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October 2011

Between war and here

Some of the most inspiring and moving stories come from the greatest pain. All of us have seen and heard of the tremendous strength, power and dignity our wounded troops show in their recovery. Devastating injuries are overcome and done so with grace and strength that is humbling. One witness to this was Carolyn Surrick, a professional musician who spent her Fridays over several years playing beautiful and soothing music for our wounded warriors in the lobby of Mologne House at Walter Reed. Her group, Trio Galilei, would set up the chairs and sofas so that anyone passing through could sit and join them. It wasn't a concert performance, it was an invitation to set aside their pain and suffering and join them for music and talk and companionship. Quite a gift to give.

One of the troops they reached was my girlfriend LTC Samantha Nerove. She was in the PTSD program there and was still so deep in pain she rarely left her room. But slowly the music they played called to her. She became friends with Carolyn and spent many Fridays listening, enjoying and talking and it was a key factor in her own recovery. Trio Galilei also put out a CD called "Above and Beyond" inspired by the people they met, which they gave freely and generously.

Carolyn also listened to the stories of the wounded and their families. As Sam says "she carried us in her heart and now honors us with her book". It is called "between war and here" and it is a treasure. We had dinner at Carolyn's a few weeks back and took the book home. Sam was reading it and began reading passages out loud to me. Soon we had been through the whole thing and tears were streaming down both of our faces. There is plenty of pain in it, there has to be; It is also filled with transcendence and joy. It is a brilliant representation of the power of the warrior spirit.

Sam and Carolyn decided to put the words and music together and it was pure magic. I know, I was there. They were thinking about making an audio book or maybe doing a concert with Sam reading and the group playing, so they wanted to see how that would go. There was no rehearsal, they just sat down, picked a story and music to go with it, and this is what happened. You will simply fall into the beauty of it all and be enthralled. The plan is to put on a concert in DC and also to record an audio book and video for Christmas. You can read about the book at Carloyn's site here and if you are interested in the package, email me at jimbo at unclejimbo dot com and I will let you know when it is done. In the meantime enjoy this little slice of heaven. It is a fitting tribute to the troops who inspired it.

Afghan Traffic Jam

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel Wilson patrols down a street in Khalaj village, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 20, 2011. Wilson is a fire team leader assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. The Marines and Afghan police conduct regular partnered patrols in the area to maintain a security presence. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde

Team Rubicon in Turkey!

On Sunday, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the city of Van in Turkey; immediate death tolls are expected to rise above 1,000 as rescue workers continue to dig through the rubble.  Initial reports are that local hospitals have been overwhelmed with casualties, and small rural communities in the surrounding hills lack easy access and communication.  Over the course of the next week, weather is expected to worsen, with temperatures dipping to near freezing and rain or snow expected beginning Wednesday; this will hamper an already difficult rescue effort.

Yesterday, Team Rubicon deployed an initial scout team to Van consisting of two elite Air Force Special Operations Pararescuemen (PJs), Joshua Webster and Nathan Schmidt, and Team Rubicon's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Sutter. Both Webster and Schmidt have significant training in Search and Rescue operations, including Confined Space/Structural Collapse.

Donate and Help the Team Get There

The team will hit the ground running in Van, immediately sending back a report to HQ and advising on whether full follow-on teams are necessary.   Once established, the team will be able to assist and advise local authorities in survivor recovery efforts.

If necessary, Team Rubicon is on standby to send larger medical and rescue teams.  Follow the team's progress as it happens on the TR blog.

Other Ways to Help
Pass it on!  Forward this post to your friends at work, members of your church, your extended family.  Share it!  Post this news to Facebook, spread it on Twitter.

The Jesse MacBeth Stolen Valor Tournament Finals: Pick your National Chumpion

The good men of This Ain't Hell have put up the National Finals poll for the First Annual Jesse McBeth Stolen Valor Awards.  Here are your two finalists:

MSGT Soup Sandwich:

Showed up for a graduation ceremony at Fort Benning (Sand Hill), on Wed, 15 Jun 2011, wearing AF uniform with 15 rows of awards and decorations, and 7 badges from the Army and Air Force.

Claims to be a wounded medic.

 Likes to inhale shoe cleaner.



GEN Ballduster McSoulpatch:

Friends with the Dalai Llama and Steven Segal.

Was Vice President of Asian Operations, Samaya, Inc., and in the Army was “Advisor to the Commander-In-Chief (1995-1999) regarding S.E. Asian Affairs, with a specific focus on Thailand, Cambodia & Laos.”

Claims to have attended Standford, Assumption University, Purdue, DLI, and JFKSWCS.

Arrested wearing a diaper on his head.


Go over to This Ain't Hell and cast your vote for the "winner"...

BTW, http://www.thesniper.us/ created the portraits.  Thanks, Sniper!

