I was on the phone with Patti Patton-Bader the other day talking about some Soldiers Angels issues. We talked about soldier X. He was, in my mind, a lost cause. Patti felt otherwise. And it turns out that she was right and I was wrong. It was a good reminder for me.
I have worked long hours for certified heroes; however, I've probably spent the most energy and political capital I've ever had to get a soldier in prison (for murder) his meds for his wounds from Iraq - the warden denied them at first. I did it because he was a Soldier and his commander told me that he was worth it. And now, I'm gearing up to go to war for another soldier who committed a crime and needs our help.
We also have to remember our own struggles and how far we've all come. I've had a lot of people in my corner but even sometimes my own wife doesn't understand why we do what we do. You all here have helped our various crusades in many many ways. And, as a secondary effect of that, you have helped me.
We all handle things differently and some have a greater capacity than others. It's just the way it is.
Some of us use those lessons to help others as much as we can. Team Rubicon is a good example. Toby Nunn at Soldiers Angels is another. The boys at Ranger Up. This Ain't Hell (the BlackFive Farm Team). Our team here too is involved in so many behind the scenes operations...and many others (apologies for leaving anyone out).
Gold Star Dad, Robert Stokely, is another stalwart. We have a must read letter from Robert after the Jump and it's got some back story for Laughing Wolf's post below.
11 FEB 1300 hours:
My cell phone rang as I was in the middle of me supervising my Staff
Prosecutor presenting evidence in a Driving Under the Influence case.
I step outside to take the call. She was hysterical, calling out to me
Mr. Stokely, Mr. Stokely, please help me.... I did not know who was
calling me and it was a struggle to even get her name and for now I
will call her TS. She was crying, sobbing out of control. Finally,
she told me her husband was with Bravo 2/121 48th BCT based in Newnan /
Coweta County GA where I live and serve as the prosecutor. I am also
privileged to serve as the Family Readiness Group Co-Chair for Bravo
The unit has been in Afghanistan since last June, and the going has not
always been smooth. Last Thursday was anything but smooth. When TS
called me it was dark there and her husband and many other soldiers
were in their sleeping quarters. As I got her to calm down she told me
something terrible had happened but she was not sure what. Sobbing and
sounds that were words that made no sense. I got her to calm down
again - firmly speaking to her to slow down, breathe, breathe, breathe
deep. Then I asked her to tell me slowly what she heard, what she
knew. Still sobbing and with a quivering voice she began to tell me
she heard a loud noise as she was talking to her husband who was with
Bravo 2/121 in Afghanistan. Then immediately after the loud noise,
someone shouted to him "The ****** ****** blew himself up and we got to
get to our trucks." She sobbed and cried in anguish again.... I said
with a little more firm voice "Calm Down, we have to work through
this." She settled down. Then I said " Tell me what you heard next".
She then told me the phone was still on, an open line and she could
hear sounds - screaming, shouting, etc. Then she heard the words
suicide bomber. I told her to hold on and immediately called my Rear D
and reported something bad had happened at (omitted for op sec
reasons). I switched back to TS - "What are you hearing?" It is
calmer now she said - the line is still open.
I thought about calling my Co-Chair, whose son is at the same camp. It
was a hard decision to make - if I call her she may become frantic at
the least extremely worried. But I decided I had to make the call to
prep her to brace for bad news, but at same time brace for calls from
other spouses and family. In today's war, news travels fast. Within a
few minutes my Co-chair called me - she had heard from her son, a brief
message - "Mom, I am o.k. got to go." She was re-assured. Then the
calls started coming in to her and she relayed to me. Now, with TS on
the phone, and my Co-Chair, I am switching between conversations and
adding a third one to Rear D giving them info I am acquiring - names
and scope of injuries, all coming from down range from soldiers, mainly
through their spouse by phone, email, text...
Five soldiers down, one looks serious I tell Rear D. And it was
accurate. In the course of several hours, the info being relayed to me
through an open line, family of the wounded, and others to my Co-chair
was more accurate and in real time than even our Rear D could acquire.
How could that be? Well Rear D had to call into command, who at the
moment was kind of busy....
Late Thursday afternoon: I am calling the wives of the wounded,
especially E whose husband is most seriously wounded. She is very
upset for she hears many things how bad it is yet the info flowing from
military notification sources simply says he is hurt. She is locked in
fear of the worst. How do I handle this I ask myself - she needs
re-assurance, but even though I feel my intel is good, I can't be
certain it is 100%. I can't make it sound too good lest things make a
turn for the worse. So I talk to her about the process and what
"makes sense". I tell her my experience in dealing with soldiers
coming out of the war zone - Landstuhl then Andrews and then their
treatment / recovery destination. I tell her Soldier's Angels will be
on the ground and their to help. I tell her it is maybe a good sign
that the military has not sent someone to her home or that she has not
heard she needs to get ready to fly to Germany to meet her husband. I
tell her to remember he is alive and the one piece of confirmed info I
have - he is not expected to die. I tell her as long as he is alive,
she has something to work with and hope to get better. I tell her 12
hours ago, she would not have agreed with me that this was something to
be happy about, but now she has a new normal and these are good signs.
It is now after midnight and we have traded more calls.
Earlier that evening, I had sent an an email to our favorite SA in
Germany - she is truly an angel and not the first time I have called on
her and so have others. I give her info on two soldiers coming up
range. She is on it even though it is late into the night in Germany.
Early Friday, she has info and has contacted E and has her husband
covered when he comes in. SA contacts at WRMC already lining up as
well. And the other soldier, and his wife A also covered, even though
she is able to talk to him from Afghanistan field hospital and when he
gets to Landstuhl, groggy as he is. "A" is less frantic, but still
worried, and scarred at what almost happened. "A" husband served with
my "boy" Mike in Iraq five years ago. She knows the rigors and
harshness of war. She knows she, like E, has dodged the call no wife
wants, one which tells her she is a widow.
Saturday, things looking up, although E husband still sedated and
serious but stable. "A" husband doing well, but she is still scarred.
I talk another of the wounded soldier's wife, S; he has returned to
duty and she is shaken, for her husband saw 9 friends die in Iraq five
years ago when his unit, Bravo 2/121 deployed with the 48th Brigade
GAARNG, along with "A" husband's unit, E 108 CAV 48th BCT, which three
soldiers. The two units combined and 12 names are on the Wall of
Honor at the Armory. S also realizes what she has dodged. Then, the
most amazing story is told me.
S husband and the other guys had adopted a couple stray dogs. One
named Rufus and then another, younger puppy named Sasha. Last
Thursday, 11 Feb. the dogs alerted while they were in their barracks.
Even though told to be quiet the dogs bolted to the front room where
they attacked a uniformed, seemingly friendly Afghan coming in the
door. The Afghan kicked at the dogs but Rufus would not give up, and
then it happened - the Afghan detonated his suicide vest. Sasha was
killed, but Rufus, less some hair, burned and with serious injury,
survives. Without a doubt, five soldiers, maybe more, are alive today
because Rufus and Sasha slowed down the attacker, maybe even panicked
him into detonating his vest before he got further into the filled
Monday night EDT/Newnan GA - I am talking to "S" and she tells me her
husband and the other soldiers want to bring Rufus stateside and back
to the Armory when they re-deploy late March - early April. I send an
email to my "go to" angel in Germany and within minutes she sends it on
to Mr. Wolf who sends it on to Baghdad Pups who contact me. Technology
and email are amazing.... Within a few minutes I am talking to TC who
is somewhere in Central America and shortly after that I have
e-connected TC with "S" and her husband/SSG in Afghanistan. Operation
Rufus the Dog is underway.
In the meantime, I have worked to help coordinate E and A to get them
to their husbands bedside. E finally got to WRMC today. A is with her
husband at FT. Benning Martin Medical Center. And I am letting my cell
phone and key board rest..... And maybe on Wednesday or Thursday I'll
go to FT Benning, about an hour and quarter away to see Mike's friend,
and now my soldier, SSG MB and his wife A. Maybe in a week I can buddy
pass on a one day trip to Regan National, jump the Metro to Bethesda,
catch the free inter hospital shuttle between Bethesda and WRMC and go
see E and her husband SFC GW. I know the route well, having been
there last summer for SFC Mark Allen, a fellow Bravo 2/121 soldier of
SSG BW and SFC GW, and also Mike's good friend. Mark took a serious
gunshot wound to the brain, and his fellow soldier, CPL Jonathan
Morita, an RPG to the hand in the same firefight.
Five years ago this time, I was a Dad with a son in train-up at FT
Stewart with an impending deployment to Iraq. My first real up close
and personal experience with war. That was as much as I knew about the
military. Iraq and Afghanistan were more abstract than real. I didn't
know what an ITO was, or IRD. While I knew what an IED was, I had no
clue what my son was saying when he used acronyms left and right. I
didn't know where or what Landstuhl was. And Soldiers Angels - who
were they? I didn't know names Matt Burden / Blackfive, Subsunk, Mr.
Wolf, Uncle Jimbo, Laughing Wolf, Greyhawk, Mrs. G, Mudville Gazette,
David Marron / The Thunderrun Andi, Some Soldiers Mom, or even Chuck Z,
much less so many others. I was about as ignorant military dad as they
came. But my learning curve ramped up at great expense and pain.
These past few months, especially these past few days, it has helped me
be a better "switchboard operator" and stand with other military
families and their soldiers in their time of need. I will never be a
soldier, and never will be the man my "boy" became. But one thing I can
do is serve the family he loved dearly, his second family - his
military family. And I hope to finish his 20, even if only
symbolically and I'll just do what I can as best as I can.... if only
in hope it does a little good for others.
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
USA E 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson ("Uncle Jimbo") is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy. Email: jimbo AT unclejimbo DOT com
Writer, photographer, and raconteur C. Blake Powers is the Laughing Wolf. He is independent in politics and covers topics including journalism, military, weapons, preparedness, space, science, cooking, food and wine, product and book reviews, and even spirituality. Email: wolf1 AT laughingwolf DOT net Laughing Wolf's Amazon Wish List
Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
reserve naval aviator. He blogs over at www.instapinch.com on a veritable
cornucopia of various and sundry items and will bring a tactical naval
aviator's perspective to Blackfive. Readers be warned: any comments of or
about the F-14 Tomcat will be reverential and spoken in low, hushed tones.
Email: wpaisley AT comcast DOT net
Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
Email: TheDOTMrDOTWolfAT gmail DOT com
Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
Email: mcq51 -at - bellsouth -dot- net
Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
Major Pain --
A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.