It Takes a Family to Keep the U.S. Military Strong

Jackie and Brian Dorr prior to his graduation as an Army Warrant Officer.

Jackie and Brian Dorr prior to his graduation as an Army Warrant Officer.

Putting a new twist on the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child” – “It takes an entire family to keep the U.S. Military strong.”

And today, I want to introduce you to one family in particular.

It’s a proud day for the Dorr Family as Brian Dorr graduates as new Warrant Officer and is pinned by his wife Jackie Dorr, the former president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club.

That’s where I met Jackie and recruited her to write for my Off the Base blog. The headline of her first entry:

Five Years, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later

That’s a good summary of the sacrifice made by spouses, children, parents and other family members like siblings when a member of the military is deployed whether active-dut, or called up Reservists and National Guard. The entire family serves during a deployment – some stay at home but are no less involved, in fact, their responsibilities increase along with their stress.

Brian Dorr holding his daughter Anastin who was an infant when he deployed. March 2011

Brian Dorr holding his daughter Anastin who was an infant when he deployed. March 2011

So, a huge congratulations to Brian and Jackie for this milestone and an even larger thank you for your service.

You can read more of Jackie’s writing and view her exquisite photographs here. My favorite two photographs that epitomize a deployed father staying connected to his daughters: one shows Brian making snow angels in the snows of Afghanistan and the second is Ana falling asleep in his arms when he returned from deployment.

And I’ll revive a favorite video produced for 2012 Military Child Month. The video includes a lot of parents with their children as they deploy or return home. At about 3:18 into the video is a photo of Paisley Dorr, Brian and Jackie’s oldest daughter, holding onto her “Daddy Doll” which she did quite a lot when Brian was in Afghanistan.

The video was produced in remembrance of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti, Medal of Honor (posthumous) 2009.

 

 

 

Slain Fort Hood Sergeant Coming Home to Bay Area Friday

Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson of Mulberry, FL. Photo courtesy of the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office via Reuters.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson of Mulberry, FL. Photo courtesy of the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office via Reuters.

The body of Mulberry High School graduate, Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson, 39, one of three killed in the recent Fort Hood shooting rampage, is expected to arrive home to the bay area Friday according to a member of the Florida Patriot Guard Riders.

Thomas “T-Man” Brown, Florida Patriot Guard Riders assistant state captain, told Tampa Tribune reporter Howard Altman that “the riders will escort Ferguson’s remains from Tampa International Airport, where there will be a private service at 6:50 p.m., to the Lakeland Funeral Home & Memorial Gardens.

There will be a private funeral Saturday morning at the Resurrection Catholic Church in Lakeland, said Brown.

The riders will then escort Ferguson to his final resting place at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell later that day, Brown said.

“All bikers are welcome to ride in the procession to show our support for this hero,” Brown said in an email to riders.

A second shooting victim, Army Sgt. Carlos A. Lazaney Rodriguez, 38, reportedly has relatives in Tampa but Lazaney was originally from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. He was close to completing 20 years of service and reportedly was preparing to retire and start a second career.

Ferguson enlisted in July 1993 as a transportation management coordinator. He was assigned to the 49th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, as a transportation supervisor. He had deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lazaney Rodriguez enlisted in February 1995 as a unit supply specialist. He was assigned to the 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade, as a unit supply sergeant. He had deployed to Kuwait and Iraq.

The third shooting victim killed was Army Sgt. Timothy Wayne Owens, 37, from Effingham, Ill., enlisted in July 2004 as a motor transport operator, He was assigned to the 49th Transportation Battalion, 4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command, as a heavy vehicle driver. He had deployed to Iraq and Kuwait.

Fort Hood is planning a memorial service Wednesday, April 9, 2014 in memory of all the victims.

April 5, 2014: Today Is Gold Star Wives Day

An act of Congress established the Gold Star Lapel Pin (left), for issue to immediate family members of service members killed in combat. The Next of Kin Pin (right) signifies a service-related. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

An act of Congress established the Gold Star Lapel Pin (left), for issue to immediate family members of service members killed in combat. The Next of Kin Pin (right) signifies a service-related. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

By William Bradner – U.S. Army Installation Management Command

“It’s heartbreaking to think of someone asking ‘what a beautiful pin, where can I get one?’” said Gold Star Wife Donna Engeman.

