29 December 2010

Surgeons Overseas

My friends at Surgeons Overseas have just released our end of year newsletter for the Society of International Humanitarian Surgeons.

The newsletter includes a short report I wrote on my visit to Haiti this year, and I was happily surprised to find a great description of life running the Air Force hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan by my USAF colleague, trauma surgeon David Zonies.

you can find the newsletter here:


and learn about SOS here:


12 December 2010

A Christmas Classic and a Classic American

Last night, Meredith and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”, like so many families do every Christmas. As usual I was blown away by the kiss between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. I knew it was the first on screen kiss that Jimmy Stewart filmed since returning from his duty in World War II, but I was unfamiliar with the extensive nature of his service. His military career is impressive and inspiring, and like Frank Capra’s movie is worth celebrating every year.

Here are a few details of his military contribution:

-Stewart family members served in the Civil War, The Spanish-American War, and World War I
-Stewart enlisted as a private in the Army Air Corps in March 1941 nearly a year before Pearl Harbor was attacked, but had to bulk up in pounds and be measured twice to make the weight requirement.

-He was an accomplished private pilot before joining the military, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942, then began publicity performance duties and later pilot training.

-In 1943 he was finally granted his long-standing request for a combat assignment and became commander of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron as a Captain.

-He was promoted to Major after flying combat missions with the 445th Bombardment Group over Germany from the base in Norfolk, England.

-When Stewart became group operations officer to the 453rd Bombardment Group he flew the lead B-24 in order to command his troops from the front.
-His official total of missions is listed as 20, but the actual count is higher because he ordered that his missions with the 453rd go uncounted.

-He flew the 1943 mission to Schweinfurt, Germany known as “Black Thursday” where 60 of 291 aircraft were lost since the mission was beyond the range of the protecting escort aircraft.

-He is one of very few Americans who rose from the rank of Private to Colonel in four years.

-His decorations include:
+Distinguished Service Medal
+Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster
+Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters+Army Commendation Medal
+American Defense Service Medal
+European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 Service Stars
+World War II Victory Medal
+Armed Forces Reserve Medal+French Croix de Guerre with Palm
+Presidential Medal of Freedom
- In 1966 Stewart flew a combat mission in Vietnam marked by an in-flight refueling and a flap malfunction on landing.
-Stewart remained active in the reserves and was promoted to Brigadier General. Later after his retirement he was promoted to Major General by Ronald Reagan.

10 December 2010

My brother and sister-in-law's 50 state bike tour

My brother Adam and my sister-in-law Christy are about to embark on a 50-state bike tour. Isn't that an incredible task? I've made it to about 12 states, and it took planes, trains, and automobiles to get there!

Here is a great interview with them on Patch:

And you can follow them on their tour (starting in March) at their site

They will be raising money to donate bikes to communities that need them for basic transportation and commers, and also donatin to Achilles international for specialized bikes for blind and amputee veteran bikers.

18 November 2010

You can help medical teams get to patients in Haiti

A friend in Haiti, Lowell Adams, sent me an appeal this week, and it is a very worthy project.

Lowell is an OR nurse who used to run the recovery room at Geisinger, and now he and his family have pledged 4 years of service to Hatians on La Gonave Island through Wesleyan Church. In the picture below, Lowell is pointing out the seed pods of the Meringa tree, which can provide a renewable source of protein to a family and has the side benefit of helping defend against parasites.

I had the great opportunity to work with Lowell caring for patients at Wesleyan Hospital last month. The roads on La Gonave are horrible (or if you take the attitude of an off road enthusiast, GREAT!) and it is very difficult to get to villages in the mountain passes. Lowell is using a beat up old Toyota Land Cruiser, and I can tell you from experience that it is hanging on through bailing wire and duct tape, and it is very hard on the seat of a skinny guy like me!

As you will read below, There is a chance for Lowell's mission to buy a decommissioned British military Land Rover Defender (110 in. wheel base) That would help them reliably get medical teams to villages in the mountains, like La Fontina, where I got to visit the wonderful people myself. (Land Rover Defender example below: it may not be a Wrangler, but sure to get the job done.)

As of this post, Lowell has $7000 of the $24,400 they need for the vehicle. Consider helping them make the push in this worthy cause!

List of Wesleyan's Haiti Projects: (truck is listed as "community health vehicle")

And below is the email I got from Lowell with all the nitty gritty details:

Dear Friends,
We just received news tonight of a great opportunity to purchase a new Land Rover for the La Gonave Wesleyan Hospital and Community Health Evangelism project. Our friend Justin Dowd from Scotland came across this vehicle. Below is a portion of Justin's letter.
Cost of New Landrover is $64,000USD in country plus extra for seats 6/7
Cost of New LandCruiser is $57,000USD and there is a 4.5 month weight

I have managed to get a deal with the British Miltary for one of their excess vehicle Land Rovers which for licensing must go outside of Europe.

They have two varieties available and they are brand new diesel engine with air conditioning and armour plated steering rod protection. The vehicles are unused and have vinly seats inside.

The price of the vehicles is as follows

Land Rover 110 with seven forward facing seats in three rows all with seat belts is $27,255USD, left hand drive
Land Rover 110 with two seats in the front and then two benches in the back so vehicle capacity is 10 is $24,400USD and is right hand drive.

Now I have finance for the 7 seat vehicle for Lagonave with a large steel rack on top with ladder to the back and armour plated diff lock protection also. I also have the finance to ship the vehicle and this is where it gets interesting. I have to pay for the whole container and yet it is possible to get two vehicles in the one container. If you guys were thinking anytime soon of another vehicle or know someone who is then this is an incredible chance to get another vehicle brand new Land Rover for $24,400USD. I may be able to cover the $4400USD to be honest so this is a chance that someone could benefit by getting a vehicle that costs $64,000USD in Haiti for around $20,000USD. Dont know if this is pie in the sky but I wanted to let you know. These are the only two types of vehicles available and there is 35 of each in stock.
I have shipping dates and they would both arrive in the container 24th December in Port Au Prince which amazingly is just 5 weeks away but we would need to move quick on the decision as the shipping day is 26th and I need to pay for them to allow them to be moved to shipping port.

