Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

From SGT Mark M. Middlebrook:

   Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer and indeed it probably is.  Today across this vast and beautiful country of ours backyard barbecues are being put to good use, friends and family are traveling near and far, and bathing suits are being donned.  While Memorial Day has become a treasured holiday to finally shrug off winter and welcome summer we must not forget the day’s true meaning.  Memorial 
Day is not a day for our honorable veterans; Memorial Day is instead a day when we honor those no longer among us.  It is a day to honor those who answered a far off call and never returned home.  They answered the call knowing they may lose their lives but did so in order to preserve something that they love, something much greater than any one individual.
            We take time to remember this nation's fallen sons and daughters but we must also remember their families.  They all lost a piece of themselves the day they each received the terrible news brought to them from a foreign land.  They are left here in this life forced to bear the pain and continue the memory of a fallen patriot.  They must never be forced to bear such a burden alone.  The ones they lost did not give their lives solely for their families; they gave their most precious possession so that torch of freedom could continue to illuminate the world.  They gave their lives for each and everyone of us who knows what it means to be free.  So I ask that all who hear or read these words take a moment and remember those valiant men and women as well as their families.  Take a moment so that we may all share the burden that is the cost of the American way of life.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Red Falcon deployment from April 2010

FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Division Ready Force one of the Global Response Force has received orders to deploy to Afghanistan in May in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
This deployment is the ninth deployment for a 2nd BCT unit since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
For the past 19 months, the 2nd BCT has been the forcible entry component of the Nation’s Global Response Force. The Battalion recently participated in Operation Unified Response, providing humanitarian assistance in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that struck there in January.
The battalion will take part in the International Security Assistance Force effort increasing the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces and improving security for the Afghan people.
The remainder of the BCT will continue to serve as the Army Component of the GRF, prepared to deploy on short notice contingency operations anywhere in the world.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

End of an era: Atlantis

Photos by Mike M.

Space shuttle Atlantis on its last mission. I was hoping to go but was still dealing with the after effects of radiation therapy. Maybe in November.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our patriotic dogs on Armed Forces Day

Olustee (left - named after a Civil War battle) and Glider (right- named after 1st battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Prayer request

This is from one of the class of  Leadership Jacksonville 2010:
One of my classmates from JU, Andy Conrad, former Naval Aviator and now a Delta pilot, has a 20 year-old nephew from Jacksonville who was grievously wounded by an IED in Afghanistan late last week.  His name is Tyler Southern and he has lost both legs and one arm, and may still lose the other.  He arrived at Bethesda two days ago via Germany where he is just starting to come out of consciousness.
A couple of things have happened since I learned this from Andy.
  • I alerted one of my former Navy bosses, Rear Admiral Kevin Delaney because he is on the board of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) which is based here in Jacksonville, but serves injured combat veterans all over the country.
  • He in turn alerted the WWP Bethesda team who actively and personally assisted the family upon Tyler's arrival from Germany.
  • One of Tyler's former high school classmates now apparently works for the new Jacksonville Sharks Arena Football League team, and tomorrow night the Sharks are playing a home game at 7:35 PM and originally intended to donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Tyler to aid in his recovery.
  • Tyler's family has unselfishly asked that those proceeds instead be donated to WWP so that even more injured veterans will benefit.
  • Since the immediate family is bedside in Bethesda, my friend Andy will accept the donation at mid-field (mid-arena?) on behalf of the family and WWP.
I am asking you to join me tomorrow night at the game, or at least alert your friends that tomorrow (Friday, May 14) is Military Appreciation Night for the Sharks game and that with their attendance they will be supporting a local hero and a great cause.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Military calendar for Jacksonville