“We need to ensure the nation — the world — recognizes what that pin really signifies,” she continued.

April 5, 2014, has been designated by Congress as “Gold Star Wives Day.” The intent is to publicly recognize the sacrifices made by our service members in support of our nation.

Though the official designation of the Gold Star Wives Day is relatively new, the gold star has officially been recognized as a symbol of loss since 1918.

Throughout the First World War, families would hang blue service stars in their windows to indicate that their loved ones were serving in the war effort. By 1918, it became common practice to pin a gold star over the blue star to indicate that their service member had died. President Wilson also authorized mothers to wear a gold star on the traditional black mourning band to signify their loss was war-related in 1918.

During the Second World War, service flags and what they represented were standardized and codified by Congress. In April of 1945, a non-profit group calling themselves “Gold Star Wives of America” filed incorporation paperwork signed by Eleanor Roosevelt. Less than two years later Congress approved the design, manufacture and distribution of the Gold Star Label Pin to be presented to surviving family members of those who died in that conflict.GoldStarWives_14-Digitalv2

Though service flags and Gold Star pins fell out of favor in the sixties, in 1973 the Army approved a lapel pin to be worn by those who lost their lives while serving on active duty but not in combat operations.

The rise of patriotism and pride in service after September 11 brought about a resurgence of the use of both the blue and gold stars in flags, bumper and window stickers and lapel pins.

But it’s not enough, said Engeman, who manages the Survivor Outreach Services program for the Army.

During World War II, more than 16 million people served in the war effort overseas, and most of the country supported the war effort through rationing, victory gardens, war bonds, and other public displays of support.

Only 2.5 million service members have deployed during the war on terror; less that 1 percent of the American population. While service flags can be readily found in windows in the residential areas on military installations, it’s rare to see them in mainstream America.

To help raise awareness, the Army has produced a series of public service announcements describing the significance of Gold Star pins. The PSAs will be released over the course of the year, to expand awareness efforts beyond a single day proclaimed by Congress.goldstar_poster

The Army, recognizing that families who have paid the ultimate sacrifice deserve our respect, gratitude and the very best we can provide, created Survivor Outreach Services to provide long-term support services and family case management for surviving families. A program in the G9, Family and MWR Services Directorate of the Installation Management Command, SOS is integral to the Army’s support system and casualty notification office.

“Our support service coordinators and financial counselors are dedicated to helping survivors from all eras understand–and apply for–the benefits they’re entitled to” said Hal Snyder, chief of IMCOM’s Wounded and Fallen Support Services Office. “We also help them stay connected to the Army family for as long as they desire.”

SOS currently supports more than 55,900 surviving military family members, and is spearheading the effort to raise awareness through the PSAs.

“We’re committed to our survivors,” said Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, IMCOM commander. “So educating the public on the meaning behind the gold star pins is simply another way to reaffirm that we honor and understand the sacrifices they’ve made for our country.”

This article is courtesy of the Gold Star Pins.org – a U.S. Army website.

 

Long Delayed Medal of Honor Awarded to 24 Recipients

President Obama fastens the Medal of Honor around the neck of Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris in a ceremony Tuesday.

President Obama fastens the Medal of Honor around the neck of Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris during a White House ceremony March 18, 2014.

Far from the Vietnam jungles where Melvin Morris served two tours, the Army staff sergeant stood on a stage at the White House Tuesday accompanied by President Barack Obama who awarded him the Medal of Honor.

President Obama noted in his opening remarks to the room packed with family members and military that the 72-year-old Florida resident Morris was one of the first Green Berets.

Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris as he listens to the citation begin read describing his valor in Vietnam why he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris as he listens to the citation begin read describing his valor in Vietnam why he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

In a ceremony that lasted more than an hour, Morris was recognized for his valor on Sept. 17, 1969, near Chi Lang. Then-Staff Sgt. Morris led an advance across enemy lines to retrieve a fallen comrade and single-handedly destroyed an enemy force that had pinned down his battalion from a series of bunkers. Staff Sgt. Morris was shot three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties, but did not stop until he reached safety.

In 1970, Morris received the nation’s second-highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross. But like the 23 others recognized in the March 18, 2014 Medal of Honor ceremony, it was determined that Morris deserved the highest honor, the Medal of Honor, but had been denied that originally due to discrimination.

