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April 2005

Attention Bloggers

Roger Simon has an important post about a new adventure in the Blogosphere - Pajamas Media.

I can't be your resource for information about this (so please read Roger's post and follow his instructions), but what I can tell you is that I signed on the team in early February.  I've met a few of the Board and they are top knotch people.  In other words, I've wanted to be a part of this for months.

This is just the beginning.

Update:  If you're a MilBlogger and have confidentiality concerns, contact me.

The German Angel And Matthew Braddock - Someone You Should Know

    I remember smoke and stuff flying at me and my truck commander yelling, ‘Is everybody all right?’ My gunner yelled down that he was all right. And I yelled that I was all right because I thought I was. Then I took two steps and hit the ground." - Matthew Braddock on being wounded in Iraq

Occasionally, I get email from folks who ask me why I am such a supporter of Soldiers' Angels.  Read this, and, if you don't know why at the end, you never will understand.

Back in early November, I wrote about Willie Aufmkolk as Someone You Should Know.  Willie is a great lady with a heart of gold.  She is a German citizen who (with the help of her husband and friends) has been taking care of our wounded troops as they are brought into Germany before making the trip back to the states (Walter Reed, Bethesda, etc.).  She's part of the Germany contingent of Soldiers' Angels.

Here's just one story about how Willie connected with a wounded American soldier...

On January 13th, Specialist Matt Braddock, a Cavalry Scout with the 116th Brigade Combat Team, was driving a humvee near Kirkuk, Iraq, when an IED was set off near his vehicle.

The left side of his body bore the brunt of the explosion - severed artery in his left arm, shrapnel lodged in his left knee, mangled his lower leg, both feet were crushed.

Three fellow soldiers rushed to his aid, saving his life - Specialist Josiah Jurich, Sergeant Charles Jordan and Staff Sergeant Marvin Albert (click the link to read about these heroes that you should know).

Matt's mother, Rhetta, picks up the story from here (via email):

Matt was laying on a stretcher in a bus at Landstahl waiting to be put on a transport to the US. He was pretty much miserable, cold and in need of a pillow. All of a sudden a lady with a German accent appears out of nowhere, knowing his name, gives him a pillow and a quilt and a backpack with essential personal items. Before he can get her name, she's gone. He said it was like an angel had just appeared!

Willie is a German citizen and a volunteer Soldier's Angel who puts together backpacks for soldiers and distributes them in Landstahl. She drives 150 miles from her home to the hospital to do this.
Kay Fristad of the Oregon Army National Guard public affairs office called her and asked if she could check on Matt. After going to ICU and being sent to the ward and then sent to the buses, she found him on the 2rd bus, 5 minutes before they closed it up to leave.
Once Matt got to Madigan Army Medical Center at Ft Lewis, he told me the story and I started going through his stuff. I found a card with Willie's name and email address in the very bottom and we started to correspond.
Through all this time she has continued to support Matt with mail and gifts. She went a step farther and showed up to attend his Purple Heart Ceremony!
As a recognition for all Willie and two other Angels present have done for him and other soldiers he presented them with stained glass angels. And to watch over while her husband is in Iraq he gave one to Laura Albert, as well.

Matt would lose his left leg and have a miracle worker surgeon, Dr. Roman Hayda (Brooke Army Hospital, San Antonio, Texas?), put his right foot back together.  Matt is doing well, recovering quickly, and wants to get back to Iraq.  And, if he can't be a Cavalry Scout, he wants to be a mechanic (where do we find these guys?).

So here are some pictures of the ceremony where over 200 people, including Willie Aufmkolk, came to see Matthew Braddock receive his Purple Heart in Oregon.  There were two other Angels that were recognized by Specialist Braddock - Kathy Gregory of Fisher House and MaryAnn, an American Soldiers' Angel in Germany.

Major General Burns pinning a Purple Heart on Matthew Braddock.

Matthew Braddock thanking Willie Aufmkolk and giving her a stained glass angel.

Blackfive T-Shirts

I finally got my act together.

Got help from my friend Joe to design the current logo. And Stacy of Sekimori calibrated it for t-shirts. And I asked some friends on their opinion about designs. The design for this blog will change soon. However, the current logo really lends itself to a OD color t-shirt.

For every t-shirt sold, I'll net about $5 which will be donated to Soldiers' Angels. It's one way to support this blog and it's mission (by advertising the URL and demonstrating pride in it). And it's also a way to support Soldiers' Angels.


Click here to purchase a Blackfive t-shirt.

The first person to purchase a t-shirt was Paul of Prince Pundit.  He bought one before anyone even knew about this.  Thanks, Paul.

Blog Nashville

I've been remiss in not mentioning BlogNashville - a conference about and for bloggers.  There will be a special MilBlogger segment that will be facilitated by Robin Burk of Winds of Change and Random Probabilities.  Bill Roggio of the most excellent Fourth Rail, Tim Schmoyer of Sisyphean Musings,  and the Marine vet of Word Unheard will be there to discuss MilBlog issues.  Keynotes for the conference will be held by none other than Glenn Reynolds.

I'm travelling a bit over the next few months (DC, Baltimore, NYC, Michigan, St. Louis, etc.) so I don't want to miss another weekend with my family - especially on Mother's Day (my wife deserves a great one! - My Mom, too!).  Otherwise, I would be at BlogNashville.

Blogs (and their conferences) have come a long way.  Last December, at the Global Voices (blogger) Conference at Harvard, I was the only Military Blogger there.

Things are definitely moving along in the Blogosphere...

Adios Akbar

Tony - The Oriental Redneck - sends this article about Sergeant Akbar (Akbar was the soldier who committed fraticide - he murdered his fellow soldiers on the eve of the invasion of Iraq).

Sgt. Akbar to Testify in Attack Trial


The Associated Press
Wednesday, April 27, 2005; 8:58 PM

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Facing a possible death penalty for his fatal attack on fellow soldiers, Sgt. Hasan Akbar will make an unsworn statement to the jury in his own defense, a lawyer said Wednesday.

The statement by Akbar is to come Thursday, the fourth day of the sentencing phase of his court-martial, said the defense lawyer, Maj. David Coombs. Akbar was convicted last week of premeditated murder and attempted murder in the March 2003 attack on the 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait.
Prosecutors have said Akbar, 34, launched the attack because he was concerned about U.S. troops killing fellow Muslims in the war.

On Tuesday, prosecution witnesses gave the jury tearful testimony about how the officers' deaths affected them.

"A sacred trust was broken that evening at Camp Pennsylvania," said Seifert's widow, Terri Seifert of Clarksville, Tenn. "I am terribly lonely."

Clutching a tissue and occasionally wiping away tears, she spoke of the irony of her husband's death because he was the type of man who "would have jumped on a grenade to save his buddies."

And Zombietime has pictures of the left-wing whackos in San Francisco who want Akbar freed.  It's amazing that anyone would support him, but, then again, San Francisco is a different kind of place.

Anyway, Akbar was convicted and is fighting the death penalty.  Apparently, he doesn't think Allah is going to reward him for his actions.

Akbar should get the maximum sentence available under the UCMJ.  Adios Akbar.

The Case for Ilario Pantano Part 3

Rosemary of My Newz & Ideas has a post about Lt Pantano and a link to this USA article about the hearing, yesterday.

Here's an interesting piece about the trial from the New York Times:

Prosecution Hits Snags at Hearing on Iraq Killings

Published: April 28, 2005

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., April 27 - Prosecutors in the case of a marine accused of murdering two Iraqis advised one of their own witnesses on Wednesday that he could face charges for talking to reporters, and vigorously cross-examined another who praised the defendant...

The new info that I didn't know before was that one witness confirmed that Pantano did order the two Iraqis to "stop" in Arabic and English before shots were fired.

Wounded Warriors Need Your Help!


The Wounded Warrior Project (one of the best outfits out there) needs our help in supporting a legislative effort to care for our wounded defenders.  Below is the alert from WWP:



Help Create Traumatic Injury Insurance for All Active Duty Service Members


On Thursday April 21st the United States Senate passed legislation yesterday creating Traumatic Injury Insurance that will issue active duty service members a payment ranging from $25, 000 to $100,000, should they incur a life altering injury while serving their nation. This legislation, known as the Wounded Warrior Bill, was introduced as an amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Funding Bill by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, at the urgent request of three injured soldiers from the Wounded Warrior Project. The Traumatic Injury Insurance will make an immediate payment to the service member and their family within days of sustaining their injury to support them during their hospitalization. Additionally, the legislation passed will make Craig’s measure retroactive to the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, which began in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.


This payment will ensure that newly injured soldiers can concentrate more fully on their recovery and transition back into civilian life rather than on the financial hardship that their disability will have on them and their families.



The Emergency Supplemental bill must now go through Conference Committee, where differences between the House of Representatives and Senate versions of this bill will be reconciled. As this Traumatic Insurance Provision is only in the Senate version of the Legislation, we must make sure that it remains in the final version of the bill to be approved by both the House and Senate.


Please Call the Members of the Conference Committee and Demand That They Include the Craig Amendment That Creates Traumatic Injury Insurance Coverage for Our Troops


Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224- 3121



Senator Cochran (R- MS)

Senator Stevens (R-AK)

Senator Specter (R-PA)

Senator Domenici (R- NM)

Senator Bond (MO)

Senator McConnell (R- KY)

Senator Burns (R- MT)

Senator Shelby (R-AL)

Senator Gregg (R-NH)

Senator Bennett (R-UT)

Senator Craig (R- ID)

Senator Hutchison (R- TX)

Senator DeWine (R- OH)

Senator Brownback (R- KS)

Senator Allard (R-CO)


Senator Byrd (D-WV)

Senator Inouye (D- HI)

Senator Leahy (D- VT)

Senator Harkin (D- IA)

Senator Mikulski (D- MD)

Senator Reid (D- NV)

Senator Kohl (D-WI)

Senator Murray (D-WA)

Senator Dorgan (D-ND)

Senator Feinstein (D-CA)

Senator Durbin (D-IL)

Senator Johnson (D- SD)

Senator Landrieu (D- LA)

Senior Airman Brian Kolfage - Air Force "Cop" - Someone You Should Know

Master Sergeant Theresa sent information about Senior Airman Brian Kolfage's retirement ceremony from April 12th.

Brian served in the Security Forces in Iraq.  He was on his second tour in early September 2004.  Here's a picture of Brian (right) and his buddy, SrA Valentin Cortez.  You can read about their first exploits in Iraq (OIF I) here.


On September 11th, 2004, Brian took a direct hit from a 107mm mortar.  Valentin wrote this summary of events on September 12th.

It was approximately 0720 on Sept 11 2004 as Kolfage, me and the rest of the Mids Shift crew arrived back at T-Town (Tent City). As always Kolfage, Higgs (An A1C we befriended when we were assigned to the Iraq customs team) and I walked to our tent G-5. As usual, we joked around and planned on what we do once our deployment was over. We planned to meet up with some of our team members and blow off some steam on some beach during Spring Break. As we got to our tent and prepared to call it a day I reminded Kolfage to wake me up around 1500 so we could go to the gym and call home as we usually did together. He was like family. We did everything together. Sometime between 1400 and 1420 I was woken up as I heard a HUGE explosion right outside our tent. I had been knocked out of my bed and I could hear debris raining down on our tent. Higgs began to yell and ran into my room. I made sure he was alright and told him to don his PPG. I immediately ran to Kolfage's room, calling his name with no answer. As I entered his room I did not see him. I could hear people running and screaming outside. I told Higgs to follow me outside and see if anyone was hurt. As we ran out we noticed someone lying on the ground approximately two tents from ours. As we approached him it did not click that it was Kolfage. I don't know if it was because of the dust and debris in the air or because I thought it could never happen to us. It was Higgs who noticed who it was. "Oh my God man its Brian!" These are the words that will be with me forever. I kneeled down next to Kolfage and as I checked on him I thought we had lost him. Shortly after he gasped for air and was conscious from then on. As I attended to his wounds I also tried to keep him from looking at them for fear that it would upset him. However, he looked at me and in a calm and collected voice he said "Man I already know, just get me home to Nikki." Only moments had passed since it all began and I could hear more mortars landing close to us. I never got a chance to get my PPG before I ran out of the tent. I was only wearing my sweatpants so I told Higgs to run back to the tent and grab it for me as well as Kolfage's ID. By the time Higgs came out people were standing around looking. I yelled at them to check the surrounding tents and check for any other injured people. A Major and two other people were helping me with Kolfage by now and God knows that without their help it would have been almost impossible for me alone to attend to all his injuries. The injuries were severe. His right hand was just torn up as if chewed up. His left hand had a hole from were shrapnel had sliced through it just underneath his thumb. His right leg had been peppered by shrapnel. His left leg, the most severe and life-threatening injury, was almost severed at the hip and just holding on. As I wrapped his hands and applied pressure on his left leg I never stopped talking to him for he almost dozed away a couple of times and I feared he would not wake up again. I assured him he had nothing to be ashamed off, that I was proud to serve with him and that he would make it back home to his family and Nikki.

Once the ambulance arrived and as we put him on the stretcher I literally had to hold him and his leg together. Once in the back of the ambulance I prepared to hop in the front to accompany him to the emergency room I took a quick glance of the area. I saw things lying on the ground, bloody things. I sighed and realized I needed to keep it together for Kolfage, Higgs and the remainder of the team. I jumped in and tried to comprehend what had happened. As we arrived at the emergency room the medics took over. There I stood outside the hospital half-dressed wearing my buddy's bloody hat wondering why. A few minutes later my Lt and two of my sergeants arrived trying to understand what happened. They apparently thought that I too had gotten hurt. Everything had happened so fast that there was a lot of confusion. During Kolfage's surgery the call for blood went out throughout the base and within minutes dozens of soldiers, sailor, marines and airmen responded. People were literally being bussed in, some on bikes and some even running all the way from where they heard the call. Just an incredible site. That day Kolfage made it through surgery but remained in critical condition. We were informed that both his legs and his right hand were amputated but that they were doing everything to save his thumb on his left hand. As for me, I got more support than I could stand, from my team, Chaplains and a bunch of people I still don't know. The next day we lined up next to the C-5 in which Kolfage would be flown to Germany and PROUDLY saluted him as he was carried on to the plane. I was allowed to say good-bye but as I approached and saw him on the stretcher with tubes and wires sticking out of him I did not know what to say. I thought back to times we had spent together, to last year when again we both have volunteered to serve in dangerous lands, and remembered a saying by which we motivated ourselves. Knowing this would be the last time I would see him for a long time I leaned over and spoke those words. "We live together. We fight together. We die together. We Band of Brothers."

Brian's story continues in the Extended Section:

Continue reading "Senior Airman Brian Kolfage - Air Force "Cop" - Someone You Should Know" »