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Guard Well Equipped in Field
Pace of National Guard Deployment Threatens
Homeland Defense: Officials
Troop Supply Getting Thin
Guard Training for Terror
Honeymoon in Iraq
Emotional Homecoming Greets Returning Conn.
National Guard Unit
1057th Troops Get Warm Welcome Home in Panhandle
A Solemn, Ecstatic Homecoming
GI Who Lost Legs to Return to New Home
82nd Comes Home
Santa Fe Unit Saved Soldiers, Children
Comptroller Nominee Says She’d Target Troop
Understanding Tricare Benefits While Traveling
Army Announces New Disabled Soldiers Initiative
Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan Can Now Call Home
for Just a Quarter a Minute
Soldier Sisters Choose Not to Rejoin Army
Units in Iraq
State’s 81st Brigade to Focus on Security
at Iraq, Kuwait Bases
Mortar attack gets quick response in Taji
Nature Is Balm, Torment In Iraq Troops Encountered
Former Captive By Chance, Commander Says
Guard Program Sends Volunteers to Aid Troops’
A Year Later, Public Safety Staffers Still
Lost to Military Duty
Sergeant’s Wife Knows How to Keep Home Fires
Toll in Iraq Weighs on Tiny Town
“There Is No Glory in War”
Soldiers Say Their Health Suffering from Uranium-Filled
Pentagon Says Depleted Uranium Did Not Harm New
More Than 300 Turn Out to Greet Motorcade
Being Fallen Soldier Home
Fifth Arkansas Soldier Who Died in Roadside
Marine Was Moved By the Poor of Iraq; Green
Beret, 45, Delayed Retiring
Emotional Service Pays Tribute to Gelineau
Rites Set for Sgt. Sherwood Baker
Congress, Nation Designate Military Appreciation
Female Air Guardsman Awarded Bronze Star
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Guard Well Equipped in Field
by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
Fort Bragg, N.C. (Army News Service, April
27, 2004) — A few hundred Virginia Army National
Guard Soldiers, who are preparing to serve
in Afghanistan, would like to set the record
They are getting more equipment than they
know what to do with. They are getting the
best equipment that the Army can buy. They
are getting the time and the opportunity to
train with it. They do not consider themselves
In short, the 550 or so Soldiers in the 3rd
Battalion, 116th Infantry at Fort Bragg, N.C.,
are convinced they will look just like every
other active-duty Soldier if and when they
deploy to Afghanistan this summer to do their
bit for the global war against terrorism.
"Oh, it’s like Christmas. I came here
with two duffel bags. Now I’ve got four," said
Spc. Bobby Peasley of Inwood, W.Va., a member
of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, before
drawing his Interceptor Body Armor vest here
at Fort Bragg, where the Virginia battalion
has been training since early March.
Everything each Guard Soldier gets, including
four sets of desert camouflage uniforms, body
armor and state-of-the-art sight systems for
the new M-4 carbines, dispels rumors that the
Army is not outfitting its reserve-component
Soldiers for this war as well as it does the
"We always hear rumors," Peasley
scoffed. "Rumors fly like birds."
The rumors have, however, been persistent.
People like Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston
have done their best to make sure they are
not true and that every Soldier sent into harm’s
way gets everything they can get to stay warm
and dry and alive in places like Afghanistan
"We just deployed three [National Guard]
brigades. The 30th, 39th and 81st are the best
equipped, best prepared brigades the Army has
ever deployed," Preston said. "They’ve
got the Interceptor Body Armor, the Rapid Fielding
Initiative which [includes] the knee pads and
the Moisture Wicking underwear, and the new
optics for their weapons. They’ve got all of
the latest equipment. "Each Soldier was
issued $3,300 worth of equipment in preparation
to go over there," Preston added.
"The Army has done a good job of getting
the stuff we need. There has been no resistance
for anything we’ve asked for," said Lt.
Col. Blake Ortner, the Virginia Army Guard
battalion’s commander. "It has only been
a matter of how quickly they can get it to
That seems to have happened pretty quickly.
Every Virginia Guard Soldier in sight here
was wearing his body armor vest during the
April week before Easter when it was still
cool enough in North Carolina to get accustomed
to the extra weight.
And the Soldiers were zeroing their carbines
with brand new M68 Aimpoint Sight Systems during
the same week, about three months before they
are scheduled to complete their training and
go to Afghanistan.
They like those new sights.
"You put the red dot on a target and
you will hit it. It is going to go down," marveled
Sgt. 1st Class James Shepard who pulled a peacekeeping
tour on the Sinai Peninsula as an 82nd Airborne
Division Soldier for the first half of 1995.
The Virginia Guard Soldiers are also in line
to get the Army’s advanced combat helmet which
weighs about a pound less than the standard
Kevlar helmet. It is a bit shorter in the back
and above the eyes to make it easier to fire
from the prone position, explained Ellen Perciaccanto,
a Fort Bragg fielding officer.
But those are only the big ticket items, pointed
out Capt. Jeffrey Sink, the Virginia battalion’s
The basic clothing list includes at least
two sets of brown boots and a pair of black
cold-weather boots, three sets of polypropylene
underwear and silk-weight underwear, gloves,
Camelbak water containers and knee and elbow
"I’d venture to say that we’re getting
as much, if not more, new clothing and equipment
than the active-duty guys," Sink said.
It’s quite all right with the grunts like
Spc. Bobby Peasley, who know they could be
dealing with harsh weather, tough terrain and
an unpredictable enemy if they do go to Afghanistan.
"This makes us feel a lot better for
our personal safety," he said. "We’d
like to see all that we go with come home."
Agence France Presse
Pace of National Guard Deployment
Threatens Homeland Defense: Officials
Washington, April 29
The largest deployment of National
Guard troops since World War II
could leave the US homeland vulnerable unless
steps are taken to ensure the force is up
to the task, senior officials told lawmakers
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
on the United States forced US defense planners
to rely on the National Guard more
than at any time since 1945, officials told
a House Government Reform Committee hearing.
Since the attacks, more than 51 percent of
the 350,000 Army National Guard soldiers
and 31 percent of the Air National
Guard troops have been called to
active service either in support of homeland
defense or for deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan
and other battlefields in the global war on
The call-ups have stretched thin a force designed
to serve US states in peacetime missions such
as disaster relief and controlling civil unrest
while remaining prepared to back up regular
US military forces in time of war.
Each state has its own National Guard.
"Unless (the Defense Department), Congress
and the states work closely to address these
challenges, guard units may continue to experience
a declining readiness that could affect their
ability to meet future requirements both at
home and overseas," Janet St. Laurent,
director of defense capabilities and management
for the General Accounting Office, the investigative
arm of the US Congress, told the committee.
Senior defense officials said the Pentagon
is working on restructuring the National Guard
and developing a homeland defense strategy,
but admitted they are years away from completing
"The threat posed by well-financed, sophisticated
and determined international terrorist groups
has raised the bar as to what the National
Guard must be able to do," said
Thomas Hall, assistant secretary of defense
for reserve affairs.
The fight against terrorist groups such as
al-Qaeda, the Islamist militant organization
responsible for the September 11 attacks, has
also stretched thin an active-duty US military
force much reduced from Cold War levels.
That in turn has put increased pressure on National
Guard troops, who are currently
spending an average of one year away from
their civilian lives on active duty, according
to Pentagon figures.
The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2005 defense budget
appropriates 33.3 billion dollars for the National
Guard and reserve, an increase of
only 2.8 percent over fiscal year 2004, which
ends September 30.
State officials said that might not be enough
to keep the National Guard prepared
to defend the US homeland, fight wars overseas
and mitigate the impact of service on its members.
"The Army National Guard ,
in particular, is so thinly resourced it cannot
take on new missions ‘out of hide.’ Properly
resourcing the guard for domestic threat and
vulnerability assessments, contingency planning,
training, exercising and employment of force
functions is essential," said Major General
Timothy Lowenberg, adjutant general of the
Washington National Guard .
New York Governor George Pataki touted a package
of benefits his state has offered guard members
on active duty, and urged other states to follow
"The sacrifices our military men and
women make while serving on active duty should
not be compounded by their families having
to make additional sacrifices at home," Pataki
told the committee.
Concerns about the continuing demands on US
military forces has even spurred one leading
Republican lawmaker to consider reviving the
military draft, abandoned in 1973 after the
"Why shouldn’t we ask all of our citizens
to bear some responsibility and pay some price?" Senator
Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said last week, arguing
that restoring compulsory military service
would force "our citizens to understand
the intensity and depth of challenges we face."
Troop Supply Getting Thin
Washington – If required to send additional
combat forces to Iraq this spring or summer,
as seems increasingly likely, the Pentagon
and the Army would have several options – none
It’s not yet certain that U.S. commanders
in Iraq will ask for more troops beyond the
135,000 there now, but if they do, the Army
would have to resort to extreme measures to
answer the call.
Of the service’s 10 active-duty divisions,
all or parts of nine are either already in
Iraq to serve 12-month tours of duty, or have
just returned home in recent weeks after a
If more troops are needed, soldiers may get
less time at home before going back, one top
general says. The Army might also have to consider
sending troops who help defend South Korea
against North Korea. National Guard and
Reserve combat forces would simply take too
long to train.
"It’s getting thin," said Pat Towell,
a defense expert at the Center for Strategic
and Budgetary Assessments.
It would even be difficult to keep the force
at the current level beyond June or so, when
20,000 soldiers whose yearlong Iraq tours were
extended by three months are due to go home.
The Army has not said which units it would
call upon if it needs to replace those soldiers
The only Army division not now in Iraq or
just returned is the 3rd Infantry Division.
That unit is not expecting to get the Iraq
call again until about January 2005, since
it already has done one grueling tour there.
Its soldiers spent months training in the Kuwait
desert before spearheading the Iraq invasion
in March 2003 and capturing Baghdad, along
with the 1st Marine Division, in April. The
3rd Infantry returned to its bases in Georgia
late last summer and is in the midst of a top-to-bottom
reorganization and refit.
Lt. Gen. Richard Cody, the Army deputy chief
of staff for operations, said recently that
the 3rd Infantry is scheduled to finish reorganizing
by midsummer and could deploy after that if
Cody said if extra troops are needed, the
Army would have to abandon its goal of allowing
soldiers at least one full year at their home
station before returning to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
has said the Iraq commitment does not prevent
the military from defending U.S. interests
elsewhere in the world, a substantial portion
of U.S.-based troops who are earmarked as reinforcements
for a conflict in Korea or elsewhere in Asia
are tied down in Iraq.
Looked at another way, the Army has 33 active-duty
brigades within the 10-division structure.
Of those brigades, 27 are either in Iraq or
Afghanistan or just returned home. Of the six
others, three are in the 3rd Infantry, and
two are on duty in South Korea.
The only other brigade not otherwise occupied
is the 172nd Infantry Brigade, based at Fort
Richardson and Fort Wainwright in Alaska. It
is "waist deep" into a fundamental
reorganization, spokesman Lt. Col. Ben Danner
said, and has yet to receive its new Stryker
vehicles, which travel on wheels rather than
steel tracks and make the Army more agile.
That leaves several other possibilities, none
of which the Army thought it would be facing
at this point, almost a year since President
Bush declared major combat over last May 1.
