Monday, December 29, 2008

The Red Cross Provides Important Services to Deployed Military Personnel

Below is a guest post from weekly contributor Andrew Lubin. Read more of his writing at

We all know the Red Cross from blood drives and Santas ringing bells as they beg for money, but in fact the American Red Cross (ARC) has a long history of providing support to members of the Armed Forces. The Red Cross has been doing so since its inception in 1881.

Military members can be confident that when they are deployed, in training, or stationed far from home –– often without phone or email access –– they are not out of touch. The ARC offers emergency communication, emergency financial assistance, counseling, and services for veterans at absolutely no cost to families in need.

I live in the Philadelphia area, so I contacted the Red Cross’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter for information on how the Red Cross supports our military. My good friend Maureen Murphy, the senior major gifts officer, quickly sent me the below information:
This year 1,577 military families received 2,643 services. We anticipate no decrease in the need for our services in 2009. In our chapter’s five-county area, 34 National Guard units are currently active, with 17,000 Pennsylvania Guard having served since 2001. Furthermore, with the current economic downturn, we anticipate that the military families we serve will call upon us even more.

Emergency Communication: Red Cross communication services allow active duty military personnel to be in touch with their families in the event of emergencies such as death, serious illness of a family member, the birth of a child, or similar serious family situations. We contact embassies, ships at sea, and isolated military units. We also record and send special video messages to deployed service-members that allow them to see their loved ones.

Emergency Financial Assistance: We provide financial assistance to military personnel and their families in the form of interest-free loans or grants to assist with traveling expenses incurred during a personal or family crisis requiring the presence of a service member or his/her family. We also provide financial support when there is a demonstrated need for burial expenses, or urgent health and welfare needs such as food or shelter.

Counseling: We offer confidential services to military personnel and their family including counseling, guidance, and information referrals of all kinds.

Services for Veterans: We provide assistance and information to veterans about the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our staff and volunteers work as advocates assisting veterans in obtaining financial benefits through the Board of Veterans Appeals.

The following are two examples of how our chapter has been able to assist our local military families this year:

• Jacob D. was born in the morning. Soon after, Kate D. called us to ask if we could inform her husband, a Marine serving in Iraq, about the birth of their son. Our volunteer documented the request, verified the information with Kate’s doctor in Montgomery County, and dispatched an Emergency Communications request. The news was conveyed to Corporal D. that same day.

• Maria B.’s daughter was rushed to a Chester County hospital. Maria’s husband was on assignment in the “Beyond the Horizon Exercise” but she could not reach him. Maria contacted our chapter, and a volunteer immediately contacted the hospital, confirmed the child’s status, and dispatched an Emergency Communications leave request. With this quick and efficient work, the U.S Southern Command notified Captain B. that he was granted leave to go home to be with his daughter and wife. And it all took just 43 minutes!

As our troops continue to deploy, our chapter remains committed to delivering “Services to the Armed Forces” to them and their families. Your gift truly matters to the thousands of men, women, and children who call upon us in times of crisis.
Though the "Services to the Armed Forces" program is a congressionally mandated core function for the Red Cross, the federal government does not subsidize these services. Call Maureen Murphy, senior major gifts officer, at (215) 299-4038 or Emily Davis, senior director of financial development, at (215) 299-4064. You’ve still got time to make a 2008 charitable donation.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Movies VALKYRIE and SOPHIE SCHOLL Both Show a Few Good People Trying to Stop the Nazi Regime

In the spring of 1971 as a new Mrs. Lieutenant I finally managed to cut through the U.S. Civil Service red tape in Munich, Germany, and obtain a job as a GS-2 at the Army Air Force Motion Picture Service. My job was to type the list of movies passing from one small group of American soldiers on a mountain top to another small group of American soldiers on a different mountain top in Italy.

There were two other young army wives in that typing pool along with a middle-aged German who, as I recall, held her long-time position under the Status of Forces agreement which gave the German WWII losers the right to several jobs on each U.S. Army kaserne (post).

Fraulein Winkler explained that she had not joined the Hitler Youth only because she had somehow fallen between the cracks. But on the night of Kristallnacht -– the Nov. 9, 1938, night of the supposedly “spontaneous” action by the Nazis against Jewish businesses and synagogues – she had been sent home early from night school in Munich so as to be home safely before the “spontaneous” action began.

Fraulein Winkler also spoke about not having very good soap during the war; a statement that I chose to ignore rather than spit angry words at her in the close confines of the typing pool. And she also described that her mother had insisted on traveling during the war and had been killed by an American bomb dropped on a train station, apparently forgetting why the Americans were dropping bombs on German-held territory.

But the memory of Fraulein Winkler that has always been the strongest is when I asked her why Germany went off to war only 20 years after the end of WWI. Her reply: “Hitler said we needed more land.” I resisted demanding from her where the German people thought that land was coming from.

A few months later my security clearance came through and I moved over to the 66th Military Intelligence Group, which was housed in the former headquarters of the Luftwafte, the Nazi air force.

Thus it was with a very personal interest that I saw the movie VALKYRIE starring Tom Cruise (with an eye patch) as the German army officer instrumental in the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. I could vividly imagine the scenes in Munich and Berlin, and I could understand the few high-level Germans who wished to stop Hitler from ruining Germany.

When I told someone I had seen the movie, she said she had heard it was an apologia for the Nazis. Not at all. These were only a very few men against an overwhelming nation that still supported the man who said Germany needed more land.

And it was also eerie to have recently watched on Netflix the 2005 movie SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS about German university students in Munich who tried to organize a protest against the Nazis after the defeat at Stalingrad.

Both movies have the same ending –- the good guys die. And both movies serve as a warning of what happens when totalitarian regimes take over and force their ways on an entire people.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mrs. Lieutenant: Thanks for a Year of Learning and Sharing

Almost exactly a year ago at the end of December 2007 I had the epiphany that I didn’t need to wait any longer for someone to say yes to me. I signed up for BookSurge – Amazon’s print-on-demand publisher – to publish my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT.

In January I learned that MRS. LIEUTENANT had been chosen as a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (an occurrence totally separate from the BookSurge decision). Amazon gave each of us semi-finalists an online page for people to review the beginning of our novel. And that was the moment I stumbled upon blogging, social media, and all the other things I started learning.

In March I began my Mrs. Lieutenant blog and in April my novel was published (and my older daughter Rachel threw a surprise birthday/book launching party).

In June I took a virtual book tour and “met” some terrific book bloggers. That same month I also co-sponsored a military spouse contest with Nancy Brown of And later in the summer I helped fundraise online for Operation Soldier Care with Trish Forant of and Nancy Sutherland of

Nancy Brown, Trish Forant and Nancy Sutherland are three of the people I most want to thank. Working with them to support our military personnel and their families has been an amazing experience. And one benefit of working with these women is that in November Nancy Brown asked me to be her co-host on a new BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life – and we’ve already interviewed both Trish Forant and Nancy Sutherland on the show.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to “meet” military bloggers such as Big Tobacco, whose R-rated reports from somewhere in Iraq lend an immediacy to the news of U.S. troop fighting. (And through email I’ve advised him on a novel he’s writing when off duty.)

All my intense learning about marketing on the internet led to my establishing Miller Mosaic, LLC and hiring my younger daughter Yael to work with me. We now have the site and are offering website package solutions for book authors and small businesses to quickly and easily get a website presence. Plus in the new year we plan to offer training workshops for using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to market books, films, tv and other such projects.

