To encourage and fortify relationships between military service members, veterans, their families, their friends, and their Country; to nurture the path of communication for everyone, ensuring that no one is alone or left behind; and proving that we have not, are not, and will never forget the nobility of their sacrifices.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Marine Stands For His Brothers and Sisters

I am reposting this from Soldier's Angel's. If you haven't heard of them you need to. They are amazing and run solely off of donations.

Marine Stands for Angels & Heroes

Former Marine Mark Dolfini won't be celebrating Independence Day with a parade, picnic, BBQ or fireworks.  Instead, he'll be standing at attention for 24 hours straight.
From midnight on July 3 to midnight on July 4, Doflini will stand in his dress blue uniform between an American and a Marine Corps flag in Lafayette, IN, encouraging people to donate funds and comfort items to Soldiers' Angels for wounded veterans.  He calls it "Standing for the Fallen." With the support of his local Marine Corps League, Dolfini has been raising funds and items this way every Sunday since Memorial Day, resulting in several thousand dollars already.  This will be his first and only 24-hour "stand."

Supporters across the country can participate in Dolfini's "Stand for the Fallen" by emailing for info on item donations or how to give financially through the Marine Corps League.  The League has promised to cover the postage for all items Dolfini collects.
Soldiers' Angels salutes Mark Dolfini for his continued service and his creative dedication!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Patriotic Fish

When Mrs. Wheeler, a First Grade teacher at Janesville Union told me she was having her kids make "Patriotic Fish" for the soldiers, I was pleased. Due to the chaos at the end of the school year I picked up the box of Patriotic Fish just last week. I wanted to send something special for Fourth Of July and hoped this project would be it. I pulled a fish from the box, I was completely astonished. The love and care each fish is constructed with is evident. Each one is uniquely different, with a message of caring and gratitude from the student who made the fish on the back. Messages include, "You are a special person. Thank you for being brave." "I love you" and "Thank you so much for being a soldier." Mrs. Wheeler even took the time to attach fishing line so the fish can be hung from a celling, or anything you could tie a Patriotic Fish to.
Knowing I get soldier's address from, Mrs. Wheeler asked if I knew where the fish would be sent. I told her I had just adopted a new soldier in Bagram from Soldier's Angel's and I thought this would be a great way for him and his fellow soldiers to celebrate Fourth Of July. Mrs. Wheeler agreed, and now we are just hoping that "milmail" will get the twenty Patriotic Fish to Bagram in time for Fourth Of July celebrations. 
I will admit, as a "grown up" it never occurred to me to make Patriotic Fish, but after seeing these fish it occurs to me, anything can be patriotic. All you need is a little imagination and love, something these students have in epic proportions. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ferrellgas Propane Gas Company shows it will Never Forget

Read in entirety to see how Ferrellgas Propane Gas Company not only made a large donation to the USO, but also how they are honoring the memory of Sgt Issac Jackson. 

USO of North Carolina receives local donation

By Sgt. Nicole Howell
40th PAD

 Photo by Sgt. Nicole Howell/40th PAD
Enoch Jackson sits behind the wheel of the bobtail truck that was dedicated in memory of his father, Sgt. Issac Jackson who was killed in action.

A national gas company with a local office in Fayetteville decided to give back to the local community by giving a significant monetary donation to the USO of North Carolina at Fort Bragg June 4. The donation is one way they are showing support to the armed forces.

Ferrellgas, a national propane gas company, donated $10,000 to the USO of North Carolina as a way to give back to the servicemembers for their dedication and sacrifice. Read More....

