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     So I figured after a 4 week hiatus I should probably get off my rear and get back to writing on occasion.  In all actuality we have been pretty busy the past month which for me at least made the last half of June and the first half of this month pass by fairly quickly.  In addition to flying the OIC duties have been keeping me busy with evaluations and recommendation for awards and such. 

     We swapped out two flyers at the beginning of the month and they were replaced by two new flyers from the AE squadron here in Ramstein.  After a month of fairly easy sailing I finally have a problem child who to be blunt is a huge pain in my ass.  I wouldn’t mind so much but he is a Captain as well and after the Chief Nurse refused to reassign him due to him leaving in two weeks we had a “little” closed door discussion. So far so good but time will tell.

     Our flight schedule has been quite hectic which also helped pass the time. In the last month and half we have flown 13 missions which is just over two missions a week.  It may not sound too bad however when you consider those are two 24 hours days per week and then you add in the time that we spend in “stand-by” alert, the time starts to add up. 

     We were blessed with a 3 day break this past weekend in Jackson Mississippi.  For once I was actually glad Amanda and Cam didn’t attempt to make the trip down to D.C. as we were only there for 3 hours and then flew onto San Antonio and then to Jackson.  We had the opportunity with fly with a film crew from CNN and I was interviewed by Barbra Starr, the Pentagon Correspondent.  The crew was documenting the increased number of casualties coming out of the Afghanistan Theater of Operations after the recent troop surge. They actually got a good taste of what we do on a daily basis. 

     Barbara and the camera crew flew from Ramstein to Bagram on Thursday afternoon, returned to Ramstein Friday morning and then jumped on our mission Friday afternoon back to the States.  We had a fairly large patient load leaving Germany and she was very impressed by how busy we were during the 9 hour flight.  Unfortunately I was the Medical Crew Director on the flight and even though I thought I had escaped the inevitable interview with about an hour left in our mission and Boston out the right side window I was asked to say a few words. 

     I was surprised by how laid back she was and the 5 minutes seemed to pass very quickly.  Hopefully this won’t be a repeat of the “courage under fire” crap that idiot from Fox 61 pulled when he flew with us a few years ago.  Regardless the interview should be a 3 part documentary and should start airing the last week of July or the first week of August. 

     The World Cup also provided numerous opportunities to pass some of the time.  For all but one of the Germany matches we met our friend Axel in the small town of Bissersshiem and watch the game with the local volunteer fire department.  With plenty of beer on tap, a fire truck and Jaggermeister (which is awful by the way) there was always a good time to had by all.  It was disappointing when the German national team lost in the semi-finals as I think it would have been pretty cool to be present in a country that won a World Cup. 

     During the 3rd place match we were all given polo shirts from the fire department as a token of friendship and we passed along some of our unit patches which they promptly put on display in the “social” area of the department (aka bar).  Kevin was graciously given a signed fire helmet from the department that they asked be placed in the firehouse he works at and I was given a signed, Germany World Cup Burger King crown to add to my in-flight kit.  I am sure anyone who has ever flown with me can’t wait to see the new addition. 

     Next Thursday night the fire department wants to celebrate Kevin and I going home so they invited us to what they call an after-work party.  Only in Germany would they celebrate getting out of work by throwing a party, and on a Thursday night even.  Anything for a gathering I guess but if it is fun perhaps I will bring the tradition back to the States.  I do think Kevin is in for a big surprise however.  During a previous visit he half-heartedly invited the guys the firehouse over to visit Boston whenever they wanted.  According to Axel that will be early next spring and 6 of them are already making plans and may have already reserved the time off.  I may have to take a road trip to Boston just to watch this event.

     Well that is all for this next to last installment.  Today after we get back to Ramstein I hope to go to the travel office and reserve my ticket home.  Looks like August 6th will be the big day.  My replacement gets in on July 31st however we have a scheduled mission right around that time and there is a very good chance I will have to fly even though he is present. 

     Replacement, now that sure is a great word.  Let’s say it again, replacement :-).  As normal, pray for world peace, the safety of our troops

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On Dr. Charles Stanley’s Sunday program “In Touch”, the guest speaker was more of a historian than a Biblical speaker, but he is very famous for his knowledge of historical facts as well as Biblical truths.

Dr. David Barton is his name. He is an expert on the subject of whether or not the United States was founded as a Christian Nation.

Dr. David Barton – on Obama

“Respect the Office?  Yes.  Respect the Man in the Office? No, I am sorry to say.

I have noted that many elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, called upon America to unite behind Obama.

Well, I want to make it clear to all who will listen that I AM NOT uniting behind Obama!

I will respect the Office which he holds, and I will acknowledge his abilities as an orator and wordsmith and pray for him, BUT that is it.

I have begun today to see what I can do to make sure that he is a one-term President!

Why am I doing this?  It is because:

   – I do not share Obama’s vision or value system for America ;

   – I do not share his Abortion beliefs;

   – I do not share his radical Marxist’s concept of re-distributing wealth;

   – I do not share his stated views on raising taxes on those who make $150,000+  (the ceiling has been changed three times since August);

   – I do not share his view that America is Arrogant;

   – I do not share his view that America is not a Christian Nation;

   – I do not share his view that the military should be reduced by 25%;

   – I do not share his view of amnesty and giving more to illegals than our American Citizens who need help;

   – I do not share his views on homosexuality and his definition of marriage;

   – I do not share his views that Radical Islam is our friend and Israel is our enemy who should give up any land;

   – I do not share his spiritual beliefs (at least the ones he has made public);

   – I do not share his beliefs on how to re-work the healthcare system in America ;

   – I do not share his Strategic views of the Middle East ; and

   – I certainly do not share his plan to sit down with terrorist regimes such as Iran .

Bottom line: my America is vastly different from Obama’s, and I have a higher obligation to my Country and my GOD to do what is Right!

For eight (8) years, the Liberals in our Society, led by numerous entertainers who would have no platform and no real credibility but for their celebrity status, have attacked President Bush, his family, and his spiritual beliefs! They have not moved toward the center in their beliefs and their philosophies, and they never came together nor compromised their personal beliefs for the betterment of our Country!

They have portrayed my America as a land where everything is tolerated except being intolerant!

They have been a vocal and irreverent minority for years!

They have mocked and attacked the very core values so important to the founding and growth of our Country!

They have made every effort to remove the name of GOD or Jesus Christ from our Society!

They have challenged capital punishment, the right to bear firearms, and the most basic principles of our criminal code!

They have attacked one of the most fundamental of all Freedoms, the right of free speech!

Unite behind Obama? Never ! ! !

