Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sgt Mark A. Cofield, most recent US fatality in the Iraq War

Sunday, another US soldier, Sgt Mark A. Cofield, died in the Iraq War bringing the total for the month so far to 5. Alyssa Chin (KKTV -- link has text and video) reports that the fallen's father and brother are also serving and she spoke with family and friends of Mark

Alyssa Chin: This is a man who was promoted to sergeant just 18 months after training.

Sara Cofield (Sister): You never thought it would be you. You always thought you were the lucky one to have all three of them come back. So . . . [whisper] that was hard.

Alyssa Chin: Friends and family are left wondering exactly what happened overseas to Sgt Mark Cofield, a man they watched grow up?

Suzi Dixon (family friend): This just comes so close to home and it just hits your heart and it makes it all real.

Liz Cameron (neighbor): There's going to be such a hole in this community's heart because Mark was all about love.

Alyssa Chin: According to those who knew him best, the 25-year-old excelled at everything. A hockey player for most of his life, he competed for Rampart High School. While in Iraq, he started running marathons and even won a few.

Samantha Wolf (family friend): Mark had one of the biggest hearts of anybody I've ever met.

Ester Mabry (family friend): He had the strength and compassion that normally you don't see together.

Alyssa Chin: While gathered in the Cofield home, stories and memories of Mark overflow with smiles, love, and warmth. But his sister Sara will remember him most for the times they shared together.

Sara Cofield: I'm proud to say that my brother served, that's a good thing. He not only was a soldier and served our country and will be missed as a part of it but he'll be missed as a brother, and as a son, and as a friend.

Yesterday the Defense Dept released the following:

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn.
Sgt. Mark A. Cofield, 25, of Colorado Springs, Colo., died July 17 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.
For more information, the media may contact the XVIII Airborne Corps public affairs office at 910-643-4593.

This month's fallen also includes Sgt Nathan Beyers and Spc Nicholas Newby, who both had their funeral services Monday. Staff Sgt April Davis (Coeur d'Alene Press) reports on the memoiral service held at Camp Victory Baghdad for the two. She quotes 1st Lt Gordon Zimmer stating of Nathan Beyers, "He talked highly of his life and always had a shiny glint in his eye when he talked about his daughter." Sgt Mark Kleinbeck adds, "When we were at Camp Shelby, the first thing he did when his daughter was born is text me a picture of his special little girl. Since we arrived in Iraq, most of his conversations included his wife and daughter. He couldn't wait to be home and see his little girl and be the father and husband he always wanted to be." Of Nicholas Newby, she quotes Spc Michael Longwill stating, "Newby had more personality in his pinky than most people have in their entire body. He was always looking to make people laugh and he did so by being loud." Confused at Camp Shelby with another service member, Staff Sgt Wayne Cridland says Newby decided to grow a mustache to end the confusion, "He grew his mustache over several months, keeping it just within regulation and making sure that everyone knew he, Specialist Newby, had a mustache, not Specialist Hansen. After much ribbing and many jokes about the caterpillar under his nose, he decided to dye his mustache black so it would be even more noticeable. And it was. So was the overspray on his upper lip. But his mustache had its intended effect and everyone stopped confusing him for Specialist Hansen." There's a slide show of the memorial service here.

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. From her office, we'll note the following:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 (202) 224-2834

VETERANS: Senator Murray Reminds Senate of Critical Need to Pass Veterans and Military Construction Spending Bill

The bill includes life-saving investments in Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD research, as well as mental health care for those struggling with ‘invisible wounds of war’

Watch the speech HERE (Senator Murray begins speaking at 44:50).

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, senior member of the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee, gave a speech on the Senate Floor urging her colleagues to pass the critical health care and benefits investments included in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill the Senate is considering this week. Among many other things, the bill includes life-saving investments in Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder research as well as mental health care for those struggling with the invisible wounds of war. The bill also makes a significant investment in preparing the VA for the influx of new Iraq and Afghanistan veterans while supporting housing opportunities and care for older veterans.

“No matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how divided we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets, we have to keep our commitments to our veterans and service members,” said Senator Murray. We have to move this bill forward and we have to provide those who wore- or are wearing- the uniform with the peace of mind that we are keeping up our promise to them.”

For details on the critical veterans and military construction priorities included in the bill click HERE. The bill also includes over $500 million in investments for Washington state military bases.

Funding broken down by base appears below:

  • Naval Station Bremerton – $13,341,000
  • Naval Station Kitsap – $121,844,000
  • Fairchild Air Force Base – $27,600,000
  • Joint Base Lewis McChord – $331,300,000
  • Naval Air Station Whidbey Island – $25,000,000

Read the full text of the speech below:

“Madam President, there is no question that we need to make smart decisions to tighten our belts and reduce our nation’s debt and deficit.

“American families have done it around their kitchen table, and we owe it to them to get our fiscal house in order.

