Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pentagon Lifts Media Ban on Coffin Photos

About an hour ago MSNBC reported that the Pentagon has lifted the media ban on coffin photos of our fallen military members. I will not restate on how I feel - I've already done that in a prior post.

Apparently, the families will now be allowed to decide if the media can photograph their loved one's homecomings.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the announcement today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Country Superstars to Play on European Bases

Ah, I love it when musicians show love to military members and their families. Especially when those members are overseas. I remember seeing countless Tops In Blue shows growing up and it was a night I always looked forward to - and the stars were all military personnel who never landed on the Billboard charts.

Today I learned that a favorite group of mine (besides Tops In Blue) will be heading to Europe next month and is taking time to stop at few military bases!

Sugarland (Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush) is a hot item in the country music arena and we've seen them on every awards show in the last few years - performing, attending due to nominations and even taking home a few sweet awards. They just won a Grammy! In the last two years they've seemingly exploded onto the scene and the fan base has swelled.

So to all those stationed in Europe, here's a listing of where they're stopping:

March 6 - Aviano Air Base, Italy (7pm)
March 7 - Naval Air Station Sigonella (9pm)
March 8 - Naval Support Activity Naples (7pm)
March 14 - Ramstein Air Base, Germany (7pm)

As always, the concerts on base are open to all military id card holders and are free. First come, first serve.

I hope that those concerts bring a big smile to all of the attendees faces. Being stationed overseas can make you physically ache for the U.S. and you guys so deserve a piece of home - even if it's in the form of a concert.

Special thanks to Sugarland for giving their time, talent and tunes to the military community stationed in Europe!!! The military community hearts you and "all they want to do-ooo-ooo-oo" is listen to YOU! ;)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Navy Seeks Home for 2 Secret Vessels - Seriously. Want It?

So, the Navy has a pair of top secret vessels that it no longer wants to keep . . . but wants someone else to put it on display. Is that someone you?

In today's WSJ, an article appeared on the front page by Barry Newman that talked about the vessels.

Here are the lines that made me smile . . .

"One is called Sea Shadow. It's big, black and looks like a cross between a Stealth fighter and a Batmobile. It was made to escape detection on the open sea. The other is known as the Hughes (as in Howard Hughes) Mining Barge. It looks like a floating field house, with an arching roof and a door that is 76 feet wide and 72 feet high. Sea Shadow berths inside the barge, which keeps it safely hidden from spy satellites. The barge, by the way, is the only fully submersible dry dock ever built, making it very handy -- as it was 35 years ago -- for trying to raise a sunken nuclear-armed Soviet submarine."

Stealth fighter and a Batmobile. Nice. I love the way that Newman wrote this piece. I wonder if the Navy gave him the description or if he came up with it on his own.

For the record, if I had space in my front yard, I'd totally bring these bad boys home. And take good care of them of course. I wonder who will end up with them? Whoever does, I'd pay to tour them!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Farmer of Dead South Korean Rabbits Wants Money from USAF

Okay, it's Friday and for that I am very happy, but the topic of the post is in fact REAL. This story so warrants a Friday afternoon.

In the Pacific edition of Saturday's Stars and Stripes an article titled, Korean farmer: Jet noise killed 100,000 rabbits, will appear. I kid. You. Not.

For the record, I've been to South Korea plenty of times. But I've never seen a rabbit. Ever.

The article states that "thousands of bunnies in Kunsan have literally been scared to death by aircraft noise, according to rabbit farmer Lee Ho-kyung."

And for his losses this farmer wants to get paid. By the USAF. Here's the deal - he's had a 17 year run of raising rabbits and his farm is very close to the 8th Fighter Wing's runway. (It should be noted that South Korea’s 38th Fighter Group also shares this runway.) And in those 17 years, according to him, he's lost 100,000.

He's quoted in the article saying that the "infertility rates are up 30 percent" among his rabbits and that the "mother rabbits kill and eat their babies right after the babies are born because of the piercing noises from U.S. aircrafts."

Lee has filed a compliant and requested 250,000,000 Korean won (about $170,000) to cover the cost of relocating his farm.

I can only say one thing. Wow. That's it. Oh, and this is crazy! Just thought I'd bring some entertaining reading your way to help brighten your Friday. For the military folks handling this case, I'm quite sorry. While I know that keeping a positive relationship with our host nations is of the utmost importance, this case seems a little far fetched to me. Show me the study on how US aircraft jet noise causes bunnies to eat their babies and then I'll take you seriously.

**Disclaimer: for the record, I like bunnies and want them to be healthy. . . not eaten by their mamas**

OH, and on a final note don't forget to tune in tomorrow for Taking Chance - HBO's nod to military escort duty. Unfortunately, I will not be home to watch it but can't wait to hear what you think! Happy Weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

17,000 Additional Troops to Head to Afghanistan

If there's one thing I've heard often recently, it has been that critics have deemed Afghanistan as "Obama's war." That statement rang loud and clear this week.

Yesterday Army Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, let his thoughts be known about the military efforts in southern Afghanistan and warned that the 17,000 new troops that will be deplying to the region(Army and Marine forces) will "take on emboldened Taliban insurgents who have 'stalemated' U.S. and allied forces."

These comments come on the wake of President Barack Obama's approval (announced Tuesday) to have additional troops begin deploying this spring.

McKiernan also said that the new and elevated troop level of 55,000 soldiers many be in for a long haul - five years to be exact - and that that number is around only two-thirds what he's requested to help him get a handle on the region.

To hear what McKienan had to say during his press conference at the Pentagon click here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Military Pen Pals Are the BEST

To know me is to know that I love the Today Show. Seriously, I do.

This morning, as I pulled up the home page something made me smile. There was a Marine, with the caption "I love you too buddy."

I've placed the segment below for you to watch. It's about a little boy who had some trouble mastering reading and writing. His mom was looking for a creative way to encourage him and decided to work with the Adopt a US Soldier organization. Her son was assigned Marine pen pal Gy Sgt Balthazar Pineda who is currently in Iraq.

Their correspondence has made a true difference in this little boys life and the Today Show brought the mother and son on live today to share their story. The family explained how they have never met Pineda. He is still in Iraq and hopes to return home in a few months. He promised the family that they could meet when he returns.

Well in true Today Show fashion, the family got a fantastic surprise today. Pineda was patched in live from Iraq and the pen pals were able to meet for the first time via satellite.

It was a great moment. The boy was in complete shock. All he could say was how much he loved Pineda. Pineda responded, "I love you too buddy." :)

I think it's evident that the pen pal arrangement has also made a difference in Pineda's life as well. He has his own family and his own daughters, but I think that he saw the opportunity to make an impact in this little boy's life, and that makes him proud.

My favorite part of the segment - well besides the actual meeting, had to be the video of the school children creating care packages to send to our men and women in Iraq. That made my heart smile. If you'd like to help send some good cheer and support to our troops in Iraq visit the Adopt a US Soldier website, the Treats for Our Troops website, or visit a personal favorite of mine - the USO.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Military Escort Service - Sound Off - To Be Seen or Not To Be Seen?

Yesterday I talked about a new HBO film that provides a glimpse into the world of the military escort process. I thought the timing of the film is almost perfect - as the new vice president has a very specific opinion on the transparency of the military escort process.

As I mentioned before, the process is not something that is typically discussed or seen by the civilian world. Our new VP feels that this is something that needs to change and that our nation should see, in many reporter's words, "the true cost of war."

As a military brat, I have unique feelings about this. If, heaven forbid, the situation ever happened to me, I would not want the world to be witness to it. It's a process that should be for the family only. For instance, no other deaths (besides presidents, celebrities, etc) get showcased for the world to see. I would feel that it would be such an invasion of privacy and I would be angry that my loved one, after giving the ultimate sacrifice to their country, could be exploited by the media. I'm sorry, but that is how I feel.

In addition, someone I love very dearly has had intense experiences with these situations. One of my best friends used to work for the USO in Dover, DE. Not only was she responsible for sending troops over to the land of sand, but she was also responsible for being there to assist the families when they came home in flag draped coffins. Time and time again, I remember how she told me she felt. How the family would react. How her heart felt like it would shatter into a million pieces every time. She was so strong, for those families, in their darkest hour. And she did it out of respect, but after many years it took a toll on who she was and had to move on. I will forever admire her for her dedication to the nation and the military service. I would never be strong enough to do that. Ever.

So maybe you can see how this is not something I think that should be put on display for all of America. Burials in Arlington aren't. And it's not like our nation doesn't know - - - soldiers names are splashed across every major newspaper when this goes down. You can't seem to turn on the news or read anything in print that doesn't have that cold headline that rocks you to your core. Some things should be private.

And overall, I think about the military families whose loved ones are currently deployed. The military families that are waiting for them to come home. Who have a yellow ribbon tied around their heart. Bearing witness to their husbands/wives/fathers/daughters/sons/etc comrades would take a toll on their spirits. Aren't their families sacrificing enough already?

Your turn to sound off - what's your stance? How do you think you'd feel if the media starts covering these situations? Do you feel that its something your entitled to see? Why?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

HBO Movie "Taking Chance"

Yesterday, Chris Matthews (Hardball) spent some time shining the spotlight on an upcoming HBO film called Taking Chance. The piece is based on a true story about two Marines - one who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq (19-year-old Lance Corporal Chance Phelps) and another who escorted him home (Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl).

As many of you know, military escort duty is not something people talk about, and not something that the civilian community is exposed to or really knows much about. (If you watched the presidental press conference last night, this topic is something you just heard about. I plan to address this topic tomorrow and can't wait to hear your thoughts.)

In this story, Lt Col Strobl requested that he be assigned for military escort duty. During the journey, Strobl witnessed such an amazing amount of support and respect for Phelps, that he was motivated to capture it all in his journal. His story then became huge on the Internet and within the military community. It eventually reached the mainstream civilian media and has now become an HBO film starring Kevin Bacon as Lt. Col Strobl.

Matthews' interview with Kevin Bacon and the real Lt. Col Strobl was interesting. He first thanked Strobl for his service, which I was glad to see. But he quickly turned his focus to Bacon, which I was not a fan of. However, when asked on how Bacon felt about making the film, his response made me respect him. He said that he felt grateful to learn about such a respectful process, and very proud to be able to help tell the story. Most importantly, he said that while so many people thanked him for doing this film and for shedding light on the escort process, that he didn't feel right accepting the thanks. After all, he's just an actor. Here's the interview:

I'm so glad that I got to see this, and find out about the film.It premieres on Saturday, February 21, at 8PM. There's also a Facebook page for the film that has almost 3,000 fans.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How Families Feel When Dads Deploy

Yesterday I talked about my Dad and a possible deployment. I mentioned that I was happy that he wasn't going away in a few months; happy that he'd be home. But I also mentioned that I felt guilty for feeling that way. One, because he wanted to go and still wants to go. Two, because so many other military families have Dads and Moms deployed. Today I feel even more guilty.

I'm a big fan of the blog Big Blueberry Eyes. I've been a reader for more than a year and a half now. The family behind the blog is phenomenal. When I started reading, the military Dad in the family was deployed. I've continued to read - the Dad came home, a new baby was born, the family PCSed. And then today I read that Big Blueberry Eyes' Dad left again. For a year.

You should read the post about the family's goodbye. It made me cry - maybe because I know all too well what the family's little ones are going through. What Mom is going through, after all I've seen my Mom do it before.

The Mom behind this blog is incredible. Incredibly brave. Incredibly strong. So positive when it seems like she has more reasons not to be. I'm a huge fan of her strength, her outlook on life, her warm and loving heart. She loves being a military wife and stands proudly next to her husband. Today I send her warm wishes, positive thoughts and hugs. Best of luck to Big Blueberry Eyes' family over the next year. Let the countdown begin.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Topics In My Head: I Miss My Dad. Oh, and a C-130 Donation

I know that most of my posts are a mix of military news or topics with a personal twist but sometimes I can't help but write something very personal. Today I planned to tell you about the 86th Airlift Wing (Ramstein Air Base, Germany) and their upcoming donation of C-130s to our allies in Poland. I was going to talk about how I love to ride in C-130s and how cool I thought the donation was. But I can't seem to write about it. All I want to write about is how much I miss my Dad.

For the record, I miss my Mom and my entire family. But this week, for some reason, I really specifically miss my Dad. I don't have a reason why, I just do. Truth is that until last week there was a possibility that my father might have a new position that would have him go on a deployment fairly soon. When the decision came and we were told that he wasn't going to be going away I was happy, but he wasn't.

I feel that it's times like these where I miss my Dad the most. When I was talking to him on Sunday, I mentioned that I missed him. He smiled (we video conference) and asked if there was any reason in particular. I said "um, because I just do." I guess that I am realizing the reason why as I type this post.

I feel lucky to have him home, and if the decision had gone the other way I would be just coming to the terms of his upcoming deployment. And this Sunday, I didn't have to do that. I could just talk to him about the every day things. About the cruise he's taking with my Mom and the new clothes he brought for the special occasion. Not about if he knows when and where he's deploying to.

I know, that as I'm saying this that it is such a selfish thing for a military brat to say. After all, so many other Moms and Dads are deployed throughout the world. But my Dad's been in for more than 20 years and I don't want to feel guilty about doing a mini-dance of happiness because I'm happy that he's not going away again. But maybe I should. He wanted to go, and in the end, us military brats know that what they want is the best thing and we must be okay with that as part of the family.

On his way home from work yesterday my Dad called me to say hi. I think he's done that maybe once or twice before in my entire adult life. (He really doesn't like talking on the phone and we usually just talk on Sundays) I missed his call and when I listened to his message I smiled one huge smile. He called to say hi. It's a big deal for me. An even bigger one, because he never gets to do that when he's deployed. My word of the day is GRATEFUL. That I am. GRATEFUL.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Last Nite I Felt the Earth Shake

Hello and Happy Tuesday! Today I'm going to blog about something I never thought I'd blog about - - - an earthquake that happened in NJ last night.

Scenario: It's around 10:30pm and I'm chatting on the phone with my BFF from Japan, Amanda (who now lives in PA). I'm sitting on my bed in the master bedroom of my house. Dan is also talking to one of his BFFs, but is sitting on the couch in the living room. There we both are, chatting chatting. Then it started. I heard the sneaky rumble that I had heard so many times before and then the ground began to shake.

The quake was less than 7 seconds and the funniest thing is that even though I knew what was happening, I didn't even worry. You see, after three years of living in Tokyo, this girl is used to earthquakes. This girl is used to falling over and/or out of her bed. This girl is used to seeing the ground roll. By the way, none of which happened last night.

But I knew what it was and when it was over, Dan came running into the bedroom, eyes wide open, exclaiming "what the hell was that?!" I looked at him and calmly said, "I think that was an earthquake," as if I said that sentence to him every day of my life. He was like, "seriously?"

I guess that because of my prior experiences I wasn't scared at all. (for the record I was terrified when I experienced my first one in Japan; but towards the end of our tour they were so common place that my best friend and I would get so excited and run towards a window when they happened just to see the ground roll outside) I was shocked though - I didn't even think we could have one here in NJ. In reflection, I'm also shocked that I didn't do more besides telling Dan not to move for two minutes after because I was unsure if we'd experience any aftershock tremors.

I've been through the earthquake training drills. Not once did I think, maybe I should stand under the door way. Nope, just sat on my bed because I knew that it wasn't going to be that bad. It's weird for me to say that - they all start small and then I feel like I can tell by the sound if it's actually going to get worse.

I tweeted (@MACK_ATTACK) about the quake shortly after it happened - in disbelief wondering if it had just happened to my house, and not my area. Did I make it up? Nope, I was so right and the news confirmed it shortly there after.

They said that apparently we can get them all the time here. Great, I thought. I survived living in Tokyo and now I live on a giant hill in NJ that gets earthquakes. Now that surprises me. Maybe next time I won't be so passe about it.

Did any of you feel it?

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Sesame Workshop for Military Families April 1st

A few days ago the American Forces Press Service announced that the Sesame Workshop is airing a new special on April 1st that is aimed at helping military families cope with changes.

The AFPS reported that, "Actor/singer Queen Latifah and singer John Mayer will join Elmo to present, 'Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change.' The special carries a message for children whose parents suffered a physical or psychological wound in combat."

The show will be about a half an hour and is part of Sesame Workshop's "Talk, Listen and Connect" program that I have blogged about before. I'm a huge fan of everything that the workshop does, but I must say that their efforts geared towards military brats are by far my favorites.

For this special, Lookalike Products and Worldwide Pants Incorp. helped with the production. Worldwide Pants is actually David Letterman's production company and the late night talk show legend had some wonderful things to say about the military.

"The men and women of our military have made indescribable sacrifices," Mr. Letterman said. "The very least we can do is tell their stories, and to honor the bravery and strength of both the soldiers and their families."

Showtime is 8pm on April 1st - perfect timing if you ask me, as April is the month dedicated to honoring the military child. I'll be tuning in, and even though I have yet to see it, I just want to send out a big THANK YOU to the Sesame Workshop and all involved in the production.

Troops Watch SuperBowl From Iraq

The following video is from the Today Show and shows well deserved troops at Camp Victory in Baghdad watching the big game. A special thanks to all of our troops in the land of sand - thanks for all you do. I hope that yesterday's festivites made you feel a little closer to home.