How you can support our troops with more than lip service

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I have been pondering for some time what more I could do to help promote Soldiers For The Truth’s Basic 5 Campaign. My latest effort has been to inform politicians running for congressional and statewide offices of our cause. Politicians are never more accessible than when running for office, so my plan is to take advantage of that situation and that is what I did!

Last Saturday I attended a private reception in Arkansas for several politicians running for Congress, both US Senate and the House of Representatives, and several running for statewide positions (Governor, Lt. Gov. & Secretary of State). All of them were unaware of the issues that our soldiers face with body armor, helmets & helmet liners, rifles, side arms and boots until I informed them.

By taking advantage of this situation I was able to educate them about the plight of our troops with respect to The Basic 5 and the mission of Soldiers For The Truth and lobby them for their future support if elected.

Private receptions generally are a matter of paying to attend, not a specific party affiliation. Many can be very low cost to attend such as the one I attended for only $50 per person. For $50 I received complete access to all of the candidates in attendance. Once I started speaking to them about Soldiers For The Truth and the Basic 5, I was able to engage them actively in the conversation. One politician put it very well by saying,  “Who could not support that effort”!

The key points that I outlined were as follows:

  • Let me tell you about a non-profit organization that I am involved with that only wants the BEST personal protective equipment for our troops serving in harm’s way, Soldiers For The Truth.  I was clear to tell them that we do not want money, but “their help” in getting what our troops need to have and the best opportunity to accomplish their mission and come home alive and in one piece!
  • Fact: Our troops do NOT have the best available body armor and that better commercially available body exists, but our troops are not allowed to wear it. The Army has issued a “Safety of Use” message banning all commercially available body armor even though a law exist that allows soldiers to buy commercially available armor, and to be reimbursed. But, then in its latest Catch-22, the Army will promptly confiscate it!
  • Fact:  The helmets that are issued to our soldiers will not stop a bullet and are merely compressed Kevlar fibers in the shape of a helmet! The helmet support pads issued by the military causes as many injuries as they try to prevent. This because the issued pads transmit too much of the shock wave from an IED blast and the fact that they burn when exposed to fire after an explosion. The fact is that the incidence of head, face and neck burns have climbed exponentially. Also, Operation Helmet has sent 51,000 sets of helmet pad upgrades to our troops and their pads are fire retardant!
  • The rifle (M-16 & M-4) are a 55 year old design and even with the upgrades through the years can jam (and do so frequently in harsh environments such as Iraq and Afghanistan) and the small caliber bullets lack the lethality needed in the war on terror. Also, it’s been recently revealed about the Wanat Valley incident in Afghanistan July 2008 where our soldiers were engaged in an hours-long fire fight that many of the rifles failed to continue to fire as that fire fight drug on. This resulted in the loss of 9 of our troops and many more wounded. I pointed out that the Army’s response was to study changes to the current rifle or adopting 1 of 2 other rifles after a 2 years study! I emphasized after a 2 year study!
  • The pistol we issue is ineffective, lacks enough lethality and has inherent problems that have caused many injuries to our troops and even some deaths!
  • The boots we issue our troops are not proper for the mission, climate or terrain. Many soldiers who can afford them buy a different set of boots to use in combat!  The heat in our theaters of combat absolutely cooks a soldier’s feet in the issued boots. Many soldiers are forced to wear them anyway because they cannot afford the $150 or more to buy a mission appropriate boot!
  • After covering these items (which can be done in a few short minutes), I asked for their help and support. Not one said that they would not help support our cause! Now I am aware that “lip service” is routinely given to pacify a constituent, but all I spoke to seemed sincere. Not being naïve, I fully realize that they will need to be reminded of the issues and the commitment they gave me to help if elected!

As I stated in the beginning; NONE of the politicians were aware of any of the issues concerning the “BASIC 5” pieces of equipment. If we do not expend the effort to tell them, inform them, prompt them and prod them, then things will never change and we’ll continue to have needless preventable loss of our troop’s lives.

The sad fact is that soldiers die in war. But, if they had been issued or simply allowed to use the BEST personal protective equipment available, many deaths would have been prevented.

What have YOU done today to make a difference and help our troops serving at the tip of the spear?

Isn’t it time you started to make a difference for them?

The time for action is now!  With the current political environment many new House members and Senators may take office, and access to those currently serving has never been easier. If they remain unaware of the BASIC 5, then we can expect that our troops will continue to die needlessly without the gear that could very well save their lives!

Action you can take today to make a difference:

  • Make a donation to Soldiers for the Troops.
  • Download and print the SFTT brochure and pass it to your friends and inform them of the problems our troops face.
  • Call your Senators and Congressman today and ask them for action on the BASIC 5 and be prepared to tell them what the BASIC 5 is!
  • Call the office of your State’s Governor and demand that they insist that the National Guard has access to the BEST 5 pieces of equipment!

Nothing will change unless you take the steps necessary to make it happen. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen & marines  do so much for us, isn’t it time that we repay them and do something to help them? I say yes and the time is now.

John Grant

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SPC Charles “Doc” Parrish KIA 4 June 2009 Iraq

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Doc was the combat medic for 1st Platoon, 55th Engineer Company, 5th Engineer Battalion. He was a 23 year old, gentle giant from Alabama with an calm demeanor and a way of putting everyone around him at ease. I was his first platoon leader and I remember liking him from the day he showed up. No matter how long the mission had been, Doc was always ready to take care of his Soldiers’ needs. As fortune would have it, I promoted and moved to another position out of the company, but still ran into my Soldiers including Doc from time to time.

About a month before the end of our 15-month Iraq tour in 2008-2009, I ran into Doc at the HHC TOC. He had sustained a non-combat injury and hadn’t been able to go on mission for the previous week. All he could talk about was getting back outside the wire with the platoon, as he trusted no one to take care of them like he could. We spoke about heading home in a few weeks and how he couldn’t wait to see his 5 year old son. As we parted, I told him to take care of our men and keep his head down. A week later, the battalion PA came by to let me know that Doc had been hit. He was on a route-clearance patrol with the platoon, riding in an MRAP, when a worthless, cowardly insurgent stepped out of a crowd in a market and hit his vehicle with an armor-piercing grenade. Doc was the only one in the vehicle who got hit. He had a love for life and was a fighter who never gave up, but knowing him, he would have wanted to be the one to get hit rather than losing any of his Soldiers. The loss of him not only took a great medic from the platoon and stole a father from his son, but deprived our nation of a warrior and a patriot.

CPT Michael S. Pierce

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Historical Convergences

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Hack has said that his favorite book was “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. It is one of my own as well. There was an other famous writer of that time named Lao Tzu. I am certain that Hack knew him as well.

Lao Tzu was the founder of Taoism. When he became old and infirm, he refused to write his “testiment”. So that others could not pervert his legacy, and use it to their benefit. Alas, before he left China to die, he relented, and wrote the 88 verses of the Tao Te Ching.

Since that time, a full-scale religion (the anti-thesis of his teachings) has come to be.

My fear, is that this same thing will happen to the simple words of Col. David Hachworth.   His main concern was that  ground troops should be both appreciated, and supplied.  That they should be recognised for what they were…… the deciding factor in ANY military contest..

I pray, that you in charge of his “legacy”, will not follow in the footsteps of the “followers” of Lao Tzu.  You have in your hands, the legacy, of one of, if not THE greatest example of American military manhood. Balls to the wall, all the way!  Please handle it with due care and attention.

See that is not corrupted. Nor made into something that Hack would drop his BDUs and shit on.

Brian W. Brannon

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M-ATV Letter to USMC General Brogan

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June 01, 2010

Brigadier General Michael M. Brogan

Commander

Marine Corps Systems Command

2200 Lester St.

Quantico, Virginia 22134-6050

Dear General,

I realize I’m the last person you wanted to hear from, yet again. But I felt it was essential after reading about the doors jamming on the M-ATV, that’s why I have reached out to you as the Commander of System Command with my thoughts. The issue at hand is the M-ATV doors, I’m well aware you know all about the issue at hand. I ask you now to PLEASE consider the very possibility of the “piano hinge” design again on the M-ATV as well as all upcoming vehicles. You gave me the opportunity once, to give my presentation and thoughts on the Humvee doors that were jamming, as in the case of the new M-ATV. Make no mistake, I was and I am grateful to you for that opportunity you gave me at Quantico. When I introduced the advantages of the “piano hinge” design in 2007 to your staff, which are in use today on the Humvees. All I can say is that your staff must have thought I had something there to have it put into production. It is my strong belief that the continued use of the two strap hinge design on armored vehicles will never work properly. The bushing within the hinges cannot handle the heavy loads of the armor plated doors at two load points. The weight must be equally supported along the full length of the doors. I’m sure if you were to visit any motor-pool with these vehicles you would find graphite like substance on the hinge areas. You gave me an opportunity once; I ask that you employ this concept that is used in the Humvee today. The design has worked and it can work on other vehicles. I would not steer you wrong and better yet, the Troops. The Oshkosh Company should stop all further production of these vehicles, and change the hinge design ASAP. They also should not be allowed to take a band aid approach to resolve these issues. We need the right fix, but not their type of quick fix.

I look forward to hearing from you again and thank you for your time and Godspeed to you General, and maybe someday our paths will cross.

Sincerely,

Michael J. F. Bucca Sr.

Hanover, Massachusetts

Veteran and Father of a proud Marine!

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Body Armor: Open Letter to General Conway

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April 21, 2009

Commandant of the Marine Corps

General James T. Conway

Headquarters USMC

2 Navy Annex (CMC)

Washington, D.C.  20380-1775

Dear General,

I would like to thank for your response to my letter dated 03-28-08, as well, as the time you took out of your demanding schedule. I know you and I are the same in many ways as acknowledged in your letter, but yet very different. The Command you lead and the Stars you wear are one of great responsibilities. The tasks that are put before you from day to day are not easy ones, but you have within you a Drive and Conviction to push forward no matter what, that’s why you are there.

I, in my life, do not lead a Command, but I do have a Drive and Conviction for the Troops of all branches, and my sons. When I started writing these letters back in 2006 it has never been my intent to dishonor any branch in our military or to be a thorn in anybody’s side. It has always been my outlook in life that one person can make a difference and I live by that rule. The objective here is to protect ALL the Troops with the very best Body Armor.

The first objective was to get NASA involved and this is not to say, just to kick it around and talk about it at meetings. When my wife and I went to Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico Va. in 2007 to meet with Brigadier General Brogan’s staff. I gave my concerns, thoughts and ideas, which included NASA. I was told they had never contacted NASA on this issue but were going to do it as a result of this meeting, which I thought to be a positive response.  The purpose is, to form and make One Department within NASA solely for R&D for Body Armor ONLY, and nothing else. The second is the technology of liquid body armor by Dr. Norman Wagner, to be used in the making of the soft body armor as well as the helmets. The third is to get the President, the Senate, and Congress to fund such a project which I have found to be like climbing Mount Everest, backwards, but I still have not given up on this concept, nor will I ever.

Over the years of writing to the political machine in Washington, it has been disappointing at times, but not enough to prevent me from continuing with my writing. I have found that some are disconnected with the needs of the Military and their families on the issue of Body Armor in particular.  There are some that have no idea what anguish, pain and many sleepless nights the families endure when their loved ones are deployed. But yet, they still sit on committees in which they hold the power to make a difference, and yet, they do not act, or act quickly enough when called upon.

I have found that the subject of the military with most people in general, have no idea on what anguish truly means, and don’t care. Unless you walk in our shoes, can you truly understand what our Troops and their Military families go through and the great scarifies they make every day for this great nation.

  When we have designs, redesigns and recall’s of Body Armor for several years, without making any great strides in the area of weight and protection, this is why I do, what I do, and why the families are so concerned! Have I set the bar too high for Washington on what I ask of them? I think not! This request is not one that can’t be quickly reached; we must move more rapidly and think outside the box on this one!

I truly understand the willingness of our military leaders to unfailingly fight for the best, but my concerns are not so much with the military but with the committees that tie the hands of the military on so many issues. I realize that I have made no friends, in Washington. Some may even hate me for the writing of these letters to the military and Washington, but that’s alright. If I can make a difference and save one life, then I can look in the mirror and say it was a good day and it was all worth it, no matter what people think of me! As my 1st Sergeant always said, “Respect is not given, it is Earned”, and the Troops have earned my respect many times over, past and present.

I will continue the push forward on my requests, as so many lives are on the line, so bare with me on my letters, e-mails and phone calls; I do this on behalf of all the TROOPS.

I look forward to hearing from you again and thank you for your time and Godspeed to you General, and maybe someday our paths will cross.

Americans never quit.

General Douglas Macarthur

US WWII general & war hero (1880 – 1964)

Sincerely,

Michael J. F. Bucca Sr.

Hanover, Massachusetts 

“Veteran and Father of a proud Marine”

SFTT Editor’s Note:   This is an open letter from Michael Bucca, a “veteran and father of a proud Marine,” to General James T. Conway, Commondant of the Marine Corps.   While Mr. Bucca’s suggestions to engage NASA do not necessarily represent the position of SFTT, we do agree that seeking better protective gear and combat equipment for our frontline troops should become a National Priority.   Let’s raise our voices to support these brave young men and women who defend our freedoms.   Join SFTT and add your voice to Mr. Bucca’s to get our frontline troops the best available combat equipment.

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Body Armor and the NASA Connection

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April 29, 2010

President Barack H. Obama II

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

President Barack H. Obama II:

Dear Mr. President,

I know what you’re thinking, it’s him again! Well, I’d like to say it wasn’t, however. The issue is Body Armor Design or should I say the lack of its advancement of lighter and better ballistics.

I have reached out many times to two Administrations of, Presidents, Senators, Congressmen and Military etc. and continue to hit a brick wall on the creation and establishment of one department within NASA. I believe this concept could be a straightforward one with the help of you, Mr. President, Secretary Robert M. Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen. With this partnership, you can make all of this happen.

Mr. President, you had once stated that “If someone has a better idea, I’m listening”. Well the concept is simple, to have NASA solely dedicated one department (assemble one) for the R&D of Body Armor, nothing more and nothing less than that. This would be their ONLY task to do at NASA and nothing else. It will not work by having meeting’s or studies with NASA, or forming committees on top of committees.

I will continue to reach out to you and your Administration on this issue. When you believe in something as strongly as I do, you press on no matter what, as you well know Mr. President. I realize you are a very busy man, and that there is never a good time for such a request. I feel that I must reach out for your help on my request. I’m hoping that you concur and push this forward. In closing, I am not a man of power or influence; however I’m a man of determination and conviction for all our troops.

I look forward to hearing from all of you, and thank you all for your time.

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.

Abraham Lincoln

16th president of US (1809 – 1865)

Sincerely,

Michael J. F. Bucca Sr.

Hanover, Massachusetts

“Veteran and Father of a proud Marine”

Editor’s Note: We appreciate Mr. Bucca for sharing his letter to President Obama with SFTT. His letter reflects the views of many concerned parents  whose sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way.  SFTT and its members and volunteers pledge ourselves to continue our campaigns to make sure our troops have the best protective gear and combat equipment available.

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Pat Tillman Foundation Annual Run April 17

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On April 17, 2010 join over 20,000 runners and walkers as they come together at Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, AZ) to celebrate the life and legacy of former ASU and Arizona Cardinals football star and Army Ranger, Pat Tillman.

Pat’s Run is the signature annual fundraising event for the Pat Tillman Foundation. Created in April 2004 following Pat’s death, the Foundation carries forward Pat’s legacy of leadership and civic action by supporting future generations of leaders through educational scholarships.

Inspired by the distinguished life and legacy of Pat Tillman – professional athlete, military hero and a man of strong character and kindness – the Pat Tillman Foundation is building a community of scholars dedicated to improving their own lives, the lives of their families and their country by creating a spirit of service.

The Pat Tillman Foundation is a national leader in providing resources and educational support to veterans, active servicemembers and their dependants. The Tillman Military Scholars program aids all veterans and specifically the ever-growing population of veterans and dependents of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

To view a printable version of the entry form click here or register online now.

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Free Cruise for Medal of Honor Recipient

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We, the Armed Forces Service Center, a Military Hospitality Lounge in Miami ( formerly operated by the USO) are seeking a Medal of Honor recipient for a free 7 day cruise November 7th, to the Western Caribbean out of Fort Launderdale (“FLL”). This is a fund raising cruise and we will have an announcement available soon and a press release. Hopefully, this Medal of Honor recipient lives in Florida or we will fly this person to Florida. We plan a ceremony on Veterans Day, November 11th, on board the Celebrity Solstice, one of the newest and most beautiful ships at sea.

The Armed Force Service Center is the old USO of south Florida and our 501(c)(3) is the Armed Forces Service Center. We operate the Military Hospitality Lounge in Miami and soon in FLL. Please see our website at: www.militaryloungemiami.com This will be free cruise for the recipient of the Medal of Honor and we will have a ceremony on board on Veterans Day, 11 November, as well as other socials ( champagne).

Please contact Keith Whitbeck at k2563439@bellsouth.net or 305-968-4399 for additional information.

SFTT Editor’s Note:  This message and proposal seems genuine, but readers are recommended to take reasonable precautions to verify it’s authenticity.

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Picking up the Torch for Col. David Hackworth

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My valiant, wonderful husband, Colonel David (Hack) Hackworth, one of America’s greatest heroes and most valor-decorated soldiers, died in my arms two years ago this past May (Editor’s note:  This was written by Col. Hackworth’s wife three years ago on the second anniversary of his death).  During the last weeks we shared, he thought not a wit about himself; and his love for me burned so brightly I still feel surrounded by that awesome warmth.  But he worried too about the frontline troops he spent his life protecting and particularly about Soldiers For The Truth (“SFTT”), the foundation we started together.  So I promised Hack I’d pick up the torch and keep SFTT viable – and continue our commitment to get the kids out at the tip of the spear the best leadership, training and equipment.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy.  In spite of the major stories we broke – such as the lack of up-to-date body armor or none at all when the troops first went back into Iraq or the unarmored hummers or Abu Ghraib, which pointed so clearly to flaws in both training and leadership – most people we addressed when we tried to raise awareness and funds found it difficult to accept that our soldiers and Marines weren’t getting the right stuff with which to wage war.  Even though we eventually came to expect the disconnect, we always found it hard to compute — but that was because for many years we were often first to report outrages like the Tillman cover-up in our weekly column DEFENDING AMERICA, which Hack would also discuss every week on TV and radio.  To disbelieving ears, of course, but he kept getting booked because he had better pundit credentials than most and good TV-Q, probably because he was as quick and deadly with words as he’d been in battle.

Only recently have I noticed that we’re gaining more traction and I suspect it’s mainly because the Walter Reed debacle so deeply shocked and touched the nation.  Suddenly we were all confronting what Hack had warned us about on Larry King when we first went into Iraq:  in spite of all our vows to the contrary, we’ve allowed ourselves to be sucked into another Vietnam with far greater potential fall-out.  Sure, because of medical and technological advances, we won’t have a black granite wall listing 58,000 fallen warriors; but depending upon how much longer we’re stuck in Iraq, we’re likely to have far more than 58,000 wounded, many grievously.

Excellent organizations offer countless services to take care of the troops, from entertaining them in Iraq to helping them and their families when they come home.  The USO, Wounded Warrior, Fisher House and so on.  But no organization except SFTT is dedicated day in, day out to being there for our stalwart warriors as they stand tall for their country out in the shifting sands of the Valley of the Shadow of Death — to try to prevent them from being killed or wounded in the first place.

As we entered last spring the fifth year of this terrible war, SFTT will formally announce the new Basic Five campaign to get America’s frontline troops the best available of the five most essential items of personal combat gear so they have the best possible chance to complete their assigned missions and make it home alive and in one piece in a plane seat instead of a body bag or on a stretcher.  Doesn’t it seem criminal that the richest nation in the world, which spends more than the rest of the world combined on defense, can’t budget responsibly enough to provide its sons and daughters with a helmet that will prevent many more of the endemic, life-altering head injuries?  With the same better body armor the generals choose – and wear hidden under their uniforms?  With a rifle that’s not a jammer like Jessica Lynch’s M-16 and that’s at least as effective as the AK-47, the terrorists’ weapon-of-choice?  With a sidearm that’s reliable and deadly in tight situations?   And with boots capable of going the bloody distance?

No wonder Hack died worrying about the troops.  But if more Americans stay mindful of the dreadful consequences of war and help SFTT carry Hack’s torch, we can together “SUPPORT THE TROOPS WITH MORE THAN LIP SERVICE” and make sure more of our brave volunteers survive whatever lies ahead.

Eilhys England

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