Thursday, December 31, 2009

Remember the Fallen

On this last day of 2009, take a moment to remember our fallen comrades.

"We came upon him sitting in the sun,
Blinded by war, and left. And past the fence
There came young soldiers from the Hand and Flower,
Asking advice of his experience.

And he said this, and that, and told them tales,
And all the nightmares of each empty head
Blow into air; then, hearing us beside,
'Poor chaps, how'd they know what it's like?' he said.

And we stood there, and watched him as he sat,
Turning his sockets where they went away,
Until it came to one of us to ask
'And you're--how old?
''Nineteen, the third of May.'"

--The Veteran, Margaret P. Cole

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TRICARE Program for Gray Area Reservists On Its Way

December 17, 2009
No. 09-76
FALLS CHURCH, Va. - A new program will offer "gray area" reservists the
opportunity to purchase TRICARE health care coverage.

While qualified members of the Selected Reserve may purchase
premium-based coverage under TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS), retired National
Guard and Reserve personnel did not have TRICARE health coverage options
until they reached age 60.

Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for
2010, that's all changed.

The new provision will allow certain members of the Retired
Reserve who are not yet age 60 ("gray-area" retirees), to purchase TRICARE
Standard (and Extra) coverage. TRICARE Extra simply means beneficiaries
have lower out of pocket costs if they use a network provider.

"We're working hard to coordinate all the details of
eligibility, coverage and costs, and expedite implementation of this
important program," said Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, deputy director of the
TRICARE Management Activity. "This is a major benefit program with
implementation on the same magnitude as TRS. It will require detailed
design, development and testing, but qualified retired reservists should be
able to purchase coverage by late summer or early fall of 2010."

While the health care benefit provided for gray-area retirees
will be TRICARE Standard and Extra - similar to TRS - the new program will
differ from TRS in its qualifications, premiums, copayment rates and
catastrophic cap requirements. The program is tentatively called TRICARE
Retired Reserve.

The new statute requires premium rates to equal the full cost of
the coverage. That is the major difference contrasted with TRS, where the
statute provides that Selected Reserve members pay only 28 percent of the
cost of the coverage. Premiums for the new gray area retiree program will be
announced after program rules are published in the Federal Register.

This new program offers an important health coverage option for
Reserve and National Guard members who served their country honorably before
hanging up their uniforms at retirement, said Hunter. For more information
about TRICARE benefits go to http://www.tricare.mil.

About TRICARE Management Activity and the Military Health System
TRICARE Management Activity, the Defense Department activity that
administers the health care plan for the uniformed services, retirees and
their families, serves more than 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries
worldwide in the Military Health System (MHS). The mission of the MHS is to
enhance Department of Defense and national security by providing health
support for the full range of military operations. The MHS provides quality
medical care through a network of providers, military treatment facilities,
medical clinics and dental clinics worldwide. For more about the MHS go to
http://www.health.mil.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"A Different Christmas Poem"

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

-- by Michael Marks

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An Excellent Post by SGT Danger

My Thoughts on War
Posted by sgtdanger on Dec 1, 2009

"So far, I’ve pretty much avoided writing about anything beyond my personal experiences in Afghanistan. But now, with the President’s upcoming* announcement of a revised strategy for Afghanistan, I feel like I need to share some of my thoughts on the big picture issues."

Read on...

Afghanistan and Pakistan Policy Page

The Department of Defense has launched the official Afghanistan and Pakistan Policy page. Visit the site for up-to-date information and media, including a video and transcript of last night's Presidential address regarding the new way forward in Afghanistan.

Read more: http://www.defense.gov/afghanpolicy/afghanpolicy.aspx