Monday, January 31, 2011

Patrick Smock runs the Miami Marathon

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Paula Taylor of Task Force Bastogne
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011 - After tossing and turning for most of the night, Army Maj. (Dr.) Patrick Smock finally rolled out of bed at 3:30 a.m. yesterday. He'd trained hard for four months, and the day finally had arrived for the 745th Forward Surgical Team orthopedic surgeon to run the 26.2-mile Miami Marathon -- thousands of miles from Florida amid the concrete barriers and concertina wire that line the perimeter of Forward Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan.

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Army Maj. (Dr.) Patrick Smock of Liberty Hill, Texas, runs the Miami Marathon satellite race at Forward Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2011. His brothers, also doctors, ran the Miami Marathon in Florida later that day. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Richard Daniels Jr. 
As he arrived at the start line, a few stars still shone through the clouds and dotted the sky. Soon, the sun would begin to crest over the snow-capped mountains.
As Smock and the other marathoners took off down the dusty hardtop road, they soon came across a group of up-armored trucks getting ready to roll out on a convoy.
"That really puts things in perspective," Smock said later. "You see that and you think, 'This [race] is just for fun.' By the second lap, those guys were already gone, doing their job."
At the halfway mark, Smock said, he was doing well, but the going got tougher with about five miles to go. "I hit my wall about 21, 22 miles," he said, "and started to need to take a break -- walk it out and make sure I keep fueling myself up. I used that finish line as my motivation."
Smock, who lives in Liberty Hill, Texas, said he and his brothers, Michael and David, had planned to run the Miami Marathon together for almost a year
"We are all doctors, all went to the same school, and are all very active, but have never run a marathon together," he said. "When I found out that I would be deployed and unable to run with them in Miami, it was disappointing, but I decided that it would not stop me from running 'with' them, even if it was from halfway around the world."
Shortly after arriving at Fenty, Smock said, he contacted the Miami Marathon race directors and inquired about a satellite run. They were receptive and were happy to sponsor the run. "They also sent T-shirts, medals and several other goodies to pass out to all the participants," he added.
Smock said he wore out three pairs of track shoes running laps around the airstrip to train for the event. The soles on the pair he wore for yesterday's race, in fact, were starting to separate.
Though Smock missed an opportunity to be with his brothers when they ran the marathon in Miami just 10 hours after he finished his, he said he plans on running in future events together with them, barring another deployment.
"I don't know if we will run Miami together in the future -- that will most likely depend on how our schedules work out -- but we are already tentatively planning to sign up this summer for the Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid [New York] in 2012," Smock said. "Hopefully, no deployments interfere with those plans. I don't think I could find a place to swim in Iraq or Afghanistan."
The 26.2 miles of the satellite course at Fenty comprised eight laps around the airstrip. Smock finished the race in 3 hours, 27 minutes.
"I crushed my goal," he said. "I had run two marathons before, and I did each of those in just under four hours. I wanted to run 3:30 today. I think my official clock time was 3:27 and some change. I'm so excited right now!"
Related Sites: 
NATO International Security Assistance Force 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Free hip and knee replacements at DMCH

Ludhiana : A mega charity event `Operation Walk 2011' was inaugurated at DMCH on Saturday. Padam Brij Mohan Lal Munjal, chairman Emeritus, DMCH managing society, inaugurated the event.Under this project, hip and knee replacements of more than 50 poor needy patients would be done for free. The patients have been selected from all over Punjab after extensive recruitment camps. This would be carried out in association with a team from the USA led by Dr Paul Khanuja, director, Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopaedics, USAOperation Walk Maryland is a non-profit, volunteer medical service organisation providing free surgical treatment to patients in developing countries. 
DMCH managing society secretary Prem Kumar Gupta said patients would get all the services, latest imported implants and medicines totally free of cost under this project. He said: “A team consisting of about 45 people, including surgeons, anaesthesiologists, nursing staff, surgical technologists, physiotherapists and other supporting staff has reached DMCH and has brought with them equipments, implants and consumables to be used during this project.“ Dr Mohd Yamin, professor and head of orthopaedics said the patients would be operated with state of the art technology and equipments from the USA. He said the patients would also be given free walkers and post-operative information booklets. Dr Deepak Jain, assistant professor of orthopaedics, who is coordinating the project, said preparations for this project have been going on for more than a year to make it a success.
He said many young patients, who have lost their work due to disabling arthritis and are now dependent on their families, have been included in the project. This project would be carried out in newly renovated operation theaters and wards, which have been specially constructed with inputs from experts at USA. These operation theatres and wards have been equipped with the latest facilities and gadgets to make them at par with the international standards. Faculty from orthopedics department Dr Rajnish GargDr Harpal S SelhiDr Sanjeev MahajanDr Pankaj Mahindra and Dr SK Kohli made significant contributions to the project. 
During his visit to the hospital, Munjal also inaugurated newly renovated Neuro Ortho OT complex, Orthopedics ward, Pediatrics ward, Radio diagnosis block and emergency area, appreciating progress of the hospital.:-Rector Kathuria (Photo:Sukhjit Alkra)

