Index of Articles
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Signing Up To Serve: Even In War, Military
Finding No Shortage Of Recruits
Minnesota National Guard: Recruiters Going
Florida Air Guard Receives New Space-Launch
National Guard Says War Callups Won’t Affect
Army National Guard Being Mobilized
Up to 4,000 MS National Guard Members Could
When The Call To Duty Comes A Second Time
278th Guardsmen Proud, Sad Over Call-Up To
National Guard Units Put On Alert for Possible
Guardsmen Deploy To Greely
700 Iowa Troops Heading To Afghanistan
Gov. Bush Welcomes Returning Reservists
Far From Virginia
Far From Soldiers of Fortune
Guard Deployments Worry Some States
Before They Leave: Guard, Families Ask Questions
Shelby Township Man’s New Battleground Is
In The Rehab Room
Wounded Soldier Recounts Shooting
Family Says Arkansas Soldier Killed In Iraq
Man To Run/March 175 Miles Nonstop To Honor
Student Killed in Iraq To Be Awarded USM Degree
Fallen soldiers Have Special Memorial At Fort
Slain Guardsman Is Remembered For His Love
of Life, Faith
Groups Arrange Foster Care for Military Pets
Federal Government Will Pay National Guard
Child Care Providers Across The Nation Volunteer
Their Services To Support Troops Returning
From Iraq and Afghanistan
Militarystudent.org is a website that helps military children with transition and deployment issues. It has some great features for kids, parents, special needs families, school educators, and more—even safe chatrooms for kids.
Soldiers Initiative (DS3): This
website provides information on the new
DS3 program. Through DS3, the Army provides
its most severely disabled Soldiers and
their families with a system of advocacy
Have an article, announcement, or website that you’d like to share with the National Guard Family Program Community? Send your suggestions in an e-mail to[email protected].
The Macon Telegraph
May 10, 2004 Monday
Signing Up To Serve: Even In War, Military
Finding No Shortage Of Recruits
By Tim Sturrock; Telegraph Staff Writer
Travis Gore wants to be an electrician and
is willing to face military combat in Iraq
to get that training.
“I know if I go over there and do my
electrical work, I won’t be in the line of
fire,” said the 17-year-old, who earlier
this year signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Gore will go into basic training a week after
graduating from Mary Persons High School this
although the high school senior wants money
for college and electrician training, he said
he’ll fight if he has to.
“If that’s what they need me to do, that’s
what I’ll do,” he said.
With the appeal of future college money, experience
and serving their country, there is no shortage
of young men and women willing to serve in
the military, recruiters said.
Even with 765 American military casualties
in Iraq since March 19, 2003, and more soldiers
being sent to war, all the big four military
branches are ahead or on schedule with recruitment
goals for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
The Marines have a goal of sending 35,824
soldiers to boot camp this year, said Maj.
Dave Griesmer, a public affairs officer at
the Marine Corps recruiting command in Quantico,
Va. And though the Marines have sent only 15,294
to boot camp so far this year, the largest
number of Marines will train this summer, he
The Air Force has signed up 97 percent of
the soldiers needed to meet its fiscal 2004
goal of 36,020, said Tech. Sgt. John Asselin
of the Air Force Recruiting Service headquarters.
This fiscal year, the Army has recruited 41,467
soldiers, slightly ahead of schedule of the
77,000-soldier goal, said Mark Schulz, an Army
public affairs officer in Atlanta.
And the Navy is on track to meet its goal
of about 40,000 new recruits, said Navy Lt.
Amy Gilliland, who works at the Pentagon.
Standing in the Mary Persons lunchroom Friday,
Sgt. Ross Wafler, a Marine recruiter, said
the war in Iraq deters some young people from
considering the military as an option.
“Some kids you talk to say, ‘I don’t
want to go to war. I’m against the war,”” he
But those young people would not necessarily
join even during peace time, he said. He’s
not surprised that the war doesn’t seem to
be affecting recruitments, he said.
“Kids are a lot more patriotic than people
give them credit for,” Wafler said.
Wafler said he’s honest with new recruits,
telling them that going to war is a possibility.
He said it usually takes about a year before
a new Marine recruit is deployed. Griesmer
said that of the 175,000 U.S. Marines around
the world, 25,000 of them are in Iraq.
Lt. Bill Davis, deputy public affairs officer
of U.S. Navy recruiting command in Millington,
Tenn., said that after the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks more people began giving military recruiters
attention because they were the most visible
military presences in their communities.
Retirees would show up at recruitment stations
and show support, or offer to re-enlist, but
the amount of eligible applicants has stayed
about the same, Davis said.
Anecdotal evidence shows that recruits are
enlisting for the same reasons as before –
travel, training and discipline, but patriotism
is in the forefront of their minds, he said.
seeing they say, ‘Hey, what can I do for my
country?”” he said “At the same
time, we’re seeing anecdotes that some moms
and dads are a bit concerned after seeing images
on the television screen and worrying that
could be their child.”
The National Guard historically
has stayed in the United States but in recent
years increasingly has played a bigger role
across the world. During the first six months
of the fiscal year, the Guard missed its recruitment
goal by about 8 percent, according to Maj.
Hunt Kerrigan, public affairs officer for the National
Guard bureau in Washington, D.C.
At Mary Persons High School last week, at
least two of the high school students that
crowded around Wafler said they wouldn’t have
a problem going to war.
“What’s your story?” Wafler asked
Michael Boswell, an 18-year-old junior.
Boswell told Wafler he wants to join the Marines.
Wafler told him he can enlist in June after
his junior year ends.
“If you know what you want to do, see
me next month,” Wafler tells him.
Boswell, who said he wants to serve his country,
said he wants to go to Iraq and isn’t afraid
Boswell and his friend Adam Griffin, another
junior, said they both plan to sign up for
the Marines. At the end of their senior year
they plan to begin basic training.
Griffin has wanted to be a Marine since he
was 7 and said he doesn’t care if he goes to
Iraq or not.
“Mostly its the adventure,” he said. “I’ve
always wanted to see the world, and going into
the military is the cheapest way to do it.”
Saint Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota)
May 10, 2004 Monday
Minnesota National Guard: Recruiters
By Phillip Pina; Pioneer Press
Within weeks of graduating next month from
Woodbury High School, seniors David Foster
and Kyle Allen will ship off to boot camp as
some of the newest members of the Minnesota
Army National Guard.
As news of ambush attacks and prolonged tours
of duty in Iraq swirl, a life in the military
continues to attract young men and women. Guard
recruiters are as busy as ever. People continue
to be driven to the military by passion for
adventure and patriotism.
There “is some apprehension” about
possibly being sent off to war, said the 17-year-old
Allen. “But if the president tells me
to go somewhere, I will go.” He wanted
a way to serve his country, he said. And the
benefits, such as a big break in college costs,
Minnesota Army National Guard remains
a recruiting leader. For the first half of
the current military budget year — Oct. 1
through the end of March — the Minnesota Army National
Guard has enlisted 844 people with
no prior military service. That is the most
in the nation for that category, said Lt. Col.
Kevin Gerdes, recruiting retention commander
for the Minnesota Army National Guard. In
comparison, Texas had 676, and California had
Minnesota’s 71 National Guard recruiters
average 2.52 new total enlistments each a month,
the nation’s highest rate.
The national average is about 1.4 monthly
enlistments per recruiter; the next highest
state is Nevada with 2.1 enlistments. Minnesota
led the country the previous year as well when
it enlisted 1,900 new members total — those
with and without prior military service —
for its Army National Guard, Gerdes
said. The Minnesota Air National Guard also
had a strong recruiting year, finishing at
103 percent of its authorized strength with
“They are stepping forward,” said
The success goes beyond Minnesota and its National
Guard. The U.S. Army and U.S. Army
Reserves continue to exceed their recruiting
goals, said Douglas Smith, spokesman for
the U.S. Army Recruiting Command. Army and
Army Reserve recruiters have exceeded their
enlistment goals every year since 1999.
Statistics from the most recent Army budget
year, which ended Sept. 30, show the Army enlisted
74,132 recruits, above a goal of 73,800. Of
those, 1,073 were from Minnesota. The Army
Reserves enlisted 27,365, above its goal of
26,400. Of these, 514 were from Minnesota.
“It’s hard to put what impact Sept. 11
and the wars (Afghanistan, Iraq) have had,
if any,” said Smith. “We continue
to be successful” when it comes to attracting
men and women to the armed forces.
Gone are the days when a person could sign
up for the National Guard and
never expect to serve beyond the regular training
requirements — one weekend a month and another
15 days each year.
The frequent deployments can be a strain on
many, some of whom also must juggle a family,
job and home in their civilian lives. While
Minnesota’s Guard has been a success at attracting
new members, the Army National Guard nationwide
missed its annual recruiting goal by 8,000
Military cutbacks and recent operations have
led to a bigger reliance on National
Guard and other reserves across the
nation. Since the 9/11 attacks, the Minnesota National
Guard has activated thousands of
its members for duty.
Minnesota’s Guard members were activated to
provide security at airports after the attacks
and its members have played roles in the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 1,000 members
served in Kosovo and another 1,100 in Bosnia.
The Minnesota Army National Guard has
made a concentrated effort in area schools
to recruit juniors and seniors. What attracted
Allen and Foster was a chance to serve, but
also to help them through college.
By joining the guard, they get benefits, such
as reduced tuition for college classes.
“I joined for the benefits and to help serve my
country,” added the 18-year-old Foster, a Woodbury
High senior. He leaves for basic training July 27.
After 13 weeks, he expects to return to Minnesota,
begin weekend drill training and start college. Both
he and Allen are thinking of aviation careers.
Allen will leave for basic training two weeks
after Foster. When the recruiters came, he
looked at all the pamphlets. And he decided
to sit and talk with them, to “figure
out what it’s all about.” His father was
in the military reserves and he knew about
the weekend training and the commitment necessary.
The recent wars and deployments were not going
to stop him from joining.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to
do, since I was little,” Allen said.
The Wichita Eagle
May 10, 2004
Given the continuing difficulties in Iraq,
it would be easy to guess that the re-enlistment
rates for U.S. troops there are falling significantly.
On the contrary, just past the halfway point
of fiscal 2004, which ends Sept. 30, nearly
all of the Army divisions stationed in Iraq
have met or exceeded their retention goals.
That speaks well of our troops’ dedication
to their country. These aren’t fresh-faced
recruits (although they continue to join the
fray in high numbers) –we’re talking about
experienced fighting men and women who fully
understand what they are getting themselves
For example, the 1st Armored Division, which
broke up more than 20 cells during months of
counterinsurgency operations, pegged in at
120 percent of its goal. The 4th Infantry Division,
which was assigned to the harrowing Baghdad-to-Tikrit
corridor and led the operation to capture Saddam
Hussein, reached 117 percent. And the 101st
Airborne, which patrolled northern Baghdad,
hit 107 percent. Overall, at the midway point,
the Army was at 99 percent of its re-enlistment
Re-enlistment bonuses have no doubt helped,
but when bullets are flying you can’t buy that
kind of loyalty — it comes from inside, from
belief in the mission and confidence that staying
in the fight is the right thing to do. In fact,
the Army National Guard’s re-upping
rate was 130 percent for the first quarter
of 2004, with retention highest among soldiers
just back from Iraq.
Other branches are seeing a similar phenomenon.
The Navy and Air Force have also surpassed
their goals, with the latter reducing some
bonuses because retention efforts have inflated
its roster to about 16,000 more than the 359,000
authorized by Congress. And the Marine Corps,
which has endured heavy fighting in Iraq, already
has reached 90 percent of its goal for the
entire fiscal year, which still has nearly
five months to go.
are still concerns, of course, about long-term
trends. The 30-year-old all-volunteer military
has never been busier, and that can take a
toll on morale. The Washington Post and the
military newspaper Stars and Stripes recently
conducted separate surveys of militarypersonnel
based in Iraq, and both found many respondents
who said they were unlikely to re-enlist when
the time comes — primarily because of family
Recent events — from April’s dramatic death
toll to last week’s news that Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld approved keeping up to 138,000
troops in Iraq — have surely added to that
But the strength and commitment shown by our
troops thus far is inspiring. Those who have
signed (again) on the dotted line deserve our
American Forces Press Service
Florida Air Guard Receives New Space-Launch
By Senior Airman Thomas Kielbasa, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
Clearwater, Fla., May 11, 2004 – For nearly
half a century, Florida has been at the forefront
of space-launch technology, and recently the
state’s Air National Guard acquired new equipment
to help maintain that distinction.
On April 30 members of the Florida Air National
Guard received a state-of-the- art mobile system
designed to monitor space-vehicle launches
from Cape Canaveral. The Ballistic Missile
Range Safety Technology, or BMRST, system will
enable the citizen-airmen to track – and if
necessary assist in destroying – rockets or
launch vehicles after liftoff.
Defense contractor Honeywell built the system,
the second of its type manufactured and delivered
to the Air Force.
During a presentation at the Honeywell plant
here, Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen.
Douglas Burnett accepted the ceremonial keys
to the system from BMRST acquisition manager
for the Air Force Dr. Sam Kuennen. The general,
in turn, presented the keys to members of the
114th Combat Communications Squadron and 114th
Range Flight – the two Florida Air National
Guard units that will use the new system.
The BMRST system consists of a control center
van and two trailer-mounted tracking antennas.
