Saturday, December 27, 2008

Traumatic Brain Injury

This was forwarded to me from the Patriotic Pillow Project:

Supporters of our Military Community,

Please I implore you to watch this informative series of segments dealing with and teaching us about TBI *Traumatic Brain Injury!! This is a signature injury sustained by possibly 25% of our young Service Men & Women that are in the field overseas. We must improve the knowledge base of the general public to be more patient, understanding and protective of these Healing Heroes. There may be someone in your own community that is grappling with the devastating multiple complexities of TBI. There has been and always will be a special place in my heart for these Brave Survivors. Many are Angels returned to us from the other side whom in any other war wound have perished. They are gifts from God and them selves and their Families deserve our unfaltering commitment and Support.

Forward these You Tube videos for others to view, and share. From a daughter of a Dad that was on the neuro unit in a coma, that he did not survive from; find out how you too can “Make a Difference!” Encourage your elected officials to provide extensive therapy treatment and mostly funding to afford the best that medicine has to offer these American Warriors. Early intervention to advanced therapies, from the best professional institutions is most appropriate. They also too require rehabbing of their homes to accommodate the restructuring of the environment to make their living spaces Safe and Practical. Help a Hero!!!

For awareness and to serve as a Respectful head cover to provide warmth, we have designed “Kenny’s Kaps!” These unique skull caps are adorned with the Military Merit Badge patch. These head covers should be recognized telling a person of the community that the wearer has challenges. Please treat our recipients with respect and recognition. They deserve your Thanks and MORE…………………….

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ownership, Labels and Love

This is the season to reflect, and in reflection, let’s talk of love, gratitude, and some basic pronouns.

Who are you? Well, you are the sum of all your experiences and in relation to your family, a daughter, son, wife, mother, father, brother, or something. (Joe’s friend, the youngest daughter, mother of three, her this, his that, your, my, our...) When you apply the pronouns, you start to view your identity through a scope that limits the view. (His, hers, theirs, ours) Apply the same pronouns to your family and you might get “real brother” versus “step” and adopted family too.

When you apply the pronouns, your ownership filter starts to view others through a lens of who is more valid, who is more “real” which can be divisive. If he is your half brother, not full, what does that mean?

If all your family members aren’t real family members, how tolerant are you, really? If your brother and his second wife adopted two children, are they still his children? Aren’t they real? Don’t we all have room for a little more inclusion and tolerance?

If we are labeling people “real” and not real, valid and not valid, what does it say about our humanity?

What is a real family anyway? My family was his, mine and ours, but we were a family. Who has the authority to tell anyone that they aren’t real, or that they aren’t a real family? Especially on Christmas!

My greatest wish for Christmas is that we drop the “us” versus “them” and speak to our families without so much baggage and learn to accept people for who they are. For example, aunt Martha might have been stupid that one time, but it doesn’t mean she is always stupid. Let her past go.

Mom might have done some strange parenting, or lacked enough maternal skill to keep a goldfish alive, but let it go; that was then, this is now. You lived; give her a call. Because Aunt Josefina is gay or voted for issue X, is not enough of a reason to punish her humanity. It is time for a visit, but I’d call first!

Don’t let bad news, or loss of life become the sole reason you reach out to your family or your neighbor. These are hard economic times; we need to be kind to each other. These are hard emotional times too.

The older we each get, the more likely we are to have lost a loved one that we mourn on Christmas. I for one learned my dad had cancer on Christmas day and he lived for a year and died the following Christmas day. In a blink of an eye I can be at that moment holding his warm, still hand. Even after twenty years, I have bittersweet memories of the holidays.

I want to remind people to say, “I love you” a little more often. I want to remind people to be more inclusive and less judgmental. Life is short, so short that you really won’t have all your lovely people around you always. Take stock of these great folks and friends and feel truly full of friendship and love. This is a time to be softer, gentler, and more understanding with others, and we don’t really have to stop being that way on December 26th!

An ancient Greek philosopher wrote, “One cannot step twice into the same river.” Meaning, the water is flowing and the river in this moment is not the same water that moved through moments ago. It is a great reminder of how swiftly life changes before our eyes.

This holiday season, take stock of the love and friendship around you and let your love be known. May your days be blessed with love and equality, peace and acceptance.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

New Hope for Veterans

From the Huffington Post

PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Tomorrow, you had mentioned earlier, is when we commemorate Pearl Harbor, and so I'm going to be making announcement tomorrow about the head of our Veterans Administration, General Eric Shinseki, who was a commander and has fought in Vietnam, Bosnia, is somebody who has achieved the highest level of military service. He has agreed that he is willing to be part of this administration because both he and I share a reverence for those who serve. I grew up in Hawaii, as he did. My grandfather is in the Punch Bowl National Cemetery. When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and, I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served -- higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate -- it breaks my heart, and I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home.

BROKAW: He's the man who lost his job in the Bush Administration because he said we will need more troops in Iraq than Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld thought we would need at that time.
Click Title to see video link

Friday, November 07, 2008

History on the Homefront

Well, I might not have been kind to Sarah Palin, but it seems I made the right call. I hope that John McCain is a part of the new direction of America and I salute his service. Also, I respect Obama as the new Commander in Chief.

Soon, more veterans will be home from war and we will be there for them on the homefront. I hope we can help.

I feel a little badly for being so mad at McCain's pick of VP, in the end, it seemed to be very accurate that she was too polarizing of a pick. I apologize for being so mad, but being passionate drives me to serve, work, edit, teach, love, and I can't be passionate without also stepping on toes once in awhile. Thanks for your generous understanding.

I hope and pray that our military strengthens under Obama, that our methods of warfare can more effectively fight this 14 century war with 21st century idealism, and that our economy can stabilize to support the massive amount of humans on the planet. I hope and pray that he can put together a cabinet to address the issues and help heal us as a nation.

There is a lot to do, and it is time to start the work.

