Friday, November 30, 2007

Thank You God

Thank you God for the garden you gave me when all I asked for was a flower.

Thank you God for the ocean, when all I asked for was some rain.

Thank you God for the beauty you have created, when all I asked for was to see.

Thank you God for the multitude of friends in my life, when all I asked for was love.

Thank you God for all that I have received from you and most of all, that I know I am never alone, for You are always here beside me.

Thank you God for giving your son to forgive us of our sins.

I love you God and am not afraid to share this with the world and spread your word.

"Ruth Ann's Moments of Memories"
Thank you God for answering our prayers.

Thank you God for listening to all my worries.

Thank you God for Valerie by me side every step of this 14 month journey.

Thank you God for 675 shirts when all we hoped for was 50.

Thank you God for close calls when it can be so much worse.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Your Not In Iraq Anymore Toto

A wonderful day spent cross country sking at Hatchers Pass.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What Made Me Strong

Sam at Big Schloss, Wolf Gap Nat'l Rec. Area, VA; Jan. 2002
What Made Me Strong

For every hill I've had to climb,
For every stone That bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and heat,
My heart sings but a grateful song --
These were the things that made me strong
Author unknown
"Lists to live by"

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More Homecoming

Homecoming Smiles

A Sapper Thank You

(click on image to enlarge)

We received this wonderful thank you certificate of appreciation from Sam's company commander Cpt. Kroeger.

God Is Good - The Sapper Has Landed!!

Gretchen called at 12:10 pm our time, 8:10 am her time to say Sam's plane had landed. She expected to have him in the base gym within 45 minutes. She had been there, in the gym since 6:30 am.
At 2 pm our time Sam called and he and Gretchen were on their way home to Eagle River.
He sounded so good, so Sam, so happy to be in his car on the way home. So happy to have that tall redhead by his side.
He has a 5 day weekend off and won't have to report for a short, accountability formation until Wednesday and Thursday. After that it's half days until they come for Christmas.
He was so pleased that some of his guys from his platoon who were already home came to meet him.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!!

A Thanksgiving For The Ages

Turkey Trot 2007
It's hard to believe, as I sit here knowing that Sam will be landing in Anchorage any minute, that Thanksgiving could get any better.
How do you thank a God that delivers a husband back to his wife, a son back to his parents, a brother back to his sisters and a friend back to his friends, on the national holiday of thanks.
How do you thank all the friends and family who were by our sides every step of the journey.
We prayed daily and at times hourly for Sam's safe return and the all powerful and gracious God has delivered.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

10th Mountain Calling

Army Calling
A Soldier from 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, tactically enters a house in the village Abbassi during Operation Iron Hammer, Kirkuk province, Iraq, Nov 5. Iron Hammer's purpose is to continue disruption of al-Qaida and set conditions for continued reconciliation efforts in the northern Iraqi provinces. Photo courtesy of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs.

More Fort Rich troops due home for holiday

Homecoming ceremony for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, at the Buckner Physical Fitness Center at Fort Richardson Nov. 19, 2007.
(Published: November 20, 2007 Anchorage Daily News)

Eight hundred more soldiers -- nearly a quarter of the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team -- will return to Anchorage in the next two days, just in time for Thanksgiving.

The troops will arrive at Elmendorf Air Force Base aboard two morning flights on Wednesday and a third morning flight on Thursday, a spokesman at Fort Richardson said.

Their return will bring to 2,200 the number of 4th Brigade paratroopers who've returned to Fort Richardson this month after a 15-month deployment in Iraq.

The remainder of the brigade - about 1,300 more soldiers - are expected to return between Friday and mid-December.

CONFIRMATION - Sam in Kuwait!! :-) :-)

We just received a call from Gretchen to say Sam is in Kuwait. He will be there until early Thursday morning.
He is already making adjustments, coming out a war zone after 14 months. He told Gretchen he was very uncomfortable, standing on the phone at night, with all the base lights on, an unloaded weapon, no helmet and no body armor.
It's just the beginning of the adjustments he will be going through.

A Waiting Game

It's been 14 months of waiting. Why would I think, as the end approaches, that anything would really change. We are still waiting.
Waiting to hear, step by step. Leaving the FOB. In Baghdad. Leaving Baghdad. In Kuwait. Leaving Kuwait.
14 months of waiting for some kind of word, an email, a letter and all to infrequent, the phone rings and we hear his voice.
Waiting for some kind of confirmation.
Yesterday he was sitting in the Baghdad airport after a Chinook ride the night before from the FOB. One step closer. Sitting in a hanger .... waiting.
4 am Eastern time, noon his time Wednesday the plane is supposed to depart for Kuwait. Even the the name implys our/his frustration .... KU WAIT. 16 hours in KU WAIT, what else??? Waiting
Ireland ??? Amsterdam??? Over the pole??? Thanksgiving arrival???? We can only pray and ask for Godspeed.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"People" names now popular for pets

What ever happened to "Rover"? It's no longer cool, it seems, to name a dog Fido, Snoopy or Lassie.
According to a database of more than 450,000 pets insured by Veterinary Pet Insurance, Max is the most popular name for both dogs and cats. Other crossover favorites: Lucy and Bella.
Interestingly, the top 10 dog names are also names for people. "When pets are an integral part of the family, people are more inclined to choose a human name," says Carol McConnell, who is the chief veterinary medical officer at Veterinary Pet Insurance.

