News You Can Use: Nov. 30, 2004

Index of Articles

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

 

 

READINESS

Pentagon Creates 11 More WMD U.S. Support Teams

 

DEPLOYMENT

National Guard
Unit Celebrates Thanksgiving Before Shipping Out

Hawaii-Based
Sailors Headed To Western Pacific

Deploying Troops Bid A Tearful Farewell

Trying To Cope With Heartrending
Deployment

Families Key Part Of Guard Deployment

 

REUNION

Tipton Soldier Happy To Be Home

Soldier Reunited With Four Children After Nearly 1 Year

 

GUARD IN IRAQ

N.C. National
Guard Soldier Uses Coffee Skills In Iraq

Stretched Thin,
U.S. Active, Reserve Troops In New Mix

 

HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH DEPLOYMENT

Nonprofit Improves
Soldiers’ Holidays

Thanksgiving Hurts
For Single Mom Training For Iraq

An Empty Place At The
Table; National Guardsmen’s Families Mark a Holiday As They Serve In Iraq

Troops, Families Hang On To Hope For The
Holidays N.C. Soldier, Wife Make It Their Mission To Cope

 

HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH AFTERMATH

After Putting Her
Life On Hold, Veteran Of Iraq Is Moving On;
Duty In War Zone Left Former MP Changed In Ways Big and Small

 

HEALTH ISSUES

Norman Man Survives Leukemia, Combat Zone

 

CHILDREN AND YOUTH

Operation:
Military Kids at Work in New Hampshire

 

GENERAL

Thanking Our Troops

Holiday Stress and Deployment; Helpful Hints from
Army OneSource

Volunteers Give Troops A Local Home For The Holiday

Idaho
Governor Spending Thanksgiving With Troops In La.

New
Card Line Salutes Soldiers; Hallmark Says Its Collection Reflects The Times And
Meets Consumer Demand

Santa
Comes Early To Rural Alaska

Soldier’s Daughters Send
Shoes To Help Afghan Children

 

Websites:

 

National Guard Family
Program Online Communities for families and youth:

https://www.guardfamily.org/

http://www.guardfamilyyouth.org/

 

 

TRICARE website for information on health
benefits

http://www.tricare.osd.mil/

 

 

Civilian Employment Information (CEI) Program Registration for
Army and Air National Guard, Air Force, and Coast Guard Reserve

https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/esgr/index.jsp (Note to those viewing this page in
Word or PDF format:
You may have to 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

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2004/d20040331ngr1.pdf

 

 

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

http://www.militarychild.org/index.cfm

 

 

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 chat rooms for kids.

http://www.militarystudent.org

 

 

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.

http://www.armyds3.org

 

 

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].

 

 

READINESS

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Pentagon Creates 11 More WMD U.S. Support Teams

 

Reuters

23 Nov 2004

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – The Pentagon is establishing
11 additional National Guard teams trained to assist local authorities in the
event of a domestic attack involving weapons of mass destruction, the U.S.
military said on Monday.

The new
Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams, or WMD-CST, bring to 55 the
number of National Guard units that could be deployed quickly under a Defense
Department program designed to help local authorities respond in an attack.

 

“Today’s
action to establish these 11 teams is a final step toward fulfilling the
request of Congress that every state and territory have a WMD-CST,” the
Pentagon said in a statement.

The new
teams will be stationed in Washington, D.C., Delaware, Guam, Montana, North
Dakota, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, the U.S. Virgin Islands,
Vermont and Wyoming, the Pentagon said.

Each team
consists of 22 full-time members of the Army and Air National Guard who would
be ready to assist emergency responders and to provide medical and technical
assistance, the Pentagon said.

 

 

DEPLOYMENT

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National
Guard

Unit Celebrates Thanksgiving Before Shipping Out

 

The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 26, 2004, Friday

ALEXANDRIA, La. – Idaho Gov. Dirk
Kempthorne helped serve Thanksgiving dinner for more than 3,000 troops from
the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Combat Brigade Team who are awaiting
deployment to the Middle East at England Airpark.

The unit – made up of troops from nine
state – was scheduled to begin shipping out Thursday night, Friday and
throughout the weekend.

The 116th Cavalry Brigade is heading to
Kirkuk, Iraq, one of four units assigned to the 42nd Infantry Division
responsible for patrolling a large section of northeast Iraq. On Friday, the
troops begin flying to Kuwait, where soldiers will spend several weeks
training and collecting their gear sent there on U.S. Navy ships. Soldiers of
the 116th will move into Iraq sometime later in December and expect to be
there a year.

Sgt. Maj. Neil Hoffman of Somerset,
Pa., said his family is accustomed to his absence during the holidays. He has
served 34 years in the military, including tours of duty in Bosnia and
Vietnam.

“This isn’t my first time to be
away for the holidays,” Hoffman said.

“And it won’t be the last
time,” added Capt. Scott Ressman of Sarver, Pa.

Both said they had family holiday
events at home before shipping out for training at Fort Polk in western
Louisiana two months ago.

Hoffman and his wife renewed their
wedding vows just before he headed off to this assignment. In 1970, while
stationed at Fort Polk, he proposed marriage.

The Ressman family celebrated the
holidays with a Christmas tree and exchanged gifts before he left
Pennsylvania.

The 116th has been quartered at England
Airpark for more than a month since completing training and both soldiers praised
the residents of Alexandria for their hospitality during the unit’s stay.

“We know the people here didn’t
have to roll out the red carpet for us, but they did,” Hoffman said.

Ressman added that people often offered
rides to his troops, bought soldiers meals and treated them like welcomed
company.

“Some soldiers went to a church
and received a standing ovation,” he said. “I’ve never seen a
military community show this kind of support and respect to a group of
soldiers.”

 

 

Hawaii-Based Sailors Headed To Western Pacific

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The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 25,
2004, Thursday

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – Seventy-five
sailors from the Hawaii-based Patrol Squadron Four are shipping out Saturday
to join operations of the Navy’s 5th and 7th Fleets in the western Pacific,
Navy officials said.

During the scheduled six-month
deployment, the squadron will participate in anti-submarine warfare,
reconnaissance, intelligence and surveillance in support of the U.S.-led
military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy said in a news release.

Members of Patrol Squadron Four, known
as the “Skinny Dragons,” were previously deployed to the Middle
East in November 2001 flying over 500 combat missions in support of the war
on terrorism in Afghanistan.

About 12,500 Hawaii-based soldiers,
sailors and Marines are already deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan with more
scheduled to arrive in those regions early next year.

Forces already deployed include about
5,000 members from the Army’s 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield
Barracks in Iraq and an additional 5,000 in Afghanistan.

About 1,000 Marines from the 1st
Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment based in Kaneohe arrived in Iraq in
mid-October and have played a key role in the U.S.-led effort to hunt down
insurgents in Fallujah ahead of crucial elections scheduled for Jan. 30. The
unit has suffered 13 casualties.

Another 1,000 Marines from Kaneohe’s
3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment deployed for Afghanistan last month.

Meanwhile, about 2,500 members attached
to the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 29th Infantry Brigade (Separate)
are training in Fort Bliss, Texas, for their scheduled deployment to Iraq in
February or March.

Since the March 2003 start of the war
in Iraq, 41 armed forces members and one civilian with notable ties to Hawaii
have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait.

 

 



 

Deploying
Troops Bid A Tearful Farewell

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The
Associated Press State & Local Wire

November
24, 2004, Wednesday, BC cycle

LAWTON,
Okla.

Christmas
will come early this year for the family of Oklahoma Army National Guard
Sgt. David Messer.

Messer, his
wife and five children will gather at their Tulsa home to observe Christmas
on Saturday – just a few days before Messer and other guard troops are
scheduled to be deployed to Iraq.

Spouses,
children and parents gathered in a cold drizzle at Fort Sill Tuesday to say
goodbye to two Oklahoma National Guard companies being deployed for
Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Shortly
after Thanksgiving, about 100 men and women of the Headquarters Company, 1st
Battalion, 245th Aviation, based in Tulsa, and Company E, 1st Battalion,
245th Aviation, based in Lexington, will head to Iraq. The deployment will
last for at least a year.

“We
will not rest and the mission will not be complete until each and every one
of you come home,” Maj. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, the state’s adjutant
general, said. “Godspeed and good luck.”

The 1st
Battalion, 245th Aviation is an air traffic services unit that provides
command and control of military aviation assets. It can control four air
traffic service companies and will provide airspace management for an Army
aviation brigade and for the multinational coalition.

The 245th
entered federal service in August and moved to Fort Sill, where guard members
completed training in weapons, convoy line fire, fire protection, improvised
explosive device detection and detainee operations.

The
deployment is the first for the Headquarters Company. But Company E was
deployed in 1999 and 2000 to support peacekeeping operations in Bosnia. Last
year, Company E returned from a seven-month tour in support of combat
operations in Iraq.

For Pfc.
Emma Murray, 20, of Tulsa, Christmas will be hard.

“But I
will deal with it,” she said.

Heidi
Logsdon of Yukon waited with her three children as her husband, Lt.
Christopher Logsdon, posed for pictures.

“We are
extremely proud of what they are doing,” she said. “But I am
looking forward to it being over.”

Drake
Logsdon, 11, said his dad showed him on a map where Iraq is, adding that his
father will be in a location out of harm’s way.

 

“He
teaches me stuff about wrestling, but he won’t be there to do that with
me,” the Yukon fifth-grader said.