Thursday, June 17, 2010

California National Guardsmen get Honored

I doubt the majority of Californians could located Dixion on a map, but I grew up a stones throw from there. I hope the Dixion community, along with surrounding communities understand the Silver Star with Valor is the THIRD highest medal one can be awarded in the Army and Staff Sergeant Emmett Spraktes of the California National Guard is the FIRST Californian to be awarded the Silver Star with Valor. It is also an honor for the two men from Napa and one man from Sacramento to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the operation. Every Californian should be proud.
For some reason I could not get the video to embed.... so PLEASE go check out the report here. It is worth it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Say Thanks This Fourth of July

The Fourth Of July is quickly approaching, which is a perfect opportunity to send some extra support to our deployed men and women. I am asking for your help. How can you help? There are two ways:

1. Head over to Xerox to participate in their "Lets Say Thanks" program. It takes 30 seconds to pick a card and a message. Xerox absorbs all of the cost of printing these wonderful child designed cards and postage to help ensure our men and women know we care. Here is the other great thing.... there is no limit. Everyone in your family can send as many as you take the time to fill out. Please pass this link to all of your friends and family for their participate too.

2. Write a note on a post card. I have been told by some they don't know what to write in a letter, so they choose not write. If this is the way you feel, please grab a post card writing a small note of encouragement, such as, "Thank you for your service" "God Bless you and your family." Remember, it's not the quantity of words that matter, its the heart felt sentiment.

My goal is to send at least 150 post cards before the Fourth Of July. If you live in Susanville, I will have post cards at the Warrior Wall in Subway, and in Elise's Barber Shop on Main Street. If you do not live in  my area please contact me here.  You can still help. Help me bring a smile to 150 deployed service members who are fighting for us.

Thank you for helping me, support our Armed Forces making sure NO Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman feels forgotten.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Red, White, And Blue

The first time I heard of Flag Day was back in Junior High when my English teacher made everyone enter in the Elks Lodge Flag Day essay contest. The topic was, "What does the Flag mean to you?" I don't remember what I wrote, I do remember printing it out on a dot matrix printer and thinking it was nothing special. The judges at the Elks thought differently however, I was awarded First place. It was the first and only time I ever received an award.

It came to my attention a few days ago that Flag Day is one of those holidays that not only escapes peoples attention, but relatively few are even aware of its significance. The teacher in me, the history buff with a compulsion to impart information on others, elected to write up some facts about Old Glory.

The biggest surprise I encountered is that the story of Besty Ross sewing the first flag is an urban legend. The tale, which originates from her grandson, didn't gain momentum until 100 years after Ross' own death. There are no documents to prove her grandson's claims, yet also no documents to disproved them either. Nevertheless, the story is presumed a myth.

On June 14, 1777 Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act discarding all evidence of British influence from the United States Colors. Since 1777, the Flag has been altered 26 times, the last time being when Hawaii joined the union. The Flag as we know it today consist of fifty white starts on a blue background and thirteen horizontal stripes; seven red, and six white. The stars represent all fifty states and the thirteen stripes the original thirteen colonies. Although there is no official endorsed meaning behind the colors red, white, and blue, Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress is accredited with saying, "Red is for hardness and valor, white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and Justice."

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued an official proclamation establishing June 14th as Flag Day. Thirty-three years later in 1949, Congress ratified the proclamation. Although Flag Day is not an official Federal holiday, and Pennsylvania is the only State to celebrate it as an official State holiday, there is Federal Law dealing with Official Flag etiquette.

The Official Flag etiquette, referred to as the "Flag Code" deals with a full range of topics. For example, when displayed outside, the Flag should be illuminated at all times, either by sunlight or lamp. The code also provides details on the proper way to handle, fold, and dispose of a flag when necessary. Most interestingly, it also prohibits the Flag to be used in any type of advertising. It also gives specific dates and events in which the flag should be flown at Full Staff and Half Mast.

The Flag should be flown at Full Staff on the following days; New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday, President's Day, (Formally Washington's Birthday) Inauguration Day, (held once every four years) Armed Forces Day, (May 3rd) Memorial Day, (Half Mast until noon) Flag Day, (June 14th) Independence Day, Labor Day, Constitution Day, (September 17th) Columbus Day, Navy Day, (October 27th) Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving Day.

