29 November 2008

Send good wishes out for CPT Rob Yllescas

Cpt Rob Yllescas is a troop who was injured last month in Afghanistan. He and his wife Dena have been keeping up the fight in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC for the past few weeks. He is facing a tough operation for a blood clot in his brain. Send some good wishes out for this soldier and his great family.




19 November 2008

For those exposed to the burn pits

I've written before about the burn pit at Balad. It is used to dispose of solid waste at the base. There have been recent improvements such as high-temperature incinerators, plasics recycling, and trench-burning have made improvements, but the response has been sluggish for this and other burn pits in the AOR.

For those who have been exposed to the burn pits, or are concerned, here is recent information available at Military Times:

Article on particulate matter at FOB Hammer:


Video featuring the experience of one troop from Balad:



Written troop accounts.


If you are a veteran experiencing unexplained pulmonary symptoms, sleep disturbance, or headaches, I urge you to get yourself checked out.

Stay well,


13 November 2008

Amazing photos from my brother

I am incredibly proud of my brother, A. He is the most laid-back, friendly, and fun guy to have around. You would never know from this relaxed exterior, but he has an amazingly critical and detailed photographic eye.

Sure that's just a brother talking, but here's my proof: He was just chosen as a finalist in National Geographic contest. here is his photograph:

(If you can't see it on the feed, here is the link:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3192/3028076979_7e9608c073.jpg )

I asked Adam to tell me about the shot, and here is what he told me:

(begin quote)

This was taken on the Parker Ridge Trail at the North Western Tip of Banff National Park in Canada. The picture is the view North to Jasper National Park; The Glacier in the background is Saskatchewan Glacier flowing out of the Columbia Icefield. This glacier is about 8 miles long but it is receding at a rate of about 1 mile every 100 years. The Columbia Icefield is HUUUUGE! It's rivers feed the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Atlantic. C. and I were hiking and camping out at the foot of the Icefield the day before... It was amazing.

(end quote)

you can see more of Adam's pictures at:


11 November 2008

Thanks on Veterans Day

To all veterans and their families,

Many thanks to you for your dedication and sacrifices. I know that my family enjoys the peace and prosperity of our life in the USA directly as a result of your service. My little stints in Iraq seem very very small and painless compared to the heavy burden that was shouldered by so many before me, and continues to be carried on.

I'm flying my flag proudly in their honor today. (With a close eye out the window as the clouds threaten to rain on us in central Texas again today!) This Veterans Day was much better than the last one because I'm home. Today I sent my boys off to school at the bus stop, and got to say hi to one of the many other troops who live in my neighborhood. I'm covering a few hours more for my partner C. until she gets back from a medical mission she ran to transport an ill sailor in the Pacific. If I'm lucky and the call day is light, I might even get to hear my son's concert today. (I will be glad to help M. rein in the two younger two boys through the concert this year!)

It is with great admiration and gratitude that I especially salute the service of CTP Rob Yllescas, who is recovering from injuries suffered in Operation Enduring Freedom. Read here about the Purple Heart he was rewarded yesterday:


Please keep him and his family in your thoughts.

Warm regards,


06 November 2008

Iraq Veteran Daytime Star

( JR Martinez, Iraq War veteran and star of All My Children. Photo Source: Daytime Confidential : http://www.daytimeconfidential.com/2008/11/all-my-children-jr-martinez-a-real-american-hero)

I suppose I can't get away with sharing a daytime drama story without a little background. We all do crazy things in college. It's our time to experiment. One of the many joys of meeting my life's love in school was to discover "All My Children" through her. We had a laugh together at the trials and tribulations of Billy Clyde Tuggle, his HonEstelle, and sweet Emily Ann. And back then, Susan Lucci still hadn't won an Emmy! Well for M. it was just a little diversion, but I dived in as I always do and soon I was skipping classes to watch with JAD who had the corner room down the hall in our fraternity.

I may have kicked the habit, but I still got a charge out of this story. "All My Children" is featuring veteran and war hero JR Martinez as "Brot". He plays the love interest of one of the regular characters who is a veteran "on TV". What is notable is that Mr. Martinez was injured in Iraq in 2003, and spent 34 months in the hospital undergoing many operations to treat his extensive burns. It is great to see veterans in all walks of our society, and of course it is great to celebrate his victory over hardship.

Apparently the show is going to have an unscripted episode featuring other real Iraq War veterans, so I might just have to get back on the horse.

Here is more on the story:


I know there is no way I can recover from posting about this, but sometimes you've just got to let your freak flag fly.

Have fun,


CPT Yllescas has made it back to American soil!

CPT Rob Yllescas has made the flight from LRMC to Bethesda. It is good to have this American son and faithful troop back home! His wife, Dena, remains by his bedside and is posting about his progress. Keep him in your thoughts.


Growing Iraq's Medical Future

(Photo: Medical students in Baghdad, Source: NPR)
My friend M. sent me an interesting story on the supply of doctors in Iraq:

I had caught part of the story on NPR the day before, but it was great to see the faces of the Iraqi doctors interviewed in the story.

The Iraqi health system has hit on hard times since the war began. Before the invasion in 2003, Medical City in Baghdad was a modern facility. It had a thriving academic center. Doctors tell me they were gearing up to introduce a liver transplant program. Several years later in 2006, I couldn't find anyone who would be able to look after a kidney transplant patient. The hospitals had been looted and damaged. They were hampered by power outages and lack of running water. About half of Iraq's 40,000 doctors had fled the country. Approximately 2000 had been killed. Our military hospitals were the considered the highest acuity facilities in the country.

There have been some sings of progress. As the article states, it has been hard to attract doctors back to Baghdad. Many are staying in Jordan or other neighboring countries. Some have settled in Kurdistan, where there is less daily violence. The most promising source of future doctors in Iraq are homegrown medical students training in Baghdad today. The NPR article profiles Dr. Hamza who has been training young physicians in Baghdad for years. He himself trained to be a doctor there. It was inspiring to see the that the student doctors pictured in the article were women.

From the military hospitals, we have received other news of progress. In January when I was in Balad, we learned that the University Hospital in Tikrit was developing a burn treatment center. Some old problems remain. One Iraqi doctor told us that he didn't dare transfer his patient to a hospital in one city because she was Sunni and was at risk of being killed there.

I have been thrilled to hear of great work from my friend Dr. M. who is a pediatric surgeon in Iraq. Through dangerous and difficult times, he stayed in Iraq to continue providing expert care for children. He did this even though it meant personal risk and periods of separation from family. His program has flourished and he offers full surgical services for children and teaching programs for physicians.

Here is his website:

It is so good to see signs of Iraq's medical system returning in strength. As in all good things, it will be accomplished through the efforts of dedicated and compassionate people who will persevere in spite of the difficulty.

04 November 2008

Barak Obama, Our Next Commander-in-Chief!

M. and I have been watching the election with our oldest son B. It was just announced on CBS, MSNBC, and CNN that Obama is projected to be the 44th president of our United States. I am so proud and excited! I feel like every horizon has been opened for every citizen of our wonderful country. I see a warmer and brighter future for my three sons. I'm struggling so hard to find some way to express this, but the best thing I can say is that this is something that we all have waited for many years, and now we can leap ahead as a country united. United we can fix the problems that have been plaguing us. It's going to be better for all of us.


03 November 2008

Wheelers for the Wounded: Midnight 4Wheelers Event, Boulder Creek

We had a great time this SAT at the Midnight 4Wheelers Club charity ride for Wheelers for the Wounded at Boulder Creek Park.

The event was held to raise money for an event in May where the club will host wounded warriors and their families to give them a weekend outside enjoying trail rides. Jason of Wheelers for the Wounded is trying to organize a ride in every state over the course of 2009. The boys and I might just get the chance to hit a couple of states.
We skipped the Friday night camping because it was Halloween and nothing was going to stop the boys from rounding the neighborhood for candy. Since we headed out early on SAT, only B. and the dog joined me. It was a great ride. Many of the Midnight 4Wheelers rigs are trailer rigs, so even if they flop, they still have a ride home.
Since we were driving up and back in the JK, I was hoping to at least make it out in drivable condition.

Bumblebee did pretty well; we lost one tire in a river bed, front and back license plates popped off, and I knocked the gasoline evaporation canister off the bottom climbing a hill. Nothing that kept me from making it home, and when we ripped the tire, I couldn’t believe how the Midnight 4Wheelers all pitched in to get it changed quickly and safely.
Dad, B., dog, and JK all made it home in one piece. I should have the new tire tomorrow. (The crew at 4Wheel Parts knew I was looking for it because they had already seen the picture of the damage!)
The evap canister is sitting on my dresser with the glue drying. (I think the Jeep will run without it, but I’d feel bad about the fumes getting into the environment.)
After the ride, we had a great dinner of chicken-fried chicken with white gravy, corn, and fries while the TexasTech game played.
We heard all the plans for the upcoming event for wounded warriors. B. even won a gift certificate to General brake shop in the door prize raffle!
We met an amazing bunch of people: John, Terry, Jorge, Rich, Lynne, Mike, Kyle, Jeremy, Tommy, Al, JD, Dale, and so many others, all very nice. Kyle told me about some amazing experiences driving the HMMWV’s around Ramadi, and Jorge had the good news that his wife just made it home from Iraq.

