14 December 2012

Help Fisher House for Free!

Here is a way you can help Fisher House for Free:

Vote for Fisher House to win 10 million flight miles from United:


or if you want a shortened link:


Just click on the link, and then on "Vote For Hero Miles"

How does Fisher House use frequent flyer miles? When an injured troop is at a military hospital, they use the miles to fly his or her family to visit them. For example, if a soldier is wounded in Afghanistan, after being stabilized, he would be flown to the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. If his wife cannot afford a plane ticket to Germany, she will not be able to see him until he is safe enought to be flown back the the United States. Fisher House uses the frequent flyer miles to give that family a chance to be together as the soldier is treated for his wounds.

Here are more details on the Fisher House Hero Miles site:


You can vote every day until December 25th.

Please consider helping and share this link with friends.

03 December 2012

Launching a fundraiser for the Peter Gelinas Memorial Scholarship

Fundraiser: Peter Gelinas Memorial Scholarship

Organized by the Xavier High School Class of 1986


The Xavier High School community and Madison, CT suffered a painful and shocking loss in the death of Peter Gelinas during the attacks of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11.  Peter’s death was both sudden and senseless.   In the wake of 9/11, Peter, like many who perished, left behind a loving spouse, and two young sons. Peter represented all the best characteristics in a young man.  He was an enthusiastic, proactive, and positive member of his community. He always included others in the fun, and he stuck up for the most vulnerable members of our community who needed help. We remember him from our shared time at Xavier High School as a friend and teammate, an exemplary scholar-athlete who shined as the captain of the football team. Peter went on to higher education at Villanova and success in the Manhattan firm Cantor & Fitzgerald.

Since 2001, many of us have participated in remembrance ceremonies for Peter and other victims of the 9/11 attacks. There is a bench dedicated to him along the shoreline at the Surf Club, and a memorial plaque with his yearbook picture outside the doors of the Xavier Chapel.  In any city with a 9/11 memorial you can touch the letters of his name where he is listed with so many others and remember the man who is no longer with us.

While we all remember Peter in our own private way, especially when a new anniversary of 9/11 comes and goes, we classmates of his have set out to honor his memory in an living and breathing manner.  We are establishing a memorial scholarship at Xavier High School in Peter's honor. Creating a recurring gift of a partial scholarship requires a minimum endowment of $25,000. The more we raise the more support we can provide to a deserving incoming freshman every year.   After a short campaign, we are happy to report that we have already received pledges in excess of $10,000 from a core cadre of alumni and Peter’s teachers who remain at Xavier.

Our deadline to make the Peter Gelinas Memorial Scholarship a reality for the next incoming class is June 30, 2013. Peter is an important facet of the Xavier community and he has even deeper roots in his hometown Madison where many friends remember him with fondness. As the calendar year of 2012 comes to a close, please consider making a contribution to this worthy effort.  Your contribution is tax-deductible as well so please take that into consideration prior January 1st.

With your financial support of any amount within family budget, this idea, started by a few of Peter’s friends will become a recurring scholarship for students who need not only financial assistance, but also nurturing of the characteristics that personified Peter. If you have any questions about the scholarship, please contact me, Chris Coppola, or Matt Strekel ’99, Director of Advancement at Xavier High School at (860) 347-6079 or mstrekel@xavierhighschool.org .



Warmest regards to you and your families during this Holiday season!




Christopher Coppola

237 Sunbury Rd. Danville, PA 17821



Online giving via: www.xavierhighschool.org/give


Donations by check to: “Xavier High School” with “Peter Gelinas Scholarship” on memo line

and mailed to:


Peter Gelinas Scholarship,   c/o

Matthew Strekel, Director of Advancement Xavier High School

181 Randolph Road

Middletown, CT 06457

05 November 2012

Marine Corps Marathon Finished!

Last weekend, Meredith and I completed the Marine Corps Marathon! It was a thrilling conclusion to a steady and rewarding training schedule. We were able to raise over $1200 for Fisher House in the process thanks to your generous support! Meredith has posted a great first half account of our race here:


We finished in 5 1/2 hr. That time is wonderful for me: I'm just elated to still be able to do it at my age! We are already back to training. We completed a 5K race two days ago and have a 1/2 marathon planned for the spring!

Here is my finisher page with a few photos and time/rank:


Take care!


27 September 2012

One at bat for Adam Greenberg!

Adam Greenberg made it to the major leagues in 2005 with the Chicago Cubs. During his first at-bat, the very first pitch thrown was a 92 mph fast ball that hit him in the back of the head. He suffered a severe concussion that resulted in vertigo and double-vision. For the past seven years, he has tirelessly trained to get back in the major leagues. On OCT 2nd, he will get his at-bat with the Miami Marlins in the game against the Mets.

Here is the campaign that helped make this happen:


and here is Adam's appearance on the Today show:

Tune in to see it. Dreams do come true!

30 May 2012


More on our marathon training, the story of shoes!
Also a pic after our latest race.

04 May 2012

National bike month

May is national bike month!

This is exciting to me for several reasons. First, my brother and sister-in-law, Adam and Christy, are on outreach for Bikesbelong, an organization that tries to establish safe access to biking for all Americans.

It was a natural move after they spent 2011 biking 12,000 miles through every state!


here is their tour route:


You can get involved by taking a moment to visit the People for Bikes website, which has lots of information about finding safe biking in your community, and it is easy to sign their petition to keep biking resources and routes available for all Americans:


It is also exciting because my family and I are trying to make biking a part of our lives every day. I bike as often as I can to work. (it's tough on the days when I have to wear a suit!) B. and I go mountain biking on the mountain behind Geisinger whenever we can. M. and I will use the tandem bike for some fun cross-training time together on our non-run days. G. and R. love to take a quick bike ride to the 5 and dime store in town for a candy treat! We can even handle simple errands like a stop at the grocery store on the tandem bike because we have a milk crate attached to the back with bungee cords.

It is healthy and fun for us, and by using less gas, it is good for the environment and in a teeny tiny way is helping reduce our dependence on foreign oil. So biking is even good for national security!

Since May is National Bike Month, it is a good opportunity to start to make biking a part of your life if you have been looking for an excuse.

Here are some national events:

You can search for events in your town here:


Bike Month

And the doctor in me says, HELMET!

01 May 2012

Guard soldier fired before Iraq deployment wins lawsuit

Tonight President Obama broadcast a message from Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. On the anniversary of the death of Bin Ladin, he pledged to continue the mission to destroy Al Queda. He spoke to deployed troops, recognizing their sacrifice, and urging them to hold on because there is light at the end of the tunnel, outlined in his plan to draw down from Afghanistan.


One troop who made that sacrifice was National Guard soldier Grace Campbell. She deployed to Iraq for 13 months from 2008 to 2009. Like many other Guardsmen, she informed her employer she was deploying for military service. Her employer, Catholic Community Services, chose to fire her. With the assistance of the Department of Defense and her legal team Sgt. Campbell has won a lawsuit against her former employer.

(Source: Komonews)


ATV training courses for kids

As a pediatric surgeon at Geisinger Medical Center, one of my responsibilities is the care of child trauma victims. Unfortunately, I frequently see children who have been seriously injured in ATV crashes. In one way or another, all of these injuries are preventable. I had the great opportunity to participate in an initiative to prevent ATV injuries in children when our trauma department obtained a grant to subsidize ATV safety training for children.

This spring marks the second year these classes will be provided. It is our hope they will serve as a vaccination against serious injury, and the children who complete the course will become ambassadors to spread the word about fun safe riding.

Here is a news report about the classes:


Video here:

29 April 2012

Hi! Happy Sunday. As I sit lazily on my couch (don't worry, we have our 4mi training run coming up, and it is a beautiful day in Central PA!) I took literally 20 seconds to send a message of thanks to a military family via the USO.

You can do it too! Just go to Joining Forces:


and take a moment to write a message of thanks, click submit and know that you will be making a personal contact with a family that is living and breathing protection of our great country through service and sacrifice every day.

We will also be pledging our service hours, starting with our marathon run to benefit Fisher House. I was able to search by zip code and find local events.

I found Joining Forces through my professional organization, the American College of Surgeons. As a group we will be doing our part to strive to provide enough medical resources to care for war veterans returning with amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and PTSD. There are opportunities for both people as individuals and organizations to join this national support of our military families.

You can also browse around the site to find other initiatives to help veterans. For example, just signed into law is legislation protecting veterans from being bilked of their GI Bill education benefits by fly-by-night diploma mills. I have over 15 years of higher education and still it is tough for me to discern the charlatans from the legitimate institutions of higher education! (Maybe that is more of a comment on me.) It took some research, and I eventually chose Norwich University, and was extremely pleased.


Now it's time to get the sneakers on!
The whole family and I just returned home from Roanoke after attending the Roanoke Valley Academy of Medicine Alliance Book and Author Dinner. Their group put together a stunning fundraiser for important local organizations including Ronald McDonald House, an animal welfare group, and scholarships for local youths.


The event was a marvelous affair with a a delicious dinner, a few short talks from visiting authors (including me!) and then a book signing session.

It was a bit intimidating being up on the stage with such illustrious fellow authors.

Our emcee was Andy Gross who has written thrillers with James Patterson, and has series of his independent books, the most recent of which, 15 Seconds, is a novel about a surgeon who finds himself trapped a victim of circumstances.


Next was Steve Berry, who has written a series of international novels of intrigue, many of which feature his recurring lead man, Cotton Malone. His new book is The Columbus Affair, which probes the significance of unknown details about the famous seafarer and discoverer of America for Spain.


And a true gem of the evening was Dottie Frank and her captivating stories of early experiences as a new bestselling novelist on the book tour. Her new novel Porch Lights adds to her oeuvre exploring the pace of life in the South Carolina Low Country.


During my turn to speak, I asked how many in the audience had served in the military or were veterans, as I often do when I'm invited to benefits. As usual, I was rewarded to see hands go up at every table. It makes me feel a part of a strong and noble tradition. It also makes me feel so thankful and appreciative to be part of a country with so many who have been willing to serve.

I was able to share details about Fisher House with the group and spread the news a little more about all the great work they do for injured veterans and their family.

It is a trip we will all remember with such great weather as we roamed Roanoke through the Market Square, the Transportation museum, and the Science Museum in the Tanglewood Mall. The foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains were a majestic and colorful landscape at dawn a we hurried back to Pennsylvania so B. could make it to the Prom in time!

22 April 2012

When Marathons Attack!

Realization is setting in: one way or another I have to get my spongy knees to go 26mi this fall! Fortunately I have a good wingman. My wingman, or rather, wingwoman, is the best I could ever wish for, my wife Meredith. She is tracking our training on her blog "When Marathons Attack!" at


We would love to have your encouragement, comments, advice, and even jokes on our progress at that site! If you are in training for an event as well, tell us about it!

Much to do this weekend

Hello, again, hello.

Ah a weekend off, just lovely. Nothing to do today, the schedule is clear as scotch tape. I love it, but it is not always easy to do nothing. I slept enough last night. The way I know I've slept enough is because I dream, which doesn't happen too often. I've had far too many nights with little or no sleep, in the past because of work hours, recently because of bad sleep hygiene and too much late night TV. This morning's dream was a recurring one: I couldn't finish the operation. It's kind of funny, but when I finally get so worked up in the dream that I wake suddenly, all want to do is figure a way back into the dream so I can finish!

In the way of a marathon training update, Meredith and I ran a 5K race in Milton yesterday; it was a Rotary benefit to help end all global incidence of polio. It was a fun little race that criss-crossed the Susquehanna West branch in and out of Milton state park. We shuffled in comfortably at 30:30, (Edit: Correction, the time was 29:30! No reason to cheat ourselves out of that extra minute!), which didn't put us in any danger of winning. Meredith dipped into her store of luck and won a door prize of a waterproof shoulder bag. Here's a picture of Team Love Life! at the end of the race, upright and uninjured.

I was glad to make it through comfortably because I had been fighting a pinched nerve in my left arm after lifting the tandem bike onto the van too many times.

Here is an impressive photo essay by Craig Walker that won the Pulitzer Prize.


It features veteran Scott Ostrom, who was amazingly frank and open about his PTSD, letting Mr. Walker photograph him at his most pained and vulnerable moments.

 (photo from Denver Post)

 There are so many suffering like Scott, alone, in silence, hidden. In Scott's story I see so many signs of promise and hope: he has self-awareness, he is seeking help at the VA, he is in contact with other veterans, even the fact that he has a dog is glimmer of hope.

This video tells Scott's story very clearly:


What struck home most for me was Mr. Ostrom's haunting memory of an act undone, something he didn't do. I can understand the weight of a missed opportunity, never to return, even if a rational analysis of the event reveals that nothing could have changed the outcome.

There was also time this weekend to rack the most recent batch of beer after its primary fermentation. When I opened the bucket, it had a deep caramel hue, but tasted much lighter.

It is a wheat beer so that is fine with me. It had good layer of sediment at the bottom which I was able to leave behind when I siphoned it into the carboy.

I mixed in apricot puree and sealed it up for secondary fermentation for a couple more weeks.

Lastly, I got to clean out part of the barn. This winter, the Taiwan Coppolas sent us some butterflies to hatch. We nursed them through the caterpillar and chrysalis stages, and most of them were able to unfold orange and black painted wings. They were quite a bit out of season, but I tucked them into a corner of the barn for shelter, hoping they might lay some eggs.They left behind beautiful corpses; time will tell if a new generation will rise.

Please consider helping us raise money for Fisher House, a home away from home for injured veterans. The link below leads to our Team Fisher House donation page. We will be training for the Marine Corps Marathon to take place this fall.


10 April 2012

Rules of Engagement vs. Stand Your Ground

Here is a very interesting editorial from John Soltz, founder and chairman of VoteVets.org:


He compares how the Rules of Engagement in use by troops in Afghanistan are a stark contrast to the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida, which is in the limelight after George Zimmerman shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin.

We have the right to bear arms. We also have the right to wield them responsibly, professionally, like millions of US troops have. A responsible American citizen wants to protect the right to life, liberty, and happiness of all citizens. A responsible American uses force as a last resort, and does not cling to a defense of a right to kill like a bully and a coward.

I had to double check to be sure it was about me!

It is wonderful to talk with Dr. Hayden Hollingsworth. He has a kindness that befits an empathetic physician, and an easygoing calm and confidence that comes of experience. I appreciated hearing about his Army years because it resonated with memories of my duty, connecting me with another who did the best they could in the military machine. His review of my book was very generous and complimentary. It was a pleasure to read, and in fact far better than I deserve! I think he really could see what motivated me to write. If you are interested, here is a link to his article:


Check out Dr. Hollingsworth's book "A Woman of Distinction: From Hoopskirts to Airplanes" here:


It is also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The book journeys through the life of Sara Cobb Johnson, an Atlanta woman born at the end of the Civil war.

09 April 2012

Keep Safe on ATVs

Through the military and my hospital appointments I’ve been able to work in some incredible regions of the US. In both southern Texas and central Pennsylvania the broad expanses of natural terrain are an invitation begging for off road ATV use. In both locations, I’ve been shocked at the severity of child injuries due to ATVs. One particularly tragic incident I recall was an emergency call in the middle of the night. Three teens riding on two ATV’s in an abandoned field were drinking and decided to play chicken. Who knows what they were thinking, the fun they were having, and their shouts of bravery, but it all came to an end when their two vehicles collided at the front left corners. Two died on that field before EMS arrived, the third was injured from head to toe with multiple broken bones and severe head trauma. It was months and multiple operations later before he was well enough to attend school, and it is impossible to know how much potential he lost.
The ATV was introduced in 1970 by Honda to satisfy requests from motorcycle dealers to provide a product that could boost sales in winter.  The Honda US90 was a three wheeled motorcycle with big fat tires designed to go over uneven turf and snow. 

It was marketed as an off-road recreation vehicle, but dealers were surprised to find it was mostly being used for farm and industrial applications. It had poor stability due to the high center of gravity, the three-wheeled footprint, and non-intuitive steering. Sales skyrocketed, as did an alarming number of injuries, with 239,000 injuries and 600 deaths recorded in the US from 1971-1987. Even worse, 40% of these deaths were children. Suzuki introduced the LT125, the first four-wheel ATV in 1982. Manufacturers were marketing vehicles for farm and ranch use, but by that time most ATV’s were mainly used for recreational uses such as camping, hunting, and racing.
In 1988 the major manufacturers of ATVs signed a voluntary 10-year consent decree with the Consumer Product Safety Commission in which they agreed that three-wheel ATV’s would be banned, safety equipment would be incorporated, user training would occur at the dealer, units would carry warning labels, and sales to children under 13 would be prohibited. This decree expired in 1998 and was not renewed. From 1995-2000, ATV sales continued to increase, and in the same period injuries increased 63%. The size and power of ATVs grew, and the world saw models with 1000cc engine displacement, weights over 1000lb, and speeds up to 79 mph in the Suzuki LT500R, nicknamed “Quadzilla”.
Currently there are 10.5 million ATVs in use in the US. In 2009, there were 131,900 injuries, and a quarter of them were in children. From 1982-2009 10,281 deaths were recorded, also a quarter of them children. The deadliest states for ATV use are California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia, but all states are affected.
Certain aspects of ATVs can explain why there are so many injuries. Their off-road design incorporates a flexible suspension that affects steering and large low inflation tires for off-road traction.  Steering is a complicated combination of speed modulation, shift in body weight, and handlebar angulations. It requires the rider to push down on the footrest to shift one cheek off the seat to the inside of the turn. Each bump in the terrain requires an immediate complex response in speed, steering position, and lean. In a crash the ATV carries nearly the weight of a car and the rider exposure of a motorcycle, so severe injuries from vehicle rollover and crush are common. These characteristics can be controlled by a trained adult rider with proper safety equipment, but children can quickly be pushed beyond ability to safely pilot an ATV. I repeatedly see a pattern of injury in children that includes limb fractures, head injuries, internal bleeding, and combinations of these wounds.

Children are disadvantaged because of decreased size, strength, and coordination. They can have difficulty reaching controls on full size ATVs. Additionally, children are more prone to crashes because of inexperience, speeding, and poor judgment when it is required in a split second. Forty percent of published reports of ATV injuries are in children.
These dangers have led the American Academy of Pediatrics to state, “Laws should prohibit the use of ATVs, on or off-road, by children and adolescents younger than 16 years.” American Pediatric Surgical Association similarly states, “Children younger than 16 years lack the judgment and physical ability to safely operate motorized vehicles and should not operate ATVs of any size.” 

I know this sounds like the usual pessimistic don’t, don’t, don’t of a doctor, but there are actually some useful recommendations I can make to try and keep safe on an ATV.

-          - Only one rider to each ATV: the vehicle is meant for one person and the addition of a passenger shifts the center of gravity backwards. This unloads the front axle and hinders steering. I frequently see a pattern of injury where a passenger on the back of the ATV is crushed in a rollover, or a small child in front of the driver is crushed against the handlebars.
-         - Use a helmet! In a crash, a helmet can mean the difference between survival and death, or a life spent in a bed or wheelchair. In surgery we can fix nearly any part of the body, but when brain cells are gone, they don’t come back.
-         -  Match the ATV size to the driver: Children under 16 should use an ATV of 90cc or less.
-          - Be sober when driving an ATV. Alcohol and drugs greatly increase the chance of a crash.
-         -  Provide adult supervision whenever children are riding ATVs: Adults need to know the tenets of safe riding, and ensure children are following them, and know how to disable the vehicle if they are not.
-         -  Take a rider safety course: it is better not to learn the idiosyncrasies of the vehicle the hard way.
-          - Only travel on terrain within your ability: Some of the most severe injuries we see are collisions with trees or falls over cliffs. Walk out your course before you ride it. Give a wide berth to ledges and drop-offs. Adjust your speed to conditions, Space out vehicles on the trail to avoid collisions. Let a rider who knows the trail lead until you are familiar.
-          - Never play chicken on ATVs and never pull or drag anyone behind your vehicle: It’s just inviting serious injury or death.
-          - Ride in a group: many ATV trails are in remote areas. After an injury, it can take a long time for rescue extraction, and that rescue may never come if no one knows you have crashed.
-          - Use gloves, goggles, boots, long pants, and long sleeves: This protective equipment will ensure you can maintain your vehicle right side up and on the trail no matter what obstacles you encounter.
-          - Follow local laws and regulations: For example, Pennsylvania law states that it is illegal for anyone under 8 to operate an ATV. Children 8-9 years can only use an ATV of 70cc or less. Children under the age of 16 must take a rider safety course. Riders must wear a helmet. ATVs cannot be used on open roadways. ATVs must be inspected and registered. These laws do not apply to private property, but they are a good minimum safety requirement anywhere.

At our hospital, we have reached out to the community to keep kids healthy. We have visited health fairs to educate children and parents, and even give away helmets. We won a grant to provide free rider safety courses to a cadre of children each month in the spring and summer. We have been involved with a local recreational area to help plan safe trails, safety regulations, and routes of extrication for air and ground ambulance.

ATVs are a wonderful way to experience the beautiful natural resources of our great country. They have become a staple of outdoor recreational activity for many families. Parents must realize the inherent danger in the activity so they can take safety measures and ensure their children will be there for years to come.

(Images via Wikipedia)

07 April 2012


I believe that something I can make for myself just tastes sweeter. At least I hope the batch of beer that we brewed up today tastes sweet a month from now when it is ready. It is the second batch I've made. It will contain apricot, honey, and a whole lot of gummy sticky malt.

It was a delightfully brisk day, gorgeous blue sky overhead, and the scent of brewing hops and bitters blended perfectly with the perfume of flowering trees.

As the wort cooled in the fermenting bucket, Meredith and I headed out for a 3 mile jog down Market St. We crossed the bridge over the river, the water flowing west beneath our feet and the wind blowing east whipping up little whitecaps where the water danced over stones in the riverbed.

All that malt added up to a specific gravity of 1.040 worth of delectable sugar just waiting for the yeast to feast on it.

With a sprinkling of yeast across the surface of the wort, it was transformed to beer. 

I sealed the bucket, and tucked it into the space at the bottom of the closet where it will live and grow in darkness for the next month. I plan on being here in a month to reap the rewards of the effort. And that is why beer is the root of civilization. It takes time, love and staying put in one place to extract something rewarding from grains. It was enough to make hunter-gatherers settle down. Much appreciation to Damon for getting me on this path to civilization.

Equipped in the USA

It can be hard to buy products made in the USA today. Everything in the store seems to be made in China. Also products that are American made can be more expensive. But before you make your decision, it is worth checking out the domestic product to see if will actually be the best value in the long run. You might just find the the companies with the determination to keep production in the USA are going the extra mile to find quality materials and solid construction.

Training for the marathon and bike commuting through four seasons has worn through some equipment, so as I replace it, I do my best to buy USA made. Nearly every time I search, I am rewarded with the surprise of an American made product better than the alternative. Here are a few examples:

J&G Bicycle clothing, Oregon


J&G makes quality specialized bicycle gear. They outfit policemen and are used to building products that have to stand up to abuse. I picked up an incredible rain jacket that I can wear on and off the bike. It has a breathable liner, and a waterproof shell. There are reflective cuffs and a tab to hang a light.

Wickers Long Underwear


The boys and I needed long underwear for biking and bus stops, and cold days in the snow. A little research and we were surprised to find Wickers, USA made breathable, comfy, and toasty long underwear.

Their mission statement is a clear perspective on why it is so important to you and your neighbors to buy American


I am 100% satisfied with the product, and it makes me feel like I'm helping a tiny bit every time I wear them.

Soark Running Apparel, Kansas


Soark has been making running gear in the USA since 1986. They have been the official sponsors of the Boston and Columbus marathons. Their recent initiative for green manufacturing and recycling has reduced the volume of trash they produce to only two barrels each week. Their split side shorts brought back vivid memories of the 70's and Bruce Jenner, but I opted for a longer legged style to leave a little more to the imagination. They are lightweight, solidly built, and even have three back pockets for change, keys, energy gel and stuff.

New Balance


Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was to find that New Balance is still making sneakers in the USA. They have 7 factories in the USA employing my fellow citizens, and every year they try to bring more and more of their production back from overseas. On their website they label which models are made in the USA or assembled in the USA. When it was time to commit for the marathon, it was time to get a pair of shoes that could stand up to the miles and I was able to design a pair made here.

There are lots of good reasons to buy Made in USA. I do it because I want jobs in the USA, I want our neighbors, in our community and all the communities around the US to have jobs. I'm not saying that we should buy an inferior product just to buy American, I'm saying look at the US made options available, you might just find they are a better value in the long run, for all of us.

05 April 2012

Mourning the loss of LTC Loftis, USAF Pashtun expert killed in Afghanistan

I'm sharing a sad painful loss related to me by my friend Clark. A little over a month ago, LTC John Loftis was shot in his office in Kabul, Afghanistan. His death struck me deeply, for several reasons. We are just about the same age. In the video below, it was apparent to me what a calm, thoughtful, and dedicated individual he was, one who believes in his mission, but also in a respectful caring approach to others the way a professional should. He was one of the military's most skillful experts in the Pashto language, and Afghan culture. He worked as a public relations officer, and was working on reconstruction teams, side by side with the Afghan police. He left behind a wife and two daughters. He is our modern US military in its best sense, educated, effective, humanitarian, proactive, fearlessly responsible to mission. His death is a great loss to us as a nation and horribly so to his family.

This New York Times video illustrates the man so clearly:


 (images from Together we served)

This war continues. Our neighbors are longing for their loved ones who are far from home. Remember.

17 March 2012

Help me support Fisher House through the Marine Corps Marathon

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Hi to all after a long break of not writing anything on this blog. No worries, life has been good. I have participated in some very interesting forums with discussions of war medicine, and have a few talks coming up in the near future. I've been lucky enough to be included as an author in an upcoming review of care delivered at the military hospitals in Afghanistan and Iraq. Along with these activities I have been hustling at my day job as a pediatric surgeon at Geisinger Medical Center, and had a recent three day period where I slept a handful of hours between 12 operations. All in all it is good to have a job!

I'm writing today to report that Meredith and I have taken leave of our senses and committed to run the Marine Corps Marathon this fall. Ah yes, what better way to while away four (or five, or six) hours of a beautiful day than constant knee and pavement pounding abuse! The last time I ran a marathon, we had recently fought the first gulf war, and I can assure you that the intervening years have not yielded more cartilage in my knees.

I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that Meredith and I are hard charging and psyched for this feat, and much of the reason for this is that we are part of Team Fisher House. We will be dedicating our run to the many troops who have sustained injuries fufilling their military duties. We will be raising money to benefit Fisher House, which has provided an oasis of security and comfort to families of these same troops when they were receiving  medical care at military treatment facilities.

If you are able to give, please click here:


to donate to "Team Honey Badger's" efforts to raise money for Fisher House in the Marine Corps Marathon.
No amount is too small. It all helps. Fisher House has an amazing track record with 95% of donations going directly to help troops, and over 50 family homes on bases across the country and even overseas.

If you cannot give, please think of us and send us your support as I try to keep up with Meredith shufflin' my decrepit body around central Pennsylvania in some semblance of training.

Best wishes,


(A picture from long ago when I had fewer grey hairs and better padding in my joints.)

19 January 2012

When life give you malt...

We have been settling deep, deep into life in central Pennsylvania. It's a wonderful part of the country, with friendly neighbors, safe streets, and sheep farms. Sometimes it can be hard to come up with things to do, especially when winter comes and it just hurts the face to be outside for too long. So a couple of weeks ago, we made beer. I've cooked bread, meatballs, sausage, lasagna, and even crawfish etouffee, but this was a new recipe to me. Fortunately I had the expert help of my son R., who was willing to pitch in as long as he got to taste the result.
Brewing required a vessel big enough to handle five gallons. The only one we had that fit the bill was the aluminum pot that we use to fry turkeys.

We mixed in hops, malt, honey, bitters, and heather blossoms.

The yard and kitchen literally smelled like a brewery. After settling the sticky thick wort that resulted into a glass carboy that looked like the water bottle on top of a bubbler, we added the yeast and tucked it away to ferment. For three weeks, it bubbled away in the bottom of a closet behind the laundry.

Last weekend, we used a siphon to rack it out of this fermentation chamber, and bottle it up with a fun capping device.

So long as most of the bottles survive without exploding, we should have a tasty liquid treat to try in a couple of weeks. It may be premature to report since the beer hasn't had the proper time to mature, but the sneak sample we took while bottling had the perfume and taste of our fraternity basement.

A friend asked me yesterday if I was going to write another book. I was happy to reply that my life was comfortably quiet and safe now, and I had no need to write anything. It has been a long awaited bit of happy news to have the troops home from Iraq. Now when I speak about the hospital in Balad, I can say when we WERE at war in Iraq. Hopefully it will be the same soon with Afghanistan.