Blog World LA -- Military Track

Well, we are getting close to the event, it's just about nine days away.  The people who attended last year were asked what panels they wanted, and we were able to deliver:

So, last year we asked those attending what they would like to see on this year's track. We listened, and have a stellar line up that should be of interest to all attending Blog World.

Our first panel on Thursday is at 1:30 pm (1330 hours) and featuresdocumentary film maker and communications consultant JD Johannes talking on "Quit F'ing Guessing: Using Math and Behavioral Economics to Win the Battle of Ideas" He will be sharing tried and proven means of measuring and maximizing the impact of your blog.

Our second panel starts at 2:45 pm (1445 hours) and features Jim Brown of Slingshot SEO, talking on "SEO for Specialty Content" He will be exploring how SEO and content marketing are not just for large blogs, but especially important for those dealing with specialized content.

The final panel starts at 3:45 (1545 hours) and deals with the very serious topic of "Blogging Through Loss." Rachel Porto, a military widow, and Mandy Myers, who's lineman husband was killed on the job, will talk about the ups and downs of dealing with the loss of a loved one while sharing life and loss in new and social media.

If you are military, military family, or mil-supporter, drop a line to bwemil at cwtt dot org and you can get a code for a free Expo Pass that will get you into the military track and the exhibit hall. 

Please help spread the word, as we would like to give the excellent speakers a full audience. 


God Speed Ranger

Amazing men doing incredible things and some pay the ultimate price.  We lost a good one:

A U.S. Army Ranger from San Diego has been killed in combat in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Sunday.

Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Domeij, 29, was killed Saturday in Kandahar province when his unit was attacked by the enemy with an improvised explosive device.

Domeij enlisted in the Army in 2001 and joined the 2nd Battalion, 75thRanger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington in 2002. He was on his 14th combat deployment.

He was 19 when he joined and my guess is he enlisted soon after Sep. 11th.  He is one of the incredible unsung heroes who not only sought out the toughest duty he could find, but apparently reveled in it. The man was a warrior.

And, between all those deployments he had time for family:

Domeij is survived by his wife, Sarah, and daughters Mikajsa and Aaliyah of Lacey, Wash.; his mother, Scoti Domeij, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and his brother, Kyle Domeij, of San Diego.

His wife should be wearing a scroll too.  The unselfishness and bravery of the family are often overlooked, but raising two young daughters during 14 deployments and the stress they bring is hero’s work.

God bless and be with the Domeij family and God speed Ranger Domeij.  Your duty is done, warrior.

Libya: Muslim law and secular dreams

If your hope for the latest version of “Arab Spring” to be found in Libya was a secular democratic state, you can quickly forget the secular part of the dream.

The leader of the transitional government declared to thousands of revelers in a sunlit square here on Sunday that Libya’s revolution had ended, setting the country on the path to elections, and he vowed that the new government would be based on Islamic tenets.

Indeed, what has immediately happened is the roll back of many of Gadhafi's decrees that those who’ve now taken over contend violate Sharia law and Islam’s tenets:

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi's era that he said was in conflict with Sharia - that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya's economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. "Interest creates disease and hatred among people," he said.

I’d love to tell you this comes as a complete surprise, but then I’d be acting like some politicians I know. 

I’m certainly not going to contend that keeping Gadhafi was the best thing we could do, but let’s be clear, what has happened darn sure doesn’t seem to be an outcome that we’d have hoped to see either.  At least as it now seems to be shaking out.

In that area of the world, secular dreams seem to me to be the most foolish.  How that particular dream manages to stay alive among the elite of the West is beyond me.  It isn’t now nor has it ever been a probable outcome of any of these so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions.  The revolutions are steeped in Islam because the governments being replaced were relatively secular for the area and the Islamic groups now rising were the ones being repressed.

How someone could believe that out of that situation, secular democracy would emerge still remains beyond me.  No democratic history, no real established democratic institutions and no real democratic experience by the people there.  Yet somehow we’ve determined that this bunch is superior to the last bunch.

Based on what I’ve always wondered?

Yet, we continue to hear the hope proclaimed in each upheaval even as reality seems to dismiss the hope at every turn.

Beirut: In Memoriam

REPOST:  From 2003 and 2010. I spent part of yesterday thinking about Bill and his family, times past, and the future.  May you do a bit of that too. 



I wrote what is below back in 2003.  I'm reposting it here today, and will link to some of the other posts going up as I can.  Remember them, as individuals and a group.  They came in peace. 


Darn Sgt. Hook anyway, it's his fault the dust has gotten into my eyes. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Over at his wonderful site, he has a memorial up, one that I missed. Part of it is my fading memory, and part of it is something else, something deeper that I really don't want to look at too closely.

At this memorial site, to which the good Sgt. sent me, there is a list of names. With trepedation I scrolled down it, and there it was:

Stelpflug, Bill J. USMC LCPL 10/23/1983 AL Auburn, AL

I never really knew Bill, but I knew his family. His mother was a student in the English department where I both studied and dated one of the graduate students/teachers. His sister was a gorgeous creature on whom I had quite a crush, with a wonderful personality and soul to go with the package. His sister even modeled for me when I was learning portrait photography, and I never did have the courage to tell her how badly I screwed up the shots. If they were not perfect, I was not going to show them to her. For her, I was not willing to show or share anything less than the best. Everyone of the family that I was graced to meet were such good people. The kind of people who epitomized not just Southern hospitality, but charity, grace, consideration, and all the other attributes that make up those special, rare, people in the world.

Then came that day. The news filtered out, and then the worst news came. One of Auburn's own was among the dead. Bill, a loving and laughing brother was not coming home. The lights dimmed, but the family did keep plugging away. At least in public, they never lost the core of what made them such good people.

I never did have the words to express my sorrow to them, and I still don't. All I can say is "I remember." And to that, I will add "NEVER AGAIN!"

Damn dust. Need to clean up more in here.



Today, as always on this day, I remember Bill Stelpflug, and I remember his family.  My thoughts go out to all those who lost loved ones this day. 

Go check out the following (far too few) remembrances as well:

Assoluta Tranquillita

Cassy Fiano/Green Room

 The Jawa Report

Boston Maggie

NOTE:  Since this is a re-post, if anyone has any current posts they think should be shared, please do put them in the comments. 

Gun Show Rules

Okay, hanging around Jonn and the gang at This Ain't Hell is causing me to be even more cynical about potential fakes than I already was.  This weekend, I'm at the Indy 1500 Gun & Knife show for Cooking with the Troops courtesy of Michael Z. Williamson and the show.  They arranged for us to have a free table, and I am having a very good time talking with people. One talk with a Vietnam vet became something more, as he opened up about some things.  Tis a sad and wonderful thing, that memories can move such good men to tears. 

On the other hand, it is perhaps good that I haven't gotten to leave the table much as I really wanted to talk to, or perhaps "talk to" some people who have shown up.  The husband and wive in woodland camo BDUs, sporting shiny rank insignias and what looked to be some out of place items; the pony-tailed gentleman in the black suit, with an impressive array of minature medals, who was moving quickly through -- and more so when I started staring at the medals trying to read them; and, some other interesting types.  Based on this and a couple of conversations Mike and I had, I posted the following on Facebook as Gun Show Rules, and am modifiying it slightly for here since I'm not limited to the phone:

Young guy, below average height, buff but soft-looking with soul patch & black assault vest, tactical shirt and pants, seriously overcompensating; guy wearing death from above T and every airborne doda, poser; older person w large airborne hat or such, real but... ; older man w small airborne unit pin, seriously saw the shit.

There were some old men who came through with small pins, that I would dearly love to have talked to, or talked to longer.  The ones who get you are the ones who just drop a quiet one-sentence comment that says all about what they did by saying something about others.   

It's about like guys and talking about sex:  the more they brag, the less they do/did.  It's the quiet ones, the ones who don't brag or boast, that did the most.  That's the ultimate Gun Show Rule. 



Support Staff Sergeant Joe Beimfohr in Sport's Illustrated's "Greatness in Sports"

Meet Staff Sergeant Joe Beimfohr  who was in Chuck Z's unit in Iraq where both of them were hit (different times) and recovered together at WRAMC.  Joe went to college and has become one of the top handcyclers in the world.  He is truly a motivating American hero, and, if you read more about him, you will quickly see that he is someone you should know.  Below is his letter asking for support in SI's Greatness in Sports contest.  Read on:

Dear friends,

I am happy to announce that I have been nominated as one of three finalists in the Sports Illustrated's Greatness in Sports contest. I am asking for your support by way of your vote in the contest.
Many of you I know and some I only know through Facebook or by some other means. I was wounded while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq in July of 2005. I later was introduced to the sport of handcycling and have found great joy in competition and teaching the sport to newly injured veterans. As a believer in paying it forward, I have agreed to donate half of my winnings to the Achilles Freedom Team.
The Achilles Freedom Team is a chapter of Achilles International, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, that is composed entirely of wounded veterans. Achilles pays all costs for these wounded warriors to participate and travel to major marathons across the country.
I had to write a short essay on what sports means to me. You can read the attachment if you'd like, I promise that this attachement is not spam and contains no viruses.
Please take 5 minutes of your time to vote and help me give back to the sport that has meant so much to me during my recovery. The more votes I receive= the more money I can donate to this worthy charity.
P.S. You can vote once a day if you feel so inclined :). Contest ends November 14th. Please post the contest link on your Facebook page or Twitter feeds, and feel free to forward this email to your friends to help generate as many votes as possible. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much for your time and support.
Yours in sport,
Joe Beimfohr

You guys know what to do.