Military News

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bush Urges Americans to Honor Holiday's Meaning

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

May 24, 2008 - President Bush encouraged Americans to remember the sacrifices of servicemembers during this Memorial Day weekend in his radio address this morning. "Kids will be out of school, moms and dads will be firing up the grill, and families across our country will mark the unofficial beginning of summer," Bush said. "But as we do, we should all remember the true purpose of this holiday – to honor the sacrifices that make our freedom possible."

The president will commemorate Memorial Day on May 26 by visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., where he will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The tomb is the final resting place of American servicemembers who lost their lives in combat.

"The names of these veterans of
World War I, World War Two, and the Korean War are known only to God," he said. "But their valor is known to us all."

This valor has preserved the way of American life and has secured the nation's sacred freedoms, Bush said. He credited such bravery for winning the country's independence, removing the stain of slavery from the United States, and for defeating totalitarian regimes of the last century.

Bush said
military men and women today are facing "a new totalitarian threat to our freedom" in Iraq, Afghanistan and on other fronts around the world.

"They continue the proud legacy of those who came before them," he said of current servicemembers. "They bear their responsibilities with quiet dignity and honor. And some have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country."

The president cited late
Army Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Sebban, the senior medic of a unit in the 82nd Airborne Division, as exemplary of such heroism.

As the senior medic in his squadron, Sebban made sacrifice a way of life, Bush said. When younger medics were learning how to insert IVs, he would offer his own arm for practice. And when the time came, he did not hesitate to offer his fellow soldiers far more.

In Iraq's Diyala province on March 17, 2007, Sebban saw a truck filled with explosives racing toward his team of paratroopers. He ran into the open to warn them, exposing himself to the blast.

"Ben received severe wounds, but this good medic never bothered to check his own injuries," the president said.

Instead, Sebban devoted his final moments to treating others, said Bush, who presented a Silver Star to Sebban's mother on the slain sergeant's behalf.

"No words are adequate to console those who have lost a loved one serving our nation. We can only offer our prayers and join in their grief," Bush said. "We grieve for the mother who hears the sound of her child's 21-gun salute. We grieve for the husband or wife who receives a folded flag. We grieve for a young son or daughter who only knows dad from a photograph."

Suggesting ways in which Americans can honor the sacrifices he holiday recognizes, Bush said people can join a moment of remembrance that will be marked across the country at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. At that moment, Major League Baseball games will pause, the National Memorial Day parade will halt, Amtrak trains will blow their whistles, and buglers in
military cemeteries will play "Taps."

Bush also encouraged people to participate by placing a flag at a veteran's grave, taking family members to the battlefields where freedom was defended, or saying a
silent prayer for Americans who died in service to their country.

"This Memorial Day, I ask all Americans to honor the sacrifices of those who have served you and our country," he continued. "Their bravery has preserved the country we love so dearly."

Arlington 'Flags In' Tribute Begins Memorial Day Commemoration

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - More than 3,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines officially kicked off the Memorial Day commemoration last evening as they placed 265,000 miniature flags at every grave at Arlington National Cemetery. The tradition, known as "Flags In," dates back to 1948, when soldiers of 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as "The Old Guard," began the annual Memorial Day tribute.

This year marked the fifth year company-size elements of sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen joined about 3,000 soldiers in placing a U.S. flag at the base of the gravestone and columbarium niche of every single servicemember buried or inurned at Arlington.

Yesterday afternoon, the troops fanned out across the cemetery's hills and valleys, carrying rucksacks bulging with bundles of flags. They approached each headstone, centering a miniature flag exactly one boot length from the base before sinking it into the rain-softened ground.

"It's hard to put all this into words," said
Army Sgt. Maj. Russell McCray, The Old Guard's top noncommissioned officer. "We're here every day honoring our fallen heroes, and everyone buried here is a hero. But being here for this is something particularly special.

"It's an honor for everyone who is part of this. If you look at their faces, you can see that," McCray continued. "This experience out here will humble you, beyond a doubt."

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Andres Yanez, who regularly supervises funeral details at the cemetery, called it an honor to participate in the Flags In tribute.

"We come here every day, but today is special for us," he said. "When I look out there and see all those flags, I know that I've been a part of it. I'm rendering honors to our fallen, and I hope that someday someone renders those same honors to me."

Almost five hours after emplacing his first flag of the day -- and admitting he "couldn't count" how many more he'd positioned --
Navy Seaman Shawn Palaszewski still hadn't lost his enthusiasm for the mission.

"We're here rending honors to all our fallen shipmates, and showing them that we care," said Palaszewski, a U.S.
Navy Ceremonial Guard member just 10 weeks out of boot camp. "These sailors and all our armed forces [members] have fallen for our freedoms, and we're here to pay tribute to that."

"This is such a privilege and an honor for me," said
Army Sgt. Mary Jackson, of The Old Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Regiment. "These people gave the ultimate sacrifice. I can only imagine doing that for my country."

Positioned at the columbarium,
Marine Sgt. David Gray from Marine Barracks Washington directed his troops as they moved among the rows of niches. After returning from a deployment to Iraq, Gray called his first time participating in the Flags In tribute particularly meaningful.

"It's a privilege to be alive and able to support those Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country," he said. "We can't bring them back. The only thing we can do is honor them and pay tribute to them."

Like Gray,
Army Staff Sgt. John Diggles, platoon sergeant for The Old Guard's H Company, said he considers the mission a special calling.

"Friends of mine are here, quite a few, so this is very personal," Diggles said, looking out over the rows of headstones. "This is a way of showing the remembrance of our fallen soldiers on such a special day."

As she looked out at the sea of flags fluttering in the wind,
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Bailey from The Old Guard's Fife and Drum Corps declared the landscape nothing short of "breathtaking."