Top dog names
1. Max
2. Molly
3. Buddy
4. Bella
5. Lucy
6. Maggie
7. Daisy
8. Jake
9. Bailey
10. Rocky
Top cat names
1. Max

2. Chloe
3. Lucy
4. Tigger
5. Tiger
6. Smokey
7. Oliver
8. Bella
9. Sophie
10. Princess

Matt in Multaka; Hat Day

A picture of our recent adventures to a village in our Area of Operations.
Multaka is one of the safer towns around here, in fact the safest.
Friendly comparable to the rest of the Hawijah District.
More later...

Sunday is hat day
Having a BLAST here in sunny, women and song, I just can't tell you how cool it is. This MUST be paradise.
Oh, wait, I just nodded off and wiped the drool off the keyboard. There you go, all good.
Just kidding, but all is fine. Not much going on other than missions to safeguard the good people of the Hawijah District.
Here are the next few pictures I'll send along to show you what I'm up to.

Cub Scout welcomes single soldiers home

by Jennifer Zilko
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2007

Web Video Report

FORT RICHARDSON, Alaska - Three hundred more are home and counting.

The fifth plane load of paratroopers from Fort Richardson came in today.
They are back from Iraq after more than 14 months at war.
Most were greeted by family and friends.
But for the few who had no one to come home to, there was a pint-size surprise: A seven year old Cub Scout on a mission of his own.
As the 291 soldiers get ready to walk through the doors of Buckner Physical Fitness Center on Fort Richardson, hundreds of loved ones wait.
But for some of the soldiers who arrived home from the 14-month deployment to Iraq there was no family.
That's where 7-year-old Karch Verlanic comes in.
"They don't have any family so we're supporting them because they don't have any kind of girlfriends or any family to come and see them and help them," Verlanic said. "So, that's what we're here for."
Verlanic and the rest of his Scout troop adopted four single soldiers when they went off to war.
"I sent them toys and football player toys, candy, food, water, all that kind of stuff," Verlanic said.
Today he gets to meet one of them face to face, and he wants to make sure he gets it right.
"Welcome home, it's nice to meet you, shake hands and do that," Verlanic said.
After perfecting the signs they've made, they wait and watch for their soldier pen-pal to walk out of war and into their life for the very first time.
Even though he's not greeted by true family, Spc. Karl Diffenbaugh is still grateful.
"It was pretty awesome," Diffenbaugh said. "I just thought I was going to grab my stuff and go back to my room, but I saw these guys and came over to them and they've been writing me when I was over in (Iraq) and sending me some stuff."
After a few minutes of visiting, Karch has a piece of advice.
"If you're kind of thirsty reach into the fridge because we got some water for you," Verlanic said.
It was a touch of home, from a small boy who had a big enough heart to adopt an unknown hero and say "hello."
Karch and his mom also greeted another soldier today whose wife couldn't make it.
The scout troop is still waiting to welcome home two more soldiers.
Another 300 soldiers are due to return on Monday.

My Prayers For You

Blessed Lord, we work so hard for our families, putting food on the table, keeping a solid shelter over their heads. We know you command us dear Lord not to be a burden on others. We pray that you will also lead us to work hard in our spiritual life, guiding us with your strength and grace that we may walk the right path beside you.

Lord, open our spiritual eyes and enable us to see all the good things you have put before us. Forgive us for focusing on the problems rather then lifting our eyes toward you. Helps us to go forth in faith not in fear so that we may not miss the beauty of your world nor the blessings you give us each day.

Almighty God, quite my heart and mind, open my eyes to your perfect ways. Grant us patience knowing your will be done in your time not ours. Slow our pace so that we do not pass you by. Instead, allow us to witness your spectacular glories large and small. Increase our faith that you are on our side, working for us, even if we must wait for an answer.

My prayer for 14 months of support from above.

Father in Heaven, you have been by our sides, supporting us, every step of the way. Our journey has not been easy but you have sent so many of your saints to be with us. Your strength and love has flowed over us time and time again. We have placed our worries and fears in your hands dear Lord and you have not failed us. You have wiped away our tears with our love. Lord you have been our place of refuge.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Soldier's Prayer

Collin Raye

I know you're tired,
I know you're worn, I know you're torn
You're losing all your hope
'Cause you're a long way from home
Oh, I know you're worried
I know you're scared.
I'd like to put my arms around you
And tell you I care.

Hope is in Heaven, not far away
Just close your eyes, he hears what you say.
Feel him around you, He's everywhere
Reachin' to touch you, Know that he is there.
Deep in the heart of a war,
He hears a Soldier's Prayer.

Verse 2
Ask and he'll protect you, guide where you go.
Keep you from evil that tears at your soul
Oh,speak to the Father,say what's on your mind
It just takes a moment,if you'll take the time

Hope is in Heaven, not far away
Just close your eyes, he hears what you say.
Feel him around you, He's everywhere
Reachin' to touch you, Know that he's there.
Deep in the heart of a war,
He hears a Soldier's Prayer.

Let's pray for hope,Let's pray for peace
I pray for you and you pray for me
I'll pray for heaven to hear what you say
All of God's children will find out one day
Deep in the heart of a war
God heard a Soldier's Prayer.

