One Female Soldier's Story, (With Thanks To All Soldiers), On Memorial Day

The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Expedient ...
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From O magazine, a powerful story of Ashton Goodman, a young female soldier who served in Afghanistan, and who died there:

Under leaden winter skies, nine air force and army soldiers, bulky with gear and weapons, waited on rain-darkened gravel near tan, mud-splashed Humvees to begin the drive north to their small forward operating base (FOB) in Panjshir Province. The youngest, Air Force Sr. Airman Ashton Goodman, 21, stood beside me in camouflage uniform with pistol, carbine, knife, heavy boots, and helmet, explaining that as a vehicles “op” (short for vehicle operator dispatcher), she maintained and drove Humvees, Land Cruisers, “whatever has wheels.” She added that she couldn’t wait to drive one of the newer Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected all-terrain vehicles, a paleolithic-looking monster built to survive roadside bombs, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and ambushes. A former supply truck driver on mine-infested roads in Iraq, Goodman was about two months into her new deployment in this relatively peaceful, “model” province.

Established in 2005 by combined American military, civilian, and NATO forces, the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), working closely with the Afghan people, was responsible for diverse humanitarian efforts, from medical clinics and vaccination programs to schools and engineering and agricultural projects. Although at the time its 70-member team was the smallest of the 26 PRT sites throughout Afghanistan, FOB Lion was considered a showcase. I was going there to write about the five female soldiers on that team.

My initial impression of the diminutive, blue-eyed, athletic Sr. Airman Goodman that bleak afternoon at Bagram was of a wholesome G.I. Jane action figure come to life. She’d missed her dream of becoming a fighter pilot, she later told me, by being one inch under air force height requirement.

I wish I’d met Goodman. I’ve interviewed female — and male soldiers; Kayla Williams’ book “Love My Rifle More Than You” offers a searing look past the headlines to the gritty (no showers) life she lived. After she returned home, she and her husband, a fellow soldier, suffered from PTSD and TBI, traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, caused by the explosions of IEDs. Coming home sometimes offers little peace.

I once interviewed the father of a soldier whose helicopter had toppled off a mountaintop, killing all aboard. When he answered my call, he offered to email his son’s eulogy, which he was in the middle of writing. Until you speak to a soldier or their loved ones, the personal cost of war can remain something distant and abstract, a photo or a story or something on TV.

Their collective sacrifice is invisible to most of us, and extraordinary.

Thanks to all who have served, and still do.

A Record 5,704 Marched Today In The New Mexico Desert, Honoring WWII Veterans

Route taken during the w:Bataan Death March. S...
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Those who know their WWII history know about the Bataan Death March, one of the most brutal events in the Pacific. Every year for 22 years, walking a marathon 26 miles through the White Sands Missile Range, thousands have come to honor their memory and sacrifice, including the dwindling number of survivors.

Today’s march had a record 5,704 people registered — one-third of them women — from every state, Canada, Britain, even Cuba.

I learned about it when I interviewed Boy Scouts who did this grueling march, and wrote about it for Boys’ Life.

From the El Paso Times:

• Among the marchers will be 29 “Wounded Warriors,” military personnel who have been seriously injured in combat. Although many of them have lost limbs, they will use prosthetics to complete the 26.2- or 15.2-mile memorial marches.

• Twenty-three survivors of the Bataan Death March will attend today’s event. Of those, 11 are from New Mexico.

• About 1,800 Americans who were surrendered to Japanese forces on April 9, 1942, were from New Mexico. They were forced marched to prison camps or to awaiting “Hell Ships,” which took some of the prisoners to Japan to work as slave laborers.

• The Army ROTC Department at New Mexico State University began sponsoring the memorial march in 1989. In 1992, WSMR and the New Mexico National Guard became co-sponsors of the event and it was moved WSMR, where it’s been every year since – except 2003.

From the Las Cruces Sun-News, which interviewed a few marchers:

SSG Higgs, Jonathan

I am a native of Las Cruces, and have been in the Army for 7 years. I have recently moved to Ft Bliss this January and am happy to be back “home”. I have always wanted to do the Bataan Memorial March, as i grew up realizing the history behind it. This year I am honored to finally be a part of the tradition.
Angela Tolliver

We have a group participating but we are only doing the short march. Next year we will do the long march (not all of us are fit enough this year to do the long one.)

My sister is currently in the 515th in Iraq, her unit will be doing a march of their own in Iraq to honor the people who were in the Bataan Death March. We are participating for all the soldiers Past, Present and Future in the 515th. They have always been there and will continue to be there for us, this is just one way that we can show our appreciation.