30 October 2008

Wellsphere video

I recently had the chance to be included in a video for the online health site Wellsphere: It is a great introduction to the variety of regular everyday people who are providing their own personal stories to people seeking knowledge about living healthy, even through disease.

Video site:



My little bit that describes the Air Force Theater Hospital comes at 2:20, but it is much more interesting to hear from others.

If you want to check out the Wellsphere site, you can find it here:


29 October 2008

More on the burn pit

Last month, I was driving home from the hospital, and something caught my eye as I made the turn from 90 onto 410. There to the west, a car had overturned and caught on fire. The firetruck and ambulance were already there, but what struck me was the column of smudgy smoke rising into the sky. I looked at that plume of smoke rising into the pale afternoon sky, and I was instantly transported back to Balad, trudging to work through the mud and gravel, staring at the smoke trail of the ever-smoldering burn pit. The memory was a full wave of sensation. I could smell the acrid smoke in my nostrils, taste its bitter motes in the back of my throat, and feel the teary sting in my eyes. When I bid farewell to Balad earlier this year, a glance over my shoulder was all it took to know that it would burn on after my departure.

On Monday, Army Times reporter Kelly Kennedy published a piece on the burn pit.

Although it was good to know that progress was being made to reduce the amount of garbage burned there to 147 tons/day, I hope the day comes soon when it is closed down for good. Even one troop suffering ill health effects from the pit it is too many.

If you don't recognize Ms. Kennedy's name, she is the one who was able to bring the American public news of the conditions for injured veterans at Walter Reed.

Even if you knew that, you might not know that she is a veteran herself, having served for all of us in the Middle East before establishing herself as a journalist. It is no wonder that she wants make sure that veterans get the best. They deserve no less.

26 October 2008

Good news for veterans

Good news in the mail! I received a notice that I was part of a study of veterans. Soon I will be receiving a survey to describe any stress that deploying caused for me or my family. If I complete this survey and another one in 6 months, there will be $30 in it for me. It's good to know that there is help out there for veterans.

17 October 2008

I voted!

Today I am very psyched that I completed my absentee ballot as a military member. It is on its way to the Town Clerk. It is odd to consider the true effect of my individual because of our electoral college. In my home state of record, newspapers are predicting the result with a high degree of confidence. So does my vote really matter? It certainly does to me. All I have to do is think of the injured Iraqis I saw on Election Day, proudly displaying their purple fingers as proof that they had voted. When people in the world have the bravery to risk suicide bombers to vote, how dare we not exercise our right to vote? So even if my state's decision was unanimous, my individual vote counts greatly.

I feel like it is so important that we come together to face the challenging problems that have been troubling our nation. The candidate I chose has energized me about my country in a way I haven't felt in a long time. I wasn't alive when JFK was president, but I wonder if that is how people felt back then. It reminds me of the how I felt during the Reagan years when I was inspired me to give something back through military service.

So, I am very proud to have done my civic duty and have exercised my precious privilege to vote for our leaders. Your turn is coming up soon!

Have fun and be mello,


How can you help the country?

Hi friends.

B. and I were talking about some of his assignments at school. He has been watching the presidential debates as a homework assignment and has some very insightful perspectives. Tonight we discussed if it is necessary to prove your innocence when a bully makes a false accusation against you. If someone accuses you of being something that you are not, are you innocent until proven guilty, or is the onus upon you to disprove the aspersion?

Anyway, I asked him what he thought we could do to help the USA. He replied that it was good that we were providing government money to help people who were in need and he thought we should be drilling for our own oil. I told him what I meant was I wanted to know what he thought he could do himself. He came up with some great ideas:

-Tell a teacher they were doing a great job
-Try to use less electricity by turning off lights
-Never litter
-Help people to get along at school
-Paying off his debts and not buying something until he had saved up for it
-Speak up if someone was being treated unfairly
-Don't break the law

Since he is still in school, there are some things he can't do yet, but it only took us a few minutes thinking together to add these ideas to the list

-Do volunteer work
-Buy American
-Hire American
-Stay in school and be part of an educated workforce
-Stay healthy
-Be sure to have health insurance
-Stay out of debt and save money
-Help troops, their families, and veterans
-Consider a job in community service, public service, or military service
-Get to know the neighbors and watch out for their safety
-Utilize public schools, participate in school meetings, and keep schools strong
-Be tolerant of others regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political belief

Once you start thinking about how you can help, it becomes a fun challenge to try to think of something new!

For more ideas, (including the great suggestion to fly the flag), I found this site from our government: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Usgresponse/Help.shtml

We all can do something!

14 October 2008

Bad news may travel fast, but good news lights up the wire

A few days ago, I mentioned a recent revelation that troops' phone calls home were monitored by our intelligence community. I was pleased to receive such varied and heartfelt commentary on the matter. As many of you pointed out, It has long been known that the military monitors its own service members' communications, be they written or video teleconference. The most heartwarming comment I received via personal email. My dear friend of 15 years who sent it to me was kind enough to allow me to pass it on:

(begin quote)

At Christmas, 1969 M***** sent me a telegram on Project Hope shipboard in Tunisia that we had finally managed to get pregnant and at that with twins. I had been away from home since early November and had unhappily left M***** feeling quite queasy and we were not then sure about the pregnancy. I just had to talk to her!! Phones were not very good then in North Africa but the radio man on the ship patched together ham radio operators across the Mediterranean and Atlantic to allow a brief chat. Now ham radio operators are very professional but as the message of our conversation sank in around the planet M***** and I began to hear "AHHHH" in many accents. Frankly I was so glad to talk to her I really did not care who heard!! I did not get home until April and our pregnancy was well along. That was our only call. The twins were 38 this summer but I certainly still remember that call!!

