A Story Worth Sharing...
An unreported story worth sharing...
At a recent Soldiers Breakfast held at
Redstone Arsenal, AL, Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Jack Tilley
shared the following story. (The incident was recorded by James
Henderson, with the U.S. Army Redstone Huntsville Chaplain Association
He - (SMA Jack Tilley) -
described a recent visit to our wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical
Center in Washington that I (Chaplain Henderson) will never forget.
"The Special Forces soldier had lost his
right hand and had suffered severe wounds of his face and side of his
body. As SMA Tilley described, how do you honor such a soldier, showing
respect without offending? What can you say or do in such a situation
that will encourage and uplift? How do you shake the right hand of a
soldier who just lost his?
Finally he told how he acted as though the
man had a hand, taking his wrist as though it were his hand and speaking
encouragement to him. But he said there was another man in that group of
visitors who had even brought his wife with him to visit the wounded who
knew exactly what to do. This man reverently took this soldier's stump
of a hand in both of his hands, bowed at the bedside and prayed for him.
When he stood from praying he bent over and kissed the man on the head
and told him he loved him.
What a powerful expression of love for one
of our wounded heroes! And what a beautiful Christ-like example! What
kind of man would kneel in such humility and submission to the Living
God of the Bible?
It was George W. Bush, President of the United States and Commander in
Chief of our Armed forces, a true leader.
A little propagada now and again doesn't hurt.....
The Men Who Won The War (An 'embed' reporter looks at our soldiers)
By Jim Lacey
Since returning from Iraq a short time ago I have been answering a
lot of questions about the war from friends, family, and strangers. When
they ask me how it was over there I find myself glossing over the
fighting, the heat, the sandstorms, and the flies (these last could have
taught the Iraqi army a thing or two about staying power).
Instead, I talk about the
soldiers I met, and how they reflected the best of America. A lot of
people are going to tell the story of how this war was fought; I would
rather say something about the men who won the war.
War came early for the
1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne when an otherwise quiet night in the
Kuwaiti desert was shattered by thunderous close-quarters grenade
blasts. Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a U.S. soldier, had thrown grenades into an
officers' tent, killing two and wounding a dozen others. Adding to the
immediate confusion was the piercing scream of SCUD alarms, which kicked
in the second Akbar's grenade exploded. For a moment, it was a scene of
near panic and total chaos.
Just minutes after the
explosions, a perimeter was established around the area of the attack,
medics were treating the wounded, and calls for evacuation vehicles and
helicopters were already being sent out. Remarkably, the very people who
should have been organizing all of this were the ones lying on the
stretchers, seriously wounded. It fell to junior officers and untested
sergeants to take charge and lead. Without hesitation everyone stepped
up and unfalteringly did just that.
I stood in amazement as
two captains (Townlee Hendrick and Tony Jones) directed the evacuation
of the wounded, established a hasty defense, and helped to organize a
search for the culprit. They did all this despite bleeding heavily from
their wounds. For over six hours, these two men ran things while
refusing to be evacuated until they were sure all of the men in their
command were safe.
Two days later Capt.
Jones left the hospital and hitchhiked back to the unit: He had heard a
rumor that it was about to move into Iraq and he wanted to be there. As
Jones -- dressed only in boots, a hospital gown, and a flak vest --
limped toward headquarters, Col. Hodges, the 1st Brigade's commander,
announced, "I see that Captain Jones has returned to us in full martial
splendor." The colonel later said that he was tempted to send Jones to
the unit surgeon for further evaluation, but that he didn't feel he had
the right to tell another man not to fight. Hodges himself had elected
to leave two grenade fragments in his arm so that he could return to his
command as quickly as possible.
The war had not even
begun and already I was aware that I had fallen in with a special breed
of men. Over the next four weeks, nothing I saw would alter this
impression. A military historian once told me that soldiers could
forgive their officers any fault save cowardice. After the grenade
attack I knew these men were not cowards, but I had yet to learn that
the brigade's leaders had made a cult of bravery. A few examples will
While out on what he
called "battlefield circulation," Col. Hodges was surveying suspected
enemy positions with one of his battalion commanders (Lt. Col. Chris
Hughes) when a soldier yelled "Incoming" to alert everyone that mortar
shells were headed our way. A few soldiers moved closer to a wall, but
Hodges and Hughes never budged and only briefly glanced up when the
rounds hit a few hundred yards away. As Hodges completed his review and
prepared to leave, another young soldier asked him when they would get
to kill whoever was firing the mortar.
