GI Film Fest: Honor in the Valley of Tears

Originally posted by Jeremy Borden for the ON PATROL blog:

The annual GI Film Fest celebrates the “successes and sacrifices of the American military through the medium of film.” One of those films was Honor in the Valley of Tears, which tells the story of the Army’s A-Company during the Vietnam War.

Summary by Writer-Director Eric S. Dow:

The story of A-Company 1/8 4th Infantry Division, US Army during the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1967. In the men’s own words, through the stories they narrate, the film gives us insight into the time these men spent together and the bond they formed that remains unbroken to this day. The 4th Infantry Division is one of the only divisions that trained and retained its troops during the Vietnam War. The men of A-Company trained together for eleven months and served together for one year. Their story begins with basic training at Ft. Lewis Washington in 1965 and continues 40 years later at their last reunion in September 2007. Filming began September 27, 2007 in Houston, Texas during a reunion to honor First Sergeant David H. McNerney, who is the only living member of the 4th Infantry Division to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was celebrated by the men he trained and served with and who’s lives he saved on March 22, 1967. Conceived by executive producer John A. Ponsoll, whose father served with A-Company and had documented his tour of duty with a Kodak slide camera, the film honors the memory of A-Company 1/8 and documents their incredible courage and dedication to one another.

We caught up with the filmmakers and the hero of the film, former First Sergeant David H. McNerney.

ON PATROL Magazine Wins Three Mercury Awards

Mercury Excellence AwardsON PATROL, the magazine of the USO, is entering its second year of publication.  The quarterly magazine, which is distributed to more than 300,000 readers, features stories of inspiration and sacrifice.

We were recently notified that ON PATROL received three prestigious communication’s honors from MERCURY Excellence Awards. This year’s competition featured around 700 entries in 20 categories from 21 countries across the world.

ON PATROL earned a gold medal in the magazine category for military support organizations; a silver medal in the magazine writing category; and a bronze medal for design.

From the beginning, ON PATROL has garnered admiration from its readers.

The magazine continues to feature outstanding writers, who contribute on a range of subjects from the special facial reconstruction efforts performed by a plastic surgeon in California to a description of golf analyst David Feherty’s “Inspiring Explosive Days,” giving wounded warriors a chance to golf with professionals, participate in long bicycle rides or hunt together.

On Patrol Summer 2009The magazine also inspired. The Summer 2009 cover featured a note from LT “J” a Navy SEAL who had been seriously wounded in battle. Unable to talk, he had penned a letter from his hospital bed, and his wife displayed the message prominently on his room door.

“If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, GO ELSEWHERE,” the note reads in part. “The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love.”

And readers responded.

“I would like permission to send a copy of that letter to my friends in order to heighten their awareness of who is keeping them free and the attitudes of those who have sacrificed for them,” Claudia Thomas wrote.

ON PATROL also received feedback from the field. Chaplains in Balad are using the magazine in devotionals, while troops in Afghanistan are sending us updates from the front lines.

We’re extremely proud of the progress made by ON PATROL in its inaugural year, and we look forward to bringing more outstanding stories to you in the future.

Please click here to get your own subscription to ON PATROL

Calling All Front-Line Bards and Homefront Minstrels

For the bards of the front lines and the word minstrels on the home front, ON PATROL, the magazine of the USO, is seeking combat poetry that captures a service member’s experience both overseas and stateside for an upcoming article. ON PATROL also may include it in its 300,000-circulation magazine!

There are no length or form restrictions, but the work must be original, the author must hold the copyright, and authors grant the USO and ON PATROL the right to reprint in either a print or online format.

Please send submissions to by March 30. Include full name, rank and unit number [if applicable] and contact information. Please use the world “combat poetry” in the subject line.

We look forward to being inspired, and so offer a bit of inspiration to get the creative thoughts flowing.

Author Unknown

A woman for all seasons
A woman for today.
She grows to meet the challenges
And grows along the way.
Her life is not an easy one
With many loads to bear.
But she proudly serves her husband
And the uniform he wears.

Although she didn’t take the oath
To preserve democracy
She’s there each day on the home front
To keep our country free.
She’s foreign-born or a country girl,
Diversity you will find.
But to be an army wife
It takes a special kind.
She’s one who keeps on going
Through adversity and pain.
She’s the steady, strong foundation
When nothing stays the same.

