Saturday, March 17, 2007

Soldier's Angels Announces "Operation Cool Scarf"

Spring is here! The birds are singing, the grass is growing, daffodils are springing up. At least that's what's happening here in Illinois. In Iraq, the birds are bursting into flames in mid-air, the grass...what grass, and the daffodils are toast. Pasadena, CA March 14, 2007 -- Soldier's Angels, a non-profit agency, announced today a fundraising drive to supply U. S. troops with scarves that provide an evaporative cooling system that lowers body temperature by several degrees, reducing the risk of heat stroke. A donation of ten U. S. dollars enables the group to manufacture enough "Cool Scarves" to help 5 to 6 soldiers stay more comfortable in the punishing desert environments in Iraq and Afghanistan. A donation of ten U. S. dollars enables the group to manufacture enough "Cool Scarves" to help 5 to 6 soldiers stay more comfortable in the punishing desert environments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The cool scarf is a great way to beat the heat," said Patti Bader, founder and executive director of Soldier's Angels. "Cool scarves are made from 100 percent cotton. The magic in these scarves comes from the non-toxic synthetic crystals which transform into a soft cooling gel. This cool gel enables the scarves to stay cool two to three days without refrigeration. After being hand washed by the soldiers in-country, the scarves are easy to reactivate again by soaking them in cool water for 15 minutes.

"People interested in providing members of the military with "Cool Scarves" can visit their web site to make a donation by credit card or by using PayPal. A Scarf can also be purchases online at the Soldiers Angels Store and have it sent directly to a soldier. Make sure that you put in the comments section "OPERATION COOL HERO." Checks can be made out to Solder's Angels at 1792 E. Washington Blvd, Pasadena, Ca. 91104.

Founded in 2003 by the mother of a U.S. soldier, Soldiers Angels is a non-profit Internet community dedicated to ensuring that members of the military know they are loved and supported. To date, more than 105,000 individuals have adopted soldiers worldwide. These "angels" provide aid and comfort to the military and to their families. Soldier's Angels are asked to write their adopted soldier once a week, and to send small care packages to him or her twice a month. Soldiers Angels currently works with over 50,000 military units. Nearly 6,000 blankets have been given to injured service men and women in U. S. hospitals. During the Christmas holidays in 2006, more than 90,000 gift bags were sent to U. S. soldiers. All donations to Soldiers Angels are tax deductible. The organization can be reached at or by telephone at 1-615-676-0239.
Senior Airman Danielle Clark ties on a "neck cooler" as one way to beat the heat at her forward-deployed location. On some days, the temperature reaches 120 degrees. USAF photo by SSgt. C. Todd Lopez

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Happy Birthday and Girl Scout Cookies for the Wounded

OK, quiz - who is that kid in the picture?
No, I mean the skinny, good-looking one on the right.Yeah, that's me at the tender young age of 21, which event occurred exactly 36 years ago today. So Happy Birthday, Rog!
Now I wasn't looking quite that dapper on the actual day of birthday. I was in basic then, and came down with pneumonia and was admitted to the base hospital.
I’d been at sick call all afternoon, so missed both lunch and dinner. By the time I got to the hospital, it was late at night and the mess hall was closed. Not my ideal way to spend my 21st birthday.

One of the medics went into his supply room, and came back with a few packages of cookies for me. That was all I got for my birthday dinner, but I was mighty glad to have them. He told me they were donated by a local organization, and that he kept them around for emergencies like this. I never knew who donated those cookies, but I’ll never forget what they meant to me.

Last year, on my 56th birthday, I got to pay that act of kindness forward. One of our Soldier’s Angels in Florida arranged for her local Girl Scout council to donate a bunch of cookies, and my wife and I arranged to have cases shipped to eight CSH’s.
So here is my challenge to you: pick up some Girl Scout cookies and I'll let you know a Combat Support Hospital in Iraq, Kuwait or Afghanistan to mail them to. Or go to the Soldier's Angels store and order a case there. We'll mail them to any deployed soldier you want, for only the cost of postage - $18.00. Such a deal, and I promise you'll make some sick or injured GI's day.
Might even be his birthday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Last WWI Combat Veteran Laid to Rest

