Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cumberland Island, Ga.



Dungeness
Photo by Mark M. M.
12.26.08

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

Dumpster

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 News4Jax.com. 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

By VINCENT M. MALLOZZI
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:

Homecoming

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.