At this point I have $7000 toward this vehicle. If anyone would like to help with this purchase please let us know as soon as possible because of the time factor. We appreciate each of you, for your concern for the work here and we want to thank in advance those who can give at this time.


Lowell and Robin Adams
Global PartnersMissionaries to Haiti

11 November 2010

Happy Veteran's Day

Thank you Uncle Louis, Cousin Dom, Uncle Ralph, Mandy, Mr. D, Mr. J, (and millions more).

I sit here in my house with my family, safe, secure, and free because of you.


My book is now available as an e-book.

After many arrangements, technical details and anticipation, there is an e-book version of Coppola, A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq.

Here is a blurb and plug from friends at our publisher, NTI Upstream:

Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq, the fierce, true-life account of Dr. Chris Coppola's two deployments in Operation Iraqi Freedom as an Air Force pediatric surgeon, is now available on the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and Barnes & Noble Nook e-book readers.With powerfully shocking closeness, Coppola: A Pediatric Surgeon in Iraq pulls readers inside a military combat support hospital to experience not only an essential historical portrait of the war's effect on U.S. soldiers and children, but also a redemptive, life-affirming story of one doctor's struggle to make a difference.

A portion of sales benefits Fisher House.


Consider enjoying it with your favorite MRE!

07 November 2010

A colleague with a passion for helping Haiti

Here is a great article about my colleague, Dr. Sidney Coupet. I accompanied him on a trip to operate in Haiti last month. The article details his dedicated efforts to improve healthcare in Haiti.

Dr. Coupet has founded Doctors United for Haiti with broad reaching goals to improve healthcare, living conditions, and health education in Haiti.

Here is Sidney, unflappable and smiling as he stands by the mast on the way to La Gonave Island.

02 November 2010

Hope you voted!

Election day today, and hope you all voted! It's one of the ways in which we all count equally across the nation, military or civilian, urban or rural. And it happens to be a great way to honor and appreciate veterans who have earned it for us.

Life is good in PA. I've had a busy week after getting back from a mission to Haiti. I'll have more to say about that later.

But for today, here is a list of establishments that give discounts and freebees to veterans for Veteran's Day:

Veterans Day Offers and Anytime Veteran Freebies
The following are for your information; please share with any active duty military or veterans that you know

Restaurant Freebies

Applebee's Restaurant - Free dinners to veterans throughout Veterans Day November 11th; selections will be from a new Veterans Day menu.
Outback Steakhouse - Free Blooming Onion and beverage.
Golden Corral- Free buffet dinner from 5-9 p.m. on Nov. 16to anyone who has ever served in the U.S. military Staff
In celebration of Veterans Day 11 Nov 2010, Subway is showing its thanks with free six inch subs to all Veterans or Active Duty members
McCormick & Schmick's restaurants will offer a free entree to military veterans for its 12th annual Veteran's Appreciation Event. Menu picks include such seafood items as parmesan crusted tilapia, roasted cedar plank salmon and almond crusted rainbow trout.
Krispy Kreme - One free doughnut of any variety
UNO Chicago Grill- Free entree or individual pizza with an entree or pizza purchase of equal or greater value.
Coushatta Casino Resort - The Louisiana casino and resort is offering a free seven-clams lunch or dinner buffet to veterans or active military.
MarketPlace Grill & Express - Veterans and active-duty military receive free entrees.
Masala Wok - The Northern Virginian restaurant is offering a free entree to veterans.
Hy-Vee supermarkets - The mid-western supermarket chain is offering a free breakfast to Veterans
Abuelo's Mexican Food Restaurants - All veterans and active-duty military receive a free entrée
Carolina Burgers & BBQ - In Matthews, NC is offering a free meal to all service members and veterans

Retail Freebies

Brides Across America - Provides free wedding gowns to qualified military brides.
Lowe's & Home Depot - Extra 10% off to active-duty military members, National Guard and reserve members, retirees, honorably discharged veterans and immediate family members.
Sam's Club - Over 25,000 Hugo canes will be given away to U.S. veterans in need of mobility assistance. Membership is not required, but supplies are limited, so check with your local store
http://amazon.com/ Free "Veterans Day Honor" MP3 album download. The album includes 12 songs by The Bands and Ensembles of the U.S. Armed Forces
Cabela's Outdoor Store - Offers their employee discount to all veterans, active-duty military and reserves, law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel Nov. 11-12. Discounts vary from 5% to 50%, depending on the item
Build-a-Bear Workshop - Members of the armed services including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Reserve Officer Training Corps, will receive a 20% discount Nov. 11-15 on any one transaction at Build-A-Bear Workshop
Dollar General - 10% discount for all veterans, active-duty military, National Guard and reserve and their immediate families
Fashion Bug - 20% off all plus-size and misses clothing purchases with a copy of military ID or spouse's military ID

Entertainment Freebies

National parks, forests and monuments - Admission is free to everyone on Veterans Day
Knott's Berry Farm - Free park admission to U.S. armed forces personnel and a guest during Veteran's Month, November 1-26
Colonial Williamsburg - Free admission Nov. 6-11 for active-duty military, guard and reservists, retirees, veterans and their dependents
San Jacinto Museum of History - Free visits to the Observation Deck, theatre, and special exhibit for veterans, active duty military personnel, and their families
Historic Jamestown - Free admission to veterans, current Armed Forces members and their family members
Battleship Cove - Free admission and a special ceremony for veterans, active, duty and reservists
Vicksburg National Military Park - Free admission for all
Birmingham Museum of Art - Free admission to the ticketed event "Life and Liberty" on Nov. 10-11 for veterans and active military
Vulcan Park and Museum- In Birmingham, Alabama is offering discounted admission through November to the park and museum
Greenbay (WI) New Zoo - Free admission to veterans and their families
Central Florida Zoo - Free admission to the Sanford, Florida zoo with proper ID
Strategic Air & Space Museum- Free admission for veterans Nov. 11-14 to the Ashland, Neb. Museum
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum - in Oklahoma City offers free admission to veterans and five guests from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Veterans Day
Natural Elements Spa & Salon - In Chesapeake, Virginia, will provide free services from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to both active duty and retired military

