Thursday, June 30, 2011

A CONVERSATION WITH SGT. CHISUM FRISCH

I want you to meet a soldier.  A soldier with a name that speaks loudly of toughness and strength.  A name seemingly destined for the military.  He goes by Chisum.  Sgt. Chisum Frisch.  And yes, if that conjures up a John Wayne image, it should.  His mom's side of the family loved him.  Until recently, he was leading a unit of Iowa National Guard troops in their peace keeping efforts in Afghanistan.  That is or was until May 18th when this report came to us.  

Four Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Iowa Army National Guard, were wounded when their vehicle was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan on Wednesday, May 18.

Sgt. Chisum Frisch, 23, of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Spc. Jacob Hutchinson, 21, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Spc. Benjamin Ward, 26, of Rowley, Iowa; and Private 1st Class Tanner Williams, 18, of Tama, Iowa, were transported to medical facilities at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Frisch, Ward and Williams were members of Company C, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, while Hutchison belonged to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion.


Sgt. Chisum Frisch Provided A Steady Hand

A 2006 graduate of Dike-New Hartford High School, Chisum is the youngest of three siblings.  His parents are Kevin and Tracy Frisch of Dike, Iowa.  Sgt. Frisch, who has been home for some two weeks, will be returning to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in early July for continued rehabilitation from his injuries.

The following is a conversation with Sgt. Chisum Frisch.  These are his words as he rehabs from wounds he received that day.  It's our chance to experience a small fraction of Sgt. Frisch's life and it also enables the opportunity to appreciate his willingness to serve.    

MFV:  Tell me how you decided to choose the military as a way of serving your country?
Chisum:  I was 17 and making bad decisions and needed to do something with my life.  I knew I wouldn't make it if I didn't change something, so I joined the Army.  I always wanted to be in the military when I knew my grandparents were.  Army on my Dad's side and Navy on my Mom's. 

MFV:  What has been the most eye-opening experience to your decision? 
Chisum:  The most eye-opening experience is pretty tough.  I talked back once at basic training and I learned my lesson right then.  Also, the first time in combat also opened my eyes up and made me realize don't take things for granted and don't regret anything you do.

MFV:  As a young leader (Sgt.) what are some of the challenges to your job?
Chisum:  Challenges of the job are always learning new things and listening to everyone but having the mentality to lead your guys without regrets or second guessing yourself.  Always being able to make a decision and sticking with it.

MFV:  First time deployed?  If not, tell me about the first and then this one?  What feelings did you have when you hopped the bus and headed for Mississippi?
Chisum:  This is my second deployment but the first one was to Kosovo on a peace keeping mission and alot more laid back.  I was really excited when I got on the bus to go to Mississippi because after I joined the military I wanted to go somewhere and serve for what I joined for. 

MFV:  What was the general reaction of the Afghan people to you and your men when you patrolled?
Chisum:  They always made it seem like they liked us but some pretended and worked with the enemy when we weren't around.   They got the impact best of both worlds, help from opposite groups.

MFV:  Did you have any close calls before your IED incident?
Chisum:  I had a couple of close calls.  I heard bullets go by sometimes but nothing too bad there because the Taliban were just shooting because they got paid to.  I was on the opposite side when a mortar round landed on our helicopter landing pads.  That was probably the closest feeling of the terrible impact and sounding like it was right behind me.

MFV:  Thoughts on the IED incident.
Chisum:  I always wondered why it was our truck when three or four others went by it and we had one truck left behind us.  That is about all of the how's and why's.

MFV:  Final assessment of your injuries?
Chisum:  My injuries were fractured inside ankle bone, possible torn Meniscus in my right knee, fractured Tl  or C1 Vertebrae and I got my left forearm hit on some stuff and other scratches.

MFV:  Did you sense something before the incident?
Chisum:  I didn't sense it but the whole time in the country I kept telling our medic that I would be the reason he got his combat medic badge and I was one of the reasons, haha.  Also after switching with the driver we kept saying we were gonna hit an IED.  Just bad luck and a bad coincidence.  

MFV:  I'm sure you hated to leave your unit and men.  Tell us about that bond.
Chisum:  The bond between soldiers is stronger than anything I've ever seen.  You know for a fact they will risk their lives for you and know that they will always be there for you no matter where you're at.  You can talk to them about anything.   I hate being in America when my men are still there because I hoped that they would send me back and I don't feel like I should have left them behind.

MFV:  Have you been able to stay in touch with your guys?
Chisum:  Guys in Afghanistan write me and they're on Facebook and the guys in the IED blast keep in touch with each other.

MFV:  What do you miss?
Chisum:  Honestly, I miss everything...even the bad days because all the guys were still together and going through it together.

MFV:  How is rehab going?
Chisum:  I have to get my knee checked out and just routine check-ups on my ankle.  Everything is healing good and they say I will make a 100% recovery.

MFV:  I'm sure you heard of the firefight the 1/133rd was involved in where over 200 Taliban were killed on May 25th.  What was your reaction to that?
Chisum:  I think it is great.  The 1/133rd has and always will be a strong and proud Brigade.  If they want to  overrun where we are at  they'd better be ready because brothers have each others back and no one is gonna let them take it for free.

MFV:  You mentioned you might not be able to attend the Homecoming Celebration.  Thoughts?
Chisum:  I recently found out I most likely will be, but if I wouldn't have been able to,  it would be pretty devastating not seeing the guys come back.

MFV:  You received the Purple Heart.  What does that mean to you? 
Chisum:  The purple heart to be honest doesn't mean much to me. I know someone who was hurt worse but didn't get one and I did.

MFV:  How are your fellow soldiers doing that were involved in the IED blast?
Chisum:  The other guys in the IED that I know of are doing good.  I haven't talked to them in a little while, but they are all good.

MFV:  Would you do it all over again?
Chisum:  Yes, I would do it all over again.

I asked Chisum what word described his pre-deployment and he said, "anxious".  Then I asked for a word that described his deployment and he said, "bored, haha".  And lastly, I asked for a word that spoke to his arrival stateside due to his injuries....and he said "unfair".

