Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Serving In The Shadow Of God

For those who serve it the shadow of God this Christmas . . .

I'm Still Here

I watched you decorate the tree this year,
As I always have since our first Christmas together.
I loved seeing you string the lights around and around.
I adored the careful movement of your hands as you hung each ornament.

Most of all, I loved the glow on the faces of our children,
As they saw your creation come to life in our home.
They watched with me as you danced your way up and down the ladder.
I hope you know my hand was always there to keep you steady.

The children did not notice when you paused for a moment.
They did not see your tears falling on that old ornament we found together years ago.
Do not worry, my love. They did not see.
I was holding them. I was holding them.

Please forgive me for leaving you all so soon.
I tried holding on in those last few moments.
I tried so hard.
But, too much of me had been torn away.

As blood and life passed from me, my last thoughts were of you.
The greatest pain I felt was knowing how my violent end would hurt you.
Your heart was going to break and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I could not bear to look at your face when they told you.

Did you see me behind the man who came to our door?
Did you feel me by your side when they handed you the flag?
Yes, I'm still here, my darling. Forever, I am with you.
You and our children will never be alone.

Nor am I alone, here above.
For there are countless others with me, my brothers and sisters in arms.
I am surrounded now, not by the dark enemy who tormented us in life,
But by a loving army of angels in uniform.

We gave our lives in service to you
And to people we never met.
From heaven, ours souls are forever devoted to you.
We carry the eternal honor of guarding your safety, your freedom, your liberty.

In life we stood guard to protect you, to hold back all that might bring you harm.
We walked the walls of the cities, the streets of the villages, the jungles, the deserts, the battlefields.
Day and night we patrolled on foot, on horseback, on the land, in the air and on the sea.
Now, we stand guard in eternity, serving in the shadow of God.

I watched you decorate the tree this year.
As I always will, until we are together again for Christmas.

Copyright 2015 - Raymond Bechard

Monday, November 24, 2014

US Military Brings Relief To New York Residents Stranded by Massive Snowstorm

Members of the New York National Guard were out in force Wednesday in western New York, where snow had piled up to six feet in some areas
"We are deploying the National Guard to ramp up efforts to keep western New York residents safe and to assist storm recovery efforts in any way possible," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "Travel bans and advisories remain in effect, and I urge drivers to stay off the roads so that our state agencies and the National Guard can assist those that need help."

About 240 Soldiers and Airmen were working Wednesday, and more are expected Thursday, Guard officials said.

Soldiers of the 152nd and 827th Engineer Companies will deploy eight front-end loaders, seven Bobcats, and 10 dump trucks to assist in snow removal operations as directed in Erie County, where hard-hit Buffalo is located. 

Three front-end loaders were in action Tuesday night, and one loader aided the New York State Police and the New York State Thruway Authority in freeing a bus carrying the women's basketball team from Niagara University, which had been stranded.

A National Guard Initial Response Force of 20 Airmen and five Humvees from the 107th Airlift Wing, at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will deploy to assist in traffic control duties, while a second Initial Response Force from the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion, in Rochester, will deploy 20 Soldiers and five Humvees to assist in snow removal at an assisted-living center in West Seneca.

Two more Initial Response Forces, totaling 40 personnel and 10 Humvees -- one from the 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse and one from the 27th Brigade Combat Team -- were to mobilize and deploy Wednesday to the Buffalo area, to assist as needed.

The 174th was preparing to send two of its snow-blowing runway trucks out to Buffalo on Wednesday with two drivers in each vehicle.

Additionally, the National Guard is providing 35 Humvees with two Soldiers in each Humvee to assist in traffic control as directed by local officials from the Erie County Emergency Operations Center.

These troops, from the 53rd Troop Command elements based in Central New York, will mobilize Wednesday, and likely deploy to the region Thursday, officials said.

