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December 04, 2008

Gold Star Mother's Donations Stolen

Back in February, I wrote about an amazing air rescue mission in Afghanistan:

The Crew Chief operates the hoist, as he pulls a casualty into the aircraft. This is a one person operation that is difficult to perform when the casualty is in a SKED, especially when the casualty has the added weight of body armor and equipment. The Medic rides the hoist to the ground and back up, time and time again.

Imagine performing this operation 20-25 continuous times wearing Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), the Crew Chief continuing to advise the pilots of aircraft drift and rotor clearance as the mountain side is dangerously close. He ensures the hoist is ready for the next lift and watches the Medics hand and arm signals as he also directs the positioning of the aircraft. It becomes apparent this task is physically exhausting and difficult to master in routine conditions, let alone this punishing-unforgiving terrain at night.

Sadly, on this particular mission the MEDEVAC crew could not bring everyone back alive. Though the crew would not leave without retrieving their bodies, six men never got a chance to see their families again:

1st Lt. Matthew C. Ferrara, 24, of Torrance, Calif.
Sgt. Jeffery S. Mersman, 23, of Parker, Kan
Spc. Sean K.A. Langevin, 23, of Walnut Creek, Calif.
Spc. Lester G. Roque, 23, of Torrance, Calif.
Pfc. Joseph M. Lancour, 21, of Swartz Creek, Mich.
Marine Sgt. Phillip A. Bocks, 28, of Troy, Mich.

The mother of one of those men, Linda Ferrara, has put her grief to good use collecting socks, sweat shirts, pajama pants, hand-made blankets, letters and other gifts to wounded soldiers at Landstuhl RAMC in Germany. But this weekend, thieves broke into the mobile home where she stored the donations. Now all her hard work has gone for nothing:

Ferrara went to the RV Sunday and found empty boxes scattered outside.

Inside, she discovered nearly all the collected items were missing and "thank you" letters to wounded soldiers were torn to shreds.

Ferrara, along with other West Point Parent Club members, had been collecting the items since her son, Army Capt. Matthew Ferrara, and five others were killed in an ambush on Nov. 10, 2007.

She estimates that at least $6,000 worth of clothes were taken along with the priceless patriotic fleece blankets she and other volunteers spent hours sewing.

Compton sheriff's deputies took a report and fingerprints, she said, adding that she believes the thieves will try to sell the stolen goods.

Ferrara also says her insurance company would not cover the loss since she planned to give the items away and they technically didn't belong to her.

Anyone who is interested in donating items for wounded soldiers can email Linda Ferrara or visit the West Point Parent Club of Orange County web site.

Ferrara says the organization can accept cash donations or brand new items because the Military hospital does not allow used goods.

For some reason, the video of that MEDEVAC mission has always haunted me:

I could never get what Linda said out of my mind:

Some people don't think that we have to fight just yet,
that we can wait and the crazies will go away
and not harm our little tribe.
They are already harming our little tribe.
All of humanity is our tribe

- Linda Ferrara

Please show her she wasn't wrong about that.

Posted by Cassandra at December 4, 2008 07:18 PM

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I'll be emailing. I can spare another fleece blanket, I think.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at December 4, 2008 08:21 PM

Fascinating footage.

Back when I was in, the Medevac 'copters were Hueys...my specialty.

Posted by: camojack at December 5, 2008 01:15 AM

That's a Black Hawk, so they not only made multiple hoists, but they had to make multiple trips into the area. The vid was recorded on an Apache gunner's night targeting system, so the area wasn't secure, either.

Fitting that the term for a troop killed in action is no longer "Kilo" -- Killed In Action -- but "Hero"...

Posted by: BillT at December 5, 2008 03:56 AM

No, it wasn't secure, Bill.

The Ferraras have just recently been contacted by the first UH-60 pilot on the scene that night, and he has given them some additional information about the recovery/medevac mission.

And although Matt was killed during the opening minutes of the ambush, one of the first things the Apache pilots did was drop ammo down to the remaining guys.

Matt had everyone in the squad so well-trained that his interpreter answered on the radio that night when he heard the pilot calling. And, incredibly, they were able to instruct him in assisting help the Apaches find the location and then establish a casualty collection point in the midst of the mayhem.

Posted by: MaryAnn at December 5, 2008 04:14 AM

The sentence for this crime needs to include free and sanctioned punches in the face and kicks in the nads by anyone who cares to administer them. Bring your own spiked baseball bat.

Posted by: PCachu at December 5, 2008 10:41 AM

This had better not be some German "youths" wanting to make a statement against America. I got special things for those kinds of people.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 5, 2008 05:12 PM