Army Spc. Brittany Gordon’s Diginified Return Wednesday

Army Spc. Brittany B. Gordon was the daughter of St. Petersburg Assistant Police Chief Cedric Gordon and his former wife, Brenda Gordon. Photo courtesy of the Gordon family.

Army Spc. Brittany Gordon of St. Petersburg, who died Oct. 13, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, is coming home to Tampa Bay Wednesday.

Spc. Gordon, the daughter of St. Petersburg assistant police chief Cedric Gordon, died from wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked her unit with an improvised explosive device.

She was assigned to the 572 Military Intelligence Company, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Spc. Gordon’s remains will arrive at MacDill Air Force Base on Wednesday, October 24th. The Angel Flight for the daughter of the assistant police chief for St. Petersburg will arrive 11:15 a.m. and the honor escort is expected to leave the base at around 12:00 p.m.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office & Troop Support Alliance encourage the public to come out along the route and show your support!

The Troop Support Alliance will be set up in front of The Colonnade Restaurant 3401 Bayshore Blvd. with safe & easy parking and access to lining the route.

Fallen Hero Escort Route ~

MacDill AFB to St Pete Funeral Home

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Leave MacDill AFB Bayshore GateNorth on Bayshore  Blvd.

East on Platt St. Bridge

North on Florida Ave. (Left)

East on Jackson St.  (Right)

North on N. Jefferson St.  (Left)

West on E. Polk St.  (Left)

North on Ashley St.  (Right)

Southbound  I-275

Exit 23A  (I-375)

Merge onto 4th Av N (to the  right)

South on MLK Blvd.  (Right)

West on 1st Ave N. – Passing  St. Petersburg Police Department (Right)

South on N. 16th St.  (Left)

West on Central Av  (Right)

The final destination is Lawson Funeral Home, 4535 Central  Ave., St.  Petersburg,  FL.

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When a Military Spouse Blogger Reaches Out

Lori Volkman's bio photo from her blog: Witty Little Secret.

Lori Volkman, who writes the military spouse blog: Witty Little Secret, wrote an open letter to Kari Bales, the spouse of the Army staff sergeant charged with killing 17 Afghan civilians.

According to Milblogging.com, Volkman’s blog appears to have gone viral and gained her national media attention. But, maybe more important, her blog which strives to support military families, did so for Bales. The Army spouse responded to Volkman’s outreach and posted a response.

The Witty Little Secret post: “Open Letter to Kari Bales”. An excerpt:

“Dear Kari,

I can’t imagine the thud you felt in your heart and the ice that coursed in your veins when you heard a knock and saw a uniform standing at your front door. I can’t fully imagine the fear and the shock and the way that you couldn’t breathe as you thought about what this visit could possibly be about. Was probably about.

And then, the relief in your stomach that quickly turned to sickness when the shock wore off that your husband was alive, only to be told that something terrible had happened for which your husband was the primary suspect.

A portion of Kari Bales’ response posted on Witty Little Secret. An excerpt:

“When I read your letter I began shaking and crying. You had so eloquently summed up all of the questions and emotions that I had been feeling since my whole world had been turned upside down. I am not looking at the news very much these days. Instead I read your letter every night before I go to bed and let all of the supportive words and prayers sink in.

Check out Witty Little Secret for more on her journey as a military spouse, lawyer, mother and blogger who describes herself:

I cry sometimes, write sometimes, and I do a lot of stinking laundry at 10:30 pm. I’m an over-achieving sarcastic wordsmith with inappropriate thoughts and a desire to make sense of it all.

In this case, she has helped and given perspective to at least one military spouse, Kari Bales.

Army Capt.: Afghanistan Shooting Suspect Has Saved Lives

In this Aug. 23, 2011 Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System photo, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, right, participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Five days after an attack on Afghan villagers killed 16 civilians, a senior U.S. official identified the shooter in that attack as Bales. The man at left is unidentified. (AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock)

SEATTLE (AP) — A former platoon leader for the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians says the allegations are “100 percent out of character” for the man, whom he described as a model soldier who saved other soldiers’ lives.

Army Capt. Chris Alexander, 32, said Robert Bales worked as a stock trader before the Sept. 11 attacks motivated him to enlist in the Army.

“I’ve always admired him for that — he had a good thing going, and he dropped it to serve his country,” Alexander said Saturday in a phone interview.

Bales enlisted about two months after 9/11 and had served with the 3rd Stryker Brigade based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord since Sept 11, 2002.

He became a staff sergeant in April 2008, following his second deployment in Iraq. He went to Iraq one more time before his fourth deployment, to Afghanistan.

You can read more of the AP article HERE.

Suspect’s Wife Kept a Blog

The New York Times reports that a blog kept by Bale’s wife detailed her disappointment when he didn’t get a promotion and her loneliness when he was away on deployment:

Karilyn Bales — the wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing16 Afghan villagers last week — relayed the simple anguish of life as a military spouse, tending to a home with two young children, with a husband summoned for repeated deployments.

“Bob left for Iraq this morning,” she wrote in her family blog on Aug. 9, 2009. “Quincy slept in our bed last night.”