"The impact is huge. It's very dramatic," said Bailey, who was participating in the Flags In ceremony for the sixth year. "It's uniform, and it's simple. And I think it's the uniformity and the simplicity that makes this so beautiful and so unique."

Face of Defense: Wounded Warrior Leads Medical Battalion

By Elaine Wilson
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - When
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Cornejo was wounded in Iraq, he had to return stateside for medical treatment, reluctantly leaving his comrades and mission behind. But one thing that never left him was his desire to serve.

After three months of in-patient treatment and more than five months in rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center here, Cornejo assumed responsibility for 187th Medical Battalion from
Army Master Sgt. Dwight Wafford during a May 13 ceremony at the battalion headquarters here.

"Giving up never entered my thought process," Cornejo said, speaking of his recovery. "It wasn't 'if,' it was 'when' I was going to get back. I just wanted to know how fast I could get fixed so I could get back."

Cornejo deployed with 3rd Corps out of Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2006 as the chief medical noncommissioned officer for the corps staff. He was wounded Sept. 11, 2007, in a mortar attack on his forward operating base. He and 10 other soldiers were wounded.

"I suffered shrapnel wounds on the left side of my body and left shoulder," he said.

He underwent extensive physical rehabilitation at BAMC and now is working on building strength in his shoulder.

Cornejo found out he was selected for command sergeant major while deployed, and during his recovery at BAMC, was pleased to learn his assignment would keep him here.

"I was very happy. Since I'm a medic, I've come full circle. I'm back where I was trained 20 years ago," he said.

As the battalion command sergeant major, Cornejo has command responsibility for more than 450 instructors and nearly 6,000 soldiers being trained throughout the year. The battalion is responsible for the logistics and training of eight military occupational specialties, eight officer courses and nine additional skill identifiers.

Cornejo said he would like to bring lessons learned while deployed to his soldiers.

"My hope is to shed some light on past experiences to magnify the importance of basic warrior tasks each soldier needs to know," he said. "My goal is to provide realistic, but safe, training for our soldiers."

During the ceremony,
Army Lt. Col. Michael Hershman, 187th Medical Battalion commander, thanked Wafford and his family and welcomed Cornejo and his two daughters, Kayla and Jenna.

"He knows what is at stake for our young Americans that we train each day," Hershman said. "We look forward to him applying the lessons he learned in combat to take our field training and 'soldierization' to new levels."

(Elaine Wilson works in the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)

Honor Flight Offers World War Two Veterans Chance to Reflect

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

May 24, 2008 - They last donned their uniforms nearly 70 years ago, but the veterans appeared as proud as if they were still wearing them as they set out for their visit to the nation's capital to see the memorial in their honor. To thunderous applause and cheers, 40
World War Two veterans arrived from Detroit at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport's "A" Terminal on May 17. The group was ready to fulfill their dream of visiting the World War Two Memorial, something none of them had done since its dedication in 2004.

"I like to think of my old buddies, which are mostly all gone by now," said John DeNardo, an
Army veteran who served from April 1943 to January 1946. "Most of them never got to see it, so I feel like I'm representing them here in a way."

The resident of
Clinton Township, Mich., said he was glad for the chance to see the memorial built in part by his contributions. But to make the trip, he had to draw on his experiences from the war: early reveille and a full day.

"I started at 4 o'clock this morning," DeNardo said. "We're going go to [Arlington National Cemetery], [and] they said if time allows, they're going to drive us around."

DeNardo said he didn't think the visit would be too emotional, but he had a few tissues just in case. And that probably was a good thing.

"It makes us cry. It makes them cry," said Rick Sage, who works with Honor Flight Michigan, the organization that made the trip possible. "You can't go through this day and not be emotional."

Honor Flight Michigan brought 414
World War Two veterans to visit the memorial in 2007. Sage said the organization's goal is 600 this year, and with 120 already having made the trip and an average of two flights a month, it seems attainable.

It all depends on funding, he said. All funds raised and donations received go into getting veterans to Washington.

"We're all volunteers. We don't get paid anything," Sage said. "We're just doing this because it's the right thing to do for these guys."

Even the right thing can come with challenges, though. Many
World War Two veterans are no longer mobile and require a wheelchair to get around. That means more of what the Honor Flight Network refers to as "guardians" to help move those who need wheelchairs. But that doesn't discourage the volunteers.

"Logistically, it's a nightmare," Sage said. "But guess what? We're going to devote one [future] flight all to wheelchair guys."

In the end, the veterans' reactions make it easy to forget any challenges, however.

"They think it's just one of the best things they've ever seen," Sage said. "Some of them get a little misty, [and] some of them don't want to talk. It's a very emotional time for them."

Sadly, the national Honor Flight Network program, which began in Ohio in December 2004 and has chapters in 31 states, eventually will come to an end, Sage said.

"We have what they call a 'sunset clause' in this program," he said. "Whether you like it or not, it will come to an end, because the guys are going to be passing away or get too sick to travel."

Some 1,500 to 2,000
World War Two veterans die each day. The staggering numbers, and his work with World War Two veterans who saw their dream of visiting the memorial slipping away, are what prompted Earl Morse, a physician's assistant and retired Air Force captain, to start Honor Flight Network. But until takes its final toll on "The Greatest Generation," he said, Honor Flight Network will make sure as many World War Two veterans as possible get to appreciate the memorial built to honor their sacrifices.