She’s the one who sheds a tear
As Old Glory passes by,
But couldn’t give a answer
If you were to ask her why.
Throughout the years, she marches on
Through tears and joy and strife.
She’s America’s unsung hero-
She’s a military wife.

Operation Denali’s Marc Hoffmeister named “Adventurer of the Year”

From the desk of Jeremy Borden, USO Staff Writer:

Army Lieutenant Colonel Marc Hoffmeister says his whole experience with National Geographic has been one surprise after the other. But none was bigger than learning that he’d tied for first place as the organization’s Adventurer of the Year.

Hoffmeister, who was wounded in a roadside blast in Iraq in 2007, organized a group of wounded warriors to climb Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America in June 2009.

Lieutenant Colonel Marc Hoffmeister summits Denali. DoD photo.

He said he was more than a little shocked to be named one of the magazine’s Adventurers of the Year. “I frankly was pretty surprised to even be ranked amongst them,” he said from his home in Eagle River, Alaska.

It also shocked him that readers honored him as their Readers’ Choice Adventurer of the Year on Thursday.

He credits his team — the accomplishment is a group one, he says — but can’t put his finger on what put his story above the rest. “I don’t know what singled us out at all,” he said.

Hoffmeister went up against accomplished adventurers, like the astronaut known as “the Hubble repairman,” and tied for first place in the readers’ choice contest with Albert Yu-Min Lin, who organized a treacherous expedition into Mongolia to search for the lost tomb of Genghis Khan.

As Hoffmeister and Lin pulled away from the pack in the competition’s last weeks, the soldier wondered what his chances were.

“It’s the modern age of technology. You ‘Google’ the competition,” Hoffmeister said.

When he found out about Lin’s University of California-San Diego connections, he joked he was worried that “[Lin’s] got the whole school at his disposal. Can’t you just [take students] to the computer lab every other day and vote?”

Despite what he considered steep odds, Hoffmeister organized and assembled his own social network. Army officials and even senators gravitated to his story, helping put the word out through e-mail chains, news stories and social media Web sites. Hoffmeister knew it was working when he started hearing from long lost friends.

But it was Hoffmeister’s story of four wounded warriors training for a year and spending a month summiting a treacherous peak that resonated around the country. When Hoffmeister was beginning his own recovery, he knew the mountain climb could change wounded warriors’ lives. But first, he had his own burdens to over come…Read the full blog post from “On the Frontlines” and see Army Lieutenant Colonel Marc Hoffmeister’s full story online at ON★PATROL, the magazine of the USO.

The Artist’s Touch – from On Patrol Magazine

Below is an excerpt of an inspiring article in the Winter Issue of On Patrol, the Magazine of the USO.  Click here to read the full story and hear and audio interview with the artist.  Click here to learn how to get your own subscription.

Michael Naranjo with the Eagle Dancer. Photo by David Holman.

“By David Holman – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Michael Naranjo reaches up and runs his fingers over the bronze nose and lips of a sculpture that he passes every day. “It has been a while since I looked at his face.” The eagle dancer, a figure common in Pueblo Indian ceremonies, is mid-trot with his arms effortlessly waving attached feathers. With his one functional hand, Michael sculpted the exquisitely detailed eagle dancer that sits in front of his Santa Fe home — one “look” at a time.

Michael is blind from wounds he received in the Vietnam War. And he wouldn’t sculpt any other way.” …read more.

Fort Hood – “The Great Place”

Fort Hood

From left, Janie Anderson, the family readiness group leader with Bravo Company, 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, her mother, Jo Ellen Freleigh, and Janie's daughter participate in a candlelight vigil Nov. 6, 2009, at the stadium at Fort Hood, Texas. The event was held in memory of the 13 people killed Nov. 5 by a lone gunman. (U.S. Army photo by Grazyna Musick/Released)

Fort Hood, Texas, the largest military installation in the world, is home to tens of thousands of soldiers and their families, along with the schools and recreational services that make it a vibrant community.

Lovingly referred to as “The Great Place,” now a shocked community is doing what residents say is their only option: providing as much love and support as they can in the wake of the horrific November 5 shootings.

Robin Crouse, director of USO Fort Hood, received the phone call at 2 P.M. that day, telling her to lock down the Center immediately. Someone was shooting soldiers on post. She immediately locked the building and told the 35 soldiers at the Center what was going on.

“At the time I was really nervous because we’re only a half-mile from the scene,” Crouse said. “It was surreal.”‘

Read the full story from ON★PATROL Magazine