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July 2009

My Top Ten Military Blogs

I was asked by Blogs.com to list my favorite milblogs.  I hate to do these kinds of things because good people are always left out, and, quite frankly, my list changes by the week.  In the end, I saw it as a chance to highlight some of my favorites. 

Go check my Top Ten List of Military and Veteran Blogs you should read.

Unfortunately, my Honorable Mentions were not able to get on the post so I will list them here.  Go visit them:

BlackFive's Honorable Mentions:

Sorority Soldier is a female soldier in Iraq.  Her job as broadcast journalist allows to observe quite a bit of interesting situations in country.
http://sororitysoldier.com/journal/

Doc H's International Adventure is written by a Navy doctor in Afghanistan who blogs about the trials and tribulations of training Afghans medical personnel.
http://dochsia.blogspot.com/

Army of Dude was nominated two years in a row for Best Military Blog.  Alex Horton, it's founder, did a tour in Iraq and is now back home writing about his memories of Iraq and commenting on current military actions.  I am a fan of his Military Movie Review Haiku.
http://www.armyofdude.blogspot.com/

Afghanistan My Last Tour is written by a senior Air Force sergeant embedded in an Afghan unit.  He writes of his life in Afghanistan teaching, training and mentoring.
http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

Please feel free to put links to military blogs that are your favorites in the Comments.


SFC Jared Monti - Medal Of Honor (Afghanistan)

[Bumped up due to announcement in an update below]

Greyhawk brings us the news that SFC Jaren Monti of Raynham, MA has posthumously been awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous valor above and beyond the call of duty.

On 21 June 2006, SFC Monti, then a staff sergeant, was the assistant patrol leader for a 16-man patrol tasked to conduct surveillance in the Gowardesh region. The patrol was to provide up-to-date intelligence, interdict enemy movement and ensure early warning for the squadron's main effort as it inserted into the province. As nightfall approached, the patrol was attacked by a well organized enemy force of at least 60 personnel.

Outnumbered four-to-one, SFC Monti's patrol was in serious danger of being overrun. The enemy fighters had established two support-by-fire positions directly above the patrol in a densely wooded ridgeline. SFC Monti immediately returned fire and ordered the patrol to seek cover and return fire. He then reached for his radio headset and calmly initiated calls for indirect fire and close air support (CAS), both danger-close to the patrol's position. He did this while simultaneously directing the patrol's fires.

When SFC Monti realized that a member of the patrol, Private First Class (PFC) Brian J. Bradbury, was critically wounded and exposed 10 meters from cover, without regard for his personal safety, he advanced through enemy fire to within three feet of PFC Bradbury's position. But he was forced back by intense RPG fire.

He tried again to secure PFC Bradbury, but he was forced to stay in place again as the enemy intensified its fires. The remaining patrol members coordinated covering fires for SFC Monti, and he advanced a third time toward the wounded Soldier. But he only took a few steps this time before he was mortally wounded by an RPG.

About the same time, the indirect fires and CAS he called for began raining down on the enemy's position. The firepower broke the enemy attack, killing 22 enemy fighters. SFC Monti's actions prevented the patrol's position from being overrun, saved his team's lives and inspired his men to fight on against overwhelming odds.

Go on over to Mudville and read the whole thing.

You can go here to Pundit Review Radio (AM680 WRKO) and hear McQ talk about SFC Monti as Someone You Should Know. After McQ's tribute, they are joined by SFC Monti's father.

Update from Blackfive: 

The White House just announced it.  It's official (even if they botch his rank).

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

_______________________________________________________________________________________

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2009

On September 17, President Barack Obama will award Staff Sergeant Jared C. Monti, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Staff Sergeant Monti will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions in combat in Afghanistan. He displayed immeasurable courage and uncommon valor - eventually sacrificing his own life in an effort to save his comrade. Staff Seargent Monti’s parents, Paul Monti and Janet Monti will join the President at the White House to commemorate their son’s example of selfless service and sacrifice.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND:

Jared C. Monti was born on September 20, 1975. He was a native of Raynham, Massachusetts. He graduated from Bridgewater-Raynham High School. He enlisted in the United States Army in March 1993. He attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

His military decorations include: the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, five Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, three Good Conduct Medals, three National Defense Service Medals, to name a few.

He is survived by his Father, Paul Monti, his Mother, Janet Monti, his Sister Niccole Monti, his Brother, Timothy Monti, and his Niece, Carys Monti.

He was posthumously promoted to Sergeant First Class.


