Jimbo. He’s quite the character and I really enjoyed being able to spend those few minutes visiting with him. Uncle Jimbo is along on the tour, to ensure that readers are able to be updated on the progress of the tour, as the Vets For Freedom National Heroes Tour continues to make it’s way across the country with their message. You can see his video updates at Black Five.

I’m going to include the itenery of the remainder of the Vets For Freedom National Heroes Tour. If they’re in your area, don’t hesitate to go hear what they have to say, because their message is an important one. Don’t hesitate to speak to them and most importantly, thank them for their service and sacrifices, for the important things that they’ve done to further the cause of freedom across the globe.

Tuesday, March 25 Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN

Wednesday, March 26 Des Moines, IA

Thursday, March 27 Kansas City, KS

Friday, March 28 Columbia/St. Louis, MO

Saturday, March 29 Nashville, TN

Sunday, March 30 Fort Campbell, KY

Sunday, March 30 Evansville, IN

Monday, March 31 Louisville, KY

Thursday, April 3 Columbia, SC

Friday, April 4 Charlotte, NC

Saturday, April 5 Fayetteville, NC

Sunday, April 6 Virginia Beach/Norfolk, VA

Monday, April 7 Richmond, VA

Tuesday, April 8 Washington, DC / Vets on the Hill

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 New York, NY

As I’m sure you noticed, I made sure that one day was in bold letters. That date, Tuesday April 8th is when the Vets For Freedom National Heroes Tour arrives in Washington DC. On that day, Vets For Freedom will be meeting with various Congressmen in Washington DC to tell them of the importance of continuing to support General David Petraeus and our Troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sign up to join Vets for Freedom on Capitol Hill on April 8!

If you’re a veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, or another theatre of the War on Terror, sign up below to show up on April 8 and tell Congress to support General Petraeus and our fellow troops as they continue to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sign up through our web-portal below, and within two weeks your travel will be arranged. Veterans will be flown in to Washington, DC late on Monday, April 7th, will participate in events and meetings on Capitol Hill on April 8th, and will be flown home on the evening of the 8th. Attendance will only require one day off of work, and Vets for Freedom will cover all travel expenses for the trip—travel, lodging, and food.

If you’re a Veteran or Soldier, and would like to participate in this event, please visit Vets For Freedom Vets on the Hill webpage for more information and to sign up to attend.

Navy SEAL To Receive Posthumous Medal of Honor

March 19, 2008

A Navy SEAL based in California, who threw his body onto a grenade, in order to save the lives of his comrades, during combat operations in Iraq, will be poshumously be awarded the Medal of Honor. Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor was with a group of three other SEALS on the rooftop of a house in Ramadi, on September 29, 2006 when an insurgent grenade landed nearby. Monsoor, then grabbed the grenade and clutched it to his chest. The resulting blast killed him, but because of his actions he saved the lives of the other men on the rooftop with him. When the award takes place, he will join an elite group of Servicemembers, only 3 others total, that have been awarded the Medal of Honor for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to Michael Fumento, who’s blogged extensively about Monroor, his family wll receive the posthumous honor on his behalf, during a ceremony to be held at the White House. Defense Department officials confirmed the award, however at this point, won’t confirm the date of the award and the White House hasn’t made an annoucement.

“We undersand the decison has been made to give that award,” the official said Monday. “However it’s not clear when the medal will be presented by President Bush, as is tradition. The date is very likely to change,” the Pentagon official said.

Monsoor’s career in the Navy SEALS has been one of honor and valorious service. He had received the Silver Star for combat valor, for his actions in pulling a wounded SEAL to safety during a firefight in Ramadi on May 9, 2006. The Medal of Honor that is to be awarded to Monsoor, will be only the second to be awarded to a Navy SEAL sinc 2001. We reported in October, about Lt. Michael Murphy being awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in June 2005. Lt. Murphy’s story is told in Marcus Luttrell’s book, Lone Survivor, which we’ve covered extensively here. Lt. Murphy is also distinguished as the only military member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for combat operations in Afghanistan.

The two other Medal of Honor recepients, both awarded posthumously, were awarded to servicemembers serving in Iraq. The first was Army SFC Paul R. Smith who died during a firefight with insurgents on April 4, 2003. The only other, Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham was honored for his bravery, when, in much the same was as Monsoor, he covered a grenade with his Kevlar helmet, during combat operations in Hussaybah on April 14th, 2004, and saved the lives of his commrades.