One of the first websites Yael built was, a showcase for a proposed graphic novel series my husband Mitch and I want to write about a lieutenant commander in the Navy. (The first website Yael built was to help my 84-year-old father get senior improv gigs on cruise ships.)

Yael’s newest site is for her sister Rachel –, which is launching now.

And thanks to learning about the Military Writers Society of America from book author Carolyn Howard-Johnson of, I now have a journalist who has been embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan as a weekly contributor to this blog – Andrew Lubin. (And this Mrs. Lieutenant blog feeds into the blog section of

And Carolyn and I – who met on Twitter due to a shared interest in supporting our deployed troops – are busy writing a proposal for a non-fiction book on fiction marketing. (Yael is building us a website for this project.)

I look forward in 2009 to continuing to provide information on organizations and people supporting the troops – both here on this blog and on the BlogTalkRadio show.

And thanks again to all of the above people as well as the wonderful others I’ve met along the way this year and to those I look forward to meeting in the future.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Help This One Soldier Provide Blankets to People in Afghanistan

I first learned about this one deployed soldier’s project from a tweet on Twitter. The person tweeting said his wife had checked out the announcement on Craigslist and it was legit:
Hello, I'm a U.S. Army soldier in Afghanistan. Winter is here and the cold is getting worse. Each year hundreds of children die because of the extreme cold in Afghanistan. Most people in Afghanistan are poor and cannot afford to buy blankets for the family.

I'm trying to collect blankets so we can help the people of this country in hard times. If you would like to help the troops bring prosperity and a brighter future to Afghanistan by donating a blanket please contact me. Thank you for your support to the troops.
I then emailed the soldier and got the following reply:
Thank you for your interest in helping us help the people of Afghanistan. My name is Gerardo Llamas; I am a Specialist in the U.S. Army currently in Afghanistan. If you are interested you can send your donations to me so I can go and donate them. My address here is:

Gerardo Llamas
APO AE 09356
My husband told me that Spirit of America is an organization that helps “Americans serving abroad assist people in need.” But I wanted to support Gerardo Llama, who all on his own is doing this humanitarian project.

I asked Specialist Llamas how he came to do this. Here is his reply (the boldface is mine):
First I would like to thank you for your interest in helping me make this effort a possibility. The idea came when I got here and realized how poor the people were in Afghanistan. I was suddenly interested in learning more about them, how they lived, their customs, and their way of life.

As I started learning from other people here, including the local nationals that worked on the base, I was amazed by their needs and lack of simple things, such as a blanket. Things that we usually take for granted back home.

I knew winter here tends to be rough and severe. So I wanted to do something else besides my military duty to help the people of Afghanistan and make a difference in someone's life. I first thought about buying a few blankets myself and donating them, but for some reason it didn't seem fair. There are hundreds of families out there suffering from the cold. I wanted to do more but of course I did not have the money to help everybody.

That's when I thought about collecting blankets from back home. I first wanted to get in touch with family members so they could help me by getting blankets from around the neighborhood or church. After talking to them I decided I wanted more; I wanted to help the most people I could.

All of a sudden I found myself browsing through for some item for my entertainment here and that's when I realized the huge number of people that browse through

I decided that if I put a post on Craigslist asking for donations at least 50 people would see it and might help. I posted in different places -- San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Chicago and a few more places -- the more people I could get to read these posts the better.

So far I have received about 50 replies from different places, but nothing has arrived yet. Some people said they would donate their old blankets, some said they'd buy some, some others even offered to collect blankets at their workplace or church.

I'm currently assigned to HQ ISAF in Kabul. I'm an individual augmentee, therefore my unit is back in San Antonio, Texas. I came here as a volunteer.

The people I'd be donating to are locals -- from villages around the city to the local orphanage and children's hospital. I plan to distribute the blankets to the most people I can around the area.

Thank you for your interest and support to the troops, God bless!
I just bought four twin-size blankets on the Kmart website and had them shipped directly to Specialist Llama’s APO address. (See APO address above –- the Kmart online charge system puts the AE of this APO address in the space for state info and then recognizes this address as an APO address.) If you have used blankets to send, these are also good.

In the spirit of this holiday season and the new year, I hope you’ll support the efforts of one soldier to make a difference. And his single-handed effort is offering us the opportunity to make a difference. As Judaism teaches, to save one life is as if you have saved an entire world.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Help the Marines Provide Toys for Tots

I’m pleased to announce that Andrew Lubin is now a weekly contributor to this blog, and we’re aiming for Tuesday as his regular slot.

As I noted for his two previous guest posts, Andrew is the author of the award-winning book “Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq”, and as an embedded journalist has spent 12 of the last 30 months in Iraq, Afghanistan, GTMO, and Beirut writing on our Marines and soldiers. You can learn more about him from his website.

2003 -- Reader’s Digest names Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation America's "Best Children’s Charity"

There are few charities that have accomplished as much as Toys for Tots, and it all started with a Raggedy Ann doll in 1947 Los Angeles.

Diane Hendricks handcrafted the doll and asked her husband Bill to give it to an organization delivering Christmas toys to needy children. To Diane and Bill’s surprise, there was no such group. So after Diane informed Bill that he needed to start one … Major Bill Hendricks, US Marine Corps Reserves, enlisted his fellow reservists. They collected and distributed 5,000 toys that year.

The program was so successful that the Marine Corps promptly adopted Toys for Tots and in 1948 made it a national program. The reservists ran their early campaigns in every city or town in America that had a Marine Reserve Center with the announced goal to “bring the joy of Christmas to America's needy children.”

While Major Hendricks was a Marine reservist on weekends, his day job was that of director of public relations for Warner Brothers Studio, and he used his Warner Brother connections to advance the Toys for Tots program.

In 1948 Walt Disney himself designed the logo (still used today), along with the poster used in the initial national campaign, and later Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee, and Vic Damone recorded the Toys for Tots theme.

The Hollywood connections continued, with Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Tim Allen, Kenny Rogers, Clint Eastwood, and Billy Ray Cyrus as only a few of the long list of celebrities who have given their time and talent to promote Toys for Tots since 1948.

Organized as a 501(C)(3) tax-deductible public charity, thousands of America’s corporations and dozens of thousands of individuals donate money, toys, and time annually. First Lady Nancy Reagan served as the national spokesperson in 1983, as did First Lady Barbara Bush in 1992.

Even in 1990, as Marine reservists were being mobilized for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Hollywood and corporate America stepped in to assist. Merv Griffin’s popular “Wheel of Fortune” TV show teamed with Pizza Hut for a three-week promotion of Toys for Tots that raised in excess of $3 million – and the deploying Marines still distributed 7.9 million toys.

The number of toys donated is staggering, as is the number of children who receive them:
• 1995: 8.1 million toys collected and distributed to 4.2 million children
• 1997: 10 million toys distributed to 4.7 million children
• 1999: 13.7 million toys for 5.9 million children
• 2000: 15.8 million toys for 6.3 million children
• 2003: 15.1 million toys for 6.6 million children
• 2004: 19 million toys for 7.5 million children
• 2006: 19.2 million toys for 7.6 million children

And remembering that the Marine reservists were called up in 2001 to fight in Afghanistan and later Iraq, all of this has been accomplished with 35% of the reservists deployed.

These are the most difficult economic times in memory – which makes it even more difficult to be a child. Take a few minutes this week and donate a wrapped new toy to your local Toys for Tots barrel. Or even better; visit and donate $ 20-30 via Paypal.