Spc. Alan
Crandall, vice president of a Tulsa architecture firm, signed up shortly
after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He will not make the trip because
of an injury, but he plans to communicate with fellow guard members over the
Internet.

“I’ll
miss them,” he said. “We are all one big family.”

Capt. Mark
Morgan, 36, of Glenpool was in Iraq recently working as a civilian.

“I’m
excited about it,” Morgan said of the deployment. “I believe it is
a just cause. The Iraqi people, for the most part, are happy about our being
there.”

 

 

Trying
To Cope With Heartrending Deployment

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St.
Petersburg Times (Florida)

November
24, 2004 Wednesday

By,
Greg Hamilton

Every hour
that passes brings them closer to D-day. Every goodnight kiss reminds them of
how few they have left before they must say goodbye, perhaps forever.

For the 100
or so members of the 690th Military Police and their families, the impending
deployment to Afghanistan is a hopelessly jumbled mixture of emotions. Fear
shares space with pride, and anxiety and resentment lock up with anticipation
and curiosity.

In these
final days before Florida’s newest Army National Guard unit leaves for
a war zone, there is a lot to be done. Bills and wills must be dealt with. At
least one member is still repairing his hurricane-damaged roof.

Quite a few
members are leaving behind expectant spouses, and the unit anticipates a baby
boom come spring. Some of the departing soldiers are women who must try to
help their children understand why mommy is heading off to war.

Because this
is the holiday season, there are decorations to hang and out-of-town
relatives to put up. Money will be tight, given the loss of a regular
paycheck while the citizens/soldiers are away from their jobs and the wait
until January when the military money begins arriving.

Service
organizations, churches, businesses and caring individuals have been stepping
up around Citrus County to ensure that the family members stateside will be
looked after during the holidays. No child will be left behind.

But a toy
under the tree is no substitute for a missing parent on Christmas morning.
Or, for that matter, on any other day of the year.

They are the
fathers who make sure their family cars stay tuned up, who cheer on their
children from the sidelines of soccer games. They are the mothers who keep
their households humming, who hug their sleeping children until the bad
dreams go away.

“Sometimes
it’s as simple as needing someone to get something off the top shelf,”
Veronica Vaughn said. Vaughn, 35, is the mother of two and the wife of a
690th officer. A former Air Force major who served in Desert Storm, she is
very familiar with both sides of overseas deployment.

That
experience gives her the ability to help other families cope with the stresses.
In her role as president of the 690th’s Family Readiness Group, Vaughn has
been busy in recent weeks doing everything from reassuring spouses to
visiting businesses to gather donations for the departing soldiers.

She went on
a massive toy shopping spree last week in Ocala, courtesy of the Marine Corps
Reserves Toys For Tots campaign. She is helping gather telephone cards and
condiments this week (yes, soldiers in the field appreciate packets of
ketchup and spices to make their MREs easier to swallow.)

Vaughn is
also coordinating support teams around the state that will be looking out for
the families of the unit’s members during the deployment.

“It’s a
buddy system,” she explained. The teams are setting up phone trees and
will hold monthly meetings with the families. “They will check up to see
how they are doing financially, emotionally – how they are coping. We’re
preparing the families as best as we can, but we can’t anticipate
everything.”

The team
leaders are working with a checklist of tasks that can be done to make life
easier for the families. Say, for instance, the family car takes a turn for
the worse. “AAA has a nationwide campaign that offers a discounted rate
to deployed families,” Vaughn said. “We’re going to car dealerships
to see if they can help. Eagle Buick, for one, is giving us a discount.”

Although the
exact day of the deployment remained vague Tuesday, given security concerns
and the military’s penchant for hurry-up-and-wait, all indications are that
half the unit’s members will leave next week, with the remainder following a
week later.

First stop
will be Fort Dix, N.J., where the unit will receive additional training for
the conditions they can expect to face overseas. They likely will head to
Afghanistan in March, although the timeline depends on which unit they will
be replacing.

This means
Christmas will be spent away from home this year and next. And that has led
to a special project Vaughn hopes to pull off in the next few weeks.

She has made
tentative arrangements to have family members travel to New Jersey to spend a
little time with their loved ones during Christmas. Figuring the cost of
renting three buses for the 18-hour trip, plus four nights in a hotel
(including two travel days), the total comes to $45,000. And that is if only
one member of each soldier’s family makes the journey.

So far,
Vaughn has raised about $3,000. If the entire amount is not met, whatever is
raised will be distributed equally to the next of kin of each deployed
soldier. They can use the money to offset the price of a plane ticket, if
they so choose, she said.

(Anyone
interested in donating to this cause can send a check to the Family Readiness
Group, 8551 W Venable St., Crystal River, FL 34429. No packages, please. The
military is very strict about not leaving boxes and other items outside of
its installations.)

Vaughn said
she has been stunned by the response of Citrus County, her family’s home for
five years, to the deployment. She chalks it up, in part, to the large number
of military veterans in the county. “Every fifth car has a Support Our
Troops yellow ribbon sticker on it,” she said in amazement.

For many of
the soldiers, the deployment is a continuation of their efforts during the
past few months. “Our guys went out with (Hurricane) Charley and then
again with Frances,” Vaughn said. “They’ve been out handing out
food and water and helping local police forces. A lot of them were affected
themselves by Jeanne, and then they were on duty a few days with Ivan. They
have been on active duty for months.”

This
mission, however, is much different. And it takes a greater toll on the
families.

“It is
hard as a soldier to leave your family behind. But we’re the National
Guard.
This is our test, what we’ve been training to do. You want to do
the job, and you are excited, but you know you are leaving your wife and
children.”

In these
remaining days, she said, everyone’s emotions are strained.

“You
try to keep in your routine till it gets closer to the time to leave.
Sometimes you pick fights over little things, then come the regrets. Everyone
has their breaking point. If you’ve never been through it, you can’t
comprehend.”

But that’s
where Vaughn’s group steps in.

“These
are my families,” she said. “They’re my brothers and sisters.”

Greg
Hamilton can be reached at 860-7301 or e-mail at [email protected]

 

 

Families
Key Part Of Guard Deployment

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November 2004

By Mike Stark

The 120 Montana Army National Guard soldiers that ship out
today will have plenty of work to do over the next two years.

But not everyone who shoulders the
burden is wearing a uniform.

When soldiers are called away, the
family and friends who remain are left to take care of homes, businesses,
children and finances. Military families play a key role in making sure
soldiers are able to do their jobs, the top National Guard officer in Montana said Sunday afternoon in
Billings.

“The National Guard anymore is not just about soldiers. This is about
families. Everyone shares in what the National
Guard
does,” said Maj. Gen. Randy Mosley, adjutant general of the
Montana National Guard.

Mosley spoke to the soldiers and their
families during a daylong gathering in preparation for today’s departure.

The 120 soldiers from Eastern Montana,
members of the 1-190th Field Artillery Battalion, leave this morning for Fort
Leonard Wood, Mo., where they will be trained as military police before
heading to military bases in Washington and Alaska. The deployment could last
as long as two years.

Elsewhere in Montana, nearly 700
members of the 163rd Infantry Battalion of the Army National Guard have been called up to serve in Iraq.

Mosley said he visited members of the
163rd recently in Louisiana and found that locals there have embraced the
soldiers.

“Our soldiers could hardly go out
and buy dinner on their own,” he said.

That kind of encouragement is
reflective of the nationwide support that continues to grow for the National Guard, Mosley said.

“You are doing America’s
business,” Mosley told the soldiers Sunday. “All of you should be
very proud of what you’re about to do.”

But there is a sacrifice.

Military families often struggle with
the mental, emotional and financial strain that comes when soldiers are
called away to duty, Mosley said. That stress can be difficult.

“Separations are not easy.
Deployments are not easy,” Mosley said

Part of Sunday’s training was to teach
families and soldiers about ways to deal with issues that may come up during
the deployment. A key component in coping will be the “family support
readiness network,” which will provide support and help deal with
problems “when things get really tough,” Mosley said.

The network of families and National Guard officials who stay
behind in Montana will do whatever it takes to make sure issues are dealt
with, he said.

“My job while you are gone is to
ensure your family members receive all the support we can give them,”
Mosley said.

Prior to 2001, the National Guard didn’t pay as much attention as it should have to
the stress that mobilizations cause families, Mosley said. Since then, the
Guard has made a push to involve families more before the soldiers leave.
Events like the one Sunday are a chance for everyone to ask questions and
become familiar with what life will be like after the troops are deployed.

“(Before 2001) we didn’t pay
adequate attention to the rest of the National
Guard
family,” Mosley said. “It’s gotten better.”

Although it may be difficult for
soldiers and families to separate, the cause is a noble one, Mosley said.

“Many people speak of patriotism,
but few actually walk the talk,” he said.

 

 

 



 

REUNION

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Tipton Soldier Happy To Be Home

 

The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 25, 2004, Thursday

TIPTON, Iowa An Iowa National Guard
soldier who was seriously injured in an attack in Iraq last year is happy to
be home this holiday season.

It was one year ago that Joe
Gottschalk, of Tipton, suffered near fatal injuries in an attack that killed
his childhood friend, Sgt. Aaron Sissel, 22, also of Tipton.

The former gunner for the 2133rd
Transportation Co. said he’s just glad to be home to celebrate the holidays
with his sister Lindsey, 18, and his mom, Alice Rodgers.

“I’m pretty much thankful for
being alive,” he said.