25 September 2010

Incredible Soldier, returns to duty in Afghanistan

Dan Luckett was a LT and a platoon leader in Iraq when his Humvee was hit with a shaped charge. The slug of molten copper took off his left leg and part of his right foot. For the past two years he has been working hard to build his strength and learn how to use prosthetics. Now he is a CAPT back on duty in Afghanistan.

Read about it here:

18 September 2010

Homes for our Troops / Kids for our Troops (28, 29)

Found a good article in the 11 SEP issue of American Profile about:

Homes for our Troops

a nonprofit started by John Gonsalves to build homes for injured troops that let them lead a normal life even with disabilities. This is especially true for young troops who have come home from the war with permanent loss of function, and need to continue their lives without letting that disability get in the way of family and fun.

Associated with the site is:

Kids for our Troops

a site dedicated to giving kids ideas on how they can show their support for troops and start projects in their own hometowns.

13 August 2010

Civilian injuries rise in Afghanistan

I was recently referred to this AP article, which I read on Huffington Post


The article describes how during the course of this year a greater number of civilians are being hurt and killed in the war in Afghanistan.

Troops on the ground note that insurgents are beginning to directly target groups of civilians, often with IED's. This sounds very similar to the difference I saw between my two deployments to Iraq. The second time around, in 2007, there were many more injured civilians, including women and children. They were injured in insurgent attacks designed to kill the most civilians, such as suicide bombers in busy markets, IED's in city streets, and attacks where vehicles carrying civilians were sprayed with automatic gunfire.

This targeting of civilians is a strategy of desperation. Some troops have found the restrictive rules of engagement that protect civilians frustrating, but in the long term, that respect of life is something we can be proud of.

08 August 2010

US hands over control of Iraq combat operations

From CNN:

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi commandos showed off skills they learned from U.S. military forces, who Saturday formally handed over control of combat operations to Iraqi security forces.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, was on hand to watch the final American combat team, the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, tender responsibilities to the 6th Iraqi Army Division.
President Barack Obama has ordered the current 64,000-strong U.S. presence to be down to 50,000 by September 1.

Thank you to the many troops who got us here and the ones who are still shouldering the load.

(Picture source: MSNBC, article with additional detail http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38605719/ns/world_news-mideastn_africa/ )

07 August 2010

Raise awarness for the danger of veteran suicide (#28)

On the average, 18 veterans commit suicide every day. This figure comes from the VA estimates that 6000 veterans kill themselves each year.

(Ref: as quoted in Salt Lake Trib http://sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50067554-76/jensen-veterans-iraq-suicide.html.csp )

Take less than 3 minutes to watch this video from VetsPrevail

( http://www.vetsprevail.com/ )

Show your support for VetsPrevail by joining them on Facebook


VetsPrevail is a novel and curious venture started by Richard Gengler, a Navy flier and Roger Sweis, CEO of a mental health clinic. You can read more about it in this Chicago Magazine article:


05 August 2010

Our Next Mission: Operation Get Our Kitchen into this Century!

Here is some news on a more personal note. Since leaving the military and moving into our cozy little town, we have been settling into our 130 year old farmhouse. I have been puttering around here and there fixing the little things that break on a regular basis, and we even put in a cute Forbo checkerboard floor ourselves in the sun room. Now we are fixing to undertake our first big remodel in the kitchen, which was previously remodelled in 1968. It was made into a big roomy working kitchen, perfect for a big family, but it is a bit overdue for an update. I'd tell you about it, but my honey is already explaining it far better than I ever could in her new blog:

If kitchens are the kind of thing that interest you (As much as I love eating, they sure interest me!) Take a sec to check out our progress. Here's a picture of our first salvo: this is the table we made from a slab of butcher block.

It's good to have a mission on home turf!

Military working dog: recovering after war trauma related stress

I had contact with military working dogs at the base in San Antonio and while in Iraq. It was amazing to see the unconditional dedication the animals had to their duty. Equally impressive was how close the relationship was between the dogs and their trainers and handlers. At the 332 Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, we witnessed first hand how military working dogs suffered physical trauma in the war zone. However I hadn't considered the behavioral and psychological effect on dogs.

Here is a very interesting article from Huffington Post about Gina, a military working dog who served in Iraq who shows behaviors with some of the characteristics of PTSD.

As I read the article, I was pleased to see the effort that was going into helping this dog recover. I hope that every veteran who is suffering after service gets the same effort and concern.

(Source: AP via Huffington Post)

24 July 2010

Pets 2 Vets (#27)

When I was working in DC, I belonged to the American Legion, Post #8, right in the evening shadow of the Capitol Building. It was a great bunch of guys, and even though I haven't set foot in there for 8 years now, I still get the post communication. Now I'm associated with the post here in town.

Last week I got the message from DC that the post was honoring David Sharpe, founder of Pets2Vets, by choosing his organization to receive proceeds from the 2010 Poppy Drive.

Pets 2 Vets helps veterans (and homeless animals too) by pairing veteran soldiers and emergency personnel with animal companions. Animals have an incredible therapeutic effect. I have seen it first hand in many of the hospitals where I have worked. Nothing makes a recovering child (or grown up child) perk up and forget their aches and pains for a moment than a visit from a friendly furry medical working dog with tail wagging.

Pets 2 Vets is focusing this uplifting effect on our nation's wounded heroes suffering from traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, and other wounds.

Visit their website to learn more and see if you would be interested in becoming involved.

05 June 2010

Please read this Washington Times . com article by Colleen Getz. She describes the scene at an airport gate when the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan needed help from US citizens. I think you will be as shocked as I was.

Here is the article:


Here is how the article begins:

(Begin quote)

His name was Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson - although I did not know it when his life brushed mine on March 25 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Lance Cpl. Wilson was not there in the terminal that afternoon; at age 24 and newly married, he had been killed in Afghanistan on March 22 by a roadside bomb. A coincidence of overbooked flights led our lives to intersect for perhaps an hour, one I will never forget.

(End quote)

Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson with his parents.

(Picture source: tcpalm.com)

03 June 2010

Book Review: WAR by Sebastian Junger

I recently received for review the excellent book, WAR by Sebastian Junger.

Disclosure: I received a promotional copy of this Book.

In his new book, WAR, Sebastian Junger repeatedly informs the reader he is a journalist, an invited guest, under the protection and care of the men he is observing. They are the soldiers of Battle Company, in the 173rd Airborne, based in Vincenza, and deployed to the Korengal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan for 15 months from 2007 into 2008. Junger openly explains that it was impossible to remain an objective observer. How fortunate for us that he ceased to be a dispassionate journalist and connected to these men on a deeper level. What has emerged in WAR is an intensely honest and raw portrayal of the acts and thoughts of young men fighting the deadly battles and emotional onslaught of prolonged combat. Although the characters populating the bases in the Korengal are distinctly American, there is a universal and timeless aspect to their loves and behaviors. Junger recognizes this in his analysis of these warriors who bear striking similarity to soldiers through history.
As I read WAR, I realized that Junger functioned more as an anthropologist and a confidant to the soldiers than as a journalist. He delivers the most compelling explanations I have ever read for why men fight, how they come to love their brothers in arms, what drives heroes to bravery, and the addictive draw of combat. Junger himself feels the powerful mystique of warcraft and writes:
“War is a lot of things and it’s useless to pretend that exciting isn’t one of them. It’s insanely exciting. The machinery of war and the sound it makes and the urgency of its use and the consequences of almost everything about it are the most exciting things anyone engaged in war will ever know.”
Junger describes how he and his partner, photojournalist Tim Hetherington, were granted the protection and fellowship of the soldiers without having to give anything in return. In this way, the author is us, the citizens of the USA, or any other nation, the noncombatants who are granted the benefits of society secured through either the defensive or offensive actions of those brave young members of the military. However, he notes the bravery of these men is also their vulnerability; they will fight any battle into which they are ordered, with less concern for their own life than for that of the soldier next to them. He writes:
“The cause doesn’t have to be righteous and the battle doesn’t have to be winnable; but over and over again throughout history, men have chosen to die in battle with their friends rather than to flee on their own and survive.”
In his study of the electrifying human drama that continues to play itself out in the mountains of Afghanistan, Junger has given us every reason to safeguard and value the lives of the young men and women who continue to risk themselves in service of country. I am eager to see Junger and Hetherington’s film Restrepo which visually documents these soldiers’ experience.

25 May 2010

Soldiers Arch

While in college, I passed under Soldiers Arch nearly every day. It almost seems out of place between the brick chemistry lab and a dorm, rising plainly with a smooth surface of pale gray granite.

On the facade of the arch toward Thayer St. to the east are engraved two quotations. I haven't seen the arch in years, but the words are on my tongue in a moment.

One side of the arch reads " 'Tis man's perdition to be safe when for the truth he ought to die". The line is from Emerson. On the other side is "They gave their merry youth away, for country and for God. That is from a poem by Winifred Letts, about the students from Oxford who left school to fight in the war.

The arch is a memorial to the students and faculty from Brown who died in the World Wars. The location has been the site of ceremonies to remember alumni who died in Korea and Vietnam.

As I passed the arch, I would never fail to appreciate that I led the carefree life of a college student in a country free for men and women because of many brave citizens who had sacrificed to make it that way. Later as a senior in 1990, I took my oath of office in the USAF and the words on that arch were in my mind.

Next time I visit Soldiers Arch , I will think of Dimitrios Gavriel. Dimitrios was a Brown student from New Hampshire. He graduated in 1997 with a business degree and worked on Wall Street. When the World Trade Center towers fell, he was a block away, and lost two close friends in the attack. Shortly after he tried to enlist in the Marines, but was denied because of his age and old wrestling injuries. He trained, lost 40 pounds, and after an impassioned letter to a recruiter was accepted for training.

In Iraq, Lance Corporal Dimitirios Gavriel tood part in the Siege of Fallujah. On 11 NOV 2004, he was injured in a firefight, but still managed to carry another troop to safety. He was treated and insisted on returning to the fight. On 19 NOV 2004, back in the battle of Fallujah, he was killed in an explosion.

In a letter I found at this tribute,

Lance Corporal Gavriel expressed his reasons for serving in his own words:

(begin quote from the hive)

As a first generation American, he wanted to give back to our country for the blessings he and his family received. In his own words in a letter to GOYA friends at a Michigan State Church, who received it after his death, he wrote

"..... I moved to a small apartment next to Central Park in New York City and began the long hours of the "grind" of Wall Street. I remember those years as some of the best of my life, surrounded by close friends and good times. So how, after all this, did a guy like me end up in Iraq? The answer is pretty simple when I look to the young Marines at my right and left. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to do something, no give something, to deserve all the good things we, as Americans, enjoy and sometimes take for granted as we move through the years of the good lives we lead under the safety and freedom of our flag. Everyone lost something on that terrible day of 9/11. I lost my close friends, brothers you might say. Guys I grew up with, team mates, pals, mentors , and confidants. I watched the towers fall, helpless, from a block away in the streets of New York and made a promise before God that I would do all I could to keep something like this from happening again. I left a job I loved, said goodbye to a circle of close friends and joined the Marines, the perfect place for a guy who wants a front row seat to the sweeping changes the world is currently experiencing. No man can know just exactly how much his effort has changed the world out here, but together we have chased much evil away from power and have shown those who, for reason or another, hate our way of life, that we are a nation of people who refuse to live under the threat of terror. We are out here for the things we miss most, green grass, football games, flowers, and the fresh cool breeze of home. Most importantly, we are out here for you, the people who make our land so special. Semper Fidelis, Dimitri Gavriel 11/2/04"

