Saturday, November 21, 2009

French farmer sends letter of thanks to WWII vet

Another veteran story I caught on News 8 Austin, the local cable channel, this past week:

It was around that time of year, not too long ago, when a letter arrived from a 40-year-old French farmer singing the praises of a World War II hero, Baskin's father.

"We the people of Normandy will always be grateful," the letter read.

For Litton, the emotional moment for his family was a humbling one, however unexpected it may have been.

"I was surprised, I had no idea, I don't know where he got all of his information, he seemed to know a lot, he knew our plane and who all was in it," Litton said.

There are those who do remember, and are thankful for what our servicemen (and women) have done...

Also noted in the article is the importance to recording the stories of those World War II veterans who are still with us. I know a man, born on the 4th of July, who served in WWII, and hope to record his story (with some help from a friend). If you know a veteran - particularly from this Greatest Generation - I would encourage you, too, to try recording their stories before it's too late to do so.

Hundreds gather to remember Fort Hood fallen civilian

Earlier this week, I caught a news story on the local cable news channel. They covered the funeral of the one civilian killed in the mass shooting at Fort Hood on November 5th:

An estimated 500 people showed up to the Saint Monica's Catholic Church in Cameron on Sunday, to pay their respects to 62-year-old Michael Grant Cahill.

Cahill was among the 13 who were killed when a gunman opened fire in Fort Hood at the Soldier Readiness Center on Nov. 5. He was the only civilian to be killed that day.

Although he was working as a civilian, Cahill was no stranger to military service. He spent more than 20 years with the Army National Guard before he retired as a Chief Warrant Officer.

Follow the link to read the full article, and to watch their video report.

Resolution Update: 46 Weeks

Today is 46 weeks since I began my New Year's Resolution. I successfully fit into my dress for my sister's wedding a couple of weeks ago (though I am not completely happy with all the photos I've seen). That Saturday morning, I had lost a total of 58 pounds. After my weigh-in that morning, I wasn't going to obsess over calories and what-not. I went to out to my favorite local Chinese restaurant for lunch with my best friend, Lyric Mezzo. I ate wedding cake. Sunday, we drove out to Fredericksburg to visit Lyric Mezzo's old voice teacher from college. The three of us had a nice lunch at Der Lindenbaum then had some dessert at Clear River Pecan Company (they make homemade ice cream). I didn't get any exercise in on the weekend. Oh, and I hadn't mentioned that we have all the leftover wedding cake here in the house...

Needless to say, since the wedding, I've not been exercising and eating as I should. When I weighed in last weekend, I'd put on 6.6 pounds. I've been better this weekend about exercising, but I haven't been eating like I should. When I stepped on the scale this morning, I hadn't gained any more weight, but I hadn't lost any since last weekend, either.

The big thing for me was to be satisfied with how I looked for my sister's wedding. I didn't look as fabulous as she did, but that wasn't going to happen - I'd have had to have lost ALL the weight I want to lose, and living a normal life (e.g. - I don't have the time or money to devote to the physical training, etc.) making that kind of progress just wasn't feasible. I'm just happy that I can once again shop in the petite department; that's something I haven't been able to do in years...

I'm going to try not to get too worked up about calories and such over the holidays. Thanksgiving is less than a week away. There will be turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, corn, bread and, of course, desserts. Since the wedding is behind me, I will allow myself to eat what I want and enjoy the holidays. Christmas dinner will be much the same, with the possible addition of ham for Christmas Day. Christmas Eve, we'll have the traditional German bratwurst and the traditional Mexican tamales (hey, we're from Texas, what can I say?) and chili. I'll continue to do my exercise (something I still need to do today, and I even put a couple of exercise DVDs on my Christmas wish list), and once all the holidays are behind us, and can return to the concerted effort to continue my weight loss.

After nearly a year, I have something that works for me. I can afford to slack a few times over a couple of months without doing too much (if any, if I work it right) damage. I am nearly to the point where I will have to "cut back on cutting back", which will slow my progress towards my ultimate goal, which I had always expected. But, when I do finally reach that goal, the only thing that I plan to change is the fact I won't have to cut calories anymore. I would expect to be at that point by this time next year. We'll see how that goes...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Master Sergeant Robert (Bob) Horrigan

While I was cat-sitting for my sister and her new husband while they were honeymooning in Cancun, I caught part of a local 10 o'clock newscast. It was the night of Veterans' Day, which is why they were doing the story.

A local man, Daniel Horrigan, lost his brother, MSG Robert Horrigan, in Iraq. When he died in Al Qaim on June 17, 2005, he was serving with Headquarters and Headquarters, United States Army Special Operations Command. Danny is building a memorial wall for the Fallen from the State of Texas in his yard here in Sunset Valley in Austin (view the news report here). He also carves figures of soldiers (not sure if they are "portraits" or not) and gives them to families of the Fallen. He expects to have his memorial wall completed by Veterans' Day 2010.