Scars around his reconstructed left
cheekbone are the only visible signs of the trauma he suffered when his
convoy was hit by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire on Nov. 29,
2003, a day after his 24th birthday.

A bullet his Gottschalk just below the
base of his skull. It entered behind his left ear and exited below his left
eye, shattering his cheekbone and eye socket.

Gottschalk underwent three surgeries
last spring. He is deaf in one ear and has only partial vision in his left
eye.

He has been released from active duty
and allowed to return home. He has been returned to Guard status but said he
could be deployed again if his unit is called up for duty.

But for now, Gottschalk is enjoying
being home with his family.

“Getting back to that normal life
– that’s what I’ve been waiting for to happen,” Gottschalk said.
“What has happened has happened, and it’s done and over with. At some
point in time, you have to move on with your life.”

Gottschalk, a 1998 Tipton High
graduate, will return to work at Barnharts Custom Services in West Branch,
and, hopefully, the normal life he’s been wishing for.

In his new apartment overlooking
Tipton’s downtown district, Gottschalk spends his free time watching the
History Channel while he unpacks his belongings and decorates. The Purple
Heart awarded to him by President Bush sits on a shelf in his living room.

Sharing space on the shelf with the
medal is an Army clad stuffed animal, a knife collection, an Islamic bible
and Sponge Bob Square Pants toys. A plaque from the Muscatine community and a
script listing the names of the men and women in his National Guard
unit decorate the walls.

He bowls in a league every Thursday
night at Cedar Lanes, which will have the first annual Aaron Sissel Bowling
Tournament Dec. 11 and 18. The bowling ally is where Gottschalk and Sissel
spent many nights joking with owners Ernie and Kay Jennings.

Money raised by the tournament and
silent auction will go toward two $500 scholarships for each of the four
schools in Cedar County, said Ernie Jennings.

Gottschalk doesn’t flinch when asked
about his injuries or Sissel’s death. He visited his friend’s gravesite in
Tipton a month and a half ago and continues to have a relationship with
Sissel’s family.

He said he doesn’t need counseling. His
counseling, he said, has been talking to friends and family and reminiscing
about growing up in Tipton with Sissel.

While Gottschalk is happy to be home,
the memories of his time in Iraq are always there, just beneath the surface.

He remembers always being on the edge
of his seat, keeping his eyes peeled and reminding himself of the job he had
to do. He remembers the 110-degree weather heating his five-ton cargo truck.
He remembers the 40-degree nights and failing to reach deep sleep. He
remembers the day his friend died.

“He’s always there,” he said
of Sissel. “It’s always on your mind. It’s something that you’re never
going to forget.”

 

 

Soldier
Reunited With Four Children After Nearly 1 Year

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The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 25, 2004, Thursday

By Michelle Saxton, Associated Press
Writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – If you asked Sgt.
Lisa Bias what she’s most thankful for, it wouldn’t be hard to predict that
her answer involves her four children.

For nearly a year, the four have been
living with an aunt in Barboursville while Bias and their father have been on
active duty.

“This is my first time in my
17-year military career that I’ve been separated from my children,” the
Ohio Army National Guard engineer said in a telephone interview from a
Barboursville motel after returning from Iraq.

The children’s father, who last saw
them in September, was not able to get leave. Bias said she and her husband
have divorced since their deployment last year.

Bias, who serves with the 216th
Engineer Battalion from Youngstown, Ohio, was working as a security guard at
Cabell-Huntington Hospital and living in Proctorville, Ohio, when her unit
was mobilized last Dec. 18. Since then, her children – William, Jered, James
and Kaitlynn – have been living with Bias’ sister, Stephanie, in West
Virginia.

She never questioned being deployed to
Iraq.

“I probably didn’t have to
go,” Bias said. “But I thought it was my responsibility to do so.
When they asked me, I couldn’t see not going.”

Since March, Bias has been stationed in
Tikrit, where she helped with construction work, including building a chapel
and trying to reinforce bridges.

“All the things we tried to do
were sabotaged,” she said. “It’s so unstable over there.” At
least three in her battalion have been “lost.”

Bias arrived in West Virginia this past
Tuesday and has spent the time becoming reacquainted with her children – aged
15 to 5. They’ve shopped at the nearby mall and have gone to the movies.

For the next two weeks, Bias said she
plans to take her children to the Smoky Mountains and visit relatives before
returning to duty on Dec. 9.

“It’s been a rough year for me and
the kids,” said Bias, 35.

“You miss out on so much. I missed
out on my daughter starting kindergarten. I missed out on my oldest son
becoming a freshman in school … going through driver’s ed,” she said.

Her son William, 15, said he has missed
his mother’s humor and jokes.

“You have to think that every day
(that) goes by is one day closer for her to come home,” he said.

Bias won’t likely make it home for
Christmas, but she hopes to return for good in February.

Meanwhile, she says this was one
Thanksgiving where she could give genuine thanks.

“I think I took for granted things
in the past, past Thanksgivings,” Bias said. “Life is short, and
you don’t know that until you’re faced with life and death situations, and
you just never know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”

 

 

GUARD IN IRAQ

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N.C. National
Guard
Soldier Uses Coffee Skills In Iraq

 

The
Associated Press State & Local Wire

November 27, 2004

FAYETTEVILLE,
N.C.Staff Sgt. Michael Romeo believes his fellow National Guard
soldiers bring more to the Army than soldier skills.

So, with
more than 14 years in the coffee business, he opened the Old Hickory Cafe in
Balad Ruz, Iraq, at the 30th Brigade Combat Team’s main base.

At the cafe,
which opened in September, National Guardsmen from North Carolina are
welcomed by eclectic music, the smell of gourmet coffee and some time to
forget they are in Iraq.

“The
idea behind this was to give them something that was not Army and not
Iraqi,” Romeo said from behind the counter at the cafe last week.

Romeo, 34,
owns a coffee shop in Bel Air, Md., and another in his native Baltimore.

He built his
first coffee shop at Forward Operating Base Speicher, a 1st Infantry Division
base, at the end of May. When he was transferred to Forward Operating Base
Caldwell, he decided to build another cafe.

With the
help of his friend, Sgt. Steven Coe, and two other guardsmen, it took Romeo
six days to build the Old Hickory Cafe.

His $3,000
investment features a dartboard, more than 1,400 channels of satellite
television, 950 channels of music and wireless Internet access. Last week,
the cafe was serving eggnog, Irish cream, rainforest crunch and iced coffees.

The coffee
is free, but Romeo takes donations to put toward operating expenses and what
it cost to open the cafe.

Romeo says
the idea for a coffee shop came to him while on the flight from Fort Bragg to
Iraq in February. He carried an expensive French coffee press on the plane
and 23 pounds of coffee.

He was
drafted into service before the flight touched down.

“The
entire brigade staff was drinking coffee on that plane,” he said.

Sgt. Floyd
Baldwin, 37, of Pittsboro is a regular at the cafe. For Baldwin, a mechanic
with Bravo Company, 230th Support Battalion, which is based in Dunn, only his
mother’s coffee tastes better than what’s served at the cafe.

“About
every night after I eat chow, I come to the Old Hickory Cafe, drink coffee
and just pass the time,” he said, savoring a cup of regular black
coffee.

Baldwin, a
member of the North Carolina National Guard since 1995, served in the
first Gulf War as an active-duty soldier with a Fort Stewart, Ga., supply
unit. In cililian life, he works for the Chatham County Public Works
Department.

Coe, an
electrical engineer from Greensboro who helped build the cafe, said the
regulars come to confide in him much the same as they would their local bar
tender.

“They
come in and tell me their war stories,” he said.

Romeo can
now listen to more of those stories.

After
returning from a recent two-week rest and recuperation break, he learned that
he can run the coffee shop full time.

“They
let me do their coffee thing,” Romeo said. “I’m having a
blast.”

 

 



 

Stretched Thin, U.S. Active, Reserve Troops In
New Mix

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Cox News
Service

November 27, 2004

By Ron Martz

FORT DRUM,
N.Y. There will be several firsts for the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized)
when it hits the sand in Iraq in early January.

The unit,
based at Fort Stewart in Georgia, will be the first full Army division that
participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq to return there, this time for a
12-month tour.

Also, two
combat brigades from the division will be under the command of a National
Guard
headquarters. It’s the first time that has happened in a combat
zone for any Army unit at least since the Korean war and possibly since World
War II. And, it’s the first time since Korea that a National Guard
headquarters has deployed to a war zone.

With the
Army stretched thin by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has had to rely more
than ever on its part-time soldiers for full-time combat roles.

“The
significance of this is that the Army is demonstrating we are one team. They
are relying on the reserve components to do what they are supposed to
do,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto, commander of the 42nd Infantry
Division (Mechanized) based here in northwestern New York.

Flexible
concept

Taluto, a
full-time guardsman, will command the 1st and 3rd combat brigades of the 3rd
Infantry Division in Iraq. In addition, he will have command of two Army National
Guard
units, the 278th Regimental Combat Team from Tennessee and the
116th Brigade Combat Team from Idaho.

Traditionally,
active commanders generally were in charge of units in combat zones.
Commanders would often supplement their ranks with National Guard or
reserve soldiers but they were usually placed in support units and not
engaged in front-line combat.

In order to
provide more flexibility for active, National Guard and reserve units,
the Army has beefed up its combat brigades _ usually 4,000-5,000 soldiers _
so they have all the necessary resources to operate with relying on higher
headquarters for such things as intelligence, artillery support, civil
affairs and military police.

