News You Can Use: Jul. 12, 2004

Index of Articles

Note: Topics below are now bookmarked!
Click on the underlined topic below to link to the pages on that topic.




S.D. Guard Unit Learning Lessons From its
Time In War-Torn Iraq

Deployment Plans Change Annual Guard



Local Guardsmen Volunteer To Go To Iraq

Governor Dispatches National Guard, Police
to Watch Pennsylvania Nuclear Plants

3,000 Texas Guardsmen Called Up



Return to Rejoicing; 22-Month D.C. Guard Deployment Ends After Stint at
Guantanamo Bay



Tricare Regional Transitions Continue

One Source’ Solves Service Member, Family Member Problems



Ephrata, Washington Pays For The War

With Breadwinners Away, Some Military
Families Adjusting To Smaller Incomes



With Brain Injuries From Iraq War Taught To Exercise Their Minds



Troops’ Supporters Express Their

Guard Earns a Salute




National Guard Family
Program Online Communities for families and youth:



TRICARE website for information on health



Civilian Employment Information (CEI) Program Registration for
Army and Air National Guard, Air Force, and Coast Guard Reserve (Note to those viewing this page in
Word or PDF format:
You must copy this address and paste it
into your browser’s address window.)



Cumulative roster of all
National Guard and Reserve who are currently on active duty



Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
contains links and information about schooling, distance education,
scholarships, and organizations devoted to the military family 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 chat rooms for kids.



Disabled 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 and follow-up.



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].




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S.D. Guard Unit Learning Lessons From
its Time In War-Torn Iraq


Aberdeen American News (South Dakota)

July 6, 2004 Tuesday

By Mike Corpos; American News Writer

Lessons learned in the past provide
training opportunities for the future.

That’s how some members of the South
Dakota Guard’s 109th Engineer Battalion see their six-month deployment to
Iraq in 2003.

That tour of duty was the 109th’s first
combat deployment since World War II.

The lessons the 109th learned in Iraq
are dramatically changing the way troops train for possible deployments.

Now, instead of training for direct
clashes with an enemy army, the National Guard must train its members
for more small-scale, surprise attacks by guerilla insurgents.

Based at Fort Meade in Sturgis, the
109th was sent to the Middle East to join with other coalition forces in the
U.S.-led fight to depose Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Lt. Col. Harold Walker of Sturgis, then
a major, was with the 109th at the time.

“We were very busy in Iraq,”
Walker said. “We got there just after the war started.”

Walker said the 109th crossed the
border from Kuwait into Iraq just behind the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

“We were a big part of the first
occupation,” Walker said.

While in country, Walker said his unit
was responsible for troop bed-down – setting up permanent camps for troops to
stay in as well as some main supply route development, or road building.

“The training and discipline skill
we rehearsed for in South Dakota proved very beneficial for us as we went
into that conflict,” Walker said as he toured the 109th’s camp in the
hills of Custer State Park during last month’s Joint Thunder training

Joint Thunder is an annual joint
training opportunity for National Guard and reserve forces from around
the country.

While some South Dakota Guard units
currently in Iraq are performing security operations as opposed to their
actual specialities, Walker said the 109th fulfilled its role as an engineer
outfit by doing various construction projects.

“We also did a lot of work with
the unexploded ordnance people – clearing suspected mine fields,” he

The 109th also provided some supply
convoys back and forth between Iraq and Kuwait, and as the conflict went on,
those supply convoys became a favorite target of insurgents.

“We ran into a couple of things
(combat-wise),” Walker said.

The 109th encountered a few small
skirmishes, Walker said, but suffered no casualties in combat.

Walker, 42, joined the guard at 18 and
spent 11 years with the 109th Engineer Battalion. He currently works as a
full-time public affairs officer for the South Dakota National Guard.

“In the soldier business – which
is what we’re in – being fit is the key to your survival,” said Walker,
an avid mountain biker.

Also in Iraq with the 109th was Command
Maj. Roger
Niederwerder, also of Sturgis.

Niederwerder, a 35-year veteran of the
Guard, said Iraq was his first combat deployment.

Twice he was activated with the 109th.
In 1993 he was sent to Panama and in 2002 to Nicaragua – both were for
humanitarian missions.

“We learned a lot over
there,” said Niederwerder about Iraq. “Now we have to take the
lessons we learned and apply them to our training.”

Niederwerder said the mock surprise
attacks on the 109th’s camp in Custer State Park during Joint Thunder were a
direct result of his and other units’ experiences in Iraq last year.

“It’s always a challenge,” he
said. “We train like we’re going to fight.”




Deployment Plans Change Annual Guard

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Associated Press State & Local Wire

10, 2004, Saturday, BC cycle


Plans to
deploy the Hawaii Army National Guard’s combat brigade to Iraq
in February have altered this year’s annual active duty training at the Big
Island’s Pohakuloa Training Area.

The 3,100
citizen-soldiers of the 29th Infantry Brigade were scheduled to report to
Pohakuloa next Friday. Now, only 500 members based on the Big Island will
train there.

The others
will remain at their home stations and work on pre-deployment issues,
including briefings, updating necessary forms and preliminary medical checks,
said Maj. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman.

The nearly
400 soldiers of the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery, will
undergo infantry training at Bellows Air Force Station in Windward Oahu,
Anthony said, because they are not going to Iraq as an artillery unit.

Army and Hawaii
Army National Guard
planners are still deciding where the 29th Brigade
will have its predeployment training. Fort Bliss, Texas, is one possible

The Hawaii
soldiers have to go to the mainland for predeployment training because
Schofield Barracks, with more than 10,000 of its 25th Infantry Division
soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq, does not have soldiers to support them.

The upcoming
deployment is expected to have an impact on the public schools.

Lt. Jeffrey
Hickman, another Guard spokesman, estimates that 60 to 100 teachers could be
among those deployed.

Norman Pang,
principal of Holomua Elementary School in Ewa Beach, the state’s largest
elementary school, said he has already heard from a dozen parents who are
being called to duty. He said the school, which is on a multitrack system and
already is back in session, has identified these students and will have
counselors talking to them.

Turner, the school’s vice principal, said she can relate to what the students
will go through because her husband, Eric, an active duty soldier, is
deployed to Afghanistan for a year.

She and
other school staff members worked with a handful of students whose parents
were deployed last year. The children appreciated the chance to connect with
peers in the same position and to share their pride in their parents, she

There are
4,897 students in Hawaii with parents in the military reserves, according to
Jessica Gary, a research fellow at the Military Child in Deployment and
Transition, Educational Opportunities Directorate in Virginia.