If that doesn't sound like a true soldier ......one even old John Wayne would have been proud of.  Thanks, Sgt. Chisum Frisch, for a job well done.


YGG,

John

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

LESSONS IN AWAITING A SOLDIERS RETURN

We're waiting....and waiting and waiting and.....  That sound alot like you?  These are probably the hardest times. Waiting.  Most of us aren't very good at it.  But as we await our son, Kristopher, to come home from Afghanistan,  I'm reminded there are still lessons to be learned. 

A good friend of mine, Bret Culbertson,  passed a story along to me yesterday.  It made me stop and APPRECIATE the waiting when I know others won't......or maybe I should say CAN'T.  The following is from an airline captain who shared a moving moment.  One that causes us to halt our daily routines and reflect.

He writes: My lead flight attendant came to me and said, "We have an H.R. on this flight." (H.R. stands for human remains.).  "Are they military?" I asked.

'Yes', she said.
'Is there an escort?' I asked.
'Yes, I already assigned him a seat'.
'Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck? You can board him early," I said.

A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck.  He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier.    He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier....  The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.

'My soldier is on his way back to Virginia ,' he said.  He proceeded to answer my questions.  I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no.  I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers. The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand.  He left the flight deck to find his seat...

We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure.  About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin. 'I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying, is on board', she said.  She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home.  The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left.  We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia .

The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear.  He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane.  I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do.. 'I'm on it, I said.  I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages.  I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio. There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher.  I was in direct contact with the dispatcher.  I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted.  He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher.  We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family...  I sent a text message asking for an update.  I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:

'Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft.  The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side.  A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family.  The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp.  It is a private area for the family only.  When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home.  Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans.  Please pass our condolences on to the family.  Thanks.'

I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job.  I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father.  The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, 'You have no idea how much this will mean to them.'

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing.  After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area.  The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway.  It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit.  When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

'There is a team in place to meet the aircraft, we were told.  It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off,  everyone would stand up at  once and delay the family from  getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I asked the copilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers.  He did that and  the ramp controller said, 'Take your time.'

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake.  I pushed the  public address button and said, 'Ladies and gentleman, this is  your Captain speaking.   I  have stopped short of our gate to make a special  announcement.  We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect.   His Name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life.  Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold.  Escorting him today is  Army Sergeant  XXXXXXX.  Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter.  Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you.'

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures.  A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door.  I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see.  I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.


An Image For  Pause And Reflection

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands.  Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping.  Words of "God Bless You, I'm sorry, thank you, be proud, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane.  They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made.  They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

In these days of instant everything, there are lessons to be learned.  Perhaps, most importantly, not everything can be fast-tracked.  In the end, we are all waiting. 

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee-Psalm 39:7

YGG,

John

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

WITH TROOPS RETURNING, WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

I was headed to a meeting the other day, just traveling down the highway when all of a sudden I had this feeling come over me.  Where am I? and that was followed quickly by, where am I going?  For the life of me, I had no idea.  For what was most likely only a few moments, I was lost.  My brain was in a complete freeze mode, but like I said, it didn't last long.  It was however, a scary feeling.  Ever had that happen to you?  This wasn't the first time it's ever come upon me and strangely enough I had someone tell me about a similar experience for them just days ago.  Something tells me we aren't the only two going through this.  

Hopefully, it's not the first stage of Alzheimer's, but if it is, we'll just have to deal with it.   For now, I'm going to chalk up the experience to brain overload.  That's the best excuse I can think of.  I think back about 11 months ago when the first of the sendoffs took place for the 2,800 Iowa National Guard troops.  Gosh, that seems like years ago.  Long.....years ago.  This time period has brought about changes in us all.  Some for the good and some not so good..   One thing for sure is, we are remarkably different than before.

Sgt. Brian Pfeiler comes to mind.  In early January, Sgt. Pfeiler became the first known casaulty among the deployed 2,800.  Jeff LaPage, father-in-law of Sgt. Pfeiler wrote a letter to President Obama that says so much about the character of our troops and their willingness to sacrifice.

To:
President Barack Obama

January 17, 2011

Mr. President.

My son in law, Sgt Brian Pfeiler from Earlville Iowa who is attached to the 133rd Iowa National Guard station in Afghanistan was recently injured.  He stepped on a land mine while on patrol and lost the lower part of his right leg. This happened on 06 January.  He is now stateside recovering at Brooks AFB in San Antonio, Texas.  Please note that this is his 2nd deployment with his unit.  He previously served  in Iraq where he was also injured.  Brian is alive today because of the bravery of one man, Sgt Elijah Wright of Janesville Iowa who was along on patrol when Brian was injured.  Thanks to Sgt Wright's extreme heroism, his wife Katie and 3 year old daughter Madison will have been reunited with their husband and father.  I am writing to you because I would like to see Sgt Wright receive some kind of award, medal or recognition for his bravery in getting to Brian quickly and saving his life.  He is a brave and heroic young man and he is our angel. As Brian's father in law, I am forever in Sgt Wright's debt for what he has done and would like to see him recognized for what he did.

Regarding Brian.   He is recovering well physically from his injury.  But he has a deep sense of guilt for being injured and feels that he somehow let his unit down.   He also feels like he somehow failed in his duty.   In speaking with my daughter, his wife Katie, she says that he keeps apologizing as if he did something wrong.  Mr President, right now, Brian could use some words of encouragement.  Could you please let Brian know that he has nothing to apologize for and that he did not let his unit down?


Thank you Mr President,
Jeff LaPage

Could you Please let Brian know that he has nothing to apologize for?  That's was Mr. LaPage's request.  How about we all get on our hands and knees and pray for Brian because he has nothing to apologize for?  That should help in his healing process..... "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."-Matthew 18:4

Sgt. Pfeiler's humbleness in his duty, frankly, is not unusual.  We see it time and time again.  However, it's experiences like Brian's that will be a focal point for the returning troops.  Many will come home with guilt in the injuries they've sustained, the things they've seen and the things they've been asked to do, all in the Line of Duty.

Early this week we began hearing of soldiers embarking on a first leg of their return home.  Some have reached that destination while others are still in the "wait" mode.  It's time to put on a different hat and educate oneself in  helping make the reintegration process a successful one for you and your soldier.

While your soldier awaits orders, there is work to be done at home

On July 8th and 9th, my wife and I will be part of a panel at the "Parents of Soldier's Retreat" in Pella, Iowa.  Additional panelists will be Rosemary Giunta, mother of Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, Dale and Rhonda Jordal joined by Dan and Judy Merchant.  Each of us will bring a little something different to the table.  Chaplain Michael Crawford and the Third Reformed Church have worked together to put together a meeting that will focus on issues like, Expectations and Adjustments, "What will my soldier be like after....?"  and "A parent's concerns and how to deal with them".   You need to be parent of a soldier, but not necessarily an Iowa National Guard soldier to participate.  For more information contact Chaplain Michael Crawford at michael.v.crawford@us.army.mil

Time will go quickly now so it's important to not sit idly by.  Look for meetings such as the one I described.  Call your local Family Readiness Group and get some information.  Be aware your knowledge and support will go along way in smoothing the transition process, not only for your soldier, but for you.  It's imperative to get headed in the right direction......TOGETHER.


YGG,

John

Monday, June 20, 2011

READY FOR TAKEOFF

Finally!!!!  I just got off the phone with our son Kris who gave me a second day of "great" news.  Yesterday, he sent me a message concerning our relationship and how it's grown this past year.  It was the best present a Father could ever hope from a son on Father's Day.  Much of the change in our relationship has come due to his deployment to Afghanistan.  It hasn't been all bad.  For sure there have been some tough moments.  But it's time to put Afghanistan in the rearview mirror.....at least that's the best possible wordage I can paraphrase from Kris's comments.   

Perhaps as soon as twelve hours from now (Monday at 11:25 A.M. CST) Kris will be hopping on a helicopter with a number of other Iowa National Guard buddies......headed HOME.  Or at least the first leg of that trip.


The End is in Sight!!!!

I will write more about Kristopher's trip home at a later date.  More than anything, I don't want to jeopardize any of our troops as they begin this "pulling out" process.  I know that I'm speaking for a great number of people today who have prayed faithfully for our troops safety.  Don't stop now y'all.  Keep 'em coming until all of the Homecoming's have been completed in Iowa.  That day is coming, you know.

Anyway, I wanted to share this good news we got today.  It will be even sweeter when we hear his voice telling us he's at his next stop enroute back.  To be continued......


YGG,

John

Sunday, June 19, 2011

WHAT'S A DAD TO DO?

As I write this, we're about three hours into Father's Day 2011 and already it's been my best ever.  For sure it's been quite a journey as a father these last twenty years.  I've made tons of mistakes along this "learning process" way, but here's one I won't make any more.  I'll no longer think of it as "my day.  It's my son's day for all practical purposes.

Best ever?  Here's why.  For the first time, I'm not thinking about what surprise might come my way.  I could really care less if I even get a present.  What I desire is for my sons to know me better, how much I love them, what my hopes and dreams are for their futures and why God is so important in their lives.  That's it.

Last night my middle son Jonathan texted me a Happy Father's Day.  Hours before the day, mind you.  His message was littered with words that I'd been hoping to hear from him for years.  Without question, this has been a transformation on his part but it's taken the two of us to change our ways.  Thankfully we're both alive to see this about-face.  Some aren't so fortunate.


Sons and Daughters Praying to A Father

Today, I think of all the thousands of soldiers who are away from family....and those that are dads and those that are sons and daughters.  For the first time ever, I won't have all my sons with me on this day.  I KNOW the heartache you're going through.  I miss my oldest son, Kristopher, who is stationed in Afghanistan immensely.  He has less than a week before he leaves his Forward Operating Base to head back to the States.  Think our family isn't anxious?  Think panic isn't about to set in, if it hasn't already?   Here are the simple answers, yes on the first count and no on the second.

Of course we're anxious, we want Kris home safe and sound, but we're not panicky. In fact, I hadn't even thought about that part of it until yesterday.  Pastor Michael Hurst of Elim Christian Church in Des Moines delivered a wonderful sermon in regards to the storms in our lives and how faith is our answer.  Perhaps these verses (Matthew 8:23-27) can help provide an image:
.
"Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.   The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"   He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

Obey.  A short four letter word that means to carry out or fulfill the command.  It means being faithful and staying the course.  It means looking past your present situation and focusing on God to calm your storms, ....whatever they might be.  "Is your problem bigger than God",  Pastor Hurst questioned.

Is your problem you've lost connection with your teen-age daughter who seeks her peers acceptance rather than listening to you?  Are you and your father arguing over some senseless "prideful" hurt neither one of you wants to give into?  Did your father pass away without you ever telling him how much he meant to you?  Did your son commit suicide and are you blaming yourself for not being a better father?  If any of these situations fit you or something with a familiar ring to it, don't panic.  Rest in God's assurance of your faith that he will provide the proper direction.

We're another hour into Father's  Day 2011.  My youngest son, Jordan, just walked in the back door.  He spent part of the night at a friends house after a late night of work at a local grocery store.  Was I anxious he wasn't home?  Sure.  But was I panicky?  No.  Because this is what I need to do as a Father.  I have to help calm the storms rather than fan the winds.  I need to offer encouragement when it appears none is present.  And I need to listen when it's time to soothe an attitude.  More than anything, I've come to realize that I don't need to have all the answers.  Because when I don't.....God will.        

YGG,

John

Thursday, June 16, 2011

THE RIDERS WITHIN THE STORM: PATRIOT GUARD RIDERS OF IOWA

Are you any different than you were a year ago?  Are you seeing things in a much different light?  Have you figured out anything....has there been any big revelation on your part?   One thing is certain, we are all in a different state than when our troops left last July.  Some of our experiences have been highlights and others have been low lights. Some have been life changing and then others have caused us to endure a loss of life.  That's been the difficult part. 

To date, we have had 5 soldiers from our state killed in action since the Iowa National Guard Troops deployed to Afghanistan.  Three were Guard soldiers and two were not, but that's not the point.   Each of these servicemen were part of the "family" regardless of which branch of military they served.