I am sure many of you who read this think that I am going overboard, but I refuse to retreat one more inch in favor of those whom I believe are the embodiment of Evil!

PRESIDENT BUSH made many mistakes during his Presidency, and I am not sure how history will judge him. However, I believe that he weighed his decisions in light of the long established Judeo-Christian principles of our Founding Fathers!!!

Majority rules in America , and I will honor the concept; however, I will fight with all of my power to be a voice in opposition to Obama and his “goals for America .”

I am going to be a thorn in the side of those who, if left unchecked, will destroy our Country! ! Any more compromise is more defeat!

I pray that the results of this election will wake up many who have sat on the sidelines and allowed the Socialist-Marxist anti-GOD crowd to slowly change so much of what has been good in America !

“Error of Opinion may be tolerated where Reason is left free to combat it.”
– Thomas Jefferson

GOD bless you and GOD bless our Country ! ! !”

If we ever forget that we’re one nation under GOD, then we will be a nation gone under.” – Ronald Reagan

I WANT THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE BACK….. In GOD We Trust ! !   PLEASE SHARE – Be ready to vote in the Nov. 2, 2010 ELECTIONS

Hard to believe we are already down to a little over 5 weeks.  I am sure Amanda wouldn’t agree but for me the time has gone by fairly quickly. 

I took charge of the crew two weeks ago after Dave left.  With two LT’s and two Staff Sergeants and below we are by far are the most junior crew here at Ramstein.  Two of our crewmembers deployed across the runway from the Ramstein AE squadron and are here for only a month.  Nice for them however unfortunately for us it means another change out here in a couple of weeks. All in all they are good flyers, eager to learn and the experience will come with time. 

Our first mission was a nightmarish 28 hour day with a plane loaded almost to the maximum capability.  On the trip down to Bagram we were loaded with Cargo and had another 4 crews returning with us.  Normally we try to sleep on the way down however with very limited room it was difficult to say the least and with so many people on board it was anything but quiet. 

Once we arrived in Bagram we were notified our load would have 24 litter patients and 24 ambulatory.  Unloading the cargo took over an hour and setting up took just as long.  Loading all of those patients went as smooth as it could.  We usually have large loads like this when we fly back to the States but I haven’t seen anything like this since Iraq was in full speed. 

Unfortunately for us after we were loaded and closed up one of the engines wouldn’t start.  I felt my heart sink.  Just as we were considering off-loading all of the patients and finding a place to sleep due to our crew duty day the plane was fixed and we took off.  The 7 hour trip back to Germany was uneventful however I was more than ready for a quick shower and a nap by the time I got back to my room.

The 3 weeks prior that had been busy for our crew so it was a nice surprise to have two days off in a row.  Well of course something always happens so it was nice to have one day off after everything was sorted out. 

Axel, one of our friends for the past many years who works at one of the vineyards that we frequent invited us to join him for the Germany World Cup opener.  He lives in GroBkarlbach which is about 40 minutes east of Ramstein.  It is small village of about 500 people and I was amazed that the house he lives in was built in 1580.  While obviously it has been renovated and modernized I was awed in how good of condition it has remained in over the past 430 years. 

After meeting his girlfriend and visiting for a few hours we walked 2 Km to the nearby village of Bissersheim where the village volunteer fire department was having a fund raiser Barbeque complete with a beer tent.  This village as well only has 500 residents so I was surprised when there were at least 200 people in the town square for the match which was being broadcast on a large screen T.V.  Germany won the match 4-0 much to the liking of the locals. 

We decided to grab one more beverage for the walk back and that is where things took a turn for the worse.  It was then when the firefighters running the beer tent found out that Kevin is a firefighter from Boston.  After a few t-shirts were swapped and much more beer was served we finally left some 4 hours after the end of the match.  Have to love firefighters. 

Unfortunately we flew during the next game since the vineyard Axel works at, Weingut Knipser was hosting a private party to which we were invited.  Maybe it is a good thing we flew.  The fire department did enjoy it so much that they did ask Axel if we could come back tomorrow night for the game.  Only in the name international diplomacy we will attend.  I wouldn’t want to ruin any American-Germany relations.
 
Well that is it for now.  We are on the front end of a Balad mission and I hope to send this off in the morning.  Happy 4th Anniversary to my wonderful wife.  Staying home with an almost 2 year old, a German Sheppard and moving into a new home, she is the true hero.  Talk to you all soon.  Chris.

For being deployed this past week has been a good one.  We were scheduled to fly on Memorial Day however that mission was scrapped after we were alerted and unfortunately were released too late to do anything that day.  In its place we flew a mission down to Bagram on Wednesday. 

Upon our arrival we were greeted by the majority of our Westover contingent including much to our surprise some of the day shift.  We had a longer than normal ground time and they were gracious enough to take us to the nearby chow hall.  I am amazed how much things have changed since 2004 when I was stationed there. 

On our way to chow hall we walked by our old C-Hut where Paul and I lived for a long 5 month deployment at that time.  The paint on the wood has long since faded and the plywood building is really starting to show its age.   I still don’t miss it.  No surprise the chow hall in a deployed warzone is better than the one in Ramstein and after a very good but quick meal with friends we loaded up the plane and headed back to Germany.

     After a short 24 hours on the ground at Ramstein we were back in the air, this time to Andrews down in D.C.  Prior to taking off I was surprised to come across an old Hartford Hospital acquaintance.  As one of the patient buses pulled up to the tail of the aircraft Col Robert Gross, one of our previous Trauma Surgeons who has since moved on to Bay State walked out.  I have seen him on a few occasions when we drop patients off at Bay State and I knew he was in the military however you never expect to cross paths.  After a brief catching up we loaded up the plane and were back in the air once again.  

 The Ramstein to Andrews run has been one of my personal favorites.  Even though one of the longest flights sometimes exceeding 10 hours it is a big step home for the patients that we transport.  All are being moved on to care that they need and you can see the relief of most once we are back on good old U.S. soil.  After flying 22 of the previous 48 hours I was relieved myself. 

     Unfortunately with Amanda closing on our new house next week it was a little too close for her to load up Cam and come down for another visit which provided me with an opportunity to catch up with our Westover contingent deployed to Andrews.  Much to our surprise one our crews deployed to Travis AFB in CA was prepositioned for a mission the following day. 

It amazes me in two days I can see almost every deployed 439th AES person even though geographically separated by over 10,000 miles.  D.C. was a very hot and humid 90+ degrees when we landed.  A far cry from the low 70’s I have become accustomed to in Ramstein with barely any humidity.  After a very well needed shower a few of us went out for a quick dinner and I think I remember my head hitting the pillow but that very well may have been a dream.  After a day of lounging around, our recuperated crew boarded my favorite plane in the whole world, my beloved KC-135 for an 8 hour voyage back to Germany. 

