Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ex-soldier walks nation for military families

PALM DESERT, Calif. — Home from Iraq in August 2009, former Army specialist Troy Yocum was inspired by a fellow veteran who needed assistance but couldn't get it from non-profit groups overwhelmed with requests, so Yocum decided to literally take steps to help.

During what has been dubbed "Hike for our Heroes," Yocum, 31, is walking a loop around the country in hopes of raising $5 million and drawing attention to military families in need.

During his 16-month journey, which included his arrival in Palm Desert last week after walking 3,527 miles of his 7,000-mile goal, the Kentucky native has faced his share of obstacles. Kidney stones sent him to a hospital for nine days in Colorado, his RV has broken down more than a dozen times and his dog was temporarily sidelined with a bladder infection.

Along the way, Yocum has gotten married, climbed 12,095 feet along Colorado mountains and received more than 30,000 e-mails from supporters.

As of Nov. 18, he said, he had raised more than $105,000 for Soldiers' Angels, a non-profit group that helps servicemembers, veterans and their families, and given money to 14 military families in need.

"This dream I had in Iraq of walking across America and raising money and helping people, I didn't know if it would work," Yocum said. "But the fans of what we're doing really push me to keep going."

Yocum embarked on his charitable trek April 17 with his then-fiancée, Mareike, and his friend Terry Carmickle.

The couple — who met early last year on social networking site MySpace when Yocum was still abroad and searching for a potential tour guide in Germany — married May 2.

They then took their journey west, averaging about 21 miles each day on what they joke is their "honeymoon."

"I kind of just left an old life behind and started a new one," Yocum said.

Yocum and his team will begin their trip back east Friday, when they leave Palm Springs on their way to Arizona.

The "Hike for our Heroes" schedule calls for them to arrive in Washington, D.C., on May 11, 2011, before walking back to Kentucky by Aug. 15. Come talk and walk with Troy!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stem Cell Treatment Gives Retired Military Service Dog New Lease on Life

A retired
military service dog is getting a new lease on life in Washington, D.C., after undergoing a revolutionary stem cell treatment.

Lex, a 9-year-old German shepherd, lost his best friend, 20-year-old Cpl. Dustin Lee, and nearly lost his own life in a rocket attack in Iraq on March 21, 2007.

"He suffered a lot of shrapnel wounds, has a piece of shrapnel still in his spine, almost lost his tail," Lee's father, Jerome Lee, told

Jerome Lee and his wife, Rachel Lee, wanted to be there for Lex the way they say he had been there for their son, so with the help of North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones they persuaded the Marine Corps to retire Lex early so they could adopt him in December 2007.

But once Lex was home, the Lees noticed that the shrapnel lodged in his spine was causing him debilitating back and joint pain, preventing him from walking on his own.

"He's got young bones. His bone density is as good as a young dogs, but we knew something was wrong because he was going down," Rachel Lee told the station.

Thanks to a revolutionary stem cell treatment from Georgetown veterinarian Dr. Lee Morgan, they hope that will no longer be a problem.

The cutting-edge treatment helps dogs grow new cartilage by injecting stem cells from their own fat, normally from the abdomen, into the affected joint. The treatment takes about three days and has an 80 percent success rate, reported.

"When I saw him walking down the hall he wasn't hopping or giving in as much, and I could tell (the treatment) has already started working," Rachel said. "I feel that with physical therapy
and the love that we're giving him, as he's a part of our family, it's just gonna get better."

Doctors say the dog could make a full recovery in as little as two months.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Veteran looks forward to Hunt for Heroes

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Retired Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon said he never doubted he would become a member of the U.S. military.

“My dad is big into genealogy and has traced our family’s military service back to the Revolutionary War,” said the 47-year-old Colorado resident.

“Our family’s taken part in all of this country’s major wars.”

Dan, as he friends and family call him, will be among a group of wounded or disabled veterans from around the country who will take part in this weekend’s Hunt for Heroes near San Angelo. The event also will include a Friday morning parade along the Concho River in San Angelo.

In 1984, when it came his turn to serve, Dan entered the Army, graduating at the top of the his class in sniper school.

He was serving as senior sniper of the Ghost Recon Platoon with the 1st Battalion 503 Infantry Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom when his war came to a sudden, violent end on Nov. 13, 2004.

“They were in a bloody gunfight when Dan was hit by an AK-47 round to the head,” said his wife, Torrey Shannon.

“It took out the entire left side of his face, his left eye, most of his skull.”

At first, her husband didn’t realize what had happened, Torrey said.

“He didn’t know his eye was gone. He thought he had blood in it and kept wiping at it.”

As a sniper, Dan was trained to shoot with either eye, she said.

“He was mad. He shifted to his right side,” ready to continue the fight, she said.

“A buddy pulled him out of the line of fire and said, ‘Sergeant, you’re hurt!’”

Dan’s war ended that day, but another battle, a three-year recovery and fight against a flawed system, was only beginning.

“Most of his skull was reconstructed,” Torrey explained. His face also was rebuilt. The left eye was gone, but despite a lack of depth perception, Dan adapted, relearning favorite activities like bowling, golf, marksmanship and hunting.

While external scars healed, internal ones remain, including traumatic brain damage, post-traumatic stress disorder, nerve damage, hearing loss, degenerative joint disease and spinal damage.

Dan suffered yet another wound during his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“The easiest way to say what was going on there was they had a wonderful system overwhelmed by the number of wounded coming into the system,” he explained.

“It was overloaded. And when service members are not taken care of, that’s something I won’t tolerate.”

He and other veterans testified about their shoddy treatment to a congressional committee in 2007.

“I feel like I’ve been lost in the system,” he told the congressmen.

He said he wasn’t the only one.

“I will not see young men and women who have had their lives shattered in service to their country receive anything less than dignity and respect,” he told the committee.

He also told them how he saw “so many soldiers get so frustrated with the process” they would sign away Army benefits, “sign anything presented them just so they can get on with their lives.”

“This is an obvious example of a broken system trying to survive when what it really needs is to be fixed,” he told the committee.

His story became a part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post series and helped spur an overhaul of the military health care system.

Testifying against the military “really hurt,” he said. “I was a career military guy. All I wanted to do was serve my country. I believe a life of service is very rewarding, and I loved the Army.”

But, he added, “my motto was ‘I’ll die before my men,’ and I felt the same way toward the wounded service members at the hospital.”

Dan said he’s still struggling with the aftereffects of his war wound, including the PTSD, which can cause him to violently lose control.

“If you see me go into an episode, you’d think I’m having an epileptic seizure,” he said.

Talking to other veterans helps, he added, especially soldiers who served in Vietnam.

“What I’ve come to understand is some of them are still PTSD. It’s been 40 years and they’re still not over it.

“Before I talked to them, I wanted to fix this problem overnight. I wanted me back. Now I know it will take time for me to learn to handle it.”

Hunt for Heroes is another chance to spend time with wounded or disabled veterans who have shared the same experiences, he said.

“It gives different service members a chance to get together and talk about things, about what we’ve been through,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to talk to anybody about our experiences if they haven’t been there, but with these guys, we can open up to each other. The time we spend together becomes very healing.”

Being around other war-injured vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars “reminds me that I’m still normal — a normal guy who’s gone through an abnormal experience,” he said. “And I will learn to handle it — never completely get over it, but learn to handle it better.”

“I’m not a monster. I’m still me in here, somewhere. My life isn’t over yet.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Study: Kids of deployed military have more behavioral problems

A new study suggests nine years of war is taking a toll on U.S. children.

Children of active-duty military personnel make 18% more trips to the doctor for behavioral problems and 19% more visits for stress disorders when a military parent is deployed compared with when the parent is home, according to a study of children ages 3 to 8 in today's Pediatrics.

Those increases are even more striking given that the overall number of doctors' visits declined 11% during deployment, perhaps because the lone parent at home was so busy, says study author Gregory Gorman, who analyzed the medical records of nearly 643,000 children and 443,000 parents from 2006 to 2007.

Gorman, a pediatrician with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., says military doctors are usually aware of the burden on such children, but he hopes more civilian doctors, who care for two-thirds of kids in military families, will find out if a parent is deployed and ask how families are coping.

Research shows that kids of enlisted Army soldiers are more likely to suffer maltreatment when a parent is in combat and that Army wives are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders or other mental health conditions when their husbands are deployed.

The new study may actually underestimate the psychological stress on military families because it included all branches of the service, instead of concentrating on the Army and Marines, who have done most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, says Deborah Gibbs of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C., author of the maltreatment study. The new study also excludes the Reserves and National Guard, some of whose members have completed multiple tours of duty.

"Most military families cope astonishingly well," Gibbs says. But "the National Guard and Reserve families have all the same stresses but none of the support that active-duty families have."

  • You might also be interested in:

How Dogs Help Veterans Cope with PTSD

Saturday, November 13, 2010

ARLINGTON CEMETERY Nov. 11,2010 – Westboro "Baptist" Church Overwhelmed by Patriots

People ask why we counter Westboro “Baptist” Church, why not just let them be the proverbial “If a tree falls in a forest and no hears it, did it fall”? BELOW is why we counter them.

FReepers, students, patriots and Veteran Harley riders (about 50) defended our Fallen Heroes this Veterans Day at Arlington Cemetery. We came by the dozens and overwhelmed Fred Phelps’ one-branch family tree called Westboro “Baptist” Church. They started the morning with about a dozen miscreants. Two hours later when they left, only 3 had stayed around.

A special thanks to those who took their shift to help hold the MOAB when the wind pick up. They were GunsAreOK, iMacMan, new FReeper Tammy Cat, Tolerance Sucks Rocks, Lurker Richard, and an active duty Air Force member stationed in Washington.

And another special thanks to iMacMan and [Mrs] Trooprally (aka [Mrs] T) for taking pictures. Link to their combined photos are HERE

Other FReepers who were there: SouthernBoyupNorth (one of the Harley riders), Cindy_True-Supporter, rlmorel (came down from Massachusetts just for our FReep), RongKirby, stratman1969, Lurker Bill, and me, [Mr] Trooprally (aka [Mr] T).

And Patriots Toothless Dawg (GoE), 4 American University students, 2 Georgetown University students, Ann, Cory, and Toni. They were twitted or heard about our FReep on facebook.

Stratman1969's Marooned in Marin web site also has some excellent pictures and videos. Check out the bag piper video that “cleansed” the WBC protest area after their departure. It took just a few seconds for us all to realize he was playing. You could have heard a pin drop.

Nonpoint - "Frontlines"


Thursday, November 11, 2010


The soldier stood and faced God, Which must always come to pass. He hoped his shoes were shining, Just as brightly as his brass.

'Step forward now, you soldier, How shall I deal with you ? Have you always turned the other cheek ? To My Church have you been true?'

The soldier squared his shoulders and said, 'No, Lord, I guess I ain't. Because those of us who carry guns, Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays, And at times my talk was tough. And sometimes I've been violent, Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny, That wasn't mine to keep... Though I worked a lot of overtime, When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help, Though at times I shook with fear. And sometimes, God, forgive me, I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place, Among the people here. They never wanted me around, Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord, It needn't be so grand. I never expected or had too much, But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne, Where the saints had often trod. As the soldier waited quietly, For the judgment of his God.

'Step forward now, you soldier, You've borne your burdens well. Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets, You've done your time in Hell.'

Author Unknown~


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Queensryche Salutes Troops w/ American Soldier

Concept Album Inspired By Veterans’ Stories Examines The Consequences Of War From The Soldiers’ Perspective

Album Available March 31 From Atco/Rhino; U.S. Tour To Begin April 16 In Seattle

( pre-order now, w/ free autographed poster )

LOS ANGELES – Queensrÿche envisions war through the eyes of a soldier with the band’s twelfth studio release, the epic concept album AMERICAN SOLDIER. The ambitious album encompasses a dozen songs inspired by numerous interviews with veterans conducted by Geoff Tate, the group’s singer and chief songwriter, who was intent on telling their story using their words. After speaking with soldiers who served in various conflicts-from World War II to Iraq-Tate turned their firsthand experiences from the frontlines into an unflinching musical examination of the life of a solider and the consequences of war. AMERICAN SOLDIER will be available from Atco/Rhino on March 31 for a suggested list price of $18.98 (CD) and $9.99 (digital).

Tate, Michael Wilton (guitar), Ed Jackson (bass) and Scott Rockenfield (drums) recorded the album in 2008 over the course of nine months. The idea for AMERICAN SOLDIER, Tate says, came from hearing stories from fans that are veterans, as well as his own father, who served in both Korea and Vietnam. “My father was a career military man, but until very recently he never spoke about what he went through. I think that reticence is true of a lot of veterans, which means most people never truly understand what it means to be a soldier at war. Hearing what he and some of our fans have endured made me want to share their stories with the world. This is an album about the soldiers, for the soldiers, as told by the soldiers themselves.”

Those stories resonate at the heart of AMERICAN SOLDIER, imbuing each song with vivid details about both the emotional and physical impacts of war, evoking war zone battles (“Middle Of Hell”), sacrifice (“The Killer”), loss (“If I Were King”), the longing for home (“Remember Me”), and adjusting to society after returning from war (“Man Down!”).

Tate recorded many of his interviews with the soldiers, and some dialogue from these discussions is mixed into several of tracks, allowing the soldiers’ own words to help tell their compelling stories. The band also brought a few of the soldiers into the studio with them to record vocals. The verses of the track “Unafraid” feature the voices of Chris Devine, a Vietnam veteran, and Sean Lenahan, a veteran of Somalia, recalling their war experiences while Tate provides the anthemic chorus. Also making a guest vocal appearance is Tate’s 10-year-old daughter Emily on the gripping duet “Home Again,” which examines the emotional toll of war from two perspectives, with Geoff singing from the soldier’s point of view and his daughter singing from the viewpoint of the child left behind.

Making the album, Tate says, was an enlightening process. “I was surprised to learn how little has changed through the generations. I spoke with a Vietnam vet whose experience wasn’t all that different from a soldier who fought in Somalia almost 30 years later. But what surprised me the most was how antiwar most soldiers are. To me, that makes their sacrifices even more moving.”

Soon after the release of AMERICAN SOLDIER, Queensrÿche will launch an extensive spring tour of the U.S., with international dates to follow later in 2009. The shows will be presented in three suites, with the band performing sets from AMERICAN SOLDIER, Rage For Order, and Empire. The first date of the tour will be April 16 at Snoqualmie Casino in the band’s hometown of Seattle.

Track Listing

1. “Sliver”
2. “Unafraid”
3. “Hundred Mile Stare”
4. “At 30,000 ft.”
5. “A Dead Man’s Words”
6. “The Killer”
7. “Middle Of Hell”
8. “If I Were King”
9. “Man Down!”
10. “Remember Me”
11. “Home Again”
12. “The Voice”