Specialist Shawn Muhr was the first of our soldiers to be killed in action.  His death on January 29th was devastating for us all.  At the point of Specialist Muhr's death,  we had seen little of the insurgents.  From this point on, things changed.  No longer could soldiers, families and friends think the same.  The risks became more real, if that's possible, and the stress became harder and harder to deal with.  Weeks later came news of three more deaths.....Specialist Brent Mahr, Specialist Donnie Nichols and Staff Sgt. James Justice.  Their deaths further cemented a higher sense of anxiety for us all.  Weeks after Staff Sgt. Justice's death a Prayer Vigil was held in Des Moines for all of our the Iowa Troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.  Words and song and prayer helped that day.....and they've continued to be a source for strength and understanding.  That's been a difference, I believe.  In early June, funeral services were held for Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski in Ottumwa, Iowa.  Staff Sgt. Hamski was killed by an IED.  As hard as his death has been to accept, it was also further proof of one group standing tall,  not for themselves but for the fallen. 

Patriot Guard Riders of Iowa Present a Wall of Flags in Ottumwa

The Patriot Guard Riders of Iowa are on a mission.  In fact, here is there mission:

The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us.  We don’t care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a hawk or a dove. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is; you don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is Respect.  Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives:
  1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
  2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.

We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means. To those of you who are currently serving and fighting for the freedoms of others, at home and abroad, please know that we are backing you.  We honor and support you with every mission we carry out, and we are praying for a safe return home for all.

But they know not all of our soldiers will return home safely.  And when that happens, they take ACTION.  I was astounded to see over 500 motorcycles present for Specialist Donnie Nichols funeral in Waverly.  It was a chilly morning to say the least (in the 30 degree area).  Many Patriot Guard Riders had ridden hundreds of miles to pay their respects.  Un-be-lie-vable!!  But if that wasn't enough, the "500" led the funeral procession from the Waverly-Shell Rock High School to the cemetery in Cedar Falls.  It was truly an experience unlike any other.


Flags and Motorcycles Lead the Way
"When the call goes out, people drop what they are doing to show support,” said Ken Halter, Northeast Iowa ride captain in regards to Spc. Nichols funeral.  “This young soldier gave the ultimate sacrifice. It’s the least we could do to show the support back for him.”

From their humble beginnings in 2005, the Patriot Guard Riders now total more than 100,000 members across the country, linked via the Internet. The group, with no membership fee, has members in all 50 states and as far away as Belgium.  Fundraising goes toward bandwidth for the Web site and scholarships.

If you ask any of the Patriot Guard Riders their allegiance, expect little fanfare from their lips other than respect and the flag.  This is a passion they've embraced without hoping for any sense of return.  Some families of the fallen soldiers have been so moved by their presence, they've joined the group.  It's been no question they are a silver lining to a very difficult time.  They are the Riders within the Storm.  That's how impactful they are.


YGG,

John

Monday, June 13, 2011

IF YOU'RE READING THIS JOURNAL....FATHER TO SON-VOLUME 15

The journal you are about to read is part of an ongoing dialogue.  The words are a conversation between "the family" of the soldier experience.  It's Dads, Moms, Sons,  Daughters,  Relatives and Friends sharing their thoughts of a particular day and/or it could be the soldiers journal entry detailing his or hers.  I believe there are many, many people keeping a journal through the Afghan War.  If you want to share an entry of yours email it to jkmyfathersvoice@gmail.com  Your post will be strictly confidential,  no names will be used.  In addition, locations overseas will not be mentioned for security purposes except the country of origin.  Some editing may be done to further protect the journal participant.

Dear Son:

"If you're reading this journal", then there is a reason........

With Father's Day coming up, I wanted to share something from the other side of the equation regarding the "letter".  So often it's too late for parents and children to share their feelings for each other.  I'm not going to make that mistake. 

As I begin to write this journal message to you, I am quickly realizing why so many soldiers struggle in penning a "if you're reading this letter".  And why wouldn't they?  It would have to be extremely upsetting for a 19 or 20 year old serviceman or woman to think about dying before they've scarcely begun to live.  A Major who I've become friends with,  mentioned to me several months ago that fewer than fifty percent of soldiers who go through training aren't able to come up with the words.  In fact, some are angered by the mere idea of  having to consider such a task.  I'm sure you can call it denial or an inability to express oneself on their part for argument's sake.  Nevertheless, choosing not to write such a letter may bring the loss of a great opportunity to seal a past, express the present and provide hope for the future for all their loved ones.

So I got to thinking about such a task. What if I had to pen what could be my final words to you should something happen to me while you're at war.  It would go like this.  

Son,

I must first tell you how proud I am of you.  You have eclipsed any amount of courage I could ever have imagined.  And that's just in knowing the little bits of information you've shared with us.  I know there's more....much more, that I never heard about.  That's why I'm saying you max the word, COURAGE.

Okay, now it's going to get harder as tears stream down my cheeks and I choke back the snot.  Not a very pretty image I've left you with, I'm sure.  This IS really hard to write this.  Harder than I ever anticipated.  Wait....just a second.  I'll try and recompose myself as I clear my throat passage.  Alright, here I go again.

Who would have ever thought we'd have experienced what our family did after you deployed to Afghanistan last July?  I mean years ago, when you were my little guy with the bigger than life hands....I now see one who has grown into a man.  That's not so easy for a Dad to say.  First off, it meant, I was getting older or just OLD.  That's a given.  But it's also a deeper desire to know what's ahead for you.....where God will take you, the woman you fall in love with..... the children you are blessed with and the dreams you have becoming a reality.   This letter means I won't be able to watch it all happen.  As much as that saddens me, it's also enabling me to provide you a "gift" of direction. 

Here are some of the thoughts I have, just so you know.  You'll never have to wonder, like I have, if my father loved me.  Did he love me?  I'm sure he did.  You see son, when I was growing up, it was typical for the man to be the bread winner in the house...not the 'nurturant' father .  Today, it's okay, maybe even expected, for a man to express his emotions.  As for future generations, the story between fathers and sons is waiting to be written.   That's where you come in.