All data processing and range safety displays
are housed in the control center; the antennas
are designed to receive data from launched
rockets and space vehicles and transmit the
information back to the control center. From
the control center, the airmen will also be
able to assist in destroying an off-course
rocket or launch vehicle for safety reasons.
The manpower of the 114th Range Flight and
the 114th Combat Communications Squadron will
be combined into the Air National Guard’s first
range operations support squadron.
Lt. Col. Rembert Schofield, who will command
the squadron, noted the mobile BMRST would
be tested at Cape Canaveral during upcoming
rocket launches, as well as in “various
launch tracking sites along the East Coast.”
explained the Florida Air National Guard units – which
are able to work hand-in-hand with the active
duty Air Force’s 45th Space Wing during launches – are
now even more invaluable to the space program
with the addition of the BMRST.
“It has a lot of potential uses from
the 45th Space Wing’s perspective,” Schofield
said. “As opposed to keeping a seldom-used
tracking site opened and manned year-round,
you can use this (mobile) system in place of
that, and only use it and pay for it when you
need it. So you have a potential savings of
$50 or 60 million per year for the 45th Space
Wing, and that is significant.”
Schofield’s units are able to track and assist
in a variety of space launches from Cape Canaveral,
and past missions have included the Delta II
rocket and the space shuttle.
“We can track anything you want. It doesn’t
matter what it is,” Schofield said. “There
is absolutely no other National Guard that
has the type of mission we do, or even does
space-launch tracking. So this is the only
space unit in the National Guard.”
The 114th Range Flight has been working with
a prototype of the BMRST, and last year participated
in a joint exercise with the Air Force in Alaska,
where they successfully tracked a rocket launch
using the BMRST system. Schofield said the
addition of the new launch-tracking system
to the Air National Guard’s capabilities is
not only important to Florida, but has a great
potential for other state National Guards.
“This obviously means a lot to Florida,
but it also has a far-reaching potential for
more of the country,” Schofield explained. “A
lot of the launches coming out of the eastern
range go either up the coast or down the coast,
and if your (launch) is going up the coast,
you could have one of these (BMRST systems)
stationed in another state. And another Air
National Guard unit could simply pull it out
and set it up, participate in a launch, and
then shut it down. You wouldn’t have to transport
it up there, and you don’t have to pay a large
“This is a big responsibility,” he
added. “But this is the perfect mission
for the Guard.”
Schofield said the 114th could be ready to
track rocket launches using the new BMRST system
as early as mid-May.
The Associated Press
May 15, 2004
National Guard Says War Callups Won’t
Affect Hurricane Response
By Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: New Orleans
In 13 years with Louisiana’s National
Guard, Capt. Bryan Gardner has
worked his share of hurricanes. He has rescued
flooded residents, hauled out soaked debris
and experienced what it’s like to be greeted
as a hero.
“These people just went through the scariest
night of their lives, and they were thankful
that we were there,” he says.
Gardner is training for deployment to the war
on terror. And while he couldn’t talk about
his final destination, he knows “the reception
won’t be quite as warm.”
Gardner is far from alone; many troops who
otherwise would be preparing for another hurricane
season are overseas or on their way. Still, National
Guard officials say those who remain
on the homefront are fully capable of handling
a big storm.
Nearly one-third of Louisiana’s Army and Air National
Guard troops are in Iraq or are
getting ready to go overseas. North Carolina
has sent 45 percent of its soldiers to Iraq
or Afghanistan, the largest such call-up
since World War II.
Of all the Gulf Coast and Atlantic states
likely to be slammed by a hurricane, Louisiana’s
and North Carolina’s Guards are the hardest
hit by the war on terror. But even they say
there are plenty of soldiers ready to respond
if a hurricane strikes.
“Even with a large-scale disaster, that
would not overtax our abilities in the state,” says
North Carolina Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Barney
Barnhill. “We can handle any disaster
that may come up.”
Added Louisiana Guard spokesman Dusty Shenofsky: “We
will never be in a position that our community
and state manpower is so low that we cannot
handle state emergencies.”
Mark Allen, a spokesman at National
Guard headquarters in Arlington,
Va., says there is no legal requirement,
but every state strives to have at least
50 percent of its guard personnel at home
to meet all kinds of natural or security
In addition, states agree to help each other
if they ever are short-handed. Those deals
are usually among adjacent states. Louisiana
has agreements with Mississippi, Texas and
North Carolina has agreements with Tennessee,
South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, but sometimes
sends its Guard even farther afield: It sent
troops to help California fight wildfires last
year, even as Hurricane Isabel threatened.
The wartime pressure on Guard troops has come
at a time when their responsibilities on the
homefront in the post-Sept. 11 era have moved
far beyond hurricanes and other natural disasters.
They have been involved in patrolling airports
and guarding ports, and have provided security
for special events such as the Super Bowl and
“The National Guard is
now 46 percent of active duty services, and
are much more heavily relied upon in times
of combat than we ever used to be,” Shenofsky
says. “And our missions just keep increasing.”
North Carolina is tops among hurricane-prone
states in both the percentage and actual number
of Guard soldiers deployed. Of 11,500 troops,
5,200 are overseas, most in Iraq and about
a dozen in Afghanistan.
Louisiana’s Guard has 4,000 of its 12,500
troops either in Iraq or training for duty
there. That leaves 8,500 at home – more than
enough, officials say, to handle back-to-back
storms such as those in 2002, when Tropical
Storm Isidore was followed a week later by
hurricane-prone states appear to be better
equipped in case a big one hits.
Florida, Virginia and South Carolina have
each deployed about a quarter of their Guard
troops deployed. Alabama is at 20 percent,
Georgia nearly 18 percent, and Texas and Mississippi
have about 10 percent.
Florida’s Guard currently has more than 3,000
troops deployed, out of 10,000 Army and 2,000
Air Guard members. Most of Florida’s deployed
troops are providing security for Air Force
bases within the United States.
Even in the state’s worst storm – Andrew,
which smashed Florida with 145-mph winds and
caused $30.5 billion damage in 1992 – only
4,000 troops were called in and most were home
within a few weeks, says Florida National
Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Tittle.
Texas may be in the best shape of any big
coastal state. Only 2,000 troops are deployed,
leaving 18,000 that could be tapped to respond
to a major disaster
Lt. Col. John Stanford says the Texas Guard
usually responds to a disaster on the scale
of a hurricane with no more than 1,500 troops.
In Louisiana, there are still enough troops
to make hurricane duty a volunteer job in most
storms. The current call-up is, of course,
May 10, 2004
Army National Guard Being Mobilized
Elements of the Idaho Army National
Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade are
being mobilized to take part in Operation
General Jack Kane says the order affects about
750 members of the Idaho Guard. The brigade
has a total of about 35-hundred people from
five different states, who have all been on
alert since the end of February.
The Defense Department has not announced when
the rest of the brigade will be moved. The
mobilization is expected to last for 18 months.
The Associated Press
May 11, 2004
Up to 4,000 MS National Guard Members
Could be Deployed
National Guard has been told to
expect orders in the next several weeks for
deployment of nearly 4,000 soldiers. The
adjutant general’s office said in a statement
that the anticipated deployment involved
the 155th Separate Armored Brigade based
While most of the 155th’s 49 units are in
north and central Mississippi, it also has
units in McComb and Monticello in the southern
part of the state.
The alert gives members of the 155th the chance
to start planning and preparing for potential
mobilization, said Maj. Danny Blanton of the Guard’s public
affairs office in Jackson.
“They’re going to make sure all their
records are ready to go. Likewise, they’re
going to make sure that their equipment meets
mobilization standards, make sure the personnel
strength meets mobilization standards,” he
said. “It just gives them the opportunity
to be prepared so when the mobilization does
come down, they’ll be ready to go.”
He said he has no specifics about when that
order will be issued or where troops will be
“It could be as few as 30 days or as
long as three months,” Blanton said. “That’s
up to the Army.”
Blanton said it’s even possible the troops
would not be mobilized.
“We have had units that have been alerted
and de-alerted,” he said. “It just depends
on the needs of the combatant commander in
While Guard members would be used to support
Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Guard said it
had no information on their final destination.
“We won’t know if it’s Iraq, Kuwait,
Afghanistan or here in the United States until
we receive the mobilization order,” Blanton
said. “Chances are if the order comes
down, it will be for the entire unit, not just
In a statement, Gov. Haley Barbour said, “These
are highly trained soldiers, and I know they
will do an excellent job supporting our national
defense if called.”
If the brigade is mobilized, the soldiers
could go to Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg for
Christian Science Monitor
May 13, 2004
When The Call To Duty Comes A Second
In Washington State, extended tours are
complicating the family life and civilian
jobs of part-time soldiers.
By Ann Scott Tyson, Correspondent of The Christian
Wash. – After a year crisscrossing Iraq and
dodging ambushes in Army convoys, truck driver
Sgt. Michael Kunzelman was supposed to reunite
with his family this month. But while in Kuwait
awaiting a flight out, the Washington
National Guard soldier was ordered
back into Iraq along with more than 4,100 other National
Guard and Reserve members whose terms
of service had been extended.
Back home in Burien, Wash., the news hit hard. “I
wasn’t in a good mood, and then my son got
mad and went out and was beating on a tree,” says
Sergeant Kunzelman’s wife, Pilar. At school,
his teenage daughter overheard cruel gossip
predicting his demise.
On and off the battlefield, National
Guard and Reserve members and their
families are bearing a particularly heavy
burden as the Pentagon expands the US force
in Iraq to 138,000 troops through 2005 to
counter a surge in violence. The high rate
of deployment is fundamentally changing what
it means to serve in reserve units today,
exacerbating problems of lost pay, fears
of job insecurity, and the isolation of dispersed
families such as the Kunzelmans.
Already, 51 percent of the 350,000-strong Army
National Guard has been activated
since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The
Pentagon projects that over the next three
to five years, it will require between 100,000
and 150,000 Guard and Reserve forces to support
ongoing military operations, according to
a recent GAO report. More than 90 percent
of the Guard’s military police and special
forces have deployed, along with three-quarters
of its engineers, combat battalions, and
That stark reality is making it harder to
recruit. Pitches no longer center on educational
funds, but instead stress patriotism. “We
have to look at kids right in the face and
say – ‘You’re signing up, and during your tour,
you will deploy,’ ” says Col. Mike Johnson,
personnel director of the Washington Army
National Guard , which has 3,720 of
its 6,200 personnel deployed.
Attracting soldiers from the active duty force
is especially hard. That pool, which has traditionally
supplied 60 percent of the state’s Guard recruits,
is providing 10 percent to 20 percent fewer
in fiscal year 2004. “We are getting a
lot of reservations from guys who are just
getting out [of active duty]. They know if
they join us they’ll have to go right back
in there [to Iraq],” says Colonel Johnson,
who keeps lists of deployed units on his office
In the longer term, the Guard’s shift from
a “strategic reserve” to an “operational
force” will not be sustainable without
greater resources, says the National
Guard Bureau chief, Lt. Gen. Steven
Blum. “Congress needs to reevaluate the
benefits, the entitlements, the pay, the resourcing,
the equipping, and the full-time manning issues
of the Army and Air Guard or
we can’t be an operational force the way you
would like it to be,” he told a House
hearing April 29.
Lacking such resources, the Guard has drawn
on units staying home – which now lack a third
of their critical equipment – to fill shortages
in units called up for Iraq and Afghanistan,
stated the GAO report released late last month.
For example, Army guard units nationwide initiated
the transfer of 71,000 people and 22,000 pieces
of equipment to three deploying combat brigades.
Meanwhile, some state officials worry that
remaining Guard units lack the manpower and
gear to carry out homeland security missions
and respond to natural disasters.
For their part, soldiers and their families
measure the cost of a strained system in personal
terms: lost pay and lost time. Indeed, as of
this February, 57,000 Army Guardsmen (16
percent of the total) had been away from home
for more than 220 days of the past year.
Kunzelman’s 130-strong 1161th transportation
company was held back in Iraq, for example,
employers at its home base of Ephrata, Wash.,
grew nervous. One manufacturing business there
had three of its 12 employees deployed. “How
can they ensure the jobs [will be there] if
business production is suffering … and the
company has to downsize?” asks Chris Kunzelman,
the sergeant’s sister and the coordinator of
a Family Assistance Center for the Washington
Other guardsmen are struggling to hold onto
their own businesses, from trucking companies
to family farms, she says. Nationwide, a third
of guardsmen and reservists suffer a loss in
pay when deployed, and Kunzelman says that
figure rises to 60 percent in Washington State.
“I hope his job [driving trucks for a
sanitation company] is there” when he
returns, says Pilar.
To discourage discrimination against citizen
soldiers, Sen. Patty Murray (D) of Washington
has introduced legislation that offers small
businesses employing reservists up to $12,000
in tax breaks – money that would secure their
jobs and make up pay differentials. The bill
would also provide grants to defray childcare
costs of spouses who must return to work.
Jenifer Chesser, whose husband deployed to
Iraq with the Washington Guard’s 81st Armor
Brigade in February, has struggled to make
ends meet. A glitch in her husband’s paycheck
left her short of funds; lacking money for
groceries to feed herself and her two children,
she relied on gift cards donated by Safeway.
When she couldn’t pay a $46.32 water bill,
her water was shut off until the Salvation
Army forwarded funds.
Making matters worse, many families of deployed
guardsmen are geographically dispersed and
far from sources of financial, medical, and
moral support. In Washington, families are
scattered in 220 of the state’s 240 major cities.
