A Salute to Our Men in Uniform…

…While there is no typical sailor, airman, soldier or Marine, it is possible to describe the average young American who carries a weapon into battle.

He’s a volunteer, 19.6 years old, making him about six months older than his grandfather was when drafted to serve in World War II and Korea or his father was when conscripted for Vietnam. He isn’t old enough to buy a beer, and if he were back home in the Unites States we’d call him a boy. But because he’s in uniform and fighting a war, we call him a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine.

This young man in uniform was probably a team sports athlete in high school and graduated somewhere in the middle of the pack, making him better educated than any prior generation in our military. Unlike many of his peers, he’s never drawn an unemployment check and he doesn’t ever want to.

He had a job in high school in order to buy a car that was already about ten years old. He bought the car to take his high school sweet-heart out on dates, and when he left for a war halfway around the world, she promised to wait for him.

Unfortunately, unless they were married before his departure – about 15-25 percent of those who live near their military bases are – she is likely to be dating another guy by the time this war veteran returns home.  When our trooper does get back, he’ll call her new beau a “wimp.” And she’ll know he’s right.

About three times a week , he grabs a few minutes to write home. When the mailbag arrives by helicopter, he’s hoping to get a letter from his girl and his mom, though he’ll never admit to the latter. If his girl or his mom sends him a care package with disposable razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, M&Ms, beef jerky, toilet paper, and baby wipes, he’ll share them with his whole squad and be a hero for a day.

He has a short haircut and tight muscles, and wears a four-pound Kevlar helmet and a eighteen-pound flak jacket to work. He can march all day in one-hundred degree heat with a sixty-pound pack on his back. This young man in uniform knows how to use every weapon in his unit and can field strip and reassemble his own weapon in less than a minute – in the dark.

Over here he’s gone weeks without bathing but he cleans his weapon every day.

His rifle company gunny (gunnery sergeant in the Marines or sergeant first class in the Army) has been in combat before. Yet this is the first time he and his lieutenant have been shot at. Under fire he obeys orders instantly. But if asked, he’ll always have an opinion on how to do something better. Often he’ll be right.

He’s been taught chemistry, physics, and ballistics, and can navigate with a map and compass but prefers the GPS he bought at the base exchange. When he catches a break, which isn’t often, he reads paperback books; he loves thrillers.

Before joining the military he couldn’t be bludgeoned into picking up his room, doing his laundry, or washing the dishes, but now he’s remarkably self-sufficient. He prepares his own meals, washes and mends his own clothes, digs his own foxhole and latrine, and keeps his feet dry and his canteens full.

The kid who once wouldn’t share a candy bar with his little brother will now offer his last drop of water to a wounded comrade, give his only ration to a hungry child, and split his ammo with a mate in a firefight. He’s been trained to use his body like a weapon and his weapon as if it were part of his body – and uses either to take a life or save one, because that is his job. But he’s patient and compassionate too. He will offer his own food and water to enemy prisoners of war, and go out of his way to make certain that captured enemy wounded get medical help.

The youngster who used to stay in the sack until noon now exists on just three or four hours of sleep a day. When he comes home to the United States, he’ll be, on average, twelve pounds lighter than when he left.

By now he’s already had more responsibility and seen more suffering and death than most of his civilian contemporaries will see in their entire lifetimes.

He’s learned a whole new vernacular of foreign sounding words. It’s not Iraqi Arabic, but military shorthand. He uses words like “CONUS,” “h-hour,” “zulu time,” “incoming,” “snafu,” and “fubar” that means nothing to most civilians.

He’s been told that grown men don’t cry, but he has wept unashamedly in public over a fallen friend, because he knows heroes aren’t defined by the way they die but how they live. And though he can now take profanity to the level of an art form, it’s also likely that he has a Bible in his rucksack and isn’t afraid to be seen reading it.

He’s proud to be serving his country, reveres his commander in chief, and knows that he is respected in return. While he is modest about his own courage and military prowess, he’s absolutely certain that his is the toughest unit in the U.S. Armed Forces.

When he gets home, he won’t talk about the horror of war and probably won’t have post-traumatic stress disorder, but he will want more fresh milk, salads, and homemade cookies than anyone even thought possible. And when he goes to a ball game or some formal event, he’ll resent those who carelessly ignore the National Anthem when it’s played or don’t join in when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited.  But he’ll put his hand over his heart, gaze at the American flag, and sing or recite them proudly and loudly.

We here at firebase116.org are proud of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.  We know first hand about putting it all on the line so others may enjoy the same freedom all Americans enjoy.  I hear Vietnam Veterans say it again and again, “We would do it again…in a heartbeat.” 

Thank you Troops!  You’re not alone.  We stand WITH you!


The Puppy Rescue Mission

The story of a soldier, his girl and his pups

The Puppy Rescue Mission (“TPRM”) is the brainchild of Anna Cannan, president and founding member of TPRM. Anna’s idea for TPRM began when her fiancé, Chris, was deployed to and stationed in Afghanistan. A few weeks prior to Chris’s arrival at his combat outpost, a suicide bomber entered the post in the middle of the night. The dogs on the post immediately started barking and took off in pursuit of the bomber. One of the dogs, Rufus, grabbed the bomber’s leg while two other dogs, Target and Sasha, alerted the troops.

Realizing his cover was blown, the suicide bomber blew himself up never making it into the living quarters of the soldiers. Thankfully, all the soldiers survived the attack with only a few sustaining injuries. Sasha did not survive the attack and was laid to rest at the post. Target, who was badly injured in the blast, was later nursed back to health along with Rufus.

Shortly after the attack, Chris and the other soldiers arrived at the post where they befriended the dogs as well as Target’s litter of puppies who were only 4-5 weeks old. Being the animal lover that Chris is, he and some of the other soldiers started taking care of the dogs on the post in their spare time. As time went by, the dogs became very fond of the soldiers who were caring for them. An instant, unbreakable bond formed between the soldiers and the dogs as the dogs provided a sense of normalcy for the soldiers at Chris’s post that rarely exists in a country like Afghanistan.

The soldiers at Chris’s post continued feeding the dogs from their own plates, caring for the dogs on a daily basis but, most of all, treating the dogs as if they were their very own. According to Anna, she didn’t hear from Chris very often but when she did, she could literally “hear the smile on Chris’s face as his voice would light up when he would talk about all the dogs at the post”. Realizing his time at the post would eventually come to an end, Chris spoke with Anna about the idea of bringing some of the dogs back to the States.

Anna then brain stormed as to how to raise funds to help bring back to the States 7 of the dogs, affectionately known as “THE LUCKY SEVEN”. While juggling work and school, Anna began her fundraising efforts by selling candles and running an online raffle to help rescue the dogs. Realizing that transporting 7 dogs back from Afghanistan was a very expensive process, Anna decided to start a Facebook page for her fundraising cause which became known as “Puppy Rescue Mission”. At the time, the cost of rescuing a dog from Afghanistan was about $3,000 which was utilized to cover the cost of the dog’s vaccinations, transport from the base to the shelter, transport to the nearby airport as well as airfare from Afghanistan to the dog’s respective new home.

TPRM supporters on Facebook began to grow at an amazing rate of speed as did the donations being made to support Anna’s fundraising cause. Once enough money was raised to transport “THE LUCKY SEVEN” back to the States though, Anna decided that TPRM needed to continue as there were many more soldiers who, like Chris, needed help in bringing their furry friends home from Afghanistan.

While the military does not condone befriending animals, dogs and cats alike tend to find their way into the hearts of many, many soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. According to Anna, “it’s as if the animals know the difference between the heart of an American versus that of an Afghan as Chris would tell her stories of how dogs growl at the Afghan soldiers but show nothing but love towards American soldiers.” So, Anna felt it only fitting to continue in her fundraising efforts through TPRM as a tribute to all those soldiers who have served our country as well as to all the animals who have loved the soldiers and who have been heroes in their own right.

In founding TPRM, Anna recognized that there are thousands of stray animals without homes in the States. Anna felt though that the mission of TPRM was extremely important as it would bring to light the horrible conditions which animals are exposed to in Afghanistan. According to the Afghan culture, if a person is bitten by a dog, the person cannot get to Allah, the god Afghans worship, as dogs are considered to be a disgrace. Animals in Afghanistan are literally treated like trash, used for target practice, blown up, run over and used in fights in the case of many, many dogs. If an animal is lucky enough to find its way to a U.S. base and is befriended by the soldiers, then the base becomes the animal’s home, a sanctuary where the animal finds love for the very first time in the animal’s life. As such, Anna felt it should be TPRM’s mission to help these animals as it would be devastating to turn them back out into the wild when many have never known a different way of life.

As for the dogs at the posts, Anna says that they amazingly learn to protect the soldiers like Rufus, Target and Sasha did that evening when they prevented a suicide bomber from killing over 50 soldiers. In light of such heroic efforts like those of Sasha, Target and Rufus, Anna believes that “no soldier should ever be faced with the decision of leaving a beloved animal in Afghanistan if there is a way to get the animal back to the soldier’s home so the mission of TPRM simply has to continue on.”

Since the rescue of “THE LUCKY SEVEN”, TPRM, through the efforts of Anna and several close confidantes, has continued to grow exceeding the expectations of even Anna herself. Within just 9 short months of its initial inception on Facebook, TPRM has raised money to bring many dogs home and is continuing to grow each and every day, helping more and more soldiers to bring their furry friends from Afghanistan back home. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in the United States and all donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

Due to the tireless efforts of Anna and her confidantes, TPRM is no longer just a fundraising cause … it’s an “official non-profit organization” working directly with several organizations in Afghanistan in arranging medical care for the soldiers’ animals as well as transportation for the animals to their forever homes. TPRM is also assisting certain organizations from time to time in re-homing stray animals from Afghanistan to the States.

Anna, TPRM’s board of directors as well as TPRM’s advisory members would like to thank each and every person who supports the mission of TPRM. TPRM considers each and every one of its supporters to be an integral part of the TPRM family. Without its family, TPRM would not be able to continue helping soldiers and their furry friends alike in maintaining the unbreakable bonds of love formed in Afghanistan, a country where very little humanity and normalcy exists.

TPRM thanks you again for your continued support and donations. Many blessings and best wishes to you all!

Anna Cannan, President of TPRM

News from The Veteran Homestead Inc.

News from The Veteran Homestead Inc.


Over these last few (and busy) months, I have been constantly reminded about how extremely honored I am to know and work with all of you who support the Veteran Homestead. We have been so lucky over the years to be able to build relationships with some amazing volunteers and funders, with whom we have also been able to create some incredible memories with as well. So thank you for being involved with us! Thank you, each and ever one of you, for supporting our organization, but more importantly, forcaring about our veterans.

Remember, we are always looking for community members who wish to get involved with us. Because, really….they are YOUR veterans too.
Thank you also to all of the donors that keep us afloat.  It is very costly to run the stellar programs that we have for our vets, and we appreciate your kindness and support.
I hope you will enjoy the updates we have prepared for you, of what our organization has been up to for the last few months. Please remember to share this newsletter and help us build continued support of the needs of the men and women we serve.
Leslie Lightfoot
Veteran Homestead Inc.
Quarterly Success Story:  Skip
Resident Connects with Daughter after 23 years
skip and danielle

 For Gulf War era Veteran, Skip, life has brought its fair share of trials and tribulations. However, none of them seemed to be as difficult as losing touch with his daughter, Danielle, after his activation by the National Guard in the early 1990’s.

For years, Skip thought about his daughter, and attemptied to find her, always hoping that one day he would be able to see her again.

Thankfully, through the use of the social networking site “Facebook,” this wish became a reality. After 23 years of silence, Skip and Danielle were able to meet once again on Memorial Day Weekend of this year.

That day, as Skip recalls, they sat on the porch and talked for two to three hours, and have been in touch ever since. They will even be attending a funeral together to celebrate the life of Skips grandmother, at which time Danielle will be able to meet the rest of her family.

Skip has been a resident of our program, Armistice Homestead, for almost three years, and at the beginning of July he will be completing the program, and moving into his own apartment. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his journey and hope that he and Danielle will be able to share many years together.

Red Shirt Volunteers Galore

Keller Williams – North Central KW4U Group Help for RED Day

red shirt volunteers
On May 11, 2012, the Keller Williams – North Central KW4U group worked hard at both our Hero Homestead and North East Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Centers as they celebrated their RED (Renew Energize Donate) day. This event is held once a year.
For both programs, these amazing volunteers painted, and planted beautiful gardens at the facilities. We are so thankful for their service, and look forward to working with them in the future!
First Litter of Piglets
Donated by the Monty Broc Rotary Club
In our last Newsletter we shared a photo of a pig named, ‘Monty,’ who had been purchased with a donation by the Monty Broc Area Rotary Club, which meets at the Four Points Sheraton in Leominster. The pig was to be bred to help  with the rising costs of meat at Veteran Victory Farm in Fitzwilliam, NH.
In this edition of our Newsletter, we would like to announce the birth of the first litter of piglets (pictured left). Of the 12 piglets born, 11 survived. We are so excited to continue to be able to feed our homes with our, ‘homegrown,’ organic meat.
A huge thank you, again, to the Monty Broc Area Rotary Club!
NVTRC Celebrates 2012 Graduates
Jason and Kristi Wing are First Residents to Graduate from MWCC

On May 17, 2012 the Veteran Homestead Inc. celebrated two of our residents of the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center!Jason, an Air Force and Army veteran, and his wife Kristi, have earned a place in Veteran Homestead history as the first two NVTRC residents to graduate from Mount Wachusett Community College.

Jason, who has a passion for  preserving our environment, earned an Associates of Science Degree in Natural Resources, while his wife Kristi received a certificate in Human Resources. Jason and Kristi plan to continue to reside in their unit at the NVTRC, while Jason moves on to study at UMass Amherst, where he will be majoring in Environmental Sciences. Jason hopes that with this education he will secure employment as a park ranger.

Destination Destaré Celebrating Comrades to be held September 30.
For the second year in a row, The Veteran Homestead Inc., in conjunction with Destare Martini bar, is planning Destination Destaré: Celebrating Comrades for September 30, 2012 from 4pm-7pm. Last years event, feautred local muscians Jazz Depot, and honored three of our communities most honorable citizens. This year, we are planning on continuing the tradition, to be held again at Destaré Martini Bar located at 320 Main St. in Fitchburg. Please save the date and look for details to follow soon!

Google “Site” Search and Maps

Hello firebase116 members and guests.

I wanted to take a second to let you all know that I added “Google Site Search” to the webpage.  It’s on the top of the sidebar on the right.

Just put in your query and click the Google Search button.  It will open a ‘regular’ Google page with the results.  You’ll know the familiar Google interface.  One thing I really liked was that on the left side of the Google result page is Images that basically pull up every image on firebase116.

Also, from now on, whenever there is an address in a post or a page, I will embed Google Maps into the post or page.  Like this:

Center map
Google MapsGet Directions

Vietnam Veteran’s of America Chapter 116
The Leominster Veteran’s Center
100 West Street  
Leominster, MA 01453

Clicking on the red balloon will produce a popup box telling about the location and will offer “Directions“, clicking on the highlighted “Directions” will extend an “A” to “B” location your just need to fill in “A” and click the “Get Directions” button.  You’ll also see an offer to “Print Directions“.

Feel free to email me if you have any problems, comments or suggestions about firebase116.org.

-J. Barry

Finding the Calm in the Storm

As part of our ministry to veterans and their families we invite you on Sunday morning worship, July 22, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. to meet National Guard Chaplain Jeremy Pickens during our Sunday service and afterwards in a time for coffee and conversation at the Congregational Church of Christ, United Church of Christ, 583 Main Street, Leominster.

For more information call 979-537-7054.

CHAPLAIN (CPT) JEREMY T. PICKENS is currently assigned as the Battalion Chaplain of the 101st Engineer Battalion in Massachusetts National Guard and is currently serving as the Deployment Cycle Support Chaplain at the Military and Family Support Center in Wellesley MA. Prior to his current assignment he served as the 211th Military Police Battalion Chaplain for 29 months.

This assignment took him on a deployment to Iraq for 9 months. Upon his return from Iraq he started the Massachusetts Military Spiritual Strength Network, implemented resiliency weekends throughout the battalion and helped build the Massachusetts Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention Campaign.

Center map
Google MapsGet Directions

Click the Red Balloon on the map for directions.