Be a Leader.  Don't settle for what everyone else is doing.  Lean on God and ask His direction for you.  Listen to Him.......then OBEY.  If there was anything that changed in me in recent years, it was listening and then obeying.  Be BOLD.  You've had experiences in this past year that can either cripple you or define you.  Let them define you.  Don't search for "normal" when you get back home, because you might not find it.  Because how can you?  You've changed.          

A Lifetime of Memories Await You....

Son, cling to your Faith and your Family.  To jog your memory your name, Kristopher, means "Follower of Christ".  Your mother spent alot of time in researching the "right" name for you.  Be that individual.  And speaking of your mother.  She's going to need you.  Love on her more than you ever thought you could.  Be the support she has for you and your brothers over the years.  She gave her all for you son....know that.  And then don't forget your brothers.   As the now professed head of the household, you'll be able to see family dynamics in a whole different light.  Be the encourager and the discerning one for your siblings.  Rest assured you'll all need each other more and in a different way.

As I near the end of this journal post I wanted to share a couple of other quick thoughts.  Some maybe in a word.  Others in a short sentence.  Each tells a story of you and me.  Here goes:

MY FIRST PRIDE AND JOY
IRREPLACEABLE
YOUR YANKEES, MY WHITE SOX
SAME WEIRD SENSE OF HUMOR
HEARTACHE IN OUR ABSENCES
TEARS WE'VE SHARED TOGETHER THOUSANDS OF MILES APART
LOVE THAT GREW THROUGH STUBBORN TIMES
FISHING WITHOUT ME BAITING THE HOOK
A NICE LOOKING SET OF WHEELS
OUR GOLDEN RETRIEVER MASON
HOPE
AND.......
PROVERBS 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight

You have an entire lifetime of memories awaiting you son.  Live them and breathe life into them.  Unlike the old "Mission Impossible" TV show where the message would self destruct once read.....this one won't.  It's yours to read and re-read.  Each time you do, you'll see something different in how much I loved you.  I'm hopeful that's the kind of love your children sense from you.  Someday.

Until we see each other again keep envisioning the humongous hug coming your way.  You can count on it. 

Love you son , I was so blessed to be your father......

Dad      

Saturday, June 11, 2011

COURAGE IN THE NIGHT FOR THE "IRONMAN"

May 25th, Seventeen days ago, the Ironman Battalion of the Iowa Army National Guard was involved in a firefight of hellacious consequences.   For sixteen of those days, our son, Kristopher, who is part of the battalion,  kept the story inside.  At least inside Army walls.  Yesterday, he told me a reporter had been by for interviews and a story would be forthcoming regarding a significant battle.  Despite giving me some of the details the following story was an Oh My God experience.  The story comes from Pat Kinney, who  is a reporter for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.


WATERLOO - A tale of courage under fire has been received out of Afghanistan involving soldiers of the Waterloo-headquartered Iowa Army National Guard battalion.  Members of the Guard's 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment - the "Ironman Battalion" - lived up to their nickname in the recapture of the Afghan town of Do Ab, Nuristan province, in heavy fighting with entrenched Taliban insurgents on May 25.

After being pinned down for more than an hour by unrelenting mortar and machine gun fire in an exposed helicopter landing zone, the soldiers fought their way to a livestock compound that offered a defensible position.  They provided cover fire for a second wave mainly made up of friendly Afghan forces. Supported by assault helicopters and Air Force fighter jets, they drove off the enemy and retook Do Ab, a governmental center similar to a county seat, according to soldiers' accounts.  The 60-soldier force - 42 "Ironmen" and 18 Afghan nationals - sustained no casualties while killing more than 100 Taliban.

While the 1/133rd, part of the 34th "Red Bull" infantry division, has seen combat throughout its eight months in Afghanistan, the May 25 operation was the heaviest fighting experienced to date.  It was one of the "most significant engagements the Red Bull has been involved in since World War II," Guard spokesman Maj. Mike Wunn in Afghanistan said.  "We had many points through the day where luck was on our side. Our guys did an outstanding job, which led to all of us coming home," added 1/133rd battalion commander Lt. Col. Steven Kremer of Cherokee.  "It's just amazing to me, it's unbelievable everyone came out," Kremer said.

The soldiers were members of the 1/133rd's headquarters and headquarter company, as well as Charlie Company, and the battalion mortar and sniper teams. The sniper team was headed by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Buhr of Waverly.

Intelligence reports indicated the reinforced Taliban had seized Do Ab. The 1/133rd's mission, Kremer said, was to assess the enemy strength and determine how large a force would be needed to deal with the insurgents. The Guardsmen flew in on two Chinook helicopters in a fairly confined landing zone, the only flat area in the rough terrain around Do Ab.

They discovered the enemy strength soon after landing. Guard 1st Lt. Justin Foote of New Hartford, formerly of Evansdale, 1/133rd reconnaissance platoon leader, said an air burst from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade exploded over one of the Chinooks as it took off, and the fight was on.  "The whole (landing zone) erupted into fire," Foote said. "From every point of high ground, from every piece of defensible fighting position the enemy were in, it pretty much rained down - all types of weapons, small arms fire, machine gun fire, RPG fire and enemy mortar rounds."  Soldiers would take cover behind rocks for protection, only to be subjected to fire from another angle. "You were taking fire from pretty much every direction," Foote said.

The experienced Taliban were dug in up to their chests in the rocky fortifications. The two Chinooks had landed 300 meters apart, under such withering fire it took the Ironmen an hour to consolidate their divided force.  Noncommissioned officers moved back and forth in the open, exposed to enemy fire, to coordinate their soldiers' efforts. But the Ironmen, at this point in their deployment, know their jobs well in such situations, said Maj. Aaron Baugher of Ankeny, senior ground force commander during the operation, and Sgt. Edward Kane of Portland, Ore., an interstate transfer soldier serving with the 1/133rd.

The Ironmen mortar and sniper squads and supporting Black Hawk assault helicopters laid down suppressing fire on the north side of the landing zone. That allowed the entire force to finally move to defensible positions. The Black Hawks also sustained heavy damage from the Taliban fire, but survived the fight.

