From the Mouth of Babes: 3rd. Grade Song Goes Viral

Picture from Colonial Heights City Council -Souders Family

Tussing Elementary (Colonial Heights, Virginia) students sing a song of thanks to our soldiers written by their teacher, Michael Souders and his wife, Angela. Michael said, “I wanted a song that would be very personal that they (3rd graders) could sing directly to our soldiers…We love our heroes our veterans and current serving soldiers.”

Thank you, oh thank you to these soldiers that I know personally: Katelyn, Brian, Kris, Eddie, Philip, and Zach and to all our troops and veterans. Prayers continue until you are home safely with those who love you.

Click here to see their song with images of soldiers.

I Was There: They Don’t Tell Stories

Kourtney and Jon Sladek

My guest columnist is Jon Sladek. He served in the Air Force from 1998-2004 and deployed to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Jon earned a Journalism degree from Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama and was a staff writer for 3 years at the Maxwell-Gunter Dispatch, an Air Force newspaper in Alabama. His work has appeared in The American Legion Magazine, Lake Erie LifeStyle Magazine, I Love Cats Magazine and the U.S. Air Force Leader Magazine.

They Don’t Tell Their Stories

By Jon Sladek

It could be a neighbor, a coworker or someone who sits next to you in church. Veterans returning from service often assimilate back into society to lead lives of relative anonymity. It is impossible to know how many people you routinely come into contact with were involved in combat operations in Iraq.

The overwhelming majority of veterans did not serve for the privilege of boasting. They do not view themselves as heroes, but rather just another Soldier, Marine, Seaman or Airman doing the job they signed up for.
When I discovered my good friend Jim was involved in one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq War, I couldn’t help but want to know his story. Not in a morbid way, but because I am a journalist and I so appreciate the sacrifice of the American serviceman and staunchly believe their stories are worthy of telling.

While I did serve six years on active-duty in the Air Force, deploying twice; I was never directly involved in combat. To hear the stories of courage and heroism described by Jim when he recounted his battle experience to me, I knew it was time to put my journalism background to use.
For the last two years, I have been compiling and writing the battlefield stories of local veterans for a book I hope to get published. Searching for veterans willing to tell their story to a complete stranger is not the easiest of tasks, but I consider myself blessed for the people I interviewed and connections I’ve made.

Chagrin Falls Fire Prevention Officer Jim Alunni still doesn’t know how he survived a massive truck bomb that left his body permanently scarred and damaged his hearing. Cleveland Clinic doctor Pat Ginley dealt with the stress of working in a battlefield emergency room by building and repairing bicycles for troops on base during his off time. Egyptian-born Albert Fanous used his language skills to boost morale by procuring various perks for his Army brothers, while witnessing some of the most memorable events of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Each interview was a life-changing experience. I gained an understanding of what things were really like on the ground in Iraq, beyond the headlines and 24-hour news cycles. I tried to ask the right questions, while remaining mindful of the sensitive nature of the subject. At some point during several of the interviews, I felt the veteran began to appreciate the opportunity to unload some of the things that too many in our society don’t understand.

It is always a joyous occasion when a veteran returns from Iraq to a hero’s welcome at the airport. Sadly, for so many of them, the war does not end the day they set foot in the United States. Reading of the experiences of servicemen in Iraq can forge some understanding of the emotional trauma endured in battle. It also highlights the unmatched camaraderie between military members who form bonds that often last a lifetime.
This project began because I want to write books for a living and the military is obviously one of my top interests. Now I don’t care if this is the only book I ever get published. By recording the stories entrusted to me by our nation’s heroes, I have assumed a great responsibility.
Frank Herda, one of only two living Medal of Honor recipients in Ohio, told me when he graciously agreed to write the forward to my book that his one regret from his service in Vietnam was his failure to keep a daily journal.

With Love You More Than You Know, Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer provided an awesome and unique opportunity to view the war through the eyes of the local mothers who send their beloved sons and daughters to fight for the country. With I Was There, I hope to accomplish the same for local troops.

Jon is accepting stories from vets in the Iraq War. Send your story to

In the Spirit of Honor

I received a letter from Beatrice Mitchell, an 81 year old mother of a Vietnam veteran.  She sent me some articles and documents saying,”I offer this in the spirit of honor due our military men and women and their families whose sacrifices will always remain unmeasurable.”  This poem is written by Beatrice. Please hold our servicemen and women and our veterans in prayer, especially those who are not able to be home for the holidays.

Vietnam’s Pieta

She carried him gently, without haste

In her arms to his resting place.

Things that could hurt him

And things he could break

She kept out of reach when her babe

Was awake

“Don’t talk to strangers nor accept a treat

Look both ways before you cross the street

And stay out of puddles on your way to school

Remember to follow the Golden Rule.”

A young man now, on his way to the prom.

A boy only yesterday, where had the years gone?

“Look out for that curve on old Mill Road.

Drive carefully son and don’t overload.”

Her prayers for him that also blessed us,

She whispered for him as he left on the bus.

The unshed tears that shown in her eyes

Were bravely withheld through her smiles and goodbyes.

Like great birds that hover when life’s returning to dust

The Black Hawks of mercy did not for flesh lust

When after the battle they plucked from the ground

The dead and the wounded from Vietnam.

No cautions for him on Mill Road today.

His car moved slowly as he passed that way

In a heavy box, draped in triad hue

They carefully folded the red, white, and blue

And placed it in her arms, now with tears on her face

She carried it gently as a babe to his resting place.

Start a New Tradition

Amidst the baking of pumpkin muffins, the mashing of potatoes, and the basting of the turkey, remember not only to count our blessings but remember those that are serving and protecting us.

As we welcome family from near and far, start a new tradition for Thanksgiving.  Set an extra plate at your table to remind us of our troops unable to be home with their families and friends during the holidays. Thank God for these brave men and women and all the freedoms we have. May God bless our servicemen and woman, our veterans, and our families and friends.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Shipping for the Holidays

Please send your packages for our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan by Nov. 21. See info below. Packages are such a boost to their moral.

Other deadlines for arrival by Dec. 25 are Nov. 26 for space-available mail; Dec. 3 for parcel airlift mail; Dec. 10 for priority mail and first-class mail, letters and cards; and Dec. 18 for express mail military service.

Holiday packages and mail headed for Iraq and Afghanistan must be sent a week earlier than the deadlines above, Postal officials say. Express mail military service is not available to those destinations.