Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wednesday's Heroes

This Weeks Hero Was Suggested By Sunni Kay

Ryan Rahe has been active in the Special Olympics since he was in Middle School. The now 25-year-old has won quite a few medals over the years, but not all of his medals are at his Tennessee home. Some of them have been sent, by Ryan, to soldiers fighting the War On Terror for "good luck".

Jayne Rahe, Ryan's mother, said the idea of sending support to the soldiers in harm's way came about when she and Ryan were talking about news coverage of the war in Iraq. Jayne visited and discovered how she and Ryan could let the men and women in Iraq know their efforts are appreciated.

Ryan, named 2006 Special Olympics Athlete of the Year for the Blount County Sports Hall of Fame, said he felt good when he received the box from the soldiers. He said if he could talk with them face to face, he would say, "Thank you."

The Rahes plan to continue sending care packages to soldiers, including the medals.

"Ryan is a pretty generous fellow," Jayne said. "He doesn't mind giving things to people."

In a letter that Ryan received, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Anthony W. Grillett wrote:
"I and the Battalion can never thank you enough for sending us your medals. They have brought us luck and good fortune, and now as we prepare to deploy home we send them back to you with our eternal gratitude.

That you would send us something so precious is a reflection of your character. As you called us heroes; to me you are the hero. For I believe it is not who you are, or what you are that makes you a hero, it is the ability to give all especially when it is never asked.

Your courage to face the challenges required earning those medals and then so freely send them to us here in Iraq will forever make you a hero to me. I will never be able to truly express in words how honored I was when I read the letter from your Mother. It truly humbles me and shows me that what I fight for in our country will always be worth the small sacrifices asked of me. Thank you again."

Sometimes a hero is one who sacrifices everything in their life to help others. And sometimes a hero is one who sacrifices nothing more than their time.
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 Wednesday Hero, you can go here.

Enemy sniper’s aim foiled by friendship

A friend will share the good times with you, but a great friend will share the good times and the bad.

Lance Cpl. Juan A. Valdez, a Boston native and mortarman with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, had what may be the greatest friend of his life at his side during one of his greatest times of need.

A Purple Heart Medal ceremony was held here June 8, to decorate Valdez for wounds he suffered during actions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While on a security patrol through the streets of Al Karmah, Iraq, in 2006, Valdez was struck by a sniper round.

The incident took place close to the halfway point of the patrol 2,000 meters from an Iraqi police station the unit was based out of that day.

Sgt. Jesse E. Leach, the section leader for Mobile Assault Platoon 4, Weapons Co., was positioned near the rear of the patrol 10-15 meters from Valdez when the sniper shot rang out into the street. It came from a canal located across the street and hit his close friend, Lance Cpl. Valdez.

As soon as the shot was fired, the Marines reacted by securing the area while searching for lower ground to reduce the risk of being hit by any potential threats.

At first, Valdez didn’t realize what happened. He thought someone else had been shot.
“I didn’t even know I got hit,” Valdez said. “I thought that somebody else just got messed up, and then I realize I’m on the ground and my arm is (debilitated).”

Valdez rolled over to let others know he was hit, then tried to move before he was shot again.

Leach looked at Valdez and rushed over to his side. He pulled him across the street to cover. The unit did not have a corpsman readily available, so Leach started tending to his wounds.

“I was probably the closest thing he had to a corpsman or medical personnel,” Leach said.

Leach began ripping the gear and uniform off Valdez in search of an entry and exit wound. Valdez had been struck in the arm. The bullet passed all the way through the top of his shoulder into his ribcage. It punctured a lung and exited through his back.

It was getting hard for Valdez to breathe, and he couldn’t feel his hand. (continue reading story)

Marine Corporal Jason S. Clairday - Fallen But Never Forgotten

Bullets from insurgents’ AK47 rifles tore into his legs, but Cpl. Jason S. Clairday wasn’t about to be stopped.

Clairday, 21, had just leaped across a four-foot gap between rooftops three stories above the Fallujah street to reach a mortally wounded member of another platoon felled in an intense firefight that Dec. 12, 2004, morning. He reorganized first squad and pushed into the house again, throwing grenades and firing his rifle to lead his men against the insurgent fighters inside.