Among the options:
– Send the 3rd Infantry back to Iraq ahead
of schedule. Even while the division has been
reconfiguring, it has kept one brigade ready
for a short-notice deployment in a crisis.
– Early deployment of the 1st Brigade of the
25th Infantry Division, which just completed
training in its new configuration with Strykers.
A brigade spokesman, Capt. Tim Beninato, said
the unit has received no deployment order but
is ready to go. The Army had planned to dispatch
the 1st Brigade next fall, but could accelerate
-Send more elements of the Fort Drum, N.Y.-based
10th Mountain Division, which has been tapped
extensively for Afghanistan and currently has
some soldiers in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
-Take some troops from the main Army force
permanently stationed in South Korea – the
2nd Infantry Division – and send them to Iraq.
That would be a radical step, because the soldiers
in South Korea have long been considered untouchable
so long as communist North Korea poses a threat.
-Use members of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary
Force, based on the Japanese island of Okinawa,
in Iraq, even though they normally are considered
reinforcements for Korea.
May 2, 2004
Guard Training for Terror
Maine mill used in convention prep
By Mark Baard, Globe Correspondent
An abandoned paper and textile mill that sits
on a island in the Penobscot River in Orono,
Maine, will be a training ground this week
as Army and Air Force National Guard troops
get ready to respond to a terrorist attack
as part of their preparations for the Democratic
National Convention at the FleetCenter this
The team, the 11th Weapons of Mass Destruction
Civil Support Team, based in Waterville, Maine,
will be on call in July to respond if authorities
suspect that radioactive, chemical, or biological
materials, or explosives, might be released
at the FleetCenter during the convention, military
The troops will hold the drill on the 62-acre
Ayers Island site, near downtown Orono and
the University of Maine campus.
The mill, which closed in the 1990s, will
present the team with many of the same challenges
they will face if terrorists use weapons of
mass destruction inside a large urban building
such as the FleetCenter, said Dr. George Markowsky,
director of the homeland security lab at the
University of Maine. Soldiers wearing protective
suits and carrying monitoring equipment will
have to navigate the mill’s many structures
and operate under changing lighting conditions.
"I compare the basement of the building
to catacombs," said Markowsky, who also
is president of Ayers Island LLC, the company
developing the island as a homeland security
research and development center for Orono.
Lieutenant Colonel James D. Campbell, commander
of the support team, said the exercise will
not be a simulated attack on the FleetCenter.
Instead, he said, the exercise "is designed
to assist the unit in preparation for operations
in any building that might be found in an urban
The unit plans to be in Massachusetts during
the Democratic National Convention to reduce
the time it will take to respond to a suspected
use of weapons of mass destruction at the FleetCenter,
Campbell said. The unit will coordinate with
the First Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil
Support Team based in Natick if there is an
attack at the FleetCenter.
There are more than 30 National Guard such
teams in the United States, and all conduct
regular training exercises. Campbell said his
unit typically conducts four to five drills
every three months, most of them in rural or
"We don’t get many opportunities to work
in large urban areas," Campbell said.
The exercise provides an opportunity to retrain
the troops "by working in built-up areas,
in buildings, and in basements."
Campbell will lead about 15 people, including
a nuclear medical scientist assigned to his
team, as they respond to the release of one
or more simulated weapons of mass destruction
at the Ayer site.
Team members wearing hazardous-materials suits
will collect samples of suspect materials and
test them inside a mobile laboratory, Campbell
said, and soldiers also will be able to check
people and equipment for contamination with
handheld chemical agent monitors.
Campbell said he will check to see whether
his troops can accomplish this without tearing
open their hazardous-materials suits on protruding
nails or bits of rubble, which could expose
them to contamination in a real event.
This will be the unit’s second exercise on
"These skills are perishable," Campbell
The Associated Press
April 29, 2004
Honeymoon in Iraq
Dateline: Lafayette, La.
Jeff LeJeune and Nerissa Carr LeJeune got
married over the weekend, but haven’t gone
on their honeymoon yet. Instead, they’re headed
Both are members of a National Guard unit
recently mobilized for duty in Iraq. Just five
days after their marriage, the couple – who
met in the National Guard –
leave Thursday for Fort Hood, Texas, where
they will spend two weeks in training before
leaving for Iraq.
Family and friends gathered in Lafayette for
the official farewell ceremony Wednesday for
the 256th Military Intelligence Company and
Charlie Company, 199th Support Battalion of
the 256th Infantry Enhanced Separate Brigade.
The 256th has a total of 3,800 soldiers.
Major General Bennett C. Landreneau, adjutant
general of the guard in Louisiana, said the
soldiers of the Tiger Brigade are known across
"These soldiers are ordinary citizens,
yet they are extraordinary patriots," he
said. "It is no surprise you have been
mobilized in support of Iraqi Freedom. You
are simply the best this country has to offer."
He said the soldiers have had to battle their
own emotions to prepare themselves and their
families for their departure.
"They are heroes today," he said. "But
the day they first joined the ranks of heroes
was that day when they first put on a uniform
and said, ‘When you need me, I will be there."’
The recently married LeJeunes said they have
mixed feelings about being deployed together.
Jeff is an X-ray technician and Nerissa is
a post-op technician.
"We’re worried about going together,
but we would be worried if we weren’t going
together," Jeff LeJeune said. "It’s
probably for the best. We’re just going to
put this in God’s hands."
Nerissa said she believes the deployment will
be easier for her than other wives because
she know where her husband will be.
"We work in different sections, but I’m
in charge of the section she works in, so I’ll
be able to keep tabs on her," Jeff LeJeune
Another member of Charlie Company, Spc. Jennifer
Busby, 23, spent time with her children Kobe,
1, and Kyah, 2, after Wednesday’s ceremony.
She said the children just don’t have an understanding
of where their mother is going.
"I told (Kyah) the other night, ‘I’m
going away.’ She said, ‘OK, see you later.’
She doesn’t understand," Busby said.
Busby’s mother, Glenda, will be helping with
the kids while Jennifer is gone.
"Thank God for the Internet," she
said. "I’m going to be sending her care
packages, and drawings the kids do, things
I think she will appreciate. That’s going to
be my job – keeping her spirits up and praying
Emotional Homecoming Greets Returning
Conn. National Guard Unit
Dateline: Windsor Locks,
A Connecticut National Guard unit
returned home Sunday to an emotional reception,
14 months after leaving for Afghanistan to
fight the war on terrorism.
With a police escort, two buses brought about
70 members of Company G, 104th Aviation Regiment,
into the Army Aviation Support Facility in
Windsor Locks. The unit had been at Fort Dix,
N.J., the previous week.
"This is the best day in 14 months," said
Marcy Klattenburg, whose son Michael, was among
the returning guardsmen. "It’s been really
difficult, but being able to receive e-mails
has really helped us get through it," she
told The Hartford Courant in editions prepared
Except for a brief visit during a Christmas
leave, Sunday’s return was the first time the
Klattenburgs had seen their son since his unit
departed from the Windsor Locks facility on
Feb. 19, 2003.
Ronald Klattenburg, a Middletown councilman,
said there were some tense moments over the
past year, particularly after news reports
of a Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
The soldiers of Company G flew and maintained
the helicopters that carry U.S. troops and
supplies from the base at Kandahar to mountain
regions along the Pakistan border where al-Qaida
and Taliban forces have concentrated.
Michael Klattenburg joined the Connecticut National
Guard more than six years ago after
graduating from Middletown’s vocational-agricultural
"It was a long year but everyone came
together as a close family and we really did
a great job," he said.
The 104th Aviation Regiment was honored as
the outstanding Army National Guard aviation
unit of the year in 2003.
The Associated Press
April 27, 2004
1057th Troops Get Warm Welcome Home
By The Associated Press
Residents of Panhandle communities came out
in large numbers to greet the returning troops
of the 1057th Light-Medium Truck Company of
the Nebraska National Guard.
The unit was dismissed from Camp Ashland on
Monday morning, and a few hours later spontaneous
celebrations erupted as 37 troops returned
after their yearlong deployment to Iraq.
During the send-off from Camp Ashland, between
Lincoln and Omaha, state leaders told the troops
that they appreciated their service.
"We are so happy that you are home safely
and we know things are not done, not over with," state
Sen. Curt Bromm of Wahoo said. "But you’ve
done your part, more than your part, and for
that we shall always be grateful."
In Kearney, the troops’ bus was greeted by
school children and residents waving American
flags and yellow ribbons.
Before their arrival in Chadron, the troops
rolled out of their bus about a mile outside
of town and hopped on fire trucks. The convoy
rode down crowded Main Street to the 1057th
Armory on the Chadron State College campus.
A more casual parade and public barbecue is
planned for Sunday in Chadron.
Thousands of people lined the streets waving
flags, clapping and shouting as the unit rode
through the Scottsbluff-Gering area.
Church bells sounded prior to their arrival
and many people pulled over just to yell "thank
you" to the company as they made their
way to the National Guard Armory.
As the bus rounded the corner to the armory,
family members and friends filled the air with
cheers along with red, white and blue balloons
released by children from a local preschool.
"This is wonderful," said Sgt. Scott
Krul, who was away from home for more than
After giving his wife, Rachel and son, Jacob,
a hug and kiss, Krul said he now plans to spend
time with his family. Rachel said she’s been
counting the days for her husband’s return.
"I missed the American people and I missed
being home," he said. 1st Sgt. Glenn Muhr
called the homecoming "overwhelming." He
said the troops’ morale was constantly uplifted
by the care packages and support they got from
State Sen. Adrian Smith of Gering thanked
the soldiers and their loved ones for being "true
April 28, 2004
A Solemn, Ecstatic Homecoming
D.C. Guard Unit Celebrates Return After
Year in Iraq
By Manny Fernandez, Washington Post Staff
City leaders, commanders and family members
gathered yesterday at the D.C. Armory and struggled
to sum up the mix of emotions they felt. So
as they toasted about 150 men and women in
desert fatigues, they kept things simple, embracing
them tightly and saying, over and over again:
"I’m a little bit like a parent whose
children have come home from the war," said
Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr., commanding
general of the D.C. National Guard .
One of Wherley’s units, the 547th Transportation
Company, had returned from a year of duty in
Iraq to a homecoming celebration at the armory,
the headquarters of the two-century-old D.C.
National Guard .
The men and women, who left their jobs and
families in the District, Maryland, Virginia
and elsewhere after being activated for duty,
served in Iraq from April 10, 2003, to April
They had a dangerous job. The Army Guard unit’s
motto sums up its mission: "You Call,
We Haul." The truck-driving unit logged
more than 564,000 mission miles, conducted
1,200 combat missions, took part in raids that
yielded 600 prisoners, relocated a desert combat
hospital — oxygen tanks, doctors and all —
to Baghdad and escorted more than 1.4 billion
pounds of letters and packages to troops throughout
All the while, they withstood mortar attacks,
roadside bombs, sniper fire and rocket-propelled
"You name it, these soldiers endured
it," said Capt. Malik J. Freeman, 29,
of the 547th and a resident of Jessup.
Not all made it back. On the morning of Aug.
26, Spec. Darryl T. Dent, 21, boarded a five-ton
truck at Baghdad International Airport with
two colleagues, Specs. Vincent Short and Kevin
Lockard, to provide security for a mail run.
About 16 miles northwest of Baghdad, Dent’s
truck struck a makeshift, remote-detonated
explosive device. Lockard and Short were injured
but survived; Dent was killed.
Dent, a D.C. resident and graduate of Roosevelt
High School in Northwest Washington, became
the first D.C. National Guardsman killed
in combat since the Vietnam War. He is buried
at Arlington National Cemetery.
Dent’s death made yesterday’s homecoming a
bittersweet event. In the cavernous armory,
soldiers seated on the red-carpeted floor and
relatives in bleachers decorated with yellow
ribbons bowed their heads in silence to honor
his memory. His father, Vernon Dent Sr., received
a standing ovation.
"It’s a special day to me," the
father said in an interview. "I wish my
son was back."
In speeches by District Mayor Anthony A. Williams
(D) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.),
and in quiet conversations with relatives,
the men and women of the 547th were welcomed
back. They were hugged, thanked for their service
and each given an armful of tokens of appreciation,
including folded American flags in display
"A lot of prayers have gone out of this
region and city for your safe return," Norton
told the troops.
She spoke of the dedication of the nation’s
Guard and Reserve troops, noting that 20 members
of the 547th had been wounded in Iraq and 70
Guard members from across the country had been
killed. "The American people need to understand
where the troops are coming from," she
The 547th is the only unit from the D.C. Guard
that served in Iraq. The 274th is in Afghanistan,
and the 273rd remains at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Unlike the 547th, they are military police
Many of the soldiers of the 547th had seen
their families about two weeks ago, when most
of the unit arrived at Fort Eustis in the Hampton
Roads area of Virginia, to undergo demobilization.
Ten soldiers who had stayed behind to make
sure the unit’s equipment was loaded onto ships
arrived via helicopter yesterday morning.
"Blessed, blessed," said Carrie
Jeter, 71, of Hyattsville, describing her emotions
after seeing her son, Spec. James Jeter, in
a third-floor conference room shortly after
he stepped off the helicopter that landed outside
the armory. She had talked with him on the
phone and sent him care packages, but it wasn’t
the same. "I just put my arms around him
and hugged him," she said.
The soldiers’ children and spouses were never
far from their sides throughout the day, which
began with a news conference and ended with
a concert in honor of all D.C. Air and Army
National Guard personnel. Teenage daughters
walked hand-in-hand with their fathers as the
soldiers walked single file to their seats.
Some wives sat next to their recently returned
husbands, the bleacher seats just too far away.
"We were first-class combat troops when
called upon," said Sgt. Lisbon Blaylock. "We’re
now at home, attempting to become again first-class
spouses and parents."
Freeman called the family and friends of the
547th — including his wife, Akiba, and his
2-year-old daughter, Asiya — the unit’s "secret
weapon." Freeman, an agent with the U.S.
Department of Transportation, added: "That’s
one weapon that the enemy didn’t know we had."
Soldiers spoke with humility about the perilous
year in Iraq. Sgt. Joseph Boyd, 42, of Capitol
Heights said the mail runs often came under
attack. "Every day, every morning when
I would go out that gate, I’d pray," Boyd
Staff Sgt. Douglas Hall, 46, of Laurel broke
his arm trying to unload Iraqi prisoners from
a vehicle, but returned to Iraq after surgery
at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "My
conscience wouldn’t let me," he said,
when asked why he didn’t stay in the states.
One day in November, Spec. Antoinette Scott,
34, recalled, she was driving a five-ton vehicle
with eight troops in the back. The eight soldiers
were on their way to the airport, headed home
for R&R. An explosive hit the vehicle,
and Scott’s jaw was broken by shrapnel, but
she kept control of the wheel and brought the
truck to a safe stop, avoiding a ravine on
her right and a 300-foot cliff on the left.
"I tried my best to keep calm and focused," said
Scott, a District resident and mother of four
who was awarded the Purple Heart. "I knew
my life was not the only one in danger."
April 28, 2004
GI Who Lost Legs to Return to New
Milton (AP) — A soldier who lost both legs
in Iraq will return to a new home, built and
paid for by the residents of Santa Rosa County.
When Dustin Tuller, 28, returns to Northwest
Florida in mid-May, he’ll have a newly constructed
home for him, his wife and four children on
40 acres his parents own in Allentown.
Tuller, a member of the Florida National
Guard’s Company B, 3rd Battalion,
124th Infantry, lost both legs after he was
shot four times while leading a Dec. 23 raid
The now-retired Army staff sergeant is undergoing
intensive rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical
Center in Washington.
”His spirits are good, and he’s highly motivated
and ready to come home,” Santa Rosa County
Commission Chairman Don Salter said Monday.
“And we’re going to help him.”
Construction of the 3,400-square-foot home
is expected to be completed in about a month.
It will have four bedrooms and be tailored
to meet Tuller’s demanding physical needs.
Santa Rosa County officials said hundreds have
donated to the cause, such as Whitworth Builders
Inc., of Fort Walton Beach, which designed
the house, as well as various companies and
individuals who have promised everything from
free labor to insulation, an irrigation system,
plumbing, wiring, heating and air conditioning,
termite treatment and even interior design.
Pete Gandy, chief executive officer of Santa
Rosa Medical Center, said the hospital will
offer Tuller a yet-unspecified job.
A trust fund in his honor has raised about
$18,000 to help cover family expenses.
”People do believe in the effort,” said
Tuller’s father, David. “They do believe in
supporting the troops.”
The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)
April 30, 2004 Friday
82nd Comes Home
Fayetteville can be a lonely place when the
82nd Airborne Division goes to war. Although
there are thousands of troops stationed at
Fort Bragg, it is the storied 82nd that is
most symbolic of the post and the city it calls
For the first time in more than two years
of battling terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq,
the entire 82nd is back in its barracks. The
return of 12,000 battle-tested paratroopers
has breathed new life into Fort Bragg and Fayetteville.
Their return serves to remind us that those
brave soldiers we read about and watch on our
television screens are not just faceless warriors
in desert camouflage. They are our neighbors,
our little league coaches, our bowling buddies,
our friends. And as anyone who runs a business
in Fayetteville will testify, they are a vital
cog in the economic engine that keeps Fayetteville
The 82nd was bloodied in Iraq, with 36 division
troopers killed and 400 wounded. Their loss
is felt deeply, not only in the homes where
there are only memories and photographs left
to mark their lives, but in the ranks where
they served and in the communities where they
The division performed brilliantly in spite
of the hardships it endured. They organized
Iraqi units to take responsibility for security
in their own country. They rebuilt the infrastructure
that was falling apart long before Iraq was
This war is personal for North Carolinians.
The 30th Separate Heavy Brigade of the North
Carolina National Guard has taken
its place beside the full-time soldiers stationed
Marines from Camp Lejeune along with airmen
from Seymour Johnson and Pope air force bases
have played a vital role in this war. Next
week, the Morrisville-based 1st Battalion,
130th Aviation Regiment, N.C. National Guard
will come home after 15 months on active duty.
They will enjoy the embraces of their loved
ones, and expressions of gratitude from their
fellow citizens. They’ve earned it.
They’ve also earned the private tears and
hugs that await them at home. For no amount
of public flag waving and patriotic music can
touch the sweet homecoming that takes place
when someone they love whispers to a happy
soldier, "I missed you."
April 30, 2004, Friday, BC cycle
Santa Fe Unit Saved Soldiers, Children
Dateline: Santa Fe
New Mexico National Guard members were greeted
by tearful family members as they returned
home after eight months of saving wounded soldiers
and maimed children in Afghanistan.
"We saw a lot of death and destruction.
Blood. Shredded limbs," said Sgt. David
Moya, 42, of Albuquerque, the first soldier
to hug his awaiting family on the tarmac
Working since August under the Army’s 10th
Mountain Division, the Santa Fe-based 717th
Medical Company returned Thursday aboard its
five Black Hawk helicopters. They passed over
their Santa Fe base in a V formation as hundreds
of family, friends and fellow Guardsmen waved
hands, flags and signs.
The soldiers returned unhurt and none of their
helicopters was lost.
"What a great day it is to be home," said
Maj. John Fishburn, commander of the unit. "There
is nothing better than being home, believe
The Afghanistan deployment was the second
overseas mission for the company in three years.
In 2001, the 717th performed a peace-keeping
mission in Kosovo.
Afghanistan proved much more exhaustive. Crews
flew 1,600 combat hours in 302 missions and
are credited with saving 525 lives. The injured
included coalition troops and civilians. About
80 were children.
Moya is credited with saving a 31-year-old
man suffering a heart attack, while a pilot
gave his own blood for an injured 12-year-old
Santa Fe offered the 717th a rousing welcome
home. Loved ones and fellow Guardsmen offered
one round of applause after another, while
Brig. Gen. Kenny Montoya praised their work.
The soldiers were clearly happy to be home,
having finished one of the hardest jobs of
their Army careers.
Crew chief Manuel Lucero, another staff sergeant
from Santa Fe, called Afghanistan "a primitive
country that hasn’t quite caught up with the
rest of the world."
"They’re fighting for their own survival," he
said. "I think we take for granted what
we have here."
American Forces Press Service
Comptroller Nominee Says She’d Target Troop
By Gerry J. Gilmore
Washington, April 29, 2004 – The presidential
nominee tabbed to replace former DoD Comptroller
Dov. S. Zakheim told a Senate committee April
27 that she’d look into pay problems that have
plagued some National Guard members deployed
overseas in the war against terrorism.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services
Committee on Capitol Hill, nominee Tina W.
Jonas pledged to make it a "first priority" upon
her confirmation to investigate why some deployed
National Guard troops have experienced delayed
or inaccurate paychecks.
Jonas has served as the FBI’s chief financial
officer since Sept. 6, 2002. Before that, she
was the deputy undersecretary of defense for
Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard pointed out to
Jonas that a recent General Accounting Office
report cited pay problems among some National
Guardsmen being deployed overseas. Allard pointed
out that many affected troops came from his
state. The senator asked Jonas if she’d "get
on top" of the issue.
Jonas responded she’d "be very happy
to look into" the pay issue. "There’s
nothing more important than a paycheck for
our men and women in uniform, and particularly
the Guard issues," she said.
Virginia Sen. John Warner, the committee chairman,
observed to Jonas that DoD is expected to ask
for more supplemental funding to prosecute
the war on terror – specifically to fund military
operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. He then
noted that Jonas had previously told him she
hadn’t worked with budget supplemental issues
during her prior stint at the Pentagon.
The chairman said supplemental budget requests
from the Defense Department are "critically
important" to the war effort. "You
just can’t anticipate with the certainty that’s
necessary to put down in a presidential normal
budget request what is needed, he explained.
Saying he supports the supplemental process
as it is, and that he believes it will continue,
he told Jonas she’d "be very much involved
in the forthcoming supplemental."
Jonas told the committee that, if confirmed,
she’d continue efforts to modernize DoD’s financial
accounting infrastructure, and that she’d investigate
a troubled air tanker leasing program.