The result
is what has been referred to as a “plug-and-play” concept, where
theoretically any combat brigade can be detached from its parent unit and
assigned to another unit.

In recent
years, National Guard commanders have had control of active units in
Bosnia, in New York City following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
and in Georgia this year during the G-8 economic summit on Sea Island.

Maj. Gen.
William Webster, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said the
reorganization has forced commanders become more flexible in training for
combat.

“You
want your team moving together, fighting together, living together,”
said Webster. “It’s simpler that way and it might be more effective if
the division is the primary fighting force. But now the brigade combat team
is the primary fighting force.”

Webster will
command his own 2nd and 4th combat brigades from his headquarters in Baghdad.
The 2nd is expected to have responsibility for Sadr City while the 4th will
patrol in and around the “Green Zone.”

Webster will
pick up the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, an active-duty unit, and
the 256th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) from the Louisiana Army National
Guard
to fill the holes left by the departure of his other two brigades.

The 256th is
already in Kuwait working with the 1st Cavalry Division, which the 3rd
Division will replace.

Webster said
the “plug-and-play” concept “is a fact of life. I don’t see it
as any greater challenge.”

Resources
complaints

The bigger
challenge may be for Taluto and his staff of the 42nd Infantry Division. Over
the years, active and reserve units often have looked on one another with
something less than mutual admiration.

“I
would be less than honest to say there hasn’t been friction in the past. But
the friction really comes from resources,” said Taluto, a 36-year
veteran of the Army.

Lack of
resources has been a constant complaint among part-time units. Since they
train only 39 days a year, including two weeks of active duty, Guard and
reserve units often got hand-me-downs from active units.

But Taluto
said he has not been denied any requests he has made of the Army for
equipment or personnel. Among them is an active duty chief of staff, Col.
Gordon Mereness, a combat veteran of Grenada and the first Gulf war.

Taluto said
he plans to rely heavily on the combat experience of soldiers in the 1st and
3rd brigades. Officials with the 3rd Division say about 50 percent of the
unit are veterans of the first phase of the Iraq war.

 

 



 

HOMEFRONT: DEALING WITH DEPLOYMENT

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Nonprofit
Improves Soldiers’ Holidays

 

St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

November 26,
2004 Friday

By Paulette Lash Ritchie

The Family Readiness Group raises money
for family visits and collects care package items for soldiers about to
deploy.

As 100 or so members of the Florida
Army National Guard 690th Military Police Company prepare to leave for
duty in Afghanistan, supporters are helping them and their families.

Although the unit’s members come from
throughout Florida, most are local or from surrounding counties.

“We have a lot of
Citrus County residents,” said Veronica Vaughn, a member of the Family
Readiness Group, a nonprofit organization that is helping members of the
690th by providing information, emotional support and, if needed, financial
assistance.

The 690th is expected to leave in early
December for an 18-month deployment. The first stop is Fort Dix, N.J., for
training. The trip overseas will be in the spring.

The Family Readiness Group’s most
immediate goal: raise $45,000 to send one person from each soldier’s family
to New Jersey for three or four days during the Christmas holiday. Vaughn
hopes to have enough funds to provide the bus fare and lodging for those
family members. There are more than 100 soldiers in the 690th Company who
will be headed overseas.

Vaughn, a military wife, is one of 20
to 30 key Family Readiness Group members working to make this happen. If the
goal is not met, the money collected will be divided evenly among the
families to at least assist them in making the trip, or to be used otherwise.

The Family Readiness Group is also
working with other Citrus groups on long-range plans to help the soldiers.
The Rotary Club of Inverness, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4337 in
Inverness, Korean War Veterans in Crystal River, the Women of Sugarmill Woods
and some church organizations are among the groups collecting items for care
packages.

Rotary, for example, is collecting
condiment packages to help spice up meals, including Meals Ready to Eat, or
MREs, which soldiers eat when they are out for days at a time. The meals are
good and nutritious, Vaughn said, but seasonings such as salt, pepper, hot
sauce, ketchup and mustard are welcome additions. Donations of these items
must be in small packages.

Another thing suitable for care
packages: toothbrushes. The Army provides these, Vaughn said, but there’s
something comforting about getting one from home.

The groups are also collecting hand
disinfectant, mouthwash, feminine hygiene products, insect repellent,
soft-pack baby wipes and spray bottles of sunscreen. But no cream, Vaughn
said. Cream attracts sand. All of these items must also be in small sizes.

The soldiers like to receive playing
cards, board games, movies (VHS and DVD) and dominoes. They can use tube
socks and brown or black T-shirts.

Some foods soldiers like to get include
beef jerky and potted meats. No ham, though, Vaughn said, out of respect for
the local religion. Packaged cookies, brownies, M&Ms, microwave popcorn
and raisins are also appropriate.

Another useful donation: prepaid
international calling cards. Cash is always welcome and can help defray the
cost of shipping.

Community members wishing to contribute
to care packages can do so through one of the organizations previously
listed. Vaughn will pick up items collected by local groups and will accept
individual donations. Call first to make arrangements. She can be reached at
628-0370.

Donors also can send a check to the
Family Readiness Group, 8551 W Venable St., Crystal River, FL 34429.

The VFW will accept donations at the
post, 906 State Road 44 E, Inverness.

The contact for the Women of Sugarmill
Woods is Rosemary Ray at 382-7171.

 

 

Thanksgiving
Hurts For Single Mom Training For Iraq

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The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 25, 2004, Thursday

DETROIT – Thanksgiving brought more
heartache than joy for Sgt. Ricci Moore, a single mother who is training in
Wisconsin for an expected two-year stint in Iraq.

She will feel more thankful, she said,
once she is deployed and her time of service starts ticking down.

“The sooner I get there, the
sooner I can get home,” Moore told the Detroit Free Press from Fort
McCoy, Wis., 535 miles from her Detroit home and son Joey, 9, whom she left
behind six weeks ago.

For now, Moore keeps in touch with Joey
by cell phone, e-mail and letters.

She is part of the Michigan National
Guard’s
1225th Combat Support Battalion.

Moore is one of thousands of military
parents who have or will leave their children in the care of someone else
while they serve their country far from home. She also is one of a smaller,
but growing number of single military parents who have no other parent to
leave a child with during their absence.

Joey is being cared for by Moore’s
sister, Pam Shaw.

It has been a tough time for mother and
son, eased somewhat by dozens of strangers who read of her departure.

They donated money, a bike and clothes.
They sent care packages and letters, asked to be mentors to Joey and offered
a ski trip for the family.

“It makes it easier for me to do
my job over there, knowing that we’re not alone,” Moore said.

Moore, who works for the Family
Independence Agency, signed up for the two-weeks-a-year, one-weekend-a-month National
Guard
commitment in January 2001, five years after serving full-time in
the Marines. She has not complained about being sent to a full-scale war.

“I signed up for this,” she
said. She will work in personnel in Iraq, mainly getting paychecks to
military personnel and their families. She said she was unsure when she and
tens of thousands of other troops would leave Fort McCoy but said it could be
anytime from within several days to a few weeks from now.

Missing two Thanksgivings, two
Christmases, two Valentine’s Days and two birthdays that will change her son
a lot was what Moore dreaded most about leaving. Joey turns 10 on Dec. 22.

“I don’t think it will ever get
easier,” she said.

For now, Joey is preoccupied with a
family trip, Shaw said. They were flying out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport
on Thanksgiving.

“Christmas is what I’m worried
about,” Shaw said. “That’s going to be really hard on both of
them.”

 

 

An
Empty Place At The Table; National Guardsmen’s Families Mark a Holiday As
They Serve In Iraq
.

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Morning Call (Allentown, PA)

November 25, 2004 Thursday

By Chris Parker Of The Morning Call

Her thoughts thousands of miles away in
Iraq with her son, National Guardsman Matt Frey, Julia Schock
carefully placed on a wall photographs of him on posterboard.

She centered a bouquet of flowers from
him on a polished wooden table in the kitchen of her Walker Township home.

“He sent both me and my mom
flowers,” Schock said wistfully.

Schock is one of many whose loved ones
are serving in Iraq. For them, Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude for life’s
bounty and joy when gathering with those near and dear.

But the empty place at the table makes
it a poignant day, a time for the families to include their soldiers in the
celebration — if only in spirit.

Several people whose husbands and sons
left in March for Iraq with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 103rd Armored Division
of Hometown shared coffee and pie recently and spoke of the different ways
they will cope with their loved ones’ absences today.

Regina and LeRoy Kromer of West Penn
Township have two sons in Iraq: Timothy, 27, and LeRoy II, 31.

“We’re anxious, we’re worried,”
Regina Kromer said, “but they are doing very well. But the holidays are
hard, having them away.”

Today the Kromer family will send
Timothy and LeRoy the sights and sounds of home.

“We’ll take a videotape of
Thanksgiving dinner and everyone will say hello,” Regina Kromer said.
“We’ll send it over. We also have hand-held tape recorders, so we’ll
also tape the conversations on that.”

Charlotte Golden of Schuylkill Haven
misses her guardsman husband, George Holmes. Today she will get as close to
him as she can.

“I’m going to go to his family’s
house for Thanksgiving, just so I can feel closer to him,” she said.
“Most of his family will be there, and his sister will say a special
prayer, and he will definitely be included in the prayer.”

Two weeks ago, Golden celebrated the
couple’s third wedding anniversary — alone — admiring jewelry Holmes bought
and sent via the Internet.

Wendy McMullen of Hometown wishes her
son Garrett, 23, an East Stroudsburg University student, could be home today.
But she’ll make the best of it.

“We downplay the holidays,”
she said. “We’ll send cards and stuff, but we won’t really talk about
what we did on our holiday. I don’t want him to feel bad.”

Joe Kash of Lake Hauto said his son
James, 20, is a corporal. Kash said he and his extended family look forward
to speaking with James today.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a phone
call,” he said. “We hope. If not, we’ll talk to him on the
Internet.”

Kash said he will take snapshots of the
family gathering to send to James, also via the Internet.

Schock said the family always gathers
at her house for Thanksgiving. The flowers her son had sent arrived Tuesday
and will be on the table when she has dinner today.

Frey told her he and his colleagues
will have Thanksgiving in Iraq but that it won’t be the same.

While others were making plans for
today’s meal and how to cope without a loved one, Bonnie and Robert Schrepple
of Mahanoy City have fond memories of a traditional turkey dinner they had in
September, when their son Bob, 25, was home for visit.

“When he was home in September, we
had turkey and all the trimmings,” she said. “Everybody was there,
so he kind of had Thanksgiving dinner, although he didn’t want it called
that.”

Today, they’ll gather as usual.

“It won’t be different from any
other year,” Bonnie Schrepple said. “We’ll have dinner with his
aunt and uncle, and he said he’d call.”

When Bob Schrepple isn’t serving with
the National Guard, he works as a cook.

“Bob said there is a bright side;
he doesn’t have to get up early and cook,” she said.

The couple send their son a package
every week, containing goodies like homemade cookies, Tastykakes and locally
made Middlesworth potato chips. Bonnie Schrepple’s brother makes him beef
jerky.

Robert Schrepple said they miss their
son.

“Life is definitely different
without him,” he said, “the holidays especially.”

 

 

Troops,
Families Hang On To Hope For The Holidays N.C. Soldier, Wife Make It Their
Mission To Cope

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USA TODAY

November 24,
2004

By,
Tom Vanden Brook

James Adkins
has missed his 1-year-old son, Max, taking his first steps and saying his
first words.

After a year
apart, his 10-year-old son, Austin, doesn’t like to see fathers and sons
playing together, while Dylan, 7, prefers to talk about how proud he is of
his dad.

Now, Army
Sgt. 1st Class Adkins of Raleigh, N.C., commands a Bradley Fighting Vehicle
in Iraq near the city of Baqouba. And he will be spending Thanksgiving 5,800
miles from his family.

 “It’s painful in a way that I cannot
express in words,” Adkins, 37, says in an e-mail. “I have been away
from my family now for over 12 months now. I have three sons, and an
incredible wife.”

Both James
and Desiree Adkins, 34, express pride in his service. But they acknowledge
how difficult a holiday like Thanksgiving can be for a military family.

 She’s coping by taking the kids to spend
the holiday with her family in Westminster, Mass. The couple has been married
three years, and their family includes two sons from her husband’s previous
marriage.

She has sent
James packages filled with cranberries and magazines.

“The
toughest part is not having your best friend to share moments with,”
Desiree Adkins says. “Being lonely. And the worry, the intense worry. To
have him in a safe place would be different.”

The couple
stays in touch by e-mail and telephone. Unless he’s involved in a mission,
they speak four times a week for about 30 minutes at a time, she says.
“Sometimes that’s just not enough,” she says.

James
Adkins, a member of the North Carolina National Guard, says his wife
has been remarkably strong during his deployment.

 “My wife is my hero, and my best
friend,” Adkins says in an e-mail. “Her ability to hold the family
together, mentally and spiritually, is a phenomenal task. In addition to the daily
chores and holding down a job, getting the kids to school and baseball
practices, keeping the cars running. 
. . .  It makes my job seem so
easy. It takes a super human woman to be a soldier’s wife.”

Desiree
Adkins says she hopes James will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving for a few
hours at least. Meantime, she’s looking forward to his return, which is
scheduled for December — in time for Christmas.

James Adkins
says daily missions to keep insurgents in check will determine how he’ll
spend Thanksgiving Day.

“I will
get a good meal, probably the best one I’ve had all year,” he says in an
e-mail. “I’ll eat and think of my family back home, and as I make all
attempts to hold the tears back, I will imagine myself, safe at home, at the
table with my wife Desiree and my three sons, holding them all close to me
and hoping that one day they can truly understand and fully appreciate how
good we have it in the U.S.A.”

 

 

HOMEFRONT:
DEALING WITH AFTERMATH

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After Putting Her Life On Hold, Veteran Of Iraq
Is Moving On;
Duty In War Zone Left Former MP Changed In Ways
Big and Small

 

Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)

November 28,
2004 

By Meg
Jones, [email protected], Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel

Tracy Fisher
has changed.

She now
appreciates things that most people take for granted in Wisconsin — cows,
the smell of grass, the color of leaves. She has become tougher. She is more
aware of her surroundings.

That’s what
more than 400 days in a war zone will do to a person.

Fisher put
her life on hold for most of 2003 and more than half of this year to serve in
Baghdad with the Wisconsin National Guard 32nd Military Police
Company. She saw and did things that most other 22-year-olds see only on CNN.

She
monitored Iraqi police stations and was part of the security detail for the
commander of coalition forces in Iraq. Her convoy hit a roadside bomb while
patrolling in Baghdad, and she administered first aid to one of her wounded
comrades. She attended a memorial service for another soldier in the company,
Michelle Witmer, who was shot to death on patrol.

The same
weekend Witmer was killed, the company learned that its tour of duty was
being extended up to 120 days. Soldiers in her unit earned 23 purple hearts
and 22 bronze stars; the 32nd MPs are the most decorated Wisconsin National
Guard
company since World War II.

“When
we first went to Iraq, I wanted to go. I wanted the experience and to learn
from it. But the worst part of it was the time you were there — it was a
year and a half out of your life,” said Fisher. “Otherwise, doing
your job and going over there and being a part of history, that’s something I
wanted to do.”

Now she’s
easing back into civilian life. Now she’s trying to pick up where she left
off and get on with her life.

She has
traded a Humvee for a Jeep Cherokee. She wears jeans and sweaters instead of
camouflage and boots. Her home is a house instead of a tent.

Fisher, who
saved most of her pay while mobilized, bought a two-story house in Cudahy
last month. She’s remodeling the bathroom, painting walls and putting in new
carpet.

She recently
signed a three-year commitment to the National Guard that puts her in
a different unit, a non–deployable recruiting company. She started work in
early October at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Milwaukee, where
she’s an administrative non-commissioned officer.

She’s
planning to resume her studies, possibly in January, and wants to major in
marketing. Fisher, who joined the National Guard when she was a senior
at Tremper High School in Kenosha, dropped out of Milwaukee Area Technical
College when she was called to active duty at Mitchell International Airport
after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. She returned to her classes at MATC but
was forced to leave again — she ended up taking and dropping the same math
class twice — when the 32nd MPs were deployed in March 2003.

“It
makes me a little mad because most of my friends are seniors and I’m still a
freshman,” she said. “I feel like I’m missing out. But the big
picture is that I’ve seen much more than my friends. Being in Iraq has opened
my eyes as to how great it is to live in America.”

Stronger and
tougher now

The 32nd MPs
spent almost two months training at Fort McCoy and then shipped out in May
2003. They returned to Wisconsin July 23, 2004.

During that
time, Fisher learned a lot about herself. The experience made her stronger
and tougher. She’s glad she learned some conversational Arabic — though most
of the phrases don’t show up in tourist guides: put your arms up; I’m going
to search you; open up your trunk — and would like to continue studying the
language.

She said she
saw little respect for American women from Iraqis.

“There’s
no such thing as sexual harassment there. Five minutes after meeting me,
they’d ask to marry me. I got that a lot,” she said. “They’d say,
`I have a beautiful home and a car.’ I’m not normally a mean person, but
sometimes I’d have to be mean.”

A low point
for Fisher and the rest of the 32nd MPs was the night Michelle Witmer was
killed, when her convoy came under heavy fire on a road near the Tigris
River. Fisher, who served in the 1st Platoon with Witmer’s older sister,
Rachel, was awakened by her squad leader along with about 10 others from her
unit who were stationed in another area of Baghdad.

“He
said we were attacked last night and one of our soldiers died. I was really
shocked. At first it was like, no way,” said Fisher. “We couldn’t
fathom it. It wasn’t until later that it hit home.”

Seeing the
differences

The
company’s commander said the deployment was long and difficult for all 150
members of the Milwaukee-based unit, especially after the death of Witmer and
the extension of their deployment. But Capt. Scott Southworth said Fisher and
others in the company performed admirably well.

“All of
our young soldiers matured significantly over the year we were there,”
said Southworth. “Tracy was no exception. But for Tracy it was not just
maturing as a person but maturing as a leader. She was a young NCO in the
company, and she performed extraordinarily well.”

Her mother,
Pam Fisher, said she noticed her daughter is more attentive to her family now
that she’s home and is spending more time with her three younger sisters.

“I
think, more so because of going overseas, she’s more appreciative of
us,” said Pam Fisher. “Before, her friends were important, but now
her family is as important if not more important.”

Though she
wears a uniform at her job at the processing station, she avoids wearing
khaki or anything sand–colored when she’s not on duty and is enjoying
“being a girl” again, Fisher said. She also is more aware of her
surroundings.