Keep faith with the Marines fighting overseas; it’s the right thing to do.

Semper Fi

Read my PZ the Do-Gooder Scrooge blog post about the USO and “coming home.”

Read Nancy Miller’s blog post about all the guests interviewed to date on our new BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life.

Here Are the Items Needed for Wounded Veterans and Their Families

Here’s the second part of the guest post from Shelly Vail of Troop Support Alliance in Tampa, FL. Above is a photo of Troop Support Alliance's Friday flag waving day. And below Shelly is going to give us a wish list of needed items for wounded military personnel at the Haley VA Hospital and their families who have come to stay at Haley House in order to be near the hospital.

I was just over at the hospital last Friday to do a pre-Christmas drop off of a donated used desktop PC and some PC and video games. Those will be shared in several areas of the hospital. Mary Ellen Harlan was getting the PC set up to be given to a spinal injury patient. He is having a hard time socially with most of his family and friends not able to visit with him while he is here. This will allow him to be closer to them even if it is only through the internet, but that should help.

The video games are something I started using as support almost six years ago. The guys in the poly-trauma wing (blast unit) and the ones in the nursing home who play on the games systems and PCs seem to require less pain meds. Our goal is to have each patient room in the blast unit have an XBox360. The older guys over in the nursing home area play the PC coffee break type of games and they have a Wii system but only two games at this time.

I hope we can attract some new awareness of what the families go through and the cracks the system has out there, yet what can be done to help them through it all.

This is the wish list I got in from a recreational therapy person in the spinal cord injury area:

• ethernet cables for bedside connection (patients bring their own laptops but not the cables so we need some to loan out)
• Wii remotes and games
• headphones (again for bedside use, primarily in 4-bed rooms (but the cheap kind because we cannot share them among patients due to hygiene concerns so the headphones must be “disposable”)
• puzzle books (word searches, crosswords, Sudoku, misc.)
laptop stands
• countertop convection oven (deep enough for 12-inch pizza to cook)
• griddle
• rectangular electric skillet

Many of the older guys might not have any family to help them with extra personal needs so we try to get items for whoever needs them.

Nursing home list:

• Wii games
• PC games ( puzzle, solitaire, casino style)
• New patient items such as pajamas, socks, underwear, etc.
• hygiene items such as shaving items, deodorant, shampoo, soap, etc.

Haley House list:

• small amount gift cards ($10) to places like Wal-mart or Target for when a family has needed items they forgot.
• phone cards for patients and families to use to stay in contact with home
• VISA or MasterCard gift cards that can be used to buy groceries to stock the kitchen area for families staying at Haley House
• Wounded Warrior van -- trying to find a new van and new sponsor to replace the van we had to return this summer

Anything I can get donated Mary Ellen Harlan finds a way to use. Any used PCs (XP operating system level) I can get are used either by patients or military families who really need a PC. Any video games, game systems or PC games are used at the VA as well with the recreational therapy crews helping patients use them with wonderful results.

Send all items to Haley House Fund Inc., P.O. Box 701, Brandon, FL 33509-0701. Email questions can be addressed to me at . And anything you can send or donateto Haley House will be so very much appreciated.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Supporting Our Wounded Troops in Tampa, Florida: Please Help If You Can

I asked Shelly Vail, who is part of the support group for Haley House (see my previous post), to write a guest post about the Troop Support Alliance and also a wish list for Haley House besides the much-needed monetary donations. Above is a photo from Friday flag wave and below is the first of two parts of Shelly's guest post.

The Troop Support Alliance is an umbrella name used by a bunch of small grassroots groups here in Tampa Bay who do troop support. We also do the Friday flag waves as the Troop Support Alliance as well. We also help support each other's projects and we all support Haley House and the Haley VA in as many ways as we can on top of our niche areas.

My group is called Operation Gamer2Gamer and was started back in 2002 while I was working for Microsoft as a retail field rep. It was a way for the gamer guys here to help support their military gamer family serving overseas.

I was adopted by a game clan called Xtreme Eagles who continue to help me out with troop support even during my extended time as a wounded warrior – and

We used the video games as moral support at first to help the guys over in combat to relax during off duty hours. Then through Mary Ellen Harlan and Haley House we were able to expand to help with the recreational therapy crew over at the Haley VA Hospital. So since 2004 we have been using the video games as extended physical therapy with some really amazing results.

These are some of the other small grassroots groups that are part of Troop Support Alliance:

Operation Warm Heart – This group raises funds that are given 100% to the needy junior enlisted troops at MacDill AFB. The fund is controlled by the First Sergeants Council at MacDill and is used for those in dire financial need through no fault of their own. Any donation you give is put to good use and is greatly appreciated –

CENTCOM Memorial – This group is based out of MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida. It has taken five years but the group has finally gotten its petition through Congress and approved for the memorial. This memorial will be built and maintained at the base to remember all our troops who have paid the ultimate price for freedom –

Banana Bread for the Troops – This family group actually makes and bakes a special high potassium banana bread that is frozen and shipped over to the troops. Barbara and Al Davis even have the recipe posted for you to try yourself. They recently moved back up to Indiana to live near family but continue to bake for the troops –

Stay tuned for my next post with Shelly's wish list for Haley House families and for the wounded troops at the Haley VA Hospital.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haley House in Tampa, FL, Provides Housing for Relatives of Hospitalized Military Personnel/ Vets

Nancy Brown of and I interviewed on our BlogTalkRadio show Mary Ellen Harlan, the volunteer director of Haley House Fund, which raises funds for the Haley House in Tampla, Fl, to provide housing for family members visiting patients at the nearby James A. Haley Veterans Hospital.

I have to admit that a couple of times I had to force back tears as Mary Ellen described what she and the other volunteers do to provide support for our military personnel going through rehab at the VA Hospital or veterans who have come to the VA Hospital at the end of their lives.

Mary Ellen described one wounded soldier who claimed he wanted to die. But the Haley House was a temporary home for his wife and baby daughter. Mary Ellen encouraged him with the reminder that he was his baby's only father. And with the support of his family nearby, he recovered his will to live and was discharged from the hospital.

Haley House is run totally on donations, and there's a real shortage at the moment. Mary Ellen was passionate about her determination not to turn down any family member who wanted to be near hospitalized loved ones. But she doesn't know how she's going to get the money she needs.

Please go to Haley House Fund and donate whatever you can. And if you're not convinced by my words, then go to and listen to Mary Ellen tell in her own words how Haley House provides badly needed support for our wounded troops and veterans -- and how Haley House now is badly in need of support itself to continue its amazing work.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vantage Point Consulting Helps Military Personnel to Utilize Their Yearly Tuition Assistance Enlistment Benefits

On our BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life, Nancy Brown of and I interviewed Patti Hunt, military and retention specialist and program mentor with Vantage Point Consulting.

Patti works with various branches of the military, including the Coast Guard and National Guard, to help military personnel know about and utilize their yearly tuition assistance enlistment benefits. Patti stressed how many service personnel do not even know about these benefits. And, if they do, they face obstacles such as dealing with the complicated forms for accessing these benefits.

I asked whether there was an online video tutorial or webinar to help service personnel navigate these forms. Patti replied that there wasn't, although Vantage Point mentors do work with service personnel on filling out these forms.

Therefore, I want to throw out this challenge: If you or anyone else you know could work with Vantage Point to develop a video or webinar tutorial for filling out the forms, this could be a very important aid for service personnel who wish to take advantage of these benefits.