This will bring the New York force package in support of local authorities up to 310 by the end of the day Thursday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

US Military Coordinates Humanitarian Assistance in Southern Africa

Southern Accord 14

In partnership with Southern African Development Community partner nations, U.S. Army Africa, as the U.S. Africa Command lead agent, is conducting a combined joint exercise designed to increase the ability of both forces to respond to humanitarian disasters and peace keeping operations, while enhancing interoperability. Southern Accord 14 begins today in Lilongwe, Malawi, and will run through July 30. The exercise brings together participants in a command post exercise, which will focus on integrating SADC partner nations with U.S. forces to conduct planning for peace enforcement operations. This year, Southern Accord 14 will emphasize developing the abilities to plan, deploy, employ, sustain and redeploy a rapid deployment force in response to a regional crisis.
The U.S. Army participates annually in Southern Accord to improve interoperability and capacity to conduct joint and multinational planning and operations. Southern Accord provides unique and dynamic training opportunities for participating military partners, while also promoting relationship-building between militaries and local communities.
Headquartered in Vicenza, Italy, U.S. Army Africa is the Army service component to the U.S Africa Command, the U.S. regional command that oversees and coordinates U.S. military activities in Africa. Southern Accord 14 is the latest in a series of exercises involving U.S. military forces and partner militaries in Africa with the aim to establish and develop military interoperability, regional relationships, synchronization of effort and capacity-building.
Southern Accord is conducted annually to improve joint coalition interoperability and capabilities to respond to the most likely regional security and humanitarian situations. Future exercises will continue to build on progress made during previous exercises in terms of participating nations' ability to conduct joint/multinational operations, and improve multinational interoperability and capacity. The exercise is rooted in partnerships and recognizes the need for multinational solutions to common challenges ranging from transnational violent extremism to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Engagements like these build readiness of African soldiers, thus increasing effectiveness of operations. In turn, it promotes regional stability and security. The U.S. Army's participation in Southern Accord increases cooperation and collaboration with land force partners in Africa and enhances mutual understanding and demonstrates the U.S. Army's commitment to strengthening our relationships across the continent.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An American Hero Continues Changing Lives

Last Thursday, the Dr. Laurie Roth radio show featured a true American Hero, Anthony Donald CoggiolaAnthony is leading a cutting-edge movement to develop, Veteran Owned Controlled Environment Agriculture based businesses. If you're tired of bad news, just listen to Anthony's vision and encouragement. The interview is at this link.

Friday, July 11, 2014

How The US Army is Going Beyond The Horizon in 2014

"Beyond the Horizon 2014" (BTH) is a U.S. Army South exercise deploying military engineers and medical professionals to Guatemala and the Dominican Republic for training, while providing services to rural communities. BTH, conducted annually, is part of U.S. Southern Command's (SOUTHCOM) humanitarian and civic assistance program. Working closely with host nation forces and civilian organizations, BTH teams provide medical, dental and engineering support.

Under the strategic guidance of SOUTHCOM, Army South has planned and conducted BTHs since 2008, including missions in the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. U.S. personnel from the Army Reserve, National Guard and active-duty forces construct schools and clinics and provide medical and dental support. During each four-month BTH exercise several smaller events called medical readiness training exercises take place, which consist of a team of military medical and dental professionals who work in austere areas to gain valuable real-world training, while also providing medical services to people in need of treatment. 

The BTH series of exercises have provided care to hundreds of thousands of people and built or renovated dozens of facilities in the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility.

This year, U.S. forces, working with the approval of the governments of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, selected several sites to provide engineering, medical and dental support. U.S. forces will work alongside host nation forces as well as a variety of government and non-government organizations to build schools, clinics and conduct Medical Exercises. Each BTH typically involves and trains about 1,400 U.S. service members and 150 host nation personnel.

Army South, working with SOUTHCOM, sister services and partner nations, will continue to build upon its strong partnerships in the region by training and providing humanitarian assistance, while engaging with the Allies and building partner nation capacity.

BTHs are a major part of Army South's regional engagement efforts and afford the opportunity to train service members while providing needed services to communities throughout the region. The relationships built and sustained with our partners help tremendously in building security and stability in the region.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wounded Warriors - No Effort Is Too Great For Those Who Have Fallen

The U.S. Army Wounded Warrior program (AW2), is a major component of the Army's Warrior Care and Transition Program. It is a dedicated program to provide personalized support to severely wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers and their families wherever they are located.

