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~Shared by T. Compton
July can't come quickly enough for the Postrion family.
Currently serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Bryan Miller is due home July 1. Miller, who joined the Air Force straight out of high school, has already completed three overseas tours: Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, and now a return trip to Afghanistan.
The Blue Star Flag on Sam Postrion's lapel is a silent testament to her son's service. It's a pin that will remain in place until his safe return.
"It's an honor to know that he is serving our country and protecting people he does not know. But it's heartbreaking having him away and having him away for such long periods," Sam said.
A member of the Military Police, SSgt. Miller was deployed in January. "I am assisting Coalition Forces and NATO with giving over the primary role for Security Forces to the Afghanis," he said via email. Stateside, he's a member of law enforcement at Dover Airforce Base.
He sees a lot of positive things being accomplished in Kandahar. "The U.S. has been in Afghanistan since October 2001. The NATO program that I assist with directly impacts the growth of the Afghanistan Government. Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen the Afghani Military operate as it's own military force and limit Taliban influence around the area."
He's proud of his fellow patriots, their mission dedication, and unequaled brotherhood. "The best thing about my comrades is knowing without any hesitation they will have my back with any issue big or small," he said.
Family and friends also have his back here at home.
"I want him to know that I am behind him 100 percent with whatever he does in life, and I will always be there for him. Most important is that I want him to know how proud I am to be his mom," Sam said.
Asked if it's difficult to leave one's family behind, Miller said. "I get asked this question often; leaving your family for 8 months at a time is the hardest thing you’re faced with. Every second of the day, you think about your loved ones and when is the next time you will see them. Getting rocket attacked or engaged with small arms fire, you are prepared and trained for that problem. Being away from home, there is no briefing or field manual to help you overcome that sacrifice. I measure the 'is it worth it' by the sense of pride I get when I do my job and the people standing behind me."
Touching base with those back home helps ease the miles in between. "I try to Skype call every day, the time difference (8.5 hours) makes it hard, but technology is great! Facebook and Skype keep me in touch. Just the smallest conversation makes the hardest day easier."
"He always asks what's going on with us and around town, always checks to see how his Grandma is," said his mom. "We never end a conversation without me saying, 'I love you and miss you.'"
As to what he misses the most back home, Miller shared, "I miss my soon to be wife, going on a motorcycle ride with her, and my English bulldog Bailey."
SSgt. Miller is due to be wed to his soulmate, Felicia Shannon, September 6, 2013, just two months after his return.
Is he proud of this woman by his side? "I am most certainly proud of her. She is working a full-time job, she is a full-time student (going for her dental hygiene degree), and also planning a wedding. The thing I love the most about her is her smile, and she never ceases to amaze me."
English writer G.K. Chesterton once wrote: "The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."
Asked his take on that poem, Miller replied, "I most certainly agree with this poem. I have no hatred towards the enemy. I’m in Afghanistan now to protect the rights of my family and friends. It doesn’t matter if you live in Idaho or in the Helmand Providence of Southern Afghanistan. Our enemy believes in a cause and so do we. They are just willing to kill innocent people for that cause."
Asked if he believes in what he is doing, Miller replied, "This is a hard question for active duty military members to answer. Everyone has their own beliefs about what they are doing over here. Most of us keep those beliefs to ourselves, reason being is we don’t want to undermine our leaders appointed over us or our Government."
It's an answer that may well be laced with the loss of friends. "I live in a 10 x 15 room with a roommate. My day starts about 6:00 AM every morning with a little organized physical fitness. I report into work by 7:30 AM. I work Monday through Thursday (to include Saturdays) 7:30 to 6:00pm. Friday and Sunday are my half days; I have a report time of 12:00 to 6:00 PM. The unbearable moments are so sporadic that they sneak up on you. For example, every day I walk by the base headquarters building and see the flag pole. Most of my unbearable moments come when I look up to that flag and see it is half mast (fallen comrade(s)). Keeping my military bearing, I render a salute and keep pressing towards my work compound."
What does he want people back home to know? SSgt Miller replied, "Support the troops. Without Americans supporting the Armed Forces our mission is irrelevant."
Note: Sam Postrion works at the Front Desk and Reservation Department at Woodloch Pines Resort.
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~Shared by Tammy Compton
“I continue to serve because I believe in what I do, and I am honored to work with my fellow soldiers.”
-Major Paul Clarke Voelke, an excerpt from the Times Herald Record
Not a day goes by that Tom Griffenkranz of Hawley doesn't think about the younger brother he lost in Afghanistan. A true American Hero, Army Major Paul Clarke Voelke, lost his life on June 22 in Mazari-Sharif. A 1998 West Point graduate, he'd served his country for 14 years.
This October in New Jersey, Tom plans to participate in the Tough Mudder, a grueling 12-mile obstacle course that will require every ounce of strength and stamina he has. But he won't be going it alone.
