Monday, December 31, 2007

Online colonel seemed like a catch

This is a warning to us all to be very careful about what we post online.

Con artist uses Marine’s identity to scam women
By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Dec 31, 2007 8:25:15 EST

Wendy McKay thought she had met someone special when the Marine colonel deployed to Iraq started chatting with her on the online dating Web site.

Someone claiming to be Col. Richard Bartch told her he was in Iraq for the first time after volunteering for duty. And like her, he was divorced. Chats quickly led to e-mails and within a day he sent her photos of himself in uniform.

In one, he stood in his woodland digital-patterned utilities, proudly holding up his Bronze Star citation and medal. In another, he’s lounging in desert cammies in a chair, with his service pistol holster pulled taut across his broad shoulders just next to his name tape.

His e-mails were romantic, echoing the sentiment of a schmaltzy Hallmark greeting card: “I went to sleep last night with a smile because I knew I’d be dreaming of you ... but I woke up this morning with a smile because you weren’t a dream,” he wrote to the 52-year-old British woman Oct. 21, just one day after they made introductions online. “Though miles may lie between us, we’re never far apart, for friendship doesn’t count the miles, it’s measured by the heart.”

The e-mails quickly picked up intensity. “[T]he feeling is getting stronger and stronger,” he wrote the next day, Oct 22. “... think it will not be hard to LOVE you huh!”

By Oct. 23, his e-mails reflected he was sure it was love. “You awakened a part of me that had lay [sic] dormant all of life. [A]lthough [I] had loved and been loved before, never had it been so intense and so deep as what we feel for each other. [T]his much [I] am sure of, we share a love so true that [I] have never before experienced the true joy of complete empowering, soul-felt love as we share,” he said.

McKay almost bought it. That is, until she realized doing so was really going to cost her.

Bartch — or more accurately, the con artist who had stolen the identity of the real Marine officer, from a family-oriented military Web site — wanted her to send him $5,000.

Red flags
On Oct. 20, McKay logged onto a U.K.-based dating Web site, “when I was contacted by a person who seemed to like me and we started to chat,” she said in an e-mail, explaining the initial encounter. At the man’s request, she gave him her e-mail address so they could exchange pictures.

“He sent me [four] photos and he told me he was called Colonel Richard O. Bartch and was a retired USA Marine,” she said in her e-mail to Marine Corps Times. “These pictures were of himself and some of his family when he returned from Iraq and another one was of one of his sons who is also a Marine.”

The photo exchange gave way to a feverish wave of online chats. Some of the photos were older and predated his divorce, he told her, in an effort to explain away the wedding ring he was wearing in some of the shots.

He had three sons, the fake colonel said. Two were natural born, but the middle child — Albert — was adopted after his mother, a Spanish neighbor who lived down the street, died suddenly when he was nine years old.

“The story was so intricate,” she said, in a phone interview from Peterborough, England.

The fake colonel was having trouble contacting Albert and was concerned about him, he told McKay, explaining that a military security regulation prevented him from making or receiving calls from Iraq. He asked her to call Albert on his behalf to check on his welfare, and gave her a phone number with an area code for Atlanta, which he said was his hometown.

McKay called.

Recalling the brief conversation, she said the young man who answered the phone had a thick foreign accent — presumably to corroborate the story of a Spanish mother. He sounded as if he was in his early 20s, she said. In hindsight, McKay now believes he was the scammer himself.

“I think he wanted to see how I’d fallen for it,” she said.

There were other red flags, from the beginning, McKay noted, such as mistakes in grammar and military references. In an early e-mail explaining photos of his sons, Bartch wrote: “Nathan and her mum welcomed me when [I] went back to the states ... and that’s me with the bronze reward.”

Other clues were more subtle. During a chat session, she sensed he was carrying on more than one conversation at the same time. Another time, he told her he had to go out into the field, but asked her to wait. He was only away from his computer for a short time before he returned. To McKay, who once was married to a man in the Royal Air Force, the brevity of his trip “to the field” seemed curious.

On Oct. 30, however, he confided in her that he needed her help urgently. He was in the process of packing up to leave Iraq, but somehow his bag had been intercepted in Ghana. His “diplomatic tag” had run out; he couldn’t pay to renew it while in Iraq and needed £2,500, about $5,000, she said.

“The minute he said that, I logged off,” she said, realizing it was a scam.

“He asked for the money in pounds,” and not in American currency, she said. “He said ‘I’ll pay you back when I come and see you.’”

Seeing red
McKay is not the only woman the faker tried to dupe, but she wants to be the last. She gave copies of the e-mails and the Atlanta telephone number to U.S. military police based in the U.K. and sent a letter to the Marine Corps.

“I wanted [Bartch] to know that someone is impersonating him, and how easy it is,” McKay said.

The photos of the real Col. Richard Bartch are believed to have been copied from the Web site, said the site’s founder, Deborah Conrad. It’s a Web site focused on family morale during military deployments.

Attempts to reach the fake colonel for comment, using both his e-mail address and the Atlanta-area telephone number, went unanswered.

“He has posted under this identity on at least four different dating sites that I am aware of,” said Conrad, who launched in 2004, when a friend deployed to Iraq for the second time.

“I first learned of this a few months back when a woman contacted me to let me know that she had been corresponding with a man she met through an online dating service and had become suspicious when he told her he had a son who was a [sergeant] in the Navy,” Conrad said in an e-mail. “[Whoever] it is, he doesn’t do a very good job of military customs and courtesies.”

The original photos of the real Bartch were given to Conrad for the Web site by his wife, Mary Helen Bartch, when he was deployed to Iraq in 2004, Conrad said. The recent misuse of Bartch’s photos is the only instance Conrad’s aware of where material found on her Web site has been used for a scam, she said in a phone interview.

“I don’t know of any way to stop things like this from happening, other than to never post anything to the Web,” she said.

“One of the things I want my Web site to do is share the successes of wonderful things Marines are doing around the world,” Conrad said. Adding layers of protection, such as locking the personal photos to prevent copying, wasn’t something she had thought she would need to consider.

The whole point of the site is to share, she explained. Some Marine families, for example, have seen photos of their loved ones on deployment for the first time on her site, she added.

Tall tales
The real colonel has heard several of the wild stories, the adventures concocted in his name that also lured in women from Denmark and the state of Georgia.

“Supposedly I had saved a diplomat,” and there was a suitcase with $5 million in reward money waiting for pickup somewhere in Africa, Bartch said in a telephone interview. One woman was preparing to travel to Africa to pick up the money, Bartch said. The impostor told another that his son had been injured, prompting mounting medical bills, and that the impostor needed money for travel expenses.

“It’s a pure Nigerian scam, and unfortunately I got involved with my name in it,” Bartch said.

Marine Corps officials notified Bartch, who they say is listed as being in the Individual Ready Reserve and living in Spokane, Wash., who then notified his banks and law enforcement officials, including the FBI, as a precaution.

The nature of the identity theft — only a name, and a handful of personal photos — limited his options.

“No one can do anything about it. Just because the guy’s using my name, there’s not any real recourse,” Bartch said. “It is a violation, but it’s not like being broken into.”

After word of the scam emerged, Conrad removed Bartch’s photos from the site and things have quieted down.

“I would like to see it dropped,” he said.

Liar, liar
While Marine impersonators are not new, the case highlights a unique area where the persona — and not the personal information, such a Social Security number — of a real person was used in the attempt to scam money.

Hard statistics about online fraud remain vague, but online digital identity theft is on the rise, said Marsali Hancock, president of the Arlington, Va.-based Internet Keep Safe Coalition.

There are simple ways to help guard against online identity theft, she said. Don’t post a person’s name below photos. Use privacy settings on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook.

“The Internet is forever,” Hancock said. “Whatever you post, you can never fully remove. Once you put your picture up [on the Internet], it’s up there and you lose control over it.”

Internet postings pose potential risk for those in the military, she added.

“It seems like military officers could be at risk because the information they share with their families might not be information that they’d want to share with the world,” she said. “It puts their family at risk,” as well as themselves, she said.

That’s not to say military morale Web sites and blogs should go silent — they should just try to be a little more savvy, she explained. “They can share good news without sharing specific names,” Hancock said.

McKay said she has learned a valuable lesson, but admitted the incident has been a setback. The divorcee of six years said she had only resumed dating within the last couple of years.

“Women are on that [dating] site because they’re looking for a partner, they’re looking for a relationship,” McKay said. “[Scammers] think women on there are divorced, got a good settlement off their husbands and have got money to play with.”

She is no longer using the online dating site.

“I’m very, very wary,” McKay said. “I don’t know if I could trust them again.”

Friday, December 28, 2007

Marine helps bridge gap between Arabic, American cultures

Dec. 27, 2007; Submitted on: 12/27/2007 08:56:35 AM ; Story ID#: 2007122785635
By Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

KABANI, Iraq (Dec. 19, 2007) – A young Iraqi girl holds the hand of a Marine from Battery K, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment while he talks with some of the people here. The relationship with the Marines and the people of the village has enabled coordination for a new water treatment facility.

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 27, 2007) -- They have their differences. In fact, they often don’t even speak the same language. But U.S. service members share one thing with the Iraqi people; they have the same goal – security and stability for Al Anbar province, Iraq.

This empowers their relationship. This and Marines like Staff Sgt. Robert Sanders, the operations chief for Battery K, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.

He developed an understanding of Arab culture during his upbringing in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Though born at Fort Benning, Ga., his father’s discharge from the Army after Vietnam led to a job as an oil field worker, which kept the family on the move.

Now Sanders’ own travels have taken him back to a familiar culture, but with his new extended family; his fellow Marines.

“Staff Sgt. Sanders is our bid for success in the villages,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Thompson, the executive officer for the battery. “He has found his niche in working with the Iraqis. He can communicate with the Iraqis without an interpreter and they can communicate with him.”

Thompson, a Presho, S.D., native, credits Sanders with helping to gain rapport with the nearby village of Kabani. In addition to the battery’s plans to build a new water treatment plant, a rebuilt school now stands as a testament to the coordination between the Marines and the people of the village.

Sanders has put his cultural and linguistic skills to use for the military before. He lived among the Iraqi people for seven months at the East Fallujah Iraqi Compound during his 2004 deployment.

He supervised civilian contractors there and grew comfortable with the Iraqi people and their lifestyle, even getting used to the food and water to the point where returning to his old eating habits upset his stomach when he returned to the States. Things were different then, he said. This was before thousands in Al Anbar province turned against the insurgency to cooperate with coalition forces in what came to be known as the “Anbar Awakening.”

“I remember sitting at Fallujah and you could sit up on a Hesco barrier and you could watch car bombs exploding in the distance,” said Sanders. “Every night, we’d sit out there on the Hescos and smoke cigars and you could watch tracers shoot across the sky. You don’t hear that anymore.”

Bonding with the people, he said, was a major part of the solution. With regard to the importance of these relationships, Sanders has held classes to further his Marines’ understanding of the Arabic language and culture.

“It definitely makes our job a lot easier,” said Lance Cpl. Hunter Leger, a fire team leader with the battery. “We’ve been able to handle things without having to call someone up.”

Leger, a Lake Charles, La., native, said he and his colleagues are knowledgeable enough to work the entry control points without the help of an interpreter. As one of Sanders’ Marines at their home station of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., he said he’s developed a respect for the staff sergeant’s professionalism. It seems many of the local Iraqis have done the same.

When the battery sends Marines to Kabani to coordinate with the muqtar, or mayor, he first asks them ‘where is Abu Iskander?’ in reference to Sanders, the father of Alexander.

As Sanders has with many of the village’s people, he has developed a friendship with the muqtar, who jokes that the Marine could win over enough popularity in the town to beat him out for his position in the next election.

“The people like him too much,” Muqtar Ismail Mohmood Hamad said. “They come in from time to time to see what’s going on and he always likes to help the people.”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Former Marine Now Fights for Vets

Buffalo News December 27, 2007

This former Marine refuses to take "no" for an answer when it comes to fighting the battles of disabled veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She understands just how intimidating the federal bureaucracy can be for a veteran in need of help. Her military career was cut short when she fractured her back and neck in a training drill.
That experience, more than a decade ago, laid the groundwork for a new vocation in life that has made her one of New York State's busiest veteran counselors.

"I don't take 'no' for an answer. There is no 'no.' If I get 'no' for an answer, I go at it a different way," said Tracy R. Kinn, who works for the state's Division of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans with head injuries or psychological wounds might not be in the best position to pore over some 5,000 pages of government disability regulations and then write up a claim, but the word is out that Kinn gets results.

Army Reservist Michael Hynes was on the verge of losing his house in Buffalo when he went to Kinn for help.

He had undergone surgery for an injury he suffered while serving in Afghanistan and was on an extended recuperation when his sick time ran out at his civilian job.

"When she represents you, the way she works at it, you'd think it was her own case. She puts that much into it," Hynes said. "My wife and children and I are forever grateful to her."
The disability claim Kinn filed on Hynes' behalf was approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and he received retroactive payments that put him back on solid financial ground.

And while Kinn was at it, Hynes added, she connected him with additional medical services through the Buffalo VA.

"She made sure I got the right medical treatment," Hynes said.

It's not hard to find others in similar struggles, veterans who were on the brink of financial ruin or already there. They talk of losing their homes or, if they were lucky enough, taking out a second mortgage to tide them over until benefits came through.

A busy caseload
As many as 40 veterans a week come to Kinn's office looking for help, and they are more than willing to publicly acknowledge her efforts.

"She deserves a medal. She really fights to get vets what they've earned," said Eddy Delmonte, a disabled Iraq veteran from Hamburg, who left the Army in 2006 and was unable to hold down a job because of head, back and psychological injuries.

The Army, Delmonte said, ruled that he was 10 percent disabled. By the time Kinn finished with his case, Delmonte was declared unemployable and now receives a $2,600-a-month VA disability pension.

Kinn says part of her success comes from keeping disability claims simple. The thicker a file grows, she said, the less likely it is to get approved.

"I put the VA law to work for them, and I discourage appeals. If you didn't win the claim in Buffalo, you're not going to win with the VA in Washington, D.C.," Kinn said. "But there's always a way to make the law work." Veterans, she said, sometimes file their own claims and end up denied because they do not understand how the laws apply to their specific cases.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, she said, does not have enough manpower to work with the veterans in managing the claim- filing process because of the overwhelming numbers of veterans.

It's estimated that more than 1.5 million members of the armed forces have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and half are now discharged, with just under 30,000 of them living in New York State.

For those in need of veteran services, documentation is crucial.

When preparing a claim, Kinn said she makes sure there is a current medical diagnosis to confirm the disability and proof that treatment occurred during active duty.
But it is not always that simple. Sometimes there is no active- duty documentation or the injury is not immediately evident, such as in cases of post-traumatic stress.

In those situations, the veterans give detailed accounts of the "stressors" they suffered while on active duty. War-related deaths, suicides and other tragic consequences of war often fill the written narrations.

Occasionally they are so painful that Kinn says she can barely get through them without crying. She is not the only one shedding tears. Veterans will sit in her office and sob as they tell of not being able to reclaim their past lives. Their problems include domestic violence and broken marriages, often caused by war-related mental health issues.

Career cut short
To keep a balanced perspective, Kinn says she often reminds herself that it is a privilege to serve those who have defended the country -- a task she cherished as a Marine.

Kinn said she was gung-ho in her desire to protect her country, but her military career was cut short when she fell during practice drills at Camp Lejeune, N.C., climbing up a ship's cargo net. She fractured her neck and back.

That experience gave her an insider's understanding of what veterans experience when applying for help.

"That thrust me into the VA system. It was frustrating. I chased my tail like the vets I'm helping. I didn't know how to file an appeal," the 40-year-old Derby resident said.
But by the time she was finished, Kinn had obtained a VA mortgage and education benefits that helped her get a college degree to teach. She later discovered that was not the career for her and six years ago became a veteran counselor.

Her job goes beyond the eight-hour workday.

"My husband and I will be out to dinner, and he'll be talking to a veteran and ask me to 'help this guy,' " said Kinn, adding that she never turns down a veteran in need.

Officials in charge of the state's Division of Veterans Affairs say they are well aware of the large volume of work produced by Kinn, who has a staff of one -- Sue Eddy, her secretary.

"First and foremost is, she cares. She is a person who in her heart wants to do this well," said James D. McDonough, the state director of veterans affairs. "The people she comes in contact with have a great deal of respect for her."

It's no wonder. When veterans leave Kinn's office, she says, she does a few things. She thanks them for their military service. She gives them a hug. And she hands them two of her business cards.

"One is for them and the other is to pay it forward," Kinn said, referring to the title of a popular movie about inspiring good deeds.

Her hope is that if the veterans are pleased with the help they've received, maybe they will pass her card along to yet another veteran in need.

"Sometimes they'll even go out and rent the movie 'Pay It Forward,' " said Kinn, a smile spreading across her face.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Lights On A Tiny Tree In The Forest by FogStock
Christmas Lights On A Tiny Tree In The Forest

A very Merry Christmas to all our blog friends and family. Thank you all for your support and prayers through this past year. You all mean so much to us!!!

I'll be away from the computer for the next few days spending some time with my family and I'll see you later next week. Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

Semper Fi Mom

Friday, December 21, 2007

Vietnam War Memorial gets Christmas tree, hand-made decorations

By Rick Vasquez, Stars and Stripes
Stars and Stripes online edition, Thursday, December 20, 2007

View the photo gallery

Organizers for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund couldn’t ask for a more perfect winter morning for their annual Christmas Tree at the Wall ceremony.

The sun was shining bright, the skies were blue and the cold breeze was bearable on Thursday for the VVMF’s annual ceremony on the East Knoll of the National Mall.

A small crowd attended the ceremony to witness the decoration of the tree with greeting cards sent to VVMF from Americans of all ages. The tree was also decorated with handmade cards and ornaments made by school children and teenagers from as far as El Cajon Valley High School in El Cajon, Ca., and as close as White Oaks Elementary in Burke, Va. The ornaments and cards are dedicated to Veterans and active-duty military personnel. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of The Wall.

“It is definitely a nice day but it wouldn’t have made a difference whether it rained or snowed because this event is held regardless of the weather,” said Lisa Gough, VVMF Director of Communications. “And this year we received more than 6,000 messages.”

Brief remarks were made by Navy Capt. Eugene Smallwood Jr. who shared a touching story about his father, Lt. Col. Eugene Fenton Smallwood, who was killed in the Vietnam War and is remembered on memorial’s wall. Smallwood remembers getting up early to catch his father in the act of putting him and his siblings’ toys together on Christmas morning.

“He always had a great explanation,” he said, “that Santa Claus was in such a hurry because of all the houses that he had to get to that he had come up, woke my dad up and had asked him to help put the toys together. And when we would glance over at the table, we would see that half of the glass of milk and most of the cookies were gone, we knew that Santa had been there and we had no reason not to believe my dad.”

Smallwood’s father was career Army Officer who served in WWII and the Korean War. Smallwood last he saw his father from the window of the Greyhound bus as it drove away, taking him to a summer scout camp in New Mexico.

“He was very proud of me because I had just achieved a rather distinguished honor as being one of the youngest Eagle Scouts in Northern Virginia,” he said. “I waved to my father on the way out. What I did not realize at the time was that it was the last time I would ever see him.”

With the ambition of moving up in rank, Smallwood’s father, 42, volunteered to accept an assignment with the military advisory team in Vietnam. He was killed two months after arriving in Vietnam.

“I can still vividly remember those two Army officers standing in our front door,” Smallwood said. “I can also remember my mom huddling up all the children, taking us down to the basement and telling us, ‘your daddy is not coming home.’ ”

VVMF founder and president Jan Scruggs reminded the crowd to take time this holiday season to remember friends whose name are on the memorial’s walls and those serving currently in the middle east.

“They are in great deal of danger,” he said, “and they are serving to keep us free and we just appreciate their efforts on our behalf.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

American people help spruce up Marines’ Christmas

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 14, 2007) – Lance Cpl. Mark Sheldon decorates his work section’s Christmas tree. It is a live tree and was provided by the National Christmas Tree Association’s Trees for Troops program. Sheldon is a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

Dec. 15, 2007; Submitted on: 12/15/2007 12:51:16 AM ; Story ID#: 2007121505116

By Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz, 2nd Marine Logistics Group

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq (Dec. 15, 2007) -- Instead of seeing the brightly colored decorations and twinkling lights found on America’s streets during the holiday season, troops often have to settle for a monochromatic view of the desert.

This year, however, troops have received a boost to their Christmas spirit thanks to Earl and Esther Worthington, as well as many other participants who donated live trees to service members around the world in the National Christmas Tree Association’s Trees for Troops program.

“We hope that some military personnel will, in receiving a tree, be able to experience the real meaning of Christmas,” Esther said.

The Worthingtons donate from their tree farm outside of Atlanta as part of a larger effort to provide Trees for Troops. Modeled after an Ohio organization’s program named Operation Evergreen, the National Christmas Tree Association’s program provides 17,000 trees to more than 38 military bases, stateside and overseas.

For a few years now, Esther and her husband, both retired, have tended to 12 acres of trees on their property just to give some away. However, after losing their 19-year-old grandson, Adrian, to a roadside blast in Iraq this past May, they said their efforts have a very special meaning this holiday season.

“This year, of course it has a real personal touch and we are even more sensitive to the sacrifices made by so many,” Esther said. “We will sense the loss intensely, but we are so thankful that we were all able to be together with Adrian last year at Christmas and we treasure that memory.”

Unfortunately, loss and separation are all too familiar to the Worthington’s as well as to service members stationed around the world. For Marines here with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), which is nearing the 12-month mark of its current Iraq deployment, the upcoming season brings with it another holiday that will come and go without the company of loved ones. But instead of just recalling cherished memories, programs like the ones the Worthington’s support help troops create new ones.

Cpl. Jeremy D. Spencer, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with 2nd MLG (Fwd), has received one of the program’s trees for his work section.

He said the tree serves as a reminder that the holiday spirit is wherever anyone wants it to be. Whether it be his hometown of Fordland, Mo., or the sand-swept landscape of Al Anbar Province, Christmas is Christmas.

“If it wasn’t for people in the states, we would have nothing. The holiday season would just be spent like every other month out here,” said Spencer. “It really gives the troops a little taste of home for the holidays.”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Congress finally approves authorization bill

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Dec 14, 2007 14:29:13 EST

A $696.4 billion defense policy bill cleared its final congressional hurdle and is on its way to the White House for President Bush’s signature.

The bill, passed on a 90-3 vote, includes a 3.5 percent military pay raise, a Wounded Warrior package aimed at helping injured combat veterans and their families, makes significant increases in the size of the Army and Marine Corps and includes almost $100 billion in weapons funding.

“The pay increase won’t make them rich, but they didn’t join to get rich,” said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, referring to service members. “It will help them pay bills.”

The bill includes authorization to add 13,000 active-duty soldiers and 9,000 Marines to the force, and orders the services to stop converting military medical jobs into civilian positions.

Also in the bill is a one-year freeze on any fee increases for people using the military’s Tricare health insurance program.

There are two major benefits improvements for disabled retirees eligible for both military retired pay and veteran’s disability compensation. First, veterans with disability ratings of less than 100 percent who nevertheless are considered fully disabled because they are determined to be unemployable will get full concurrent receipt of their retired pay and disability compensation — although not right away. Second, troops who are medically retired with less than 20 years of service with combat-related injuries will be eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation.

Reid, one of the chief sponsors of the two concurrent receipt provisions, said the bill makes great progress toward keeping promises made in 1999 when lawmakers began to eliminate a policy set in the 19th century that required a dollar-for-dollar offset in retired pay for those also receiving disability compensation for the same period of service.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Calif., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who helped negotiate details, said the peacetime defense bill is a critically important piece of legislation for lawmakers to pass by the end of the year because troops would not get the Jan. 1 increase in pay and benefits if it doesn’t. To pass the bill, the Senate interrupted debate on other measures.

The all-ranks pay increase should first appear in mid-January paychecks as long as President Bush signs the measure by about Dec. 31, because the Defense Finance and Accounting Service generally needs about 10 days to make major changes in the military payroll. There is another reason why it is important the bill be signed by Dec. 31: authority for two dozen recruiting and retention programs — including enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses for active and reserve forces — expires on Jan. 1 unless extended. The bill includes a one-year extension.

Congress and the Bush administration had strong disagreements about details of the bill, and veto threats even hung over the measure, but all of the major problems appear to be resolved, according to House and Senate aides. The final hurdle was overcome when the Senate agreed to give up on plans to attach an expansion of federal hate-crimes legislation to the defense bill.

Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the House Armed Services Committee chairman who headed the negotiating conference where the compromise bill was written, called the measure “the best bill in decades that this Congress has put forward.”

“It is good for the troops, good for our families, it will help improve readiness of our armed forces and it will bring new significant oversight to the Department of Defense in areas where oversight was sorely needed,” Skelton said Dec. 12 as the House passed the bill by a 370-49 vote.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Marine Corps Arete Honors for Courage in Sports

My husband, being the sports guy that he is, was watching CSTV this morning and saw this program. It airs again on CSTV tonight at 7:30pm and tomorrow at 4:00am. Maybe you can Tivo it. It is most definitely worth watching even if you aren't a big sports nut like my husband. ;)

Christmas Light Show

Here's video of a really cool light show right here in town! This is only one of eight songs. See it for yourself at 7509 & 7511 84th St. from 6-11 p.m. every night. They are supposed to be featured on Fox 34 News tonight at 9:00pm.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


A few weeks ago my son's previous unit returned from Iraq! This deployment seemed to be quiet compared to others and they commented on the progress and changes that have been made since 3/7 first deployed in January of 2003. Welcome Home 3/7! Welcome Home!

I was looking around on 3/7 website and found the 3/7 Lineage. Thought I would share it with you all. They have yet to record this last deployment into their lineage.

*Activated 1 January 1941 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines and assigned to the 1st Marine Brigade, Fleet Marine Force
Reassigned during February 1941 to the 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force
*Relocated during april1941 to Parris Island, South Carolina
*Relocated during September 1941 to New River, North Carolina
*Attached during March 1942 to the 3d Marine Brigade
*Deployed during April 1942 to Samoa
*Detached during august 1942 from the 3d Marine Brigade and reassigned to the 1st Marine Division
*Participated in the following World War II campaigns:
Eastern New Guinea
New Britain
*Participated in the occupation of north China, September 1945- April 1946 *Deactivated 15 April 1946

*Reactivated 11 September 1950 at Kobe, Japan and assigned to the 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force
*Deployed during September 1950 to the republic of Korea
*Participated in the Korean War, September 1950- July 1953 operating from:
Chosin Reservoir
East Central Front
*Participated in the defense of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, July 1953- march 1955
*Relocated to Camp Pendleton, California
*Participated in the Cuban missile crisis, November- December 1962

*Deployed during June 1965 to camp Schwab, Okinawa
*Participated in the war in Vietnam, July 1965- October 1970 operating from:
Qui Nhom
Da Nang
Chu Lai
An Hoa
Dai Loc
*Relocated during October 1970 to Camp Pendleton California, and assigned to the 5th Marine Brigade
*Reassigned during April 1971 to the First Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force
*Participated in the battalion rotation between the 3d Marine Division on Okinawa and the Divisions stationed in the United States during the 1980s and the 1990s
*Relocated during January 1990 to the 1st Marine Division
*Participated in earthquake relief operations in the Philippines July-September 1990
*Participated in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Southwest Asia January- April 1991
*Element participated in operation United Shield, Somalia, February-March 1995

*Global War On Terror
3/7 took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and then deployed twice more to the Al Anbar province of western Iraq. Originally deployed in January 2003. Moved north during the invasion in March and April. Began a five-month stint doing security and stability operations in Karbala until September 2003. During that 5 month stint, India Company, 3rd Battalion 7th Marines operated in Mahmudiyah, Iraq in support of Task Force Scorpion during July and August of 2003.
*Their training in the Kuwaiti desert and the subsequent invasion was chronicled in the TV documentary Virgin Soldiers which frequently airs on the Discovery Times Channel and the Military Channel.
*After returning to the United States in September 2003, the Battalion quickly re-deployed in February 2004 to Al Qaim -- in western Al Anbar Province, abutting the Syrian border. The Battalion's area of responsiblity included Husaybah, the primary border crossing point between Syria and Iraq.
*Returning from that deployment in September 2004, the battalion then had a full year to train and re-equip prior to deploying a third time.
This third deployment was to Ar Ramadi in central Al Anbar Province from September 2005 until March 2006.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Care Pack Update

Here's an email I got from my son. We sent him quite a few of our care packages to share with his unit and others and he's already started getting them. We also have a big box on the way to his unit (and more to some other units) full of Starbucks coffee and coffee grinders.

All the guys love the packages. One guy especially told me that he hasn't gotten any mail out here this time or the last time he was here except for 1 Red Cross message. He really liked the package and said he would write a thank you letter to the Lubbock Marine Parents. Thanks from everyone.

Attached is a pic with Cpl Corey from Texas with the package he got.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Tree Program Brings Troops Cheer

Associated Press December 10, 2007
WESTMINSTER, Md. - Sprawled in his recliner, tired and achy after three days of nearly nonstop work, James Ward hardly looks like Santa Claus.
But this laid-off truck driver has just made Christmas brighter for thousands of U.S. service members overseas by mailing them miniature, live spruce trees with all the holiday trimmings.

A year after Ward started Operation Christmas Tree to cheer up his deployed stepdaughter and a few dozen of her fellow soldiers in Iraq, the project has blossomed into a national campaign that shipped 5,000 potted trees this season.

About 2,200 of the 2-foot trees - packed along with bags of colorful ornaments and battery-powered lights - were mailed Dec. 3 to individual service members, mostly in Afghanistan and Iraq, whose families paid $20 to Ward's nonprofit organization.

Some of those service members also received a batch of 50 or 60 extra trees to share with others. Other batches were sent to chaplains in the war zone to hand out to anyone in uniform who wants one.

The $80,000 balance not paid by donations was covered by the Armed Forces Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit that helps the families of deployed troops. Local businesses also collected donations.

For Ward, 34, Operation Christmas Tree is an expression of the code he was taught by a firefighter uncle: "I was always brought up that if somebody's in need of something, you help them."

The same principle prompted Ward to lead a convoy of donated goods to Gulf Coast hurricane victims in 2005. "If you can get seven tractor-trailer loads down to Katrina with all that going on, you can ship 5,000 trees," he said.

But not without a lot of help. About 350 volunteers from as far away as Phoenix helped the Ward family pack the trees for shipment Dec. 1, working close together in a 40-by-60-foot rented tent at the nearby Carroll County Agriculture Center. Donated barbecued beef fed the volunteers. The trees, purchased from a North Carolina grower, had been parked there for a month, kept alive with regular waterings by the Westminster Fire Department.

The president of the Armed Forces Foundation, Patricia Driscoll, said Operation Christmas Tree is a joy for her staff members, who spend most of their time arranging housing, counseling and other services for families of injured warriors.

"When you're dealing with the sick and wounded all the time, it can get depressing. This was really fun," she said.

This year's 5,000 trees were a huge increase over the 75 that Operation Christmas Tree shipped last year - half to Ward's Army medic stepdaughter, Spc. Luisa Gonzalez, and members of her unit. Gonzalez, 23, now stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, while awaiting discharge early next year, came home to help with the tree packing.

"I've been that person on the other end and it just meant a lot to be there to see the next wave," she said. "In Iraq, every day's the same - no holiday - so that little piece of home gives that holiday season something special."

Ward's wife, Betty; stepdaughter Elizabeth, 20, and daughter, Marie, 2, also worked on Operation Christmas Tree.

Photographs of Ward and his wife meeting first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are displayed on the living room wall, and a scrapbook is filled with thank-you notes from service members and their families.

But Ward said there's one reward he's missing: seeing the trees as they're received by the troops.

"I'd love to be a fly on the wall to watch them open them," he said. "Trust me, it's satisfying doing it, but it would be so cool to see these guys open some of them."

Surgeon fills his son’s boots in Iraq

By Don Cox - Reno Gazette-Journal via AP
Posted : Sunday Dec 9, 2007 10:07:40 EST

RENO, Nev. — Call Dr. William Krissoff’s office in Truckee, Calif., and a voice on the answering machine says he’s no longer seeing patients.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, not the important part. It doesn’t tell about Krissoff’s son, Nathan, a Marine from Reno killed in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2006. It doesn’t tell about Krissoff’s decision to become a Navy doctor and serve where the war is being fought.

Dr. William Krissoff, 61, an orthopedic surgeon who opened his Sierra Nevada practice in 1979, is now Lt. Cmdr. William Krissoff, a newly commissioned officer in the Navy Medical Corps who reports for duty this week, a year, almost to the day, after his son’s death.

“My goal is to work in a combat surgical unit, a forward unit,” said Krissoff, who got some help from President Bush to reach his objective.

That came on Aug. 28 when Bush was in Reno to address the national convention of the American Legion, the country’s largest group of military veterans. Bush also met privately with eight families of Marines and soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group included Krissoff and his wife, Christine.

“We met with him for over an hour,” Krissoff said. “It was quite remarkable. It seemed he had all the time in the world. It was an emotional time for everybody.”

At one point, Bush went around the room, asking each family if there was anything they needed. Krissoff spoke up.

“I said, ‘I have something,”’ Krissoff said. “I said, ‘I want to serve in the Navy Medical Corps.”’

Before answering, Bush turned to Krissoff’s wife.

“He checked with her first,” Krissoff said. “He’s very sharp that way.”

Later, in an interview with the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan, where Krissoff grew up, Christine said, “I am not fine with the amount of time he’s gone. But none of the wives of the military people who serve are going to be fine with it. That’s just part of the deal.”

Krissoff doesn’t know where he’ll be assigned. But he’s training to perform surgery in a mobile field hospital in which wounded Marines receive quick attention.

“That’s been the innovation of medical care in Iraq,” Krissoff said. “There is sophisticated care within an hour, very close to the battlefield, if you will.”

Marine 1st Lt. Nathan M. Krissoff, 25, was killed outside Fallujah in Iraq when the vehicle in which he was riding was hit by a roadside bomb.

“The loss of a son puts a certain perspective on things,” William Krissoff told the Press. “It’s my turn to serve. I’m honored and privileged that the Navy will have me in the Medical Corps.”

The Marines use Navy doctors and nurses. That’s why William Krissoff joined.

“Marines don’t have their own physicians,” he said. “That’s what I’ll be doing. I will be assigned to a Marine unit wherever it goes. This was my goal.”

William Krissoff’s brother, Joel, who lives in Grand Rapids, wasn’t surprised.

“I think it’s something he wanted and needed to do,” Joel Krissoff told the Press. “He and Nate were extremely close. It helps him to deal with Nate’s being gone to get into this.”

Nathan Krissoff, who grew up in Reno, was a world-class kayaker, qualifying for the U.S. Junior National team with his younger brother Austin in 1998. Nathan graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he was captain of the swim team.

He joined the Marines in 2004. So did Austin, shortly before Nathan was killed. Austin, 24, is now a second lieutenant, stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California.

“Because of my family association with the Marines,” William Krissoff said of his reasons for joining the Navy Medical Corps.

After Nathan was killed, William Krissoff was visited by his son’s commander, Lt. Col. Bill Seely.

“He was crossing the country, visiting families who lost Marines from his unit,” William Krissoff said. “He spent a couple days with us. He talked about their battalion surgeon. I thought, ’I’d really like to do that.”’

Despite his intentions, William Krissoff’s age could have been a problem.

“They don’t want to look at people over 40, maybe 50 at the outside,” he said. “I didn’t qualify. You need an age waiver. It’s usually a lengthy process.”

A year, typically.

“There are security clearances,” William Krissoff said. “It’s very involved.”

But he had the White House on his side. A year was cut to two months.

“I was lucky,” William Krissoff said.

After the meeting with Bush in Reno, Krissoff’s case was handled by Karl Rove, then the president’s top political adviser, who turned it over to Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

By November, Krissoff was in the Navy. He’s assigned to the Marine Corps’ 4th Medical Battalion. Rove sent a note of congratulations.

Krissoff is headed for training. He knows how to be a doctor. But there are some things he needs to learn.

“Setting up a field hospital,” Krissoff said. “Land navigation.”

He’s leaving town. He’s closed his practice. There’s a message on his answering machine. It doesn’t say enough.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

NBC rejects TV ad thanking troops

By Jim Kuhnhenn - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Dec 7, 2007 19:46:37 EST

NBC has rejected a TV ad by Freedom’s Watch, a conservative group that supports administration policy in Iraq, that asks viewers to remember and thank U.S. troops during the holiday season.

NBC said it declined to air the ad because it refers to the group’s Web site, which the network said was too political, not because of the ad’s message.

“Anybody in the world who would look at this ad would come away with nothing other than we should thankful for their service,” Freedom’s Watch president Brad Blakeman said.

The spot was to be part of a seven-figure campaign that includes newspaper ads and television commercials. The ads are to run on CNN and Fox News Channel and are running in various newspapers. The New York Times ran a full-page Freedom’s Watch ad Friday that said “Thank You!” and depicted a soldier reading a letter. The newspaper ad also contained the Web site address.

Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s head of standards and practices, said the network decided not to run the Freedom’s Watch ad because the group insisted that the spot contain the URL address of its Web site.

The Freedom’s Watch Web home page contains links for visitors to demonstrate their support for the troops. It also contains a welcoming message that states: “For too long, conservatives have lacked a permanent political presence to do battle with the radical special interests groups and their left-wing allies in government.”

“We have a policy that prohibits acceptance of advertising that deals with issues of public controversy,” Wurtzel said. “This particular ad, in and of itself, is fine. It thanks the troops for their action overseas. We asked them to eliminate a URL address where a person is asked to contact elected officials and told not to cut and run on the war on terror.”

NBC rejected a previous Freedom’s Watch ad that addressed funding for the troops.

“It’s a long-term policy, it goes back decades,” Wurtzel said of NBC’s stance of declining controversial advertising.

He suggested that Freedom’s Watch did not alter the ad in order to force NBC to reject it and thus get media attention.

“Candidly, some folks have found that you get more attention when an ad is not accepted,” he said.

Blakeman acknowledged that Freedom’s Watch wants viewers of the ad to visit its Web site and said NBC’s actions amounted to censorship.

Freedom’s Watch has emerged as one of the best-financed independent conservative groups in this election cycle.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Holiday Greetings for Wounded Warriors

As many of you are aware, Walter Reed Medical Center and other medical centers could not accept any card or letter addressed to “Any Wounded Soldier” or “Any Soldier” because of security reasons.

But because of the outpouring of support for our service members, the Department of Defense, the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes have teamed up to make it possible to send Christmas greetings to our wounded and recovering service members.

"It is an honor to provide this small measure of comfort at holiday time to those who have sacrificed so much," said Pitney Bowes President and CEO Murray Martin. "We want to make it as easy as possible for all Americans to show their appreciation to the men and women who serve this nation so proudly and selflessly."

The American Red Cross will only be able to accept holiday cards.
No packages please. Red Cross volunteers will sort the cards for appropriate content and bundle the cards which will be shipped by Pitney Bowes. Red Cross volunteers at each of the medical centers will then distribute the cards/letters to service members and their families.

Cards and letters must be received no later than December 27. Cards received after this date will be returned to sender. Cards and notes only - and please refrain from using glitter or any other inserts that would not be appropriate in a hospital environment.

Holiday cards should be addressed to:

We Support You During Your Recovery!
c/o American Red Cross
PO Box 419
Savage, MD 20763-0419

Let’s show our heroes that we know what the meaning of giving is this holiday season because they certainly have. When you’re sending your holiday cards to family and friends, please include another 2, 20 or even 200 to our wounded warriors. They, most of all, deserve to have a Merry Christmas!!

Tarawa, 11th MEU take over relief efforts

Staff report
Posted : Tuesday Dec 4, 2007 12:20:24 EST

The amphibious assault ship Tarawa, carrying Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, relieved the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge on Monday to support ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Bangladesh.

San Diego-based Tarawa arrived several days after Norfolk, Va.-based Kearsarge, which is carrying members of the 22nd MEU from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“I am extremely proud of the entire Navy-Marine Corps team onboard Kearsarge,” Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, Task Force 76 commander, said during an all-hands call, according to a press release. “Through your teamwork and efforts, you undoubtedly saved countless lives and gave a face to the world’s generosity and compassion.”

Cyclone Sidr struck the region Nov. 15, claiming more than 3,200 lives. Kearsarge arrived Nov. 22 to begin providing aid after steaming more than 3,000 miles in less than six days from the coast of Somalia.

More than 205,000 pounds of supplies, including food, blankets and 14,000 gallons of drinking water, have been delivered.

“As a team, we executed an effective, efficient and, perhaps most importantly, safe operation,” Col. Doug Stilwell, 22nd MEU commander said in a release. “We demonstrated just how ideal a sea-based operation is for relief efforts — capable of delivering significant relief ashore while minimizing our footprint and thereby not placing unnecessary strain on the host nation.”

Heavy- and medium-lift helicopters from Kearsarge flew more than 80 sorties and 331 hours in support of the relief operations, according to the release. Two medical teams provided care to nearly 1,600 patients and dispensed 2,000 prescriptions from a mobile pharmacy.

“We were pleased to provide any help we could,” Cmdr. Dave Damstra, officer-in-charge of Fleet Surgical Team 4, said in the release. “We saw many storm-related injuries: cuts, bruises, broken bones. Through cooperation with local Bangladeshi hospitals, we were able to maximize medical treatment.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the level of thought, care and detail that has gone into planning this operation by blue-green planners and their Bangladeshi counterparts,” said Capt. Frank Ponds, Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group commander, in a release. “I am confident that Tarawa, and her sailors and Marines, will be able to seamlessly pick-up where we left off.”

Monday, December 03, 2007

Honoring Heroes at the Holidays Tour

This morning, Move America Forward brought their Honoring Heroes at the Holidays Tour through Lubbock. It was so nice to meet gold star mom Debbie Lee, Lt. Col. "Buzz" Patterson, and all the rest of the MAF gang. Debbie, hope you and Mary enjoy the cookbooks!

Our mayor, David Miller was in attendance along with Russell Thomasson, special assistant to the Chancellor of Texas Tech University, a representative from Congressman Randy Neugebauer's (TX-19) office (I'm sorry I didn't catch his name), and city councilman John Leonard. I was also happy to see Raider Red , the Saddle Tramps and all the blue star and gold star parents and veterans who made it out. We even met one young man who is leaving tonight for Navy boot camp. God bless him!

The local news coverage is here and here.

Move America Forward is collecting Christmas and holiday cards all along the tour to take to the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know they collected quite a few today. If you are anywhere along their route be sure to stop by, say hello and sign a few cards. They also have t-shirts , books, and lots of other goodies for sale. I finished up some of my Christmas shopping, but I don't want to give it away in case a certain someone happens to read this.

I didn't get any pictures but luckily one of our members, Cindy, did. She got some really good ones!

Gold Star Focus Groups

If you know any gold star moms please refer them to this important article.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lubbock Marine Parents Packing Party 2007

The Packing Party was a huge success! 225 boxes were packed and shipped yesterday, all in record time. Many thanks to all who contributed and participated. A special thanks goes to the TTUHSC Nursing Students, ASCO, BACA, Bodyworks and Elks Lodge 1348. Your generosity has made Christmas much brighter for our deployed troops!

Saturday, December 01, 2007


This came from a Marine mom friend. It's great!

Please make the Marines in your life aware of this very potentially dangerous disease


In response to the person who talked about Marine Disease; I've discovered another condition; it's called Chronic Marine Syndrome (CMS). This condition affects men and women of all ages.

Symptoms to look for are:

1. Pride in oneself and the organization they represent.
2. A strong willingness to put in extra attention to detail to get the job done.
3. May wear articles of Marine clothing; T-shirts, jackets, watches, well into their 80's.
4. Will not hesitate to stand up or put their hand over their heart, or even salute when the National Anthem is played.
5. Does not succumb easily to political correctness.
6. Is sure of who they are.
7. Is often either respected or hated by others, due to their abilities and talents.
8. May donate toys to needy kids at Christmas.
9. Some have been known to wear their hair in a high and tight well into their 90's.
10. Will look you in the eye when talking to you.
11. Will give you a firm handshake.
12. Knows what honor, courage and commitment mean.
13. Can usually be found in some type of leadership position in whatever organization they work for.
14. Will often regard their drill instructors with the same respect as their parents.
15 Often found in either law enforcement or various professions.
16 Is extremely thorough at what they do.
17 Does not wear a bunch of patches to adorn their uniform. Their title of Marine is often sufficient.
18 Often arrives at work earlier than expected. If they wear a shirt and tie in their job, you might see the tie clip. between the third and fourth button centered.
19 Had spent time training at one of two places; Parris Island or San Diego.
20 May be able to field strip their rifle, up to 60 years after leaving active duty.
21 Can recite the nomenclature of the M1, M14 or M16.
22 May often have his pencils sharpened to a perfect precision point.
23 Will not back down from a fight.

Other symptoms include willingness to take on a challenge and maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity.

Yes, CMS is real, and very hard to treat. The person with this condition often utters phrases such as Once a Marine always a Marine, or OooooRah. Some may even say Semper Fi on many occasions. It is best if you know someone with this condition to just leave them be. These people tend to be fiercely loyal to the Marine Corps.

Folks, this condition, although not curable can be treated. Some successful treatments have included;

1. Frequent visits to the base where the last served or looking at their Marine memorabilia

2. Get them around other Marines to help them flourish. They need other Marines who have shared the same experiences.

3. Have them get memberships in organizations such as the Marine Corps League, The Marine Corps Association, Together We Served, The Woman Marine Association or have them join

4. Some may require extra special attention such as buying items from or watching movies about the Marine Corps, this is only natural and nothing to be afraid of.

Whatever you do, remember that Chronic Marine Syndrome must be managed carefully. For example: In Michigan, a young man attempted to mug a Marine Korean War veteran who had advanced stages of chronic Marine Syndrome. It wasn't pretty! The mugger was severely beaten and required multiple stitches.

Remember folks, Chronic Marine Syndrome is real, while there may not be a cure, we can live with it.

Any questions, please see your local Marine. or go to 1-800-IMA-Marine for more information.

Thank you for your time.

Warning: Risks of Chronic Marine Syndrome may include a severe a** whuppin' to those who attempt to start a fight with Marines. Remember not everyone gets this condition; onset often occurs after being given the title Marine, since a select few earn this title, not everyone will develop CMS.