Monday, Monday!!

Friday was Sam's last mission in Iraq. He spent the day today cleaning and preping his platoon equipment getting it ready for shipment back to AK. Sunday he'll spend the day getting all his personal kit ready.
It's so hard to believe that this 14 months is coming to an end. There will a bucket full of Sam's old fire crackers ready to announce his departure.
God speed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gifts of Thanks for the Troops

By Elizabeth L. Robbins
Washington Post
Sunday, November 11, 2007; B07

BAGHDAD -- As the veterans of World War II pass too quickly into history, their ranks are being replaced by a new "greatest generation." The war on terrorism is creating veterans at a rate not seen in decades.

Yet the military is much smaller now than during World War II, leading some analysts to posit that a rift exists between soldiers and citizens and that those making sacrifices on the battle front are disconnected from the society whose freedoms they defend. The American people are oblivious to the war, they claim, as well as to the men and women who are fighting it. Some have even suggested that the only way to close the gap is to return to conscription.

But these observers of the social scene have never served in Iraq.

Those of us overseas know that "support the troops" is more than a slogan. Here we are besieged by what my master sergeant calls "paper love," the cards, letters, posters and other gestures of support sent by people across America. The paper love is often accompanied by packages of snacks and comfort items. Some mail comes from family members, but even more is sent by private citizens and troop support organizations. The war has inspired a remarkable level of civic involvement that goes largely unnoticed -- except by those of us in the field or recovering stateside.

All of us are volunteers. We're in Iraq because we want to serve. We are well educated and physically fit and could have pursued a variety of other life options. But, to paraphrase Defense Secretary Robert Gates, we are driven by the romantic and optimistic ideal that we can improve the world. We are seeing real progress on the ground, and we are helping Iraq to change.

Idealism, however, does not diminish our longing for home or the pain of missing family. It does not dispel all fear and doubt, and it does not heal our wounded or fallen friends. So when we are feeling disheartened, we open the care packages and read the letters.

"Thank you for helping to protect our country . . . we admire your courage!" writes a child from Congregation Beth Am in Buffalo Grove, Ill.

"Thank you! Enjoy the coffee!" writes Starbucks of Gig Harbor, Wash.

"May the Lord give you safety and watch over you," writes Millie from the Yellow Ribbon Support Center of Cincinnati.

"Happy Thanksgiving!" writes Brownie Troop 250 from Christ Lutheran Church of Valencia, Calif.

Cynics might think these expressions of goodwill from strangers are hokey, but they are tacked on the walls of nearly every workspace, living area and hospital ward in Iraq.

This past May, a young soldier received several hundred tributes drawn by children at McNair Elementary School in Herndon, Va., where his mother does volunteer work. He taped them up along a hallway at Multi-National Force-Iraq headquarters, forming the letters T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U.

Members of our coalition partners' armed forces congregated in the hallway looking at the posters with wonder. They asked passersby, "American children send these to you? They are so beautiful!" Some shook their heads and confessed that they were stunned at the support we enjoy from our people back home.

Contrast this with a September statement by Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff of the British army: "In America, the appreciation for the armed forces is outstanding, and, frankly, I would like to be able to mirror some of that here. In the States, many companies offer military discounts for serving soldiers, sports teams give out free tickets, people in the street shake the hand of men in uniform."

We have come a long way from the dark days during Vietnam, when people would spit on our men and women in uniform. Those of us serving today have great faith in the American people, and apparently the feeling is mutual. It is comforting that today's veterans will return to civilian life remembering the warmth and support of Americans living comfortably back home while they served in difficult circumstances overseas.

So thank you from us future veterans. Thanks for saying thanks.

Elizabeth L. Robbins, an Army major, deployed in May in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The views expressed here are her own.

More Airborne troops return to Anchorage from Middle East

By Anchorage Daily News staff
Published: November 12, 2007

More than 120 paratroopers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) landed in Anchorage around 1 a.m. today after a flight from Kuwait.

The returning soldiers' flight was termed "wheels up" out of Kuwait by mid-afternoon Monday, but its exact arrival time at Elmendorf Air Force Base had been undetermined.

The returning troops belong to the Third Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment and served widely in Iraq, Hoffmeister said, including with U.S. Marines in Anbar province, and in Iskanderiyeh, among other areas.

This is the third arrival in a rolling return of 3,500 members of the 4th brigade. Flights are expected to continue into early December.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm Back Home, But Still in Iraq's Grasp

This is a must read. I repost it here because the Post makes you register and signin to read back issues. J
I'm Back Home, But Still in Iraq's Grasp

By William Quinn
Washington Post "Outlook"
Sunday, November 11, 2007; Page B01

The only feeling I've ever had that was more surreal than arriving in a war zone was returning from one.

I came home on R&R in 2005 after eight months in Iraq. Heading for the baggage claim in Detroit, I watched travelers walking and talking on their cellphones, chatting with friends and acting just the way people had before I'd left for Baghdad. The war didn't just seem to be taking place in another country; it seemed to be taking place in another universe. There I was, in desert camouflage, wondering how all the intensity, the violence, the tears and the killing of Iraq could really be happening at the same time that all these people were hurrying to catch their flights to Las Vegas or Los Angeles or wherever.

