November 12, 2010


The Valour IT fundraiser ended at midnight last night. The total raised by all four teams plus unspecified added up to $92, 542.
That is $32, 542 MORE than the original goal.

The Marine Team's total at the end of the day was $37,770.
WOW!!! What a wonderful, wonderful way to end. On top.
Thank you to everybody on the Marine Team, everybody who supported the Marine Team, everybody who shared our links and everybody who donated.
Your generosity has been so overwhelming. Thank you!

Now, we have some unfinished business to take care of: The Demotivator Contest.
So, let me announce the results and congratulate the winners.
Jihad Gene's entry took first place.
The Sniper's Air Force entry took second.
Retriever's Marine entry took third.
Congratulations to all three of you and to everyone who submitted entries.
It was a great fundraiser but now I need a nap. :)

Posted by at 11:44 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

November 11, 2010

Valour IT Marine team update for Nov. 11th.

Today's the last day of the Valour IT fundraiser. What a great two weeks we've had.
I want to take a minute and thank all who blogged, shared and/or donated to make the Marine team's total money raised (as of 4:40 pm)$37,355.00. That is the equivalent of 46.5 laptops.

Here is what our Marine team has been up to today:
Ercille: All Heroes All Day.

Mind Numbed Robot: Thank a Vet.

No Sheeples: Honoring those who served.

Pundit and Pundette: CPL. Todd Nicely

Retriever: Poppy Day.

All American Blogger: All Gave Some

IMAO: Thank you.

Pirate's Cove: Thank You.

Coalition of the Swilling: Thanks, Vets!

Say Anything: Special Happy Veterans' Day post.

Miss Ladybug: I Honor Back.

Ruby Slippers: Our Nation's Strength.

The C Square: Thank a Vet

Soldiers' Angels Germany: Home of the Free Because of the Brave.

Weekly Standard Blog: Veterans' Day.

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November 10, 2010

The Traditional US Marine Corps Birthday Message.

Happy Marine Corps birthday to all of you Marines, past and present.
And a happy birthday as well, to all of us who love Marines.
This is read every year at every cake cutting and every birthday ball wherever Marines gather. From Quantico to Afghanistan.

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.


Major General

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November 09, 2010

Marine Team Roundup for Nov. 9th

Good afternoon all!!
It is another GLORIOUS day in the Corps. The Marine team is sitting pretty like a Marine in dress blues today. Thanks to everybody's support, we've raised more than twice what Soldiers' Angels asked us to on behalf of injured servicemembers.
Simply put, that is outstanding!!!
We’re in the home stretch and tomorrow is the Marine Corps birthday as well as being CPL. Jason Dunham’s birthday.
Speaking of MOH winners, it was announced yesterday that Gen. Amos has nominated a Marine for the MOH.

Here's a look around the Marine team today:
Miss Ladybug reminds that it’s not over until the 11th.

Ercille, as always, inspiring.

MaryAnn has a great post remembering 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, 2/503, 173rd ABCT. Interservice rivalry is fun but in the end, we’re all in it together.

GatorDoug….it’s just funny.

No Sheeples. Class.

Oh Hell has team totals and final push!!

Retriever: suffering and indifference

Coalition of the Swilling: esprit de corps and uncommon valor

Wolf at Howling at the Moon. That is just awesome!!

Blatherings Blog has fun Marine facts and a nice roundup.

The Weekly Standard blog throws in with the Marine Team.
Welcome and thank you so much for supporting Valour IT AND the Marine team!!

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Valour IT Challenge: The Demotivator Contest

Bumped to the top.

Sorry I'm a day late. Some things came up at work yesterday and there was no time to post. Please vote for your favorite demotivator. I had to use two polls. Voting will be open until midnight on the 11th and for every vote, the Marine team will donate $25 up to a max of $500. It's an easy way to do some good.

Thanks to everyone who created an entry!

Vote for your favorite Demotivator
Jihad Gene: "It's Senator"
BillT "Army Aviation"
The Sniper "The US Navy"
The Sniper "US Army"
The Sniper "USAF"
The Sniper "The US Marines"

Vote II
Cass "Oh Lord It's Hard to be Humble"
DL Sly "Marines"
DL Sly "US Navy"
Retriever "Marines"

The entries are below the fold.

OK folks. We have $750 in matching funds to spend and it's time to have some fun.

During last year's campaign we ran a Military Demotivators contest. We'd like to do the same thing this year, but with a slight twist:

1. For each entry submitted, the Marine team will donate $20 to Valour IT. We'd love it if each entrant would undertake to match our donation but making a donation is NOT required in order to enter the contest.

2. The contest will run from Thursday until Sunday at midnight. On Monday morning we will vote for the best entries in each category. Again, the Marine team will donate $25 per vote for each winning entry, up to a maximum of $500.

3. We are challenging the Army, Navy, and Air Force teams to enter their own Demotivators, and ask their readers to match (or improve upon) our pledges for entries and winning votes.

There will be categories for:

Best Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine demotivators.

Best "Embracing the Suck" poster.

Best Salvo from the Distaff Side

Here's one I submitted last year that riffed on a great picture by MrsG of the Air Force team:


Here's a form you can use to create your own Military Demotivator. So get ready to do your worst for a good cause! Email me those entries, or let me know in the comments section where your entry can be found!


From JihadGene comes our first entry (and first $20 matching donation):

Army motivator_jihadgene.jpg

And here's BillT's entry:


Four great entries from The Sniper:







DL Sly weighs in:



As does Retriever:


Posted by Cassandra at 04:37 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 06, 2010

Stealth Heroes

We had a great week, but it's time for a little motivation:

You all did some amazing things last week, and the nicest thing to be said about that actually came from Team Army. And... they have charts!

I have said over the last few days that even though Team ARMY was leading by long-shot in the Valour-IT fundraiser, we needed to keep our eye over our shoulder on Team MARINE.

Now I am not sure how they did it or who they pulled out of the woodwork to donate for them, but I think Team MARINE has set a record in the amount of money raised in one day.

Team MARINE essentially doubled the amount donated in their Team’s name in one day from what they had raised since the start of this friendly competition on Oct. 28th.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am proud of them and glad to see so many generous people open their wallets for Valour-IT, but come on people TEAM MARINE!!!

Each year Valour IT hosts a friendly interservice competition to see who can raise the most money the fastest for a very worthy cause. This year, Army crossed the $15,000 finish line first but it fills me with pride to see what the Marine team has accomplished - and that, after we'd already lost the competition.

But I don't want to see us rest on our laurels, because the number of wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines is growing by the day. Marine team member MaryAnn Phillips writes about a weekly conference call between doctors, nurses and medics at hospitals in Afghanistan, Germany, and the United States:

The week, the assembled group of over 80 people review the cases of the 13 critical patients treated the prior week. Nine of the patients will have permanent disabilities: Two lost one leg; two lost a leg and a foot; two lost both legs; two lost both legs and a hand; and one was paralyzed from the waist down.

The conference is run by Col. Brian Eastridge, a 47-year-old trauma surgeon with 23 years in the Army. He grew up in Damascus, Md., graduated from Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He now heads the Joint Theater Trauma System, which organizes trauma care in both wars.

Over five deployments, Eastridge has seen the entire arc of worsening wounds and increasing survival that has marked trauma care during the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Dressed in brown camouflage battle dress, he sits halfway around a large U made of wooden tables. Around him on the walls are idealized scenes of Afghan life painted by a local artist - a girl leading a caravan of camels, children being taught arithmetic at the base of a tree, kids flying kites. Eastridge runs the conference with somber efficiency, offers comments sparingly and addresses his listeners mostly by location-"Kandahar," "Landstuhl," "Walter Reed."

The rapid-fire reports are dense with medical jargon and anatomical description. It's a narration of one disaster after another, and of how things were kept from getting worse, and made better, by skill, speed and attention. It's the aural equivalent of watching a dozen high-wire acts in which some people are rescued mid-fall.

Here's just one.

"Dismounted IED" injury is jargon for wounds caused by a bomb or mine that are suffered outside a vehicle. The soldier had tourniquets placed for partial amputation of both legs. One liter of a special IV fluid was given in the helicopter, and the patient arrived at the Kandahar hospital in and out of consciousness and in shock.

In the operating room, surgeons temporarily tied off the arteries going to the legs and repaired a tear in a major vein. There was massive damage to the area between the legs. One leg was amputated at the knee. In a second operation the next day his wounds were rewashed and a finger, broken in the explosion, was fixed with external hardware.

That same day the soldier was evacuated to Bagram, where his wounds were washed out and the pelvic region was re-explored. A "foreign body"- the speaker didn't say whether it was dirt, metal or something else - not seen in the first operation was removed. He suffered a collapsed lung after surgery, which was fixed.

He stayed there two days before flying by critical care air transport to Landstuhl.

Seven days after suffering his wounds the soldier arrived at a hospital in the United States. He had another collapsed lung, and pneumonia. His right foot, initially thought to be salvageable, wasn't healing and the surgeons planned to amputate it at the ankle. He had further surgery to his abdomen and numerous operations to start repairing the missing floor of his pelvis.

"This was one of the biggest pelvic injuries I've ever seen," said one of the surgeons in the United States. Eastridge later said he hears that a lot from surgeons in the United States who haven't been deployed yet.

This was not an uncommon case.

The other day I mentioned "stealth heroes" - people who quietly go about the business of doing what needs to be done. MaryAnn is one of those stealth heroes. The amazing folks who pushed us up over our $15000 goal this week - including a few who went all out with some stunningly generous donations - are stealth heroes. These people will never know the feeling of public recognition, but then that's not what they were after.

It's easy to forget that only half a world away, Americans are engaged in a life and death struggle against an enemy that thinks nothing of throwing acid on women and girls, killing children, hiding among civilians. It's hard to fight soldiers who won't even stand clear of the innocent. It blurs the lines that have stood for centuries, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between friend and foe, combatant and non-combatant.

And make no mistake - we're suffering horrific injuries as a result of our refusal to stoop to their level.

It continues to amaze me that this war is being fought by soldiers younger, in many cases, than my sons. We ask much of these young men and women, and when they are injured fighting on our behalf, we owe them our thanks, our respect, and most importantly our support.

Government does a lot, but government cannot solve every problem. We need to step into the breach.

Will you help?


Posted by Cassandra at 08:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2010

Personal Reasons


Just wow.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

She's Doing Her Part

Are you?


I don't know how many of you remember who Linda Ferrera is. She was - no, IS - the mother of 1st Lt. Matthew Ferrara. Matthew was killed on November 9th, 2008 in Nuristan province. Here's what this amazing woman had to say about losing her son:

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.

Michelle's on board, too:

Once again this year, as in the past, we’re proud to be representing the US Marine team taking part in the Project Valour-IT fundraising competition. This competition features four teams: The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Here’s a brief explanation of what this great cause is all about:

Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries. Technology supplied includes:

Voice-controlled Laptops – Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.

Wii Video Game Systems – Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions (donated only to medical facilities).

Personal GPS – Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.

We can't do this alone. We need your help.

I will leave you with the words of Matt Ferrara's friend, 1st Lt. Walter Bryan Jackson. Walter is one of a tiny group of Americans who have earned the Distinquished Service Cross (the military's second-highest medal) for saving another soldier's life while himself wounded and under heavy fire in Iraq. Men like this deserve our thanks, our respect, and our support:

"It's kind of hard to explain" how it feels to be part of a small segment of the U.S. population that is "bearing the brunt of the responsibilities" from today's conflicts, Jackson said as he waited for his flight at Dulles International Airport. "It doesn't affect society at large in the slightest. Life just goes on, and a lot of people . . . are more concerned about the price of gas than about soldiers fighting and dying," said Jackson, who has lost several comrades in the wars.

Make a difference:

They did.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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, 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 08:06 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 03, 2010

AWOL Today

Guys, I am really sorry about going AWOL on you today. Lately, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to juggle all the things on my plate (and isn't that the mother of all mixed metaphors?). For years now I've gotten by on very little sleep. That has been the price of keeping this place running, but I can't do it any more. I'm exhausted, physically, emotionally, mentally. I just don't have anything left.

I did promise a humiliation challenge today. Yesterday and last night we raised a good amount of money for Valour IT, so you all have definitely earned it. A big part of that was a large donation from someone who will have to remain anonymous, but who is one of the best friends the Marine Corps will ever have.

There are a lot of what I'd call "stealth heroes" in the world. They go around doing good without expecting praise or even that anyone should notice their efforts. Maybe it's the Taurus in me being stubborn, but I think they deserve our thanks (even if we don't know who it is we're thanking). So... you know who you are, Mr. Mystery Stealth Hero Person :p I hope this anonymous thank you goes a small distance toward redressing the enormous debt of gratitude that I feel for everything you do for our men and women in uniform.

Also, to our mystery donation matchers: you ladies (yeah, I'm going to out you that far) are the best. You make me proud to be numbered in your ranks, if only because we share the whole being-female thing.

I did promise to do some sort of humiliating challenge thingy yesterday. Unfortunately, some things have happened that have made me wonder whether that's a wise idea (and no, it didn't involve anything salacious or immoral). As the old saying goes, "Fight smarter, not harder". Please be patient with me - I will figure out a way to make good on my promise.

By my reckoning we still have about $750.00 in matching funds to spend. DL Sly has asked that I judge some of those old caption contests for donations, and I think that's a good idea. I will still find a way to publicly embarrass myself for Valour IT.

This morning the Army team crossed the finish line by meeting their $15,000 goal. They ran a great campaign and were in the lead from the get go, and my hat is off to them. We will try to find ways to keep the competitive spirit alive during the week we have left because we still have a long way to go towards meeting our commitment.

That's one thing the Marine team has tried hard to do: have some fun while we're doing good. Thank you - all of you - for your support.

Love ya ... even the ones who donated to the Navy team! :) It's all good.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:54 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 02, 2010

End of the Day Valour IT Roundup

OK, guys. Here's the recap:

We began the day at $5550. We are now at $7140, for a delta (as of about 5:30 pm) of + 1590.

During the day our $1250 of matching funds increased by $250 (thanks Amazing Mystery Donator Person!) to $1500. We've spent about $600 of our matching funds, leaving us $900 for tomorrow's matching fund campaigns.

goat.jpgCassy Fiano raised over $250 (with $250 of matching funds, for a grand total of over $500!) and consequently she will be cheering Army in the Army-Navy Game whilst dressed as Bill the Goat. We are assured that there will be humiliating photos and possibly even video!