(end quote)
(Learn more about my friend's mission here:
Here is an account from the Project: (source: National Museum of American History, "Project Hope", Washington, DC)
(begin quote)
Voyage 8, to Tunisia August 1969-August 1970

"Thursday was a very busy day in the OR. Five of the six operations scheduled in the 3 operating rooms made for much activity. At 8:00 am, in Room 1, little Sabir Bentlassen, age 7, had a delicate brain operation by Dr. W. James Gardner and his Tunisian counterpart, Dr. Bettaieb. . . . The operation was to correct insensitivity in the left side of his body. At the same time in Room 2, a young woman underwent plastic surgery. Though only 34, she seemed twice that age due to past extensive burns."

Ship's Report

(end quote)
In 15 years of knowing him, he has never mentioned this heroic and generous work to me. Through numerous medical missions, on some of which he sent me, I have learned what he taught me to be true: Surgery varies greatly from place to place, but people are the same. Once you have seen surgery in several places around the world, you learn what is the common denominator at the core of surgery, what is merely local custom.)

11 October 2008

What credit crunch?

Well in today's mail, my tween son got an offer from Bank of America for a Platnum Plus credit card! Yep, he's pre-approved for a $100,000 line of credit. Well, to his credit (ahem) he does subscribe to several auto magazines and did just get a job. That job happens to be bringing the newspaper in for an elderly neighbor on weekends. Still, I don't think the meagre bucks it pays will cover the monthly minimum on 100 boxes of ziti. So what is this credit crunch everyone is talking about? How can banks and insurance companies be moaning when my grade school son can get $100K with a signature and a social security number?

We were quite thrilled because after all, we did design our living room around his painting "God Bless America".

(Honest, we designed our living room around a benefit painting for 9/11 relief. It's one of the rooms the realtor suggested we paint over before we try to sell the house.)

Anyway, Mr. Rodrigue has also done some amazing paintings to help provide relief for New Orleans after hurricaine Katrina, such as:

We will rise again: http://www.bluedogrelief.com/we%20will%20rise%20again.html

So I asked him something that I had been dying ask anyone from New Orleans since the banking crash: Was he surprised at the speed at which the government responded with a bailout? I also asked him if he planned on painting any benefit artwork for Wall Street. (At the moment, he is not.)

The book signing was wonderful, and Mr. Rodrigue was kind enough to sign our copy of the Lafayette, LA Junior League's cookbook "Talk about good, II" which features his early Cajun art.


The best part was when he brought up local schoolchildren who had colored their own versions of the Blue Dog and told them "If you can paint a Blue Dog, you can paint anything."

I just hope I can paint myself up a mortgage when the time comes to move. I don't have to worry about the down payment: I'm sure our dog can get it as a cash advance on one of his credit cards.

09 October 2008

Should I be surprised?

Here is an interesting tidbit I read in the news tonight:


(CNN article: eavesdropping on troops calls home)

This had me wondering, "Hmm... what did I say on those late night calls home to M?" I wonder if there was some bleary-eyed worker on the line with us, silently taking in the contents of the conversation. What did they think? Maybe they were touched by how much we missed each other, or how much I wanted to be home. Or they might have just thought I was whining. Perhaps it was just boring mind-numbing static, after having listened to so many troops that just said minor variations on the same themes.

I would like to listen to a recording of myself from my time on deployment. I wonder if I would recognize the tired lonely airman on the line. That time seems centuries away as I sit here in the comfort of my home, basking in the love of my family. Still, little things like a funny smell, a few words of Arabic in the supermarket, or a column of smoke in the sky can bring it rushing it back. I'll bet hearing that deployment me on the line would bring back every nuance of the memory.

Well, not much use in dwelling on things past. More important to focus on the 144,000 troops still over there. Let's make sure the whole nation is listening for anyway we can help them and their families back home.

02 October 2008

Don't Vote Link

For those of you who didn't get the link to the Don't Vote video, here it is:


Take care!


01 October 2008

Don't, don't vote!

Wow, nearly a month since I've posted. No excuse! We are getting along well in TX. Bit by bit it wears on me to be far from family. It is hard not being able to visit, but very rarely. I know they can get by without us there, but I wish we could be there to share the good times, and also maybe to help out in the bad times.

Since it is OCT, we actually have some mornings that are less than 90 degrees! I wanted to write today because A. sent me a wonderful video called "Don't vote" I think it is aimed at young people, but the message is even good for me, someone who might think twice about voting just because the line is long.

I have been given the great privilege of being able to serve my country. A long time ago, I came to the conclusion that we are so fortunate in the US that we don't even realize how much better we have it that most of the human beings in this world. I felt that it was my duty to try and give a little something back for these riches. I may have ended up experiencing a bit more than I expected, but I feel very lucky that I got to do my duty.

Well, there is a little duty that every American shares: Voting! It is just as important as the job of the troop who gets deployed.

So I couldn't think of any better way of telling you, my friends, how I feel about this than to pass along this video. (Warning, there is a little profanity, but the message is strong.)