Daniel isn't the only one who remembers. An organization, Operation Honor Our Heroes, was inspired by MSG Horrigan. They tell his story:

Robert had completed three tours in Afghanistan and was completing his fifth and final tour in Iraq. Robert died in Al Qaim, Iraq, on June 17, 2005 with his comrades beside him after receiving mortal wounds during an early morning raid on known enemies of the United States. He was “the best of the best” serving his country while protecting everyone’s right to life and liberty. Every man dies, but not every man lives. Robert truly lived --- for family, for nation, and for the guys next to him. He was an avid outdoorsman and loved turkey and deer hunting, as well as fishing. He was an accomplished Bladesmith and his knives are cherished by many throughout the world. Robert was planning on retiring to Texas with his family after this deployment.

He also left behind family, including a wife, a daughter and his mother. He was had also earned many awards and decorations, including a Bronze Star with V device and an oak leaf cluster.

Phil Taylor, of the American Fallen Soldiers Project, has painted a portrait of Robert. This portrait was sponsored by Michael Rater of Frisco, TX. I highly recommend taking the time to watch the 12-minute documentary (at the link) about Robert and the portrait. Judging by what his family had to say, it wasn't just their loss when Robert was killed, but for all of us, as well. Where do we find such men?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Freedom of Speech & the Army

I've been reading A Soldier's Perspective since about 2005. I've been privileged since then to be able to call CJ, the site's creator, a friend, though I've only been able to meet him in person once, this past April at the Milblog Conference. CJ is a good and honorable man and hasn't been afraid of sharing his thoughts about all kinds of things on his blogs. Earlier this year, someone took exception to what he had to say and complained to the Army.

Now, because of some very small-minded, petty, dictatorial people within the school system in Huntsville, Alabama, CJ has turned over ownership of A Soldier's Perspective to his wife, Emily, and even more recently made the decision to shut ASP down. What should have been a simple, personal issue between a parent and school administrators and the PTA has now involved CJ's chain of command because of unfounded accusations made against him. Basically, instead of allowing CJ to tell his side of the story, those in his chain of command are reprimanding him for these false accusations when no actual proof of wrongdoing on CJ's part has been proven. And, to top is all off, they have in essence ordered CJ to keep his opinions to himself because he's supposedly "making the Army look bad". If you ask me, the only ones making the Army look bad are those in CJ's chain of command who do not have the backbone to tell this unprofessional middle school principal and the woman from the PTA that this issue has absolutely nothing to do with the Army. The Army isn't allowing CJ to speak about this issue, even to defend himself in publi, so that job has fallen solely on the shoulders of Emily. She did a wonderful job explaining the dreadful treatment they, and their children, have been subjected to at the hands of the Huntsville school system this morning on a local talk radio program. It runs about 35 minutes, but it is well worth the listen. Because of the behavior of those within the Huntsville school system, CJ & Emily removed their children from the school and moved them to live with family elsewhere. This wonderful American family is being unnecessarily disrupted and will be separated for months due to the unprofessional, vindictive behavior of these "educators". Someone needs to put a stop to it and right the wrong that has been done to the Grishams.

CJ, not surprisingly, has many friends and supporters ready, willing and able to speak up for him, too, since he isn't allowed to do so himself:

Troy, milblogger and CJ's cohost on the YouServed radio show, has issued a rallying cry to the Pitchfork Brigade with suggestions on how to help right this wrong.

Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette notes the difference between how CJ's free speech rights fair compared to the agruably treasonous statements of Major Nidal Hasan.

Matt at Blackfive is helping spread the word, pointing out this injustice has come to the attention of big-time blogger Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.

CJ's coblogger at ASP, Marcus, puts in his "Two Cents" on the issue, as well.

War On Terror News notes how milbloggers, and CJ in particular, are shutting their sites down after being taken to task for opinions they've expressed on their blogs.

Greta Perry of Kiss My Gumbo interviewed Emily on November 7th on her WIST 690 (New Orleans) radio show.

Previous posts from CJ & Emily on the school uniform issue:

CJ's Speech To The Board (11/7/09)
Picking Up The Pieces (11/3/09)
Fed Up (10/29/09)
Thug-ocracy At Its Finest (10/27/09)
Fighting The Mob (10/20/09)
When To Say When (10/9/09)
Get Your Hands Off My PTSD (10/7/09)
The Battle Is Won (10/2/09)
The Myth of Security in School Uniforms (10/2/09)
Off Topic: School Ignores Parents (10/2/09)

I'll be joining Troy's Pitchfork Brigade and writing some letters. If you know CJ, or you are dismayed by the treatment he has received, join us.