You can read more about Morris in an Army News Service article and watch the White House ceremony.

Here is the list of all 24 Medal of Honor recipients:

Living veterans honored at the ceremony:

  • Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia
  • Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris
  • Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela

Veterans honored posthumously at today’s ceremony:

  • World War II veterans
    • Private Pedro Cano
    • Private Joe Gandara
    • Private First Class Salvador J. Lara
    • Sergeant William F. Leonard
    • Staff Sergeant Manuel V. Mendoza
    • Sergeant Alfred B. Nietzel
    • First Lieutenant Donald K. Schwab
  • Korean War veterans
    • Corporal Joe R. Baldonado
    • Corporal Victor H. Espinoza
    • Sergeant Eduardo C. Gomez
    • Private First Class Leonard M. Kravitz
    • Master Sergeant Juan E. Negron
    • Master Sergeant Mike C. Pena
    • Private Demensio Rivera
    • Private Miguel A. Vera
    • Sergeant Jack Weinstein
  • Vietnam War veterans
    • Sergeant Candelario Garcia
    • Specialist Four Leonard L. Alvarado
    • Staff Sergeant Felix M. Conde-Falcon
    • Specialist Four Ardie R. Copas
    • Specialist Four Jesus S. Duran

You can read more about the 24 Medal of Honor recipients and the White House ceremony here.

President Obama comforts the widow of Sergeant Jack Weinstein as the citation describing his bravery in combat is read during the posthumous presentation of his Medal of Honor.

President Obama comforts the widow of Sergeant Jack Weinstein as the citation describing his bravery in combat is read during the posthumous presentation of his Medal of Honor.

Florida Vietnam Veteran to Receive Medal of Honor

Army veteran Melvin Morris will receive a delayed Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony this Tuesday. Photo courtesy: Army News Service.

Army veteran Melvin Morris will receive a delayed Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony this Tuesday. Photo courtesy: Army News Service.

Melvin Morris served two tours of duty in Vietnam, but because of his race he didn’t receive the Medal of Honor. Morris talks to NPR’s Rachel Martin about the award he’ll receive from President Obama.

You can listen to the interview, which aired March 16, 2014, on WUSF 89.7 FM.

Morris told Martin that he has no regrets.

“I am never angry about it. You know war is war and we do what we’re told to do and we don’t determine the outcome,” Morris said.

The former Army sergeant spoke with Martin from his home in Port St. John, FL.

He and is one of 24 veterans to be awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony March 18, 2014. All but three of the awards are posthumous with  seven going to World War II veterans, nine to Korean War veterans, and eight to Vietnam War veterans.

First Class Army Sgt. Melvin Morris served 23 years including two tours in Vietnam. Photo courtesy: Army News Service.

First Class Army Sgt. Melvin Morris served 23 years including two tours in Vietnam. Photo courtesy: Army News Service.

Morris is one of the three living Vietnam veterans who will be present at the ceremony. He served with distinction for 23 years  in the United States Army.

And the military life agreed with Morris and his family reports Lisa Ferdinando for the Army News Service.

“I never regret not one day of being in the military. Not one. The bad days are good and the good days are good,” he said.

As a paratrooper and jumpmaster, Morris remembered fondly his time in the skies, “I was as high as I could go, and that was great, to hang out of the door of that aircraft.”

Morris left the Army for three years, but his devotion to duty and commitment to the nation were too strong and beckoned him back into the uniform.

“Call of duty, I just couldn’t get away from it. Military was in my blood and I wanted to go back,” Morris said. “I was 36 years old and started over as an E-4, which didn’t bother me. I’m Army. That’s it. I wanted to finish my career.”

You can read more about Morris’ service to his country and the day-long battle in a Vietnam jungle in the Army News Service.

Morris displayed the the “highest valor” but only received the Distinguished Service Cross because of his race. You can read the citation for his Distinguished Service Cross which is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor this week.

General Pleads Guilty to Adultry, Still Faces Assault Charges

Courtesy of the Policy Front and Center.org

Courtesy of the Policy Front and Center.org

The NPR blog that reports breaking news, The Two-Way,  has posted this item:

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair pleaded guilty to adultery and two other charges in a court martial proceeding on Thursday, but he still faces the most serious charge of sexually assaulting a female captain.

