Daily Life of a Marine Mom

A Piece of My Heart is home from Iraq


Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I suppose over the next few months my forays here in blogland will increase since Eric is due to return to Iraq with his battalion soon for his second tour. Writing this blog was a way to relieve my frustrations and fears while he was in Iraq before.

The Marines in Eric's battalion are all hard at work training now in an effort to get their newest Marines up to par (with a much decreased training time due to Bush's demand that we send more troops). Things are going okay but Eric's new bride has not had the chance to spend much time with him being in the field training so much. And more than likely (we are afraid of this btw) they will have an extended tour of duty to keep the troop levels up to where the Government has decided they want them to be. Seven months of having my son in the hell that is Ramadi was almost more than I could bear before. I suppose the tranqualizing shall have to begin earlier this time so I don't end up in the hospital because of stress again. I hate the idea of taking meds to be able to handle the added stress of having someone you love in constant danger but I guess taking the meds is better than the alternative in my case.

I wanted to share with you an email that has recently been circulated about the situation at Walter Reed. Of course the media won't tell you some of things that are in this email. I did verify that this was written by who it says it was by and even though he didn't plan for this to circulated outside of the people it was sent to orginally, I think it needs to be addressed. I hope he will forgive me for posting it but those of us that worry and pray for our wounded soldiers and Marines at Walter Reed need to know these details.

This is an e-mail from the Chief of Chaplains at Walter Reed AMC. He provides quite a different perspective on the Walter Reed issue.

Subject: Can't be quiet any longer

I have had enough and am going to give my perspective on the news about Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Please understand that I am speaking for myself and I am responsible for my thoughts alone. The news media and politicians are making it sound like Walter Reed is a terrible place and the staff here has been abusing our brave wounded soldiers; what a bunch of bull!

I am completing my 24th year of service in the Army next month so you decide for yourself if I have the experience to write about this topic. I have been the senior clinical chaplain at Walter Reed for four years and will leave to go back to the infantry this summer. I supervise the chaplain staff inside Walter Reed that cares for the 200 inpatients, the 650+ daily outpatients from the war who come to us for medical care, the 4000+ staff, and over 3000 soldiers and their families that come for clinical appointments daily. Walter Reed has cared for over 5500 wounded from the war. I cannot count the number of sick and non-battle injured that have come through over that timeframe. The staff at this facility has done an incredible job at the largest US military medical center with the worst injured of the war. We have cared for over 400 amputees and their families. I am privileged to serve the wounded, their families, and our staff.

When the news about building 18 broke I was on leave. I was in shock when the news broke. We in the chaplains office in Walter Reed, as well as the majority of people at Walter Reed, did not know anyone was in building 18.I didn't even know we had a building 18. How can that happen? Walter Reed is over 100 acres of 66 buildings on two installations. Building 18 is not on the installation of Walter Reed and was believed to be closed years ago by our department. The fact that some leaders in the medical brigade that is in charge of the outpatients put soldiers in there is terrible. That is why the company commander, first sergeant, and a group of platoon leaders and platoon sergeants were relieved immediately. They failed their soldiers and the Army.
The commanding general was later relieved (more about this) and his sergeant major has been told to move on -- if he gets to. The brigade sergeant major was relieved and more relief's are sure to come and need to.

As any leader knows, if you do not take care of soldiers, lie, and then try to cover it up, you are not worthy of the commission you hold and should be sent packing. I have no issue, and am actually proud, that they did relieve the leaders they found who knew of the terrible conditions some of our outpatients were enduring. The media is making it sound like these conditions are rampant at Walter Reed and nothing could be further from the truth. We need improvements and will now get them. I hate it that it took this to make it happen.