America Supports You: Entrepreneur Helps Spouses Start Businesses

By Jamie Findlater
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 24, 2008 - An entrepreneur who has moved around with her
Marine Corps husband and now calls Camp Lejeune, N.C., home is using her small-business success to help other military spouses get started with businesses of their own. "Being a military spouse breeds an excellent opportunity for reach and really working with a community that shares the same love and support that you have as a business owner," Roxanne Reed -- founder of the All Fired Up Candle Company, Jane Wayne Gear and Marketing to Military Group – said in an "ASY Live" interview on "I have found that to be a great blessing,"

"ASY Live" is part of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

Reed, a mother of two whose
Marine husband was her high school sweetheart, has decided to help other military spouses realize their dream of becoming a business owner. She has helped small start-ups in pursuits ranging from scrapbooking to Web design to music.

"The most difficult thing about being a
military spouse is the constant relocation," Reed said. "Additionally, having our spouses deployed often places most of the household responsibilities on our shoulders as well."

As a result, her company designed a business roadmap that teaches spouses how to be realistic and use their strengths.

She warned new small-business owners to guard against being discouraged by the ups and downs of business ownership.

"Don't beat yourself up if you have to slow the business down a bit or put things on hold," she said. "At the end of the day, if it is a well-thought-out plan, it will come to fruition."

The frequent moves associated with
military life actually can work in favor of a spouse's small business, Reed said.

"One of the benefits of being a
military spouse and having a community that supports you is that from a marketing perspective, you can spread the word very quickly, because you do move base to base," she explained.

Reed started her first company with only $300 and a lot of "sweat equity," she said.

"I had a friend of mine help me wrap my hands around a concept that I had developed called 'Designed by
Military Wives,'" she said. "We started making candles in our kitchen. I had a home party, and I was scared to death, like any creative person just hoping that everyone likes what you made. It went off like wildfire."

Some might find the processes of candle-making intimidating, but Reed said it's not so hard. "If you can bake a cake, you can make a candle," she said.

Reed's candles include some that are particularly relevant to the military community, including one called "Deployment Blues," which smells of men's cologne, or another called "God Bless America" that smells like apple pie.

Her other company, all under the umbrella of the "Designed by or Made by
Military Wives" banner, features clothing, purses, and gear for "military brats," she said.

"I was at a 'Jane Wayne Day,' where military spouses get to live their spouse's job for a day, ... and I said, 'Oh my gosh, we should have girl gear.' We are now known as the design company of
military wives, or 'The Camo and Pink Girls," she said.

The company makes everything from camouflage handbags to baby outfits that say "That's how my Daddy rolls." The clothing sells at military exchanges and civilian department stores, and the company is run by members of the
military community, she explained.

"When someone sends an e-mail or calls the 1-800 number," she said, "they are talking to a military spouse."

Reed said she encourages
military spouses looking to start a business to pick something they love and make it a dream.

"If you are going to invest in a business, make sure you are doing something you love without being paid for it," she advised. "If you love it, you will naturally get up every day and do it." They might find their business in something they already do, such as volunteer work, she noted, or perhaps in something they do part-time for another business owner.

"Whether you like planting flowers or like writing grant programs, it's just about finding what you are passion about," she said.

Reed said the key to starting a successful business is to be persistent and patient, "working with your position as a
military spouse instead of against it."

"I have had a number of business meetings with one child under my arm with a lollipop," she said. "You just have to go with it and not be scared."

To hear this interview in its entirety, or previous programs, visit the "ASY Live" area on

(Jamie Findlater, who works in the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activity, is the host of "ASY Live.")

Commentary: So Which One is Memorial Day?

By Army Sgt. Jerome Bishop
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - Not long ago while I was sitting at my desk at work, a fellow soldier presented an interesting question, not because of what it was, but because of why he asked it. "So what's Memorial Day, again?" the soldier asked.

This kind of disturbed me. As it turns out, the confusion came from the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. While both are federal holidays to remember our nation's servicemembers past and present, only one commemorates the living.

The one that doesn't is May 26, the last Monday in May. That one would be Memorial Day. I just never thought I'd have to explain that to someone.

When Memorial Day comes around, a lot of thoughts rush to mind. Memories of picnics with the family, maybe catching the
Indianapolis 500 on TV with a cold beverage in hand or enjoying the sun at a nearby public pool that just opened for the summer -- all of which are easily recognizable Memorial Day traditions. All the while, the true meaning of Memorial Day remains hidden in the back of our minds -- if it's even there at all.

Commemoration ceremonies and remembrances take place all over the United States on Memorial Day. We all know it's a holiday. It's a day off work, and it's got something to do with wars. Most people my age won't be seen at events like those. I know I've never been to my town's festivities -- not often, at least.

Four years ago, I would have been the last one to say I wanted to take time during the day commonly referred to as the beginning of summer to fill my head with sad memories of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who never made it home. That was then. Three years ago, I was about 60 kilometers north of here on Logistics Support Area Anaconda near Balad for Memorial Day, and this year, I'm in Baghdad.

To me and a lot of other servicemembers braving the sand, heat and bullets in Iraq, Memorial Day carries a new meaning -- to remember not only those servicemembers we know only by the names on their tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery, but also the ones with whom we've shared meals and laughs while trying to make the best of discomfort.

I'm fortunate enough to say that I haven't lost a friend over here, but as my job takes me from unit to unit, the list of acquaintances grows -- and more than a few might not make it home.

Three years ago, I knew Memorial Day would have a whole new meaning for me -- and it truly does -- because it could just as easily have been my name stretched across a banner for hometown heroes lost in battle.

One day, I'm sure I'll hear that question again: "Which one is Memorial Day?" or something of the sort. Unlike most people, I'll have a unique story to tell -- just as we all do.

Army Sgt. Jerome Bishop serves in the Multinational Division Baghdad Public Affairs Office.)