Sinclair, 51, a former deputy commander with the 82ndAirborne Division, admitted to an extramarital affair with the captain and “inappropriate relationships” with two other women. Adultery is considered an offense under military law. He also pleaded guilty to possessing pornography while stationed in Afghanistan, a violation of orders in the conservative Muslim country, The Associated Press reports.

The New York Times says decision to plead guilty to possessing pornography “came after Army prosecutors made it clear on Wednesday that they wanted to show the military jury reams of pornography that they said General Sinclair had illegally watched in Afghanistan. It would illustrate, they said, sexual desires that led him to assault a junior officer.”

You can read the full post here.

President, Congress Acknowledge Recovering Army Ranger

Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg (left) shakes hands with Secretary Eric Shinseki before the State of the Union address. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg (left) shakes hands with Secretary Eric Shinseki before the State of the Union address. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

If you didn’t see last night’s State of the Union address, you missed a touching moment that showed our elected officials can agree on some things like honoring Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg. The standing ovation the Ranger received lasted more than two minutes by some accounts. Here’s an account from the VA Blog – Vantage Point.

And there’s a special “shout-out” to the folks over at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Medical Center for never giving up and helping Cory out of his coma.

By Renaldo Leal

Last night, after years of pain and rehabilitation, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg sat with the first lady as President Obama delivered the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. His father and caretaker, Craig, was next to him in the House gallery when the president began to talk about Cory’s injuries and long road to recovery.

“Cory is here tonight.  And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit,” said President Obama.

What followed was a moment that united all in attendance and Americans watching at home. As Cory stood up from his seat with the help of his father, the House chamber erupted with applause. The smile, thumbs-up and a wave from the soldier to the commander in chief was not only endearing – it was a shining glimpse into how far Cory had come.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him,” said Craig earlier on Tuesday as he and Cory visited VA headquarters to meet with Secretary Eric Shinseki. “There is a lot going on in America today, and if Cory’s story can add some inspiration to people’s lives … that’s what it’s all about.”

Continue reading

Photos: Army Capt. Swenson Medal of Honor Ceremony

President Obama presents the Medal of Honor to former Army Capt. William Swenson. Photo from PBS News Hour web stream.

President Obama presents the Medal of Honor to former Army Capt. William Swenson. Photo from PBS News Hour web stream.

Here are photos from the White House ceremony less than an hour ago (2:10 p.m. Oct. 15, 2013) where Army Capt. William Swenson was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama. A quote from the citation marking his valor under fire and in the heat of battle:

“In seven hours of continuous fighting, Swenson braved intense enemy fire, and willfully put his life in danger against the enemy’s main effort, multiple times in service of his fallen and wounded comrades, his unit, his country, and his endangered Afghan partners. Displaying conspicuous gallantry at the risk of his own life and well beyond the call of duty, Swenson would be a most deserving recipient of the Medal of Honor.”

The still photos were captured from the live web broadcast of the ceremony by the PBS News Hour.

During the ceremony, President Obama asked the team of Army soldiers and Marines who took part in the battle to stand - acknowledging their contributions to the fight.

During the ceremony, President Obama asked the team of Army soldiers and Marines who took part in the battle to stand – acknowledging their contributions to the fight.

 

Former Army Capt. William Swenson captured by the cameras as the citation chronicling his valor is read. Photo courtesy of the PBS News Hour web stream.

Former Army Capt. William Swenson captured by the cameras as the citation chronicling his valor is read. Photo courtesy of the PBS News Hour web stream.

A close-up of the Medal of Honor after it was awarded to former Capt. Swenson - note the trail of a tear down his right cheek. Photo courtesy of the PBS News Hour web stream broadcast.

A close-up of the Medal of Honor after it was awarded to former Capt. Swenson – note the trail of a tear down the right side of his face and lip. Photo courtesy of the PBS News Hour web stream broadcast.

 

A Green Beret Busting Myths About PTSD

Saint Leo University veteran student Brian Anderson is willing to talk about his experience with post-traumatic stress to bust myths held by the general public.

Saint Leo University veteran student Brian Anderson is willing to talk about his experience with post-traumatic stress to bust myths held by the general public.