Recognizing the changing face of warfare and advances in Army Medicine, the Army took an historic step in creating the AW2, in 2004, making this tenth anniversary of the program.
AW2 has established a network of more than 200 Advocates at military treatment facilities and Veterans Affairs facilities across the country to support severely wounded, ill and injured Soldiers of all Army components. These advocates are backed by a team of transition professionals with expertise in employment, finance, human resources and navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Army expanded its support to wounded, ill and injured Soldiers in 2007 when it established the Warrior Care and Transition Program, encompassing AW2 and new Warrior Transition Units. At these WTUs, AW2 Advocates collaborate closely with the Soldiers' interdisciplinary team and ensure continuity of care when the Soldier returns to the force or transitions to veteran status.
These combined efforts provide personalized support to more than 24,000 Soldiers and veterans throughout the recovery and transition process. AW2's expertise has impacted almost every aspect of the recovering Soldier's experience, from the Comprehensive Transition Plan to career and employment readiness to adaptive reconditioning to community support resources.
The success of the programs is due in large part to transition professionals who share the breadth of their experience to write policies and guidance affecting all wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. These policies will continue to shape the future of Wounded Warrior program and all transitioning Soldiers and veterans.
Warrior care is a sacred obligation for the Army. Regardless of what the future holds with the Army drawing down, this mission will remain strong. The Wounded Warrior program will continue to find smarter, more effective ways to provide the best possible support and continuity of care to each Soldier, veteran and family served.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is the World's Largest Humanitarian Organization? The Answer Will Shock You

Question: What is the World's Largest Humanitarian Organization?
Answer: The United States Military.


As just one example, each of the six US Army Service Component Commands (ASCCs) has created a Contingency Response Force to react quickly to incidents within its area of responsibility and provide support for humanitarian assistance.

Most ASCCs devote company-sized elements that can be augmented as needed to the mission, tasking them to provide responsive, scalable, tailor-made packages ready to deploy in as little as 18 hours to conduct full-spectrum operations for contingencies as varied as humanitarian assistance, site security, noncombatant evacuation, diplomatic facility security and combat operations if necessary.

Here is something you did not hear in the news: In February, Italy-based paratroopers from U.S. Army Europe's Contingency Response Force - the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) - responded within hours to deliver generators to Slovenia, and in partnership with the Slovenian 1st Brigade restored electricity to thousands of citizens left without power after a severe ice storm.

Many of the Contingency Response Forces can draw on other forces as well, including joint service capabilities, to augment their response capacity. Army Central forces can be scaled up to brigade level and call upon a combat aviation brigade for support.

For instance: Africa Command has the East Africa Response Force, a battalion-sized task force that includes Navy and Air Force personnel; an approximately battalion-sized Marine air-ground task force; and other forces at its disposal. Contingencies in Africa are also supported by U.S. Army Europe's Contingency Response Force.

Army contingency response forces and other emerging efforts, such as the building of regionally aligned forces and continually increasing multi-service, multinational cooperation, are helping to define the future of global security efforts by building U.S. and multinational formations that can be called on to quickly join forces to counter a wide array of humanitarian needs.

Building contingency force "packages" helps keep the Army ready to efficiently and effectively fulfill the myriad missions it performs. Meeting those challenges takes agile, responsive, tailored forces prepared to operate in diverse, complex environments to engage effectively with colleague services and multinational partners, and provide support to a wide range of agencies and civil authorities to promote and protect the security of people in need.

·        U.S. Army Europe
·        U.S. European Command

Friday, March 28, 2014

We Are Honor Bound

Honor Bound” is a television series that tells the stories of American military personnel and the people they help through humanitarian aid and Assistance Operations. These military professionals are redefining what it means to be a soldier. Moreover, through their mission to win the hearts and minds of diverse populations, they are transforming the military and the very definition of victory.

Many of their assigned efforts include building schools, roads, bridges, hospitals, clinics and other necessary facilities. However, in thousands of quiet ways, soldiers often go beyond the prevue of their deployments to provide personal help to local populations, often at great risk. In doing so, they create a more fertile ground for freedom and liberty to flourish.

The focus of “Honor Bound” is to accurately document these smaller, local projects such as digging wells, food delivery, and providing medical care. Most often this work – much of it voluntary – goes on unseen, except for the individuals whose lives are forever changed by it.

The goal of this project is to make the American public aware of the life-saving work being carried out by US soldiers every day all around the world under harsh and dangerous conditions. We believe there is an enormous appetite for authentic and compelling reports from the field of battle that demonstrate the full investment of military personnel.

Two 30 minute pilot episodes are currently in post production as directed by the Honor Bound’s creator, Raymond Bechard, an American journalist and author. Recently, he traveled with U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan to capture the stories of “Operation Care,” a volunteer program benefiting Afghan children as well as members of the Army’s Agricultural Development Team from the Texas National Guard.