Veterans News Blog

Vets Issues

Monthly Archives: February 2007

God Bless The 101st Currahee!!!!!

Of the many video Unit tributes and action clips from Iraq and Afghanistan and I have seen on Utube and MySpace this is one of the best edited and moving I have every seen.

Johnson741 stay safe and Thank you for your Service and by all means keep making videos you have a real Talent. God Bless you and the 101st and all servicemen and women who are waging the GWOT.

From Johnson741
A video about my tour in Ramadi, Iraq… A video about my tour in Ramadi, Iraq.
A co 1/506 2nd Plt Maniacs

Music by Johnny Cash

Some video clips credit to Mike Fumento (more) (less)


“A rose from Holly”

The families don’t know her, but she knows their lost sons and daughters.
And she spends a lot of time in Arlington, Virginia, making sure they aren’t forgotten.

Published February 18, 2007
Courtesy of John Barry and the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times

ARLINGTON, Virginia – The widows and children had bundled themselves in parkas and snowsuits. They looked very young, standing in a frozen field of white headstones at Arlington National Cemetery.

It was 18 degrees, and the wind was blowing at a raw 20 mph. Each one clutched a screwdriver to punch holes in the icy ground. Holly darted among them with boxes of silk roses, her head bobbing above theirs.

She is a 6-foot-2 blond with the lanky physique of a model, except layered in sweatshirts. “Amazon infidel,” she calls herself.

A Rose From Holly

She is out among the headstones every week and knows the stories behind every one. The widows and the kids took the roses and scattered among the headstones of Section 60. It’s the section set aside for men and women killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 300 are laid to rest there.

The widows made their way through the rows. At their husbands’ graves, they knelt and punched at the stiff sod with their screwdrivers. Some of them had small hammers, and you could hear their tap-tapping. The children helped. When they had made their holes, they inserted the wire stems of the silk red roses. They knelt quietly in the wind.

The word had gone out by Internet that Holly would be at Section 60 on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day. Last year, she spread most of the roses herself. But this year, widows and children, mothers and fathers had heard about this woman named Holly and drove or flew in from all over the country. There were about 50 of them.

Almost no one knew her full name: Holly Holeman. She was just Holly to them, a mysterious e-mailer who had sent photos of headstones, of flowers by the graves. All year, the e-mails came, far-off reassurances that someone was taking care of the graves.

Eventually, they learned that her day job is making floral arrangements and delivering them to funerals at Arlington.

Holly had found the families through a Web site run by a Long Island businessman named Michael Patterson. It has biographies and news accounts of all American casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan buried in Section 60. Patterson started it while researching the history of the cemetery for a book he has always wanted to write. Now keeping up the Web site has overtaken his book.

He got one of Holly’s mysterious e-mails one day. “She wouldn’t give me her last name. She said, ‘Here’s a photo of a new headstone. Use it if you think it’s worthwhile.’ ” He did, and soon she was sending dozens more photos. He posted them: Courtesy of Holly.

The families tried to figure it out. Each thought about the day of the funeral. Was she that tall woman they saw standing in the distance, the one partly behind a tree?

Paula Davis ran into her a year ago on her regular Sunday visit to the grave of her son Justin. He was 19 when he died last June on a rooftop in southeastern Afghanistan. Friendly fire was the suspected cause.

Davis lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, so she gets by to visit all the time, haunted by the fear that her son and all the others in Section 60 will soon be forgotten. She pictures a silent field, no visitors. “People go on with their lives,” she says.

One Sunday, a tall, fast-talking woman approached Davis. She offered oatmeal cookies and coffee. Davis learned this woman wasn’t about to forget anyone.

Everybody has a story like that. Beth Downs had randomly called a florist shop near Arlington Cemetery from her Florida home in Fort Walton Beach. She wanted a spray of flowers for her husband’s new grave. She happened to get Holly on the phone.

Her husband, Air Force Major William Brian Downs, 40, had died in a crash in Iraq on May 30, 2005. He was helping train an Iraqi air force. He was aboard a Russian prop plane with three other airmen and an Iraqi pilot, surveying emergency landing strips. No one knows why the plane crashed or even who was flying it.