Army News Service Spc. April L. Dustin March 09, 2007

The echo of a 21-gun salute and bugler playing Taps seemingly marked the end of an era as a state and national treasure was laid to rest in Portland, Ore., March 2. Retired Army Cpl. Howard V. Ramsey, Oregon's last living World War I veteran and the last known U.S. combat veteran of WWI, died in his sleep Feb. 22 at an assisted living center in southeast Portland. He was honored in a memorial service attended by nearly 200 people at Lincoln Memorial Park exactly one month before reaching his 109th birthday.
"This is a very historic occasion; we lay to rest today our nation's oldest combat veteran," said Pastor Stu Weber, who officiated over Ramsey's memorial service.In an Associated Press report, Jim Benson of the Veterans Administration said there are now only seven WWI veterans on record with the VA, although it is possible there are unknown veterans who may still exist. Of the seven known WWI veterans still living, none were shipped overseas, making Ramsey the last known combat veteran of "The Great War." Ramsey inherited the title two weeks before his passing, when Massachusetts veteran Antonio Pierro passed away on Feb. 8.
Ramsey's lifetime spanned three centuries and 19 presidents. He was born in Rico, Colo., on April 2, 1898, when the U.S. flag had just 45 stars and President McKinley was preparing to declare war with Spain. Too young to be drafted, Ramsey tried to voluntarily enlist but was told he was too skinny by Army standards. After gorging on bananas and water to successfully meet weight standards, he was placed in the Army's transportation corps. Ramsey sailed to France in September 1918 to join General John "BlackJack" Pershing's American Expeditionary Force. Ramsey drove cars, trucks and motorcycles for the Army and trained other Soldiers how to drive. He was often selected to drive officers to special engagements, one officer "gigging" him for having a dirty truck despite the constant rain and mud in France.
He also drove ambulances, transported troops to the frontlines and delivered water to troops on the battlefields. Ramsey once recalled his service in WWI saying, "We were under fire a lot at the front, and we really caught hell one time. I lost friends over there."After the armistice, Ramsey spent several months recovering the remains of American Soldiers who had been hastily buried in the trenches and transported them to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, the largest American cemetery in Europe. "You'd better believe it was pretty awful work," Ramsey told Oregonian reporter Rick Bella in 2005. "It was tough, but you became hardened to it."Nearly 90 years later, Ramsey was still haunted by regret for not breaking the rules and keeping a diary that fell from the pocket of one deceased American Soldier. Ramsey told family and friends, "I wanted to keep that diary so badly to send it to his mother, but it was against the rules to keep anything from off the bodies.
"Veterans of many generations and wars, and military representatives attended Ramsey's memorial service to pay their respects, including Brig. Gen. Raymond C. Byrne Jr., commander of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Jim Willis, state director of Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. "If we are going to end an era, I can think of no better way than to do it with a person who is a model representation of the kinds of Soldiers who served this country in WWI, and someone who would be an example to any combat Soldier serving up to, and including those who serve in Afghanistan and Iraq today. All (veterans) would be justifiably proud to have known Corporal Howard Ramsey," said Willis.Retired Army Col. Don Holden, whose father was Ramsey's classmate at Washington High School, shared fond memories of Ramsey's sense of humor. He said farewell to his old friend by reading the epic WWI poem "Flander's Field," which Ramsey could recite from memory well into his late 90s.(Spc. April L. Dustin writes for the Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office.)

God Speed, Corporal Ramsey


Sunday, March 11, 2007

To Iraq and Back Again - A Bear's Journey

The good news is that Carlos, one of the soldiers with the 4th ID that my family adopted last year, left Iraq early and got home safe before Christmas.

The down side is that the Christmas packages I mailed never got to him. Instead, they went on a 13,000 mile odyssey, followed Carlos all the way to Fort Hood (adding another 1,100 miles), and eventually came back to me yesterday. A little beaten-up and travel-worn, but they made it home.

It occurred to me that we could make this a learning experience. People always ask:

"Can I send shampoo? Isn't it a liquid or gel?"

"Can I send chocolate? Won't it melt into liquid, brown, toxic goop?"

"What happens to Silly String in the mail? Is it true that it blows up and makes the plane crash?"

"Just how good is the Army Post Office?"

Well, I wasn't sure of all those myself, but let's find out! Join us on our photo essay as we delve into the box and see just what happened.

First thing we notice is that those little flat-rate Priority boxes are pretty tough, but all that's holding this one together is tape. That wonderful, free Priority Mail tape that worked so great, the Post Office decided to stop giving it to us.

