Thursday, June 25, 2009

Letter 17

June 18th, 2009
Balad, Iraq


This latest letter is going to be interesting for me to write as I have two extremes of emotions. The happy side of the letter revolves around my wife and me celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary today! Wow! Shelby and I have come a long way in 15 years. We started out living in a 700 square foot apartment in Fortville, Indiana in a cheesy apartment that did not have a dishwasher, air conditioning…heck it did not even have screens in the windows. We used to scrape together change just to go rent a movie. We learned multiple ways to spice up Ramen noodles and Spaghetti O’s. Shelby’s father at one point even gave us a bunch of venison meat as we could not afford hamburger…we made a lot of “venison helper”. We have survived my multiple trips back to school, and four kids. Speaking of that I will share a story with you regarding how we “set the time” when we would start having children. I thought that I would be cleaver and be able to hold Shelby off about when she wanted to start to have kids. So I told her that she could have a plant…if she could keep it alive for a year, then she could get an animal. Again, if the animal survived for a year then we could start having children. On our first wedding anniversary I bought Shelby a nice rubber tree plant. Then sometime in the next year we found Chan, our Siamese kitten. Anyway, I came home one day to find Chan hanging from the stem and the remains of the shredded rubber tree plant!…Shelby was so upset that I would enforce “the rule”! Anyway, the next year we had Mahayla. (This is the part of the letter where I think that I was ever actually in charge). Anyway, the error that I made was that I did not put an ending point on my conditions. I now have two dogs, two cats, I had 4 hamsters at one point, and of course 4 kids. Now, Mahayla has the plan to start breeding beagles…say a prayer for me! (Anybody want a beagle)? God has been really good to me, and I feel blessed everyday for my family.

The sad side of this letter was that since I last wrote my sponsoring doctor (PAs need to have a doctor indicated for them to be licensed), died suddenly at work. Dr. Fred Osborn was the one that helped push for me to be hired when I first graduated from PA school 9 years ago. He was a true mentor for me and I feel that I owe him so much. It was really hard on me to be here and not be able to go to his funeral. I want to say thank you to Fred for being my mentor, teacher and most importantly being my friend. I will miss you more than words can say in a letter. Below is a picture of Dr. Osborn:

The picture below is of me, Fred, and Erin another PA at Community Hospital of Anderson. Please everyone reading this say a prayer for Fred’s family.

Things are starting to change a bit here at our base. Recall that the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) that we have with Iraq’s new governments was that all US combat troops be out of all Iraq cities by the end of June. We have been pretty busy here as we have had several units leave and new units arrive with all the changes taking place.

Speaking of our clinic I have a funny story that has recently happened. Our clinic also takes care of TCNs (third country nationals). These tend to be Pakistani, Turkish, Indonesian, etc. Well, I was seeing this patient who had flank pain and pain when he urinated. Needless to say he did not speak very good English. I told my medic get urine from him so that we could check his urine. Well, our medic sent him to the bathroom with the little urine cup…well about twenty minutes later, he is still in the restroom…what the world? Finally, he emerges and hands the medic a cup of stool! The medic comes to tell me that we do not have urine, but we do have a nice stool sample…I bust out laughing, which the medic did not think it was funny as she had to look at the patient as he came out of the bathroom and handed her “the sample”. What do you think this guy is thinking…”why would the Americans want me to poop in a cup”? He either thought we were thorough or that we were idiots! Nice skill in getting it into the cup. What do you say? What can you say? I will say this most of the TCNs are very nice and thankful for any care that we give them.

Several days ago we had the worst sandstorm ever! Now take any picture of sand storms that I have sent in previous letters and multiply it easily by 10. This one was like a blizzard; you could not see more than 10 feet in front of you and you could not breathe without covering your face. There must have been some moister in the sand as it literally stuck to everything. It looked like what happens when you get hard blowing cold snow and it covers the street, cars etc. It was everywhere. It was so bad I ran into my room, in the time it took me to open my door and close it my fire alarm was going off due to the cloud of sand that entered my room. My hair was covered as was my clothes. There is no way to adequately describe it, but I hope to never experience a storm like that again. What makes it worse is that it is so consistently hot. It is always above 110 everyday. I think most days it may get up to 120…so when the wind blows it is more like a convection oven than a cool breeze.

We had to say good bye to Dr. Sammi this week. He is an Iraqi-American doctor that we have been working with. He specifically has been working with local doctors and the US State Department trying to improve their healthcare system. He has been in charge of a bunch of Iraqi doctors that have been through our clinic to observe American outpatient medicine and mass casualty operations. Below is a picture of Dr. Sammi:

This picture was taken during our shift in the clinic. We generally have four providers on during the day. Dr. Andrew Porter in on the left, he is a sports medicine doctor out of Iowa. Major Jeff Romig is next to CPT Porter, and is a PA out of Illinois. Dr. Sammi is in the middle. I am next to Dr. Sammi, and CPT Travis Welch is on the right end. We are standing in front of our mural T-wall in front of the clinic that blocks the entrance and protects it from any indirect fire attacks (mortar/rockets). You can see who was actually working during the shift as CPT Porter and I have stethoscopes on! We were all squinting in the picture as the sun was in our eyes and the sand was blowing.

I have a few more pictures of our base that I will share with you. The first is from the roof of our clinic. We have been known to have a few cigars up here at night when it cools down. It does provide some nice scenery of our surrounding area. 180 degrees from this picture is the airstrip. It is pretty cool watching the fighters taking off at night with their afterburners. It is also pretty peaceful and quit so it is a good place to “get away”.

The trees in the background are located at our perimeter. We do have some trees but for the most part Army = plant death. If you take the road scene above in the picture heading “deeper into the picture” toward the perimeter you will see the palm tree grove below. This edge of the base is relatively close to the Tigris River.

The fence is our perimeter. See there really is vegetation outside our base! Makes you feel safe that there is just a chain link fence between our base and the Iraqi countryside. We do have the area under surveillance and there are guard towers similar to the one seen below:

Besides guard towers we do have plenty of aircraft observing the area. The inner base is also protected by T-walls and other barriers. Finally, the aircraft for this letter is the very large C-17 transport plane. This plane is also known as a Globemaster.

This picture does not do justice to how large this plane really is. I actually flew on one of these during my first deployment. I flew all the way from Germany into Kabul. They are not built for comfort, but they sure can transport a lot of items.