Each of the four Americans was buried separately. Then a later service was held for commingled remains of all five on the plane. The lost Iraqi pilot, Captain Ali Abass, became the only Iraqi laid to rest in Section 60.

The group funeral was a major political event, with a military contingent from Iraq present and the national media covering it. Holly saw a stunned young widow with three small children and hung back. Afterward, Beth went looking for the original grave that held most of her husband’s remains. Holly drove past, stopped and introduced herself. She apologized at the same time, Beth recalls. “She said she wanted me to have privacy.”

They didn’t meet again until the Saturday before Valentine’s.

Floridians Lee and Janine Woodliff had flown from Port Charlotte to Arlington Cemetery for their son’s (Michael)birthday last August 20. He would have been 24. He was killed when a bomb blew apart his Humvee in Iraq on March 2, 2004. His parents had brought with them two suitcases packed with 300 silk roses. They spent two days putting one on each grave site.

“On the second day, Holly was there,” Lee Woodliff says. “In a very kind and gentle way, she said she would help if we ever wanted anything.”

Her photos of their son’s headstone began arriving after they got home.

Jill Cockerham from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, says Holly knew all about her son Gray, a Marine, before they even met at the cemetery. She had read about him on Patterson’s Web site. Gray Cockerham, 21, was killed by a roadside bomb on August 21, 2005.

“She knew about my son in elementary school.”

As she talked on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, Cockerham made her way down the frozen rows with her rose and screwdriver. She surveyed the field.

“Each year the rows get deeper.”

Among Holly and the families, gray-haired Tom Guggliuzza circulated with jugs of cocoa and coffee. He’s retired. He’s supposed to be living in Bangor, Pennsylvania. He came for his nephew’s funeral at Arlington two years ago and never went home. He is at Section 60 three to five days a week. He reads to the dead.

Families send him letters, poems and books. He sits on a golf stool at grave sites and reads out loud. “I’ve learned to love these kids,” he said. He was there on the previous Thursday, at the funeral for Army Specialist Nicholas Brown, 24, who was killed by a bomb on January 22. Tom saw Brown’s widow, Sara, standing in the frigid wind with a month-old baby.

He said he has stayed longer in Virginia than he ever expected, but “I just can’t leave them.” He senses their spirits.

“I go through boxes of tissues,” Tom said, pointing to a half-empty box of Kleenex beside him on the ground.

Holly doesn’t cry.

“I’m here for the living,” she said. She worries she might be off-putting to some families. She’s taller than most of them; she flings sentences so fast they can’t catch them all; she fears she appears “seemingly emotionless.” She often hangs back. “I’m a little hard to take. I’m a stoic. I don’t do tears with the widow. But I’m good in a trench.”

She’s single and works in a flower shop, on her feet all day binding blossoms together for weddings, birthdays, apologies and sad goodbyes. That’s all she’ll say about herself; this is about the soldiers.

She remembers the first one to come to Arlington National Cemetery from the Iraq war. He was Army Captain Russell Rippetoe, 27. He had manned a nighttime checkpoint in western Iraq on August 3, 2003. A car full of civilians approached. A pregnant woman got out and ran toward the soldiers, screaming. Rippetoe stepped toward her, and the car exploded. Rippetoe and two other soldiers were killed.

Holly was to deliver a floral arrangement to the funeral. An Army Ranger called her and asked her to bring along a camera to take a picture of the flowers. That was how it all started.

The mothers got to her. Her own mother had a philosophy about soldiers who die. Their wives go on; their mothers can’t.

Holly stays behind, after the bugle has blown. The mothers know that she’s there.

Most of the families had left by late afternoon. They had talked about getting together again at Easter to take the roses up. Holly saves them each year, sewing them on a blanket that she sometimes brings to Section 60 and lays under a large holly tree.

They all drove away. Holly dropped off leftover oatmeal cookies at the guardhouse at the Tomb of the Unknowns. She twisted the wire stem of a silk rose onto the crypt of her father, a sergeant in counterintelligence during World War II. He was 6-8. She got her height from him.

The day was fading. Her last chore was her strays. These were men and women technically not killed in action in Iraq, and therefore not buried in Section 60.

They are on Holly’s rose list nonetheless.

So down the road at Section 66, she stopped her car at the grave of Taryn Ashley Robinson, 22, daughter of a major general. Her death last year was, in Holly’s words, “the saddest, damnedest thing I’ve ever heard.”

She had been an Air Force Academy graduate, a second lieutenant. She had been taking flight lessons in San Antonio, Texas. On Sept. 5, 2005, her small plane struck a giant power line.

The plane exploded, killing the instructor. She managed to crawl out of the wreckage on fire, her neck broken. A passerby found her, 80 percent of her body burned. She died in a burn unit after four months in an induced coma.

Holly knelt at her grave, punched her screwdriver in the ground, planted the silk rose. She remained kneeling. Her hands were red, windburned.

Taryn really belongs down the road in Section 60, she said.

“For my money, she’s one of them.”

John Barry can be reached at (727) 892-2258 or
A message from Holly.

The City Council Veteran’s Committee will be having a hearing on:

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Time: 1:00 PM

Location: Committee Room – City Hall

Chairperson: Hiram Monserrate

Details: Oversight – Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA)

digg it

All veterans are asked to attend this hearing. This will be one of the most important hearings the Veteran’s Committee will have this year.

According to it’s website, the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs is mandated by Local Law 53 of the NYC Charter of 1987. Its mission is to advise the Mayor on issues and projects impacting on the veterans’ community. They offer information and make referrals for veterans and members of the military to various agencies as well as supporting veteran and military initiatives that are produced throughout the city.

At the last MOVA oversight hearing, Ms. Joynes testified that the office saw and made referrals to 300 individuals per month. This will probably be the ONE and ONLY chance we will have as a community to speak to the City Council about what kind of job Ms. Joynes has done as the MOVA director and how Mayor Bloomberg and his administration have failed MOVA (lack of funding, resources, no voice, no veterans advisory board, a move out of 346 Broadway that was not made public to the community, etc.) while claiming to be pro-veteran.

Below is what I wrote in January when the Mayor moved MOVA from 346 Broadway to Gold Street. Please come to this hearing and make your voice heard!

Joe Bello

Letter fom Joe Bello New York Metro Vets To Mayor Bloomberg

Dated January 11, 2007

For the past couple of year’s discussions have been ongoing as to the job Clarice Joynes has done as the current Director of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) here in New York City. I, along with many others have made comments and statements regarding the poor leadership within the office.

However, the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs – the office (even when consistently under funded) has always been a vital office and with our country at war, this office is still vital and can work to do great things with the proper leadership.

Last Friday NIGHT (January 5th) the Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs (with no notice to the veteran’s community) was moved from 346 Broadway, Room 819 to the following new address:

100 Gold Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY

The only way you would know of the new address is if you went to the MOVA website and looked at the address and I have been informed that the new office is nothing more than three cubicles and a table.

This cannot be understated as a dramatic and unsettling move by Mayor Bloomberg and his administration. Besides vacating the location the office has been for years, they have also left behind ALL the veteran organizations that are in the hallway.

MOVA has been the anchor to the veteran organizations at 346 Broadway. Many veterans are now concerned that with the anchor gone, this may mean the end of the office’s there, including the United War Veterans Council, organizers of the annual NYC Veterans Day Parade and other events.

It is important for the ENTIRE veterans community to keep an eye on this issue. Taken in conjunction with the many issues currently on-going (the veterans advisory board, the Extended Benefits Package, Veteran Vendors, Homelessness) this is no BS and should be taken as a real wake-up call.

While the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs listed as a mayoral office in the city charter, we cannot allow Mayor Bloomberg to marginalize the office beyond what it already is.

Check out our review at


cold war veterans association This Month we review the Cold War Veterans Association, it’s mission, location, joining requirements and why you should be part of it. Also some pretty neat merchandise they have available for Veterans of the Cold War and otherwise.

Right off the bat let me say no you do not have to be an Air Force vet to be in the CWVA but as an Air Force vet myself I chose to display our emblem. The CWVA acts as an unified voice for Cold War vets like myself to raise issues with congress concerning our benefits and right now the association is trying to get the Cold War medal approved by congress.