Vantage Point already has helpful information on its site, which is optimized for viewing on mobile devices. (Presumably this is because Vantage Point works with deployed personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan and other locations.) A video or webinar tutorial that would walk service personnel step-by-step through the forms could be a great addition to the existing information.

If anyone wants to accept this challenge, email me at to connect with Patti Hunt.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Embedded Reporter Tells How He Got to That Point in His Life

Last week author Andrew Lubin wrote a guest post about sending holiday joy to our troops. This week his guest post is in a more personal vein:

I always liked to write, but ended up in business school with a Masters in International Management instead. It was a great career, and I did some writing and speaking, but not on a professional basis. And to be honest, I never found a topic that really grabbed me – until five years ago.

I was driving home from Camp Lejeune, N.C., with my son Phil after he returned from Iraq in June 2003. He's a proud Marine, and fought in the initial invasion in March 2003.

He’s an artilleryman, and was an active participant in the big fight at An-Nasiriyah where so many Marines were killed (and in fact he was instrumental in rescuing Army private Jessica Lynch). So I was anxious to hear all about it.

My first questions to my 19-year-old combat veteran Marine were "What'd you do? What was it like?"

He proceeded to tell me the most hair-raising stories about the fight. And I realized that the press coverage, although well done, didn’t begin to do the story justice.

I was totally impressed by his stories as well as by his remarkably calm demeanor in relating them, and I thought I’d make a few pages of notes. Both my mom and dad were Marines (S/F!) in WWII, and I've still got a lot of their uniforms and memorabilia.

So I figured I'd write 10-15 pages about the battle and Phil's part in it, throw in some photos, and in 30 years some grandkid would say "Grandpa did all that ??"

Well, 50 pages and three calls to publishers later, I had a book ... my first: "Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq."

Suddenly I had a topic that grabbed me.

The book did well and I was invited to do a lot of TV and radio spots. I wrote some articles for various newspapers and I received a grant from the Marine Corps to write another book.

And then I went to Beirut with the 24th MEU and then to Iraq. And all that went well, so I went to Afghanistan. And suddenly I'm an embedded journalist with an audience who follows my work.

I've taken a boots-on-the-ground approach to my writing. I let the armchair gasbags and officious pundits talk about the war from the safety of their Washington offices. I’ll go out in the field and talk with the Marines and soldiers who are doing the fighting and dying.

I think that these young men and women are America's best, and therefore I need to do as good a job writing about their efforts as they do in fighting. And to do that I need to be up on the front lines with them.

So that’s one way to start a writing career. Perhaps not the safest, but certainly the most rewarding. I’ll be returning (for the fourth time) to Afghanistan in late March 2009 to cover these men and women.

They’re your sons and daughters over there, folks, or your neighbors' sons and daughters, and you need to know what they’re doing in your name. I’ll be covering them on The Military Observer, and I hope you’ll join us.

The photo for this post is of Andrew and his son Phil on deployment day in December 2005. Andrew's book "Charlie Battery" won the 2007 Gold Medal for Best Military Non-Fiction from the Military Writers Society of America. His newest book “Keep Moving or Die; Task Force Tarawa at An-Nasiriyah” will be published by Naval Institute Press in the second half of 2009. He has been on ABC, CNN, FOX, and Patriot Media and does a regular spot on Joey Reynolds WOR Radio (710 AM). He also writes on our troops on The Military Observer.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Soldier Wishes: Iraq Veteran Tonight on Your Military Life BlogTalkRadio Show Will Talk About This New Project

Join Nancy Brown of and me tonight on our BlogTalkRadio Show Your Military Life as we interview Iraq veteran Jared Still. He's the director of the Soldier Wish Campaign and the senior vice president of special projects with Wishy Inc.

BlogTalkRadio thought our show today so worthwhile that it is one of the featured shows on the home page.

Tune in to hear about this new project to give back to America's military personnel. If you can't tune in live at 6:30 p.m. Eastern today, the recording of the show will be available to listen to about an hour after the show ends.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wall Street Journal Shines Spotlight on Military Families at War

The December 13th front-page Wall Street Journal story carried the headline "Families at War: Military Clans Face Hardship as U.S. Fights on Two Fronts."
Life for military families used to be simpler. Fathers went off to war and left children behind. Children typically didn't go to war until after their parents retired from the armed forces. There were hardly any female troops.

Today, that calculus is being changed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the lengthiest conflicts in American history, and the growing numbers of female military personnel. Military families now have parents, children and other close relatives serving in Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously. The armed forces have growing numbers of married couples deployed to war zones at the same time.
How many of us who do not currently have family or close friends serving in the military have considered this "calculus"? To me it's an amazing picture of U.S. military forces today.

MRS. LIEUTENANT takes place in the spring of 1970. The Journal article states: "Female soldiers make up 13.7% of the Army, compared with 2.6% in 1973, when the military became an all-volunteer force."

In referring to families with multiple relatives serving in the armed forces, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the top U.S. commander in northern Iraq, is quoted as saying:
"It's a good thing, because it does show a family character of selfless service and patriotism. But it may be a bad thing because it's also fostering a society where a small group of citizens do most of the tough work."
I found this last sentence particularly compelling. I personally think that, more upsetting than a smaller group of citizens serving, is that this means there's even a larger group of citizens who are clueless as to the service of their fellow citizens.

One of the goals of both the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and this blog is to help more people understand the important role our military plays in the survival of our democratic country. And to understand who are the men and women who put their lives on the line for the rest of us to sleep at night.

Read the entire article yourself at the link below. But before you do, I want to share one more quote from the article. Given the rules that a Mrs. Lieutenant had to follow in 1970, this quote from a reverend officiating in September at a military wedding brought tears to my eyes: "With great joy, I now present to you, Lieutenants Eric and Claudia Donahue."

Read the entire article now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Send Some Holiday Joy to Our Troops! And After the Holidays Send Them Some More

I just joined Military Writers Society of America, through which I "met" Andrew Lubin. He is the author of the award-winning book “Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq”, and as an embedded journalist has spent 12 of the last 30 months in Iraq, Afghanistan, GTMO, and Beirut writing on our Marines and soldiers. You can learn more about him from his website.

Here's a guest post he wrote for this blog and I hope, if you're able, you act on his request:

I’ve recently returned from my third four-five week embed in Afghanistan. This is a different battlefield than Iraq; other than the posh Bagram living conditions (multiple chow halls, massage parlors, and jewelry shops), this is still a war zone.

Out in the mountains on the Afghan-Pak border it’s pretty rustic living, and when I was south of Kandahar in June, it was 140’F and too hot to eat our MRE’s.

Packages from the home front are a big deal.

The Marines and soldiers can use what you send, and it’s nice for them to know they’re not forgotten. Here’s what you need to do:
Buy a U.S. Post Office “Priority Mail” APO/FPO flat rate box ($ 10.95 regardless of weight) and fill it with:

Ramens, beef jerky, powdered Gatorade sports drinks, paperbacks, racing car or rifle magazines, powdered hot chocolate, potato chips, Triscuits or other flavored crackers, pretzels, Little Debbie cakes, lip balm, disposable razors, playing cards…and add a note with your address or email and you’ll most likely get a reply.

Or fill a shoebox. When my son was deployed, I’d mail a shoebox of stuff every Saturday. It cost maybe $ 5.00 to fill it and whatever to ship it.
Your packages won’t get there by Christmas, but frankly time and holidays lose all meaning in a war-zone. They’ll be as happy to receive your box in January as in December.

Oh yeah, and mail the packages to:

Capt Lindsay Mathwick
Unit 42540
FPO AP 96426-2540

Sgt Castro Frances
XVIII Airborne Corps
42001 MNC-1-C3 COIC
APO AE 09342-2001

Sgt Justin Mason
UIC 41116
FPO AP-1116

LCDR M. Tomlinson, USN
1st Bn, 2nd Marines
UIC 73040
FPO AP 09509-3040

Get your friends, office workers, and church to roger-up and support our troops. Maybe the war doesn’t make the news like it did in 2003, but America’s still got 200,000+ Marines and soldiers fighting overseas who deserve your support.

HoHoHo and all … and Semper Fi

World War II Records Now Available Online

In John Timmer's December 10th bog post "Browsing the past: National Archives' WWII records digitized," he describes the collaboration between the U.S. National Archives and the historical document website that has now resulted in a large amount of World War II documents being digitized and available online.

Read Timmer's blog post and then check out

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Xerox Spearheads Project to Thank the Troops

Thanks to Kim Beasley on Twitter I learned about this effort spearheaded by Xerox to say thanks to the troops. To "send" a free postcard by email go to Let's Say Thanks.

There are three easy steps: You select a design; enter a personal message, name and hometown; and hit "send." That's all it takes to say thanks.

Here's Xerox's explanation for this project:
The mission of Let's Say Thanks is to provide a way for individuals across the country to recognize U.S. troops stationed overseas. By submitting a message through this site you have the opportunity to send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women.

The postcards, depicting patriotic scenes and hometown images, were selected from a pool of entries from children across the country.

All you have to do is click on your favorite design and either select the message that best expresses your sentiment or draft a personal note. The postcards are then printed on the Xerox iGen3® Digital Production Press and mailed in care packages by military support organization Give2TheTroops®.

Xerox is committed to helping people across the nation express their gratitude to our troops overseas. The launch of this program is aimed at reminding them how much Americans appreciate their service.
Saying thanks is only a click away. Do this now!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Military Writers Society of America Is an Association of Over 800 Writers/Artists

Thanks to author Carolyn Howard-Johnson ( I've just been introduced to the Military Writers Society of America. Here's the mission statement:
We are an association of more than eight-hundred authors, poets, and artists, drawn together by the common bond of military service. Most of our members are active duty military, retirees, or military veterans. A few are lifelong civilians who have chosen to honor our military through their writings or their art. Our only core principle is a love of the men and women who defend this nation, and a deeply personal understanding of their sacrifice and dedication.

Our skills are varied. Some of us are world class writers, with many successful books. Others write only for the eyes of their friends and families. But each of us has a tale to tell. Each of us is a part of the fabric of Freedom. These are our stories.
Besides checking out the information on the website, also check out the group's blog run by MWSA web master Joyce Faulkner.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Send Holiday Cards for Military Personnel, Wounded Soldiers , Veterans and Their Families

In response to R. Scott Frothingham's post on LinkedIn about sending holiday greeting cards for wounded soldiers, Ruth E. Thaler-Carter posted a response saying she had found on a different address and a different deadline for accepting these cards.

Here's the information, which includes detailed instructions for what to do and also notes that these greeting cards are for military personnel, veterans, and their families besides wounded soldiers:

Send holiday greetings now.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Send Holiday Cards to Wounded Soldiers at Walter Reed and Other Military Hospitals

Nancy Brown, my co-host on our BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life, forwarded a LinkedIn comment that had been forwarded to her:

R. Scott Frothingham posted information on how holiday cards can be sent to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed and other military hospitals thanks to the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes working with the Department of Defense.

Frothingham explained:
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. Postal Service stopped accepting letters, postcards, or packages that are not addressed to a specific person at a military medical facility. Department of Defense regulations require military hospitals to reject any mail that is addressed to “A Recovering American Soldier,” “Any Wounded Soldier,” or “Any Service Member.”
Read the rest of Frothingham's holiday cards post to learn how this year holiday cards can be sent to wounded soldiers. And then please send cards yourself per Frothingham's instructions.

Light Shed on Nixon Government Struggle with Vietnam War Public Unrest

A news item in the December 3rd Wall Street Journal carried the headline “Nixon Memo Highlights Dilemma Over Vietnam.”

On December 2nd the National Archives opened nearly 200 hours of White House tape recordings along with 90,000 pages of documents. The news item stated:
A newly declassified memo to Nixon from his secretary of defense at the time reflects just how much the administration felt and discussed public pressure – even as it weighed U.S geo-political strategy – in anguished internal debate over war policy.
The Journal’s Washington Wire online blog included this information:
The tapes cover nearly 1,400 conversations that took place between November and December 1972, including conversations about the elections that year, revamping the executive branch and the decision to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong in North Vietnam.
For those of you who haven’t read my novel MRS.LIEUTENANT, you may not know that each chapter starts with a news item in the spring of 1970 when Vietnam War protests were major news and President Nixon repeatedly defended U.S. fighting in Southeast Asia. So I was surprised today to read this news item about “anguished internal debate.”

If you’re a history buff, you can get the recordings online at the Nixon Library.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

eMailOurMilitary Needs Your Help: Donate Today for the Holiday Postage Campaign

December 1st is the deadline set for postage donations needed to send the holiday cards and packages to deployed troops. The postage goal for this year was set at $2,500, and the total collected so far isn't even half that.

Help send holiday support to deployed troops by donating to the postage campaign right now.

Donate now

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day: Thankful for the Changes in the Past 38 Years

Today on Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for many things. One of these is to have lived to have seen how much the world has changed since 1970.

In my Google alerts today I found a link to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Company Information website page. Under the heading "Recent Blog Posts" I found "MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL." I clicked on the link to my blog post about the AFFES' new blog initiative

I said to my husband: "Imagine this turn of events. In 1970 I was turned down from a professional position at the U.S. Army's European Exchange System headquarters in Munich (where we were stationed at the time) because I might block a man from getting that position. And 38 years later AAFES (parent of EES) has a website that links to a blog of mine about my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT."

And only yesterday, as co-host of the new BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life when host Nancy Brown of and I interviewed Lauren Vargas of AAFES, I asked Lauren if AAFES still has catalogs. (The answer was yes, plus an online mall-style shopping site.) And I told Lauren that I still have my 1971-1972 EES mail order catalog.

To return to the subject at hand, I am so thankful for the progress that U.S. women have made in the past 38 years. While we still have a long way to go, I could never have imagined -- at the moment that I was turned down at EES headquarters -- that, in the intervening years, it would become unlawful to discriminate against women and whole other classes of people in employment situations.

May the United States continue to champion equal rights for men and women of all races, creeds and places of national origin. And may we as a country be a beacon unto the nations.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Help Feed the Family of a Severely Wounded GI This Thanksgiving

Here's the mission statement of the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes:
The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes provides emergency financial aid to our troops who have been severely wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Our patriotic donors have responded with financial help to 10,950 requests from disabled troops facing evictions, foreclosures, utility cutoffs, car repossessions and other crises, providing more than $22 million so far.

But more wounded troops are returning each week and they need your support. They were there for us. Now it's our turn to be there for them.
Donate now to help our nation's heroes this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Please Help the USO Provide for Deployed Personnel and Their Families: Donate Now

I received an email solicitation from the USO (United Service Organizations) that I find so compelling that I'm going to share it almost in its entirety here. (Boldface is mine.)
A few days from now, families in small towns and big cities all across the nation will gather together for that "most American" of holidays - the day we emulate our Pilgrim fathers and give thanks for all that we hold dear.

At the same time, halfway around the world, 170,000 brave young men and women will demonstrate their gratitude in another way: by putting their lives at risk to defend everything America stands for.

As we join our loved ones around the table to feast on turkey and all the trimmings, our troops overseas will grab an MRE and head out to patrol crowded streets and back alleys where insurgents continue to lurk.

As we watch the giant balloons of the Macy's parade usher in the holiday season, they'll spend Thanksgiving morning in harm's way: a "place" where rounding any corner can mean a deadly ambush... where stopping any car or passerby can trigger an explosion and sudden death.

As we cheer on our high school football heroes or watch the pros on TV, they'll face combat of a different nature - ducking live rounds and remaining alert for the sudden rush of an incoming rocket-propelled grenade.

Today, the deepening economic crisis and post-election political developments continue to dominate our front pages: so much so, that some Americans may even have forgotten about the brave and women who are doing their job overseas, but counting the days till it's their turn to share the home-town celebrations with their loved ones and friends.

However, the USO hasn't forgotten; we've already geared up to provide extra services to our troops... not just for the holiday season, but throughout the weeks and months ahead. With American troops spread all over the globe...

* We must recruit more stars to man our Holiday Entertainment Tours to combat zones... not just to entertain, but also to shake hands with our GIs and say face-to-face, "Thanks! We're here for you. You're the real star!"

* We need to buy more pre-paid phone cards, so our troops can call home for free whenever they get a chance, even from a pay phone in Baghdad.

* We must staff up and supply our overseas Centers and Mobile Canteens; the Holiday season is the loneliest time to be at the Front, so they'll have to stay open extra hours to provide our guys and gals in uniform with a hot cup of coffee, a warm smile, and a chance... even if just for a few moments... to escape from the war and enjoy a taste of home.

Meeting these special challenges, on top of all the everyday services we provide to our troops and their families, will take a huge effort, cost a lot of money, and stretch our resources to the limit. Many people are surprised to learn that the USO is not a government agency; in fact, we rely on individual citizens who want to support the troops, and who always seem to stand behind us at the times we need them most.

Now is one of those times. Please send your tax-deductible donation today, to help the USO make certain that every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman around the world knows that the folks back home are thinking of them this holiday season, and that we honor their dedication, their heroism, and their sacrifice.
Donate now

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanks to the Troops: Pre-Thanksgiving CD Release of For the Troops II

Starting November 25th, the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) will be providing free downloads of the second CD "For the Troops" featuring Grammy Award winners/nominees at And TriWest HealthCare Alliance will distribute 200,000 hard copies at locations such as military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and USO centers.

Here's more information from
"I’ve heard from service members who, before going on missions or upon returning, listen to songs for inspiration, motivation, reflection or simply to be distracted from a reality few of us could ever imagine,” said John Ondrasik, who writes and sings under the pseudonym band name Five for Fighting and spearheaded the CD’s development. “I hope that my song and the other hits from artists who generously contributed to this project stir those same emotions in our service members. We greatly appreciate the sacrifices the military has made for our country.”

The complete track listing of “For the Troops II” is:

3 Doors Down – When I’m Gone
Daughtry – Home
Five for Fighting – Freedom Never Cries
Good Charlotte – I Don’t Want to Be in Love (Dance Floor Anthem)
Gretchen Wilson – California Girls
Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft
Joe Perry – Shakin’ My Cage
Josh Groban – Machine
Jude – I Think It’s Time (Everything’s Alright)
Keith Urban – Everybody
Maroon 5 – Won’t Go Home Without You
Ray Orbison – In Dreams
Alan Jackson – Where I Come From
Trace Adkins – Fightin’ Words
AAFES asks that people help spread the word about the availability of this new CD. Let's do this.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Army Wives: Dealing With Household Baggage

I'm in Chicago today visiting my parents for their 84th birthdays. As we are about to drive to O'Hare Airport, I suddenly thought of the day in September 1970 when my husband called from the Baltimore Airport. He was en route to Ft. Dix, New Jersey, to fly to Europe for an unknown destination. I didn't have concurrent travel orders.

He called and said he'd just been paged. An official army personnel informed him that my concurrent travel orders had come through and his travel orders were being put on hold. I had 72 hours to join him at Ft. Dix.

And, oh yes, we were going to Munich, Germany. I had no idea where that was, and took some time to locate it on a map.

The next day my mother and I drove to Ft. Sheridan in Chicago to arrange for our household goods still at my parents' house to be shipped to Munich. And it's being in close proximity to the former Ft. Sheridan (now a housing development) that brought this memory to mind.

If you want to read more stories of military wives dealing with household baggage and other military household matters, check out the website of author Marna A. Krajeski at

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Online Organization CommunityofVeterans.Org Helps Veterans Make the Transition to Civilian Life

I’ve just come across the website of Here’s a brief statement about this organization:
Join our veterans-only online community to connect with people who know where you're coming from. Share your experiences and help others make the transition to civilian life. Stronger Together.
As a writer, I particularly found compelling the section of the site In Their Words in which veterans tell their own stories, including the featured story of Bryan Adams.

The site includes information on the new G.I.Bill:
The new G.I. Bill offers the most comprehensive educational assistance package in more than a generation.

Beginning August 1, 2009, veterans who have served three years of active duty since September 10, 2001 will be eligible to receive full tuition and fees, a monthly living stipend, and a $1,000/year stipend for books and other supplies. Active duty veterans who have served fewer than three years will be eligible to receive a portion of benefits under the new G.I. Bill.
For more information, go to G.I. Bill.

I hope you share information about this site with veterans you know who are returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. Having the support of an understanding community can make a huge difference in the success of a veteran’s return to the civilian world.

I’d like to close this blog post with the first paragraph of the story submitted by Cara Hammer. (The boldface is mine.)
I was stationed in Germany when I was redeployed from Iraq; we got off a C-130 from Ballad and were greeted on the tarmac by three Vietnam vets. These three guys were so happy to see us, one would have thought they were waiting for us the entire year to return. They had food for us, hugs, and well wishes for our return. They mentioned later that they were determined to have each individual soldier know their service was appreciated and not in vain. It’s amazing how a stranger can genuinely care and make such a big impact on you at a time when you’re not even aware that you needed it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Military Families: New Sources of Online Information

Nancy Brown of and I did our first BlogTalkRadio show last night, interviewing my husband Mitch about estate planning issues for military families. We made a couple of mistakes that we'll correct next time, but all in all it went well.

This Wednesday we're interviewing Trish Forant of about her holiday program for deployed troops, and we're lining up other very informative people for our future shows. Check out to get the schedule of upcoming radio shows as well as listen to shows already aired.

And here's a new website from Military OneSource that I just learned about --
TroopTube is the new online video site designed to help military families connect and keep in touch while miles apart. The site is designed for easy use, so you can quickly upload videos and share the simple joys of each day with each other, either privately or with the whole world. Sign up today and begin sharing videos by clicking here.

Military OneSource is an authorized Department of Defense program for Active Duty, Guard, Reserve and their families.
And if you're a military family, remember to check in with the new AAFES blog

Friday, November 14, 2008

BlogTalkRadio New Show: Your Military Life

The BlogTalkRadio Show “Your Military Life” will be co-hosted by me thanks to an invitation to do so from Nancy Brown of, who has just created the show.

