There's a terrific local talk show host at 700 KSEV named Edd Hendee. Four months ago one of his neighbors, whom Edd had coached on sports teams as a child, was seriously injured in Iraq. Cpl Casey Owens was traveling in a humvee when it hit a land mine. Cpl Owens lost both of his legs, and nearly lost his life.
Edd has been following Cpl Owens' recovery on his show. He periodically has Owens' mother and sister on his show to talk about what he has gone through. You can read about Owens' recovery at http://www3.caringbridge.org/tx/caseyowens/ . Last week the Owens family was able to go to the inauguration. The first hand account of that day from Owens' sister will bring tears to your eyes. There's a link to photos that you must see as well, including several with the President and Mrs. Bush.
There is a now famous photo taken of Owens saluting the president, with his mother crying behind him, that made national news. You can see it by clicking here .
Here's a link to a Houston Chronicle story on Cpl Owens - http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/3002296
There is another website you can see a pic of Cpl Owens on - http://www.lonestartimes.com/index.php?id=49,1584,0,0,1,0
When you click on this link, you will also see some of Edd Hendee's journal entries. Edd is currently in Iraq! He was so inspired by Casey that he went over as a "radio journalist embed". Every day, he calls in to the local radio station, and writes an extraordinary journal entry (he's a terrific writer). Each day, he uses his satellite phone and will interview our soldiers live. Each time, they try to connect the soldier with a family member via the sat phone. I haven't worn mascara in two weeks because I kept crying it off. It's been the most amazing radio I have ever heard.
On January 22nd, Edd wrote about finding a Gunnery Sgt. who had come up with a way to armor humvees in a way that would save soldiers lives. Here is a snippet from Edd's journal entry that explains:
Yesterday the 507th Medical Air Evac Company had told me the day before that there were supply issues that were holding up the armoring of the humvees. This morning we met with Gunnery Sgt. Dale Haukeli of the 1/7 Marines Motor Transport.
The problem is the humvees that have been issued to the 1/7 are standard units for the most part. Some have armored doors and sides, but only 1 or 2 have the undercarriage armor. When the humvee runs over the mine the explosion penetrates the engine compartment and through the firewall to severely injure the driver or passenger. Land mines are the weapon of choice of the insurgents and the biggest threat facing these Marines. A re-designed and completely factory armored Humvee that can withstand a land mine strike could be years away from reaching this area. So Gunny Haukeli designed a system of 7 armored plates that are bolted under the wheel well and floor boards of the humvee. This system is simple, easy to manufacture and fit to the vehicle in the field. There were 2 land mine strikes in the last few months, one humvee had this armor kit installed and the other did not. The unarmored vehicle driver lost both legs and an eye. The armored vehicle was destroyed but the driver only suffered a broken leg.
Two mines, two humvess, and two very different outcomes. Additionally the armored humvee was destroyed but the plates were unbolted from the wreckage and re-installed on another humvee. Simple designs can work wonders.
Now for the frustrating part, Gunny Haukeli is having a very hard time getting the parts and equipment to armor these humvees. He put together a priority 1 parts and equipment list and today we began putting this into action. My wife worked out the details of shipping these parts air freight while my friend Danny Lee procured the supplies. They will have the required material on site within a week after waiting for these parts for months through regular channels.
The problem? It's not a standard approved system because the enemy didn't get prior Pentagon permission for this tactic. The solution for an evolving tactic in this war is to empower the troops in the field to apply solutions. Sometimes that doesn't fit in the standardized supply chain procedures of the military.
Gunny Haukeli has also put together a power point presentation with all equipment and installation procedures. That will be delivered to DC, to Congressional contacts and to the Pentagon as soon as I get home. According to the men in the field this program will save lives. I can't think of anything I could have done more important today. God had worked out this program and these contacts long before I showed up in Iraq. Now we just have to get it done.
This afternoon I got to brief Cpl. Casey Owens squad on his progress. His guys were relieved to hear of his recovery and courage. After showing them the photos of Casey in Washington DC we called Casey on the Satellite Phone and let them just talk as friends again for 30 minutes or so. The smile on the Marines faces was great to see and Casey was glad to hear from his guys. They'll have a very special reunion when the 1/7 comes home. The Marines and their families are all counting the days.
Edd realized that this armor may have saved Casy's legs, and could save many lives. He is now on a mission to independently fund the Gunnery Sgt's armor design on all of our soldiers' humvees. Edd's radio station is promoting the fundraiser. Every penny, 100%, goes toward potentially saving a life. You can donate via paypal at http://lonestartimes.com/index.php?id=0,1584,0,0,1,0
. There is a paypal button on the right side.
You can read Edd's extraordinary journal there for past entries, and http://www.lonestartimes.com/
for the latest.
Edd was featured yesterday on http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/
, he'll be on Laura Ingraham's show today, and after he returns from Iraq he'll be on Fox and Friends sometime next week.
Whether you donate or not, go read Edd's journal and Casey Owens' sister's journal.