Understanding Tricare Benefits While Traveling
By Airman 1st Class Katie Booher
5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Minot Air Force Base, N.D. (AFPN) — It is
easy for a person to access his or her health
benefits at home, but it can get complicated
when they going on vacation across America
Emergencies, including injuries threatening
someone’s life, limb or eyesight, are covered
by Tricare Prime; but, the beneficiary still
has some responsibility for getting in touch
with the medical facility at his or her home
base, said Terri Bell, 5th Medical Support
Squadron beneficiary counseling assistance
"If a Tricare Prime beneficiary, whether
active duty, retiree or family member, is confronted
with an emergency while traveling, they should
seek immediate care at the nearest hospital
emergency room," she said. "However,
members should be sure to notify their primary
care manager within 24 hours to initiate a
record of the care they are receiving. Members
on the personnel reliability program or flying
status must notify the PRP section or flight
medicine as soon as possible after receiving
Urgent care is also covered; however, all
Tricare Prime beneficiaries must contact their
primary care manager to obtain authorization
before seeking care, Ms. Bell said.
"If a beneficiary seeks care from a civilian
provider and doesn’t receive a prior authorization
for the care, they’ll be billed under the point-of-service
option, and they will pay a higher cost-share
and a $300 deductible," she said. "Active-duty
members will be responsible for the total charges."
Beneficiaries should take their prescription
medication and immunization records with them
on vacation, but if they are on maintenance
medication, they can receive a 90-day supply,
Ms. Bell said.
"If people are traveling within their
Tricare region and need medication, they only
have to pay the copayment by using a network
pharmacy," she said. "If members
must fill a prescription while outside of their
region, they will have to pay the entire amount
and seek reimbursement from Tricare once they
Under the new pharmacy contract, Ms. Bell
said there will be only one claims processor
for pharmacy claims. When beneficiaries use
a network pharmacy, their claims will be processed
online; however, they are also responsible
for covering their $3, $9 or $22 copayment.
When traveling outside the United States,
patients pay the bill upfront, but Tricare
will reimburse them when they return, Ms. Bell
"Because the Code of Federal Regulations
doesn’t permit direct payment of medical or
dental claims to a foreign provider, the patient
must pay the bill upfront," she said. "When
the patient gets home, (he or she can) file
a claim directly with Tricare."
For more information on these and other military
health-care benefit issues, call the local
Media Releases Army Announces New Disabled
Soldiers Initiative The Department of
the Army announced today a new initiative that
gives Soldiers wounded during the Global
War on Terrorism an additional means of
getting help once they are medically retired
from the Army. The program is called the
Disabled Soldier Support System, or DS3. Through
DS3, the Army provides its most severely disabled
Soldiers and their families with a system of
advocacy and follow-up to provide personal support
and liaison to resources, to assist them in their
transition from military service. DS3 is
a holistic approach program that provides them
with assistance. DS3 is an extension of
the philosophy that the Army takes care
of it’s own – once a Soldier, always a Soldier. DS3
links the Army and the organizations that stand
ready to assist these Soldiers and families,
such as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and
the many Veteran’s Service Organizations, to
the Soldier. One key element of DS3 is the ability
to provide a network of resources to severely
disabled Soldiers, no matter where they relocate
and regardless of their component, be it
active, reserve or National Guard. The
goal is to ensure Soldiers, families, and communities
receive responsive support services that meet
their needs. The Army realizes many of
these Soldiers were not planning to make the
move back to civilian life so abruptly. DS3,
in partnership with the VA and the VSO’s,
provides a much-needed cushion for that transition.
The benefits of DS3 are numerous. Severely
disabled Soldiers and families are able
to better understand what their future holds,
and how to access the services they may
require with a phone call or mouse click
at 1-800-833-6622 or on the web at http://www.armyds3.org . Additionally,
Constituent Liaisons work individually with our
nation’s heroes to monitor and follow up,
ensuring their needs are met. The DS3’s
outreach is ongoing and proactive. News Media
representatives interested in learning more about
the Disabled Soldier Support System should
contact the Army’s Well-Being Public Affairs
Office at (703) 696-5205 or (703) 696-5207.
News Release: 04-031
April 30, 2004
AAFES Media Contact: Judd Anstey – [email protected]
Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan Can
Now Call Home for Just a Quarter a Minute
Dallas – In the harsh and austere conditions
of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF),
few things take on greater importance than
phone calls home. Because of this, The Army & Air
Force Exchange Service (AAFES) and its contractor
AT&T have worked diligently to offer affordable
phone service throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.
Because of these efforts, Soldiers, Airman,
Sailors and Marines have been able to keep
communication open between the front lines
and the home front.
Beginning May 1 st , deployed troops will get
to talk longer, for less, when AAFES reduces
the price per minute of Armed Services calls
originating from Iraq and Afghanistan. The
new price per minute for calls from both countries,
when using AAFES’ 550-Unit AT&T Global
Prepaid Card, will be reduced from $0.32 cents
per minute to only $0.25 cents per minute.
This special rate applies only to calls from
call centers in Iraq and Afghanistan to the
United States with prepaid phone cards purchased
from any AAFES PX/BX, tactical field exchanges
or Imprest Fund sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.
AAFES and AT&T are committed to offering
the lowest phone rates possible for troops
in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. SPC
Joshua R. Hopkins of HHS 2/20 FA, whose daughter
was born while he was in Iraq, is just one
of the troops who speaks of the importance
of telecommunication services for deployed
troops. "Having been in Iraq at the beginning
of Operation Iraqi Freedom activities, I can
attest to the importance of phone calls home.
The morale benefit affordable calling options
offer our troops can not be overstated," said
"We are always excited when we are able
to extend more calling to military personnel," said
AT&T’s director of Military Markets Bill
Baumann. "I’m proud of AAFES and AT&T’s
support to deployed troops. It gratifies me
to see how our collaboration has progressed
from virtually no telecommunications infrastructure
a year ago to where we are now operating call
centers throughout Iraq and Afghanistan that
offer calls for just a quarter a minute."
Today, AAFES and AT&T operate 35 call
centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. AAFES and
AT&T continue to work together to open
call centers throughout Operations Iraqi and
Enduring Freedom while keeping costs down.
550-Unit Military Exchange Prepaid Phone Cards
are available at any of AAFES’ 35 contingency
locations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
AAFES and AT&T also operate nine Internet
Cafes in Kuwait that are proving very popular.
Troops who visit the cafes are enjoying video
teleconferencing, Internet access, gaming and
email 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The rate
for this service will also drop from 10-cents/minute
to 8-cents/minute on June 1 st . This new rate
will reduce the cost per hour from $6 to $5
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES)
is a joint command of the U.S. Army and U.S.
Air Force, and is directed by a Board of Directors
who is responsible to the Secretaries of the
Army and the Air Force through their Chiefs of
Staff. AAFES has the dual mission of providing
authorized patrons with articles of merchandise
and services and of generating non-appropriated
fund earnings as a supplemental source of funding
for military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)
programs. To find out more about AAFES’ history
and mission or to view recent press releases
please visit our Web site at < http://www.aafes.com/pa/default.asp >.
April 28, 2004
Soldier Sisters Choose Not to Rejoin
Army Units in Iraq
By Debbie Howlett, USA Today
The two Wisconsin sisters of a female soldier
killed this month in Baghdad said Tuesday that
they will not rejoin their Army National
Guard units in Iraq.
The Pentagon gave Spc. Rachel Witmer, 24,
and Sgt. Charity Witmer, 20, the option of
finishing their service without returning to
their tight-knit units in a war zone. Their
ordeal drew national attention when their father
called on the Army to stop his surviving daughters
from returning to Iraq.
The sisters had been weighing their options
at home in New Berlin, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee,
since accompanying their sister’s body back
from Iraq for her funeral April 16.
They said at the time that they were torn
between their two families — the one in Wisconsin
and their military family in Iraq. They said
their decision not to return was in part because
of the Army’s concern that the media attention
might make the women and their units targets.
"We have been faced with a profoundly
difficult and complex decision. It is, by far,
the most difficult decision we have ever made," the
sisters said in a statement read at a news
conference in Madison, Wis.
Their sister, Spc. Michelle Witmer, 20, was
killed April 9 when her Humvee was attacked.
Michelle, Charity’s identical twin, served
in the same military police unit as Rachel.
Pentagon policy states that if a soldier dies
while serving in a hostile area, other soldiers
from the family may be reassigned outside the
war zone. The request, however, must come from
the surviving soldier.
The Army gave the sisters 15 days to decide
whether to return to Iraq. Earlier this week,
the deadline was extended another 15 days.
It is "a simple policy … but excruciating
decisions," Maj. Gen. Al Wilkening, commander
of the Wisconsin National Guard ,
said in a statement. "At the same time
they mourned their sister … they wrestled
with this enormous decision while under the
spotlight of international attention."
Their parents, John and Lori Witmer, were
outspoken in their wish that the surviving
sisters not return to a war zone. He told the
Associated Press: "The sacrifice that
this family’s made can never be understood
by someone who hasn’t gone through it. It’s
a burden I can’t bear. My family can’t bear
Neither parent could be reached for comment
Wilkening said he spoke with the sisters Monday
and suggested they request the exemption from
war-zone service. He said the commanders of
both women’s units concurred. "It was
not only based on the needs of two grieving
families, but also for the welfare of other
troops," Wilkening said.
In the end, the sisters followed Wilkening’s
"Although he said he could not ‘order’
us to request reassignment, he was very clear
to point out that a decision to return to Iraq
might expose our fellow soldiers to increased
danger. This we will not do," the sisters
said in their statement. "We especially
treasure the friendship, camaraderie and heartfelt
sympathy shared with us by (our units). We
know you mourn the loss of Michelle with us.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you until
you return home safely."
Their new assignments, which might be in Wisconsin,
haven’t been decided yet by the Army.
April 29, 2004
State’s 81st Brigade to Focus on Security
at Iraq, Kuwait Bases
By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times staff reporter
The Washington Army National Guard’s 81st
Armor Brigade, now in the Persian Gulf, will
be involved primarily in providing security
for more than a half-dozen U.S. military bases
in Iraq and Kuwait, according to a Guard spokesman.
Most of the 4,500 members of the 81st arrived
in Iraq earlier this month just as fighting
flared in Baghdad, Fallujah and other areas.
U.S. soldiers mostly stay at bases — known
as "green zones" — where access is
restricted and maximum security is maintained.
Most of the 81st will aid in that security
effort, according to Master Sgt. Jeff Clayton
with the Washington Army National Guard.
The 81st brigade has about 3,200 soldiers
drawn from all over Washington, in addition
to Guard soldiers from California, Minnesota
and other states.
Clayton offered this breakdown of where the
units are stationed:
• 1-161st Infantry Battalion is providing
security at Forward Operating Base Gunner in
the Baghdad area.
• 303rd Armor Battalion is providing security
at Camp Victory, which includes Saddam Hussein’s
Abu Ghraib palace on an artificial lake outside
• 1-185th Armor Battalion is providing security
at three locations south of Baghdad.
• 2/146th Field Artillery has one battery
providing security at a Saudi base and the
rest at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
• 181 Support Battalion is providing base
security at Camp Anaconda north of Baghdad.
• 898 Engineer Battalion is supporting other
units in several unspecified locations.
• Troop E 303rd Calvary is providing base
security at Camp Doha in Kuwait.
• D 216th Air Defense Artillery is providing
air defense at Baghdad International Airport
outside of Baghdad.
The Washington National Guard yesterday also
announced 25 Washington Air Guard soldiers
of the 254 Red Horse Squadron have been called
up. They are mostly from the Puget Sound area
and will be sent to Djibouti in Eastern Africa
between Eritrea and Somalia, to improve roads,
construct food warehouses and work on other
That brings the number of Washington Guard
soldiers on active duty to more than 3,700
out of a total of more than 8,200 soldiers.
