Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cumberland Island, Ga.

Photo by Mark M. M.

Please click on photo for best viewing.

This is one of the photos from SGT Mark's camping trip. They were very lucky with the weather.

Cumberland Island is a barrier island in Southern Georgia owned primarily by the National Park Service. Here are some of the historic attractions on Cumberland Island.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Greetings from Florida

We have had spectacular weather in North Florida recently. Have some other photos up at La Florida. SGT Mark picked a great weekend for camping.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grand dogs drop by for a visit

Of course, Mike and Tara were along for the ride. Now that they have three-hour commute to see the grandparents, the grand dogs wear doggles to protect their eyes when they hang their heads outside the windows. They are quite the attraction on I-95.

Of course, this marks the official end of Christmas in our household. Mark comes back tomorrow and I am back to work.

Please click on the photos for best viewing.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Empty nesters

Gayle and I are experiencing a little of what the future will bring us: an empty nest. Mike and Tara are down in Port St. Lucie, Jon is at work (yesssss!!!! finally!!) and Mark and Company are camping on Cumberland Island.

No football on TV.
No History Channel.
No Entourage.
No Discovery Channel.

It's eerily quiet.

We are very fortunate that none of our son's are in harm's way. We have too many that are.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday with family and friends. We are scattered about this year but grateful for what we have.

Prayers to the families who sons and daughters and spouses are deployed overseas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A home for the military blogs?

U.S. Military Academy at West Point Launches
“Center for Oral History”

WEST POINT, N.Y., December 2, 2008 – The United States
Military Academy at West Point, whose graduates are
commissioned 2nd Lieutenants in the U.S. Army, has launched
an ambitious Center for Oral History to serve as a living archive
on the experiences of American soldiers in war and peace.

The Center aims to be a powerful learning tool for West Point cadets
and an important research center for historians, as well as a
destination for the public to gain greater understanding of the
essential and unique calling of the U.S. soldier.

The Center for Oral History will exist largely online, with high definition
video and digital audio files, easing access for
everyone from campus cadets to scholars, journalists and
interested students half a world away.

One of the Center’s first projects has been to interview members
of West Point’s Class of 1967, who, upon graduation, were sent
almost immediately to the war in Vietnam. Another has been to
interview soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan as
part of a comprehensive, anecdotal account of those current
campaigns. Researchers are also gathering material from
veterans of World War II, Vietnam and the so-called “forgotten
war” in Korea.

By definition, the Center will be a work in
perpetual progress, continuously updated as history unfolds.
The objective is to assemble an unrivaled video, audio
and text record of military life – in the field, as well as in the
classroom and also the “war room,” since the Center hopes to
include interviews with senior Pentagon strategists and former
Secretaries of Defense and State who have helped shape
military and foreign policy.

But its core mission is to capture the personal narratives of those
who have lived the military life. As stated on the Center’s home
page: “Every soldier has a story. Here is where the story is told.”

For more information, click here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Last of the Topps

From The Florida Times-Union:

Loyal Jaguars fan earns salute from Topps NFL cards
He's among 11 military members to be featured.

By Timothy J. Gibbons
Story updated at 9:39 AM on Monday, Dec. 22, 2008

When Army Spc. Mark Middlebrook finished up a day in Iraq, one of the first things he'd often do is call home to talk to his parents.

Part of that was being a dutiful son. Other times he had, well, a more important reason for calling.

"All I'd want to know is if the Jags won," he said.

This is a guy who went to every home game the Jaguars played for the first four or five years the team existed. A guy who stayed up all night to watch the team play the Colts.

Now he's a guy with his own Topps NFL trading card.

Middlebrook was one of 11 people selected to be an Armed Forces Fan of the Game, a tribute by the trading card company to members of the military.

It's given the 23-year-old a certain level of fame, at least among card collectors.

"A sergeant calls me up out of the blue and says, 'I've got your card,' " Middlebrook said. "Three or four other people have said that to me."

The 11 Armed Forces Fans are scattered randomly among the 440 cards that make up the NFL set, which are sold in packs of 10.

The Jags selected Middlebrook after the NFL approached them about participating in the program. The team already has strong ties to the military, forged by sending players out to visit the area's bases, setting up special events for veterans and arranging for flyovers.

The rest of the story can be found here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Editing history

The digital age came too late for me. I could have used it about 30 years ago. Wading through the left over stuff from our spare storage unit, I've come across box after box after box of negatives.

Why am I not retiring early? Because we spent at least $3 million in photo processing in our early days.I don't think there was a second in my kids' lives that hasn't been memorialized. Yikes.

And you know those cool little, see-through sleeves that the negatives came in after they were processed...that promised easy storage and retrieval? Well, they dry up and crack into bazillions of little plastic grains of sand.

All of this work has left me in charge of editing my photo family history.


Any photo that is suitable for embarrassing my sons at such times as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays.....those are KEEPERS.

Any photo that embarrasses Mom or Dad.....GONE!

Any photo suggesting that Dad may have a weight problem ....GONE!

Photos of the pets....KEEPERS.

Photos of the kids and pets .....DOUBLE KEEPERS.

Any photo suitable for black mailing our children (such as the purple hair days)....KEEPERS.

And who thought that taking a camera into the Mom's labor room was a good idea? Those photos are going to be seriously EDITED.

It took 34 years to shoot them all and it will probably take 34 years to sort them all out.

The digital age is so much easier, delete, delete, delete.

Friday, December 19, 2008


We've been downsizing as a result of the recession, so we closed down one our storage units (when you live in one place for 26 years, you accumulate a lot of crap). Found lots of old stuff from my days in the Army, which may make for some fun posts.

But today, we were at the remaining storage unit retrieving 17,000 boxes of Christmas ornaments and lights when I found my street map of Baghdad and a National Geographic map of Iraq. Both were nicely mounted and well used.

Now they are in the dumpster. Don't I will need them any more.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

News and notes

For those who are actually doing Christmas shopping this year, here's a reason to go to Sears. Despite declining sales and profits, Sears has remained steadfast in its support of its employees who are members of the Reserves or the National Guard, says NBC News.

We will probably have one more Topps story to post here. The local paper has interviewed Mark and I dropped off two cards to the newsroom yesterday. Stories of the card have spread through Ft. Bragg and he is receiving a fair amount of grief (there's a more specific Army term for this) from his fellow troopers.

