30 September 2013

5k Run/Walk Remembers Iowans, Supports the Living

More than 1,000 runners, walkers, and support volunteers participated in the 4th Annual Remembrance Run Sun., Sept. 29 at Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines, Iowa. The 5k run/walk event commemorates approximately 120 Iowans and military service members with Iowa connections who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere from combat, illness, suicide, or accident since the Iraq War began in March 2003.

The last Sunday in September is traditionally Gold Star Mother's Day. Informally, the date is often also called "Gold Star Family's Day." A presidential proclamation this year made it both.

Iowa Remembers Inc.
American flags, as well as names and pictures of those to be remembered, lined the last stretch of the Remembrance Run route. High above the finish line, a large American flag was suspended between two aerial trucks provided by MidAmerican Energy Co.

In keynote remarks spoken from the bed of a pickup truck, Jeni Carney Green likened the gathered crowd to a "support brigade." Nearby, a group of Green's friends and family wore T-shirts bearing the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (34th Inf. Div.) shoulder patch, and the name of her late husband Scott.

Master Sgt. Scott Carney was a member of Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Inf. Div., killed Aug. 27, 2007 in Western Afghanistan's Herat Province, while deployed on an Embedded Training Team (E.T.T.) mission.

"[Y]ou brought food after the funeral. Or you babysat. Or you helped address thank-you cards. Or you talk about the fallen," Green said to the crowd in thanks. "You listen at every birthday, anniversary, and special occasions—like graduations—that they've missed. You listen, you tell their stories, and ... you remember."

The 5k run/walk is a fund-raising event for the non-profit Iowa Remembers Inc., and helps underwrite an annual weekend retreat for surviving Iowa family members. The retreat is administered by Survivor Outreach Services Iowa on the same weekend as the annual run. According to a recent Army news release, Survivor Outreach Services maintains connections to 56,000 military families nationwide who have lost a loved one in service to their country.

"The Survivor's Outreach Services is kind of a big process, but a simple concept," says Hal Snyder, chief of the Wounded and Fallen Branch, U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services. "It's to continually link our surviving families to the Army for as long as they desire; that they remain part of the Army family. That is a promise that has been made to our surviving families and it is part of the job of S.O.S. to honor that promise and to provide the services and support that link these families to the Army."

Before the event, Central Iowa businessman Craig Sommerfeld performed a fly-over in a T-34 "Mentor" painted out as a U.S. Marine trainer.

Armed with a microphone and an air horn, KJJY radio personality Eddie Hatfield joked with the first wave of runners, saying the 5k event was actually 26.2 miles long.

Runners had the option of being timed. All timed results are here at this link. The top men's results were:
  • Cole LaFollette, 16, of Des Moines: 00:18:10.6
  • Mark Moore, 28, of Des Moines: 00:19:11.3
  • Donald Hurt, 29, of West Des Moines: 00:19:49.0
Top women's results were:
  • Erin Cahalan, 15, of West Des Moines: 00:19:30.1
  • Lindsey Schwarck, 22, of Ankeny: 00:21:03.9
  • Julie Spieker, 37, of Urbandale: 00:21:08.2
World War II and Korean War veteran Arthur Ryden, 98, of Cherokee traveled most the 5k route in a wheelchair, but made sure to walk across the finish line with the help of family members. He was commemorating his brother, Arnold Ryden, killed in the Battle of the Bulge.

Iowa remembers.

27 September 2013

Save Our Terps! How (and Why) to Write Congress Now

Photo of Aghan interpreter "Khan" by Army Spc. Andrew Baker
In the days before the Internet, I pulled a few short stints in the offices of a couple of U.S. senators. A couple of times as an "intern," one time as a "Congressional fellow." In such capacities, not only did I get opportunities to open the daily mail and prepare internal media summaries, I regularly answered letters from constituents. I even learned to use the machine that signed the senator's name—before some idiot co-worker started writing and signing his own job references.

Through those experiences, I learned that a letter "written by a senator" on behalf of a constituent was often like applying the Penetrating Oil of Helpfulness to the Stuck Machine Bolt of Bureaucracy. I helped get retirees their Social Security checks, veterans their missing medals, and school kids their answers to social studies tests. Small and concrete victories. Democracy in action. Your tax dollar at work.