Enemy fire again struck him, and he was evacuated to a field surgical unit, where he died.

Through that battle, Marines say, Clairday never gave up. On Monday, the Marine Corps awarded the Navy Cross medal — the second-highest for valor in combat — to his widow during a Camp Pendleton ceremony as members of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, looked on.

Clairday is the 17th Marine to receive the Navy Cross for his individual actions in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, and he is the sixth member of 3/5 awarded the medal for Iraq — the most service crosses of any unit so far... (continue reading story/see video)

Army Amputee Pushes for Policy Change

FORT JACKSON, S.C. - The man who has become the public face of Soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan has a message for the Army leadership: Change the policy to make it easier for amputees to remain on active duty and return to combat.

"I'm really focused on long-term policy changes, not short-term fixes, not amendments and exceptions to policy, but to fix the policy," said Maj. David Rozelle.

In June 2003, Maj. Rozelle was a cavalry troop commander with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He lost part of his right leg when a mine exploded under his High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle in Hit, Iraq.

"As I tried to free myself from the vehicle I pressed very hard on my right foot," he recalled. "As I pressed on what was left of it, it felt like it was in mud. It was really that my foot was gone, so I was shoving those raw bones into the dirt to free myself from the vehicle.

"As I fell into the arms of a very brave sergeant first class, and the first sergeant ran out to clear me of the minefield, I gave my last command in Iraq. That was, 'secure the area and evacuate the casualties.' It was probably the most difficult command I had given in my life because I was giving the order to evacuate myself out of the country. It was my last command."

One year later,
after months of painful rehabilitation, and fitted with an artificial limb, Maj. Rozelle was once again a troop commander with 3rd Armd. Cav. Regt. Six months after that he was leading troops back into combat, in the same town where he lost part of his leg, making him the first amputee to return to combat in the same battlefield since the Civil War.[snip]

As the guest speaker for Saturday's Army Birthday Ball at the Fort Jackson NCO Club, the 35-year-old said competing in those competitions as an amputee wasn't just for him.

"I was able to prepare to return for war by doing marathons, triathlons, ironman competitions to prove to my scouts I could be just like them," Maj. Rozelle said. "I had to prove it to them again on the battlefield."

As he met with Basic Combat Training Soldiers throughout the day Saturday, Maj. Rozelle stressed the importance of the skills they are learning during their first few months in the Army.

"It's important for you to see a guy like me," he told Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment. "One of the things I found out when I got injured in war was that it doesn't stop there. Everything you are learning here is what allowed me to return to the battlefield."

Just as Maj. Rozelle has focused on resuming his life, his wife had the same advice for the spouses of those injured on the battlefield.

"Persevere and support your Soldier. Fight for everything you need," she said. "Get back to a normal life and you'll find your groove again once you discover what your new life is. Just take care of them and don't let them whine too much."(continue reading Rozelle's story)

Soldiers, Marines pour their hearts into helping local Iraqi boys

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (July 1, 2007) -- In the United States things can be relatively simple. If someone is ill, he goes to the doctor. If a person is very ill, then they go to the hospital.

In Iraq, on the other hand, it is not always that simple. Medical care is very expensive and many times the wait to be treated can be weeks long.

While on patrol, soldiers from Company A, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), stumbled upon two boys who were truly sick, took a stand,
and decided to help them.

One of them has a serious heart condition. (continue reading Iraqi Children)

Navy SEAL Honored with Hometown Statue Dedication

LITTLETON, Colo. (NNS) -- Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny P. Dietz was honored July 4, by his hometown of Littleton, Colo., with the dedication of a larger-than-life bronze statue in a park near his childhood family home. Dietz was killed by enemy forces during a combat mission in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005, as part of Operation Red Wing.[snip]

"(Danny)…leaves behind a legacy that inspires us today and serves as a shining example of heroism and courage for future generations," said Secretary Winter during his remarks. "Years from now, people will look upon this statue and be reminded of the heroism of a son of Colorado whose country he was proud to serve."

