Friday, May 11, 2007

Wednesday Heroes on Friday

My bad, again. Things seem to fly by and I am not honoring my committment to honor our heroes every Wednesday. So, we'll make an extra effort today. Double posting about our heroes.

We still have graphics problems. We'll get them fixed, but don't let it take away from the experience of reading about some great heroes.

First up, our traditional post:

Melodye -

Spc. Josiah H. Vandertulip
Spc. Josiah H. Vandertulip
21 years old from Irving, Texas
2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division
October 14, 2004

Louise Vandertulip fussed at her son about his spending. He bought wild, overpriced hats that had flames on them or horns coming out of the top, she said.

While in Army basic training, he bought portraits of himself. His mother told him to save his money.

She's glad he didn't listen.

The hats and the pictures are all a part of her memories now.

Spc. Josiah H. Vandertulip was killed in Baghdad when his patrol came under small arms fire.

Josiah Vandertulip joined the Army right after his graduation from Irving High School in 2002. He spent a year in South Korea before being stationed at Texas' Fort Hood in February. Against his mother's advice, he volunteered to go to Iraq. She told him to wait, to go to college.

"When he was determined to do something in his heart, he would do it and hell or high water couldn't keep him from it," she said

By going, he knew someone else with a young family could be saved from serving, relatives said.

He always had the important things right, Louise Vandertulip said.

"There's a lot of rest in knowing that he died doing what he believed in and doing what he thought was right," she said.

"We have a much more real sense of the cost for the freedom that we enjoy now," said his father, Robert Vandertulip.

"Josiah was the first brand new soldiers I recieved as a dismounted team leader in Korea. He was one of the Best soldiers I have had the honor to train and work with. He loved being a soldier as much as any guy I have met. He was a great leader in the absence of his superiors. I could always count on him to make sure the mission was accomplished. I watched him change over the year I had him from a goofy kid, to a hard charging soldier."
Sgt. Nickolas Faul

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. To find out more about Wednesay Hero, you can go here.

From Blackfive Someone You Should Know - PFC Stephen Sanford

In late November, 2005, during an assault on a house in Mosul, Iraq, filled with terrorists, PFC Stephen Sanford of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, was hit in the leg. The house erupted in rifle fire and grenades. Soldiers were hit and dying on the first floor of the house.

Though wounded in the leg, Sanford charged back in with his team, laying down suppressive fire while his team mates evacuated the wounded.

On the second evacuation of wounded, Sanford again (bleeding) kept the terrorists at bay while the wounded were evac'd. While assisting the last wounded soldier out of the house, a terrorist shot the soldier assisting the wounded troop. The soldier dropped to the floor - shot through the neck.

Sanford ran back and began performing first aid, then CPR trying to keep the soldier alive.

He received the Distinguished Service Cross. Read the rest and watch the video further down. It's about 28 minutes, but it highlights many heroes from the war on terror.

Also, from Blackfive, a Silver Star recipient, Maj. Jim Gant

Al-Qaeda had planned an elaborate running ambush in which they hoped to destroy the unit that had been their nemesis for more than a month. They had prepared three separate ambush sites along a four kilometer stretch of road. Gant and his commandos were forced to run a gauntlet of machinegun fire, mortar attacks and IEDs. The story of Gant’s, fight that day is an amazing tale of heroism, filled with scenes you would expect to see on the silver screen. Gant repeatedly risked his life to save others. The insurgents had planted IEDs hoping that an explosion would force the embattled convoy to stop.

Gant ordered his driver to drive straight for the first IED. As they rolled within twenty feet, the device detonated. Miraculously, Gant’s HMMWV was unscathed. Gant kept the column moving through a vicious gun battle. Another IED lie only five hundred yards ahead. Again, they went after the planted explosive and, again, a thunderous explosion failed to disable Gant’s vehicle. Almost clear of the ambush, Gant noticed a third IED. He continued to push forward, bringing his convoy safely through the torrent of fire. Had Gant hesitated, good men would have died.

Speaking about the Iraqi men that he knew and fought with, Maj. Gant said:

If you knew them as I do, you would not be so quick to want to leave. If you could see with your own eyes the evil that is perpetrated on innocent men, women and children here on a daily basis, you would not be so quick to call it quits.

Colonel Dhafer, you and brave men like you are the hope and future of your country. I wish I were the hope and future of my country. Because if I were, I would not leave you until this job was done. No matter the sacrifice. No matter the price.


Centcom brings us a story of another unsung hero, the one that detonates the IEDs that don't wound or kill our men and women; the ones that you never hear about on TV because no one bleeds or dies. Except, sometimes they do and it is but a two sentence at the bottom of a report that lists the dead and wounded of the day.