UP-COMING EVENTS—For your calendar:
May 17—USS Stark Memorial Service—NS Mayport—10 a.m.
May 18—Northeast Florida Veterans Council Meeting—7 p.m. City Hall
May 22—Honor Air Flight to Washington, DC for WWII Vets
May 31—Memorial Day Observance—Memorial Wall—10 a.m.
May 31—Memorial Day Observance—Jacksonville National Cemetery—2 p.m.
June 5—Never Quit Beach Festival—Jax Beach Pier
June 5—Battle of Midway Dinner
August 7—Purple Heart Ceremony
Oct 21-24—Jacksonville Salute to the Sea Services and National Navy League Convention
Oct 23-24—NAS Jacksonville Blue Angels Air Show
Nov 10—Marine and Navy Corpsmen Memorial Service—Evergreen Cemetery

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

I haven't properly thanked the leaders of our Family Readiness Group. Not only did they have their own family to attend to but they had to attend to young wives and horror-filled parents of soldiers on deployment....while their own husbands were deployed. We would have never made it without them.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

And have a Happy Mother's Day. You've earned it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Military Appreciation Day - PGA Tour

Top: Branch colors.
Bottom: an Anhinga salute

Wednesday was Military Appreciation Day put on by the PGA Tour for The Players Championship. Northrup-Grumman sponsors a Patriot Outpost, in which active duty or retired military are treated free food and drinks and some relief from the heat.

Gayle and I dropped by to connect with the Wounded Warrior Project to drop off a donation from our Internet brother Abnpoppa.  The Project staff was out coordinating events for wounded vets but the PGA Tour volunteers let us in for lunch and place to sit.

The day also included a concert by Tim McGraw and a fly-by from the Blue Angels. It was a wonderful day and those of us who are "accidental" military families were greatly appreciative.
Mark and I finally connected with the Wounded Warrior Project and the donation was made.

(Pops, your card is on the way)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Military Appreciation Day - my neighborhood

For the last few years, my neighborhood celebrates our veterans with a Military Appreciation Day ceremony. Here are some pictures from this year's event:

Our neighbor Chuck Ellis who is a Pearl Harbor survivor

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

For sale

I was googling around this weekend and found a website that was selling Mark's Armed Forces Fan of the Game card by Topps. They wanted 60 cents. Seems to me he is worth more than that.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The greatest generation

Photos by Mark M.

On a recent trip to Washington, I was doing on National Mall crawl when I happened upon a group of veterans from Ohio. Through Jeremy Bloom's Wish of a Lifetime Foundation arranged a three-day bus trip to D.C. Most of the vets and their spouses had never been to Washington D.C. so they had never seen the World War II Memorial.  On hand to greet them was the former commander of the USS Cole and a Marine two-star. It was touching event and hundreds of Spring Breakers and cherry blossom tourists gathered to honor them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The volcano

from the NY Times:

The United States military has already been affected. Supplies for military operations in Afghanistan have been disrupted, and a spokeswoman for the Pentagon said that all medical evacuation flights from Iraq and Afghanistan to Germany, where most injured soldiers are typically treated, were being diverted directly to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

SSG Murphrey: a true hero

"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, April 13, 2010

Another friend

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sgt. Sean M. Durkin, 24, of Aurora, Colo. died April 9 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device near Forward Operating Base Wilson, Afghanistan, on March 27. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Fort Carson, Colo.

Monday, April 12, 2010

World War II Memorial

Photos by Mark M.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nurses' Memorial

Washington D.C.
Photo by Mark M.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Vietnam War Memorial

Photo by Mark M.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Korean War Memorial

Photo by Mark M.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jefferson Memorial

Photos by Mark M.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Washington Monument

Photos by Mark M.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Arlington National Cemetery

April 1, 2010
Photos by Mark M.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


We've got a big one coming up, but not one that requires much celebration - Mark's departure from our house to his military adventure. We hit five years in May. Five years......

I diligently kept a journal during most of his military career and still do today. So I will probably pull some of  the entries out for The One Percenters.

Five years.

Of course, we were lucky:
  • Mark made it back from two tours alive and in one piece.
  • He was assigned to a unit that, if not the best, is among the best in the Army. Well-trained and led by officers and NCOs who made the right decisions in the most difficult of circumstances and brought every one home...twice.
  • We have met some extraordinary people during the journey and we are better for it. 
  • And somehow we ended up with a house full of delightful but gaseous Aussies.
My youngest is now making noise that he might follow in his brother's footsteps. I have mixed and selfish emotions on how to advise him because the last five years took 10 off of our life times.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Airborne dog and his brother

Glider, the big Aussie, is visiting his little brother Bounder while Mark and his girl friend are out West on spring break. Bounder has been with us now for a week and has settled in nicely with the rest of the critters.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Red Falcons on their way home

By Joint Task Force-Haiti Public Affairs

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – More than 700 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, will depart Haiti March 5-6 after completing their relief missions in support of communities impacted by a 7.0 earthquake Jan. 12.

The paratroopers arrived in Haiti Jan. 17 and operated principally in the densely populated Port-au-Prince metropolitan areas of Cite Soleil, Tabarre Commune and Croix de Bouquet Commune, where they provided much needed relief aid to local residents and manned two food distribution points.

In preparation for their redeployment to Fort Bragg, N.C., the unit transitioned its distribution points and security responsibilities to Brazilian and Jordanian battalion forces, who will continue to support international relief efforts in the area

During the deployment to Haiti, the paratrooper unit, also known as the Red Falcons, distributed more than 250,000 liters of water, 345,000 meals, 12,000 tarps for shelter, and treated, more than 7,000 patients.  The unit also completed approximately 650 humanitarian missions.

“The Red Falcons along with their USAID and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners contributed immeasurably to the success of the mission here in Haiti,” said Lt. Gen Ken Keen, commander, Joint Task Force-Haiti. “They worked in one of the most challenging and difficult areas in the country and should be extremely proud of what they have accomplished and the Haitian lives they touched daily.”

The unit also supported several major humanitarian aid missions during more than 40 days in the country, including assisting the World Food Program with the distribution of more than 3.5 million rations to Haitian citizens.  The unit’s medical personnel also treated earthquake survivors and other patients throughout the Port-au-Prince area.

Presently, numerous NGOs are conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities to assist area residents, including the Samaritans Purse, Good Neighbors, Glow Ministries and Baptist World Aid.

Many of the medical facilities in these communities are now managed by local physicians with support from NGOs.  These facilities are also largely self-sufficient and not exceeding their capacity.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Airborne dog

Glider, named for the 1-325th Glider Infantry Regiment (WWII), receives a haircut in celebration of his first birthday.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Telling The Story Of 'The Hardest Hit Unit In Iraq'

From NPR:

Journalist Kelly Kennedy embedded with Charlie Company's 26th Infantry Regiment for several months in 2007. She spent hours with the soldiers out on patrol, and now relates their worst and best days in her new book, They Fought For Each Other:The Triumph and Tragedy of the Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq.

Charlie Company lost 14 men in Iraq, including nine soldiers who were killed when their Bradley fighting vehicles were hit by IED's. Before Kennedy's arrival, another solider — 19-year-old Ross McGinnis — died after he threw himself on a grenade to save four of his friends. Kennedy talked with many of McGinnis' fellow soldiers about the incident and describes what happened to Terry Gross.

"On December 4, they were out on patrol and the grenade came in right in through Ross's turret — he was the gunner — and he sees it and he tries to catch it — he's chasing it around the turret and he's yelling 'Grenade' trying to get the guys out of the truck and no one really understood what was happening," Kennedy says. "They didn't have time to react but Ross knew what was going on ... and then one of the other guys saw the grenade and watched as Ross threw himself against it and took the brunt of the force of the grenade and died instantly — but saved four of his friends."

McGinnis received the Medal of Honor and one of the soldiers he saved — Staff Sgt. Ian Newland — promised "to never waste the gift" he received that day, as Kennedy wrote in the Army Times. Her series for the paper, called Blood Brothers, followed the 26th Infantry during their time in Iraq — as well as the issues they faced after arriving home.

The first chapter of the book can be found here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday news and notes

  • Mark's former 1SG (now SGM) retired Thursday and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service. He had a profound impact on my son and his wife, who was one of  our Family Readiness Group's leaders, kept Gayle and I grounded during what was arguably one of the more difficult times in our lives. Congratulations to both and thank you for being there when we needed it. The Legion of Merit, by the way, is a very big deal.
  •  Health update: I cease to be radioactive March 6. That means I can take down the radioactive "danger to small children and pregnant women" signs and have to pay up for the thin mints I ordered from the Girl Scouts pre-surgery. I will also lose my excuse for not doing the grocery shopping :)
  • My very generous brother and SIL gave me an Kindle (an e-reader) to help recuperate and I have been plowed through three e-books in the last couple of weeks.  On my fourth now. It's been very helpful getting through some of the more tedious Winter Olympic events.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Facebook phenomena

I was late to the Facebook phenomenon. Like many, I am annoyed every time Facebook changes the format. However, I have reconnected with some old friends and that's been fun.

But more amazingly, the U.S. Army is now regularly using Facebook as a way of communicating with their military families. This is a big change from just two years ago, when we were totally dependent on Family Readiness Groups. Right now, I am following the Falcon Brigade (2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne), my son's former unit, which is in Haiti, and the Devil Brigade (1st BCT, 82nd Airborne), which is in Al Anbar in Iraq. If nothing else, this makes Facebook a worthwhile endeavor.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fort Hood, Army still seeing suicide problem

Fort Hood had more suicides in January than any other installation as the Army searched for solutions to a baffling mystery.
Despite a series of programs designed to tackle the problem at the post and throughout the Army, the service's January suicide mark still came close to matching the one from the same month last year — 29.
Three of the 27 suicides reported Wednesday occurred on Fort Hood, which has sent soldiers to combat since the 2003 Iraq invasion.
The chief of the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force talked of the service's efforts to counter the problem rather than discussing the latest numbers, which picked up where a grim 2009 left off.
“We've made significant changes in our health promotion, risk reduction, and suicide prevention programs, policies and initiatives,” Col. Christopher Philbrick said. “Now in 2010, we're going to move from a floodlight to a laser light — identifying our most effective programs, so we can target and reinforce what's working and fix what isn't.”
Last year was the worst for suicides among active-duty soldiers since the Army began tracking those deaths in 1980, with 160 GIs killing themselves at home and in the war zone. That was up from 140 in 2008.

The rest of the story can be found here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Off topic: Birthday T-shirt

Well, if you can't laugh.....

My son has a unique sense of humor.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Off topic: Monday headlines


But what are the options?

Please click on image to see it larger.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Off topic: Monday headlines


Click on this to see the image better.
This is from the Jacksonville Journal.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Haiti stats from 2nd Brigade Combat Team

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the World Food Program distributed 1,430,220 lbs. of food at distribution points throughout Port-au-Prince, bringing the total for the operation to 5,149,675 lbs. U.S. forces were present at all 14 sites and 8 sites were secured solely by the Paratroopers.

Thoughts and prayers to the Ft. Bragg family

This week's fallen in Afghanistan and Pakistan:

Capt. Daniel Whitten, 28, of Grimes, Iowa

Pfc. Zachary G. Lovejoy, 20, of Albuquerque, N.M.
. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Feb. 3 in Timagara, Pakistan
Fallen soldiers:

Sgt. 1st Class David J. Hartman, 27, of Okinawa, Japan. He was assigned to the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew S. Sluss-Tiller, 35, of Callettsburg, Ky. He was assigned to the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

Staff Sgt. Mark A. Stets, 39, of El Cajon, Calif. He was assigned to the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne), 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Off topic: You Light Up My Life Lyrics // LeAnn Rimes

Sort of has a new meaning today now that the radiologist and surgeon have lit me up.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Red Falcons in Haiti

Clearly a daunting task
Photos by Julie Dermansky
Courtesy of 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne's Facebook page