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Local Guardsmen Volunteer To Go To Iraq


Chattanooga Times Free Press

July 5, 2004 Monday

Twenty-one guardsmen with a
Chattanooga-based artillery unit have volunteered to serve in Iraq with the
state’s largest National Guard regiment.

The members of the 181st Field
Artillery Battalion, headquartered at the National Guard armory on
Holtzclaw Avenue, are now at Camp Shelby, Miss., training for the Iraq
mission with about 3,000 guardsmen with the 278th Armored Cavalry

“I couldn’t see myself sitting
around at home on the couch while other men are putting their lives on the
line,” said Staff Sgt. Billy Cross, 40, of Fort Oglethorpe. “If you
don’t protect your country first, you will not have a thing to protect.”

His brother, Sgt. Kenneth Cross, has
left behind six children at his Rossville home. He said he volunteered
because soldiers should not have to go back to Iraq for second tours of duty
as long as there are servicemen around who have yet to be deployed.

“The wife wasn’t happy at first,
but after we talked about it, she was OK,” he said.

He said having familiar faces from the
181st with him is making the transition to a new unit easier.  

Staff Sgt. Billy Cross said he has spent
several years in intense training for combat and he is ready to go. When the
181st was mobilized in 2003 before the start of the Iraqi ground war, Staff
Sgt. Cross said it was a letdown after the unit never left Fort Campbell, Ky.    

“No one is a warmonger, but when
you spend so much time doing it and the opportunity presents itself, it is
tough sitting on the sidelines,” he said.

Sgt. Chris Blackwell, 29, of East
Ridge, is one of several 181st medics going overseas with the 278th.

“I know I’ve got medical skills
that could possibly bring some of these guys back home to their
families,” he said. “But you don’t want anybody hurt. I’d love to
go over there and sit around and do nothing.”

Sgt. Blackwell, who said he spent three
weeks agonizing over the decision to volunteer, is teaching general first aid
classes to the guardsmen while the regiment is in Mississippi.

Staff Sgt. Timothy B. Prince, 40, said
a lot of soldiers in Iraq are contracting pneumonia because of the country’s
poor air quality. He said the medics are instructing guardsmen to stay away
from the country’s water supply, which is causing hepatitis A.

Staff Sgt. Prince, of Harrison, is
taking a leave of absence from his job as a Hamilton County emergency medical
technician to serve as the senior medical noncommissioned officer. He said
reading about all the deaths and injuries in Iraq made him want to return to
the region he went to during the Persian Gulf War.  

“You can call it patriotism, but I
look at it as taking care of soldiers,” he said. “As a soldier,
this is where I need to be.”

He said medics in the regular Army have
the benefit of treating soldiers who are healthy and in peak physical
condition, while medics in the National Guard often deal with older
servicemen who may be on medication and need to be watched more closely.  

The medics will serve as front-line
relief and must stabilize any injured guardsmen so he can be transported to a
field or base hospital. This hazardous duty has led many of the younger
medics to question Staff Sgt. Prince about his experiences in the Middle East
more than a decade ago.

“They are about to go into one of
the scariest experiences in their lives, when you have to stop thinking and
let your training take over,” he said.

E-mail Lee Pitts at [email protected]



Governor Dispatches National Guard,
Police to Watch Pennsylvania Nuclear Plants

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York Daily Record

July 3, 2004, Saturday

By Sean Adkins

Gov. Ed Rendell ordered the
Pennsylvania National Guard and the state police to hold
round-the-clock patrols of the commonwealth’s five nuclear power plants.

The 24-hour and random, unannounced
security patrols will remain in force through the end of the Independence Day

“Although there currently exists
no credible threat against any Pennsylvania nuclear power facility,”
Rendell said, “in an abundance of caution I have asked the National
and State Police to immediately commence enhanced security measures
at our nuclear power stations.”

The Pennsylvania National Guard
and the state police will work in coordinated fashion with plant operators
and their security teams, said Craig Nesbit, a spokesman for Exelon Nuclear.

Exelon co-owns and operates Three Mile
Island in Dauphin County and Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in York

“We have a lot of experience
working with the Guard,” Nesbit said, “that’s a very comfortable
arrangement for us.”

Aside from state resources,
Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security Team has worked closely with federal
agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission.

Both federal and state branches discuss
and share relevant intelligence information and threat analysis, Rendell

Earlier this year, the NRC instructed
plant operators to maintain a heightened security vigilance between May and
January 2005, said Neil Sheehan, commission spokesman.

Major events such as the Independence
Day holiday, political conventions, elections and the presidential
inauguration might become terrorist targets and are within that time frame,
he said.

“We have not raised the security
level at the power plants,” Sheehan said, “and there is no specific
credible threat against the nuclear sector.”




3,000 Texas Guardsmen Called Up


The Associated Press

July 8, 2004, Thursday, BC cycle

About 3,000 Texas National Guard
members have been called up by the U.S. Army, officials said Thursday.

The soldiers who have received
mobilization orders are part of the 56th Brigade of the 36th Infantry Division
headquartered in Fort Worth. The units that will make up the 56th Brigade
Combat Team are located across Texas.

Lt. Gen. Wayne D. Marty, adjutant
general of Texas, said this is the first divisional brigade in the Texas National
to be mobilized for duty outside the United States since World War

“This is the largest Texas National
formation called up for mobilization into a combat zone during the
current hostilities,” Marty said. “Up until now, smaller units have
been called up to fill larger organizations.”

The troops will report to Fort Hood in
mid-August for training before they head to Iraq early next year, the Fort
Worth Star-Telegram reported in Thursday’s editions. The Iraqi deployment
will last at least 12 months and is expected to be in the Baghdad area,
officials said.

Already, about 2,200 National Guardsmen
from Texas are on active duty, although not all are serving oversees.
Wednesday’s mobilization will mean that at least 25 percent of the state’s
guardsmen will be on active duty.

Many soldiers in the brigade have
suspected for several weeks that the order was coming. The Army had put the
unit on alert status in recent weeks.

Texas is one of the few states left
with significant combat forces available for an Iraqi mission. More than
155,000 reservists are on active duty, 84 percent of them for the Army.

“We talked to the soldiers at
annual training a few weeks ago that it appeared it was going to
happen,” said Capt. Cameron Lenahan, commander of the brigade’s
headquarters company.

The 56th Brigade was selected for the
mission because the 72nd Brigade, based in Dallas, bore the brunt of the
call-ups in 2002 and 2003 to provide security at sensitive defense

“Of the three brigade combat
teams, they were the next guys in the chute,” said division commander
Maj. Gen. Michael Taylor.

Tyler businessman Col. James
“Red” Brown commands the 56th and said the troops are ready.

“I feel like the leadership within
the units has done a good job of preparing the soldiers mentally,” he
told the Star-Telegram. “We’ve been given enough notice to talk to our
employers. Across the board, it’s been a very positive response.



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Soldiers Return to Rejoicing; 22-Month
D.C. Guard Deployment Ends After Stint at Guantanamo Bay


Washington Post

11, 2004 Sunday 


By, Carol
Morello, Washington Post Staff Writer

At the U.S.
Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military police from the D.C. National
had a two-word slogan that they repeated every time they saluted.

bound,” they said, shorthand for the full phrase “honor bound to
defend freedom.”

Capt. Roland
Lane, commander of the 273rd Military Police Company, brought up the slogan
when asked at the unit’s homecoming yesterday whether he had heard or seen
prisoner abuse while at Camp Delta guarding detainees from the war in
Afghanistan. Guantanamo, he said, was not like the notorious Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq, where guards have been accused of torturing and humiliating

‘Honor bound’ was the atmosphere down there,” Lane said, as a military
band played marching tunes on the other side of the D.C. Armory. “The
leadership kept stressing: ‘You’re here to provide fundamental services to
detainees. They’re not here for your amusement. They’re not here for your
entertainment.’ That’s what it was like, from Day One.”

Lane and the
95 men and women who served under him came home yesterday at the end of a
22-month deployment that had them guarding the Capitol and the Pentagon
before heading to Guantanamo for 10 months.

In Cuba, it
was their job to bring food to the prisoners three times a day and escort
them to showers. They were specifically instructed not to even touch the
Korans issued to Muslim detainees, in deference to their religious
sensitivities. Unlike the military police at Abu Ghraib, they did not
participate in interrogations. Dogs were used only as security at the
airport. And several said they knew of no instance in which soldiers posed for
souvenir photographs beside hooded or shackled detainees.

hungry or an angry detainee is not an effective candidate to participate with
the folks who need information,” Lane said.

didn’t skip a beat once the Abu Ghraib story broke,” he added, noting
that a senior officer kept an office less than 30 feet from an active
cellblock. Commanders at Guantanamo took the position that they were doing
things right, he said: “There was nothing to worry about, not even the
slightest change in the way we do business.”

Maj. Gen.
David F. Wherley Jr., commanding general of the D.C. National Guard,
said he was confident there had been no prisoner abuse or torture by the men
and women of the 273rd.

with this group,” he said, noting they had been specially trained in
procedures for guarding enemy prisoners of war. He also said the Guantanamo
mission was less stressful than Abu Ghraib because it was not in an active
combat zone.

“And in
our unit, there aren’t many young kids,” he added, nodding toward the armory
floor, where quite a few soldiers with graying hair were holding reunions
with their grandchildren.

It is too
soon to know how many will decide to leave the Guard after their return from
such a lengthy, wearing deployment. Wherley predicted that they would not be
redeployed for several years — “unless the war goes poorly,” he

But many are
like Lane, who told his fiancee before they married that she needed to make
sure she could accept his commitment to the Guard. 

signed up for it, and I’m here,” said Spec. George Washington, in
civilian life a department store salesman who has been mobilized on one
mission or another for almost three years. “And if I get called up
again, I’ll go.”

Many of the
family members sitting on the bleachers or folding chairs beside the soldiers
could not hide their relief that this deployment had ended without a

McCullough made her son,  Sgt. Michael
McCullough, spin himself around several times to assure her that he had come
home in one piece. Her younger son, Marc, is a military police officer in
another unit. He recently returned from 14 months in Iraq. But he could not
attend his brother’s homecoming ceremony because he is preparing to redeploy
to Germany.

not a good feeling,” their mother acknowledged. “I’m just happy
they didn’t come back in a body bag, because so many others did.”

said she had grown to hate the ringing of a phone or a knock on the front
door. She had to force herself to watch the news on television because it
made her cry.

“I said
a prayer every day, not for just my sons, but for the whole unit,” she
said. “You can’t say a selfish prayer.”

McCullough, 42, intends to remain in the Guard for two years or more, at
least until he reaches the 20 years necessary for retirement.

is my going out with a bang,” he said of his service in Guantanamo.
“Unless I get assigned to Iraq.”

As his
mother listened, she clutched a triangular case holding a folded American
flag that each returning soldier was given.

least he can see it, in living color,” she said. “At least it’s not
draped over him. At least it’s not something you have to make a speech





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DOD Tricare Regional Transitions


United States
Department of Defense

News Release

July 6, 2004

Department of Defense (DoD) today announced the continuation of its
transformation to new military healthcare contractors and changes in regional
areas of responsibility. On July 1, 2004, more than 1 million
Tricare-eligible beneficiaries in Alaska, California, Hawaii, and the Yuma,
Ariz., area, transitioned to the new West Region. These beneficiaries join
with beneficiaries in Oregon, Washington state and northern Idaho who
transitioned on June 1. The Tricare West Region contractor is TriWest
Healthcare Alliance Corp.

this phase of Tricare transitions, beneficiaries in Illinois, Indiana,
portions of Iowa (Rock Island Arsenal area), Kentucky, Michigan, portions of
Missouri (St. Louis area), North Carolina, Ohio, portions of Tennessee (Ft.
Campbell area), southern Virginia, western West Virginia and Wisconsin,
become part of the new Tricare North Region. Beneficiaries in this region
will receive health services and support through their new regional
contractor, Health Net Federal Services, Inc. (HNFS).

benefits, costs and the enrollment process remain the same under the new
regional contracts, and beneficiaries in the North and West Regions, who are
not currently enrolled in Tricare Prime but who are eligible, will have the
opportunity to enroll. Additionally, the new regional contractors will
provide beneficiaries information on enrollment, network providers,
procedures for filing claims and contacts for Tricare assistance within their

military treatment facilities (MTFs) in all regions remain at the core of the
military health system and will now schedule appointments for their
beneficiaries. MTF locations are on the Tricare Web site at

next generation of Tricare contracts consists of a suite of services, awarded
competitively, to provide beneficiaries with the highest quality of care, a
higher level of customer service and added value in all aspects of the
world-class Tricare benefit. These new contracts are making a strong program
better, building on the best aspects of a system developed over the last 10
years, and providing a system of incentives for improvements in quality care,
access and claims payments for the military’s 8.9 million Tricare
beneficiaries. In addition to three regional contracts for health services
and support, the department awarded specific contracts for mail order
pharmacy, retail pharmacy, retiree dental care, the Uniformed Services Family
Health Plan, Tricare global remote overseas, Tricare healthcare for Puerto
Rico, marketing and education programs, information services, national quali!
ty monitoring, and claims processing for Medicare-eligible beneficiaries.