The Army and the media made MG Weightman, our CG, out to be the problem and fired him. This was a great injustice. He was only here for six months, is responsible for military medical care in the 20 Northeast states, wears four "hats" of responsibilities, and relies on his subordinate leaders to know what is happening in their areas of responsibilities. He has a colonel that runs the hospital (my hospital commander), a colonel that runs the medical brigade (where the outpatient wounded are assigned and supposedly cared for), and a colonel that is responsible to run the garrison and installation. What people don't know is that he was making many changes as he became aware of them and had requested money to fix other places on the installation. The Army did not come through until four months after he asked for the money, remember that he was here only six months, which was only days before they relieved him. His leaders responsible for outpatient care did not tell him about conditions in building 18. He has been an incredible leader who really cares about the wounded, their families, and our staff. I cannot say the same about a former commander, who was my first commander here at Walter Reed, and definitely knew about many problems and is in the position to fix them and he did not. MG Weightman also should not be held responsible for the military's unjust and inefficient medical board system and the problems in the VA system.

We lost a great leader and passionate man who showed he had the guts to make changes and was doing so when he was made the scapegoat for others.

What I am furious about is that the media is making it sound like all of Walter Reed is like building 18. Nothing could be further from the truth. No system is perfect but the medical staff provides great care in this hospital. What needs to be addressed, and finally will, is the bureaucratic garbage that all soldiers are put through going into medical boards and medical retirements. Congress is finally giving the money that people have asked for at Walter Reed for years to fix places on the installations and address shortcomings. What they don't want you to know is Congress caused many problems by the BRAC process saying they were closing Walter Reed. We cannot keep nor attract all the quality people we need at Walter Reed when they know this place will close in several years and they are not promised a job at the new hospital. Then they did this thing call A76 where they fired many of the workers here for a company of contractors, IAP, to get a contract to provide care outside the hospital proper. The company, which is responsible for maintenance, only hired half the number of people as there were originally assigned to maintenance areas to save money.

Walter Reed leadership fought the A76 and BRAC process for years but lost. Congress instituted the BRAC and A76 process; not the leadership of Walter Reed.

What I wish everyone would also hear is that for every horror story we are now hearing about in the media that truly needs to be addressed, you are not hearing about the hundreds of other wounded and injured soldiers who tell a story of great care they received. You are not hearing about the incredibly high morale of our troops and the fact that most of them want to go back, be with their teammates, and finish the job properly. You should be very proud of the wounded troopers we have at Walter Reed. They make me so proud to be in the Army and I will fight to get their story out.

I want you to hear the whole story because our wounded, their families, our Army, and the nation need to know that many in the media and select politicians have an agenda. Forget agendas and make the changes that have been needed for years to fix problems in every military hospital and the VA system. The poor leaders will be identified and sent packing and good riddance to them. I wish the same could be said for the politicians and media personalities who are also responsible but now want it to look like they are very concerned.

Where have they been for the last four years? I am ashamed of what they all did and the pain it has caused many to think that everyone is like that.

Please know that you are not hearing the whole story. Please know that there are thousands of dedicated soldiers and civilian medical staff caring for your soldiers and their families. When I leave here I will end up deploying. When soldiers in my division have to go to Walter Reed from the battlefield, I know they will get great medical care. I pray that you know the same thing.

God bless all our troops and their families wherever they may be.

God bless you all,
Chaplain John L.
Senior Chaplain Clinician
Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Semper Fi and God bless us all.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Received this article from another Marine mom. Its a nice way to honor one of the 3/7's fallen heroes.

New U.S. Warship Will Honor Marine


The name of a U.S. Marine who gave his life to save his comrades in Iraq will grace a new destroyer, the Navy announced March 20.

Cpl. Jason Dunham received the Medal of Honor on January 11 for his actions April 14, 2004, when he grappled with an insurgent after his unit was ambushed in Karabilah, Iraq. Dunham threw himself on a live grenade to shield fellow Marines and, although he survived the initial explosion, died of his injuries after 10 days.

Navy Secretary Donald Winter plans to officially announce the ship’s name March 23 in Dunham’s hometown of Scio, N.Y.

The USS Dunham (DDG 109) will be the 59th DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy from the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine, in the fall of 2009.

Dunham is the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since the advent of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A machine gunner for Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Dunham was 22 years old when he died. The Navy provided an account of Dunham’s heroic actions:

“On April 14, 2004, Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah when his Battalion Commander’s convoy was ambushed. When Dunham’s squad approached to provide fire support, an Iraqi insurgent leapt out of a vehicle and attacked Dunham. As Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground, he noticed that the enemy fighter had a grenade in his hand. Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines, and when the enemy dropped the live grenade, Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, covered the grenade, and threw himself on top to smother the blast. In an ultimate selfless act of courage, in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of two fellow Marines."

If you would like to read more about Cpl Jason Dunham cllick the following link: Medal of Honor

Semper Fi and God Bless you all.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Its been a while since I had a chance to rant so today I am going to break that trend. YOu know what is really burning my butt today? When I heard on the news that the Book It! program that has been sponsered by Pizza Hut since 1985 is now under fire from an advocacy group that says it promotes bad eating habits and turns teachers into corporate promoters.

What the h377 is WRONG with these people?!? Don't they have anything better to do than to attack a program that has given pleasure to our kids and helped promote reading for more than 20 years?!?

I remember when the time each year would roll around and my kids would earn their personal pan pizza coupons. We would all pile into the car and head out to the local pizza hut so they could use them. That was about the only time out of the year that I actually took them into Pizza Hut but it was a TREAT that they had earned and that made it all the more precious to them! They LOVED it.

Now as far as giving them pizza promoting bad eating habits, yeah if you feed them pizza every night it is not going to be good for them. But for probably fully half of the underprivledged kids that earn these coupons that may be the only time each year when they get pizza at Pizza Hut. And guess what ... for almost the whole time my kids were living with me we had pizza from Pizza Hut a couple of times a month on Fridays! And on the other Fridays we would carry in from someone else like ... OMG .... Mickey-Ds (I hate it, but the kids loved it). My kids should weigh 300 lbs each right?? Not a single one of them is overweight (or even has an ounce of fat on them). Probably because for the other SIX nights out of the week I cooked good healthy homecooked meals for them. Maybe because when they wanted snacks they got good things for them like baby carrots (they still love those) or apples and cheese (OH NO ... I fed them CHEESE) or celery and peanut butter. Maybe they should put a skull and crossbones on the Pizza Hut's door to warn us huh? Well, I guess if you go there every night to feed your kids maybe they had better! But everything in moderation folks, then your kids will learn good eating habits and still be able to enjoy life!

What is really stupid about this attack is that they are saying that the program makes the kids want pizza, and doesn't make them want to read. Well DOH, guess what? Giving a child an incentive to do anything that is good for them (like reading books) has to be an incentive they LIKE (like pizza)! Its always been easier to draw bees to honey than salt people!

I know that I for one think that they should leave the 'Book It!' program alone! It gave my children years of pleasure and those times when I could see their smiling faces sitting across from me at Pizza Hut enjoying the fruits (or meat and cheese and dough) of their own effort will forever live in my heart as special.

Okay ... done ranting for today and my yes, I do feel a bit better.

If you want to read about this you can find the story at this link. http://www.sptimes.com/2007/03/06/Business/Some_pan_reading_for_.shtml

Semper Fi and God Bless you all and God bless Pizz Hut for making it possible to get some of these kids to read!


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Through the efforts and help of a dear friend I managed to make it to Eric and Patty's wedding this past Staurday. I have been depressed the past few weeks because I was sure I was going to have to miss it since I didn't have the money to fly out there. In the end everything worked out and I was California bound Friday and stayed with them till Monday morning. I am thrilled to have Patty as a daughter-in-law! She's a sweet beautiful girl for a handsome wonderful young man and both of them are lucky they found each other!

Now I want to introduce you to Lcpl and Mrs. Eric ********

I will try to write a little about the wedding later. Been a busy time lately.

Semper Fi and God bless.

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