There were so many organizations and people that gave their time and sponsorship to the event that I want to list as many as I can remember. These are regular folks who want to do anything they can for troops who have sacrificed their bodies to defend us all. If you are in the area, do patronize their businesses if you have a chance. (I'm sure there are others I've forgotten!)

Wheelers for the Wounded

If you want to see any more pictures of the event, here is my flickr album on the event:
(And some of the pictures here are borrowed from Jesus Man and Shane, to give proper props!)

02 November 2008

Keep CPT Rob Yllescas in your thoughts

(Image Source: http://yllescasfamily.blogspot.com/ )

A few days ago, CPT Rob Yllescas was injured in an IED attack in Afghanistan. I learned about him through the Milblogging site. His wife Dena is keeping a record of his progress at her blog:

As a surgeon, I was struck by her description of how horrible it was for Dena to learn that her husband had been injured:

I thought about the thousands of young men and women we ushered through the hospital in Balad, and for every one of them, a family at home suffered a similar shock. Maybe there wasn't time to think about it, or maybe I just couldn't handle dwelling on that devastating news again and again, but I think I just held my emotions at bay so I could keep functioning for the new troops who came in every day.

CPT Yllescas was treated in Bagram, Afghanistan. We have surgeons from our flight there at this moment, and I know they are probably hard at work in the operating room at this very moment. As the violence has decreased in Iraq, it has increased in Afghanistan.

I was comforted to learn that Dena Yllescas was helped out by the Fisher House at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center when she arrived in Germany:

Hopefully the family will soon be making the flight back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Please send them your good wishes for a safe journey and a rapid recovery.


01 November 2008

10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran


The picture above is from one year ago, but it is appropriate because if you ask, "Is hiring veterans good for the company?" the answer is, "YES!"

I came across a great list looking up new services available for veterans. It was on the "America's Heroes at Work" website:

It might surprise you to discover that veterans are having trouble getting jobs.

Some of the difficulty may stem from employers having hesitation hiring veterans. Also, veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) may face other hurdles when searching for work.

That's why I was very happy to find this list on the Heroes at Work website that does a great job articulating the great benefits of hiring a veteran. In addition, there is often the opportunity to patronize veteran-owned businesses in your community when you are searching for a subcontractor or other services.

Without further ado, here is the list from

(Begin quote)

10 Reasons to Hire Vets

1) Accelerated learning curve.Veterans have the proven ability to learn new skills and concepts. In addition, they can enter your workforce with identifiable and transferable skills, proven in real-world situations. This background can enhance your organization's productivity.

2) Leadership.The military trains people to lead by example as well as through direction, delegation, motivation, and inspiration. Veterans understand the practical ways to manage behaviors for results, even in the most trying circumstances. They also know the dynamics of leadership as part of both hierarchical and peer structures.

3) Teamwork.Veterans understand how genuine teamwork grows out of a responsibility to one's colleagues. Military duties involve a blend of individual and group productivity. They also necessitate a perception of how groups of all sizes relate to each other and an overarching objective.

4) Diversity and inclusion in action.Veterans have learned to work side by side with individuals regardless of diverse race, gender, geographic origin, ethnic background, religion, and economic status as well as mental, physical, and attitudinal capabilities. They have the sensitivity to cooperate with many different types of individuals.

5) Efficient performance under pressure.Veterans understand the rigors of tight schedules and limited resources. They have developed the capacity to know how to accomplish priorities on time, in spite of tremendous stress. They know the critical importance of staying with a task until it is done right.

6) Respect for procedures.Veterans have gained a unique perspective on the value of accountability. They can grasp their place within an organizational framework, becoming responsible for subordinates' actions to higher supervisory levels. They know how policies and procedures enable an organization to exist.

7) Technology and globalization.Because of their experiences in the service, veterans are usually aware of international and technical trends pertinent to business and industry. They can bring the kind of global outlook and technological savvy that all enterprises of any size need to succeed.
8) Integrity.Veterans know what it means to do "an honest day's work." Prospective employers can take advantage of a track record of integrity, often including security clearances. This integrity translates into qualities of sincerity and trustworthiness.

9) Conscious of health and safety standards.Thanks to extensive training, veterans are aware of health and safety protocols both for themselves and the welfare of others. Individually, they represent a drug-free workforce that is cognizant of maintaining personal health and fitness. On a company level, their awareness and conscientiousness translate into protection of employees, property, and materials.

10) Triumph over adversity.In addition to dealing positively with the typical issues of personal maturity, veterans have frequently triumphed over great adversity. They likely have proven their mettle in mission critical situations demanding endurance, stamina, and flexibility. They may have overcome personal disabilities through strength and determination.

(End quote)