Jesse Loren

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Beware the Ides of November

Beware the Ides of November

In act II of Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar,Brutus considers the preemptive strike of killing Caesar before he is crowned and compares the strike to smashing an egg:
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg 

Which, hatch'd,would, as his kind, grow mischievous, And kill him in the shell.
Brutus has never seen Caesar swayed, but still, if he is crowned, he could become a fearful thing, just as the egg of an adder would one day become an adder. This fear compels him, against his better logic and reason, to stab his best friend to death.
Shakespeare wrote of it when Elizabeth I was on the throne, and today, it still resonates with the Bush doctrine that initially described the United States right to justify attacking a country unprovoked because it could harbor terrorists or weapons of mass destruction. Smash the egg, an adder could come out of it later.
Governor Palin describes the doctrine as Bush’s attempt to irradiate Islamic extremists; and she said during her response to ABC’s Charlie Gibson, that the U.S. “should do whatever it takes…” to fight terrorism. Doing whatever it takes goes far beyond the reach of civilized governments. It is invasive, overreaching, and subversive to democracy. It reminds me of an Internet story I received in a mass emailing and then deleted. It goes something like this:

A woman decides to take her husband’s boat out to experience what he enjoys on the lake. She does everything right, but a Fish and Game boat comes up beside her and boards her boat. She is accused of fishing without a license. She says, “I do not intend to fish, why would I want a license?” The Game Warden explains, “You have a fishing rod; this is clear evidence that you intend to fish, and I am giving you a citation.”
She claims, “Look, I don’t even like fish. I am just out here on my husband’s boat enjoying the water.” The game warden explains that clearly, if the boat has a rod, she must be intent on fishing. The lady begins to scream. The screaming gets louder and she starts yelling “RAPE! RAPE…” The warden tries to shush her saying, “I have no intention of raping you. Why are you saying that?” The lady responds, “Well, I was on the boat alone, you boarded my boat uninvited, and you have the equipment to rape me. Clearly, if you have in your pants the equipment, your intention was to rape me and you must be prosecuted.” Needless to say, the man did not write the ticket.
Under this logic, all men are suspect and should wear ankle bracelets so their whereabouts can be monitored. They are equipped and stealth. We must do whatever it takes…. Perhaps castrate most, or drown them like puppies. Maybe we water board them and hold them indefinitely on foreign soil. Better yet, we can monitor all of their conversations or hunt them down like Polar Bears….. I jest.
Whatever it takes is the most dangerous doctrine of the new century. It defends extremism coming from our soil. It speaks to a gross misunderstanding of everything the Constitution stands for, and it allows any and all fanatics to run the entire country unchecked by logic, reason, humanity or respect for civilization itself.
If you wonder what happens to Brutus, he goes unchecked, stabs Caesar to death and kills himself later because of his deep moral understanding of what he has done wrong. Falling on a sword does not undo wrong. To avoid wrong, we must take up responsibility as a nation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick on Pygmalion

Lipstick on Pygmalion
McCain and Palin don’t have track records of change, they have track records of a bridge to nowhere, pork barrel waste, irresponsible spending and same ol same ol politics of the rich. As a leader, McCain can’t boast anything new, except maybe hooking up with an ex beauty queen… Even that truly isn’t new, his beer heiress wife was one too. No, as a leader, McCain has learned from corporate America to use the tools of advertising, spin, and branding to sell the product called “McCain.” He needs the magic of packaging because he completely lacks substance.
As viewers, we are used to making judgments based on packaging. McCain stands beside the "hockey" mother of five, all gritty and polished like a glossy Hollywood headshot; both shouting, "change, change, change." Whatever that means. But, what does hockey mom mean? Does it mean that years ago, when her adult son was young, she took him to hockey practice? My kids collectively played soccer, football, softball, cheerleading, and Little League, along with guitar, violin, piano, bass and trombone, which meant I went to a lot of practices. That makes me a good chauffeur, but doesn't denote leadership. It might prepare me to negotiate a turn, but not diplomacy.
Palin's slick ability to deliver a prepared speech along with her image as white, coiffed, and lipsticked is straight corporate marketing. Imagine if she was Mexican with five kids, or African American? What assumptions would be made about her sexuality, fertility, or religious background? What assumptions would be made about her knocked-up teen? How about her callous lack of going to a hospital for 22 hours after her water broke with her premature, Down's syndrome baby? Would it still be cool? Or would it be criminal?
Would Palin’s teen be seen as heroic or as a drain on society if she were a minority? The fact that she is white makes her flowering fertility seem like a beauty mark where it would be a scarlet letter alight on her chest if she were a woman of color. Not much has changed, and it makes me wonder about us as a nation.
If we are a country by the people, of the people, and for the people, we have to educate ourselves about our own assumptions. I think we have to separate the corporate branding of our candidates and look at their real qualities, or lack of quality, before we vote. Red lipstick doesn’t make a lady; it just makes lips.
Before we vote I would ask all Americans to step back and really think of the branding of hokey Palin. She is not a maverick any more than McCain. Is McCain a maverick for leaving his sick wife to marry a beer heiress beauty queen he met in a bar? Is hokey Palin a maverick for mouthing a speech written for her? She continues to mouth the same pre-written, inaccurate words, and maybe because of pretty lipstick, men and women continue to listen.
She is under investigation for abuse of power. According to KTVS 11 news, “The legislative council approved 100,000 dollars for the investigation that will find out whether Palin was angry at Monegan for not firing an Alaska State Trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin's sister.” Clearly, she fired him, but it will take an investigation to confirm abuse of power; and it will take at least three months, just past the election. She has a lot of explaining to do, but as of this writing has only delivered a prepared speech. This isn't change. It's lipstick.
When I think of this election, I am reminded of the loss of secular societies like Iran over the slick branding of fear and religious fervor. It took a loud handful to extinguish that secular monarchy and turn it into an extremist theocratic dictatorship. Since then, Iran has burned books, and women’s rights have moved back about 800 years. It breaks my heart that it could happen here.
Before we jump to vote for one candidate over another, I believe we have to look at track records and beliefs for what they really mean to our laws, freedoms, rights, and to the heart of the constitution itself. Then we have to look at our own flawed and prejudiced selves if we want to heal relationships and move toward a more perfect union…

Jesse Loren

Friday, August 29, 2008

Political ranting-We can't afford McCain

(This is a personal, political rant and does not reflect Bombshells or anything I have edited or written. It doesn't mean I am not deeply involved with people who have served, moreover, it is my American point of view August 30th, 2008) It is just me, little ol me, as a woman after the homefront wait, a woman interested in the future of my country.

Desperate men do desperate acts. McCain picked a hockey mom with less than two years experience as governor of a state that is mainly wilderness. I doubt her management of deer will prepare her for Iraq, Iran or Israel, let alone countries that do not begin with the letter I.

