September 14, 2014

Star-Spangled Banner Waves at Fort McHenry

By Navy Seaman Kameren Guy Hodnett Navy Public Affairs

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A replica of the original Star-Spangled Banner is hoisted during the Dawn’s Early Light Ceremony at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Sept. 14, 2014. The ceremony commemorates the date and time 200 years ago that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words that would become the national anthem. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Pamela J. Boehland

BALTIMORE, Sept. 14, 2014 – Visitors and special guests watched today as members of the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), with the help of War of 1812 re-enactors, hoisted a 15-star, 15-stripe, full-size replica Star-Spangled Banner flag over Fort McHenry here at the “By Dawn’s Early Light” flag-raising ceremony.

Star-Spangled Banner replica

At precisely 9 a.m., guns blasted and the crowd of onlookers fell silent as service members raised a 30-foot by 42-foot replica of the flag that 200 years ago inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” which would later become America’s national anthem.

“It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this historic site and historic city of Baltimore as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of our Star-Spangle Banner,” said former Secretary of State and retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, the event’s guest speaker.

The American flag is “a piece of cloth I have loved all my life and have served under for over 40 years,’ Powell added.

Celebrating history

The special ceremony capped a weeklong series of events at the fort for Baltimore’s Star-Spangled Spectacular, a celebration commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore and the national anthem.

The fort played host to a number of special events and activities including commemorative ceremonies, living history demonstrations and interpretive programs during the Star-Spangled Spectacular.

The city’s celebration, which concludes Sept. 16, also includes visits by more than 30 ships from the U.S. and foreign nations, as well as an airshow performance by U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.

September 14, 2014

Dr. Biden Cheers-on Athletes at Invictus Games

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, right, and Britain’s Prince Harry flank Team USA athlete Air Force Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. at the 2014 Invictus Games in London, Sept. 13, 2014. Del Toro was injured while serving in Afghanistan in 2005. White House courtesy photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2014 – Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, traveled to London to cheer on Team USA athletes as they compete in the 2014 Invictus Games.

More than 400 competitors from 14 nations are participating in the inaugural Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded warriors to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their countries.

Games named after English poet’s work

The games are named after William Earnest Henley’s 1875 poem titled “Invictus,” which he wrote while recovering from an intensive surgery that saved his second leg from being amputated. The games, which are taking place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, began Sept. 10 and run through tomorrow.

The United States is one of 14 teams participating, and includes 98 military athletes: 22 from the Army, 20 from the Marine Corps, 22 from the Navy, 22 from the Air Force and 12 from U.S. Special Operations Command. Of the service members, 53 are active duty and 45 are veterans.

Praising athletes’ energy, spirit, resilience

Team USA’s athletes “are incredible,” Dr. Biden told NBC “Today” show host Lester Holt this morning.

She praised the athletes’ “energy, and their positive spirit and their resilience.”

“They make Americans so proud,” she added.

Meeting Prince Harry

Dr. Biden watched some basketball at the Invictus Games today with Britain’s Prince Harry.

After attending the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Prince Harry was inspired to host an international adaptive sports event in the United Kingdom. The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who holds the rank of captain and continues to serve in Britain’s armed forces, announced the 2014 Invictus Games in March.

Dr. Biden commented on Prince Harry’s role in founding the Invictus Games. The prince, she said, “saw our Warrior Games in Colorado, and so now he’s brought it to a global scale, and we have 14 countries and 400 athletes competing and it’s been great.”

Pre-games barbecue for USA athletes

Last week, Dr. Biden and the Vice President hosted a barbecue for Team USA athletes at their Naval Observatory home in Washington, D.C. In her welcoming remarks, Dr. Biden told the athletes that the barbecue “is not just a way to celebrate your achievements in making the U.S. Team; it is also a small way of saying thank you — to our heroes — thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”

“You inspire me … you inspire all Americans,” she added.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden launched the “Joining Forces” initiative that supports U.S. service members, military veterans, and their families.

 

September 11, 2014

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September 11, 2014

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Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Infantry “The Old Guard” — gather the giant garrison flag being lowered from the side of the Pentagon, where it had hung beside the impact site of the 9/11 terrorist attack, Oct. 11, 2001. The flag was ceremonially retired. DoD photo by Jim Garamone

The Story of the Pentagon 9-11 Flag

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2014 – Anyone who saw the American flag unfurled at the Pentagon on Sept. 12, 2001, knows how Francis Scott Key felt two centuries ago when he was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The day after the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, the scene was still chaotic. Only essential military and civilian workers were required to come to the building. Parking was at Reagan-National Airport, as all U.S. airspace was still closed. As employees got off the Metro train, Pentagon police stood with weapons examining everyone’s badge. Those without a Pentagon ID were told to keep traveling on. The conversation in the building was about friends who remained missing.

At the site, firefighters were putting out the final embers that were burning in the roof. Then word came that President George W. Bush wanted to see the damage to the Pentagon himself.

Garrison flag

No one knows who originally came up with the idea for unfurling the flag to the right of the damaged areas on the building, but Army Maj. Gen. Jim Jackson, then the Military District of Washington commander, made it happen.

He sent over to nearby Fort Myer, Virginia, for the largest flag they could find. The U.S. Army Band had a garrison flag the largest authorized for the military and sent it over.

During Bush’s visit to the impact site, 3rd Infantry Regiment soldiers and Arlington, Virginia, firefighters unveiled the flag and draped it over the side of the building. Then they stood and saluted.

It was a moment that quickened the heart. The United States had been attacked, the Pentagon had been hit, friends were gone, thousands were killed in New York and Pennsylvania, yet the American flag still flew.

That flag signified the unconquerable nature of the American people. Those inside the building already were preparing to take the battle to the attackers and bring them to justice.

The flag flew on the side of the building for the next month. Each night, workers illuminated it with floodlights. Members of A Company of the 3rd Infantry Regiment — “The Old Guard” — took the flag down Oct. 11.

A treasured symbol

The flag is soot-stained and ripped at one spot where it rubbed up against the building. It now is in the care of the Army’s Center of Military History.

It is treasured as the 9/11 generation’s Star-Spangled Banner, because they, like Francis Scott Key during the British attack on Baltimore in 1814, looked to the flag for inspiration and comfort.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Infantry — “The Old Guard” — prepare Oct. 11, 2001, to lower the garrison flag that draped the side of the Pentagon beside the impact site where terrorists crashed a hijacked airliner Sept. 11, 2001. The flag was ceremonially retired. DoD photo by Jim Garamone

September 10, 2014

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DOD SEPTEMBER 11TH EVENTS

The Department of Defense will host two events at the Pentagon to help commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Memorial Observance Ceremony

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin E. Dempsey will host the president at an observance ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Pentagon Memorial to honor the memory of those killed here in the 2001 terrorist attack. This is a private remembrance for the family members of those lost in the terrorist attack and is not open to the general public.

The ceremony, including a wreath laying, moment of silence, and playing of America the Beautiful, will begin at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT and is expected to last less than one hour. The president, secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will deliver remarks.

There will be in-town White House Travel Pool media coverage of the event. The event will be also televised and streamed live via the DoD News Channel and http://www.defense.gov/live/.

Courtyard Remembrance Ceremony

Washington Headquarters Service’s Director of Administration and Management Michael Rhodes will host Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin E. Dempsey at a 9/11 remembrance ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. EDT in the Pentagon’s center courtyard.

The secretary, chairman, and Director Rhodes will provide remarks at this event. This ceremony is an opportunity for the Pentagon community to come together in observance of the thirteenth anniversary of Sept. 11th.

Journalists without a Pentagon building pass who wish to cover the courtyard remembrance ceremony will be picked up at the River Entrance only. Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification. Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

This event will be also televised and streamed live via the DoD News Channel and http://www.defense.gov/live/.

 

August 21, 2014

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July 3, 2014

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Independence Day Message

As Written by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington, D.C.,

Friday, July 04, 2014

As we celebrate Independence Day, I want to express my gratitude to the men and women and their families who serve our nation at home and abroad. Thank you for all you do to help keep America safe.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed 238 years ago, 56 patriots pledged their lives and their sacred honor to defend our inviolable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They left a legacy that lives on today through generations of Americans who have made that same pledge to boldly stand up against tyranny, oppression, and persecution. Their devotion to duty is just as strong, as is their willingness to risk their lives for each other and our country.

Those who serve in our armed forces, and their families, have given so much to defend the ideals and free institutions we often take for granted. Their dedication reminds us that preserving America’s liberties comes with a heavy cost. Today, as we celebrate our nation’s birth, let us honor their service and strive to be worthy of their tremendous sacrifices.

God bless you, our great nation, and all who endeavor to defend it.

Happy Fourth of July!

July 3, 2014

Terminally Ill Army Wife Gives Birth to ‘Miracle’ Baby

By Elaine Sanchez DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, July 3, 2014 – When doctors told Yesenia Ruiz-Rojo she was terminally ill, the pregnant 21-year-old put all thoughts of herself aside. Just save my baby, she asked.

Less than four months into her pregnancy, Ruiz-Rojo was facing aggressive liver cancer and given two to four months to live. But rather than give up, the Army wife and her team of providers at Brooke Army Medical Center here decided they were going to beat the odds.

Four months later, Ruiz-Rojo gave birth to a healthy boy named Luke.

“I love spending time with my son; he’s beautiful,” she said over the phone from a hospice center in California. “I’m so thankful for him.”

She shared a picture of her family on Easter. Her 5-year-old stepson close behind her and with her baby, in a mini suit and tie, cuddled on her lap. Luke, who turned five months old in June, has received the gift of his mom’s care for longer than anyone expected.

Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raul Palacios, BAMC’s chief of interventional radiology, calls Ruiz-Rojo’s case “a medical miracle.”

“She told us all she wanted was for her baby to live,” Palacios said. “She was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen.”

Ruiz-Rojo arrived at BAMC in her 15th week of pregnancy. Previously healthy, she had become alarmed by a severe bout of abdominal pain and vomiting and went the emergency room at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas. Tests revealed a tumor covering more than 65 percent of her liver. She was transferred to BAMC two days later.

When BAMC providers heard about the case, they knew the situation was dire. Based on current literature and case reports, a pregnant woman with this type of aggressive cancer hadn’t lived very long, let alone long enough to deliver a healthy child.

“There was nothing out there we found in conventional medicine that would offer her any hope,” Palacios said. “We weren’t aware of anything in the past that had been tried successfully before.”

Unwilling to give up, experts from more than a dozen specialties met to explore every possible treatment option.

They couldn’t remove the tumor because of its size and location, and traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, would cause harm or terminate the patient’s pregnancy, explained Army Col. (Dr.) Stephen Harrison, BAMC’s chief of hepatology and consultant to the surgeon general for gastrointestinal and liver diseases.

Palacios suggested they try a fairly new therapy called selective internal radiation therapy with Y-90, which places tiny radioactive particles in the patient’s artery that feeds the liver tumor which then either shrinks or dies, he explained.

BAMC is the only Defense Department facility that uses this treatment, he noted, which is FDA approved to treat primary liver and colon cancer.

“After meticulous consideration, the entire team felt there would be minimal risk to the patient and her baby,” Palacios said. “We held our breath, acknowledged Mrs. Ruiz-Rojo’s desires, and made the best educated decision with what we knew at the time.”

Interventional radiology completed her Y-90 treatment in six weeks, after which there was nothing left to do but monitor her health and pregnancy, Palacios said, noting some early encouraging signs that the tumor was responding. Ruiz-Rojo returned to the hospital at 32 weeks and delivered her baby on Jan. 9.

Her providers were thrilled at the outcome.

“The fact that at a moment’s notice everyone dropped everything to come up with a plan speaks volumes about BAMC’s dedication and commitment to care for our patients,” Palacios said.

“If the team hadn’t looked outside the box, we wouldn’t have had the chance to give her a viable baby,” added Army Col. (Dr.) Scott Kambiss, chief of OB/GYN. “Just the idea that someone would have that opportunity to bring forth life … that was incredible for all of us. Every day is a day she didn’t have before.”

Shortly after, Ruiz-Rojo moved to California to spend time with her family and new baby while relatively symptom-free. She has lived there since mid-March creating happy memories her son can view in pictures and videos as he grows up.

“She didn’t want cancer treatments that would impair the quality of time she has left with her baby,” Palacios said.

Ruiz-Rojo’s journey may end soon, but because of a caring team of BAMC providers, her baby now has a shot at a long and happy life, Palacios said.

“I hope someone tells Luke someday how brave his mother was to allow doctors at BAMC to participate in her health,” he said.

“The fact that she is able to be with her child and experience this time with him is amazing,” Harrison added. “It’s heartwarming for all of us.”

Ruiz-Rojo’s mother, Olivia, expressed her gratitude in Spanish while at her daughter’s bedside in hospice.

“Luke is a beautiful baby — so active, so playful,” she said over the phone. “All my daughter wanted was to have her baby and have some time with him. She was able to do that, thanks to the caring doctors at BAMC.”

July 1, 2014

Iraq Situation Report: July 1, 2014

by Ahmed Ali, ISW Iraq Team, and Heather L. Pickerell
2014-07-01 Situation Report
2014-07-1 Control Zone Map

 

 

 

July 1, 2014

Baghdad Joint Operations Center at Full Capacity

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2014 – The joint operations center opened by U.S. forces in Baghdad to help the Iraqi government combat Sunni insurgents is fully operational and assessments of Iraqi units have begun, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren said today.

Warren provided Pentagon reporters with an update on the 180 personnel who arrived in Baghdad to establish the operations center.

“The six teams of advisers are on the ground beginning their assessment of Iraqi units in and around Baghdad,” Warren said.

President Barack Obama ordered the teams to Iraq earlier this month following gains made by Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who have overrun towns and cities across Iraq’s northern and western provinces as they move closer to Baghdad.

The JOC team provides synthesis of information provided from the six assessment teams and conducts liaison coordination, the colonel explained.

“These are very well-trained personnel that are used to operating in these types of environments,” Warren said of the six assessment teams. “They are very skilled at protecting themselves.”

Additionally, the colonel said, the JOC is sharing information with the Iraqis as assessments are made.

“We’ve long had an information-sharing arrangement with the Iraqis,” Warren said. “That arrangement continues.”

There is a tentative plan for a second operations center to be positioned in the north, he added. But that, he said, hasn’t happened yet.

“Right now, the JOC is collecting the information being provided by the six assessment teams [and] collating it, so we’re still in the assessment phase now,” Warren said.

“To be clear, we’re providing

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