Each of these men, deserve the Medal of Honor. They knew what it meant to go above and beyond the call of duty, for their brothers in arms. Each of them acted in the most unselfish way that a person could ever act, they gave their lives, so that their commrades might live.

Below is a memorial to Master at Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor. Please take the time to watch it and I think you’ll better understand why Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor deserves this award. Rest in peace, Brave Warrior; you will never be forgotten.

“>Navy Times

SPC Kevin Mowl : Rest In Peace, Brave Warrior

February 27, 2008

Yesterday morning, I received news from Tony Neria, father-in-law of Sgt. Sam Nichols, about the death of one of our brave Warriors, who was a patient in the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md, at the same time that Sam was. After fighting the past 6 months to recover from his injuries, this Hero, Kevin Mowl, succumed to his injuries on Monday morning. As always, when I hear the news of the loss of one of our warriors, it cuts deep. Yet another brave warrior has paid the ultimate price for the freedoms that we take for granted.

Spc Mowl was injured on August 2nd when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb, causing it to flip over. Mowl suffered multiple broken bones and a head injury. Three other Soldiers died in that explosion and 11 more Soldiers as well as an interpreter were injured. President Bush personally presented Spc. Mowl with a Purple Heart and a Presidential Medallion at Bethesda, when he visited there in December.

Spc. Mowl was a member of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and had been deployed to Iraq in June 2006. His loss will profoundly affect those who served beside him during that deployment. Since Kevin’s injury, his family has maintained a website to keep friends and family updated on Kevin’s progress. Please, take some time to visit and leave your messages of condolence.

Kevin was a native of Pittsford, N.Y. having attended Pittsford public schools until his 11th grade year. He then transferred to Valley Force Military Academy near Philadelphia, where he graduated in 2003. Shortly afterwards, he joined the Army and served as an infantryman, eventually being sent to Iraq in August 2006. Kevin Mowl is survived by his parents, Harold and Mary Mowl and his sister Carlene. Please keep the Mowl family in your thoughts and prayers.

Kevin Mowl Caringbridge site

Army Times

Sgt. Samuel Nichold, USMC

First Sioux To Be Awarded Medal Of Honor

February 25, 2008

The White House announced on Friday, that Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony that is scheduled to be held on March 3rd at 2:30 pm. The award comes almost 6 decades after he took actions during the Korean War, that put himself own life at risk to save the lives of his fellow Soldiers.

Keeble, a full-blooded Sioux Indian, is a highly decorated Soldier, one of the most highly decorated in North Dakota history. He was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. Born in 1917 in Waubay, South Dakota, he grew up on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Reservation, which extends into the state of North Dakota. Keeble spent most of his life living in the Wahpeton, North Dakota area and attended an Indian school in the area. Keeble’s Army career began in 1942, when he enlisted in the North Dakota Army National Guard. Shortly after his enlistment, he was deployed to Guadalcanal, where he experienced some of the fiercest hand-to-hand combast of World War II, as part of Company I, 164th Infantry.

Guadalcanal seemed to be on his mind a lot,” said Russell Hawkins, Keeble’s stepson. “His fellow Soldiers said he had to fight a lot of hand-to-hand fights with the Japanese, so he saw their faces. Every now and then, he would get a far away look in his eyes, and I knew he was thinking about those men and the things he had to do. I heard stories from James Fenelon, who served with him there and he would talk about how the men of the 164th rallied around this full-blooded Sioux Indian, whose accuracy with the Browning Automatic Rifle was unparalleled,” Hawkins said. “It was said he would go in front of patrols and kill enemies before his unit would get there.”

According to Hawkins, the Sioux have a word for the kind of bravery in the face of the enemy that Keeble displayed. He said that work, wowaditaka, means ‘don’t be afraid of anything, be braver than that which scares you the most.’ According to his fellow Soldiers, who served with him, Keeble personified that word. His actions at Guadalcanal earned him the first of what would be 4 Purple Hearts and his first Bronze Star.

When the Korean War broke out, Keeble by then was an experienced Master Sergeant, who went above and beyond. While serving as the acting Platoon leader of 1st Platoon in the area of the Kumsong River in North Korea, around October 15, 1951, he voluntarily took on the additional duties of leading the 2nd and 3rd Platoons as well.

In an official statement, 1SG Kosumo “Joe” Sagami of Company G said,” All the officers of the company had received disabling wounds or were killed in action, except for one platoon leader, who assumed command of the company.”