There were loads of amazing prospects to choose from, but he chose her. What does she have that someone like Mitt Romney doesn’t have? Mitt served as CEO of the 2002 Olympics, that’s pretty international, and he was governor of Massachusetts. He went to Stanford, then BYU. Oh yeah, he is Mormon and that would surely ignite evangelical ire. God knows John needs those evangelicals.

McCain could have picked Tom Ridge who has served as Homeland Security Advisor. He was twice elected as Governor of Pennsylvania. He probably had to manage deer, Amish and taxes; that had to be hard. Tom cut taxes and worked with green technology, also helped with education initiatives, and increased healthcare availability for children in his state. So what does a self-styled hockey mom have that Tom Ridge doesn’t have? Sara Palin doesn’t have experience. She isn’t more qualified than men like Ridge or Romney, hasn’t served more, didn’t score higher on her SATs, or go to better schools.

Palin got a scholarship to college from winning second place in the Miss Alaska Beauty Pageant. She only minored in political science. Mitt Romney got into college with his perfect score on the SATs. News agencies aren’t talking about her dynamic intellect; no the news is abuzz about her workout and her eating habits.

Why would McCain consider a second place beauty queen with a minor in poly-science with miniscule political experience over a man who served as Homeland Security Advisor? The answer is so transparent it makes me sick. He thinks Clinton supporters will turn on Barrack and vote for him for having a woman on his ticket.

I voted for Barack in the primaries, but if Hillary won the nomination, I would have voted for her because she was smart, strong and qualified. She went to Wellesley as an undergraduate, (and not on a beauty scholarship). She went to Yale Law School and worked her tail off for children and other causes. She became a lawyer, married Bill, raised her family, and stood by him as wife and first lady both as governor then as president. Come on, she was elected as Senator of New York. Does New York have a deer problem? I wasn’t voting for Hillary because she has the parts necessary to make babies. Frankly, I would have voted for her because if she were a man, she would have been president a long time ago. She is smart, articulate, well educated, level-headed, and relentless. I will not vote for McCain; first, because he voted with Bush 90 percent of the time. Bush’s decisions have made a disaster of our economy and our standing in the world. Secondly, McCain’s choice of Palin is an outrage.

McCain’s decision to overlook all those educated, highly qualified men to pick a hockey mom – hunter is nonsensical and categorically offensive to every woman who has ever struggled for equality. How dare he! If I could slap him, I would, then I would slap her for being dumb enough to think she was qualified for the job. Are you kidding girlfriend. He is just using you for your Va- Jay Jay; did you not learn anything in college?

Lastly, Palin is the mother of five and one will soon be sent to Iraq. I would be more proud of bringing home the sons and daughters of America than to boast sending out more, especially my own.

We can’t afford this course for our country. We started out 8 years ago with a surplus of cash; we are now over 9.6 trillion dollars in a national debt that grows by the second. This leaves at least 31 grand on each of our backs; we will need are sons and daughters at home to pay this off. We will need unity to pay this off. We will need to change to pay this off. Not an endless war and endless debt. We do not need four or eight more years of this, and besides, nobody reading this could ever afford it.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

5 years on, Iraq war has changed lives

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer Sat Mar 8, 12:44 PM ET

Laura Youngblood clutched her husband's photo as she drove alone to the hospital. She'd become pregnant nearly nine months earlier, the day he'd left for training for Iraq. Hours later, after the baby was born, she placed the photo in the bassinet next to the infant he'd named Emma in his last letter home. He would never hold her.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis L. Youngblood, 26, had died two months earlier, killed by an improvised explosive device.

Laura Youngblood is just 29 years old, but she insists she will not remarry. Her life is her children, now ages 2 and 7. One day, she says, she'll be buried in the plot with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

"I tell people I'm a happily married woman," she says, crying.

Five years after U.S. troops invaded Iraq, there are many tears — though not everyone is crying. For the great majority of Americans, this is a war seen from afar. They turn off the news and forget about what is happening a world away.

Then there's the other war, the one that's a very vivid and present part of some Americans' lives.

It's the war that more than a million U.S. soldiers have fought, leaving nearly 4,000 dead and more than 29,000 wounded in action. The one in which thousands of contractors rushed in to serve and to make a buck — though some paid the ultimate price, as well.

Around military bases across America, vacations are planned around deployment schedules. Mini baby booms occur nine months after troops come home. Support groups for widows and injured soldiers have come together.

At small town National Guard armories, the focus has shifted from one weekend a month to filling out life insurance forms and packing a rucksack for war.

"'How did I end up in this kind of a situation?' There were a lot of guys that said that," says Jeff Myers, 48, a tech sergeant in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard from Pillow, Pa. His lips still discharge shrapnel shreds, the residue of two roadside bombs he survived in 2004; a neurologist monitors the concussions he sustained.

In his job as a gunner guarding Army convoys, he saw men so paralyzed by fear they wouldn't go outside the wire. He saw others die 15 minutes after he was chatting with them.

It's not a matter of whether you will have to deal with things like irritability and nightmares after you get home, he says: "It's how you deal with it when it does happen."

And how you deal with your fellow Americans who experience Iraq from a distance.

Amanda Jordan, whose Marine husband was killed three days into the war, says she doesn't know what bothers her more — the days that go by when no one speaks of the war, or the punditry. At a local diner she frequents with her 11-year-old son near their home in Enfield, Conn., she's contemplated standing up and leaving so he doesn't hear when people say Iraq was unnecessarily invaded.

"This is like my life. You're saying my spouse, my child's father, is dead for no reason," says Jordan, a 39-year-old former paralegal who is studying to be a therapist specializing in grief. "That's a pretty harsh thing to hear all the time."


Some can tell you exactly when their lives changed.

For Hazel Hoffman, from outside Grand Rapids, Mich., it was when the phone rang and she learned her son, Josh, was shot by a sniper. He was left a quadriplegic, unable to speak.

"I cried so hard that I had tears of blood. I remember looking down wondering, where is all this blood coming from? And it took a few seconds for me to realize this was coming out of me," says Hoffman, who has lived more than a year in an apartment with her son's girlfriend near his hospital in Richmond, Va.

Suzanne Stack, 48, was soaking in the bathtub in their house at Fort Campbell, Ky., when the doorbell rang. There were two officers at the door.

Afterward, still numb from the news of her husband's death, she walked her kids to the school bus. She sensed that people were looking at her fearfully, as if they were afraid they would be next. Even before the funeral, one spouse told her there was a waiting list for post housing. When would she be moving out?