Our first “official” show will be on Wednesday, November 19: 11 p.m. Eastern, 10 p.m. Central, 9 p.m. Mountain, or 8 p.m. Pacific. We will be interviewing Trish Forant, founder of eMailOurMilitary (, about the organization’s holiday program to send cards and packages to deployed military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we’ll take questions from the audience at 646-929-0021.

(We’re actually testing out the format on November 17 at the same times as above by interviewing my husband Mitch Miller on why a will is not enough.)

To find out about our upcoming shows, go to

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Compelling Photo Essay Concerning the Men and Women Deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan

The September 29, 2008, issue of The New Yorker features a compelling photo essay titled PORTFOLIO BY PLATON: SERVICE.

The essay was introduced by the following paragraph:
This summer, the photographer Platon took pictures of hundreds of men and women who volunteered to serve in the military and were sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. He followed them on their journey through training and deployment, after demobilization and in hospitals, to compile a portrait of the dedication of the armed services today. Sergeant Tim Johannsen, who lost both legs when he drove over an I.E.D. on his second tour of duty in Iraq, made a point of buying an Army T-shirt to wear in his photograph. Of his sacrifice, he said, “It’s just part of the job. You know what you signed up for.” Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, a military reporter who has become a vocal opponent of the Iraq war, says that he and others like him “take our activism as a continuation of our oath of service.” Like many who enlist, Johannsen and Chiroux come from military families. Sergeant John McKay, a marine whose uncle and grandfather were marines, and whose three-year-old son posed in uniform at the wedding of a cousin, also a marine, said, “He’s just waiting till he’s eighteen.” He went on, “I’m scared for him, but if he wants to do it I’ll support him.”
View the photos with their captions at PORTFOLIO BY PLATON: SERVICE.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day: We Honor Our Men and Women Past and Present

A friend forwarded a chain email with compelling photos of military personnel interspersed with these words. I do not know who wrote these words, but I would like to share them with you:
Your cell phone is in your pocket.
He clutches the cross hanging on his chain next to his dog tags.

You talk trash about your "buddies" that aren't with you.
He knows he may not see some of his buddies again.

You walk down the beach, staring at all the pretty girls.
He patrols the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists.

You complain about how hot it is
He wears his heavy gear, not daring to take off his helmet to wipe his brow.

You go out to lunch, and complain because the restaurant got your order wrong.
He doesn't get to eat today.

Your maid makes your bed and washes your clothes.
He wears the same things for weeks, but makes sure his weapons are clean.

You go to the mall and get your hair redone.
He doesn't have time to brush his teeth today.

You're angry because your class ran 5 minutes over.
He's told he will be held over an extra 2 months.

You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight.
He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home.

You hug and kiss your girlfriend, like you do every day.
He holds his letter close and smells his love's perfume.

You roll your eyes as a baby cries.
He gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they'll ever meet.

You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything.
He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting.

You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men like him.
He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded.

You see only what the media wants you to see.
He sees the broken bodies lying around him.

You are asked to go to the store by your parents. You don't.
He does exactly what he is told even if it puts his life in danger.

You stay at home and watch TV.
He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep, and eat.

You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable.
He tries to sleep but gets woken by mortars and helicopters all night long.
Last night I watched the first part of a PBS show on the Medal of Honor with interviews of some of the men still alive who received the Medal of Honor in WWII, Korea or Vietnam. (The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in battle bestowed by the U.S.) The five men who have received the Medal of Honor for fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan all received the award posthumously.

After a while I couldn't watch any more. What we as a country ask of the men and women who serve in the military is enormous. And so few of us who don't serve in the military understand this.

I hope today you'll take a few moments and say a personal thank you to all these men and women past and present. And then donate to your favorite military support organization. If you don't know of any, go to for organizations that support military families and personnel.

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Veterans Day is a special day when our nation stops to honor and give thanks to our military veterans and their families. But what happens when the parades are over and the yellow ribbons come down?...

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Website Great Americans Is Launching for Veterans Day

The website is launching on Tuesday -- Veterans Day. Here's the website's home page explanation by Matt Daniels, the creator and executive producer of the site:
Great Americans is a movement to celebrate those whose lives offer a positive example to others. As the first step in the pursuit of this vision, is dedicated to men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk to protect our nation at home and abroad. Great Americans is a celebration of their service, their sacrifice, and their example to us all.
The site is live now. Go check it out at and listen to some of the video interviews. And you still have time to Honor a Veteran at

Friday, November 7, 2008

Honor a Veteran: Veterans Day is November 11

There are only a few more days before Veterans Day. I want to encourage everyone who hasn't yet honored a veteran by posting a photo, video or description at to do so now.

And I want to share with you the terrific blog post by Lauren Vargas at the new AAFES blog (see my post about this new blog at

Lauren's post today is about the Facebook Honor a Veteran event -- Hope you'll read this blog post!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

After Election Day: Supporting Our Veterans and Our Troops

Last night at a Los Angeles election-day party I overheard a woman comment on Proposition 12 on the California ballot.
Shall a nine hundred million dollar ($900,000,000) bond be used to provide farm and home aid for California veterans?
The woman said: “I voted for the proposition because veterans deserve benefits even if I’m against the war in Iraq.”

Yes, she “gets” it! Supporting the troops is NOT a political stance. It is simply an acknowledgement of the men and women who serve to protect us.

This morning the news is that Proposition 12 passed, which means that the majority of Californians who voted understand this too. (For more information on the proposition, see

Also last night someone else was saying that he wanted to give books to the VA Hospital in Los Angeles but didn’t know how. I suggested he instead give them to, which supplies books for the troops. He readily agreed.

And to round out this blog post on supporting our veterans and our troops, I’m asking you to please participate in two events:

• My Honor a Veteran Facebook event at

• Trish Forant’s holiday program at

Friday, October 31, 2008

Army and Air Force Exchange Service Launching Blog to Celebrate the Military Family

In my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT, a telling incident occurs on the steps of the Ft. Knox PX (Post Exchange):
Sharon locates the PX, another one of the wooden frame buildings. At the top of the entrance steps a young black enlisted man in starched fatigues and shiny combat boots walks out of the door, sees them, and holds the door open. Sharon smiles at him as they pass.

They enter the PX and Kim turns to Sharon. "Did you see that? He was looking at us!"

"He was what?"

"Looking at us!" Kim hisses.

"He was just holding the door for us, being polite."

Kim's eyes flash her anger.

"Was the man black who shot the clerk?" Sharon asks.

"He was white. This has nothing to do with that." Kim strides off.

Sharon catches up with Kim in the towel department. Yves Saint Laurent towels in black and brown stripes and in blue and black stripes occupy a table. "These are terrific prices," Sharon says to Kim by way of making up. "The person who ordered these probably doesn't even know that Yves Saint Laurent is a famous designer."

For those of you who have never been in or allied with the U.S Army or the U.S. Air Force, the administration of the PX system is done by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service -- AAFES or called the BX/PX or Exchange. (In the sequel to MRS. LIEUTENANT, Sharon and Robert are stationed in Munich, where the headquarters of the European exchange service is in 1970.)

This coming Monday, November 3rd, AAFES is launching the blog Salute to Your Service. According to blog editor Lauren Vargas, “The AAFES: Salute to Your Service blog is not a "corporate" blog, but a blog where AAFES will be celebrating the military family.”

This is a terrific addition to online military family “conversations.” Go to for an early look at this terrific new blog.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Her Husband Is Among the First Boots on the Ground

Trish Forant of eMailOurMilitary is sponsoring on her blog a series of guest posts about supporting the troops.