Personal hygiene and health, occupations discussed

Afghan women attend a shura, or meeting, hosted by U.S. Marine Corps female engagement team members assigned 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team (RCT) 2 at Forward Operating Base Jackson in Sangin district, Afghanistan, Jan. 18, 2011. The topics discussed were personal hygiene and health, occupations, and what tribes and villages the women come from. RCT-2’s mission was to conduct counterinsurgency operations in partnership with the International Security Assistance Force. (DoD photo by Sgt. Artur ShvartsbergU.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Friday, January 28, 2011

CMC will host International Master Class & workshop

Dr HS Bedi & Dr Masih with cardio vascular team during press conference  
LudhianaThe CMCH (Christian Medical College & Hospital)  here has been chosen to host the prestigious International Master Class on Venous Disease – 2011Dr Harinder Singh Bedi, Head, Cardio-Vascular and Thoracic surgery Department, CMCH, said, “In view of the extensive work on vascular disease being done in the CTVS Dept of CMC & H it was decided by an international panel to hold the workshop in Ludhiana”.Dr Bedi had also delivered a guest lecture on redo-surgery at the last International Workshop. Dr Bedi is credited with being a world leader and the pioneer in beating heart surgery and in the world’s first use of the radial artery in treatment of vascular disease of the leg.

Dr. HS Bedi & Dr Kanwal Masih before media
Renowned surgeons,including Prof Jean-Francois Uhl (France), Dr Ted King (USA), Dr Mark Malouf (Australia) and Dr Rene Milleret (France), will be assisting the CMC surgeons so that the latest techniques could be used to help people of this region. According to Dr Bedi, chronic venous disease is quite common in India as most of our population works in the standing position, leading to pressure on the veins which dilate. It is estimated that over a lakh die due to venous disease (DVT and PE) each year – which is the equivalent of the disappearance of a city the size of Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Dr. Bedi talking to media
The other members of the local faculty are Dr A Joseph, Dr A Gupta, Dr V Abraham, Dr V Bhasker, Dr A Bhardwaj, Dr P Gupta and Dr S Samuel. The conventional therapy of varicose veins is a major operation called stripping. It entails a long cut, pain, admission and a slow recovery.A revolutionary new technique called ‘Endovenous Thermal Ablation’ with a Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) has been introduced and perfected at the CMC. It is this technique which will be discussed in detail at the workshop. Patients will have the advantage of having the best International experts in Ludhiana to lend their surgical skills. Officiating Director Dr.Kim Mammen, Medical Superintendent Dr.Kanwal Masih were also present on the occasion.Dr.Bedi can be contacted at 98140-60480 for any clarification.:-Rector Kathuria

Mrs. Mullen Issues Call to Support Military Families

Posted on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 1:30 AM
By Christy Crimmins of Military Health System
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2011 - Though the nature of war changes for service members as weapons get smarter, tactics get sharper and medical advances save more and more lives, the stress and anxiety felt by their families never changes, Deborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told participants in the Military Health System's annual conference Jan. 24 in National Harbor, Md.

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Deborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the 2001 Military Health System conference in National Harbor, Md., Jan. 24, 2011. DOD photo by Mike Oliver 
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Our military families are beginning their day filled with the worry about the safety and security of their loved ones," she said. "I simply do not believe we fully understand the cumulative effects of stress, anxiety and worry that these families and their loved ones have endured, but we need to try, and we need to do so quickly."
Mullen discussed fissures and cracks in the family support system and urged members of the Military Health System to help in finding ways to seal them.
Among the most important issues, she said, is secondary post-traumatic stress. Like troops, she noted, families also suffer some of the same anxiety, loss of sleep, panic attacks and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Like their loved ones, many family members suffering from secondary post-traumatic stress turn to alcohol, drugs and even suicide, she added.
Mullen explained that while medical privacy rules prevent accurate accounting of cases, anecdotal evidence exists of spouses attempting suicide.
"Because we don't have the same access that we do to our troops, there is a real limit about what we know about their feelings and their fears," she said. "I am convinced that much of the desperation these drastic measures represent is rooted in the stigma still attached to mental health issues."
Mullen suggested that some family members resist seeking assistance for mental health issues not only because of embarrassment, but also due to the fear that their request could negatively affect their husbands' or wives' military careers.
"In many cases," she added, "a service member even warns his spouse about getting help."
While commending the services for their efforts in overcoming the stigma of mental health problems in the ranks, Mullen said she encourages them to work to eliminate it in the home as well. Those who do seek help, she said, often are confronted with other issues, including misdiagnoses, lengthy waiting periods and red tape.
"All of these things discourage, and indeed damage, the healing process for our families," she said.
Mullen cited two instances in which spouses diagnosed with post-traumatic stress received multiple prescriptions, but no follow-up or referrals for psychological help. She also described the "15-to-1 rule" encountered by military spouses, an unspoken rule that no matter how many symptoms they may be suffering, they are given 15 minutes to discuss one symptom with a health care provider.
The wife of the nation's top military officer emphasized the need to treat the whole person -- to look at the totality of issues confronting spouses, and to help spouses confront them.
"You do not need to put on a pair of boots and patrol outside the wire to suffer the effects of war," she said. "If it is keeping you from living your life and loving your family, you owe it to yourself and, frankly, the military owes it to you, to get you the help you need."
Ten years of war and multiple deployments have affected children of military families, Mullen said, citing evidence of elevated emotional and behavioral difficulties and the rise of the use of psychiatric medication to treat the increase in anxiety and depression in military families.
"In 2009 alone, 300,000 prescriptions for psychiatric drugs were provided for military dependents under the age of 18," she said. "Some are no doubt warranted, but I worry that we don't fully understand the long-term consequences of these medications."
Additionally, Mullen pointed out the confusion and stress children face when a parent, who may look the same as he or she did prior to deployment, acts differently due to a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress. And while deployment is a definite stressor on military families, she added, reintegration and reunion also can present challenges add to stressors experienced by spouses, children and military members.
Recent information released by the Army indicates that spouse and child abuse cases are on the rise, Mullen noted.
"We have come to understand that while a combat tour may last a year, the effects of that tour on a service member and family may last much longer," she said. She stressed that the same suicide prevention training being integrated into the military culture should also be incorporated into the military family culture.
"Building resilient families from the beginning of their military life, hopefully, will provide an underpinning of strength that can carry them through the most difficult times," Mullen said. One method of building this resilience, she told the group, is home-centered assistance, with a trained counselor or medical professional coming into the home and providing assistance.
"It's about looking at things through their eyes and trying to find solutions that work for their unique circumstances," she said.
Related Sites:
2011 Military Health System Conference 

First Lady Michelle Obama and Army Command

Army Maj. Gen. James Milano, Fort Jackson's commanding general, First Lady Michelle Obama and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Stall watch soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment during the Pass in Review ceremony at Basic Combat Training graduation at Fort Jackson, S.C., Jan. 27, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Susanne Kappler 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walks to a meeting on NATO Cyber Defense

 Click to download the publication quality image in a new window.U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III, center left, walks to a meeting with national policy advisers on NATO Cyber Defense with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, center right, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 25, 2011. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison, U.S. Air Force/Released)

Walking through an Afghan market

 Click to download the publication quality image in a new window.U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Marchal Magee, center, the commander of the Paktia Provincial Reconstruction Team, walks through the Sayed Karam market in Sayed Karam district, Paktia province, Afghanistan, Jan. 22, 2011. (DoD photo by Sgt. John P. Sklaney III, U.S. Army/Released)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Amnesty International Condemns Vietnam Activist’s Sentence

Posted on : Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Washington, D.C. : Amnesty International has condemned the eight-year prison sentence handed down to a Vietnamese pro-democracy activist and former Communist Party official for posting articles on the internet calling for democracy. 

"This verdict and sentence is a shocking testament to how the Vietnamese authorities show complete disregard for freedom of expression when it comes to people who peacefully challenge government policies," said Donna Guest, Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Region. 

Vi Duc Hoi was convicted of "spreading anti-government propaganda" by a court in northern Lang Son province on Wednesday. He was also sentenced to five years of house arrest after his prison term. 

Hoi, a member of the Bloc 8406 network of pro-democracy and human rights activists, had written extensively about corruption and injustice in Viet Nam. 

He was arrested on October 27, 2010. Before his arrest, public security officials had raided his home on October 7. 

“It is difficult to understand why the authorities feel so threatened by peaceful dissidents such as Hoi.  Rather than locking them up, they should be allowed to contribute to civil society and promote free speech and human rights,” said Guest. 

Hoi joins at least 30 other peaceful dissidents currently serving long prison terms; others are awaiting trial.  Amnesty International considers all of them prisoners of conscience. 

Article 88 of the national security section of Viet Nam’s 1999 Penal Code is frequently used to imprison peaceful dissidents and government critics. 

”The Penal Code is long overdue for reform to bring it into line with international treaties which Viet Nam has ratified, and claims to uphold,” said Guest. 

Hoi joined the Communist Party in 1980 and held key positions within the organization, but was expelled from the party in 2007 after he started calling for democratic reforms. 