So... that leaves the blog princess.

There are several suggestions on the table:

1. Judge caption contests at $100 a pop.

*sigh* :)

2. Wear a Justin Bieber t-shirt and carry Twilight all day.

3. *cough* Back when the Spousal Unit was in Iraq, some of you may recall that certain photos were taken of the Princess in a variety of wigs and clothing you can be damned sure she would not ordinarily have donned.

The photos range from the mildly humiliating to the truly ... ummm... memorable.

We couldn't help noticing that most of today's donations came courtesy of the fairer sex. It's time for the Oink Cadre to stand up and be counted. Depending on how much we raise between now and noon tomorrow, the Princess will turn one or possibly more of these incriminating photos into Military Demotivators and turn them over to you for captioning.

Carrie has seen these photos. I will leave it up to her to describe the indescribable.

To everyone who donated or helped us publicize the Marine Challenge - thanks. Such a simple word, and yet it means so much. We have (I hope) a big surprise in store for tomorrow.

Hope you voted today. I did.

Please help, guys. I wish I could post some of the emails I've read the past two weeks about the number of wounded coming in. You will never spend your hard earned dollars on a better cause.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:10 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Humiliation Challenge!

What we Marine women will do to support our Corps....

Team leader Cassy Fiano and I are volunteering to humiliate ourselves in return for your donations. You can suggest ideas in the comments or, if we don't get any funny suggestions, we'll come up with our own ideas.

First up is Cassy. If we can raise $250.00 between 2 and 4 pm today, NOT ONLY will that sum be matched by our Mystery Donors, but Cassy will volunteer to embarrass herself for your listening and viewing pleasure. Here's my suggestion for her (be nice - she's expecting!):

Compose and post a short poem about how much she loves Barack Obama.

Feel free to add your suggestions for Cassy or myself in the comments section. I have an idea for myself, but I'll keep it under wraps until Cassy's ordeal challenge is over!

Update: Bwa ha ha ha!

So, I volunteered for the Marine Team donation matching challenge, and here’s what I’ve been dared to do. If we raise $250 between 2:00 and 4:00 this afternoon, not only will one of our donors match it, but I will dress up like as the Navy goat for the Army-Navy game and publicly cheer for the Army the entire day. Yes, there will be pictures and maybe even video.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the costume I’ve already bought, because I know you guys will come through for us:

Hit that donation button!

Posted by Cassandra at 12:40 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

The Marine Team Challenge: Double (or Triple!) Your Donation

soles.JPGWhat do you do when you run into a roadblock? Do you give up? Blame others? Feel sorry for yourself? Or do you treat difficult circumstances as a challenge - a chance to accomplish something extraordinary?

Former Marine Sgt. Jeremy Soles made history on Sunday when he set a Guinness World Record for running the entire 26.2-mile Marine Corps marathon while wearing a gas mask in an unofficial time of 4 hours, 29 minutes and 2 seconds.

Soles, founder of the nonprofit group Team X-T.R.E.M.E., dedicated his achievement to Marine Cpl. John Michael Peck, who suffered traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2007 but insisted on returning to combat, only to lose both arms and legs in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan in May.

“He embodies everything that Team X-T.R.E.M.E is about: Overcoming mental and physical obstacles,” Soles said in a phone interview on Monday.

Sunday’s event was the culmination of two years of conditioning and training. The gas mask restricts his breathing by about 25 percent, and all the gear associated with the mask weighs 15 pounds.

“A lot of times, people ask why we run in a gas mask,” Soles said. “Well, we use the gas mask to symbolize what we do. People often ask how difficult it is, and our first thing to tell them is it’s not nearly as difficult as overcoming traumatic brain injury, which he did, not nearly as difficult as overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder, learning how to walk again with prosthetic limbs – and people see the parallel.”

MCM1.jpgMost of us can't imagine even running a marathon, much less running one with only 75% breathing capacity and an extra 15 pound load. How about doing it from a wheelchair? What makes extraordinary feats like this possible is the power of belief in something larger than yourself, and that's just the kind of story that exemplifies the Valour IT spirit. These are men and women who've been dealt a hand that would crush most of us, and yet rather than feeling sorry for themselves or giving up, they're out there continuing to make the world a better place.

As of last night, here are the current totals for the Valour IT fundraiser:

TEAM ARMY $10,552.00 TEAM MARINE $5,550.00 TEAM NAVY $3,940.00 TEAM AIR FORCE $2,100.00 No Branch Specified $1,201.00 Total $23,343.00

As you can see, the Marine team is holding onto second place. We may be trailing Army, but I wouldn't count us out. Not just yet.

The thing is, we need your help. If the Marine spirit is about anything, it's about the power of teamwork. Together, we can accomplish far more than any one of us could alone.

Last night, a few of us put our heads together. As a result, we'd like to throw a challenge out to all of you. Four generous donors have ponied up a whopping $1250 in donations, but there's a catch: we need you to match our donations. Throughout the day, today and tomorrow, the Marine team be throwing out challenges to our readers. Some will be fun, some will be serious. Every donation counts, so don't be discouraged if you can't afford much.

Are you willing to step up and help us reach our goal? If so, make a donation and then email me ( at your donation receipt. If you want to X out your name, that's fine. I will keep the identities of all donors strictly confidential:

Here's what your money will buy for a wounded soldier, sailor, airman or Marine:

$800 buys a Voice-controlled Laptop - Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.

$200 buys a Wii Video Game System - Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions (donated only to medical facilities).

$200 buys a Personal GPS - Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.

$400 buys an iPad

In a world where information comes at us at 90 miles an hour, it's easy to get overwhelmed, to think that the actions of one person can't possibly make a dent in everything that's wrong with the world. Here's your chance to make a difference. It all starts with the willingness to go just the little bit beyond what you think you can do.

Our four donors have already done that, but they need you to be a force multiplier. Will you step up? Can you contribute $25? $50? $100 or even more? Is anyone out there willing to match our entire pot ($1250)? If we can triple our original investment, we can net nearly $4000 for a worthy cause.

Let's make that thermometer jump - Twitter this, put it on Facebook, email your friends or neighbors, post the Marine Challenge on your blog. Together, we can change the lives of some extraordinary people. We can give them encouragement and hope during a difficult time, but more importantly we will be reminding them that we can't wait to welcome them back into the world once their time in the hospital is over.

I can't think of a group of people who will put your donations to better use.

CHALLENGE 1: Can we raise $250 (for a total of $500 with matching funds) before lunch? It doesn't need to be a single donation, but I need someone to get the ball rolling.

UPDATE: 11:40 am. WOO HOO!!!! The Marine team rocks! Keep it coming, folks!

At 12 noon the first of our matching donors will pony up $250 in matching funds. We need ideas for the Early Noon challenge - if we can raise another $250 by 2 pm, not only will those funds be matched but the Princess will be happy to humiliate herself in whatever way the Villainry suggests in the comments section.

Thanks so much to our big hearted Marine team donors! Here are the amounts (not sure I have permission to publish the names):


Pour it on! :)

EARLY AFTERNOON CHALLENGE: raise $250 by 2 pm. We're almost half the way there!


Retriever links with Vote - then give to those who make it possible.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 29, 2010

Project Valour IT

As the old saying goes, "All gave some. Some, gave all".

Sometimes, giving hurts. That's why they call it "sacrifice".

Right now Landstuhl RAMC, Bethesda and Walter Reed are full of young Marines who, when they were asked to dig deep and give their country just a little more, didn't hesitate. They didn't bat an eye.

There are so many reasons to be grateful to the United States Marine Corps. For over 230 years the Marines have always answered their nation's call.

The question is: will you do your part? Even if it hurts a bit?

You know what to do, people. Join the Marine team. Tell your friends and neighbors. But above all, make that thermometer jump.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 21, 2009


The blog princess may have posted videos of the USMC Silent Drill team a time or twelve over the years. But they appear to have some real competition from the United States Navy:

Speaking of competition....

Greta sent round the final totals from this year's Valour IT fundraiser. I apologize for taking so long to get these up. This year's proceeds came to $113,124.90, broken out as follows:

Air Force: $15,662.17 Army: $32,758.80 Marines: $43,060.89 Navy: $19,108.04 General donations: $2,535.00

As the video above shows, we may engage in a little good natured snarking from time to time but regardless of branch, when the United States military put their minds and bodies to a task there is very little they can't accomplish.

I'd like to extend a huge "thank you" to all the Marine team members. From the demotivators to daily posts to the video competition (won by Marine team member No Sheeples Here!), you all outdid yourselves. Your talent, creativity and enthusiasm made Carrie's and my jobs easy. I was hoping to assemble a team as big as we had in 2006 (63 blogs). The 2009 team had nearly 80 members!

Special thanks to Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin, Jules Crittenden, Tigerhawk, John Hinderaker at Power Line, Ace of Spades HQ and IMAO for boosting us over the top with your Mighty SiteMeter Mojo! This was a team endeavor every step of the way. The combined efforts of small and medium sized blogs (among which VC numbers itself) who threw their hearts and souls into supporting Valour IT was amplified by the generous support of bigger bloggers who enabled us to spread the word. It make an effective combination.

To everyone who participated, donated, or just tolerated two weeks of nearly nonstop fund raising, thanks. If you have any doubt that this was time and energy well spent, this account of a recent Valour IT recipient's reaction should put a big grin on your face:

Last night, during my weekly visits, I was greeted by SGM [name redacted], our latest laptop recipient, with a quick little dance. I think he even clicked his heels! He is so terribly happy to have received a laptop and is really looking forward to having Joe show him all the in's and outs. You made this SGM, who has served faithfully for 40 years and is as crusty as they come, do a happy dance in the lobby - PRICELESS!

Being married to a crusty Marine myself, I can tell you that it's not easy to "wow" these guys.

Good work, everyone!

Posted by Cassandra at 02:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 11, 2009

This is What Brothers are for...

This is the cost.

Posted by at 09:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Marines of the Day: SSgt. Theodore "Sam" Holder and LCpl. Kyle Burns

Veterans' Day is for the living. Memorial Day is for the fallen.

That said, for those in 1st LAR, Veterans' Day 2004 is when the unit lost Holder and Burns in the second battle of Fallujah. Today is the 5th anniversary of their deaths.

Paul at CrashFistFight was their platoon leader. He wrote about them and what happened that day at his blog.

Their names might be familiar. James Sheeler wrote about them and their families in his book "Final Salute".

The Casualty Notification Officer that Mr. Sheeler "embedded" with, now Lt. Col. Steve Beck (ret.) has formed an organization dedicated to remembering the fallen.

The video circulated last week titled "Remembering the Brave" is from one of the organization's ceremonies held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA. I've linked to the photo slideshow on their site.

So, yes, Veterans' Day is for the living but for my family, it's also about remembering the brave.

Thank you to all veterans and their families. Your service is so very much appreciated.

Posted by at 09:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 10, 2009

Thank You and....

Moved to the top.

As you can see by the thermometer, the Marine team has crossed the finish line.

Thank you SO VERY MUCH to all who donated to Valour IT for the Marine team. This worthwhile program can not happen without you.
Thank you SO VERY MUCH to the Marine team members who have put in an awful lot of time and effort to make this happen.

We couldn't have done this without you.

At the end of the day though, we are all on the same team.
Now is the time to throw our support to helping our sister teams cross that finish line too. If you were planning to donate to the Marine team and didn't, please, please PLEASE consider donating to the Army team.
Let's do our best to get everyone across that finish line:

Urrah and Hooah!!!

Posted by at 05:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Class Act

The Valour IT competition is about teamwork.
For the competition, we sweat blood, we work connections, we beg, we plead and we cajole to move our team towards victory. We lob snark at the other teams. Interservice rivalry is the name of the game.

At the end of the day, however, we are ALL united. Our goal is to support the program that gives our wounded and injured to some independence and peace of mind. Valour IT.

John Donovan is a lot of things: Milblogger. Armourer. Curmudgeon.
Troop Supporter. Volunteer.
He is a good friend to both Cass and me. He has been for years.
He is also one class act.

Thank you, John.

Posted by at 02:12 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Ooo-rah, Memeorandum!

Thanks for helping us get the word out.

Thanks to d3ft punk for the correction. Juggling too many bowling balls today :)

Posted by Cassandra at 01:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Amazing Video for the Birthday

Mike the Marine has created a jaw dropping video for the Birthday.

Go watch!!

Posted by at 10:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What's the Marine Corps Birthday without the Hymn?

Like you've never heard it before.

Posted by at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Birthday, USMC!

Two hundred and thirty four years ago today, the United States Marine Corps was born in - of all places - a tavern in Philadelphia. More than two centuries later, the Marines continue to take the fight to the enemy with dedication, skill, and a fierce commitment to live up to the words of General Jim Mattis: "No better friend, no worse enemy":

The U.S. Marines are flooding in, and you might think that every Marine helicopter in our arsenal is here. I’ll not give numbers and types other than to say the line of aircraft is long and formidable. The U.S. Marines are a spectacle for the U.S. Army and also the British Army. The Marines will come in and live like pure animals, and build a base around themselves, whereas the British and American Armies will tend to build at least part of the base before coming in. One Marine commander told me that during the early part of this war, his men didn’t even shower for three months. We talked for a couple of hours and he was proud that his Marines didn’t need a shower for three months, and that his Marines killed a lot of Taliban and managed to lose only one good man. That’s the Marines. They’ll show up in force with no warning, and their reputation with U.S. Army and Brits who have fought alongside them is stellar. A NPR photographer who just spent more than three weeks with the Marines could not praise them enough, saying he’d been with them in Iraq, too, and that when Marines take casualties, their reaction is to continue to attack. They try to stay in contact until they finish the enemy, no matter how long it takes. Truly they are animals when it comes to the fight. Other than that, great guys. Tonight at dinner, a young Marine Lance Corporal sat in front of me at the crowded dining facility. “Good evening, Sir,” he said. I asked, “Are you living like animals out there?” “Livin’ the dream, Sir!” They are fantastic.

In his annual Birthday message to the Corps, General James Conway affirms the ethos of integrity and professionalism that has bound United States Marines in an unbroken line stretching back across innumerable conflicts, many lost in the fog of history, to a little tavern in a British colony:

Happy Birthday, USMC. So long as America can continue to produce men and women like this, we need not fear for our freedom or our security.