Sagami wrote that Keeble stepped up to the plate and led all 3 platoons in successive assaults upon the Chinese, who held the hill throughout the day. 3 three charges were repulsed and the company suffered extremely heavy casualties. Trenches will full of enemy Soldiers that were fortified by pillboxes that contained machine guns and additional men. After the third assault, along with mortar and artillery support, the enemy sustained casualties in its ranks. After the third attempt, Keeble had the 3rd platoon withdraw and decided that he would attempt a solo assault

“He once told a relative that the fourth attempt, he was either going to take them out or die trying,” Hawkins said. “Woody used to tell people he was more concerned about losing his men than about losing his own life,” he added. “He pushed his own life to the limit. He wasn’t willing to put his fellow Soldiers’ lives on the line.”

Keeble crawled into an area that was 50 yeards from the ridgeline, armed with grenades and his Browning Automatic rifle. He flanked the left pillbox and eliminated it by using grenades and rifle fire. He then returned to where the 1st Platoon was holding the Company’s line of defense and then made his way to the opposite side of the ridgeline and took out the pillbox on the right side, using grenades.

Hawkins recalls wondering how a person of Keeble’s size, over 6 feet tall and 235 plus pounds, was able to sneak up on enemy fighters without being seen. He recalls asking Keeble one day how he was able to do so, and being answered by Keeble shrugging his shoulders.

“One day I was out helping him mow the lawn and I asked how he did it. I joked with him and told him those Soldiers must have been blind or old or something, because he would never be able to sneak up on a young guy like me,” Hawkins said. He then continued to mow the lawn. Suddenly he was startled when Keeble poppoed up from behind some bushes. “He could have reached out and grabbed me by the ankles, and I didn’t even know he was there!”

Keeble’s acts of bravery in Korea, didn’t come without a price. Sagami and other eyewittnesses say he was wounded on at least 5 occasions by fragementation and concussion grenades. Keeble had wounds to his chest, arms, right calf, knee, right thigh and left hip. According to his step-son, 83 grenade fragments were removed from his body, with several more remaining. According to Sagami, Keeble never complained on the battlefield and refused to be evacuated due to his injuries, until after the unit was in defensive positions for the night.

Because of his actions in Korea, every member of Company G who survived signed a letter recommending Keeble for the Medal of Honor on two different occasions. Once in November 1951 and again in December of the same year. The paperwork was lost on both instances. On December 20,1952, Keeble was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart(First Oak Leaf Cluster), the Bronze Star (First Oak Leaf Cluster) and the Silver Star because of his herric actions during his tour in Korea. He was honorably discharged from the Army on March 1, 1953.

After his discharge from the Army, Keeble continued to work hard for Soldiers and veterans, championing their causes. He attended many Veteran’s events and was a proud supporter of the Disabled American Veterans. He proudly wore his uniform for parades and was always first in line for fundraisers.

His family battled to ensure that Keeble’s Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, beginning in 1972, while Keeble and his wife, Dr. Blossom Hawkins-Keeble were still alive. The family initially thought the paperwork had been lost and had no idea that the paperwork never made it off of the battlefield and no longer existed. When they realized this, they went to the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe for assistance and began gathering statements from the men who had served beside Keeble in Korea.

They soon learned that the award of the Medal of Honor had a statue of limitations of three years from the date of the event. Since it had been much longer than that, they realized that it would literally take an act of congress to reach their goal. In 2002, the tribe involved senators and representatives from North Dakota and South Dakota. With eye wittness accounts and written evidence, as well as letters from 4 senators supporting the effort, the tribal officials then contacted the Army. The Army reviewed the evidence and agreed that Keebles actions were deserving of the Medal of Honor. On March 23, 2007, North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan introduced a bill which was co-sponsored by 3 other senators, authorizing the President to award the Medal of Honor to Keeble for his acts of valor during the Korean war. Congress passed the bill in early December 2007. Because, the award is being made posthumously, Hawkins will represent his step-father and accept the Medal of Honor on his behalf.

“We are just proud to be part of this for Woody,” Hawkins said. “He is deserving of this, for what he did in the Armed Services in defense of this country. If he was alive today, I would tell him there’s no one I respect more, and how he is everything a man should be; brave, kind and generous. I would tell him how proud I am of him and how I never realized that all this time, I was living with such greatness.”

I look forward to viewing the footage of President Bush awarding MSG Keeble’s Medal of Honor to his step-son. MSG Keeble is certainly deserving of this award and it’s great that he’s finally being recognized for his courageous acts during the Korean Conflict. Rest in peace, brave warrior. You deserve this honor, for the lives you saved, in the name of freedom. Yours, is an example that our Soldiers should strive to emulate during their own service.


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