To this day, I still write business letters like a certain senator from Iowa:
Thank you for contacting me regarding PROBLEM X. I am glad to be of help. [...]

I have a sent a letter to AGENCY Y regarding this matter. I will contact you again when I receive a response. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to let me or my staff know if I may be of additional assistance. Keep in touch!
Later, after I'd joined the Army, I was on the receiving end of a few of these Congressional inquiries. Troops would write their representatives about pay concerns, food quality, or other matters. No matter how seemingly silly some of the questions were, the military put an emphasis on quickly investigating and responding to each query. Whether because of the legislative power of the purse or the War Powers Act, when Congress calls, soldiers listen.

On Capitol Hill, constituent letters also factored into senators' legislative calculations. So-called "legislative correspondents," specialized research staffers who kept up-to-date on where their senators stood on matters of policies and politics, were more likely to respond to such letters. The whole office would see the weekly contact summaries, however—that was our feel for the pulse of opinions back home.

Usually, responses to individual constituents were kept non-committal. A letter about a hot-button issue like gun control, for example, would likely receive a boilerplate response, blandly marking out the senator's current positions. The response to a "pro" letter would often be very similar to the one for a "con" letter. In one senator's office, we called such letters "robo-letters." I preferred the more-punny term "Frankenmail," a nod to Congressional members' power to send official mail without paying postage.

Staffers would tally letters and telephone calls they the senator's office had received on given topics. Letters from constituents mattered more than letters from out of state. It didn't matter whether a constituent identified themselves as Republican, Democrat, or Independent: A constituent was a constituent. We were all in this together. We called it "representative democracy."

Letters that were obviously written by individuals, citing specific examples and requesting specific actions, were valued more than fill-in-the-blank form-letters. The latter were considered more as evidence of Astroturf by special interests than actual grassroots support. Bottom line: Constituent contacts were like straw polls. People who write letters are people who are motivated to vote. A senator might not vote your way every time, the thinking went, but he or she was bound to listen.

Despite the gridlock and partisan gameplay that generate so much of today's headlines, I'd like to think that Congress, fundamentally, still operates that way. Our legislative branch has to listen, right?

If it doesn't, what values are we fighting for?


I was recently inspired to dust-off my letter-writing skills (developed at taxpayer expense!) regarding the plight of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who are seeking to immigrate to the United States. These are men and women who have risked their families and their futures to help U.S. forces. Troops call them "terps" for short.

I've posted my letter below, as an example. I am sending similar letters to other U.S. senators and representatives—and note that many Iowa and Minnesota members ("Red Bull" country) of Congress are involved in immigration policy.

Check out who's on the senate House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Border Security, for example, or the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security.

I hope that you might be similarly motivated to voice your own opinions to Congress, whether about this or other topics.

For more how-to-write-Congress tips, click here. There's also a list of Congressional e-mail and contact info here and here.
Dear Senator Grassley:

I am retired Iowa Army National Guard soldier who deployed under Operation Enduring Freedom orders in 2003. In 2011, I also traveled to Afghanistan as civilian media, during the largest deployment of Iowa National Guard soldiers since World War II. I am writing to you regarding the need to eliminate bureaucratic obstacles to granting special visas to Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who have fought alongside U.S. soldiers, and who have placed themselves and their families at great risk on our behalf.

It is my understanding that an extension of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007 and Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2013. Without extension, these programs will soon expire. In your response to this correspondence, I would appreciate an update regarding the status of this and other efforts to deliver upon America's promise to our allies.

According to recent news reports, including those in the Washington Post and National Public Radio, the U.S. State Department has failed to effectively or efficiently implement the special immigrant visa program authorized by Congress. According to the above-cited news reports, as of late 2012, only 32 visas had been issued. As of June 2013, only 1,120 visas of the 8,750 authorized had been issued.

I am not going to suggest that all interpreters are saints. To be honest, some seemed suspect in their actions, attitudes, and interactions with U.S. soldiers. Others, however, were shining examples of Afghan bravery and American ideals. All are worthy of consideration, and safety after we leave Afghanistan. We owe them that.

Please help our citizen-soldiers—past, present, and future—deliver on our country's promises.

Thank you for your attention. Keep in touch! 
/Charlie Sherpa/

UPDATE, Sept. 29, 2013: Check out this great article from the Des Moines Register's Tony Leys, regarding how some 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division soldiers, the office of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Cathloic Charities of Des Moines have helped an Afghan interpreter and his family immigrate to Iowa.

25 September 2013

Veterans to Present Poetry, Prose at 'Wordfest 2013'

Military veterans will present their published works at a free public reading during Wordfest 2013, an annual celebration of the humanities held in Springfield, Mo. The reading will be held Sat., Sept. 28, 1:30 p.m. at Mille's Café, 313 S. Jefferson Ave. Wordfest is underwritten by the Missouri Literary Festival and the Missouri Humanities Council.

The poems and prose to be presented were originally published in "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors," a 2012 anthology produced by Southeastern Missouri State University Press, Cape Girardeau, Mo. "Proud to Be" is co-sponsored by the Missouri Humanities Council and the Warriors Arts Alliance.

The "Proud to Be" book is available for purchase via Amazon or directly from the university press. The book was previously covered on the Red Bull Rising blog here; an e-mail interview with anthology editor Susan Swartwout appears here.

A second volume of the anthology series is anticipated to be published in November 2013. The cover design for "Proud to Be" Vol. 2 was announced earlier this week. A call for submissions for a third volume is anticipated later this fall.

According to the Missouri Humanities Council website, authors featured at Saturday's event will include:
  • Jay Harden, a U.S. Air Force veteran who flew 500 combat hours in Vietnam as a B-52 navigator
  • Fred Rosenblum, a Vietnam War veteran who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1967
  • Gerardo “Tony” Mena, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who spent six years in special operations with Marine Force Reconnaissance units
  • Colin D. Halloran, a veteran who served in Afghanistan
  • Lauren K. Johnson, former military public affairs officer who served in Afghanistan
The introduction to the program will be provided by William Garvin, special collections librarian and university archivist at Drury University in Springfield, Mo. Discussion following the readings will be moderated by Geoff Giglierano, executive director of the Missouri Humanities Council.

23 September 2013

Theater Group to Present on Military Sexual Trauma

The Telling Project, an Austin, Texas-based non-profit organization that has presented more than 20 grassroots theatrical presentations of veterans' military experiences nationwide since 2007, has announced a play focused on sexual assault in the military. Titled "Uniform Code," the play will premiere January 2014 at the Library of Congress' Coolidge Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

The group is currently fund-raising toward a $50,000 goal toward the play's production.

Organizers see the event as an opportunity to inform both the public and policy-makers: "The U.S. military has seen a thirty-nine percent rise in reported incidences of [Military Sexual Trauma, or M.S.T.] since 2010. Congress is currently deliberating on our nation's way forward in addressing this critical situation."

According to a project description on the crowd-funding website Indiegogo:
The Telling Project will bring a cast of [Military Sexual Trauma] survivors and survivors' family members to Washington, D.Cc to develop, rehearse and premiere UNIFORM CODE. UNIFORM CODE will be these individuals telling their own stories, a three-act, play constructed through interview, transcription and scripting, rehearsal and ultimately performance [...]

$50,000 will bring the cast and critical staff to Washington, D.C. for the two weeks necessary to assemble this performance. It will pay for the best artistic, production and promotion personnel that the vibrant District of Columbia theatre scene has to offer. And it will underwrite an outreach campaign through congressional offices, constituents and networks inviting, urging and, where necessary, pressuring congressional representatives to attend the premiere of UNIFORM CODE.
For more information and updates, visit the group's Indiegogo project page, or visit the Telling Project website.

In 2011, the Telling Project presented "Telling: Iowa City." In 2012, it presented "Telling: Des Moines." Iowa Public Radio interviewed a portion of the cast and crew here. One of three announced 2014 productions will be conducted at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis; details are pending.

18 September 2013

Doctrine Man!! Bites Dogma, Produces Dead-Tree Book

In a web comic posted most weekdays on Facebook, the anonymous writer of Doctrine Man!! has collected a motley assortment of olde word-warriors, mil-spec intellectuals, and would-be policy-shifters. And those are just his characters, not just his 20,000 or so devoted readers and commenters ...

The strip is billed as "two minutes of hate, with a side plate of snark." Recently, it was recognized in our own 2013 Military Humor Awards for "Best Comic Strip or Cartoon on a Specific Military Topic."

Earlier this summer, Doctrine Man!! published a 164-page, full-color collection of his first year's work. Formatted at 8.5 by 11 inches, the soft-cover dead-tree edition is practically camouflaged, and will blend in nicely among the less-subversive hardcopy field manuals in your military reference library. Locally, we've even taken to referring to it as "DM!! 100-5."

According to a statement of intent buried in the back pages of the book, this may be the first of other annual compendia. You heard it here first: "Collect them all, trade with your friends."

So, here's the bottom line up front: Buy this book. You'll have more fun than a goat-hair happy sock at a reflective-belt rodeo. With such concepts alone, Doctrine Man!! has obviously already made the world a better place.
Able to leap useless acronyms with a single bound, faster than a lumbering field manual, more powerful than a cheese enchilada in a staff huddle ... Look, up in the air!! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's some moron's stick figure attempt at humor. Yes, it's Doctrine Man!! ... your favorite comic anti-hero!
With the turn of every cutting page, the snipes and insights into the military mindset fly fast and fly furious. For example:
  • On career management: "Hardworking guys like you set the bar so high, they need sloths like me to lower the bar for everyone else ..."
  • On effective communication: "If you had any more fluff in that brief, we'd be calling it 'Microsoft PowerPuff.'"
  • On professional conclaves: "Strategist conference? Hell, no ... I just watched 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes.'"
"The Further Adventures of Doctrine Man!!: America's Comic Anti-Hero (Volume 1)" is available via Amazon and directly from Doctrine Man!!. Purchasers can also request signed or personalized editions via the latter link.

16 September 2013

Mil-Fiction Review Tweaks Name, Announces Pub Date

Editors of an online military-fiction workshop have announced the first issue of "The Blue Falcon Review" will be published on or about Nov. 11, 2013. The review had previously been titled "The Blue Falcon: A Journal of Military Fiction," and is part of a family of pending non-fiction, fiction, and poetry products affiliated with Military Experience & the Arts (M.E.A.), Richmond, Kent.

The term "Blue Falcon" is military slang for a soldier that looks out for himself, at the expense of his buddies. On the cover of the Blue Falcon Review, the editors intend the title as a cheeky nod to the role of fiction as "a lie that tells the truth."

Explains MEA founder Travis Martin:
We wanted a title for our fiction journal that hinted at the grittiness of military speak and the secrets held by those who’ve worn the uniform. When we found a title that, to the civilian population anyway, evoked images of majestic bird soaring through the sky but, to former and active service members, meant something entirely different, we knew we’d found it. Like its title, The Blue Falcon Review promises to tell the truth about military service through fiction [...]
The inaugural issue will feature the works of more than 10 authors. In a departure from traditional "submit-and-forget" literary magazine processes, Blue Falcon Review editors Daniel Buckman ("Because the Rain") and Jerad W. Alexander ("The Life of Ling Ling") helped writers rework and rewrite their potential submissions throughout winter 2012 and spring 2013.

Cover art for the inaugural edition of The Blue Falcon Review will feature "Madness to Gladness," an abstract photographic work by artist and veteran Tif Holmes.

12 September 2013

Vietnam-era National Guard Unit Rallies for Reunion

By Iowa National Guard Public Affairs

A reunion of former members and families of the 2nd Battalion, 133rd Infantry (2-133rd Inf. aka "2nd Mech") will be held Sat., Sept. 14, 5:30 p.m. at the Sioux City Iowa National Guard armory, 3200 2nd Mech Dr., Sioux City, Iowa.

The event will commemorate the 45th anniversary of the unit’s mobilization for the Vietnam War in 1968, and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War in 1963.

To RSVP for the event, contact Bill Anderson at 712.490.5043; or by e-mail: william.d.anderson88.ctr AT mail.mil.

History of the 2nd Mech

The 2nd Battalion (Mechanized), 133rd Infantry (“2nd Mech”), formerly a subordinate unit of the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, Iowa Army National Guard, was headquartered in Sioux City, Iowa, with companies or detachments in Le Mars, Sheldon, Cherokee, Ida Grove, and Mapleton. The 2nd Mech was inactivated in September 1997.

Dubbed the “Sioux City Guard” in the late 1890s, the unit was mobilized for federal service multiple times, including in response to the Spanish American War (1898), Mexican Border Service (1916), World War I (1918), World War II (1940-45), and the Vietnam War (1968-69).

Reactivated and federally recognized in 1947 as part of the establishment of Iowa National Guard units after World War II, the” 2nd Mech” spent the next 15 years in flux as the unit and the Iowa National Guard was organized and reorganized multiple times. The year 1962 found the “2nd Mech” and the 34th Infantry Division preparing to change once again; in mid-1962, the 2nd Regiment of the 133rd Infantry was converted from traditional infantry to mechanized infantry. Later, the unit would serve in support of the Vietnam War.

Three years later in November 1965, the “2nd Mech” was chosen as one of 982 National Guard and Reserve units nationally to support U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s defense strategy as a Selective Reserve Force (SRF). A SRF was a unit selected to maintain a high level of combat readiness in support of potential combat operations around the globe. The SRF was formed to replace the nation’s strategic land power reserve. In its final state of readiness, an SRF could be released to active duty operational control for use in situations that might require immediate attention by an active duty unit without depleting the “ready reserve” of the nation’s military force.

On March 3, 1966, Major General Junior F. Miller, the adjutant general of Iowa, announced that the Iowa National Guard had three units, to include the “2nd Mech,” that were in a high-priority category in the event combat operations in Vietnam escalated. That same month, the unit began conducting combat maneuvers in the Loess Hills of Western Iowa, 18 miles north of Sioux City. After receiving the message from the battalion executive officer “to have their personal affairs in order so they could be ready to go in 7 days,” the 863 soldiers of the “2nd Mech” were mobilized for federal service on May 13, 1968 and stationed at Camp Carson, Colo. Selected unit members were later deployed from Camp Carson to Vietnam for combat duty.

After spending nearly 20 months on active duty in 1968-69, 851 of the original 863 unit members returned to state control on December 31, 1969. Of the original 863 soldiers, 385 saw combat in Vietnam with active duty U.S. Army units, 63 were wounded in action (WIA), and 12 were killed in action (KIA).

Members of the unit killed during Vietnam are:

  • Spc. 4th Class Philip L. Baker, killed in action March 3, 1969
  • Sgt. Roger C. Beall, killed in action Feb. 3, 1969
  • 1st Lt. Ronald I. Buchanan, killed in action July 19, 1969
  • Pfc. Norman K. Folk, killed in action Sept. 26, 1969
  • Sgt. Steven V. Crum, killed in action Aug. 13, 1969
  • Pfc. Arlin D. Franklin, killed in action July 17, 1969
  • Spc. 5th Class David A. Lefler, killed in action May 12, 1969
  • Spc. 4th Class Duane E. Olson, killed in action June 11, 1969
  • Pfc. John H. Platt, killed in action May 24, 1969
  • Spc. 4th Class Akke J. Timmer, killed in action Aug. 6, 1969
  • 1st Lt. Corbin C. Tindall, killed in action April 11, 1969
  • 1st Lt. Donald F. Wood, killed in action Aug. 19, 1969

Members of the “2nd Mech” were awarded the following awards for their support of combat operations in Vietnam: one Soldier’s Medal, five Silver Stars, 144 Air Medals, 137 Bronze Stars, 63 Purple Hearts, 294 Army Commendation Medals, 186 Combat Infantryman Badges, 443 Good Conduct Medals, 795 National Defense Service Medals, 37 Vietnam Cross of Gallantry Medals, 264 Vietnam Service Medals, and 264 Vietnam Campaign Medals; a total of 2,633 awards.

10 September 2013

Visit These Military-Themed Web Comics!

An unanticipated benefit to the 2013 Mil-Humor Awards was that we collected a list of current comics that tell military-themed stories, and where they can be found on the Internet.

For your consideration and regular use, here's an alphabetized list of time-wasters and thought-provokers.

The usual caveats apply: Use responsibly. Not responsible for lost productivity, military readiness, or land wars in Asia.

05 September 2013

The Winners of the 2013 Mil-Humor Awards!

On April 1, 2013—a day that will live in infamy, at least in the Sherpa household—the Red Bull Rising blog announced an experiment: A contest recognizing the best of humorous military writing, in both text and art. We were just coming off the success of a tongue-in-cheek poetry contest, and we decided to accelerate our Mil-Humor Award plans because we saw a target of opportunity, and thought we had a small amount of the Big Mo.

We garnered enough entries in three of four categories to warrant awards. Best of all, we learned a lot from the shoot-from-the-hip process: what works and doesn't work regarding outreach, categories, rules, judging processes, etc. In true lessons-learned fashion, we hope to use that insight in future "best of mil-humor" projects.

While we were unable to secure an official sponsorship for this year's contest, we are pleased to donate $50 to a military-focused charity specified by each awardee.

Support these creators. Read their works. Buy their books and T-shirts.

Also: Follow their leads. Support their charities. Be a force for truth-telling, change, or whatever else trips your trigger.

Most of all, however, keep your sense of humor. Because ... Sherpatude No. 26.


Category: "Best Military-themed Comic Strip or Cartoon"
Awardee: Delta Bravo Sierra

Topic: There's strange, and then there's Army strange ...
Target charity: Heroes Project, Corrollton, Texas

Populated by a menagerie of strange animals and amped-up personalities, the characters of Delta Bravo Sierra are often instantly recognizable by those who have served or continue to serve in the military. It's like "Beatle Bailey's" Camp Swampy had suddenly been overrun by the cast of "Pogo."

The Engineers in our judging pool loved the "crab" character, who uses his claws and a crew of misdirected Roombas to perform route-clearance missions downrange.

One strip, which depicts a soldier improving his fighting position at holiday time, particularly resonated with judges. If you don't get a little dust in your eye when you read this, you don't appreciate the true meaning of Christmas in a hostile environment.

For information on how to donate to Delta Bravo Sierra's target charity, the Heroes Project, click here.


Category: "Best Comic Strip or Cartoon on a Specific Military Topic"
Awardee: Doctrine Man!!
Title: "I am a bad-ass!"
Topic: The evolution of human flight at the dawn of the Drone Age
Target charity: Pets for Vets, Wilmington, N.C.

Written and drawn by an active-duty but anonymous Army strategist, "Doctrine Man!!" is like "Dilbert" for cube-dwellers who work in 5-sided office buildings. Of all the discussions and debates generated on the cartoon's Facebook page in 2013, none has come back, time and time again, like the topic of remotely piloted aircraft.

This series of panels accurately depict the culture clash in today's fighter-jock locker room talk. Both sides of the debate want to achieve the air of superiority, but Doctrine Man!! is on their collective six, gunning for everyone.

That's why, although we've never met him, we like to imagine that Doctrine Man!! is like "Jester" from "Top Gun" (1986). Except he probably wears a digital watch.

For information on how to donate to Doctrine Man!!'s target charity, Pets for Vets, click here.


Category: "Best Humorous Short Video on a Military Theme"
Awardee: Ranger Up
Title: "Tim Kennedy performs 'Part of Me' by Katy Perry"

Topic: A high-speed, high-drag (you heard us) parody with a point
Target charity: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Arlington, Va.

Written and produced by self-described "bunch of whacked out Veterans who make silly crap and happen to sell awesome T-shirts on the side," this parody of a 2012 Katy Perry music video generated a number of unexpected results:
1. The world learned that Mixed Martial Artist and active-duty Army soldier Tim Kennedy looks spectacular in a bathtub with bubbles and a wig. 
2. We came to realize that the video was more than Big Over-the-top Fun, but an effective, good-natured commentary on how the entertainment business seeks to appropriate themes of patriotism, hard work, and what it means to serve. And that's a ... part of us ... the media's never-ever-gonna to take from us ... no. 
3. We made the mistake of watching the original Katy Perry video with family around. Now, one of our daughters wants to be a U.S. Marine: "Just like Katy Perry," she says.
For information on how to donate to Ranger Up's target charity, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), click here.

Also, be sure to visit Ranger Up's "Rhino Den" website for daily insights on veterans, suicide, and prevention, Sept. 8 to 14, 2013.

03 September 2013

'Dillion' Film Tells Iowa 'Red Bull' Soldier's PTSD Story

The family of a deceased Iowa "Red Bull" soldier hopes that publicizing their story of loss to suicide will help other citizen-soldiers, families, and friends seek help and resources. The 46-minute documentary "Dillion" debuts on Kansas Public Television station KPTS, Wichita, on Sept. 11, 2013, at 8 p.m. CDT.

The subtitle of the documentary is "The true story of a soldier's battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [P.T.S.D.]." The family is seeking other venues and media outlets through which to distribute the film.

Their messages? That suicide is not a rational option, nor is it inevitable. That there is never a single event to which one can trace an explanation of suicide. And that there are others, like their son, who may be suffering depression, PTSD, or ideas of suicide.

Dillion Naslund, 25, of Galva, Iowa, was a former member of the Iowa National Guard's 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (1-168th Inf.) and 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1-133rd Inf.). Both are units of Iowa's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division.

"Dillion had felt he was alone," says his mother Lisa, "but we quickly found out that he wasn't." In the days and weeks following his December 2012 funeral, she says, more than a handful of other soldiers have independently contacted her family. They told her that Dillion's example had inspired each to seek help in their own struggles. "Dillion's legacy can be to save lives," she says. "He's already saved lives."

According to news reports, eight former or actively drilling citizen-soldiers from Iowa have committed suicide since December 2012. All were between the ages of 18 and 25, and experiencing relationship and/or financial problems. Nationwide, suicide-prevention efforts continue to be a concern of military veterans and families. They are also the focus of programs throughout U.S. military and veterans communities, including the National Guard.

Naslund had previously deployed as an infantry soldier to Iraq in 2007-2008. More recently, he had returned from a 9-month deployment to Eastern Afghanistan's Laghman Province in July 2011. Back home, in addition to being the member of a close family, he was active in the local fire department, and worked a concrete construction job. Naslund died of a self-inflicted gunshot Dec. 10, 2012.

"Dillion wasn't any different than anyone else," Lisa Nasland says. "He had chores, he got grounded. He was just an ordinary kid who went off to war."

Friends and family say that Dillion had changed upon his return. He was no longer upbeat and respectful, and his drinking became destructive. Earlier in 2012, family and friends had picked up on warning signs, and had gotten Dillion to medical help. Once out of in-patient care, however, medical and counseling resources were located more than 2 hours away from Naslund's Ida County home.

"You want something or someone to blame," says Lisa Naslund. "It took me a long time to realize that my argument [with Dillion on the day of his death] wasn't to blame. His girlfriend wasn't to blame. I call PTSD 'the Beast.' The Beast is to blame."

Russ Meyer, a veteran, father of two U.S. Air Force pilots, and former president of Cessna, introduces the "Dillion" documentary in 1-minute trailer here, as well as embedded in this blog post below.

Independent film-maker Tom Zwemke is a Vietnam War veteran, a Naslund family friend, and a current member of the KPTS board of trustees. The documentary was first screened at a private gathering of more than 200 friends and family earlier this summer, at a Western Iowa celebration of Dillion's July 2 birthday.

The Veterans Crisis Line is a toll-free and on-line resource staffed by trained Department of Veterans Affairs personnel, who can confidentially assist soldiers, veterans, families and friends toward local help and resources.

According to the Veterans Crisis Line website:
1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.