2017 Healing Heroes

The 6th Annual Healing Heroes Benefits at Grace Chapel was held this past September 10th. Raven Cliff sing our National Anthem,a cappella, that alone was worth the $10 ticket. Songwriters Leslie Satcher Dan Demay, and Craig Morgan filled the night with tears, laughter and love.

Brian and I are so blessed to call Leslie Satcher, David Allen, Even and Korene Stevens our friends. To do this show year after year, when it takes months of planning, is truly a loyal friend and shows true dedication in supporting our USAF, Marines, Navy and Army. Thank you all!

PS. Jeannie and mama we know you are the glue behind the scenes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Thalia S. Ramirez

Since its inception, each month LHCP has honored a military service member who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Every box which is shipped from LHCP is labeled with information about the Honoree. The monthly Honoree’s story is attached to the box so others can read about those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. This month’s Honoree is Army Chief Wwarrant Officer 2 Thalia S. Ramirez.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thalia S. Ramirez

Died September 5, 2012 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

Courtesy of www.ksat.comThalia Ramirez Close Up

A U.S. Army soldier from San Antonio identified as Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thalia S. Ramirez, 28, and another soldier identified as Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jose L. Montenegro Jr., 31, of Houston died in a helicopter crash last week in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.

The two soldiers were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

The Department of Defense announced they died on Sept. 5, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when their aircraft crashed.

Ramirez is originally from Nairobi, Kenya. She joined the U.S. Army in 2003 as an enlisted water purification specialist, according to fayobserver.com.

She earned OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aviator qualification in 2008, and was assigned to the 82nd CAB in 2009. This was her second deployment.

Fayobserver.com reports Ramirez is survived by her husband, Jesse Belbeck in the United States, and mother and father, Justin Ramirez and Alexandra Moll, in Kenya.

Courtesy of www.kpbs.org

Thalia Ramirez markerThe two members of the U.S. Army killed last week when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed in Afghanistan were, according to the Department of Defense: Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jose L. Montenegro Jr., 31, of Houston, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thalia S. Ramirez, 28, of San Antonio, Texas.

They were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

A colleague of Ramirez and Montenegro wrote to Home Post about how dearly missed is coworkers are. (He asked not to be identified.) These are his words:

Thalia Ramirez was a very beautiful, sweet, kind, caring, officer that was instant friends with all those she met. Her warm smile always lit up a room and she could always bring joy to those around her. She will be deeply missed, and the lives of her fellow pilots and other soldiers will be a lot less bright with her gone.

Mr. Montenegro was a caring, loving person who cherished his friends, his family back in Texas, and those he worked with.

There is a huge hole in the hearts of all of us here in the 1/17th Cavalry that will never be filled.

Courtesy of www.toraradical.com

ARMY Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thalia S Ramirez, 28, of San Antonio, TX, died Sept. 5, in Logar Province, Afghanistan.

Thalia RamirezRamirez, 28, originally of Nairobi, Kenya, and most recently of Raeford, joined the U.S. Army in 2003 as an enlisted water purification specialist, according to a news release.

“She was a true quiet professional, and an incredible role model to so many,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Landy Dunham, commander, Task Force Talon, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. “Thalia never failed to set the perfect example of a confident and competent warrior. She was fearless, and loved her job. She selflessly risked everything, on a regular basis, in defense of her brothers and sisters in arms.”

She earned OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aviator qualification in 2008, and was assigned to the 82nd CAB in 2009. This was her second deployment.

Ramirez’s awards include the Air Medal 3rd device, the Purple Heart Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Valorous Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon 2nd device, NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Army Aviator Badge.

“As we finish up this deployment and return home, in some way remember my friend Thalia,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joseph Panza, Troop F, 1-17 Air Cavalry Regiment, at the Thursday ceremony on Bagram Airfield honoring both pilots. “Whether it’s a moment of silence, a toast, or a prayer to whatever divine power you believe in. Just a small gesture for someone who made a huge sacrifice doing what she believed in.”

Jacob M. Hess

Since its inception, each month LHCP has honored a military service member who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Every box which is shipped from LHCP is labeled with information about the Honoree. The monthly Honoree’s story is attached to the box so others can read about those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. This month’s Honoree is Marine Sgt Jacob M. Hess.

Marine Sgt Jacob M. Hess

Died January 1, 2014 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom


Prager The Spokesman-Review

Several hundred people turned out Monday to honor Jacob Michael Hess, a 22-year-old Marine from Spokane who was killed in Afghanistan on Jan. 1.

“Leave here today knowing he’s the best I’ve served with,” his supervisor, 1st Sgt. Leon Banta, told those gathered in the Life Center Foursquare Church. “He was the epitome of what a leader in the Marines should be.”

Hess was given full military honors, inclu3136703_Gding a 21-gun salute. A Spokane fire truck, ladder extended, flew a large American flag in the parking lot. Among those in attendance was a large contingent of active-duty military as well as veterans.

Hess died while supporting military operations in Helmand province. He was serving in Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26, based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, adjacent to Camp Lejeune, N.C.

People who knew him best described his loyalty and devotion to family, friends and country.

Banta told the crowd that Hess was a special Marine who rose quickly in the ranks.

“He was my go-to guy,” Banta said. “He was absolutely good at everything.”

The average career Marine will take eight to nine years to reach the rank of sergeant. Hess, who joined in 2010, made sergeant in less than three years, out-competing a number of talented candidates, Banta said.

Not only was he smart and efficient, he was also known for his strength and quickness. “If you know Sgt. Hess, he was a physical fitness monster,” Banta said.

Born on Feb. 5, 1991, in San Diego, Hess grew up in a military family, moving a number of times for deployments. He had his own passport by age 4. He spent seven years in Okinawa, forging childhood friendships during long days exploring the island’s beaches. He considered Okinawa his emotional home.

Jacob Hess SoccerPrior to his senior year of high school, Hess moved to Spokane with his family and graduated from North Central High School. Soccer and hockey were his favorite sports. He liked to read and had a knack for history. He had been hoping to take a tour of historic battle sites. A photo tribute during the service showed Hess and family and friends engaged in outdoor fun.

He didn’t let his skills go to his head; he was humble and quiet, friends and family said.

Jacob was a blood, platelet and bone marrow donor.

According to Michael Osha, Jacob was a bone marrow match for her daughter Crystal, and before he was deployed to Afghanistan, Jacob went into the hospital to donate the life giving bone marrow platelets to cure Crystal. Today his platelets flow through her veins to keep Crystal alive and healthy.

Jacob married his high school sweetheart, Bridget (Ramirez) Hess.

Father-in-law and Marine Master Sgt. Ismael Ramirez said he was impressed by Hess’ devotion to his daughter, and gave Hess permission to marry her when he asked. The couple decided to join the Marines together. They married within a week of their respective boot camp graduations, family members said.

When Bridget Hess’ unit came up for deployment, Jacob Hess volunteered for deployment as well.

“He wouldn’t send his wife somewhere he wasn’t willing to go as well,” according to a write-up accompanying his memorial program.

The Marines have said he died supporting military operations. His unit supports the MV-22 Osprey, a twin-engine tilt-rotor helicopter, which is used as a troop and supplies transport.

Jacob Hess Jake is survived by his wife Bridget Hess; mother Keirsten Lyons; father Michael Hess; brother Cameron Hess; grandparents Lynn and James Brink and Robert and Charlene Hess; and in-laws Ismael and Sara Ramirez; as well as numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

Someone’s Son or Daughter

This morning started with refilling shelves at the CCC. As I was heading to lunch I walked into some troops with that “lost” look on their face. I asked them if I could help them find something. Yes, they were looking for the CCC. I told them to follow me and I went back to the CCC to help them. As we walked the hall one of them explained that they were Georgia troops. Not the Georgia north of Florida and south of Tennessee but the Georgia that is North of Turkey and South of Russia. Georgia covers a territory smaller than South Carolina and slightly larger than West Virginia, with approximately 4.5 million residents. If I understand what I have been told in the past from Georgian troops, Georgia is the largest non-Nato contributor to the Afghanistan mission. I have never met a Georgian patient that spoke English. There is a Georgian translator here to help the Georgia patients. I first introduced myself to the Georgian wheel chair patient and then to the other 3 Georgian troops. I asked the translator to explain everything to the patients. I gave a very short explanation of the CCC and then went about filling the duffel bag for the patient in the wheel chair. He had a trach in and was having some difficulties. As we moved around the CCC I noticed he had a very large round scar on his chest. When they are sitting in front of you in a hospital gown I don’t look at them as US troop, Canadian troop or Georgia troop. I look at them as someone’s son or daughter and this one had at one time a massive blast to his chest. As we moved around the CCC he was amazed at the items available for free. He was hesitate to take items but I explain that some little old grandma sent these items for him and once the interrupter told them what I said they smiled and took a pillow from Judy in Michigan and a blanket from a LHCP church group in Arizona. As they were leaving, the patient reached up to shake my hand. He had a little bit of a problem reaching out to my hand so I bent down and forward to him and told him THANK YOU and it was my pleasure to help him. I also told him (through the translator) that if he needed any more help to come back. That he did not need the translator with him that he and I would figure out what he needed. He may have been very thin and weak but he made sure he shook my hand with a firm grip.

Saturday we had a patient trip. We had approximately 17 patients. LHCP is paying for the lunch these wounded warriors eat at a local German restaurant, thanks in part to Callie in North Carolina. As they all sat down at their tables one of the chaplain staff explained to them where they were at and what the building was. It was also explained that LHCP was paying for their lunch. They were asked to show by hand how many had been to the CCC. 75% raised their hands. They were then told that 95% of the items in the CCC was donated by LHCP. As their lunch was being placed in front of them I was introduced to them. I did not stand or speak as we are not there to be in their face. We are here to have their backs. However, as each of them left the restaurant they came by to thank LHCP for their “day away” from the life at the hospital. As one of them left, he thanked me. I told him it was “our pleasure”. His battle buddy turned back around to face me and he said “ma’am you have no idea what this means to us”.

Today was a rather busy day it reminded me of the times in 2006 and 2007 when it was routine for 14 to 20 wounded to come in to the CCC for help at one time. It still amazes me after all these years that the patients are amazed at the support that is provided by us at home. I am very proud and honored to be part of LHCP. Every pillow except one that was taken today was a LHCP pillow. Approximately 50% of the quilts and fleece blankets that were taken today were made by LHCP members. Every duffel bag that is taken is due to LHCP monetary donors. 90% of the zip-up hoodies and winter jackets are again from LHCP donors.

The CCC has some items that they will just never run out of due to the quantity that has been sent here over the years such as socks, shaving cream, under shirts, just to name a few of the items. There are needs that seem to always be on their wish list and I hope that I can turn to you to help us collect these items. We are in need of toe nail clippers, black shorts in all sizes and travel size mouth wash.

Leave With A Smile


I arrived in Germany about 830 am. We drove to LRMC; gave and received hugs from many that have been here for years. I was introduced to many new volunteers and staff. I helped several young men but three kind of stood out to me. The first one was a Marine who was brought in by his Marine liaison. He was being discharged as an in-patient and was moving to the out-patient barracks until he could go home. He was still very sore from his surgery so we took it slow around the different aisles to get sweat pants and shirt, boxers, socks and undershirts, a few long sleeve shirts, pillow and blanket. He was not feeling well and had to excuse himself to the rest room as I continued to put toiletry items together. When he felt better I asked him about tennis shoes and he said he would love a new pair but the pair he had on was good. They were rather worn so I asked him what size and found him a pair that put a smile on his face. It does my heart so much good to see these young men and woman come in sore, tired and worn out but leave with a smile.

The second patient came in and gave me one of the firmest handshakes I have had in a long time. His whole body was tense and everything began or ended with “Yes ma’am” or “no ma’am”. I asked him how long he had been at LRMC and where was he coming from. He told me he was a 9 Charlie patient. That means he is a mental health patient. They have a special place in my heart due to a very early LRMC trip experience with 9 Charlie patients. We can see the physical damage but the mental health problems can be harder not only for the patient but for us to understand. As a 9 Charlie patient they are not allowed all free access to every item the Clothing Closet has to offer. We started the process of filling his bag with sweats, shirts and socks. After the first couple items went into his bag and 20 or so “ma’ams”. I stopped took a couple steps toward him put out my hand and introduced myself again as “Karen”. I looked him straight in the face with a slight smile and waited for his reply he gave me his first name and I told him it was very nice to meet him. His back was half turned to his escort and I leaned in and told him that I did not wear a uniform. I was at LRMC to help and be a friend if he wanted. He smiled and from that moment on I was “Karen”. He asked for a couple of the restricted items and either I or his escort told him we were sorry but he would have to come back after he was discharged from 9 Charlie to receive those items. I asked him about new sneakers and he said he would love a new pair. When the shoes were on, his facial expression changed. The only way I can describe it is as a glow of joy. I asked him if there was anything more he could think of or that he saw that he might like. He picked out a winter jacket and was finished with his bag of joy. I told him that if there was anything else he needed to come back and see me. He said he would like that and put out his hand for me to shake. I looked down a little to see his face that was facing the floor and told him that a hand shake was such a formal gesture that as a mom would it be ok to give him a “mom hug”. He immediately leaned forward and I gave him a hug. I have to say that was the strongest hug I have received in a very long time. He held on for a good while and I could feel his shoulders and back muscles release. When we released he looked up at me and then bent down to his bag to zip it up. As he was standing up he said “I feel happy, I have not felt like this in a very long time.” Since most of the items on the Clothing Closet shelves were sent by LHCP members and donors I want to thank you for making this young man “happy” for making his face glow with joy as he left the CC.

LRMC 2013
LRMC Chaplain Clothing Closet staff with
LHCP President, Karen Grimord



December 28th Troop Thanks

Here is the latest Troop Thanks letter we have received. This will be added to our Troop Thanks 2012 page.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dear Karen and Members of the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project,

Thank you very much for the shipment of clogs and blankets. You do amazing things for our troops and we so appreciate all that you send. The clogs are excellent. Having them allows our patients to get comfortable. Before, some did not have anything but their boots to wear. Now they can get truly comfortable. The blankets are always wonderful to have. It can be chilly here in the CASF, and certainly the C17 airplane ride to the USA requires some extra warmth.

Thank you for helping us here at the CASF USO to take care of our Wounded Warriors. We could not do what we do without your help.

Thank you, for all you do.

Happy New Year.

Loriann Tierney
CASF USO Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Veteran’s Day Benefit

Veteran's Day Benefit
Veteran’s Day Benefit

Songwriters Spotlight Veteran’s Day Benefit

Sunday, Nov 11, 2012 7:00 PM
Franklin Theatre, Franklin TN
Doors open at 6:00 PM
To purchase tickets click here
Go to Calendar, click on November 11th.

The Veteran’s Day Benefit presented by Songwriter’s Spotlight will feature artists such as Even Stevens, Leslie Satcher, Larry Stewart, Tim Rushlow, and Raven Cliff.

Artist Featured Include:

  • Even Stevens: BMI Songwriter of the Century. Hits include, “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman” (Dr. Hook), “I Love A Rainy Night” and “Drivin My Life Away” (Eddie Rabbitt), and “Love Will Turn You Around” (Kenny Rogers).
  • Leslie Satcher: Hits include, “Troubador” (George Strait), Grammy Winner “When God Fearin’ Women Get The Blues” and “For These Times” (Martina McBride), and “Politically Uncorrect” (Gretchen Wilson).
  • Larry Stewart: ACM Winner, CMA & Grammy Nominee. Lead singer for Restless Heart. Hits include, “I’ll Still Be Loving You,” “That Rock Won’t Roll,” and “Fast Movin’ Train.”
  • Tim Rushlow: ACM Winner/Grammy Nominee. Former Lead singer for Little Texas. Hits include, “Kick A Little,” “What Might Have Been,” and “My Love.”
  • Raven Cliff: Nashville’s newest breaking country act.

The Veteran’s Day Benefit is in support of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project – America’s largest oversea’s U.S. military hospital and combat support hospitals in the Middle East. The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project is a non-profit organization that provides comfort and relief items for military members who become sick, injured, or wounded from service in the Middle East. Donated items are distributed to patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the largest American militay hospital outside of the U.S. Items are also distributed to field hospitals in the Middle East and to VA facilities throughout the United States.

“The Nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotton.” – Calvin Coolidge

Event Pricing
Balcony & Lounge Admission – $40.00
Cabaret Table – $400.00
Classic Admission – $50.00

Franklin Watson

Lance Corporal Franklin “Frankie” Watson—December 2012 Shipment Honoree

Serving Operation Enduring Freedom

VONORE, Tenn. (WVLT)–A local Marine from Vonore was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Franklin “Frankie” Watson was with assigned to Company D, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, and Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Knoxville, Tennessee. LCPL Watson was sweeping for IED’s when his unit was attacked. Watson was 21 years old.

LCPL Watson
LCPL Watson

“Frankie” was a 2008 graduate and star athlete of Sequoyah High School and resident of Vonore, Tennessee. He was also a 2009 graduate of the Cleveland State Police Academy and attended college there to study Criminal Justice. He was employed at the Madisonville Police Department and he began his law enforcement career as a part time deputy with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department. Frankie Watson enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 2010. As both a U.S. Marine and a law enforcement officer, Frankie Watson was committed to bringing the rules and the unruly into alignment. Peacekeeping and finding a solution — both as a Marine and a police officer — were at the core of Watson’s being.

His family said Watson was one of those rare people everybody seemed to love.

His cousins, Allie and Miriam Watson told me, “God knew what He was doing when He made him. That’s for sure. He made a soldier. He made a brave young man with a heart of gold.”

“He always smiled. He was always full of spunk. He was competitive and he seemed like he always wanted to be the best at everything,” said Watson’s uncle, Norman.

That competitive drive is why a family friend was lead to say.

I asked ‘Frankie why’d you choose the Marines?’ and he said ‘I wanted to go through the hardest one I could get in,’ Russell said.

Strong and athletic, Watson was also a Madisonville police officer and Monroe County sheriff’s deputy. His cousins told me his physical prowess made him an impressive Marine. His heart made him an impressive man.

Miriam said, “He’s one of the bravest men I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

Another cousin Randy Nash added, “He definitely had good character. You don’t find a lot of people like that anymore.”

Barely in Afghanistan for three months, Watson, a combat engineer in charge of disarming IED’s was shot in the chest during an attack on his unit.

Allie tried to hold back tears as she said, “Everybody thought he was going to come home. And he’s never going to come home anymore. And he called and he said he wanted to come home so bad, and God heard him. God took him home.”

When I asked them what they loved and remember most about Frankie each of his family and friends told me it was his smile and his ability to light up the room.

“Everybody that knows him says he’s got the best smile in the world,” said Russell.

“As soon as you got around him, it doesn’t matter how bad you were hurting, or bad you were upset or how bad your day was, he’d do something to make you laugh that’s for sure,” added Allie and Miriam.

His aunt Laurie called Frankie a hero.

“He was a man of honor. Always smiled, he was always happy,” she said.

And as they remember the hero they lost, family and friends wish they could have seen him one last time.

“I love him to death and I wish I could tell him that again.”

“I love him and I miss him and I wish I had got to tell him goodbye.”

But like so many families of those who serve, they’ll never have the chance.

The Watsons asked us to post this note. Miriam wrote it after she heard the news about her cousin.

“It takes a real man to do what you’ve done. You’ve not only inspired your friends and family, but the world. You showed them that you’re brave enough, to risk your own life, to give us freedom. You were our hero before you left, and you still will be. You mean everything in this world to us, and you’ll be missed so much. That great personality of yours, that beautiful smile; everything. You were pretty much my brother! You’re truly a great young man, who had a brave heart. You stand out, over so many people in this world, Frankie. You had a wonderful heart, and put it to great use! Some people come into our lives and leave footprints in our hearts and we are never ever the same again. You left footprints in my heart, that will always be there. You’re in a much better place that this, and with a man who is going to make everything better for you. I know you wouldn’t want to see me with tears streaming down my face, so I may cry, but I’m going to keep smiling because that’s what you would want, and I’m going to do exactly what you would hope for, no matter how sad I am, or how much I cry. Although this is my “goodbye” letter, goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you, until we meet again! So, when God is ready for me to see you again, I’ll be ready. I love you more than anything in this world, Frankie, and you will be missed!”

Local 8 Now (source – no longer available)

LandstuhlHospitalCareProject 2011 – 2012


Landstuhl Hospital Care ProjectI am often asked why we are still shipping boxes since our troops are no longer in Iraq. It is easy we still have units in Afghanistan, Qatar, Kuwait, and more. Then I am asked well you must not ship as many boxes. As of this morning we have matched the number of boxes shipped all of last year and we still have just over a month left to the year. Many of our units explain that LHCP is the ONLY non profit supporting them. LRMC told CBS News that we are their largest supporter. Many non profits have closed up their doors or moved to different efforts. YOU have made it possible to continue to support our wounded warriors and those that provide care to them.


Karen Grimord
Founder, President and Packer
Landstuhl Hospital Care Project
Awarded Independent Charities Seal of Excellence
CFC #12282

Kevin Kryst

Kevin Kryst –December 2010 Shipment Honoree

19 December 2006:

Kevin and his Super CobraWest Bend, Wisconsin – The children of Elizabeth and Glenn Kryst gathered unexpectedly at the family home here, the week before Christmas, to grieve with their parents the death of their eldest brother in Iraq.

Captain Kevin M. Kryst, 27, a Marine helicopter pilot with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., had returned to Iraq for a second time at the beginning of the month, his mother said.

He was killed Monday at the Marine Corps’ Camp Korean Village, in the desert of Anbar province west of Baghdad, she said.

A Sunni-led insurgency has made Anbar, on the border of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, one of the deadliest battlefronts in the Iraq war. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has its headquarters at the camp in Anbar, and its mission is to secure major highways in the province.

“We were only told he sustained abdominal injuries from shrapnel in a mortar attack while he was on the base,” his mother said. “He was not in a helicopter.”

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Elizabeth Kryst said that she and her husband and their five other children were proud of Kevin’s service to his country.

“He was committed to the effort in Iraq, and so were we,” she said. Two symbols of their commitment flutter in the breeze outside her home: a Marine Corps flag hangs over the front porch while an American flag is displayed nearby.

“He loved his country. His job in Iraq was to fly his helicopter and protect his Marines on the ground.”

“The Marines have lost a highly-skilled pilot,” she said.

“We’re numb,” his mother added.

Kevin Kryst’s younger brother, Dan, 23, a member of the Marine Reserves, has also served a tour of duty in Iraq, having been deployed there in 2004.

Kevin Kryst spent a few days at home in August while on leave prior to a six-month deployment, she said.

The home visit was long enough for him to become engaged to his West Bend sweetheart. Elizabeth Kryst identified his fiancée as Sara but declined to provide her last name, saying she wanted to protect the young woman’s privacy.