I will try to do better about writing more frequently. I have been working very hard to try to finish my PhD…which I did send in another draft yesterday, so it is moving! Also, the clinic is busy as usual. We have been averaging about 2,500 – 3,000 patient visits per month! In addition to our clinic duties all soldiers that leave Iraq must do what is called a PDHA (Post-Deployment Health Assessment), which means they have to meet with a medical provider. We do a screening on everything from suicidal/homicidal issues to environmental exposures. It is tedious, but is a good screening tool. This is done within thirty days of the soldiers leaving theater. This last week was really hard as the unit that we were clearing had a soldier killed the day before by a grenade that was thrown into the vehicle. Several other US soldiers were injured. This was one of his last missions before getting to go home. I think it bothered all of us, as it was a reminder of just where we are at. Please say a prayer for his family and all the soldiers that were affected by his death. However, attacks do seem to be declining, which I hope is a trend that will continue. Just keep your thoughts and prayers coming for all the service members and their families. NEVER FORGET that all the service members are fighting for our freedoms and our way of life. NEVER FORGET that we live in the greatest country on Earth with more opportunity than any other. Not much longer and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible when I get home.

God Bless

Major Roscoe

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Letter 16

May 25th, 2009
Balad. Iraq


I hope this letter finds everyone well. I wanted to spend some time talking about Memorial Day. This as always been a special solemn day for me, but this year it seems that I have been more introspective. Perhaps, it is because I am in Iraq, maybe it is that I have had friends that have been killed in action. Either way, I will try to organize my thoughts a bit below, but I ask to please take the time to think of our military members who have given everything for our freedoms.

The first picture that I want to include is actually from my Afghanistan deployment in 2004-2005. This is so very personal to me that it is a bit hard to type this. This is a picture from our fallen comrade ceremony when four soldiers from our task force were killed by a road side bomb. I knew all them.

The military always uses symbolism with its ceremonies. In this case the helmet and identification tags signify the fallen soldier. The inverted rifle with bayonet signals a time for prayer, a break in the action to pay tribute to our comrade. The combat boots represent the final march of the last battle.

I include this pictures so that we all do not lose sight of what Memorial Day is and represents. The World does not stop, when sometimes we all wish it would. However, we can stop for a few seconds…remember not just the fallen soldiers but the families and friends who have lost part of their lives as well.

I guess the above picture summarize my thoughts better than words will ever do. I have included below several editorial cartoons for Memorial Day that I think are very appropriate:

Thank you to all the Veterans who are reading this for your sacrifices. Thank you for paving the way for us. We current soldiers remember your sacrifices, and will never forget! I am very proud to be part of a family (both mine and my wife’s side) that have a history of service.

The irony behind this letter is that while composing the ideas for it, our base took another aggressive mortar attack. There were three soldiers injured when the mortars landed in a living area not far from us. Fortunately, nobody from our task force was injured. There was also later an Iraqi that came to our gate that had a portion of his hand traumatically injured. Turns out that this Iraqi was probably the same guy that actually fired the mortars! Of course our base treated him. I wonder what the insurgents would have done if it was the reverse situation. I guess that is what separates us from them. The worse part of indirect fire attacks (mortar, rockets) is that you cannot fight back, and the randomness of what they are going to strike. You just have to get down or in a bunker and hope it is not close.

I think it is time to lighten the tone of the letter. Below is a picture of an old anti-aircraft Iraqi weapon that probably has been at this location next to the airstrip since we first came here.

There are some interesting things in this picture. First, if you look behind the tree on the right you will see an old Iraqi bunker. In typical American fashion on top of the bunker is a little gazebo that we built. I am sure it is for smoking, and hanging out. You can also see the main control tower in the background. The picture below is of a convoy that just entered our base. They park near our clinic. That is because the PX and MWR building is close:

The large vehicles are all called MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected). They are designed to protect against road side bombs. They are amazing and I know that I have mentioned them before, but they really are saving lives. Look at how much bigger they are then the Humvee next to it. I like this picture as I was able to get the Indiana street sign in it as well. The “guns” on the vehicles are all .50 caliber machine guns. This is a pretty well armed convoy group. My last three pictures for this letter are more aircraft type pictures as these are pretty popular. The first is a close view of an F-16:

Amazing! These things are very loud when they use their afterburners as they take off. They do this to quickly gain altitude to be out of range of any enemy fire. This of course rattles my CHU! The picture below is of a Kiowa Warrior:

Remember in a previous email I mentioned that all helicopters are named after Native American Indians. This is the Kiowa. Specifically, the Kiowa Warrior as it has rocket pods. I am not sure if you can see them in this picture. This is a small recon helicopter that is very fast and mobile.
I want to close this letter with the idea of how it started. Below is a picture of a pair of Blackhawk MEDEVAC helicopters landing at the hospital here in Balad. These were carrying injured soldiers.

Thank you to everyone who continues to support me and my family. I am on the home stretch now. I should be home sometime in August so we are under our 90 day window and are officially “short-timers”. Please continue to pray for all the soldiers, marines, airman, and sailors that are here defending all of our freedom. NEVER FORGET all those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave all. NEVER FORGET that we live in the greatest nation on Earth with endless opportunities only because people have been willing to fight and die for the idea of freedom. I know it is past Memorial Day, but when you get this letter please pause for 10 seconds and give a prayer for all the service members, especially the families. Make sure to include the families that have had a service member die. Thank you again for supporting all the troops!

Major Roscoe

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Letter 15

May 14, 2009
Balad, Iraq


Again, I must apologize for the slow correspondence with everyone. The clinic has been extremely busy over the past several weeks. Additionally, the semester was ending at Butler and I was working toward finishing off the semester. I am very thankful that the semester is over so that I can hopefully work to finish my dissertation. I suppose that by now everyone has read/watched about the massive tragedy in Baghdad where a soldier went into a combat stress clinic and killed 5 people. It has created an amazing amount of tension here in Iraq. It is almost overwhelming for us as soldiers to comprehend one of our “brothers” shooting a fellow soldier. It is bad enough to deal with the daily stress of indirect fire attacks and the chance of being killed by the enemy, but to have a fellow soldier commit fratricide is unthinkable. The sad item is that two of the 5 people killed were reserve doctors from Indiana. Part of the unit that lost the soldiers is stationed here in Balad. Our unit/medical providers especially feel the pain of this horrific act as the mental health specialist are fellow medical care givers, and are reserve soldiers from Indiana. It just shows that anything can happen at anytime, anywhere. Please pray for the families of these soldiers as the loss of loved ones is hard, but the loss like this is even more difficult. Pray for SGT Russell’s family (the shooter) that they may find peace with what their son did.

Perhaps it is the multiple deployments, the time away from home, or whatever the news will give you as a cause for this action. I will tell you that I have been on multiple deployments to different combat zones totaling about 30 months in < 5 years. This is stressful! The military recognizes this and there are stress clinics on just about every base here in Iraq and in Afghanistan. There is help everywhere! We have lectures every three months on suicide/homicide prevention. Soldiers also generally take care of each other…this sort of act is an anomaly thank God, but the military is trying to get help for its soldiers. When the news/family wants to blame the victims (medical staff) and the military, I have a problem with this. I do not have the urge to hurt anyone…we still make our own choices. SGT Russell made a choice…his choice. A tragic choice that he will have to live with…it is not the fault of innocent soldiers that he was broke, and chose to kill. The fact is that he was at a mental health clinic by a command referral! Either way, I am safe. Outside of this event in Baghdad, our base here at Balad has been pretty quiet over the past several weeks. It has been at least a week since our last attack. We did learn that our base and Mosul are the two most attacked bases in Iraq…comforting. Our newest threat is apparently snipers. Fortunately, there have been no reports of any small arms fire. Summer has fully arrived here in Iraq. It is regularly over 110 degrees now. Check out our thermometer from last week.

It is not even June yet! But hey…it’s a dry heat! You know why they say that…because at this temp all the freaking water has evaporated! Also, with this big heat wave came the worse sandstorm that I have experienced since being in Iraq. It was a clear beautiful day, walked to lunch…then you see this literal wall of sand coming. We just made it back into the clinic when it hit. Below are some pictures of this storm.
I have shown this view in several previous letters. You can not even see what structures are across the street. If you look there are two people walking on the sidewalk. They are seriously no more than 40-50 yards away. Below is another picture but is the backside of our clinic. When you look at this picture, remember it is about noon. It was a beautiful clear day approximately 15 minutes prior to this picture. Behind the tent there is a tree…cannot even see it. Welcome to our colony on Mars!
This area of the clinic is our ambulance entrance. The two trucks are indeed ambulances which in the military are known as FLAs (front line ambulance). When the crosses are displayed (or crescent if from a Muslim nation, Star of David for Israel) it means that they are on a medical mission/have a patient which by Geneva Convention means that they are supposed to be “off-limits” for attack. When the crosses are displayed they also cannot attack nor do anything that would be considered offensive (attacking). So there are flaps to cover the crosses when not doing medical missions. (Tangent warning) - I think that the US is one of the few nations that actually try to follow the Geneva Convention. We already know that our enemies do not care about it as they like to cut off American’s heads. I guess this makes water-boarding seem like child’s play. I am just not sure if we can really get intelligence from terrorist (one’s whose agenda is to cause fear/pain) without getting our hands a little dirty. I promise you after being over here; they would not hesitate to torture us…but not just for information. I find it troubling that we have a ruthless enemy here (Iraq and Afghanistan) and America feels like we need to investigate/prosecute Americans trying to keep us safe. I am not saying torture is correct, but what we did is hardly torture. I can tell you another time of the torture items I saw with my own eyes in Afghanistan and the mass graves of women and children. Maybe our leaders should see some of these sites before going after our CIA. (Tangent over).

We just named our sidewalks in our living area. This helps me find my CHU (room) when I have those late night drinking binges. Anyway, Travis Welch and Bryan McFarland and I all live on the same “street” (all Butler grads). Below is the name of our street:
Butler University now has a “street” named after it in Iraq! Beneath the “street sign” you are looking down one of our internal bunkers that we have to get into if we have an IDF (indirect fire attack – mortar/rocket) that is coming into our sector. Sitting on top of the bunkers are T-Walls which are very reinforced concrete slabs that will stop a mortar/rocket. If you look at the top of the T-walls you will see a ton of wires…looks like a shanty town. These are all wires for the internet. Most of them are not really connected to anything. It is just easier to restring wire than to try to find its origin and pull it all out. It actually provides some nice shade though. Here is another picture of our beloved Butler Bulldog Boulevard:

The arrow below the street sign is a typical military sign. It is to show you the way out of the housing area in case of fire. Really! I would have never guessed. The building seen through the gap in the bunker wall is the PX (store). It is seen in the first sandstorm picture above but is almost invisible. Gives you another idea of how bad that storm really was. Below is a random picture of my roommate.

It is taken just outside my chu: This little sparrow is one of the loudest creatures on Earth! At least his song is pretty. He likes to make sure that I am up early to be able to get to the gym. I need to think of a name…maybe I will take some suggestions. I have yet another random type picture…if you recall in a previous letter I talked about how we (soldiers) like to paint some of the T-walls to give some color to our Lunar landscape. Anyway, here is our T-wall that was recently painted in our company area:

All companies have a motto/mascot. We are the Guardian Medics, and our symbol is an Arch-Angel. This is our unit/deployment picture. I think it is pretty cool when you think that it was painted on gray drab piece of concrete with crappy brushes and paint. The final set of pictures for this letter is in my tradition of trying to show you some mundane things to show you some of our daily areas. Below is of our restroom (when not using port-a-johns), and our shower area.

This is one of two porcelain toilets we have for the men. The stuffed animal is for Alan Antao (and my PA students)…See it is possible to get this on toilet seats! Anyway…looks cozy. I especially like the nice pattern on the wall tile. This pattern can be seen everywhere here. The toilets work most of the time, but they have low pressure which is why we need to keep the plunger close. Below is one of our three showers for about 60 guys.
Again, admire the wall tile. This tile has a nice mold accent that seems to be resistant to all known forms of bleach. That is a window on the left, but it is covered with sandbags on the other side. I will finish this letter with some email stories that I received that I think are very are very pertinent for this letter. The first is for a major shout out to all my PA students who have finished a long year, but especially to the new graduates that now get to fly from the nest. They are all awesome and I am so very proud of them. The story below is for them to help keep them grounded as they enter the very scary “real world”. The story is a pretend story about the right of passage a boy must take to become a man:
"His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a man. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own. The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat there, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man... Finally, after a horrific night, the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm. We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, our Heavenly Father is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him."
I liked this story, it is appropriate for all of us, but especially for these new graduates and their new jobs/lives…sitting on a stump with the perception of being alone…not so! Please stay in touch, all the faculty and especially me, will always be around to help as we can. Shelby, please tell our babies this story and let them know that I will always be there watching over them as well. The last story that I was sent gives a picture of the average American Soldier currently deployed overseas. I would say that it is pretty accurate. I thought that it was appropriate with the horrible events that happened in Baghdad this week.
“The average age of the military man is 19 years.. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's, but he has never collected unemployment either. He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer. He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must. He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop, or stop until he is told to march. He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low. He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job. He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime. He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed. He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away ' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful. Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years. He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding. Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood. And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so. As you go to bed tonight, Pray for our military...use the prayer wheel below: Prayer Wheel 'Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need... Amen."
I think those two stories sum up my feelings pretty well. Thank you to all the support. It is getting better as I will be home in less than 90 days! I am planning on having a home coming party and would like to have everyone who gets this letter to come. Continue to pray for all of us and our families. Thank you to Dean Andritz for your very kind and humbling words that you gave on my behalf at the hooding ceremony. Thank you PA3 students for wearing a pin on your regalia on my behalf. I am humbled. NEVER FORGET the freedoms and opportunities that you have in America. NEVER FORGET that you live in the greatest nation on Earth. NEVER FORGET that sacrifices that all our soldiers, sailors, Marines and Airman give for all of our freedoms.
God Bless:
Major Roscoe

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Letter 14

Letter 14
April 21, 2009
Balad, Iraq


I am sorry that I am behind on my letters. I have been busier than normal since my last update. When I arrived back, Major Romig left for his leave. He is the OIC (Officer in Charge) of the clinic, and I assumed his job while he was away. The OIC is essentially the “chief of staff” of the clinic so deals with all the provider issues, complaints, and any care issues for the TMC (Troop Medical Clinic). The OIC also is a liaison between the administrative leadership and the clinic. What this means in English is that our clinic has essentially two bosses: 1) the standard administrative leadership of our Company Command, and the Battalion that we work for. 2) The Battalion Surgeon (surgeon in the Army is a title of senior medical leadership) who dictates any medical issues. They are both at Battalion, but they do not always communicate with each other. It is a busy job added on to an already busy clinic work schedule. Below is a picture of Colonel Shoupe, who was the BN Surgeon that I have been working with. A COL is one rank below the General ranks.

This picture was taken in our provider room and is the three Butler University PA Program graduates with COL Shoupe. I am on the left, COL shoupe is next to me, CPT Bryan McFarland, then on the end is 1LT Travis Welch.

Additionally, with my hectic schedule I had the big push toward the end of the spring semester at Butler University so I have been working hard on my teaching, which still amazes me how much time it takes. The good news is that Major Romig is back and I can “give” him his extra duties job back. Also, I have finished all my lectures, written all my exams for Butler. Finally, I can get to my PhD dissertation and maybe even get that completed in the next three months.

Life here at Balad since I last wrote has really just been mundane. We get the standard indirect fire attack several times a week (although this last week has been very quiet). We have had some really nasty dust storms…some of the worse since I have been here. The last several that we had I think were so bad that we didn’t even get an attack. The only difference is that the temperatures have really been climbing. Below is an outdoor thermometer outside of 1LT Welch’s room.

I know the weather back in Indiana has been all over the place, but I heard that it was pretty cold for a few days. This was taken one day about 10-12 days ago (not in direct sunlight). I am sure that within the next month this will be buried at the 120 marker. If you look behind the thermometer you can see the large concrete “T-Walls” that protect our living area from indirect fire attacks. If you look at the window seal you can see the thin layer of sand/dirt that seems to be on everything.

Well, I have another good story for you. Do you remember Major Altman from Tennessee? He was the doctor that went “down range” and Major Romig replaced all his underwear with women’s panties. Anyway, when Major Romig went on leave, Dr. Altman was heading home. They met up and spent the day together in Ali Al Salem, Kuwait. Major Romig thought everything was good, safe…come to find out that Major Altman was still “wounded” about the underwear issue. One of the steps for us to do before we get to get on a plane to come back to the U.S. is go through customs. Customs searches everything. Major Romig steps up for his turn and he has to dump out everything out of his bags, including any “extra” or “hidden” pockets. As he dumps his bag, out falls a half-filled pee bottle. The pee bottle is a nasty habit that many soldiers resort to as there are often no restrooms close to where you sleep or live. Anyway, Major Altman’s “gift” to Major Romig was not as well received by the customs officials who were very disgusted with Major Romig. Can you see Major Romig “it was my friend” “it is not mine” There was nothing that Major Romig could say except to take the comments and lecture given by the grossed out customs officials…Disgusting, but funny. Somehow, I think that this is not completely over as Dr. Altman accidently left his stethoscope here.

Easter came and went here, just like all the other major holidays. I find it hard to really “get in the spirit” of the holidays as nothing changes here. I did go to Easter Mass which was nice. It was a truly international service as there were people from Africa, Asia, Arabia, Americas and Europe all there. It was a bit interesting to be “packing heat” to go to Church. Below is everyone leaving after the service.

You can see in the picture all the soldiers that have weapons. The back wall of windows may have been pretty cool if they were not enclosed with concrete walls making the entire chapel a large bunker. To give you an idea, below is a picture of the outside of our “Provider’s Chapel”:

The buildings have the canopy to protect against indirect fire. Everything on this base has reinforcements due to the large number of attacks that we get.

There was a large Ecumenical Sunrise Service at our stadium that I heard was really nice. They were able to finish the service just before it started to rain. Remember, a ¼ inch of rain here causes flooding so it is a big deal as we just do not get a lot of rainfall. The other thing is that with this sand-dirt that we have here it not make mud per se but rather this nasty paste like substance that just refuses to come off of your boots and clothes.

Emotionally, I have had a hard couple of weeks. I think most of it has been from missing my family and loved ones, but also with just always being busy. Well, there was an MWR (moral, welfare and recreation) event that was on our base that really helped my spirits this week. The MWR events range from musicians to celebrities and anything in-between. Well, I went and really enjoyed myself. Below is a picture of me with the musician…do you recognize him?

If you guessed Charlie Daniels you would be correct. He was incredible! He has been actively recording music since 1950! He and his band were so gracious. I tried to thank him for coming to entertain the troops…he was almost offended. He said “do not thank me; it is I who must thank you”. It was said with complete sincerity. He sounded great and is quit an amazing musician. Below is another picture:

He is signing some guitar picks for me. I did mention something about is Union Cavalry Hat (he would have been a good Confederate). He just laughed and thought it was funny. I do not normally listen to a lot of country music but Country music singers do seem to visit the troops more than any other group of performers. Here is a picture of him singing during the show:

This is actually at our movie theater. This theater was actually an Iraqi theater that we left standing when we invaded because the US Command thought that we may use it in the future. I am glad they did not bomb it. What I find interesting with this picture is the crowd. First, look at all the digital cameras (all the LCD screens). During some of the songs such as “Devil Went Down To Georgia” it looked like everybody had one. Also, almost all branches can be seen. The guy in the black shirt in front is a civilian contractor. Next to him in the old DCUs (Desert Camouflage Uniform) affectionately known as “coffee stains” is Navy. In front of them is the “Tiger Striped” camouflage uniform of the Air Force. Then in front of him is the PT (Physical Training) uniform jacket of the Air Force and the Army PT uniform jacket to their right. Below is an outside view of the movie theater:

You can see the framework that the US added around the building. Again, it is to protect against any mortar and rocket attacks. Yes, there is indeed a subway inside. I guess war has changed a bit since my dad was in Vietnam and certainly since the hell that our soldiers went though in Korea and WWII.

Changing gears, I wanted to show some updated pictures of my room. I have been constantly improving my living quarters and I think I am very lucky to have such a nice “home” when compared to my first deployment. The first picture is just as you enter my room and if you sat at my desk and looked at my bed:

The most noticeable item is my large Butler University Flag (Thanks MK). I did not intent to have the flame always light up when the sun is out, but I think it is pretty cool. My blanket on my bed is from Afghanistan. Can you see my couch? It was made for me by an Iraqi furniture maker. How cool is that? Of course always have to have our weapons at arms reach so my pistol is on the end of the couch. Above my bed is one of the single most important structures here and that is the Air Conditioner. Mine actually went out for a few days and it was so hot in my room that I could hardly been inside. If I were to sit on the bed and look 180 degrees this is the view:

My door is just to the right of the locker. You can see that I do have a TV. We get about 8-10 channels that show a variety of TV from the States. Of course it is via a signal so if the weather is bad we sometimes lose reception. Next, what do you think of my desk? It was “acquired” when I first arrived with the help of my medics from my original company that I was the commander of before I came over. This is where I spend all my “other time” with teaching and working on my PhD.

My military picture of this letter is of the Osprey, which is a new aircraft in the US armory. It is part helicopter and part plane. It can take off as either one, and literally fly as either one depending on which is best suited for the mission. In this case it is flying like a helicopter.

I have not seen a lot of these craft here at Balad. In fact, I think that this is the only day that I have seen one here. It is a transport/cargo craft and often carries troops in the back. Some would ask why it would be advantageous to be able to fly as either a helicopter or a fixed wing plane. Well it can fly faster and higher as a plane, but can land and take off vertically. It is actually a pretty large aircraft.

I need to close this letter, and I will try to not have too long a gap between my next correspondences. My major “shout out” for this letter has to be all the PA students and faculty. They have all been working so hard this semester and all have done amazing. We have a new soon to be graduating class…sorry that I will not be there for that, but know that I am thinking of you and please do not be strangers. To my wife and kids…not that much longer…hang in there and know that I am most proud of you and cannot wait to be HOME. Thank you to everyone for your prayers, thoughts and help with my family. Please continue your thoughts and prayers. Please NEVER FORGET why we are away from our families. NEVER FORGET those that do not get to come home to their families. NEVER FORGET that we live in the greatest nation on Earth with all the opportunities that others can only dream about.

Major Roscoe

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Letter 13


Well it has been an arduous trip back to Iraq (Shelby yells at me anytime I call Iraq “home”). I arrived at the Indy airport at about 8:30am on Monday March 16th for my 10:30 flight to Atlanta. At about 10:40 there was no plane for us to board, and Delta had made no announcements, several passengers went to ask the Delta employees what was going on. Apparently, the plane that we were supposed to get on had mechanical issues and had not left Atlanta yet (if flies back and forth). In addition Atlanta was having some storms so our new time would not be until 1:30 (1330)…well, this is no good as I am supposed to report at Atlanta at 1300 (1:00pm). I called the Army desk in Atlanta and got everything arranged for myself and 5 other soldiers from the Indianapolis area in the same situation as I. Well at about 1500 (3:00PM) we finally took off from Indy (still with little to almost no communication from Delta). On an aside, one of the Delta ladies working the desk was so rude, at one point I saw her yelling at a passenger that he needed to pay more attention to the board for the flights that she was tired of telling him. Mind you they had not shared information with the now three flights worth of passengers in the same area all going to Atlanta on three different flights. I should have known that this was just the start.
We finally arrived in Atlanta and of course our flight to Kuwait was long gone. I expected to be spending the next 20 hours or so sleeping on the airport floor, or balled up on segmented airport chairs…but hey the Army put us up at the Crown Plaza hotel at the airport in Atlanta…and paid for us to have three meals! (I pinched myself because I thought for a minute that I was Air Force). We were able to get out of Atlanta around 1900 (7:00PM) the next day. I expected our flight to be packed, but another nice surprise was that it was not…Since I was a major and there were not that many higher ranking officers on the flight I was able to sit in first-class! I had a nice spacious leather chair that even had a foot rest…cool.
We proceeded to fly from Atlanta to Shannon, Ireland…so here we are sitting in Ireland at an airport pub the day after St. Patrick’s Day and I cannot have any alcohol! Looking out the airport windows everywhere we could see was lush green. I guess this one of the reasons it is called the Emerald Isle. I would have taken pictures but of course my camera was completely dead and I did not bring my charger…sorry. The flight from Atlanta to Ireland was only about 7.5 hours. From Ireland we flew to Kuwait city…another 7.5 hours or so of flying time. We arrived in Kuwait sometime after dark, by this time I was so disoriented with the long flight time that it was hard to keep everything straight as we also lost another 7 hours for the time difference. From here we sat on a bus for 1.5 hours (I think it is an Army policy to have us hurry, wait, and then cram into a small space with all our gear). After waiting the hour and a half we drove for two more hours to Ali al Salem to see about getting our flights to our individual bases. There were no flights back to Balad (not home Shelby) but I had to come back in 6 hours for a formation to see when the next flight might be. I arrive back at 0700 (7am) on March 19 only to be told that there are no flights yet and to return at 1900 to see when we might fly. During my time in Kuwait I was able to enjoy the sand/dust, 90 degree weather and lack of sleep. I also was able to sit outside and try to give two lectures to my PA students….yes it was windy and blowing sand.
Our flight from Kuwait to Balad is a combat flight aboard a C-130. Below is a picture of a C-130:

We are literally crammed into this aircraft and we sit in 4 long rows length-wise down the middle of the aircraft with two rows facing each other. It is tight enough that you have to work with the people across from you on how to position your knees and legs and make adjustments during flight. I have been on many combat landings over my two deployments but the one on this day was the most….”aggressive” landing I think that I could have experienced. I later learned that our base has been under a lot of attacks the week that I came in and were having some small arm attacks (snipers) so there was a much higher alert level. Anyway, we rocked back and forth enough that at one point I could see out this little porthole window and I was parallel to the ground. We would then drop altitude fast enough that we came out of our seats (we are seat belted), then climb enough that we could feel some G-forces. I felt like putting my hands up in the air like a rollercoaster. I would have if I could have gotten out from between the soldiers on either side of me…we were tight enough that we did not shift left or right due to the person next to you. We eventually landed fine and I am safely back in Balad, Iraq. Below is a C-130 flying over Balad:

The first few days I was back, our base was attacked everyday. That was until one night I was awoken to the sound of a lot of explosions and rocket fire. At first, I shot out of bed, but the alarms never went off…I was tired so I just went back to bed. The next day we learned that the explosions and fire that we heard that night was outgoing. They found the sniper team and mortar/rocket teams that were giving us so much trouble. They sent out a large infantry team and apache helicopters…we have now been attack free for over a week!

In my last letter I told you about Shelby getting her head shaved for St. Baldrick’s day/organization. Well, she did it! Below is a picture of her with her head shaved:

How cool is my wife!!!! How many women could actually do this voluntarily? I am very proud of her and her self-confidence that she does not need hair to feel pretty. She did this to support childhood cancer research and funds to families of children with Cancer. Additionally, Rachel (my second) and Kolbe (my third) both decided to get their heads shaved for St. Baldrick’s and she wanted to support her children…I am lucky to have her as the mother of my children! Enough of the sappy stuff, in viewing the pictures of Shelby getting her head shaved I noticed in eerie resemblance to a Star Trek character…tell me what you think:

Now, I am not saying she is like the Borg queen…I am just saying…The picture on the left (just in case you get confused) is Shelby getting her haircut J. They actually gave her a Mohawk first and spiked it up…of course the kids thought that this was great. I think it may have lasted about 5 minutes before it was shaved off. By the way if you know who the Borg queen is you are a geek.

Rachel and Kolbe got their head shaved the following week at St. Thomas Aquinas School. Here are my brave kids and Shelby after.

Are they not all beautiful? Take a look at the banner behind them and see some of the things that this organization does for cancer research. They are amazing. Check out their website at and feel free to donate online to Team Roscoe at Please pray for all the kids that have childhood cancer and the families of those kids, they have a burden that not many of us can truly relate to. Please specifically say a prayer for Joeseph Chamness and his family who has brought childhood cancer awareness to our community.

Spring has arrived here in Iraq. It is in the 80s and 90s here during the day, and gets into the upper 60s at night. We do not have anything really green on our base, but we have seen a lot more of “little” birds around. Here is a picture of one:

All winter we had these really ugly “crow looking” birds everywhere they made me feel like I was in purgatory or something. These little birds are cute, but loud. I actually have some of these guys living in the wall of my CHU (room). They tend to wake me up every morning with their chirping. The box behind the bird is a box of our milk. We do not have fresh milk here so we have these boxes. I do not like it very much, but they do work for cereal etc. I will try to get some pictures of these little birds coming out of the wall of my CHU.

Below is my “base picture of the letter”. It is of the Mosque that is on our base. We are not allowed to go inside the fence. It is currently not being used.

I will give a picture below of a close-up of the minaret and dome to show you the birds. A few things that I wanted to point out on this picture. First, notice the standing water on the right side of the picture and the mud. I do not remember when I took this picture, but it does not take much rain for us to get these mud spots. Second, behind the Mosque is the movie theater. I will spend some time in another letter talking about this surreal building, but I am sure that it is the most protected movie theater in the world. Below is a close-up of the minaret.

Look at all the birds! They are everywhere. I think it is like a base playing tag for them. Our base is a large airbase…birds and aircraft do not usually get along very well. The military actually has a program where you can loan out a pellet gun to shoot birds on base to thin the population so that they do not hit the planes coming in. (Sorry PETA). Anyway, there are really only two locations that the bird shooting is off limits. The first is the mosque so you cannot aim a weapon in the direction of the mosque (we would not want to offend anybody). The second is around the chow halls. If anybody would like to join my new organization (inspired by PETA) that I started with the help/idea of the PA faculty I am starting PETC (people for the ethical treatment of corn) but I may change the name to include other vegetables or maybe even all plants. I mean Dr. Maffeo offered me an aloe plant for burns…I mean to tear off a leaf and rub the plant guts on a burn…what kind of sick world is this. I have personally witnessed Dr. Lucich eat a decapitated mushroom head on a sandwich! I guess Dr. Lucich is not that much of a “Fun-Guy” (fungi…get it) Wow am I clever!

Seriously, thank you to everyone who continues to help my family. Thank you to the Guardian Angels of Hillcrest…I just received something like 50+ boxes of mostly Girl Scout cookies for the troops. We have been distributing them to soldiers all over the base. I am sorry that I was unable to get around seeing everyone on my leave…just ran out of time. It has been a bit hard on me emotionally returning back to Iraq and leaving my family and friends and I am a bit homesick. However, I have plunged right back into work which is a busy as ever. Hopefully things will slow down as we have new docs coming next month and we should be fully staffed with medical people again. Additionally, I will finish teaching at the end of April so that I can focus on completing my PhD. Life will be good then…maybe by then I can show you pictures of the pool!
In closing this letter I received yet another great email that I wanted to share with everyone. It is about the USS New York that was build from the scrap steel that remained from the World
Trade Center after 9/11:
USS New YorkIt was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center.

It is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft.Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, LA to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept 9, 2003, 'those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence,' recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. 'It was a spiritual moment f or everybody there.'Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the 'hair on my neck stood up.' 'It had a big meaning to it for all of us,' he said. 'They knocked us down. They can't keep us down.. We're going to be back.'The ship's motto? 'Never Forget'

How appropriate that the ships motto is “NEVER FORGET” in that it is how I close all my letters. Please keep the prayers flowing for all of us soldiers and the families. We need them all! NEVER FORGET what we are doing here, and we still have US service members being killed, regardless of what the news is saying. NEVER FORGET that we live in the greatest nation on Earth with all the opportunities to be a success and achieve all your dreams and goals. I feel so blessed by all the love and support that I have and I thank everyone in my community for helping my family and I be successful.

Major Roscoe

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

letter 12

March 9, 2009

Letter 12
Balad, Iraq
Ali Al Salem, Kuwait
Indianapolis, Indiana U.S.A.

Hopefully, this letter finds everyone well. I am doing very well due to being home on my leave. I cannot express to you how great it is/was to see my family, friends, my students, and everyone else who has supported me. I want to organize this letter chronologically so I will start with the week that I left Iraq.

In a previous letter I spoke of Dr. Altman, who is a family practice doctor from Tennessee. He has been working with an active duty Stryker Brigade at a small FOB (forward operating base) south of Baghdad. This unit spends the majority of its time “outside the wire”. The picture below is of a Stryker in Iraq, although it is not mine as I do not have a current picture of a Stryker.

Before I continue with my story I will address some points with this picture. The first item in the picture is to note the wire mesh on the outside of the vehicle. The mesh is used to breakup an RPG or (other rocket) so that the shrapnel/rocket pieces will hit the armor over a larger surface area and prevent penetration. The second item of note is the canopy over the top. This is used to protect against snipers which is an ever present danger. The other items sticking out are to counter IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

Continuing with my story, one of the U.S. Strykers with this unit was out patrolling and was struck by two “daisy chained” anti-tank mines that were used as an IED. None of the solders inside were killed but two of the three inside were very seriously injured and MEDEVAC to Balad for emergency care. Now, the point of this story is to try to explain the kind of bonds that are formed in the military that you just don’t see in the civilian world. Dr. Altman came up to Balad with three Strykers full of soldiers that were all part of the platoon of the injured soldiers. They drove over two hours on the same roads that their friends were just blown-up on, risked their own life…why? They came up just to make sure that the injured soldiers knew that they were not forgotten, just to let them know that they were supported and they would be there for them. In the civilian world, we might send an email, maybe call, probably not drive across town and certainly not during rush hour. I had the fortune of being in the hospital parking lot when they wheeled out one of the injured soldiers to see his “buddies”. The interaction that I witnessed will stay with my forever…a bunch of invincible, manly soldiers not knowing what to say…but words were not needed. There were stifled tears, then the hugs and the look of pure gratitude in the injured soldiers face that spoke volumes, and the awkward words were not needed. This is what selfless service is! This is what YOUR military members do! They quietly risk their lives for all of us, and are not looking for fame, a “golden parachute” or a one-year multi-million dollar contract that seems to dominate our news today.

Speaking of that, the mainstream media is not even talking about Iraq anymore. In talking with people and watching the news there are numerous comments being stated that it is “all over” in Iraq and that there is no more violence. Several people even stated that it must be due to President Obama’s plan to leave Iraq. (Most of the locals I have spoken with do not think that the changing of the US President will make any difference in Iraq). Most are afraid of what will happen when the US leaves. Regarding the violence, besides the above story with the Stryker, there were three American soldiers killed just outside the perimeter of my base the week I left. The hospital ER and operating room have increased its trauma care by about 300% over the past month and our base still gets a mortar or rocket attack about 3 times a week. I would tell you that I personally have not seen a drop in the violence from where I am at. I do think the media wants the American public to support the withdrawal from Iraq and one way to do this is “out of sight, out of mind”. I am ok with us leaving Iraq we need to at some point, but I am not ok with media “minimizing” the great work and sacrifices being made by our service members. I am not sure if the increase in violence is due to the spring weather and/or the increased sand storms, or simply a result of the decrease US patrols/presence.

I have come to hate sandstorms! They get sand in spaces that should not have sand. Below are two pictures of sandstorms at our base. The first one is outside of my living area. The second is by the hospital. The difference in color is simply due to if there are clouds present above the storm.

The problem with the sandstorms is that they ground all the aircraft. This means that the predators and other craft that prevent attacks on our base are unable to fly. We must then man all the towers and the risk for attack is very high. Needless to say they are miserable for every possible reason.

Let’s switch gears and lighten the tone. I have spent the last week and half on leave and spending time with my family. I flew from Balad to Ali Al Salem (Ali) air base in Kuwait. This of course was in a very crowded C130. When we arrived the military is amazing in its efficiency (not comfort). They processed 300+ people with briefings, worked as a travel agent to get us civilian flights all the way back to our homes, housed us, and worked us through customs all within about 24 hours. Ali had a lot of Australians working there. They even had a McDonalds… (I was good and resisted the urge). Anyway, there was a black cat that looked like my kid’s cat that was visiting our soldiers in this area.

This is a random soldier that was trying his best not to feed the cat. However, the cat was relentless. At one point the cat had both paws up on his shoulder. He did end up sharing his french-fries with the cat. It was actually pretty cute (in a manly, military way of course). If you look at the table across from the soldier and the cat you will see my “Kuwait desk”. This is where I gave one of my lectures to my PA students...awesome! If you look between the two buildings you will see some bunkers. Kuwait is still considered a combat zone, although it is pretty safe. I think they are a bit “sensitive” about the “combat zone” thing as during one of our briefs they had a series of practice alarms that seriously lasted 5 minutes…this was about 4.5 minutes longer than our real alarms at Balad.

From Kuwait we bused about 2 hours down to Kuwait City where we boarded a large civilian aircraft and flew to Leipzig, Germany which took about 5 hours. We then flew all the way to Atlanta which was about 9.5 hours of flying time. Upon my arrival in Indianapolis, I felt like a kid in the parking lot to Disneyworld. Walking out of the terminal to where my family was my kids almost made it to the magic black line on the floor before running to me. Well, we ended up about 12 inches across the line and some TSA agent started trying to yell at the kids to “get back”. I am in full uniform and it is obvious that I have just returned and we are so close to the line…she continues to yell at us. Watch out….terrorist could be anywhere…especially in four kids under the age of 12 and a U.S. soldier in uniform returning from Iraq!

It was great seeing my family. When I arrived home and was finally changing out my uniform I looked out my bedroom window and this is what I saw:

I thought this was a pretty cool view, what can you say?. This is the flagpole that was given to me and my family from the faculty and staff of the College of Pharmacy and Health Science at Butler University. Thank you to everyone that contributed, it looks great and was a nice sight to see on my arrival home.

I have continued my crazy pace since arriving home. I have continued to teach and even gave a live lecture to my PA1 students which I loved! I forgot how much I prefer lecturing live compared to via the internet. I also gave a general talk about some of my experiences in Iraq.

Here I am lecturing about the different influences in Iraq. Yes, that is a normal population curve on the whiteboard behind me! If you already knew that you are a math/stat geek! Thank you to all the people who came to the talk. I also want to thank Dr. Bonnie Brown for creating the miracle of “cokes and pizza” to feed the masses while I gave the “sermon on the podium”. Sorry….bad analogy alert.

One of my favorite things was the “surprise” birthday party that all of the PA students were going to throw for me. The idea was that they were going to “call” me via Scype at my party, but I was going to reverse it and surprise them at the party. Well it sort of worked out, but the secret got out and I am not sure how much of a surprise it really was. I was genuinely humbled by the turnout and the support that the students all showed me. It is amazing and reaffirms my decision to go into academia. Thank you! Below are all a series of pictures for my surprise birthday party.

There are so many things that need to be commented on in this picture. First, that is Kolbe, my son in the middle of the picture with the unicorn party hat, and my oldest, Mahayla on the left. Second, the creepy looking thing on the table is something that my wife would have tasered if she walked in and it was dark. The face cutout is in of itself a bit creepy, but I think my students took a little too much joy in cutting the eyes out. I do like how they added a “tasty beverage” to the guy. Third, if you did not think the guy on the table is weird, what about the “mini-me” hanging from the ceiling? The military would be happy as I have on my eye-pro (eye protection). Third, back to the table…the arm anatomy model holding the balloons…at least the models are getting used.

The picture above and below are some of the PA3 students who will soon be graduating. They have all worked very hard and are some of the best students that we have ever had!

Of course my kids all made it into the picture. Mahayla (11) is in front of me with the white shirt. Rachel (9) has the green hat on. Kolbe (7) has the Army hat on between Mahayla and Rachel. Abby (6) has the jean jacket on.

Above and below are some of the PA2s. I was this class’s advisor and have a special affinity for them. They are indeed one of the purely smartest bunch of students that I have ever dealt with…also the most high stress group that will all be on heart medication in the next 2 years!

They are wearing red for me. I wore red with our administrative assistant Mary Kay on Fridays to support the troops. They have continued the tradition in my absence. What a great group. I cannot wait to see what they do when they graduate. Finally, are some pictures of the PA1s.

Above and below are the PA1s. I have been lecturing them via on-line and this is the first time that I have really formally met them. I guess when you are a rookie (PA1) you get stuck eating your food on the floor. Maybe next year you can eat at the “grown-up table”.

Here are the PA1s, and of course my kids again made it into the picture…Rachel even is holding “creepy head” with the little bit of “extra effort” in cutting out the eyes. Below are all of the students that were there.

Without Photoshop this is the best picture that I can create. It is one big group shot of all the students. It is like a where’s Waldo picture. Find professor/Major Roscoe. Find three pairs of glasses. Find three “creepy heads”. Find a “pretend uniform” (hint: look for an Air force uniform). Ok, that is enough.

The final picture for this letter is a picture of my wife Shelby, who is one of the hardest working women that I know, and the secret of the success of our family.

If you look at my oldest daughter’s eyes you can see the evil spirit of a teenager lurking to get out. The beads around her neck are actually pieces of garlic to try to prevent the emergence (also to keep the boys away). So far it seems to be working. One of the reasons to include this picture is to note Shelby’s pixie haircut. On March 18th Shelby is going to shave her head along with Rachel my 9 year old daughter and Kolbe my son all in support of St. Baldrick’s day. It is an event to support the fight against childhood cancer. “Team Roscoe” is shaving their heads to support Joey Chamness (a student at St. Thomas Aquinas with osteosarcoma). Please see for general information. You can view the Team Roscoe site by clicking on the “find a participant tab” and typing “Team Roscoe”. Otherwise the following address will take you directly to Team Roscoe. I do not normally ask people to support various causes, but this one is very personal to us and I would ask you to at least consider it…if not say a prayer for all the kids and families that are dealing with cancer.

I of course want to add an email story that was sent to me by Tina Vawter at Butler University.

"Six Boys and Thirteen Hands...Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC, with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.
On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, 'Where are you guys from?' I told him that we were from Wisconsin. 'Hey, I'm a cheese head, too! Come gather around, Cheese heads, and I will tell you a story.'
(James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, DC, to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night to his dad, who had passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, DC, but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night.) When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak… (Here are his words that night.) 'My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called 'Flags of Our Fathers' which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. 'Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game. A game called 'War.' But it didn't turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out, I say that because there are people who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old - and it was so hard that the ones who did make it home never even would talk to their families about it. (He pointed to the statue) 'You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph; a photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. It was just boys who won the battle of Iwo Jima . Boys. Not old men. 'The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the 'old man' because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill some Japanese' or 'Let's die for our country.' He knew he was talking to little boys.. Instead he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers.' 'The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes was one who walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, 'You're a hero' He told reporters, 'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?'
So you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes carried the pain home with him and e ventually died dead drunk, face down at the age of 32 (ten years after this picture was taken). 'The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky; a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, 'Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epsom salts. Those cows crapped all night.' Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. Those neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away. 'The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's producers or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say 'No, I'm sorry, sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back.' My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press. 'You see, like Ira Hayes, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed, without any medication or help with the pain. 'When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, 'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.' 'So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.' Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless. We need to remember that God created this vast and glorious world for us to live in, freely, but also at great sacrifice Let us never forget from the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terrorism and all the wars in-between that sacrifice was made for our freedom. Remember to pray praises for this great country of ours and also pray for those still in murderous unrest around the world.
STOP and thank God for being alive and being free at someone else's sacrifice. God Bless You and God Bless America.
REMINDER: Everyday that you can wake up free, it's going to be a great day. One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC that is not mentioned here is. If you look at the statue very closely and count the number of 'hands' raising the flag, there are 13. When the man who made the statue was asked why there were 13, he simply said the 13th hand was the hand of God. Great story - worth your time - worth every American's time"

Sorry that this letter is a bit longer than some of the past editions, and maybe a bit more Butler oriented. I want to take a few minutes and recognize my St. Thomas Aquinas Community. All your support for my family is beyond belief! Thank you to everyone who takes my kids during the week, especially the Prein, Haas, Cain and Forsee families. Thank you for helping take care of my children. Thank you to Mary Kay for all her efforts on my behalf with all the Butler students, faculty and staff. I am sorry if I did not get to meet with everyone on leave…it was so busy and simply not enough time. I will be having a homecoming party when I get back and I want everyone to come. I must close this letter, and I think you know the words by now. NEVER FORGET the soldiers and families that are still sacrificing for all our freedoms. NEVER FORGET all those that came before us to provide for us to live and raise our families in the greatest country on Earth. NEVER FORGET our veterans. Thank you for all your support!

Major Roscoe