I want to share with you the October 28th guest post by Erin Nash, who blogs at and whose husband is "a special operations Soldier and is always among the first boots on the ground wherever needed in the world."

Go on over to to read a soldier's wife's thoughts about supporting our troops.

And, remember, I'm sponsoring an Honor a Veteran event on Facebook at and Trish is sponsoring a holiday program at If you're able, please participate in both projects.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

U.S. Navy Issues Policy Memo on Web 2.0

The blog posted an article today about the Navy issuing a policy memo on Web 2.0. Here’s the blog’s highlights of some of the points:
Do it — safely: “The Department endorses the secure use of Web 2.0 tools to enhance communication, collaboration, and information exchange; streamline processes; and foster productivity improvements. Useof these tools supports Department of Defense (DoD) and DON goals of achieving an interoperable, net-centric environment by improving the warfighter’s effectiveness through seamless access to critical information. Web 2.0 tools are useful in a global enterprise, such as the DON,’ as they enable widely dispersed commands and personnel to more effectively collaborate and share information.”
Why it matters: “The gains in productivity, efficiency, and innovation can be significant. Commands are encouraged to use Web 2.0 tools, consistent with applicable laws, regulations, and policies."
Let’s be careful out there: “While these collaborative tools present many useful opportunities, their application must not compromise data confidentiality and integrity.”

To read the whole blog post, go to

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

To Be or Not to Be: Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 Film

As some of you may know, I’m working on MRS. LIEUTENANT IN EUROPE, the sequel to MRS. LIEUTENANT. The sequel takes place in Munich, Germany, starting in September 1970 when Sharon and Robert Gold first arrive. A major theme of this second novel is what it’s like as Jews to be part of an occupation force in Germany only 25 years after the end of World War II.

Thus I read with particular interest David Propson’s October 25th Wall Street Journal article “A Bubbly Mix of Zaniness and Doom” about Ernst Lubitsch’s classic 1942 film “To Be or Not to Be.”

Propson’s article apparently was motivated by the less-than-stellar reviews for the current Broadway play based on the film. Propson says:
It would be tragic, however, if audiences mistook this misbegotten production as any reflection of Lubitsch’s sublime comedy. Recreating Lubitsch’s bubbly cocktail of zaniness and doom is a tall order: Even Mel Brooks missed the mark with his 1982 film remake. But the Broadway version travesties Lubitsch’s original, altering characters and even changing the famous ending.

The original movie is a favorite of my husband and mine. (We refused to see the remake.) I don’t want to give too much away except to say that the plot concerns a troupe of Polish Shakespearean actors in Nazi-occupied Germany who impersonate high-ranking Nazis in order to save the Polish underground. Jack Benny is the lead actor of this troupe and he is beyond hilarious.

When my husband and I first saw the film in 1971 or 1972, we and the two other American servicemen with us were the only people laughing in the theater. Where did we see this film? At a Hollywood film festival at the Munich city museum. Why the museum thought that Germans would understand the farcical humor of this film was beyond us. But the four of us couldn’t stop laughing.

If you have the opportunity to see the original film, do so. While it’s very funny, there are serious underpinnings (Lubitsch himself was a Berlin Jew who got out in time). And sometimes the most farcical films can give us food for thought.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

USO Supporting the Troops: Every Wife Dreads ...

I have to admit that the first thought that comes to my mind when I think of the USO is scenes of USO-sponsored dances in World War II films. So I found the email from the USO asking for a donation particularly moving as it included the text of a letter from a wife whose husband was deployed to Iraq:

Every wife dreads the day we have to put our husbands "back on the plane." Yesterday I thought I would be all alone in this huge airport ... that I would be left standing with my six-year old son, crying and watching my husband, yet again, walk away from me.

I was wrong. Your USO volunteers were wonderful.

They took the time to talk to my husband and tell him that they were proud of him ... that they wished him well ... and to come home soon. They also took the time to play with my son, and one lady gave him a stuffed bear which he slept with last night.

And when it came time for my husband to walk away from me, I suddenly found myself surrounded by volunteers. They didn't have to stand there with me and help me through my toughest moment ... but they did. I cannot thank you enough for all that you have done, and all that you do. PLEASE keep up the wonderful work.

After reading this wife's letter, I went to the website at and read this introduction:

The USO is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the troops by providing morale, welfare and recreation-type services to our men and women in uniform. The original intent of Congress — and enduring style of USO delivery — is to represent the American people by extending a touch of home to the military.

The USO currently operates more than 130 centers worldwide, including 10 mobile canteens located in the continental United States and overseas. Overseas centers are located in Germany, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Qatar, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guam, and Kuwait. Service members and their families visit USO centers more than 5.3 million times each year. The USO is the way the American public supports the troops.

There are many ways to support the troops. Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I particularly support Yet it's also important to know about other organizations that support the troops.

In this coming holiday season, support our troops through whichever organizations you choose. Just support them!

UPDATE: Just after I posted the above, I opened today's issue of Daily Variety and saw a full-page USO ad that read:

The morale you raise the most may just be your own. Experience the greatest audience in the world on a USO Celebrity Tour. Call Bernie Rone at 703-908-6480.

I'd forgotten that this is something else the USO does. And if you're a celebrity performer -- here's another way to support the troops.

And, oh yes, the tagline for the USO ad is: Until Every One Comes Home

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Support Our Troops? eMailOurMilitary Asks This Question

Trish Forant of eMailOurMilitary in her blog at writes a terrific post explaining why supporting our troops is NOT supporting the war. She reminds us of the other work our troops do (my note: such as patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Katrina hit) and asks that other bloggers answer the question “Why support the troops?”

Here’s my response:

Why do I support the troops? The answer is a direct line from the Vietnam War until today. Let me explain:

Growing up in Elgin, Illinois, in the 50s and 60s I didn’t know many young men serving in the military forces. Of course, most fathers I knew had served in the military during World War II, but that was to be expected.

I clearly remember two boys a few years older than I, sons of my parents’ friends, who were drafted and served in Vietnam. But no one I knew volunteered to serve.

And then I met my to-be future husband at Michigan State University, and he was in ROTC. He had volunteered to be a U.S. army officer.

Because we got married before he went on active duty, I was introduced to the world of the military. And as Jews stationed in Munich, Germany, we particularly appreciated being remembered at holiday time by the Jewish Welfare board. I learned first-hand how important it is to know that there are people who care about military personnel serving their country.

Thus it was natural that, when I was the co-author of the 1992 Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION (written with Rabbi Karen L. Fox), I included in the book a request for donations to the Jewish Welfare Board “in support for our women and men serving abroad.”

It was equally natural that, when my book MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL came out in April of this year, I included on the website ( information about organizations, including eMOM, that help support military personnel and their families. And this is why I frequently write posts about such organizations for my blog.

Recently I was thrilled to participate with eMailOurMilitary and Nancy Sutherland of on Operation Soldier Care, and I’m currently sponsoring the Facebook event Honor a Veteran at Please visit the page to honor a veteran you know or admire.

Having experienced what it’s like to be part of the U.S. military, I feel strongly that all Americans should do their part to both support military personnel today and to honor those veterans who have come before.

I believe that eMailOurMilitary is doing a particularly important service by demonstrating to deployed military personnel that people care. And I’m personally in email contact with a National Guard infantryman in Iraq whose blog is on my blogroll.

November 11th is Veterans Day – may we all remember with gratitude the men and women who have served and are serving our country.

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