Hodges smiled and said,
"Don't be in a hurry to kill him. They might replace that guy with
someone who can shoot."
The next day, a convoy
Col. Hodges was traveling in was ambushed by several Iraqi paramilitary
soldiers. A ferocious firefight ensued, but Hodges never left the side
of his vehicle. Puffing on a cigar as he directed the action, Hodges
remained constantly exposed to fire. When two Kiowa helicopters
swooped in to pulverize the enemy strongpoint with rocket fire, he
turned to some journalists watching the action and quipped, "That's your
tax dollars at work."
Bravery inspires men, but
brains and quick thinking win wars. In one particularly tense moment, a
company of U.S. soldiers was preparing to guard the Mosque of Ali -- one
of the most sacred Muslim sites -- when agitators in what had been a
friendly crowd started shouting that they were going to storm the
mosque. In an instant, the Iraqis began to chant and a riot seemed
A couple of nervous
soldiers slid their weapons into fire mode, and I thought we were only
moments away from a slaughter. These soldiers had just fought an
all-night battle. They were exhausted, tense, and prepared to crush any
riot with violence of their own. But they were also professionals, and
so, when their battalion commander, Chris Hughes, ordered them to take a
knee, point their weapons to the ground, and start smiling, that is
exactly what they did.
Calm returned. By placing
his men in the most non-threatening posture possible, Hughes had sapped
the crowd of its aggression. Quick thinking and iron discipline had
reversed an ugly situation and averted
Since then, I have often
wondered how we created an army of men who could fight with ruthless
savagery all night and then respond so easily to an order to "smile"
while under impending threat. Historian Stephen Ambrose said of the
American soldier: "When soldiers from any other army, even our allies,
entered a town, the people hid in the cellars. When Americans came in,
even into German towns, it meant smiles, chocolate bars and C-rations."
Ours has always been an army like no other, because our soldiers
reflect a society unlike any other. They are pitiless when confronted by
armed enemy fighters and yet full of compassion for civilians and even
immediately began saving Iraqi lives at the conclusion of any fight.
Medics later said that the Iraqi wounded they treated were astounded by
our compassion. They expected they would be left to suffer or die. I
witnessed Iraqi paramilitary troops using women and children as human
shields, turning grade schools into fortresses, and defiling their own
holy sites. Time and again, I saw Americans taking unnecessary risks to
clear buildings without firing or using grenades, because it might
injure civilians. I stood in awe as 19-year-olds refused to return enemy
fire because it was coming from a mosque.
It was American soldiers
who handed over food to hungry Iraqis, who gave their own medical
supplies to Iraqi doctors, and who brought water to the thirsty.
It was American soldiers
who went door-to-door in a slum because a girl was rumored to have been
injured in the fighting; when they found her, they called in a
helicopter to take her to an Army hospital.
It was American soldiers
who wept when a three-year-old was carried out of the rubble where she
had been killed by Iraqi mortar fire. It was American soldiers who
cleaned up houses they had been fighting over and later occupied -- they
wanted the places to look at least somewhat tidy when the residents
It was these same
soldiers who stormed to Baghdad in only a couple of weeks, accepted the
surrender of three Iraqi Army divisions, massacred any Republican
Guard unit that stood and fought, and disposed of a dictator and a
regime with ruthless efficiency. There is no other army -- and there are
no other soldiers -- in the world capable of such merciless fighting yet
possessed of such compassion for their fellow man. No society except
America could have produced them.
Before I end this I want
to point out one other quality of the American soldier: his sense of
justice. After a grueling fight, a company of infantrymen was resting
and opening their first mail delivery of the war. One of the young
soldiers had received a care package and was sharing the home-baked
cookies with his friends. A photographer with a heavy French accent
asked if he could have one. The soldier looked him over and said there
would be no cookies for Frenchmen. The photographer then protested that
he was half Italian. Without missing a beat, the soldier broke a cookie
in half and gave it to him. It was a perfect moment and a perfect
reflection of the American soldier.
Commentary: A note of
thanks to those who serve
NEW YORK (AFPN) -- When I told friends about my pilgrimage to Iraq to
thank the U.S. troops, reaction was underwhelming at best.
Some were blunt. "Why are
you going there?" They could not understand why it was important for me,
a 9/11 widow, to express my support for the men and women stationed
today in the Gulf.