The force leaders on the ground decided to head for the shelter of the compound of defensible livestock buildings rather than take a narrow and exposed road directly into Do Ab, especially after a friendly Afghan police force the Guardsmen were to meet up with did not show.

With the assistance of Air Force personnel, the soldiers called in F-15 and F-16 fighters which dropped 500-pound bombs on the enemy positions - some within 200 meters of their own. Apache helicopter gunships also arrived to help take out the Taliban positions.  When more Chinooks arrived with additional Guardsman and Afghan nationals, the Ironmen already on the ground provided covering fire. When a thunderstorm prevented additional troops from being brought in, the decision was made to move into Do Ab under cover of night.  We own the night," Kane said.

The Ironmen and their Afghan allies had moved into Do Ab by sunrise, which comes at about 2:30 to 3 a.m. there. By that time the Taliban had sustained enough casualties they had withdrawn from Do Ab. The Ironmen eventually made contact with the Afghan police. Do Ab was deserted upon their arrival, but within four days of retaking the center, children could be seen playing in the street again.  Kremer noted the entire battalion was involved in supporting their comrades in the field at Do Ab, gathering and flying in ammunition and supplies throughout the operation, among other tasks.

Guard soldiers once took supporting roles in previous deployments. But Kremer said the engagement at Do Ab illustrates that the Guard troops can perform alongside their active-duty counterparts, and his citizen soldiers are well suited to the task of winning the peace as well as the war by rebuilding the Afghan community. 

"We do everything the active duty Army normally does - combined action with local military, Afghan national army, Afghan national police - we're out doing everything they do," Kremer said. "Government development, security - we're doing it all. And we bring a certain skill set, because back home we're school teachers, and police officers, firefighters, and carpenters. We understand community relationships."

The "Ironmen" said they may be back in Iowa in about six weeks.



A Prayer for our Enemies can be Healing

After reading this account, my heightened thoughts began to settle into place.....slowly into some sort of  focus.   Here are my impressions.  (1) I'm so thankful our son and the other U.S. and Afghan soldiers were injury-free.  (2)  I was awestruck in the courage that was exhibited.  I know, this is their job.  That still doesn't downplay the actions.  (3)  I began to think of the "other" side.  The bad guys.  Somebody's son, husband, father, brother, or another relative name or someone's friend died.  Over 100 Taliban were killed.  But I've also heard reports of over 200 Killed in Action.  And that saddens me.  (4) Remind me, why are we in Afghanistan anyway?

Several weeks ago, Rosemary Giunta, mother of Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta prayed for our enemies during the prayer vigil we held for our Iowa troops.  "Let them know you God", she said.  "Give them a hunger to know you".  

You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy"...But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you--Matthew 5:43-44

YGG,

John


   

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

IOWA TROOPS AWAIT "DOG DAYS" AS RETURN IN SIGHT

It's been said, "A Dog is Man's Best Friend".  And I'd probably have to agree, especially with our Golden Retriever looking me in the eye as I write this.  "Okay, Mason....you know you are my best buddy.  You're spoiled, your loved and you've given us more back in return than we've given you, for sure".  Interesting how that is.  We adopted Mason from the Iowa Golden Retriever Rescue League to keep him from being euthanized and he ends up saving us.  How so?  Weeks prior to our adoption of "Mace", we had to put down Nala, our first retriever, who we adopted from the Animal Rescue League in Des Moines, Iowa.  My wife, JoAnne and  I were certain that no dog would ever replace her.  Which of course was true.  But when we least expected it, into our lives came this boy with the big head of Goliath, the large feet of Shaquille O'Neal ....and a Golden heart, literally.  He was our answer in four footed form.  "Brown Thang" (you see we call him a number of things) came to us, not to offer a substitute for Nala, but to enhance her and our relationship with our "best friends".        

Mason awaits a new four-legged Friend,

In the coming weeks, the 2,800 Iowa troops that deployed to Afghanistan will be returning home.  What will be their frame of mind?  How will they begin to cope in connecting with "normal"?  How will they sleep?  Many of those questions are waiting to be answered.   Some soldiers will look for answers in the worst of ways.  Others will look for something to hold onto.   

Our son, Kristopher, tells us of a story of an Afghan dog being adopted by a Iowa soldier and sent back to his family in the states.  Seems like the two became inseparable in Afghanistan and one could not imagine living without the other.  Although, I'm not sure who, the "one" was, I've got a pretty good idea.

Maybe that's what got our Kristopher thinking, I'm not sure, because he's talking about adopting a Golden like our rascal.  We're ecstatic about his decision, which leads me to wonder, how many other soldiers might follow suit.  Here's a little story about Airman Kim Specht that might give us all an insight as to why these "best friends" can help in the soldiers healing process.      

"It was a quiet day at a U.S. Air Force base in Turkey not long before 9/11, much too quiet, as Senior Airman Kim Specht and her unit were immersed in their task of inspecting aircraft.  Sensing something was amiss, Specht searched the base, finding none of the usual bustle and noise.   Finally she met a patrolman, who told Specht that everybody was sealed safely away in shelters after word came of an incoming bomb attack — everybody except Specht and her unit, who were never told of the danger.

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, Specht simply waited to die.  “In my mind, I wondered if we would go quickly or slowly, painfully or not painfully,” remembers Specht, now retired from service and staying with friends in Greenwich.  The bombs never came, but the psychological damage from being forgotten would explode in her nightmares for years after. 

“Being on high alert in a war zone 24 hours, not knowing if the gunfire I heard was friendly or not, was unsettling,” Specht said.  “I had to be aware that my interaction with the locals might not be safe. I had to think about the food or drink, whether it was poisoned or had crushed glass in it. Also, there was a danger of being poisoned and/or sexually assaulted.”  Those brushes with death and constantly being on edge, as well as very real experiences of being harassed, would eventually send her over the brink of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Specht, like hundreds of thousands of her fellow veterans, has waged a personal war with her psychological demons, dealing with bipolar disorder, plus all the symptoms that come with PTSD — anxiety, depression, nightmares and a sleep disorder.  “I had no value of life, no desire. I felt alone,” she said after her seven years in the Air Force, after which she settled in Texas.  But while most veterans attempt to cope with medication and counseling, Specht is one of a unique few for whom salvation would come on four legs".