“But there is also one group of Americans that we owe an even greater promise to.

“A group who we can never allow to become pawns, fall through the cracks, or be forgotten altogether in these budget debates.

“And that is our men and women in uniform - and the veterans who have protected our nation for decades.

“And that is why I’m here today – in the midst of the whirlwind of debt and deficit rhetoric – to remind us all of the critical nature of the bill we have on the floor this week.

“To remind us that no matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how divided we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets, we have to keep our commitments to our veterans and service members.

“We have to move this bill forward.

“And we have to provide those who wore - or are wearing - the uniform with the peace of mind that we are keeping up our promise to them.

“Now Madam President, a couple of years ago we took a proactive step to ensure that the non-stop wrangling over appropriations bills here in Congress didn’t interfere with the health care that our veterans have earned.

“Thanks to the work of Senator Akaka - and many others - VA spending for health care is now appropriated a year in advance.

“Protecting it from an imperfect budget process that is so often affected by politics.

But I remember that when we passed advanced appropriations we were very clear:

“Our foresight was not going to be an excuse to sit on our hands when VA funding was up for consideration.

“We were not going to allow a precautionary measure to get in the way of passing timely increases in veterans health care.

“And so this bill is the test.

“Can we put politics aside for the good of our nation’s veterans and service members?

“Can we show them that - despite our differences - we will work as diligently toward getting them the benefits and care they’ve earned as they have worked for our nation?

“I hope we can.

“And I say that because the investments in this bill are a lot more than numbers on a page.

“They are life changing programs for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

“It’s support for suicide hotlines that are seeing more callers than ever before.

“It’s providing roofs over the heads of our service members and their families.

“It’s timely investments - in the very biggest priorities of our nation’s heroes.

“And so today I want to talk about just a few of the investments included in this bill and how they translate into the lives of our service members, veterans, and their families.

“Madam President, there is an influx of young veterans coming into the VA system right now like we have not seen in a very long time.

“In fact the VA estimates that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in its health care system will reach well over half-a-million at some point next year – that’s an over 100% increase since 2008.

“This is a big challenge - and one that we have no choice but to step up to meet if we are going to avoid many of the same mistakes we saw with the Vietnam generation.

“That is why this bill includes nearly $3 billion to meet the health care needs of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan - a nearly $600 million increase over last year.

“But it’s more than just the sheer number of new veterans that will be coming home to the VA in the near future - it’s the extent of their wounds – both visible and invisible – that will require an untold resources from our nation.

“Through the wonders of modern medicine, service members who would have been lost in previous conflicts are coming home to live productive and fulfilling lives.

“But they will need a lifetime of care from the VA.

“And that’s part of why this bill includes significant investments for research in a number of areas including: Traumatic Brain Injury, spinal cord injury, polytrauma injuries, and sensory loss.

“It includes funding that will go to maintaining world-class prosthetics like the one worn by Sergeant Leroy Petry who I saw at the White House last week shake the hand of a grateful President Obama as he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

“It’s also funding that comes at a critical time as amputations have sharply increased among soldiers in Afghanistan – many of whom are getting out of protected MRAP and Humvees to engage Afghan citizens and at the same time putting themselves at far greater risk of severe IED injuries.

“According to a recent Washington Post article “twice as many U.S. soldiers wounded in battle last year required limb amputations than in either of the two previous years.”

“This funding also comes as mental health concerns continue to rise and suicides among active duty troops and veterans from these wars have risen to a level now on par with combat deaths.

“In April, the VA’s suicide hotline took 14,000 suicide calls – more than they had taken in any month the previous four years.

“This bill ensures we are putting someone on the other end of that call.

“This bill funds efforts to give veterans access to mental health professionals.

“This bill ensures we are not leaving our veterans to go it alone.

“But Madam President, this will do much more than help our newest generation of veterans.

“For generations we have faced the problem of homelessness among out nation’s veterans without making real headway.

“But recently, through the success of programs like HUD-VASH and the Grant and Per Diem program, we are seeing real progress toward putting homeless veterans into safe and secure housing and the bold goals laid out by the Obama Administration to end veterans homelessness once and for all.

“This bill includes nearly $1 billion in direct assistance to homeless veterans.

“This bill also helps those who have taken on the monumental but deeply personal task of providing care to an injured veteran in their family.

“Those people who have left behind careers, personal lives, and even their own health care and benefits to care for those who can’t care for themselves.

“It includes major investments to meet the unique needs of one of the fastest growing groups of veterans: women veterans

“Who through health care and construction upgrades that improve privacy will benefit from VA facilities that are more conducive to their needs.

“This bill also includes major investments to fund military construction projects worldwide, including: readiness centers, barracks, hospitals, clinics, and schools.

“It also supports family housing construction projects that ensure military families have a satisfactory roof over their heads.

“And will create thousands of good-paying construction jobs.