He'll have Paul's memory to guide him. And the knowledge that he's helping The Wounded Warriors Project, a program that aids military service members who've suffered service-related wounds, injuries, or illness, as well as their families.
“Guys are getting hurt over there everyday and returning home looking at countless hours of rehab. Most will never be the same. So, I just thought it would be a nice tribute to Paul to give back to the men and women he fought with that did return home,” Tom said.
Talking about his late brother, Tom's words overflow with love and loss; how his brother was the kindest person in the world, the kind who would do anything for anyone.
“I just really admired Paul as a person and a father. Although I am the older brother, when Paul was around, you just wanted to be better, to do better. It's hard to explain really, but you just always knew you were around someone that was going to do great things."
“Paul was married to his high school sweetheart, Traci, and they have two boys, Andrew (A.J.), 9 and Ben, 6. A.J. is a mini Paul. It's crazy when I look at A.J. and see Paul as a kid. Ben has Paul's big heart,” Tom said.
Though they were stepbrothers, Tom never referred to Paul or his brother Christopher that way. They were his brothers - period.
“I think our love of sports was the one thing that bonded us the most over the years. We could always talk for hours about the Los Angeles Dodgers, our favorite baseball team,” Tom said. “I miss him a lot. Wish I could pick up the phone and talk to him about the Dodgers.”
Growing up, the trio was inseparable. “As kids, we played a lot of Nintendo, countless hours of Contra and RBI baseball."
“But probably the best thing we did was play basketball in the backyard. We had an old 'Jordan Jammer' (plastic basketball hoop) that we nailed to a tree. We hung it low enough so we could dunk. Paul, Christopher and I, and a few kids from the area played hours and hours of games. Sometimes they got really intense. I always look back at those days and smile,” Tom said.
“At Paul's funeral, all the guys that played were there. I hadn't seen them in years, and we talked about those basketball games like they happened yesterday.”
There are so many good times to remember. Major Paul Clarke Voelke will never be forgotten, certainly not by the family who loved him.
“The last time I spoke to him was the night before he left for Afghanistan. I told him I loved him; it comforts me a little bit knowing the last time I spoke to him I said that,” Tom said.
To sponsor Tom in the upcoming Tough Mudder on October 22nd, , please visit his donation page.
Tom humbly says, "Any little bit you can spare would be awesome."
Tom Griffenkranz is a Bar Manager at Woodloch Pines.
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~Shared by J. Ranner
Woodloch Pines Resort is proud to announce the unveiling and dedication of our newest room, “The Heroes Room,” in honor of all of our civilian heroes, including firemen, police, and EMTs.
Through Woodloch’s 54 years in business, we have established many life-long friendships. In getting to know our guests, we've found that many, while not on vacation, choose lives of service and helping others. The resort finds qualities like these particularly admirable. “We’ve had many close personal friends, including some that are no longer with us, that chose to put their lives on the line for the greater good,” says Joey Ranner, Social Director. “This is just one way we can express our eternal gratitude and share it with others.” In the past, Woodloch saluted both fire and police personnel with games inspired by their causes. This new room allows us to keep the tribute alive 24/7, 365.
One of the resort’s personal inspirations for this room comes from a man by the name of Tom Brick. As a boy, Woodloch was a favorite vacation spot for him and his family. After graduation, he joined the Woodloch family, and we had the pleasure of working with him for several years. Ultimately, he realized his dream of becoming a New York City fireman, graduating in the first fire academy class after 9/11. Brick dutifully marched to the lines of battle, putting the lives of others over his own. Sadly, during a search and rescue mission in December of 2003, Tom was killed in the line of duty. Though Tom’s life was all too brief, his heroism and selflessness will continue to inspire for ages.
Tom’s story is just one of many that Woodloch has heard. That is why we are giving all civilian heroes (police, fire, and EMTs) the opportunity to share their stories. The new Heroes Room will be renovated and redesigned to include service badges, medals, flags and more that loyal guests have so kindly donated. Woodloch invites service men and women to share their stories and memorabilia to be added to the Heroes Room, and we are more than happy to accept any donations. Why let articles of valor sit hidden away when they could be proudly displayed before 40,000 guests per year? Please contact us at email@example.com if you would like to contribute!
Woodloch will be celebrating its first “Heroes Weekend” September 14th-16th, 2012. Activities for the weekend will be centered on our civilian service heroes. The dedication ceremony and grand re-opening of the room will be held on September 15th. Please join us for this day of memory, comradery and appreciation.
Just writing this blog from a personal standpoint, I'm overcome with emotion. While we mourn the loss of great people like Tom, I beam with pride that courage and selfless servitude still exist in the world. We are truly in the company of thousands of heroes, and I thank you all for making the world a better place in which to live.