The following photos are from the Defense Department...
An Iraqi child accompanies a Soldier with B Company, 4-9 Infantry Regiment, as the Soldier takes a break after an air assault into a village in the outskirts of Baqubah June 19. Soldiers of 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team are assisting Soldiers of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in the clearing of Baqubah, a major operation known as "Arrowhead Ripper," by isolating Baqubah just outside the city limits, to prevent insurgents from getting in, or out, of the city. Both Stryker brigades are with the 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash.
Sgt. Joshua Myers keeps an eye on a major Iraqi route, Highway 1, during a patrol, June 10. Myers is with Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, open a door during Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baqubah, Iraq, June 21, 2007. The unit is part of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., which is leading the effort to defeat al-Qaida and secure the city.
A Soldier from 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, checks a door during Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baqubah, Iraq, June 21, 2007. The unit is part of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., which is leading the effort to defeat al-Qaida and secure the city.
A Soldier from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., stands guard as residents of Baqubah, Iraq, gather to receive food and water from Iraqi and coalition forces June 22. The supply drop was organized by the 5th Iraqi Army Division as part of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, an ongoing effort to defeat al-Qaida in Iraq and secure the city.
Pfc. Kyle Biggs secures a road as village residents walk by in the Taji area, north of Baghdad, June 5. Biggs is with Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash.
A curious resident looks at Pfc. Kyle Biggs as he secures a road in a village in the Taji area, north of Baghdad, June 5. Biggs is with Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash.
Spc. Jairo Palacios talks with boys in a village north of Baghdad June 5. Palacios is with Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash.
Families of fallen service members will have a unique sanctuary at Fort Lewis.
Two new parks being built adjacent to each other will give visitors an opportunity to remember fallen service members from Fort Lewis and the surrounding area, while also visiting the post’s unit memorials.
“I just would like to give a place to honor those who have fallen and help people have peace,” said Col. Cynthia Murphy, garrison commander of Fort Lewis, adding that the parks will be “a place that you can take your family, and they (Soldiers) will be remembered.”
Ground breaking for the first phase of the park project will be at 10 a.m. on July 6 in the area just north of the Broadmoor Housing area, near Watkins Field.
Installation planners are working with Equity Residential at Fort Lewis, which is paying for the first phase of the project — six acres called Reflection Park.
Since Equity was scheduled to build a new park at Fort Lewis, Kimberlee Schreiber, the managing director for Fort Lewis communities for Equity Residential, said they were very pleased when Murphy approached them with her idea for the space.
“The other parks are more playgrounds, where this one is more for reflection,” Schreiber said. “It’s for appreciating and remembering those who passed.”
The park will include a plaza with paths leading to a circular reflection pool, representing hope. Granite slabs engraved with names of fallen servicemen and women dating back to World War I will line walkways in the park, which will serve as time lines for each conflict. An open building on the plaza will feature a computer kiosk, where visitors can locate the names of fallen service members, information their families would like to include and a history of the unit with which they served. The park will reflect all branches of the military.
The statues, electronic kiosk and some other elements of the park will be paid for through donations from private organizations.
While the park is meant as a memorial for fallen Soldiers, Murphy said it is not exclusively for those who served at Fort Lewis.
“We have widows all around us who have lost loved ones,” she said.
“Soldiers who died while they were serving at Fort Campbell, but their wife is a resident of Washington and this is her home. We are the Army (here), and we need to be able to include them.”
While the Memorial Park is still being planned, Murphy said it will serve as a central area for unit memorials, at their discretion.
“It’s not mandatory, but highly encouraged,” she said, adding that usually the memorials had to be moved each time the unit changed buildings. “We will move the statues to the park and take a load off the units themselves ... and any future statues or memorials will be placed in this area.”
The Reflection Park phase will be completed by summer 2008, Murphy said, and ground will probably be broken around September for the Memorial Park area.
“Doing memorials is more an installation responsibility and being able to tie these two together in the same area, it complements so well,” Murphy said. “It gives one central location in a key, probably the heart of the installation — and if you think about it, that’s where (the Soldiers) really are.”
David is a Fort Lewis Stryker. His column appears weekly...
I was in the middle of Los Angeles’ marathon and on mile 17. The heat was beating down on me making me fatigued and on the verge of being dehydrated. I knew that the next water point was coming up shortly, so I had to pick it up so I could break out of the pack of runners I was with because my past experience in drink points was that getting water was sometimes painful. And I mean getting tripped and finding yourself on your ass. So I picked up the pace. My heart was racing, and my mouth was so parched. I knew if I didn’t get that water soon I was going to be face forward on the ground. I saw the table of water and the smiling faces of the water people. Astonishingly, the first group had already gone through, and there was only a handful of loafers hanging out at the table, so it was looking good. I started to make my approach. I finally made it. I went to get the water. I had the cup in my hand, and I went to put the water in my mouth. All of a sudden the group I had just run from caught up and basically slammed into me. The water went splashing everywhere except in my mouth. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of a hoard of people as thirsty as I was, and I was being pushed away from the table. I gave up and started running down the road. I was getting sick, but I knew someone else had to have water. Sure enough, as I came around the corner, this little boy and girl had set up a stand of Gator-aid and fruit. I stopped and looked around like a paranoid man, thinking that the hoard of people was going to find me there. The little girl had a beautiful, radiant smile, and the little boy looked like he was about to fall asleep as he sat in his little chair. I bent down and grabbed a glass and swallowed it all. It immediately quenched my thirst. I looked at the little girl and said, “Little girl, you made my day.” I blew her a kiss. Her freckly face turned red, and she giggled. I continued on my run, coming in at 3 hours and 23 minutes. That day I felt for the first time in my life what it felt to be in desperate need of water, and it was a terrible experience. Though the water was accessible somewhere, I felt overwhelmed. Turning the clock years later, I stand in the 115 degree weather with a drenched sweaty uniform. I look into the eyes of desperate men and women as well as little boys and girls looking to us to quench their thirst. Can we do it?
As I sat on my bed and relaxed, a voice down the hall echoed, “We need three guys to VC for today’s mission.” Since I thought they were talking about being a VC for the Strykers, I wasn’t too concerned. After a minute Staff Sergeant Rine came in the room and said, “Alpha and Bravo, we need two guys to VC for the load truck element we are going out with.” He walked out of the room, and then he quickly came back and said, “Hardt, you and John go out to the front gate and wait for the load truck to show up; you will be VC today.” At first I was like s@#%, and then after a minute I thought it would be good to change things up for a day. John and I made our way out to the front gate where another guy was also waiting. After some time, the load trucks showed up. A staff sergeant walked up, and the first thing I noticed was that he was perspiring really badly. “I just need two of you guys, so one of you can go.” John asked me, “Do you want to play rowshambo?” — better known as rock, paper, scissors. I always lose at this game, but so does John when going against others. I thought about it and said confidently, “No, I got this one. Don’t worry about it.” He looked shocked, “You sure?” As I opened the door to the truck, I glanced back and smiled, “If I get blown up in this thing I am coming after you in my afterlife.” He laughed and then walked away.
The first thing I noticed about the truck was that it was filthy and you could barely see out the windows. I began to ponder, “If the truck is a mess, I wonder what kind of character I am working with?” After a couple of minutes the driver jumped in and started the truck. At first, he didn’t say anything, and I was fine with that. I wasn’t on a date or anything. It was weird; as soon as we got out the gate, the river of conversation started. After picking up the pallets of water, we started our way into the city. The staff sergeant looked really upset with what we were doing and was rather blunt about it. “You know, this sucks. Why do we have to bring water out to these people, or why can’t the other guys do this?” I looked out the window and thought, “Man, I was just like this a couple weeks ago.” I took a deep breath and answered the question as honest as I could. “Sergeant, I think if you walked the street like we do every day and see what we see, it would make this much, much easier. These people are dying because their water is polluted. Many of them have typhoid. So what we are doing has an enormous importance and relevance to it.” He looked at me and said with a sarcastic laugh, “And you’re an infantryman.” I said with a stern, respectable voice, “Roger, Sergeant, and today is what may save me and you tomorrow from getting blown up, so if that makes it easier, everyone wins.” It’s honest comments like that that seemingly always get me in trouble. I took a deep breath and then turned and looked out the window as if I was waiting for the back blast. The staff sergeant said nothing for a minute as if he was processing the situation. Then he spoke up. “You know, I was here in Desert Storm and then last deployment, and this war has changed so much I can’t even keep up with it. I guess I just hate being here away from my family.” I answered, “You know, Sergeant, it took me till three weeks ago to let my selfish, uncompassionate mind-set rest, and now, doing things like this takes on a whole new purpose regardless of my politic position on what we should be doing. I see it like this — Would your family be proud of you generously giving these underprivileged people water? I know that my loved ones would rather me do this any day of the week.”
The staff sergeant seemed to finally really understand where I was going with it, and I was pleased and relieved. It’s been some time since I’ve opened my mouth and gotten an opinion out without getting shut down. We made our way down the road and to the spot for the drop. As I looked out the window, I noticed that everyone was looking at the truck with ecstatic, open eyes, like they had just opened a Christmas package and it was what they wanted.
We came to a stop and the staff sergeant got out and made his way to the back of the convoy. I sat in the truck and monitored the radio. The thing about riding in that kind of truck is you get hot really fast and your body becomes fatigued. I looked at my pants, and it looked like I had jumped in a pool. I downed three bottles of water in a 15-minute time frame. After some time, I got out of the truck and went to the middle of the street to pull security while a crew got the forklift off of the trailer. The heat was just trouncing down. I noticed that I had sweat dripping down my arms and out my sleeve, dropping to the ground and then quickly evaporating. I looked down the road and saw the crowd gathering and showing impatience. The Iraqi Police were doing a remarkable job of keeping the people in order. Granted, they were being supervised by us, but as of late, the IP have shown a lot of potential and professionalism. I still don’t trust them, but it’s just safer that way.
About an hour later the water had been unloaded from all of the trucks, and that’s when the frenzy started. People started coming out of the woodwork. It was a combination of young kids and mothers — not a lot of men, which was odd but OK with me. I happened to be 40 meters away from the distribution point. I made my way to the sidewalk and found what seemed like the only shade in Iraq at the moment. Being in this AO for a while, you get to know the kids. I came across a lot of them on this day. It was weird to have people say my name, which is German on the streets. It was amazing to see young people carrying three cases of water in their arms at once and giving it all they had. I have a hard time carrying just two. The looks on their faces showed appreciation and relief.
I stood watching this event and thought about home, thinking how grateful we should be for the things we have and the things we can work for. There is a struggle here that the news won’t put out because it just doesn’t have relevance or news power to move our country in a direction to see that we are not just out fighting a fight but trying to defuse and give proper care to those affected because of our war endeavor. I know I sound like Sen. John Kerry — doing a flip-flop on my stance — but at this point it’s a good thing and healthy at that.
As I stood in the shade, a little girl came up to me and said, “Hello, German.” At first I couldn’t remember her name, so I paused and thought. “Oh, Shalala, how are you?” I said with a big smile. A big smile came to her face; it was so big it could have lit up a dark room. I sat down on the steps so I could get eye level. I think it’s important that they see your eyes, so they know you really care or that you’re paying attention to them. They love that. She said she was happy that we brought water and that they needed it because people were getting sick. She also mentioned that she felt safer because we were walking around every day. For a little girl she spoke really well. It was like having a regular conversation. While we were talking, I noticed that the line for water was getting bigger and a little rowdier, so our guys stepped in and put that to an end. At one point Staff Sgt. Rine grabbed this dude who was acting shady and pulled him out of the line and searched him. It seemed like when he did that the crowd just went silent and everyone started acting right. Let us not forget that these people were ruled by fear, so at times when they see actions that may come off as hostile they quickly get set straight. The guy was clean, but what set off Staff Sgt. Rine was his actions and the jacket he was wearing. In 115 degree weather why wear a jacket?
Back on the steps Shalala’s mother came up to talk. She didn’t speak too well, but I understood most of it. She basically said she loves us and she thanks us for helping them. I could tell by her expressions that she meant every word of it, and it felt good. We talked a little more, and then something really weird happen. The last time I ran into Shalala she was all about giving me a hug, and that was so sweet. This time she caught me off guard. As I leaned to give her a hug to say good-bye, she put her hand on my chin and turned my head and basically requested a kiss on the cheek. I was hesitant because I know how these men treat their women and kids if they see them taking a liking to us. I gave her a quick peck and stepped away. Her mother looked at me and smiled; I was relieved that I didn’t get punched in the face. But the funniest thing is it wasn’t over. The mom looked at Shalala and said in Arabic, “kiss his cheek.” I couldn’t believe that this was happening. So I bent down and turned my cheek to the left, and she planted a big wet one. She laughed, and I also laughed. I looked at her mother, and she gave me the hand signal for wedding ring. At that point, I felt the warm fuzzy feeling go away and the “oh boy, what did I just do” feeling come on.
Shalala’s mom was serious for a minute, and then she started laughing and smiling. Then Shalala started laughing, and then I knew everything was OK. Her mom said in broken English, “We are Christians, so it’s OK, and my family likes you.” I silently said, “thank you.” To finish it off Shalala dropped a bomb that I think even her mom didn’t know. “I have a boyfriend anyway.” Her mom looked at her like she was pregnant or something. Shalala went running off smiling and laughing. Her mom said thank you again and shook my hand and then walked away.
The rest of the operation families came from all around to quench their thirst. The line was growing, but everyone was behaving. The last water was distributed, and everyone started to make their way home. It was like the football game was over and everyone was going back to their cars. The looks on their faces were priceless and rewarding. We all loaded up in the trucks and made our way back to the FOB. I wanted to ask the staff sergeant if he felt different about the situation, but I had to find the right time. As we got closer to the FOB, I asked, “So do you feel like you did something today?” He looked at me, nodded and said, “You were right. They needed it. I could see it in their faces.”
Well, it’s not every day we get to go back to the FOB, take off our boots and say, “I did something today that counted.” He concurred with a big smile and then said, “You know what? You’re an all right guy. You don’t fit the mold as a grunt though.” I laughed and replied, “Yeah, I take pride in that.”
Although the heat was terrible and everyone was sucking, everyone put their best foot forward for this operation, showing the Iraqi people that we are not just men with guns on some long hunting trip. Today the Iraqi people had their thirst quenched and just maybe the staff sergeant I rode with learned about compassion through experience.
(DoD Release) – The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sgt. 1st Class Nathan L. Winder, 32, of Blanding, Utah, died June 26 in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq, of wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Lewis, Wash.
U.S. Army Sgt. Jake Desmarais descends a staircase after searching the roof of a house for explosive devices in Dora, Iraq, on June 21, 2007. Desmarais is with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment out of Fort Lewis, Wash. DoD photo by Spc. Elisha Dawkins, U.S. Army. (Released)
Do you know a family with at least one child between the ages of 6 and 12?
Do they have at least one parent/legal guardian in the National Guard?
The Washington State Department of Veterans Affair, in collaboration with the Washington National Guard, is exploring how to better serve the National Guard and their families. We are looking for volunteers to take part in a survey that will look at the ways kids who have a National Guard parent adjust to military life.
We are looking for children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old who have a National Guard parent. The survey is to help understand the strengths and needs of children. The survey will be used to guide future state programs and services to better support National Guard members and their families.
To see if a family you know can take part in the survey, please give them this information so we may ask them if they would like to participate.
If they are a good fit for the survey and agree to participate, interviews will be conducted in their home or in a public facility.
The non-military family member and each child who completes the interview-survey will receive $20 as compensation for their time.
For more information or to schedule an interview-survey, please call 1-800-867-6129
You may also contact the project director, Thomas Schumacher, M.S., LMHC, NCC, Director WDVA PTSD Outpatient Counseling Program at 360-725-2226. Thank you!