Happy Independence Day!!

The action in my neighborhood 229 years ago:

William Howe lurched back into action on October 12. He hoped to avoid a costly direct assault against the Americans, who were entrenched in hilly northern Manhattan. Instead, Howe executed a flanking movement, sending his soldiers by boat up the East River, through Hell Gate and onto Long Island Sound. Soldiers were landed first at Throg's Neck and later at Pell's Point.

Washington was aware that the British were massing behind his lines. On October 23, he left 2,000 of his best soldiers at Fort Washington in northwestern Manhattan and began a march with the reminder of his force northward into Westchester County. Progress was exceedingly difficult. The Americans had few horses and were forced to move many of their cannon by hand. Safety of sorts was found in the hills outside of the village of White Plains.

Battle of White PlainsFollowing several days of skirmishes, significant fighting occurred on October 28, particularly on Chatterton's Hill. The American forces were dislodged from their position, but once again Howe failed to pursue his opponents and waited for reinforcements. By November 1, the British were ready to resume their offensive, but a heavy wind and rain storm slowed their progress. Washington took advantage of the British lethargy and retreated northward to another hilltop location, this time about five miles away near the town of North Castle.

Washington and his dispirited army believed that a major, perhaps decisive, battle would occur within the next few days. To their utter amazement, dawn on November 4 brought the sight of the British turning their backs on the lightly entrenched Americans and beginning a march back to Manhattan. Washington made a crucial decision to divide his army and led about 2,500 men into New Jersey. A larger force of some 11,000 men was left under the command of the erratic Charles Lee and was responsible for halting any future British advance into New England.

Kiss a veteran today -- it might be me!



North Dakota Soldiers Repay A Debt To Iraqi Family

From Minnesota Public Radio

North Dakota soldiers repay a debt to Iraqi family
Dan Gunderson
Apr 29 2005

Posted by Picasa
Members of the North Dakota National Guard's 141st
Engineer Battalion are raising money to bring an Iraqi
family to Fargo. The soldiers spent months in Iraq
clearing roadside bombs. They were helped by an
Iraqi man they call Mr. M. He was killed and the
soldiers want to bring his family to live in Fargo.
(MPR photo/Dan Gunderson)

North Dakota National Guard soldiers are raising money to bring an Iraqi family to Fargo. The guard members say they're repaying a debt to an Iraqi man who was killed because he helped them.

Fargo, N.D. - The 141st Engineer Battalion of the North Dakota National Guard spent months in Iraq clearing roadside bombs. Four of their soldiers were killed by those bombs.

One day while on patrol, they stopped to check out a stalled vehicle. That's how they met a man they now call Mr. M. He befriended the U.S. soldiers and invited them to his house for dinner. Soon Mr. M was a valuable intelligence source. He warned soldiers about roadside bombs, and told them where to find the insurgents who were making the bombs.

North Dakota National Guard Capt. Grant Wilz says Mr. M knew he was risking his life, but he continued to work with the soldiers. Wilz says while on patrol one day he heard the shots that killed Mr. M.

"He was pulled over and stopped, his 11-year-old son was with him," Wilz said. "His son was pulled from the truck and forced to witness this. Mr. M was shot over 30 times. Just gunned down. Murdered in cold blood."

Wilz says the murder of Mr. M hit the North Dakota soldiers hard.

"He was one of our family. He was our family away from home," Wilz said. "There's probably not a man of mine here that hadn't given those kids a hug, or given them $5 to buy a shirt or shoes, or given them food."

Capt. Wilz says he and Sgt. Shayne Beckert made a promise to help Mr. M's wife and seven children come to the U.S. Wilz says Iraqi insurgents have threatened to kill the entire family. They've been in hiding for several months.

"I wake up every day wondering if they are still alive," said Wilz. "Myself and Sgt. Beckert have made this our mission. They're a part of our family. Imagine if you will, part of your family being taken away and not knowing if they're going to live from day to day. I think that's what many of us are going through. Sgt. Beckert and I are having a helluva time with it."

I wake up every day wondering if they are still alive. ... We have made this our mission. They're a part of our family.