Staff Sgt Albietz, Air Force EOD

Albietz was the leader of an explosives team at Kirkuk Regional Air Base in Iraq, and was tasked with locating and disarming or destroying homemade bombs throughout a 42,000-square-kilometer area. As a result, Albietz was often caught in dangerous situations, with insurgent attacks always looming. In total, he was involved in more than 110 combat missions.

In one such mission, Albietz and his team were called in to disarm a bomb that was blocking a logistical convoy trying to pass through the area. As the enemy fired from multiple locations, Albietz’s team successfully disabled the bomb.

That is 110 bombs that did not kill or wound a single soldier or civilian. And, they often did it under fire or direct threat; above and beyond the possibility of losing life and limb from the explosive.

How about some more "unsung heroes"? You know, the folks that are doing some really hard work in the shadows, beyond the fame and adrenaline of combat, are the engineers and civil affairs folks.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Southern Iraq – Progress Toward Independence

Dr. Anna Prouse, team leader for the Dhi Qar PRT, said it was challenging at first when no one from the provincial government wanted to meet. She said as time went on, however, the local officials began to trust them and now they are having the Provincial Reconstruction Development Council at least once a week.

" Iraq is small steps, it's relationships," she said. "If the governor does not believe in me, if the chief of police tries to blow me up every time I get out of that gate, then I will never be able to build anything. So the first months were just, work hard and show them that you really have enthusiasm, and that the whole team really believes in this."

Prouse has been in Iraq since 2003, so she is very familiar with what success will take and what it will mean for the Iraqis. She spoke about what her current team was doing to help ensure the Iraqis have a better future.

"'Reconstruction' is sort of [a] misleading word, because I'm not actually here to rebuild," she said. "I'm not here to do the 'brick and mortar' thing. Iraqis can do it, and they probably can do it much better than I. I'm here to build capacity, build this country from the roots, and the roots is the minds, the roots is the education, the health system. Not just put in a clinic, and don't care whether doctors, whether nurses exist, [but] whether they actually know how to maintain a hospital.”

Since we're on the subject of unsung heroes, don't forget that Friday is Military Spouse Appreciation Day! In that honor, I would like to point you to a great blog run by, you guessed it, military spouses: Spouse Buzz

They bill themselves thusly:

SpouseBUZZ is your virtual Family Support Group, where we can celebrate and embrace the tie that binds us all -- military service. This blog exists because of you. We have authors and contributors to keep the conversation going here, but we need you to become an active participant. Submit your comments, questions and suggestions for topics you would like to see our authors address. SpouseBUZZ will make you think, make you laugh and make you cry. Most of all, we hope you feel instantly connected to the thousands of other spouses with whom you share a common experience

At the milblog conference last week, Sarah from trying to GROK said this about being a military spouse:

...I pointed out to my husband something that every servicemember needs to remember when he thinks of his family back home. We’ve never been to Iraq or Afghanistan. We don’t know what it’s like. We imagine the worst, and our mental war zone would probably seem cartoonish to you. But we simply can’t fully grasp what war is like. And while you know when you’re safe or bored or having a slow day, we don’t. Many times you can see danger coming if you have to go on a mission and you can emotionally prepare yourself to let slip the dogs of war; we have to stay emotionally prepared for the entire deployment, never sure of when your mortality is on the line. Your deployment is filled with the ebb and flow of adrenaline; your life is monotonous days punctuated by moments of anxiety or excitement; our adrenaline is always half-on, since every moment that we’re not on the phone with you is a moment when you’re possibly in danger. Such is the life for those on the homefront, those who stand and wait. Such is the life my husband can’t begin to understand, any more than I can really understand his...

A recent post at Spouse Buzz seems to call to mind exactly what is required of a military spouse: Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Over the years, hubby and I have worked on stoking those fires extensively, trying many things with many different results. Snap, crackle, pop is not only about Rice Crispies.

The amount of time hubby and other "Super-Suits" are gone, though present some very unique situations. On the one hand, I appreciate him more than I ever could if he were always home. I am well aware of what I am missing when he is gone, and I'll move Heaven and Earth to make sure coming home is always a good experience for him, and something to look forward to and long for. On the other hand, it's very easy to get caught up in the daily grind of homeschooling four children, keeping my house clean, mowing the back yard, and trying to plan nutritious yet tasty meals that appeal to the Chicken Nugget generation; the end result of this being that sometimes when hubby is gone for a few weeks I forget to shave my legs with any regularity.

And then, of course, there is also the dreaded and yet somewhat unavoidable irritation at having to focus so much of my work on someone else and occasionally feeling like I wish someone would focus that much attention on me. I have been known, on occasion, to consider advertising for my own wife.

