6 BOYS AND 13 HANDS PLEASE READ PLEASE WE MUST NEVER FORGET THIS!!!!!!!…

This is good.  Every American should read this one! 6 BOYS AND 13 HANDS

Even if you have never read anything completely through that I have sent to you, PLEASE read all of this.  Unfortunately, the authors name is not shared.

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.’

(It was James Bradley who 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 wrote a book called ‘Flags of Our Fathers’. 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 of them who lived to walk 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 eventually died dead drunk, face down, drowned in a very shallow puddle, 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 combat caregiver. On Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died on 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.

One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC that is not mentioned here is . . that 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. Please pass it on.

VA’s Main Facebook Page Surpasses 200,000 “Fans”

Milestone Marks Continued Growth, Commitment to Engagement

WASHINGTON – The primary Facebook page for the Department of Veterans Affairs has amassed more than 200,000 “fans,” increasing the department’s ability to communicate directly with Veterans across the nation.

“We started our social media program with the vision of getting the right information to the right Veteran at the right time,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “This achievement allows us to reach a significant portion of the Veteran population, by sharing information that is important to them.”

The milestone was achieved less than three years after the creation of VA’s office of online communications, which oversees all social media programs. The office has been led by Brandon Friedman since its inception in August 2009, and was launched as part of the President’s directive that agencies should create such organizations in support of the administration’s “Open Government” plan.

“This is a notable milestone for VA,” said Mike Galloucis, VA’s executive director of public and intergovernmental affairs. “It shows we are using all available means to reach Veterans with important information related to the benefits they have earned through their service to our Nation.”

VA has over 150 Facebook pages, most of which belong to individual VA medical centers, with a combined subscribership of more than 440,000 fans. In addition to Facebook, VA maintains an extensive social media presence with 70 Twitter feeds, the VAntage Point blog, a YouTube channel with over 400 videos, and a Flickr page containing over 12,000 photos.

To access and connect to VA’s social media sites, visit VA’s social media directory:

http://www.va.gov/opa/socialmedia.asp.

Get your tissue ready

Wonderful, wonderful story!!

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly.

I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn’t hurt. Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn’t look like “Lab people,” whatever that meant. They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes and a sealed letter from his previous owner.

See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too. Maybe we were too much alike.

I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that. “Okay, Reggie,” I said out loud, “let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”
____________ _________ _________ _________

To Whomever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner. I’m not even happy writing it. He knew something was different.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls. The more the merrier. Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel, the way he hoards them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn’t done it yet. Doesn’t matter where you throw them, he’ll bound after them, so be careful. Don’t do it by any roads.

Next, commands. Reggie knows the obvious ones —“sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel.”

He knows hand signals, too: He knows “ball” and “food” and “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He’s up on his shots. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car. I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. It’s only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn’t bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you…His name’s not Reggie. He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn’t bear to give them his real name. But if someone is reading this … well it means that his new owner should know his real name. His real name is “Tank.” Because, that is what I drive.

I told the shelter that they couldn’t make “Reggie” available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. You see, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve left Tank with … and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call to the shelter … in the “event” … to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my CO is a dog-guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he’d do it personally. And if you’re reading this, then he made good on his word.

Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family. And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family, too, and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.

If I have to give up Tank to keep those terrible people from coming to the US I am glad to have done so. He is my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.

Thank you,

Paul Mallory
____________ _________ _________ _______

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure, I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags have been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’mere boy.”

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months. “Tank,” I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.” Tank reached up and licked my cheek.

“So whatdaya say we play some ball?” His ears perked again.

“Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?”

Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

If you can read this without getting a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye, you just ain’t right.

A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to and including their life.’

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

G. K. Chesterton