Giving Vets a Hand - An SYSK Follow Up

RE:  Staff Sergeant Matthew Bernard - Someone You Should Know

Giving Veterans A Hand

....he put together a business plan and took it to Harbor Homes and told them he wanted to train their veteran-clients in information technology.

So in early February he started sub-leasing space from Harbor Homes and then recently moved into an office on Emerson Road in Milford.

Bernard told this story last week in the new office where his two framed Purple Hearts hang on the wall next to his desk.

He celebrated Brinestone’s opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 11 attended by U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes and Rick Boyd, president of the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The company, which specializes in network security and IT consulting, is very “veteran-friendly,” said Bernard, who still has short-term memory loss and compensates by writing everything down in a notebook he calls his “other brain.”...

Read the whole piece here.


Head Tango's Son Done with the Extra Crispy Recipe

We like our Tangos done with the Extra Crispy Recipe.  We've said that around here for years. 

Remember Uday and Qusay?  Spicy Crispy Recipe. 

Remember Zarqawi?  Colonel Sanders Style Crispy.

And now the son of the most evil mastermind of our generation is room temperature (after being a blistering 3000 degrees fahrenheit).  "Small player" certainly but he had a bit to do with the Quds Force that killed more than a few Americans.

Best headline goes to ACE.


Hands up!

Hands up hires_090715-F-2575B-012b

U.S. Army soldiers participate in tactical range training using M-9 Berretta handguns on Normandy Range Complex in Basra, Iraq, July 15, 2009. The soldiers are assigned to Company B, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Chrissy Best


McChrystal's Tactical Directive for Afghanistan

NATO has released portions of the new tactical directive from Gen. McChrystal and his team. (h/t Mudville)  This change in policy has been controversial because it does place dangerous restrictions on the ability of our troops to hit the enemy in certain locations and situations, but it is necessary if we want to change the dynamic of that fight. The document is the outline for how coalition forces will operate in a manner consistent with both safeguarding the populace and engaging the enemy, a tightrope walk for certain. The portions released are unclassified and I will limit my commentary to these. I think that still provides a good look at the implications of this change without openly discussing how particular escalations of force would play out on the ground. Overall this directive shows why Gen. McChrystal replaced McKiernan, he articulates a population-based plan that can succeed given enough time and the support required.

Our strategic goal is to defeat the insurgency threatening the stability of Afghanistan. Like any insurgency, there is a struggle for the support and will of the population. Gaining and maintaining that support must be our overriding operational imperative - and the ultimate objective of every action we take.

We must fight the insurgents, and will use the tools at our disposal to both defeat the enemy and protect our forces. But we will not win based on the number of Taliban we kill, but instead on our ability to separate insurgents from the center of gravity - the people. That means we must respect and protect the population from coercion and violence - and operate in a manner which will win their support.

This opening properly frames the situation we face. We have fought in Afghanistan for far too long with far too little regard for building and maintaining relationships with the many tribal and sectarian leaders and populace. There have been instances where rapport has been built and trust gained, but our rotation policies and focus on kinetic operations have eventually overcome those small victories.

This is different from conventional combat, and how we operate will determine the outcome more than traditional measures, like capture of terrain or attrition of enemy forces. We must avoid the trap of winning tactical victories - but suffering strategic defeats - by causing civilian casualties or excessive damage and thus alienating the people.

When we were asking the Commander of 1st Ranger Batt, LTC Brian Mennes, questions during a journalism seminar he conveyed a decision he made while deployed with the 82nd ABN. He would no longer conduct tactical strikes against residential dwellings even when under fire by known enemy from them. This statement pre-dated McChrystal's announcement of this as a policy by many months. He came to this conclusion after seeing the damage done to his relationships with tribal leaders in his A/O and how this affected their cooperation and his unit's ability to gather intel and operate effectively.

While this is also a legal and a moral issue, it is an overarching operational issue - clear-eyed recognition that loss of popular support will be decisive to either side in this struggle. The Taliban cannot militarily defeat us - but we can defeat ourselves.

Accepting this this was vital to formulating a plan that leads to strategic rather than just tactical victory.

I recognize that the carefully controlled and disciplined employment of force entails risks to our troops - and we must work to mitigate that risk wherever possible. But excessive use of force resulting in an alienated population will produce far greater risks. We must understand this reality at every level in our force.

I expect leaders at all levels to scrutinize and limit the use of force like close air support (CAS) against residential compounds and other locations likely to produce civilian casualties in accordance with this guidance. Commanders must weigh the gain of using CAS against the cost of civilian casualties, which in the long run make mission success more difficult and turn the Afghan people against us.