Though much of the family’s online presence appears to have been removed in recent days, the fragments that remain capture the daily travails typical of any family with a loved one stationed abroad.

Bales Arrives at Leavenworth

Bloomberg News reports that the U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the suspect in the killings of at least 16 Afghan civilians, arrived yesterday (Friday) at the U.S. military’s prison in Kansas, the Army said. After being held in Afghanistan and then Kuwait, Bales was flown to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he will be placed in special housing in his own cell, according to an e-mailed Army statement.

Afghanistan Killing Supsect Was Reluctant to Deploy

In this March 11, 2012 photo, men stand next to blood stains and charred remains inside a home where witnesses say Afghans were killed by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP)

The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians last weekend had twice been injured during tours in Iraq and was reluctant to leave on his fourth deployment, a Seattle lawyer said Thursday, reports the Associated Press.

“He wasn’t thrilled about going on another deployment,” said the lawyer, John Henry Browne. “He was told he wasn’t going back, and then he was told he was going.”

Browne, a well-known Seattle defense attorney who recently represented a youthful thief known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” said he has been asked to represent the soldier, a 38-year-old staff sergeant from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma.

The soldier is from the Seattle area and asked to be represented by Browne when he was taken into custody, the lawyer said. Browne said he has met with the staff sergeant’s family, and unless the soldier is returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the next few days, he will travel to meet the soldier wherever he is in custody.

You can read the full AP article HERE.

16 Afghans Reportedly Stalked, Killed by U.S. Army Sergeant

Residents sat with the bodies of shooting victims in the Panjwai district of southern Afghanistan.(Mustafa Khan/European Pressphoto Agency)

The New York Times is reporting that a United States Army sergeant went door to door in a rural part of southern Afghanistan methodically killing 16 civilians among them nine children and three women.

Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. At the first, the man gathered 11 bodies, including those of four girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers said.

A report in the Washington Post quotes Pentagon officials as saying that the attack is the act of one soldier who was from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. and assigned to a special operations team.

Villagers described cowering in fear as gunshots rang out as a soldier roamed from house to house firing on those inside. They said he entered three homes in all and set fire to some of the bodies. Eleven of the dead were from a single family, and nine of the victims were children.

U.S. officials said the shooter, identified as an Army staff sergeant, acted alone, leaving his base in southern Afghanistan and opening fire on sleeping families in two villages. Initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in. He was in custody at a NATO base in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta has issued a written apology and personally called Afghanistan President Karzai.

Citadel Mom Cycle Completed – A Blue Star Mom Emerges

The Bravo Company sophomore clerks stand behind the first sergeant, a junior, as a knob checks in on Matriculation Day 2010.

It’s been a month since we were in Charleston for our son’s commissioning service, the Long Gray Line graduation parade, and then graduation. Since that event filled weekend, there have been many new experiences. The most significant for me: passing along my contact lists and notes from the past three years as the coordinator of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group.

The new coordinator is Lynda Goodfellow. Her son, Niles, is a rising sophomore. Lynda will do a terrific job making sure the new families are informed of the new life their child is entering.

Passing along the information is a mixed bag of emotions for me. I know the friendships I have formed the past four years will continue, but I’ll miss the regular contact with the school, the families and regular visits to Charleston to take part in the various big weekends. The role of coordinator and also, for the past 2 years, Area Rep coordinator for the Citadel Family Association felt more like a calling to me.

I have a master of divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. During my time there, I took a number of classes in pastoral care and clinical pastoral education, which is the training you go through to be a chaplain. In many ways, I used what I learned in seminary to be a supportive caring presence to the families I came into contact with the past several years.

Writing for the Off the Base blog has helped me ease into the eventual graduation of my son and his move into his new role as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. By writing down what I’ve learned, I hope to help future classes of Citadel cadets and their parents navigate the fourth class system.

Dorie and Nelson pose in front of Murray Barracks after the Class of 2011 receive their rings. Photo by Stanley Leary.

By the number of hits the most recent entry, A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015, is receiving, I can tell the preparation for Matriculation Day has begun. The official information for the Class of 2015 has not been posted yet, but that doesn’t keep incoming cadets and their families from searching for all the advance information they can find. The Success Packet from 2014 can be found online, but will be revised for 2015.

All academic institutions have their cycles. For military schools in particular, the cycles are very predictable. Beginning in late April and going through July, families begin the preparation process of sending their student off to become a cadet.

Some parents begin to do their own research. Since my name remained on the Citadel Family Association web site as a contact, I have received emails and phone calls for the parents doing the early research. I’m sure the new contacts in each position are now getting the early inquiries too.

In the next few months the Class of 2015 will be (or SHOULD BE) running, doing push ups and sit ups in preparation for Matriculation Day in August.

The rising 3rd Class cadets, or sophomores, are looking forward to not being a knob. Some are preparing for their new role as part of the cadet command system, attending various military camps, and in general enjoying their summer.

The rising 2nd class cadets have similar outlook, but they know they will have even more privileges and will have more responsibility in the cadet command. The juniors who have set their sights on becoming a Bond Volunteer Aspirant and eventually a member of the Summerall Guard silent drill platoon, are spending their summer working out (or SHOULD BE) to prepare for the tough year ahead. These cadets have a tough road ahead of them.  They will hold rank which is like having a full-time job outside of their class work, and they are treated like knobs by the current Summerall Guards.

The rising 1st Class cadets spend their summers looking forward to the day in the fall when they receive their rings, one of the best days in the life of a cadet. If they are on an Army ROTC scholarship, many will attend the Leader Development Assessment Course (LDAC) held each year at Joint Base Lewis McCord. There are other training courses and events for all the branches of the military. The cadets who are not entering the military begin to see their time as a student is coming to an end and begin to focus their energy and thoughts to what they will do in the “real” world after graduation.

Each step of this process means the cadets and their parents and guardians are learning their new and changing roles. It’s a time of life when our role as parents shift a bit. We are about to watch our children launch from adolescence into full adulthood. Some will make that transition completely for others it will be more gradual.

The Griggs/Leary Family attend the annual “Roswell Remembers Memorial Day” celebration. Dorie, left, with daughter, Chelle. Photo by Stanley Leary.

In the past month, my son attended at least three weddings of his classmates with more on the horizon. Some former classmates are still hunting for jobs. Most are beginning to realize they spent four years looking forward to graduation and now they miss their classmates and the life they complained about for those four years.

My son reported to Ft. Benning May 30, Memorial Day. He is living in an apartment complex in Columbus, Georgia where at least 20 other classmates from The Citadel are also living. Each young man is serving in the Infantry or Armor branch of the Army.

We spent our Memorial Day morning at a large ceremony in our hometown. I met several other Blue Star Mothers that day. When the national anthem was played, we all stood with our hands over our hearts and tears in our eyes. I’ve attended this ceremony before and didn’t feel as connected to it as I do now.

The cycle continues. As the cadets and their parents prepare for the next school year, I’m moving on from my role as a support person to Citadel parents, to a student of how to be a supportive parent to an officer in the U.S. Army. I know this next role will last a lot longer than the previous one.

The Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

Dorie's son, Nelson (center), poses with other ROTC cadets from his Regiment during the summer LDAC.

The cadets at The Citadel form a tight bond. And as I mentioned in the earlier blog How The Citadel Ya-Ya’s Came to Be, I found a group of good friends as well. Now that I’m making the mental transition from being the mom of a cadet to being the mom of an Army 2LT in less than five months, I’ve learned the network of mom’s only increases.

This past summer my son attended the Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. About 6,400 Army ROTC cadets from around the country passed through LDAC last summer. LDAC is a 29 day leadership test. The ROTC cadets are graded on a series of challenges. That grade is added to the grade they receive from the ROTC program at their school.

Ultimately these scores and their grade point average and a few other factors will determine where they will be assigned within the Army after graduation.

The Public Affairs Office (PAO) there kept up a blog and a Facebook page to keep the parents, wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends informed. They’d post updates on the schedule, information on how to send mail, photos from the various challenges and also provided live streaming of the graduation ceremony. This was my first introduction to the wider dimensions of being an Army family.

Cadets from 5th Regiment at their graduation ceremony. Photo by Jesse Beals.

I combed the blog and Facebook site daily looking for a photo of our cadet. For 29 days I had no sign of him. Then the day after graduation, they posted a photo of  the cadets marching to graduation. There he was on the far right in front carrying the Platoon Guidon!

I was introduced to parents across the country through the Facebook site. We had our own discussion group on the Facebook page for parents of cadets.  There were also discussion groups for spouses and girlfriends. It did appear the wives, moms and girlfriends were the most active on the discussion boards. An occasional dad would chime in. I also learned the Army is active in social media and several discussion boards are available.

The experience helped me see that the training my son received at The Citadel prepared him for the challenge of LDAC.  What I also realized is that The Citadel experience prepared me well to send him off to this challenge. It never occurred to me to be concerned whether he passed the PT test, as so many other parents on the boards were. The Citadel has a very rigorous program and physical training is one of my son’s real strengths.

The group photo is of 5th Regiment Platoon A posted by the PAO of LDAC at Joint Base Lewis McChord.

Many of the posts were of family members upset that they couldn’t talk to their cadet for most of the 29 day experience. The cadets’ phones are locked up the first few days and returned later. I had already gone through that communication shut down during the first week of my son’s first year and then again the year my son tried out for the Summerall Guards.

I don’t for one second equate what I went through as a parent supporting my son at The Citadel with the challenges of an Army ROTC cadet. And it is absolutely not in the same category as that of the parent of a deployed soldier.  However, I do see that being the parent of a Citadel cadet is great training for the tougher challenges of being the mom of a young Army officer.

Boy, did I need that training.  I had no idea at that time how useful all of those experiences would be later on for understanding, accepting and supporting a young Army officer. I am now very grateful to have been a distant companion to our son on the road less traveled.

Helpful links:

Leader Development and Assessment Course

Operation WarriorForge

Army Social Media Handbook 2011

Army Social Networks

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