(end quote)

Dimitrios kept journals and wrote poetry while in Iraq. One poem is shared on the Arlington Cemetary website

And then there are the dreamers

Who see beyond the shroud

Distinct are they among us

They shuffle through the crowd

Hope lives among so few

Yet strong it is I know

For I am still a dreamer

Along the track I go

I am proud to be a Brown Alumnus, because that confederation is populated by heroes like Lance Corporal Gavriel.

(Pictures from Brown University, My Greek Oddyssey blog, and Arlington Cemetary websites)

(picture from NYT)
I graduated Brown class of '90, so this year I've been 20 years out of college. I recently found out that a fellow class of 1990 alumnus is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in International Journalism this year.
David Rohde was captured by the Taliban while reporting in Afganistan and was held for more that 7 months before he escaped from where he was being held in Pakistan.
The account of his captivity is riviting: it runs 7 parts in the New York Times:

23 May 2010

Wounded Veteran Stays on Duty at West Point

M. sent me this amazing article about Capt. Smiley who runs the Warrior Transition Unit at West Point.

He was blinded while on patrol in Mosul and nearly died, but he fought his way back to health and stayed on active duty.

What we liked best about his story is how he decided he "didn't want to be like Lt. Dan" from Forrest Gump and he pushed himself to do the things he always wanted to.

Here's the article:

Here is a video of him skiing with a sight guide at Vail

15 May 2010

Fighting for Life, the Movie, honored at orthopedic conference.

Some of you may remember the movie "Fighting for Life" directed by my friend Terry Sanders


Terry was recently honored by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. The following article is reproduced in full from the Orthopedics this Week newsletter, and best of all: it has news of the film's hero, Spc. Crystal Davis!

Also think about checking out the Wounded in Action art site organized by the AAOS:


(*** quoted article follows ***)

The Soldier in the Pink Dress
Robin Young • Tue, May 4th, 2010

Her name is Crystal. The dress was certainly pink and it showed plenty of Crystal’s shoulder, back and front. Crystal was standing among a small group of award winners for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) banquet this past week in Washington. D.C. Amidst the blue, gray, and black suits and evening gowns, Crystal was a colorful exotic flower.

She also had large tattoos on both shoulders, back and, yes, over the swell of her bosom.

It was hard not to notice Crystal. Lauren Pearson, AAOS’s Manager of Media Relations told me that Crystal was the subject of a documentary that was a MORE award winner for 2009. She’s an amputee.

All of the MORE award winners sit in the front row of a large room and then walk up to a podium when called. John J. Callaghan, M.D., President of AAOS this year, did the honors. The film, Fighting for Life, was the last MORE award winner to be called. Terry Sanders (co-producer and two-time Academy Award winning film maker), Tammy Alvarez (executive producer), Sgt Abdul Madjid, USMC, one of the subjects of the film and SPC Crystal Davis, U.S. Army, the other subject of the film, came to the podium.

The film documents today’s military surgeons as they go through training and then deployment. It also follows two casualties of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they are treated by these military surgeons and nurses. In the film we meet Crystal Davis as she is being medivaced. Her surgeon is telling her that he had to amputate her left leg and her right leg was iffy. She’s negotiating hard to keep the right leg.

SPC Crystal Davis is an Army truck driver. Every other truck passed over that particular stretch of gravel in Iraq in 2008 but when Crystal’s truck went over, the hidden IED detonated.

Like all great art, this film captures the powerful emotional journey that Crystal, her family, and her caregivers went through. There were very few dry eyes in the audience this past Wednesday night. Even Crystal’s. When the time came for the filmmaker and producer to come to podium, Crystal came too. She also said a few words.

Paraphrasing her, she said: “I want to thank the filmmakers for helping me through my recovery. I wanted to do my best in front of the camera so having them there motivated me. I said to myself, if I can work hard in front of the camera, I can work hard behind the camera too. So I did.” Crystal also thanked her father and other family members and then she ended with a joke. “So, thank you to the doctors and the filmmakers for helping me to get a leg up.”

The standing ovation lasted about 10 minutes.

The intersection of art, war, and orthopedics can be unexpectedly affecting. In addition to this particular film—which is available from the American Film Foundation (contact: krisbubna@hotmail.com ) and we strongly, highly, urgently suggest that your hospital or community group or church rent a copy of this film and show it—there is an exhibition and book of such art that is also available.

Sandy Gordon, AAOS’s Public Relations Director, organized both the MORE Award and the exhibit of war time art as created by surgeons and nurses! To learn more about the AAOS Wounded in Action art exhibit, please visit the Web site: http://www.woundedinactionart.org/ or contact Sandy Gordon, AAOS Public Relations Director, at 847 384-4030 or gordon@aaos.org.

10 May 2010

Support Free Internet for Deployed Troops #26

Kristin sent me this on Facebook:


It's a page to show support for easier communications between troops and their loved ones back home.

The effort is organized by Joe on the Move dot com


started by Larry and Patrick: a Combat Medic and a Cannon Crew Member.

Check them out!

03 April 2010

Operation Lightsabre 25/365

Helping the troops: 25/365

I wanted to spread the word about

Operation Lightsabre



My sons and I have enjoyed four wheeling in our Jeep, and one of the vendors that has helped us find the right parts to get us on and off the trails is 4wheelparts.

They run a great program called Operation Lightsabre: they send vehicle lights to troops in Iraq to better illuminate the dangerous roads they travel. Drop by the site to hear firsthand accounts from the troops they have helped.

28 March 2010

24/365 (Reload) Warrior Vacations . org

Helping the troops #24

A while ago, I posted about a midwest family helping give troops a well needed vacation.

I just got a message from Robert telling me about http://warriorvacations.org .

Troops who have been deployed in the past year can get a much needed vacation in a warm holiday setting.

Check out their website to learn more!

15 March 2010

Fly Fishing for troops (Helping the troops 21)

As it gets warmer, time to start planning summer trips!

I read a great article in the American Legion magazine about organizations that will take veterans fly-fishing. The idea is that if you need to find an activity to help rehabilitate after injury, why not pick one that is a hell of a lot of fun and you might choose even if you didn't have to rehabilitate!

Here are some organizations that can help:

Project Healing Waters
www.projecthealing waters.org

Trout Unlimited

Federation of Fly Fishers

Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation

Rivers of Recovery

Sun Valley Adaptive Sports

Have fun!


24 February 2010

Kseniya Simonova's portrayal of WWII

I wanted to share an interesting video with you. It is from the TV program "Ukraine's got talent" and it shows the winner, Kseniya Simonova, as she performs a portrayal of the German invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII. The video is over 8 minutes long, but it is mesmerizing to watch her bring the sand and light to life.

Here is the video:


19 February 2010

(Funny enough to Reprise) Deployment Prep

Thanks, Clark, for sending this.

I laughed when I read it the first time, and I laughed this time too.

I think I might have even blogged it before, but it is worth repeating.

Don't know who the author is, does anyone out there know?

I found it listed here:


But still author, unknown.

Enjoy, and if you haven't experienced it yourself, I can assure you it is dead on.

How To Prep For A Deployment

1. Sleep on a cot in the garage.

2. Replace the garage door with a curtain.

3. Six hours after you go to sleep, have your wife or girlfriend whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, “Sorry, wrong cot.”

4. Renovate your bathroom. Hang a green plastic sheet down from the middle of your bathtub and move the showerhead down to chest level. Keep four inches of soapy cold water on the floor. Stop cleaning the toilet and pee everywhere but in the toilet itself. Leave two to three sheets of toilet paper. Or for best effect, remove it altogether. For a more realistic deployed bathroom experience, stop using your bathroom and use a neighbor’s. Choose a neighbor who lives at least a quarter mile away.

5. When you take showers, wear flip-flops and keep the lights off.

6. Every time there is a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and dump dirt on your head.

7. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it on “HIGH” for that tactical generator smell.

8. Don’t watch TV except for movies in the middle of the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch and then show a different one.

9. Leave a lawnmower running in your living room 24 hours a day for proper noise level.

10. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.

11. Once a week, blow compressed air up through your chimney making sure the wind carries the soot across and on to your neighbor’s house. Laugh at him when he curses you.

12. Buy a trash compactor and only use it once a week. Store up garbage in the other side of your bathtub.

13. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a saltine cracker.

14. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator. Then serve some kind of meat in an unidentifiable sauce poured over noodles. Do this for every meal.

15. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get to the shower as fast as you can. Simulate there is no hot water by running out into your yard and breaking out the garden hose.

16. Once a month, take every major appliance completely apart and put it back together again.

17. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for five or six hours before drinking.

18. Invite at least 185 people you don’t really like because of their strange hygiene habits to come and visit for a couple of months.Exchange clothes with them.

19. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.

20. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills of your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.

21. Keep a roll of toilet paper on your night stand and bring it to the bathroom with you. And bring your gun and a flashlight.

22. Go to the bathroom when you just have to pass gas, “just in case.”Every time.

23. Announce to your family that they have mail, have them report to you as you stand outside your open garage door after supper and then say, “Sorry, it’s for the other Smith.”

24. Wash only 15 items of laundry per week. Roll up the semi-wet clean clothes in a ball. Place them in a cloth sack in the corner of the garage where the cat pees. After a week, unroll them and without ironing or removing the mildew, proudly wear them to professional meetings and family gatherings. Pretend you don’t know what you look or smell like. Enthusiastically repeat the process for another week.

25. Go to the worst crime-infested place you can find, go heavily armed, wearing a flak jacket and a Kevlar helmet. Set up shop in a tent in a vacant lot. Announce to the residents that you are there to help them.

26. Eat a single M&M every Sunday and convince yourself it’s for Malaria.

27. Demand each family member be limited to 10 minutes per week for a morale phone call. Enforce this with your teenage daughter.

28. Shoot a few bullet holes in the walls of your home for proper ambiance.

29. Sandbag the floor of your car to protect from mine blasts and fragmentation.

30. While traveling down roads in your car, stop at each overpass and culvert and inspect them for remotely detonated explosives before proceeding.

31. Fire off 50 cherry bombs simultaneously in your driveway at 3:00 a.m. When startled neighbors appear, tell them all is well, you are just registering mortars. Tell them plastic will make an acceptable substitute for their shattered windows.

32. Drink your milk and sodas warm.

33. Spread gravel throughout your house and yard.

34. Make your children clear their Super Soakers in a clearing barrel you placed outside the front door before they come in.

35. Make your family dig a survivability position with overhead cover in the backyard. Complain that the 4×4s are not 8 inches on center and make them rebuild it.

36. Continuously ask your spouse to allow you to go buy an M-Gator.

37. When your 5-year-old asks for a stick of gum, have him find the exact stick and flavor he wants on the Internet and print out the web page. Type up a Form 9 and staple the web page to the back. Submit the paperwork to your spouse for processing. After two weeks, give your son the gum.

38. Announce to your family that the dog is a vector for disease and shoot it. Throw the dog in a burn pit you dug in your neighbor’s back yard.

39. Wait for the coldest/hottest day of the year and announce to your family that there will be no heat/air conditioning that day so you can perform much needed maintenance on the heater/air conditioner. Tell them you are doing this so they won’t get cold/hot.

40. Just when you think you’re ready to resume a normal life, order yourself to repeat this process for another six months to simulate the next deployment you’ve been ordered to support.

16 February 2010

Interview on WRHU Hofstra Radio

This morning I will be interviewed on WRHU Hofstra at 0800. I will be speaking with Jeffrey Preval and the crew of the Morning Wake-Up Call. You can listen online here:


Take care!


15 February 2010

Troops help seven-year-old boy injured during fighting in Marjah

I want to share this story:

The troops in Afghanistan are conducting an offensive on Marjah. This weekend, a seven-year-old boy named Sayd was shot in the crossfire, receiving a wound to the lower chest. His father and a friend transported him over rough terrain to a NATO base near Badula Qulp. A Canadian troop and soldiers of the US 23rd of 4 loaded the boy into a Stryker and worked quickly to stabilize him. He was transported by a medevac from the British facility, Camp Bastion.

I hope to read of his recovery soon.

Source of all photos: AP via this site:

14 February 2010

31 MAR signing at RJ Julia in Madison, CT

I was very excited to learn that my book was on display at RJ Julia Book Sellers in Madison Connecticut! My parents snapped this picture on their iPhone and sent it to me:

RJ Julia is an awesome book store and has been a solid Madison fixture since it opened. It is a real honor to get to do a signing there on 31 MAR because of the many illustrious authors who have been there before me and also because it's in my hometown! In these days of big box stores choking off the small business owners, it is great to see an independent American business that does it better than the international corporations.

You can read more about RJ Julia here:


13 February 2010

The Raven Drum Foundation Resiliency program.

The Raven Drum Foundation is a non-profit in Malibu that was founded by Drummer Rick Allen of Def Leppard and Lauren Monroe.

They have helped hundreds of veterans through their Veterans Resiliency Project. The course teaches veterans to use drumming, dance, exercise and meditation to perservere through injury and PTSD.

Rick Allen was able to make an incredible comeback when he returned to Def Leppard after losing his arm in a crash, and it is good to see he is sharing that will with others.

You can read more here:


And here is a video:


03 February 2010

Book Signing: FRI 5 FEB 5pm at Otto Book Store, Williamsport, PA

This Friday, I have a book signing at Otto Bookstore in Williamsport, PA. It will be on 5 FEB from 5-8pm.

Otto is an amazing store. They are exactly as they describe: "A book Lover's Paradise"!

Last weekend I went with two of the boys to meet the crew and check out the establishment. Of course we walked out with three books! I even found a discounted copy of "Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher for a fraction of cover price.

Otto is located on 107 W. Fourth St. in Williamsport, and their phone is: 1-888-762-4526.

Here is their website:


The signing will feature another author as well: Diane Keeler, author of "A Patient Friendly Resource for Epilepsy"


I am very thankful to Otto Bookstore owner Betsy Rider for kindly hosting me. She also wrote a great column about the book for the Williamsport paper. (I was inadvertently promoted to "head of pediatric surgery" in the article, but fortunately my boss didn't mind!)


I hope to see you at Otto on Friday!

01 February 2010

A low stress patient

Last weekend, I built a table.

I probably put the people who know me through the unnecessary worry that I would lop off a finger. We have a work table in our kitchen, but it's tough to sit around it becuase of the bottom shelf. M. found the Vermont Butcher Block and Board company who made us a tabletop the same width as our work table using alternating maple and walnut for a lot cheaper than I could have on my own.


I based the design on plans we found at This Old House.


I fastened the butcher block to an apron of red oak we stained with Minwax Walnut using 1/2 inch holes in the crossbeams and screws through fender washers so that the table top could shrink and expand without warping. I fastened square block legs of oak to the apron with corner braces.

The toughest joints of all were where the X-shaped hanger met the legs. I wanted that shape so that sitting stools could be tucked under the table. I cut a mortise and tenon joint into the corner of each leg and ran a carriage bolt in from the outside of each leg. I also put a locking caster on the bottom of each leg so we could roll the table around.

It was nice to know that if I messed up, all I would be sacrificing was a piece of lumber. I had been imagining several ways to screw it up for the past few weeks, so I had committed most of the errors in my mind. The casters didn't screw in flush but otherwise assembly went well. M. handled staining and touch up.
Last Saturday I took the kids to Lowe's for the free Build and Grow workshop, and they each made a Tic-Tac-Toe game box. When we were done, I found three stools that were a little scratched up, and the friendly people at Lowe's gave us 20% off for the blemishes!
Bit by bit the kids have begun using the table to for breakfast, so mission accomplished!

21 January 2010

NYT opinion piece from Veteran and troop advocate, Dan Clare


is an informative and well-written piece by Dan Clare, who works with Disabled American Veterans.

Dan writes about the burn pit at Joint Base Balad. If you have never heard of it, it is worth educating yourself.

I served with Dan in '07 and '08: he is the real deal: a true troop advocate. He is a citizen soldier, and he works to help the troops in both his stateside and deployed jobs.

There are dangers to war, and to some extent troops accept risk as part of their duty. However some risks can be reduced, and we owe it to troops to eliminate the risks we can.

Take care!


20 January 2010

Tango Mike Mike

(picture: Roy P. Benevides, source: psywarrior.com )


I want to spread the story of a man in rare and select company: Medal of Honor recipients.

He is Master Sergeant Roy P. Benevidez, Vietnam veteran:

Besides telling his amazing story, the 6min video also explains the origin of the call sign "Tango Mike Mike"

I received it from the commander of the Austin Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart via my friend John in Marble Falls, TX. John is an avid Jeeper, patriot, and all around great guy to hang out with. He and the San Antonio Chapter of Wheelers for the Wounded are organizing a Meal for Heroes on 20 FEB, birthday of Georg Washington, whose image adorns the Purple Heart.

