Saturday, October 31, 2009

Iraq War Vet Suffers Constant Seizures

From WJXT-TV, News4Jax:

Brain Injury Caused By Explosion; Family Seeking Right Health Care

Video link
(editor's note: the story is worth watching)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Anthony Rogers suffered a brain injury while serving in Iraq, and his life hasn't been the same since.

Rogers has constant seizures, up to several times an hour.

"It's pretty horrible, and the two that you've seen in the last five minutes are very small compared to what I see on a daily basis," Rogers' mom Liza Catron said.

Catron said her son's seizures have practically ruined his life.

"A good day can be 40 seizures," Catron said. "A bad day can be as many as 130."

Catron said it all started during Rogers' third tour in Iraq almost three years ago.

There he suffered a bad brain injury from an explosion that caused his Humvee to flip.

Video: Brain Injury Caused By Explosion

That injury changed his life.

"Very, very smart kid," Catron said. "And now he sometimes can't tell me what he is trying to say."

Since then, Catron says her son hasn't been fighting the country's enemies, he's been fighting to get the right care.

"His neurologist and his seizure expert are phenomenal doctors," Catron said. "Until we got them, we were accomplishing more by bashing our head against the wall."

Catron said after years of looking for the right doctors, her son is now being forced to fight for something else -- his full disability payment.

Even with a letter from his doctor that says he can't work, Catron said the Veterans Administration will only give her son a 40 percent payment.

But she wants more than the money. She just wants her son's life to get better.

"Three weeks ago Monday he had a seizure so bad that he ended up in a pool of blood," Catron said. "He busted his mouth, busted his nose."

Catron said the family is now close to being broke because her son can't work.

She said she just started working with Sen. Bill Nelson's office, and they told her they will look into what's going on.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

SSG Michael Murphrey - heroic action

SSG Murphrey was SGT Mark's team leader on two tours in Iraq. SSG Murphrey was killed in action in Afghanistan Sept. 6. Earlier in the year, SSG Murphrey was awarded the Unit V clasp and the Bronze Star. His father has sent over a narrative of the award this morning and asked that I post it. I am honored and salute Michael's heroism and service.

On 4 APR 09, SSG Murphrey performed above and beyond his duties during the broad spectrum of combat operations his squad endured. Securing a defensive position, SSG Murphrey’s squad came under heavy direct enemy fire that impacted in his immediate vicinity causing his Squad to drop behind cover in shallow ditch.

SSG Murphrey, with no regard to his personal safety, moved through the hail of enemy fire, positioned himself where he could provide an effective support by fire, for his Squad to follow. SSG Murphrey screened the enemy with smoke, and laid down accurate fires, simultaneously emplacing his squad behind cover, and then assigned sectors of fire to be covered by his multiple weapon systems.

SSG Murphrey then provided Support by fire so his Platoon Leader could move through open terrain to conduct link up with the other element of his platoon. SSG Murphrey then courageously led the assault forward to clear the enemy’s strong point that his
platoon was pinned down from, drawing enemy fire himself.

He coordinated the entry on the movement forward and secured the foothold to the house the insurgents were occupying. SSG Murphrey was the key element that allowed the platoon to clear the first objective without flaw, with very little support by fire do to the open terrain.

After clearing the first objective nearly single-handedly, he continued to lead his element towards a tree line that more suspected insurgents were occupying. After bounding around the base of a hill, SSG Murphrey’s squad came under direct enemy heavy machine gun fire, later identified as a NSV. Once again, without regard to personal safety, SSG Murphrey bounded forward, through the imminent danger ensuing to his front, placing effective small arms fire upon the enemy, enabling his Squad to take cover in the open field.

SSG Murphrey then valiantly maneuvered his element through the enemy’s wall of fire, returning fire leaving him in exposed, and in jeopardy for the safety of his Soldiers. Once behind cover, he marked obscured enemy targets with precise accuracy exposing their position. This enabled A-10 aircraft to fix, and finish the insurgent forces with their heavy volume of multiple weapon systems.

SSG Murphrey’s actions on this day allowed the safe exfiltration of all members of his platoon, simultaneously weakening the insurgency network in this Global War on Terror and strengthened the political future of the Nation of Afghanistan. SSG Murphrey’s actions on this day reflect great credit upon himself, the Army, The Geronimo Battalion, and The Spartan Brigade.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

President Obama visits Jacksonville Naval Air Station

An excerpt from his speech to 3,000 military, mostly sailors and Marines:

"We're reminded of this again with today's helicopter crashes in Afghanistan. Fourteen Americans gave their lives. And our prayers are with these service members, their civilian colleagues, and the families who loved them.

And while no words can ease the ache in their hearts today, may they find some comfort in knowing this: Like all those who give their lives in service to America, they were doing their duty and they were doing this nation proud.

They were willing to risk their lives, in this case, to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda and its extremist allies. And today, they gave their lives, that last full measure of devotion, to protect ours.

Now, it is our duty as a nation to keep their memory alive in our hearts and to carry on their work. To take care of their families. To keep our country safe. To stand up for the values we hold dear and the freedom they defended. That's what they dedicated their lives to. And that is what we must do as well.

So I say to you and all who serve: Of all the privileges I have as President, I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief. You inspire me. And I'm here today to deliver a simple message -- a message of thanks to you and your families.

Being here, you join a long, unbroken line of service at Jacksonville -- from the naval aviators from World War II to Korea to Vietnam, among them a great patriot named John McCain. You embody that sailor's creed, the "spirit of the Navy and all who have gone before" -- Honor, Courage, Commitment.

In recent years, you've been tested like never before. We're a country of more than 300 million Americans, but less than 1 percent wears the uniform. And that 1 percent -- you and those in uniform -- bear the overwhelming burden of our security.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Individual Ready Reserve muster

According to a friend of mine who is a military writer, the Army is mustering 13,500 Individual Ready Reserves this year in 18 different locations and will do a similar amount in 2010 in 19 musters. A muster is a one-day screening that includes a physical and health assessment.

I still have not been able to determine how many, if any, are being mobilized back into the Army for two-year tours.

Two inquiries are still pending.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A worthy cause

This is from Lola, one of our friends from the blogosphere. Her husband is with the 10th Mountain Division and is currently deployed to Afghanistan:

I was wondering if you would mind helping me raise money for No Greater Sacrifice. NGS is a DC-based non-profit that raises money to fund the education of the kids of fallen service members. They donate proceeds to organizations like the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, etc.

I ran the Army 10-Miler for them and I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon 10K Sunday morning for them as well. As a whole, the NGS Endurance team is trying to raise $100,000 for SSG Jackson's kids.

Individually, I'm trying to raise $2500 for them and I'm at $1675 now. My donation page is here:

There is more information about No Greater Sacrifice here:

I've attached a picture of SSG Jackson and his family from before his youngest child, Hannah, was born. He's with his wife/widow Katie, and their three boys, Zach, Levi and Sam.

He was killed in action by an IED in November 2006 in Ramadi, Iraq. He was a member of the 16th Engineering Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division out of Giessen, Germany.

If you're willing to post about this, I'd appreciate it. Just trying to raise awareness (and $!) for a great cause.



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

USC going camo for game against Florida

This could be a problem. We've become big Florida fans since Tim Tebow arrived. Gayle and her sister both attended Virginia Tech.

Thanks to Lola for pointing this out.

USC going camo for game against Florida | GoGamecocks

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Small world

The genesis of this blog came from a an October 2007 op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled Party here, sacrifice there by Will Bardenwerper, a former Army infantry officer. He said:

"Serious problems with the war in Iraq are well chronicled, but I am struck by one that does not seem to trouble the country’s leadership, even though it is profoundly corrosive to our common good: the disparity between the lives of the few who are fighting and being killed, and the many who have been asked for nothing more than to continue shopping."

I named the blog The One Percenters for the small percentage of Americans who have been carrying the burdens of these wars for six years. I didn't realize how small that world was until recently.

A few weeks back, SGT Mark's team leader in Iraq, SSG Michael C. Murphrey, was killed in Afghanistan. SSG Murphrey had moved from the 82nd Airborne to the 25th Infantry, 4th Brigade (Airborne)and was deployed overseas. As soldiers SGT Mark and SSG Michael were brothers (a tribute is posted below).

It turns out, based on a cruise around Facebook, that a member of our local Military Support Group here in Florida likely has a son in the same unit as SSG Murphrey's. Our friend's name is Mike Ammiano and his son's name is Chris. Mike has been to a couple of our meetings and we have heard about how terribly difficult this deployment has been. I've never met Chris but have his name on my computer so I can remember him in silent prayer.

So there it is - a small world, one that Gayle and I never expected to be in, but are greatly honored to be part of. We have in the last four years met some of the most extraordinary men and women you could ever know. It is a privilege to know them.

To the family of SSG Murphrey: There isn't a day we don't think about you and Michael. We owe Michael a debt we can never repay: He brought our son home alive....twice. I wish I could have told him thank you.

To the Ammianos: Prayers that this deployment ends soon. Godspeed to the 25th and a safe return home.

A small world indeed.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mobilizing the IRRs

I spent a lot of time on the Internet and the phone yesterday trying to determine if the Army is mobilizing the Individual Ready Reserves to active duty. Here's what I have found so far:

*The Marines have stopped mobilizing IRRs because it has exceeded its recruiting goal.
*A number of Congressional staff don't understand the difference between being in the active reserves or being an IRR.
*The Army's Human Resources Command is mustering 14,000 IRRs for one-day evaluations of health, fitness and other criteria. This is a departure from past practices.
*There are numerous websites dedicated to helping service men and women avoid an IRR mobilization.
*The Army is not pursuing soldiers under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if an IRR doesn't show up as ordered. But that could change.
*There is a cottage industry of attorneys who will help, for a fee, soldiers file for a mobilization exemption, mostly for health or hardship reasons.
*At least one Congressional staffer speculated that the Army is mobilizing the IRRs because of the expected ramp up in Afghanistan. But it was just speculation.

What we have not been able to determine is whether or not the Army is in fact mobilizing IRRs and whether or not the reserve career counselor is telling us the truth or trying to make his October recruiting/retention goals.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Army daze

SGT. Mark has been told by an Army Reserve career counselor to join the Reserves in two weeks or face an Individual Ready Reserve mobilization the first week in November. According to the counselor, his orders are pending for a another two-year stint on active duty that would likely include another deployment.

So maybe our Army saga isn't over yet.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

This may be the first book about the war I will read. I think I can handle it now.

From the NY Times
Published: October 8, 2009

“The front-line soldier I knew lived for months like an animal, and was a veteran in the cruel, fierce world of death. . . . The front-line soldier has to harden his inside as well as his outside or he would crack under the strain.”

That was the war correspondent Ernie Pyle, writing about the soldiers he lived alongside and chronicled in his World War II dispatches.

Fast-forward 64 years to 2007, the year the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel brings to astonishing life in his chronicle of modern combat, “The Good Soldiers.” Like Pyle, Finkel brilliantly captures the terrors of ordinary men enduring extraordinary circumstances.

Between January 2007 and June 2008, Finkel spent eight months with a battalion of 800 United States Army soldiers from Fort Riley, Kan., known for short as the 2-16 (Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment of the Fourth Infantry Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division).

From a cramped, lousy office — big enough for just three folding chairs and a desk — the young men were led by a gung-ho yet thoroughly likable 40-year-old lieutenant colonel named Ralph Kauzlarich. We learn that Kauzlarich, when he first met his wife-to-be, told her, “You can call me The Kauz” (to her credit, she never granted this wish). A sign on the head-quarters wall read, “Mission: to create a balanced, secure and self-sufficient environment for the Iraqi people.”

The rest of the review can be found here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Glider, the Airborne dog

Glider, with our youngest son Jon.

With our rescue cat Isabeau.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No kidding

courtesy of the Denver Post

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday news and notes

Support group:Our military support group meets Saturday evening and I'm afraid the news isn't great. Two of our families have sons deployed to Afghanistan in two different Army units. Each of the units have lost eight men so far...and these are small units(maybe company level). Thankfully, our families soldier's are OK, under the circumstances. We have another Marine leave in December. This will be his first deployment to Afghanistan after two in Iraq.

Other notes:

*I will be posting pictures of Mark's seven month old pup soon. I had hoped to catch him running around the yard with a flower pot on his head, but he destroyed the pot before I could grab a photo. The pup knows he just seven months old so he believes he is still a lap dog, despite his 65 lbs.

*What a difference a year makes. For a long time, Afghanistan was considered the forgotten war. Now it's Iraq. Pardon me for being a bit cynical but my take on this is twofold:

There is better video (from a TV producers perspective) coming out of Afghanistan;
and the media now has a chance to hype a potential conflict between the President and his generals.

Nothing like that going on in Iraq right now.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Eight U.S. Soldiers Dead in Bold Attack in Afghanistan

From The New York Times:

Published: October 4, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents besieged two American outposts in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, American and Afghan officials said, killing eight Americans and two Afghan policemen in a bold daylight strike that was the deadliest for American soldiers in more than a year.
Skip to next paragraph
Week in Review: The Distance Between ‘We Must’ and ‘We Can’ (October 4, 2009)
Report Cites Firefight as Lesson on Afghan War (October 3, 2009)
Times Topics: Afghanistan

The attack took place in the Nuristan province, a remote area on the border with Pakistan. It began Saturday morning, when insurgents stormed the area, pounding the two American base camps with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Americans fought back, striking their attackers with helicopters, heavy guns and airstrikes, but the insurgents were persistent and the battled lasted into the afternoon, said Col. Wayne Shanks, a spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

It was unclear whether insurgents made it inside either of the two compounds, but Colonel Shanks said that by the end of the battle, American forces still controlled the outposts. The Americans shared the compounds with Afghan security forces.

“The militants put on a very aggressive attack,” Col. Shanks said. “Our forces had to use a considerable amount of firepower to counter it.”

The governor of Nuristan province, Jamaluddin Badar, reached by telephone on Sunday, said that 11 Afghan police officers, including the district police chief, had been kidnapped in the strike. He said the attackers did breach the compounds briefly. The American military did not confirm the report.

Much about the attack was still unclear on Sunday, but its broad outlines were eerily familiar. Nine American soldiers were killed in July 2008 in the same province, when 200 insurgents stormed their small outpost in the village of Wanat.

That attack, which has been described as the “Black Hawk Down” of Afghanistan, with the 48 American soldiers and 24 Afghan soldiers outnumbered three to one in a four-hour firefight, is now seen as a cautionary tale for the war here, which commanders say should focus more on protecting civilians.

Locals in the area were furious with Americans for the killing of local medical staff in an airstrike the week before, and commanders believe that for that reason, they were more hospitable to insurgents.

Outrage was so intense that President Hamid Karzai called for an investigation into the airstrike, which local officials at the time said had killed 22 innocent Afghans.

Mr. Badar said Saturday’s attack took place in the Kamdysh district, about 10 miles from the border with Pakistan, and less than 20 miles southwest of the attack last year.

Attackers gathered in a mosque and a nearby village, before staging the attack. Mr. Badar said the attackers were Taliban fighters who had come from Pakistan, after military operations in that country pushed them out of their bases there. He said the strike was led by a Taliban commander named Dost Muhammed, whom he described as the shadow commander for the Taliban in Nuristan.

The Americans identified the attackers as “tribal militia,” a departure from their typical usage of the word Taliban. Col. Shanks said the description was more specific. Some military planners argue applying the word Taliban to all insurgents oversimplifies the fight Americans face here and gives the appearance, sometimes falsely, of a coordinated, hierarchical fighting force.

More can be found here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Local news makes the national news

And it was good news too. The 146th Signal Battalion of the Florida National Guard returned Thursday night to Jacksonville to a wonderful homecoming after a year in Iraq. No fatalities or serious injuries. The video is 32 seconds long and can be found here.

Having been to two homecomings at Green Ramp at Fort Bragg, it brought back wonderful memories and a few tears as well. Nice to see NBC was paying attention.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday news and notes

As I write:

*SGT Mark's Australian shepherd is running around the yard with a flower pot on his head. He does this quite often. Pictures to follow this weekend.

*I am having very minor surgery this morning that should produce a major change in our lives. By sticking a permanent tube in my right ear, I should be able to hear everything that Gayle says to me...for the first time in 25 years. Not sure that's a good thing :)

*Weather has broken here. Windows are open and dogs are coming and going as they please into the back yard. Hope it holds for a while.

*From today's Washington Post:

Soldiers' Data Still Being Downloaded Overseas, Firm Says
Sensitive Information Found by Using 'Peer to Peer' File-Sharing Software

Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009

The personal data of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers -- including those in the Special Forces -- continue to be downloaded by unauthorized computer users in countries such as China and Pakistan, despite Army assurances that it would try to fix the problem, according to a private firm that monitors cybersecurity.

Tiversa, which scours the Internet for sensitive data, discovered the data breaches while conducting research for private clients. The company found, as recently as this week, documents containing Social Security numbers, blood types, cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses, and the names of soldiers' spouses and children.

The availability of such data, security experts say, exacerbates the threat of identity theft and retaliation against troops on sensitive missions. In addition to using the information to drain financial accounts, hackers could pose as soldiers in an effort to ferret out sensitive data, including passwords to government systems.

Such disclosures represent a "major security risk" to the service members and the military, said Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which was informed of the data breach by Tiversa.

The rest of the story can be found here.