But the reason seemed
clear to me: 200,000 troops have been sent halfway around the world to
stabilize the kind of culture that breeds terrorists like those who I
believe began World War III on Sept. 11, 2001. Reaction was so politely
negative that I began to doubt my role on the first USO/Tribeca
Institute tour into newly occupied Iraq where, on average, a soldier a
day is killed.
Besides, with Robert De
Niro, Kid Rock, Rebecca and John Stamos, Wayne Newton, Gary Sinise, and
Lee Ann Womack, who needed me?
Did they really want to
hear about my husband, Neil Levin, who went to work as director of the
New York Port Authority on Sept.11 and never came home? How would they
relate to the two others traveling with me: Ginny Bauer, a New Jersey
homemaker and the mother of three who lost her husband, David; and
former Marine Jon Vigiano, who lost his only sons, Jon, a firefighter
and Joe, a policeman.
As we were choppered over
deserts that looked like bleached bread crumbs, I wondered if I'd feel
like a street hawker, passing out Port Authority pins and baseball caps
as I said "thank you" to the troops. Would a hug from me mean anything
at all in the presence of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and a
Victoria's Secret model?
The first "meet and
greet" made me weep. Why? Soldiers, armed with M16s and saddlebags of
water in 120-degree heat, swarmed over the stars for photos and
autographs. When it was announced that a trio of Sept. 11 family members
was also in the tent it was as if a psychic cork on an emotional dam was
Soldiers from all over
our great country rushed toward us to express their condolences. Some
wanted to touch us, as if they needed a physical connection to our
sorrow and for some living proof for why they were there.
One mother of two from
Montana told me she enlisted because of Sept. 11. Dozens of others told
us the same thing. One young soldier showed me his metal bracelet
engraved with the name of a victim he never knew and that awful date
none of us will ever forget.
In fact at every
encounter with the troops there would be a surge of Reservists --
firefighters and cops, including many who had worked the rubble of
Ground Zero -- wanting to exchange a hometown hug.
Their glassy eyes still
do not allow anyone to penetrate too far inside to the place where their
trauma is lodged; the trauma of a devastation far greater than anyone
who hadn't been there could even imagine. It's there in me, too. I had
forced my way downtown on that awful morning, convinced that I could
find Neil beneath the rubble.
What I was not prepared
for was to have soldiers show us the World Trade Center memorabilia
they'd carried with them into the streets of Baghdad. Others had clearly
been holding in stories of personal 9/11 tragedies which had made them
USO handlers moved us
from one corner to the next so everyone could meet us. One fire
brigade plucked the three of us from the crowd, transporting us to their
firehouse to call on those who had to stand guard during the Baghdad
concert. It was all about touching us and feeling the reason they were
in this hell. Back at Baghdad International Airport, Kid Rock turned a
"meet and greet" into an impromptu concert in a steamy airport hangar
before 5000 troops.
One particular soldier,
Capt. Vargas from the Bronx, told me he enlisted in the Army after some
of his wife's best friends were lost at the World Trade Center.
When he glimpsed the
piece of recovered metal from the Towers that I had been showing to a
group of soldiers he grasped for it as if it were the Holy Grail. Then
he handed it to Kid Rock who passed the precious metal through the 5000
troops in the audience. They lunged at the opportunity to touch the
steel that symbolized what so many of them felt was the purpose of their
mission -- which puts them at risk every day in the 116 degree heat, not
knowing all the while if a sniper was going to strike at anytime.
Looking into that sea of
khaki gave me chills even in that blistering heat. To me, those troops
were there to avenge the murder of my husband and 3,000 others. When I
got to the microphone I told them we had not made this journey for
condolences but to thank them and to tell them that the families of 9/11
think of them every day. They lift our hearts. The crowd interrupted me
with chants of "USA, USA, USA." Many wept.
What happened next left
no doubt that the troops drew inspiration from our tragedies. When I was
first asked to speak to thousands of troops in Qatar, after Iraq, I
wondered if it would feel like a "grief for sale" spectacle.
But this time I was
shaking because I was to present the recovered WTC steel to Gen.
Tommy Franks (U.S. Central Command commander). I quivered as I handed
him the icy gray block of steel. His great craggy eyes welled up with
tears. The sea of khaki fell silent. Then the proud four-star general
was unable to hold back the tears which streamed down his face on center
stage before 4,000 troops. As this mighty man turned from the spotlight
to regain his composure I comforted him with a hug.
Now, when do I return?
(Editor's note: This
commentary is printed with permission from Christy Ferer, a New York
native whose husband, Neil Levin, was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks. Ferer was part of a recent United Services Organizations tour