America Supports You: Challenge Coins Thank Vets, Help Nonprofit Groups

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - Searching for a tangible way to help Americans express their deep gratitude to servicemembers for their sacrifices, a Tampa, Fla., couple has designed their own challenge coin. "As Americans, we should honor and acknowledge the sacrifices of members of the U.S.
military," said Deb Benson, who co-founded Grateful American Coin Inc. with her husband. "In doing so, we should individually do what we can, however small, to help those servicemen and women who have sustained the most severe injuries."

The Bensons are doing just that with their organization's new coins. The tangible "thank you" bears the five service insignia on one side and the phrase "Thank you for your service from a grateful
American" on the other.

American coins are available for purchase from the organization's site. While purchasers are presenting them to veterans with a heartfelt "thank you," something they've done 2,894 times since December, the net proceeds from their purchase are being donated to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and America's Vet Dogs.

Both organizations support America's wounded servicemembers.

"Our goal is to write our first checks to these two organizations on our one-year anniversary in November," Benson said.

American Coin is a supporter of America Supports You, as are its two beneficiary organizations. America Supports You, a Defense Department program, connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

"The America Supports You [relationship] means a lot to our organization," Benson said. "[It] assists with credibility for our young organization while at the same time assisting with exposure for our program."

The work America Supports You does is valuable and needed for organizations like Grateful
American Coin, she added.

Military challenge coins, typically bearing a unit's insignia, date back to World War I. Legend has it that a coin identifying the squadron of a pilot shot down and captured behind enemy lines saved him from being executed by the French as a spy. He provided his coin, the only personal property his enemy captors hadn't confiscated, as proof of his identity.

Chairman, Navy Leaders Challenge New Naval Academy Grads

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today challenged the graduating U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2008 to learn from their mistakes, stand up to for what's right, even to their
leaders, and hold themselves accountable for their actions. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, a 1968 Naval Academy graduate, told the 1,037 new graduates that the 86 words of the oaths they took today would be among the most important they would ever utter.

"Nothing else comes close when it comes to that level of commitment, particularly in the dangerous world in which we live," he said.

Mullen called on the class -- 785 entering the
Navy and 233, the Marine Corps -- to live up to the trust and confidence the United States and its citizens have put in them and to look out for the committed sailors and Marines they will lead. "Your No. 1 mission is to lead America's sons and daughters," he said. "They deserve your time, talent and your honesty."

In leading those sailors and Marines, the chairman urged the new
Navy ensigns and Marine second lieutenants to learn from their mistakes. "Success is wonderful, and you will all succeed," he said. "But it is often from our failures that we learn the most."

Mullen recalled his own experience as a young lieutenant, when the gasoline tanker USS Noxubee he was commanding collided with a buoy in Hampton Roads, Va. The incident, which resulted in only minimal damage to the ship, proved to be an important teaching point, he said.

"I learned the power of persistence and the amazing influence that good mentors can have when they see something in you and don't give up," he said. "The point is: You will struggle, and sometimes you will fail. What matters most is how you deal with it. If you stop learning from mistakes, you stop growing. You stop leading."

Mullen also called on the graduates to have the courage to question their
leaders and pose the tough questions, especially "when you don't think things are going well."

"Few things are more vital to an organization than someone who has the moral courage to question the direction in which the organization is headed and the strength of character to support whatever final decisions are made," he said. "That's real loyalty."

Military leaders have an obligation to the American people to provide their leaders their best, most honest appraisals, he said. But he emphasized that once they do, it's their responsibility to support whatever decision is made.

"We give our best advice beforehand. If it's followed, great," he said. "If it's not, we have two choices: obey the orders we have been given, carrying them out with the professionalism and loyalty they deserve, or vote with our feet. That's it.

"Few things are more damaging to our democracy than a
military officer who doesn't have the moral courage to stand up for what's right," he continued, "or the moral fiber to step aside when circumstances dictate."

Mullen called on the new officers to hold themselves accountable as they take on
leadership positions. "If you are wrong, admit it," he said. "If you have erred, correct it. Hold yourselves accountable for your actions."

He urged them to strive for the best personal conduct and work quality and never to demand less of themselves than they do of the shipmates and Marines they lead. That's critical, he said, particularly for a nation at war. "We live in dangerous times in a very dangerous world," Mullen said.

Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter urged the graduates to draw on lessons learned at the Naval Academy as they join the fleet fighting the war on terror.

"You have chosen to serve at a time when
terrorists make no secrets of their goals. We cannot say we have not been warned," he said. "We must remain strong, and we must fight back. We must fight our terrorist enemies today and deter potential future adversaries through strength and preparedness."

Winter thanked the new officers who have accepted these challenges, and saluted them as they join "the finest and most capable fleet the world has ever known."

As he administered the oath of office to the 785 new naval officers, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughhead recalled his own Naval Academy graduation 35 years ago.

"Today you begin to soar," he told the class. "Savor every moment. Yours is the privilege and the opportunity to make the
Navy a better place and to make the world a better place."

Burma Lets Aid Workers In, But Won't Accept Help From U.S. Military

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - The Burmese junta's agreement to allow in international aid workers does not change the status of Defense Department assets ready to assist the victims of Cyclone Nargis, a Pentagon spokesman said today. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today that the Burmese junta would allow international aid workers into the devastated country. The death toll from the cyclone is estimated at 130,000, U.N. officials said. About 2.4 million Burmese were affected by the storm.

The United States
military can continue to fly in C-130 airlifters with aid. Five aircraft landed at Rangoon International Airport today, bringing the total number of relief flights to 50. The flights have delivered 444 metric tons of supplies on 290 pallets.

Four U.S.
Navy ships remain off Burma's coast near the mouth of the Irrawaddy River, the most severely stricken area. The ships could provide massive quantities of relief supplies directly to the people most affected by the cyclone, but Burmese officials will not allow that.

"If nothing changes on the part of the Burmese government, we're eventually going to have to make a decision" about how long the ships can remain, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. "Still, it's very hard to turn your back on the suffering that we know is taking place right now, and so we're going to continue to try to encourage [the Burmese leaders]," Whitman said.

Pentagon officials are encouraged by the junta's decision to allow in the international aid workers. "Who knows, we might be successful in getting them to agree to further U.S. military aid," Whitman said.

The ships will remain for the immediate future, but a decision on their status will come "in days or weeks, not months," he said.

Wynonna Rocks Inspirational Performance at Walter Reed

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - When country music star Wynonna Judd stepped on stage in the Wagner Sports Center at Walter Reed
Army Medical Center here yesterday, it was all about the love. "Over a year ago, she said, 'What can I do for the Army, and in particular what can I do for Walter Reed?'" said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody as he was introducing the megastar known across the industry as simply "Wynonna."

"I said, 'Just come up and tell them you love them,'" he said.

And so she did, in song and in speech.

Half the songs Wynonna performed had the word 'love' penned in their titles. In the others, love was a staple of their prose.

"Out of all the flags I've flown, one flies high and stands alone," sang the Grammy-award-winning artist. "Only love."

She spent the hours before the concert meeting with staff and wounded warriors. Then to the hundreds who packed into the auditorium, Wynonna belted out in powerful, bluesy vocals, "I Want to Know What Love Is," and proclaimed "Love Can Build a Bridge," and later transformed into a "Hunk of Hunk of Burning Love."

It was just the inspirational ticket the appreciative audience was looking for. The staff of the hospital has spent more than a year in the nation's hot spotlight after reports surfaced of poor outpatient conditions at the center. Morale also has suffered as the closing of the historical hospital also nears under the base realignment and closure plan, and many staff members are uncertain about their future. And the wounded warriors there spend days, months and even years recovering from horrific wounds rendered by the hands of hate.

"Thanks to you all, ... my mother and my sister, we live on a farm together and we sleep at night [because] we know that you all are putting your butts on the line for us," Wynonna told the crowd. "And I just want you to know that today is just a very small composite of how I feel about you.

"We love you, and we support you," she said.

And the crowd loved her back.

"We love you too, Wynonna," they screamed repeatedly between songs amid the whistling and cheers.

Some, however, less familiar with the star, couldn't get her name right.

"You talking to me?" Wynonna called out to
Army Spc. Chauncy Clayton, a patient administrator.

The star summoned him to the stage to correct his misplaced syllable. He had improperly put the emphasis on "nona."

"It's WHY-nona," the star playfully chastised in her country accent, drawing a roar of laughter and applause from the crowd.

In Wynonna's 24-year career that started with a string of hits she performed with her mother as The Judds, she has garnered more than 21 No. 1 hits, sold 20 million records, six of which turned to platinum and four to gold. She's won five Grammy awards, nine Country Music Association awards. She has sung for the pope, four presidents and before millions at the Super Bowl.

But yesterday, it was a free tribute to Walter Reed's staff and patients, with the U.S.
Army band serving as her orchestra. Admittedly, though, it was not her typical concert crowd.

"Raise your hand if you've ever seen a show of mine before," Wynonna requested of the audience.

Only a few hands shot up.

Wynonna feigned a shocked look.

"What have you been doing?" she asked and laughed.

But once the show started, the star's familiar tunes such as "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout The Good Old Days)" warmed the crowd.

Wynonna dedicated her classic "Mama He's Crazy," to Cody, who she called a father figure. She met the general during his command at Fort Campbell, Ky. He introduced her to the
Army and its soldiers.

"Every artist who ever gets a record deal should have to do community service for the Army. It's sort of my philosophy these days," Wynonna said.

This met with several enthusiastic "hooahs."

"Yeah, hooah," she responded.

Now, Wynonna calls herself an ambassador for the

"There are a lot of us, especially in the country music community, who absolutely support you, and everywhere we go we give the message loud and clear that freedom ain't free," she said.

Wynonna gave credit to her mother for raising her with a grateful attitude. Her mother raised Wynonna and her sister, actor Ashley Judd, while living on welfare. But even in the early years of the stars' rise to fame, she sang with her mother, alongside Bob Hope as part of the USO.

"I'm just wanting you to know today that you are really loved. Not just because of what you do, but because of who you are," she said. "If you all ever need a parade waiver, you know who to call."

Wynonna joked with the crowd about their motives for coming to the concert.

"I know it got some of you out of work. And that's a good thing," she said, and her words were met by the cheers of the crowd.

But for others it was therapy.

"It got some of you out of bed, and that's a good thing," she said. "For those of you who I didn't get to meet today, I'll be back."

During a powerful performance of the religious hit "I Can Only Imagine," in which the singer imagines her response to meeting Jesus, photos of soldiers on their knees praying in combat zones flashed on the large screen on stage.

At the end, the typically fiery redhead had to break. She turned from the crowd, grabbed a tissue, and after a few moments, faced them again, attempting to recompose.

Wynonna talked of taking chances, and risks, and life's trials. She referred to her own past, spotted with troubles and heartaches.

"You learn so much about yourself when you go to hell and back. You really do," she told the crowd. "People don't understand while they're sitting at home on their ... butts complaining about the state of the union. I'm like, 'Well then get off your butt and go do something about it.'"

For more than an hour, Wynonna commanded the stage, singing, joking and paying tribute to those who serve, both in and out of uniform. She said she felt connected to the crowd.

"I love you," she told the audience at the end of what should have been her last song.

But the roar of the cheers and a standing ovation brought her back to the stage one more time.

"No One Can Love Me Like You," Wynonna sang in her encore.

And the crowd believed it.

A tearful
Army retiree, now working as a health technician, Christine Engle said the concert was a shot in the arm for the staff and patients there.

"I think it's great that she's ... out here, with all the things that have happened here at Walter Reed in the past year," she said. "The care is excellent here, and the [media] have given it such a bad name. With her coming here, it just shows that she appreciates what these soldiers have done ... and the staff that works at the hospital. It's positive thing, and it's very important.

"It's a great day," Engle said.

USS Boxer Supports 'Continuing Promise' in El Salvador

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - During the Memorial Day Weekend, while Americans remember the sacrifices and commitments of servicemembers, the crew of USS Boxer will also be making sacrifices as the ship participates in the Pacific phase of Continuing Promise 2008, a Humanitarian civic-assistance mission in Latin America. The mission "reflects the United States' commitment to our partners in Latin America, [by] working side by side with the countries of El Salvador and Guatemala with their medical professionals, and their engineers as well,"
Navy Capt. Peter Dallman, commander of Amphibious Squadron 5, told online journalists and bloggers in a conference call today.

On April 28, the Boxer crew left
San Diego accompanied by medical professionals from 25 different commands from around the world. In addition to the augmented medical team, members from the U.S. Public Health Service and the nongovernmental organization Project Hope also accompanied the crew on the two-month humanitarian mission.

"We have 40 medical professionals normally; we've augmented that with another 125-plus health care professionals across the broad spectrum of optometry, ophthalmology, dental care, internal medicine, primary care, and corpsmen. Those folks are conducting clinics ashore, basically one main medical clinic a day," Dallman said.

In addition to health care providers, 60 Seabees from
Navy Seabee Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 also are accompanying the crew.

"[They] will be conducting small-grade construction projects ashore and working on reroofing electrical, plumbing, [installing] windows and screens to schools and churches," Dallman explained.

He added that the help has been very warmly received by the people of Guatemala and El Salvador.

"I think there is certainly a need here, and we also have learned much from the folks that we've been working with and been treating," he said. "There has been an overwhelming, sincere appreciation for our efforts and our commitment to their countries and their people, and that has been very gratifying."

Diebold said that, on average, the team is treating 600 or 700 patients a day in areas of dental, optometry, and primary care. In Guatemala, they saw more than 5,000 primary care patients. To date, they have performed 67 surgeries, including removing cataracts, appendectomies, and hernia repairs.

In addition, the Boxer crew has handed out close to a 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses in Guatemala and has seen more than 2,000 optometry patients. The crew also has treated close to 1,500 animals.

Boxer has had experience in offering humanitarian assistance in their prior deployments. Dallman noted that during an October-November 2006 deployment, the crew volunteered to support a Habitat for Humanity project to build single-family homes in Lonavala, India. The sailors also volunteered for community-service projects in Singapore and Australia.

The deployment is scheduled to last through June.

Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activity.)

Seeking Mental Health Care is Encouraged, Army Psychiatrist Says

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - Reducing the stigma related to servicemembers seeking mental health assistance is a total team effort that involves educating peers to look out for each other and encouraging those who might be reluctant to receive care, a senior
military medical official said yesterday. "Commanders and noncommissioned officers really play a critical role in eliminating stigma, especially the junior-level noncommissioned officers who are with the troops on a day-to-basis. They play a key role in this goal of decreasing stigma," Col. (Dr.) C.J. Diebold, chief of the psychiatry department at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, said in an interview on the "Dot Mil Docs" program on

He added that improving one's overall behavioral health by eating sensibly, getting exercise, and practicing good hygiene are key factors when facing stressful situations. "Behavioral health is important to everyone, as it directly affects how a person feels and acts," Diebold said.

He added that keeping up overall mental health is especially crucial when deployed to a combat zone.

"When one is deployed in a place like a combat zone, one must really maintain a really healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude to be able maintain good behavioral health," Diebold said.

Encouraging servicemembers to learn more about maintaining overall mental health for not only themselves, but also for their families, is just one of the elements highlighted in May, which is Mental Health Month.

"It jogs people's consciousness to recognize the importance of mental health, and hopefully that will continue throughout the entire year," Diebold said.

Many lessons have been learned by looking at mental health issues year-round, he added.

"One of the lessons learned over the past few decades is the importance of a servicemember's psychological well-being in terms of being able to perform their mission, but also the psychological well-being of their families," Diebold said. He added that servicemembers who may need assistance either during or after their deployment have a lot of different options to choose from.

"A servicemember could go to their unit chaplain, and I have talked with servicemembers over the years, and this is really the first place that a lot of people will go to," he said. "The chaplains are a very good way to go and be able to talk through some of the issues that are going on."

Diebold said still other outlets include talking with primary care providers, behavioral health professionals, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, family therapists, and alcohol- and substance-abuse counselors.

"The important thing to remember is that if a person is concerned that they may have experienced a traumatic event in theater and some other environment, and it is really affecting them, to go in and talk to a counselor [or] their primary care manager and get evaluated and get treated if it is indicated," Diebold said. "The sooner it's recognized and the sooner it is evaluated and treatment, the better a person is going to feel, and [it decreases] the chance that they may have long-term effects."

Servicemembers may encounter
post-traumatic stress disorder or combat and operational stress during or after deployments, Diebold said.

"I think that it is now the longest continuous combat operations of any war besides the Revolutionary War, and we have had servicemembers deploying multiple times now," he said. "The stress that servicemembers and the families [are experiencing] have been well recognized, and that is why these special programs and bolstering of helping services have been implemented to help out."

Some of the symptoms associated with PTSD are nightmares, nervousness, anxiety or flashbacks. In contrast to PTSD, combat and operational stress reactions are short reactions to stress from being in the combat zone. Usually, combat and operational stress symptoms will resolve with rest, short-term counseling or sometimes simply on their own, he explained, whereas symptoms of PTSD can last a few days, months or even years.

Diebold added that the Department of Veterans Affairs has been working to find treatments for PTSD. Usually, with treatment, a servicemember affected by PTSD can return to active duty. Mental health professionals are deployed in theater to aid servicemembers who may be dealing with PTSD or know someone who is, he noted.

"Our mental health professionals are out there among the troops, educating the troops that this is an expected reaction and here are some of the things that you can do to help decrease some of your stress.

"Commanders and soldiers are being educated and being encouraged to go in and seek mental health treatment," he continued, "and leaders are encouraged to allow their soldiers time away from work ... to get evaluated and treated."

Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media branch of the Defense Media Activity.)

Naval Academy Graduates Say They Signed Up to Serve

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

May 23, 2008 - Michael Ursetti was a high school sophomore living in northern
New Jersey when the terrorist planes attacked the World Trade Center towers in New York, killing more than a dozen of his neighbors. "I had known since I was about 16 that I wanted to be in the military, but that pretty much solidified it," said Ursetti, one of 1,037 midshipmen to graduate today from the U.S. Naval Academy.

The events of Sept. 11, the U.S entry into the global
war on terror, and the recognition that he'd be entering a wartime force never dissuaded Ursetti from attending the academy. He chose to join the Marine Corps, believing it would give him "more of a direct impact" on the ongoing combat operations.

When he gets to the Corps' Basic Course later next month, Ursetti hopes to be selected as an infantry officer.

Whether headed to the
Marine Corps, to flight school or to the fleet to serve as surface warriors, submariners or in other capacities, today's graduates said they brought a common drive to the Naval Academy: a desire to serve their country.

As they gathered inside the fence line at
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in preparation for today's graduation and commissioning ceremony, the midshipmen reflected on why they chose to serve and on the leadership qualities they hope to bring to the calling.

"I came for the education, but also because I wanted to serve my country," said Sarah Matt, who will train as a naval flight officer. "It's a way to be a part what provides us all the freedoms we enjoy."

Navy Secretary Donald Winter noted during today's graduation and commissioning ceremonies that none had chosen the easy, most profitable or most comfortable road. "You have not chosen a profession sheltered from the dangers of war or from the constant demands of the life at sea," he said.

Paul Bridgers, who is headed to Pensacola, Fla., to become a
Navy pilot, said he accepted these demands when he chose to go Navy. "I wanted a career that made me feel like I'm doing something important," he said.

Bridgers first visited the academy during a school field trip, but never seriously thought about attending until a football scout recruited him to become a right tackle.

Heralding the
Navy team's prowess, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drew cheers and applause from the thousands of families and friends who packed the stadium for the ceremonies. In his keynote address, he noted that the team beat Army four consecutive years, earned the Commander in Chief's trophy five consecutive years, and gave Notre Dame its first loss to Navy in 43 games.

Football taught Bridgers a lot, but he said his entire academy experience left him more disciplined and ready to take on challenges of being a
Navy officer during wartime. "It really doesn't make a difference whether or not we're at war. We have to be ready for it either way," he said.

Zerbin Singleton, a
Navy football running back, said the Naval Academy helped him recognize his strengths, overcome his weaknesses and build leadership skills. Now he's taking that training to the Marine Corps, to become a pilot and someday, he hopes, an astronaut.

"The thing that drew me to the
Marine Corps is how they carry themselves," said the Decatur, Ga., native. "They believe they are the best of the best, and they are. And that's what I've always wanted to be."

Navy Lt. Brandon Soule, a 2001 academy graduate who now teaches at his alma mater, said lessons the new officers learned here will remain with them as they join the fleet and Corps.

Graduates already have held
leadership positions in which they've been responsible for others. "You learn what's critical to being a leader," Soule said. "You learn that, to lead people, you have to understand people and you have to care."

Catherine McMunn of Long Island, N.Y., among thousands of parents at today's ceremony, said she's proud that as the academy gave her son the toughness to be selected as a
Navy SEAL, it left his "kind, good heart" intact. Rather than sending her a traditional Mother's Day gift, she said, Carl Governale sent a young Afghan girl to school for a year.

McMunn brought about 40 extended family members to Annapolis to honor Governale as he graduated from the Naval Academy and prepared to enter the elite naval special operations force. "It's unbelievable," she said, brimming with pride. "It's overwhelming."

As he paid tribute to the graduates, Mullen praised the family members for their role in developing the future
Navy and Marine officers and promised to do right by them.

"You taught them to be good citizens, and you instilled in them -- whether you knew it or not -- a desire to serve. And then you handed them over to us and said, 'Here, take my child in a time of war. Teach them how to lead and how to fight. Teach them how to be good servants of the public, good defenders of our freedom, good leaders to good sailors and good Marines.

"Thank you for that," Mullen told the families. "We know what you expect of us. We appreciate your trust. We will labor always to deserve it."