You can learn more about Wheelers for the Wounded, and even pitch in if you are local to San Antonio:

Like Roy's story of amazing heroism, you can read other Medal of Honor citations here:

19 January 2010

Thanks for the great knitting comments! 22, 23 / 365

I was really happy to have found the Ships Project:

The organization sends knitted goods, "little hugs from home" to troops deployed overseas. I have heard from many people whose lives have been touched by the mission in a positive way, including the founder.

Respondents sent in two other great connections for people who want to help:

Socks for Soldiers sends shipments of warm toasty knitted socks to troops:

For those who quilt: Quilts of Valor helps bring together those who sew, longarmers, and even those who can't sew but want to contribute to help send warm quilts to injured troops:

I still haven't found a UK organization for citizens who want to knit for troops, but people have suggested working with The Ships Project to start a UK chapter, or look for groups on the knitting forum - Ravelry:

Believe me, these handmade works of love and art are really appreciated.

Here's a piture of a baby blanket that M. sent to me. It went to good use when a baby was born at the hospital in Iraq after her mother was injured by gunfire and went into early labor.

Take care and keep knitting!

16 January 2010

Knitting for Troops 20/365 The Ships Project

Getting back to suggestions on how to help troops:

If you can knit (or want to learn: I can rebuild a trachea, but still can't knit. M. swears it is easy!)

one way to support the troops is by knitting comfort items like hats, slippers and neck coolers. I can tell you that when I was in Iraq in JAN I was freezing my patootie off!! M. had knit me a green camouflage blanket and a desert camouflage hoodie and they were put to good use!

A great place to start is the Ships Project:


They started by knitting warm slippers for sailors who would get cold in their berths, but send items to land and sea troops. They will coordinate group mailings and have a very clear guide to help choose which items to knit.

15 January 2010

RJ Julia Book Store, Madison, CT Hatian relief

(Source: Bookpublishing Today)

One of my favorite book stores in the world, RJ Julia in Madison, CT

made this announcement that they would be donating Booklovers Club membership dues to Hatian relief:

(begin quote)

Haiti Disaster Relief at R.J. Julia
This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when you sign up for our popular Booklovers Club membership, or renew your expired membership, 100% of your $25 membership fee will go to
Doctors Without Borders for Haiti Relief!

(end quote)

Here is information about joining the Booklovers club (you can do it over the Internet):

We are planning a signing at RJ Julia WED 31 MAR at 1900. I can't wait!

13 January 2010

News From Haiti

(Source: HASHaiti.org; January 13, 2010 - Deschapelles, Haiti -Earthquake victims arrive for medical treatment at HAS 40 miles NW of Port-au-Prince. Support is urgently needed to help with relief efforts at HAS.)

In 1996, I worked at Hopital Albert Schweizer in Haiti. As you may know, Haiti suffered a major earthquake yesterday damaging most of the buildings in the capital Port au Prince, killing and injuring many people. Here is a report from the hospital:

(begin quote)

Afternoon Report Wednesday, 13 Jan 2009

As we have all heard many reports of the terrible disaster---a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, the worst in 200 years. Up to 3 million people may have been affected. So far, tens of thousands of people have died.

Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti, located 40 miles NW of Port-Au-Prince was able to withstand the recent devastating earthquake and is currently operating with full staff helping victims. With mass casualty protocols in place, the medical staff is evaluating each patient, performing diagnostic tests and delivering life saving care. Due to the expertise developed over its 54 year history, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (HAS) is one of the few institutions positioned to provide timely hospital care for the injured. As the flow of people urgently seeking care increases over the next few days and weeks, our resources will be pushed to the breaking point. It is critical that we receive support to help us continue with our mission.

Ever since early this morning, a steady stream of vehicles, mainly the open-back pickups which serve as public taxis on Haiti's roads, has come to the front of the hospital. In the back are one or two people, their legs or arms covered in bandages or clothes. HAS security staff rush out to the truck with a backboard or gurney, and bring the patient inside to be triaged by the emergency team.Now, in early afternoon, a crowd of over 200 people are outside the hospital, friends or neighbors of injured patients. They rush to the arriving trucks and try to help to carry the new patients inside. Occasionally, the combination of the person's injuries and the truck ride are more than can be sustained by the patient, and the family members, with great wailing, adapt to the shock of the loss of a loved one. A sound system has been set up outside, so that family members may be called into the hospital to meet with doctors.Each patient is brought into the Observation Unit and quickly evaluated. Some are sent to for an X-Ray or lab test while others are taken immediately to the holding area outside surgery, where both operating rooms are being used full time.All beds have been pressed into use, and still there are patients on benches. Gradually, some of the early arrivals and less injured are prepared for discharge.

Systems at HAS are working well; preparation and practice have paid off. The greatest resource, however, is the dignity and grace of people who have suffered a great shock and sometimes tragedy, and remain calm and show concern not just for the people with whom they have come here, but for others as well.

This is the most serious challenge ever faced by HAS in its 54-year history, and while we are currently coping with the onslaught of the injured, we urgently need support.

At this moment, we don't have the capability to accept material goods or personnel. Our greatest and most urgent need is for funds to pay overtime wages to our dedicated staff, and to buy replacement medicines and supplies.

We will update the website with news of relief efforts. To make a donation that will have immediate impact, please go to

Thank you again for the many expressions of help and caring that are coming from around the globe.

(end quote)

07 January 2010

Article: Balad medics helping nurture Iraqi National healthcare system

Here's a great article:


Medics working at the hospital on Joint Base Balad are training Iraqi medics. As part of their program they are visiting a local Iraqi hospital and also hosting Iraqi healthcare providers in the Air Force Theater Hospital.

This is the kind of activity that will help get the domestic health care system stabilized and back on its feet. The better they are doing on their own, the sooner we can get our troops back home.