Gold Star Mothers Remembered Today

Photo Credit: Gold Star Mother's Day will be observed Sept. 29, 2013, around the nation. Here, during Gold Star Mother's Day in 2012, electric candles light each of the 295 luminaries representing Soldiers from South Carolina who died while on active duty since 2001. The event was hosted by the Survivor Outreach Services, Fort Jackson, S.C.

Photo Credit: Here, during Gold Star Mother’s Day in 2012, electric candles light each of the 295 luminaries representing Soldiers from South Carolina who died while on active duty since 2001. The event was hosted by the Survivor Outreach Services, Fort Jackson, S.C.

For the 77th time, the country honored the mothers who have lost sons and daughters to war while serving in the U.S. military.

The Congress created “Gold Star Mother’s Day” in 1936.

President Barack Obama proclaimed today, Sept. 29, 2013, Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day in honor of families of our nation’s fallen service members.

His proclamation:

“In our city centers and our bustling parks, monuments stand dedicated to visionary leaders and singular moments in the life of our Republic. But in empty seats at family dinners and folded flags above the mantle, we find the constant thread of our Nation’s character — the truth that America endures because it is home to an unbroken line of patriots willing to lay down their lives for the land they love. As we honor the men and women who gave their last full measure of devotion, we hold close the families left behind.

“Most of us can only imagine the pain of a mother who loses a daughter, the husband who loses his partner, or the son who loses a father. Prepared to serve others at any cost, their loved ones exemplified the values of courage and selflessness that define our Armed Forces and fortify our Union. The families of the fallen embody that same character. Amid their sorrow, these homefront heroes support one another and lift up their communities. As our country seeks to understand the depth of their sacrifice, we draw strength and inspiration from their example.

“On this day, we remember our commitment to the Gold Star mothers and families who carry on with pride and resolve despite unthinkable loss. We recall our sacred obligation to those who gave their lives so we could live ours. As a grateful Nation, we declare that we will never forget their sacrifice, and we renew our promise to build a future worthy of their devotion. We also recognize our countrymen and women who continue the fight, putting their lives on the line each day. Long after the battle is over, we will continue to give our military and Gold Star families the care and support they deserve — in a listening ear, a comforting shoulder, a helping hand, and a moment given to keep alive the memories of their Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen.

You can read the full proclamation here.

Military Suicides: One Soldier’s Perspective

The surge in military suicides this year – now averaging one a day – prompted a look for solutions. Below is a portion of an entry written by CJ for the military blog: A Soldier’s Perspective: Suicide Prevention is Attainable.

No amount of education, awareness, or training on the topic is going to do a lick of good if we, as leaders, don’t have the interests of our troops first and foremost in our minds. It is imperative that we know our troops personally as well as professionally. We must understand – really understand – the indicators that lead to these thoughts.

As LTG Hororo says below (and GEN Chiarelli frequently noted), even one suicide is one too many. That’s not just a catchy phrase. Every single suicide can be prevented if every single Soldier understands their value in this life. I look back on all that’s happened, positive and negative, since that dark night in June 2010.

There is so much that I would have missed out on. There are so many lives that I have positively affected and have positively affected me because I allowed them to help me. I reached out when I felt that all was lost. I picked up the phone when I wanted to pick up that pistol.

The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at

Suicide prevention training resources for Army families can be accessed at (requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials).

Military Suicide Rates Nearly One a Day in 2012

In the first 155 days of 2012, there were 154 suicides among active duty U.S. troops according to a report from Associated Press.

The AP analysis of Department of Defense data shows nearly a 50 percent more troops killed themselves than were killed by combat in Afghanistan.

The head of the Pentagon’s Defense Suicide Prevention office, Jackie Garrick, told AP Thursday that the suicide numbers this year are troubling.

“We are very concerned at this point that we are seeing a high number of suicides at a point in time where we were expecting to see a lower number of suicides,” she said, adding that the weak U.S. economy may be confounding preventive efforts even as the pace of military deployments eases.

Garrick said experts are still struggling to understand suicidal behavior.

“What makes one person become suicidal and another not is truly an unknown,” she said.

The Real Warriors campaign offers help to active-duty, Reserves and National Guard. You can call a trained health resource consultant to talk, listen and provide guidance and resources. Call 866-966-1020 or LOG ON — 24/7 — for Real Warriors Live Chat.

Veterans can call the Lifeline number, 1-800-273- TALK (8255), and press “1” to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Afghan Troop Attacks on U.S. Forces Are Under-Reported

A soldier from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division on patrol in southern Afghanistan. (October, 2010, file photo.)

A soldier from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division on patrol in southern Afghanistan. (October, 2010, file photo.) EnlargeChris Hondros/Getty Images

An Associated Press investigation has concluded that the U.S. military and its allies in Afghanistan have been “under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.”

According to the wire service:

“The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But the AP has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.”

This year alone, AP says, “in addition to 10 fatal insider attacks … there have been two others that resulted in no deaths or injuries, plus one attack that resulted in wounded, for a total of 13 attacks. The three non-fatal attacks had not previously been reported.”

The full investigative, exclusive AP report is available HERE.

Military Families Ministry’s Co-Founder Receives Award

Tracie Ciambotti is co-founder of the Military Families Ministry.

Paula Parker, staff assistant in the Penn State Justice and Safety Institute, is the 2012 recipient of the Barash Award for Human Service.

Created in 1975 by the family of the late Sy Barash, the award honors a full-time member of the faculty or staff or student body on the University Park campus who, apart from his or her regular duties, has contributed the most to human causes, public service activities and organizations, or the welfare of fellow humans.

Parker is being recognized for her work as co-founder and director of the Military Families Ministry, (MFM) which provides support to members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. In 2009, when her oldest daughter deployed to Iraq with the Marine Corps, Parker and local Army mom Tracie Ciambotti launched the Military Families Ministry at the State College Alliance Church. Six months later, Ciambotti moved to Colorado, where she started a similar group, and Parker took on sole leadership in State College.

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Taliban Vows Revenge for Afghan Civilian Killings

English: Afghanistan Opium Production for 2005...

Image via Wikipedia

The U.S. Embassy and American Forces are on alert for possible retaliatory attacks after the deaths of 16 Afghan civilians reportedly were killed by a lone U.S. Army soldier.

Taliban Retaliation (Associated Press)

The Taliban vowed revenge Monday after at least one American soldier shot to death 16 civilians in southern Afghanistan and burned their bodies, an attack that has fueled anger still simmering after U.S. troops burned Qurans last month.

U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have stepped up security following the shootings Sunday in Kandahar province out of concern about retaliatory attacks. The U.S. Embassy has also warned American citizens in Afghanistan about the possibility of reprisals.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for several attacks last month that the group said were retaliation for the Americans burning Qurans. Afghan forces also turned their guns on their supposed allies, killing six U.S. troops as violent protests wracked the country.You can read the full Associate Press article HERE.

Rapid, Thorough Investigation Promised (The Telegraph)

The International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, is promising a thorough investigation into the killing of civilian Afghans. The NATO coalition spokesperson, Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, promised a “rapid and thorough” investigation after a US soldier reportedly killed 16 Afghan civilians in Kandahar.

You can read a full article from The Telegraph HERE.

Panetta Promises Justice in the Killing of Innocent Afghans

Leon E. Panetta appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee during confirmation hearings June 9, 2011. (Defense Department photo)

The following is a statement from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta released Sunday in response to the killing of 16 Afghan civilians reportedly by a lone, U.S. Army sergeant.

“Today I spoke to President Karzai to offer my deepest condolences and profound regret for the tragic incident in Kandahar province that resulted in the loss of life and injuries to innocent Afghan civilians, including women and children.

“A full investigation is already underway.  A suspect is in custody, and I gave President Karzai my assurances that we will bring those responsible to justice.  We will spare no effort in getting the facts as quickly as possible, and we will hold any perpetrator who is responsible for this violence fully accountable under the law.

“I condemn such violence and am shocked and saddened that a U.S. service member is alleged to be involved, clearly acting outside his chain of command.  I told President Karzai that the American people share the outrage felt by President Karzai and his fellow citizens.  This tragic incident does not reflect the commitment of the U.S. military to protect the Afghan people and help build a strong and stable Afghanistan.

“As we mourn today with the Afghan people, we are steadfast in our resolve to work hand in hand with our Afghan partners to accomplish the missions and goals on which we have been working together for so long.  This terrible incident does not reflect our shared values or the progress we have made together.  As I told President Karzai, I am fully committed to ensuring that our cooperation continues.  It is essential to forging a more peaceful future for the citizens of both our nations.”

Military Working Dogs: Equipment or Service Members?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Hanrahan.

Army veteran Kevin Hanrahan and author of Paws on the Ground has taken up the campaign to have military working dogs recognized as members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Currently, military dogs who have saved thousands of lives are considered equipment.

Kevin has given me permission to republish his blog posts. Here are the words of a man who oversaw the Working Dog Program for United States Forces in Afghanistan from, May 2010 to May 2011:

Author and blogger Kevin Hanrahan.

By Kevin Hanrahan

Currently working dogs are classified as equipment in the military.

  1. Retired Military Working Dogs are stranded at their final duty station.
  2. Military Working Dogs receive no medical benefits after retirement.
  3. Military Working Dogs receive no recognition for their faithful service.

I lost a leg for my country. Do I look like equipment?

Let me tell you what this means from a Soldier’s perspective. Let’s take our hero Military Working Dog Anax who lost a leg fighting for his country? Specialist Marc Whittaker and Anax are currently stationed in Germany. Marc is adopting the retired military working dog. Transporting Anax back to the United States could cost Marc anywhere from $500-$1000. If you have ever been a specialist in the military as I have you know Marc’s pockets aren’t lined with cash.

We in the Army are retiring our military dogs sooner than ever before. Many of these four-legged troopers have multiple combat deployments. Currently the person who is kind enough to adopt these heroes must pay their bills.

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Panetta Condems Actions, Calls Karzai About Video

Leon E. Panetta appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee during confirmation hearings June 9, 2011. (Defense Department photo)

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has released a statement Thursday strongly condemning the apparent actions of four Marines who appear to be urinating on the bodies of three dead Afghan enemy combatants.

In the statement, Panetta said he has seen the footage and finds the behavior depicted in it “utterly deplorable.”

“I condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” Panetta said. “I have ordered the Marine Corps and ISAF commander [Marine Corps] Gen. John Allen to immediately and fully investigate the incident. This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards or values our armed forces are sworn to uphold. Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent.”

Additionally, the Pentagon press secretary said Panetta called Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the video Thursday.

“The secretary expressed his view that the conduct depicted in the footage is utterly deplorable, and that it does not reflect the standards or values American troops are sworn to uphold,” George Little said. “The secretary also noted in the conversation that he has ordered that the video be immediately and fully investigated.”

You can read the full press release HERE.

Top 6 Findings from Study of Women Serving in the Military

A cadet at the graduation ceremony for U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., listens to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' remarks, May 23, 2009. Of the 970 cadets, 144 were women. Photo courtesy of

Here are some key findings from the Pew Research Center study of Women in the U.S. Military. Seven times more women are now serving and make up 14 percent of the U.S. Forces compared to only 2 percent in 1973 when military service became voluntary.

The study found there are no differences between women and men in the military in some areas:

  • Women are just as likely to be officers
  • Women joined the armed services for similar reasons
  • Post 9/11 veterans, women and men, have similar experiences of struggles and rewards when returning to civilian life

There are areas where women differ when compared to men in the military:

  • A greater share of military women are black
  • A smaller share of military women are married
  • Post 9/11 era women veterans are less likely to have served in combat and more likely to be critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You can read the full report HERE.

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