This sucker looks like Ace Ventura kicked it all the way down the stairs - it doesn't have a single square corner left.

The APO forwarded the box to Carlos' home station back in the states. 4th ID got it and forwarded it to Ft Hood, Texas. Still trying to get it to the right guy. Hey, you gotta call that good service!

What do you suppose the contents look like?


Snickers past their prime, but still technically Snickers. So, OK if you don't mind a cracked tooth or two.

Peppermint crumbs! Good in coffee or on toast. So, OK in a "desperate for peppermints" sort of way.

Fancy chocolates! (I think I still have the receipt for those). "I am outraged. These chocolates taste like, well, like they've been sitting in a cardboard box for months. In a hot, dusty place like Texas for mercy sake. I demand a refund. "

Toiletries. Wrapped in zip-locs, taped the lids shut, no problem.

Toothpaste. A little banged up, but looks fine.

Tin of carmel-corn. It would make a good ash-tray, but the foil pouch didn't get broken. So, OK. My famous Christmas Cookies. I followed the advice to put them in a bag, then inside a Tupperware container, then tape it up good. Result?

They look like cookies

They feel like cookies

They sorta smell like cookies

That's as far as I went

Silly String. Hey, would I trust this bear to an exploding can of toxic, flammable chemicals? So OK. *

*the management of this blog do not recommend mailing any materials that violate Postal Service regulations. But next time you are there, ask them why in the hell they stopped giving us free tape.

Welcome home Carlos!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

399th CSH Opens New Hospital - And Gives back to Soldier's Angels

The 399th Combat Support Hospital unit recently moved to Anbar province to open a new CSH facility there. The goal is to have a local faclity so the Marines and Army don't have to fly all their casualties out. Getting a casualty into a hospital within the first "Golden Hour" greatly increases his odds of survival.

I've been working with our contact there, Major Terri O. to get them whatever they needed. The military provides the basics, of course, but Angels help fill in the rest to make things just a little easier for the medics and patients.

What does a brand new hospital need? To date, we've sent coffee pots, microwaves, funds to purchase TV's, DVD players and video games to equip their wards. SA and our volunteer Angels have also sent blankets, sheets, sweat shirts, snacks by the ton, DVD movies, coffee, cocoa, microwave get the idea.

Now here is the neat thing, a couple of soldiers in that unit started (its a health website) where you can track your wight-lifting progress and buy t-shirts. They split the profits between Soldiers Angels and Adopt a Soldier. It is growing by leaps and bounds. The said they "wanted to give back to organizations that are helping us. "
Here's what their website says - We are supporting Soldiers Angels through the sale of gear. Troops supporting troops.
THANK YOU, 399th.


The Littlest Victims of War

I had a request two weeks ago that I just hate to see. From Sgt Jason Y, at the aid station at Ramadi. "We had a mascal with lots of children. can you send baby bottles, diapers, formula, stuffed animals, clothes for kids of all ages". Damn.

Sgt. Arthur L, of the Besamaya Range Aid station

A "MASCAL" is how the medics refer to an event with "mass casualties". It means that so many injured arrived at one time that the facility was overwhelmed. The call for assistance goes out to the entire base, and all shifts at the hospital, every combat medic in camp who isn't out on a mission, along with anyone who just wants to help drops everything and rushes to the aid station.

These are never good news, but somehow when kids are involved, well that's gotta be tougher.

They set up triage outside the csh, and use every available work space to treat the injured. Jason said as night fell, they called the fire department to come and set up their flood-lights so they could work outside. They ran low on blood, and put the call out for volunteers. In minutes, they had over 100 soldiers lined up to donate.

I passed on Jason's request to our incredible Angel network, and my wife and I headed out to Wal-Mart and filled up a shopping cart with everything we could think of. Been a long time since I bought baby formula and diapers, seeing as my son just had his 20th birthday. We got it all home, packed up 6 big boxes and hauled them to the Post Office.


From Major Mike J of the 506th AEG /MEDS

Once again, I am proud of all of our Soldier's Angels who can always be counted on to do anything that is needed to help our medics.

NOTE: This unit doesn't need any more children's items at this time. If you'd like to help, though, donations to Soldier's Angels are always welcome. Your donations give us the funds to respond to needs like this one. Visit OPERATION SOS KIDS at our Soldier's Angels website to see how you can help.