“As we all know well, the strength of our military is rooted in the strength of the families that support them.

“Investments like these are what allows service members to go abroad knowing their loved ones are being looked after by the nation they are protecting.

“Madam President, after nearly a decade at war, the consequences of sending our service members into combat and the sacred obligation we have to care for those injured in service have become clear.

“But so have the shortcomings and the challenges we have to meet.

“Last week, I chaired a hearing on the gaps in mental health care that still exist at the VA and the stories we heard were deeply frustrating.

“I heard the stories of two separate veterans who attempted suicide but were still left to wait for weeks and months for appointments at the VA.

“We have to fix the VA in a way that makes it flexible and responsive to the needs of these veterans.

“And we have to do it in a cost effective way by ensuring that we are getting the most value out of every dollar that a bill like this one provides.

“Next week I will be examining the long term costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to our newest generation of veterans because I believe we need to address this problem openly and honestly.

“Madam President, like generations of service members and veterans before them, today’s heroes have done everything that has been asked of them.

“They have been separated from their families through repeat deployments.

“They have sacrificed life and limb in combat.

“And they have done all of this selflessly and with honor to our country.

“We can’t allow our commitment to them to lapse or to get caught up in politics.

“We need to pass this bill.

“And we must also come to a budget agreement that avoids default and the consequences it would have on our veterans.

“We have to keep our promise. No matter what.

“Thank you.”

The following community sites -- plus World Can't Wait and On The Wilder Side -- updated last night and this morning:

Trudy Rubin is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer who has a far different take on what needs to happen with regards to Iraq than I do. We highlighted her latest column when her paper ran. She's also syndicated nationally and we'll link to this syndicated version of the column. Again, I disagree but I'm also aware that when everyone walked away from Iraq, she continued to use her column to report on it, she reported on Iraq while in Iraq and while back in the US. It's a topic she takes seriously and for that reason we do note her columns.

While I have no problem doing that, I'm not interested in sleaze. We try to focus real issues here every day. We focus on the wars. If you've written something about the wars, by all means e-mail me and maybe I can work it in. But I'm not The Nation magazine. This isn't a cesspool with floating pieces of dung in it that you can add your own too. We didn't pretend to be against the Iraq War in 2005 and 2006 to score partisan points against George W. Bush. We were and remain against the Iraq War. The trashy rag that pretended to give a damn about wars when Bush was in office avoids wars today and rushes to 'flood the zone' with meaningless crap that's nothing but partisan talking points. So send your Rupert Murdoch crap there, I'm not interested in it. I'm not stupid enough to believe that Murdoch actually overseas his media properties. I'm not stupid enough to take part in the stoning of an elderly man and build sympathy for him -- which, if you missed it, the left turned the corner on yesterday. You made Rupert look sympathetic to a large part of the world. This is not a US story. This is about partisan attacks on Fox News. (In the US. In England, it's a different story. Don't claim that The Nation, et al gives a damn about the British families. If they gave a damn about anything other than partisan points, they would have focused on Australia last week and the week before. But they didn't tell you about that because they didn't give a damn about the war or the prison scandal that in 2005 they pretended was the most important story to them.) We focus on real issues here. We are a left site but this isn't where you do your campaigning for the Democratic Party. (Not to mention, some community members aren't Democrats. Some are Socialist, some are independents, some are Libertarians, some are Communists, some wouldn't belong to any group, we even have a few Republicans.) And NPR crossed a line allowing Tina Brown to go on and on this morning (Morning Edition) about the issue. Stating that her husband was fired by Murdoch is not enough. When she was given more than 30 seconds on the topic (and she was given a lot more), she should have balanced with a commentator who didn't have a stake in the game. (And I love Tina, but after what she did to The New Yorker, she really has no standing to accuse others of tabloidization and decry that process.)

We'll close with this from Diana Barahona's "4.4 trillion reasons to bring the troops home now" (Liberation: Newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation):

When President Obama announced a troop reduction in Afghanistan on June 22, he said, “Over the last decade, we have spent $1 trillion on war.”

As staggering as this figure is, it underreports the full cost of the wars in the Middle East, since it only reflects Pentagon spending. Even worse, it’s off by $300 billion—congressional appropriations for the wars over the past 10 years currently total $1.3 trillion.

Now, a newly released study by Brown University estimates the full cost of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan will be at least $3.7 trillion, and the final cost could reach a mind-numbing $4.4 trillion.

The study, named “Costs of War” (, attempts to provide a comprehensive accounting, not only of military costs, but also future care for veterans, losses borne by veterans and their families, interest on the war debt, foreign military aid and increased spending on “homeland security.” It also attempts to assess the human costs of the campaign to control the oil-rich region.

To accomplish this task, project directors Neta Crawford of Boston University and Catherine Lutz of Brown University assembled a team of experts that included economists, anthropologists, historians and humanitarian field workers.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends