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November 04, 2010

Alright, Jackwagons :)

Time to move out - we have work to do.

Hardly a day passes when the American flag above the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade’s headquarters here is not flying at half-staff.

With U.S. and other coalition forces stepping up operations against Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan, more dead and wounded are being pulled off the battlefield than ever before.

Since deploying in March, helicopter ambulance crews with the brigade’s Task Force Shadow have flown more than 2,000 missions, evacuating more than 2,500 patients, according to Maj. Jason Davis, commander of Company C, 6th Battalion.

That’s more than twice the rate that helicopter ambulance crews in southern Afghanistan were flying this time last year, he said.

The increase reflects just how sharply fighting in the region has spiked in recent months, a result of President Barack Obama’s decision to deploy 34,000 additional U.S. troops. Most were deployed to southern Afghanistan, where they, along with mostly British and Canadian forces, are trying to wrest control of strategically important areas from the Taliban, including the city of Kandahar and the Arghandab and Helmand river valleys.

“You’ve got more people fighting the enemy in places where we haven’t been in a long time,” said Davis, 35, of Steilacoom, Wash. “And when you’ve got more people fighting, you’re going to have more missions.”

More than 540 NATO troops — two-thirds of them American — have been killed in Afghanistan this year, making 2010 the deadliest year of the war, according to icasualties.org, a website that tracks coalition fatalities. More than 1,200 American troops have died in the war since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001.

For years, Marine team co-chair Carrie Costantini has worked with injured Navy and Marine patients at Walter Reed and Bethesda. It's rewarding work, meeting the families of these men and women; watching them complete an arduous and grueling rehabilitation period; seeing firsthand the challenges they face as they work to adjust, adapt, and overcome to a very different life than the one they've known before.

Typically, we're talking about athletes. People in better physical shape than 95% of Americans. They can run for miles, do impressive numbers of situps and pushups, endure 10 mile hikes with 80 pounds of gear. And then - suddenly - it's a struggle to do simple things like tie their own shoes or lift a fork to their mouths.

Being wounded is just the beginning of a very long road. Many of these folks are facing a lifetime of painful and debilitating medical treatment - repeated surgeries, setbacks from ailments as simple as a common cold, ongoing paralysis or chronic pain. And they do it all with determination and equanimity.

These people don't need your pity. They are heroes. But they sure could use your support as they continue to do what they do best: never giving up, never settling for the ordinary or the expected, defying the odds and rising above their own problems to make the world a better place.

How many of us do that in our daily lives? Make the world a better place, that is? What is our contribution to be?

I used the phrase, "give 'til it hurts", but I haven't done that yet. I've contributed 7 times during this campaign. But I could afford to give more. I'm not going to go hungry for the lack of a few dollars. I might have to forgo a few luxuries, or eat soup instead of steak but I'm not going to suffer in any real way.

With every year that passes, we hear less and less about the two wars America is fighting. To tell the truth, we tired of war. It's depressing. The thing is, the men and women who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan don't get to be "tired of war". They're in the thick of it, while we're largely insulated from the ugly parts, the painful parts.

The depressing parts.

All of us - all of us - can do more. Some of us can do more than others. Can you go without a latte from Starbucks? Can you give up beer for a week or two? It all adds up.

Conservatives like to preach that government is not the answer to all our problems. Well, if that is true than it would seem that the onus is on us - we, the people - to do the things that need to be done. The question is, do we practice what we preach? I know I don't, a lot of the time. Perhaps even most of the time. It's easier to wait for someone else to take action.

I can't imagine what it must be like to lose an arm, a leg, both legs or both arms. To be blinded. To have my bell rung so thoroughly that I'm left with lingering problems. To lose the use of my fingers. I'm typing this because for me, typing is easy. It requires no real effort (whining about being tired notwithstanding).

Talking about the dedication and valor of our armed forces is easy. Giving something back, not so much.

I'm asking you to give something back. I'm asking you to think, "What can I do to help?" To a soldier, sailor or Marine facing a 15 month convalescence and repeated surgeries, your help can literally make the difference between feeling isolated, forgotten and alone and staying connected to family, friends, and perhaps most importantly, the brothers he left on the battlefield.

Traditionally Valour IT has been a mostly good natured competition between the services. As a member of the Marine team, normally I would ask you to hit the Marine team button. But the truth is that the money we raise all goes into the same pot. It all goes to the same good cause.

And so I'm going to ask you just to donate. Even if you've already done so, take a second look at your finances to see if you can't spare just a bit more.

Donate to the Navy team. My Dad, father in law and brother in law were all career Navy.

Donate to the Air Force. Carrie's Dad served. So did Greyhawk.

Donate to the Marine team. My uncle Mel was a Marine, and my husband.

Hell, you can even donate to the Army. My grandfather served in the Army, and my husband's uncle. Fortunately, there's this thing called evolution that makes each generation smarter than the last :) You can see that in our family: Army - Navy - Marine Corps. If I find out the next step is Air Force, I'm outta here...

Army has upped their goal to $25,000. Help them meet it.

I don't care who you give to. Just give. As VC reader bthun said yesterday,

"No other donation that I make during the year feels so right."

You know what to do:

Posted by Cassandra at November 4, 2010 08:06 AM

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I have made a donation to the Marine team in memory of Nachez Washalanta.

Posted by: Ellen at November 4, 2010 10:47 AM

Thank you so much, Ellen :)

He will always be remembered here at VC.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 4, 2010 10:52 AM


Posted by: JihadGene at November 4, 2010 10:53 AM

Thank you so much, Cassandra for being on the Marine Team. I know how busy you are and I truly appreciate it.
Ellen, what a wonderful thing to do. :)

Posted by: Carrie at November 4, 2010 11:01 AM

I have been a slacker, but will be making my donation this weekend. I gotta see if I can stretch a bit more this year. bthun has it spot on, no other donation feels so right...

Posted by: jck at November 4, 2010 12:18 PM

Thank you SO much! :)

Posted by: Cassandra at November 4, 2010 12:19 PM

Thanks, JCK!!!

Posted by: Carrie at November 4, 2010 01:33 PM

I think I'll go for a two'fer... Ranger Up has a shirt that I want for a medic friend (Christmas Present) and they will donate part of the proceeds to SA!!

Posted by: Oh Hell at November 4, 2010 10:55 PM

All right! :)

Posted by: Cassandra at November 5, 2010 02:33 PM