Gayle relived her trip to the White House last year as one of the creators of a National Park Christmas Tree ornament. She presented to the Museum of Contemporary Art Guild here in Jax. I was in charge of the Power Point, which choked and crashed the computer. Luckily, someone had a backup and all went off well. Gayle donated three handmade ornaments ala the White House, which fetched $100 at auction for the Guild.

Things are looking well for SGT Mark to attend the University of North Florida next year. With the cooperation of the Army, he could be in school by July.

Oldest son Mike has moved to St. Lucie County where is now a biologist for the county's land preservation program. This will be our first "split" Christmas that I can remember. Even with Mark deployed to Iraq, he was home for Christmas both times.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Palm Valley boat parade

An annual tradition in this neck of the woods. We liked this one the best.

Please click on the image for best viewing. It was very creative.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Topps

We are starting to receive cold calls regarding the Topps card, everyone wanting to send Mark back his card. Had one from Huntington, IN, and a note from a detective from West Monroe, LA. And I was the successful bidder on the a full set of the 11 service men and women on Ebay. $1.50. Seems like it should have been more than that.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More heros

For some reason, the mainstream media has picked up a story about about 10 Green Berets receiving the Silver Star for their actions in Afghanistan. I am hopeful that maybe the war coverage is improving but it's more likely that this story is so incredible that it can't be ignored:

NBC News

Washington Post

Thursday, December 11, 2008

News and notes

Baby boomlet: We've had this story up before but NBC News had a "feel good" piece on the Ft. Bragg baby boom. It's still a neat story.

The Fayetteville Observer covered the Special Forces awards ceremony yesterday:

By Henry Cuningham
Military editor

Staff Sgt. Morgan Ford had never been in combat before Nov. 2, 2007, when he was manning a .50-caliber machine gun on a truck, and his unit came under attack in Afghanistan.

“That was the first time I had ever been shot at,” Ford said. “It was an experience. I wouldn’t say I was scared. I think I was ready for it.”

On Wednesday, Ford received a Bronze Star for valor for that incident and two Purple Hearts for his service in Afghanistan with the 3rd Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg.

Ford, a 22-year-old communications sergeant, received three of the 116 combat-related awards given to 3rd Group soldiers at a ceremony at John F. Kennedy Auditorium, adjacent to the JFK Special Warfare Center and School.

The rest of the story can be found here.

And I am happy to say that I found an Army SGT asleep on the couch this a.m. He has a four day pass and got home of the really nasty weather that soaking the Beaches today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Local soldier featured on trading card

video can be seen here.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A perk usually reserved for those on the field of play, not on the battle field, has been bestowed upon a local soldier and several other troops who are popping up in packs of football trading cards.

Sgt. Mark M. Middlebrook has never played in an NFL game, but the soldier from Ponte Vedra is now being featured in packs of football cards.

The soldier's father told Channel 4 the picture of his son on his trading card was taken in Baghdad right after a sniper incident.

Middlebrook, a Nease High School graduate, is one of 11 military men and women that Topps Football Cards has inserted in packs along with football stars.

Middlebrooks' card represents the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"He's a huge fan. He just lives and breathes Jaguars. He'd be out on tough combat mission, and then he'd call late at night and say, 'What happened with Jaguars?' That's all he cared about," said the soldier's father, Mark Middlebrook.

Middlebrook's dad has collected about 20 of his son's cards so far. He said the family is excited for their son.

"It's a big deal. It's really nice," Middlebrook said.

The troops trading cards were not the first time the Ponte Vedra soldier has been in the public spotlight. On Memorial Day, he addressed a crowd downtown about what it means to be a soldier.

Middlebrook has served two tours in Iraq so far, and may have another left. He is current at Fort Bragg.

"This is great. It's a real honor to see him on football card. You can actually buy him on eBay. He's a commodity," Middlebrook said.

So, as young people collect football cards in search of their favorite sports hero, they just might end up with a different type of hero in the palm of their hands.

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All The News That's Fit To Print

The Topps set of 440 N.F.L. cards has 11 Armed Forces Fans of the Game.

From the Nov. 30 New York Times

Topps Salutes the Troops With Trading Cards

Published: November 29, 2008

This year’s Topps N.F.L. card set includes two Tomlinsons: LaDainian, a running back with the San Diego Chargers; and Wyat, a staff sergeant based at the United States Army Recruiting Battalion in Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s an unbelievable thrill,” said Wyat, a Kansas City native who grew up rooting for the Chiefs. “Some of the guys here have been teasing me about it. They’re now calling me Rookie Card.”

Sergeant Tomlinson, 29, is one of 11 Armed Forces Fans of the Game nominated by their home teams. Their cards are among the 440 that make up the Topps set. Randomly placed in packs of 10, the armed forces cards have become collector’s items.

“We wanted to pay tribute to our soldiers in some fashion,” said Clay Luraschi, the director of product development for Topps. “We went to the N.F.L. and they were totally on board with it, and immediately began asking teams to nominate soldiers from their respective cities.”

The other Topps trading card troops are Capt. John C. Cochrane Jr. of the Navy (nominated by the Jets); Col. Marc Hendler, New York Army National Guard (Giants); Lance Cpl. James A. Lenihan, Marine Corps Reserve (Cincinnati); Specialist Mark M. Middlebrook, Army (Jacksonville); Maj. Sean Ryan, Army (Denver); Sgt. Philip LaBonte, Michigan Army National Guard (Detroit); Cpl. Ryan M. Lenser, Marines (Green Bay); Senior Airman Gabriel Bird, Louisiana Air National Guard (New Orleans); Sgt. Christopher Ames, Marines (Arizona); and Sgt. Traci Williams, Army Reserve (Seattle).

The rest of the story is here:

I will have a part two to this story tomorrow. That's Mark at the bottom of the illustration.

Monday, December 8, 2008

This shouldn't happen

Mother's donations stolen

By Denise Nix, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/03/2008 04:05:08 PM PST

Linda Ferrara wanted to do something for soldiers like her son who sacrificed his safety for others.

So in the year since Army Capt. Matthew Ferrara was killed in Afghanistan, his mother has dedicated hours collecting clothes and crafting handmade blankets for wounded soldiers overseas.

The Torrance resident had planned to ship the goods Wednesday to an Army hospital in Germany.

Instead, she's despondent over the weekend theft of hundreds of socks, sweat shirts, pajama pants, boxers, blankets and other items.

"I don't want to let them down," Ferrara said. "This wasn't just stuff, this was going to wounded soldiers."