 Family memorial

Kevin KrystA memorial to Kevin Kryst was created Tuesday on a tree in the family’s lawn. Red, blue and yellow ribbons wrap the trunk. A balloon with the phrase Proud to be American was tied to the tree and floated in a light breeze. A bouquet of flowers leaned against the base of the tree.

‘An excellent student’

Kevin Kryst graduated from West Bend West High School in 1997. He played French horn in a school ensemble and was a member of the Spartans’ swim team, said Principal Pat Gardon.

“He was an excellent student” and graduated with a grade point average in excess of 3.9, Gardon said. “Kevin was a sincere, dedicated young man.”

Students at the school learned of Kryst’s death in an announcement near the end of the day Tuesday.

He is the second West Bend West graduate to die in Iraq.

Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Wichlacz was killed in February 2005 while on patrol in Babil province. Wichlacz graduated in 2002. He had joined the Marine Reserves in April of that year.

Kevin Kryst enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison after his graduation.

His younger brother Brad doesn’t remember Kevin talking about a military career while in high school.

But the Marine Corps attracted his attention while he was at Madison, and Kevin Kryst attended Marine Officer Candidates School during summers at college, his brother said. Kevin Kryst was commissioned an officer when he graduated from UW-Madison in 2001.

“He wanted to fly, and he thought his experience would be an adventure,” said Brad Kryst, 25, a Tempe, Ariz. resident.

“He flew Cobra helicopters in Iraq.”

At Camp Pendleton, Kryst was assigned to Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, Marine Aircraft Group 39 of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Brad Kryst said he had discussed with Kevin the danger of serving in Iraq, and even the possible loss of his brother’s life.

“It’s always on your mind,” he said.

Kevin Kryst is the 65th service member from Wisconsin to die in Iraq.

In addition to his parents and his brothers Brad and Dan, a student at UW-Stevens Point, Kevin Kryst is survived by a sister, Jenny, 21, a student at UW-Oshkosh, and two other brothers, Justin, 21, a UW-Stevens Point student; and Tim, 18, a student at UW-La Crosse.

Kryst, Captain Kevin Michael

Captain Kevin Michael Kryst, age 27, of West Bend, Wisconsin, died Monday, December 18, 2006, in the Al Anbar province in Iraq, while serving his country as a United States Marine.

He was born September 17, 1979, in Maywood, Illinois, to Glenn and Elizabeth (nee Dziak) Kryst.

Kevin was a pilot of a Cobra helicopter in the Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

He is survived by his parents, Glenn and Elizabeth of West Bend; his fiancee, Sara of West Bend; and five siblings, Bradley of Mesa, Arizona, Daniel of Stevens Point and Jennifer, Justin and Timothy, all of West Bend. He is further survived by his maternal grandparents, Sy and Betty Dziak of Illinois; his paternal grandparents, Clifford and Rita Kryst of Michigan; and other relatives and friends.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held Friday, December 29, 2006, at 6 p.m. at ST. FRANCES CABRINI CATHOLIC CHURCH in West Bend, with the Rev. Jeffrey Haines presiding. Inurnment will take place in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

Visitation will be Friday, at the church only from 3 p.m. until 5:45 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Fisher House, which provides housing for the families of wounded military personnel are appreciated.


A 27-year-old Marine helicopter pilot from West Bend was killed in Iraq, only weeks after beginning his second deployment there, his mother said Tuesday.

Captain Kevin M. Kryst died Monday from injuries sustained in fighting in al-Anbar province, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

“He died from injuries due to being hit by a fragment of a mortar,” said his mother, Elizabeth Kryst.

“We’re proud of him,” she said. “But we’re at a loss without him.”

Kryst was the oldest of six children. He had four younger brothers and a younger sister.

He graduated from West Bend West High School in 1997 and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001. He enlisted upon graduation.

Kryst’s great-grandfather had been a Marine.

“It was something he always wanted to do,” Elizabeth Kryst said.

Kryst was first deployed in Iraq during 2004.

“He was always very active, very busy. He had a need for speed, and that’s what he got flying helicopters,” Elizabeth Kryst said.

Her son was part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, she said.

Patrick Gardon, West Bend West principal, issued a statement Tuesday saying that Kryst had been on the school’s swimming team and part of its wind ensemble.

“He was very proud to serve his country and was a quality individual of high character, dedication and commitment, as well as an excellent student,” Gardon said.

As of Tuesday, 64 military personnel from Wisconsin have died in the war in Iraq.

NOTE: Captain Kryst was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 5 July 2007.


Kevin M. Kryst liked everything fast – and the sky seemed the limit. “He was always very active, very busy. He had a need for speed, and that’s why he got flying helicopters,” said his mother, Elizabeth. Kryst, 27, of West Bend, Wis., died Dec. 18 during a mortar attack in Anbar province. He was assigned to Camp Pendleton and was on his second tour. Kryst graduated from high school in 1997. He played French horn in a school ensemble and was a member of the swim team, said Principal Pat Gardon. “He was an excellent student” and graduated with a grade point average in excess of 3.9, Gardon said. “Kevin was a sincere, dedicated young man.” Kryst was commissioned an officer when he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001. Kryst’s great-grandfather had been a Marine. “He wanted to fly, and he thought his experience would be an adventure,” said his brother, Brad. “He flew Cobra helicopters in Iraq.” When Kryst was last home in August, he got engaged to his school sweetheart, Sara. He also is survived by his father, Glenn. “We’re proud of him,” his mother said. “But

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine: Capt. Kevin M. Kryst

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Capt. Kevin M. Kryst of West Bend, WI:

Kryst gravesite “Capt. Kryst’s bravery is a shining example of the determination and courage that makes our nation’s armed forces strong. Kevin’s loved ones have lost a devoted family member and our country has lost a courageous Marine. Maria and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family, friends and fellow Marines who mourn his loss.”

Kryst, 27, died Dec. 18 as a result of wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Capt. Kryst, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

LeRoy DeRonde III

PFC LeRoy DeRonde III—November 2012 Shipment Honoree

From his sister

LeRoy DeRonde
LeRoy DeRonde

Leroy was a great brother and my family and I miss him everyday. He had such a big heart and could always make us laugh.

Army Pfc. LeRoy DeRonde III was coming into his own, distancing himself from a hard-luck childhood and stepping up to take care of his family.

Leroy grew up in Jersey City, NJ. Leroy was the middle child of three, leaving behind his younger brother Harold, 18, and older sister Jennifer, 33.

When Leroy’s mother passed away from cancer in 2002, his cousin Owen and fiancé became his legal guardian. Leroy was 16 at the time. “At 20, it clicked for him. He would have to put the family on his shoulders to survive,” said Owen, adding that was when he began to seriously consider the military.

Leroy briefly attended Dickinson and Lincoln High Schools. After getting his GED and taking a few college credit courses, PFC DeRonde left home for basic training in January 2011.

In three months’ time he was one of five basic training graduates to be promoted to E-2 (private) and was awarded the 1st Battalion 48th Infantry Regiment Order of the Dragon Soldiers. DeRonde was then sent to be stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas. He was assigned to the 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

In 2012 Army Pfc. LeRoy DeRonde III was sent to Afghanistan. In support of Operation Enduring Freedom Leroy and another fellow Soldier were attacked and killed by enemy forces in the Chak-E Warkdak District, on 27 May 2012.

“Army Pfc. LeRoy DeRonde III paid the ultimate price defending the United States of America and the principles which our country was founded,” said Healy the Governor of New Jersey. “Losing such a young life is a terrible tragedy and during this difficult time, I extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends. As we mourn with them, I hope they find comfort in knowing Army Pfc. DeRonde died a hero fighting for his country.”