"One day you're one thing. The next thing you're not. It's really quite a shock," says Stack, of Fredericksburg, Va., who now volunteers as an advocate for widows on Capitol Hill.

Walter Lajuane Williams, 33, of Fremont, Calif., was stoned when his turning point came. He was couch surfing, unemployed and in an abusive relationship after he left the Army, which took him to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even his service was criticized: "I had a person tell me, `How could you kill another person?'"

He went to the nonprofit Swords to Plowshares, looking for help finding work. A caseworker, wise to his drug use, took him aside. "I'm going to tell you candidly how I feel and what I smell," he said. "I'm going to work with you. Don't make me regret it."

Williams now helps other vets find jobs.

"All we need is a chance," Williams says.

Recently, an Iraq veteran came to Daniel Fox's office and asked to take a screening exam for post-traumatic stress disorder a second time. He'd lied the first time, he said.

"When I asked him why he wasn't honest, he said because I had just gotten home and everybody's like saying, 'Welcome home hero,'" Fox says. "And how could he tell him that this hero was not doing well?"

Fox, 47, works for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a case manager, assisting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. For a year, Fox, an Army Reservist, worked as an intensive care nurse at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany; the injured would be airlifted from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fox and his fellow nurses called themselves the ICU angels on the ICU angels tour. To lighten the mood, they made T-shirts with the slogan. Their bravado just helped mask their intense emotions.

"You had a mom and dad and the new wife with the babies in their arms standing in the door of this patient's room and he's got a gunshot wound to the head," says Fox, of Wichita, Kan. "How do you explain that to them? You can't console them."

"After a while, you go home and you cry about it," he says.

He used to be more macho and unemotional. Today, "I have more sympathy, more compassion," he says.

Lt. Col. Douglas Etter's job was sympathy and compassion. Etter, a minister, was a chaplain with the Pennsylvania National Guard in Al Anbar Province; his battalion lost 13 soldiers and two Marines.

He laid his hands on some of the men and delivered last rites. One morning, after he memorialized two of the dead, he says his stoicism dissolved; jogging by the Euphrates River, he cried.

In blunt newsletters home, he chronicled what the troops were seeing and experiencing, from delivering shoes and school supplies to happy Iraqi children to the story of a dead soldier wrapped in a flag by his fellow soldiers in the middle of a firefight because nothing else was available.

"As excited as we are to go home, many are equally afraid," he wrote in one of his last letters.

When Etter himself returned on leave to Pennsylvania to officiate at the funeral of a close friend, he turned to his wife and said he wanted to go home.

"I said, `OK, get in the car. Let's go home,'" said Jodi Etter. "And you said, 'No, my home in Iraq. I just want to go home.'"

When his tour was over, and he went with his wife to buy furniture for their new house in Lebanon, Pa., he had to remind himself that it was important to her — even if it seemed trivial to him after the war. He drove fast, and bought a BMW so he could do it. One day, Jodi pointed out that he was drinking more.

With time, his life settled down, and he came to feel that his months in Iraq were a time of growth. Now executive director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Veterans Affairs, Etter says a deployment is like a magnifying glass.

"Personalities that are strong become stronger," he says. "Personalities which are weaker are made to become weaker."

Phil Nesmith came away from Iraq with a certain clarity.

It wasn't the money that lured him to Iraq, he insists. He was like most of the U.S. troops he was living with at the time — idealistic about the mission.

He had been an Army paratrooper, but now he was among the first group of government contractors to arrive in Iraq after the invasion in 2003. His task was to help get telecommunications running.

At night, rockets flew into their compound. Sometimes they missed and hit apartments nearby, killing Iraqis. On the ground near where he was sleeping, a young officer shot and killed himself.

Violence did not account for all the stress. While he was there, Nesmith says, his relationship with his girlfriend of three years ended and she got pregnant by another man. "Pretty much every other soldier around me, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, had left them or they suspected them cheating on them."

It was hard. "You've left your life and you're wanting to maintain some kind of connection with that, but everything you left behind is continuing on even though your life is kind of suspended while you're there."

As he left Iraq, he crossed paths with a contractor who bragged about what he was going to buy with the money he was going to make in Iraq.

"I was just like, well, `You know, everybody's got their reasons, but I've got to ask you this: You lose both your legs, is that $160,000 going to be worth it?'" he says.

By that point, Nesmith says he knew what he wanted, what was important. He wanted to backpack through Australia, visit Montana, and go to photography school.

He did all three.

He had taken pictures in Iraq. Now he took some of those shots and manipulated them to look like they were taken in the Civil War era. They were shown at Washington, D.C.'s Irvine Contemporary Gallery in Washington, D.C., and priced at $1,500 each.

One photo depicts a single soldier standing alone in the desert. It reminds him of his own plight. "I knew I was on my journey back and when I got there I was going to be alone," Nesmith says. "No one was going to understand what that year was like."

Another photo, his favorite, is of an Iraqi flag flying outside a government utility office. Some Iraqis had just put it up. It was a time of optimism.

But now, he says, "it just seems like a more naive time, when you thought there was so much more that could possibly happen."

Before Travis Youngblood left for Iraq, he and his wife watched a TV interview with a pregnant woman whose husband had died in Iraq. Laura Youngblood cried.

"I felt so sorry for her," Youngblood says.

But then, "When my husband died, my first words were, 'I became her.'"

Today in nearly every room of her Florida house, there's a photo of her husband.

"It is hard. I feel bad for my son because he's 7. He doesn't know how to ride a two-wheel bike. His daddy was going to teach him," she says. "I can't do all the boy things that he wants to do."

She put together videos so her daughter will know the father she never met.

"I'm a survivor of the war. I'm a surviving spouse," Youngblood says. "That's the best way I can say it because every day you're surviving."

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hug a soldier? Not enough! Help the vets!

Hi Everyone!
Everywhere I go I hear people say, "I don't support the war, but I do support the troops." Well, now is the time to stand by that! Our veterans need us--let's not let them down like we did during and long after Vietnam. It is possible to affect change--but only if we actually begin taking action!

I signed IAVA's Petition to Secretary Nicholson, head of the VA, calling for increased mental health funding at our nation's Vet Centers. The VA hospitals are the primary source of readjustment and mental health services for our young men and women returning from war, and it's absolutely crucial that Vet Centers get the funding they need.

This is only part of the battle though, as the VA hospital system is separate from the Army. We also need to start pressuring our Government representatives to change the way the Army and all branches of the military evaluates and treats mental health in all our Soldiers, etc. Remember this, these veterans are returning to civilian life regardless if they receive proper treatment or not. So even if you don't care about the vets themselves, care about your self enough to do something about it.

Interested in viewing the petition and learning more? Then go to this link:

Thank you!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Times Under Fire from Charles Sheehan Miles Blog

From Charles Sheehan Miles Good sttuff


Thursday, 17 January 2008
Times Under Fire for Vets article
Posted By Charles at 9:59 AM

On Sunday, the New York Times ran a lengthy article chronicling a series of homicides committed by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans over the last several years—more than 120 killings here in the United States. Now, the Times is under fire, according to some articles and bloggers, for perpetuating “The Killer Vet lie” and “Vet-Bashing.”
Not surprisingly, the culture warriors who are still intent on perpetuating the Vietnam era hawk vs. dove debate have jumped in feet first, specially after the Weekly Standard ran an analysis by John J. Dilulio which attempts to debunk the conclusions of the times by pointing out that the murder rate among same-age Americans is much higher than among returning veterans. The terms of the debate are the usual:
· The article is “presumably an attempt at making another case for ending the war, if we know anything about the Times's editors.”
· Mike Burleson writes: Just throw out a few unverified facts and let the "blame America first" crowd, as well as the radicals overseas gather their talking points.
· At “The Two Malcontents”, they write, “The Times has committed a gross slander.” This, of course, is on the same blog which has categories titled “Americans who Hate America,” “Commie Pinkos” and “Blame America”
Unfortunately, all of these articles miss the real point raised by the Times article. Are we doing enough to help war veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan? And the answer to that question is a resounding no.
It makes me angry that a legitimate issue that should be of concern to all of us has to be tied up in the pro-war/anti-war political debate. Let’s get that out front. To those on the left who would use this article as an argument for leaving Iraq, I say: stop using the troops as your political football. To the folks on the right who would use this as an opportunity to bash the left: screw off. Both sides make me sick. Because the people getting left behind in this debate are the people who actually need our help.
I’ve written in the past about the profound impact killing has on the psyche. Killing sucks. Sometimes its necessary, and war is one of those times. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Frankly, I struggled for years with the remorse, rage, and sometimes-waking nightmares that were a result of killing another human being.
My first novel, written in the three years following my own experience with killing in the Gulf War, goes directly to this issue: the experience of killing in combat, the impact on the soldier, and most importantly in this discussion—the possibility of a violent response to the experience.
The question of whether or not returning veterans are less or more likely to kill than the general population is an important one and needs to be looked at more systematically than has been done in the past. But using the question as yet another manifestation of the left-right culture war is the real disservice to veterans.

Tags: PTSD Iraq military war NY Times wingnuts culture warriors

Posted By Charles at 9:59 AM

Sunday, January 20, 2008

About 2 below and the repost from Anonymous Infantryman

"I read 2 Below. My first instinct was to state what every jacked up combat vet thinks, but am afraid of how bad it will be attacked by others.

Killing is like virginity and sex. The first time is awkward. You've heard your buddies talk about it, you've seen it on tv. and it can be addicting.

But every situation is different. The mother ****er who ran a road block with a family inside actually bothers me. The mother ****er who set off an IED. well, I feel good about what we did, and bad that we missed one. It made me feel REALLY good sometimes. It fixed any problem. It really really bothered me sometimes. But by the end of the tour, we looked for every opportunity we could. The emotion was gone. It just was. Like a drug addict rock star. First the music, then drugs and music, then just the drugs.

The truth is that the primitive mind remembers serious threats, bit by a dog, don't f*** with it. Whatever solution it used in the past, (assuming it worked) the brain will reuse. If lethal force with a weapon resolved a threat. Hey, it worked last time, and the time before that. Why not?? It ain't broke. why change or fix it.

That's for a threat. Someone is gonna harm me, or someone near me.

few more things. 1: WW II, Korean, and vietnam vets toughed it out, they didn't get anything and nobody cared. It just seems like everyone else in the world telling us (Soldiers) what we're feeling. and how normal things are to an abnormal situation. -Well, isn't fighting and 'waring' human nature? so WTF?

It's also f***ed up to bring up a problem without a solution, so I thought, what do I think, or how would I change it. That's when I realized, I called battle buddies to check. I asked 4 of my most f***ed up battle buddies. no one ever asked us.
Like I said. I've been spoon fed what I'm suppose to be going through by some "expert" wearing birkenstocks and in desperate need of a haircut... ya. But people don't seem to realize that there is no privacy in the Army. If you want to know anything about anyone. ASK 'EM. I don't have any interest in maintaining my privacy AS LONG as whatever it is used for is done respectfully and not used, well, how can I say this. To benifit any hippy claims. I.E. war =bad, war is for business. ETC.
But if you or someone else wants to know what's going on upstairs in our gorrilla minds. Ask. I would feel confronted by the first question out of their mouths, "didja keel anyone."

But would answer PTSD questions.

So what! A few joes killed some people. Hey did America know that people in the Service use drugs too? Yeah, alot!

The truth is, is that like any community, someone is bound to any number of illegal activities. Yes the percentage might be higher, right now then in the past, but seriously. How many people were killed in Detriot, LA, NY.. Shit happens.

I don't understand what you meant at the end of your writing, the last two paragraphs were hard to follow. You had me going, then the last 2 make it sound like you have some kind of hidden agenda or cheap shot at I don't even know what. But it always seems to leave a sour taste, rather than that of a genuine care. Maybe it's just well beyond my level of either education, social class, or care. I just don't get it.

(I've never heard the blue cord refered to a pretty blue braid most people don't know that means infantry). Thanks

Grunts and a repost

A friend who has served both as a Marine, then again as Army Infantry and now back as a marine posted this, with permission to repost. These are not my words at all, nor are they meant to persuade anyone to anything, just one voice among many...

" Jan 17, 2008 12:01 AM
Subject: Aaaaahhhh!!!!
Body: GRUNTS- Body: Underwear is entirely optional at all times -You go on missions with your fly undone so you can piss while pulling security. -You have issues with female authority. -You have issues with females. -You have no problem running 5 miles drunk. -You have no problem maxing a PT Test drunk. -You have no problems doing a 12 mile forced march drunk. -You have no problems but drinking problems, and you don't think its a problem at all. -You would fight for a guy you barely know, as long as he's a grunt. -You'd fight your best friend, even though he's a grunt. -Monday morning formation should be taped and sent in to the Howard Stern Show. -You know someone who has done the following: 1. pissed themselves, shit themselves, puked on themselves, and in turn did all of the above on other people, and loved it 2. killed a Hadji, and loved it 3. killed a case in between COB and last light, and loved it. 4. ran a few miles on a broken something, and loved it. -You know that work is work and play is play. -You pride yourself on getting dirtier than any POG, but looking prettier at the same time. -You know heroes. -You know heroes that dont care if they are heroes. -Your buddies know all of your business, tell all of your business, but when the shit gets hot, its always time to handle some goddamn business. -You wince when a POG handles his weapon like a POG. -You know POG dudes hate you because POG chicks love you. -You realize you are one of the hardest motherfuckers in the country, and that's just before anyone else gets out of bed. -You got stopped in the airport by some fat security guard on the way home from OIF or OEF because your uniform had bomb residue, blood, or powder burns on it, and they treated you like a terrorist because of it. -You say Roger when Roger could mean a really bad day. -You say Roger because you welcome a bad day. -You would bleed on the flag so the stripes stay red. -You can fall asleep absolutely anywhere. -You hear Kuwait, you automatically get the shits. -You hear Iraq/Afghanistan, you say, fuck it dude, Round Two, Three, Four, whatever. -You are the sore-footed, camo-faced, sunburnt, dirty, tired hungry sons-of-a-bitches that have fought so long to keep the wolf at the gate. You know this and you don't care if anyone else knows this. -You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world, and damn proud of it. -I'll drink to that. -Repost this if you're a grunt or know a grunt. If you're a chick, do your best to go f**k a grunt, ask anyone, its the best lay you'll ever have...."

POG is a person in the armed services with a desk job. They usually have blogs with fierce pictures, but they sit in air conditioned rooms away from any danger. The above post was written by a a young man who has been to the sandbox more than once, and upon his last return, tried to get into law enforcement, etc, but decided to re-up and return to Iraq.

Ok, the point of posting this is to demonstrate that real people from all walks of life serve in the armed forces, they aren't all pilots killing at a distance, or supply sergeants loading something, some are in the streets doing the dirty work. I think Infantrymen think like this friend. He is adrenaline filled and full of living in the moment, just filled to the brim with the excitement of the next door, yet upon return home, he has to schedule appointments, make appointments, pay bills, do the drudgery of school, and make his own way, which is really not fly compared to the zipper-down, piss anywhere, shoot anyone time he just had.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Veteran’s Descent, and a Prosecutor’s Choice

From the link above... click link for entire story....

TOOELE, Utah — Not long after Lance Cpl. Walter Rollo Smith returned from Iraq, the Marines dispatched him to Quantico, Va., for a marksmanship instructor course.

Mr. Smith, then a 21-year-old Marine Corps reservist from Utah, had been shaken to the core by the intensity of his experience during the invasion of Iraq. Once a squeaky-clean Mormon boy who aspired to serve a mission abroad, he had come home a smoker and drinker, unsure if he believed in God.

In Quantico, he reported to the firing range with a friend from Fox Company, the combined Salt Lake City-Las Vegas battalion nicknamed the Saints and Sinners. Raising his rifle, he stared through the scope and started shaking. What he saw were not the inanimate targets before him but vivid, hallucinatory images of Iraq: “the cars coming at us, the chaos, the dust, the women and children, the bodies we left behind,” he said.

Each time he squeezed the trigger, Mr. Smith cried, harder and harder until he was, in his own words, “bawling on the rifle range, which marines just do not do.” Mortified, he allowed himself to be pulled away. And not long afterward, the Marines began processing his medical discharge for post-traumatic stress disorder, severing his link to the Reserve unit that anchored him and sending him off to seek help from veterans hospitals.

The incident on the firing range was the first “red flag,” as the prosecutor in Tooele County, Utah, termed it, that Mr. Smith sent up as he gradually disintegrated psychologically. At his lowest point, in March 2006, he killed Nicole Marie Speirs, the 22-year-old mother of his twin children, drowning her in a bathtub without any evident provocation or reason.

“There was no intent,” said Gary K. Searle, the deputy Tooele County attorney. “It was almost like things kept ratcheting up, without any real intervention that I can see, until one day he snapped.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

2 Below-

There are two articles below this one. One is about the violence perpetrated by rogue veterans after serving in Iraq and Afganistan. One is a strong reaction agains that kind of reporting. Both are valid arguments.

Is it responsible journalism to sensationalize the few killers who have returned from battle in foreign lands, only to unleash that fury on Americans?
Is it responsible journalism to highlight the plight of PTSD affected veterans who have returned from war only to find that they can't fit back into society, and find it easier to revert to their skill, stealth killing, as a solution to the new stress?

Is it responsible to rant about how that makes these people lepers and it just isn't fair to defame these valiant heroes?

I am on the fence. I am on the fence after living, breathing and co-existing with a veteran. I am on the fence about telling people honestly what anger can do. I am on the fence of personal privacy, which keeps me from saying yes, they sure are armed, wouldn't you be if you if your gun meant your life...

Not everyone comes back and shifts right in. On the contrary, going to Iraq fresh out of high school, a young adult has little coping strategies for making it in society. Also, upon return the young person sees friends that are more established and it is frustrating. Especially if he or she is still taking a knee at the boom of the fourth of July show, or when a car backfires. You start to feel like a freak, a freak who has lost time. A freak that has valuable skill on a battle field and no commensurate skill or task in society.

It seems easier to just go back.

Not only might these folks lack everyday coping strategies and decision making skills, but they have all new burdens. A combat vet can have exposure to spent uranium, traumatic brain injury, digestion problems, and PTSD. A combat vet can have fewer limbs, constant pain, and the possibility of never returning to what was known before deployment. How many deaths, howmany friends lost, how many images are stuck in that man or woman's head? It just isn't easy or pretty for many returning home.

"Two years of shells and bombs, a man's not
likely to peel that off like a sock" from All Quiet on the Western Front

Not all veterans are the same. My friends in blue seem to have limitless support to help them with any and all prolbems. My friends in green, the ones with the pretty blue braid or the ones with the medic patch, they aren't the same.

If they aren't the same, we can't generalize. What we can do as a society is provide real loving support, real medical support, real lifetime support. It means more than waving a flag on that one day, or visiting that one memorial that one time. It means work, and when it really comes down to it, most folks would rather pop open a drink and zone out to the boob tube.