“I don’t know anyone around us that has
anyone deployed,” says Pilar, a homemaker,
saying she has bouts of depression and sometimes
sleeps all day.
Support groups exist, but are often too far
away for spouses to attend. Only three wives
of 81st Brigade guardsmen gathered at one recent
group meeting near Tacoma – though they were
clearly buoyed by the chance to share their
woes and take a break from single parenthood.
Dusti Bevill wears a gray tank top, revealing
her husband’s name tattooed on her left arm. “I
haven’t even moved his hat, his belt, his toothbrush
from the place he left it,” she says.
Penny Campbell, a mother of four, nods. “I
wear his shirts,” she says. “And
I don’t want anyone to drive his van because
he was the last to drive it.” Tears start
streaming down her cheeks: Hours earlier, she’d
learned that her husband’s hand was injured
in an accident.
“Everything’s depressing,” she says,
ticking off problems. “I have a daughter
going into early labor, a son with nightmares,
and a daughter who can’t sleep alone.” She
also worries about her oldest son, a 16-year-old,
who she says feels he has to be the man of
the family. But now, he’s also planning to
enlist in the military. “He says he should
go fight a war because his dad did.”
Young children often have difficulty grasping
a parent’s lengthy absence, leading boys to
act out and girls to withdraw, says group leader
Mrs. Chesser learned that firsthand one recent
day when her five-year-old son, Robby, took
an entire tub of margarine and buttered the
floor, wall – and dog. “My dog went from
a German Shepherd to a Lab,” she says. “[Robby]
thinks if he’s bad enough, Daddy will come
May 16, 2004
278th Guardsmen Proud, Sad Over Call-Up
By Leon Alligood, Staff Writer
Ashland City — Wayne Culbreth is going to
”I’ve been in the military every day of my
life I was legally eligible,” said Culbreth,
who joined the Army Reserves two days after
his 17th birthday, with his parents’ permission.
That was 1988.
Today he is 32 years old, the father of a
daughter, a man with a baby son due in August.
He is also one of more than 3,000 Tennesseans
who soon will leave behind their families and
regular jobs to head to Iraq with the state’s
largest National Guard unit,
the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
They face their task with a range of emotions — excitement
and pride for the tasks they will carry out
in service to their country, sadness for the
loved ones they will be separated from.
”It’s hard for people outside the military
to understand the drive and desire to be involved
in a conflict. It’s not so much that you want
to have a war, but if there’s one going on,
you don’t want to
be sitting on the sidelines,” said Culbreth,
who leads M Company of the 278th’s 3rd Squadron,
based at the Ashland City armory.
The 278th is a fast-reaction force whose core
mission of reconnaissance, surveillance and
security calls for it to be sent to the front
line of a conflict.
But the war in Iraq today seems to have few
clear front lines.
Car bombings, mortar attacks and rocket-propelled
grenade blasts daily pepper CNN. In recent
weeks, American civilians, including one from
Clarksville, have been mutilated and hanged
from a bridge; the beheading of another American
was videotaped. Two Tennesseans in the active-duty
military have also lost their lives in Iraq
in the past two weeks — an Army sergeant from
Marshall County and a Marine from Livingston.
As the 278th gets ready to go, 15 soldiers
in Sgt. First Class Michael Burke’s platoon
have questions, wondering what they will face.
”It’s going to be intense because we’re never
going to be out of the area of engagement at
any one time. And we’re facing a no-face enemy
right now. Somebody may be shooting at you
who 15 minutes earlier was standing next to
you, talking to you,” said Burke, a FedEx
dispatcher from Pleasant View who has been
a Guardsman at the Cheatham County armory for
about 10 years.
The Guard veteran said he’s confident his
unit is up to the task. ”It’s a good group.
We’ve trained hard. I expect a lot, and they
know I expect a lot,” he said.
National Guard units have gone
to Iraq or other points in the Middle East
in the past two years for the war effort — some
are still there, including the 168th Military
Police Battalion from Lebanon, with 68 soldiers,
and the 771st Maintenance Company from Columbia
and Hohenwald, with 173 soldiers.
When the 278th pulls out for Iraq, more than
3,000 families from across Tennessee will be
Burke said his oldest daughter would be leaving
home in the fall for her freshman year of college,
while his youngest daughter enters high school.
”That’s the hard part for me,” said Burke,
who helped to start the soccer program at Sycamore
High years ago. ”I won’t get to see her play
in her first year.”
Culbreth, who will miss the birth of his second
child, a son, said the separation will be hardest
on his physician wife. ”Typically it’s harder
on the families,” he said.
Nancy Baxter agrees. Her husband, Staff Sgt.
Blake Baxter of the 278th’s armory in Cleveland,
Tenn., will be leaving a family of six behind.
The couple have five kids, four of them living
at home. The Ooltewah, Tenn., woman said she
will fear for his safety until he returns.
”I just pray that God will be with him and
his unit. Right now, with all these photos
that have come out, people over there are against
us. I hope that all of them will be coming
home sooner than later,” she said.
National Guard units can
be mobilized for up to two years at a time,
and many are spending a lot more time in Iraq
than originally planned. The 168th MPs from
Lebanon have been overseas a year.
For his service, Culbreth gave up his job
as CEO of a Memphis medical supply company.
He was the company head for one week before
learning he would be deployed.
”I think I have the shortest tenure as CEO
in corporate history,” he said.
Before heading to Iraq, the 278th will leave
for training at Camp Shelby, Miss., beginning
”They will depart on a staggered schedule
that will continue until near the end of June,”
said Randy Harris, spokesman for the National
Guard in the state. By fall, the regiment is
expected to arrive at their duty station, undisclosed
at this time, in Iraq.
At M Company in Ashland City, home to about
100 soldiers of a tank unit, leaders are preparing
for the upcoming deployment. Officers and some
noncommissioned officers — sergeants and corporals — have
already left their civilian jobs to become
Culbreth said he expects a lot of himself.
Since he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy
at West Point, he served with the 1st Cavalry
Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and then became
an officer in the National Guard .
Comparing his time as an active duty officer
with his Guard post, ”there’s a whole different
level of accountability for me here,” the
captain said. He explained that, unlike active-duty
service, where soldiers from all parts of the
country move in and out of a unit on a regular
basis, ”we’ve got guys that have been in this
Ashland City unit for 15 or 20 years.”
”The difference for me as a commander here
is that I’m taking a community into harm’s
way. That weighs heavily on me.”
The Associated Press
May 15, 2004, Saturday
National Guard Units Put On Alert
for Possible Duty
By The Associated Press
Oklahoma City (AP) – Three Oklahoma Army National
Guard units may be activated for
duty, the Oklahoma Military Department announced
More than 200 soldiers from Headquarters Company,
245th Aviation Battalion in Tulsa; 645th Personnel
Services Company in Oklahoma City, and Company
E, 245th Aviation Battalion ATC in Lexington
have been alerted, officials said.
The processing of soldiers, which is to prepare
in the case of actual mobilization, begins
this weekend, Col. Pat Scully, chief spokesman
for the Oklahoma National Guard, said.
“It is important to note these units
are on alert only,” Scully said.
The Lexington soldiers are members of an air
traffic control unit, Scully said. The Tulsa
unit is a command group and the Oklahoma City
soldiers deal with personnel matters.
Officials don’t know if the units will be
deployed overseas or remain stateside if mobilized,
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
May 16, 2004
Guardsmen Deploy To Greely
By Beth Ipsen, Staff Writer
Unlike other states that are seeing their
part-time soldiers go off to war in other parts
of the world, Delta Junction is close to home
for the roughly 40 Alaska Army National
Guard soldiers federally activated
Friday night to help guard the Ground-based
Midcourse Defense system.
“It’s better than being deployed overseas,” said
Fairbanksan Rufus King, a staff sergeant with
the B Company of the 1st Scout Battalion, 207th
Infantry that’s being mobilized for at least
nine months to help with security at the site. “It’s
only 100 miles down the road.”
For King and his family, however, “It’s
still a serious life change.”
He will leave his wife–who is recovering
from recent knee surgery–to juggle care of
their four children and a full-time job. His
oldest daughter graduates from West Valley
High School on Monday before heading off to
college in Georgia in July.
Even as he and others were processing paperwork at
the Fairbanks National Guard Armory
Saturday, King said he didn’t know if he would
be able to attend his daughter’s graduation before
traveling to Fort Richardson for two weeks of training
with active-duty soldiers before heading to Greely.
For others in his company, which is being
federally activated for the first time since
World War II, the site is much farther away.
Some, like Staff Sgt. Daniel Nanalook, are
traveling from Barrow, Dillingham and Bristol
Nanalook will leave his salmon fishing business
to his sons and wife while he guards the site
and the workers building a weapons system that
touts itself as the nation’s first defense
against intercontinental ballistic missiles
since the 1970s.
“The way I’m looking at it right now
is to take things one day at a time and accept
things with positive attitude,” said his
wife, Anecia, who accompanied him to the armory
on Saturday. “And looking forward to having
him back again.”
The only other mobilization for this company
came when the state asked them to help guard
Alaska’s airports shortly after the terrorist
attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
“This obviously has national implications,” said
Maj. Chip Andrew, commander of the 1st Scout
Battalion, 207th Infantry Group. “The
difference is they’re going to be carrying
live ammunition, locked and loaded, on day
one of the mission.”
They’ll be augmenting the 47 Alaska
Army National Guard soldiers serving
a three-year term guarding the missile site.
These full-time Guard soldiers have schedules
that allow them to visit their families in
Anchorage until there’s sufficient housing
for them at Fort Greely, a base that has
seen increasing activity since 2000. It was
put on the Department of Defense chopping
block in the mid 1990s.
Andrew said the extra soldiers were needed
as workers continue to build the silos to house
The original security plan includes an enclosed
area, but the entire site is not yet fenced,
“They’re still putting the missile silos
up, so there’s a lot of construction workers
moving in and out so they need more forces
on the ground to provide the additional security
coming in and out of the site.” he said. “This
mission is no less important than going to
Iraq or Afghanistan, it just happens to be
in our back yard.”
But unlike the full-time Guard soldiers with
the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, the Scouts
won’t be accompanied by family members.
“I am going to try to get as much time
as possible for the soldiers to go home. Morale
is very important to me,” said Capt. Rich
Doering, who’s leading the group of mobilized
soldiers. “We’re going to make it as interesting
as we can. Guarding is boring unless something
happens and then it’s five minutes of panic.”
The time spent at Fort Greely will also give
the traditionally part-time soldiers a chance
to decide if they want to join the ranks of
full-time Guard members already working at
the site. “These
soldiers will be in an excellent position that
if they like what they’re doing, they can go ahead
and apply for a job with the unit. They’re kind
of getting a test drive,” Andrew said.
The Associated Press
May 16, 2004
700 Iowa Troops Heading To Afghanistan
Dateline: Des Moines, Iowa
About 700 Iowa troops are being deployed to
help the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the
largest single unit being sent abroad by the Iowa
Army National Guard since
World War II.
The troops have been training for more than
two months at Fort Hood, Texas with Task Force
168, which will provide security in Afghanistan
for reconstruction teams. They are also preparing
to launch combat patrols to kill or capture
Taliban or al-Qaida forces.
Some members of the task force could leave
Texas as early as Monday, and all of the Iowa
soldiers are expected to be in Afghanistan
within the next two weeks. They are expected
to be deployed for one year.
“If you are not scared, there is something
wrong with you,” said Staff Sgt. Scott
Stogdill of Council Bluffs, who works for a
moving company in civilian life. “This
is not flood duty. This is not tornado duty.
We are not sitting at an airport. This is a
real-world mission going overseas.”
He said he has a simple goal for the next
12 months: “I want to bring all my guys
home,” said Stogdill, 32, an infantry
squad leader who is a married father of three
The task force is primarily drawn from the Iowa
Army National Guard’s 1st
Battalion, 168th Infantry, which is headquartered
in Council Bluffs. The force includes soldiers
from armories in 22 Iowa communities, plus
about 80 troops from the Minnesota
Army National Guard and
a few dozen soldiers from other states.
Their training has focused on dealing with
such threats as suicide car bombers, snipers,
roadside bombs, land mines and ambushes in
Afghanistan, where the war has been overshadowed
by heavy fighting in Iraq.
“Nobody should be under any illusions.
They are going into an area where people get
shot at. Certainly, it can’t be characterized
as the same violence we are seeing in Iraq,
but it is not safe,” said Charles Pea,
director of defense policy studies at the Cato
Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
The troops will be split into smaller units
across Afghanistan and assigned to remote areas
affected by decades of war that have destroyed
schools, roads, bridges, police stations and
Nick Russell, 19, of Winterset, an automatic
rifleman who works in civilian life installing
voice and data lines for Baker Electric of
Des Moines, said he’s looking forward to heading
“I am of the mindset that I am ready
to go, ready to get out of here,” Russell
said. The training has been “drilled into
our heads” so troops will react instinctively
to dangerous situations, he said.
Sgt. Andrew Mortensen, 28, of Kiron, a farmworker
in civilian life, said he has a hard time explaining
his thoughts about the mission to family and
friends back home.
“I would just as soon not go, but this
is my job,” Mortensen said. “It will
be great once we get back, knowing you did
something for your country. If a guy ain’t
proud after that, something is wrong with him.”
May 16, 2004
Gov. Bush Welcomes Returning Reservists
Gov. Jeb Bush thanked returning reservists
and members of the National Guard on
Saturday, saying their service in Iraq means
the war on terror doesn’t have to be fought
”In Florida, we appreciate the military every
day of every week of every month,” Bush told
about 900 reservists representing the U.S.
Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Florida
As an example, Bush highlighted several bills
the Legislature has passed that have helped
military families, including measures that
allow military spouses to collect unemployment
if they leave a job because of a service member’s
transfer or activation orders and provide full-paid
state university scholarships to children of
servicemen who are killed fighting the war
May 16, 2004
Far From Virginia
In Iraqi desert, troops hanker for home
By Maya Alleruzzo, The Washington Times
Along The Iraq-Syria Border – The 372 miles
of arid, hilly border with Syria is a terrorist
sieve, and the Virginia National Guard’s 276th
Engineer Battalion is the plug.
Every day, about 75 young men drive bulldozers
and earth movers to fill in gaps in a massive
sand berm running the length of the border;
U.S. officials say this is where insurgents
pour through on their way to join the fight
against American forces.
Protection for the guardsmen is minimal, consisting
mainly of a green, 5-ton dump truck with a
black Iraqi tank turret welded to the top.
Normally, half a dozen soldiers keep watch
from the “Iron Maiden,” as it is
called, while their colleagues perform their
The berm-mending project is one of several
missions juggled by the 276th, which is made
up of college students, plumbers, police officers,
bankers and computer technicians. Other duties
include the construction of roads and buildings,
and security patrols in the city of Mosul.
It was on one such patrol that the battalion
suffered its first casualty in early April.
A rocket-propelled grenade tore off the lower
leg of Pfc. Dean Schwartz, 23, and lightly
injured two others. Pfc. Schwartz is recovering
at a military hospital in Germany and is due
to come to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington
Unit commanders would not say exactly how
many guardsmen are on duty in Iraq’s western
desert, but the 276th is authorized to dispatch
However many they are, they all long for home
while they risk their lives to protect it.
Most say they were looking for “weekend
warrior” duty when they joined the guard — a
hurricane here, a flood there.
They certainly didn’t expect to be here in
this desert as the spring blossoms came to
their hometowns in Virginia.
Spc. Kenny Ray Stanford, 40, from Jonesville,
Va, watches the sun set near the Syrian border
as he cradles an M-16 and scans the distance
for trouble. But in his mind, the rangy soldier
is 6,508 miles away.
“I’ve seen a lot of beautiful sunrises and a lot
of beautiful sunsets and full moons while holding her
hand,” Spc. Stanford says of his wife, Marsha,
who normally rides along on the drive from Jonesville
to their jobs at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Big
Stone Gap, Va.
“The sunrise and sunset on this trip
[to the Syrian border] brought me a lot closer
to her. No matter if it seems like we are a
million miles apart from each other, sometimes
I still catch myself daydreaming about her.”
Circling the wagons
Back in Virginia, Marsha Stanford now makes
the 80-minute round trip alone each day.
When she gets home, she waits for her husband’s
daily call, setting her alarm for 1 a.m. One
morning, she heard the sound of explosions
coming over the phone as they talked.
“Can’t you find somewhere it’s quiet,
where you are safe?” she remembers asking.
“This is how it is here,” he replied.
And indeed, even in the Iraqi desert far from
the battle fronts of Fallujah and Najaf, the
war is a deadly serious business. The guardsmen
had been on the border only two days when they
saw Syrian forces across the line with prominently
displayed rocket-propelled grenades.
Five Marines died last month in an ambush
in the border town of Husayba. The militants
exploded a roadside bomb to lure the troops
from their base and fired 24 mortar rounds
at them as they began to respond.
“As with many of the missions our coalition
forces are involved with, the restoration of
this earth berm is a significant effort to
stop those who would infiltrate across the
border and cause instability in the pursuit
of security and self-government by the Iraqi
people,” says Lt. Col. Edward Morgan,
commander of the engineer battalion.
To Spc. Robert Flowers, 23, from Bluefield,
Va., the berm is a reminder of the Great Wall
In the evening, in a throwback to the pioneers,
the guardsmen circle their Humvees and dump
trucks like wagons to keep an eye out in every
direction. The cooks make breakfast in the
dark, lit only by campfire. The desert temperature
dips near 30 degrees.
And they all pray for their brothers who are
engaging in another mission of danger six hours
to the south, near Mosul.
“We’re no longer the National
Guard . We’re the international
guard. We went from cutting trees and clearing
trees out of the road to this,” says
Staff Sgt. Greg Morgan, sitting in the black-topped
parking lot of Saddam Hussein’s former palace
40-year-old computer technician from Fredericksburg,
who recently began a one-year tour of duty
with the 276th, has found a new job in Iraq
dealing with bombs: When soldiers find one
of the enemy’s deadly roadside devices, it
is the National Guardsmen of the 276th who
are called to destroy it.
Spc. John Williams, 21, says he first learned
about the dangers that Iraq presents 10 minutes
after leaving the barracks on the way to secure
a town meeting in March.
“As soon as we get to this rural part
of town, ‘BOOM,’ ” he says. A roadside
device had exploded just behind the last vehicle
in the convoy — fortunately, causing no injuries.
A week later, Spc. Williams and a fellow soldier,
Pfc. Brian Philpot, helped find and destroy
33 undetonated bombs.
The two are sure they didn’t sign up for this.
They are, in civilian life, business students — Spc.
Williams at Virginia Commonwealth University,
and Pfc. Philpot at Northern Virginia Community
After two months of training earlier this
year at Fort Dix, N.J., they found themselves
part of a 276th team assisting an Army division
root out buried artillery shells — one of many
types of explosives used by insurgents — in
farmland outside Mosul.
The insurgents pack the shells with dynamite,
then detonate them with a remote switch.
The night before their first mission, roommates
Spc. Williams and Pfc. Philpot, who are “battle
buddies,” laid out their gear before they
went to bed.
Spc. Williams cleaned his gun, including,
delicately, each bullet. He remembers setting
out his earplugs.
It’s a tough way to avoid borrowing thousands
of dollars for a college education, which both
cited as their reason for signing up.
Life and death
Every bomb call they answer sets their teeth
“It’s crazy how life is about quarters
of inches and eighths of seconds,” Spc.
Williams says of the near miss on the road
to Mosul in March. “I was just shook.”
Later that same day, as they returned to base,
an Iraqi driver got too close to their truck.
Spc. Williams and Pfc. Philpot recall aiming
at the man behind the wheel and tightening
their fingers on their triggers before the
driver raised both hands from the steering
“I just kept thinking about how I could
have killed an innocent guy,” says Spc.
Williams, who lives in Newport News. “You
can’t let that stuff eat at you. You’ll just
get really bitter when you get back.”
Pfc. Philpot, from Burke, says that first
mission “made me think about my chances
of not making it home.”
“We’re supposed to be doing missions
every day. How am I going to keep surviving?” he
casualties mounting daily for American troops
in Iraq, just getting around town is hard work
for the engineers of the 276th. Roadside bombs,
rocket-propelled grenades and ambushes are
all hazards of traveling the streets of Mosul.
“When they go outside the gate,” says
Capt. Chris Doss, from Richmond, who handles
personnel matters for the 276th, “they
have to be able to pull the trigger. But when
they come inside, they need to be able to relax.”
Before each run, soldiers gather in a circle
behind their barracks to go over their game
plan. After they review their route and worst-case
scenarios, Chaplain Eddie Barnett prays for
their safe return:
“Almighty God, we praise You for another
day of life. Please, dear God, give us wisdom
and courage for our upcoming mission and Your
divine protection in traveling to our location
and a safe return.”
Lt. Denn Alaric, an 11-year police veteran
from Blackstone, is commanding a convoy to
another base about an hour away when a soldier
asks him what to do if an Iraqi car gets too
close to the convoy.
Lt. Alaric suggests the gunners in the back
of the trucks gather piles of rocks to keep
on hand. “You do not engage a vehicle
that is not hostile. Throw rocks if you have
to. I don’t mean boulders,” he says.
The five-vehicle convoy will pass through
a gauntlet of obstacles before reaching its
destination. Just outside the gate, bombs and
small-arms fire have been known to hit convoys.
The traffic circle in central Mosul — where
a U.S. soldier died from a roadside bomb a
week before — has to be navigated again.
On the way they pass through a bucolic landscape
of Bedouin sheep herders and dusty, smiling
children. But seen through the window of an
armor-fortified Humvee, the postcard scenario
Col. Edward Morgan, the battalion’s commander,
looks out on the land. “Green grass,” he
says, “populated by a few knuckleheads.”
Back in his bunk after one such mission, Cpl.
Nathan Almquist, 22, from Gloucester, cranks
up the volume on his CD player for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet
Home Alabama” to soothe his nerves.
The Southern-rock anthem reverberates through
the alley in front of the barracks, creating
an almost MTV-like moment as the guardsmen
clean their dust-caked weapons.
“Sarah,” says Spc. David Ruhren,
as he disassembles the gun he named after his
wayward girlfriend. “A pain in the butt
Sarah — the girl, that is — told the 19-year-old
student just before he left for Iraq that she
was leaving him to marry someone else.
Naming a weapon after a girlfriend, or former
girlfriend, is a common practice in the ranks.
Even the chaplain’s assistant, Desmond Night,
33, from Sacramento, Calif., calls his M-16 “Melissa” after
she got fired up, she would just go off,” he
His flak jacket, “Suzie,” is named
after another woman, who, he says, “would
lay her life down for me.”
Memories of home
So it is no surprise that amid the violence,
with their “women” constantly cradled
in their arms, the soldiers’ thoughts and chatter
turn to the women and the lives they left back
Spc. Ruhren has been talking to another ex-girlfriend
recently over the Internet. “We talk now
more than we did when we were dating,” he
says. ” I have to have something to look
forward to at the end of the day.”
But his mind also turns fondly to the back
yard at his mother’s house in Stafford.
“Being out waist-deep in my lake fly-fishing,” he
says. “Cool breeze in the air and my dog
fast asleep on the shore in the sunshine waiting
for me to come back in. Simple things like
that are what really matter the most. Not cars
and money like some others might think.”
The soldiers e-mail their wives and girlfriends
constantly, lining up each evening outside
the base’s Internet cafe to chat or see their
sweethearts on a Web camera.
It isn’t like cozying up on a porch amidst
the smell of sweet springtime with the Virginia
crickets chirping. But for both people, it
fills a gap.
Just across the border from Virginia in Jonesborough,
Tenn., Renee Morris is a veteran at coping
with the long deployments of her husband of
10 years, Capt. James Morris of the 276th.
The captain, in civilian life a public safety
officer in Johnson City, Tenn., is on his second
deployment to the Iraq theater since early
last year. He hopes his family will understand.
“I think we’ve been together three out
of those 10 years,” Mrs. Morris tells
a visitor to her home in Jonesborough.
With daughter Kaitlyn, 3, and John Paul, 7
months, to care for, Mrs. Morris has plenty
to occupy her mind. “You just pick up
and do it,” she says.
But for Capt. Morris, the pleasures of home
are seldom far from his thoughts.
“I miss sitting in the deck swing at
night with Renee,” he says. “Cool
nights we call sweatshirt weather. I miss the
smell of the grass and blooming trees.”
It is always the flora and the fauna that
stick in the minds of these troops, as if a
soldier’s psyche is enveloped with the comforting
aromas of home.
For Spc. Josh Hylton, 25, of Hillsville, it
is the dogwood trees that inspire him to something
“In Carroll County, there are still places
where dogwood trees grow wild in the woods,” he
have pink blossoms, but the majority are the
white ones. One in particular grew by the creek
in the holler behind our barn. Every spring,
it would bloom down there, like a bright white
star in the shady green forest. Each bloom
had four delicate white petals with tips changing
from pink to red.
“The folk tale is that Jesus was crucified
on a dogwood tree, and when God saw the anguish
of the tree so harshly used, He declared that
no dogwood would ever again grow straight or
tall enough to be used for a crucifixion.
“There were a lot of beautiful things
in those woods; lady-slipper in a couple spots,
daisies and dandelions, and the fresh new buds
and leaves of all the trees. The dogwood, though,
was the one thing I always looked for.”
May 12, 2004 Wednesday
Far From Soldiers of Fortune
Lengthy deployments have created financial
hardship for reservists, guardsmen and their
families. The Frommes could lose their farm.
By P.J. Huffstutter, Times Staff Writer
Dateline: Ferdinand, Ind.
When Pat Fromme shipped out last year for
a six-month tour in Iraq with the Indiana National
Guard, the citizen soldier left behind
a farm, a wife, three kids and 27,000 turkeys.
Six months turned into a year, then 15 months.
He returned home in March, and was promoted
to another Guard unit. That unit has recently
been called up for duty in Afghanistan. He
knows he will have to join it; he just doesn’t
His wife and family will struggle to do their
best and wait for him. The turkeys, however,
may be gone by the time he gets back.
“If I have to go again right away, the
farm won’t make it,” said Fromme, 39,
a sergeant major now with the 76th Infantry
The conflicts in the Middle East have created
unexpected financial hardships for many of
the estimated 364,000 part-time soldiers in
the reserves and the National Guard who
have been called up for service since the Sept.
deployment of citizen soldiers is the largest
such effort since World War II; it is also
one of the longest. Today, reservists and guardsmen
are facing tours in Iraq as long as 20 months,
as well as repeat deployments.
As a result, many soldiers have drained their
savings to support their families while they
are gone. Some have lost their homes. Others
have lost their jobs at small businesses, which
say they can’t afford to keep the positions
open — even though they’re breaking the law.
And numerous small-business owners have shut
down their companies or have had to declare
Ted Valentini, an officer with the Army Reserve,
lost his business that makes molds for plastics
and electronics after a second tour of duty
sent him to Iraq. The assets of the Beavercreek,
Ohio, firm were sold off last year.
Danny Lewis, a chief warrant officer in the
Marine Corps Reserve who is stationed in Baghdad,
faced an equally tough situation. Unable to
find a replacement for himself, Lewis closed
his landscaping business in Moorseville, N.C.,
and laid off his two employees soon after he
Such troubling tales are expected to grow.
Troop levels are rising, not falling as had
been anticipated. The Pentagon last week alerted
37,000 support soldiers — mostly in National
Guard or Reserve units — that they
would be replacing troops leaving the Middle
In Iraq, reservists and Guard troops are performing
fundamental duties, from frontline combat to
military policing at the now infamous Abu Ghraib
prison. Military experts say the Pentagon relies
heavily on such call-ups and tour extensions
to accomplish its mission overseas.
Desperate for help, reservists and National
Guard soldiers have flooded state
and federal agencies with questions about
bankruptcy protection, loan programs and
rights in the workplace.
Despite a flurry of legislation — mostly
at the state level — there are few easy solutions.
“It’s one thing to leave your business
for six months. It’s another to leave it for
two years or more,” said Dennis DeMolet,
vice chairman of the Small Business Administration’s
advisory committee on veterans business development.
“No one, not the military or the government,
saw this being a problem. It’s happening, and
Pat Fromme never imagined himself in this
predicament. His father bought this land decades
ago, building a home and a small business amid
these gentle hills and a waterhole teeming
with fish. The Fromme family farm is a 10-minute
drive to the center of Ferdinand and its 2,300
residents; the closest city is Evansville,
about 50 miles away.
For four generations, the Frommes have served
in the military. Pat joined the National
Guard’s 1st Battalion of the 152nd
Infantry Division after serving in the Marines
for five years. His Guard duty was easy for
the family business to handle: a few weekends
here, a month or two there.
Intellectually, said Pat and his wife, Lori,
they realized the Guard could demand far more
from Pat. Emotionally, though, they didn’t
make the connection between the war and what
it could mean to the family and their farm.
December 2002, Fromme’s unit was called up.
Pat left. So did two of his brothers and two
nephews. One of those nephews, 22-year-old
Zachary Fromme, had long worked with Pat and
Lori on the farm.
“When he joined the Guard, I thought
I knew what it meant,” Lori said of her
husband’s deployment. “But knowing that
your husband could be called away, and actually
living with the reality of how long tours are
these days, are two totally different things.
You just can’t really understand what it’s
going to be like until it happens.”
The deployment took away two-thirds of the
farm’s staff. Lori, 38, was on her own. She
was already a farmer and a mother. She also
became an accountant and an animal breeder,
the tiny company’s chief executive and its
chief manure shoveler.
“I was scared,” Lori said. “Determined
Lori used some of the farm’s income and family
savings to hire part-time help. Pat’s aging
father worked the land with Lori, until he
suffered a stroke last spring while operating
a skid loader. Neighbors also came by to help
with the family’s small herd of cattle and
the thousands of turkeys.
An automated system routinely spits feed into
the bowls scattered throughout the turkey houses.
Someone needed to check on the turkeys three
times a day, weeding out the dead and the diseased.
Someone needed to make sure that the system
had enough feed coming out, that the electronics
were functioning properly, that a bird hadn’t
somehow crawled inside the piping, that the
doors were still locked and the turkeys safely
Neighbors and hired help could assist with
those chores. They couldn’t walk Lori through
convoluted government loan paperwork, or tell
her who to call for accounting and tax questions.
They didn’t teach her which farm-aid programs
to apply for to reduce operational costs of
running the business.
When Pat came home in March, he found a farm
in need. Paperwork for financial aid hadn’t
been finished. The posts in the barn had rotted.
Buildings demanded repair.
Now, as Pat strides across the 410-acre farm,
cleaning out sheds and fixing the barn, he
said he tried not to grimace at the long to-do
list or to worry about the uncertainty his
future holds. He said he needed at least a
year before he was deployed again if the business
was to survive.
“When you’re overseas, all you can think
about is that home is falling apart,” said
Fromme. “When you’re home, all you can
think about is when you’ll have to go back,
and whether you’ll be home long enough to save
everything you’ve built.”
This is a scene that’s being played out across
the country. As of last fall, as many as 60%
of the part-time soldiers called up either
worked for themselves, owned a small- or medium-size
business, or were employed by such a company,
government officials said.
For these businesses, losing one employee
can be a genuine hardship, but when that employee
is the owner, it can be devastating.
are the business. If you don’t work, you don’t
get paid,” said Angela Lewis, 36, the
wife of the landscaper who was forced to close
his business after his deployment. “Not
only do I have the horrible emotional strain
of worrying that my husband is going to be
killed walking down the streets of Baghdad,
but we’re dealing with this financial nightmare
By federal law, companies of any size cannot
discriminate against employees because of their
military service, and therefore must ensure
that the jobs soldiers leave will still be
there when they get back.
But soldiers aren’t protected if companies
downsize or go out of business. And some companies,
either ignorant of the law or willing to take
the risk, fill the positions regardless, National
Guard officials said.
Sgt. Adam Black of the Army Reserve returned
home in February from Ft. Bliss, Texas, where
he trained contractors headed to Iraq. He found
out that his job as a warehouse foreman at
a small interior-design company in Woodinville,
Wash., had been filled. Black has filed a complaint
with a local military office that handles such
issues. He’s resigned to finding work elsewhere
but has encountered discrimination in his job
It’s illegal, but it’s happening.
“I’m proud of serving my country,” said
Black, who is still unemployed. “But as
soon as I tell a potential boss that I’m in
the Reserves, the interview is over.”
Stories like Black’s have spread among the
“We’re getting phone calls from Texas,
Wisconsin, Nebraska, everywhere. They’re all
looking for help, and we don’t know what to
say,” said Eric Schuller, a retired guardsman
who works for the state of Illinois, handling
calls from soldiers with work and other financial
problems. “Everyone’s got a complaint;
everyone needs help.”
Officials with the Small Business Administration
say such complaints are becoming more common.
Last fall, the Senate Committee on Small Business
and Entrepreneurship asked the Congressional
Budget Office to examine how part-time soldiers
such as Pat Fromme were being affected by the
A report compiled by the Congressional Budget
Office from data coming from the Reserves,
the National Guard and each
state’s adjutant general is expected this fall.
Committee members declined to comment, saying
the review was incomplete. But Sen. John F.
Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic
nominee for president and the ranking member
on the small-business committee, has repeatedly
and publicly insisted that the laws need to
He introduced a bill in September that would
give small businesses a tax credit of up to
$12,000 if employees were called up for active
duty. The bill is still under review in Congress.
Given the length of deployments, Kerry said
last week, the government needs to approve
the tax credit and find other ways “to
allow [part-time soldiers] to rest assured
that when they return from Iraq, their homes
and their jobs will be waiting for them.”
sun rose on the Fromme farm a couple hours
ago, and already the air is thick and heavy.
Inside the long, low rows of turkey houses,
the fowl give off the dense scent of ammonia.
Thousands of turkeys, only a few days old —
each small enough to fit inside Lori’s hand
— wait to be fed.
“If the turkeys are still sleeping, then
so am I,” said Pat Fromme, who was in
charge of training 700 soldiers for security
duty, including protecting convoys and guarding
encampments in Iraq and Kuwait. “Thankfully,
they don’t get up nearly as early as roosters.”
While the kids toast their Pop-Tarts, the
parents open the farm for business.
Pat focuses on the office work: paying the
bills for equipment, calling suppliers to make
sure there’s enough feed for the birds. Lori
climbs into the truck and trundles out to check
on the turkeys.
They wait for Zachary, who also recently returned
from Iraq. When he arrives, the three head
to the barn and the cattle. The calves have
grown large enough to be sent away from their
mothers, to other fields to graze. Zachary
slips among the cattle, gently herding and
lulling the black-and-white animals down the
corral. Pat carefully backs up a truck and
lines the trailer perfectly with a gate. Lori
checks each animal off, and ensures that the
path between the corral and the trailer is
With a yell from Zachary, the animals trudge
into the trailer, making the vehicle sway with
their weight. When it’s full of calves bleating
with annoyance, the three drive off. Dust and
dry hay roil the air, mixing with their sweat
and stinging their eyes.
They go through this routine over and over
again until all 150 calves have been moved.
In one day, they get done what it would have
taken Lori nearly five days to finish by herself.
There’s even time for them to sneak away from
the farm for lunch and get burgers in town.
“If Pat’s got to go, I hope we’ll be
OK,” Lori said. “That’s all you can
do. Work and hope.”
The Associated Press
May 13, 2004
Guard Deployments Worry Some States
By Rebecca Cook; Associated Press Writer
With so many National Guard troops
in Iraq, officials in some states are worried
they could be caught short-handed if an emergency
flares up at home.
More Guard members are deployed
now than have been since the Korean War, about
a quarter of the 460,000 nationwide.
Their more frequent and longer overseas deployments “absolutely” affect
states’ emergency response, said Chris Reynolds,
a battalion fire chief in Tampa, Fla., who
also teaches disaster management at American
effect is critical, Reynolds said, not just
because so many National Guard members
are gone, but because so many reservists work
in public safety and emergency response.
“It’s the tenure and experience that’s
missing, and you can’t simply fill the hole
with someone,” Reynolds said.
Governors rely on the Guard to serve as a
last line of defense during natural disasters
and civil emergencies. And as the hurricane
and wildfire seasons begin, many states are
uneasy and uncertain.
“We just have to hope their deployments
coincide with the offseason for fires in California,” said
Jim Wright, deputy director of California’s
Department of Forestry.
Guard leaders have assured states that remaining
Guard units can handle their emergency needs.
A recently released General Accounting Office
report, however, warns that overseas deployments
could strain the National Guard’s stateside
“Equipment and personnel may not be available
to the states when they are needed because
they have been deployed overseas,” the
GAO report concludes. “Moreover, the Guard
may have difficulty ensuring that each state
has access to units with key specialized capabilities
– such as engineering or medical assets – needed
for homeland security and other domestic missions.”
Some states expect to feel the squeeze less
than others. In Texas, for example, only 12
percent of the Army National
Guard is deployed, while 81 percent
of the Guard is gone from
“We’re in a whole lot better shape than
some states that don’t have many people to
begin with,” said Lt. Col. John Stanford
of the Texas Army National
Texas and other Gulf states as well as those
along the Atlantic Coast are bracing for a
rough hurricane season.
North Carolina, ravaged by Hurricane Isabel
last year, has been assured by Guard leaders
that they are prepared for this season despite
the deployments, said Ernie Seneca, spokesman
for Gov. Mike Easley.
The West is facing another summer of dry conditions
and nasty wildfires.
California’s wildfire season has already started,
with 29,000 acres burning this month. The Golden
State has its own fire crews, with U.S. Forest
Service and other federal agencies protecting
government land. But Guard members often are
called to work at base camps, and can find
themselves on the fire lines during large blazes.
Wright, the forestry official, lives with
the knowledge that the California National
Guard’s Blackhawk helicopters and
C-130 planes that helped douse the Southern
California fires could be sent to Iraq at any
If necessary, Wright said, California could
turn to private contractors or call on other
states for firefighting help.
Oregon suffered its worst fire season in a
century in 2002, about 1,400 Oregon Army Guard
members helped fight the blazes. Oregon National
Guard leaders told GAO researchers
they wouldn’t be able to repeat that performance
today, because forces and equipment are deployed
Washington state has already spent $200,000
to train firefighting replacements for National
Guard troops now in Iraq. More than
half the state’s Guard members are deployed
overseas. Gov. Gary Locke says he believes
the 5,000 remaining Guard members in the state
will be able to handle whatever emergencies
arise, but their response time could be slower.
Guard leaders acknowledge the need to change
the way the Guard operates so some states don’t
have to bear the brunt of deployments.
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the Pentagon’s National
Guard Bureau, has a plan to ensure
that every state has at least half of its
Guard troops at home and available for homeland
security and other state missions.
“This model will ensure that no governor
is left without sufficient capabilities in
the state,” Blum told a meeting of the
National Governors’ Association in February.
However, he said, this “rebalancing” effort
will take several years.
Until then, states will continue to rely on
mutual aid agreements that allow them to get
help from other states’ National Guard units.
In Idaho, state officials say they’re prepared,
but still concerned.
“You’re never really certain you’ll have
enough manpower to deal with anything,” said
Mike Journee, spokesman for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, “even
at full strength.”
The Idaho Statesman
May 15, 2004 Saturday
Before They Leave: Guard, Families
Health insurance, harassment among issues
By Gregory Hahn
The commander and the general of the Idaho National
Guard assured their soldiers Friday
that they would make sure Idaho doctors will
treat their families while 2,600 Guardsmen
and Guardswomen are deployed to Iraq.
They told their soldiers’ spouses that they
will watch the soldiers for any psychological
problems while they’re at war, and train Idaho
teachers and doctors to recognize when the
families of soldiers are having problems themselves.
And they told the children of the soldiers
that they would help stamp out harassment and
problems any of the youth are facing at school.
The promises came as Idaho soldiers and their
families prepared for the largest deployment
of troops in Idaho’s history.
haven’t received their orders, and though they’ll
spend the summer training at Fort Bliss, Texas,
none of them know when deployment will happen.
Their spouses, most of them wives as just
about one-tenth of the 2,600 infantry soldiers
are women, are wondering how they’ll pay their
bills and ensure their children are covered
by health insurance.
More than 300 soldiers and family members
packed a room at Gowen Field Friday and even
more participated by videophone as Gov. Dirk
Kempthorne, Idaho Adjutant Gen. John Kane and
a panel of Pentagon officials answered questions
for two hours. It was the first time that the
Department of Defense had flown in experts
to answer the concerns of the state’s soon-to-be-deployed
Many worried about mental health and insurance
Denise Johnson, a soldier’s wife who trembled
slightly with emotion, asked what kind of psychiatric
help would be available for the soldiers when
they return “so they don’t fall through
the cracks and they don’t suffer some of the
same effects that our Vietnam vets have suffered
in the past,” she said.
Others asked similar questions about their
children, such as whether public school teachers
will know how to recognize behavioral changes
that are stemming from the temporary loss of
Many others asked about health insurance.
When the soldiers leave their normal jobs,
their families often have to switch to the
federal TRICARE insurance system, and they
wanted to know when that switch might happen
and would they be able to go to their own doctors.
Kane and the Pentagon officials assured Johnson
that soldiers would be assessed for mental
problems before they leave and while they’re
in Iraq. Doctors are being trained to recognize
trauma in soldiers, wives and children. The
Pentagon also has a program for teachers that
will help them understand and work with military
kids, they said.
Kane told the spouses to look for signs of
mental stress in the letters and communications
they receive from their soldiers, and if they
suspect anything unusual to tell the Guard,
Kane and Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles
Abel said the changeover from private to federal
health insurance should be simple, too. A TRICARE
official told one soldier that his son with
a pre-existing medical condition would have
no trouble being covered.
One problem for Guard members who don’t live
near military bases is that there aren’t many
doctors within the TRICARE system. The program
operates much like a regular insurance company,
with better rates and coverage available if
the patient sees a physician within the system.
Kempthorne said he is sending letters to all
the doctors in the state asking them to join
so that families can continue seeing the professionals
they’re used to.
The Idaho Guard is being called to duty and “that
means that all of us in the state are getting
called to duty,” the governor said.
But student Carrie Waite, president of the
statewide youth support program for the National
Guard, raised an issue that children
of soldiers are already facing — classmates
calling soldiers “baby killers.”
heard scattered reports of this from other
states as well,” said John Molino, a Pentagon
Some schools protect children in that situation
through anti-harassment policies.
“If you give us the name and the location,
we’ll work it,” Kane said.
And Kempthorne, who was so upset by Waite’s
news that he missed the next question asked
of him, gave her a message to tell others:
“Anybody that suggests that the role
of our American soldiers is to do anything
but give hope and a future to the babies of
the world are totally off-base,” he said.
The concerns are far-reaching and deep
Some soldiers asked about employment upon
their return. Others wanted to know whether
they’d be outfitted in new equipment and weaponry.
An ROTC student on a scholarship asked whether
the money for school would be there when he
comes back. (The answer was yes.)
Some of the families have an idea about what
to expect. After the meeting, wives of soldiers
talked about the “game face” their
husbands will have in the two-week leave they’ll
have after Fort Bliss and before Iraq.
For the younger families, the prospect of
war is intimidating and not something they’ve
ever had to plan for.
One woman said soldiers and their families
are feeling like they’re “pulled left
and right,” and she asked Kane what was
being done about convincing people to remain
in the Guard after deployment.
“I think we’re trying to do everything
we can,” he said.
“When they come back from deployment,
they’ll come back to the traditional National
Guard that they’ve known.”
But he said he’s not planning much beyond
the tour that currently awaits.
When a soldier asked whether Guard units could
be sent for two trips to the war, Kane said
there were no plans for it for Idaho Guard
“I think the thing you need to focus
on is the tour you’re getting ready for now,” he
But Assistant Secretary of Defense Abel said
there are units going back for a second time,
adding that most active units will. Some of
those are on a third tour — one in Afghanistan
and two in Iraq.
Some reserve units will go, too, but Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has ordered that
no reservist be sent back without his OK.
Questions and answers about the Guard’s
Guard soldiers and their families
had a chance to ask questions about the coming
months as 2,600 soldiers are being deployed
to Iraq. They asked about money, insurance,
psychiatric help, parenting support and more.
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Idaho Adjutant Gen.
John Kane and a panel of Pentagon experts
Here’s a sample of the concerns the soldiers
and their families have:
Will soldiers get any leave before they go
to Iraq? Yes. Two weeks after training in Fort
Bliss in El Paso, Texas. But it looks like
the leave will begin and end in Texas, so the
soldiers will have to pay their own way to
Idaho and back.
Can families visit Fort Bliss during the training?
Does the Guard know when the soldiers will
be sent to Iraq? No.
Will families be able to video-conference
with the soldiers in Iraq? Hopefully, though
the Guard hasn’t nailed that down yet. Also,
soldiers can call home through the Department
of Defense or with international calling cards
available at military stores. Plus, if the
soldiers are in Iraq for a year, they will
earn two weeks of leave, during which they
can come home if they choose.
If soldiers have lost or do lose their jobs
when deployed, will they get help? Yes, on
an individual basis.
Is there anything to help families of soldiers
who have to take a pay cut when they leave
their jobs for active duty? There are bills
in Congress to provide some extra money, but
they could be a long way from being passed.
Is there help for day care and parenting costs?
The Pentagon provides it but each state hands
it out differently.
Can soldiers be promoted while they’re activated?
Seems obvious, but it isn’t. For the most part,
yes, but there are still some glitches.
14, 2004 Friday 0 EDITION
Shelby Township Man’s New Battleground
Is In The Rehab Room
Losing hand, skills, control hard to accept
for Michigan National Guard member
By Kathleen Gray; Free Press Staff Writer
Sgt. James McKelvey knew the risks when he
went to Iraq to defuse bombs. He even planned
for his death, knowing that soldiers who work
over bombs rarely survive a blast.
He talked to his wife, Ruth, about his funeral,
trust funds for his two kids and other financial
details of their lives.
“People had always asked me how I could
do this, and I told them that if something
went wrong, I wouldn’t be here to worry about
it,” McKelvey, 32, said last week.
The Shelby Township couple never talked about
what would happen if he survived an explosion.
Now they’re talking
They are taking a break from James McKelvey’s
recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
in Washington, D.C., to attend a service Saturday
in Ft. Walton, Fla., for five soldiers killed
while trying to disarm bombs in Iraq.
McKelvey, an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy,
wonders why he isn’t one of them.
On Feb. 9, he survived the impacts of a land
mine and two homemade bombs while trying to
disarm one of the bombs along a road 30 miles
north of Baghdad.
He lost his right hand; his left hand was
mangled; his chest was burned, and his eardrums
were perforated. Twice, his heart stopped at
hospitals in Iraq.
McKelvey is among more than 100 amputees who
have come to Walter Reed in the last 15 months
and among the more than 4,100 U.S. soldiers
injured since the war began.
What happened that day
McKelvey has no memory of the day he was injured,
but has been able to piece it together from
his medical records and accounts from other
soldiers in Baqubah, the Iraq city where he
It was cool — about 40 degrees — so McKelvey
didn’t mind wearing the 100-pound armored suit
and helmet when he was called to check a roadside
bomb that a U.S. convoy spotted.
McKelvey and other members of the Michigan
National Guard’s 745th Explosive
Ordnance Detachment, based in Grayling, had
arrived in Iraq in October. He estimated
that he had worked on 80 bombs during the
four months he was there.
McKelvey never knew what to expect: Bombs
were primitive and sophisticated, duds and
deadly. Some were packed in dead cows on roadsides.
“The first time, I was scared . . . but
that was the only time,” he said. “You’ve
just got to walk up to it and take a deep breath.”
Sometimes, he would send a robot to the bomb
to get a better look. Other times, he would
place a water bottle holding an explosive-filled
straw next to the device and blow it up. Speed
was crucial because the enemy might be lurking
nearby with a detonator.
On Feb. 9, McKelvey stretched out on the ground
to get a better look at a bomb. His body weight
triggered a land mine in the sand. Moments
later, the first homemade bomb exploded. The
soldiers knew McKelvey was hurt.
picked him up but couldn’t get him in the back
of their Humvee. At 6 feet 2 and 265 pounds,
McKelvey was too big. So the soldiers placed
him on the hood. One soldier stretched over
him to make sure he didn’t fall off.
“They tell me I was talking and saying
I was OK,” he said. “But they could
also hear me gurgling.”
As they began the 3-mile race to the base,
a second bomb exploded. The soldier atop McKelvey
took shrapnel in the back and leg. Shrapnelpierced
McKelvey’s helmet but didn’t reach his head.
Shrapnel severed the arm of the driver, who
hit the brakes. McKelvey and the soldier on
top of him went flying.
What happened next is unclear, but the convoy
made it to the War Horse, a medevac helicopter
that whisked McKelvey to Camp Anaconda, near
Twice before he reached the Landsthul Regional
Medical Center, the main U.S. military hospital
in Germany, his heart stopped. Doctors didn’t
work on his left hand because they thought
he would die.
Wounded inside and out
Ruth McKelvey, a cheerful 29-year-old freckled
blonde, was doing laundry, thinking about going
to see the Red Wings game the next night.
It was about 7 p.m. on Feb. 10 when she heard
someone at the door. Seeing a woman in uniform,
she guessed it was about a mixup in pay for
her husband. Maj. Laverne Santangelo told McKelvey
that her husband was critically injured and
likely to lose both hands and perhaps his sight.
McKelvey called her mother.
“I’ll never forget that scream on the
phone,” said her mother, Pat Lund.
Three days later, Ruth McKelvey was in Germany.
She barely recognized the man she had met at
a Roseville bar in 1996.
He was unconscious. His face was purple. His
eyes were swollen shut. Both arms were bandaged,
and seven tubes protuded from his chest, abdomen
and throat. She tried to wipe what she thought
was dirt from his cheek. It was shrapnel.
She couldn’t see that the impact of the blast
had compressed his organs to the back of his
spine. His lungs were bruised and filled with
fluid. His temperature was up to 104.
The day after she arrived, surgeons popped
a hernia in his stomach, releasing the pressure
on his organs.
James McKelvey improved, but didn’t fully
awaken for six weeks.
“He was strapped onto this rotating bed
that would pitch 45 degrees from side to side
to keep the fluid in his lungs from settling
in,” said Ruth McKelvey.
After three weeks in Germany and many surgeries
on his left hand, he was flown to Walter Reed.
It would be another month before he would wake
‘Where . . . is my hand?’
first memory after the blast was watching the
show “Cops” with Leah, a nurse. It
was 2 a.m. in mid-March.
“All of a sudden, I was really lucid,” he
said. “But one minute, I was running around
in Iraq, and the next, I was in a bed in Washington.
It kind of freaked me out.”
The surprises had just begun.
He couldn’t talk because there was a tube
in his throat, and he was too weak to walk.
His left eye wandered, and his vision was blurred.
Clouded by drugs, James McKelvey didn’t know
until March 20 — his fifth wedding anniversary
— that his hand was gone. He and his wife
had just finished watching the movie “Tommy
Boy,” and she was drifting off to sleep
in the chair next to his bed. He realized that
one bandaged arm was bigger than the other.
“Where the hell is my hand?” he
“He kept thinking that they were getting
ready to amputate his hand, not realizing that
he had already lost it,” Ruth McKelvey
said. “I must have told him five times
that he lost his hand . . . but he just didn’t
Doctors weren’t even sure they would be able
to save his left hand. Several surgeries were
necessary to graft skin and put pins in his
four fingers. The hand remains swollen — his
size 13 wedding ring won’t fit on his pinky
— and speckled with shrapnel.
Changes hard to accept
Recovery seems slow to James McKelvey. The
doctors have said he’s doing great.
On May 3, Maj. Janet Papazis, a physical therapist,
greeted him with a smile and sent him to a
treadmill. On this day, she worked on strengthing
his legs and balance. He had lost more than
30 pounds and muscle tone in three months.
Ear surgery next month should correct his balance.
Later that day, McKelvey started hours of
therapy to keep his left hand supple and his
right arm — the residual limb, he said with
a roll of his eyes — prepared to work with
a prosthetic hand.
“The doctors get mad when you call it
a stump,” he said. “I haven’t figured
out a nickname.”
Three weeks ago, he slipped on his mechanical
hand for the first time. It was one of four
he’ll eventually get. He immediately hated
it. The Greifer is a bionic device attached
to a plastic sleeve with a large hook on the
end. It’s uncomfortable and looks nothing like
a hand. And it didn’t quite fit.
“I began getting nauseous,” he said. “I
started tugging on it. It had to come off.”
His therapist, Capt. Lisa Smurr, said he’s
progressed since then. Last week, he began
to learn how to flex muscles in his forearm
to make the Greifer open and close. The exercises,
with cubes, were rudimentary. When he lost
his grip and the cubes fell to the floor, he
cursed, but refused help in picking them up.
has asked his wife for help with putting on
socks, unscrewing a bottle of pink lemonade,
drying his back after a shower.
“I don’t believe I’d be where I’m at
if it wasn’t for her,” he said. “Still,
it’s Ruth. So she kicks me in the ass all the
time,” especially when he complains.
James McKelvey said he wants to know when
he’ll go home, what kind of job he can do,
when the phantom pain in the missing hand will
There are no easy answers.
He and his wife will come home in July for
a visit, but will have to return to Walter
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard assured
him a job would be waiting.
“But I don’t want to put someone else
in a position where they could get hurt because
of my weaknesses,” said McKelvey.
And the pain that feels like all the missing
fingers are folded over will dissipate, said
McKelvey said he keeps reminding himself —
often with humor — that he was lucky.
“Hey, I was just doing my job and . .
. it was my turn to get hurt,” he said. “But
where was my big white tunnel?”
The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)
May 15, 2004 Saturday
Wounded Soldier Recounts Shooting
Recovering from three gunshot wounds suffered
in Iraq, an N.C. guardsman says he has no
By Demorris Lee, Staff Writer
Pfc. McKenzie Callihan hasn’t had nightmares
about the night in Iraq when he was shot three
times, though he has vivid memories of the
burning sensations from the bullets that ripped
through his body.
Sitting in a wheelchair Friday in his hospital
room at Womack Army Medical Center, Callihan,
22, said he has no regrets about serving his
country. The Clarkton native, wounded in a
firefight last month, said he’d do it all again.
“To get shot three times and not have
a broken bone or a busted artery … ,” Callihan
said, without completing the thought. “I
just thank the Lord on that one. But I’d do
it over. I signed up. I knew I had to go overseas.
I just never thought I’d get shot.”
Callihan, who is a member of the N.C. National
Guard’s Heavy Separate Brigade
that’s in Iraq, has yet to take a step without
assistance. He has had five surgeries and
faces more. A colostomy bag is attached to
his side. A bullet still floats somewhere
inside his body.
Teresa and Terry Callihan have been by their oldest
son’s side since he arrived at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center in Washington, D.C., about three
weeks ago. Teresa bathed her son, fed him ice chips,
“To know that your child is hurt and
he’s thousands and thousands of miles away
from you, it’s hard,” Teresa Callihan
said, sitting in the same place she has been
for the past three weeks, beside her son’s
bed. “He’s done a lot of growing in this
short time. On a lot of levels, he’s come a
On April 19, the night of the shooting, Callihan,
a combat medic, was working a checkpoint in
Tuz, a small town in northeastern Iraq.
At about 10 p.m. a report came in that four
Iraqis were trying to avoid a checkpoint. The
four had been known to rob townspeople. An
Apache helicopter couldn’t find the men, who
were thought to be hiding in ditches after
abandoning a car. Callihan’s platoon was called
Callihan came upon a mound in the road but
couldn’t tell if it was “the desert floor
or something else.” He went to check it
out, and “one of the guys popped up.” Callihan
shot his rifle at the man once before his weapon
“I started shifting right and fell over
some rocks,” Callihan said. “I then
reached for my [9 millimeter] but before I
could get it out, I was hit three times.”
Callihan was shot with an AK-47 rifle. One
bullet went into his right foot and exited
his heel. Another entered and exited his left
calf. The third bullet went into his scrotum,
nicked his rectum and lodged into his abdomen.
That bullet hasn’t been found.
“I guess you can say Iraq is still with
me,” Callihan said with a wry grin.
“I didn’t know how bad it was at the
time,” Callihan said. “It was burning.
That lead is hot. I knew I wasn’t going to
die. I just wanted the burning to stop.”
Callihan was attended to by another medic.
He got a shot of morphine as he waited to be
transported out of the area.
“That’s all I remember until I got to
Washington about five days later,” Callihan
said. “I was in a lot of pain. But I do
know the guy who shot me was KIA [Killed In
Action]. It was either him or me, or maybe
he would have shot one of my buddies. … Ain’t
no telling who else he had hurt before shooting
Back in North Carolina, Callihan looks forward
to returning to Clarkton. He plans to resume
school at Southeastern Community College. He
wants to be a park ranger.
September will mark four years in the National
Guard for Callihan, who is awaiting
the military’s Purple Heart, a medal for
being wounded in combat.
His family is pleased that their soldier is
closer to home.
“This has been very stressful,” said
Brittany Callihan, 18, his sister who graduates
from West Bladen High School in a few weeks.
“I’m trying to get ready for graduation and mommy’s
not there. I had to run all the errands, take care
of my little sister and keep things going while they
were away. But the main thing is I’m glad he’s back
in [close] distance where people can come see him.”
Stan Davis said the wounding of his first
cousin has brought together everyone in Clarkton,
a town of little more than 700 people in Bladen
County. The Clarkton Dixie Youth baseball league
collected $500 in just a few hours to help
the Callihans, he said.
“We see the war on TV and it never hits
home until you see someone you know injured,” Davis
said while visiting his cousin Friday. “This
just brings it home.”
The Associated Press
May 10, 2004
Family Says Arkansas Soldier Killed
By Jay Hughes, Associated Press Writer
Dateline: Little Rock
A National Guard soldier
from Chidester killed in Iraq was the latest
casualty from the 39th Brigade, which has lost
seven others to attacks in the past month.
The soldier’s brother, also deployed in the
country, is being sent home for the funeral.
Hesley Box Jr., 24, died in a roadside bombing,
according to his family. Box’s father, Hesley
Box Sr., said the military notified the family
Thursday evening. The exact circumstances had
not been relayed to the survivors.
The death was been publicly announced by the
Department of Defense later Friday. The department
said Box died Thursday in Baghdad when a car
bomb detonated near his guard post.
Soldiers detained a man Friday afternoon suspected
of planning car-bomb attacks against coalition
forces. Abu Abdul Rahman was taken into custody
without incident, the Defense Department said.
Box said his son had been in the National
Guard since 1997 and participated
in previous deployments to Bosnia and Saudi
“He had expressed to us that this was
his last tour of duty,” the father said. “But
he was in good spirits other than that.”
Box deployed with the 39th Infantry Brigade’s Company
B, 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry. The 39th has
been redesignated the 39th Brigade Combat Team
and is serving as part of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Box is the eighth member of the 39th to be
killed in Iraq. Seven were from Arkansas, and
an eighth – Sgt. Felix M. Delgreco – was from
Simsbury, Conn. The unit traveled there this
Box said he knew what had happened as soon
as he saw a nondescript white government sedan
pull up to his house.
“I knew that something wasn’t right,” he
said. “Then I saw the uniforms inside
and I knew right then.”
Box said his son leaves behind a wife and
an 18-month-old son. He said his namesake has
a brother, Tarcus Kyron Box, who has been in
Iraq for more than a year with a regular active-duty
unit. The brother’s rank and unit were not
Family members said that two days after Hesley
Box Jr. arrived in Baghdad, his brother’s unit
was sent from that city to elsewhere within
the country and is currently stationed in Babylon,
southeast of Baghdad.
Box said preparations are being made to send
Tarcus Box home for his brother’s funeral.
The notification team told the family it will
take 5-8 days for the body to be sent to the
“I’m just sorry for all the families
who have lost loved ones and we want to keep
them in our prayers,” the father said.
The Associated Press
May 12, 2004
Man To Run/March 175 Miles Nonstop
To Honor Michelle Witmer
By Carrie Antlfinger, Associated Press Writer
A former U.S. Army ranger in Florida plans
to run and march 175 miles nonstop this weekend
to raise money for orphans in Baghdad and the
Dominican Republic in memory of a Wisconsin
soldier killed in Iraq.
Alex Estrella, 45, of Hollywood, Fla., said
by phone Tuesday that he didn’t know Spc. Michelle
Witmer, 20, who died April 9 in an ambush in
Baghdad, but he felt a sense of responsibility
to her because he was in the first Gulf War.
“I felt guilty and I felt I had a big
hand in her being killed because I didn’t finish
the job 14 1/2 years ago,” he said. “As
long as I can breathe I am still going to do
it in her memory.”
who lived in the Milwaukee suburb of New Berlin,
was with the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd
Military Police Company.
Her death garnered national attention because
her sister Rachel, 24, served in the same unit
and her twin Charity was also in Iraq as a
medic with the Guard’s 118th Medical Battalion.
The surviving sisters have since been reassigned
to stateside duty.
Half of the money raised by the run will go
to the Missionaries of Charity Orphanage in
Baghdad where Michelle volunteered, Estrella
said. Her family set up a memorial fund for
donations to send there.
The other half will go to Project ChildHelp
Inc. – a nonprofit Miami organization that
helps special needs orphans in the Dominican
Republic. It is helping organize the run.
“We just hope it’s a nice amount to further
our work and help the mission of charity children
there,” said Lourdes Valladares, founder
and director of Project ChildHelp Inc.
Estrella said he will start Thursday at the
Coast Guard station in Miami Beach, then run
through downtown Miami and take U.S. 1 to Key
West, arriving Sunday afternoon. He wanted
the run to coincide with Armed Forces Day Saturday.
He said he won’t sleep the entire way, and
two sergeants from the 841st U.S. Army Reserve
in Miami will follow him in an Army Humvee
with food and water. He estimated it to be
a 175-mile trip.
“There is some fear in this thing because
after the first 90 miles I don’t know what
to expect,” he said, adding he is in excellent
shape and he hopes the scenic views would inspire
Estrella, an associate with the media company,
More Media, said he doesn’t want Michelle’s
death to be forgotten.
“She was a twin and I found it really
incredible that her and her two sisters were
with her in Iraq at the time. When I read the
story about them I just had to do something,” he
Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, a Wisconsin National
Guard spokesman, said people have
been donating to the Witmers’ memorial fund
at Waukesha State Bank, but he didn’t know
the exact amount. Lori Witmer, Michelle’s
mother, recently told him she was pleased
with the outpouring of support.
“This is an orphanage doing wonderful
work and they could use all the support they
can get,” he said. “I know Michelle
was really moved by her exposure to the kids
and that’s one of the things she valued most
about her experience there.”
Judi Berglund, a marketing associate with
Waukesha State Bank and friend of the Witmer
family, said the fund was set up within days
of Michelle’s death.
“It’s been an awesome response,” she
said. “It’s been all over the country.
… That’s just amazing to me.”
Estrella said he did a similar run in North
Carolina in 1980 to raise money for cystic
fibrosis, running 150 miles in two days.
said his Army service included the campaigns
in Panama and in Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia.
He said he’s kept up his physical condition
and has run about 60 to 70 miles a week to
He said he will wear combat boots for the
first 10 miles in honor of Pat Tillman, who
left the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army
and was killed April 22 in Afghanistan.
He also plans to carry a backpack filled with
letters from orphans for soldiers in Iraq and
Afghanistan. The Humvees are to carry other
letters from kids in area schools
Estrella said he spoke to Michelle’s parents,
who approved of the run, and to Charity.
“She told me Michelle would love it if
I did it in her name,” he said.
A message left at the Witmer home by The Associated
Press was not returned.
The Associated Press
May 13, 2004
Student Killed in Iraq To Be Awarded
Dateline: Portland, Maine
A Maine National Guard soldier
who was killed last month in Iraq will be awarded
a posthumous degree Saturday at the University
of Southern Maine commencement.
Christopher Gelineau, 23, was one semester
away from receiving his bachelor’s degree from
the School of Applied Science, Engineering
and Technology when he was called to active
duty last November.
Gelineau, who grew up in Vermont, joined the National
Guard after graduating from high
school. He transferred to the Maine
Army National Guard’s 133rd
Engineer Battalion after enrolling at USM
and was killed last month when a convoy he
was escorting was ambushed outside Mosul.
His widow, Lavinia Gelineau, came to USM as
a scholarship student from Romania. She will
receive dual degrees Saturday in English and
“Chris worked a lot, went to all his
courses and never missed a class, he deserves
this,” she said Wednesday. “But no
rank advancement or degree is going to bring
him back to life.”
The couple, who met at USM and began seeing
each other after Gelineau fixed Lavinia’s computer,
were married in April 2002.
Robert Nannay, a professor of technology at
USM, said Gelineau was an honor student who
planned a career in information technology.
“He had a bright future ahead of him,” Nannay
said. “You couldn’t paint a more tragic
situation to unfold.”
the School of Applied Science, Engineering
and Technology is called forward, Christopher
Gelineau will have his name read aloud during
commencement and a member of the family will
accept the degree.
Members of Gelineau’s class and faculty from
the school recommended he be awarded the degree
earlier this month.
Only about five posthumous degrees have been
awarded in the past decade, usually at the
request of an academic department, USM spokesman
Robert Caswell said.
The Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 14, 2004, Friday, BC cycle
Fallen Soldiers Have Special Memorial At Fort
Dateline: Fort Hood, Texas
One by one, 15 fallen soldiers assigned to
the Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division, including
six from Arkansas, were remembered by friends
and family members.
Six soldiers honored at the 1st Cavalry’s
Memorial Chapel were from the Arkansas National
Guard, which mobilized to deploy
with the Fort Hood-headquartered division,
and later died in Iraq.
The Arkansas-based 39th Infantry Brigade has
lost eight soldiers in combat, seven who were
“Today, we honor those who did a superb
job … they answered a call to service when
their nation needed them most and understood
that freedom is worth fighting and dying for,” Lt.
Col. Robert Forrester, 1st Cavalry Division’s
rear detachment commander, said in Thursday’s
online edition of the Killeen Daily Herald.
Each of the fallen soldiers received an individual
tribute at the standing-room-only service Tuesday.