Riding home that day with my parents, I felt nervous, too exposed in their Ford Taurus. There was no armor on the car, and it felt light. We stopped at every red light and stop sign, and I saw potential dangers everywhere, even though I-94 heading into the city was nothing like Baghdad's Airport Road. There were no torched trucks or craters left by bomb blasts. I think it was the neatness of it all that made me uncomfortable. It seemed that staying alive shouldn't be so easy.

I've been out of Iraq for more than two years now. I have a different life, as a college student. But some of those feelings are still with me. After dedicating a year to a conflict of such enormous complexity, I find that college feels a bit mundane, and it's inexplicable to me that people here seem to be entirely untouched by the war.

On Sept. 11, 2001, everyone said that the events of that day would change the lives of all Americans. I was a trainee in the interrogation course at the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., at the time. At 18, I had dropped out of college and joined the Army earlier that year, because I felt that my life lacked discipline and direction. Six years later, 9/11 doesn't seem to have had much of an effect on most people's lives. But it has had an enormous effect on mine.

I arrived in Iraq in March 2005. My unit hurried onto a Chinook helicopter at Baghdad International Airport in the middle of the night. I was weighted down with more than 100 pounds of gear, and I never managed to strap myself in. Helicopters are violent machines, and we shook as we lifted into the air. The rear door was open, a machine gunner suspended over the ramp, and the lights on the ground receded as we flew off, like the scenery behind a taxi in an old movie. Before long, we were over a field of tents, lit up under spotlights as bright as day. We had arrived at Abu Ghraib.

I spent the next month and a half at that prison complex outside Baghdad. By then, the interrogation rules had changed substantially after the stories of abuse there came out in mid-2004. We were permitted to sit across from a detainee and talk to him -- everything else was banned. This was a good rule. Torture is easy to justify. Interrogators assume that everyone they question is culpable; it's part of the job. If a detainee can't provide information because he has none, the temptation to slip into brutality is very present. Without rules in place, I might have been brutal, but I never so much as raised my voice to a detainee.

On April 2, 2005, Abu Ghraib was attacked by dozens of insurgents armed with vehicle-borne bombs, rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikovs. It was a terrifying experience -- but also an exhilarating one. I learned that I was capable of functioning through my fear, and that I could place my life, with absolute confidence, in the hands of my fellow soldiers and Marines.

I spent a few hours that night in an inner tower with Marines who responded to the rockets and small-arms fire with 50-caliber machine guns. I watched as a man in a tractor was killed by machine-gun fire and as a group of trucks was stopped by a barrage of bullets from the tower guards. Later that night, I interrogated some of the men who had been in those trucks. A few had been wounded; all were frightened. They were fish deliverymen, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The man in the tractor turned out to be a suicide bomber. It's nearly impossible to tell the enemy from the innocent.

After my time at Abu Ghraib, I was transferred to Camp Cropper, which was then a small prison facility near Baghdad International Airport. Over the next year, I spoke with hundreds of detainees. I spent my days with members of al-Qaeda, Baathists, Sunni nationalist insurgents and Shiite insurgents. I listened to their life stories, and I wrote hundreds of reports about their experiences. It consumed every moment of my day.

I wasn't involved in the short interrogations where we try to learn where the next bomb is located or how many insurgents are in the next safe house. The interrogations I conducted lasted weeks and sometimes months. We were trying to understand the big picture: the support networks, the international connections and the enemy's motivations. The long-term nature of our conversations forced me to see the men I interrogated as human beings. Most were Iraqi. Many were extremely intelligent, and some had had a great deal of formal education.

Their levels of cooperation varied. Some were forthcoming with information; some were not. Some seemed to enjoy the solitude of prison; some were led to despair by it. They all remain in my thoughts, and I'm sometimes surprised by my feelings. Recently, I read in the International Herald Tribune that a man I'd interrogated had been executed in Baghdad. If anyone ever deserved execution, it was he. But I still felt a pang of regret. His life, for all its horrors, mattered to me.

While still in Iraq, I was accepted to Georgetown University as an undergraduate. The Army discharged me in July 2006, and I began college that August.

What a difference.

People on campus don't think about the war very much. It rarely comes up in conversation, either inside or outside the classroom. Some professors have encouraged me to share my experiences, and some students have expressed interest in my past. Last semester, one wrote an article about another Iraq veteran and me for the campus newspaper. And this semester I dedicated about 250 words of a 900-word paper to the problem of sectarian violence in Iraq for a class on international relations. But that was the first time in my three semesters here that I was asked to formally consider the war for a class.

Beyond that, my theology professor gave a lecture last year that challenged students to find God in Iraq. My philosophy professor used Baghdad to describe what the philosopher Thomas Hobbes may have meant when he said that life in the state of nature would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." But that's about it. One student actually told me to stop thinking about Iraq. "You need to get rid of all that baggage and let yourself live," she said. "We need to be shallow sometimes."

I find it frustrating that Facebook is a bigger part of most students' lives than the war. After my first semester, I decided to rejoin the Army by signing up with the ROTC. I felt a bit guilty for having done only one tour in Iraq while friends of mine have done two or three. And I didn't want to forget the war. I may be prejudiced, but many of my college peers seem self-absorbed. I didn't want to end up like that.