"Petty Officer Dietz gave his life selflessly serving our Nation. On behalf of the United States Navy SEALs, we are proud to call him brother and will forever honor his warrior spirit and sacrifice." said Kernan. "This statue is more than a tribute to one man, it is a lasting reminder of the honor, courage and commitment Danny and all of his teammates embody."

Dietz was born on Jan 26 1980 in Aurora, Colo. He enlisted in the Navy in 1999, earned his SEAL trident in 2001 and was subsequently assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two. In April 2005, Dietz deployed with his Special Reconnaissance element to Afghanistan to support Naval Special Warfare Squadron TEN and the prosecution of the Global War on Terrorism.

In June 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, his four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the unforgiving altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. These SEALs, LT Michael Murphy, Petty Officer Matthew Axelson, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell and Dietz, had a vital task. Their mission objective was to capture or kill a key militia leader. The mission was compromised when they were spotted by anti-coalition sympathizers, who reported their presence and location to the Taliban. (continue reading Danny Dietz; Blackfive full story)

Maj. Megan M. McClung, USMC: First Woman Marine Officer Killed in Iraq

In her job, McClung "was an advocate of media coverage of military operations," and managed the embed program in which reporters hook up with military units, developing public affairs plans for operations, Salas wrote by e-mail from Iraq.

Her death also numbed a community of marathoners. McClung, Salas said, also found time to organize the Marine Corps Marathon in Al Asad Airbase in October. She finished second among women.

The Defense Department in disclosing McClung's death Monday said she was killed in Al Anbar province supporting combat operations. Media and other military sources say she was killed in downtown Ramadi by a roadside bomb while doing her job -- escorting reporters.

She was in her last month in her Iraq deployment.

McClung's family declined to be interviewed, directing inquiries to Marine Corps officials. Funeral arrangements are incomplete but are planned for Arlington National Cemetery, Salas said from Iraq.

McClung's name has filled Google pages on the Web since her death, including notes from numerous journalists who appreciated her work.

Many cited her energy and professionalism -- and remembered a personality as bright as her red hair.

The Washington Post on October 27, 2006, reported that McClung in May came up with the idea for a marathon race in Iraq to parallel the popular Marine Corps Marathon held in Washington, D.C., each fall.

The Iraq "shadow race" was dubbed the Marine Corps Marathon Forward. Participants were considered part of the U.S. marathon, their finishes added to the list of those who completed the race in the U.S. (read more about Maj. Megan McClung)

This report indicates that, as of December 2006, 60 women in the United States military have given their lives in defense of their country. It may be that we will see the highest ever rate of women warriors killed during war in United States History. I placed her here as a reminder that women also serve and that the term "front line" is really nothing more than a general area where the enemy and our armed forces meet. And, that can be on a street corner in a quiet country village.

Soldier Uses His Head in Fight Against Terrorist

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — “I’m one of those guys who believe in leading from the front.”

His face is boyish and unassuming, and bears not a trace of the bullet that could’ve cost him his life. Staff Sgt. Kyle Keenan, a native of Newark, Ohio, and a scout section leader with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., is a lucky man. An Iraqi terrorist shot him at point-blank range with a pistol, and he shrugged it off and fired back. (continue reading "Kyle Keenan")

Airmen Bring Hospital to Wounded

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, June 8, 2007 — Some might say doctors don't make house calls anymore, but that's exactly what the airmen of the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, do on a daily basis. They bring the hospital to the wounded.

A typical aeromedical evacuation, or AE, crew turns whatever aircraft they are on into a flying hospital. A typical AE crew consists of a medical crew director and two highly trained in-flight medical technicians.
"Taking care of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines is the most important thing we do. Giving these guys the comfort of knowing we'll get them home is the greatest feeling."
Capt. Jenna Jamison, critical-care air transport care nurse

When a severely injured or gravely ill servicemember must be moved, the AE crews often are augmented with a critical-care air transport team. When augmented with a CCAT team, the aircraft is turned from a flying hospital to a flying intensive care unit. (continue reading Airmen Bring Hospital to Wounded)

- May no soldier go unloved