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.