Update 11/20/09:

I became aware of additional content online on this situation (h/t CJ):

Huntsville Times - "Did complaint get him demoted?" (11/20/09) (CJ says he wrote the paper to correct that he never said he was demoted over this.)
The Attack Machine - "Show notes 11/20: School Board digs in, CJ Grisham is a terrorist and we “talk turkey”…" (11/20/09)
Flashpoint - "Bringing the spirit of terror into school" (11/20/09)
Liberty Research Institute - "CJ Grisham: A Man and His Beliefs" (10/28/09)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To All Veterans...

Thank you for your service to our nation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Team Marines met its goal!

Thank you to everyone to contributed to Team Marines for this year's Project Valour-IT fundraiser. Today, we met - and exceeded - our goal of $35,000. There are, however, three other teams still working towards that same goal. So, since the real winners of this fundraising competition are the Wounded Warriors who will be the recipients of the laptops and other technology purchased with the funds we are able to raise. So, to help out Team Army, I'm switching out the button on my page. So, if you can, please help out this incredible cause with a donation, no matter how small.

Remembering Jason Dunham

Originally posted November 21, 2006.

One of the things I like best about teaching is educating children about social studies topics. Recently, I presented a lesson focusing on presidential memorials. As an extension, students were asked to select a person they would like to honor, and draw a memorial for that person.

My cooperating teacher is the wife of a retired Army officer, so she also stresses an appreciation for the sacrifices made by our military. After it was announced another Congressional Medal of Honor would be awarded to a service member from the Global War on Terror, she mentioned it in class during the morning announcements time, which includes the Pledge of Allegiance. Being a frequent reader of milblogs, I knew the name of the newest recipient, and what he had done to earn it. I shared that information with the class.

So, back to the lesson on memorials: one student came up to me and asked for ideas about who to honor. I suggested presidents, police officers, firefighters, and the military. This little boy, who says he wants to be a soldier when he grows up, liked the suggestion of the military, and asked about the most recent person to be selected for the Congressional Medal of Honor. I hopped online and looked up and printed some information on Corporal Jason Dunham. Another student also liked that idea, so I printed out some additional information for the second student. What this second student drew was very touching, I thought. I wanted to share it with my friends in the military, but I first had to request permission from his parents to do so. I received that permission today. So, above is a third-grader's memorial to Corporal Jason Dunham...

In addition to today being the 234th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, today is also what would have been Marine Corporal Jason Dunham's 28th birthday. Give Jason and the Marine Corps a present, no matter how small, by clicking on the Soldiers' Angels' Project Valour-IT donation button in the top right corner. While Team Marines may only be - as of this writing - less than $2000 from the individual team goal of $35,000, overall, we still have a way to go to reach the total goal of $140,000, and the current fundraiser will end tomorrow, Veterans Day 2009. Help us work towards that goal.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What is Freedom worth to you?

Give back to those who have shed their blood to give you the freedoms you enjoy. Click on the donation button in the upper right-hand corner to make a direct donation. Or, check out the Valour-IT auction items at eBay. There is Nolan Ryan baseball memorabilia, military-themed counted cross-stitch, works of art, books and more. Last, but certainly not least, several online sellers are offering to donate portions of their sales to benefit Project Valour-IT. Remember, 100% of the funds donated to Project Valour-IT goes directly to providing the hardware and software our Wounded Warriors need.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cross-stitchin' for Project Valour-IT

Okay, the rest of my items for the Valour-IT fundraiser auction are up on eBay...

One of my long-time hobbies is counted cross-stitch. I learned how to do it when I was about 13 years old. We'd just moved to El Paso, where my dad was the new First Sergeant in his unit. The commanding officer, a Captain, was also new there. My mom and the Captain's wife became friends. She was into various arts and crafts, one of them being counted cross-stitch. She was teaching my mom, and I decided I wanted to learn, too. I found a pattern I liked (a unicorn: what can I say, I was a 13-year-old girl in the 80s...), and she helped me get started. Said I had "sticktoitiveness" for completing the project I selected. It got framed and I still have it, though it currently is packed away in storage with most of my possessions. Over the years, I've gone through alternating periods of doing a lot of cross-stitch and long dry spells of doing none at all. I'm currently in one of those "doing a lot" periods.

More recently, I found a set of patterns I thought might prove to be a good thing for fundraising. I did the first project in honor of my grandfather, who served as a naval aviator in the Pacific during World War II:

Now, what you have to choose from are the five services:

The winner of each of these five auctions can request customization with name and rank, as well as details such as years of service, unit or theater/operation where the service member served. Also, the winner will receive the special dual 3.5" x 5" opening 8" x 10" mat.

Again, others have also generously donated items for auction, as well. There are signed prints from Marine combat artist Michael Fay among the auction items. The eBay listings are still being updated, so if you don't see something you like, keep checking back. If the auction items just aren't your thing, but you still want to contribute to providing laptops and other adaptive technology to our severely wounded Warriors, you can always click that donation button in the upper right-hand corner of the page.