Luis Carlos Montalván is a writer, veteran with 17 years in the military (a captain in the U.S. Army) and an advocate.  In Iraq he was wounded incurring a traumatic brain injury, (TBI) post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fractured vertebrae. Coming to the rescue for Montalván was “ECAD (East Coast Assistants Dogs)” ECAD (East Coast Assistants Dogs) with their Project HEAL...and a beauty of a dog named "Tuesday".  Meet them both........the results are transforming.


video


Let's not sugar coat what's ahead.   These will be difficult times for the soldier and for his spouse, family and friends.  So many of us will want to help "fix" the situation with words and actions.  That's the worst medicine, I'm sure.  And I'm also convinced the loving look of a dog, the wagging tail, the loyalty they provide can be the best tonic there is.    And I'm willing to go to the Dogs to provide proof.


YGG,

John

Monday, June 6, 2011

JUNE 6TH AND REMEMBERING D-DAY

The older I get the more it seems like dates in history mean more to me and often times cause me to dig deeper and learn more.  I always liked History in school maybe because it seemed of greater relevance to me than studies like Algebra .......but that's another subject for another time.

I asked my son in Afghanistan today if he knew what the significance of June 6th was.  At first he said no, then after I said, D-Day, he fired back, we were just talking about that today at lunch.   Despite his joking of short term memory loss about their meal conversation, it makes one wonder how much memory loss there is collectively in our country about that famous day June 6, 1944.  Year after year the day comes and goes with hardly any grand attention being given.  Let's revisit the details of D-Day.

American Combat Engineers eat a meal atop boxes of ammunition stockpiled for D-Day

After the German conquest of France in 1940, the opening of a second front in western Europe was a major aim of Allied strategy during World War II.  On June 6, 1944, under the code name Operation "Overlord," U.S., British and Canadian troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, on the English Channel coast east of Cherbourg and west of Le Havre.  Under overall command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and, on the ground, of British General Bernard Montgomery, more than 130,000 Allied troops landed on five beaches, code named Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword, and Utah.  On the night before the amphibious landings, 23,000 U.S. and British paratroopers landed in France behind the German defensive lines by parachute and glider.  The invasion force of more than 155,000 troops included 50,000 vehicles (including 1,000 tanks).  Nearly 7,000 naval craft and more than 11,500 aircraft supported the invasion.

Famous war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, tried to describe the scene just prior to landing:  "The best way I can describe this vast armada and the frantic urgency of the traffic is to suggest that you visualize New York City on its busiest day of the year and then just enlarge that scene until it takes in all the ocean the human eye can reach clear around the horizon and over the horizon. There are dozens of times that many."

Even with a massive armada, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower knew there was no certainty in war. He issued his historic message to the troops prior to their landing: "You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."  That message was delivered, but Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, kept another message in his pocket, one never used, to be read in case the invasion failed.


Under the overall command of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the Germans had deployed five infantry divisions, one airborne division and one tank division along the Normandy coast and held the advantage in battle positioning.  However, the Allies had an overwhelming advantage in naval and air power.  On D-Day alone, the Allies flew 14,000 sorties; the German air force managed only 500 sorties.  Moreover, a successful Allied deception plan had led the Germans to believe the point of the attack to be further north and east on the coast near Calais and the Belgian border.  Fooled, the Germans moved only slowly to reinforce the Normandy defenses after the initial landing.

Despite Allied superiority, the Germans contained Allied troops in their slowly expanding beachhead for six weeks. The U.S. 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions made the most difficult landing on Omaha Beach.  Stiff German resistance here caused over 3,000 casualties before the Allied troops could establish their positions by the end of the first day.  On D-Day itself, Allied troops suffered more than 10,000 casualties: British and Canadian forces suffered around 3,700 casualties; U.S. forces took about 6,600 casualties. The German defenders lost between 4,000 and 9,000 men. 

On D-Day itself, the Allies landed 11 divisions on the French coast, but failed in reaching their planned objective of linking the beachheads or driving inland to a distance of nine miles. Within five days, on June 11, Allied troops overcame German resistance to unite the invasion beaches into one large beachhead.

Perhaps words will take you closer to that day, but if not, then let's have some good old black and white video show you some more.



June 6, 1944 was an historic day.  A day that needs to stay in your memory banks.  It might not be a Hallmark Card reminder day.....but when you think of what might have happened in World War II had D-Day not taken place, it makes one shudder. 

YGG,

John     

Friday, June 3, 2011

STAFF SGT. GIUNTA MEET SGT. 1ST CLASS LEROY PETRY

The highest level of distinction that our military can hand out, the Medal of Honor, is about to double in size.  And that's a good thing.  Currently, Staff Sft. Salvatore Giunta of Hiawatha, Iowa  is the lone living soldier holding that distinction.  Recently a news release informed the country of the honor to be bestowed upon Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry.  The following is a release from the Army News Service.

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 – An Army Ranger who lost his right hand and suffered shrapnel wounds after throwing an armed grenade away from his fellow soldiers will be the second living Medal of Honor recipient from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On July 12, President Barack Obama will present the nation’s highest award for battlefield gallantry to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry for his actions during May 26, 2008, combat operations against an armed enemy in Afghanistan’s Paktia province.Petry now serves as part of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Benning, Ga.

Our newest Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry

"It's very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day to nominate me for that," said Petry, on learning he had been nominated for the medal.  At the time of his actions in Afghanistan, Petry was assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. His actions came as part of a rare daylight raid to capture a high-value target.

Petry was to locate himself with the platoon headquarters in the targeted building once it was secured. Once there, he was to serve as the senior noncommissioned officer at the site for the remainder of the operation.
Recognizing one of the assault squads needed help clearing their assigned building, Petry relayed to the platoon leader that he was moving to that squad to provide additional supervision and guidance. Once the residential portion of the building had been cleared, Petry took a fellow member of the assault squad, Pfc. Lucas Robinson, to clear the outer courtyard. Petry knew that area had not been cleared during the initial clearance.

Petry and Robinson, both Rangers, moved into an area of the compound that contained at least three enemy fighters who were prepared to engage friendly forces from opposite ends of the outer courtyard.
As the two soldiers entered the courtyard, to their front was an opening, followed by a chicken coop. As they crossed the open area, an enemy insurgent fired on them. Petry was wounded by one round, which went through both of his legs. Robinson was also hit in his side plate by a separate round.  While wounded and under enemy fire, Petry led Robinson to the cover of the chicken coop as the enemy fighters continued to fire at them.  As the senior soldier, Petry assessed the situation. He reported that contact was made and that two wounded Rangers were in the courtyard of the primary target building. Upon hearing the report, Sgt. Daniel Higgins, a team leader, moved to the outer courtyard.

As Higgins was moving to Petry and Robinson's position, Petry threw a thermobaric grenade near the enemy position. Shortly after that grenade exploded and created a lull in the enemy fire, Higgins arrived at the chicken coop and was assessing his comrades’ wounds when an insurgent threw a grenade over the chicken coop at the three Rangers. The grenade landed about 10 yards from the soldiers, knocking them to the ground and wounding Higgins and Robinson.  Shortly after the grenade exploded, Staff Sgt. James Roberts and Spc. Christopher Gathercole entered the courtyard and moved toward the chicken coop.

With three soldiers taking cover in the chicken coop, an enemy fighter threw another grenade at them. This time, the grenade landed just a few feet from Higgins and Robinson. Recognizing the threat that the enemy grenade posed to his fellow Rangers, Petry -- despite his own wounds and with complete disregard for his personal safety -- consciously and deliberately risked his life to move to and secure the live enemy grenade and throw it away from his fellow Rangers, according to battlefield reports.

As Petry released the grenade in the direction of the enemy, preventing the serious injury or death of Higgins and Robinson, it detonated and amputated his right hand.  Petry assessed his wound and placed a tourniquet on his right arm. He then reported that he was still in contact with the enemy and that he had been wounded again.  After the blast that amputated Petry's hand, Roberts began to engage the enemy behind the chicken coop with small-arms fire and a grenade. His actions suppressed the insurgents behind the chicken coop. Shortly after, another enemy fighter on the east end of the courtyard began firing, fatally wounding Gathercole.  Higgins and Robinson returned fire and killed the enemy.

Moments later, Sgt. 1st Class Jerod Staidle, the platoon sergeant, and Spc. Gary Depriest, the platoon medic, arrived in the outer courtyard. After directing Depriest to treat Gathercole, Staidle moved to Petry's position. Staidle and Higgins then assisted Petry as he moved to the casualty collection point.  Higgins later wrote in a statement, "If not for Staff Sergeant Petry's actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed."

Petry is the ninth servicemember to have been named a recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. All but Petry and Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta were awarded the honor posthumously.

Army Spc. Ross A. McGinnis, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor and Marine Corps Cpl. Jason L. Dunham all received the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq. Giunta, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Monti and Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy were awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.

Petry currently serves as a liaison officer for the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition Northwest Region, and provides oversight to wounded warriors, ill and injured servicemembers and their families.
He enlisted in the Army from his hometown of Santa Fe, N.M., in September 1999. After completion of One Station Unit Training, the Basic Airborne Course and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program -- all at Fort Benning -- he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.  Petry has served as a grenadier, squad automatic rifleman, fire team leader, squad leader, operations sergeant and weapons squad leader. He has deployed eight times, with two tours to Iraq and six tours to Afghanistan.  Petry and his wife, Ashley, have four children: Brittany, Austin, Reagan and Landon.

It would be interesting to be a bystander when Staff Sgt. Giunta and Sgt. 1st Class Petry meet for the first time.  As humble as Giunta is, I know he does not clamor the limelight of the honor he received last year.  Having Petry alongside will be great comfort for the two of them.  Two most certainly is better than one, isn't it?

YGG,

John

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

EVERY DAY IS MEMORIAL DAY FOR BUGLERS ACROSS AMERICA

Late last Fall we profiled a young lady from Sac City, Iowa who has found a unique way to serve her God and her country.  Kelly Kilbride, now 14, is the youngest female in Buglers Across America, a group founded by former Marine Tom Day.  Some 11 years ago, Congress  passed legislation stating Veterans had a right to at least two uniformed military people to fold the flag and play taps on a CD player.  Buglers Across America was begun to take this a step further, and in recognition of the service these Veterans provided their country, Day felt every Veteran deserved a live rendition of taps played by a live Bugler.

This year, like the past several, Chris Wallace of Fox News, has provided the story and the emotion that goes into this organization.  In the video piece below, we'll let Tom Day tell it in his own words.



So, Kilbride, Day and the other 7,000 plus Buglers Across American play on.  Their work is truly an act of kindness to the family's who have lost a loved one.  And as Day intimated, no amount of money can replace the song's lasting effects.  For the devoted Buglers Across America, every day, is Memorial Day!

There is a myth about the origin of Taps that is circulating about the Internet. The true story is that in July 1862, after the Seven Days battles at Harrison's Landing (near Richmond), Virginia, the wounded Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, General Daniel Butterfield reworked, with his bugler Oliver Wilcox Norton, another bugle call, "Scott Tattoo," to create Taps.  He thought that the regular call for Lights Out was too formal. Taps was adopted throughout the Army of the Potomac and finally confirmed by orders.  Soon other Union units began using Taps, and even a few Confederate units began using it as well.  After the war, Taps became an official bugle call.

The evening of Memorial Day, I spoke with my mother who lives in Montezuma, Iowa.  She told me she and my sister and brother-in-law had gone to services at the local cemetery earlier in the day.  She also mentioned the speaker who told them a fascinating story about the lyrics of "Taps".  Betcha didn't know any existed, right?  Because I sure didn't.  After doing a little research, I found something quite interesting, not "official" mind you, but lyrics with some tremendous feeling of struggle. comfort and living on.

Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep,
peaceful sleep,
May the soldier
or sailor,
God keep.
On the land
or the deep,
Safe in sleep.
Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night
Need thee so?

All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.
Fades the light;
And afar
Goeth day,
And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well;
Day has gone,
Night is on.
Thanks and praise,
For our days,
'Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.


YGG,

John