The Flag is Flown at Half mast on the following day; Peace Officers Memorial Day, (held on the 3rd Saturday of May unless it falls on Armed Forces Day) Memorial Day, (until noon) Korean War Veteran's Day, (July 23rd, the remembrance of this day was reinstated in 2009) Patriot Day, (September 11th) Fire Prevention Week, (1st Sunday in October) and National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7th.)

In addition to designated days in which the Flag should be held at Half Mast, there are detailed guidelines of flag display following the deaths of certain national figures. As an example, the flag will be lowered to half mast following the death of the President, Vice President, or members of Congress.

For continued respect year-round, there are four cemeteries in which the Flag is held at half mast year round. They are the Post Cemetery at Mackina Island in Michigan, Punchbowl in Honolulu, Gettysburg National Cemetery, and Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The American Flag means many things to many different people. Without a doubt, the men and women who have fought for our country have a different relationship with our colors than those who have not. The American Flag is an international symbol of resolve in which we, the American public, should take immense pride, and show respect for Our Flag everyday.

My flag is flying.... is yours?

USA Flag Site
National Flag Day Foundation
The Holiday Spot-Flag Day This is a fantastic learning site for children, complete with images and crafts.
The US Flag Organization
Wikipedia- Flag of the United States
Wikipedia-Flag Day 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Flag Day

The American Flag is one of the most highly recognized symbols in the world. It is only fitting for it to have it’s own day of recognition, respect, and remembrance. June 14th is the day designated for Americans to make their annual pledge by standing tall, taking off their hats, covering their heart with their hand, and reciting these words:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

How long has it been since you pledged your allegiance to our great nation? 


Right before school was out, I became aware of a friend, who knew a female soldier, who survived an IED in Afghanistan and was recovering at Walter Reed. That same day a teacher asked me how "the soldiers are doing?" I mentioned the female soldier, and how I wished I could do something to send her some support. That's how it got started. I spoke to the students in the classes I taught that day, all kindergardeners through third graders. I asked the students to raise their hands and tell me what made them feel better when they got hurt or sick. I got a variety of answers ranging from rainbows to video games. Then I explained there was a hurt soldier and perhaps if we drew some of the things that made us feel better, it might make her feel better too. Soon I had approximately 100 drawings and a few letters. Mrs. Bricker and Mrs. Ovitz, both Third grade teachers had their students go a little farther by decorating stars to send.

My thoughts have mostly been with the female soldier and her family. It hadn't occurred to me what the students would learn from making these cards, until the very last day of school. I had a kindergardener walk up to me and say, "I remember you. You taught me how to make people feel better by drawing pictures for them." That priceless moment is one of the BEST moments of my teaching experience so far.
I tell people, if you really want to change something, then start with the children. In the battle of apathy in America today, there are several students at Janesville Union who I believe will turn the tide for the better.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Child Who Battles "Empathy Fatigue"

I do not know Addi, but understand her. I know she is growing into an amazing young woman who can truly accomplish anything she wishes. For those of you in the Armed Forces who thinks no one cares, this is a must read.
H/T Allie
GEORGETOWN, KY. • On Christmas Day somewhere inAfghanistan, a Navy fireman named Greg put on his “magic Santa hat” and, as directed, handed out cards to 300 of his fellow troops.
All because of 10-year-old Addi Fletcher.
Greg is one of hundreds of active-duty military whom the Georgetown girl refers to as “my soldier friends,” and every week for the past four years, she has written a letter to at least one service member in Iraq or Afghanistan. She has sent care packages at least twice a month. And, at one point, she decided she had to adopt 100 members of the military.
“What’s neat about Addi is her dedication,” said Patti Patton-Bader, who founded the nonprofit Soldiers’ Angels program that matches Addi with her pen pals. “She just put her nose to the grindstone and really got it.” Read More....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Lifetime Of Honor