Hoi was previously arrested in April 2008 for his part in protesting the Beijing Torch Relay in Viet Nam, and he was publicly denounced by a 300-strong party rally the following June. 

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.


Guard Soldier Loses 100 Pounds

By Army Sgt. Rebekah Malone
Louisiana National Guard
PINEVILLE, La., Jan. 25, 2011 - Army Spc. Alejandro Zuniga of the Louisiana National Guard scored 401 points on his most recent Army physical fitness test -- something even he found hard to believe, considering the state he was in less than two years ago.

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Army Spc. Alejandro Zuniga of the Louisiana National Guard runs four miles a day, six days a week. His workout routine -– which led to a 100-pound weight loss -- allowed him to exceed a perfect score on the Army physical fitness test. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Scott M. Mucci 
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Zuniga, a member of the 1021st Engineering Company, 205th Engineer Battalion, overcame tremendous odds recently when he racked up well over the maximum number of points needed to score an excellent rating on the test.
Just 18 months ago, and 100 pounds heavier, Zuniga was battling despair and depression. One day, he'd had enough.
"When I was bigger, I was on the edge of depression. I felt helpless," Zuniga said. "Just one day something someone said struck me. I am so much more confident now."
Too large to run, Zuniga started by walking. Within a couple of months, he was able to run three miles without walking. Today, he runs four miles a day, six days a week, then boosts his workout with 100 push-ups a day and lifts weights for at least an hour. This strict program allowed Zuniga to achieve a feat few Guardsmen attain.
"I almost passed out when I heard," Zuniga said. His first sergeant had a similar reaction.
"I said, 'Are you serious?'" Army 1st Sgt. Jack Toney said about hearing Zuniga's score. "A perfect score is 100 points in each of three categories on the test, for a total combined score of 300. I have never seen a score like this one in 24 years of service."
Zuniga completed 112 push-ups, 117 sit-ups and ran the two-mile run in 10:07. An unofficial extended scale is used once a soldier passes the total event requirement for a perfect score. He was awarded one additional point for each push-up and sit-up, and six seconds off his time for the run.
Toney saw Zuniga's work ethic first-hand when they served together on Task Force Kout Men in Haiti last summer. Even after an exhausting day of construction work, the devoted soldier still made time for a workout.
"Zuniga would work, and I mean work, all day on his project site and come back to the base camp and run and do PT on his own," Toney said.
"It was incredible. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it myself," said Army Sgt. Patrick Mahoney, who graded Zuniga's fitness test. Mahoney said his main concern was being able to count fast enough.
Not content with his personal success, Zuniga has started helping others achieve their exercise goals as well.
"I want to be a trainer for the National Guard," he said. "I want to be that person to go to get help. If I was 265 pounds and lost 100 pounds, I know everyone else can, too."
Related Sites:
Louisiana National Guard 

Strengthening Our Military Families

By Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2011 - Deborah and I attended a Jan. 24 White House event hosted by the President and First Lady announcing an exciting new effort that renews and enhances our Nation's commitment to our military families.

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President Barack Obama announces a whole-of-government initiative to benefit military families as Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and First Lady Michelle Obama look on during a Jan. 24, 2011, White House event. DOD photo by Elaine Wilson 
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"Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment" advances 50 new initiatives across 16 federal agencies and promises to revolutionize the way we care for military families on issues ranging from child care to mental health, from education and employment to housing.
The President noted right up front that, "This is a matter of national security. With millions of military spouses, parents, and children sacrificing as well, the readiness of our Armed Forces depends on the readiness of our military families." We could not agree more.
Deborah and I are reminded daily that the incredible families who support our men and women in uniform also sacrifice and serve. We are deeply pleased – and grateful – for all our military families do, and for this new comprehensive effort to care for such a special group of people.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Related Sites:
Special Report: Strengthening Our Military Families – Meeting America's Commitment 
Chairman's Blog 
Chairman's Facebook Page 
Chairman's Twitter Account 
Chairman's YouTube Channel 
Chairman's Flickr account 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

familiarize each other

Click to download the publication quality image in a new window. Malaysian navy Lt. Cmdr. Yusman Darmawan, left, the staff officer for operations, and U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Jaimie L. Hertig, the adjutant for Combat Logistics Regiment 3, familiarize each other with their respective countries' military rank structure during exercise Cobra Gold 2011 in U-Tapao, Thailand, Jan. 17, 2011. Cobra Gold is a U.S. military exercise designed to ensure regional peace through a strategy of cooperative engagement and includes participants from Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. 

(DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Alejandro Peña, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team

Click to download the publication quality image in a new window.Members of the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team assigned to the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) board a rigid hull inflatable boat during a VBSS exercise in the Atlantic Ocean Jan. 21, 2011. Mitscher conducted a composite training unit exercise as part of the George H.W. Bush Strike Group. 

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Deven B. King, U.S. Navy/Released)

Soldier Finds Peace Through Music

By Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Avecilla 
Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 24, 2011 - People say it's not what life throws at you, but how you handle it, that determines your character.

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Army Spc. Diego Medina mans the turret as a gunner on a mission in Afghanistan's Paktika province, Jan. 10, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley N. Avecilla 

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
For one soldier on the provincial reconstruction team, that's the story of his life.
Army Spc. Diego Medina -- one of the 40 infantrymen who make up the Massachusetts Army National Guard's 3rd Platoon, Company C, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment – has a lyrical talent that he uses to light his way.
Medina, who calls Boston home, was born in La Ceiba, Honduras, and moved to the United States as a child. He learned English from listening to hip-hop music, he said, and as a young teen, he lived a life filled with rage and frustrations. But he learned to turn negative into positive in the 10th grade, he added, and began to use music as an outlet of expression, freestyling in studio basements and school lunchrooms.
As time passed, Medina said, he began to take music seriously.
"I started to articulate poetic consciousness and take the art of lyricism more seriously, as a stronger means of communication," Medina said.
In 2008, Medina joined the Army National Guard. The continuous trials he faced not only inspired his musical talent, he said, but also influenced his decision to enter the military.
Medina said he looked for a new path when his hope of playing college football didn't come to fruition. The National Guard gave him the chance to attend college and the ability to develop and use his leadership skills, he said.
Medina said he's using his experience with the provincial reconstruction team to write new material and learn the meaning of appreciation, finding peace where others find stress.
"Somehow in war, I find peace of mind, because grunts are comfortable in conflict," he explained. "I've always performed best when under pressure, and it doesn't get harder than being out here while maintaining composure."
His first show was in Boston's Strand Theater and he has since performed at the Youth Peace Conference for Teen Empowerment of Boston, the Verve Lounge, Zumix, the Boston Festival and more.
Medina's stage name is Rey Leon, and his music can be found on social media sites. His next performance is scheduled for Feb. 8 at an event called Verbalization in Boston during his mid-tour leave.
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force
Massachusetts National Guard 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

keep her in ur prayers.

Please take a moment to read this. 
January 16, 2011 - Jain Mandir - Buena Park, CA by Cure Sonia

My baby sister, Sonia was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), which is a cancer of the blood. She is in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant. Sonia is 24 years old, and receiving excellent care at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Her diagnosis caught us all by surprise and we need to act very quickly to find a bone marrow match.
Sonia is currently undergoing intense chemotherapy but requires a bone marrow transplant quickly to survive beyond the next few months. Increasing the number of South Asians registered as potential bone marrow donors will help Sonia and will benefit our whole community since there are currently not enough South Asians registered as donors.

I am grateful to all those who have already reached out to help. There are some key things you can do right away -- time is of the essence.

1. Please get registered immediately.

Getting registered is quick and requires a simple, non-invasive cheek swab (2 minutes of your time) and filling out some forms (5 minutes of your time). Registering is VERY simple and does not require a blood test!

Bone marrow drives are being organized all over the United States. The fastest way to get registered is to attend one of the drives. For a list of all the upcoming drives, click on the Events tab or click on the following link:

If you are unable to attend an event, you can register online at

January 16, 2011 - Jain Mandir - Buena Park, CA by Cure Sonia
2. Spread the word.
Please share this page with all your friends, particularly South Asians, and ask them to do the same. Please use the power of your address book, the web, and social networking to spread this message – today more than ever before, we can achieve a broad scale effort and be part of a large online movement to save lives. We need to get the word out quickly. Saving Sonia is about numbers and odds.

Post the following message on your Facebook wall: Please help Sonia Rai win her fight against leukemia! Visit to join the movement!

Promote local drives within your network - we need people to attend and get registered in person. Local drive information will always be up-to-date at

3. Organize a drive.

If you can, sponsor a drive at your company or in your community. Drives need to take place in the next 1-2 weeks to be of help to Sonia. Hosting a drive can be as simple as setting up a table at an existing it doesn't have to be very time consuming to plan. Please contact for more info.

Signup to organize an event -
Signup to volunteer at an event -

4. Learn more.

To learn more, please visit . The site includes more details on how to organize your own drive, valuable information about AML, plus FAQs on registering.

5. Join Team Sonia.

We are urgently looking for volunteers to help us in the following areas. Please contact the individuals below ASAP if you can volunteer your time/services.

Signup to volunteer at an event -

General questions –
(read less)
Facebook Page:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Red Cross staffer Kirsten Kuykendall

American Red Cross staffer Kirsten Kuykendall works with a soldier outside of the Red Cross office in Balad, Iraq. The Red Cross has a network of more than 1,500 offices around the world -- including sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait -- and thousands of volunteers. Courtesy photo 

The Red Cross has a network

Mari Canizales of the American Red Cross provides information to a soldier at Fort Belvoir, Va. The Red Cross has a network of more than 1,500 offices around the world -- including sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait -- and thousands of volunteers. Courtesy photo 

Family Advocacy Launches Safe Sleep Campaign

Posted on Sat, Jan 22, 2011 at 8:38 PM
By Elaine Wilson
 American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2011 - It was eight years ago, but I vividly recall the mix of joy and terror I felt after my daughter was born.
An Internet information junkie, I had researched everything from swaddling to feeding to putting my baby to sleep. But, as I'm sure other Web addicts can attest, I soon discovered a host of conflicting and sometimes confusing information.
Sleep was a particularly vexing topic. Should I put her to bed on her back or belly? Can I give her a pillow or blanket? Is it OK to co-sleep? My questions went on and on.
In the Air Force at the time, I was relieved to turn to trusted base resources for clarification and advice, particularly when it involved sleep, for both my baby and myself. And the resources for new and expectant parents are even more abundant and accessible today.
Most recently, the Defense Department's Family Advocacy Program launched a "Putting Baby Safely to Sleep" campaign to ensure parents have the most current, life-saving information.
The campaign's cornerstone is a blog for new and expectant parents called "Sleep Like a Baby: The Keys to Infant Slumber.In the coming months, the blog will include information and links to resources from a variety of subject-matter experts.
Topics will include preparing a nursery, caring for a baby while on the move, managing parental sleep deprivation and fatigue during a deployment cycle, health concerns related to sleep, talking to caregivers and extended family about safe sleep practices and more.
"It is in those first sleep-deprived weeks and months that new parents need good solid information and support in creating safe sleep environments and practices to ensure that everyone gets off to a good start," wrote Mary Campise, a licensed clinical social worker with the family advocacy program, in the first blog post: "Military Parents: This Blog's for You." Add in frequent relocations, deployment cycles and parenting solo due to military operations, and you can see how military moms and dads could use some unique support."
I encourage our new and expectant moms and dads to follow this blog and stay tuned for information regarding this important campaign. I know I will. Three kids later, and I still have questions!
To comment on this blog, or to read other posts, visit the Family Matters website.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Raghib Muradabadi passed away

Posted on Friday January 21, 2011 at 9:29am
Renowned Urdu poet and one of the last masters of the technical aspect of poetry writing (Ilm-i-Aroos), Raghib Muradabadi passed away on Wednesday. in Karachi. He was 93. 
Born in 1918 in Delhi, Raghib Muradabadi graduated from Delhi College and learned the art of composing poetry from the likes of Yas Yagana, Safi Lakhnavi and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan. After partition, he came to Karachi where he was made the head of the rehabilitation committee for migrants by former prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan. He contributed a great deal to the betterment of the migrant community.
He wrote 40 books which include a collection of ghazals, nazms, naat, a collection of poetry in Punjabi and translations in verse of Quranic Ayats and Ahadees. His collection of ghazals Rag-i-Guftar was received with critical acclaim as did his naats, Midhatul Bashar .
After Josh Malihabadi, whom he knew very well, Raghib Muradabadi was considered the best writer of rubaai (quatrain). One of his books titled Maut has 500 rubaais on the topic of death. 
Iftikhar Chaudri
The foreword to the book is written by Allama Talib Jauhri. He also penned his thoughts on the issue of terrorism. His compilation of Josh`s letters, Khutoot-i-Josh Malihabadi , and a book titled Mukalmat-i-Josh-o-Raghib speak for his closeness to Josh Malihabadi. Raghib Muradabadi had thousands of shagirds (pupils) the most prominent of which was the popular poet Habib Jalib. It is believed it`s Raghib sahib who suggested to Habib that he adopt Jalib as his pen name.
Raghib sahib was quite fluent in the Punjabi language. Talking to Dawn in an interview last year, he explained what had inspired him to learn the language.
“I had developed friendship with a Hindu girl back in India. Once she remarked that `jay tusi saday naal pyar karday ho tay, sadi zaban naal vee pyar karo.` (If you love me, you should love our language also.) I accepted the challenge, listened to Punjabi programmes on the radio, read Punjabi books and acquired such mastery over the language that I began composing poetry in it.”

Father, Son Serve Together

Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 8:18 PM
By Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Rasmussen of Task Force Lethal
PAKTIA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 20, 2011 - Most soldiers who are deployed miss their homes. But for Army Spc. Steven Starkey and Army Pfc. Andrew Starkey, a large part of what the word "home" represents is just a five-minute walk up the hill.

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Army Pfc. Andrew Starkey and his father, Army Spc. Steve Starkey of the Iowa Army National Guard pose for a photo Jan. 6, 2011, while deployed to Afghanistan's Paktia province. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Steven, a 40-year-old mechanic by trade in Council Bluffs, Iowa, works as a wheeled-vehicle mechanic attached to Company A, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment, which currently falls under the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Andrew, his son, works in Company A's kitchen preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Both Starkeys are assigned to the Iowa Army National Guard's Company F, 334th Support Battalion, out of Red Oak, Iowa.
Both soldiers said they joined the Guard to serve their country and fulfill some personal goals.
Steven enlisted in the active-duty Army in 1989 as a heavy equipment mobile tactical truck wheel mechanic. He was slated to serve during Operation Desert Storm when personal issues at home prevented his involvement. He was young and dealing with a troubled marriage when his chain of command made the determination to let him remain in the rear as his unit prepared to support Desert Storm, he said.
"Looking back, I don't feel I was mature enough to handle the task at hand," he acknowledged, adding that his brief service helped him to mature and gave him cause to consider future opportunities for service.
The events of 9/11 reignited that simmering ambition.
"I felt like I had left something on the table, an obligation I had left incomplete" he said.
So almost 15 years after his initial service, he began the process to rejoin the Army, eventually serving with the Iowa National Guard. The process wasn't easy.

Steven had remarried and had three additional children -- daughters Ashley and Rachel and stepson Jon -- when he decided to re-enlist for active duty. Despite trying three times, the active Army would not accept his application because he had more than two dependents.
Steven gave up trying for active duty after the third attempt. Then, in the spring of 2007, he met his daughter's soccer coach, a staff sergeant in the Iowa National Guard. The soccer coach informed Steven that the Iowa National Guard had waivers and programs to allow people in situations like his to join. A month after speaking with the soccer coach, he was at the military entrance processing station swearing in for service.
A year later, Andrew raised his right hand and made the oath to serve his country, but he had a different reason: his daughter, Kyra.
Being in the Iowa Army National Guard has given Andrew a means to provide health care and child support for Kyra, he said.
"I plan to start a savings account with the money I'm making [on deployment] to help pay for her college," he said.
But joining the Guard came with some additional, unanticipated benefits for Andrew.
"I see myself grow every day," he said, "whether or not I enjoy it all the time."
Before making his commitment to serve in the Iowa Guard, Andrew had a "loose-cannon mentality," as his father put it. He was an unruly youth who often did not think before he acted. That was nine months ago. Now, six months into deployment, Andrew is a much different person.
"He's level-headed and can take criticism constructively like an adult," said Steven, who added witnessing this change has been one of the most rewarding benefits to come out of being on this deployment together.
Steven said sometimes a father has to be a father, regardless of rank, and stick up for his son.
"It's hard to keep the fatherly instinct at bay when I see my son getting in trouble by his boss," Steven said. "I often have to swallow my pride and know my place."
The Starkeys act more like brothers or best friends when they're together here, calling each other by their last name and making fun of just about anything the other says. Though they work at the same company, the Starkeys still feel as though they could spend more time together.
As trying as some days may get, they said, they usually find some time throughout the week to hang out and unwind together, giving them a chance to solidify, in a unique way, a bond that can only be made between a father and son deployed together.
"The one thing that everyone else wants, we have: a family member on deployment," Andrew said.
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When he was "just a boyfriend."

Posted on Thu, Jan 20, 2011 at 3:29 AM
By Elaine Wilson of American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2011 – I’m pleased to introduce a new Family Matters guest blogger, Megan Just, a Navy veteran and the editor of the weekly newspaper at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif.
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Navy Lt. Megan Field, now Megan Just, poses for a photo with her then-boyfriend, Eric Just at Fort Bliss, Texas, May 27, 2007. Eric was visiting Megan while she was on a weekend break from Army combat skills training where she was preparing for a deployment to Iraq. Courtesy photo  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
In this blog, Megan reflects on the sacrifices her now-husband made while she was in the Navy and he was "just a boyfriend." She writes about the important role significant others play in a service member's life and reminds us that while not all dating relationships end happily, all military spouses were first “just” boyfriends and girlfriends. 

Just a Boyfriend
By Megan Just
A gust of frigid rain pummeled my face. The hems of my Navy uniform pants wicked rainwater as I splashed across the sidewalk. Inside the dry safety of my car, I cranked the seat heaters to high. It was another stormy day in the long string of stormy days we'd had so far that winter. It was another day Eric would be soaked to the bone and hypothermic as he biked across town.
Faced with a half year of separation following my deployment to Iraq, Eric left the idyllic, sunny Southern California town where he attended graduate school to join me in Rhode Island.
Because the arrangement was temporary, we shared a car. In theory, Eric could have shuttled me to work and had the car to himself all day. The problem was, Eric was just a boyfriend. While he was allowed to drop me off, he was not allowed to come back on base to pick me up. And so he hunkered down and braved the rain.
One of the most important rituals in a military ceremony is to recognize the honoree’s spouse. The spouse is called on stage to receive a bouquet of flowers: a symbolic thank you for the sacrifices the he or she has made on behalf of the spouse's military service. These are always occasions for tears. The spouse's sacrifice has been great and it's been anything but easy.
Sometimes, when I observe these ceremonies, a lump forms in my throat. The sacrifices Eric made because of my military service ran a lot deeper than a few months of rainy bike rides. For the duration of my time in the Navy, Eric was just a boyfriend and therefore, he was never recognized for his sacrifices.

The truth is that, in many ways, the sacrifices of a service member's boyfriend or girlfriend are no different than those made by a spouse, but they make them without the benefits, recognition, commitment or support.

For a civilian, dating a service member is a lot more complicated than dating another civilian. Yes, there are all the acronyms that have to be translated and the silly little things you have to do (like sneaking your significant other in the backdoor of the gym so you can work out together), but there is so much more to it than that.

Eric has told me that one of the most profound peculiarities of dating a service member was the presence of a third party in the relationship. "It's like you're the most important thing to them, but Uncle Sam is more important."

It was our third date when the shadow of the Navy first altered our plans together. I had a rare four-day weekend and we planned to go rock climbing in Yosemite. I was not allowed to leave a designated radius from my duty station and Yosemite was significantly outside this distance.

Although I knew Eric had been eagerly anticipating the trip, I was afraid of being caught and I chickened out at the last minute.

We had only been dating a few months when I moved across country to my new duty station in Rhode Island. A few months after that, I received orders to Iraq.

"It's a scary prospect to date someone in the military because they are largely absentee," Eric told me once. "It's contrary to the idea of what a relationship is."

In addition to the separation, the deployment raised sobering questions we would have never faced so early in our relationship as a civilian-civilian couple.

As my colleagues prepared powers of attorneys for their spouses, I had to decide if I should list Eric as a life insurance beneficiary and include him in my will. He was just a boyfriend, but he also was the man I hoped to eventually marry. If I was hurt in Iraq, I wanted him to be the first to know. If I died, I wanted to recognize him not for the title held, but for his significance in my life.

Many military couples mitigate these complications by getting married right before deployment. This ensures rights of the significant other in the case of an injury or death, and it also provides perks, such as medical insurance, commissary benefits, a pay increase, and access to family support programs.

Eric and I had been dating less than a year when I left and we did not opt to do this, but he supported me through deployment like a spouse, nevertheless. He sent care packages, letters, e-mails, and he made funny little videos to keep me up-to-date on his life back in the United States. He ran a multitude of errands for me and he handled the details of our post-deployment plans.

Most importantly, he was available on the other end of the phone every time I called, no matter the hour, no matter what else I was interrupting. This was no small commitment; I called him almost every day of my deployment. It was because of this steady connection with him that I didn't implode from all the small stresses that add up while serving in Iraq.

Eric and I married a year after I got out of the Navy. Although he now wears the rank of husband, he is no more important to me than when he was just a boyfriend. He is still the same person I've loved all along and I know it was his continued patience and flexibility during our early years that made our relationship possible.

We've all heard our share of heartless "Dear John" stories, but it's important to not discount the contributions of the significant other during the happy periods of the relationship. Even if the couple never progresses to engagement or marriage, the service member's significant other has bent twice as far to compensate for the service member not being able to bend at all.

The military-civilian dating relationship is difficult, but there are things each party can do to make it easier. With our one-car situation in Rhode Island, for example, I started asking questions around base and learned that my commanding officer could write a special permission letter that would allow Eric to pick me up from work. It wasn't much, but anything that can ease external stress on your relationship is important, especially when you're working on the foundation of something you hope will last a lifetime.

As a former service member who had a civilian boyfriend, I have an appreciation for spouses' organizations that extend invitations to significant others, especially during deployments. I also think it's fantastic that the Reserve and National Guard's Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program welcomes spouses, as well as service members' boyfriends and girlfriends. After all, every military spouse was first a girlfriend or boyfriend.

As I look back on the years when my husband was just a boyfriend, I realize the guilty feeling I sometimes have at military ceremonies is not just because Eric never received a showy bouquet of flowers from the Navy. It is because I failed to thank him enough for his sacrifices.

Here are a few questions for you:

How did your experience as a service member's girlfriend or boyfriend differ from your experience as a military spouse?

How can a service member make the dating relationship easier for his or her significant other, and vice versa?