Governor Healy signed an Executive Order that all flags be flown half-staff in honor of PFC DeRonde.

PFC LeRoy DeRonde III will be buried at the cemetery’s 9/11 Veterans Memorial section with full military honors.

Articles courtesy of: Jersey City Independent, CBS local, and bobcat.ws

U.S. Army soldier from Jersey City killed in Afghanistan

by Julia, Terruso and Richard Khavkine-The Star-Ledger


PFC LeRoy DeRonde II
PFC LeRoy DeRonde II

The 22-year-old Jersey City man saw the military as a way to do that, his family said, in a plan that began to form eight years ago when his mother, Elizabeth, died of cancer. Her absence shook the family’s foundation and then profoundly galvanized her eldest son.

“He realized he was going to put the family on his shoulders. The military was his calling to do that financially,” DeRonde’s cousin, Jason Owen, said last night outside the soldier’s family’s apartment on West Side Avenue. “From the time he decided that it was full steam ahead.”

But DeRonde was one of two soldiers killed on May 27 when their unit was attacked in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said today. DeRonde, assigned to the 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss Texas, died in the Wardak District in central Afghanistan.

DeRonde is at least the 44th service member with ties to New Jersey to be killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001. An additional 102 service members from New Jersey have died in Iraq since 2003.

“His life didn’t take hold until he was 22,” said Owen, who noted DeRonde sent monthly checks home. “He was really taking the reins, he was ascending. The real tragedy here is from an upbringing that wasn’t so good he was working … to help his family and to better himself.”

DeRonde was born and raised in the city’s Bergen neighborhood. As a child, he kept mostly to himself.

His father, Leroy DeRonde Jr., said he loved playing PlayStation 3 with his brother, Harold, who is now 17.

“The two wSoldier 2.JPGere inseparable,” DeRonde’s father said. He added that since his son’s deployment a year ago, they would talk using the online video chat service Skype.

 photo of Leroy DeRonde III on his Facebook page.
photo of Leroy DeRonde III on his Facebook page.

“If he wasn’t on, my hands would shake,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing.”

Through the years, and in DeRonde’s short life, the tight-knit family has known both the fear of loss and tragedy.

At 5, Harold was diagnosed with leukemia and given three weeks to live. The family went to Disney World on a Make-A-Wish vacation. It was the only real vacation they ever took together, Leroy DeRonde Jr. said. By luck, Harold survived.

But when their mother died, DeRonde made a plan that required groundwork. He got his GED and then 15 college credits, both of which were required before he could join the Army, which he did in January 2011.

DeRonde, his family said, was kind of person who, when he figured out where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do, nothing could stop him.

After basic training, DeRonde’s family saw him off at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. — as one of a handful of graduates to have been immediately promoted to a Private E2.

“He’d been so quiet, but he knew everyone, they knew his name,” his half-sister, Jennifer Owen, said. “In six months, he really came out of his shell.”

Ahmed Altaie

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie—October 2012 Shipment Honoree

U.S. service member unaccounted for in Iraq

“I am Lt Col Joel Elsbury. In my 18 years with the USAF, I have been stationed in the United States, Germany, Iraq, and Turkey. I have traveled both officially and as a tourist to over 20 countries around the world. I have been blessed to meet and work shoulder-to-shoulder with patriots who, while they were not born in the United States, have honorably served and sacrificed in the Defense of a Nation they love. Staff Sgt. Ahmed Al-Taie is one such patriot. Born in Iraq, SSG Al-Taie immigrated to the US in the late 1970s when Ahmed was just 12 years-old. Later, he was naturalized, and joined the US Army as a 35P, Army Linguist. I cannot imagine the moral courage it must have taken for SSG Taie to answer his adopted country’s call to Arms in the land of his birth.

Without hesitation, SSG Taie not only deployed in defense of HIS Country, he willingly paid the ultimate price and gave his life for our freedom! I am so grateful the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project is honoring the memory of this patriotic American, whose courage led him to escape tyranny and embrace freedom, but whose greater courage led him to return to Iraq, fight, and die to end that tyranny.

I’m humbled to be SSG Taie’s brother in the profession of Arms, and honored to remember his patriotism and courage!”

Family seeks answers about lone U.S. servicemember unaccounted for in Iraq

BY; Matthew M. Burke
Stars and Stripes
Published: February 16, 2012
Ahmed Altaie

In almost nine years of war, more than 1.5 million U.S. troops served in Iraq, with 4,408 losing their lives. The last 40,000 crossed into Kuwait by Dec. 18.

Except for U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie.

Altaie is the lone U.S. service member unaccounted for from operations in Iraq.

The Iraqi-born reservist from Michigan was abducted more than five years ago in Baghdad after breaking the rules and sneaking outside the wire to meet his Iraqi wife.

In the days after he went missing, 3,000 coalition soldiers conducted more than 50 raids to find their comrade. At least one soldier was killed; others were wounded.

As the trail turned cold, Altaie’s family and friends grew frustrated by what they say is the U.S. government’s lack of effort to find him.

“They won’t talk about it,” Altaie’s ex-wife and self-described best friend, Linda Racey, said from Michigan recently. “They feel he’s not worth looking for. They’re not doing anything.”

Ahmed’s brother, Hathal Taie Altaie, said the family hasn’t been able to get answers from the government since the abduction.

“We need to know the truth,” he said. “Some say he’s in Iran. Some say he’s dead. At least they could find out if he’s alive or not.”

Now, after almost no movement in the case in about a year, the family has latched onto a glimmer of hope.

On Drill
Ahmed on drill to the far left

On Dec. 26, Altaie’s family was watching Al Arabiya News Channel when a man they say might have information about the missing solder appeared before the cameras.

Qais al-Khazali is the leader of Asaib Ahel al-Haq, an Iranian-backed militia responsible for abductions and the deaths of U.S. troops. In 2010, the group claimed to be holding Altaie and offered to exchange him for detained members of its group. On TV, Khazali pledged to put down his weapons so his group could join the Iraqi government. He said their “duty” to fight the Americans was over.

If Khazali was sincere about joining the Iraqi government, might he be willing to return Altaie, the family wondered?

“They claim they have Ahmed,” said Hathal Altaie. “They are probably liars, but we don’t know. This guy must know something. The U.S. government needs to pressure the Iraqis.”

No clear answers

U.S. and Iraqi officials remain quiet.

Raifet Ahmad, a spokesman for the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, said he had asked Baghdad officials what was being done to find Altaie and whether the government had questioned Khazali. He didn’t receive an answer.

Asked the same questions, the White House declined to comment, as did the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and the FBI. The Army, the office of the Secretary of Defense, Pentagon officials and the CIA directed inquiries to the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, which is responsible for investigating missing servicemembers from “past” conflicts.

The Missing Personnel Office took over the case from U.S. Central Command on Dec. 1, 2011, but spokeswoman Maj. Carie Parker said her office has yet to receive all of Altaie’s case files. She “couldn’t say” when the office would be up to speed on the case.

“In fact, we are still combing archives on old cases from as far back as World War II,” Parker wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes.

“Staff Sgt. Altaie’s status is ‘missing-captured’ and his status will not change until there is information that indicates otherwise,” she said. “The U.S. government is actively pursuing any and all leads thoroughly.”

Parker said efforts would be coordinated through the embassy in Iraq and directed Stars and Stripes to an embassy public affairs officer who never responded to calls or emails.

The perceived lack of cooperation between agencies doesn’t sit well with Altaie’s family. Hathal Altaie met with representatives of all of the major agencies about a month ago and learned nothing, he said.

“No one gave us any clear answers,” he said. “All we hear is, ‘We’re working on it. We’ll let you know.’ To be honest, they’re not doing enough.”

The family even pleaded its case to the office of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

“My office continues to monitor this case and to ensure that Staff Sgt. Altaie’s family is kept informed of any developments,” Levin said in a statement released by Kathleen Long, a spokesman in his office.

Racey, who has spearheaded efforts to keep the case active, said she believes Levin’s office has “blown off” the family, as have the other agencies.

Racey and Altaie have known each other for more than 20 years and remained close after amicably divorcing in 2001, she said. Once the point person for the family, Racey said the agencies won’t talk to her anymore because she kept pushing for answers.

“I’ve been on the case for five years and three months,” she said. “I’ll never give up on this.”

Last moments

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaei second from right
Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altae in fatigues

Altaie and his parents left Iraq when he was 12, his mother, Nawal, said. An aviation enthusiast, Altaie found work in Michigan as a mechanic on airplanes, but was laid off in 2001. The couple divorced that year.

The Ann Arbor Muslim was operating on auto-pilot, a man without a plan, until a visit to Iraq in 2003 with his family. Nawal said that her son fell in love again with the country of his birth, especially Baghdad. During his trip, which lasted for several months, he met the woman who would become his wife, Israa Sultan, according to Racey.

The family left Iraq once again as the security situation worsened, Nawal said.

Family members said Altaie was committed to going back to Iraq, and the fluent Arabic speaker could have taken lucrative contractor jobs there as a translator. Instead, he joined the Army Reserve in December 2004, according to Hathal. Family members said he wanted to support the mission in Iraq — as a proud American citizen and soldier. In 2005 he returned, as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Baghdad, and acted as a translator in the embassy for VIPs.

Altaie and Sultan were married in 2006, his wife told the Detroit News in June, her only interview since the abduction. The marriage would have been against military regulations, since troops are not allowed to marry citizens of a country that the U.S. military is involved with in a conflict. However, Army spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell would later say that Altaie had not broken the rules because of the timing of his marriage.

On Oct. 22, 2006, Altaie called Racey to make sure she was taking her insulin for her diabetes, she said. It was Ramadan, and Altaie told her he had given his new wife’s family $100 to buy a leg of lamb for the feast. He told them he would return the next day at 4 p.m., Racey recalled.

Racey could hear ordnance exploding in the background. What he said next now haunts her.

“He said, ‘It’s getting real dangerous here,’” she said. “‘If I die, Linda, I want to be buried next to you,’” he told her. “That’s the last thing he said.”

The next day, Altaie stole off from Baghdad’s Green Zone in civilian clothes on a new scooter for an unauthorized visit to Sultan, Racey said, according to her early conversations with the FBI and other agencies.

There are discrepancies regarding the circumstances, but Army officials acknowledged that Altaie was married to Sultan. Altaie wasn’t a bad person, Racey said, but he was known to sometimes break the rules. When he worked at the airport, for example, he would leave work early, asking someone to punch out for him later. He had snuck out of the fortified zone to visit Sultan on several occasions without consequence. This time would be different.

When the 41-year-old linguist, then a specialist, arrived in the Karradah neighborhood of Baghdad, his phone rang. It was the man who had sold him the scooter. The caller heard cars approaching and then listened to Altaie’s cries as he was confronted by several armed masked men before he reached the front door of Sultan’s family home.

Racey said that the FBI interrogated the scooter salesman later, and he told them he heard Altaie’s wife screaming the name of a neighborhood thug. Altaie broke free from the kidnappers and took shelter in Sultan’s family home, hiding in a closet. But the kidnappers came in and took him, cuffing and stuffing him into a Mercedes before driving off.

“This last mistake cost him his life, possibly,” Racey said.

Failed deals

Racey believes the kidnapping was an inside job. “The [kidnappers] knew he would be there at 4 o’clock,” she said.

Sultan now lives in Michigan, where she was taken “for her own protection” as a “spouse of a U.S. Army soldier,” according to Mark Edwards, a spokesman for U.S. Army Human Resources Command.

Hathal Altaie said the family hadn’t spoken to her in more than a year.

Initially, the U.S. government offered a $50,000 reward for information that led to Altaie’s recovery. Caldwell said that in the days after the abduction, U.S. forces conducted dozens if raids, including some in the Shiite militant stronghold of Sadr City. They detained men who confessed to the kidnapping, but said they sold Altaie to another group.

The Ahl Albait Group issued a statement claiming responsibility for the kidnapping. Altaie’s family was confident that he would be returned unharmed, because they believed a U.S. soldier would have value in negotiations.

Four months after Altaie was abducted, a video with no sound surfaced on a militant website showing the soldier standing, reading from a piece of paper. His mother said she barely recognized her handsome son.

“He looked very different from when I saw him [last],” Nawal said, adding that he appeared to have been beaten and looked as if his teeth had been broken.

“I never saw him again,” Nawal said.

In 2009, according to media accounts, an insurgent group tried to coordinate an exchange for Altaie’s body, but the body they handed over belonged to another missing American service member.

Then in 2010, a Reuters reporter said he had spoken with the leader of the kidnappers, a man claiming to be from Asaib Ahel al-Haq. He claimed that Altaie had been killed in 2006 by another group and that they had received the body.

Around the same time, relatives saw a statement from Asaib Ahel al-Haq on a website saying they wanted to exchange Altaie for detainees.

That never happened.

Cold case

The family is tired of the roller-coaster ride.

They say the U.S. government has kept them in the dark, and they have lost faith in their efforts.

Racey now believes she knows why the case has gone cold.

Three months ago, she got an anonymous call from someone who claimed to be on the Army search team. The man told her the Army considered him absent without leave for venturing outside the Green Zone and wouldn’t spend any more money or risk any more lives trying to find him.

Altaie’s family said they are speaking out now because they want to put those rumors to bed. True, he broke the rules, Racey said, but he had left before and always returned. It shouldn’t mean that the U.S. stops looking, she said. People who think he went over to the other side are dead wrong, Racey said. Altaie loved his job in the military and wanted to make a career out of it. Racey is in constant touch with Altaie’s parents, and said Nawal believes her son is alive and prays for his safe return.

Racey doesn’t share her optimism.

“I don’t think he’s still alive,” she said. “I’m a realist.” Still, she said she has dreams in which Nawal calls her to report a miracle, that Altaie has been found alive.

Today, Altaie would be 46. He has been promoted twice while in captivity. Friends and family remember him for his passions: music, flying airplanes and dressing well. Nawal said she will never forget her son’s smile.

“I’m always thinking of him, wishing he would come back,” Nawal said. “We want to know if he’s dead or alive. Please.”

[email protected]


Benjamin Zieske

Benjamin T. Zieske – September 2006 Shipment Honoree

Pfc. Benjamin T. Zieske

Source: By Jason B. Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle


Benjamin T ZieskeBenjamin Zieske was an outgoing kid with little use for rules or authority as a student at Olympic High School in Concord, CA. So principal Rinda Bartley was stunned by the straight-arrow soldier who visited the school a few months ago while on leave from Iraq.

“He was wearing his fatigues. He looked very sharp,” Bartley said of Zieske, who graduated in 2003. “He was very happy. He had a strong sense of mission and was very proud of what he was doing there.”

Army Pfc. Benjamin T. Zieske, 20, was killed Wednesday in an improvised explosive device blast as his unit patrolled Kirkuk on foot, Army officials said Monday.

A small wreath with a black sash reading “Beloved Son” hung on the front porch of the family’s home Monday. Laurie Zieske recalled her son as a “fireball” whose lively Gemini personality and smile — his nickname was “Squints” because his smile was so broad — could light up a room.

“When everybody was kind of down and depressed, he was trying to get everybody up. He had tons of energy,” she said. “He was just a little fireball. There’s nothing I wouldn’t give just to have another moment with him.”

Benjamin T ZieskeZieske joined the Army because he was told he could get a good education through the military.

He was an infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. He enlisted in March 2005, arrived at Fort Campbell in July and was deployed to Iraq.

During his short career, Zieske received the National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and Oversees Service Ribbon.

The Army transformed a cocky boy who seemed to be going nowhere into a confident young man with a clear future, said those who knew him.

“He was a student who struggled in school. School wasn’t easy for him,” Bartley recalled, a smile spreading across her face. “He had very strong ideas about things and the way things should be. He was very articulate, very intelligent, and following the rules was not on the top list of his priorities.”

But the Army seemed to give Zieske’s life structure and clear instructions for the way things should be.

Benjamin T ZieskeWhen Zieske visited Olympic High, he impressed students and teachers with his presence, and he talked candidly about his experiences in Iraq, Bartley said.

“He’d dropped a lot of weight, put on a lot of muscle,” she said. “The kids were intrigued and a little disturbed. They hear so much about the war and here he was living it.”

Some students asked Zieske if he was afraid in Iraq.

No, he said, he wasn’t.

“I think that surprised the kids,” said Bartley.

From the Office of the Governor of California

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Concord Soldier: Pfc. Benjamin Zieske

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Benjamin Zieske of Concord:

Benjamin T Zieske“Pfc. Zieske’s courageous service reminds us of the dangers the men and women of our armed forces face daily. Maria and I join all Californians in offering our deepest sympathies to Benjamin’s family and friends for their loss. As we honor his memory we must also keep all of our brave servicemen and women in our thoughts and prayers.”

Zieske, 20, died May 3, 2006 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated during a dismounted combat patrol in Kiruk, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, KY.

In honor of Pfc. Zieske, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Soldier Tributes


“Zieske was probably one of the best guys I knew.  He was always there, dependable, and he could always take a joke.  But my favorite thing about “Z” was that he was always smiling and joking with you.  No one could keep him from laughing for long.”

-SPC James Drebelbis

“Benjamin Zieske, we had some really good times together.  You always found a way to make a real bad day good.  You came to Iraq in high spirits, and kept the Scouts morale high, too.  You keep looking down on us and I’ll keep looking up when I need you.  I love you, man.”

-PFC Scott Laube

“PFC Zieske was one of the Soldiers who sought nothing but self-improvement.  His motivation and perseverance was to be envied by all.  As his team leader, I was in charge of his training.  His battlefield knowledge improved every day to the extent of him training his fellow Soldiers on the things he knew.  There was no greater feeling than when ‘Z Man’ was giving a class on the operation of our team’s equipment.  ‘Z’ was an exemplary Soldier and a role model to us all.”

SGT Gustavo Gutierrez, Team Leader

“PFC Zieske was one of the best Soldiers I ever had.  His attitude and willingness to work was infectious.  He was the life of our platoon.  If you were having a bad day, all you had to do was go talk to ‘the Z Man,’ and you would instantly feel better.  We all loved him and miss him tremendously.  We pray for his family and friends and wish them the best.  May God ease their pain.”

SSG James Auttonberry, Squad Leader

The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Benjamin during the month of September 2006 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Our thoughts and prayers remain with Benjamin’s family and friends today and in the years to come.

Unconditional Love


Well I have done about all I can do this year.  Our wounded numbers are down, but the seriousness of the wounds is up. Today I went to deliver some items to ICU and as I stood outside a room waiting, I saw an image I wish everyone could see.  It was not that he was a typical, good looking man about mid 30’s.  It was not the fact that the man in the ICU bed was hooked to every machine possible.  It was not the fact that he was an amputee.  It was that as he slept, his wife sat next to him with a loving, but concerned look on her face.  His bed sat quite a bit higher than her chair and she sat there wrapped in her shawl watching him as he slept.  It was an image that I had a difficult time looking away from.  I really did not look at him, but at his wife.  If it was at all possible to look at someone with so much love that it heal them, she would have been the one.  When the staff was finished with what I had delivered, I moved on, but that image will be forever in my mind.

Tonight I stood outside the USO and listened to new troops talk about all the wonderful, beautiful things that had happened since arriving at LRMC.  Most would think that a strange statement, since they were all patients.  However, several were thankful for the 10 minute hot shower.  One had not had a shower for over two weeks.  That shower was almost all cold water.  Another man said his last shower was 12 days ago and he had hot water, but it was either all hot or all cold.  Another said that he had thought rain had completely disappeared.  He said he had not seen rain since March 30th.  Another waited to speak and all he said was, “this is paradise,” and he felt like he might finally be able to relax.

Today I worked 9.5 hours in honor of Sharon Buck, LHCP’s treasurer.  Sharon has been with LHCP from almost the very beginning.  She manages to keep the Board and all our finances organized.  Her help has been invaluable!  Thank you, Sharon!

Giving Back


Today has been a nasty cold and rainy day.  I seem to have been all over the place with different tasks.  This morning I stocked some of our towels and pillows on the shelves.  We ran to Ramstein to pick up water and sodas for the Tuesday and Wednesday dinners.  We ate lunch pretty quickly and then went back to the hospital.  We received a call from one of the wards asking if we had reading glasses.  I asked what prescription strength and it was a minor correction.  The Chaplain’s Clothes Closet does not have any, but I had my personal pair in my purse and would deliver them to the patient.

On the way to drop off the glasses, I ran into the patient that I mentioned in Saturday’s post.  He was sitting at the end of the hall.  He saw me first and spoke.  It was obvious something was not right.  I asked him if he was feeling ok.  He said that they are readmitting him.  I could not believe how his appearance had changed just from Saturday.  I sat and talked to him for a short period of time.  My heart just broke.  He was on the verge of tears, but he managed to hold it.  He said he just wanted his body back.  I asked him what ward was he going to and he told me he did not know.  He had been waiting for someone to come and take him up.  I told him that I could take him upstairs if he could get permission.  I pushed him to the front desk and they gave permission for me to take him up.

I started pushing him in the chair and realized I still had the reading glasses in my hand. I got him to his ward and into his bed.  He has lost so much weight in just the few weeks I have known him.  He has no bum to cushion him while he sits.  His collar bones are now very present.  He managed to roll from the chair to the bed and I could tell he was in a lot of pain, but he did it.  We got him covered, but his tech said he needed to get into a gown.  I asked him if there was anything more I could do for him and he said no he was just happy to get help going to his new bed.  I explained I had to deliver the reading glasses but would be back.  I went down a couple more wards and delivered the reading glasses.  That patient asked me how I found them and I told him it was not difficult.  He said they were very nice glasses and could not believe we found him a pair.  He was extremely grateful.  There was no reason to tell him they were mine.  He is the patient in the hospital with not much to do but read and watch TV.  I will tell Brian what I did; he will roll his eyes and say I would give away all my clothes if I was not always so cold.  LOL, it was all good.

I went back to see my very young patient, but he was still being in processed so I told him I would be back.  I contacted his liaison and had him bring the patient his lap top from his outpatient room.  When I went back before I was off work, he had his lap top.  I took him a little stuffed squirrel wearing a denim jacket, and a DS game system that I brought from the states.  I also gave him the last IPOD Shuffle and ITunes card so he could download some music.  When I pulled the Shuffle from my purse, he just looked at it and then he took it in his hands and just stared at it.  I know he knew what it was, but I don’t think he could believe he would be able to listen to music.  I had to tell him twice that it was his.  He reached out his hand for me to take and then he leaned forward for me to give him a kiss on the cheek.  I left him with his gifts and told him I would be back tomorrow.

This is the difficult part of the trip.  So many of the patients come and go while I am here, but they are moving forward in their care.  The last few days of my trip, I leave our patients to continue on with the LHCP mission, but I feel my heart is being ripped out each time I must leave them while they still finish their care here.

This young man will eventually go back to the Lone Star state.  I wish he was closer so I could continue to check in on him.  He has a home forever in my heart.

I worked 9 hours today thanks to Callie Jordan.  Callie has been a member of LHCP for almost six years.  She is also a member of Stitches of Love, creating beautiful handmade items for our wounded warriors.  Thank you for all your years of support, Callie!

Rhine River Cruise


Saturday was our weekly cruise down the Rhine River with our patients. It was a little windy, chilly and cloud cover. Our patient in the wheel chair went. Germany is not as wheel chair friendly as the USA. We got him on the boat and then the restaurant but not without lifting him and some pulling. I believe he looks worse than he did on Thursday, but he has a lot of spunk and spirit. This is the last lunch LHCP will pay for while I am here. Thanks to many of you who made donations toward this trip, we have served up a lot of love and relaxation with the lunches on these trips. As we started to return to LRMC the weather turned nicer. Figures doesn’t it.

I worked 11 hours today.


Time to wash clothes.

Too Funny


Yesterday and today were very slow days for patient arrival.  We did have some come in the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet to pick out their free clothing.  After all these years, they are still surprised that so many people back home still care enough to ship care packages.  One of the young men that came in could not believe that we gave him a brand new duffel bag.  He asked how it was possible and one of the volunteers told him who I was and what LHCP does.  She told him that all the duffel bags were from LHCP and he just stood there like a deer in headlights.  Then he gave me a big hug and said to tell all of our donors thank you.

This afternoon I was out distributing supplies.  When I returned to the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet, one of our wounded warriors saw me before I saw him.  As soon as I walked into the Closet, he jumped from around the corner and scared me.  He was laughing so hard, he could barely speak.  I do not handle being scared very well.  My son scared me once in the dark and I took him to the floor with one punch.  He was on his back with legs and arms in the air laughing and saying, “Mom it is me, it is Jeremy.”  My daughter turned on the light before I stopped.  Thank goodness I did not hurt him; even though I was punching him, he thought it was very funny that he scared me that bad.  The patient had the same reaction as my son.  I told him that he was lucky that I did not hurt him.  He just kept laughing saying it would have been worth it.  MEN you really have to wonder about them sometimes!

Today I also got to Ramstein AFB to visit the CASF.  The Ramstein CASF receives patients who are medically evacuated from the Middle East to LRMC.  The CASF also helps evacuate patients back to the Middle East or stateside.  LHCP has been supporting them for several years.  They seem to be well taken care of right now.  The items they are in need of will come from the LRMC surplus.  We may be able to delete them from our web page since they are well covered from the local community.  That is great news!!

I have been tasked with being the A driver for the wounded warriors tour tomorrow.  I hope it is not much walking, because my feet are starting to swell.  I walked 5 miles just in the hospital today.

That’s it for now and it is bedtime once again.  I worked 9 hours today.

My work Saturday, Monday, and today was in honor of Deadra Nelson.  Deadra is another long-time supporter of LHCP and I want to thank her for her years of support to our wounded warriors!

WOW, It Is So Green here


The weather has finally turned nice again.  This morning, as patients arrived, I was standing outside talking to a LRMC employee.  The first thing I heard from one of the patients is something I have heard year after year.  “WOW, it is so green here,”  as he was staring at the grass next to the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet,  and said, “that grass over there looks so nice, I would just like to go lay in it.”  Just as he finished saying this, a loud pop from the parking lot was heard.  I am not sure what it was, but it sounded like it could have been someone smashing a soda can on the asphalt.  As far as I could see, each of the newly arrived patients from the field jumped and exclaimed every word imaginable.  One patient went down to a knee immediately; even though they were safe in Germany, their bodies and minds were still on high alert.

We have cleared out almost 12 feet of storage space and now the winter jackets can be brought in from the bunkers before it snows.  I have never seen so many beanie hats, rosary beads, decks of cards, stationary, pens and pencils in my life.  I spoke with several patients tonight and even though it is a nice evening, (about 60 degrees) the patients are arriving from 100 degree weather and they are very cold.  I ran into one patient on Sunday that had on all of his military winter gear.  He had the flaps down over his ears and the facemask covering his mouth and nose.  He said he could not believe how cold it was here.  It takes them about a week to get their bodies adjusted to the temperature here in Germany.

I would say 99% of the pillows on the shelf in the Chaplain’s Clothes Closet are LHCP Stitches of Love pillows.  There were several pillows that got lots of comments today.  When I looked at the pillow it had a LHCP tag with the name Kitty Grandma of NC, Maria is that right?  I know it is your mom.  (That’s right, Karen.  She has 8 grandkitties!)  The pillow had tropical fish on it and another had cartoon characters.  The cartoon went first and one of the fish went second.  Callie, you did good, great job!

Dealing With Guilt

September 15, 2012 Saturday

I was up at 6:00 AM to be ready for the wounded warrior tour down the Rhine River, again.  We had a smaller group today and the weather was not as nice as our last outing.  I talked to one young man who said he felt guilty for being here as a patient.  When I asked him why, he said that he looks at some of the patients and thinks to himself, “I am not shot and I am not an amputee.”  He went on to say that he felt like he should be able to control his condition by himself.  I have observed over time that many, if not all of the patients have guilt of one sort or another.  They have guilt for leaving their families back home, they have guilt for leaving their comrades down range, they have guilt about being sick or wounded.  I don’t know how many times I have said, “it is normal to have guilt; however, if you are not at 100% you will not help anyone.”  There is a reason they are all here, but sometimes the psychological guilt they harbor can be worse than the actual reason that brought them to the hospital.  Guilt is a difficult emotion to come to terms with and control.

I worked 11 hours today

September 14, 2012 Friday

I worked 7 hours today.

September 12, 2012 Wednesday

It is a cold, rainy and windy day. I worked 8 hours today.

LHCP’s Honorees


Today was spent doing the same as I have done on previous days; I pushed two carts around the hospital trying to clear out more excess donations.  However, there is still so much more to clear out.  Tomorrow will be spent packing up excess donations to go to LHCP units in Afghanistan.  This afternoon a mom, who is flying back with her son, needed a pair of comfortable shoes and I had to go to the storage room to find her size.

As many of you already know, LHCP dedicates donation shipments each month to a different fallen military member.  Each box shipped has an 8×11 address label and above the address is our current honoree’s story.  Because we buy new, sturdy boxes many of our LHCP boxes are utilized to store donation items.

Upon entering the storage area where the shoes are kept, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of honoree labels staring me in the face.  Looking at the shelves in front of me, I could see our LHCP boxes lying on their side with the bottom of the box toward the wall and the address labels facing the front.  The amount of honoree stories on those boxes took me off guard and I found myself standing in the middle of a 6×18 room looking at all of their names.  I felt like I could not breathe for a moment because I realized that so many states were represented on these labels, but more significant was the fact that they represented fathers, sisters, sons, and cousins, etc.  My eyes jumped from box to box and my brain was taking a mental note; there is Amy, Ryan, Jason, Daniel, Riley, and Buddy.  I felt honored and sad at the same time.  Suddenly in the midst of all this, the silence was broken by a young man at the door asking for my help; my attention shifted to assist with his needs.  The young man was in need of directions and once I gave him the information, it was back to the Chaplain’s Closet with shoes in hand; leaving the many LHCP boxes behind once again, along with the each of the honoree’s short, sweet stories of devotion and sacrifice.  I felt the donations were in good company, watched over by those brave fallen men and women waiting for the next wounded warrior in need of items the boxes contained.

Today I worked 10 hours thanks to Callie Waddell.  Without her support over the many years, LHCP would be short hundreds of pillows and other items.  Callie has been a very big donor and supporter.

Thank you Callie