National Guard Capt. Grant Wilz Posted by Picasa

The Department of Defense has now granted the family parole status. That means they can come to the United States and apply for political asylum.

The North Dakota troops have raised enough money for airline tickets for the family. They hope to bring them to Fargo as soon as the family is given passports.

Capt. Wilz says under the provisions of the parole status, they also need to provide living expenses for the family for six months, because they won't be eligible for any government assistance.

When Mrs. M and her family make the trip to Fargo, she will also be reunited with a brother she's not seen in 15 years. His first name is Ali. Ali left Iraq because he says Saddam Hussein killed many of his family members.

U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., who has been assisting the effort, asks that Ali's last name not be used to protect him and his family. For the past several years, Ali has lived in the United States and helped train U.S. Army special forces to fight in Iraq.

Ali says his brother-in-law, Mr. M, spent five years in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where he was tortured for opposing Saddam Hussein. Alkaabi says Mr. M escaped a half-dozen attempts to kill him for helping U.S. soldiers.

"He never stopped. He knew he would be killed," said Ali. "He said, 'I know they will kill me today or tomorrow, but I won't stop. I will do this for my kids and my wife.' He told U.S. soldiers, 'Just protect my kids if something happens to me.' He knew he would be killed."

Ali will relocate to Fargo, and hopes his sister and her family will soon join him.

"Whenever the phone rings my heart is beating," he said. "I'm so scared something has happened to them. I don't need anything bad to happen to them. I love them so much."

North Dakota National Guard Capt. Grant Wilz says he can't release any information about where Mr M's family is. Insurgents recently sent a message they intend to kill the family. But Capt. Wilz says he's found an apartment for the family, and he's hopeful they will arrive soon.



Female Fighters Display Lethal, Effective Force

From Air Force Link
via Military Connections

Female Fighters Display Lethal, Effective Force
Senior Airman Susan Penning

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C., June 27, 2005 -- The House Armed Services Committee approved a bill recently which puts a Pentagon policy from 1994 into federal law prohibiting females in the military to serve in units below brigade level whose primary mission is direct ground combat.

Although the policy has raised the eyebrows of supporters of women in combat roles, many people may not realize the Air Force confidently assigns women to combat aircraft positions, said Col. Philip Ruhlman, 20th Fighter Wing commander here.

"Our women fighter pilots in the Air Force are fully qualified and continue to fly in combat alongside their male counterparts,? he said. ?They do so with lethal and effective force against our adversaries.?

Capt. Gina Jennings, currently deployed from the 20th Operations Support Squadron to Southwest Asia, has flown multiple combat missions. One of her primary duties at her deployed location is monitoring the air tasking order and all elements of generating combat missions.

"The training we get as pilots more than prepares us for combat," Captain Jennings said. "We begin first on the ground through training such as simulators, academics, intelligence, escape and evasion, chemical warfare, weapons and threats. In the air, we train and fly every day preparing for combat. With the multiple missions of the F-16 (Fighting Falcon), we ? ensure we are ready to execute any mission we are given."

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Capt. Gina Jennings
prepares to fly an F-16 Fighting Falcon with the 79th
Fighter Squadron. She is assigned to the 20th
Operations Support Squadron here and is deployed
supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Susan Penning)
Posted by Hello

Captain Jennings is one of 76 women flying fighter aircraft for the Air Force, according to current Air Force Personnel Center statistics.

Maj. Jill Long, assigned to the U.S. Central Command Air Forces commander?s action group, is another. She is an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot who has seen her share of combat.

Her most recent experience was in Operation Enduring Freedom when she said she ensured fighters, bombers and attack aircraft had the necessary air support to guarantee the safety of servicemembers on the ground.

On a previous combat mission, she said she provided close-air support, nontraditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and strike capabilities for the ground commander.

"We got a request for air support (during one of the combat missions),? she said. ?We were able to redirect assets to the location, but it was a pretty big fight. Having been through several similar situations, I knew to always hope for the best, a quick resolution, but plan for the worst, a long-term, full-up battle. The weather was very poor, so we were extremely limited in what was flying. Through coordination and teamwork ? we were able to make it all work."

The male pilots who fly beside women like Major Long and Captain Jennings get a firsthand look at what they bring to the fight.

"Women are an integral part of our air and space team,? said Maj. Anthony Roberson, 20th OSS operations director. ?I have witnessed their excellence in combat and their (effect) on our total force. Captain Jennings is dictating the pace of combat as we speak. We were asked to put our best foot forward in support of (Operation Iraqi Freedom), and we did that by sending (Captain) Jennings."

Major Long's perspective on women in combat supports Major Roberson?s ?team? concept.

"There is a mission to be accomplished, and we are all expected to make that happen ? regardless of our (gender)," she said. "The fact that I'm a female doesn't make me special. A bullet, bomb or missile has no clue what gender is (using) it.



Well, She Came From Loosiana With Her Rifle On Her Knee

Head on over to AnySoldier.com, particularly their Where to Send page. You'll need lots of tissues, and you'll be reading through tears, but it's worth it.

Thanks to Cut on the Bias, I heard about Lainey's Photo Website, set up by a Louisiana soldier currently deployed in Iraq. She wants people to know that things aren't all bad in Iraq, and according to her she has more than 1500 photos on her site to prove it.

Give 'em hell, Lainey! Posted by Hello



Tennessee Woman First To Be Awarded Silver Star Since World War II


Tennessee woman awarded Silver Star
Jun 17 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A 23-year-old sergeant with the Kentucky National Guard has become the first female soldier to receive the Silver Star -- the nation's third-highest medal for valor -- since World War II.

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, who is from Nashville, Tennessee, but serves in a Kentucky unit, received the award Thursday for gallantry during a March 20 insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. Two men from her unit, the 617th Military Police Company of Richmond, Kentucky, also received the Silver Star for their roles in the same action. (Full story)

According to military accounts of the firefight, insurgents attacked the convoy as it traveled south of Baghdad, launching their assault from trenches alongside the road using rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Hester and her unit moved through enemy fire to the trenches, attacking them with grenades before entering and clearing them.

She killed at least three insurgents with her M4 rifle, according to her award citation. In the entire battle, 26 or 27 insurgents were killed and several more were captured, according to various accounts. Several Americans were also wounded in the firefight.

"Her actions saved the lives of numerous convoy members. Sgt. Hester's bravery is in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism," her award citation reads.

Hester, in an interview, said she was just doing her duty.

"I'm honored to even be considered, much less awarded, the medal," she told the American Forces Press Service, a military-run information service. "It really doesn't have anything to do with being a female. It's about the duties I performed that day as a soldier."

"honored to even be considered,
much less awarded, the medal"
Posted by Hello

Hester, a native of Bowling Green, Kentucky, joined the Kentucky Army National Guard in April 2001 and moved to Nashville in 2003, according to a biography provided by the Army. She works as a retail store manager. Her unit deployed to Iraq in November 2004 and remains in the Baghdad area, escorting convoys and assisting the Iraqi Highway Patrol.

Hester's father, Jerry, also of Bowling Green, said: "I'm overwhelmed at what she's accomplished in Iraq. It's something to be very proud of, and my wife and I are. Leigh Ann is a very good soldier."

He added: "She played softball and basketball all through high school, and she's won a lot of games. But those games didn't mean nowhere near what this medal does and what she's done for her country."

Also receiving the Silver Star for that action was Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein of Henryville, Indiana, and Spc. Jason Mike of Radcliff, Kentucky. Five other members of their unit received other medals for the action, including another woman, Spc. Ashley Pullen of Edmonton, Kentucky.

The awards to Hester and Pullen come only weeks after some Republicans in Congress abandoned an effort to curtail the roles of military women in combat zones. The Pentagon and some Democrats and other Republicans opposed the measure. (Full story)

Current Pentagon policy prohibits women from serving in frontline combat roles -- in the infantry, armor or artillery, for example. But the nature of the war in Iraq, with no real front lines, has seen women soldiers take part in close-quarters combat more than in any previous conflict.

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