Raleigh News & Observer
April 29, 2004
Nature Is Balm, Torment In Iraq
N.C. Guard unit adjusts to territory
By Charles Crain, Correspondent
Balad Ruz, Iraq — Sometimes the small annoyances
crowd out thoughts of danger in Iraq.
At the end of last week, the big crisis at
the N.C. National Guard’s Camp
Caldwell was a windstorm that flattened the
mess tent and sent satellite dishes flying
off roofs and rolling down hills.
Farther north, at Camp Cobra, the same storm
knocked down the metal-frame dining facility
and wrecked the post exchange, or PX. By the
end of the weekend, a sturdier wooden-frame
PX was taking shape as the soldiers ate under
the sun at plastic tables. A new dining facility
is next on the construction list.
The troops of the Guard’s 30th Heavy Separate
Brigade are adjusting to their new surroundings
northeast of Baghdad, but they haven’t quite
settled in. At Caldwell, they live in tent
cities while awaiting the move to buildings
The men at Camp Cobra have it a little better.
They’ve been moved into container housing units
and have outfitted them with televisions, DVD
players and posters. The shower trailers are
conveniently located, but hot water is intermittent.
Soldiers can boil water, though.
At Cobra, the men unwind from a day’s work
with a few glasses of tea in front of their
It’s a habit many have picked up from their
trips into town. Locals are quick to offer
tea and meals, and refusing hospitality is
not an option.
"You can’t leave without eating," said
Sgt. Cary Hathcock of Albemarle.
Capt. John McArthur of Willow Spring said
eating local food and drinking the tea is safe.
Still, he said, after a lunch of beef kebab, "it
kind of freaks you out when you see the cows
Despite the occasional garbage pile, much
of the 30th’s territory is beautiful — a far
cry from the sandy desert that surrounds Baghdad.
The area’s most striking feature is its variety.
Flat desert stretches to the horizon around
Camp Caldwell, and the road north to Cobra
is dotted with pyramids and low mesas the wind
has carved out of the sandy soil. Farther east,
at Camp Carpenter-Wyatt, soldiers work in view
of the mountains of Iran.
In the fields between towns and even on village
streets, old men and young children herd sheep,
goats and cattle.
The towns in which the 30th works and patrols
have remained relatively peaceful. That’s especially
true farther north, where Kurds, who were oppressed
under Saddam Hussein, often greet Americans
with waves, thumbs up, and cries of "Hello
mister!" and "America good!"
But the soldiers remain alert for attacks
and roadside bombs, particularly in more volatile
areas to the south. Still, said Hathcock, most
of the men have no use for the explosive ordnance
disposal unit’s careful procedures for dealing
with suspected bombs.
The preferred procedure, he joked, is simpler
and quicker: "Whoever sees it gets to
Troops Encountered Former Captive
By Chance, Commander Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore American Forces Press
Service WASHINGTON, May 3, 2004 – The commander
of the U.S. soldiers in Iraq who found escaped
captive Thomas Hamill May 2 said today in Baghdad
that his troops came across the contractor
by chance. Thomas Hamill, 43, an American contractor
captured by insurgents April 9, was found by
members of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 108th
Infantry Regiment of the New York Army
National Guard. Army Col. Randall
Dragon, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat
Team that discovered Hamill, noted to reporters
at a news conference that his soldiers had
happened upon the 43-year-old Macon, Miss.,
during a routine patrol. "I was glad that
we were able to participate in the recovery
of Mr. Hamill," Dragon said. The U.S.
patrol found Hamill in an area south of Tikrit,
and area Dragon said the unit patrols frequently.
Dragon told reporters they’d have to speak
to Hamill to obtain the story of his escape.
Hamill approached the American troops and identified
himself, the colonel said. The former captive
then took the soldiers to the house where he’d
been held. At the building, the soldiers found
and detained two Iraqis who had an AK-47 assault
rifle. The U.S. soldiers gave Hamill water
and first aid for his injured arm and transported
him for further medical care. He is now at
a U.S. military hospital in Germany. The contract
employee was driving a truck for Kellogg Brown & Root
when he was captured during an insurgent attack
on his supply convoy west of Baghdad. Six other
contractors and two U.S. soldiers also were
taken during the incident. The bodies of four
of the contractors and one of the soldiers
have been found; the rest remain missing.
Dallas Morning News
May 2, 2004
Guard Program Sends Volunteers to
Aid Troops’ Families
By Sarah Post, The Dallas Morning News
Dozens of volunteers came to the aid Saturday
of the military’s strongest unit – the family – to
learn how to offer support to the loved ones
of deployed service members.
The National Guard’s Family
Readiness Program matches families facing hard
times with resources among other Guard families
and in the civilian community. The idea has
been around since 1986, but 9-11 prompted new
Web sites, materials and a renewed enthusiasm
for the effort.
"The military is trying to find new and
creative ways to care for families during deployment," said
Lt. Col. Timothy Red, the State Family Programs
coordinator for the Texas National Guard.
The volunteers will help families deal physically
and emotionally with a variety of tasks, from
preparing for deployment to handling finances
and child care during a spouse’s absence.
A military and a civilian volunteer from each
Guard unit have been assigned to coordinate
volunteer efforts. The pair might serve as
liaisons for between 50 and 200 families who
live on military installations or elsewhere.
Sgt. 1st Class James Wage, who attended Saturday’s
workshops in Dallas, has served in the Army
for 16 years. He was recently assigned to help
lead a Family Readiness Program in Marshall,
Texas, and he said that for people who are
just beginning to work as volunteers, "it
can be overwhelming."
Civilian Shirley Krueger has volunteered to
help military families for 41/2 years. She
said her work took on a new focus and urgency
when the military began mobilizing last year.
As a military wife, she knew the issues those
families faced and how to comfort the spouses
now struggling by themselves to hold their
"Sure, there will be lonely days," Ms.
Krueger said. "The main thing is to encourage
them that they will get through it. After a
while, the programs start to build on each
other, and it all comes full circle."
Volunteers with the Family Readiness Program
help improve morale among soldiers and their
families, and that helps soldiers focus on
their missions, workshop instructors said.
But the skills they bring have value beyond
times of mobilization.
"They’re just good life skills," Col.
Red said. "Making sure that both caregivers
know how to use the insurance and pay the bills
is just good sense."
The Associated Press
May 2, 2004, Sunday, BC cycle
A Year Later, Public Safety Staffers
Still Lost to Military Duty
By Samira Jafari, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: Montgomery, Ala.
As a lieutenant colonel in the National
Guard , Ralph Hooks had expected
the war in Iraq to take a toll on his unit.
It hasn’t yet. But as warden of St. Clair
prison, he’s feeling pressure on his depleted
prison staff a year after the U.S. invasion.
Hooks currently has a dozen corrections officers
away on active duty, and like other state and
local agencies, he’s still trying to plug holes
as the need for troops in Iraq continues into
a second year of fighting.
Hundreds of Alabama’s public safety workers
also serve in the National Guard and
Army Reserve units, many called up for active
duty in the Iraq war.
"We fortunately allocated overtime to
make up for military losses. It still taxes
the facility," Hooks said. "Historically,
we’re always short of corrections officers
anyway, so this is just an added burden." A
burden that has no immediate end in sight.
In recent weeks, the Bush administration has
stood firm on keeping troops in Iraq and redeploying
units to the theater for an indefinite period
Meanwhile, the return of several units – including
the 1165th Military Police unit out of Fairhope
– has been delayed for at least another three
Alabama, which has one of the largest National
Guards of any state, deployed 1,400
troops to the theater in January and February
while another 2,000 are on duty and awaiting
Of the 15 units that were deployed last year,
eight have come back and now have returned
for a second tour in the Middle East, said
Col. Bob Horton, spokesman for the
Alabama National Guard .
"As our president has stated, the war
on terror will be long term," Horton said. "The
Alabama National Guard is committed to the
war on terror and we will continue to prepare
our units to support future operations."
The added burden on state and local agencies
has caught the attention of Gov. Bob Riley,
who by office is chief of Alabama’s National
Guard. While concerned, Riley said the soldiers’
military obligation outweighs the local staffing
"It is putting a strain on us, not just
on our law enforcement, but on our municipalities
as well," Riley said. "But it’s worth
Hooks’ own Birmingham-based logistics unit
has yet to be deployed, but he’s watched nearly
50 military members of his prison staff cycle
through tours around Iraq over the past three
years. And Hooks suspects he’ll be called into
active duty by the winter.
Corrections has 173 of its 485 military employees
on active duty. The Department of Public Safety
and individual sheriff, police and fire departments
have also had to find ways to fill position
Maj. Patrick Manning, chief of the Highway
Patrol division, said the deployments have
forced his troopers to scale back on preventative
patrols, including catching speeders. Nearly
30 of his 320 highway patrol employees are
on active duty.
Troopers, like Trooper Michael Britton, say
they will likely do another tour by next year.
"It reduces us to becoming almost totally
reactive, instead of proactive," Manning
said. "Our duty is preventative patrol,
but that’s hard when troopers are bouncing
from one wreck to another."
Manning called the end result a "vicious
cycle," where fewer troopers lead to more
accidents, and more accidents strain the troopers.
Most law enforcement agencies have relied
on their employees to work overtime to keep
up with the workload. But, during a statewide
budget crunch, that proves to be a very costly
Both Corrections and the Highway Patrol also
have stepped up efforts to recruit more officers
to training academies. Yet, with some training
sessions taking about six months, that has
not filled the drop in personnel.
Local sheriff, fire and police departments
– especially in Jefferson, Mobile and Montgomery
counties – are struggling as much as state
Montgomery County has one of the largest deployment
groups, with 194 guardsmen on active duty.
"We absolutely feel the impact," said
Sheriff D.T. Marshall. "When you have
a small office with seven or eight folks gone,
you have other people taking up the slack."
The sheriff has asked his deputies to work
overtime and take on larger workloads, which
he says they do gladly.
"All we can do is best is filling in
for them while their fulfilling their duty
for their country."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri)
May 1, 2004 Saturday
Sergeant’s Wife Knows How to Keep
Home Fires Burning
By Harry Levins
Last Sunday’s New York Times carried a front-page
story about the tribulations of the Tennessee
wives who stayed behind when a military police
company from the National Guard went
off to war in Iraq.
The story brought to mind Sal Alvarado, my
long-ago Army buddy who is now in Iraq as the
first sergeant of the 1775th MP Company, Michigan
When I met Sal, he was an 18-year-old clerk-typist
at an Army post in Germany. Now, he’s the father
of seven (and grandfather of two), and he’ll
turn 58 this month.
Four of his kids – ages 8 to 15 – are still
at home in Dearborn. After I read the story
in The Times, I called Sal’s wife, Kathy, to
ask whether she and the kids were OK.
"Oh, sure," she said. But she was
struck by my description of the woebegone attitude
of the wives in Tennessee.
In the Army, first sergeants don’t lament
problems. They solve problems. The same goes
for a first sergeant’s wife.
Kathy Alvarado keeps active in the family
support group for the 1775th.
Before her two youngest kids were born, she
ran it. Now, she’s the top aide to the group’s
chief – Thea Vigilates, the fiancee of the
company commander, Capt. Douglas McQuarie.