Teachers, much like doctors, are expected to know all the answers. We're teachers, right? But as a teacher, I will be the first person to tell you that I do not know everything. At times, ashamed of my ignorance, I wonder, "why was I never taught about that?"
This sensation was repeated just last night when I received a forwarded email detailing the Tomb Of The Unknown Solider and the Old Guard. The teacher in me had to confirm if the information in the email was correct. After a little bit of research I found some of the email's "information" to be true and some rumor.  Regardless, the true meaning of the Tomb and the story of the Soldiers who guard it is worth knowing.  I have decided to share it here because I want to show the unaware (like myself merely a day ago) the critical emphasis the United States puts on honoring its fallen warriors, even if their identities remain forever unknown.
The Tomb Of The Unknown Solider is located in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. On March 4 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unknown Soldier in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater.  On Memorial Day 1921, four unknown American Soldiers from WWI were exhumed in France.  On October 24th of that same year, Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger (who was wounded in combat, highly-decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal) placed a spray of white roses on the casket of the chosen unknown Solider who would be interned at the Tomb of the Unknown. On Armistice Day (later renamed Veteran’s Day), November 11, 1921 President Warren G. Harding officiated the ceremonies of the Unknown Soldier.  
On August 3rd 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill to select and honor unknown Soldiers from WWII and Korea. The WWII solider was chosen by Navy Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, then the Navy's only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient. Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle had the distinguished honor of choosing the Unknown Soldier from the Korean War. On Memorial Day 1958 President Eisenhower awarded each soldier the Medal of Honor before laying them in their final resting places.  
On May 17th 1984 at a ceremony held at Pearl Harbor, Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. chose the Unknown Soldier from Vietnam. The Unknown Soldier arrived in California where he began his journey across the country to the Nation’s Capitol where President Ronald Regan and Mrs. Regan were among the many visitors to pay their respects in the Capitol. On Memorial Day 1984, the Unknown Soldier of Vietnam was carried on an Army caisson through the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery.  There, President Regan presided over the ceremony awarding the Medal Of Honor to the Unknown Soldier, standing in as the Soldier’s next of kin, and accepting the interment flag at the end of the ceremony.  
Due to scientific advancement the remains of the Vietnam Unknown Soldier were exhumed and identified through DNA testing in May of 1998. The solider was identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided to leave the Vietnam tomb vacant.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents the respect and gratitude of a Nation.  A declaration to never forget anyone, even those whose names, locations, and final resting spots are unknown. It is a place for family members and friends to help find closure and solace.  
Another component of the respect of a grateful nation is the Old Guard. The Old Guard is also known as the 3rd US Infantry, the oldest active duty infantry unit in the Army. The 3rd US Infantry has been serving Our Nation since 1784.  The Old Guard is the official ceremonial unit presiding over all military ceremonies connected with the Arlington National Cemetery and the President of the United States, in addition to providing security during an emergency or civil disturbance.  
One of the positions the Old Guard holds at Arlington National Cemetery is that of Sentinel of the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.  Members of the Old Guard who become Sentinels are hand picked volunteers who are arduously tested through different phases for more than nine months before granted the honor of wearing the permanent silver badge of an Old Guard Sentinel. There have been over 500 Sentinels, three of which were women, who have guarded the Tomb since 1926. In July 1937, the order went from daylight to a full twenty-four hour guard.  
Lets put that into perspective, for nearly the last 73 years, or more than 26,600 days (at the time of this writing), there has been a Sentinel guarding; honoring the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in the heat of summer, rain of hurricanes, deep snow of winter for twenty-four hours without interruption.   

The Sentinel's mission is to keep the highest standards and traditions of the Nation while keeping a constant vigil, while preventing any disrespect or desecration towards the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Yet their presence is not the only sign of honor and dedication they exhibit. The Sentinel’s take exactly twenty-one steps continuing to echo the twenty-one gun salute.  On the Sentinel’s 21st step, he or she turns towards the Tomb to pay respects for twenty-one seconds.  After this, the Sentinel turns “down the mat” as it is called, changing the rifle to his or her outside shoulder, and waiting another twenty-one seconds before taking the twenty-one steps to repeat the process.  
Every single aspect of the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier shows honor, tradition, and respect. I have never been to the East Coast, but when I do make the trip I plan on seeing what I can only imagine is a somber and beautiful tradition of honor. I hope to see you there. 