Not long
after she returned home, she was visiting friends in Kenosha. It had just
stopped raining, and Fisher noticed the bright colors of the sky and trees.

“I was
walking down the street and I was like, `This is so beautiful,’ and my friend
was like, `This is the armpit of Kenosha.’ But to me it was beautiful.”

Sgt. Tracy Fisher now works at the Military
Entrance Processing Center in Milwaukee. She returned to Wisconsin in July
after serving in Iraq.

 

 



 

HEALTH
ISSUES

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Norman Man
Survives Leukemia, Combat Zone

 

The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 25, 2004, Thursday

NORMAN, Okla. – As if surviving
leukemia and a bone marrow transplant weren’t enough, Norman resident Tom
Crotty added a combat tour to that list. Crotty needed the authorization of a
three-star general in Washington before he was allowed to mobilize with the
rest of Oklahoma’s 45th Infantry Brigade in September 2003. In doing so, he
became the only known bone marrow transplant recipient to serve in a combat
zone.

Crotty trained Afghan army personnel in
combat medicine and pistol and rifle marksmanship, but his unit also
accompanied Afghan soldiers on hazardous missions. George Selby, director of
blood and marrow transplantation at OU Medical Center who oversaw Crotty’s
case, remains amazed by Crotty’s combat service only two years after
surviving leukemia and undergoing a difficult transplant.

“Most patients don’t recover to
the level of function he has,” Selby said. “We’re happy if people
are able to resume pre-transplant activities, but … (that’s) nothing like
he had to go through to be in Afghanistan.”

Crotty, 46, now is back in Norman with
his wife, Stephanie, and their three children. In October, Crotty had the
chance to meet his bone marrow donor, Ryan Keenan, during the National Marrow
Donor Program’s annual convention in Minneapolis, Minn.

“Ryan said he didn’t know what to
say, and I’m going, ‘Thanks,”‘ Crotty recalled.

The chain of events began in February
2000, while Crotty was training at the Norman police academy. A blood
abnormality was found during his pre-employment medical screening, and it was
found to be early-stage leukemia. The National Guard major underwent
chemotherapy for six months, which sent the cancer into remission, but it
resurfaced the following year. Doctors told Crotty he needed a bone marrow
transplant to survive.

“The doc said just go home and
relax, and whatever happens, happens, and I’m like, ‘I don’t think so,”‘
Crotty said. “I’m pretty proactive; I take the bull by the horns as
they’d say.”

A donor never turned up in Oklahoma,
but a match was found in Boston. Keenan joined the registry hoping to help a
Massachusetts girl needing a transplant, but ended up helping Crotty instead.
The new marrow means Crotty has completely new blood. He has a new blood
type, and it has altered his DNA, which required a change in his medical and
military records.

Throughout the ordeal, Crotty remained
with the state Department of Corrections, working in probation and parole,
and he never left the National Guard. He said both organizations have
been highly supportive.

 

 

CHILDREN AND YOUTH

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Operation: Military Kids
at Work in New Hampshire

 

For
immediate release

DURHAM – Many New Hampshire youth find
themselves “Suddenly Military” when a member of their family leaves for
military deployment.

To provide support for these youth and
their families, New Hampshire is one of 15 states participating in Operation:
Military Kids
for National Guard and Reserve youth and
families left behind. To show support for this effort, Gov. Craig Benson
signed a proclamation on Tuesday declaring State Operation Military Kids Week
and Military Family Support week.

Participating in the signing were
representatives from UNH Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Youth Development
Program, the National Guard, and NH Dept. of Education. 

As the leader in the NH OMK program,
UNH Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program, with its network
of youth development programs throughout the state, has worked closely over
the past several months with the Army and Air National Guard.

The National Guard Healthy
Choices Day Camp
, coordinated by the NH CounterDrug Commission, is a
clear example of these collaborate efforts. The OMK project presented a
digital photography workshop, providing 100 youth the opportunity to gain technology
skills related to digital photography concepts. 

The workshop presented developmentally
appropriate activities allowing youth to experiment with a digital camera,
gain basic knowledge of photo composition and what goes into taking a good
picture. Laminated photos with messages from the youth were then sent to the
deployed family members, an OMK goal of increasing opportunities for
communication between young people and their deployed family members and
friends.

Another example of collaborative efforts
is the participation of the training team in the national
Military Child Education
Coalition
(MCEC) train the trainer workshop to
support the children of those who serve in the National Guard and
Reserves. The team’s purpose is to deliver accurate information about the
issues military children face and ways schools and other youth organizations
can provide support for these children. Training components include the
history, roles and demographics of National Guard and Reserve forces, the
issues military families and children face, and actions steps communities can
take to support youth of National Guard and Reserve members.

To date, efforts included a
“Suddenly Military” presentation at a state meeting of guidance
counselors, and to other UNH Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development and
Family, Consumer Resources staff.

4-H Youth Development Program Leader
Wendy Brock said programming efforts will include a “continuation of
photography workshops with youth, inclusion in ongoing county-based 4-H
events, support of youth events planned by the Guard, and support for
families through the Family Assistance Centers.”

National Guard units
receive support through the Family Assistance Centers in Concord, Hillsboro,
Littleton, Manchester, Portsmouth and Somersworth. Each center supports
families throughout the state.

For more information concerning
Operation Military Kids, contact Wendy Brock, Program Leader, UNH Cooperative
Extension 4-H Youth Development, 603-862-2187.

 

 

GENERAL

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Thanking Our Troops

 

The New York Sun

November 26, 2004 Friday

By Max Boot

It is all too easy to take the
all-volunteer armed forces for granted. They’ve been around now for 31 years,
ever since the draft was abolished in 1973. We have become used to having a
high-quality military filled by dedicated young women and men willing to put
their lives on the line for less money than Donald Trump hands out in tips
every week. It is worth remembering how extraordinary and unusual our service
members really are – and how much we owe them this Thanksgiving.

The voluntarism tradition stretches far
back in American history, all the way to the colonial militias, but it has
never produced such a superb fighting force. For most of their history, the
peacetime Army, Navy, and Marine Corps were laughingstocks that could not
hope to compete with the world’s best. The entire armed forces in the 19th
century usually numbered no more than 35,000 men – smaller than the New York
Police Department today. Traditionally, they were so ill prepared that they
wound up losing critical early battles from Bull Run (1861) to Kasserine Pass
(1943).

To get a sense of the old military,
read two novels written by veterans (and made into memorable movies] –
Richard McKenna’s “The Sand Pebbles” and James Jones’s “From
Here to Eternity.” Both were populated by misfits for whom the military
was a welcome alternative to the penitentiary or the poorhouse.

The hegemony of the hard-bitten
regulars ended in 1940, with the introduction of a draft that lasted until
the end of the Vietnam War. In their post-Vietnam agony, all the services had
trouble attracting recruits, and those who signed up tended to come from the
bottom of the barrel – half were not even high school graduates. Low morale,
racial tensions, and drug and alcohol abuse were rife in the 1970s.

By the 1991 Gulf War, those problems
had evaporated and the first-rate military we know today had been created: A
force whose enlisted ranks are composed of high school graduates and whose
officers are college graduates (many with graduate degrees).A force where
drug use has fallen into insignificance and morale and discipline are sky
high. A force capable of knocking the stuffing out of just about any foe,
anywhere in the world, at a moment’s notice.

Anybody who has spent any time around
today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines cannot help but be awed by
their dedication, courage, and professionalism. Some anti-war protesters want
to spread the idea that the military is composed of victims who have no
alternative but to become cannon fodder. Nothing could be further from the
truth, especially in front-line combat units where everyone is a volunteer
twice over. Military personnel are actually better educated than the civilian
population.

Why do they do it? Why have 1.5 million
men and women enlisted in the active-duty military and another 861,000 in the
National Guard and Reserves? The reasons vary, of course. Many are
drawn by the prospect of learning a trade or earning a college scholarship.
Others want an adventure or a sense of purpose. Once they spend some time in
the service, the pull of camaraderie leads many to re-enlist.

But it would be a mistake to overlook
the simplest and most obvious motive of all: sheer patriotism. People pull on
their BDUs (battle dress uniforms) out of a desire to defend a great nation.
Such sentiments can sound corny in today’s ironic culture, but the military
is one place where old-fashioned pieties can still be uttered without a
subversive smirk.

The all-volunteer force is now being
tested as never before; it’s never had to fight a war as prolonged as the one
in Iraq. The press naturally tends to focus on problems – small numbers of
soldiers who refuse to obey orders or break the laws of war, reservists who
fight recall to duty or complain about their hardships. This is to be
expected. What’s amazing is not how many problems the military is
experiencing but how few.

In spite of a punishing operations
tempo and dismaying shortages of critical equipment like armored Humvees and
the latest body armor, today’s GIs continue to soldier on with indomitable
fortitude. They undertake incredibly difficult and dangerous assignments like
the assault on Fallujah with less grumbling than the average commuter stuck
in a traffic jam.

There is no way that civilian
turkey-eaters can properly show our gratitude for those whose Thanksgiving
meal comes in a chow hall thousands of miles from home. But for a start we
can at least contribute to a number of charities that provide important aid
to service members and their families. For a list, just go to
www.defendamerica.mil and click on “Support Our Troops.”

 

 



 

Holiday
Stress and Deployment; Helpful Hints from Army OneSource

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The winter holidays can be stressful for anyone, but when your loved
one is deployed, this time of year can be especially difficult. You may
experience a range of emotions, from concern to loneliness — even anger and
disappointment. The holidays may magnify those feelings, but they can also be
a time to strengthen your emotional commitment to your Soldier and your
family.

Plan
ahead for the holidays

If
possible, sit down with your deployed Soldier before your separation to talk
about how you will celebrate the holidays. If you are already apart, discuss
your plans through letters, e-mail, or telephone calls.

 Get an early start with gifts and
cards.

Record
a holiday message.

Be
flexible with phone calls.

Surround
yourself with people

Look for
opportunities to be with family and friends. Get together with others who are
in your situation. Being with others who are in the same situation helps
prevent loneliness.
 

Plan
to attend holiday events for families of deployed Soldiers.

If you
have school-age children, attend holiday school events.

Help
organize a holiday party or potluck for families in your loved one’s command.

Visit
friends or family on the holiday.

Volunteer
for a good cause.

 

Reduce
holiday stress

It’s
easy to get caught up in all you have to do during this time of year,
especially if you have always shared the work with your deployed service
member. Tell yourself you don’t have to do everything. It’s more important to
take time out to enjoy the season.



Find
ways to have fun.

Get
plenty of rest and exercise
.

Prioritize.

Be
realistic about your expectations

As the
family member of a deployed Soldier, it’s important to be flexible,
especially during the holidays. Here are some ways to do that:



Accept
that this holiday season will be different.

Do
something you wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Keep
holiday decorations up until your loved one returns, if it makes you feel
better.

Prepare
yourself for a post-holiday letdown.

For the
full text of this article
Visit Army
OneSource Online
. Search for holiday stress.

For more information call Army OneSource today.

From
the United States: 1-800-464-8107
From Germany, Italy or Netherlands call: 00-800-4648-1077

From
Japan:

ITJ:
122-001-010-800-4648-1077

IDC:
122-001-010-800-4648-1077

KDD:
010-800-4648-1077

NTT:
122-001-010-800-4648-1077

From
South Korea:
From a DSN line dial: 550-Army (2769)

KT:
001-800-4648-1077

DARCOM:
002-800-4648-1077

Or
call collect from outside the US: 484-530-5889

Army OneSource is
brought to you by the U.S. Army, at no cost to you.  And best of all, it is here for you—any time of day, wherever
you are.  So get in touch with us
today.  We have consultants who speak
Spanish and offer simultaneous translation into more than 150 other
languages.  Phones are TTY/TDD
accessible.

Online: Visit
Army OneSource Online

User ID: army    
Password: onesource

En
español, llame al 1-800-375-5971

TTY/TTD: 1-800-346-9188

 

 



 

Volunteers Give Troops A Local Home For The
Holiday

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The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 25, 2004, Thursday

By Sonja Barisic, Associated Press
Writer

NORFOLK, Va.Every year for almost 20
years, Chris and Walter Pianka have made room for at least two strangers at
their Thanksgiving table.

They are among kindhearted families who
volunteer at this time of year to take in more than 100 young military
members stationed in southeastern Virginia who can’t make it home for the
holiday.

“It’s not their home, but they
usually have a good time,” said Chris Pianka, who spends upwards of $200
every year to treat guests to a fabulous feast of turkey, roast beef, candied
yams, mashed potatoes, cookies, cheesecake and more.

The “Adopt a Serviceperson”
program, in its 18th year, is coordinated by the USO of Hampton Roads. The
nonprofit group works to enhance the quality of life and provide public
support for armed service members and their families.

Most of the service members taking part
in the Thanksgiving program are Army students done with basic training who
are living at Fort Eustis in Newport News for a few weeks or months while
they learn military occupational specialties.

Many would have spent Thursday on post
and eaten in the mess hall if the volunteer families hadn’t adopted them for
the day.

“I think it would be pretty
lonely, just me and my buddies, hanging out in the barracks,” said Cody
Weaver, 18, of Roseville, Calif., a private in the Army National Guard
who is training to be a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic.

The four-day holiday break was too
short for Weaver to head all the way to the West Coast, but he was grateful to
be able to spend his first Thanksgiving away from home with a family in
Virginia.

Jan and Steve Daum of Gloucester were
happy to share the holiday with Weaver and Pvt. Matthew Hendrickson, 19, of
Terra Haute, Ind., who also is learning to be a Blackhawk mechanic. For
safety reasons, service members are sent to the families’ homes in pairs,
with some families taking in more than two people.

This was the third consecutive year the
Daums signed up to bring home service members. They figure the more guests, the
merrier.

“We had done Thanksgiving with
just the two of us, and it’s not as much fun as with a crowd of people,”
Jan Daum said. “When you can’t be with family, make a family.”

She likes to tell her guests, “You
can help if you want, you can have the day off if you want, you can curl up
by the fireplace if you want.”

Other options include watching movies
on tape, checking out holiday light displays and exploring the Daums’ back
yard, with a small train looping around the raised-bed garden.

For Hendrickson, the hardest part of
being away from home for Thanksgiving was “not being able to eat my
mom’s cooking.”

So he was “pumped up” about
the chance to eat a homecooked holiday meal and catch a football game on
television.

“A family here wanting to take in
a soldier and give them a good environment, that says a lot about the
family,” he said.

More than 50 families from throughout
the region were scheduled to take in service members this year, with about
100 families on a waiting list, said program coordinator Danis Lensch, who
has invited service members into her own home.

Fort Eustis buses soldiers to a central
pickup point at a mall, where they line up in formation and are matched up
with the families. Some families opt to drive to base to pick up their guests.

“It’s a nice, sweet perk for the
military,” said Vicki Bowker, a spokeswoman at Fort Eustis. “The
families in the community have been so gracious.”

The service members initially are in
uniform but may change into civilian clothes at the families’ homes.

Many families volunteer year after
year. They may have relatives who once were in the military or are serving
now and may not be around for the holiday, Lensch said.

The Piankas, of Chesapeake, have been
with the program just about from the start. They’ve never skipped a year,
even during the eight years when Chris Pianka used a wheelchair because of a
back injury.

They considered canceling this year
because Walter Pianka, who does much of the cooking, suffered a stroke in
July. But, “it’s one thing I can do for soldiers and sailors,” said
Pianka, who spent three years in the Army.

“We feel they’re putting their
life on the line for us,” Chris Pianka added. “We need to support
them.”

The Piankas whip up more than enough
food to make sure their guests can nibble all day long and take leftovers
back to base to share with those who didn’t go out on Thanksgiving.

They also insist that the service
members use their phone to call home.

“Mama wants to hear from you on
Thanksgiving,” Walter Pianka said.

 

 



 

Idaho
Governor Spending Thanksgiving With Troops In La.

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The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 25, 2004, Thursday

ALEXANDRIA, La. – Idaho Gov. Dirk
Kempthorne is spending Thanksgiving in Louisiana with members of the Idaho National
Guard’s
116th Combat Brigade Team who are awaiting deployment to Iraq.

More than 3,000 soldiers from nine
states that make up the 116th packed the Rapides Parish Coliseum on Wednesday
to hear a concert by 1960s and 70s recording artists Paul Revere and the
Raiders. Revere is from Idaho, and he jumped at the chance to come to
Alexandria to play for the troops before their departure, Kempthorne said.

“He checked their schedule and is
doing this at no cost,” the governor added. “We wanted to do
something special. We’re saying thanks (to the troops) on behalf of the
citizens of Idaho.”

Alexandria Mayor Ned Randolph accepted
a plaque of commendation from Kempthorne, honoring the city for making this a
home away from home for the troops, who have been housed at England Air Park.

“We had austere accommodations
here,” Lt. Col. Dean Hagerman said, “but that was more than made up
for by the warm reception we received from the people of Alexandria.”

Kempthorne said he’s heard of the hospitality
demonstrated by area residents.

“A mother at the mall gives her
package of cookies to a soldier; the bowling alley stays open until 3 in the
morning; the police patrol the area so they can give rides to the troops; the
troops and the people of Idaho want to thank the people of Louisiana,”
he said.

The members of the 116th will eat
Thanksgiving dinner Thursday with the governor. By Sunday night, all of the
troops will have departed Alexandria for Kuwait, then Iraq.

“We wish them godspeed, and we’ll
pray for them every day,” Randolph said.

 

 



 

New
Card Line Salutes Soldiers; Hallmark Says Its Collection Reflects The Times
And Meets Consumer Demand

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Orlando Sentinel (Florida)

November 25, 2004 Thursday 

FINAL

By Felix Carroll, Albany (N.Y.) Times
Union

Nothing can quite codify a fact of life
in America like a new line of Hallmark cards. Standing side by side with such
card-warranted occasions as birthdays and holidays is the desire these days
to thank a soldier fighting overseas. The greeting-card giant Hallmark hopes
to make such sentiment easier to convey with its “America’s Heroes”
line of everyday cards, introduced last month in retail stores nationwide.

The new collection underlines the fact
that the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan has hit home — many, many homes.
Rather than capitalizing on a grim reality, Hallmark says it’s meeting a
demand made by thousands of retailers and consumers who have requested more
cards for friends and loved ones in the military.

“If you put it into an historical
context, greeting cards always reflect the times,” says Rachel Bolton,
spokeswoman for Hallmark. “Right now, people are concerned with people
who are protecting and serving. It’s on their minds. They need to let people
know that their help was appreciated, that their sacrifice is noticed, that
we’re all grateful.” Until the new line of cards came out, retailers
made do by stocking Veterans Day cards, says Bolton. “America’s
Heroes” includes 28 new cards. Their tone runs the gamut from
lighthearted to somber. They’re designed for situations such as “miss
you” and “welcome home.”

Hallmark cards aside, military
officials emphasize the important role mail plays in the life of a soldier —
particularly soldiers who are far from home. “I can only speak for
myself,” says Lt. Col. Michael Milord, spokesman for the National
Guard.
“When the drill sergeant calls `mail call,’ it sure feels a
lot better when you hear your name called than when days go by and nothing
comes from home.”

For security reasons, the Department of
Defense urges the public not to send unsolicited mail to service members
unless you are a family member, loved one or friend. The Department of
Defense Web site, defend america.mil, includes a list of organizations
through which the public can send cards, donations for care packages and
money for much needed items such as phone cards.

“We like to think that everybody
has somebody back home,” says Milord, “but in some cases, soldiers,
sailors, they’re there by themselves.” One nonprofit group addresses
such needs. Have a Heart/Adopt a Soldier collects items and money for care
packages, which it sends overseas. The group can be reached through the Web
site usahelp.us or by linking to it through Defend America.

 

 

Santa Comes Early To Rural Alaska

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The Associated Press State & Local
Wire

November 24, 2004, Wednesday

By Rachel D’oro, Associated Press
Writer

VENETIE, Alaska  – Not a reindeer in sight, but six dogs
hitched to a sled waited as the jolly round man descended from the C-130
transport plane, his red suit offering scant protection from the biting chill
of Interior Alaska.

From the snow-covered tarmac, the dogs
whisked the man along a winding trail to the Venetie village school, where
children and their parents sat on bleachers, whispering and watching the
gymnasium door. After a harsh summer of wildfires, they were eager for this
day, when Santa Claus came to call.

As he has for almost five decades,
Santa and his helpers are visiting places too remote even for St. Nick’s
fabled mode of travel. Between early November and mid-December, they will
have dropped in on 18 villages across the state, bringing heaps of donated
toys, books, school supplies and goody bags filled with fresh fruit, bottled
water, toothbrushes and pencils, courtesy of the Alaska National Guard.

“The kids are really excited,
especially with Santa coming in on a dog team like that,” Dennis Erick,
the village chief, said as the Air Force Band of the Pacific played a snappy
“Jingle Bell Rock.”

Venetie, a largely Neets’aii Gwich’in
Indian community of 300, was among the first on the list this year. The Guard
chooses different villages each year, although St. Lawrence Island is always
included and so is Little Diomede Island, a tiny dot just east of the Russian
boundary.

“Little Diomede is so remote and
they live such a tough life on that rock, it’s the least we can do,”
said Maj. Mike Haller, who joined the project in 1986. “We also pay
attention to places that have experienced fires, floods and other
disasters.”

Such as Venetie, threatened by a
404,000-acre wildfire last summer that came within three miles of the village
and pushed heavy smoke over the region. Another year, the Yukon River village
of Koyukuk was singled out after severe flooding.

The Santa tour was born out of such
disaster.

In 1956, floods and a drought ruined
the hunting and fishing season for residents of St. Marys, a Western Alaska
village. There was only enough money to pay to have food shipped in and
nothing left over for Christmas – until operators of a Roman Catholic mission
in the village got involved, Haller said.

The mission’s mother superior wrote a
letter to the National Guard in Anchorage, asking for help. Word spread,
and within days the Guard was inundated with donations of new and used toys.
It was only natural to have Santa make the delivery.

The mission closed in the late 1980s,
but the gift-giving effort just grew and grew.

“Now we have 300 volunteers
working throughout the year collecting donations, organizing and cleaning
them,” Haller said.

Guard officials say they know of no
similar effort spreading holiday cheer over such a wide area – much of it far
from the state’s limited road system.

“No one has the challenges we have
here in Alaska,” Haller said.

So it takes a village to welcome Santa
and his entourage. In Venetie, about 160 miles north of Fairbanks,
practically everyone got involved. Some people showed up at the airstrip on
snowmobiles to drive 45 Guardsmen and volunteer elves to the school a couple
miles away. The temperature hovered around 20 degrees below zero this
November day, but it felt much colder with the wind chill of a speeding
snowmachine.

Inside the heated gym, villagers set up
an elaborate feast of moose-salad sandwiches, salmon macaroni, spaghetti and
fresh fruit and chocolate cake.

Then came the moment the children had
patiently anticipated all morning: sitting on Santa’s lap. Some sat smiling
shyly or staring at the floor. Others giggled as they told Santa what they
wanted for Christmas.

Venetie may be an isolated community
where many homes have no plumbing and residents hunt and fish for much of
their food. But as in most of Alaska’s 230 or so villages – it has plenty of
TVs and computers. The children’s wish lists were decidedly high tech,
leaning toward CD players and video games, even Halo 2, the sizzling new
offering from Microsoft Corp. that’s flying off shelves across the nation.

The youngsters also asked Santa for
puppies, stereos and snowmobiles. There were a lot of I-don’t-knows, too.

“Some kids want guns. That’s
really important here in the bush,” said Santa, a Guard member whose
identity is a top secret. “One girl said she wanted fun for Christmas. I
told her that was my favorite thing.”

As soon as they got their gifts, the
kids scampered to the bleachers to see what everyone else got.

“Holy Cow! Awesome,”
10-year-old Tiliisia Sisto said when Tony Roberts ripped the wrapping off a
remote-control car. The 11-year-old boy wasn’t as impressed.

“Halo 2 is way better,” he
said.

 

 

Vermont-N.H.
Growers Donate Christmas Trees To Soldiers’ Families

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The
Associated Press State & Local Wire

November 28, 2004

SHOREHAM,
Vt.Members of the Vermont-New Hampshire Christmas Tree Association are
donating trees this holiday season to the families of military service
members serving in Iraq.

Phil Kilin,
a grower in Shoreham, said he knows the importance of some holiday cheer
during wartime.

“When I
was cruising the coast of Vietnam in my younger days, I was the beneficiary
of gifts and thoughts from strangers and it made me feel good,” he said.
“I want to do the same thing for the next generation of troops and
families who are going through what I went through.”

The bi-state
association is donating 500 trees this season.

“At one
of our spring or early summer meetings, one of our members said that we have
troops out there fighting and we ought to support them,” Kilin said.

The speaker
suggested that members each donate Christmas trees to the families of service
people.

“The
president said, ‘Who’s in favor?’ and every hand went up,” Kilin said.
“It was kind of one of those tear-jerking moments.”

Kilin
chipped in five Boston firs he would normally sell for about $26 each.

“It’s a
good year to have Christmas trees to sell,” he said. “Demand is
firming up but the number of trees available is limited by some cyclical
growing problems in other regions.”

The trees
are being distributed through the Vermont National Guard’s family
assistance program. Heather Green Hinckley, who runs the program in Rutland,
said she expected to have about 30 trees to distribute.

“Essentially,
the trees here are allotted for Task Force Red Leg soldiers, 250 National
Guard
soldiers serving in Iraq now,” she said.

“Leftovers
will be donated to the families of Task Force Green Mountain, the 600 from
the Guard who just left,” she said. “If I had somebody come in to
me with family from the regular Army, I wouldn’t say no, either.”

 

 

Soldier’s Daughters Send Shoes To Help Afghan
Children

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The
Associated Press State & Local Wire

November 27, 2004

GARRISON,
Iowa Two sisters have given their dad exactly what he wanted for Christmas:
shoes and lots of them. Jenni Birker, 23, and Becky Kakac, 20, already have
sent 1,370 pairs of shoes to Afghanistan. The shoes are for Afghan children.

They started
the shoe project after their dad, Sgt. 1st Class Alan Kakac, 47, a soldier
the Army National Guard’s Task Force 168 at Bagram Air Base in
northeastern Afghanistan, visited an orphanage near Kabul.

The women
said their dad sent them an e-mail in August saying he needed 300 pair of
shoes for barefoot children and that winter was just three months away.

The shoes
have been distributed at schools and orphanages in Afghanistan, where Alan
Kakac has been stationed since February.

“Dad’s
told me, ‘You guys don’t know the good you’re doing here,”‘ said Birker,
an insurance agent in Vinton.

The
children, their dad wrote, are “a testament to the human spirit”
because they “play, laugh and run right up to you,” even though
their families are dead or missing.”

The
“Shoes for Kids” drive was proposed by Mark Matteson of Burlington,
another soldier in the unit. But Alan Kakac knew just the people to run the
project.

Birker and
her sister have collected footwear from worn jelly sandals to sparkling white
sneakers.

“We
take almost everything because nothing goes to waste over there,” said
Becky Kakac, who is studying political science, economics and business at
Cornell College in Mount Vernon.

She put
drop-boxes for shoes at eight Mount Vernon locations. The shoes keep coming
in, “like waves,” she said.Kakac and Birker have received help from
their mother, Susan, 46, and their brother Eric, 16, who have helped short,
scrub and lace shoes.

The project
focuses on shoes, but the family has shipped other items, including miniature
toys received from churches and hand-knit blankets, mittens and scarves made
by a sewing group in Appleton, Wis.

Alan Kakac
is scheduled to return from Afghanistan in August, but he and his daughters
want the project to continue.

“We
can’t stop now,” Alan Kakac said. “Feet grow, and shoes wear out.
This, like the reconstruction of this country, is something we must see to
the end.”

                                                                    
End                        
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