Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shooter Aims for 2012 Paralympics

An infantryman for most of his Army career, Army Staff Sgt. Josh Olson never dreamed he would someday become an internationally ranked shooter with the Army's World Class Athlete Program.

But everything changed for Olson after losing his right leg in an attack during a deployment to Iraq in 2003.

"I was going to get out of the military," Olson said. "I was an infantryman, and I knew I couldn't do that anymore, so I just wanted to get out. Then this opportunity came up and it gave me a renewed sense of duty and honor."

That opportunity was a call from U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit recruiters to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where Olson was undergoing physical therapy. Olson had been participating in a program that provides hunting, fishing and outdoor sports events to recovering soldiers. When medical center officials asked if any soldiers were interested in an AMU recruiting trip here, Olson jumped at the chance.

"When I found out I could do this, I was like, 'Yeah, absolutely, let's do it!'" he said. "You can't be in the fight, but you have the opportunity to help soldiers who are going to fight. So I'm still contributing, just in a different way."

Since joining the AMU international rifle shooting team in 2005, Olson has risen rapidly through the world of shooting. He competed in the 2006 International Paralympics Committee World Championships and the 2007 Oceanic Games, and earned a spot as an alternate on the 2008 Paralympics team. Today, he's aiming for a spot on the U.S. shooting team at the 2012 Paralympics in London.

"As far as he's come in such a short period of time is amazing," Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker, Olson's AMU teammate, said. "He came to us with no international shooting experience and in three years' time, he was an alternate. We expect him to be up on the medal podium in another three years."

To qualify for the Paralympics, Olson will need to shoot at least three qualifying scores in international matches over the next four years. He expects to have shot at least two by the end of this year.

Olson's dedication and positive attitude have set an example for the entire unit, Parker said.

"He's always had a positive attitude," Parker said. "That's one of the great things about him. You look at him and sometimes you can see that he's not feeling great, but he's out there putting out 100 percent. He's a great motivator. He's contributed to our mission in every possible way."

Olson said that knowing his AMU teammates are counting on him helps keep him motivated during tough times.

"On days I don't want to get up and come to training and I'm kind of feeling sorry for myself, I think, 'Hey look, there are people counting on you, so you need to get out there and work your butt off,'" he said.

He credits his injury with allowing him to serve and represent his country in new ways.

"Without me getting injured, I would have never gotten the opportunity to come here and shoot," he said. "Being wounded might have closed some doors, but it opened others in other places. And this is one of the places it opened up -- for me to be able to compete, shoot and train troops and still be contributing to the war effort.

"Being a disabled veteran, to go out and wear U.S.A. on your jacket and to hear them announce you -- 'Now shooting for the U.S., Josh Olson' -- that's a pretty big deal. I can't represent the U.S. as a deployed soldier, but now I represent them on a whole new battlefield -- the athletic field."
Photo: Army Staff Sgt. Josh Olson trains with a .22-caliber rifle at Fort Benning, Ga. Olson, a member of the Army Marksmanship Unit's international rifle team, spends about 15 hours training each week and participates in between 10 and 15 national and international matches each year. Olson is the only wounded warrior in the AMU. Courtesy photo

(Author Caroline Gotler works at the Fort Benning public affairs office.)
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Monday, March 23, 2009

Annual Fundraiser Supports Local Troops

Helen Denton, former secretary to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, (left) takes a break from the fun to pose with Linda Mosley, bus driver and organizer of the cookout.

The smell of hotdogs roasting on the grill and displays of red, white and blue in the bus shop could only mean one thing. It was time for the annual Cookout for the Troops hosted by the Fayette County School System’s Transportation Department.

Seven years and counting, the department has hosted the fundraiser to generate funds to purchase gift cards for the county’s men and women serving in the U.S. military. Approximately, 300 people attended this year’s event that netted $2,500. All proceeds collected will enable the transportation department to send gift cards to deployed troops throughout the year as well as provide Christmas gifts.

Fayette residents who have a friend or loved one serving in the military can request to have a gift card sent to their solider by mailing his or her name and address to: The Troops, 210 Stonewall Avenue, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Please include a local contact and telephone number.

Each March, the county’s school bus drivers and monitors work countless hours organizing the cookout, going door to door to Fayette businesses soliciting prizes for drawings and monetary donations. The drivers also provide the food and desserts that are enjoyed by those who attend.

Businesses throughout the county generously supported this year’s cookout by donating prizes that included handmade quilts, rugs, jewelry, gift certificates and artwork. Those supporting the event were Autera Health Clinic, Classic Landscaping, Trinity Air, Clearly Fun Soap, Bella Bronze Tanning, Mary Kay, Permanent Beauty Solution, Images by Rainey, Publix 799, Andy’s Nursery, Petro Flame, J&J Grading, ACE Hardware, Brooks Hair Boutique, Braelinn Village Family Dentistry, Restored, Play It Again Sports, Second Hand Sam, Odds & Ends Carpentry, Margaret Sullivan (flower pen lady), Juice+, Queen’s Jewels, Kedron Merle Norman, Allan Vigil Ford, Clarks Pressure Washing and Painting, Images Gallery and Studio, Wags to Whiskers, The Way of the Horse, Camm Inspections, Hudson Produce, Pearl Lady, Pinson Trucking, Red Neck Gourmet, Big Daddy’s Oyster Bar, Stevie B’s Pizza and Jafra Cosmetics.

Students in Fayette Middle's after school art class helped promote the fundraiser by designing posters that were used to advertise the cookout. The transportation department gave lollipops to the students as a token of appreciation for their efforts.

As the years go by, more people are learning about the fundraiser and are becoming involved. This year veterans from the Riverdale VFW Post 3650 were in attendance along with a very special member of their post, Helen Denton. Denton, who joined the Army in 1943 at the age of 21, played a major role in the history of the United States. Serving as General Dwight D Eisenhower’s secretary, she typed the plans for the liberation of Europe, better known as D-Day.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

John and Cindy McCain Join Awareness Campaign for Disabled Veterans

/PRNewswire/ -- Rivers of Recovery is a 501C3 organization dedicated to providing therapeutic recreational river float trips to veterans, their families and the families of fallen soldiers at no cost to the participants. As a non-profit organization, Rivers of Recovery seeks to heighten awareness for the complex issues facing our nation's disabled veterans and their families and to promote veterans' empowerment. Veterans and families from all armed forces and military eras are eligible.

Specifically, the "Heart of America" Campaign will be a coordinated river float traveling the 3,700-mile length of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The float will begin in Montana and follow the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico. Stopping in key cities along the way, the Campaign's purpose is to champion disabled veterans causes and provide events which allow the public to demonstrate their support for our nation's wounded warriors.

In commenting on their participation in the Heart of America Campaign, Senator McCain said, "Cindy and I are honored to serve as Honorary Co-Chairs of the Rivers of Recovery Heart of America Campaign. Veterans give meaning to the call to serve and we must be there to help them for their sacrifices for all Americans. The Rivers of Recovery programs are an outstanding example of the kind of help we can give veterans and Cindy and I are proud to be a part of its critical role in rehabilitating our nation's veterans."

"Rivers of Recovery is proud to have a veteran and real American hero join our efforts to pay tribute to other veterans who desperately need this kind of positive outlet and rehabilitating experience," said Dan Cook, Rivers of Recovery founder and Executive Director.

The "Heart of America" campaign will bring together organizations such as the United States Veterans Administration (VA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), United States National Guard and the United States Chamber of Commerce. These groups will organize local events in coordination and support of the Heart of America Campaign. Additionally, disabled veterans from the VA facilities along the river route will also participate with local and national media outlets as well as political and community leaders.

Senator McCain added, "I strongly encourage elected officials to be part of the Rivers of Recovery Heart of America Campaign and to attend these events as they come through your district and state. What greater test of a nation's integrity is there than the sincerity of its promises to the men and women who risk their lives to defend it - and what better way to show these veterans our commitment to this ideal, then by being part of such a great cause."

For further information on this event and Rivers of Recovery, visit .

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Remembrance Ceremony Honors Fallen Military Medics

Deborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the first Remembrance Ceremony in Dedication to Fallen Military Medical Personnel at Arlington National Cemetery, March 11, 2009. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Beneath the rows of simple white headstones evenly spaced beneath a dull and cloudy mid-March sky, the stories of those who rest at Arlington National Cemetery here today are anything but ordinary.

Some were killed by heavy machine-gun fire. Others were showered with rockets or mortars. And many were surprised by the explosion of an unexpected roadside bomb. But for the more than 210 military medics, corpsmen, doctors and nurses who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, they were killed trying to save others, the Defense Department's top medical official said.

"Their motto is 'Good medicine, bad places,'" Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, said during the first remembrance ceremony and wreath laying for military medical personnel killed in the war on terror. "When it mattered most, they answered the call."

More than 100 friends, relatives and military members turned out for what officials plan to make an annual event to honor their loved ones and pay homage to a profession that almost always places its practitioners in difficult situations.

Casscells, who's also an Army Reserve colonel in the medical corps, talked of his fellow medics and corpsmen who never hesitated to treat their enemy. He read excerpts of medics who were so badly wounded they died giving first aid instructions calmly to others, because they couldn't provide the treatment themselves. He talked of others who gave their last minutes of life bandaging Iraqi children after a suicide bomb detonated.

"The decisions these medics and doctors and nurses make on the battlefield are a triumph of the human spirit," he said. "No greater love has any man than this than to lay down his life for his friends -- and they have done exactly that.

Combat medics have one of the highest-risk jobs in the military, he said, noting the intense, rigorous training they undergo to save lives.

"They had training that didn't exist in Vietnam or World War II," he said. "They're training to the level of [emergency medical treatment] and higher because of the tactical combat environment. They're so intensively trained in things that would make a [civilian] doctor pause."

More than 5,000 U.S. military lives have been lost on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan under the backdrop of guerilla warfare and unpredictably sophisticated tactics and military capability. However, thousands more may have been lost if not for medics and corpsmen first responders in the field, he said.

"Their skill and their bravery is the single most important reason why the fatality rate today in Iraq and Afghanistan is 10 percent vs. 23 percent in Vietnam," he said. "This is despite much more powerful munitions, munitions which explode right under your vehicle."

Deborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered her condolences and praised the military medical corps for their devotion to others. She said to remember them not for the life that was lost, but for the lives they saved.

"We come here today to pay tribute to the heroes of our heroes -- the men and women who risked their own lives and limbs to save the lives and limbs of others," Mullen said. "Time cannot describe and words fail to convey the fidelity and ardor in which these brave souls did their duty."

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009 Reaches 1,000 Listings in Under 100 days

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Veterans who own and operate businesses have found a new, comprehensive directory to help promote their products and/or services to millions of fellow veterans, government agencies, corporate purchasing departments, contractors and consumers who wish to proudly support veterans by choosing to review their products and/or services for possible purchase. was released online into Beta on Veteran’s Day 2008 (November 11, 2008). In just under 100 days since being released online, this directory of veteran owned and service disabled veteran owned businesses has surpassed the 1,000 business listing mark.

“This marks a significant milestone for,” said Brian K. St.Ours,’s Founder and President. “We are trying to reach as many veteran owned and service disabled veteran owned businesses as possible in order to make sure each company signs up for a free listing. The more businesses we have listed, the more fellow veterans we have out there helping spread the word about this excellent online resource.”

Listings in are free. Each company gets a very detailed company profile which includes contact information, directions with a detailed mapping system, a product/service description, link to the company’s website (if one exists) and several other details.

Traffic for has grown just as rapidly as sign ups. In January, just a few weeks after going live, was receiving thousands of weekly visitors and ended the month with over 100,000 page views.

“We anticipate traffic to significantly increase as we work to hit our next milestone of 2,500 business listings. We will be implementing a very aggressive marketing campaign over the next few months to ensure we reach as many veterans, active duty military, reservists and service disabled veterans who own businesses as possible,” added St.Ours.

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Documentary 'Brothers at War' Partners With Soldiers' Angels to Energize Military Supporters

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Military support nonprofit Soldiers' Angels announced its partnership today with the award-winning documentary Brothers at War, currently screening in cities across America. Directed by civilian Jake Rademacher, who followed his two military brothers to document their combat deployment and return home, Brothers at War is an intimate portrait of a military family during wartime.

Volunteers from Soldiers' Angels will be in attendance at each screening location for Brothers at War to invite viewers to bridge the military-civilian divide by actively supporting service members and families like those portrayed in the documentary. A grassroots non profit with unique and effective ways of supporting the troops, Solders' Angels and its army of volunteers have received widespread praise and numerous awards for the hands-on assistance they offer to military families, the deployed, wounded, families of the fallen, and American veterans of all ages.

Soldiers' Angels founder Patti Patton-Bader welcomes the opportunity to connect average Americans with those who protect them. "Fewer people serving in the military means fewer Americans have personal knowledge of the sacrifices and challenges of military life," she explains. "Brothers at War helps bridge that divide. The story of these heroes needs to be told, and our soldiers need to know their service is appreciated and that they are not forgotten."

Military spouse and Soldiers' Angels volunteer Greta Perry agrees that Brothers at War can help the rest of America understand the experience of military personnel and their families during wartime. "No other footage since Bad Voodo's War has portrayed anything so real and unbiased about the war and the soldiers who serve in it," she recently wrote after screening the film. "Jake left [Iraq] with a better understanding of the conditions his brothers lived in and he shared that with us effortlessly on the screen."

Brothers at War was produced by Norman S. Powell (American Valor, 24), and Gary Sinise (CSI New York, Forrest Gump). Sinise is also a recipient of the Presidential Citizen's Medal for his extensive activities in support of America's military men and women. More information is available at

About Soldiers' Angels: Established in 2003 by the mother of two soldiers, Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-based 501( c )(3) nonprofit providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, as well as veterans and military families. For more information, see or call 615-676-0239. Tax ID# 20-0583415.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

101 Year Old Veteran Receives Commendation From the Army

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alyce Dixon is 101 years old but you would never know it if you had the opportunity to sit down and talk to her. Last week Dixon, Gladys Schuster Carter, and Mary Crawford Ragland, all members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, were honored by the U.S. Army’s Freedom Team Salute program at a ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Dixon is the oldest surviving member of the Battalion.

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was the only all female African American Army unit to deploy to Europe during World War II. The unit was composed of approximately 850 members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WACs). They were tasked with sorting and distributing letters and packages to over 7 million Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Red Cross and civilian personnel all over Europe.

“I felt like I was doing something worthwhile for my country when I was in the Army with the 6888th in Europe,” said Dixon. “We had to find the Soldiers, their units and route the mail to them. I enjoyed the Army and I met a lot of nice people when I served overseas. The Army taught me discipline and to stop and think before making a decision.”

Dixon said the Battalion’s trip from the United States to Europe was very stressful because the boat they were on was sometimes followed by German submarines. She said to avoid contact with the submarines, the boat had to make various diversionary turns which caused pots, pans and other objects to fall to the floor.

Major Charity Adams, who later was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and became the highest ranking African American female officer in the military, was the commander of the 6888th, and arrived with the unit in Birmingham, England in February, 1945. After completing their assignment in England, she and her unit were sent to Rouen, France and later to Paris. A few months after World War II ended, the unit was sent back to the United States.

“They sent us to Ft. Dix New Jersey, gave us our discharge papers, and sent us home,” said Mary Crawford Ragland, the clerk of the 6888th, who joined the Army at the age of 17 after finishing high school. “There were no parades, no welcomes, no nothing.”

“Honoring the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion with Commendations is long overdue,” said the Army’s Colonel David Griffith, Director of Freedom Team Salute. “These were strong women who faced prejudice in the United States but still managed to complete their mission, putting their Country ahead of their own trials. They did not have the luxury of working with automation equipment to help them organize, sort and distribute the millions of letters and packages that had accumulated in airplane hangars and other places in Europe. They are a true American story that needs to be told.”

The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WACs) 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was a World War II unit. Composed of approximately 850 African American women, the unit was formed in the days when the U.S. Armed Services was segregated. They were the only black women to serve with the U.S. military overseas during World War II. The group was charged with handling military mail, and was based at a boarding school in Birmingham, England.

“For the morale of Soldiers in war time, only one thing counts more than somewhere to sleep or something to eat,” said Freedom Team Salute’s Colonel Griffith. “That one thing is mail from home – holiday greetings, photographs, regular letters, and packages filled with items from relatives and friends. The Battalion broke all records for redistribution of mail to front line troops in the European theatre.”

Freedom Team Salute was established in 2005 by the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army, which gives the public the opportunity to thank all U.S. Army Veterans for their service by recognizing them with Commendations. The program also honors and recognizes the Parents, Spouses, Employers, and Supporters of Active Duty, Army Reserve, and National Guard Soldiers. The Commendations consist of a personalized letter and certificate signed by Pete Geren, the Secretary of the Army and General George W. Casey Jr., the Army Chief of Staff. Honorees also receive lapel pins and The Salute, a quarterly newsletter that contains information of interest to the Army family. Freedom Team Salute has honored over 1.9 million Army Veterans, Spouses, Parents, Supporters, and Employers since its launch.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Million Minutes of Talk Time for Soldiers Thanks to Pak Mail

/PRNewswire/ -- Pak Mail centers around the country collected more than 17,700 unused cell phones that have been donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers, an organization that recycles the phones and uses the proceeds to buy prepaid calling cards that are sent to soldiers. The recycled cell phones collected by Pak Mail resulted in 1,070,000 minutes of talk time connecting soldiers with their families.

"Our armed forces count on the support of Americans to connect with their loved ones while serving abroad," said Brittany Bergquist, co-founder of Cell Phones for Soldiers. "The fantastic work of partners like Pak Mail Centers of America, Inc. is what makes this charity possible. We thank them for all they have done to help our service members."

Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded by teenagers Robbie and Brittany Bergquist from Norwell, Mass., with $21 of their own money. Since then the 501(c)3 non-profit organization has raised almost $2 million in donations and distributed more than 500,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers serving overseas.

Through increased fundraising efforts, the Bergquist family hopes to raise more than $9 million in the next five years to fund new programs, such as providing video phones and prepaid service to allow soldiers abroad to see their families on a regular basis.

The phones are sent to ReCellular, which pays Cell Phones for Soldiers for each donated phone - enough to provide an hour of talk time to soldiers abroad. Approximately half of the phones ReCellular processes are reconditioned and resold to wholesale companies in over 40 countries around the world.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sharing Experiences And Accessing Resources Helps Vets Reconnect

(NAPSI)-There are 1.7 million men and women who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, with even more Americans enlisting in the military as the national economy continues to suffer. Among those military service members who have returned, nearly 20 percent-300,000 in all-report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression, yet only slightly more than half seek treatment, according to a 2008 RAND Corporation study.

Untreated mental health conditions can cause or aggravate other debilitating problems in the veterans' community, including high rates of unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse, divorce and suicide. As recently reported, suicide rates among the Army are the highest they have been in three decades. To address these issues and help ease the transition of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans returning home, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Ad Council launched a national public service campaign, which directs veterans to a new social networking Web site,, where veterans can connect with each other, listen, share their experiences and access resources, all in a forum exclusive to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Research shows that veterans of these two wars face unprecedented and unique challenges. For example, while veterans of World War II represented 12 percent of the U.S. population, less than 1 percent of the current population has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, more than 60 percent of Americans say that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "never," "hardly ever" or "sometimes" have an impact on their daily lives, according to a recent survey by IAVA and the Ad Council. By maintaining relationships and communicating regularly with others who have shared experiences, veterans are better able to reconnect with their friends, families and communities.

"When I returned home from Iraq, it was frustrating to feel like no one could understand what I had been through, not even my family and closest friends. I felt tremendously isolated and soon those emotions turned to anger and resentment," said Bryan Adams, a veteran of Iraq and a Purple Heart recipient. "Connecting with other vets who had similar experiences was the most valuable way for me to heal and move forward with my life."

Through the Community of Veterans, IAVA and Ad Council are hoping to encourage veterans to share their experiences with mental health injuries in a judgment-free environment. Many veterans avoid seeking help because of the stigma around seeking treatment or being diagnosed with a mental illness. Supporting each other and knowing that they are not alone is an important step the community can take to help overcome that stigma.

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