You could rightly say a lot of negative things about soldiers. Many are crude. Some visit prostitutes; some commit adultery. I've known some who are bigots. It would be a lie to say that every soldier behaves honorably at all times. When I was stationed in South Korea from 2003 to 2005, I was often embarrassed by soldiers who were loud, obnoxious and insulting to Koreans. Men in their early 20s act like men in their early 20s, whether they wear a uniform or not.

Nonetheless, the Army's values are important to soldiers. They may not always live up to them, but they do when it matters most. Soldiers are selfless; they are courageous; they are loyal. The most interesting intellectual conversations I've had have been with others in the military. They discuss things not to impress you but because they're trying to figure them out. They're faced with difficult situations, and they want to make sense of them. Though many privately question our government's policies, they do their duty, which lies beyond the political debate.

This culture of duty is at odds with the culture of individualism and self-promotion that seems paramount here in college. And yet, the divide between my soldier friends and my fellow students isn't the result of any fundamental differences between the people themselves. Many of my peers at school know much more about the world around them than my fellow soldiers do -- international relations is a popular subject at Georgetown. My Army friends used to laugh when they saw me reading the Economist; my friends here think everyone should read it. Students talk about refugees from Iraq, North Korea, Burma and Darfur with sincere compassion. One of my friends told me: "I want to dedicate my life to educating people about the sufferings of others."

That's a wonderful goal, but I often feel that the words ring hollow. Students' true priorities are demonstrated by their daily activities: They have friends to meet, parties to attend, internships to work at, extracurricular activities to participate in, papers to write and classes to attend. They're under a lot of pressure to build a strong r¿sum¿ for whatever company or graduate school they apply to after college. They're under no pressure to be concerned about those who are less fortunate -- or those who fight wars on their behalf.

I'm proud to be a student at Georgetown. Though I find some aspects of campus culture discouraging, I have a lot of respect for my professors and peers. But there are still days when I think about what it must be like back in Baghdad -- and wonder whether that's where I should be.

William Quinn is majoring in international politics and security studies at Georgetown University. He served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

Anchorage Snow Breaks Record

Philip Walters retrieves a violin from his overturned Jeep next to northbound lanes of the Glenn Highway near the Fort Richardson overpass Nov. 11, 2007. Walters had been on his way home after a church musical event.
146 ACCIDENTS SUNDAY: And that's just between midnight and 9 p.m.

Published: November 12, 2007

A record snowfall turned Anchorage streets and highways into a giant bumper-car track Sunday.

From midnight until 9 p.m., police recorded 146 accidents and 86 ditch-divers.

"There's vehicles in distress everywhere," Anchorage Police Department dispatch supervisor Kathy Johnston said at 1:30 p.m.

Only 16 of the accidents involved injuries.

"Almost every single one is a fender-bender," Johnston said.

And a couple of mind-benders. As the heavy snow piled up and cars and trucks careened off the road or into each other, a number of people nonetheless headed to higher elevations -- and even worse conditions.

"People actually are going up to Flattop," Johnston said. "We've got 10 or 12 cars stuck up there right now. They'll get help when we can get someone up there."

At 4 p.m., the National Weather Service reported a single-day snowfall of 5 inches, two more than the old record of 3 inches for Nov. 11 set in 1944.

And the snow was still coming down.

Philip Walters was among those whose day was ruined by slick roads.

A band teacher at Bartlett High, Walters was returning to his Eagle River home after playing violin at a service at Trinity Presbyterian Church on Huffman Road.

He made it all the way to the Fort Richardson overpass before disaster struck.

He saw a car ahead of him spin out of control and off the Glenn Highway and he slowed down, as did others between him and the errant car.

"It was ridiculous," he said. "I just tapped my brakes and I was off the road."

Off the road and upside down, his Jeep Grand Cherokee coming to rest on its roof. Walters grabbed his violin, unbuckled his seat belt and crawled out of a back-seat door.

"The violin's OK," he said. "The case held up surprisingly well."

Good thing, because Walters said the violin is handmade and irreplaceable.

Walters was OK too, also a good thing, because he's the coordinator of this week's all-state music festival at Bartlett. He'll use a friend's car while his Jeep is in the shop, and he'll probably re-think his choice to do without studded tires this winter.

Walters said he took the Jeep to a tire shop, where he was told that his regular all-weather tires looked good.

"I decided, OK, why not save the $500," he said. "That was a bad idea, because my deductible's $500."

The usual chaos that accompanies the first significant snowfall of the winter started Saturday, when an inch of wet snow fell in Anchorage.

The Police Department recorded 46 accidents and 30 vehicles in distress during the 24-hour period.

Among them was a fatal accident that occurred in the snow and dark of early morning. A downtown pedestrian was killed when he was hit by a dump truck and dragged several blocks while caught in the truck's back wheels.

Police said they may not be able to provide the man's name for another day or two.

He was the eighth pedestrian killed on Anchorage streets this year.

Welcome Assignment

Laura Busby, holding her 5-month-old son, Zachary, sheds tears of joy as she sees her husband, Sgt. Alan Busby, who returned home safely from Iraq Nov. 11, 2007.
4th Brigade soldiers have plenty of work waiting at home
November 12, 2007

With the war and the desert behind them for now, more than 300 paratroopers returned home Sunday night to snowy Fort Richardson, where a new assignment awaited many of them.