Net Federal Services, Inc. (HNFS), a government operations division of Health
Net, Inc., based in Sacramento, Calif., will provide healthcare services and
support to the approximately 2.85 million beneficiaries in the new Tricare
North Region. Beneficiaries in the new North Region may access health care
information by calling Health Net at(877) Tricare, (877) 874-2273, or online
. In the next phase of the transition, the remaining areas in new North
Region — Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, Vermont, northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., and eastern West
Virginia — will complete the North Region transition on Sept. 1.

Healthcare Alliance is a Phoenix-based corporation that supports 2.7 million
Tricare beneficiaries in the new Tricare West Region. Beneficiaries in the
West Region may access health information by calling (888) TRIWEST, (888)
874-9378, or online at
in the remaining portion of Arizona, Colorado, southern Idaho, portions of
Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, portions of Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New
Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, western Texas, Utah and Wyoming will
complete the West region transition to TriWest on Oct. 1.

For more information on the contracts
and the transition schedule, visit the Tricare Web site at
Beneficiaries may access information on the Tricare
benefit on the Tricare Web site at For additional information,
beneficiaries may visit Tricare online,, or consult their service and/or local




‘Military One Source’ Solves Service
Member, Family Member Problems

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By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

Washinton, June 30, 2004 – The Defense
Department has established a “one stop” place to go whenever
service members or family members need assistance with any kind of problem.

It’s called “Military One
Source,” and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a
year, according to John M. Molino, deputy undersecretary of defense for
military community and family policy.

“Military One Source is a
revolutionary augmentation to the family services we currently have on
military installations around the world,” Molino explained during an
interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

Each service had its own One Source
program, and now DoD is bringing them together and calling it Military One
Source, Molino noted.

He noted that it’s intended to
complement assistance offered to military families by the services. Molino
said Military One Source “leverages technology and enables DoD to
provide assistance to families and service members via the Internet or a
toll-free telephone number.”

The services include everything from
common, everyday difficulties that might face a family to life’s most
complicated situations, he noted.

Molino said Military One Source is
available 24 hours a day around the country and around the world. “It’s
a remarkable way to … step forward into a new generation of providing
services,” he said. “It’s a place where no matter when that
situation occurs, the military family member or service member could make a
phone call or go on the Internet and begin to get some help.”

The military services provide a lot of
family services on installations, but Molino pointed out that about
two-thirds of military families live off base. “The people who are off
the installation tend to be the most junior folks,” he added.

“They may not have the financial
resources to have two cars, or to get themselves back and forth to the
installations to get those services,” Molino continued. “So what
One Source does is provide the opportunity to make that phone call and let us
bring the services, literally, figuratively and electronically, to your

When someone calls Military One Source
for help, the person answering the phone has at least a master’s degree in
social work or some kind of counseling service, Molino noted. “That
person is trained specifically to deal with military issues — issues that
complicate military life. So they’re very sensitive to what you ask,” he

“Some people think they’re the only
people who ever experienced whatever their problem is, and, of course,
they’re not,” Molino emphasized. “Most everyone goes through
different phases and different cycles.”

The voice on the other end doesn’t make
judgments about situations, he noted. “They’re there to listen to what
you have to say, evaluate it, and give you the beginnings of an answer or
actually the answer to your question,” Molino said.

Military One Source runs the gamut of
situations: from needing a plumber in the middle of the night to fix a broken
pipe, to needing veterinary service for a sick dog. It also handles things
like helping families new to an area find childcare, or information about the
school system, summer jobs – whatever is needed.

“One Source can get all that
information and provide it to you in a most efficient manner, whether it be
electronically or getting back to you on the telephone,” Molino said.

People shouldn’t be afraid or
embarrassed to seek help from Military One Source, he said, but he
acknowledged some people may be reluctant to ask for help. “You try to
convince people that the person at the other end of the phone isn’t going to
be judgmental about your situation,” he said.

Word of mouth is the best way to get the
word out about Military One Source within a unit, he noted. For example,
Molino said, “If I’d made a phone call and had a positive experience, I
can tell you about it. I can say, ‘You know, I tried One Source one time, and
it worked for me. You ought to give it a shot.’ Asking for help isn’t a sign
of weakness; it’s really a sign of being smart – it’s a sign of
smartness,” Molino said.

What bothers Molino is when people say
they don’t need help from Military One Source because of their unit
assignment. “I heard that in some units they say, ‘We’re in an Army
Ranger unit,’ (or) ‘We’re in a Navy SEAL unit, and we don’t need that kind of
support,'” Molino said. “That’s utter nonsense! If the pipe breaks
in the middle of the night in the home of a Navy SEAL, you need a plumber
just as badly as somebody else.”

“When you figure out that this is a
great resource that provides help, you ought take advantage of it,”
Molino said.

He pointed out when service members are
deployed, they can put their minds at ease knowing that if their family needs
help, it’s only a phone call away.

Putting himself in that position, Molino
said, “I would find it very comfortable to know that my family back home
has that option, that service available. And they don’t have to wait for the
family center to open. They don’t have to find a way to get to the family
center. My wife wouldn’t have to find a way to have the children taken care

“We can do things instantly, any
time of the day or night,” he continued. “If there’s a language
problem, One Source is able to provide services in more than 100 languages,
usually in less than a minute’s delay.”

Military One Source also can be helpful
to active duty service members. They don’t have to take time off from work or
training to solve a problem. All they have to do is call Military One Source,
Molino noted.

He emphasized that Military One Source
counseling service isn’t mental health counseling, or counseling for an
illness that might be burdening somebody.

“We have a health care system that
provides that service,” he noted. “This is a different kind of
counseling. It’s for folks that experience difficulties day to day. Let’s say
a service member has been deployed. The family has adjusted to his or her
absence. Somebody is walking the dog, taking out the garbage. When he comes
back, he has to fit back into the family. Others had performed those roles
that he traditionally performed. Sometimes that creates friction.”

All families have some degree of
difficulty, and most of them manage to work through the problem. But
sometimes they need a little assistance, and one toll- free phone call can
get them that kind of counseling, Molino said.

Military Once Source also is available
to National Guardsmen and reservists being called to active duty for
Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

“We found that it works as well for
guardsmen and reservists, especially because they tend not to be close to
military installations,” Molino said. “They can get that kind of
support through the armory. The Guard and Reserve components initially went
in a different direction with a different provider. Then they realized that
One Source actually was the gold standard, and they shifted over after about
six months.”