The items were being stored in the Ferrara family's RV, which was

parked outside their Bay Cities Italian Bakery on a dead-end street among industrial buildings near California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Ferrara and her family suspects someone was watching as they stockpiled the goods and expect the thieves will try to sell the items.

She estimates that at least $6,000 worth of clothes were stolen, along with the priceless patriotic fleece blankets she and other volunteers spent hours sewing. At one point, they auctioned three of the blankets for $410, which they then used to buy fabric for 30 more blankets, she said.

Matthew Ferrara, 24, graduated from West Point Military Academy before he was shipped to Afghanistan. He was killed, along with five others, on Nov. 10, 2007, when insurgents ambushed their patrol.

Two of his brothers also graduated from the prestigious academy, while another brother is in the ROTC program at USC.

The Ferrara family's deep roots in the military were only strengthened after Matthew's death, his mother said.

People from around the world have contacted them to share stories about her son's life and the circumstances of his death.

"It brings you closer to the whole rest of the world," Ferrara said.
So in the year since Army Capt. Matthew Ferrara was killed in Afghanistan, his mother has dedicated hours collecting clothes and crafting handmade blankets for wounded soldiers overseas.

The Torrance resident had planned to ship the goods Wednesday to an Army hospital in Germany.

Instead, she's despondent over the weekend theft of hundreds of socks, sweat shirts, pajama pants, boxers, blankets and other items.

"I don't want to let them down," Ferrara said. "This wasn't just stuff, this was going to wounded soldiers."

The items were being stored in the Ferrara family's RV, which was

parked outside their Bay Cities Italian Bakery on a dead-end street among industrial buildings near California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Ferrara and her family suspects someone was watching as they stockpiled the goods and expect the thieves will try to sell the items.

She estimates that at least $6,000 worth of clothes were stolen, along with the priceless patriotic fleece blankets she and other volunteers spent hours sewing. At one point, they auctioned three of the blankets for $410, which they then used to buy fabric for 30 more blankets, she said.

Matthew Ferrara, 24, graduated from West Point Military Academy before he was shipped to Afghanistan. He was killed, along with five others, on Nov. 10, 2007, when insurgents ambushed their patrol.

Two of his brothers also graduated from the prestigious academy, while another brother is in the ROTC program at USC.

The Ferrara family's deep roots in the military were only strengthened after Matthew's death, his mother said.

People from around the world have contacted them to share stories about her son's life and the circumstances of his death.

"It brings you closer to the whole rest of the world," Ferrara said.

The rest of the story can be read here.

Deployment information

From the Fayetteville Observer

3rd brigade combat team on the ramp again

By Henry Cuningham
Military editor

Pfc. Roberto Rizo is using crutches because of a leg injury, but he left Fort Bragg on Friday on his way to Iraq because his unit needs him.

The 24-year-old supply clerk from Nicaragua was among about 200 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team who departed Friday afternoon for a year in Iraq. The deployment of 3,500 soldiers began before Thanksgiving, and about half the soldiers are gone. They hope to be back for Christmas 2009.

“I have a light injury on my leg, I have a fracture,” Rizo said. “But I volunteered to go and try to do my job and serve the country.”

Capt. Clay White, his company commander, said normally somebody with that kind of problem might stay behind.

“He recognized how much we need him on the team,” White said. “He volunteered to come forward with us.”

In an adjoining passenger shelter on Friday, about 200 soldiers of the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team waited to fly to Afghanistan to train and mentor the Afghan army and police. After mobilizing, the guardsmen trained at Fort Bragg for about 60 days. They expect to return to Fort Bragg by early September.

The 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers flew out of Pope Air Force Base’s Green Ramp on their way to Kuwait. While waiting in the passenger shelter, they talked on cell phones, snoozed on rucksacks or went outside for a few last puffs on cigarettes.

They will spend about a week in Kuwait before moving on to Baghdad. Rizo will be able to get good medical care in Kuwait, White said.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Person of the Week - Bert Brady - Welcome Home - ABC News

Thanks to Mighty Mom for this

From NBC News

Grab your Kleenex before you watch this one:


Friday, December 5, 2008

Off topic: The strange tale of Mr. Hobbs

Mr. Hobbs

I can't exactly recall just how old Mr. Hobbs is but he's been around the block a few times.

Gayle adopted him when she found him huddled under her car when she was picking up some awards at the Trophy Man. Mr. Hobbs was a little handful and had been abandoned by his mother. As she has been doing all her life - herding stray cats - she scooped him up and brought him home.

She nursed him back to health and by most measures he was a pretty happy cat. But he was the third cat, the only tabby in a herd of black and white cats. A few years later, Gayle found another kitty that had been left by the side of Mayport Road, a heavily traveled highway that leads out to the St. Johns River ferry. Again, it was barely a handful of a kitty. But this kitten was black and white. So we had three black and whites and a tabby.

Mr. Hobbs was outraged. He couldn't deal with an aggressive black and white kitten (who, by the way, is still a major pain) so he started hanging out at the neighbor's house across the street.

One day, a little VW beetle with Alaska license plates showed up at that neighbor's house. After about a month, the VW disappeared and so did Mr. Hobbs. We looked around the neighborhood for weeks but could never find him. We weren't on speaking terms with our neighbors so we never asked them what may have happened.

Fast forward four years.

The VW beetle shows up and so does Mr. Hobbs. Out of the blue, he bolted across the street and back into our yard. He has never left since.

Soooooo. We believe he spent four years in Alaska - he may even have met Sarah Palin. But regardless of the number of black and white cats we have, he is not leaving our yard or the Florida sunshine ever again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

From today's Washington Post

A Lifeline Abroad for Iraqi Children
Army Doctor, Colleague Create Nonprofit To Link Young With Badly Needed Care

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 3, 2008; Page A09

BAGHDAD -- A couple of months after Capt. Jonathan Heavey, a Walter Reed Army Medical Center physician, arrived in Baghdad, an Iraqi doctor handed him the medical file of a 2-year-old boy with a life-threatening heart ailment. The doctor said the boy couldn't get the care he needed in Iraq.

Heavey decided to help. He e-mailed a copy of the child's electrocardiogram and other information to a former colleague at the University of Virginia, who agreed to treat the boy for free. Then Heavey began the many-layered process of applying for U.S. visas for the boy and a female guardian. Among other things, Heavey had to provide proof that the guardian wasn't pregnant. Two months into the process, the boy died.

"It was pretty crushing," said Heavey, a 33-year-old battalion surgeon assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. "It was incredibly disappointing to know there are academic facilities back home willing and able to help. But there were just too many logistical hurdles."