We really shouldn't fear the unknown veteran, we should fear the unknown consequences of knowingly turning our back on our own creations.

When you get past all the blue state red state, gun ownership, self-righteousness, what we lack is a logical connection between our actions, our politics and the outcomes in society. We seem to get far enough to question authority, but we don't question who benefits from the lobbyists and the business behind the authority.

Who really benefits from this war, would they benefit from recognizing a problem with the combat veterans, their quality of life or what we really owe them in society? Would they?

The New Lepers (New York Post) click title for link


Defending America: That's why the Times insists he's a freak.

January 18, 2008 -- I'VE had a huge response to Tuesday's column about The New York Times' obscene bid to smear veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan as mad killers. Countless readers seem to be wondering: Why did the paper do it?
Well, in the Middle Ages, lepers had to carry bells on pain of death to warn the uninfected they were coming. One suspects that the Times would like our military veterans to do the same.
The purpose of Sunday's instantly notorious feature "alerting" the American people that our Iraq and Afghanistan vets are all potential murderers when they move in next door was to mark those defenders of freedom as "unclean" - as the new lepers who can't be trusted amid uninfected Americans.
In the more than six years since 9/11, the Times has never run a feature story half as long on any of the hundreds of heroes who've served our country - those who've won medals of honor, distinguished service crosses, Navy crosses, silver stars or bronze stars with a V device (for valor).
But the Times put a major investigative effort into the "sensational" story that 121 returning vets had committed capital offenses (of course, 20 percent of the cases cited involved manslaughter charges stemming from drunken driving, not first- or second-degree murder . . . ).
Well, a quick statistics check let the air out of the Times' bid to make us dread the veteran down the block - who the Times implies has a machine gun under his bathrobe when he steps out front to fetch the morning paper. In fact, the capital-crimes rate ballyhooed by the Gray Lady demonstrates that our returning troops are far less likely to commit such an offense.
Again, the Times' smear certainly wasn't an accident. The paper's staff is highly paid and highly experienced. Its editors know that a serious news story has to put numbers into context. But their sole attempt at context was to note that offenses by former soldiers have ticked up since we went to war.
The Times is trying to make you fear our veterans (Good Lord, if your daughter marries one, she's bound to be beaten to death!). And to convince you that our military would be a dreadful place for your sons and daughters, a death-machine that would turn them into incurable psychopaths.
To a darkly humorous degree, all this reflects the Freudian terrors leftists feel when confronted with men who don't have concave chests. But it goes far beyond that.
Pretending to pity tormented veterans (vets don't want our pity - they want our respect), the Times' feature was an artful example of hate-speech disguised as a public service.
The image we all were supposed to take away from that story was of hopelessly damaged, victimized, infected human beings who've become outcasts from civilized society. The Times cast our vets as freaks from a slasher flick.
The hard left's hatred of our military has deteriorated from a political stance into a pathology: The only good soldier is a dead soldier who can be wielded as a statistic (out of context again). Or a deserter who complains bitterly that he didn't join the Army to fight . . .
At the risk of turning to anecdotal evidence - a technique much-abused by the left - I have to declare that I personally know hundreds of veterans. (Can anyone at the Times head office make that claim?) Not a single one of them has committed a crime worse than exceeding the speed limit on the Interstate.
Not one vet I know is in prison for a crime he or she committed after taking off the uniform. And in nearly 22 years of active service, I encountered only two soldiers who committed violent crimes (no murders).
Contrary to the Times, veterans are consistently among the most upstanding members of their communities. They volunteer. They vote. They take pride in being good neighbors. And those I know have raised their children more successfully than the average liberal household.
But what's the image that the left, whether the Times or the silly people in Hollywood, presents to us? Vets are nuts. Violently nuts. They kill their neighbors. They kill their own kind. And they're just waiting for the right moment of madness to kill you.
A longstanding goal of the left, recently invigorated, has been to drive a wedge between our military and our society. The real vet is the neighbor who fixes your kid's bike (or your computer). But the left's archetypal vet is the Marine colonel in "American Beauty" who, frustrated in his suppressed gay passions, murders poor Kevin Spacey.
Yes, war is a terrible crucible. Some vets, past and present, do need help. And they deserve the best help our country can give them. But the left-wing fantasy of hordes of psychotics driven mad by drill sergeants and Army chow is just that: a fantasy.
Of course, if the Times responds at all to the storm of protests their insult to our veterans aroused, the editors will try to fudge the numbers in their favor. You just can't argue with ideologues. They lie and they cheat. And they justify it as being for the greater good of ignorant fools like us.
So let me suggest the best-possible revenge on the veteran-trashing jerks at The New York Times: Instead of fleeing in terror the next time you see a veteran you know, just thank him or her for their service.
And let's save the leper's bells for dishonest journalists.
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer who has yet to kill any of his neighbors (although they'd better keep their grass cut).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Report: 121 vets charged in deaths after tours

The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jan 14, 2008 12:56:22 EST
NEW YORK — At least 121 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have committed a killing or been charged in one in the U.S. after returning from combat, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said it also logged 349 homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans in the six years since military action began in Afghanistan, and later Iraq. That represents an 89 percent increase over the previous six-year period, the newspaper said.

About three-quarters of those homicides involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, the newspaper said. The report did not illuminate the exact relationship between those cases and the 121 killings also mentioned in the report.

The newspaper said its research involved searching local news reports, examining police, court and military records and interviewing defendants, their lawyers and families, victims’ families and military and law enforcement officials.

Defense Department representatives did not immediately respond to a telephone message early Sunday. The Times said the military agency declined to comment, saying it could not reproduce the paper’s research.

A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, questioned the report’s premise and research methods, the newspaper said. He said it aggregated crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to murder, and he suggested the apparent increase in homicides involving military personnel and veterans in the wartime period might reflect only “an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11.”

Neither the Pentagon nor the federal Justice Department track such killings, generally prosecuted in state civilian courts, according to the Times.

The 121 killings ranged from shootings and stabbings to bathtub drownings and fatal car crashes resulting from drunken driving, the newspaper said. All but one of those implicated was male.

About a third of the victims were girlfriends or relatives, including a 2-year-old girl slain by her 20-year-old father while he was recovering from wounds sustained in Iraq.