Their extended tour of duty in Iraq may be over. But their diaper duty is just beginning.

Christopher Facko of the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry, went straight from the airplane to the hospital, where his wife, Sarah, was waiting with their 4-hour-old baby boy, Christiaan Ryan.

Sgt. Albert Fambrough, another member of the squadron, headed to Buckner Fieldhouse on the base, where his wife and their 11-month-old twins were part of a cheering, crying crowd eager to greet the latest wave of Fort Rich soldiers back from Iraq.

Fambrough didn't get the open-armed welcome most soldiers expect when they return from war. His wife had her hands full with Hunter and Harley, twin boys who were reluctant to leave the arms of their mother and go to a man they last saw nine months ago.

Fambrough tried to hold each boy, but both clung to 20-year-old Chasity, the only parent they've known in their young lives. Though Chasity had kept the babies moderately subdued during their three-hour wait at the fieldhouse, both started crying when the gym came alive with the sound of cheers, whistles and shouts as the troops marched in.

Wearing fatigues and carrying backpacks, laptops and plastic grocery bags, 331 troops lined up for the playing of the national anthem, a prayer and brief remarks by Hazen Baron, the chief of staff for the U.S. Army Alaska.


It was the second planeload of troops to return from Iraq, where 3,500 members of Fort Richardson's 4th Brigade served for 16 months. The first 100 arrived a week ago, another 100 are due home tonight, and the rest will arrive a couple hundred at a time between now and mid-December.

They're coming home to wives, husbands and children whose lives marched on without them.

Facko thought he'd be home in time for the birth of his first child, who was due Nov. 17, but his son -- and his wife, who got pregnant during Facko's two-week leave in February -- couldn't wait for him.

Sarah, 24, started having contractions Friday night and went to the hospital at Elmendorf Air Force Base on Sunday morning. She had the baby at 2:30 p.m., about three hours before the troops landed.

Among those returning to see newborns on the verge of toddlerhood was Staff Sgt. John Presley, who didn't even know his wife was pregnant when he deployed Oct. 3. Lisa Cannon found out about a month after her husband left and waited three months before telling him.

Presley timed his two-week leave perfectly, coming home four days before Cannon Presley was born June 28. He returned to Iraq when his daughter was 4 days old. Now she's 4 months old.

"I sent him a picture at least every other day," Lisa said.

E-mailed photos kept Fambrough up to speed on his twins so he recognized them Sunday, even if they weren't sure who he was.

Thanks to near-daily updates and photos from Chasity, he knew that Hunter's the one with red hair and Harley's the one who just learned to walk. Though attempts to pass the boys from mother to father failed, Fambrough busied himself by emptying a box of juice into Hunter's sippy cup.

Fambrough, 23, re-enlisted during his tour of duty, even though he described his time in Iraq as a bit of a nightmare.

"It was like waking up from a bad dream every day," he said.

He knows his future may include a return trip to Iraq, but he re-enlisted because he likes the Army, he likes how the Army takes care of his family, and he likes serving his country.

"I do feel we made a difference," he said. "Toward the end there were less IEDs, less soldiers getting hurt and security was getting better."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fort Drum Blizzard Online Newsletter

Great article witten by my nephew 2nd Lt. Matthew Gregor (Lisa's son) He is deployed to FOB McHenry, near the city of Hawijah, Iraq

1-87 Infantry Soldiers make difference in Iraq

Soldiers Requests

From Tabi Gregor
Hello everyone,
We received a small request list from our A Co. soldiers. Here is what they are asking for. Feel free to share this list with family and friends. If you have any questions please let me know. I also know that most of the soldiers have access to microwaves.

Board Games of any type
CPU Games of any type
(4 wheel driving, Cars, Outdoors, working out, and running)
One Basketball
One football
Books of any type
Chew (Red Man)
Candy / Chips / Dip
Hygiene items
Snacks of any type (chocolate doesn't really make the trip very well!) !!

A Co., 1-87 IN FRG Leader

“The Alpha Mail” Vol XIII

“The Alpha Mail”Vol XIII
Alpha Company, 425TH BSTB, 4TH BCT (ABN), 25TH ID
Ocotober 2007

Thoughts from Sapper 6 (Company Commander)

Another cooler month has come and gone. Clouds litter the Desert Blue sky and the evenings have a mild chill. The Sappers of Alpha Company have borne their mission proudly and without complaint, despite the rigorous mission set and challenges of redeployment. Alpha Company Paratroopers have met their operations leaning forward, hard charging and without complaint. We have begun to dare to dream of returning home to our loved ones, friends and things like snow machines and Alaskan Amber. Our eyes are still firmly fixed on the mission though, and the men will continue to stay focused to see this through. SPC Keith Carter was wounded by a 14.5mm Anti-Aircraft Machine gun that penetrated his Husky while conducting a route clearance mission north of FOB Iskan on 7 October 2007. He is doing well and should be home by the time we redeploy.SPC Keith Carter at the 28th Combat Support Hospital in the International Zone, Baghdad Iraq, holding His war souvenir that was removed from his left thigh. Sapper 6 got a chance to see him before he left for Balad on 8 OCT 07.
The operating environment is continuously changing on a daily basis. We have seen real, tangible progress in our mission. The bad guys are on the run in a lot of areas, and the people are stepping up to partner with the Coalition Forces to keep it that way. Alpha Company, your brothers, fathers, sons, and husbands are getting that done. Be proud. All of the Sapper platoons to include Redsox (2nd Platoon/182nd Engineer Company) and Blacksheep (1st Platoon/224th Engineer Company) have all broken new ground outside the wire. First Platoon with 1-40 CAV is continuing their impressive mission support with limited resources and time. They continue to support themselves as being one of the only route clearance teams who stay fully mission capable attached to 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Their performance in patrolling and clearing is absolutely stifling and has been truly remarkable. Second Platoon continues to man up to the long enduring missions that 1-501 PIR Battalion requests. Many of the routes we have traveled this month were cleared months ago during the early stages of the deployment. They have ventured deep into the heart of Karbala and Najaf to clear critical routes for operations and key leader engagements. Third Platoon is the “jack of all trades” platoon with a little bit of everything. Their unique diversity allows them to clear a route while conducting road sanitation with the up armored heavy equipment. They manage to have the flexibility to conduct “Trifecta” missions, meaning route clearance, route sanitation, and force protection missions all within the same day. All of the platoons manage to get their hands on demolition to conduct missions, or conduct an air assault mission with our brother infantry companies. The glow in every Sapper’s eyes never fade, they give everything they have 24/7.

Overall, combat operations test and challenge the men we call Sappers everyday. They are eager to accept this willingly, and these past 14 months will be remembered for the rest of their lives. They have been in the forefront of every major Brigade mission as the only Engineers who coined the term “You Fear ‘em, We Clear ‘em.” This company has earned the respect of every Paratrooper in the Brigade by accomplishing the impossible every day. Soon these husbands, fathers, and loved ones will be home,
holding you close, or seeing their little ones who are not so little anymore. These men were called to fight a relentless enemy who is now running like cowards. They did the unimaginable and will continue to protect our Freedom. You have done more than anyone could have asked for; standing by them, talking to them on the phone in the middle of the night, sending countless letters and emails, and growing closer together. THANK YOU. Be proud that your family is making the world a better place right now. This month I wanted to shed some light on what we are thinking about and the things we look forward to once we return home in Alaska.

“Breach Hell!”
-Sapper 6 – CPT Calvin Kroeger
"When we ge home" notes from Sappers of 3rd Platoon

“Go on vacation to Australia.” –SPC James Apgar
“Go skiing with the wife at Alyeska, eat at DAMI and kill a few Irish Car Bombs at the Pioneer Bar.” –SSG Ryan Finn
“Get away from the people I have spent the past 14 months with and spend most of my time with the wife and family.” –SGT Jacob Matson
“I’m going to purchase Anchorage.” –SPC Jonathan Araiza
“Eat real food and Sleep!!” –SPC Sean O’loughlin
“I’m gonna go hunting and just relax.” –SPC Devin Moore
“I wanna drink a few then sleep for 48 hours.” –SPC Pham Hoang
“Watch Law & Order with my wife.” –SGT Brian Clayton
“Plan to spend time with my wife Nicole and new baby girl, Maddison; just hanging around the house, and watching my new t.v.” –SGT James Battenberg
“I plan to spend a lot of time relaxing with my wife. We will spend a long weekend in a secluded cabin together.” –SPC Dennis Hyde
“I’m going to spend a lot of time hanging out with my wife, go snowboarding, and relax.” –SPC Dustin Lueckenotte
“Spend time with my family, and enjoy the things I used to take for granted.” – SPC Brandon Johnson
“I will be resting.” –PFC Ryan Winkle
“I will be visiting family, relatives and friends in California.” – SPC Manuel Perez “Going to Costa Rica with my wife for vacatiton.” –SPC Collin Black
“Having a wedding.” –SPC Brandon Hux
“Road trip across the U.S. and Canada.” –SPC Matthew Chappuies
“Maddie says ‘Poa we’re going to Disney World to see Cinderella’s Castle’ so that’s what we will do.” –SSG Nicholas Swanson
“I am going to chill out at my house and rent a cabin in Seward for a few days.” –SGT Steven Hooper
“Go cross country skiing with my wife up at Hatcher’s Pass then get a pizza and beer at Moose’s Tooth.” -1LT Samuel Chamberlain
“SFC SHAW” - SFC Beau Shaw

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

American Soldier

It doesn't matter what insignia is on their shoulder. It's the same fight to protect America.

The Clouds Will Part Again

Late October isn't the optimal time for a mountain bike ride in Alaska. You'll see why in this photo slide show with audio from Anchorage Daily News
Mountain biking in the Campbell Track trail system

Monday, November 5, 2007

Close, So Very Very Close!!

Alaska Paratroopers Return From Iraq
Anchorage Daily News
Published: November 5, 2007
A plane carrying an advance party of about 100 jubilant soldiers from the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team -- stationed in Iraq for more than a year -- landed on a snow-free tarmac at Elmendorf Air Force Base early this morning.

The arrival of the brigade’s “torch party” -- soldiers who’ll prepare the way for the eventual return of 3,500 Fort Richardson-based troops -- was the first of about 15 planeloads of paratroopers scheduled to land here through mid-December.

Also onboard the chartered Boeing 757 were about 25 aviators from the Alaska Army National Guard, returning home following a six-month deployment in Iraq.

After handing over their weapons in a nearby hangar, the members of the 4th Brigade were bused to a gymnasium at Fort Richardson, where they received a rousing welcome from families and friends.

Beyond a huge banner draped against an elevated boxing ring that proclaimed “Welcome Home, Spartans,” wives and children had plastered the gym with homemade signs:

“To Iraq and back!”

“Thank you, Heroes!”

“Welcome home, Daddy!”

The welcoming throng of about 200 people milled together for a couple of hours, anticipating the return of soldiers who’d initially deployed to Iraq in September and October of 2006. In the meantime, in some cases, baby sons and daughters had been born.

“I’m here to pick up my dad,” read the back of a T-shirt worn by 14-month-old Mason DeToy, who’d learned to walk while Sgt. Joel DeToy was deployed south of Baghdad.

Then at about 2:30 a.m., the buses arrived at the gym and the troops began streaming inside to a loud chorus of whoops and screams. The 9th Army brass band from Fort Wainwright launched into “God Bless America.”

Forming into ranks, the paratroopers were welcomed back to their home base by Col. Hazen Baron, the base chief of staff -- with remarks that were deliberately brief but mindful of the mishaps that sometimes befall bachelor soldiers who’ve been away from a city so long.

“If there is one thing I can tell you now you’re back in Alaska it’s: Be safe! Be safe! Be safe! ... Job well done, gents!”

With that, the troops were released from the ranks and those who were married walked toward their families while children and spouses dashed toward them from the opposite direction. Some of the husbands and wives fell into long, silent embraces.

“It’s the wives who are the real heroes,” said Staff Sgt. Jeff Holman, motioning to his own wife, Tanya -- who during his absence had given birth to a second daughter, 11-month-old Katelyn.

“She’s a helluva woman.”

The 30-hour flight home from the Middle East -- with stops in Germany, Ireland, New York and Minnesota -- was long but welcome, said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Willis of the 725th Support Battalion.

“No dust. No sand. I’m glad to be home,” Willis said.

Maggi's Half Marathon

(click on any image to enlarge)

Maggi ran in the her first 13.1 mile half marathon yesterday. Her goal was 2 hours and her official time was 2:00:13. Great job Mags. Here are the official results.
832 (overall place) 2:00:13 (chip time) 9:11 (min/mi. ave.) 2:02:36.00 (gun time) 43/115 (F20-24 Div. place) 342/1284 (female overall place)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

My Prayers For You

Lord God, we pray today that we all may come to know you on an intimate basis, not from afar but up close and personal. That we may know and understand the bright future that God has promised for us. We pray for insight into God’s power and the hope he has given us through his spirit, and we pray that all our families will come closer in their walk with you. Dear Lord, open our hearts and vision to behold this incredible truth.

Blessed Lord, you have placed a challenge before this church, a challenge of hopes and dreams, service and expansion. May you guide us in our daily prays, that we may each become apart of the dream before us. Be it small or large, service or contributions; help each of us to focus on our future and grant us the wisdom to be a part of the important work that can be done.

God of love, thank you for first loving us. Help us to know that as we live in you, and focus on you, our love will grow more complete. We trust in your love O Lord. Through our trials and fears, we know your love is stronger than any trouble. Fill us with your love so that all our fears will be cast out and that we can live in confidence and rest in you.

Father we pray today for your continued protection and grace for all of our service men fighting for our freedom around the world. Theirs is a job so easily forgotten. Remind us O Lord that it is the sacrificed of these men and women that have made this county great and a safer place to live.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Older Than Dirt Quiz:

Count all the ones that you remember not the ones you were told about.
Ratings at the bottom.

1. Blackjack chewing gum
2. Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water
3. Candy cigarettes
4. Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles
5. Coffee shops or diners with tableside juke boxes
6. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers
7. Party lines
8. News reels before the movie
9. P.F. Flyers
10. Butch wax
11. Telephone numbers with a word prefix (OLive-6933)
12. Peashooters
13. Howdy Doody
14. 45 RPM records
15. S+H Green Stamps
16. Hi-fi's
17. Metal ice trays with lever
18. Mimeograph paper
19. Blue flashbulb
20. Packards
21. Roller skate keys
22. Cork popguns!
23. Drive-ins
24. Studebakers
25. Wash tub wringers

If you remembered 0-5 = You're still young
If you remembered 6-10 = You are getting older
If you remembered 11-15 = Don't tell your age,
If you remembered 16-25 = You're older than dirt!

Senility Prayer
God grant me...
The senility to forget the people I never liked
The good fortune to run into the ones that I do
And the eyesight to tell the difference.

Operation Tafaraquoi With Charlie Company 3-509th

It's very hard to tell but Sam said his platoon was involved in this operation from August 2007. It sure gives you an appreciation of what the guys go through over there in Iraq, and how efficiant they are at finding and capturing the bad guys. It's a real shame that the kids have to see "Dad" being taken off in flex-cuffs but they don't think about that do they.

Bad Things Go Bump In The Night

3-509th PIR Air Assault night operations in Iraq