Appalled by the state of Iraq's health-care system and frustrated by rules preventing military doctors from treating Iraqis, Heavey and a colleague, Capt. John Knight, 36, began arranging for sick Iraqi children to receive free medical treatment abroad. During their year-long deployment, which ended last month, they created a nonprofit organization that has sent 12 children overseas for medical care, funded by $17,000 that Heavey and Knight have contributed from their own pockets and raised from family and friends.

Heavey, who is so polite and soft-spoken that he seems out of place among gruff infantrymen, and Knight, 36, a physician assistant, worked at a small aid station inside the high walls of Forward Operating Base Justice, a U.S. military base in the Kadhimiyah section of northern Baghdad.

For the rest of the story, click here.

FYI, Camp Justice is in the same area of Baghdad in which SGT Mark patrolled.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving is over

SGT Mark is slogging his way back to Ft. Bragg on one of the busiest days for highway travel of the year. A cold front is hugging the coast so he should have lousy weather all the way to Fayetteville.

No family pictures this year. Dad, in his old age, left his camera at the house when we visited Mike and Tara for Thanksgiving.

Spent a good chunk of the weekend following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai when I was advised by my soldier that if I watch, they win. So I quit and indulged in Rivalry Saturday (Virginia lost, Florida won).

Friday, November 28, 2008


You will notice a new gadget at the top of the page today. It's link to our other blog La Florida. It's also a shameless ploy to drive traffic to that site, on which Google places ads. So far, we've earned enough money to buy a Starbucks coffee :) (I don't drink coffee anyway)

News from Afghanistan

NBC aired a piece on "the other war" last night. You can watch it here. The commercials takes 29 seconds.

Off topic: Britain's Got Talent - Kate Nicholas and Gin The Dog

We are a border collie family. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Ft. George Island

Christmas a month early

Fayetteville Observer photo by Raul R. Rubiera
Capt. Matthew Canada, who will deploy to Iraq next week, celebrated Christmas early with his wife, Kristi, and three daughters. From left are Elise, Emily and Eden.

From the Fayetteville Observer:

Holiday, any day: A military family adapts

By John Ramsey
Staff writer

Kristi and Matt Canada tried to stick with family holiday traditions this year even as he was set to deploy to Iraq before Christmas.

On a Saturday three weeks ago, Kristi Canada closed all the blinds in her home to shut out the rest of the world.

Her husband, Capt. Matthew Canada — a self-described “little boy at Christmas” — cranked up the holiday music and got to work with his three young daughters: Emily, Elise and Eden.

Inside the four walls of their beige and brick home, Santa Claus himself would have had to check his calendar.

Boughs of holly raced up the staircase handrail. Wreathes hung above the sofa.

And Daddy was home for Christmas.

The war in Iraq has been pushed off Page 1 for many families in America, behind Barack Obama’s election and concerns about the faltering economy. But here in Fayetteville, for Fort Bragg families, it’s still a part of their daily lives.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Thanksgiving, part 3

Recreation of Ft. Caroline, the first French settlement along the St. Johns River.

From The New York Times

Op-Ed Contributor
A French Connection

Published: November 25, 2008

TO commemorate the arrival of the first pilgrims to America’s shores, a June date would be far more appropriate, accompanied perhaps by coq au vin and a nice Bordeaux. After all, the first European arrivals seeking religious freedom in the “New World” were French. And they beat their English counterparts by 50 years. That French settlers bested the Mayflower Pilgrims may surprise Americans raised on our foundational myth, but the record is clear.

Long before the Pilgrims sailed in 1620, another group of dissident Christians sought a haven in which to worship freely. These French Calvinists, or Huguenots, hoped to escape the sectarian fighting between Catholics and Protestants that had bloodied France since 1560.

Landing in balmy Florida in June of 1564, at what a French explorer had earlier named the River of May (now the St. Johns River near Jacksonville), the French émigrés promptly held a service of “thanksgiving.” Carrying the seeds of a new colony, they also brought cannons to fortify the small, wooden enclosure they named Fort Caroline, in honor of their king, Charles IX.

In short order, these French pilgrims built houses, a mill and bakery, and apparently even managed to press some grapes into a few casks of wine. At first, relationships with the local Timucuans were friendly, and some of the French settlers took native wives and soon acquired the habit of smoking a certain local “herb.” Food, wine, women — and tobacco by the sea, no less. A veritable Gallic paradise.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving part 2


Where was the first Thanksgiving held for European settlers in America?

Thanksgiving part 1

From the Fayetteville Observer:

Feeding a small army

By John Ramsey
Staff writer

The ovens in the 3rd Brigade mess hall stayed on from Monday night to Tuesday morning, cooking enough food to feed a small Army.

From 6 p.m. until 7 a.m., 22 cooks prepared 823 pounds of turkey, 526 pounds of ham and 319 pounds of pot roast, not to mention the boatloads of gravy, stuffing and all sorts of Thanksgiving fixings. And that was just for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s mess hall, one of several on Fort Bragg that will feed more than 13 tons of holiday feast food to soldiers this week.

Cornucopias in the center of the room — facing a fridge full of pumpkin pies — overflowed with grapes, bananas, walnuts and M&Ms.

In about five hours, officers in their dress blues shoveled mashed potatoes, meats and more onto the plates of about 3,000 soldiers.

Soon after mealtime began at 11 a.m., a line snaked outside and around the corner of the mess hall, a building that may see a lot less traffic come next week. That’s when the 3rd Brigade Combat Team — about 3,500 men and women who make up part of the 82nd Airborne Division — will deploy to Iraq.

Three such soldiers — all in the Brigade Support Battalion, Alpha Company — sat around a table Tuesday afternoon, the food on their plates tipping over onto their green trays.

They said the food was juicier than the usual fare, with more down-home flavor. And seeing the bosses doing the serving was an added treat.

Pfc. William Benis said sharing a Thanksgiving meal with Pvt. Lorne Russell and Pfc. Angela Santos seemed fitting.

“We’ve been in the same place, going through the same stuff for a year and a half,” Benis said. “This is family after a while.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tickets anyone?

You know it was a bad game when the fly over by the Air Force was the best thing about a football game. This will likely be my last post about the Jacksonville Jaguars, who suffered a humiliating 30-12 loss to the Minnesota Vikings yesterday. Mark's beloved (well maybe not this version) team were down 14 points in the first 1:40 minutes of the game.

