[caption id="attachment_3878" align="alignleft" width="300"]
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Gary Morris talks to students at the American International School in Monrovia, Liberia, where he has been voluntarily teaching a physical education class since February 2010. U.S. Africa Command photo by Nicole Dalrymple[/caption] MONROVIA, Liberia, â€“ Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Gary Morris' time in Liberia, which originally began as a voluntary six-month assignment, will end in August, 20 months after it started.
The U.S. military has been providing mentors and advisors to Liberia's security sector reform initiative since 2006 through a U.S. State Department-led initiative. Morris, a reservist, was serving as a platoon leader in an antiterrorism unit in Billings, Mont., when he accepted an assignment as a military advisor in Liberia.Morris arrived in Liberia on January 2009, where for six months he served as a mentor to the 2nd Battalion of the newly formed 23rd Infantry Brigade of the Liberian armed forces. He returned home to Dallas, only to receive a call shortly afterward asking if he would return to Liberia.Morris agreed to return to Liberia, and served another two months as a mentor. He then moved to U.S. Africa Command's office of security cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. He works there as the Liberia defense-sector reform liaison and assists all U.S. military personnel in Liberia with logistical support. Morris said he has learned a lot about Liberia and its people because he has taken the time to talk to people and get to know them. He said the Liberian people will tell him about the devastating civil war that ravaged their country for 14 years. The Liberian children he has met seem mature beyond their years, Morris observed. "Kids here don't get a chance to be kids," he explained. "That's what strikes me. Four and 5 year olds are out working and earning money for their families." To Morris, who has a 6-year-old son, "It is a fascinating place and a very humbling place." On top of his regular duties, Morris has regularly visited a small Monrovia school for more than a year, and he recently started teaching a weekly physical education class at the American International School in Monrovia. In March 2009, Morris met a group of children who watched as he offered assistance to the driver of a Liberian military truck that had broken down near Camp Edward Binyah Kesselly Barracks, where the battalion is based. He was approached by their teacher at the Margretia School, who invited Morris to visit. During his visit to the school, Morris learned that unless the students brought their own food, they didn't get lunch. Perhaps it was his own experience as a child in Jamaica, walking to school in his bare feet and picking fruit from the trees for breakfast, but Morris knew what the children needed. He began making regular trips to the school, bringing bags of rice and cooking oil and providing all the items needed to provide lunch for the children. In an effort to create a connection between the Liberian armed forces and the school, and hoping others would continue to support the school after he leaves, Morris brought Liberian soldiers to the school and invited fellow U.S. servicemembers to accompany him on his visits. In January 2010, Morris was invited to teach a class on exercise and nutrition at American International School in Monrovia. This morphed into a standing appointment every Friday, where he teaches a 90-minute physical education class to 24 students in grades 4 through 9. A certified trainer, Morris owns and operates his own personal training and corporate fitness business back home in Texas. Many of the students at American International School are children of parents serving in Liberia as diplomats or nongovernmental organization employees. Some are children of Liberians who are returning to the country after leaving because of the civil war. The diverse student body represents France, Ghana, Holland, Korea, Lebanon, Liberia, Nigeria, Niger, Sierra Leone, Spain, Syria, the United Kingdom and the United States. Teachers report noticing a change in the students since Morris started teaching physical education. The school's director, Gary Eubank, and his wife, Rory, who is the upper school team leader, praised Morris on his interaction with the students. "They are more attentive in class and have been asking about the nutritional value of snacks and food," Rory Eubank said. "The kids love his classes." Her husband noted that Morris has set benchmarks, incorporating the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports into his program. He encourages the children to set goals, he said, and conducts periodic assessments so they can see how they are improving. Morris also has engaged the students in leadership activities, having them lead exercises and giving them an example to emulate. In particular, Rory Eubank commented on changes she has seen in a 7th-grade student from Niger. "He is a superb student and a bit of jokester," she said. "We've seen him becoming a leader, becoming more serious but still retaining his fun side." Morris views his time in Liberia as volunteerism. While he misses his son, he said, he tells him what he is doing and why it is important. "The U.S. military is having a very positive impact here in Liberia," he said, adding the biggest compliment he has received as a Marine came when he was leaving the United Nations Liberian missionâ€™s headquarters here and a gentleman told him, "When I see U.S. Marines, it brings me peace." Morris said the future of Liberia is bright. "I remember the president telling the [armed forces] that they are the future of Liberia," he said, reflecting on a Feb. 11 Armed Forces Day ceremony. "I can feel the pride [the Liberian servicemembers] feel, and at the Armed Forces Day, I could feel the pride that Liberians have in their armed forces." May 7, 2010: By Nicole Dalrymple-U.S. Africa Command
May 15, 2010Â is Armed Forces Day.Â Right now volunteer men and woman are everywhere protecting we civilians here at home.Â And in honor of the troops who do so much to protect us, hundreds of troop support groups across America ship thousands of care boxes each year to them all over the world.
Over 90% of Americans have never served in the military. I am one of them, representative of the rest.Â Â And on behalf of all of those they protect, I thank the troops for preserving our liberties, livelihoods, and businesses.Â Even though the borders of this country are penned with their blood, and even though we don't keep our national house in order, they go forth each day to protect it and give us more time.Â Â Let's hope in the end we can all make them as proud of us as we are of them.Showings of support means a lot to them, and here is an inkling of their gratitude for the bonds between us.
"I wanted to say thank you so much for sending out the care package to my airman. She received the box today and she was literally in tears and could not believe that there are people who cared enough to send her a box. She said she felt like it was Christmas or better because she has not had a Christmas since she was younger. It was great seeing her tell everyone who walked in the office about the box. Again, thank you and your team for taking the time to think of us over here and we truly do appreciate your support! " ~~ SSgt Leticia -----
"Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you so very much for the packages we received. We, the 2025th Transportation Company want you to know how appreciative we are for the phone cards, games, magazines, books, music CD's , DVD's, toiletries, the food and all the other goodies that were sent to us
yesterday.Â Major H---- was overwhelmed with the packages that came in and he right away distributed the goodies to all the soldiers. It is a hard road for us over here especially during the holiday season. Being away from our families is really tough but with the goodies and gifts it made everyone feel like getting into the holiday spirit. From the 2025th Transportation Company Family we would like to extend our heartfelt "Thank You" for all of your support. We will always have a place in our heart for you. " Thank you.Â ~~ Major Earnest ----.
Since her inception America has been unique among nations of the world.Â Â Â We go further to do more good than any other nation on earth.Â Â Â As actsÂ of freedom, not dominion.Â Â Which is why so many foreigners want their pictures taken with our troops when they encounter them in transit.
I periodically receive emails from people in other countries pining that they wished their people did for their military community the way Americans do for theirs.Â Â Â You see, America is a charitable nation, with a majority who believes in the personal responsibility of doing good at the individual level.Â Â Hence a voluntary military.Â And hence the voluntary support for its members from us.Â Indeed,Â hundreds of charitable groups have arisen to support the troops' morale and well-being while they are deployed.Â Â Are there amazing people in this country or what?Â You will find these groups listed at www.SupportOurTroops.Org
So for Armed Force Day this year go out and find an event to participate in.Â Â Or send a care package.Â Â Or make a donation.Â Â Find the core moral satisfaction in stepping up for those who step up for all of us.
And to all the troops from all of us here at home, I say thank you, and may God bless and keep you safe.
Martin C. Boire
Chairman, Support Our Troops®
Armed Forces Day 2010
[caption id="attachment_3910" align="alignleft" width="300"]
Army Pfc. Jessica Kimball and Army Pvt. Logan Yost pose for a photo May 3, 2010, at Forward Operating Base Lightning in Afghanistanâ€™s Paktia province. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Laura Goodgame[/caption] PAKTIA PROVINCE, Afghanistan â€“ Sibling rivalry isnâ€™t a problem for a brother and sister from Collegeville, Pa., who are serving a deployment here together.
â€œMy brother was my best friend growing up; he was all I had,â€Â said Army Pfc. Jessica Kimball, 20, a mechanic assigned to Company B, 82nd Division Special Troops Battalion out of Fort Bragg, N.C. â€œI didnâ€™t have the picture-perfect childhood.â€ÂKimball was 11 when her grandmother died, and she was placed into her brotherâ€™s family for foster care. She said her brother, Army Pvt. Logan Yost, 21, an infantryman assigned to the same unit, always took her under his wing.Kimball said she planned to go to college, but couldnâ€™t afford it. After hearing about GI Bill education benefits, she decided to see a recruiter. â€œThe recruiter mentioned the opportunity to go Airborne, [and] being of competitive nature, it intrigued me,â€Â she said. â€œI talked it over with my brother. He did not want me to go alone, so we both joined the Army together.â€Â After basic training and Airborne School, the siblings were assigned to the same airborne unit. Soon, they deployed to Afghanistan, where they have been on several missions together and look out for each other. â€œSometimes we would be outside the wire for several days in a row,â€Â Yost said. â€œAt night, we would all take turns staying awake to pull security. When it was Jessicaâ€™s turn, I would go sit with her to keep her company so she wouldnâ€™t be alone.â€Â His sister returned the favor when it was his turn for security detail, he added. â€œI feel for anyone who has siblings in the military,â€Â Yost said. â€œWe are lucky to have gotten stationed together, because most of the time siblings get split up and sent halfway around the world from each other.â€Â The siblings already were close when they joined the military, they said, but their time in Afghanistan has made their bond stronger. â€œThe deployment has brought us closer together,â€Â Kimball said. â€œIt is like a hardcore friendship, and it is comforting to know someone has your back in a foreign country away from anything weâ€™ve ever known.â€Â May 4, 2010: By Air Force Airman 1st Class Laura Goodgame, Regional Command East ***SOT***
[caption id="attachment_3904" align="alignleft" width="300"]
Expert stoneworker James Lee cleans the work after engraving the name of U.S. Army Lt. Col. Taylor to Panel 7W, Line 81 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 4, 2010. Taylor's name is one of six added to the memorial. The new names represent veterans who survived serious injury in the war, but were determined by Defense Department officials to have died as a result of wounds sustained in the combat zone. DoD photo by William D. Moss[/caption]
WASHINGTON This week, the names of six American servicemembers will join the list of other departed or missing troops featured on the intersecting black-granite walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Army Lt. Col. William Taylor's name was engraved at a ceremony today at the memorial on the National Mall here. The names of Marine Corps Lance Cpls. John Granville and Clayton Hough Jr., Marine Corps Cpl. Ronald Vivona, Army Capt. Edward Miles and Army Sgt. Michael Morehouse will be added later this week.The new additions are veterans who survived serious injury in the war but were determined by Defense Department officials to have "died as a result of wounds [combat or hostile related] sustained in the combat zone" that required drastic measures, such as amputation."It's an important honor to pay tribute to our nation's veterans of Vietnam, especially," said J.C. Cummings, the architect of record for the memorial. The main part of the memorial was completed in 1982.
Cummings said a space on the wall allows Taylor's name to fit the chronological scheme as if his name had been in the database of fallen soldiers when the wall was first built. Of the six names being added to the wall this week, three of them can be placed as such, he said.
When these young men were over there, their units became a family, a military family," Cummings said. "We're lucky because we can put the name where it belongs, with their brothers and sisters in arms."
Taylor's nephew, Thomas Carpenter, was in attendance today, along with family members of the five other servicemembers whose names are being added to the wall. Photos of each man were shown as each family gave a small tribute to their lost relative.
"I'm humbled in front of this wall," Carpenter said, "where they are forever young, strong and brave."
James Lee, a stoneworker whose Colorado-based company has worked at the wall since 1987, said each name takes at least a few days to prepare. Multiple test stones are used to ensure the newly engraved names match the older ones in shape, size and depth.
"Every name that we add to the memorial further completes it," he said.
The engravings for 11 other servicemembers, from the Army and Air Force, will be modified to reflect that they're no longer considered missing in action.
The changes will bring the total number of names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to 58,267 men and women who were killed or remain missing in action. The six new names will become official when they are read aloud during the annual Memorial Day ceremony May 31 at 1 p.m.
May 4, 2010: By Ian Graham-Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity