Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 - a Visit to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

On a quiet, sunny day last weekend, I had a chance to visit Illinois' National Cemetery.

These wonderful folks were planting flowers that day.

World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm...they're all here.

I was touched at the sight of a single rose, tucked behind his plaque. The message could be for all of these veterans; "Always in our hearts".


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

I'd like to dedicate today's entry to the memory of those members of my family who did not hesitate to serve when their countries needed them:

My wife's great-great grandfather:
Samuel Runnels - 11th Mississippi Infantry, Battle of Vicksburg †

My great-grandfather:
Christian Godskesen, Royal Danish Army, Battle of Schleswig 1865†

My wife's grandfather:
Alonzo Runnels - US Army, WWI †

My grandfather:
Christian Martinus Swendsen, Royal Danish Army †

My great-uncle:
Oluf Swendsen, Royal Danish Army †

My Uncles:
Paul Swendsen - US Army forward artillery spotter - Europe, WWII †
Carl Swendsen - US Army, WWII †
Roy Swendsen - US Army Air Corp, South Pacific, WWII †
Henry Godskesen - US Army Engineering Corp, WWII †

My Father-In-Law:
Charlie Runnels - US Navy, Korea †

My cousin:
Harlan Roy Swendsen - US Navy, Vietnam †

My Brother-in-law:
Carlos Hernandez - US Army Helicopter Crewman, Vietnam †

For all you did for us, we remember

And to those currently serving:
Karen, US Army, Medic
Katy, North Dakota Army National Guard
Jason, US Navy, Corpsman

for all you are doing for us...we Thank You

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Soldier treking across America stops in Chicago

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Needed for Drum Hike: Your Community!

Needed for Drum Hike: Your Community!

Drum Hike is well-underway and Troy is now hiking through Indiana. There are so many easy and fun ways Americans can get involved with helping Troy meet his goal of hiking 7,000 miles across the country to raise money for veterans in need. Local involvement is vital!

Patriotic Americans are needed to...

  • March with him for a little bit while he’s in their town
  • Attend local MLB or Minor League baseball games where he will be appearing
  • Contact local first responders and encourage them to hike or ride with him
  • Join Patriot Guard Riders as they welcome him
  • Help him plant a tree in memory of a fallen hero
  • Alert their local VFW, Scouts, and other community organizations
  • Help find a deserving vet for an Extreme Home Makeover along Troy's route (DEADLINE IS MAY 21--click for details!)
  • Work with local Angels to set up a “support the troops” event, fundraiser or patriotic rally to greet Troy when he arrives
  • And more!

For more activities and all the info on how to get your community involved, including Troy's itinerary, see or email

Let’s show Troy our support and help him get the visibility he needs to raise $5,000,000 for America’s veterans!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Small Canadian medic takes on big role in Afghanistan

SPERWAN GHAR, Afghanistan — Master Cpl. Mike Cuevas caught sight of his company's new combat medic, and he had doubts.

He'd fought in Afghanistan's heat, climbed over head-high mud walls, leaped water-filled ditches, scrambled to firing positions under incoming rounds, all carrying upwards of 40 kilograms of gear.

The woman standing in front of him stood five feet, one-half-inch. She weighed about the same as his battle kit.

Cpl. Marnie Musson had turned up in Shilo, Man., in 2008 for training exercises with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry — fresh off the boat after almost five years posted to the Canadian navy.

Cuevas knew that as a medic on patrol in Afghanistan, she'd be bearing nearly her own weight through extreme terrain and temperatures.

"Normally I don't judge people, but . . . I thought she was really tiny for her job," Cuevas says. "She looks like a little kid."

Charlie Company's commander had similar qualms. "When I met her I thought her equipment would weigh more than she would and I was somewhat concerned," says Maj. Wade Rutland.

Musson, 26, says she herself had doubts she'd be selected to work as a medic attached to the "dismounted" foot patrols usually made up of strapping young men.

"I was very shocked when I got the job. I'm not your typical dismount," Musson says.

Musson was born in Winnipeg, and while growing up, also lived in North Bay, Ont.; Lahr, Germany; and Edmonton, moving when her father, who was also in the Canadian Forces.

At first, Musson seemed unsure of herself, Cuevas recalls. When ordered to give first-aid training to company troops, "She just kind of looked at me like a lost puppy."

Then he watched her research every aspect of her new job.

By the time the company was to deploy to Afghanistan, she'd earned the position of lead company medic, which carried a tour-specific promotion to master corporal.

Charlie Company arrived this fall at the fortified Canadian outpost of Sperwan Ghar, and any lingering doubts about Musson's capabilities vanished in the surrounding villages, fields and desert of the infamously violent Panjwaii district.

"Where she started to really prove herself was when we got on the ground here and she started going out on patrols," says Cuevas, 37.

Wearing a flak vest with heavy armour plates front and back, carrying her assault rifle and five spare magazines, plus a rucksack and tactical vest filled with medical supplies, Musson must keep pace for up to 15 hours at a time.

On overnight operations, she adds a sleeping bag, pad, ration packs, and as much as seven kilograms of water.

Combat-effectiveness standards dictate that a soldier should carry a maximum of 33 per cent of body weight, Rutland says. "She's carrying about 80 (per cent), and she's still effective."

Musson, though she rounds up her height to five-foot-one, is quick to admit that her size poses challenges when crossing Panjwaii's countless mud walls and the ditches called "wadis" that are often full of filthy water. "I'll look at the wadi and I'll be like, 'Am I going to make this?' " says Musson. "It sucks falling in."

Two months after arriving, her patrol ran into an ambush near a graveyard a few hundred metres from the base. Insurgents opened up with AK-47s. Musson stood behind a grapevine berm and joined her comrades in returning fire. The war was becoming ever more real.

Already, she had treated grievous injuries inflicted by the Taliban's most prevalent weapon, the improvised-explosive device. A soldier had stepped on an IED near the base. One leg was gone below the knee, the other lower leg blasted to "mush," Musson recalls. Two months later, the troops at Sperwan Ghar heard an explosion on a base-access road. When she reached the scene, she saw the victim was a soldier she'd known for a year. His skull was fractured, and the field medic had put a tourniquet on his arm, which was blown open above the elbow, with shrapnel wounds in the forearm. She credits the other medic with doing the important work: she just had to cut away flesh to clean up the wound.

Musson says she doesn't feel traumatized by those incidents. "On both occasions the casualties were awake and talking, so I think that made it . . . easier to handle."

In her routine work at the base clinic, she mostly treats infections, though she worries about one of the soldiers' favourite activities: catching and playing with the venomous creatures found on the base, including spiders, scorpions and deadly vipers. One soldier was bitten on the hand by a viper, but flung the snake off before it could inject venom.

On patrols, she draws attention from village kids who have never seen a woman carrying a gun. The girls flock to her, Rutland says. "Here's someone that's a great example for these young ladies, a strong female figure that's out doing a great job."

And Cuevas, who once had doubts about Musson, has nothing but admiration for the woman who has become one of his closest friends. "She's stubborn enough not to quit, and that's what counts," Cuevas says. "She's got a good heart."

courtesy of Canwest News Service

Thursday, May 06, 2010

First Response Backpack needs are way up

We need your help. I got a single order for 150 of our backpacks for the Evac hospital at Camp Bastion. They are treating and evacuating over 600 casualties per month.


Monday, May 03, 2010

Mother's Day is Coming

There are a lot of mothers deployed far from home. Remember them, too.