Semper Fidelis, Marines. You make us proud.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Over the Top! USMC Birthday Blogburst

sgt_major_jiggs.jpgTwo days away from the end of the competition, and on the 234th Birthday of the Marine Corps, the Marine team stands about $2000 away from our goal. We've worked hard, but we're coming into the home stretch. I'd like to issue a challenge to all of you: let's see if we can push the Marine team over the top today. With your help, I know we can do this.

I can't think of any better way to honor the memories of the brave young men and women who have given their lives defending American ideals than to ensure that their fellow Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen are taken care of.

Let's do it, people!

Below the fold, I'll be posting a roundup of Marine team Birthday posts. Keep checking back - it will be updated throughout the day.

Mind Numbed Robot ponders the meaning of "Semper Fidelis":

"...the Marine Corps has never experienced a mutiny. Marines in England were revered for their loyalty to the crown, just as United States Marines are now revered for their downright fanatical dedication to each other, their service, and their country. Using Latin to characterize this quality represents its legitimization--its codification. Significantly, for Marines at least, it also provides a caste--a group that is separate and unique from any other--a group that has no desire to be like any other.

What is left unsaid in the motto is also notable. The phrase is "Always faithful." It isn't "Sometimes Faithful." Nor is it "Usually Faithful," but always. It is not negotiable. It is not relative, but absolute."

Jules takes a stroll through Hahvahd Yahd and finds a few surprises:

It’s always easy to poke fun at the World’s Greatest University across the Charles, all the more so in recent decades as, like much of academia, it sank in a wretched swamp of America-bashing leftism while continuing to survey the world down its superior nose.

Did you know that Harvard can now boast no fewer than 16 Medals of Honor among its alums? Thanks to the efforts of some veterans who have long treasured their university’s military traditions and dug into military records and Harvard archives, the university can claim the highest known number outside the service academies.

Courtesy of Dr. Melissa, Bob Parsons, CEO of gives a shout out to his fellow Marines.

No Sheeples has General Conway's Birthday message.

The Marines have given a lot for us. Ercille has thoughts on how you can pay it forward. Bonus points for the dynamite Arty photos!

Speaking of which, the C-Square has page after page of wonderful photos of Marines doing what Marines do best. "Just keep scrolling", as the saying goes.

Michelle Malkin rocks!!!

Mike the Marine's Birthday video from 2008.

StixBlog adds birthday salutations! And a cool graphic, too:


Hope Radio sends their greetings!

Blatherings Blog offers a Birthday Toast from former Commandant General Louis H. Wilson.

Right Pundits salutes our Marine of the Day, Corporal Jason Dunham:

You can see a photo of Jason below, and watch the moving video of President George W. Bush awarding the Medal of Honor to Corporal Jason Dunham, USMC, posthumously.

Ercille has more birthday thoughts - link- and history-rich!

Coalition of the Swilling weighs in on that long, unbroken line.

Jimmy sends his best. Back atcha, bro!

I am an unabashed admirer of the United States Marine Corps and those who have earned the privelege to call themselves Marines. One of my very good friends, about whom I’ve written before, is a Marine of the old-school vintage. I called him this morning, as I do every November 10th, to wish him a Happy Birthday and he answered his phone, as he does every November 10th, with “Semper Fi”. It’s not truly his natal day, but it is a birthday to him and I’m pleased to honor that, and his incredible service, with a phone call. It wasn’t a long call but I told him I missed not being able to spend as much time with him as I’d like and that I love he and his marvelous wife. When we hung up, I was smiling and I could hear the grin on his end, too. November 10 is always a good day for him.

Remembering Cpl. Jason Dunham: Blatherings Blog has a tribute to Jason Dunham and video, too!

Devil Dog Brew has a post up about breakfast with a hero.

Miss Ladybug has a moving post about Jason Dunham and a child.

Chrissy over at Theodore's World has a great post up about the history of the Marine Corps. A must read!

Ercille has a thoughtful post and a great list of links.
It's been our pleasure too, Ercille. The Marine team is made up of such amazing people. It's humbling.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 09, 2009

The Home Stretch

Tomorrow is the Marine Corps Birthday. One of the traditions we keep to in the Corps is the Commandant's Birthday message - it is played at every Marine Corps Ball and at any place where Marines gather all over the world. This is last year's message from the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. It makes the point that Marines have been at the forefront of the war on terror for over a quarter of a century:

The Marine team is within sight of our 35K goal, but we need your help to get there! I can't think of a better way to celebrate the birth of our Corps than to boost the Marine team to its first victory ever.

Valour IT provides adaptive technology to help severely wounded vets recover faster, establish a support system, and regain their independence. Since the program began, every single dollar raised by Valour IT has been used to provide:

· 4,100+ voice activated laptops

· over 30 Wii systems

· and nearly 100 handheld GPS devices to wounded vets at:

Balboa Naval Hospital
Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton
Brooke Army Medical Center
Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital
Madigan RMC
Walter Reed AMC
National Naval MC (Bethesda)
and VA centers nationwide.

The men and women of the United States military have given their all to defend the values we Americans hold dear. For the price of a few sixpacks of beer, you can tell them that you honor their sacrifices and their service. Please give generously.


Posted by Cassandra at 08:39 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 07, 2009

To Media, American Heroism Might As Well Be Urban Legend

How bizarre is it when the number two link on Google for Brian Chontosh, a bona fide war hero and recipient of the Navy Cross, goes to a site devoted to "debunking" urban myths?

Is the idea that a Marine officer could perform acts of heroism so outlandish that it requires debunking? If so, there's little doubt why so many Americans might doubt such tales. Every day we're force fed a distorted, dishonest narrative that magnifies every misdeed and sweeps acts of heroism under the rug. This, we are given to understand, is "journalistic objectivity" in action:

The media has an unfortunate history of wrongly pushing the narrative that military service is somehow a horror-filled dehumanizing experience. In 2007, The New York Times magazine ran a 10,000 word cover story about a Navy veteran who claimed she had been raped twice while serving, suffered a brain injury as the result of an IED explosion in Iraq, and was otherwise unable to cope with life due to the stress. It turns out the subject of the story had never been to Iraq and her story was otherwise fabricated, and the Times magazine didn't do any real due diligence in fact checking the woman's claims. In 2008, The New York Times again ran a sensational report claiming military service was turning soldiers into murderers -- returning vets had committed or were charged with 121 murders in the United States since the current wars began. The New York Times did not mention that while this statistic may seem shocking, returning vets were actually committing murder at a rate five times less than the general population.

That the elite media will exercise extreme caution reporting Islamic terrorist attacks, but smear the military as a matter of course is awfully telling. When the Los Angeles Times report was shown to be way off-base, the paper simply disappeared the account.

To the media, Brian Chontosh's heroics are not something to be proud of, but something shameful. But not all journalists are willing to see these inspiring stories flushed down the memory hole:

... Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them.

Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.

And he ran down the trench.

With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers.

And he killed them all.

He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.

At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.

When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon’s flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.

Back in 2005 I conducted a little thought experiment. I went to America's leading newspapers and searched on the names of American heroes. What I found out won't surprise you if you've been paying attention. Mentions of Cindy Sheehan were thick upon the ground. Mentions of American heroes? Not so much:

Sgt. Rafael Peralta didn't have to become a United States Marine. And he didn't have to go to war. That's just the kind of man he was.

He joined the Marine Corps the day after he received his green card. On the walls of his bedroom, there were only three items: the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. You can see the mind of this hero in his letters he diligently wrote home to his younger brother and sister. Before he left America, he wrote his 14-year old brother Ricardo,

"be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American."

Ricardo and his sister would receive another letter from their brother:

"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew."

In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.

Rafael had been killed during an assault on Fallujah.

His body took most of the blast. One Marine was seriously injured, but the rest sustained only minor shrapnel wounds. Cpl. Brannon Dyer told a reporter from the Army Times, "He saved half my fire team."

Most Americans have never heard of Rafael Peralta, and they never will.

In past wars, he would have been a hero. His name would have been a household word, his deeds an inspiration to small boys, their eyes growing wide with amazement at his sacrifice. The chests of old men would have puffed out in pride. Crusty veterans would have stood a bit taller, remembering their own service. Women would have grown misty-eyed, and young girls would have laid flowers on his grave, wiping away a tear as they dreamed of handsome heroes.

But they will never hear of him - his voice has been silenced. The mainstream media does not consider the sacrifices of men like Sgt. Rafael Peralta "newsworthy". The media do not seem interested in talking to Sgt. Peralta's family. Instead, we get to hear about Cindy Sheehan all day, every day.

When the shootings at Fort Hood first hit the airwaves, how many news anchors invoked the grim specter of a PTSD addled combat vet run amok? Even when the facts began to roll in, the press were reluctant to abandon the narrative. Amazingly, it was revealed that PTSD is contagious! Like swine flu, one can get it simply by talking to a combat veteran.

Those who treat the mentally wounded, including doctors such as Hasan, are not immune from the symptoms. It is not uncommon for therapists who treat patients for post-traumatic stress disorder to experience some symptoms vicariously after hearing account after account of the horrors of the battlefield.

Hasan was a psychiatry intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from June 2003 to July 2009, Army officials said. In that position, he probably treated soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

With their hatred of the military and everything associated with it, the mainstream media rarely miss a chance to remind us that there are dangerous psychopaths lurking in our midst. At any moment one of these ticking time bombs could explode, taking us down with him. What the media are less willing to acknowledge is that both combat and military experience are a double-edged sword. They want you to see veterans as combat addled freaks, not brave defenders of our way of life. They focus on the cloud, and not the silver lining:

Research appears to show that many people can emerge from traumatic experiences with greater self-confidence, a keener sense of compassion and appreciation for life, says Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, director of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. Cornum and other experts call this concept post-traumatic growth.

Although the military focuses attention on troops who develop mental health conditions in combat, Cornum says, the majority of war veterans do not suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other problems.

“We never ask if anybody had some positive outcomes. We only ask about this laundry list of illnesses,” says Cornum, referring to a battery of health questions soldiers face when they leave the combat zone.

Thus it is left up to us to keep the memory of American heroism green. The media can be counted upon to bombard us with tales of tragedy, death, and despair. The rest of the story - the incredible heroism, healing, and redemption that springs from the heartbreak of war, tends to get lost by the wayside.

The truth is that war is a terrible thing. It breaks some of us beyond repair. But hardships can make us better men and women. Sometimes it takes tragedy to bring out the shining strength of the human spirit. In a world where bad things happen on a daily basis, that's a message we need to hear about, too. What a shame that most of the press don't agree.

Won't you look deep inside your heart and open your wallet to help wounded vets?

Not because they are pitiful victims. But because with the knowledge that America believes in them, there is nothing these amazing men and women cannot overcome.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sprint to the Finish Line!

As of this morning, the Marine team was holding onto the lead by about a $7000 margin. But as you can see, Army is closing fast! We are doing great, but need to keep up the pressure during our sprint to the finish line! Let me remind you that the Marines have never won this competition. I can't imagine a better tribute to our Marine heroes than for us to remind everyone why the Marines are America's 911 force. GO MARINES!!!

As always, Marine team members are stepping up to the plate:

1. Wolff has a fantastic post on America's fighting men:

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his
country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's, but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him,
but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

2. Our Marine of the Day is Sgt. John Eubanks

When Marine Sgt. John Eubanks first went to Iraq, he was an infantryman and a weapons specialist. In the middle of his second tour in 2005, he suffered back injuries and a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Since then, Sgt. Eubanks has undergone numerous medical procedures, but perhaps none has been as therapeutic as his recent return to Iraq as a visitor. During his recovery, Sgt. Eubanks wrote about what such a journey would be like for him and other wounded warriors.

In October, when Sgt. Eubanks and six other wounded soldiers returned to Iraq as part of Operation Proper Exit, those written wishes became reality.

3. Jules Crittenden on those annoying "sounds of freedom":

It’s a variation on the “Sound of Freedom” dispute, which is what happens when people move in next to military air bases. In this case, it’s the sound of two centuries of American freedom, twice a day. Next thing you know, some Barbary pirates pop up on the horizon, they can’t get enough of it. Hang on a sec … we do have Barbary pirates on the horizon. I guess this means we’re officially in the post post-9/11 era. Post-Barbary pirate era, whatever.

The rail of Constitution, by the way, is where the first United States Marine was killed in action. Lt. William Bush, Aug. 19, 1812, musket shot in the face while preparing to board HMS Guerriere in the action that earned Constitution the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

Two centuries later, United States Marines are still engaged, still taking fire, this time alongside our British cousins.

4. Miss Ladybug asks: What Is Freedom Worth to You?

5. The winners of the Military Demotivators contest are out!

6. Ercille mourns the fallen at Fort Hood

7. MaryAnn calls on the Army to do the Teapot Dance with a funny photo! It's all in good fun :) MaryAnn is one of the Army's biggest supporters. We're lucky to have her on our side!

8. Donating money is not the only way you can help Valour IT. We need help spreading the word as well! Anyone with a blog or email account can pitch in just by doing something as simple as telling everyone they know about Valour IT!

Here is a Valour IT flyer you can email around:

Valour IT flyer in Word format

Valour IT flyer in pdf format

If you have a blog, upload it and urge your readers to email it to everyone they know. If you don't have a blog, why not send the flyer to your friends and ask them to pass it on? We need to reach out beyond the Milblogs and blogosphere and a viral email is a great (and easy) way to do that!

Later on I'll have a post up about how the media refuse to cover American war heroes - chock full of inspiring stories of heroism. Check back at VC. And please keep those fundraising widgets at the top of your sites! The last few days will be a sprint to see who can get to the finish line first!

Let's make sure it's the Marine team. Let's make that thermometer move, people!


Posted by Cassandra at 11:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 05, 2009

Marine Team Update

With a big boost from John Hinderaker at Power Line, Matt Sheffield at Newsbusters, Frank J at IMAO and Ace at... well, I don't think I need to tell any of you where Ace lives... , Team Marine is taking the fight to the enemy! Please link to and thank these great blogs for their generous support. And if you have a favorite blogger, ask him or her "Why aren't you on the Marine team?" :)

Here's the status report for this week:


Marine team members have been busy. Pundette has a great video called "Some Gave All".

Cassy Fiano has footage of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program:

Check out this video to see some grappling and other drills, and pay close attention to the Marine who hits the camera with his head — that would be Matt.