     Our return to Germany was bitter sweet to say the least.  Through rotation and attrition I have become the new OIC of our crew.  In a career field with such a high number of Majors and LTC’s I never expected to assume that role but truly appreciate the trust and confidence of our leadership. 

With the current transition we lost 2 very good flyers and a bunch of experience.  Both flyers are from Pope (Active Duty) and much to my surprise were very down to earth, exceptional flyers and over the past two months have become good friends.  Dave will soon leave for Pope for a position at AMC Stan Eval and Joe will continue to search for an assignment closer to his Son who lives in Portsmouth NH.  I wish them both the best of luck. 

We met the new replacements on Monday morning during lunch.  They are both stationed here at Ramstein and are on a 30 day loan you could say.  We have another 1LT and TSgt.  The LT is new and has never flown down range and the TSgt hasn’t been downrange in some time. 

     As if I didn’t already miss home enough on Friday Amanda sold our house and closed on our dream home on the north side of town.  Just a little over a mile from where I grew up it will be a nice change and even though it is a little more out in the woods than most of the town it will be worth. 

Thanks to everyone who took the time to help Amanda and Cam on the big move.  I truly appreciate it.  The most enjoyable part is that the house is only 4 years old and that means no projects, well at least for a while.  I am sure I will come up with something as time goes on and I get board. 

That is it for this session.  I hope all is well as usual and will talk to you soon.  Chris.

Well we are finally approaching the half way point of this deployment. It is hard to believe I left Bradley 8 weeks ago today and I truly hope the 2nd half goes as quickly as the 1st half passed. 

We have a very busy week ahead of us with 3 missions scheduled totaling almost 46 hours of flight time alone.  By the 60 day mark we will have already accumulated over 140 flight hours and 12 missions.  Not bad considering that Operation Ash Tray I and II kept us grounded for almost two weeks combined and cost us at least 5 flights. 

Last week we a flew a mission to Kuwait, Balad and then back to Ramstein.  We were told we would be picking up a VIP in Balad and they weren’t joking.  Upon our arrival in Balad we picked up the Air Force Surgeon General, LTG Green.  A very nice individual and probably one of the most personable General Officers I have ever met.  He took time to talk to all of the patients on board and then took time to visit with every member of the crew one by one. 

I wish he had told me at the beginning  that he participated on the workgroup that decided to utilize the KC-135 (Refueler) for Air Evac mission before he asked me what I thought of the airframe.  I provided  my insights from my numerous operational missions and then he pulled the rug out from underneath me. 

Much to my surprise he appreciated the candid feedback and we continued to talk for another 15 minutes or so on the topic.  I was a little disappointed we didn’t get any coins however his Executive Officer took a picture with everyone but we are still waiting for them to be emailed. 

We are slated for another Andrews mission next weekend and it will be nice to get back to the States even if just for a day.   Unfortunately it comes a week before Amanda closes on the new house and it would be much too chaotic for her to try and pack Cam up again for another visit down to DC. 

It will be nice to see and catch up with our Westover folks deployed down there.  I know that I can’t wait to eat real  American food and would do anything to see a real TV commercial.  AFN (Armed Forces Network) is our only T.V. provider and they cannot show commercials and therefore make a very rude attempt to fill the normal commercial times with idiotic safety messages, public announcements and of course short peep talks from various individuals.  I think by this point I would prefer watching and listening to static than the same messages over and over and over again.  

I was notified yesterday that I will become the Officer in Charge of our crew next week after my colleague Dave heads home.  We are getting another Lieutenant for his replacement.  Through simple attrition Kevin is in charge of all of the enlisted and having a qualified leader and experienced flyer will make my job a whole lot easier. 

I was hoping that being a Captain would keep me under the radar but that plan sure didn’t work out all that well and with only a few Majors in-coming for the next rotation I could see the writing on the wall and wasn’t that surprised.  We were recently assigned two newer flyers and our new nurse is coming with limited experience.  Should keep us busy and on our toes.
    

That is all for this letter.  I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend.  Connecticut has had a tough year and perhaps the inscription on the base of the monument located at the American Cemetery in Normandy best sums it up.  “To those we owe the high resolve, that the cause for which they died shall live.”

Chris Watkins

Week 5 started off great.  Immediately after returning from our Andrews mission our Commander pulled us aside and informed us that he was reassigning our OIC to another crew.  It is not that he was a bad leader, he just wasn’t a good one.  Numerous poor decisions and a few other incidents eventually lead to his removal and not one of us was sorry to see him go.  In turn we got back the Captain whom we flew with when we first got here and a newly assigned Lieutenant from Wyoming.  As if we weren’t already feeling lucky enough, two other crewmembers with similar altered team dynamics were scheduled to leave within 24 hours of us returning to Germany.  On a crew that was weighed down with 3 who never seemed to pull their own weight the change was welcome.  If those who left were new flyers I could perhaps understand however these 3 had almost 2500 flying hours combined.  Some things I will never get.
     With the new crew ready we were eager for our first mission which came a few days later.  We call it the Triangle, a stop at Ali Al Salem, Balad AB and then return to Germany.  The previous time we ran the mission was the day that almost lasted 24 hours.  This time we were back in 17 and 2 hours ahead of schedule.  We always knew our previous crew had weak links however we made excuses for them and pulled their weight, we had to.  To compare the two crews is night and day and will make the next 3 months a little easier to say the least. 
     Sunday morning bright and early the phone rang.  “Operation Ash Tray II” was in effect.  Evidently the volcano had sent another ash cloud toward Europe and had Ramstein in its sights.  As you can see by the photos, it was a mad dash to get everyone and all of our equipment out of Ramstein and off to an alternate location.  First we were heading downrange (dessert) which quickly changed to Rota Spain, a Navy base which means it is near water.  I liked that idea.  Unfortunately after we had rushed to get out of Dodge nobody told the ash cloud and it was too late.  We never took off.  After sitting on a C-17 for the better part of 6 hours we unloaded and waited for further instructions.  Those instructions didn’t take long, we were going to bus to a location 5 hours away and meet another C-17 there however before the buses arrived that plan was scrubbed too.  Finally at 10pm, 14 hours after I first left my room, I opened my door, showered and went to bed to try again the following day. 
     Monday morning we all met at 8 am for plan 3 and by 9 am everything was cancelled all together.  The ash cloud was expected to clear within 24 hours and the decision was made to keep us in place.  Once again, nobody informed the ash cloud and it wouldn’t be until Wednesday that a few flights finally took off.  For the second time in 6 short weeks we were grounded and out of play, I wasn’t very happy at the thoughts of sitting around once again but there was little I could do about it. 
     We used some of our downtime to take out our frustration at a local go-kart track 20 minutes from base.  I had never been there before but had heard numerous stories about the place.  It didn’t disappoint.  After being strapped in and fitted for a helmet we hit the track.  These karts go about 45 mph and after 30 minutes of driving my arms were shaking we I climbed out.  After sending Joe, Kevin and a few other into the wall I felt a whole lot better and we were back in the following Friday night. 