A quarter of the victims were military personnel. One was stabbed and set afire by fellow soldiers a day after they all returned from Iraq.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Moms in the Service to Their Wounded... from click link

Moms in Service to Their Wounded

Associated Press | January 02, 2008

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Rose Lage swears it is true:
Suddenly, in the midst of a fitful night of sleep last
June, she knew that her son had been injured in Iraq.
"I heard my son's voice," she recalls. "It might sound
weird, but I heard him holler 'Mama!'"

It turned out U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Lage was
the only survivor of a blast that killed four others.
He suffered third-degree burns to nearly half his
body; part of his nose and ears were missing, and his
face, scalp, arms and torso were seared. His left hand
had to be amputated.

Rose Lage, 54, understood her son's life would change.
But she did not understand how much her own quiet life
- a life spent playing with grandkids, fishing and
preparing for her husband's retirement - would change,
as well.

She would exchange her two-story house in Atlanta for
a hotel room on an Army post, watch her nest egg
shrink and spend her days helping a 30-year-old son
change bandages and wriggle into garments meant to
reduce scarring.

The sacrifices of injured Soldiers, airmen and Marines
are recognized with medals and commendations. But the
mothers and wives who arrive here wide-eyed and afraid
make their own sacrifices - abandoning jobs and homes
and delaying retirement to help their wounded children
reclaim their lives.

"The women here are the heroes, every bit the heroes
as their Soldiers," said Judith Markelz, who runs a
4-year-old program to aid the families of injured
Soldiers sent here for treatment. "These kids could
not survive without their women."


The patients who arrive at Fort Sam Houston are among
the worst wounded in war, suffering the kind of
injuries that killed their predecessors in earlier

So far, about 600 burn victims and 250 amputees have
been sent here to recover at the Army's only burn
center and at an amputee rehabilitation program set up
since the start of the Iraq war.

Their injuries will take multiple surgeries and months
or years of recovery and rehabilitation.

When the injured arrive, fathers and siblings often
come for the first surgeries. But the wives and
mothers most often stay, Markelz said. They quit jobs,
give up health insurance and abandon homes.

"None of us realized people were going to be here two
years. That's not your normal hospital stay," Markelz
said. "They didn't want to make San Antonio their
home. Now, they can vote here."

Markelz, the wife of a retired army officer, was hired
four years ago to start the Warrior and Family Support
Center, a program that has grown from a few computers
in converted conference rooms to a catchall program
for families of the wounded.

The Army provides housing for families in a post hotel
or at one of the Fisher Houses, family-style dorms
with a living room, kitchen and dining room. But most
arrive with few or no friends and with little
understanding of what they or their wounded family
member will face.

"They come in with their purses like this," said
Markelz, hugging her chest. "They look like a deer in

The assistance center - which will move to a new
12,000-square-foot (110-square-meter) building next
year - provides meals, a place for baffled family
members to seek advice, rides to shopping, just about
anything Markelz's staff can do to help.

Among the family members here for the long haul, about
half are wives and half mothers.

Markelz said it is especially hard on wives of
guardsmen and reservists and on middle-aged mothers of
Soldiers - women who had well-established civilian
lives away from the typically nomadic life of active
military families.

"They didn't sign up for that," she said.


Staff Sgt. Michael Lage had always been an independent
kid. The youngest of three and the only boy, he was
the first to leave home. He joined the Army at 18.

He served two full tours in Iraq, first in 2003 and
again two years later.

Through both tours, his mother prayed and lit a yellow
candle every day at a shrine fashioned from his photo,
angel figurines and military mementos in front of her
fireplace in Atlanta. She continued the ritual when he
was deployed a third time in May.

But less than a month later, his Bradley Fighting
Vehicle was hit by a bomb in Baghdad. Lage was the
only one who managed to crawl out or get blown free of
the wreckage. He was on fire, still carrying his gun,
witnesses later told his family.

Rose Lage and her husband, Larry, arrived in San
Antonio to find Michael in intensive care in a
medically induced coma. He was covered in bandages
with tubes coming in and out of his body.

His mother recognized her son by his long dark

But she wasn't allowed to touch him, couldn't embrace
him the way she longed to.

"It took everything I had to be strong," she said, her
voice breaking.

Now, six months have passed since she arrived in San
Antonio with one large suitcase.

Her husband stayed as long as he could, but he had to
return to work after the couple tapped their
retirement savings for months.

Her two daughters, too, have come to help, but they
have their own homes and young children to care for.

Rose has not gone anywhere.

Pieces of her wardrobe have arrived with family
members as the seasons changed and as she lost weight
from crisscrossing the post on foot. A few photos of
grandchildren have gone up around the hotel room,
along with American Indian charms meant to protect
against nightmares.

Rose has cobbled together an unexpected life here,
learning her way around town and building new routines
and friendships.

Days of housekeeping and care for grandchildren have
been replaced with new routines: the careful wrapping
of gauze around reddened skin, vigilant adherence to
medication regiments, the zipping and buttoning of
Michael's clothes.

"We've given up a lot for him," Rose concedes, sitting
in a hotel room where a giant flag signed by her son's
unit hangs. "We'd give up a lot more for him."

Michael is grateful for his mother's help, but parents
and adult children living together can get on each
other's nerves. The close quarters and the stress

"I appreciate her being here, but living in a small
hotel room with your mom tends to wear on you a bit,"
Michael says.

A career Soldier and divorced father of 8-year-old
twins, he never dreamed he'd be living with or reliant
on his mother at age 30. (His son and daughter live in
Tennessee with their mother.)

Even as a child, he was never good at asking for help,
Rose says.

"That's what annoys her most: I never ask for help,"
he says.

Rose struggles, too, because she knows he doesn't tell
her everything. He holds back some of the emotional
and mental struggles that come with such serious
injuries and with the memories of friends lost at war.

"It's been very hard because I know he is frustrated
because I'm a mom and I haven't been there. I guess he
thinks I don't know what's going on," she says.

"They forget that you're a person. You have a life,
that you have feelings."


The Lages both finally left San Antonio on Dec. 15 for
a Christmas trip to see Michael's children and other
family and friends.

But Michael must return in January to face a series of
surgeries to reconstruct his elbow, and eventually his
amputated arm and his nose and ears. It will probably
take another year of treatment and rehabilitation.

That means Rose will be back, too.

"I will always be here for him no matter what. He can
always depend on me. I will never leave him," she
says, looking at Michael. "I'll be here for my other
kids, too. That's what a mom's for. I would give up my
life for him, and if I could give him my other hand, I

At that, Michael quickly brushes away a tear, and his
mother adds one last thing: "He's my baby."