The Long Road Home, a Must-See Miniseries

long road

By Debbie Gregory.

The National Geographic miniseries “The Long Road Home,” based on a book of the same name by ABC News Correspondent Martha Raddatz, is the true story of the 2004 deployment of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Hood, Texas to Sadr City, Iraq.

This is the story of the eight-hour battle in Sadr City on April 4, 2004, that followed the ambush of the newly-arrived American platoon. The soldiers, many of them young and inexperienced, were on a peacekeeping mission and weren’t expected to face heavy combat. Told in real time through the eyes of untested soldiers in combat for the first time, the series gives viewers an intimate and unforgettable portrait of what it’s really like to go to war.

The eight part mini-series tells the story of the ambush and the three heroic rescue missions launched to save the platoon. It also focuses on the home front, as wives and mothers waited anxiously for word and drew support from one another.

Instead of it being the low-key peacekeeping mission they were expecting, the deployment ended up being a series of a deadly ambushes and brave rescues, spread out over 80 days of fighting.

The day that came to be known in military annals as “Black Sunday” claimed the lives of eight troop members and injured 60 others.

“The courage I witnessed, the heartache and the survival of spirit both on the battlefield and the homefront, is something I wanted to share with as many people as possible,” said Raddatz.

The series was shot at Fort Hood. Aaron Fowler and Eric Bourquin, who had both been part of the deployments, served as technical advisers.

“The Long Road Home” premiered on November 7th on the National Geographic Channel.

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Veterans Transplant Coverage Act Will Save Lives


By Debbie Gregory.

The House has passed the Veterans Transplant Coverage Act of 2017, which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide organ transplants to veterans from a live donor, regardless of whether or not that donor is a veteran.

Introduced by Texas Congressman John Carter, the bipartisan legislation guarantees that no veteran is denied transplant coverage.

“No Veteran should be denied a life-saving procedure due to bureaucratic red tape under the VA Choice Program,” said Rep. Carter. Current VA policy has excluded non-Veteran live donations from coverage under the VA Choice Program.

The Veterans Transplant Coverage Act also allows veterans to receive transplant operations at any VA or non-VA facility convenient for them.

The legislation has been supported by the American Legion, AMVETS, Got Your 6, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, among others.

Rep. Carter represents Texas District 31, which includes Fort Hood, the largest active duty armored military installation. He serves as Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations, co-chairman of the Congressional Army Caucus, is on the Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice and Science and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

The bill was co-sponsored by Michael McCaul, R-TX 10th; Doug LaMalfa, R-CA; Ted Poe, R-TX 2nd; Elise Stefanik, R-NY 21st; and Sanford Bishop Jr., D-GA 2n.

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Fort Hood Soldiers Arrested In Prostitution Sting


By Debbie Gregory.

A sting conducted by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department resulted in the arrests of 13 Fort Hood soldiers who now face charges of solicitation of prostitution.

The men responded to online ads offering sexual service in exchange for money. The locations and times were arranged via text messages.

The soldiers, who were among 20 individuals arrested in the operation, ranged in rank from private to major. Each soldier has been released on bond, ranging from $1,500 to $2500.

“Allegations such as these are taken seriously as they run counter to Army values,” Tom Rheinlander, director of Fort Hood Public Affairs, said in a statement. “As always, we are supportive of local authorities and will cooperate fully. Fort Hood will refrain from commenting further given that this is an ongoing investigation.”

The men have been charged with solicitation of prostitution and two may face felony charges for specifically responding to ads for prostitutes under the age of 18.

Although solicitation of prostitution is a misdemeanor with a punishment ranging from a fine to jail time, the soldiers could face additional punishment or adverse impacts on their military careers.

Pandering and prostitution is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which, if found guilty at court-martial, could result in a maximum penalty that includes a dishonorable discharge and a year of confinement.

The soldiers arrested were identified as:

Sgt. Carlos Castillo, 1st Cavalry Division

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ernest Grant, Warrior Transition Unit

Staff Sgt. Natalion Seymour, 2nd Chemical Battalion

Staff Sgt. Kendrick Davis, 57th Signal Battalion

Master Sgt. Stanley Ervin, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command

Pvt. Xavier Horne, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment

Warrant Officer 1 Gregory Hughes, 1st Combat Service Support Battalion

Maj. Donta White, 89th Military Police Brigade

Spc. Jimmie Joiner, 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment

Pfc. Adrian Upshawn, 3rd Cavalry Regiment

Sgt. Michael Culpepper, 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment

Spc. Christopher John Webster, III Corps

Joseph Bartolomei

Dontae Johnson

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Flooding Causes Accident that Claims Three Soldiers, Six Still Missing


By Debbie Gregory.

Our sincerest condolences go out to the families and friends of the three soldiers tragically killed on June 2nd , when their Light Medium Tactical Vehicle was washed from a low-water crossing and overturned. Three soldiers were rescued, but six soldiers remain unaccounted for. Army aircraft, canine search teams, swift-water rescue watercraft and heavy trucks are taking part in the rescue mission.

“The search is ongoing for six soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division,” Fort Hood officials said in a statement.

Fort Hood spokesman John Miller said the low-water crossing of the creek was flooded by two days of heavy rains.

The storm system that moved through the Houston-area Wednesday night and Thursday morning dropped some eight inches of rain, causing flooding

Currently, close to half of the state of Texas is under flood watches or warnings, in some neighborhoods.

The river reached 54.8 feet in Fort Bend County — 4 feet higher than the record set in 1994 — with water spilling into neighborhoods that hadn’t previously flooded. Officials say levels in the Brazos have not dropped much and additional rainfall could make the flooding worse.

Depending on how much rain falls, the Brazos River could even rise to up to 56 feet, said Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert.

The names of the deceased soldiers will be withheld pending notification of their next of kin, the military said.

Built in 1942 and named after the Confederate General John Bell Hood, Fort Hood is the largest active-duty Army base in the US. It is located halfway between Austin and Waco, Texas.

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Veterans Court at Fort Hood is the Newest Veteran Benefit

veterans court

By Debbie Gregory.

Last month, under an agreement between the U.S. Attorney, the Chief of Pretrial Services for the Western District of Texas and the VA, a Veterans Treatment Court, the first located on a major military installation, was established at Fort Hood. This is a great veteran benefit to the many veterans in the Fort Hood area.

Also called the Veterans Endeavor for Treatment Support, the program hopes to aid veterans with service-connected mental health or substance abuse disorders to stay out of the court system. As far as veteran resources go, this one is a win-win for all.

Fort Hood was chosen because of the large veteran population surround the base. However, the program is voluntary. A variety of misdemeanor crimes will fall into the program such as driving while intoxicated, various types of assaults, property crimes and theft crimes.
Qualified veterans charged with committing misdemeanors while on Fort Hood will be eligible to participate in the pilot program designed to provide an alternative to a federal conviction. The treatment court model also builds upon the Department of Justice ‘Smart on Crime’ initiative to bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism.

“This is a unique program, and so far as we know, it is the only one of its kind for offenses committed by veterans on military bases,” said Richard Durbin, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas.

Scheduled to begin this month, the initiative will be overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Walter Smith Jr. and run by Judge Jeffrey Manske.

Participants in the program will be under intensive supervision for approximately 12-18 months, concurrently utilizing various types of treatment depending on their circumstances. Treatment could include substance abuse, mental health, and counseling.

More than 160 of these courts exist in state and federal jurisdictions nationwide. If you know of a local Veterans’ Court in your area, please feel free to send the information to [email protected] and we will add it to our Veterans Court Resource page.

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Ft. Hood Says Goodbye to the Hug Lady


By Debbie Gregory.

On December 23rd, the family of soldiers at Fort Hood lost a beloved supporter.

For the last 12 years, Elizabeth Laird, lovingly known as the Fort Hood Hug Lady, physically embraced hundreds of thousands of Fort Hood soldiers. More often than not, her hug was the last one soldiers received before boarding a plane for deployment, and the first one they received when they returned home. Regardless of the time of day or night, or her own personal trials, she was there.

Just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Laird began volunteering at Fort Hood with the Salvation Army. And she always found time to shake a hand or two. One day a soldier asked for a hug instead, and that simple act began her legacy.

The 83-year-old great-grandmother had been battling cancer for some ten years. But in spite of her illness, she regularly made her way to Fort Hood and hugged the necks of those being deployed. She reassured those who were afraid, and provided company to those who felt alone. She encouraged and prayed for them all.

A GoFundMe page was set up to cover $10,000 of her medical expenses, but as a final embrace, nearly $95,000 from more than 3,000 donors was raised.

Unbeknownst to many, Laird herself was former military, having joined the Air Force at 18. She ended up at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

An online petition is circulating, with nearly 24,000 signatures, for the Fort Hood Deployment Center to be named the Elizabeth Laird Deployment Center.

“For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return,” Col. Christopher C. Garver, III Corps public affairs officer, said in a statement. “It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our Soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices … she will be deeply missed.”

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