AMEC Earth and Environmental, Inc. of Plymouth Meeting, Penn.; CDM Contractors, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.; CH2M-Hill Facilities and Infrastructures, Inc. of Englewood, Colo.; Earthtech, Inc. of
Long Beach, Calif.; ECC of Burlingame, Calif.; Innovative Technical Solutions, Inc. of Walnut Creek, Calif.; Jacobs Government Services, CO of Pasadena, Calif.; Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group, Inc. of Pasadena, Calif.; Perini Corp of Framington, Mass.; Toltest of Maumee, Ohio; North Wind of Idaho Falls, Idaho; SEI Group, Inc. of Huntsville, Ala.; Balovento, LLC of Dothan, Ala.; J2 Engineering of Tampa, Fla.; Charter Environmental of Wilmington, Mass.; DWG and Associates of Bluffdale, Utah; Weston Solutions, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas; Johnson Controls Federal Systems/Versar, LLC of Springfield, Va.; and MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga. are being awarded an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for $4,000,000,000 (maximum total of all task orders on all contracts) (multiple contracts will be awarded). The SATOC program will provide sustainment, restoration, and modernization type construction activity worldwide. The ceiling established for the Sustainment, Restoration, and Modernization (SR&M) Task Order Contract (SATOC) program is $4 billion. $4 billion is the maximum total of all task orders on all contracts (multiple contracts to be awarded) over the life of the program (up to 10 years). At this time $2,500 per awardee has been obligated. Randolph AFB, Texas, is the contracting activity (multiple contracts).


Raytheon Co.,
El Segundo, Calif., is being awarded a $51,596,296 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-06-C-0310) for the procurement of 19 Full Rate Production Lot 6 Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pods for the Governments of Australia (18) and Switzerland (1). In addition, this modification provides for long lead items for the Government of Switzerland, Units Under Test, and one Electro-Optical Sensory Unit for the U.S. Navy. This contract combines purchases for the U.S. Navy ($10,549,203; 20.4 percent and for Governments of Australia ($35,599,446; 69 percent) and Switzerland ($5,447,647; 10.6 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales Program. Work will be performed in El Segundo, Calif. (60 percent) and McKinney, Texas (40 percent), and work is expected to be completed in November 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Raytheon Systems Company, McKinney, Texas, is being awarded a $29,703,440 modification to previously awarded contract (N00164-06-G-8555) for Multi-spectral Targeting Systems (MTS). The MTS units will be utilized on
Navy MH-60 aircraft. The MTS is a forward looking infrared system for the Predators (Air Force), MH-60R and MH60S helicopters (Navy). The MTS provides real-time imagery selectable between infrared and day TV as well as a laser designation capability. Work will be performed in McKinney, Texas, and work is expected to be completed by March 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, Ind., is the contracting activity.

W. G. Yates and Sons Construction Company, Oxford, Miss., is being awarded an $18,485,000 modification under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N69450-08-C-0754) to exercise an option for Contract Line Item Number 0005 which provides for the design and construction of a post office, training aids facility, refueler maintenance facility and munitions inspection facility at Keesler
Air Force Base. The current total contract amount after exercise of this line item will be $92,319,000. Work will be performed in Biloxi, Miss., and work is expected to be completed by February 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity.

Harris Corp.,
Palm Bay, Fla. is being awarded a $15,135,104 initial order under an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed price for Multi-Band Shipboard Satellite Communications Systems; Force Level Variant. This contract will allow the Program Executive Office-Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence and Space (PEO-C4I & Space), Navy Communications Program Office (PMW-170) to acquire terminals, providing commercial SATCOM connectivity capability to the Fleet. This contract includes five one-year ordering periods and has a total estimated value of $85,372,804. Work will be performed in Palm Bay, Fla., and work is expected to be completed by January 2009. If delivery orders are placed throughout the five one-year ordering periods, work could continue until June 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract wascompetitively procured with using full and open competitive procedures via the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center E-commerce website, with five offers received. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N00039-04-D-0004).

Force Protection Industries, Inc., Ladson, S.C., is being awarded a $6,397,494 firm-fixed-priced modification under delivery order #0001 to contract (M67854-07-D-5031) for the purchase of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) Instructors. Work will be performed in the combat area of operations, and work is expected to be completed August 2008. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The
Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.


Walbridge Aldinger Co., Inc, Detroit, Mich., was awarded on May 22, 2008, a $24,027,740 firm-fixed price contract for the design and construction of a standard Brigade Combat Team facility complex. Work will be performed at Fort Stewart, Ga., and is expected to be completed by April 13, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Four bids were solicited on Jan. 30, 2008, and three bids were received. U.S.
Army Engineer District, Savannah, Ga., is the contracting activity (W912HN-07-D-0054).

SRCTec, Inc., Syracuse, N.Y., was awarded on May 22, 2008, an $18,875,553 firm-fixed price contract for adjunct systems as a result of an engineering change proposal. Work will be performed in Syracuse, N.Y., and is expected to be completed by Jan. 31. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on May 14, 2008. CECOM acquisition Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J. is the contracting activity (W15P7T-05-D-S205).

Raytheon Missile Systems Co., Tucson, Ariz., was awarded on May 22, 2008, a $10,250,000 firm-fixed price contract for griffin ammunitions. Work will be performed in Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by March 31, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on Feb. 5, 2008. U.S.
Army Aviation and Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-08-C-0252).

Honeywell International Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., was awarded on May 22, 2008, a $7,344,893 cost-plus-fixed fee contract for design and development of new performance and design parameters for Inertial Measurement Unit hardware and software of tactical grade and Deeply Integrated Guidance and Navigation Unit hardware and software. Work will be performed in Minneapolis, Minn., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 28, 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. One bid was solicited on May 22, 2008. U.S.
Army & Aviation Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-08-D-0025).


Hawthorne Services, Inc., N.C.* is being awarded a minimum $22,398,120.00 firm fixed price contract for operating fuel facilities. Other location of performance is Camp LeJeune, N.C. Using service is
Marine Corps. Number of original proposals solicited is not applicable, 2 responses were received. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Date of performance completion is November 2028. The contracting activity is Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), Fort Belvoir, Va. (SP0600-08-C-5815).