The toll-free numbers for Military One
Source are:

From the
United States: (800) 342-9647.

outside the United States (where available): (800) 3429-6477.

collect: (484) 530-5747.


Back to Table of Contents


Ephrata, Washington Pays For The War; A
small town’s National Guard soldiers trained hard for duty in Iraq. No one
trained their families for the financial burden of their absence



August, 2004

By Joan Caplin and Ellen McGirt

It’s two minutes before parade time on
a sunny Saturday morning when Sheila Kelly, 40, dissolves into tears. Her son
Michael, 10,has disappeared just as he was to take his place in the

“Have you seen him?” she asks
friends and neighbors. Ephrata, a farming town of 6,800 in eastern
Washington,  just south of the Grand
Coulee dam, is an unlikely spot for a child abduction. It’s a place where
life is lived behind unlocked doors and on a first-name basis. But now
there’s an undercurrent of fatigue and worry. “It’s been a really long
year,” Kelly says.

Her husband Wade, 41, is also missing.
A lab technician with a chemical company in nearby Moses Lake, Wade is a
Specialist E-4 in the 1161st Transportation Company of the Washington Army
National Guard, based in Ephrata. Since May 2003, he and other members
of the 1161st have been driving armored supply trucks in Iraq. They are on
the longest deployment of any Guard unit since World War II.

They’ve logged over 900,000 miles and
carted 14,000 loads. They have been ambushed delivering mail to Fallujah and
have driven overland mines; five of them have been injured seriously enough
to be sent home, none fatally. Their tour of duty, originally six months, has
been extended. Twice. This year’s parade, part of Ephrata’s

95th annual Sage-n-Sun Festival, was
supposed to welcome back Wade Kelly and the other 129 members of the 1161st,
34 of them women, now in Iraq. Instead, their families will be marching
without them.

For the past 18 months those families
have had to earn, budget ,spend and generally get along on their own,
financially and emotionally. They’ve also had to dig deep into their pockets
to pay for supplies for the citizen soldiers in Iraq. For some that has meant
taking jobs (or second jobs) and spending their savings.

They’re not risking their lives the way
the members of the 1161st are, but they are taking on big burdens
and making big sacrifices all the same. It’s been harder than anyone could
have expected.

For many Americans in rural, decidedly
not-rich towns like this, joining the National Guard is an economic
choice, a part-time commitment in exchange for a second income or a way to
pay for college. Grant County, of which Ephrata is the county seat, has a
median household income of $ 32,336 a year. But people here think of the
Guard as more than just a way to make money–it’s also an opportunity to
serve. Eastern Washington has been studded with military bases since World
War II, and the Guard and other services are a big part of the local economy
and of everyday life.

 Now Guard and Reserve troops are playing a large role in a difficult
and controversial war. About one-fourth of the 135,000 U.S. troops now in
Iraq are Guard troops or reservists. “I don’t think that any of us
predicted that there would have been such a reliance on the Reserve brought
into federal service for such a lengthy period of time,” says Col. Rick
Patterson, spokesman for the Washington Army National Guard.
“The sacrifice for them, their families and their communities has been

 In Ephrata, business is off in local bars and restaurants. Right
in front of the SplashZone, a 10,000-square-foot community pool where most
kids spend the summer, sits the armory that is home to the 1161st.
“There was always something going on over there,” says

Wes Crago, Ephrata’s city
administrator. “Now it looks like an empty parking lot.”

At the fire station across from the
armory, Jeremy Burns, chief of the Ephrata fire department, is nervous about
this summer. He relies on the 1161st a lot for help in wildfire season,
particularly for quick repairs and heavy trucks to pull gear into and out of
tough terrain. The past two summers were quiet, and the hills around town are
full of dry grass and brush. “There’s a lot of fuel out there. We really
need them around,” he says.

 The economic strain on Guard families began before the 1161st
shipped out. Tapped for service in February 2003, the unit spent three months
training at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, about 200 miles to the west. The short
distance made frequent weekend visits impossible to resist, so families
packed up their kids and made the drive over the Cascade Range. Even on the
cheap–$ 75-a-night motel rooms with kitchenettes–the travel costs mounted.

Then there were the supplies. The
1161st was outfitted mainly by the U.S. Army. “The Army wasn’t ready for
the deployment, so we had to buy a lot of stuff,” says Kathy Bryson,
whose husband Joe is a sergeant with the 1161st. The troops were to ship out
with four uniforms, two pairs of boots and four pairs of socks. Some soldiers
didn’t get all that stuff or wanted extras, which they had to buy on their
own. The Army also ran out of rain ponchos, compasses and some special
equipment. Joe Bryson spent $ 70 on a training uniformand $ 50 for a rifle
sling that fit better than the one the Army gave him. “Between visits
and supplies, we probably spent $ 3,000 getting [each of] them out of the
country,” his wife says. “We sometimes felt that the Army should
have been doing more for the guys. For us too. There was a lot to manage all
at once.”

 Once the 1161st got to Iraq, its members found they needed
everything from bug spray, toilet paper and tampons to construction supplies.
They were responsible for building their barracks and camps. Again the
families picked up the slack. Joe Bryson sent home lists, and Kathy went to
the hardware store for duct tape, a drill, a table saw, hinges and a
screwdriver set. She even sent an air conditioner. She says, “It’s kind
of like running two households.”

Kathy says that she has spent about $
3,000 on hardware and supplies and another $ 2,200 or so shipping it all to
Iraq. Domestic rates apply to letters sent to soldiers overseas via U.S.
mail, but there is no discount on packages. Kathy says the expense has wiped

their savings.

National Guard
spokesmen say that there is often confusion among soldiers during deployment
about what gear is required and what is optional. Guard spokesman Col.
Patterson says the 1161st had most of what it needed, but “sometimes
it’s just a matter of supplies getting there. Our guys were sent early on,
and they saw shortages that other people didn’t.”

 Patterson says, “The Army is pretty clear. They give you
what is necessary and what will work. Typically, the items that the families
supply are considered comfort and specialty items.” One frequently requested
extra, for instance, is baby wipes, which are excellent for cleaning sand out
of the eyes. Patterson says, “Do they make the soldier more comfortable?
Yes. Would I [send them to] my loved one? Absolutely. Is the Army going to
supply baby wipes?

Not likely.”

The volunteer spirit is visible
throughout Ephrata. Stories about neighbors mowing the lawns for families of
the 1161st in Iraq are ubiquitous. At Second Hand Prose, one of two
bookstores in town, a carton full of donated books and CDs sits in front of
the cash register. These are shipped off twice a month to the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the 1161st Family Readiness
Program, a self-funded volunteer group that supports family members and acts
as a liaison between them and Guard brass, has been working hard to raise
money for the big celebration they plan to hold for the 1161st’s eventual

All of the families of the 1161st have
had to bear a burden, but that burden hasn’t been the same for everybody.
According to a March 2003 report by the General Accounting Office, Congress’
investigative arm, 29% of reservists reported earning more on active duty
than in their civilian jobs, 30% reported no change and 41% reported an
income loss. Wade Kelly is in the last group. His National Guard pay
is about 40% less than the roughly $ 65,000 he earns as a lab technician for
Moses Lake Industries. But the Kellys

are lucky: The company has helped them
out to the tune of about $ 1,600 a month. (Federal law requires employers to
hold jobs for Guard troops called to active duty but not to pay them or
provide benefits while they’re away.) The company also kept the family on
Wade’s health insurance plan–and even pitched in when Sheila’s washer-dryer
broke down. The company sent a repairman and paid the bill. “They’ve
been so good to us,” Sheila says. “We could have lost our home, our
car. When your income just meets your expenses, you can’t take that kind of
hit.” Lately she’s found herself with a lot of extra expenses. Things
that Wade would have handled–a broken doorknob, a stalled

lawnmower, a leak in the bathroom–have
fallen to her. “The leak caused a mold problem. It cost $ 1,800 to fix
it,” she says.

 One of Sheila’s biggest expenses has been phone bills. Soldiers
in Iraq can call the States with discount AT&T phone cards for 25[cents]
per minute. Many members of the 1161st and their families didn’t know about
the military discount until recently and wound up paying more than twice as
much. Wade Kelly bought a cell phone to stay in touch, which was even more
expensive. Sheila says that cost up to $ 1,000 a month, “but I’d pay
anything to hear his voice.” Lately he’s switched to the discount phone

And then there’s the question of how to
spend those expensive minutes. “The military tells you not to tell
[soldiers] any bad news because it upsets them,” Sheila says. She didn’t
tell her husband when their elder son, Brice, 17, was hospitalized for
pneumonia shortly after Wade shipped out last May. When he came home on
furlough and found out, Wade was angry. “They get mad when they think
you’re keeping things from them,” Sheila says. “The illness did not
hurt the family financially. We did not have to go through what the others
did with the government health insurance.”

 Still, even with all that help, Sheila, a cook for the Moses Lake
school system, has had to get a second job tutoring middle school kids in an
afterschool program called Gear Up. “I’m fighting tooth and nail to make
sure that Wade has something to come home to,” she says. Brice has
sacrificed a summer job so he can look after his sister Sarah, 11, and
brother Michael while their mother works.

Activated National Guard
soldiers and their families get benefits they are not entitled to in
peacetime. One of those is a set of health insurance plans called Tricare,
which are managed by private companies hired by the Department of Defense.
For families who were otherwise uninsured, the coverage is a godsend. But for
those who lost good insurance that they’d been receiving through a civilian
employer, things are more complicated.

Families of the 1161st had a choice
between Tricare Standard, a fee-for-service plan in which patients can pick
their own doctors but pay 20% for outpatient care, and Tricare Prime Remote,
an HMO that offers less choice but is free. Neither plan charges premiums.

There was a good deal of confusion at
first–for the patients as well as the providers–about who had what coverage
and which doctors accepted which plans. Some families have spent months
navigating the system looking for doctors. “There’s lots of means

to get information to people, but it
doesn’t always work,” admits Steve Lillie, deputy chief for joint
health-plan coordination with the Tricare Management Activity of the
Department of Defense.

Dr. James Irwin, a general surgeon at
the Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake, accepts Tricare.
“Reluctantly,” he says. “I feel an obligation.” Tricare
reimburses doctors at rates close to those paid by Medicare, the federal
program mainly for people 65 and older. Medicare reimbursement rates are
generally much lower than those of private insurers.

Irwin, 63, himself a Navy reservist who
returned from Iraq last September after a 5 1/2-month tour of duty, joined
the Reserves in the mid-’80s. When he was deployed, he was worried about what
would happen to the busy practice he’d built up. His wife Frances, a
registered nurse, managed the office while he was away, hiring surgeons to
see his patients. The patients’ insurers paid Irwin, and he paid his
replacements a per diem. The expense of keeping the office open, however, was
more than Irwin collected in fees. He lost $ 200,000 while he was away. He
was willing to pay the price to keep the practice going rather than have to
start it up from zero when he returned.

The Irwins did get some relief from a
federal law that cap interest rates on loans to service people at 6% while
they’re on active duty. The Irwins have two mortgages above that rate, as
well as credit-card debt. Irwin says he had few expenses overseas, but within
the first three weeks of his deployment, “the dog got sick, we lost one
horse and another horse needed surgery. Big vet bills. Plus, the pump went
out in the well.” Irwin says that he had to borrow $ 30,000 to pay his
employees’ salaries and the lease on his office when he got back.

The financial toll of war hasn’t been
as tough on Marcee McLain’s family as it has been on some others. Since being
deployed, her husband, Sgt. First Class Merle McLain, 36, has been making $
1,000 a month more than he did in peacetime as a full-time National Guard
employee. Roughly half is for combat duty; the rest is from the tax-exempt
status extended to soldiers in certain combat zones.

“I’m paying off our debts,”
says Marcee. “It’s been a great financial thing, but I’d give it all
back to have my husband home.” Budgeting used to be Merle’s job. Shortly
after he left, however, Marcee, who is a self-confessed “huge
shopper,” bought herself a bunch of financial primers and taught herself
to save. “All the books said pay yourself first,” she says. It took
her several months to figure out how to put away 15% of her husband’s
paycheck, even with the extra income. Now she makes a list before she sets
foot in a store, and she keeps her credit cards sealed away, literally,
“frozen inside a gallon jug of water,” she says.

Marcee, the baby-faced 31-year-old
mother of three-year-old twins Alex and Sara, is now the civilian coordinator
of the 1161st Family Readiness Program. She admits to having “days of
peace and other days.” One of those other days came this April when Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced an additional 120 days in the sand for
6,600 deployed members of the Reserves and Guard. “I felt like I’d been
sucker punched,” she says.  But
with newfound stoicism, Marcee soon snapped back. “My husband has not
complained once,” she says. “It’s very humbling when it’s
92[degrees] here and I’m in shorts and a tank top and hot, and it’s
152[degrees] over there and he’s in his combat uniform.”