Vigilates feeds an e-mail network with word
she gets from the captain. Now that the 1775th
has moved into Iraq from Kuwait, e-mail has
become dicey. But Kathy Alvarado talks often
by phone with Sal and then uses the e-mail
network "to tell the wives what the soldiers
are doing – and how they’re doing."
The wives use their phones to call Kathy with
their own problems – financial, domestic, emotional.
"The wives are young, mostly from their
mid-20s to early 30s," says Kathy, a motherly
47. "Sometimes they’re overwhelmed with
worry about their husbands’ safety, and what
to tell their kids.
"I tell them what I tell my own kids:
‘Think of it as a schoolwork assignment. You’re
obliged to get it done. Well, your father is
a soldier. He has a mission – and he’s obliged
to get it done.’"
Kathy confessed to her own middle-of-the-night
moments, "even in the middle of the afternoon." Still,
she keeps her game face on around the kids, "although
I sometimes let myself cry along with the wives,
just to show them I’m not made out of steel."
The article in The Times included financial
horror stories from National Guard wives. Kathy
said, "I’m sure it’s rough on some of
the lower-ranking soldiers here, but I haven’t
heard much of that."
Instead, most of the calls she handles involve
emotional problems – or practical problems.
VFW to the rescue
"We’re negotiating with the Wayne County
Board of Commissioners on lawn service," she
said, "and we think we’ll get it."
Under this setup, minor criminal offenders
who get sentenced to community service can
pay their debt to society by mowing the lawns
of the families of the 1775th.
"We had it last summer, but there wasn’t
too much demand," Kathy said. "But
this year, now that the soldiers have been
extended for 120 days past their return date,
a lot of the women are at wit’s end."
Some wives call to report household repair
chores beyond their skills. "I tell them
to call the VFW," Kathy said.
"Every VFW post has lots of guys who
are carpenters, or electricians, or plumbers
– and they’ve told us they want to help out
as a way of showing their support for the troops."
(At the VFW’s national headquarters in Kansas
City, spokesman Jerry Newberry said VFW posts
in almost every city took part in the group’s
Military Assistance Program. He said military
families who needed help could call the national
headquarters at 1-816-756-3390 to get a local
referral. Information is also available on
the VFW’s Web site at www.vfw.org ,
under the headline “Programs.")
Kathy also tells the wives who call her about
the help available from an even higher level.
"My own feeling is that if you have a
religious background, a lot less anxiety will
come into play," said Kathy, a Roman Catholic. "I
try to show them strength – but I tell them
that my strength comes from God."
DEALING WITH AFTERMATH
Los Angeles Times
May 2, 2004
Toll in Iraq Weighs on Tiny Town
Arkansas’ 39th Infantry Brigade has lost
seven soldiers in the war, more than any
National Guard unit, leaving a void in one
By Scott Gold and Rone Tempest, Times Staff
Hazen, Ark. — Stacey Craig Brandon was a doting
husband, married to a schoolteacher, and a
loving father to two children, happy to let
his wife play the disciplinarian while he roughhoused
and made goofy faces. He went to church three
times a week, listened to country music and
enjoyed a good fish fry.
And like thousands of others across the nation,
on weekends, give or take, he was a soldier — a
staff sergeant in the Arkansas National
Saturday morning, a sizable faction of the
715 families in Hazen crammed inside the First
Baptist Church to mourn his death.
His funeral marked the beginning of a four-day
expression of grief, pride and anger in this
pocket of Arkansas, which is home to the 39th
Infantry Brigade — Brandon’s unit — which has
lost seven soldiers in Iraq, more than any National
Four of them, including Brandon, died in a
single day last weekend, when insurgents raked
their Taji base camp with mortars. Another
member of the 39th was killed the next day;
earlier in the month, another lost his life.
Their deaths, along with 10 others in separate
incidents, made April the deadliest month for
the National Guard since the Korean War.
On Saturday, as light poured through 18 stained-glass
windows, those gathered in the church rose
when Brandon’s 32-year-old widow, April, walked
past his flag-draped coffin. Military representatives
stood against the wall, the toes of their buffed
shoes nearly touching the edge of the pews.
Friends passed around boxes of tissues. "It
just hurts," one woman said to no one.
Brandon, 35, who worked as a prison guard,
was remembered as a friend, a trusted confidante,
a voice in the church choir who tried to hit
both the low and the high notes and a family
man who had so many framed pictures of his
children in his house that they spilled into
The Rev. Ron Malone assured the crowd that
Brandon was in a better place — "transferred
to another base of operation," the preacher
said. But the region’s loss was palpable.
"Five minutes after you met him, you
felt like you knew him your whole life," Lt.
Col. Don Brooks, a friend and National Guard
comrade, told the crowd. Brooks, in his dress
uniform, wiped away tears with a white handkerchief. "There
is a place in our ranks that will never be
At the end of the service, after songs and
prayers and parables, those gathered stood
and sang "My Country, ‘Tis of Thee."
Later, hundreds of people huddled under umbrellas
and waited for Brandon’s widow and the hearse
to leave for the cemetery.
In what feels like a single procession, four
more funerals will follow among the wheat fields
and cornstalks of central Arkansas.
The next procession will be this afternoon
in Mammoth Spring, near the Missouri border,
for the funeral of Spc. Kenneth A. Melton,
30. Then it will wind back down to the National
Guard Armory off Highway 63, where Billy J.
Orton, a 41-year-old staff sergeant, will be
remembered, before making two more final stops.
The loss here was a stark and somber illustration
of why civic leaders and politicians had been
loath to send National Guard troops into combat
for nearly 50 years.
"It’s just unreal," said David Duch,
46, a Hazen crop-duster and the town’s part-time
mayor for the last six years. "These are
people we grew up with, went to school with.
To get hit so hard … what are the chances?"
They are growing .
National Guard police, engineers and civil
affairs soldiers were used extensively as support
personnel in Bosnia, Somalia and other hotspots
in recent years. But in Iraq, as the invasion
has degenerated into insurgency and unrest,
with the U.S. military stretched increasingly
thin, the role of the National Guard has changed
"Weekend warriors" have been deployed
overseas for 12- and even 18-month tours, ordered
to ditch their support roles and integrated
into front-line combat positions, alongside "regular" soldiers.
The three "enhanced" brigades that
have been sent to Iraq — considered the best-trained
and equipped in the National Guard, and including
the Arkansas brigade — were the first Guard
combat soldiers to be sent overseas since Korea.
In all, more than 43,000 National Guard troops
are among the 130,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
U.S. presidents have long been reluctant to
put the National Guard in harm’s way. Guard
soldiers tend to be older; 22% of them are
40 or older, compared with 6% of active-duty
Army troops. Many are rooted in their communities,
assigned to a particular unit not because they
got ordered there but because they grew up
down the road from the armory. Many work full
time as police officers or firefighters.
Casualties among National Guard units
can have a different effect on the public than
losses of active-duty service members, said
Michael O’Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings
Institution in Washington.
"The death of a 20-year-old soldier is
just as tragic as the death of a 45-year-old
schoolteacher, but we feel the deaths in different
ways," he said.
"The first is a young man who had his
whole life in front of him and had it taken
away. The tragedy of the citizen-soldier casualty
is a loss of a member of the community who
is usually a parent, husband or wife. It adds
to the national pain when you see people from
all different walks of life dying in combat.
In that sense, the death of Guardsmen in Iraq
compounds the national pain."
Guard units also tend to ship out to their
assignments en masse, which is largely why
few Guard members fought in Vietnam. President
Johnson was fearful of the consequences if
large numbers of soldiers from the same community
were killed. That was precisely what happened
The five soldiers from the 39th Brigade killed
last weekend lived within an hour’s drive and
had served together for years. One was a youth
minister, another the coach of youth sports
teams. Brandon was not a cherub-cheeked soldier
from a recruiting poster. He was four days
short of his 36th birthday, with buff muscles
but a receding hairline. The youngest of the
five was 30, and the oldest, Chief Warrant
Officer Patrick Kordsmeier, was 49 and the
father of three grown children.
The other members of the 39th Infantry Brigade
killed in Iraq were: Capt. Arthur L. Felder,
36, of Lewisville, Ark.; Sgt. 1st Class William
W. Labadie Jr., 45, of Bauxite, Ark.; and Felix
M. del Greco, 22, of Simsbury, Conn.
As questions swirl over the decision to send National
Guard and reserve troops to Iraq — and
as many question whether American soldiers
should have invaded in the first place — Hazen
is trying to stand firm, to remain resolute
in the belief that their Guardsmen died for
a just and righteous cause.
"As far as me and my house, I serve this
country, I love this country and I will do
anything I can to help protect this country," said
Marvin E. Mathis, a sergeant first class in
the National Guard who joined in 1987 and is
based in North Little Rock. "You might
think that’s just a saying, but it’s not. It’s
More than half of Arkansas’ 8,000-plus National
Guard troops have been activated, and that
has taken a toll on the region’s children,
said Bambi George, 35, of Searcy, Ark., whose
husband, Jerome George, a sergeant first class,
recently began a lengthy tour in Iraq. "Your
daddy’s going to die," one classmate told
one of the couple’s three children recently.
"Children can be cruel," she said. "You
have to explain that what he is doing is necessary
for our country to function as a whole. And
my children are very proud. They miss their
daddy. But they are very proud of him."
In the wake of Arkansas’ losses, many in the
region who have been supportive of President
Bush’s decision to invade Iraq are beginning
to question that assessment.
"When the first assault started, we didn’t
lose that many troops. Now we’re losing a lot," said
Duch, Hazen’s mayor, who described himself
as a fervent Bush supporter. "We’re losing
all these troops and we aren’t even supposed
to be in a full-scale war anymore. It makes
you start questioning it. Are we protecting
our troops? Do these people not want us there?
Should we not be there? Something is not right.
They are not telling us the whole story."
In South Carolina, another state where more
than half of the Guard troops have been mobilized,
Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican and a captain
in the Air Force Reserve, said the future of
the Guard could be at risk.
"In the short run, it’s meant that a
lot of daddies who thought they’d be home at
their son’s or daughter’s softball game … or
birthday party aren’t there," he said.
"In the long run, the verdict is out.
A lot of people who thought they were signing
up for some college training or serving their
country on a limited basis, it has proven to
be a much broader role than they anticipated.
They are not going to sign up again. That story
will be told with how the story in Iraq plays
Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
May 1, 2004
“There Is No Glory in War”
Lois K. Solomon South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Army Sgt. Seth Cole was
no ordinary show-and-tell guest at Banyan Creek
Elementary School. At 6-foot-3, in a pressed,
beribboned uniform and just back from Iraq,
the infantryman was the son of teacher Allyne
Cole and the school’s yearlong pen pal, home
But what began as a school-wide homecoming
celebration became an emotionally charged catharsis
Thursday when during visits to several classrooms
Cole spoke candidly of the disillusionment
he felt after 12 months in the combat zone,
and urged the pupils not to be fooled by notions
that warfare is glorious.
"You’ll never see me in this uniform
again," Cole, 30, told a roomful of fifth-graders
as his mother fought to hold back her tears. "There
is no glory in war. Seven hundred people are
not coming back. A lot more don’t have eyes,
arms or legs."
Allyne Cole said that she knew little about
the horror and danger of her only child’s service
with the 115 Military Police Company in Baghdad,
Fallujah and Balad until he spoke to the students
at the school where she has taught for 20 years. "This
was not easy to hear," she said. "He
tried to protect me. He knew I was worried."
Cole’s visit began with what looked like a
patriotic festival. More than 900 students
— many wearing red, white and blue — cheered
when Cole arrived, and mobbed him for autographs.
The school cheerleaders were there, a flag-decorated
cake was rolled out and a fourth-grade student
sang The Star-Spangled Banner.
But it was only when he began to talk to the
students, beginning with his mother’s kindergartners,
that he revealed how troubled he was over his
experiences in Iraq.
"In the beginning, I was keen to go.
I couldn’t wait to do my part," Cole said. "But
then my philosophy changed. I thought what
we were doing was just, but I didn’t like the
way the military was treating its soldiers."
Cole had trouble getting enough water to drink
and weapons that worked well. He said he participated
in 550 combat missions, including raiding Iraqis’
houses and snatching suspects for interrogation.
After he was told he could go home, he received
an order to direct traffic in downtown Kuwait
City, a three-week assignment he described
as "a kick in the teeth."
Speaking deliberately, in the accent of his
native Boston, Cole tried to temper students’
enthusiasm for guns and bombs by detailing
his struggle to do what he believed was right
for the United States. Describing Iraq as "a
weird country that’s difficult to understand," he
said he had served four years on active duty,
then volunteered for the Rhode Island National
Guard, in part to follow the example of his
father, a Vietnam veteran.
But Cole was sharply critical of the way the
military manages its fighters, and he complained
of poor equipment and inadequate training.
Sgt. Scott Keegan, 36, a Boston reservist
who returned from Iraq with Cole just two weeks
ago, agreed with his longtime buddy’s assessment.
"They sent us on some crazy missions,
night patrols without night-vision goggles,
in old Humvees that were always breaking down," said
Keegan. "We were told to wear bulletproof
vests, even though there were no bulletproof
ceramic plates to put in them."
Keegan said three members of their unit were
killed in Iraq and several more were wounded.
The Army sent teams of counselors, such as
the 113th Army Combat Stress Unit, throughout
Iraq to prevent mental breakdowns in the field
and post-traumatic illnesses when soldiers
returned home. The unit treated 20,000 soldiers.
The Army also has adopted a new reintegration
program for returning soldiers after problems
erupted last year at Fort Bragg, N.C., when
returning Iraq veterans of the 82nd Airborne
Division were involved in instances of domestic
violence, including several slayings.
Still, Cole said he felt little support for
his fellow soldiers’ personal traumas on the
battlefield and numerous acquaintances went
home because their mental health deteriorated.
Students said they were surprised the people
who served had become psychologically scarred
by their experiences.
"I had never thought of that before," fourth-grader
Chrislyn Corvil said.
Even though recounting his wartime experiences
was painful, Cole said he owed it to the children
who sent him hundreds of cards and letters
in a campaign his mother admitted organizing
to help allay her fears about his safety.
"I read every single letter," he
"I’m proud of what I’ve done," he
added. "It was a pleasure to serve my
country. But it’s not like I want to go down
to a bar and talk about it more."
Neither does Cole plan to extend his commitment
to the National Guard when
his enlistment ends in three months.
Cole’s mother said her son conveyed some of
his feelings during occasional calls home,
but she knew almost nothing about his experiences. "He
told me that after today, he wasn’t going to
talk about it again," she said.
"He put everything into context, the
reality of violence," she said. "And
I said to him later, this is one of those things
from elementary school they will probably remember
Cole asked the students not to be impressed
with his stories about guns and bombs but to
go home and give their parents a hug.
"Life is short and life is very precious," said
Cole, a salesman who lives in Boston. "If
you remember anything I’ve told you, please
Health & Medicine Week
April 26, 2004
Soldiers Say Their Health Suffering
from Uranium-Filled Weapons
Six Iraq war veterans charged that the Army
ignored their complaints about uranium poisoning
from U.S. weapons fired during combat.
"We were all healthy when we left home.
Now, I suffer from headaches, fatigue, dizziness,
blood in the urine, unexplained rashes," said
Sgt. Jerry Ojeda, 28, who was stationed south
of Baghdad with other National Guard members
of the 442nd Military Police Company, which
is based in Rockland County.
He said the soldiers’ symptoms also include
shortness of breath, migraines and nausea.
The soldiers held a news conference in the
garden of Ojeda’s Queens apartment house, joined
by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, D-NEW YORK,
who said he would fight to get the victims
extended health benefits after they’re discharged.
New York’s other senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton,
said April 8, 2004, that as a member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee, she would
ask U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
to require health screenings for all returning
Five of the men said they also were recently
tested by an independent physician, Asaf Durakovic,
MD, a former Army doctor and nuclear medicine
expert. He found traces of depleted uranium
in their bloodstream, with four registering
After their return from Iraq, "the Army
was unfortunately not cooperative when they
asked for testing," Schumer said. "To
stonewall this, which is what has happened,
is not the American way."
In Washington, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith
said that the military would do "the right
thing" and test any soldier who expressed
concerns about uranium exposure.
Sgt. Herbert Reed, 50, who works as an assistant
deputy warden at the city’s jail on Rikers
Island, said that when a dozen soldiers asked
for treatment last fall, they initially "were
Three of them persisted and were tested in
December, said Reed, who has yet to receive
The men said that Army officials at Fort Dix,
in New Jersey, and Walter Reed Army Medical
Center, in Washington, are now testing urine
samples they supplied. Results are expected
in about 3 weeks.
Since the start of the Iraq war, U.S. forces
reportedly have fired at least 120 tons of
shells packed with depleted uranium.
Depleted uranium, far less radioactive than
natural uranium, is left over from the process
of enriching uranium for use as nuclear fuel.
The extremely dense material has been used
by the U.S. and British militaries for tank
armor and armor-piercing weapons.
Once fired, DU shells melt, vaporizes and
turns to dust.
The soldiers said the uranium apparently mixed
with sand and dirt in Iraq, then entered the
soldiers’ bloodstream after they inhaled it.
Veterans started reporting health problems
as a result of DU shells in 1991, after the
first Gulf War. Since then, the debate over
the use and effects of depleted uranium munitions
Some experts believe the nuclear component
used in warfare is practically harmless, while
others blame DU for cancers and other illnesses.
This article was prepared by Health & Medicine
Week editors from staff and other reports.
Copyright 2004, Health & Medicine Week
via NewsRx.com & NewsRx.net.
The Associated Press
April 30, 2004, Friday, BC cycle
Pentagon Says Depleted Uranium Did Not Harm
New York Unit
By Adam Ashton, Associated Press Writer
A National Guard soldier
who said he fell ill after exposure to depleted
uranium in Iraq was not comforted by the Pentagon’s
announcement that the metal did not cause his
Sgt. Ray Ramos plans to pursue more independent
tests to determine whether his contact with
depleted uranium, a heavy metal used to penetrate
tanks, could lead to long-term health damage.
"When I become ill, or possibly become
ill later on, I want to have things in place," said
Ramos, 41, of the 442nd Military Police Co.
based in Orangeburg, N.Y.
Ramos and three others from his company took
private tests earlier this month that suggested
contact with depleted uranium may have contributed
to the migraine headaches and other complications
The Pentagon took further tests and said Thursday
that the levels of uranium in soldiers’ urine
samples were normal, indicating their illnesses
were not caused by exposure to the metal.
"People should be assured that this substance,
this depleted uranium, does not pose a major
risk for their health," said Dr. William
Winkenwerder, the assistant secretary of defense
for health affairs
Depleted uranium is the hard, heavy metal
created as a byproduct of enriching uranium
for nuclear reactor fuel or weapons material.
It is about 40 percent less radioactive than
natural uranium, said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick,
deputy director of the Defense Department’s
Deployment Health Support Directorate.
The U.S. military uses the metal in rounds
fired by M1 Abrams tanks and A-10 attack jets
to penetrate tank armor – a practice that has
been criticized for causing unnecessary risks
to soldiers and civilians.
"As long as this is exterior to your
body, you’re not at any risk and the potential
of internalizing it from the environment is
extremely small," Kilpatrick said.
Most studies have indicated that depleted
uranium exposure will not harm soldiers. But
a 2002 study by Britain’s Royal Society said
soldiers who ingest or inhale enough depleted
uranium could suffer kidney damage. It cautioned
that there were too many uncertainties in the
study to draw reliable conclusions.
About 1,000 soldiers returning from Iraq have
been tested for exposure to the metal. Of those,
three showed unhealthy levels in urine samples.
All three had fragments embedded in their bodies,
Soldiers must choose to take a test for depleted
uranium. All members of the 442nd will be able
to take one if they ask, Kilpatrick said. Twenty-seven
members of the unit have been tested so far.
The Pentagon is monitoring a group of 70 veterans
from the first Gulf War who have pieces of
depleted uranium embedded in their bodies.
Kilpatrick said none of them has shown health
problems related to depleted uranium.
Charles Sheehan-Miles, executive director
of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and
a Gulf War veteran, said the military should
test all soldiers returning from Iraq to determine
whether fears about the metal are valid.
The Associated Press
April 26, 2004
More Than 300 Turn Out to Greet Motorcade
Being Fallen Soldier Home
Dateline: Valentine, Neb.
More than 300 people turned out late Friday
to greet a motorcade bringing home a soldier
killed in Iraq.
The motorcade transporting the body of Sgt.
Dennis Morgan, 22, to Valentine included the
Nebraska State Patrol, South Dakota Highway
Patrol, a military escort and his family.
The motorcade was greeted around 10:45 p.m.
CDT. People along the route held American flags,
candles and signs reading "Welcome home,
Dennis," "We love you," and "My
A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m.
CDT Monday at the National Guard Armory
in Winner, S.D. The funeral will be 10 a.m.
Tuesday in Valentine, with burial will follow
at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis,
Morgan died April 17 when a roadside bomb
exploded as a military convoy passed. He was
manning an automatic weapon on an armored personnel
carrier and was hit by shrapnel.
The Associated Press
April 27, 2004
Fifth Arkansas Soldier Who Died in
Roadside Bombing Identified
By David Hammer, Associated Press Writer
A fifth Arkansas soldier who died in a pair
of weekend attacks has been identified as Spc.
Kenneth A. Melton of Batesville, who was killed
when a roadside bomb detonated near Sadr City.
Melton, 30, was traveling as part of a protection
team with battalion leaders when the bomb exploded,
according to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter
Amy Schlesing, who is embedded with the brigade,
stationed at Camp Cooke, Iraq.
The bomb exploded about 9:30 a.m. in a Baghdad
intersection where several explosive devices
have been detonated since the occupation began.
Melton was one of five Arkansas soldiers who
died over the weekend. The other four were
killed after a rocket attack hit the base of
Arkansas’ 39th Infantry Brigade in Taji, Iraq,
just north of Baghdad.
The soldiers who died Saturday are Capt. Arthur "Bo" Felder,
36, of Lewisville; Chief Warrant Officer Patrick
W. Kordsmeier, 49, of North Little Rock; Staff
Sgt. Stacey C. Brandon, 35, of Hazen; and Staff
Sgt. Billy Joe Orton, 41, of Humnoke.
