OurMilitary.mil – DOD Community Relations Webpage

Sgt. Vincent Hancock - Olympic Gold Medal Winner

Greenwich, United Kingdom; Vincent Hancock (USA) competes in day two of the skeet men qualification during the 2012 London Olympic Games at Royal Artillery Barracks. Vincent is a Sergeant in the US Army.

I wanted to bring your attention to the DOD Community Relations webpage.  It’s called OurMilitary.mil.  OurMilitary.mil has information concerning Veterans and our Troops, with a wide range of topics, employment, education, health care, and even the Summer Olympics  (see: http://www.ourmilitary.mil/recent-news/news-archive/usas-vincent-hancock-wins-gold-in-skeet-shooting/) OurMilitary.mil is quite a complete webpage with more information than I could ever imagine.  It has hundreds of stories and links and I would have to give the DOD an A+ for the work here.


The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors



Caring for the families of the fallen…

TAPS is the 24/7 tragedy assistance resource for ANYONE who has suffered the loss of a military loved one, regardless of the relationship to the deceased or the circumstance of the death.

Founded out of tragedy in 1994, TAPS has established itself as the front line resource to the families and loved ones of our military men and women.  TAPS provides comfort and care through comprehensive services and programs including peer based emotional support, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, and grief and trauma resources.


Our National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief camp has been held annually since 1994. TAPS also conducts regional Survivor Seminars and Good Grief Camps at locations across the country.

If you are suffering the loss of a military loved one, or if you know someone who can use our support, please call our toll-free help and information line now: 1-800-959-TAPS (8277).

Hill Street


LEOMINSTER —  Throughout Helen Hill’s apartment, there are reminders of the handsome young soldier with the sparkling blue eyes.  Framed portraits hang on the wall and sit on tables. A teddy bear on the sofa plays electronic patriotic songs.

There’s the official letter from the Army offering condolences and describing her son as a “courageous soldier in this vast and most cruel of wars,” and Mrs. Hill, 89, has a yellow star designating her a Gold Star Mother — meaning a child was killed in action — on her clothing and in her front window.

Yet when her son, Pfc. David A. Hill, was killed in Vietnam in 1969, she and her husband, now deceased, had to keep their shades drawn to avoid hurtful, insensitive comments about his military service.

“We were getting calls from people saying, ‘Are you happy now that you got your son killed?’ It was so hard,” she said.

Her husband suggested leaving their hometown.

“We were just left to ourselves, but I did not get bitter. I just thought I would try and help the other veterans, and give of ourselves and work with them,” she said.

Despite the turmoil surrounding that war, Mrs. Hill at the time attempted to get city officials to name a street near where they lived in his honor. It wouldn’t have been much of a change: from Hill Street to David A. Hill Street. The earlier “Hill” name has no connection to the family.

They were refused, Mrs. Hill said.

“They called it a conflict not a war,” she said.

A renewed effort is under way, with the help of City Councilor Claire M. Freda, whose late husband also served in Vietnam.

Mrs. Hill

Helen Hill, 89, holds a photograph of her late son, Pfc. David A. Hill, as she stands on Hill Street. (T&G Staff/TOM RETTIG)

Mrs. Freda recently submitted a petition to the council to change the name of the street, near Pleasant Street, to David A. Hill Street. So far, it has not been acted on.

“It is simply a step to start the process, not to cause any hardships,” she said.

Mrs. Freda said some residents have already questioned if a name change would cause problems with mail delivery and property deeds.

“If a legal opinion says it would be difficult then I would ask that the street be dedicated with a sign on the street sign itself in David’s memory,” she said.

The street naming request was partially prompted by the recent naming of a park and a bridge in memory of Pfc. Jonathan Roberge, a Leominster native killed in Iraq in 2009 at age 22. Ceremonies and fundraisers for Pfc. Roberge have drawn hundreds, including state and local officials.

“That made me live my own heartache all over again, since it was the first military death in a long time,” Mrs. Hill said. “I am not envious — my heart goes out to the family — but I thought ‘shame on me for not doing something sooner for my son.’ I find some people still resent Vietnam veterans.”

According to the Leominster Veterans Services agency, Pfc. Hill, a Leominster High School graduate, was killed in action on Feb. 13, 1969, near Duc Pho, Vietnam. He was 21, and served with the Army Company C, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade. He was one of nine Leominster soldiers killed in action in Vietnam.

Richard N. Voutour, director of veterans services, said that besides Pfc. Roberge and the 10 fallen Vietnam War soldiers, one died in service in 1969 on a training mission in Virginia, and two men died while on active duty in the Gulf War in 2001.

Mrs. Hill said her son had just finished broadcasting school when he was drafted in June 1968. He went to Army training for a few months, came home in December and was sent to Vietnam in January 1969. He was shot in the arm a few weeks later, and the family thought he would be discharged.

He was sent back into combat and killed three weeks later.

“We got the news at 7 a.m. on Valentine’s Day,” Mrs. Hill said. “A very young minister who said it was his first time informing a family of a military death came with the Army car.”

Mrs. Freda said she wants to raise awareness of how Vietnam War veterans were treated.

“Other veterans did not acknowledge them. The support mechanisms are so much different now, maybe because 9-11 brought patriotism back. I had thought about getting that street name changed for a long time, and I watched Helen’s pain come back through the Roberge’s suffering.”

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