So how do you qualify to be in the association? you simply have to have been in the military as active duty or reserve during the Cold War 1945-1991 and have your DD form 214 as proof of service. Civilian workers on military bases and postal workers do not qualify.

Why should you join? because the bigger the association gets the louder the voice is in the congressional ear. There is strength in numbers my friends.

Links for Cold War Vets

Cold War Veterans Association
Cold War Vet’s Merchandise ( I have ordered from them myself, fast shipping! ) |

Check this out from Michael Yon : Online Magazine

Mystery Weapon #2: Experts Only

The jury is . . . out.

“What in the world is this?” That sentence was translated into “Mystery Weapon Found in Iraq.” The “mystery weapon” characterization packed pizzazz, but the words were not mine. Had the “mystery weapon” been found somewhere other than Mosul, Iraq alongside 27 surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank mines, RPGs, blasting caps and tons of other munitions, the weapon likely would have been dismissed.

If loaded words were not ricocheting around the world about Iranian weapons being found in Iraq, the “mystery weapon” depicted in a photograph taken back in 2005 would likely garner attention more commensurate with its size and lethality, or lack thereof.

I wrote about the night it was captured and destroyed as part of an enormous weapons and explosives cache in “The Devil’s Foyer.” Amid all the rockets and prefabbed IEDs—some bombs were cast into concrete to resemble road curbs—discovered in the underground lair, the “mystery weapon” warranted a single photo, which I never bothered to publish until just some days ago.

Yet in order to understand why soldiers and I did not dismiss the gadget offhand as a toy, it’s helpful to understand a bit of my background. I’ve known toy guns since the days I was small enough wear feathers and ride our German Shepherd as a horse. I had real firearms before reaching puberty. I could grab a gun and walk out the back door and go shooting and hunting anytime, without asking. My friends and I made our own cannons and rockets, rocket launchers, fireworks and real bombs. Later, while in Special Forces, I was a weapons and explosives specialist.

These hands have held thousands of weapons. Yet that night, I was unsure whether “Mystery Weapon #1″ was a toy. Might have been a spud-gun, maybe a grenade launcher; definitely appeared homemade. But “homemade” does not equal “toy” and shouldn’t denote “harmless.”

Many of our soldiers are killed by devastating homemade weapons. On January 15th of this year we lost five people to a gigantic homemade weapon, a bomb, in Mosul, ironically near to where the “Mystery Weapon #1″ had been unearthed 18 months earlier. read more

An EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal) expert took the ball, and very gently and carefully, slowly walked away. He was unsure what the ball was.

Later, I asked many people what this was, but nobody to my knowledge was ever able to say definitively what it was or where it came from. Nobody was able to give it a name, origin, and probable year of birth

All Volunteer Force – 41 Percent Southern States

With a population of 300 million Americans, you will find that less than 1 percent of American Citizens has joined the Armed Forces’ “All Volunteer Force” to help protect the other 99 percent of the population.

The Department of Defense (DOD) says more volunteers come from the Southern portions of the United States than any other region.

Read the facts here: Recruiting average.

1.The South accounts for 41 percent of new recruits.

2. North Central 24 percent

3. West 21 percent

4. Northeast 14 percent

5.Northeast produces the fewest number of new recruits

‘Shared Sacrifice’?

Active Duty and Retired Military Personnel…..

The Great Betrayal of our Career Military Members!

As A Military Retiree, You're Retirement / Retainer Pay Is At Risk!

Arab Street Yearns for New Cold War

In this Article from Arab News Network you get the impression the Arab Street is looking forward to a renewed adversarial relationship between USA and Russia.

Back to the Cold War?

By: Mahmoud Labadi

After a long estival sleep, it seems that the Russian bear is waking up in this hibernal season. Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting alert once again. Russia, after being lethargic on the International arena since the collapse of the Soviet Union is mounting the stage again. President Putin’s tough remarks at the Munich International Security Conference on February 10. 07 against the United States of America were reminiscent of the Cold War period of the sixties, seventies and eighties of the last century. Putin criticized the U.S. for creating a “Unipolar” system run unilaterally by the sole Super Power, saying “one single center of power, one single center of force and one single master.”

“The increasing disdain of fundamental principles of International law was provoking a new arms race in the World, he said. “The U.S. has trespassed the limits in almost all concerns” the President stated. In his opinion, the eastward expansion of NATO was a “provocation” for Russia. Thus criticizing the U.S. for conducting negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic, the new NATO allies to base ballistic defense missiles on their soil. The US says that those missiles are directed against missiles eventually launched by Iran and North Korea, but the Russians reject the argument. Mr. Putin added that Russia would present a proposal for a ban on stationing weapons in outer space to the Western World.

“The monopole world order had not proved to be efficient. Quite the opposite was the case- the end of the Cold War had produced by far more casualties and armed conflicts than ever before”, Putin said. In his opinion this development was caused by the attempt to solve problems unilaterally, yet the result was more human tragedies. The natural consequence according to Putin was that the fundamental principles of International law were disdained in a world where “nobody” felt safe. “Why is it necessary nowadays to start bombing and shooting on any given occasion”?, he asked.

The Russian criticism explicitly addressed the role of the UN. The use of force could never be more than the last resort in politics and needed to be legitimized by UN resolutions, but not by decisions of the European Union or NATO.
“US plans to deploy an anti-missile defense shield in East Europe would equal an arms race not beneficial for Europe”, said Putin. Read more

Army 01 Car Nipped at Wire at Daytona 500

Well, It was a heartbreaker for the US Army team at Daytona as Mark Martin and the 01 Car was unable to hold off a hard charging Kevin Harvick. Martin a was a sentimental favorite in his 23rd start at Daytona without a win . but he will have to wait till next year . The race was a1 entertainment right to the checkered flag full of crashes and drama. I have to say it more races like that and I might become a NASCAR fan.

Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin

AP Photo/Glenn Smith

Kevin Harvick nosed past Mark Martin while cars crashed behind them

Free Image Hosting at

Army Racing Podcast

Mark Martin

AP Photo/J. Pat Carter
Mark Martin came closer to winning the Daytona 500 than he ever has before. The veteran has started the race 23 times without a victory.

Czech Cold War survivors on front line

By Gethin Chamberlain in Trocavec, Czech Republic, Sunday Telegraph

Last Updated: 12:25am GMT 18/02/2007

They made it through one cold war on the side of the Soviet Union, but now the people of the Czech Republic have been thrust back on to the front line of a new nuclear stand-off – this time on the side of the West.

Jan Neoral, mayor of Trocavec, at the former Soviet military base
Jan Neoral, mayor of Trocavec, at the former Soviet military base: ‘We are afraid of terrorists’

America wants to site the radar base for its new anti-missile defence system, aimed at containing the threat from states such as Iran and North Korea, in an old Soviet-era base less than 40 miles from the Czech capital, Prague.

But the hi-tech plan – dubbed “Son of Star Wars” in a nod to Ronald Reagan’s original Strategic Defence Initiative – has caused consternation in the neighbouring rural villages, where facilities are so basic that many people have to draw water from the wells outside their homes in buckets.

It is not just the prospect of becoming potential targets in a new global confrontation that has raised -concerns; the inhabitants fear the radar poses a threat to their health and even their television signals.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union stationed SS-20 nuclear missiles in the Jince military zone in the Brdy hills; since then, the Czech military have used it as an artillery firing range. But now, the Americans plan to demolish the rusting, green painted, metal gate, the fence of corrugated iron topped by barbed wire and the concrete barracks left over from the Soviet era to make way for the 150 or so staff who will man the new radar base. Read more.

Patriot Guard Riders

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders hold flags over the hearse before the funeral for U.S. Army Sgt. James Regan, in Manhasset, New York, February 16, 2007, who was killed by a roadside bomb with serving with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Baqubah, Iraq. | Reuters Found

Family members arrive for the funeral for U.S. Army Sgt. James Regan, in Manhasset, New York, February 16, 2007, who was killed by a roadside bomb with serving with the 3rd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Baqubah, Iraq.