Yeah, you'll want to read the rest.

Someone from Soldiers' Angels KC Myspace network sent me this story of an RAF Officer who received the Military Cross. From Soldiers' Angels Europe story of a hero from our allies:

In one firefight he left the protection of his vehicle and forced his way to the front line without regard for his personal safety. In another attack, the fire he directed from the air was on a Taliban target only 30 metres from his position. But the risk was essential given the ferocious weight of fire coming in, which would otherwise have resulted in significant casualties.

In a further incident he was part of a force being dropped off by helicopter at night to capture a high-value Taliban leader, but the Chinook pilot had to take off after just 20 seconds with Flt Lt Carter still onboard due to sudden incoming fire.

Without regard for himself Flt Lt Carter jumped out of the Chinook from 15 ft (4½ metres), landed in a ditch and instantly began directing fire onto Taliban positions. He gallantly and repeatedly risked his life during all contacts with the enemy.

And he's very handsome, too.

Since a soldier just returned from Afghanistan sent a message saying that he and his buddies were forgotten, I thought I'd make special mention of some of their deeds:

Operation Achilles - Break in the Fight

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - After spending more than 45 days on-mission, most Paratroopers would be happy with a shower and a few days to rest before regrouping and heading back out to fight the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. The Paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, are no different.

“It is just great to be able to get a bath, haircut and a shave,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Hall, 1/508th PIR battalion communications chief.

Catamounts receive awards of valor for endeavors during deployment

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan — Soldiers of 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, were awarded medals of valor by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team commander in ceremonies held at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E and FOB Tillman May 4.

Army Col. John Nicholson, Task Force Spartan commander, travelled to the TF Catamount area of operations to personally present awards of valor to the Soldiers.

The Catamounts have worked under 4th BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, since TF Spartan’s extension in Afghanistan. The infantrymen were the only part of the 3rd BCT to remain in the southern sector of Regional Command-East following the extension. The work of 2-87 in the south has been impeccable, a point of pride for Nicholson and subordinate brigade leaders.

“This battalion has always risen to the occasion in all aspects of the battle,” said Nicholson.

Awarded during each ceremony were the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for valor.

“Every one of these medals is significant,” said Nicholson. “They are tangible reminders of the fact that you cared for your country, your duty and your fellow comrades more than you cared for your own life.”

Catamount Commander Army Lt. Col. Chris Toner accompanied Nicholson and awarded medals to his Soldiers. Toner has led the Catamounts through a very successful rotation in Afghanistan. Even in the face of the brigade’s sudden extension, Toner and his Soldiers remained vigilant and continued to hold the enemy at bay.

“We have become very familiar with the territory,” said Army Sgt. Shane Ruiz, a team leader for Alpha Co., 2-87 who has received an ARCOM, AAM, Combat Infantry Badge and a Purple Heart. “We have continued to crush the enemy on all fronts. We continue to delay their major operations, surprising them with our knowledge and our force.”

The battalion will continue to distribute medals to its Soldiers as they return to the states. The paths the Catamounts have blazed have paved the way and set a strong example in the southern sector. Their accomplishments will remain long after their departure.

And don't miss this story from January about two women medics who have earned the respect of their fellow soldiers and the Afghan Kandak they work with. A little taste:

In another incident, 3rd Kandak soldiers were ambushed by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms during a patrol. An ANA general was in the convoy and bravely exposed himself to fire to direct his troops. Stapleton jumped from his Humvee to guard the general as he continued to give orders. Turner drove her Humvee into the firefight with another soldier manning the crew-served weapon in the turret. The ANA respected the medics even more when they saw that Turner was not afraid or hysterical. She didn't hesitate to take care of her brothers in a firefight.

"The ANA guys treat us like family now," Turner said. "They call us mother and sister."

Oh, yeah, you'll want to read the rest of this one, too.

It's a difficult thing for many medics to postpone treating casualties until a firefight is over. But they have been taught that no one is safe, including their patients, until the enemy threat is neutralized. Even the best medical care won't help a casualty if they are subsequently injured in further fighting.

"If we have to lay hot lead down range and then treat casualties, that's what we do," Ivanov said.

These are just a few of our heroes. No one tells you about them. They are quiet behind the media lines that only know the names of the dead. But, we at Soldiers' Angels support heroes like this every day. Help us support these heroes and more. Join us at Soldiers' Angels. It doesn't take much but a few words in a letter and a stamp to be a soldiers' hero. Be one.

PS...Military Spouse Appreciation Day is here. Forgot to something for Home Front Six? You can support the troops and show her or him that you appreciate them with a gift certificate from spa emergency. And don't forget, Mother's Day is Sunday. Give your hero a day at the spa.

- May no soldier go unloved