That’s it for this installment.  Hope all well and I will talk to you soon.  Chris.

It is hard to believe that we are already ¼ through our deployment.  I took last week’s letter off if you will since there was absolutely nothing to write about during “Operation Ash Tray.”  The decision to keep us on the ground that early morning essentially took us out of play for 8 days so needless to say we were eager to get back in the air. 

You would think with more than 7 years of experience at this I would know that you should always watch what ask for.  We were teed up for a Balad – Ali Al Salem – Ramstein run on a C-17.  Since I would end up with calluses on my fingertips if I thoroughly described all of the events of that mission let’s just say that if there was a theoretical possibility of something going wrong it did. 

What was scheduled to be a 17 hour day took almost 25 and by the time we reached our rooms at 4 pm in the afternoon most of us opted to just stay up.  It was one of the longest and most aggravating days I can remember.

Kevin and I were finally moved into the same building area as the rest of our crew.  Since I feel compelled to only say nice things in these letters I am afraid I will have nothing to say about Ramstein Lodging.   That’s kind of humorous; I didn’t have anything to say about them during my last trip here as well. 

The rooms are not much bigger if any however they are much more functional.  Before we were forced to put our food items such as snacks and cereals on our television stand or tucked away in a night stand.  We now have a little cupboard space along with a counter, a full desk and television and microwave that do not look to be from the 1980’s. 

Best of all, we now have our own bathroom!  How I will miss the early morning wake-ups of my neighbor taking a shower.  Of course it is hard is to complain too much when there are a lot of people who have it much worse that I do. 

The highlight of the past week was finally a trip to Andrews and the opportunity to see Amanda and Cam while in D.C.  Of course with my luck it couldn’t go off without a hitch.  We were originally slated for the mission early in the week and Amanda, Cam and Robin, Kevin’s girlfriend made their travel arrangements. 

Late Thursday evening we were notified that the mission had been extended and that we were scheduled to fly onto San Antonio after dropping our patients off in Andrews.  Once again, hours before leaving I had to make the dreaded phone call to Amanda to tell her that we would not be coming once again.  Like a true champion, she took the news well and went along with her day at work.

Friday morning we were alerted for the mission on time, did our normal pre-mission routine and ended up at the Detachment 15 minutes early.  Three of took the time to take our personal luggage out and an undisclosed amount of German beverages out to the plane. 

As the loading of the above mentioned items was occurring I mentioned that I planned on escorting the medical equipment back from San Antonio as the remainder of crew would normally fly back to Germany on a commercial carrier.  One of the individuals on the plane informed us that SA leg had been dropped and we were only flying to Andrews.  It was a mad dash back to the Detachment.  This time as the phone rang at 4 am back in the States with the good news.

After an hour and a half delay that seemed like forever we were finally on our way and shortly before 8 pm EST we made it to the hotel.  Amanda had found a small flag for Cameron to carry and he was easy to make as we drove across the parking lot. 

Kevin was first out of the truck and immediately caught Cameron’s attention.  The look on his face was that of utter disappointment, I know you have the same green suit but you are not who I thought you were.  Then after a few seconds he looked around Kevin, said “Da-Da” and ran over.  After demanding “Up” and a quick kiss it was on to assaulting the Velcro patches as he always does.  It was truly awesome to see him and Amanda.

The downside of the trip was that we only had 24 hours off before we had to fly back to Germany.  After a mid-morning breakfast it was off to Arlington.  I can’t count the number of times I have been there but there is always something special about taking someone there for the first time.  Perhaps it is the sheer magnitude of the size, the precisely laid out grave markers or the peaceful quiet. 

We made it just in time for a changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown.  Amanda had never seen it before so as Cam got a little restless he and I went for a short walk.  From there we made our way Section 60.  Called by many the “Saddest acre in America,” it is the final resting place for many of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Walking there with Amanda and Cam I realized that you can never rationalize with an almost two year old why his Dad has to leave, but you are reminded why do it.

 We enjoyed the remainder of our time that afternoon and evening however despite all of the prayers of the aircraft breaking or the mission being cancelled, we made our way back to Germany.  We have a few flights this week that will keep us busy and before too long we will be talking about the ½ mark.

 That is it for this letter.  I hope you are all well and Happy Mother’s Day if happens to apply.  Talk to you soon.  Chris.

Week 2,

     Well “Operation Ash Tray” has brought everything here to a screeching halt.  In my 7 years of flying AE I have never seen anything like this.  We were the alert crew Thursday night when the phone rang around 10pm, first we were going to a base in the desert, next we were going to Andrews, then back to the desert and finally told to just pack tan and green flight suits.  It was rather comical looking back on it.  At the time however, with all of 25 minutes to get packed, repack, repack again and then be ready to be picked up I didn’t find it was all that humorous at the time.  Finally a few hours later we were mere minutes away from flying to Andrews Friday morning and even got as far a closing up the ramp on the C-17 before the mission was scrubbed.  No comment. 

For Kevin and me it was a huge disappointment since Amanda and his girlfriend Robin had already made plans to drive down to D.C. later that morning to stay with us for the anticipated 4 to 6 days we would be there.  I know it has only been two weeks but I will take any opportunity I can to see Amanda and Cam that I can get and I returned to my room 12 hours after I originally left with no flight hours logged and a heavy heart.  Mission first I always say and when you compare with some of those I have the privilege to help on their journey home my temporary disappointment is trivial when you see what they are going through. 

     Day two of “Operation Ash Tray” we found ourselves off for the entire day.  The day started with a quick morning swim and then came an urgent mission to assault two vineyards located the Phalz region near the Rhine river.  Our two targets, Dr. Burklen-Wolf and Rudy Ruttger were successfully visited without incident and numerous prisoners were taken into custody.   Anything I can do to maintain international relations.   As for today I did find some humor when last night we were put into crew rest so we could sit in Bravo “Stand-by” today.  Here is my disclaimer.  To avoid any potential “Operational Security” issues I won’t discuss our current situation.  However if you Google “Stars Stripes Ramstein,” Stars and Stripes will and you will find the following article: http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=69398 .  Not much has changed but I am sure once we can start flying again I think it will get pretty busy.  Until then I will enjoy the down knowing there is a price for everything. 

     Down time has continued to be filled with running, swimming and biking.  Running here is fantastic and I try to set 2 days a week.  I am already back up to 12 miles and if I can keep up this pace might even entertain running the entire Hartford Marathon this coming October.  I am still split on what to run for.  Honor Flight is a great charity and the debt we owe WWII Veterans will never be repaid.  However my first flight we flew back some CT Guard members, two of whom were seriously injured.  It would be nice to do something for them as well.  Luckily I have a few more months to make up my mind. 

     In my previous update I totally forgot to mention and thank the support staff from our home unit in Westover.  Our full-time staff, recently thinned by staff reductions did a superb job in getting Kevin and I out the door.  While it may not have always been pretty we arrived to our deployed location with all equipment (maybe a little more than we needed), our paperwork was in line and we were ready to go.  It speaks volumes that 36 hours after our arrival we were mission ready and flying our first mission down-range the other night we were prepared to redeploy anywhere in the World.   Thanks to Lt Cols Z & D, Wayne, Rich and Vikki for all of their help.

That is it for this installment.  Hopefully this quagmire ends soon and we can resume our mission.  Talk to you soon, Chris.

chancephelpsHere is a story worth reading!  Chance Phelps’ story is well told by a U.S. Marine Corps officer who volunteered to serve as an escort for the remains of one fallen Marine being returned to his family. The officer’s life was deeply impacted by this experience. Below is his well worded journal of the events of that escort duty and his experiences throughout the days of this most humble detail.

There are several web sites about Chance Phelps that have comments from all over the world and from Marines that served with him. They are also well worth reading. We can not thank our uniformed men and women enough for the service they provide, and pray that in some way they know that their country supports them.

23 Apr 04 – This article was written by LtCol M.R. Strobl USMC who is assigned to MCCDC Quantico, VA and served as the officer who escorted the remains of PFC C. Phelps USMC from Dover AFB, DE to his home. PFC Phelps was assigned to 3d Bn, 11th Marines – an artillery unit functioning as a provisional infantry battalion during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 2. PFC Phelps was killed in action from a gunshot wound received on 9 Apr 04 during combat operations west of Baghdad. He was buried in Dubois, WY on 17 Apr 04.

“Chance Phelps was wearing his Saint Christopher medal when he was killed on Good Friday. Eight days later, I handed the medallion to his mother. I didn’t know Chance before he died. Today, I miss him. Over a year ago, I volunteered to escort the remains of Marines killed in Iraq should the need arise. The military provides a uniformed escort for all casualties to ensure they are delivered safely to the next of kin and are treated with dignity and respect along the way.
 
Thankfully, I hadn’t been called on to be an escort since Operation Iraqi Freedom began. The first few weeks of April, however, had been a tough month for the Marines. On the Monday after Easter I was reviewing Department of Defense press releases when I saw that a Private First Class Chance Phelps was killed in action outside of Baghdad. The press release listed his hometown – the same town I’m from. I notified our Battalion adjutant and told him that, should the duty to escort PFC Phelps fall to our Battalion, I would take him.
 
I didn’t hear back the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday until 1800. The Battalion duty NCO called my cell phone and said I needed to be ready to leave for Dover Air Force Base at 1900 in order to escort the remains of PFC Phelps. Before leaving for Dover I called the major who had the task of informing Phelps’ parents of his death. The major said the funeral was going to be in Dubois, Wyoming. (It turned out that PFC Phelps only lived in my hometown for his senior year of high school.) I had never been to Wyoming and had never heard of Dubois.
 
With two other escorts from Quantico, I got to Dover AFB at 2330 on Tuesday night. First thing on Wednesday we reported to the mortuary at the base. In the escort lounge there were about half a dozen Army soldiers and about an equal number of Marines waiting to meet up with ‘their’ remains for departure. PFC Phelps was not ready, however, and I was told to come back on Thursday. Now, at Dover with nothing to do and a solemn mission ahead, I began to get depressed.
 
I was wondering about Chance Phelps. I didn’t know anything about him; not even what he looked like. I wondered about his family and what it would be like to meet them. I did pushups in my room until I couldn’t do any more.
 
On Thursday morning I reported back to the mortuary. This time there was a new group of Army escorts and a couple of the Marines who had been there Wednesday. There was also an Air Force captain there to escort his brother home to San Diego.
 
We received a brief covering our duties, the proper handling of the remains, the procedures for draping a flag over a casket, and of course, the paperwork attendant to our task. We were shown pictures of the shipping container and told that each one contained, in addition to the casket, a flag. I was given an extra flag since Phelps’ parents were divorced. This way they would each get one. I didn’t like the idea of stuffing the flag into my luggage but I couldn’t see carrying a large flag, folded for presentation to the next of kin, through an airport while in my Alpha uniform. It barely fit into my suitcase.
 
It turned out that I was the last escort to leave on Thursday. This meant that I repeatedly got to participate in the small ceremonies that mark all departures from the Dover AFB mortuary.
 
Most of the remains are taken from Dover AFB by hearse to the airport in Philadelphia for air transport to their final destination. When the remains of a service member are loaded onto a hearse and ready to leave the Dover mortuary, there is an announcement made over the building’s intercom system. With the announcement, all service members working at the mortuary, regardless of service branch, stop work and form up along the driveway to render a slow ceremonial salute as the hearse departs. Escorts also participated in each formation until it was their time to leave.
 
On this day there were some civilian workers doing construction on the mortuary grounds. As each hearse passed, they would stop working and place their hard hats over their hearts. This was my first sign that my mission with PFC Phelps was larger than the Marine Corps and that his family and friends were not grieving alone.
 
Eventually I was the last escort remaining in the lounge. The Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant in charge of the Marine liaison there came to see me.  He had Chance Phelps’ personal effects. He removed each item; a large watch, a wooden cross with a lanyard, two loose dog tags, two dog tags on a chain, and a Saint Christopher medal on a silver chain. Although we had been briefed that we might be carrying some personal effects of the deceased, this set me back. Holding his personal effects, I was starting to get to know Chance Phelps.
 
Finally we were ready. I grabbed my bags and went outside. I was somewhat startled when I saw the shipping container, loaded three-quarters of the way in to the back of a black Chevy Suburban that had been modified to carry such cargo. This was the first time I saw my ‘cargo’ and I was surprised at how large the shipping container was. The Master Gunnery Sergeant and I verified that the name on the container was Phelps’ then they pushed him the rest of the way in and we left. Now it was PFC Chance Phelps’ turn to receive the military – and construction workers’ – honors. He was finally moving towards home.
 