The U.S. military is downsizing. The war in Iraq is over, and combat troops are due out of Afghanistan by the end of next year. So more than 1 million service members are expected to enter the civilian workforce in the coming years.

That’s why two veterans are on a mission to help employers and the community in general separate fact from fiction when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder.

First, not every veteran has PTSD. It affects only an estimated 20 to 25 percent of combat veterans, according to Saint Leo University associate professor Dr. Jim Whitworth, a 21-year Air Force veteran with a Ph.D. in social work.

There’s a lot to understand about post-traumatic stress and the best teachers are those with the diagnosis. However, most veterans are not comfortable talking about their traumatic experiences.

That’s where the bravery of Brian Anderson shines through. He is willing to share what can be painful details so clinicians, the public and employers have a better understanding of returning veterans.

Anderson joined the military because of September 11th. His first hitch in the Army was as a photo-print journalist with the 82nd Airborne Division. Anderson then became a Green Beret.

“I killed my first man on Dec. 31st 2008. And, you know, at that point it was more of a high-five type experience.  I was psyched. I was really pumped about it,” Anderson said. “The second deployment, I went in, our very first fire-fight was eight hours long. And we killed 39 Taliban that day and we had a couple of our guys wounded. Continue reading

Canadian Forces Honor U.S. Dog Handler’s Bravery

Rick Cicero (middle) shakes hands with U.S. Central Command Marine Major Gen. Dave Beydler, to the left Canadian Forces Col. Paul Keddy the senior representative with the CENTCOM Coalition.

Rick Cicero (middle) shakes hands with U.S. Central Command Marine Major Gen. Dave Beydler (R), Canadian Col. Paul Keddy (L) is the senior representative with the CENTCOM Coalition.

The Canadian Armed Forces honored a retired U.S. Army master sergeant now living in Weeki Wachee for saving the life of a Canadian soldier July 31, 2010 in Afghanistan.

Surrounded by family, friends and James A. Haley VA therapists who helped him recovery from a severe injury, Rick Cicero received the Canadian Commendation Medal for his bravery while serving as a military contractor and handler bomb detection dogs with the Canadian Task Force.

Tuesday was Col. Paul Keddy’s first day on the job as the senior Canadian representative with the U.S. Central Command Coalition of 56 countries.

First day or not, Keddy came prepared. He had talked with Cicero’s former leader in Afghanistan and brought a personal message to Cicero from the Oscar Combat Team.

Col. Paul Keddy (L) and Rick Cicero (R).

Col. Paul Keddy (L) and Rick Cicero (R).

“Your tenacity in the face of the enemy and unwavering  loyalty to a teammate in a time of need are a credit to you and in keeping with the military traditions of both our countries,” Keddy read from a paper.

When an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated and their team came under fire, Cicero is credited with clearing the area of any secondary devices, aiding a wounded soldier and setting up an evacuation zone.

The Canadian soldier he’s credited with saving lost a leg, however is still on active-duty with the Canadian Forces.

Cicero responded modestly to the praise. He declined to go to the microphone and instead spoke while standing on a small stage at the CENTCOM headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base.

He said the word hero is overdone.

Cicero lost his right leg and arm to an IED explosion in Afghanistan. His service dog helps with his balance.

Cicero lost his right leg and arm to an IED explosion in Afghanistan. His service dog helps with his balance.

“I will tell everybody, I just did my job. And that was the way I was raised as a soldier and that’s the way I was raised as a young man,” Cicero said. “It’s an honor to be standing her in front of you today.”

At his feet was his service dog who helps Cicero with his balance because later in 2010 another IED explosion while on patrol in Afghanistan took his right leg and right arm.

That’s one reason why Cicero invited some of the workers from the VA. He wanted them and his family to share in the moment.

But he told reporters it is not about him, instead, it’s about remembering the soldiers still serving in Afghanistan.

“The Canadians have a very, very positive image of Americans and American service members based on what Mr. Cicero did in the heat of the moment,” said Major Gen. Dave Beydler, director of strategy, plans and policy at CENTCOM.

Beydler was there to thank the Canadians for their coalition support and for recognizing Cicero’s sacrifice.

Cicero shows off the military challenge coin he was given by Canadian Forces in appreciation for his service and sacrifice.

Cicero shows off the military challenge coin he was given by Canadian Forces in appreciation for his service and sacrifice.

 

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