Army Ranger killed on his 14th Deployment – An American Hero honors this hero and sends our sincere condolences to his loved ones.  RIP.

Sgt. First Class Kristoffer B. Domeij, 29, was killed Saturday in Kandahar Providence in Afghanistan by a hidden roadside bomb.  He was on his 14th deployment having served four deployments in Iraq and another nine in Afghanistan.   Dorneij was awarded two Bronze Stars. He will be awarded posthumously his third Bronze Star according to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

First Lieutenant Ashley White, 24, a Cultural Support Team member, and fellow Ranger Private First Class Christopher A. Horns, 20, who was on his first combat deployment were also killed.  Domeij’s battalion commander, Lt. Colonel David Hodne, characterized Domeji a  “one of those men who was known by all as much for his humor, enthusiasm, and loyal friendship, as he was for his unparalleled skill and bravery under fire.”This was a Ranger you wanted at your side when the chips were down… He is irreplaceable … in our formation … and in our hearts,”

Domeij is survived by his wife and two young daughters and from Lacey, Washington.  He grew up in Southern California and Colorado.  Domeji has the distinction of becoming the Ranger with the most deployments to date killed in action.

Letters from Hollywood: J.K. Simmons

J.K. Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson in the blockbuster SPIDERMAN movies and Mac MacGuff in the hit indie film JUNO. On television he appeared for several seasons on LAW AND ORDER and OZ. He currently stars as Assistant Chief Will Pope on THE CLOSER and keeps America laughing with the popular Farmer’s Insurance commercials.

J.K. SimmonsTroops,

I never served in the military. Closest I ever came was appearing in A Few Good Men on Broadway in 1990. I played a couple of different grunts in the show and understudied the Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep character. I’m pretty sure they only hired me because I was a kickass shortstop in the Broadway Show Softball League.

Anyway, I did get a chance to play Lt. Col. Jessep a few times, and I gotta say it was one of my greatest acting jobs ever, because the character was pretty much the ultimate hard-ass Marine and in real life I’m a total pussy.

I have no concept of what you guys are going through over there. No matter how many stories I hear or how many vets I talk to, it just makes me realize more completely that I don’t really get it and I definitely don’t have what it takes to be doing what you’re doing. I think most people I know don’t have what it takes.

I am glad you do have what it takes. I appreciate your sacrifice, your training, your courage, your dedication, your patience, your balls.

Hang in there. Take care of each other and come home safe.

Thank you,
J K Simmons

Letters from Hollywood: Ross McCall

Ross McCall starred in the award-winning miniseries “BAND OF BROTHERS.” He also played Officer Kenny Battaglia for two seasons on the television series “CRASH” and is currently appearing on USA Network’s “WHITE COLLAR.”

To my brothers and sisters in the military,

As a proud Scotsman gratefully living in the United States, a country I love, I humbly bow to you all and your efforts for keeping us safe in the world we live.

I am a devoted supporter of the military after proudly playing Cpl. Joseph Liebgott from Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th, 101st Airborne, in the “Band of Brothers.” Through him and his brave brothers and sisters by his side, I became part of a family. I continue to travel the States and beyond, raising awareness for our wounded warriors and those, like yourselves, who bring us safety and comfort not only here in America but also throughout Europe and my homeland.

I cannot thank you all enough. Your courage. Your passion. Your devotion to let others live in a world without fear is a testament to your heroism. You are a special group that can only be described as extraordinary. To commit your lives, and those of your family, to the continued march toward peace, is beyond gracious and kind. It will never be forgotten.

Our thanks is united. Our support is unshakable. It is a privilege to communicate with you all in the ways that we get to do. I have been blessed to have spent time with many of you and look forward to doing it some more. Until then: be well, stand tall and God bless.

With a bow and respect, my humblest thanks.

Ross McCall

From Brazil to Shiprock, NM: A Life and Career with Unexpected & Fulfilling Transitions

Transitioning from the military to the US Public Health Service (USPHS) turned out to be a natural and fulfilling career move for physical therapist Ana Pereira-Sandee. Today, Pereira-Sandee carries the rank of lieutenant in the USPHS Commissioned Corps and thoroughly enjoys practicing with the Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that is the primary health care provider for nearly 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Pereira-Sandee was born in Brazil but her family immigrated to the United States and settled in New Jersey when she was 10 years old. She credits the move as critical to her career choice. “I think the whole experience of changing directions, coming from a different background, the desire to be part of something bigger — it just comes from within.”

What was within Pereira-Sandee was a determination to do something different with her life. She enlisted in the US Air Force Reserve in May of 2001 while attending college. As graduation approached, Pereira-Sandee had hoped to remain in the military, but when those plans fell through, several coworkers suggested she look into joining the USPHS Commissioned Corps. She did her research and was pleased to learn that she could join the Commissioned Corps and continue her military benefits as well as receive loan repayment support to pay off her educational debts. Coupled with other opportunities available through the Commissioned Corps, Pereira-Sandee decided to line up a summer rotation with an Apache Nation health care facility.

Pereira-Sandee credits the patients and staff there with her decision to practice among Native people with the IHS. “I was very fortunate to be around the people I worked with and to have the experiences that I had. The patients were so receptive and accepting of me,” she says. “When my nine-week rotation was over, I was stunned at how many of my patients came to say goodbye and wish me well. They had so warmed up to me that they brought me handmade beads and other gifts.” The experience was electrifying for her, so much so, she adds, “When I left there, I had my application to USPHS completed and was ready to work for the Indian Health Service.”

Today, as a commissioned officer with the USPHS, LT Pereira-Sandee lives on the Navajo Reservation in Shiprock, NM, and practices at the Northern Navajo Medical Center, an ultra-modern facility that averages 400 outpatient visits per day and has 55 inpatient beds. She spends her off-duty hours enjoying the myriad of outdoor activities the local area offers. But the match among her personal and professional values, the USPHS and Indian health program missions and her appreciative patients is where she finds her greatest sense of fulfillment.

Pereira-Sandee is clear about her future plans. In the time that she has practiced with the Native patient population, not only has she won their hearts — they have clearly won hers. “They thank me for taking care of their people,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to work with any other population.”

If you would like more information regarding employment with Indian Health Service, click here.

JR Martinez & Karina Smirnoff on Dancing With The Stars

I knew of JR from Stephen Cochran, a Wounded Warrior and featured musician on  Because co-produces the 9/11 Freedom events with the Reagan Presidential Library each year, I invited JR to be one of our keynote speakers.  JR speaks from the heart with amazing energy, and he can easily put a smile on your face.   I was thrilled for JR when he was cast in the role of “Brock”, a wounded warrior on the soap opera “All My Children” and moved to Los Angeles.  Originally cast in a limited guest role, JR’s personality and that of his character endeared him  to the fans and the cast, expanding his role for several years until the unfortunate cancellation of the show.

JR can DANCE, and his breathtaking Rumba on Monday’s show received a standing ovation.  We wish JR success, and think he is the one to beat.  But nothing is certain, so remember to vote for JR each week by calling 1-800-868-3410.

Inspiration has danced its way into our hearts in the form of J.R. Martinez. The Dancing with the Stars contestant has continuously delivered stellar performances, but his recent rumba with partner Karina Smirnoff was a highly emotional dance for the former soldier. Martinez was overcome while dancing to Tim McGraw’s “If You’re Reading This,” about soldiers killed in action. “Sometimes in life, things happen so fast that you don’t have an opportunity to really sit back and appreciate what you’ve done,” Martinez said after the routine, which he dedicated to fallen soldiers. “Tonight was that moment. It felt like it really sunk in. Wow. I’m on this stage. I’m on Dancing with the Stars, and now I have an opportunity to really honor and pay a tribute to other service members and families that have gone on the same journey that I’ve gone on.” Please watch DWTS on Monday nights and support this hero with your vote.

VA Broadens Retroactive Traumatic Injury Benefits

TSGLI Payments Will Be Made for Qualifying Injuries

The Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) Traumatic Injury Protection benefit has been expanded to cover servicemembers who suffered qualifying injuries from Oct.7, 2001 to Nov. 30, 2005, regardless of the geographic location where the injuries occurred.

Effective Oct. 1, TSGLI will be payable for all qualifying injuries incurred during this period. This retroactive benefit is payable whether or not the Servicemember had SGLI coverage at the time of the injury. The Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2010, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in October of 2010, removes the requirement that injuries during this period be incurred in Operations Enduring or Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF). “Now all of our nation’s Servicemembers who suffered severe traumatic injuries while serving their country can receive the same traumatic injury benefits, regardless of where their injury occurred,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We at VA appreciate the efforts of Congress and the President to improve benefits for our troops.”

TSGLI provides a payment ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 to Servicemembers sustaining certain severe traumatic injuries resulting in a range of losses, including amputations; limb salvage; paralysis; burns; loss of sight, hearing or speech; facial reconstruction; 15-day continuous hospitalization; coma; and loss of activities of daily living due to traumatic brain injury or other traumatic injuries.

National Guard and Reserve members who were injured during the retroactive period and suffered a qualifying loss are also eligible for a TSGLI payment, even if the cause was not related to military service, such as a civilian automobile accident or severe injury which occurred while working around their home. Those who are no longer in the National Guard or Reserves can also apply as long as their injury occurred while they were in service. Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey  said, “I am extremely pleased that these total force warriors who defend our freedoms are getting the recognition and benefits they have rightfully earned in service to our nation”.

The DoD is working with the VA to publicize this change in the TSGLI benefit. Additionally, all of the branches of service are identifying any claims previously denied because the injury was not incurred in OEF/OIF and reaching out to those individuals. Although applications are currently being accepted by branch of service TSGLI offices, benefits will not be paid until Oct. 1, 2011, the effective date of the law.

For more information or to apply for a TSGLI payment, Servicemembers and Veterans click here

9/11 Freedom Walk at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

September 11th of this year marked the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the United States. The 9/11 Freedom Walk & Program, held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, honored those impacted by the attacks. The events of the day included patriotic music performed by the CBU Male Chorale and the 3D Marine Aircraft Wing Band, the March on of Colors, an Invocation, and a flyover of three vintage airplanes. Three American heroes spoke during the evening program prior to the walk, also highlighting how the nation has moved forward since 9/11.

Addressing the crowd of approximately 2,000 people was Rear Admiral Robert Girrier of the USS Ronald Reagan Strike Group, who had just returned the prior evening from a 7 month deployment in Iraq.   Next up, Lt. John McCole, a New York City firefighter who worked the World Trade Center rescue mission, spoke of his 9/11 experiences, which will never be forgotten.  The third and final speaker, Lt. Colonel Tim Karcher, is an American Hero and Wounded Warrior.  Lt. Colonel Karcher, was wounded twice in Iraq, the second time resulting in the loss of both his legs. Despite his loss, LTC Karcher is undeterred in his passion to serve his country, and his devotion to his family. “I can tell you that I am married to a heroine and our three daughters are incredibly courageous and strong,” Karcher said. He went on to remind us,  “Let us never forget the tragedy, but let us also rekindle our patriotism and resilience that we felt that dark day 10 years ago.”

Following a musical tribute to each branch of military service, participants walked down the library driveway 1.8 miles to a nearby park, where refreshments were served and there was a celebration of freedom.  A number of Amgen staff members chose to observe the day at the 9/11 Freedom Walk & Program. Debbie Gregory of and John Huebusch, Director of the Reagan Library, hosted a dinner party under Air Force One that was attended by several dozen Amgen employees.   “It was my great honor to attend this year’s event with both family and Amgen peers.  The program allowed for children, adults and corporations to come together as a community in a meaningful and memorable way”, said Farryn Melton, VP Sourcing for Amgen.

2011 CalVet Women Veterans Conference

On Friday & Saturday, October 7 & 8, 2011, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) and the Inland Empire Veterans Collaborative are partnering to host the 2011 CalVet Women Veterans Conference: Enhancing Inner Beauty, Inner Strength to address the issues that impact the lives of women veterans.

This two-day conference will educate women veterans about their VA benefits and connect them with job opportunities and various resources. Women veterans, including those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, face challenges when making the transition from military duty back to civilian life. Many find it difficult to obtain employment while dealing with issues such as post traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma and homelessness.  The conference will also feature dynamic keynote and motivational speakers, a Military Women Veterans Panel: Telling Their Stories and an open forum with California Legislators. Two women veterans will be recognized as recipients of the 2011 California Woman Veteran of the Year Award. The conference hours are Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the DoubleTree, Hotel Ontario Airport,  222 North Vineyard Avenue, Ontario, CA.