The Daley Gator adds some historical perspective (and a quote from Nathan Bedford Forrest!)

Watch Jules drop and give us 20! Getting in shape was never so fun!

But before you check out all these great posts, please dig deep to let wounded service men and women know their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated:

I know times are tight. But imagine yourself lying in a military hospital wondering if your life would ever be the same - if you'd be able to find a job. If employers would be put off by scars earned honorably in battle against this country's enemies?

Every day wounded vets overcome challenges far more daunting than anything most of us will ever face. You don't need to donate the entire cost of a voice activated laptop. Small donations add up to a very big message: America honors your service and your sacrifices.

Welcome back home.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2009

Gobsmackingly Good

Heart thunmping
Chest pounding

Get your Marine Corps on




Dig deep and give Uncle Sam's Misguided Children some love. They deserve it.

Posted by at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

Everyone likes the Marines because they unapologetically like to kill bad people.

That made my day.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Our Marine of the Day: Major Brian Dennis

Marine team member, Cassie Fiano, has our Marine of the day and another sweet love story.

It's really a must-read!!!

and, Cassie? It tugged at my heartstings too!!

Posted by at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Benefit of Valour IT

I was reading the paper while eating lunch today and came across this article about the benefit of the Internet on seniors.
I realized as I read it that it could be yet another reason why Valour IT is such an important program.

It's already been noted that Valour IT gives servicemembers some independence. When you go from being a lean, mean, fighting machine to a patient in the hospital, that independence is such a godsend.

It's also been noted that Valour IT gives servicemembers some much needed peace of mind. Overwhelmingly, the guys just want to be back in the fight with their brothers and sisters in arms. The ability to communicate with them whether in theater or back stateside gives them the feeling of still being connected.

Study after study has proven that a positive mental outlook is key to the recovery process. If you replace "wounded/injured servicemember" for "senior" in this article, you can see the same case can ba made.

Independence. Peace of Mind. Positive Mental Outlook. What's not to like?

Three great reasons to support and/or donate to the Valour IT Marine team.

Why wait? Do it now!!

Posted by at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2009

Marines of the Day: Aaron and Diana Mankin

This is, perhaps, one of the oddest love stories you will ever read.

There is an old saying: "Handsome is, as handsome does." Had she done nothing else in her lifetime, Corporal Diana Kavanek, USMC would be, by any measure you care to name, a handsome woman.

A woman of substance.

“I found out I was going to be doing entry-control-point duty three days before I went out,” said Lance Cpl. Diana L. Kavanek, engineer, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD). “It was a little shocking to me because I didn’t know I would ever be pulled for a duty like that. But I was ready to do my part.”

Headquarters and Service Company, II MHG, was chosen to fill spots on the ECP female search team after a vehicle-born improvised explosive device killed five Marines and a Sailor, three of whom were female, and injured several more on June 23.

Major Michael J. Corrado, company commander, H&S Company, II MHG, II MEF (FWD), knew of the empty billets only days before the females were scheduled to leave.

“My initial thought was to accomplish the mission by supporting Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, and not let those bastards who bombed that seven-ton think they would weaken our resolve,” explained Corrado. “My next thought was ‘Where are we going to find the Marines to replace them’? Many of the H&S Company Marines are wearing two and three hats already.”

Headquarters companies companies traditionally concentrate on administrative and logistical support. But war has caused the Marines to invoke one of their oldest mottoes: "Every Marine a rifleman." Little did Cpl. Kavanek know how severely the qualities that got her through Marine boot camp were about to be tested.

The scene shifts. Miles away, Corporal Kavanek's boyfriend is clearing insurgents from an Iraqi village:

We were clearing houses and villages and pinching off the insurgency coming into Iraq from Syria when we rolled over an IED and our vehicle exploded literally 10 feet into the air. More fire came at us, and we thought we were under ambush, but it was our own munitions inside the vehicle cooking off—grenades, bullets, flares.

I fell back inside the tank, and the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was fire. My initial reaction was to gasp, and in doing so, I inhaled flames and smoke and pieces of burned uniform. My goggles and flak jacket protected my eyes and chest, but the rest of my upper body was on fire. I jumped out of the vehicle and tried to put myself out by rolling in the grass, but it was dry grass and it caught fire as I rolled in it. Four Marines died, 11 others were wounded. I was certain I was going to be among the dead. People say your life passes before you. For me, I saw the people who meant the most to me. My mom. My dad. I was only semiconscious. Then, my girlfriend Diana's face popped into my head. I was thinking, These are my last thoughts. She is my last thought. And I focused on her face, because if I was going to die in war, I wanted to die with the thought of something worth fighting for, something worth dying for.

Instead, I woke up.

...It was a month and a half before I was ready to look at myself in the mirror. Then one day, I got out of my hospital bed to go to physical therapy and I saw the mirror I'd passed countless times, refusing to see the truth about how hurt I was. I looked over my left shoulder, and there I was—this torn up, frail, thin individual with open wounds on his face that I barely recognized, and my worst imagination became my reality. I cried.

Being a Marine, you want to tell yourself you're fine, just walk it off. But I couldn't walk this one off. I covered the bottom half of my face with my elbow, and looking at my eyes and my forehead, I didn't look any different. I knew inside I was still the same man. But not everyone would see that, and I was very concerned when Jake and Maggie, my little brother and sister, then 8 and 7, came to see me in the hospital. I was their big brother. I was in the Marine Corps. I was invincible. That's how they saw me, but I didn't know if they would see me that way anymore. So I asked Jake, "Do you still think Bubba (that's what they call me) is as strong and fast and tough as you used to?" Jake didn't think about it at all. He just said, "Yeah, I think so." And I looked at myself, and I was bandaged up and breathing hard, and I said, "What makes you think that?" And he said back to me, "Well, they tried to blow you up, and they couldn't."

What would Superman do in a case like this? We'll never know.

We can only know what Corporal Aaron Mankin did next. Aaron and Diana had not seen each other for 3 months. She knew he had been injured, but not the extent of his injuries nor even that he had been burned. "I knew that he was alive and that's about it," she said.

What he did, was fall to his knees at the bottom of an airport escalator and ask her to marry him:

The first time I saw Diana three months later, I asked her to marry me. I didn't know what I was capable of as a husband or as a dad. I didn't know what I could bring to the table besides a burned face and scarred arms. My ears, nose, and mouth were gone, as were the thumb and index finger of my right hand. When she said yes, it was a turning point for me. Even though I had a right to be bitter and curse the world, it wasn't what Diana deserved. It wasn't the man she fell in love with.

What Aaron could not know - what many men don't understand - is the way a woman thinks: what she sees when she gazes into the eyes of the man she loves. What the young Marine brought to the table was, quite simply, himself. Yes, the external wrapper was damaged. But through it, the courage and quality of the man inside shone brighter than ever.

And it was enough - and more than enough. How could you not love a man with the guts to drop to one knee in a busy airport and say to the woman he loves, "Here. Here I am. Take me as I am - if you are willing to take this step knowing the hard road we will have to travel together, I am yours. Always, and forever."

By mine honour, in true English,
I love thee, Kate: by which honour
I dare not swear thou lovest me;
yet my blood begins to flatter me that thou dost,
notwithstanding the poor and untempering effect of my visage.

Now, beshrew my father's ambition!
he was thinking of civil wars when he got me:
therefore was I created with a stubborn outside,
with an aspect of iron, that,
when I come to woo ladies, I fright them.

But, in faith, Kate, the elder I wax,
the better I shall appear:
my comfort is, that old age, that ill layer up of beauty,
can do no more, spoil upon my face:
thou hast me, if thou hast me, at the worst;
and thou shalt wear me, if thou wear me,
better and better.

Take me, take a soldier. Take a soldier, take a King.

Every little girl dreams of being a fairy princess: dreams of the handsome prince who will, one day, ride up to her on a white stallion and sweep her off her feet. Few of those dreams come true.

This is the rare story of a dream that did come true, if not (perhaps) in the way that little girl imagined it. We have so little control over the hard knocks life seems to deal out with daunting regularity and on the day they walk down the aisle, few women have cause to know whether the man they are marrying has the strength and courage to face down life's setbacks.

But Diana Mankin knows just how strong Aaron is. She knows how he will react to reversals of fortune.

She can see it in his face.

I never want Madeline to think, If my daddy weren't hurt, I could…. I want her to see my scars as an advantage. I want her to see that they make me love her more because they make me try harder. And if I can't figure out a way to do something for her, if I can't, say, put together her bike because I'm missing some fingers and I can't manage the little parts, I am not proud, I will ask for help. I will get it done for her somehow. That's on me. That's on my shoulder. She will never go without because I was wounded. I can give you every excuse in my arsenal not to change diapers or do the tough stuff. But the fact that I don't use any of that stuff to my advantage is going to deepen our connection to each other. I can only hope that one day, when she's old enough, she's going to realize that this stuff wasn't easy for her dad, but he did it anyway, because he loved her.

MaryAnn has a video interview with Corporal Mankin.

Update: If you enjoyed this story, please consider donating to Valour IT. Every day wounded vets are fighting the battle of their lives and overcoming injuries that would leave most of us curled up into a little ball. With your support, Valour IT can continue to provide voice activated laptops and other adaptive technology that helps severely wounded vets recover faster and regain their independence.

This will truly be the best money you've ever spent. These young men and women have given a tremendous amount to defend us. Won't you let them know we haven't forgotten?

Read more about Valour IT and their mission here.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:27 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 02, 2009

Marine Team Daily Roundup

Stix notes a possible explanation for Stonehenge.

Pundit and Pundette found a wonderful video of one of my alltime favorite Sinatra songs.

Tigerhawk: The Annual Cigar

GunnyPink reminds us to stop and appreciate the simpler things.

Posted by at 08:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wake Up, People!!!!

If that didn't wake you up, I'm not sure what will. We need to crank it up today! The Army is breathing hot on our necks, closely followed by the Flyboys:


Let's not get complacent: all three other teams have a far larger base to draw from. We did amazing things last week but the other teams are hardly working to erase our lead!

Let's put out the word: the Marine team is the place to be.

Now let's make that thermometer drop and give us 20! If you don't have a thermometer on your site yet, please download and install one. Email bloggers you like and ask them to help us beat Army, Navy, and the Air Force!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Famous Marines, II

How many of the following can you name?

1. Marines in politics.

2. Marines in sports.

3. Marines in the entertainment/the arts.

1. John Glenn,
George Schultz, (SecState, SecLabor, SecTreas)
James Baker (Sec. State),
Henry Bellmon (Senator, Gov. OK)
Pete Wilson (Gov. CA)
Wayne Gilchrest (Rep, Md)
James Jones National Security Advisor
Zell Miller (Gov GA, Sen GA)
Sid McMath (Gov ARK)
Chuck Robb (Gov VA)
Jim Webb (Sen, SecNav)
John Warner (SecNav, Senator)
Duncan Hunter (Congress)
Jon Corzine (Gov, NJ)
David Dinkins (Mayor, NYC)
John Chafee (Gov RI, Sen, SecNav)
Don Regan (SecTreas)
Pete McCloskey (Sen, CA)
Mike Mansfield (US Rep, Sen, Ambassador to Japan)
Robert Bork

2. I'm going to let you all see how many you can guess.

3. Don Imus Radio talk show host
Bob Bell — Bozo the Clown (TV)
Jim Lehrer journalist, host of the PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
Hugh Brannum — "Mr. Green Jeans" on Captain Kangaroo
Art Buchwald humor columnist
George Jones country music artist
William Styron Pulitzer Prize-winning author
John Philip Sousa composer, conductor/orchestra leader
Buddy Rich jazz drummer
Robert Ludlum author (The Bourne Identity)

Posted by Cassandra at 07:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Military Demotivator Contest

[moved to the top]

Speaking of demotivating...

Sadly, I am consumed with a crisis at work that is keeping me busy day and night. In the meantime I thought that perhaps a game would be fun.

Create your own Military Demotivator poster here. Marine team member Cassy Fiano has gotten us off to a great start:


Note: I posted the wrong image earlier - sorry!

There will be prizes (yes, real prizes!) for:

1. Best Application of Inter Service Snark

2. Best "Embracing the Suck" Poster

Email me if you have ideas for additional prizes! If you don't have a blog and want me to post your entry below the fold, send it to me. If you have a blog and have posted your entry there, please email me the link and I'll place it below the fold.

The contest will end next Wednesday and for once, will be judged promptly. Do your worst, peoples!

Update: John is dead meat. Jealousy is such an ugly emotion, don't you think?

Heh :)



from DL Sly







DL Sly




I have no idea who did this, but it's ... um... yeah. Still, you know what they say about payback...

The Daley Gator has some fantastic entries!


I have a feeling I'm gonna pay for this one. Thanks to MrsG for the great photo.

Retriever's entry!

Mike from Mostly Game shoots! He scores!

Grim brings Teh Funny

And the Navy (via spd) fires a few salvos!

welcome aboard.jpg


Two more from spd:

lts chicken.jpg

air force.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 04:47 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

November 01, 2009

Marine Team News

The good news is, we're still holding onto the lead despite valiant efforts from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. I'm going to start tracking all four teams' progress daily:


The Valour IT Video Contest is going strong and the Marine team is dominating the entries. Here's the latest, from No Sheeples Here:

View all Marine team vids here:

No Sheeples (3)

Cao's Blog has photos of actual Valour IT recipients.

Daley Gator incorporates bagpipes! As a guid Scottish wench, the blog princess approves!

I advise you to take a hankie.

The Valour IT auction site is up. There are some great items up there and also on this page - do your Christmas shopping and help wounded vets at the same time!

Marine team items:

patrolbaseafghanistan.JPG3 signed Afghanistan war prints signed by USMC combat artist Michael D. Fay.

I've written before about the work of CWO2 Fay. You can see examples of his work at Fire and Ice. I just love his art - the sketches, watercolors, and bronze sculptures. I've been a huge fan of his for a long time.

thetwohands.jpg3 signed Iraq war prints signed by USMC Combat artist Michael D. Fay

GuardianAngelCombatPrint.jpg1 Marine portrait signed by USMC Combat artist Michael D. Fay

3 Marine prints from the Marine Corps combat art series

TragicMonumentCombatArtPrint.jpg Signed print by USMC artist Jack Dyer commemorating the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

Marines_cross.jpgFinally, Miss Ladybug has some lovely cross stitched service emblems and she will personalize them for the winning bidder at no additional cost. What a great Christmas present to honor a family member who has served! You can see them here:

The winner of each of these five auctions can request customization with name and rank, as well as details such as years of service, unit or theater/operation where the service member served. Also, the winner will receive the special dual 3.5" x 5" opening 8" x 10" mat.

Keep checking the auction site - there will be more Marine team listings coming up!

Posted by Cassandra at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Famous Marines


Sergeant Major Jiggs, virtually a symbol of the Marine Corps, is ready for a 1924 training flight at Quantico, Virginia. Of decidedly blue-blood background, Jiggs née King Bulwark, was whelped in Philadelphia on 22 May 1922. Upon his enlistment in the Corps on 14 October 1922, he outranked the Commandant. Brigadier General Smedley Butler, who signed the enlistment papers “for life,” sensibly demoted the King to private and preserved the chain of command. Jiggs moved rapidly up the ranks. He was a corporal two and a half weeks after induction and a sergeant by New Year’s Day 1924. That June he was promoted to sergeant major. Jiggs died before his time on 9 January 1927. He lay in state in a Quantico hangar, flanked by two Marine guards and banks of flowers. His passing was mourned throughout the Corps.

Photo and history courtesy of our sister service, the U. S. Naval Institute.

Today's Marine trivia subject will be Famous Marines. The list begins below the fold. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section!

You might be surprised at how many famous people served in the Marine Corps. Given the photo above the fold, it seems only right to lead off with:

1. Sergeant Major Dan Daly:

Sergeant Major Daniel Joseph "Dan" Daly (November 11, 1873 – April 27, 1937) was a United States Marine and one of only 19 men (and two Marines) to receive the Medal of Honor twice, the other being Major General Smedley Butler.

Dan Daly is well remembered for his famous cry during the Battle of Belleau Wood, when, besieged, outnumbered, outgunned, and pinned down, he led his men in attack, shouting, "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?"[1]

Daly was described by his fellow Medal of Honor double award recipient, MajGen Smedley Butler as,"The fightenist Marine I ever knew!" Daly reportedly was offered an officer's commission twice to which he responded the he would rather be, " outstanding sergeant than just another officer."

Here's an interesting historical perspective on Daly's famous quote:

We are humbled to follow, yet hopeful to live up to, those who have gone before -- as at Belleau Wood in 1918. When his men were being cut to pieces by German machine guns, Marine 1st Sgt. Dan Daly, already the recipient of two Medals of Honor, charged the guns shouting, "Come on, you sons-o'-bitches! Do you want to live forever?" More than just history, this retelling to each new generation becomes a pledge: Although some will die, those who follow will keep the faith by keeping our memory -- a promise of immortality that asks, instead, "Don't you want to live forever?"

2. An iconic movie Marine (in real life he served in the Army Air Force during WWII): Jack Webb. Mike the Marine has a review of The DI, plus great footage from the movie!

James Lileks has some classic B&W stills from the movie.

3. Thomas Sowell: a writer and thinker I admire greatly.

4. Hollywood Marines:

Lee Marvin: enlisted in August 1942, served in the Marshall Islands (Eniwetok and Kwajalein), and was in the June 1944 Saipan invasion force. His company was ambushed and only six of 241 men survived. Marvin was, as he stated "shot in the ass" (a 9x3x3-inch wound), hospitalized 13 months, and discharged. Disabled and underemployed, he discovered summer stock acting, and progressed to Broadway plays, and motion pictures.
George C. Scott,
Don Adams of Get Smart fame,
Gene Hackman,
Scott Glenn
(The Right Stuff),
Glenn Ford,
Mike Harrell,
R. Lee Ermey,
Brian Keith:
U.S. Marine rear gunner in several actions against the Japanese on Rabal in the Pacific.
Drew Carey,
James Whitmore,
Tyrone Power:
(an established movie star when Pearl Harbor was bombed) joined the U.S. Marines, was a pilot flying supplies into, and wounded Marines out of, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
John Russell: In 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps where he received a battlefield commission and was wounded and highly decorated for valor at Guadalcanal.
Steve McQueen: a wild and rebellious farm boy from the Midwest who had worked in brothels as a youth, enlisted in the Marines in 1947, was a crewman on tanks and amphibious tractors, and served in the guards assigned to President Truman's yacht, Sequoia.
Harvey Keitel
George Peppard
Jonathan Winters

Ed McMahon started his career in the Navy's V-5 Program, transferred to the Marines, and was a flight instructor in F4U Corsair fighters prior to his discharge in 1946. While at Philadelphia's WCAU radio and television he was recalled to active duty and Captain McMahon flew 85 reconnaissance missions in an unarmed Cessna 180 observation plane in Korea (1951-1952).

CWCID here and here

Posted by Cassandra at 07:04 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 31, 2009

For Marines, Uncommon Valor Still a Common Virtue

Jules Crittenden offers an inspiring glimpse into a battle waged far from Afghanistan and Iraq:

What does it mean to be a Marine when you are one of the maimed at Walter Reed on Veterans Day?

“Everything,” Cpl. Peter Bagarella, 21, of Falmouth said simply.

Theirs is the story of service and sacrifice behind the statistics.

“This place is awesome. They gave me my eyes back,” said Bagarella. A remotely detonated bomb blinded him and vaporized his left leg in a palm grove in Haditha on Aug. 12. As the Iraqi ambushers opened up with machine guns and the Marines returned fire, Bagarella screamed, “Oh God! Oh God!” and used his thumbs to count his fingers. He asked the medics, “What’s gone? What’s gone on my body?”

Army PFC Paul Skarinka’s shattered left leg is caged in a cumbersome brace, with metal pins screwed through the flesh into his calf bone.

“I’m one of those people who likes to be in the middle of things,” said Skarinka, 24, of Whitman. “I knew I could end up being deployed. I had no problem with that.”

He has fond memories of Baghdad - visits with local elders, giving kids candy and being asked to stay for dinner at wedding parties.

Then in late August, they moved into Sadr City against rogue cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

“After evening prayers is when they would come out,” Skarinka said. In the early morning hours of Sept. 13, the night’s business was mostly done when an RPG came screaming up the alley.

“It looked like an oversized bottle rocket flying at us,” he said. It hit as he dove for cover. “There was debris around me. My ears were ringing. I thought, `This is OK.’ It was kind of normal. It was when I tried to get up that I realized something was wrong.” He couldn’t move his left leg or arm. He felt the blood pouring out of his side.

“I was thinking, `I’ve got to get out of here. I’m still in the kill zone. I’m not dying in this crappy alley in Sadr City.”

There are many kinds of bravery.

We hear most about the bravery of battle, when the adrenaline is pumping and soldiers are fighting just to stay alive. We rarely thing about the incredible courage and strength needed to sit up for the first time despite searing pain, to stand, to take those few wobbly steps...

mi Former Marine Gene Roberts.jpg ... or, against all odds, to run again:

Gene Roberts is a former Marine with a big heart – and an even bigger goal: to run more than 3,500 miles across the United States on prosthetic legs.

Roberts is a double amputee who served in the Vietnam War until he stepped on a land mine in Da Nang in 1966. He is in the process of running across America to inspire other war veterans and raise money for his favorite charities.

...When he was participating in wheel chair races, he participated in races in Indiana and Maryland. When he decided to swim, he trained at the Druid Hill Park Pool one year and in his back yard pool another. He attempted to swim the English Channel on three occasions and was defeated by cold water on one and the weather on the two other attempts. After the last swim, Gene decided to return to his first love, running. He trained hard and finally entered the Baltimore Marathon. Gene finished the marathon and said, “ It wasn’t pretty, but I finished.” The next year he entered the 5K portion of the Baltimore Marathon and was quite successful. Gene now runs in several 5K runs because he just loves to run. His goal now is to run across the United States to raise money for the poor and the needy and a couple of his other favorite charities.

Part of what Valour IT seeks to accomplish is the return of hope. These wounded vets don't need a handout, but seeing what they can accomplish with a small hand up is inspiring. Triple amputee and Valour IT laptop recipient Sgt. Bryan Anderson would be the first to agree that recovering vets are limited only by their will and imagination:

I've been wakeboarding, water-skiing, jet-skiing, tubing, rock climbing, snow skiing, playing catch with my brother. I try to do the same things. I'm not going to let it stop me. We did a 110-mile bike ride from Gettysburg to Washington, D. C. Sixty miles the first day, fifty miles the second day. Hand cycle, three wheels. I ended up ripping the glove, breaking the hand, breaking the whole socket. I might do it a little differently, but I'm still going to do it...

He knows who he is:

This doesn't define me. It may be how I look on the outside, but it's not who I am. I guess you could remember me easily as being a triple amputee, but it's not who I am, has nothing to do with who I am. I've always been the same person.

These guys aren't helpless victims. They're warriors. Survivors. And the first thing many of them do once they've escaped the halls of Walter Reed or Bethesda is to give something back.

During the past year, we as a nation have invested billions of dollars in sickly, failing companies with a never ending supply of excuses. It's hard to think of a better investment than the one you can make with your Valour IT donation.

100% of your donation will go towards helping wounded vets fight the longest of long wars. Selfless dedication, courage, commitment, grit. These are the qualities that define wounded vets. Won't you show them that America still honors men who accept no excuses?

Posted by Cassandra at 11:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 30, 2009

Today's Marine Team Challenge: Double your Gift

Wow. I am just astonished at the generosity of Marine team supporters.

We have another donation challenge: today's mystery challenger will match the first $500 in donations of any amount. Please email your sanitized receipt (I don't want to see your cc number or checking account #) to at gmail dot com. The first $500 of donations sent to me will be matched by today's mystery donor.

It's time to rock and roll!

Posted by Cassandra at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

This. Means. War.


Why the noive of some people....

Of course you realize this means war.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Marines Through the Lens of History

I can never again see a United States Marine without experiencing a feeling of reverence. —MajGen Johnson Hagood, USA

“There were Northwesterners with straw-colored hair … and delicately spoken chaps with the stamp of the Eastern universities on them. There were large-boned fellows from Pacific-coast lumber camps, and tall, lean Southerners who swore amazingly in gentle, drawling voices. There were husky farmers from the corn-belt, and youngsters who had sprung, as it were, to arms from the necktie counter. And there were also a number of diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders and a bone-deep sunburn, and a tolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth. …

“They were the Leathernecks … the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home and war as an occupation; and they transmitted their temper and character and view-point into the high-hearted volunteer mass which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.

“There is nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows, laden with killing tools, going along to fight. And yet—such a column represents a great deal more than 28,000 individuals mustered into a division. All that is behind those men is in that column, too: the old battles, long forgotten, that secured our nation … traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever … and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I never heard combat soldiers mention—all this passes into the forward zone, to the point of contact, where war is girt with horrors. And common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable promptings of fear; and in this, I think, is glory.”

—Capt John W. Thomason Jr.: “Fix Bayonets,” 1926, on Marines during WW I

The Marines have landed, and the situation is well in hand.

—Richard Harding Davis, war correspondent 1935 who reportedly wrote it after the 1935 landing in Panama

Goddamn it, you’ll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!

— Capt Henry P. “Jim” Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan. 1943.

The Second Marine Division took this island because its men were willing to die. They kept on coming in the face of heavy defense, and though they paid the stiffest price in human life per square yard that was ever paid in the history of the Marine Corps, they won this main base in the Gilbert Islands in 76 hours.
Out of two battalions – 2,000 to 3,000 men – thrown onto the beach in the first assault at 0830, only a few hundred men escaped death or injury. Officer casualties were heavy. And still the Marines kept coming. The leathernecks died with one thought – to get there.

—Sgt John Bushemi, “Yank” Staff Correspondent

They (women Marines) don’t have a nickname, and they don’t need one. They get their basic training in a Marine atmosphere, at a Marine post. They inherit the traditions of the Marines. They are Marines.

—Gen Thomas Holcomb, 17th CMC, (1936-1943)

I will be adding to this below the fold throughout the day. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!

The Marine Corps has been called by the New York Times the “elite” Corps of this country. I think it is the “elite” Corps of the world.

—Adm William F. Halsey, 4thMarDiv reunion, Washington, D.C., 11 June 1949

Panic sweeps my men when they are facing the American Marines.

—A captured North Korean major

We’ve been looking for the enemy for several days now. We’ve finally found them. We are surrounded. That simplifies the problem of getting to these people and killing them.”

—Col Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, Chosin Reservoir, Korea 1950

They say “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” In the Marine Corps, you can make that horse wish to hell he had.

—Sgt Fred Larson, drill instructor, Plt 343, San Diego, 1965

Lieutenant, if you go in there and watch those stag movies, I’ll write you mother and tell her.

—SgtMaj Charles Skinner, RVN, 1970, on standards of conduct

Update: This is a favorite:

They told (us) to open the embassy, or “we’ll blow you away.” And then they looked up and saw the Marines on the roof with these really big guns, and they said in Somali, “Igaralli ahow,” which means “Excuse me, I didn’t mean it, my mistake.”

—Karen Aquilar, is the U.S. Embassy, Mogadishu, Somalia, 1991

Posted by Cassandra at 08:17 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Pride, Love and Loss: The Making of a Marine Parent

Who best bear his mild yoke,
they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.

- John Milton

No one describes the mingled joy, pride, and terror of being a Marine parent better than Jarhead Dad. From the euphoria of a sun splashed parade deck at Parris Island to the aching loneliness of a long deployment, he captures the feelings of those who wait patiently for the return of a loved one from the field of battle:

I remember like it was yesterday when our young Marine came marching out on the parade deck of Parris Island sporting a brand new chevron proclaiming him a PFC in the United States Marine Corps! A merit stripe earned in the sand fleas and swamps of South Carolina. God how proud I was. I bet I stood a full two inches taller. His Mom squeezing my hand harder as his Training Battalion passed the stands. The tears of pride I enjoyed wiping from her cheeks. The virality, the strength, a man where a boy should stand. It was all there.

From that day forward our home became a staging area of sorts for the next four years and even now. Young Marines we met on that very same Parade Deck stopping in on their way one place or another knowing they would get a home cooked meal and lodging with others of their kind. After SOI they came in bunches, full of themselves, cocky, with the innate ability to use the F word as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb. All in the same sentence! Vulgar? Not for a minute. These are young men that enlisted in a time their country is at war, knowing full well what they were facing and where they were headed. They are young men "with the bark" on as the saying goes from my generation. Respectful to Mom and Sis to the max, loving them after minutes of meeting them. You could see the protection trait in them even then. The seriousness they held in their minds of what they were doing was embodied in their Moms and Sisters, Girlfriends and Fiancees, Wives and Daughters.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 29, 2009

I Love the Marine Corps

I do love the Corps.
Mike Corrado wrote a song that touches my heart. pulls at my heartstrings.

"I'll keep you safe on my watch tonight."

Posted by at 07:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Marine Team Daily Roundup

MaryAnn at Soldiers' Angels Germany is a tireless supporter of our troops. She updates her blog everyday with spotlights on servicemembers, goings on at Landstuhl as well as downrange.

Miss Ladybug has video of the return of LCPL Brandon Lara and the respect the community showed in honor of his sacrifice. Kleenex required.

Flag Gazer has a great post up about the Baghdad Zoo.

Grim has a couple of entries in the Demotivator contest. I think they're rather good if I do say so myself.

Posted by at 10:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Marine of the Day: Some Random Officer

In keeping with our practice of interspersing interviews of active duty Marines with inspirational stories, today's Marine of the Day is some random officer who generously agreed (much to my surprise) to be interviewed. We hope the combined format will provide a more rounded view of the Marine perspective:

1. What is your rank and MOS in the Marine Corps?

Colonel - 8041 (ground colonel), 0802 (field artillery officer), 8848 (Management, Data Systems Officer, not sure how this got in my record), 8840 (Manpower Management Officer - my Naval Postgraduate MOS), 9702 (joint specialty officer)

2. How long have you served?

I'm in my 29th year of service.

3. What made you join the military? And why the Marine Corps?

I wanted to serve my country, I needed a job to support my family, and I wanted to serve in the best Service in the military.

4. Have you ever been deployed?

Yes - to Japan twice on 1 year unaccompanied orders each time, to Iraq on a 1 year Individual Augment assignment, currently in Afghanistan. I have made shorter education and training deployments in CONUS as well.

5. What was the most rewarding thing you ever did as a Marine?

The most rewarding thing I did was serve in 3/11 as the FSC, OpsO, and XO (Fire Support Coordinator, Operations Officer, and Executive Officer). The next was serving as EA in PP&O (Plans, Policies & Operations).

6. If you could tell a young man or woman contemplating military service just one thing, what would that be?

It is a great profession that offers great opportunity with a dedicated group of like-minded individuals.

7. What does being a Marine mean to you?

It means being part of a organization rich in tradition, able to meet any challenge, that holds itself to a higher standard.

8. What are the best and worst things about your job?

The best things are having a stable, rewarding job that sends you around the world on different assignments. The worst things are time spent away from your family and not being able to put down roots.

9. Some people say wars never solve anything. What do you think?

I think the only thing worse than war is giving into the will of someone else. There are times when war is necessary and there needs to be an organization designed to fight that war filled with people dedicated to winning that war.

10. Do you think the Marine Corps made you a better person, or would you be the same no matter what career you chose?

It made me a better person just as my wife has made me a better person - both taught me that there is more to life than just yourself.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:55 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Marine Team Update

I hope the Snarkitudinous amongst you will note that I now have the *correct* camo pattern:


As of 9 am this morning we were leading the Army by about $1300 with 3 slots left on my Dad's $1000 challenge. Huge thanks to our 3 donors! This leaves us with 3 $100 matching donations left. We also got a very generous donation from a Marine team blogger but I'm not sure whether he wishes to remain anonymous.

The goals for today are to keep getting the word out and keep recruiting new team members. A few posts down there's a 10 Reasons to Join the Marine team post you can use to blog or even use in emails if you'd like to spread the word to friends and coworkers.

We have done amazing things, but we need to stay focused today. As the smallest service, we have to work harder than the competition just to hold onto our lead.

I can't thank everyone who has joined and contributed enough. Jules Crittenden wrote a wonderful Marine of the Day tribute yesterday and he's been incredibly helpful in recruiting and spreading the word. Cassy had a fantastic trivia post up yesterday that took a lot of the pressure off me.

Don't forget the Demotivator contest - we've had lots of great entries so far and can use more. Send them to at gmail dot com and I'll get them up there, or send a link to your post if you have put them up at your site.

Greta has a video contest to check out and we still need people to help get the word out on Twitter and Facebook:

Twitter: @valourit or #valourit


Again, thanks so much for all your hard work. The Marine team rocks! If you recently joined, we'll be updating the blogroll, or you can download code for the Marine team blogroll (this one should be up to date now) here.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 28, 2009

Challenge Update

A few posts down I said that my Dad (a Navy man, no less, but then they are gallant souls) had pledged to match the first 10 donations of $100.

We are at 4 now. Many thanks to these generous supporters of Valour IT. Once the matching funds are in, you will netted us $800 - your $400 plus the matching funds.

There's still plenty of time to get your donations in. And many thanks to Old Soldier54, Leslie (no last name since I'm not sure she wants to be uniquely identified), John Tammi, and Phil (again, no last name since I don't have permission but I wanted to recognize him).

Thanks for stepping up to the plate, guys. By my count, there are 6 more opportunities out there. Don't let this one slip on by.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

10 Reasons to Join the Marine Team

1. Marines have the best uniforms, hands down. And as everyone knows, chicks really dig a guy in uniform.

2. Marines know how to fight. That's why they're called America's 911 force:

In the true spirit of "jointness" I offer the following as "Everything you need to know about differences in service culture. All in good fun, of course.

US Marine Corps Rules for Gunfighting

1. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
2. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
3. Have a plan.
4. Have a back-up plan, because the first one probably won't work.
5. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
6. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a "4."
7. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.
8. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral & diagonal preferred.)
9. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
10. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
12. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
13. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating your intention to shoot.

Navy SEAL Rules For Gunfighting

1. Look very cool in sunglasses.
2. Kill every living thing within view.
3. Return quickly to looking cool in latest beach wear.
4. Check hair in mirror.

US Army Ranger Rules For Gunfighting

1. Walk in 50 miles wearing 75 pound pack while starving.
2. Locate individuals requiring killing.
3. Request permission via radio from "Higher" to perform killing.
4. Curse bitterly when mission is aborted.
5. Walk out 50 miles wearing a 75 pound rucksack while starving.

Army Rules for Gunfighting

1. Select a new beret to wear.
2. Sew combat patch on right shoulder.
3. Change the color of beret you decide to wear.

US Air Force Rules For Gunfighting

1. Have a cocktail.
2. Adjust temperature on air-conditioner.
3. See what's on HBO.
4. Determine "what is a gunfight."
5. Request more funding from Congress with a "killer" PowerPoint presentation.
6. Wine & dine 'key' Congressmen, invite DOD & defense industry executives.
7. Receive funding, set up new command and assemble assets.
8. Declare the assets "strategic" and never deploy them operationally.
9. Tell the Navy to send the Marines.

US Navy Rules For Gunfighting

1. Go to Sea.
2. Drink Coffee.
3. Watch porn.
4. Send the Marines.


3. Being the smallest of the services forces us to be creative. Marines fight smarter, not harder. Jim Mattis wasn't kidding when he said the Marine style is a blend of chivalry and ferocity: no better friend, no worse enemy.

4. The Marine Corps Silent Drill Team. Poetry in motion:

5. Tradition: we still celebrate ours. Mess nites, dinings in and out, St. Barbara's day and the Marine Corps Ball: no one celebrates their rich history with more flair and elan than the Marine Corps. We still dress for dinner, we still pull out cigars and the smoking lamp for the men (and sometimes the ladies!).

We still light candles in memory of fallen comrades and those who have been wounded in the service of this nation. We do not forget. If you've ever been invited to a Marine Ball, don't pass up the opportunity to attend. Those of us who have passed the quarter century mark may roll our eyes a bit, but we still go every year and still tear up when the same old passages are read. What began on November 10, 1775 in Tun Tavern is still remembered in giant ballrooms, decorated hangars, and dingy conference rooms all over this planet. Marines gather as one family to celebrate that which unites and binds us: a love of Corps, country, and above all, each other.

6. Esprit de corps: Which, as you should know, is no cheese-eating surrender monkey Phrench-sounding label, but something each Marine takes to heart on the day he or she finally earns the right to be called "Marine". Every Marine is a rifleman. To call the average Marine a soldier, troop, sailor, or airman to is risk a speedy and ungentle correction. There are only Marines, an appellation which (unlike soldiers, sailors, or airmen) is always capitalized. Now *that's* respect.)

7. Toughest mascot. Think about it:

Army: a mule
Air Force: a stinkin' bird?
Navy: ummm... a goat
Marines: a bulldog. Nuff said.

8. Marine PT. Did the HVES mention that we're just better-looking?

9. Marine wives. There is an old Spanish saying, "No hay rosas sin espinas." I think it fits Marine wives well: tough, but tender; beautiful but enduring. On the day my husband finally leaves the Corps, my most precious memories will be of the officer and enlisted wives I have been privileged to work with, laugh with, cry with, and share this wacky thrill ride that is military life.

10. The Navy-Marine Corps team: as much as we love to rib the Navy, we couldn't do our job without them. On any Marine base, along with green you'll see Navy khaki. Navy corpsmen go to battle with us and dress our wounds. They are at once healers, life savers, and soldiers as tough and brave as any Marine. Navy chaplains pray with us and bury our dead. They weep with us and help us to try and make sense of the incomprehensible.

And it is Navy ships which carry us to distant shores so we can do what we do best: respond as America's 9/11 force. They provide devastating firepower on target when we need it. We are proud to be a part of the sea service. But that said....until November 11th...

Beat Navy!

As the smallest service, what we need to do to win is spread the word far and wide. So please, email your favorite bloggers and ask them: "Why aren't you on the Marine team"?

We're still looking for a few good bloggers. It's a good cause.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

One of Those Days that Just Changed My Life

I am so proud to be the Marine co-captain for the Valour IT fundraiser!! It's an honor and more importantly, it allows us to thank Soldiers' Angels for all of their support over the past couple of years. (More on that in another post)

I have been thinking about the past lately. A lot. The day I became a Marine wife is one. The day I became a mom is another. Yet another of those days that changed my life was the day my son became a Marine.

The following is a post at Marine Corps Moms from almost five years ago. Sadly, the site is no longer running. (I miss your blog, Deb!!)

Cassandra and I both share a passion for supporting these brave young men and women who VOLUNTEER to serve their country. It is especially noteworthy that these people volunteer to serve when our country is on a war footing. It seems the least we can do back here is support them while they are there, support them in any way possible should they get wounded and support them as they move on with their lives.

How can we not? Valour IT is a wonderful way to show our support for those who willingly go into harm's way for us.
Dig deep if you can, please? Valour IT is one of the BEST suppport programs for wounded/injured servicemembers. Bar.None.

January 30, 2005
On this particular January morning, I was thinking to myself that I had been a Marine wife for 19 years. 19 years of deployments, birthday balls, key other words..seen it, done it, bought the t-shirt.
Until that day.
The day my son became a Marine. I had butterflies in my stomach. I wondered what Zack would be like after his experiences at MCRD San Diego. Would he still be the same kid that we all called "King Kamehameha"?

We stood with all of the other anxious parents in front of the theater. A drill instructor with a microphone had a running patter of do's and don'ts. Frankly, that got on my nerves. It got on my husband's as well. As India company returned and formed up after their motivational run, we scanned the crowd of recruits looking for Zack. We moved to the other side of the theater and I found him. It seemed to take forever for his father to find that face but there it was. Three rows back and two men to the left, my son's face. At last!! A sighting.

We still couldn't talk to him. They all had to shower and form up for the presentation of the eagle, globe and anchor pins. After waiting almost 13 weeks to see him, the hour or so that we still had to wait seemed to drag on and on. Finally, they marched out and stood at attention. Well..sort of. Their eyes darted around, trying to find their families. Cameras clicked...parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers all yelling, "I see him!!"

As their drill instructors presented the e,g,and a pins, I was thankful for dark glasses and wished I had put kleenex in my purse before leaving the house that morning. The crusty Marine sitting next to me was not much better although he flatly denies it.

When their drill instructors finally released them, families surged out of the stands. We were in that crush too. Who cares if I'd been a Marine wife for 19 years???? I was going to hug that kid and nobody but nobody was getting in my way...not even him. He wasn't quite sure what to do when I grabbed him but he put up with it pretty well. I guess that was change number one.

The rest of Parents' day was spent trying to keep him fed (I can not believe how much this guy's almost superhuman) and catching him up with family and neighborhood news and hearing bootcamp stories. Change number two...our usually reticent son talked our ears off...between bites of food, of course. He called me "maam" about five times but then again, he also dropped the f bomb as many times. Changes three and four..and although both of those changes have disappeared, I have no doubt that his stint at SOI will bring them both out again. Oh well...

I am a Marine mom and I couldn't be prouder....

Posted by at 04:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Challenge, and an Offer!

My Dad has offered to match the first 10 $100 donations made to Project Valour IT. This means you can double your gift.

Also I'd like to put something else out there. If you'd like to make a gift in memory of a loved one, I will put their name on my sidebar and I'll keep it there after the competition ends. Donating to Valour IT is a great way to honor the memory of someone you love, and to ensure that others remember them too.

Email me ( at gmail dot com) your sanitized (I don't need to see your cc address, checking account number, or home address) electronic receipt from Soldier's Angels.

And don't forget to let me know if you'd like me to append your name and contribution amount to this post. I'll assume, unless directed otherwise, that you wish to remain anonymous.

C'mon, Marine team! Let's goose that thermometer!

Posted by Cassandra at 12:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Marine of the Day: Lance Corporal James Crosby

Once again, Jules Crittenden has our Marine of the Day:

"I met USMC Lance Cpl. James Crosby in June 2004. He was 19. He was a kid from a blue-collar background in Winthrop, Mass., and his body was a mess. But I could tell within minutes of meeting him that he was no ordinary kid, and I was pretty sure I’d hear his name again."

Go read about this amazing Marine. Urrahh!!!

Thank you, Jules!!!

Posted by at 09:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Marine Team Daily Roundup

Wild Thing at Theodore's World has a very funny South Park story.
Very funny, indeed.

LindaSoG at Something and Half of Something tells us why she is supporting the Marine team in the Valour IT competition. Urrahh!!

Cassy Fiano has already told us why she's supporting the Marine team.
That's a mighty handsome reason too!! Today, she has some posters and a quiz for all of you who think you know Marine Corps history.

Little Miss Attila has some thoughts on women bloggers.

Dr. Melissa Clouthier's post got her thinking about that.


Posted by at 07:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sgt. Merlin German: Miracle Marine

"Sometimes I do think I can't do it. Then I think: Why not? I can do whatever I want."

- Sergeant Merlin German

There is a side of war many Americans regard with pride. We've all seen the iconic images. They create a lump in our throats and a curious stinging sensation behind our eyelids. A lone gunner stands silhouetted against a brilliant desert sunset. Families, their faces literally glowing with joy, embrace on a tarmac. A child watches a platoon of smartly dressed Marines pass by, awe and hero worship writ plainly on his tiny face. You can almost hear him thinking, "That's what I want to be when I grow up."

helpinghand.jpgThese images represent the good side of war. There is inspiration to be found in the resilience of the human spirit; in our ability to respond to fear and pain with kindness and courage. In a world where scenes of unspeakable cruelty and horror beckon from every newspaper headline, we take solace in the satisfaction of a weary warrior performing a dangerous job with skill and dedication. There is comfort, also, in the promise of joy after months of loneliness and hardship. Reunions are a visible reminder of the thousand precious moments we take for granted each day.

There is even a bittersweet glimmer of solace in the gathering of loved ones around a flag draped coffin and the crisp report of a 21 gun salute. This feeling is captured by a line penned before Christ was even born:

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.

The visual juxtaposition of love and loss reminds just how fragile happiness can be. In an instant the predictable, orderly world we take for granted could so easily vanish, to be replaced by one in which nothing makes sense. Small wonder images like these evoke such strong emotions. Their silent reminders of fear, grief and loneliness are balanced by the knowledge of our good fortune. Our way of life is worth protecting, and though most of us drift off to sleep each night blissfully unaware of danger, we know that others watch over us.

And then there are the images we don't like so much. They frighten us; appeal to our deepest, darkest fears:

... I was watching television. A movie came on. It was a movie about the effects of war, specifically World War Two. The movie was The Best Years Of Our Lives. Perhaps you’ve seen it? It won many academy awards, and deservedly so. It was - and is - a tremendously moving portrait of three men returning to civilian life after having served in wartime.

One of the men - played by Harold Russell, who truly was a soldier afflicted as shown; no make-up needed - had returned home with hooks for his hands.

I sat in front of the TV and saw the same nightmare vision that had recently haunted me, but now come to life and moving. And it made me even further aware of the tragic possibilities. Not only was it possible to be BORN without important things, it was entirely possible to lose them, once born, through no fault of your own.

...Now, maybe I was somewhat sheltered to not know of these things before then, but that’s the way it was. I had successfully lived through six years of my life without knowing. Now that I knew, I was changed forever. Losing part of me - a limb or a hand or anything else - became my strongest fear. It still is. It is so strong a fear that I have trouble facing or meeting people who have had such misfortune befall them, whether via birth defect or accident. As I handle my fear of heights by avoiding bridges, I partially handle my fear of amputation by avoiding amputees. I don't run from the room screaming if someone is there who is less than the generally accepted notion of whole; I hope that I treat them in the same way I would anyone else. However, I'm afraid that my fear of finding myself in their situation may show through, and I would hate to have them see that. It would be so damned unfair. I also try to avoid photos, films, written accounts, and any other thing that will bring my fear to the forefront of my thoughts.

Stupid? Cowardly? Yes, pretty much. It’s what I do, though.

There is a moment every deployed military family faces.

It's a moment most of us dread. We joke about it, but that's only a way of keeping that sick feeling of fear at arm's length. Somehow, for me, it is easier to think of that flag draped coffin than to think of the alternative: that that long awaited homecoming will be more bittersweet than I can possibly imagine at this moment.

That my husband will come home, but not all in one piece. That I might not even know a man I've loved since I was 18 years old anymore. That this war, for us, will never really be over:

The young Marine came back from the war, with his toughest fight ahead of him.

Merlin German waged that battle in the quiet of a Texas hospital, far from the dusty road in Iraq where a bomb exploded, leaving him with burns over 97 percent of his body.

No one expected him to survive.

But for more than three years, he would not surrender. He endured more than 100 surgeries and procedures. He learned to live with pain, to stare at a stranger's face in the mirror. He learned to smile again, to joke, to make others laugh.

He became known as the "Miracle Man."

Most of us have heard of the Miracle Marine. But I wonder how many of us have stopped to think of what his life must have been like every day?

I cannot imagine the courage and strength required to get out of bed each morning knowing that just making it through the coming day would be a test of my will to survive? We hear of that surge of adrenaline that gets soldiers through a battle, but how does one summon up that strength when every day - every moment - is a battle?

The incredible thing is that through my association with projects like Operation Santa at the hospitals and Operation Fresh Air, I've seen countless recovering vets do exactly this. Amazingly, if you walk the grounds of Walter Reed AMC, you will see soldiers and Marines in wheelchairs but with smiles on their faces. There is little self pity on display, even in situations where most of us would have ample reason to feel sorry for ourselves. Most of the reason for that is that these young men and women are warriors. Faced with hardships that would daunt the bravest among us, they manage to rise above fear, above pain, above the temptation to give up.

And it's not just wounded vets who are affected by war - their families' lives are forever changed as well. Carren Ziegenfuss explains how something as simple as a voice activated laptop gave her some sense of normalcy again:

Not only was Chuck able to blog with his new laptop and voice-activated software, I was able to relax a little bit more. Instead of trying to figure how to get Chuck some sort of outlet, I knew he had one. Instead of going to the Mologne House every night, wondering how Chuck will manage throughout the night, I knew he had an outlet. Instead of feeling guilty as hell when I went somewhere without him (for ME time), I knew Chuck had his connection to the outside world.

The laptop and software were truly a gift that can not be put into words. Even after Chuck was initially discharged from Walter Reed, we returned MANY times for subsequent surgeries. His Valour-IT laptop and software were always there for him, especially when he couldn't type with his hand(s). I could go on all day about how amazing this program is...

This post is not a request for donations, although that would be wonderful. The intent of this post is to give you my perspective of how Valour-IT can be so healing to our wounded warriors and their families.

Watching a loved one struggle with pain or illness makes us wonder why bad things happen? I know I felt this way, watching my nephew's two year battle with leukemia. There were times when even I, watching him fight on from a comfortable remove, felt despair threaten to overwhelm me. It all seemed so unfair.

But good can come from misfortune. We may not have control over our circumstances, but we do control how we respond to misfortune. Chuck Ziegenfuss didn't marinate in self pity; instead he sought to help others. And Sergeant Merlin German, his body disfigured beyond belief and his days consumed by over 100 painful surgeries, still found the strength to reach out from his hospital bed and offer hope and encouragement to severely burned children.

These days we're bombarded with information and requests for help. It's easy to distance ourselves; to avert our eyes and go on with our lives when we're asked for help. But how often do we have the chance to literally change the course of someone else's life? How often do we have the chance to offer encouragement and hope to those who have placed their lives on the line for us?

Project Valour IT offers that kind of chance. The phrase "give 'til it hurts" is overused. It's too easy to ignore. But the truth of the matter is that few of us will ever experience one tenth of what wounded vets endure - and rise above - every single day.

Your donation is a tangible reminder of the enormous debt we owe these men and women fighting the longest of long wars. Giving them the tools to win that battle seems the least a grateful nation can do.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 27, 2009

This. Will. Not. Stand.

Marines do *NOT* eat puppies!!!

Marine babie-eats-puppies.jpg


OK, we will [relunctantly] admit that the Air Force rocks:

I think the Marine team needs to return fire. [looking around] Now where did I put that pacifier?

Posted by Cassandra at 06:37 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Tribute to the Armed Forces

Via new Marine team member Political inSecurity, this great tribute to all the services:

Give a big shout out to our great Valour IT team leaders:

Team Leaders

Air Force - Mudville Gazette

Army - Blackfive

Navy - USNI Blog

We snark a lot, but it's an honor to serve with such smart and dedicated folks. And....


Posted by Cassandra at 12:30 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Marine Team Daily Roundup

Mike the Marine snuck this under the wire months ago but it's just so

All I have to say is...I loves me some Major Pain.

The C-Square. If you're interested in things Marine related and especially LAV related, these are your guys.

What can I say? I just love Marine Wife's style.

I know all the blogs I linked to today are Marine ones. It won't be the case everyday. They struck my fancy this morning and it IS all about me..:)

Posted by at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quotes of the Day

Remember: We are the land of the free because of the brave.

From a conversation between Andrew McCarthy and his 7 year old son:

E: What's the commander in chief do?

A: Basically, he's in charge of how we fight the war.

E: Hmm. I think the marines should be the commander in chief.

A: [Laughing, of course] I bet the marines would like that.

E: I mean, if we didn’t have the marines, what could Obama do?

Out of the mouths of babes. GO MARINE TEAM!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Web Site of the Day...

...for today is Patterico's Pontifications.

A few words here: as the LA Times can ruefully attest, no one wields a clue bat as deftly as Patterico and his co-bloggers. One of my biggest frustrations in doing this has been that, due to the intentionally low profile we keep here at VC, I can't command the kind of traffic sites like Blackfive and Mudville have earned so deservedly. And I don't have connections with the heavy hitters in the blogosphere - my own fault - so I can easily understand why it's hard to penetrate their Inboxes with my grovelling requests for help: they don't know me. These guys are mega busy and get piles of email. Having them take time out of their day to respond to a 3rd or 4th tier blogger who can't throw them much traffic attests to their being stand up guys with big hearts.

I've been an admirer of Patrick's work for years. His site was amazing when it was just him posting and has only gotten better due to his great taste in co-bloggers.

If it's not on your daily reading list, it should be. Welcome to the MARINE TEAM, Patterico-ites!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Marines Have Landed!

You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth- and the amusing thing about it is that they are.

- Father Kevin Keaney, 1st Marine Division Chaplain
Korean War


Status report below the fold.

Yesterday was a good day.

We took an early and commanding lead only to suffer a setback in the afternoon when Army got a huge donation that catapulted them into the lead. We counterattacked aggressively and by 8 pm held a very narrow lead over Army. Last last night the shock troops arrived in the form of a very generous donation for $1300 from a wonderful gentleman. As of 5 pm this morning here were the totals for each team:

Army $4120
Navy $1875
Air Force $1955
Marines $5465

We began the day with 36 blogs on the Marine team and gained 13 (!) during the day. That's huge - big thanks to everyone who joined and to existing Marine team members for helping to spread the word. Be sure to check these folks out in the blogroll in the sidebar:

J's Cafe Nette
New Business Hawk
The Backpost
Llano Estacado
D S H (dot) N E T
Hugh Hewitt
Ruby Slippers
don't have one
Mostly Game
Political inSecurity
Thor's Hall
People's Press Collective

Now for some well deserved thanks:

Our 4 generous donors (that I know of - I don't see the names or individual amounts unless the donor emails me) yesterday turned the tide for us. These four folks alone added $1900 to our team total and when you count in the matching donations from Retriever and myself, that total jumps to an astonishing $2650! Clearly, matching works. If you're planning to make a big donation at some point, consider offering to match reader donations: your money will work twice as hard for Valour IT.

Cassy Fiano has been amazing. From helping us recruit team members, to suggestions and providing trivia, to interviewing our Marine of the Day and cross posting Valour IT entries over at Stop the ACLU, she's been a leader every step of the way.

Brand new team member (as of yesterday) Dr. Melissa Clouthier hit the ground running, giving us a big boost by cross posting over at the home of that fascist my buddy John Hawkins' Reich Wing News.

, another leader, put some skin in the game by offering to match donations up to $500! This is a GREAT incentive - we did it in 2006 and the results were amazing. Talk about a force multiplier!

The always amazing Hugh Hewitt was kind enough to give us a shout out yesterday. Unfortunately I'm not sure whether this happened on Twitter (the blog princess is one of the stubborn Luddites who refuses to Tweet) or on his radio show or what? Hugh has been a Marine team member every year and we can't say enough good things about him. Apparently he and David Frum got into it last night on his show - transcripts here and the backstory here.

Finally, the one sure thing about thanking people by name is that I will certainly, more due to advancing OldTimers, forget someone. Please, please, please don't be offended if you contributed something and I forgot to mention you. Between managing email traffic, monitoring our progress, updating the blogrolls and email list, answering questions and resolving problems my multitasking abilities are severely stretched. Be assured that if I did forget to mention your hard work I will wake up at 2 am in a cold sweat worrying about it. You may miss out on the public recognition but your assistance is invaluable and very much appreciated. Please attribute the omission to my imperfections as a manager and not to lack of appreciation.

So... our mission for today is to continue building a strong team (ask your friends! pester blog buddies!) and to keep those donations rolling in. Here are some suggestions:

1. If you have cross posting privileges, ask if you can cross post or - better yet - post a donation widget on other sites you belong to.

2. Reach out to churches, Scout troops, and other civic organizations. This is a great way to reconnect the civilian community with our armed forces.

3. If your corporation or employer matches donations, PLEASE ASK THEM TO MATCH FUNDS. Again, this is a HUGE multiplier for us. I asked my boss yesterday and I hate asking for anything.

4. Try low tech! If you don't have much money but still want to help, how about handing out or emailing flyers to your friends and neighbors? I'll have one online for you to use as a template later today.

5. If you have connections in the print media, TV or radio, ask them to cover Valour IT and especially the MARINE TEAM! The history of Valour IT makes a fantastic human interest story and the interservice rivalry aspect only makes it better.

6. I'd like to add another idea I had this morning: "In memory of" donations. If you want to make a donation - big or small - in memory of someone you've lost (or just someone you love - maybe a deployed service member or parent) I will post their name in my sidebar and also feature daily "In memory of" donations in a dedicated post. I will apply this retroactively since we've already had at least one very generous donation that I know of. Your donation can be anonymous or not - let me know your preference in this regard. I will assume you want to be anonymous unless you explicitly tell me otherwise.

7. Don't forget asking your readers to promote Valour IT (and the MARINE TEAM) on social networking venues like the Tweetosphere and FaceBook-o-sphere:

Our official Facebook Valour-IT event page is

The ONLY official Soldiers' Angels Facebook page

Twitter @valourIT with hashtag #valourit

After all, someone has to Tweet :p The VC Editorial Staff are just happy it is not us :p

Finally, THANK YOU for all you do. You are all amazing and I can't thank you enough.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:33 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

October 26, 2009

Double or Triple Your Donation: An Offer You Can't Refuse!

As you can see by the combined team widget, Army has gotten a really big donation.

For the rest of the day, I will match any donation of any amount up to a total of $500. That will give us another $1000 on top of donations from other blogs. Let's get that thermometer moving again, folks!

And if you work for a corporation, ask them to match your gift. I'll post total Marine team donations here as I receive word of them. If you donate and want me to match your gift, email me a sanitized (I don't want to see your credit card or checking account number) Soldiers Angels receipt at cassandra dot vc at

Let's retake that hill!

Update: I just matched a very generous donation of $250.00. Any takers for the rest?

Posted by Cassandra at 03:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I Think We Need to Crank it UP!!!

I confess that I am feeling a little low today despite the excitement of Project Valour IT.
I put my son on a plane yesterday bound for California. In about a week's time, he'll be on his way to Afghanistan.
Such is the life of a Marine wife and mom.

What gets this girl's heart pumping and lifts her spirits?

Check it out.


Posted by at 11:27 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Drop and Give Me 20!!!!!

Woo hoo! Let's make that thermometer move, peoples. It's time for a little motivation.

Retriever has made a very generous offer. Anyone want to match it?

Donate early. Donate often. A note to my generous and patriotic readers in particular: if you tell me how much you have sent (privately, you don't have to broadcast it to the wide world), I will match your donations up $25 per person until it uses up the extra amount I have set aside for this purpose (the family do have to be fed, after all).

That's the Marine spirit!


Update: Big thanks to Glenn Reynolds! This is the second Instalaunch for Valour IT! Remember, even though we're competing, when Valour IT wins, everyone wins.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Your Daily 5: "Lore of the Corps"

How much do you know about the Marine Corps? How many of these questions can you answer? No Googling until you try to answer them first!

1. What is the shameful secret of the "Devil Dog"? (hint, look at the poster)

2. What is a "blood stripe"?

3. What is the oldest military insignia in continued use in the armed forces?

4. "Semper Fidelis" was not the first motto of the Marine Corps. Do you know what was?

5. What is the oldest public building in continuous use in Washington DC?

Answer below the fold.


The Commandant's House at the north end of the barracks was completed in 1806 and is the only original building still standing. It is the oldest public building in continuous use in the Nation's Capital.


Update: if Marine Corps trivia isn't your bag, here's a chance to recover your self respect:

Take the Sci fi sounds quiz I received 71 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
Quiz by SheGoddess: lose weight


Posted by Cassandra at 05:23 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Project Valour IT - Who, What, When, Where, Why (and How!)

marines.jpgMarines, lovers of Marines, and those who wish they could be Marines (IOW, the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard), listen up! It's time to do what the Marine Corps does best: shake, rattle, roll and make some noise:

From October 26th until November 11th we few - we happy few here at VC - will carry the battle colors for the Project Valour IT Marine Corps fund raising team (which the cool kids on the block realize is the ONLY team you want to be on). Do NOT be fooled by snake oil salesmen who seduce you with sleazy slogans like "An Army of Fun"... or "Sailor's's the toughest job in the Navy", or "My friends used to wonder/Why I joined the Air Force..." :D

All you need to know about why you want to be on the Marine team is here: this is what America is fighting for. We're just better-looking, durnitall!

What is all the fuss about, you might ask? The purpose of this post is to give you all the information you need.

Project Valour IT is simply this: grateful Americans, providing voice-activated laptops and other helpful tech gear to severely wounded troops. As VC's resident Tech Wench, the blog princess cannot help but approve of such a noble endeavor. The story behind this project is a moving one:

Project Valour-IT began when Captain Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss was wounded by an IED while serving as commander of a tank company in Iraq in June 2005.

During his deployment he kept a blog. Captivating writing, insightful stories of his experiences, and his self-deprecating humor won him many loyal readers. After he was wounded, his wife continued his blog, keeping his readers informed of his condition.

As he began to recover, CPT Ziegenfuss wanted to return to writing his blog, but serious hand injuries hampered his typing. When a loyal and generous reader gave him a copy of the Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred software, other readers began to realize how important such software could be to CPT Ziegenfuss' fellow wounded soldiers and started casting about for a way to get it to them.

A fellow blogger who writes under the pseudonym FbL contacted Captain Ziegenfuss and the two realized they shared a vision of creating libraries of laptops with voice-controlled software that could be brought to the bedsides of wounded soldiers whose injuries prevented them from operating a standard computer. FbL contacted Soldiers' Angels, who offered to help develop the project, and Project Valour-IT was born.

In sharing their thoughts, CPT Ziegenfuss and FbL found that memories of their respective fathers were a motivating factor in their work with the project. Both continue their association with this project in memory of the great men in their lives whose fine examples taught them lasting lessons of courage and generosity.

Fathers have a lasting impact on us. Mothers teach, nurture, and sustain us but fathers are our first bridge to the outside world. They are the ones who challenge us, who take the training wheels off and show us how fast we can go and what the rules of the road are. They don't let us rest on our laurels - they constantly prod us out of our comfort zone; inspiring us to reach deep down inside and find qualities we never knew we had. They teach us to compete with others instead of folding, to try just a bit harder, not to give up when the going gets tough. They encourage us when our confidence is flagging.

Like Chuck Ziegenfuss' father and Fbl's, my father and father in law served in Vietnam. Over the next ten or so days I'll be giving you lots of reasons to support the Marine team and more importantly, to support Project Valour IT. But my first two donations will be made in honor of my Dad and my husband's Dad.

If you're a blogger, you can join a team here. You will get button code so your readers can make donations (see below) that will be credited to your team.

There's a blogroll in my sidebar for Marine team members. I will send you the code upon request. Some folks have enough blogrolls on their sites. I don't want to burden folks who don't want it, but this is another way to raise your 'rank' in the ecosystem if you aspire to Flappy Mammary status or higher.

If you wish to donate, simply click on the "Marines" link below:

You can pay by credit card or electronic check. You can also mail a check (with MARINES in all caps on it!) to this address:

Soldiers Angels Project Valour-IT
1792 E. Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104

If you're tight on money, try to give a small amount. It adds up! But challenge yourselves - maybe there's something you could give up for a week or two. Too often we let opportunities to help others slip on by, but these young men and women deserve better from us. There are other ways you can support Valour IT as well:

* Blog and email your friends about Valour-IT and the competition

* Tell your friends, family and neighbors about Valour-IT

* Challenge your co-workers or employer to match donations

* Consider involving clubs, churches, or charitable organizations you are involved with. Maybe your church would designate all or part of a Sunday collection. How about Scouts or your favorite civic organization?

* Post flyers around your neighborhood

* If you have any contacts in the media (local or national newspapers, radio, TV, PLEASE spread the word! Point them to the Project Valour IT site, not VC, though!

* No matter which way you decide to get involved, remind everyone to specify the MARINE TEAM!

And remember: in the next few weeks we'll be enjoying some good old fashioned inter service rivalry. But at the end of the day what really matters is not which team you support but that you find it in your hearts to support a worthwhile cause. Our wounded vets have given more in the service of our country than most of us will ever be able to repay. Parting with a few semolians is little enough, but it's a good start.

Project Valour IT offers a way for us to tell our armed forces we have not forgotten their sacrifices. Your contribution will help keep them connected to the world as they heal. It will remind them they are NOT alone - that they still have something to contribute, they are still a vital part of this nation, and even though they may have lost parts of themselves they can never recover, though they may temporarily be feeling hopeless, helpless, even alone, they aren't.

Someone remembers. Someone still cares and more importantly, respects and honors their service. Please dig deep. You cannot know the value of the comfort your support can bring to those who have already given so much on our behalf.

Thank you.

With love and gratitude,


Posted by Cassandra at 04:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Gentlemen (and Ladies) Start Your Engines!

To start the Valour IT fundraiser off with a bang, we're going to feature a Marine of the Day each day until the competition ends. The lovely and talented Cassy Fiano volunteered an interview with her boyfriend Matt to get things moving. Matt is a Marine Corporal who has completed several deployments. Read the interview to find out how he got to see Saddam Hussein!

Speaking of interviews, another Marine team member (and regular member of the assembled villainry here at VC) serves up a special perspective on why we're doing this from Chuck Ziegenfuss, the milblogger and combat vet who started it all. If you've never heard the story of how Valour IT got started, it's worth your time:

... one of the best days in my life was the few days after I'd died--twice--then came back and met the Angels, then saw my wife, and finally when I was given back the ability to use a computer--even though I couldn't [use] my hands.

Another in my list of "Best Days" is the day I got to give a kid--an 18 year old kid who'd lost his hands--a laptop that he could use with his voice. The look on his face was priceless when I gave him the laptop--like I was a special kind of stupid and he didn't have a pencil to stick in his teeth. Then I put the headset on him, and showed him how he could train the computer to use his voice to do EVERYTHING he used to do with a computer. Minutes later, he was reading his email, then chatting with his buddies back in Iraq. I left a soldiers angels coin with him, and my card, and quietly walked away. That day ranks with the Marriage and birth of my children as best days in life. It ranks as the best day I've ever had in 17 years of service. And I had that same experience three times that day.

Did you recognize anyone in that story? Since its inception, Valour IT has come a long way since that day. These folks have given away over 4100 voice activated laptops so far, and every cent they raise goes directly to the purchase and shipment of laptops and other technology for severely wounded service members. So you can donate with confidence that your money will be well spent.

Please open your hearts and your wallets. Dig deep. These are some extraordinary young men and women - they've given their all in service of this great nation and this is a great chance to show them that all the talk of supporting the troops isn't just lip service. Not everyone in America is at the Mall.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:53 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 23, 2009

Join the A-Team... You Know You Want To!

Who does America call when something absolutely, positively must be destroyed overnight?

U.S. Marine Rat

That's right... America's 911 Force: the Few. The Loud. The Marine team!

We're still looking for a few good blogs to help us raise money for Project Valour IT. The competition starts Monday, October 26th and though the Marines are the smallest service, we're planning to chew through the competition. But to do that, we need your help.

Project Valour IT provides laptops with voice activated software to wounded soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen recovering at military medical centers all across America. Typically these young men and women spend up to two years healing and undergoing physical therapy. Their courage, determination, and unfailing esprit de corps are truly inspiring. Most of us, facing the loss of our eyesight, an arm or a leg and repeated surgeries would just crumble up into a ball. Not these guys. They're warriors:

He knows they're going to stare. They always stare.

As soon as Pat Murray steps in the elevator, they'll notice his prosthetic leg and maybe accurately surmise that, yes, he is an Iraq war veteran, and, yes, he got blown up. Then the sadness will sink in, the pity, and they'll give him that look, which he can sense even if he doesn't see, and it will be an uncomfortable few floors up.

So as Murray approaches the elevator and the woman thrusts her hand between the closing doors for him, he says, "Careful, you can lose a limb that way."

"Oooh," the woman says, noticing Murray's metal leg. She's obviously shocked, unsure of what to say or how to act. Murray flashes a smile, lets loose an "it's okay" chuckle, and suddenly the ride up isn't nearly so awkward after all.

It's that type of humor -- spontaneous (he once asked his doctor when his leg would grow back), cunning (he tells children who ask about his "robot" leg that he didn't eat his vegetables) and, at times, gruesome (there are stump jokes that can't be printed here) -- that helped him come to terms with the fact that his right leg is no more.

It was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that Murray, who was a corporal in the Marine Corps, not only learned to walk again, but to laugh. Although doctors and therapists can patch up the physical wounds of war, it is often the humor -- soldier to soldier, Marine to Marine, patient to patient -- that in the space of a punch line can heal as well as the best medicine.

It's not unusual for these young men and women to take up bungee jumping, skydiving, or participate in marathons or other extreme sports even after losing a limb. But that long period where they're confined to their hospital beds can be the worst of all. Project Valour IT provides them with a way to escape the confines of their rooms and keep in touch with buddies, friends and family members. For many wounded vets, it's a tangible reminder that they're still part of the world outside Bethesda or Walter Reed: that there is life after being wounded.

Valour IT is one of my favorite military charities. I've supported it every year and led the Marine Team to raise over $51,000 in 2006. My co-captain Carrie and I are planning two weeks of fun, jokes, Marine history, culture, heroes and more. Carrie's son is headed over to Afghanistan and my husband is already over there, so we both have good reason to support the great work Valour IT is doing.

Valour IT is a cause you can support with confidence that your donation will be well spent. Every dollar raised goes directly to wounded vets at the following military medical centers as well as VA treatment centers nationwide:

* Balboa Naval Hospital

* Brooke Army Medical Center

* Madigan Regional Medical Center

* National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda Naval Hospital)

* Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton

* Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital (29 Palms)

* Walter Reed Army Medical Center

So now you have the mission. What we need now is a strong team. Please sign up for the Marine team, and tell all your friends. You can join here and see the great blogs who've already proudly donned the title, "Marine team".

But most of all, remember -- we're planning to have fun. Because although they're all business, no one rocks the house like the United States Marine Corps:

Posted by Cassandra at 03:11 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 07, 2009

Go Marine Team!

This is going to be a quickie because I've got to run.

Carrie and I are heading up the Marine Team for this year's Project Valour IT fundraiser and we're in the process of assembling the team.

If you're a blogger and would like to join the Marine team, please leave a comment or email me at at gmail dot com and we'll add you to the blogroll and send you all the info you need!

We've got a good start on a really fun team - I'll be publishing the blogroll when I get back. Some of you may recall the 2006 fundraiser here at VC. We had a blast - lots of prime interservice snark was lobbed at the Army, Air Force and Navy. I have some great ideas for games and contests. We'll do our best to keep it light and fun but we need your help to make this a record breaking year for Valour IT.

So bring your wit, your energy, and above all the desire to say "thanks" and "America remembers" to a great group of young men and women who have been injured in the service of this great nation.

Let's make sure they know not all of America is at the Mall.

Update: Marine Team members so far:

If there are any mistakes or omissions, please let me know. It's probably my fault; I've been pretty overwhelmed lately.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:44 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack