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Afghanistan skiing slide show at Magic Lantern

WINTERSPORTS — In case you missed it first time around when we first wrote about a skier's week in Afghanistan, a FREE slide program "Ski Boots on the Ground: Bamiyan Province of Afghanistan" will be shown Thursday, 7:15 p.m., at the Magic Lantern Theatre, 25 W. Main Ave. in Spokane.

Nick Pontarolo, a Cheney resident and graduate of the Spokane Mountaineers Mountain School, will speak and share a slideshow from his recent seven-day ski and sightseeing adventure in an amazingly unlikely destination. 

Taliban Offers Swap For Idaho Soldier

The Afghan Taliban are ready to free a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their senior operatives imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay as a conciliatory gesture, a senior spokesman for the group said Thursday. The offer follows this week's official opening of a Taliban political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar. The only known American soldier held captive from the Afghan war is U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho. He disappeared from his base in southeastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009, and is believed held in Pakistan/Kathy Gannon, AP. More here. (IntelCenter photo taken in 2010 of Idaho soldier Bergdahl)

Question: Should the U.S. accept this prisoner swap?

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/06/20/2624137/ap-exclusive-taliban-offer-to.html#storylink=cpy

Soldier from Meridian killed in Afghanistan

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A 22-year-old southwestern Idaho man was among five soldiers killed over the weekend in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan. Specialist Thomas Paige Murach of Meridian died Saturday in Maiwand in southern Afghanistan, not far from the border with Pakistan. Military officials say Murach was among five soldiers from Fort Bliss in Texas serving in the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division who died in the attack. Murach died alongside Spc. Kevin Cardoza of Mercedes, Texas; 1st Lieutenant Brandon James Landrum of Lawton, Okla.; Staff Sgt. Francis Gene Phillips the Fourth of Meridian, N.Y.; and Spc. Brandon Joseph Prescott of Bend, Ore. Murach's family members issued a statement Monday after the announcement, saying Murach was "passionate about everything he did," and saying, “Tom loved being an Army infantryman and he never complained about the difficulty of his duties. He believed in the mission the Army performs, and he saw the value of that mission and the impact he was making in Afghanistan.” 

Click below for a full report from the Idaho Statesman via the AP.

Hall War Teaches Geography Lessons

Geography teachers tend to put their students to sleep. And no wonder. Until you've been there, who cares where the Rhine River runs? Or what kind of winters they have in North Korea? Or which ocean is home to Iwo Jima? And what's an Iwo Jima anyway? All three places were once boring to most third-grade geography students. However, all three of those places eventually became lethally interesting. In fact, the day would come when former third graders would suffer and die in all three locations.War is a terrible geography teacher. It knows how to make the topic not just interesting but also so terrifying that the grieving families of the dead will never forget where an unlucky loved one met his end/Bill Hall, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Did you know where Vietnam was before our long war there? Afghanistan?

The numbers…the faces…the lives

We have suffered and lost enough of our soldiers. The war in Afghanistan drones on. The 2000th casualty has died. When will it end - this longest war?

A package waits to be mailed on my dining room table for a nephew who serves in Afghanistan. Filled with Halloween candy and love, it will make its way across the world to a land I cannot even understand or imagine.

Our mindfulness as a nation about this war seems lacking as acute suffering continues – in fatalities, injuries and separation of loved ones.

(S-R archives photo: The grave of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Harris is seen through an American flag as the the sun rises over Georgia National Cemetery Monday, May 28, 2012, in Canton, Ga)

Monkee bites: one more damn thing to worry about

My nephew recently deployed to Afganistan. So this is one more thing to worry about while he's there. Fresh from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "If you were to list all the dangers faced by U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan, your list would be long, but would it include monkey bites? It should. The U.S. Army recently examined this risk and found that in just four months, 10 service members were bitten by monkeys. And there may have been more, unreported, bites. Most monkeys were pets owned by Afghan National Security Forces and Afghan civilians, so the risk of being bitten could increase as U.S. forces work more closely with these Afghan people. Monkey bites can spread rabies, tetanus or other bacterial infections, or B-virus infection to humans. Bites can be minimized by enforcing military policies that prohibit pet adoption and animal contact, and secondary infections can be reduced by providing better training to military health care providers on how to treat animal bites."

Crocker’s DUI hearing postponed

The court hearing was postponed Wednesday for Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, who was charged last month with DUI and leaving the scene of an accident.

Crocker did not appear before Spokane County District Judge Sara Derr. But his attorney, Julie Twyford, did appear. She said the judge agreed to move the hearing to Oct. 10 at 1:30 p.m.

Crocker, 63, was charged Aug. 14 following a crash with a semi-truck at a busy Spokane Valley intersection. He reportedly drove away from the crash and was followed by a witness who alerted Washington State Patrol troopers.

The Spokane Valley native retired from the U.S. State Department in July, citing health reasons and left the Afghanistan capital of Kabul at a period of transition as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its troops from the country by the end of 2014. He also oversaw the reconstruction of war-torn Iraq.

Read previous coverage of the crash that resulted in his DUI charges here.

Slight Detour: Forever Young

In a poignant post on her Slight Detour blog today, Marianne Love discusses an encounter with former Sandpoint High student Harvey Martin at Harvey's 1982 class reunion — a man she describes as a "jokester with a good heart." Harvey is the father of soldier Ethan Martin, who was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan. She writes: "It was May.  We were both shopping at a local store.  We took time to do some catch-up on kids and life. Harvey was busting his buttons that day with the news that his daughter was graduating from the University of Idaho.  She would be a teacher. We also talked about his son Ethan. A proud father he was, for sure.  I walked away from that conversation so proud and happy for Harvey. None of us on this day can come close to comprehending the sadness the Martin family is feeling as they bring their hero home to his final resting place. I do know one thing, though.  Harvey and the family are being sustained by the outpouring of love extended by so many throughout the North Idaho community and through Facebook posts." Complete post here.

Question: Is there a fallen soldier or Marine in your life who remains forever young?

NIdaho Soldier’s Body Returns Home

KXLY provides this photo on its Facebook wall of the mourners along the road who greeted the return of fallen soldier Ethan Martin's body on its way back to Bonners Ferry this morning.

A North Idaho soldier killed in action in Afghanistan last week returned home Friday for the final time. Spc. Ethan Martin will be laid to rest Saturday at Paradise Valley Cemetery in Bonners Ferry. Spc. Martin's remains arrived in Sandpoint Friday on a charter plane from Dover Air Force Base. The Honorable Transfer ceremony marks the return of the soldier to his family. After the ceremony, Spc. Martin's body was brought to Bonners Ferry in a motorcade, with citizens lining the streets with flags to pay tribute. Spc. Martin's life will be celebrated with a public memorial service Saturday at 1:00 at Bonners Ferry High School. He'll then be laid to rest in a ceremony that is open to the public. 22-year old Martin joined the Army in 2009/KXLY. More here.


Fallen Bonner Ferry Hero Returning

The body of Army Specialist Ethan Martin, 22, killed in Afghanistan August 7, will be flown to the Sandpoint Airport from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on Friday, and escorted to Bonners Ferry with his family in a military cortege. Also accompanying the cortege will be the Patriot Riders, a motorcycle group comprised primarily of military veterans and their families whose mission is to honor all the fallen heroes in this nation's war on terror. A grass-roots effort is now underway by many in Bonners Ferry to show the family just how much this community respects and honors the terrible sacrifice they've laid on the alter of freedom/Mike Weland, News Bonners Ferry. More here.


Account Set Up For Soldier’s Funeral

An account has been set up to help the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan with funeral expenses. Spc. Ethan J. Martin, 22, (pictured) died Aug. 7 in Koragay, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when he encountered enemy small-arms fire. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank to the Ethan Martin Memorial Fund. Martin’s funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bonners Ferry High School. A ceremony with full military honors will follow at Paradise Valley CemeteryBonner County Bee. More here.

AM: War Victim Made Whole in Idaho

Rahim, an 11-year-old boy from Helmand Province, Afghanistan gIves a thumbs up after being fitted for a new prosthetic leg at Kootenai Prosthetics & Orthotics in Post Falls on Wednesday. Rahim stepped on a land mine nearly three years ago. He lost his left leg, and shrapnel punctured half of one eardrum. His cousin was killed in the explosion. It's one of a series of remedies the boy is receiving during a 6-month stay in the Inland Northwest, through a program called Solace for the Children. Other local health care providers will rebuild his ear drum, perform plastic surgery, do dental treatment, and give him inoculations.  Story here. (Kathy Plonka SR photo)

Preston, Idaho soldier killed in Afghanistan

An Idaho soldier from Preston has been killed in Afghanistan, falling when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire. Private First Class Cody O. Moosman, 24, had joined the service in 2010; his family said he'd wanted to join the Army since he was in the third grade. Click below for a full report from the Associated Press.

Holding our breath…again

It has been 15 months since my nephew arrived home from a one-year tour of duty in Iraq. Tomorrow his brother leaves for a nine-month stint in Afghanistan. I have three sisters, no brothers. And among us we have 10 sons, no daughters. And our closest experience to family in the military was our father who served in WWII. We are not accustomed to these vigils of worry with our children living in such violent circumstances.

 The Peace Corps had a slogan a few years ago: “The Peace Corps: the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I knew the first time I heard it, that it was not written by a parent. Every mom knows that parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love. And that tough part is not the diapers, the colic, the endless responsibility or even the teen years. It is the letting go.

 To raise a child, to love them more than you love your own life and then to step aside as they make their own choices, is tough.  We cannot save them from emotional or physical hurt. We cannot live their lives for them; we cannot protect them when life throws them deep grief and loss. We can simply bear witness to their journey, their choices. 

On the phone this morning, we chatted, that nephew and I, that 30-year-old man who has chosen to serve his country through the US military. This man who is just as he was a child: kind and gentle and thoughtful. I promised to call his mom often. I promised prayers without ceasing and regular care packages of whatever he wants. And I will end each message as I always have: “Brad, sending you all my love and Aunty Cathy kisses!” I didn’t cry until he hung up. 

The countdown to our reunion begins…

(S-R archives photo)

Obama Visits Troops In Afghanistan

President Barack Obama greets troops at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Thoughts about President Barack Obama's surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

Washington Solider Suspected In Killings

Attorneys John Henry Browne, right, and Emma Scanlan, second from right, talk to reporters Thursday in Seattle. Browne and Scanlan will be representing a U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

After five days cloaked in military secrecy, the U.S. soldier suspected in a massacre of 16 Afghan civilians has been identified as a Washington state father of two who underwent anger management counseling a decade ago after an arrest for assault on a girlfriend. The soldier accused in the killings is Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, (above left) his lawyer confirmed Friday. Bales is from Lake Tapps, Wash., a community set amid pine trees surrounding a reservoir about 35 miles south of Seattle. Bales is married, a father of two young children who was in the midst of his fourth tour in a war zone. Neighbors described him late Friday as good-natured and warm, and recalled seeing him playing outside the family’s modern split-level with his children, ages 3 and 4/Adam Geller, AP. More here.

Question: What should be done with this soldier, if found guilty of these killings?

Only silence

What motivated a US soldier to kill Afghan civilians over the weekend?

The victims were mostly women and children, who slept. 

As a teen I would ask my dad about the Viet Nam war as black and white footage played across the evening news.

“It’s complicated,” he’d say, and give succinct summaries of the day’s events.

 As we listened to the radio report of the Afghan civilians who lost their lives at the hands of an American soldier, my teen-age son asked, “Why would anyone do that?!”

 As I fought back my tears, my only reply… was silence.

(S-R archives photo:An aerial view of Kabul city is seen from atop a hill as a street dog walks in Kabul, Afghanistan)

Poll: Obama Wrong To Apologize

  • Weekend Poll: A solid majority of Hucks Nation believes President Barack Obama was wrong to apologize to Afghanistan for U.S. military burning of Qurans. 161 of 278 respondents (57.91%) said the president was wrong to apologize to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. 108 of 278 respondents (38.85%) said the president did the right thing by apologizing. 9 of 278 (3.24%) were undecided.
  • Today's Poll: Is President Barack Obama hostile to religion, as GOPresidential candidate Rick Santorum claims?

Gingrich: Karzai Owes Us An Apology

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Thursday a U.S. apology to Afghan authorities for burned Qurans on a military base was “astonishing” and undeserved. President Barack Obama formally apologized Thursday after copies of the Muslim holy book were found in the week burned in a garbage pit on a U.S. air field earlier. Later Thursday, news organizations reported that an Afghan soldier had killed two U.S. troops and wounded others in retaliation for the burning. Campaigning in Washington state, Gingrich said Afghan President Hamid Karzai owes the U.S. an apology for the shootings/Associated Press. More here. (AP photo of Hamid Karzai and Barack Obama in New York last Sept. 20)

Question: Gingrich goes on to say: "There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama’s attention in a negative way." Do you agree with Gingrich?

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/02/24/2007614/gingrich-criticizes-quran-burning.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/02/24/2007614/gingrich-criticizes-quran-burning.html#storylink=cpy

Marine Snipers Posed w/Nazi Symbol

This Sept. 2010 photo posted recently on the Titiusville, Fla.- based arms manufacturer Knight's Armament's Internet blog, shows members of Charlie Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. in Sangin, Helmand province, Afghanistan. The Marine Corps confirmed today that one of its scout sniper teams in Afghanistan posed for a photograph in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS. Associated Press story here. (AP Photo/knightarmco.com)

Question: How entirely inappropriate is this?

Panetta Condemns Urination Video

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta phoned Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai Thursday and promised full investigation of a video that purports to depict four U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters — a video both men condemned as deplorable. In a separate public statement, Panetta said such behavior is “entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military” and that those responsible will be held accountable. The video, posted on the Internet, shows men in Marine combat gear standing in a semi-circle over three bodies. It’s not clear whether the dead were Taliban or civilians or someone else. The title on the posting called them Taliban insurgents and said the men were from Camp Lejeune, N.C., but officials would not immediately confirm it/Washington Post. More here. (AP photo)


ICB: Taliban Still Has Idaho Soldier

This Christmas will be the 3rd Bowe Bergdahl has missed with his family since being held captive in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Recently reports came out that Bowe was recaptured after a short three-day escape in August or early September and appeared to be in good health. A well-read national publication called the Daily Beast, an affiliate of Newsweek Magazine, says the soldier tried to escape. Quoting a Taliban source, the Daily Beast reported that Bergdahl told his captors that he wanted to find civilianvillagers who would help him and notify the U.S. I can’t help but wonder Why if the Daily Beast reporter can get close enough to his captors to get this information, why can’t the U.S. military? We want Bowe home.  What is being done?/Idaho Conservative Blogger. More here. H/T: iSightOnline. (AP/IntelCenter photo of captured Bowe Bergdahl on Dec. 8, 2010)

Question: Has the American government done enough to get Idaho soldier Bowe Bergdahl home from Afghanistan?

President Declares End Of Iraq War

President Obama announced Friday that the United States will withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, effectively bringing the long war in Iraq to an end. "After nearly 9 years, America's war in Iraq will be over," said Mr. Obama, who said the last American troops will depart the country "with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the american people stand united in our support for our troops" by January 1st. "Our troops are finally coming home," he added, saying they "will definitely be home for the holidays." America has withdrawn nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq already as part of the current draw-down, and about 40,000 troops - who are deemed "non-combat" - remain/Brian Montopoli, CBS News. More here. (AP photo)

Question: With Osama bin Laden dead, Moammar Gaddafi dead, and the Iraqi war almost over, is it time to give President Barack Obama credit for running U.S. foreign policy well?

Vets: Iran, Afghanistan Not Worth It

America's veterans are proud of their military service, but in a new report published Wednesday, they expressed ambivalence about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.In a new Pew Research Center report on war and sacrifice, half of post-9/11 veterans said the Afghanistan war has been worth fighting. Only 44% felt that way about Iraq, and one-third said both wars were worth the costs.Some of those costs were outlined in the Pew study, which comes out as the United States marks the 10th anniversary Friday of the Afghanistan conflict, the longest-running war in the nation's history/Moni Basu, CNN via KXLY. More here. (AP file photo of soldier in Iraq)

Question: Are you OK with our current level of involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq?

A moment… to honor his service

We continue to read about them each week – soldiers killed in Afghanistan. It is good to pause, to honor, to read their story and hold their loved ones in our hearts. Sgt. Tyler Holtz, 22, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was serving on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed. Holtz is survived by his father, Andrew Holtz of Capistrano Beach, Calif.; his mother, Karen Holtz, and his three brothers, all of Dana Point, Calif.

Do you know a family waiting for a service member to return home? How do you support that family?

Judge Throws Book At Boise Soldier

Boise soldier Pfc. Andrew Holmes will spend seven years in prison for murdering an Afghan boy during a patrol in January 2010, Army Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks said today. Hawks wanted to sentence Holmes to 15 years in prison, saying it appeared to him that Holmes had not confronted "the awful moral gravity" of what he did when he shot 15-year-old Gul Mudin as the Afghan stood in a poppy field. His sentence was capped by a pretrial agreement that limited his confinement to seven years. Holmes will receive credit for the 499 days he has been confined since the Army launched its investigation in May 2010. He also could be released early with credit for good behavior. Holmes' family members cried as Hawks read his sentence. … Hawks said he understood that Holmes was a junior soldier in a difficult situation, but he said it did not excuse the murder/Adam Ashton, Tacoma News-Tribune. More here.

Question: Do you agree with this sentence?

$360M lost in Afghanistan

An Afghan carries his belongings as he passes burning fuel tankers in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011.

WASHINGTON (AP) — After examining hundreds of combat support and reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan, the U.S military estimates $360 million in U.S. tax dollars has ended up in the hands of people the American-led coalition has spent nearly a decade battling: the Taliban, criminals and power brokers with ties to both.

The losses underscore the challenges the U.S. and its international partners face in overcoming corruption in Afghanistan. A central part of the Obama administration's strategy has been to award U.S.-financed contracts to Afghan businesses to help improve quality of life and stoke the country's economy. Full story.

Does anybody care or is this just the price of the doing the business of war?

Soldier Stuns Fam @ Indians’ Game

The fans at Avista Stadium rise for a standing ovation as Sgt. Chris Weichman embraces his twin 4-year-old girls Gracie, left, and Ruby during a surprise homecoming between innings Monday. His wife Abby stands at left. The homecoming was arranged as a "special prize " for a promotion during the game between the Spokane Indians and Yakima Bears. Weichman is on his third tour of duty in Afganistan. (SR photo: Christopher Anderson) Also: You can see the KHQ video of the reunion here.

Councilman Mike, who was at the game, offers this description: "After the promo the stadium announcer Jamie Patrick called people’s attention to the 3rd base line and there was a serviceman standing there. His daughters ran right across the field and the reality of what was happening dawned on everyone. When people realized this was the reunion, the crowd rose and applauded (many through tears) and the players warming up for the next inning on the field and in the dugouts all stopped what they were doing and gave the family an ovation. It put everything in perspective and was an unexpected blessing to be a part of.

DFO: This wonderful reunion underscores the awful loss to this country and their families of the 30 SEALS in Afghanistan during the last week.

Brent: End Afghanistan Occupation

Brent Andrews: I am hearing the general say the loss of these 30 including SEALS in the helicopter crash will not affect the overall operation in Afg, but it will. The will for this war was already sapped and this is another blow that cannot but turn our heads from inflicting violence on the poor, spreading “freedom” with bombs and rifles, and losing our troops in battles that don’t even matter to overall operations. If we choose to inflict death to carry out our political designs, we will get death in return. We should make the best of this awful loss and resolve to end the occupation and scale down our military in a drastic way. Else, we can only expect more disasters like this one. (AP file photo)

Question: I'm with Brent on this one. I can't see what purpose is served to keep putting our troops through the meat grinder to protect Afghanistan. It's time to bring those troops home. What do you say?

Afghanistan soldier mourned by 49 Degrees North Ski Patrol

SKIING — He was far more than a soldier, of course.

Among other things, Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith of Colville was a Green Beret and a ski patroller at 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort.

Goldsmith, a medical sergeant with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne),  was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack by insurgents in Helman province, Afghanistan, according to The Spokesman-Review's front page story today. 

A longtime member of the 49 Degrees North Ski Patrol, Goldsmith is remembered as someone who was always happy to be in the mountains when not serving his country. 

“Whenever Wyatt was on leave, he would be up here on the mountain." said Brad Northrup, resort spokesman. "Every time I saw him on the slopes, he had a huge grin on his face.  He really loved skiing.”

His military awards include Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (2nd Award), Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal with one campaign star, Iraqi Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Parachutist Badge, Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, Special Forces Tab and Combat Infantryman Badge.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal.

And he loved to ski.