                     Arlington National Cemetery

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"I Remember"

I’m not really sure that I like hearing people thank me for my military service.  It always sounds strange, if nothing else.  What do you say when a stranger walks up to you and says, “thank you for fighting for my freedom?”  Do you say you’re welcome?  It seems silly.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of these remarks in the least.  People want to acknowledge veterans, which I certainly appreciate, but there has to be a better way to do it.  Saying, “thank you for my freedom” is clunky, however genuine, and my response, a hesitant, “you’re welcome” seems equally out-of-place.  Thankful for what?  That you have no idea?

There are things that should be better known about veterans.  Frankly, I don’t think I’ve heard anybody talk about them before, which could be part of the problem.  First, while we all enjoy hearing somebody acknowledge our service, part of us is thinking, “you have no idea what you’re thanking me for.”  Another part of us is somewhat embarrassed, since not one of us, when under fire, running for cover, or rushing to the aid of a fallen comrade is thinking about our country, patriotism, or freedom.  We’re thinking about the guys next to us or the guy on the ground and praying to God that they all live to come home.  We’re also praying for our own safety.

Yet another part of us feels that we don’t deserve the thanks, even though we enjoy it.  The ones who deserve it never lived long enough to hear it.  You may say, “thank you,” but we’re thinking “no, thank THEM – even though they can’t hear you now.”  You thank us, but in our heart of hearts, not one of us – the living – believe we’ve done nearly enough.

We deployed as cohesive units, dysfunctional little families sent out into strange places where we endured a myriad of attacks and lost some of our friends and comrades.  Though we all know that war invariably sends home fewer than arrived, we view the holes in the ranks with a degree of personal failure.  None of us did enough.

Then we get angry at people for being ignorant and trying to approach us with gratitude we don’t feel we deserve.  Some of us accuse you of being condescending, though I don’t think any of you are.  You just don’t know what else to say, and we don’t have a clue what to say in return.  Point at some graves and say “thank them?”  It seems disrespectful – not only to you, but also to the many we’ve seen broken and fallen.

There are demons in all of us saying, “If you have all you limbs, you didn’t do enough.  If you had bullets left, you didn’t shoot enough.  If you got out before the war was ended and won, you didn’t serve enough.  If you lived, you didn’t sacrifice enough, so you don’t deserve any thanks.”  Some people call it survivor’s guilt.  I just call it reality.  The veteran experience is one of intense pride but marred with equally intense grief.  We made it, but others did not, so we must not have given it our fullest.  “Thank you” is hard to hear, and harder still to answer.

How about saying this: “I remember.”  That solemn statement is enough.  We don’t expect you to fully understand what a war is like, which is fine.  We served so you don’t have to know – ever.  But we do want you to remember.  Remember that there are only two days in the year when veterans, both living and dead receive any unified recognition for their service and sacrifices.  Remember that if you put up a flag, you really shouldn’t take it down when the “holiday” is over.  Remember that there are thousands of families that feel the pang of a missing loved one every day; not just Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. 

Remember that there are men and women who did things and will never be the same.  Remember that there are generations of broken bodies and hearts who will forever be convinced that they should have done more.  Remember that the living veterans will never forget the faces of the dead – and wonder why some survived and others did not.  Remember that this country and the freedoms we all enjoy aren’t innate; they were purchased at high cost.  We didn’t purchase them, not really, but we fought alongside those who did.  And we remember them more than anybody.  They’ll haunt us until we join them…

Copyright © 2010, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved

Give Back

In an effort to make it easier for people to give back and show their gratitude to the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces, Subway on Main St. Susanville has handed over 8 feet of wall space; which we have covered in paper for proud and grateful Americans to show their appreciation to our service members. Elise's Barber Shop, also located on Main St., is accepting letters, artwork, and donations for postage. If you would like to help, have an idea to support Words For Warriors outreach to our service members, or would like to make a donation for postage, but do not live in the area, please contact me here.