Kordsmeier was trying to help other wounded
soldiers from the Arkansas brigade, his daughter
Jennifer Kordsmeier-Legate said. She said her
father, "died helping his friends, which
was very appropriate for the type of man he
was. We’re just very proud of him."
Kordsmeier-Legate said an Army casualty officer
told her and her brothers, Jason and David,
that their father was tending to soldiers injured
in the first blast when he was killed by a
"My dad … said, in some way, he hoped
to help free the Iraqi people," Kordsmeier-Legate
said. "He was there for a higher purpose.
Unfortunately, there’s evil in the world. He
taught me that’s just how life is. He wouldn’t
hold a grudge because of what happened."
Kordsmeier was born in Little Rock and attended
Little Rock Catholic High School before enlisting
at age 17. In Iraq, he was in charge of keeping
track of military supplies and issuing weapons
and equipment to soldiers, Legate said.
Felder had served in the National
Guard since 1986, the year after
he graduated from Lewisville High School.
He attended Ouachita Baptist University in
Arkadelphia and later transferred to East
Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas.
Felder’s mother, Cheryl Stuart, said Felder
never let on he was in danger.
"He would say that he was safe behind
his desk," Stuart told the Banner-News
of Magnolia on Monday. "You would have
thought he was calling from Little Rock."
He is survived by his ex-wife, Brenda Felder,
and their two children, Jaelun, 8, and Amari,
Brandon was born in Kingsland and recently
lived in White Hall until he and his wife,
April, moved to Hazen, the home base of the
39th Infantry Brigade. Frank Lightfoot of White
Hall, a family friend, said Brandon was a prison
guard for the Arkansas Department of Correction
and later worked at the federal prison in Forrest
"He was a very outstanding young man
whose loss will affect a lot of people," Lightfoot
said. "He was one of the young people
you could admire."
Orton’s mother, Dorothy, told Little Rock
television station KTHV that her son used to
make cabinets and work on her house.
"What I’m going to miss the most is him
coming in the house," she said. "I
won’t see him no more – he’s gone."
Westbrook Funeral Home in Hazen is making
funeral arrangements for both Brandon and Orton,
although dates and times have not been set.
Two 57mm rockets slammed into the base at
around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Air Force Lt. Col.
Sam Hudspath told The Associated Press. The
base is home to the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry
Division, served by 3,000 members from the
47 Arkansas units of the 39th.
In Saturday’s attack at Camp Cooke, at least
seven soldiers were wounded, three critically.
April 30, 2004 Friday
Marine Was Moved By the Poor of Iraq;
Green Beret, 45, Delayed Retiring
By Gina Kim, Tribune staff reporter.
Marine Lance Cpl. James A. Casper learned
early that you must earn what you have. At
5, he raked leaves and picked up garbage in
his neighborhood to earn the money so he could
buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
He worked all his life, baling hay, building
fences, mowing yards, washing cars and then
getting a job at a Wal-Mart so he could buy
a car, a customized chrome and brushed-aluminum
truck and a 1 1/2-acre piece of property.
So when Casper saw the poor of Iraq begging
for food, he was deeply disturbed, said his
mother, Darlene Mitchell.
"Those people over there, they’re just stuck.
They can’t work for it," his mother said. "That’s
what he was fighting for, the poor people in Iraq."
Casper, 20, of Coolidge, Texas, died March
25 in a non-combat incident in Al Asad during
his second tour in Iraq. He was assigned to
the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine
Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Casper enlisted in the Marines as a way to
pay for college, his mother said. After spending
six months in Iraq last year, he stayed another
month to help pack up so other Marines could
return home to their wives and kids, his mother
Army Master Sgt. Richard L. Ferguson could
have retired twice during his 28-year career
in the military that included stints in 27
countries. But he passed it up because he felt
he still had work to do.
“He just wanted to help and that’s why he
was there," said his father, Lee.
Holmes, 27, of North Berwick, Maine, missed
much of his son’s infancy after he was activated
in the Army National Guard’s 744th
Transportation Company in December and sent
to Iraq in March. Holmes was killed when his
truck fell off a bridge after a makeshift bomb
exploded March 29 near Balad.
Raised by his grandparents, Holmes enlisted
in the Army soon after high school graduation,
following in the footsteps of his father and
other male relatives. He spent 4 1/2 years
in Texas and Colorado and returned to Maine
in 1999 and joined the National Guard.
He was reluctant to leave his young son and
wife but felt obligated, his wife said. A week
before his death, he told his wife about the
pressures of service in Iraq.
"He said you take all the stress you’ve
ever had in your whole life and put that into
one day, every day," his wife said. "You’re
always looking over your shoulder and being
Ferguson, 45, of Conway, N.H., died March
30, during his fourth tour in Iraq, when his
Humvee rolled over in Somara. A Green Beret,
he was assigned to the Army’s 10th Special
A bright child who hated homework, he dropped
out of school his junior year in high school
after a teacher told him he wouldn’t amount
to anything, his father said. He joined the
Army National Guard at 17
and switched to the Army and soon became a
He became an expert in blowing up bridges,
his father said.
He is survived by his wife, Marianne, their
three sons and a daughter from a previous marriage.
The red hair, mannerisms and looks of Army
Spc. Jeremiah J. Holmes are manifested in his
1-year-old son, Kaleb.
"I’d find them sleeping on the couch
together. They were like twins," said
his wife, Kim. "They’d be sleeping the
same way, mouths open."
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
May 2, 2004 Sunday, Final Edition
Emotional Service Pays Tribute to
The Maine Army National Guardsman was
killed 12 days ago when insurgents attacked
his convoy in Mosul, Iraq.
By Kevin Wack Staff Writer
Lavinia Gelineau rested her head on her husband’s
flag-draped coffin. Then she gazed at, kissed
and gently touched his framed photograph.
Among many sad moments at Saturday’s memorial
service for Sgt. Christopher D. Gelineau, nothing
was more touching than the composed grace and
eloquence of the wife who loved him.
Gelineau, a member of the Maine Army
National Guard’s 133rd Engineer
Battalion, was killed 12 days ago when Iraqi
insurgents ambushed his convoy in Mosul.
The 23-year-old college senior was the unit’s
first combat casualty since World War II, and
many uniformed guard members were among hundreds
of mourners on hand for the 90-minute service
on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland
Gelineau, who died with the rank of specialist,
was promoted to sergeant posthumously. And
Brig. Gen. John W. "Bill" Libby,
head of the Maine Army National Guard ,
awarded him both the Bronze Star and the Purple
Gelineau, who grew up in Vermont, met his
wife at USM three years ago. The two were married
last May in her native country, Romania.
On Valentine’s Day, the newlyweds met up at
Fort Drum in New York, where Gelineau assured
her they would see each other again. And he
gave her a pink teddy bear that she embraced
as she spoke at the memorial service.
"I haven’t cried for three days, and
you must be holding me, must be supporting
me, because I used to cry every time that an
ambulance went by," Lavinia Gelineau said.
The two were hopeless lovers, she said, kissing
before and after every class at USM.
"You showed me what perfect love was
when other people could not even dream of true
love," she said. "I used to call
you my sweet American pie. You used to call
me your sweet Romanian chocolate."
"I traveled half the world to meet you,
and I found you," she said. "You
must be carrying me now because my heart is
Lavinia Gelineau remembered how the couple
planned to avoid the bustle of modern American
life enough to eat three meals together each
day. And she recalled how they talked about
choosing a song that would be their own. She
wanted it to be a love song, but he knew how
to play only one song on his guitar, and it
was a sad one.
Before the crowded gymnasium, Lavinia Gelineau’s
voice trembled as she played the song, "Right
Here Waiting" by Richard Marx, while mourners
dabbed their eyes.
Earlier, Maine National Guard Chaplain
Andrew Gibson spoke about Gelineau’s high standards
as a guardsman. He said Gelineau had been pursuing
– on his own time – ways to increase the efficiency
of convoys in Iraq.
The idea – made poignant because of how Gelineau
died – was that increased efficiency would
reduce the number of convoys, making soldiers
less vulnerable to attack, Gibson said.
Other speakers included Gelineau’s mother,
Victoria Chicoine, and an uncle.
Friends and relatives wore buttons with the
slain soldier’s photo and the words:
"Chris Gelineau Always in our Hearts." Others
pinned yellow ribbons to their lapels.
Gov. John Baldacci presented Lavinia Gelineau
a Maine flag that had flown over the state
capitol, and U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan
Collins also gave their condolences.
At the end of the memorial service, six soldiers
wheeled the coffin out of the gymnasium. Lavinia
Gelineau, trailing just behind, reached out
and touched it again.
Following the service, Gelineau was buried
with full military honors at Evergreen Cemetery
Philadelphia Daily News
May 3, 2004
Rites Set for Sgt. Sherwood Baker
Services will be tomorrow for Pennsylvania
Army National Guard Sgt.
Sherwood R. Baker, a Philadelphia native who
was killed in action in Baghdad last week.
He was 30 years old and a devoted husband,
father and caseworker for mentally handicapped
Baker lived with his wife and son in Plymouth,
Pa., near Wilkes-Barre. He was sent to Iraq
March 8 with his National Guard unit,
the 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery in
He was one of two American soldiers killed
in a Baghdad building explosion on April 26.
His mother, Celeste Zappala, is a noted peace
activist in Philadelphia.
As a child, Baker lived in Mount Airy and
graduated from Roman Catholic High School.
Later, he earned a degree in early childhood
education from Kings College, in Wilkes-Barre.
He enlisted in the Army National Guard seven
In addition to his mother, who is director
of the Mayor’s Commission on Services to the
Aging, he is survived by his wife, Debra; their
son, James-Dante Raphael Baker, 9; his father,
Al Zappala, a retired federal worker; two brothers,
Dante Zappala, of Los Angeles, and Raphael
Zappala, of Philadelphia. A viewing will be
today at 4 p.m. at the Kings College gym in
Wilkes-Barre. Services will be tomorrow at
First United Methodist Church of Wilkes-Barre,
47 N. Franklin St., at 12:30 p.m. Burial will
follow. A memorial service in Philadelphia
will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at First United
Methodist Church of Germantown, 6023 Germantown
Ave. Contributions may be made to the James-Dante
Baker Fund, c/o Mellon Bank, David Rowe, 1735
Market St., 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA, 19103.
Congress, Nation Designate Military Appreciation
By Gene Harper
American Forces Press Service
Washington, April 30, 2004 – Both chambers
of the U.S. Congress have adopted a resolution
calling for Americans to recognize and honor
U.S. service members during May’s National
Military Appreciation Month.
Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, along with 16 cosponsors,
introduced Concurrent Resolution No. 328 in
the House in November. The Senate agreed to
it without amendment and by unanimous consent
The resolution states that the House, with
the Senate concurring, "supports the goals
and objectives of a National Military Appreciation
Month." It also "urges the president
to issue a proclamation calling on the people
of the United States, localities, organizations
and media to annually observe" the month "with
appropriate ceremonies and activities. Finally,
the resolution urges the White House Commission
on Remembrance to "work to support the
goals and objectives" of the month.
The Senate first passed a resolution in 1999
designating National Military Appreciation Month.
That declaration summoned U.S. citizens to observe
the month "in a symbol of unity, … to honor
the current and former members of the armed forces,
including those who have died in the pursuit
of freedom and peace."