It is much simpler and safer to call in an airstrike or artillery to take out a target you know has enemy fighters in it. It takes patience and an ability to look beyond a single engagement and the clear and present danger you face to withdraw and pursue other avenues against those fighters. We should actively be expanded our quiver of tactics in such a situation. A cordon/surveillance is one technique, drones can augment this, even non-lethal munitions will play a part. And hardest of all for a fighting force of warriors, sometimes we will just walk away and fight the same guys another day. Infuriating, yes but necessary to a long war strategy.

I cannot prescribe the appropriate use of force for every condition that a complex battlefield will produce, so I expect our force to internalize and operate in accordance with my intent. Following this intent requires a cultural shift within our forces - and complete understanding at every level - down to the most junior soldiers. I expect leaders to ensure this is clearly communicated and continually reinforced.

The concept of Commander's Intent is what makes the US military the best in the world. Rigid,hierarchical command structures pervade most militaries, but only in the US forces does the concept of the Strategic Corporal thrive. Leaders at every level are not just given orders and a flow chart to follow as the situation unfolds. Murphy 101 says that no plan survives first contact, Commander's Intent allows subordinate leaders the flexibility to act in ways not directly ordered, but supportive of the overall goal.

The use of air-to-ground munitions and indirect fires against residential compounds is only authorized under very limited and prescribed conditions (specific conditions deleted due to operational security).

(NOTE) This directive does not prevent commanders from protecting the lives of their men and women as a matter of self-defense where it is determined no other options (specific options deleted due to operational security) are available to effectively counter the threat.

Right there is an example of creating a framework in which our escalations of force first account for the safety of the people, but do not hamstring a leader's ability to save the lives of our troops. Does it by nature expose our people to a higher level of danger? Of course, but if we demonstrate our concern for the lives of the locals, we will win their trust. With their trust comes information and assistance. Afghanistan may be as good an example of the need for local knowledge as anywhere on Earth. Knowledge of the terrain and how to move around on it, of the composition of the populace and their alliances, feuds and always shifting loyalties are essential to acting intelligently and strategically. These peoples have beefs hundreds of years old and we need to understand that a few mea culpas and some cash is not going to erase the debt racked up by killing their relatives.

We will not isolate the population from us through our daily conduct or execution of combat operations. Therefore:

Any entry into an Afghan house should always be accomplished by Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), with the support of local authorities, and account for the unique cultural sensitivities toward local women.

No ISAF forces will enter or fire upon, or fire into a mosque or any religious or historical site except in self-defense. All searches and entries for any other reason will be conducted by ANSF.

Does this mean that the enemy will now hide in houses and mosques since we have announced we will not take them out directly when they do? Of course it does and that presents additional dangers and challenges. So be it. Again that means we adapt new tactics to waiting them out, ambushing their escape/exfil routes and spend plenty of time sitting on rocks watching nothing happen waiting for their friends to show up and try to resupply them or them to leave and give us a shot at them. Will that suck? Of course, embrace it and understand that proper application of these tactics as part of a population-centric strategy can actually yield allies. That is more valuable than a stack of dead tangos. It is a vital step to denying the enemy sanctuary and cover among the people.

The challenges in Afghanistan are complex and interrelated, and counterinsurgencies are difficult to win. Nevertheless, we will win this war. I have every confidence in the dedication and competence of the members of our force to operate effectively within this challenging environment. Working together with our Afghan partners, we can overcome the enemy's influence and give the Afghan people what they deserve: a country at peace for the first time in three decades, foundations of good governance, and economic development.

Will this lead to a modern Shangri La in the Hindu Kush? Of course not, but it may lead to a security environment where the majority of Afghans get back to trying to scratch out a living in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. Where they cease to be pawns in a game between religious fanatics most of them don't want anything to do with, and armored crusaders from across a sea they have never seen determined to exterminate the religionists.

This directive and my analysis of it completely ignore the un-ignorable problem of Pakistan. One step at a time. If the Afghan piece of this puzzle can be hammered and plowshared into some semblance of peacefullness, we can turn our attention to the other side, arguably a tougher nut to crack. The Pakistanis have already begun to complain that our operations in Afghanistan have sent the "tough guys" we fight cutting and running back across the border. That will have to be dealt with, but the first step is obviously running them out and then making sure the conditions do not allow their re-infiltration. One step at a time.


Must Read - Gold Star Dad Helping Others

Can you miss someone you've never met?

Originally, reading this, I thought I wished I never met Robert Stokely...because that would mean, maybe, that his son, Michael, would still be alive.  But since this is the hand that he was dealt, he is involved with all of us.

Mr. Stokely probably wouldn't want me to say this but I know about a lot of people that he's helped through some dark times...dark times that would have most likely ended in a very bad way.  To say that we're all better people for knowing him would be an understatement.  And through him, we've gotten to know Michael.

We miss him, too.

Go to Mudville and read.


Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Slaydon And Annette Slaydon - A Couple You Should Know

Thought you all would appreciate this one...

Wounded Warrior Diaries: Airman, Wife Hope to Help Others

By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2009 – A wounded airman and his wife plan to use the lessons they’ve learned about marriage and friendship through military service and adversity to help servicemembers who might be struggling after deployment or injury.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Slaydon – an explosive ordinance disposal technician who was severely wounded in Iraq – and his wife, Annette, hope to use their experience to help servicemembers and their families cope with deployment and injuries. U.S. Air Force photo
 

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Slaydon was wounded Oct. 24, 2007, while inspecting an improvised explosive device in Kirkuk, Iraq. He and his wife, Annette, spent 15 months at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio while he recovered from his injuries and figured out what life after the Air Force would mean.

“Fire can either burn you up or temper you,” Slaydon said. “Luckily, … it tempered us. We’ve seen a lot of couples that it’s burned up, and ate away. They’ve divorced and gone their own ways, and nobody’s better for it.”

The issues the couple has faced while working with the medical system and the government, as well as Slaydon’s own personal struggles, have given them a new direction in life: to serve those who face the same problems.

“What makes our country great is the concept of the servant-leader,” he said. “Since my injury, I’ve truly, truly learned the greatest thing I can do is serve my fellow man. And to serve those who wear the uniform is a blessing.”

Slaydon saikd he began a “love affair” with aircraft at a young age, and as he grew older, it brought him to the Air Force. Though his father had served in the Navy – Slaydon was born on a naval base in Kenitra, Morrocco – it was his desire to work with aircraft that brought him to the military.

“I wanted to work on aircraft and be a part of the Air Force,” he said. “As I grew up, I developed a sense of patriotism, and I wanted to be a good [noncommissioned officer].”

Slaydon began his career as an aircraft armament technician, loading and unloading weaponry from planes. He saw a unique opportunity to learn and lead in explosive ordnance disposal – the bomb squad. He was drawn to EOD while working on F-16s at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

“Any time we had a munitions difficulty … EOD would come out and take possession of any damaged munitions,” Slaydon said. “I learned about who they were, and I got a tour of the shop, and from that point on, I was in love with the idea of being an EOD technician.”

EOD isn’t for everyone; the squad’s job is to get up-close and personal with bombs. By collecting evidence and samples, a squad can determine the materials and techniques used to build the explosive and, ideally, pinpoint its source.

“Anybody can blow something up,” Slaydon said. “If we do everything right, there will still be an explosion. But it’s going to happen when I want it to happen, and not before. We defuse danger.”

Walking the Long Walk

During a patrol in Iraq, Slaydon stared fate in the face, as he had many times before. He’d been on more than 200 calls and disarmed more than 100 IEDs, and this one was routine; in fact, his team was familiar with the site, an intersection near a village known to be hostile.

Slaydon never thought he would be the one to get hurt. In fact, he insists, the people who assume they will get hurt are a danger to themselves and, most importantly, those around them.

"I wouldn't want to be with somebody who's fatalistic," he said. "In reality, if I had a team member or team leader who's fatalistic, I'd probably run it up the chain and try to get them out of the field. We're smarter than the bombers. … You have to step out of the truck with confidence in what you're doing. Otherwise, you'll just be paralyzed with fear."

After sweeping the area with a robot from inside the truck the day he was hurt, Slaydon and his team were preparing to leave when something caught his eye. He directed his team to stay in their vehicles as he went on what EOD technicians call “the long walk,” when a leader scouts a site before putting his team in danger.

“The idea behind that is, one, if something happens to you – there’s a detonation or you get shot, whatever – your team members are safe and sound,” he said. “And two, you have somebody there to pull your fat out of the fire.”

The weapons intelligence officer got out of the vehicle to take pictures, and Slaydon yelled at him to stay behind the truck.

“That was probably the last good decision I made as an EOD technician,” he said. “I don’t think I could have forgiven myself if I had hurt him, also.”

Slaydon approached the suspect item, which was buried. He knelt over it and inserted his mine probe. That’s when the IED – about 15 pounds of homemade explosives – exploded two feet from his face, throwing him about 30 feet.

“The blast mangled my left arm. … [It] shattered my face, it broke my jaw, it destroyed my left eye,” he said.

The blast also severely damaged his right eye, collapsed his left lung, knocked out a tooth and punctured both of his eardrums. As a result, he’s lost his eyesight.

“I did have safety glasses on, but they don’t make safety glasses for that kind of impact,” he said.

As it turned out, Slaydon said, a second 15-pound IED was stacked under the one that detonated.

“The top one did more than enough to knock me out of the fight,” he said. “If the second one had detonated, I’m sure it would have scattered me all over the road. I guess it was a mixture of some really bad luck and some good luck that I managed to survive that.”

The Journey to Recovery

The first step in Slaydon’s journey to recovery was an airlift to Balad, Iraq, where Air Force Senior Airman Larry Miller, a friend on a different team with whom he had deployed from Luke Air Force Base, met him. Miller requested a helicopter from Baghdad, where he was stationed at the time, to stay with Slaydon at the hospital.

“They didn’t know if I was going to live; I was very badly injured,” Slaydon said. “Larry sat by my bed for three days. I guess people would bring him food, because he wouldn’t leave my bedside.”

In Balad, Slaydon underwent nearly 11 hours of surgery to stabilize him for travel to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. This meant removing his damaged eye, stabilizing his jaw and facial bones, and ensuring what remained of his left arm could be saved. As it turned out, the medical team had to remove most of the arm.

The Air Force flew Miller to Landstuhl to stay with Slaydon before returning him to the front lines in Baghdad.

“Larry is one of the finest people I have ever met,” Slaydon said. “He is one incredible human being, and a ferocious warrior. I feel privileged to be able to call him my friend.”

After only a day and a half, Slaydon was moved from Germany to Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, where his wife met him.

The flight to Walter Reed is probably the hardest flight any spouse has to make, Annette Slaydon said. When she arrived, she found her husband unrecognizable.

Though she was suffering emotionally through Slaydon’s recovery, Annette said, she stuck to advice given by one of her husband’s friends: to be “steely-eyed” and keep her tears to herself. She said she would keep her sadness inside, letting it out only during private moments, such as while taking a shower before bed.

“I wanted him to focus only on him getting better,” she said. “I didn’t want him to worry.”

After Slaydon had spent a few days in Walter Reed’s intensive care unit, the Air Force flew the couple to Brooke Army Medical Center.

“[The caregivers there] told my wife I don’t know how many times … [that] all of them consider it an honor to be able to work on and to help the wounded warriors to recover,” he said. “They don’t make words big enough to allow me to thank them.”

Slaydon spent the next 15 months recovering at Brooke, his wife guiding him through the difficult healing and rehabilitation process. She quickly learned how important she was going to be in her husband’s recovery.

“One of the most important things you can do is [to] be an advocate for your wounded spouse,” she said. “Things will go much smoother, and you'll have a better experience. It's so important that you do that. People won't get angry if you ask questions; the doctors want you to get involved. Don’t just drop your spouse off at therapy. Go through therapy with them. The recovery time is shorter, the recovery is better, and I think the intimacy you can have in going through something like that is so important.”

Coming to terms with his injuries and understanding what had happened when he first woke up, Slaydon said, was the hardest part of the healing process. He had lost memory of about 24 hours prior to his injury, so when he woke up in Texas three weeks later, he was confused, to say the least.

“I remember [Annette] telling me my left arm had been traumatically amputated, and I knew what that meant,” he said. “My left eye had been removed, and they were trying to save the vision in my right eye. That’s when I figured out I couldn’t see. … I had bandages on my eyes, but that’s not why I couldn’t see. That’s when reality slowly started to sink in.”

Slaydon said Annette really “took the bull by the horns” when it came to his medical care. Anything that needed doing, he explained, she not only did, but wanted to do.

“Feeling her hands on my shoulders as she slowly sponged me off -- I knew I was going to be safe,” he said. “I was physically, emotionally and mentally just wrecked -- devastated. I’d feel her hand on me and hear her voice, and I knew she wasn’t going to let me fall. It was such an amazing moment. I didn’t know you could have a moment like that.”

The Future, a “Joint Venture”

Following his injury, Slaydon wasn’t sure how to move forward. His injuries made it impossible for him to resume his duties in the Air Force, so he had to find something new to do.

“Early on, I had a great loss of purpose. I knew my career was over. I couldn’t be an EOD technician any more,” he said. “[Your job] is who you are, down to your DNA.”

Annette recalled a remark made by former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain during his acceptance speech for the nomination as Republican presidential candidate. He said he had been “blessed by misfortune.”

“I felt like he was talking to me when he said that,” she said. “Although I would give anything for my husband to have his vision back, and his arm back, and be able to continue with his career, we have been blessed by the love and caring of so many people, that it’s been a positive experience, and we’ve both grown a great deal.”

One thing stood out to Slaydon: he wanted to pursue a doctorate in psychology and counsel wounded warriors. Because he’s lived through traumatic injury and knows it doesn’t have to mean total defeat, he said, he’s in a unique position to help others who have been hurt in the line of duty.

“I want to help them either get back to the battlefield where they want to be, or headed in another direction doing something else,” Slaydon said. “But we’ll get them doing it with their head screwed on right.”

Slaydon said he wants servicemembers to know, even if they’re wounded, they can still win the fight. If they lose hope, they’re giving the enemy exactly what he wants: an American trooper who has been defeated physically and spiritually.

“You’re not retreating [by seeking treatment], you’re attacking in another direction,” he said. The only way wounded warriors can retreat, he explained, is by giving up on themselves.

Because Slaydon now is considered 100 percent disabled, Annette is eligible for veterans’ benefits, and will join him in returning to school. Like her husband, she wants to use the lessons she’s learned to help others who have to follow the same path.

“What has become really clear to me is that I want to be able to give back to the thousands of people who have given to us as we’ve gone through this experience,” she said. “I’m considering getting a counseling degree, maybe working in the family support center at the VA. I haven’t made a decision, but I’m going to pursue that in some way.”

What the Slaydons learned is that all tragedies don’t require a negative consequence. Slaydon has found a new purpose after losing his Air Force career, and Annette is moving on to a new career. They’ve been able to make their future something it would never have been.

Annette recently was hired as a recovery care coordinator at Luke, where she will help wounded, ill and injured troops and their families.

“What we realized is we’re still going to have a fantastic life together, and we’re both dedicated to making sure that happens,” she said. “It’s just going to be different than we thought it would be.”

The Slaydons renewed their wedding vows April 13, 2008, and now they celebrate that day as their anniversary. That renewal, they explained, symbolizes a fusion of their goals together and the start of their new life.

“When we renewed our vows, he told me it was all worth it -- everything he’d gone through,” she said. “For us to have the love and everything he felt at that moment, it was all worth it.”

Slaydon officially retires from the Air Force on Aug. 28.

There's more at America's North Shore Journal.  And more back story here.


The Lakari Bazaar - Taliban Territory in the hands of the USMC

Lakari 1 hires_090718-M-2517W-0014b

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Paul Gray, left, Cpl. Brian Short, center, and Lance Cpl. James Ivy assess the terrain during a raid on the Taliban-controlled Lakari bazaar, Afghanistan, July 18, 2009. The Marines, assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, are conducting counter-insurgency operations in southern Afghanistan with Afghan national security forces. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Whittington

Lakari 2 hires_090718-M-2517W-003b

U.S. Marines set off explosive charges on locked doors during a raid at the Taliban-controlled Lakari bazaar, Afghanistan, July 18, 2009. The Marines are assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Whittington


War vets court set up in El Paso County, CO

Well this is a breath of fresh air. A court in El Paso, CO (Not TX as the Wolf informed me)has been set up specifically to deal with returning vets who have gotten themselves into trouble. It is taking into account the effect that combat has had on them and working to provide peer counseling and other ways to keep them from simply going to jail. They do not automatically excuse crimes, but look at the entire picture of each person and if they seem to have been affected by their service they offer help. h/t Dawn Patrol.

A new court that will open in El Paso County next month is designed to provide returning veterans accused of felonies with an alternative to the conventional justice system, which is not always sympathetic to combat-related brain injuries and stress disorders.

"It's based on drug court, where there are immediate consequences, with a lot of heavily supervised probation," said El Paso County District Judge Ron Crowder, a two-star general in the Colorado Army National Guard, a former paratrooper in Vietnam and holder of the Distinguished Service Medal.

Crowder is developing the court with a group that includes mental-health counselors, court administrators and veterans advocates.

I hope this concept catches on and provides another safety net for those who have done the right thing and then been hurt while doing so. We have to work in every part of society to get these folks help not punishment. This is a great piece of that puzzle.