As I have written before, I opted for season tickets this year instead of a vacation as a reward for Mark for his service overseas. But it looks like he won't get to see any games in person this year. Darn all that training :)

But there were some heartwarming moments at yesterday's game: Our friends who sit the row behind us brought their son who had just finished a tour in Iraq for the Air Force. He was all smiles and looking quite relaxed.

In the third quarter, a Marine gunnery sergeant in dress blues came into our section of the stands looking for his seat. We see him in the tailgating area of the stadium almost every game collecting donations for Toys for Tots.

Turns out he was in the wrong section. But as he made his way out, he was given a standing ovation and offered dozens of hand shakes. This would have never happened 40 years ago. I remember.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Around the news dial

Been on the road again a lot lately, so I haven't much time to post. I am hoping things will be slowing down a bit over the holidays. SGT Mark has a 4-day leave and will be home for Thanksgiving.

Fayetteville, home to Ft. Bragg and Pope AFB, is trying re-brand itself into the "world's first sanctuary for soldiers." Time magazine has written a short story about the city that used to be called Fayettenam. You can read about it here.

The Pentagon has started a new project called Troop Tube, a You Tube of sorts but for service members and their families. Newsweek has written a short piece on how it works.

Hope everyone is having a good weekend. It is very cold here for North Florida (record setting freezing temperatures overnight).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Deployment information

From the Fayetteville Observer

From this military family's perspective, the last sentence is the best news.

3rd Brigade headed to Iraq

By Henry Cuningham
Military editor

The first of about 3,500 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division will begin leaving for Iraq this week.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team will begin a yearlong deployment.

A small group will leave before Thanksgiving, and most will leave after Thanksgiving, said Col. Timothy P. McGuire, the brigade commander.

“It’s always hard to deploy and be away from your families,” McGuire said.

“But I actually think with a 12-month deployment, by heading out now, our paratroopers should be home for Christmas on the back side of the deployment so it can really be a great celebration on return,” he said.

The soldiers will operate in the Baghdad area.

The brigade combat team is formed around the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and includes two infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, a field artillery battalion, a special troops battalion and a support battalion.

Some mid- to senior-level leaders in the brigade are on their second or third deployment, McGuire said. Some paratroopers are making their first deployment, he said.

McGuire visited Iraq in late September.

“It’s great to see the gains that have been made,” he said. “You can really feel it. It’s exciting on our watch. The elections will occur shortly after we arrive.”

Provincial elections will be held in January.

The arrival of a new U.S. president and Congress in early 2009 will provide an example of U.S. democracy as the Iraqis hold their elections, he said.

“I think we can point to our elections as how a democratic state goes ahead and solves problems,” McGuire said.

A big focus of the work will be on the relationship with the Iraqi Security Forces.

“We will try to work ourselves out of a job,” McGuire said. “Every day the Iraqi Security Forces get stronger, we get one day closer to coming home.”

The Iraqi Cabinet on Sunday approved a bilateral agreement allowing U.S. troops to remain in the country for three more years.

“The Status of Forces Agreement will impact how we do operations,” McGuire said. “Our main effort is building partnership, working hand-in-hand with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

McGuire’s brigade will replace soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division.

The 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team and 1st Brigade Combat Team expect to deploy in mid-2009.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team will be kept at Fort Bragg in coming months to serve as a worldwide rapid-response force.

Monday, November 17, 2008

To paraphrase a commercial

Tickets to the the Jaguar v. Titans game: $58 a piece;
Groceries for tailgating: $46;
Beach Road fried chicken for tailgating: $39;
Beer at the game: $8 a piece;
Watching 105 young men and women take the oath of enlistment for all military branches during halftime: Utterly amazing, given our times.

It was military appreciation day at the Jaguars game and the field was filled with military, including WWII vets. A Stealth bomber did the opening flyby and the National Anthem was sung by a soldier in Balad. Quite a night. For the military families in the stands, there were few dry eyes.

Now if only the Jaguars could put together four quarters of decent football.....

These soldiers reenlisted.

New recruits

From The Florida Times-Union website -

Sunday, November 16, 2008

From the New York Times

A baby shower for 1,000 new and expecting mothers was held Saturday at the Crown Exposition Center in Fayetteville, N.C.

At Army Base, Stork Landed With the Airborne

Published: November 15, 2008

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Joanne Chavonne saw pregnant women everywhere in town, shopping at Target for diapers or dining at a Mexican restaurant.

The base has seen an estimated 50 percent surge in births.

Then she heard that so many families were calling the medical clinic at nearby Fort Bragg for the results of pregnancy tests that the Army had to install an extra telephone line.

And finally, over the summer, an administrator told her that the hospital on base was overrun with women in labor, and was delivering nearly 300 babies a month. “I was shocked,” said Ms. Chavonne, whose husband, Anthony, is the mayor here. “That’s 10 a day.”

For the first time since the Gulf war, the entire 82nd Airborne division was deployed during the surge in 2007. Nearly 22,000 soldiers joyously reunited with their families when they began returning last October. The base is also host to 29,000 soldiers from other units, which all contributed to what by August was an estimated 50 percent surge in births at Womack Army Medical Center, the base hospital, compared with the previous year.

The community has turned this into a celebration. On Saturday, about 1,000 recent mothers and mothers-to-be gathered as guests of honor at Boots & Booties, billed as the largest military shower ever.

Under billboards with fuchsia butterflies, at the Crown Exposition Center, pregnant women in stretchy pants and flip-flops drank red punch and helped themselves to deviled eggs and cupcakes spread out along a buffet table. Sarah Deady arrived at the extravaganza right from her recovery bed — she had had a Caesarian section on Thursday and walked gingerly.

Catherine Robinson, 35 and pregnant with her third child, was experiencing contractions. “I have long labors,” she said, explaining why she decided to come anyway.

The impact of the baby surge is being felt all across Fayetteville, a city of 210,000, from the registries at Fleishman’s Tiny Town to the civilian hospital, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where the overflow of military patients sometimes has to labor in the waiting room until beds become available. Dr. David A. Schutzer, who runs the Highland Ob-Gyn Clinic in town, said that last month his practice delivered 50 percent more babies than usual, most of them military.

It is impossible to walk through the produce sections of the commissaries on base without seeing bellies or newborns in car seats. “Overseas, our soldiers concentrate on their mission,” said Tom McCollum, the public affairs officer for Fort Bragg, which occupies the north and west sides of Fayetteville. “But they can’t wait to get back home.”

At Dads 101, a class for new and soon-to-be fathers that helps ease the transition from soldier to caretaker, attendance has doubled. Maternity-size Army combat uniforms in the digitized, sand-patterned camouflage used in Iraq and Afghanistan are on backorder at the base clothing sales store. And in anticipation of growing demand for home visits and other family services, the base’s New Parents Support Program has increased its staff from 5 to 19.

Baby furniture is selling so quickly at the Target on Skibo Road, a few miles southeast of the base, that pregnant women are despairing when they cannot find matching cribs, dressers and changing tables. “They’ll be, like, ‘I just called and y’all said you had it,’ " said Tyneisha McRae, a clerk working the night shift, when the infant department gets restocked. The store opens at 8 a.m., she said, “and most of the time, we’re sold out by 8:30 or 9.”

Lisa Olivares, a manager at CCE Headgear Plus, a kiosk at the mall that offers custom embroidery, has been inundated with requests to stitch unit crests and nicknames onto baby onesies, polka-dot bonnets and camouflage diaper bags. “It’s all I do,” she said.

Soldiers have noticed the boom among their ranks. “Four females in my unit have had babies,” said Staff Sgt. Bill McSwain, as he held his own new daughter, Gabrielle, in his lap in the waiting room of the Ob-Gyn clinic at Womack.

For the rest of the story, click here

Saturday, November 15, 2008

U.S. Coast Guard: A salute

I was rummaging around my hard drive and found some pictures I had forgotten that I had taken. The first was taken in Sail Jacksonville in 2004 and the second was taken while we were on the cruise ship Celebrity in February 2006 (back when we had an economy). We don't talk about the U.S. Coast Guard much here, so today we will give them a tip of the hat.

U.S. Coast Guard Eagle

Guarding a cruise ship as it leaves the Port of Jacksonville

Photographs are best viewed by clicking on them.

From the Fayetteville Observer

Sanford resident and Army wife Chelsea Shand, left, is presented a Ford Mustang by ‘Army Wives’ star Kim Delaney.

'Army Wives Gives Back'

By Hilary Kraus
Staff writer

SANFORD — “Army Wives Gives Back” has been very generous to breast cancer survivor Chelsea Shand.

Shand, a 34-year-old Fort Bragg Army wife and mother, received enough free bling from the Lifetime TV series to fill a foxhole.

There’s the big-ticket item: a 2009 limited-edition Ford Mustang convertible with dark pink stripes, which is part of Ford’s Warriors in Pink breast-cancer awareness program. She also was given a gift basket with items worth hundreds of dollars.

Shand was overwhelmed by the gifts, but she is taking advantage of the opportunity so she can give back.

On Oct. 26, her journey — about her diagnosis and recovery — was told in a two-minute segment that aired during an episode of “Army Wives.” The popular Lifetime TV series, which recently finished its second season, follows the lives of four Army wives, their families and life in the military.

Lifetime Television sponsored a campaign called “Army Wives Gives Back.” Women were asked to submit their stories of life as military wives. Two of the five stories selected came from wives of Fort Bragg soldiers: Shand and Jetta Fuhrman. Shand’s husband, Stefen, is a Special Forces soldier. Fuhrman’s husband, Patrick, is a jumpmaster. Both soldiers are deployed.

Now Shand, a talkative, self-confident Army wife is sharing first-hand knowledge of the importance of breast cancer awareness, particularly for young women.

Her message is this: Don’t put off getting a suspicious lump checked out, even if age is on your side and there’s no family history of cancer. Positive reassurance from doctors also shouldn’t be enough, she said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On parade

The Red Falcons official battalion photograph. This was taken in the spring and then SPC Mark is in there somewhere. The photograph is best viewed by clicking on it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Today is Veteran's Day when we pause to respect those who have stepped in harm's way to keep us free. In reality, every day, particularly when we are at war, should be Veteran's Day.

So today we remember those who have gone before us. We owe them respect for what they have done for us and we honor their service to the country.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dwell time

The Red Falcons have been home for a little over a year now, which means they are eligible for redeployment. The good news is that there is little Joe talk about what's going to happen in the future. And it's hard to discern from the current training cycle that they are going anywhere anytime soon.

They came in out of the field Friday for a long Veteran's Day weekend and resume training on Wednesday.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Editorial: Give him a chance

From the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette Journal:

"The election being done, the prize of the presidency is now in the grasp of Barack Obama. It may be hard to forget the ugly, ugly ads, emails and statements that preceded Tuesday’s voting, but for the sake of the country, it is imperative to do this. John McCain lost and conceded graciously. Obama won and claimed his landslide victory with respect for those who did not support him, and with an eye to the hard work ahead.

Given the nature of modern partisanship and the deep divisions apparent in the past three presidential elections, it may seem impossible to weld together one national interest again. But our times and the present degree of separation are nothing compared to some experienced in the past.

We have survived a Civil War; the nation will be observing this war’s 150th anniversary by the time Obama’s term is ending.

Forty years ago, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War tore the national fabric much more deeply than any trumped-up "liberal" and "conservative" and "values" and "same-old" voting campaigns have ever managed to achieve. At the core, American people are decent and generous. They can be swayed by the politics of fear, but their innate optimism usually triumphs over the dark predictions that warn against this candidate, or that one.

Now Barack Obama has his chance to govern. We should vow to grant him an opportunity to introduce his propositions and work with the Congress without the usual sniping and slamming that permeate the airwaves. Give him a chance and let’s see what the new man can do."

The publisher of this paper is a gentleman named John Warren Cooke. He was my first publisher/editor when I started out in the newspaper business in 1978.

He has a remarkable family history: His father was Maj. Giles B. Cooke, who served on Gen. Robert E. Lee's staff during the Civil War. He was on Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg and at the surrender at Appomattox Court House. Maj. Cooke was 70 when John Warren was born and he lived another 20 years.

Mr. Cooke (John Warren) grew up hearing firsthand accounts of the great battles of the war that divided the country.

In the 50s, Mr. Cooke was an influential politician and was among the first to call for the reopening of Virginia's public schools after they were closed after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

By my reckoning, he must be 92 or 93. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall on his office Wednesday when this editorial was written.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More wedding pics

OMG, we are coming up on a two-week anniversary.

Mike and Tara

Mike and Tara

Dad, Uncle Steve, Melanie Sheppard

Bob Ryan, father of the bride, and SGT Mark.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day

Lot's of chatter today about yesterday's historic election. And historic it was.

Record turnouts everywhere. Democracy broke out everywhere, in every community across the country.

But for the Red Falcons of the 82nd, who have been out in the field for 10 days, the soldiers patrolling in the deadly Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, to the Marines in Anbar, the airmen at Balad and the sailors at sea, it was just another day...another day at war.

And yesterday, we did our duty, which is why they do theirs.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A story of service and leadership

The Story by Dick Gordon

On the day when voters are choosing a new leader, this is one story that's certain to inspire.

Army Capt. Ivan Castro was on a rooftop in Iraq trying to secure a safer position for his unit when he was attacked by mortar rounds. Two soldiers under his command died in that attack, and Ivan sustained life-threatening injuries.

After months of rehab and dozens of surgeries, Ivan was finally able to get out of bed and start walking on his own. But he had one injury that could not be fixed: Ivan lost his sight. But blindness has not stopped Ivan Castro from achieving his goals. He has found way to continue to serve and lead despite his injury. He talks with Dick Gordon about how he made the decision to continue serving the nation as an officer in the Army's Special Forces.

To listen, click here.


SGT Mark says we should listen to NPR today at 1 p.m. One of the soldiers wounded in a mission that Mark participated is being interviewed. I will try to post the transcript or a link to audio file if that happens.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


This is SGT Mark's big brother Mike in 1984.

And now he is married. Where did all the time go?

If only he would finish the tiki bar. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bark v. Bite

Today is the annual Georgia-Florida football. The city is full of Bulldog (bark) and Gator (bite) fans. The Gators football team went by in a full, sirens blaring, police-escorted motorcade this morning around 10 o'clock. By law, I have to root for the Gators because we live in Florida and because the Gator's quarterback played football at SGT Mark's high school (they didn't know each other).

I am betting on the Bulldogs this year because their fans have left all of their dogs at friends houses in our neighborhood and they are barking up a storm.

SGT Mark has the day off today and will be back in the field tomorrow. The good news is that is warming up a bit at Ft. Bragg. The bad news: he will miss the Jaguars game against Cincinnati.

Friday, October 31, 2008

News and notes

*The Red Falcons are still in the field and it is still very cold at Ft. Bragg, lows in the 30s. It should start to warm up over the weekend. Lots of funny stories from up there but that's for Mark to share;

*Sen. Obama will be in town Monday although details are unknown. Both he and Sen. McCain will have been here twice for public events. North Florida is a Republican stronghold and a high Republican turnout here is essential for Florida Republicans as a whole;

*Final toll from the wedding: One formal shirt. We believe it is swimming with the fishes;

*The Florida-Georgia game is in town this weekend. It is billed as the world's largest outdoor cocktail party, and rightly so. This town completely shuts down during the game and you don't want to be driving after the game;

*Gayle and I saw the Mayor at an event yesterday. He made sure to ask her about Mark and how he was doing. He is a very gracious man;

*Everyone returned safely from the wedding, even the Saudi travelers. We've had a few Skype conversations since;

*The wedding photographer promises us a website of all his wedding pictures. This could be our one and only consumer event of the holiday season.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Election Day

I am hoping the soldiers in 2nd Brigade had a chance to vote early or filed absentee ballots. They will be in the field Election Day with no opportunities to vote.

Miscellaneous notes

I watched a little of the delayed Phillies - Rays game last night. Now, I know the Rays are from Florida and play in an air conditioned/heated stadium. But a number of them were wearing blue hoodies and baseball caps with flaps. Some looked like they were members of the Blue Man Group. I know it was cold but it seemed a tad silly (they lost by the way).

Then I thought of 2nd Brigade, which is out in the field for an extended period. They slept (well maybe not slept) through a hail storm Tuesday with just ponchos. And of course the troops in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan are now heading into the winter season in the most spartan of conditions.

Baseball caps with flaps. Hmmmmm!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weather forecast

The guys are in the field for the next few days or so. It was below freezing last night at Bragg and will stay cold for the remainder of the week. Winds are out of the northwest at 15 to 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. And they are sleeping under impromptu lean-tos made out of ponchos. If there were any residual hangovers, this ought to clear them up. Hmmmmmm!

It's a delightful 49 in FLORIDA this a.m.

Wedding notes

Gayle was out yesterday hunting for the tuxedos worn for the wedding. She found one tuxedo bag at the hotel. Inside the bag, she found a wet t-shirt, wet underwear, one sock, two pair of shoes and a lot of sand. No tux. The search goes on.

The perils of living in a beach community :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wedding pictures - first blast

The rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner (noreaster kept us inside), wedding and reception went off without a hitch. We are heading back to the hotel to hang out with the Saudi Arabia bound Middlebrooks and, I am hopeful, finding SGT Mark.

Tara and Mike during the rehearsal

Mike's friend Evan with Airborne Dad.

The groom with his grandmother.

Bob and Debbie Ryan, Mike and Tara Middlebrook

Friday, October 24, 2008

A little humor


(Snake Model)
Upon encountering a snake in the Area of Operation (AO)

Snake model not best for the snake

Kills the snake

Runs over snake, giggles and looks for more snakes.

Ugh! Me See Snake. Me Like Snake. Ouch! Me No Like Snake.

Army Aviation:

Has GPS grid to snake. Couldn't find snake. Back to base for crew rest and a manicure.

Plays with the snake, then eats it.
Ranger (alt):
Assaults the snake’s home and secures it for use by friendly snakes.

Expends all ammunition., several grenades and calls for naval gunfire in a failed attempt to kill the snake. The snake bites the SEAL then retreats to safety.

Corps Artillery:

Kills snake, but in the process kills several hundred civilians with a massive TOT with three Field Artillery battalions in support. Mission is considered a success and all participants are awarded Silver Stars. (Cooks, Mechanics, Legal Clerks etc)

Marine Recon:

Follows the snake and gets lost.

Para rescue:

Wounds the snake in first encounter, and then feverishly works to save the snakes life.

U.S. Special Forces:

Makes contact with the snake, builds rapport, wins its heart and mind, then trains it to kill other snakes.

And the computer says....

Thursday, October 23, 2008


We are planning an outdoor wedding rehearsal dinner tomorrow night, but it looks like Mother Nature has other plans. Yikes. Last time we had a weather forecast like this - yep, you guessed it - TS Fay.

Windy. Showers and chance of thunderstorms. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Highs in the mid 70s. Southeast winds 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Chance of rain near 100 percent.

There is a 100 percent chance of something else happening this weekend though: Mike and Tara's wedding.

As expected, still no word from SGT Mark because he is in the field. But his tux is hanging in the closet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

War reporting

With the election in its final days, some of the mainstream media have gone back to do some war reporting. But this time they are in Afghanistan, particularly in the Korengal Valley, a Taliban and Al Qaida stronghold. It's a treacherous place where international troops are woefully undermanned. Vanity Fair has written two amazing stories about the Valley and now NBC's Richard Engel was in. You can see it here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hurry up and wait

The brigade is deploying to the field today for 10 days. After some teeth gnashing and butt chewing, the Sergeant Major relented and let Mark off for the wedding. He will be in Friday and out on Sunday. But at least we will have a Best Man.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Five days to go

The clock is ticking. The remnants of TS Fay are being hauled away. There has been a spike in mulch sales at the local Home Depot. It can mean only one thing: the wedding is almost here. Being our first wedding, we are obsessed with details.

Kudos to young Jon. He stepped up yesterday after a Saturday tussle between myself and a 15x20 nasty old carpet left me hobbling around the house like an 80 year old. Jon mulched most of the yard but not without an economic incentive. Seems like TS Hannah left him without the right sized surf board and Mom, the chief financial officer, relented in return for some chores around the yard.

Seems like teenagers are recession proof.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

News and notes

With six days to go to the big day, there is lots of mulching, sweeping and more mulching going on. Trying to do a year's worth of yard work in one weekend has been a bit of a chore. But we will get through it. We will host the rehearsal dinner at our house Friday, hence the sense of panic.

Still no word on whether SGT Mark can participate as best man. I hopeful we will know tomorrow.

In other news, Jacksonville lost another soldier in Iraq two weeks ago. His name was PFC Tavares Setzler and the funeral was a week ago. A photo album of the funeral can be found here. As always, Jacksonville turned out in great numbers to commemorate his service.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ahhh, the Army life

It's one week to go before my oldest son Mike marries the love of his life Tara. SGT Mark is supposed to be the best man. Does he know whether he will make it yet? Nope. Seems the Brigade is holding a 10-day field exercise beginning Tuesday that starts with an all battalions jump. Mark has stress fractures in both legs so he will miss that part. But now that he is at battalion HQ, he has a lot more responsibilities than he did when he was on the line. Will he get a pass? Who knows. He assures us that things will work out. In the mean time, there is a $130 tuxedo waiting for him.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Soldier shot in barracks

The following is from the Fayetteville Observer. There are lots of Joe rumors about this and I won't repeat them here until the Army releases the report. Subsequent inspections of the barracks has found an astounding number of handguns:

Army investigates death of soldier in barracks

By Henry Cuningham
Military editor

The Army is investigating the death of a Fort Bragg soldier early Sunday from a gunshot wound in a barracks room, 82nd Airborne Division officials said Monday.

Pfc. Matthew R. Grandy, 24, of Wake Forest, died in a barracks next to Butner Road. He was assigned to the division’s 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The unit and the Army Criminal Investigation Command will investigate the incident, said Master Sgt. Tom Clementson, a division spokesman.

“They are going to look at all the contributing factors,” Clementson said.

The Army is restrictive of information on incidents under investigation, and even less information was available because of the federal Columbus Day holiday on Monday.

However, the incident raises questions about the presence of a weapon in the room of a barracks, where military and personal firearms are supposed to be stored in the arms room.

“Any weapon owned by a soldier who resides in the barracks has to be registered with the installation and stored in the arms room,” Clementson said. “The registration is in addition to North Carolina law.”

The Fort Bragg Provost Marshal’s Office said privately owned firearms must be registered within five working days of reporting to Fort Bragg or within five working days of acquiring the weapon.

From time to time, unit leaders go through the barracks to check for contraband or anything that might interfere with a safe, healthy environment.

Grandy is at least the second 82nd Airborne Division soldier to die on Fort Bragg from unnatural causes in less than three months.

The Army continues to investigate the death of Pfc. Luke Brown, whose body was found July 20 on Fort Bragg in a car in a parking lot near a building off Bastogne Drive. It was reported about 3:50 a.m. Army officials described the death as a homicide.

Brown, who was 27 and from Fredericksburg, Va., was an intelligence analyst with the division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

Grandy arrived at the unit in September 2007 and had not deployed.

He joined the Army in August 2006 and completed basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., in October 2006. He then attended specialized training at Fort Gordon, Ga., and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2007.

Grandy is survived by his mother and father, Theresa and Alfred Grandy of Wake Forest, and a sister, Alisha Grandy of Wake Forest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Full moon effects

Let's see - a full moon Tuesday.

Mike got sick;
SGT Mark dented the front end of his new truck;
Jon received a speeding ticket;
Some guy lost his Sea Doo (no injuries);
and the Red Sox got pasted by the Rays. Darn it.

Don't think I'll be leaving the house anytime soon :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Ft. Bragg history

This time Rev. War. I haven't had a lot of time to research this but I do know that North Carolina was a hot bed of activity.

Photos by Mark M.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Welcome home

Congrats to LCPL Tom George and his family. Tom returned home last week after 7 months in Anbar Province. Welcome home Tom! I can remember when he was knee high and had a blue tick hound named "boo dog."

While we celebrate one arrival we still pray for eight more from our small group of non-military families who are still deployed:

John Christian Miller
Julia Porter
John Heald
Matthew Tavares
Matthew Visnovsky
Nicholas Hyder
Daniel Hernandez
Richard Paul Murray

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ft. Bragg's Civil War history - who knew?

Mark was doing a road recon measuring a march for the Colonel when he stumbled across this Civil War site on post. He went back Saturday and took some photos for the blog.

The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads was one of the largest cavalry-on-cavalry battles of the Civil War. You can read about it here. There were an estimated 269 casualties. Mark says it appears most were buried where they fell. The battle has been relegated to a footnote in history because the surrender at Appomattax occurred a short time later.

I look forward to visiting there next time I'm at Bragg.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No news here

The Washington Post says today that Western journalists are pulling out of Iraq. Those that remain are having a hard time getting their stories on the air or in print. Unless, of course, it involves a car bombing in which scores are killed.

You can read about it here. I find this truly disturbing. How can you have 155,000 men and women at war and the media decides it's a non-event?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mayport to downtown

From the deck of the USS Stephen W. Groves, a guided missile frigate based in Mayport.

Photos by Mike M.
More photos can be seen at La Florida