As I chatted with the driver on the hour-long trip to Philadelphia, it became clear that he considered it an honor to be able to contribute in getting Chance home. He offered his sympathy to the family. I was glad to finally be moving yet apprehensive about what things would be like at the airport. I didn’t want this package to be treated like ordinary cargo yet I knew that the simple logistics of moving around a box this large would have to overrule my preferences.
 
When we got to the Northwest Airlines cargo terminal at the Philadelphia airport, the cargo handler and hearse driver pulled the shipping container onto a loading bay while I stood to the side and executed a slow salute. Once Chance was safely in the cargo area, and I was satisfied that he would be treated with due care and respect, the hearse driver drove me over to the passenger terminal and dropped me off.
 
As I walked up to the ticketing counter in my uniform, a Northwest employee started to ask me if I knew how to use the automated boarding pass dispenser. Before she could finish another ticketing agent interrupted her. He told me to go straight to the counter then explained to the woman that I was a military escort. She seemed embarrassed. The woman behind the counter already had tears in her eyes as I was pulling out my government travel voucher. She struggled to find words but managed to express her sympathy for the family and thank me for my service. She upgraded my ticket to first class.
 
After clearing security, I was met by another Northwest Airline employee at the gate. She told me a representative from cargo would be up to take me down to the tarmac to observe the movement and loading of PFC Phelps. I hadn’t really told any of them what my mission was but they all knew.
 
When the man from the cargo crew met me, he, too, struggled for words. On the tarmac, he told me stories of his childhood as a military brat and repeatedly told me that he was sorry for my loss. I was starting to understand that, even here in Philadelphia, far away from Chance’s hometown, people were mourning with his family.
 
On the tarmac, the cargo crew was silent expect for occasional instructions to each other. I stood to the side and saluted as the conveyor moved Chance to the aircraft. I was relieved when he was finally settled into place. The rest of the bags were loaded and I watched them shut the cargo bay door before heading back up to board the aircraft.
 
One of the pilots had taken my carry-on bag himself and had it stored next to the cockpit door so he could watch it while I was on the tarmac. As I boarded the plane, I could tell immediately that the flight attendants had already been informed of my mission. They seemed a little choked up as they led me to my seat.
 
About 45 minutes into our flight I still hadn’t spoken to anyone except to tell the first class flight attendant that I would prefer water. I was surprised when the flight attendant from the back of the plane suddenly appeared and leaned down to grab my hands. She said, ‘I want you to have this’ as she pushed a small gold crucifix, with a relief of Jesus, into my hand. It was her lapel pin and it looked somewhat worn. I suspected it had been hers for quite some time. That was the only thing she said to me the entire flight.
 
When we landed in Minneapolis, I was the first one off the plane. The pilot himself escorted me straight down the side stairs of the exit tunnel to the tarmac. The cargo crew there already knew what was on this plane. They were unloading some of the luggage when an Army sergeant, a fellow escort who had left Dover earlier that day, appeared next to me. His ‘cargo’ was going to be loaded onto my plane for its continuing leg. We stood side-by-side in the dark and executed a slow salute as Chance was removed from the plane. The cargo crew at Minneapolis kept Phelps’ shipping case separate from all the other luggage as they waited to take us to the cargo area. I waited with the soldier and we saluted together as his fallen comrade was loaded onto the plane.
 
My trip with Chance was going to be somewhat unusual in that we were going to have an overnight stopover. We had a late start out of Dover and there was just too much traveling ahead of us to continue on that day. (We still had a flight from Minneapolis to Billings, Montana, then a five-hour drive to the funeral home. That was to be followed by a 90-minute drive to Chance’s hometown.)
 
I was concerned about leaving him overnight in the Minneapolis cargo area. My ten-minute ride from the tarmac to the cargo holding area eased my apprehension. Just as in Philadelphia, the cargo guys in Minneapolis were extremely respectful and seemed honored to do their part. While talking with them, I learned that the cargo supervisor for Northwest Airlines at the Minneapolis airport is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves. They called him for me and let me talk to him.
Once I was satisfied that all would be okay for the night, I asked one of the cargo crew if he would take me back to the terminal so that I could catch my hotel’s shuttle. Instead, he drove me straight to the hotel himself. At the hotel, the Lieutenant Colonel called me and said he would personally pick me up in the morning and bring me back to the cargo area.
Before leaving the airport, I had told the cargo crew that I wanted to come back to the cargo area in the morning rather than go straight to the passenger terminal. I felt bad for leaving Chance overnight and wanted to see the shipping container where I had left it for the night. It was fine.
 
The Lieutenant Colonel made a few phone calls then drove me around to the passenger terminal. I was met again by a man from the cargo crew and escorted down to the tarmac. The pilot of the plane joined me as I waited for them to bring Chance from the cargo area. The pilot and I talked of his service in the Air Force and how he missed it.
 
I saluted as Chance was moved up the conveyor and onto the plane. It was to be a while before the luggage was to be loaded so the pilot took me up to the board the plane where I could watch the tarmac from a window. With no other passengers yet on board, I talked with the flight attendants and one of the cargo guys. He had been in the Navy and one of the attendants had been in the Air Force. Everywhere I went, people were continuing to tell me their relationship to the military. After all the baggage was aboard, I went back down to the tarmac, inspected the cargo bay, and watched them secure the door.
 
When we arrived at Billings, I was again the first off the plane. This time Chance’s shipping container was the first item out of the cargo hold. The funeral director had driven five hours up from Riverton, Wyoming to meet us. He shook my hand as if I had personally lost a brother.
 
We moved Chance to a secluded cargo area. Now it was time for me to remove the shipping container and drape the flag over the casket. I had predicted that this would choke me up but I found I was more concerned with proper flag etiquette than the solemnity of the moment. Once the flag was in place, I stood by and saluted as Chance was loaded onto the van from the funeral home. I was thankful that we were in a small airport and the event seemed to go mostly unnoticed. I picked up my rental car and followed Chance for five hours until we reached Riverton. During the long trip I imagined how my meeting with Chance’s parents would go. I was very nervous about that.
 
When we finally arrived at the funeral home, I had my first face-to-face meeting with the Casualty Assistance Call Officer. It had been his duty to inform the family of Chance’s death. He was on the Inspector/Instructor staff of an infantry company in Salt Lake City, Utah and I knew he had had a difficult week.
 
Inside I gave the funeral director some of the paperwork from Dover and discussed the plan for the next day. The service was to be at 1400 in the high school gymnasium up in Dubois, population about 900, some 90 miles away. Eventually, we had covered everything. The CACO had some items that the family wanted to be inserted into the casket and I felt I needed to inspect Chance’s uniform to ensure everything was proper. Although it was going to be a closed casket funeral, I still wanted to ensure his uniform was squared away.
 
Earlier in the day I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this moment. Suddenly, the casket was open and I got my first look at Chance Phelps. His uniform was immaculate – a tribute to the professionalism of the Marines at Dover. I noticed that he wore six ribbons over his marksmanship badge; the senior one was his Purple Heart. I had been in the Corps for over 17 years, including a combat tour, and was wearing eight ribbons. This Private First Class, with less than a year in the Corps, had already earned six.
 
The next morning, I wore my dress blues and followed the hearse for the trip up to Dubois. This was the most difficult leg of our trip for me. I was bracing for the moment when I would meet his parents and hoping I would find the right words as I presented them with Chance’s personal effects.
 
We got to the high school gym about four hours before the service was to begin. The gym floor was covered with folding chairs neatly lined in rows. There were a few townspeople making final preparations when I stood next to the hearse and saluted as Chance was moved out of the hearse. The sight of a flag-draped coffin was overwhelming to some of the ladies.
 
We moved Chance into the gym to the place of honor. A Marine sergeant, the command representative from Chance’s battalion, met me at the gym. His eyes were watery as he relieved me of watching Chance so that I could go eat lunch and find my hotel.
 
At the restaurant, the table had a flier announcing Chance’s service. Dubois High School gym; two o’clock. It also said that the family would be accepting donations so that they could buy flak vests to send to troops in Iraq.
 
I drove back to the gym at a quarter after one. I could’ve walked; you could walk to just about anywhere in Dubois in ten minutes. I had planned to find a quiet room where I could take his things out of their pouch and untangle the chain of the Saint Christopher medal from the dog tag chains and arrange everything before his parents came in. I had twice before removed the items from the pouch to ensure they were all there, even though there was no chance anything could’ve fallen out. Each time, the two chains had been quite tangled. I didn’t want to be fumbling around trying to untangle them in front of his parents. Our meeting, however, didn’t go as expected.
 
I practically bumped into Chance’s step-mom accidentally and our introductions began in the noisy hallway outside the gym. In short order I had met Chance’s step-mom and father followed by his step-dad and, at last, his mom. I didn’t know how to express to these people my sympathy for their loss and my gratitude for their sacrifice. Now, however, they were repeatedly thanking me for bringing their son home and for my service. I was humbled beyond words.
 
I told them that I had some of Chance’s things and asked if we could try to find a quiet place. The five of us ended up in what appeared to be a computer lab, not what I had envisioned for this occasion.
 
After we had arranged five chairs around a small table, I told them about our trip. I told them how, at every step, Chance was treated with respect, dignity, and honor. I told them about the staff at Dover and all the folks at Northwest Airlines. I tried to convey how the entire Nation, from Dover to Philadelphia, to Minneapolis, to Billings, and Riverton expressed grief and sympathy over their loss.
 
Finally, it was time to open the pouch. The first item I happened to pull out was Chance’s large watch. It was still set to Baghdad time. Next were the lanyard and the wooden cross. Then the dog tags and the Saint Christopher medal. This time the chains were not tangled. Once all of his items were laid out on the table, I told his mom that I had one other item to give them. I retrieved the flight attendant’s crucifix from my pocket and told its story. I set that on the table and excused myself. When I next saw Chance’s mom, she was wearing the crucifix on her lapel.
 
By 1400 most of the seats on the gym floor were filled and people were finding seats in the fixed bleachers high above the gym floor. There were a surprising number of people in military uniform. Many Marines had come up from Salt Lake City. Men from various VFW posts and the Marine Corps League occupied multiple rows of folding chairs. We all stood as Chance’s family took their seats in the front.
 
It turned out that Chance’s sister, a Petty Officer in the Navy, worked for a Rear Admiral – the Chief of Naval Intelligence – at the Pentagon. The Admiral had brought many of the sailors on his staff with him to Dubois pay respects to Chance and support his sister. After a few songs and some words from a Navy Chaplain, the Admiral took the microphone and told us how Chance had died.
 
Chance was an artillery cannoneer and his unit was acting as provisional military police outside of Baghdad. Chance had volunteered to man a .50 caliber machine gun in the turret of the leading vehicle in a convoy. The convoy came under intense fire but Chance stayed true to his post and returned fire with the big gun, covering the rest of the convoy, until he was fatally wounded.
 
Then the commander of the local VFW post read some of the letters Chance had written home. In letters to his mom he talked of the mosquitoes and the heat. In letters to his stepfather he told of the dangers of convoy operations and of receiving fire.
 
The service was a fitting tribute to this hero. When it was over, we stood as the casket was wheeled out with the family following. The casket was placed onto a horse-drawn carriage for the mile-long trip from the gym, down the main street, then up the steep hill to the cemetery. I stood alone and saluted as the carriage departed the high school. I found my car and joined Chance’s convoy.
 
The town seemingly went from the gym to the street. All along the route, the people had lined the street and were waving small American flags. The flags that were otherwise posted were all at half-staff. For the last quarter mile up the hill, local boy scouts, spaced about 20 feet apart, all in uniform, held large flags. At the foot of the hill, I could look up and back and see the enormity of our procession. I wondered how many people would be at this funeral if it were in, say, Detroit or Los Angeles?  Probably not as many as were here in little Dubois, Wyoming.
 
The carriage stopped about 15 yards from the grave and the military pall bearers and the family waited until the men of the VFW and Marine Corps league were formed up and school busses had arrived carrying many of the people from the procession route. Once the entire crowd was in place, the pallbearers came to attention and began to remove the casket from the caisson. As I had done all week, I came to attention and executed a slow ceremonial salute as Chance was being transferred from one mode of transport to another.
 
From Dover to Philadelphia; Philadelphia to Minneapolis; Minneapolis to Billings; Billings to Riverton; and Riverton to Dubois we had been together. Now, as I watched them carry him the final 15 yards, I was choking up. I felt that, as long as he was still moving, he was somehow still alive. Then they put him down above his grave. He had stopped moving.
 
Although my mission had been officially complete once I turned him over to the funeral director at the Billings airport, it was his placement at his grave that really concluded it in my mind. Now, he was home to stay and I suddenly felt at once sad, relieved, and useless.
 
The chaplain said some words that I couldn’t hear and two Marines removed the flag from the casket and slowly folded it for presentation to his mother. When the ceremony was over, Chance’s father placed a ribbon from his service in Vietnam on Chance’s casket. His mother approached the casket and took something from her blouse and put it on the casket. I later saw that it was the flight attendant’s crucifix. Eventually friends of Chance’s moved closer to the grave. A young man put a can of Coppenhagen on the casket and many others left flowers.
 
Finally, we all went back to the gym for a reception. There was enough food to feed the entire population for a few days. In one corner of the gym there was a table set up with lots of pictures of Chance and some of his sports awards. People were continually approaching me and the other Marines to thank us for our service. Almost all of them had some story to tell about their connection to the military. About an hour into the reception, I had the impression that every man in Wyoming had, at one time or another, been in the service.
 
It seemed like every time I saw Chance’s mom she was hugging a different well wisher. As time passed, I began to hear people laughing. We were starting to heal.
 
After a few hours at the gym, I went back to the hotel to change out of my dress blues. The local VFW post had invited everyone over to celebrate Chance’s life. The Post was on the other end of town from my hotel and the drive took less than two minutes. The crowd was somewhat smaller than what had been at the gym but the Post was packed.
 
Marines were playing pool at the two tables near the entrance and most of the VFW members were at the bar or around the tables in the bar area. The largest room in the Post was a banquet/dining/dancing area and it was now called The Chance Phelps Room.  Above the entry were two items: a large portrait of Chance in his dress blues and the Eagle, Globe, & Anchor. In one corner of the room there was another memorial to Chance.  There were candles burning around another picture of him in his blues. On the table surrounding his photo were his Purple Heart citation and his Purple Heart medal. There was also a framed copy of an excerpt from the Congressional Record. This was an elegant tribute to Chance Phelps delivered on the floor of the United States House of Representatives by Congressman Scott McInnis of Colorado. Above it all was a television that was playing a photo montage of Chance’s life from small boy to proud Marine.
 
I did not buy a drink that night. As had been happening all day, indeed all week, people were thanking me for my service and for bringing Chance home. Now, in addition to words and handshakes, they were thanking me with beer. I fell in with the men who had handled the horses and horse-drawn carriage. I learned that they had worked through the night to groom and prepare the horses for Chance’s last ride. They were all very grateful that they were able to contribute.
 
After a while we all gathered in the Chance Phelps room for the formal dedication. The Post commander told us of how Chance had been so looking forward to becoming a Life Member of the VFW. Now, in the Chance Phelps Room of the Dubois, Wyoming post, he would be an eternal member. We all raised our beers and the Chance Phelps room was christened.
 
Later, as I was walking toward the pool tables, a Staff Sergeant form the Reserve unit in Salt Lake grabbed me and said, ‘Sir, you gotta hear this.’  There were two other Marines with him and he told the younger one, a Lance Corporal, to tell me his story. The Staff Sergeant said the Lance Corporal was normally too shy and modest to tell it but now he’d had enough beer to overcome his usual tendencies.
 
As the Lance Corporal started to talk, an older man joined our circle. He wore a baseball cap that indicated he had been with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. Earlier in the evening he had told me about one of his former commanding officers; a Colonel Puller.
 
So, there I was, standing in a circle with three Marines recently returned from fighting with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq and one not so recently returned from fighting with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. I, who had fought with the 1st Marine Division in Kuwait, was about to gain a new insight into our Corps.
 
The young Lance Corporal began to tell us his story. At that moment, in this circle of current and former Marines, the differences in our ages and ranks dissipated – we were all simply Marines.
 
His squad had been on a patrol through a city street. They had taken small arms fire and had literally dodged an RPG round that sailed between two Marines. At one point they received fire from behind a wall and had neutralized the sniper with a SMAW round. The back blast of the SMAW, however, kicked up a substantial rock that hammered the Lance Corporal in the thigh; only missing his groin because he had reflexively turned his body sideways at the shot.
 
Their squad had suffered some wounded and was receiving more sniper fire when suddenly he was hit in the head by an AK-47 round. I was stunned as he told us how he felt like a baseball bat had been slammed into his head. He had spun around and fell unconscious. When he came to, he had a severe scalp wound but his Kevlar helmet had saved his life. He continued with his unit for a few days before realizing he was suffering the effects of a severe concussion.
 
As I stood there in the circle with the old man and the other Marines, the Staff Sergeant finished the story. He told of how this Lance Corporal had begged and pleaded with the Battalion surgeon to let him stay with his unit. In the end, the doctor said there was just no way; he had suffered a severe and traumatic head wound and would have to be med-evaced.
 
The Marine Corps is a special fraternity. There are moments when we are reminded of this. Interestingly, those moments don’t always happen at awards ceremonies or in dress blues at Birthday Balls. I have found, rather, that they occur at unexpected times and places: next to a loaded moving van at Camp Lejeune’s base housing, in a dirty CP tent in northern Saudi Arabia, and in a smoky VFW post in western Wyoming.
 
After the story was done, the Lance Corporal stepped over to the old man, put his arm over the man’s shoulder and told him that he, the Korean War vet, was his hero. The two of them stood there with their arms over each other’s shoulders and we were all silent for a moment. When they let go, I told the Lance Corporal that there were recruits down on the yellow footprints tonight that would soon be learning his story.
 
I was finished drinking beer and telling stories. I found Chance’s father and shook his hand one more time. Chance’s mom had already left and I deeply regretted not being able to tell her goodbye.
 
I left Dubois in the morning before sunrise for my long drive back to Billings. It had been my honor to take Chance Phelps to his final post. Now he was on the high ground overlooking his town.
I miss him.
 
Regards,
LtCol Strobl”

Holocaust002

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended, and the world is beginning to forget the tragedies commited in Europe.  In memory of those who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Wasshington D.C. presents an excellent collection of artifacts and oral history.

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. “Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.

During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived “racial inferiority”: Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.

In 1981, the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors established a national registry to document the lives of survivors who came to the United States after World War II. In April 1993 the Registry was transferred to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Although most of the survivors who have registered live in North America, the Museum includes the names of survivors from all backgrounds living all over the world. The Registry now includes over 196,000 records related to survivors and their families.

Now, more than ever, with Islam claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ and details of the horrors of that time disappearing from our history books, it’s imperative that we each make sure the world never forgets. Visit the museum and its website, and pass on the links so others will have access to the facts of history.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: http://www.ushmm.org/

2009 U.S. DAYS OF REMEMBRANCE: http://www.ushmm.org/remembrance/dor/

Holocaust001

ABOUT HARTFORD LETTERS

Experience the Miraculous Healing and Recovery of Lea Vaughn, and the incredible spiritual journey of her husband during 180 days in Hartford Hospital. Read his original daily emails in "Hartford Letters" above. ____________________________

In “Prayer,” above:

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Praise: Lea
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