It’s one minute to parade time, and a
sheepish Michael Kelly emerges from the nearby high school, where he was
hanging out with other kids. His mother Sheila dries her tears and beams.
“Let’s have a parade,” she says, laughing. Accompanied by the
drumbeats of the 133rd Washington Army National Guard Band, the
families clamber into pickups and flatbeds and begin to wave flags and blow
kisses to their neighbors waiting in folding chairs up and down the one main
road through town. The people along the route shout their encouragement and

Sometime later in the afternoon, at a
ceremony on the courthouse lawn, Marcee McLain takes the podium, her knees
shaking: “I would like to thank the citizens of Ephrata for all you have
done for each of us the past year and a half. While it might have seemed
small to you, it meant the world to us.” After her speech, Marcee found
her mother. She was crying. “She said I would never have done this in
high school,” Marcee says. “She told me, ‘You have

Sage-n-Sun behind them, Marcee and the
other family members are looking forward to the day the 1161st returns
home–maybe this October, but no later than February 2005, when the company
will have hit the maximum of two years on active duty. The families are
planning a big celebration, “a humdinger of a bash,” Marcee says.
“Heck, we [will have] made it through 116 weeks. We deserve a party too.
I truly believe anyone who was left behind serves their country too.”




With Breadwinners Away, Some Military
Families Adjusting To Smaller Incomes

Back to Table of Contents

Associated Press State & Local Wire

11, 2004, Sunday, BC cycle

By Cristina
Rodriguez, Associated Press Writer


families have had to make adjustments not only to their loved ones being
deployed, but also to smaller household budgets.

Sealy, who runs the Malvern-based military family assistance center serving
four counties, says she’s helped families re-adjust their lifestyles to fit
military salaries, which can be significantly less than civilian paychecks.

of them have to learn to think before they buy,” she said. “Some
really have to practice economics and maybe they had not had to in the past.
I think most of them can make it if they don’t buy new things, but there are
those families that have a tremendous amount of bills before the soldier
departed, and they have it pretty hard.”

Arkansas soldiers are making more money than in their civilian jobs, while
some companies such as Wal-Mart are making up the difference between lower
military pay and what a soldier was earning as a civilian, said Capt.
Kristine Munn, Arkansas National Guard spokeswoman.

But families
across the state are hit hard when the military payroll is unpredictable. A
few weeks ago, military families across the state saw unusually small
paychecks because pay advances from several months were taken out at once.

the soldiers and airmen, never really know when that debt is going to be
repaid,” she said. “It always does catch up but you never know when
it’s coming out.”

military branch has relief funds that give out no-interest loans or grants to
families in emergencies.

The Arkansas
National Guard’s relief fund, which uses money collected by the United
Way of Pulaski County, has given an average of $800 to 43 families so far.

Nazzaro, the agency’s president, said families usually need the money within
a few months after someone is deployed as they readjust to a lower income.
The fund, established in March, has about $60,000 to help families to pay for
monthly bills or emergencies.

“It was
apparent this was an unusual situation,” he said. “Most of the time
people we are referring for assistance are people who have a permanent
financial burden. This is not the situation. We’re referring people here as
direct results of activation or deployment of one of the breadwinners in the





Back to Table of Contents


Soldiers With Brain Injuries From Iraq
War Taught To Exercise Their Minds


The Associated Press

July 10, 2004, Saturday, BC cycle

By Larry Margasak, Associated Press


Brain injury specialists at the Army’s
premier medical center have taught Spec. Jamie Brown how to exercise his mind
and get it working again.

He is learning to recall the last thing
he read and remember the next place he is going, just as he learned to be a
cook and college student in civilian life – and a forward artillery observer
for the Indiana National Guard.

Brown, 22, knows
progress can be slow after a grenade explodes in your tent and the blast
sends you hurtling into a metal pole.

The Associated Press interviewed Brown
and two of his doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington to
see how the military and Veterans Affairs Department treats brain-injured
soldiers and airmen.

Some are injured in plane crashes and
vehicle accidents. Many more are victims of roadside explosions and
rocket-propelled grenade attacks in Iraq.

Brown came to Walter Reed in a
medicated stupor in early December. At the combat hospital in Iraq where he
was first treated, he learned that he had lost a kidney, his adrenal gland
and spleen. His pancreas were damaged. Shrapnel in his stomach caused a
stabbing pain.

And his brain was damaged.

Brown became a patient in the Defense
and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Walter Reed. It is one of eight brain
injury facilities run jointly by the departments of Defense and Veterans

The centers report that traumatic brain
injuries now account for 14 percent to 20 percent of casualties for those who
survive combat.

Brown was lucky, his doctors said. His
brain damage was mild enough to permit recovery, even though he was injured
when he was not wearing body armor or his helmet.

“He’s made remarkable
progress,” said Dr. Lou French, a neuropsychologist who has been guiding
Brown through rehabilitation.

French and other specialists have tried
to improve Brown’s memory, problem-solving ability, speech, use of language
and speed in making decisions.

Among the techniques are:

-a short story about a storm, with a
dozen details to be recalled.

-plastic balls, arranged in patterns,
to be duplicated by the patient with the fewest number of moves.

-14 minutes of nonstop concentration on
a computer screen, with a mouse click needed every time a designated letter

-pictures of objects to identify, as
common as an acorn and as infrequently seen as a mathematical protractor used
for measuring angles on paper.

“It was very draining,” Brown

Brown was injured on Nov. 20, 2003, in
Iraq while sitting in his tent. He said he was watching a movie with fellow
guardsmen when a grenade exploded about 8 feet away.

“The next thing I know, boom. I
can remember feeling the heat, I can remember seeing the dirt and the sand
fly everywhere,” he said.

Brown arrived at Walter Reed two weeks
later. For a while, every day was a blur. His weight had dropped from 170
pounds to 110. He awoke one day to find his wife next to him.

“My first day of full
consciousness,” he said.

It was the start of a long distance
race to recovery as Brown learned the first day he had a dental appointment
at the hospital.

“I asked my wife six times where
we were going,” he said. “I may have to read something a couple of
times instead of just once.”

Brown’s first test of retention and
memory “suggested he wasn’t retaining things the way he should,”
French said.

“He had a tendency to get an idea
in his head and he couldn’t let it go. There would be one part of a story he
would keep repeating. He couldn’t remember other parts,” the doctor

Someone with major brain trauma often
loses confidence, said Dr. Deborah Warden, who is based at Walter Reed but is
national director of the government’s brain injury network.

She has seen brain-injured soldiers
wait until the mess hall was about to close before arriving for meals, just
to avoid crowds, the cacophony of many conversations and the sudden sound of
a dropped tray.

Many soldiers experience what she
called blast-plus injuries: the initial explosion which can jar the brain,
followed by the kind of blunt trauma Brown experienced when he hit his head.

A neurologist and psychiatrist, Warden
said she is trying to link together the experiences of blast victims to see
whether there is a common thread in their injuries that may lead to new
treatments. She even videotaped one soldier’s vivid description of the blast
that cost him his legs.

“It’s important for us to find out
if blast patients are different,” she said. “We’re looking into it
vigorously. We’re linking together their stories about injuries, problems,
the immediate aftermath.”

The one private facility in the
government’s brain injury network, Virginia NeuroCare in Charlottesville,
Va., is in a residential setting. Patients are taken around town to
reacquaint them with the experiences of normal living.

“In an explosion, there are
emotional problems,” said Dr. George Zitnay, who runs the facility.

“They witness someone being blown
up, they see a friend die, there’s trauma. There are people with lingering
fears, nightmares and anxiety. They are afraid of the future: Will I be able
to go home, get a job, get back in the military?”

The link to normal life worked for
Brown, who said his most dramatic improvement came in April when he went back
to familiar territory, his home town of Evansville, Ind., for a short leave.
The surroundings improved his mental state, Brown said.

French agreed.

“I sensed he was much less
distressed,” the neuropsychologist said. “His speech was smoother,
he spoke at a normal rate, he smiled more, he was generally happier.”

Brown now is thinking about the future.
He’d like to return to college, at least part time.

“We want to see any pattern that
he’s forward-looking,” French said. “Looking forward helps




Back to Table of Contents


Troops’ Supporters Express Their


(Fort Lauderdale, FL)

11, 2004 Sunday Broward Metro Edition

Nicole T. Lesson Staff Writer


serving in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Kenrich John missed the birth of his first child,

On Saturday,
he held her close — and the 15-month-old kept a hold on him — while sitting
in the crowd at Bayfront Park as elected officials and the military paid
homage to troops that served overseas.

John and his
daughter were among hundreds of Florida National Guard and Reserves
soldiers and their families who came out for “A Salute to Florida’s
Heroes,” organized by the Guard, Miami-Dade County and the city of

The event,
one of five celebrations throughout the state, provided an opportunity for
the South Florida community to show its support for the troops.

returned in March with Bravo Company 1/124th Infantry. After spending more
than a year in Iraq, his challenge on returning home was to readjust to
family life.

“I had
to turn it down a notch when I got home, everything over there was so
intense. I just took it day by day and adjusted,” said John, of Pembroke

overseas, the soldier focused on his military work because being away from
family and friends was too hard.

I was there, I did not think about it. I kept it in the back of my mind to
survive so I could come back to see her and my wife,” he said.

Amaya has
had to make some adjustments as well, since her father came home.

not going to mommy anymore; she is coming to me. All day she wants to be with

Gov. Jeb
Bush, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz were among the public
officials who praised the troops and their loved ones for their sacrifice.
“This is something we missed after the Vietnam War,” said Maj. Gen.
Douglas Burnett, head of the Florida Guard. “As a nation, it’s important
to stop, pause and take a moment to say thanks. When we mobilize the National
and the Reserves, we mobilize the family as well.”

After the
hourlong ceremony, a variety of musical performers took the stage, including
Shadow Creek, Albita, Fulanito and Elvis Crespo. The event had children’s
activities, food from around the world and fireworks.

service can stretch out to an eight-year commitment. It begins with active
duty, usually for three years, followed by an optional five years of Guard,
Reserve or in some cases, Individual Ready Reserve.

The United
States has about 138,000 troops in Iraq and 20,000 in Afghanistan. That
includes about 300 Florida National Guard troops in Iraq and more than
400 in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt.
Marcel Taylor, a West Palm Beach father of three, took the day to enjoy
family and saw some faces he hasn’t seen in a few months.

is awesome and our first official welcome home,” said Taylor, also of
the Bravo Company 1/124th Infantry. “Today is great, because when we got
back many of us went our separate ways. Everyone is so happy to see each

Nicole T. Lesson can be reached at [email protected]
or 954-385-7920

National Guard Earns a Salute        

Back to Table of Contents

Times Tribune

By Brian


Allison Stanco joined the Army National Guard to pay for college. But
the six-year enlistment changed when she was deployed after the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11.

actually re-enlisted while I was in Germany to make a 20-year career out of
it because of the pride, the honor, the sense of duty and sense of service to
country and to those who perished,” she said.

The University of Scranton graduate student was one of about 50 members of
Headquarters and Headquarters Company 55th Brigade of the Pennsylvania
National Guard recognized Saturday at a Freedom Salute Award ceremony,
designed to recognize guardsmen deployed overseas after the Sept. 11 attacks.

One member scheduled to be honored is serving in Iraq. Another 10 to 12
people were training in Indiana before being sent to Afghanistan to help
train that country’s new army.

The Guard, whose activation was more associated with natural disasters, found
it was needed elsewhere. The 55th was sent to Central Europe to provide extra
security for American bases.
“You never really thought you’d be going overseas to guard stuff over
there,” Master Sgt. Joseph Danowski said. “The National Guard
is designed for local governments, natural disasters … Now everybody
joining has to realize we could get called up.”

Current members of the Guard also must prepare for nontraditional assignments,
although additional call-ups are not expected before January.

“I don’t think anybody could have imagined having a mission like that
before Sept. 11,” Col. John Gronski, commander of the 55th Brigade,

But after six months at bases in Germany, Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands,
Guard members returned more accustomed to extra vigilance.

“It makes you more aware of what’s going on,” Sgt. Danowski said.
“You don’t just walk down the street. The awareness of most people in
the Guard has tripled.”
Guardsmen received a flag, special coin, certificate and a lapel pin during
the ceremony. A second pin was given to the members’ spouses and a kit of
toys and games went to the children.

“It’s really not about soldiers who go forth and serve our country in
difficult times, but about family members who stay at home and support at
that time,” Col. Gronski said during the ceremony.

Those families are connected after the time overseas. Husbands and wives at
home supported each other while the Guard bonded in Europe.

It’s a reason Sgt. Stanco listed when explaining why she re-enlisted.

“Our unit’s grown,” she said. “We’re more like a family now.
It’s loyalty to the unit and service to the country, whether it’s stateside
or overseas.”


                                                                   End                         Back to Table of Contents