The Arkansans included Capt. Arthur “Bo” Felder,
36, of Lewisville, commander of Headquarters
Company; Chief Warrant Officer Patrick W. Kordsmeier,
49, of North Little Rock; Staff Sgt. Stacey
C. Brandon, 35, of Hazen; Staff Sgt. Hesley
Box Jr., 24, of Chidester; Staff Sgt. Billy
Joe Orton, 41, of Carlisle; and Spc. Kenneth
A. Melton, 30, of Batesville.
A seventh Arkansan, Sgt. 1st Class William
Labadie, was killed in action April 7, just
two weeks after being deployed.
Sgt. Adam Estep of A Company, 2nd Battalion,
5th Infantry Regiment was remembered by a friend,
Staff Sgt. Alexander Welch.
“When I heard of his death, all I could
remember was the good times,” Welch said
of the 23-year-old tank driver.
Sgt. 1st Class Lyman Besselieu spoke of the
20th Engineer Battalion’s Staff Sgt. Abraham
“He was the picture of what a noncommissioned
officer should be, always setting the example,” said
The Arkansas National Guard soldiers
were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters
Company, 39th Combat Support Battalion, 39th
Chief Warrant Officer-3 Ronald Helton memorialized
the fallen guard members.
“Chief Warrant Officer-4 Patrick Kordsmeier
was my friend for 25 years, and he not only
excelled as a soldier, but as a father and
a friend.” said Helton.
Kordsmeier, 49, of North Little Rock was killed
in Taji, Iraq, on April 24 when mortar rounds
hit his camp.
Helton said he had known Staff Sgt. Billy
Joe Orton for 15 years.
“At first look, Orton appeared like he
wasn’t polished, but he loved being a soldier,” Helton
For those he didn’t know as well, Helton relied
on information from the soldiers’ family members
Chaplain Gary Bragg delivered the memorial
message and Chaplain Alberto Cordova gave the
final memorial prayer.
“Live today and every day with hope,” Cordova
The Seattle Times
May 15, 2004
Slain Guardsman Is Remembered For
His Love of Life, Faith
By Ray Rivera; Seattle Times staff reporter
Sgt. Jeffrey Shaver joined the National
Guard with his best friend, hoping
he would make enough money for college. And
when he was sent to Iraq, leaving behind
his fiance, he planned to use his medical
skills to help injured Iraqi civilians in
his off time, his family said.
Shaver, 26, became the first member of the
Washington National Guard to
die in Iraq when the Humvee he was riding in
Wednesday was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.
Gov. Gary Locke said he was “deeply saddened” to
learn of Shaver’s death and sent his condolences
to Shaver’s family and fiance.
“The loss of Sgt. Shaver … is tragic,” Locke
said in a statement. “We must pray for
the safety of all Americans as the war in Iraq
Locke pointed to the deep ties Washington National
Guard members have with their communities.
are our friends and neighbors,” he said. “They
are firefighters, farmers, business owners,
grocery clerks, doctors, lawyers and others
from all walks of life.”
Shaver was a medic in the 1st Battalion, 161st
Infantry Regiment, part of the state’s 81st
Brigade Combat Team. The brigade arrived in
Iraq this spring in what was the largest deployment
of Washington National Guard troops
since World War II.
The 4,500-member brigade includes about 3,200
members from Washington in units scattered
from Seattle to Spokane. It also includes troops
from California, Minnesota and elsewhere.
Shaver’s battalion was planning a memorial
service for him this evening in Baghdad.
“The guys are doing as well as can be
expected, some of them it’s hit real hard,” said
the wife of another medic in the unit from
Spokane, who asked not to be identified for
privacy reasons. “The families here are
also struggling since several were best friends.”
A separate memorial is scheduled for next
Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Life Center Church
at 723 W. Indiana Ave. in Spokane.
Shaver graduated from Newport High School
in Newport, Pend Oreille County, in 1997. After
graduation, he moved to Spokane and became
a fitness instructor and personal trainer,
his family said in a statement.
He became active in the Frontline Youth Group
at the Life Center, helping lead and organize
activities for college groups. In 1999, he
and his best friend, Dale Raschko, whom he
had met at Life Center, joined the National
Guard and trained to become medics.
“Jeff was a guy who loved life and who
loved the Lord,” said Craig Schafer, 31,
another friend who shared a house with Shaver
and Raschko and volunteered with them at the
Life Center. “He was constantly trying
to help people out. I think that’s why he wanted
to be a medic.”
His family said Shaver was an active outdoorsman
who enjoyed mountain biking, rock climbing,
hiking and snowboarding.
“His love, however, was being with his
family,” the family said.
In 2002, he moved to Maple Valley to be closer
to his family. He worked for Bryman College
helping students find jobs and later attended
Green River Community College pursuing a helicopter
aviation degree, hoping to use it for search
and rescue, his family said.
He was promoted to sergeant shortly after
arriving in Baghdad.
According to the family statement, Shaver
is survived by his mother, Jane, and his sisters,
Gwen and Sakura, all of Maple Valley; his fiance,
Charity, of Quilcene; and his father, John,
of Grand Coulee. Last names were not included
in the statement.
Forces Press Service
Foster Care for Military Pets
May 12, 2004 — Deploying
overseas means leaving friends and loved ones
behind. For service members with no one to
take care of their beloved dog, cat, bird or
other pet, it once meant also having to abandon
or turn the pet over to a shelter — never to
see it again.
Thanks to two nonprofit groups — the
Military Pets Foster Project and Operation
Noble Foster — service members can now arrange
foster care for their pets while they’re gone.
The Military Pets Foster Project, a nonprofit
group founded by animal lover Steve Albin,
has placed about 15,000 pets in foster homes
throughout the United States while their owners
serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Operation Noble
Foster, which specializes in foster homes for
cats, has found temporary homes for about 25
military cats a month since shortly after Sept.
11, 2001, according to founder Linda Mercer.
Albin and Mercer said they established their
groups shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks, when they learned that thousands of
service members had been forced to give up
their pets when they deployed to Operation
Desert Storm more than a decade earlier. “What
kind of morale builder is that?” Albin
said. “Does it mean that to serve, you
have to be willing to put your best friend
Since launching the Military
Pets Foster Project, Albin estimates that the
group has saved as many as 150,000 pets from
being abandoned or turned over to helters,
where pets not quickly adopted often are euthanized.
Although dogs nd cats are the most common pets
in need of foster homes, Albin said his group
as also placed ferrets, rabbits, horses, lizards,
snakes and other “exotics,” ncluding
a pot-bellied pig.
Albin said he matches pets
in need of foster care with appropriate foster
homes and requires those involved in the arrangement
to sign a foster agreement. Both Albin and
Mercer said they’re impressed by the outpouring
of support they receive from people willing
to provide foster care for pets while service
members deploy in support of the war, serve
tours where they can’t take their pets, or
even ship off to basic training.
are opening up their hearts and their doors
to help the people of the military,” said
Albin. “It’s a patriotic gesture of thanks.” Mark
Delman from Parker, Colo., signed up through
Operation Noble Foster to provide a foster
home for five cats owned by a military family
currently stationed in Germany. Delman said
he encourages others to open their doors as
well. “These people are keeping us safe
and free, and shouldn’t have to give up their
beloved pets to do so,” he said. “Offering
a foster home is a way of saying ‘thanks.’
I tell people not to hesitate to do it.” Albin
encourages service members in need of foster
care for their pets to give the Military Pets
Foster Project as much notice as possible of
their upcoming deployment so the group can
find a suitable home.
Savannah Morning News
May 12, 2004
Federal Government Will Pay National
Guard At G-8
Questions over who would pick up the National
Guard’s bill jeopardized much of the money
local governments were supposed to get for
By Larry Peterson
The debate is over: Federal money will pay
for National Guard troops,
possibly thousands of them, to provide security
for the G-8 Sea Island Summit.
That clarification, forged by U.S. Rep. Jack
Kingston, R-Ga., ends a threat to nearly half
the $25 million local governments are supposed
to get for security at the June 8-10 event.
Local officials are girding for thousands
of visitors and an undetermined number of protesters,
during the meeting of the leaders of the world’s
major industrial democracies.
Last year, Kingston won congressional approval
of $25 million for G-8 security. The money
was intended mostly to pay for summit-related
local law enforcement overtime, training and
But, in recent weeks, questions arose whether
the costs of the National Guard deployment,
which Kingston estimated at $10 million to
$12 million, also would have to come out of
the $25 million.
That would cut into the already-approved money
local governments were counting on for their
The state wanted the tab for the National
Guard to be paid from a separate
federal pot of money.
“We were hopeful that the federal government
would support the deployment of the National
Guard ,” said Loretta Lepore,
Gov. Sonny Perdue’s press secretary.
“They never said ‘No.’ There was a question.
It was open-ended. It was more a matter of,
‘Let’s see how we can work this out.’ “
But Kingston’s aide Rob Asbell paints a picture that
was temporarily bleaker.
“It looked for a while that it would
not be federal money,” Asbell said.
In any case Kingston, supported by Perdue,
lobbied the Department of Defense to fund the
Chris Payne, Kingston’s Washington military
aide, said his boss argued that, because the
deployment would provide security for an international
event, it’s a federal responsibility.
“We worked this through and now the National
Guard will be paid for separately,” said
Kingston, who represents coastal Georgia, including
Sea Island and part of Chatham County. “That
was pretty good news.”
Lt. Col. James Driscoll, a spokesman for the Georgia
National Guard , said the guard
contingent will be commanded by Brig. Gen.
William T. Nesbitt.
Citing security concerns, Driscoll declined
to reveal the size of the force.
But John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org,
an Alexandria, Va.-based security policy group,
said a brigadier general typically commands “thousands” of
“It might be 3,500,” Pike said. “It
might be 5,500. But we’re talking thousands,
While saying the “very specialized” nature
of the operation casts doubt on any such speculations,
Driscoll said the deployment will be “fairly
He said most of the troops will be based in
Brunswick and Savannah, where thousands of
support staff and press will gather, and a
few will stay at Fort Stewart.
The guardsmen will start arriving later this
month, Driscoll said.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jason D. Knoch
Child Care Providers Across The Nation
Volunteer Their Services To Support Troops
Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan
Washington, DC – May 12, 2004 – NACCRRA, the National
Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies,
announced today the launch of their national initiative,
Operation Child Care, a voluntary effort of NACCRRA,
local Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies and
child care providers to provide a few hours of free
child care for National Guard and
Reserve personnel returning for two weeks of rest
and recuperation leave from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The announcement was made during a press event co-hosted
by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Subcommittee
for Children and Families, Senate Health, Education,
Labor and Pensions Committee.
Operation Child Care is led by NACCRRA in partnership
with the National Association of Family Child Care,
the National Child Care Association, the National
Cooperative Extension System, the National 4-H Program,
and the Child Care Bureau, U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services. Bright Horizons Family Solutions
and KinderCare Learning Centers, representing thousands
of their child care centers across the country are
also participating. “The child care community’s response
to Operation Child Care has been overwhelmingly positive,” said
Linda Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA. “All
of us – at the national, state and local levels – are
united in our desire to give back to those risking
their lives to keep us safe.”
Child care providers and trained 4-H youth in cities
and towns across the country are being recruited
by local Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies
to support the “citizen soldiers” from their local
communities. Child care providers who meet state
and local child care regulations will provide four
or more hours of free child care so that service
members can attend to family business or take their
spouses out for a date. Operation Child Care was
designed by NACCRRA for National Guard and
Reserve personnel because they do not typically have
access to the military family support programs provided
to active duty personnel. Child care providers who
volunteer their time for Operation Child Care will
receive official recognition. But most seem to feel
the same as Linda Kitzmiller, a state licensed and
nationally accredited family child care provider
from Washington County, Tennessee, “You don’t have
to recognize me – I am just thrilled and honored
to be able to do something to help our troops.” Adds
Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Department
of Health and Human Services, Dr. Wade Horn, “I
am so proud of America’s child care providers. Every
day they do one of the most important jobs in America.
Now, they are giving even more by volunteering their
time, energy, and assistance to help National
Guard and Reserve personnel when these
heroes come home for a few days for a well deserved
National Guard and Reserve members
with valid military identification and leave orders
will be able to access Operation Child Care services
by calling NACCRRA’s national Child Care Aware® hotline,
1-800-424-2246, or by visiting the Web site at www.ChildCareAware.org.
Service members will be connected to the local
Child Care Resource and Referral Agency in their
community who will link them to participating child
Any child care provider who meets state and local
child care regulations and wants to volunteer is
welcome and encouraged to participate in Operation
Child Care by calling the Child Care Aware® hotline
or their local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.
About Child Care Resource and Referral: Child
Care Resource and Referral Agencies help families
find, select, and pay for child care, as well as
provide training and support to child care providers
and help communities and states meet their child
care and parenting needs. Through the Child Care
Aware® program, funded through a cooperative
agreement with the Child Care Bureau, U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, nearly half a million
families each year
are connected to their community Child Care Resource
and Referral agencies through the national hotline
and Web site, www.ChildCareAware.org .
About NACCRRA: Child Care Aware® and
Operation Child Care are two of NACCRRA’s many
initiatives to improve the development and learning
of all children by providing leadership and support
to state and community Child Care Resource and
Referral Agencies and promoting national policies
and partnerships that facilitate universal access
to quality child care. NACCRRA is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit
organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.,
representing a network of more than 850 state and
local Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies
across the country. To find out more information
about NACCRRA, go to www.naccrra.org .