Mission: PFC Bryan Lamartiniere

We have some fantastic volunteers. A couple of days before the Fourth of July I found out that we needed to get a mom in Louisiana up to Kansas to be with her son after he had surgery. I thought we might have difficulty filling the mission since it needed to happen over the 4th with very little notice. (Although I can't think of a better way to spend Independence Day than serving our wounded warriors).

I got a quick response from Scott Hallock, one of our pilots based in Manhattan, KS the evening of the 2nd. He was able to do the mission, and the weather looked best to leave the next day. He called the passenger, Connie, to get everything arranged, and they were on their way to Fort Riley on the evening on the 3rd. He went above and beyond driving Connie to the post and making sure she had lodging. They arrived shortly after midnight on the 4th, and to quote Scott (Former US Army Special Forces Officer), " I couldn't have envisioned a better way to spend the 4th than what I did."

Since the mission was on such short notice, we still had to try to find a pilot to get Connie home the following week. Walt got on the phone and was successful in finding a jet owner (Dennis Mullin-S.P.S Holdings) in Manhattan to donate his pilot (Edmund Hill) and aircraft to get Connie back home to Louisiana. This was the first time they had heard about Veterans Airlift Command, and they were happy to help.
Below is a letter we received from Connie after the mission was complete:

I am writing this email to thank Veterans' Airlift for all they have done for me and my son. I am very grateful for the opportunity to visit with my son after he was wounded in Iraq. Though my son's injury was not life threatening, it may end his career in the Army. He loves serving and now has to wait to see if he will be able to continue to do that.
It meant a lot to me to see him, and I know it meant a lot to my son to have someone from his family there, when he was so quickly taken away from his fellow soldiers in Iraq. Not serving in war time or in the military, I cannot understand fully the bonds that are formed, but I do know that those bonds are strong and they last a lifetime. This is made quite evident by your organization. You continue to serve your country and have shown that you will support those service men and women, who are now in the service of their country.
Both pilots were great and made me feel at ease, even though I am a big chicken about flying. Mr. Hallock was so very helpful. He made sure that I got on base, had lodging, and carried me to the hospital to see my son. He also made sure that I had a ride to my lodging. I simply do not have the adequate words to express my gratitude to your organization, the Wounded Soldiers organization, and to these two wonderful pilots that brought me to see my son and to take me home again.
Again thank you from the depths of my heart for your help and may God continue to bless this organization.

Connie Stilgoe and PFC Bryan Lamartiniere

Meet Scott Smiley

Captain Scott Smiley

We are fortunate to have the advisory board that we do. We have some highly esteemed folks. We knew Scott Smiley was a great representative of our soldiers when we asked him and his wife, Tiffany (the other half of a great team!) to serve with us in support of the mission of the VAC. Little did we know that the Army Times was vetting the “cream of the crop” of US Army to name a Soldier of the Year. Last week, in Washington, the honor for this award fell to Captain Scott Smiley. Please note the article below and check out his bio on our website. We are PROUD of our advisory board and this is another reason why. HOOAH Scotty!

Walter L. Fricke
Veterans Airlift Command

2007 Army Times Soldier of the Year

CAPTAIN Scott M. Smiley Headquarters , US Army Accessions Command,Fort Monroe, Virginia

Assignment: Individual Training Assessment Team, Army Accessions Command, Fort Monroe, Va.Personal: His wife, Tiffany, gave birth to their first baby, a son named Grady, on May 12.

By Gina Cavallaromailto:Cavallarogcavallaro@militarytimes.com

FORT MONROE, Va. - Capt. Scott Smiley says store clerks don't always realize he's blind until he has handed them a credit card and doesn't extend his hand when they try to give it back.His blindness hasn't kept him from surfing in Hawaii, skiing in Colorado, skydiving in Texas, running on post or working out at the gym.
Nor has it stopped him from pushing ahead with his Army career, one that started with his 2003 graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and could well have ended April 6, 2005, in Mosul, Iraq, when he faced down a car bomber from the hatch of his Stryker combat vehicle.
He had been hit by improvised explosive devices and seen the devastation of car bombs, "but I'd never been faced with yelling at a guy who blows himself up," said Smiley, 27.
When the car bomber detonated his payload just 30 yards in front of the Stryker, Smiley's eyes were destroyed, his left frontal lobe lacerated and the right side of his body paralyzed. The total loss of his eyesight appears to be the only lasting physical effect.
That moment - and his decision not to shoot the driver - would change his life forever.
"That's the hard thing about the war we're fighting over there," said Smiley, who was a platoon leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.
"We're fighting civilians - all they have to do is drop their weapons and they're a civilian again."
The driver's behavior - and the visibly weighed-down vehicle he was driving - raise Smiley's suspicions. He yelled and fired two warning shots at the ground, but the driver behaved passively and even put his hands up as if surrendering.
"You can't just shoot someone because you think he's a bomber," said smiley. "He could have had a bunch of metal in the back of his car; he might have been from out of town and lost."
But he wasn't lost - and now Smiley knows that by taking the brunt of the car bomb's explosion, he saved the lives of other soldiers who might have been targeted down the road.
"I would have had a .50-cal blow his head off if I had known," Smiley said, crediting his shattered Oakley M Frame ballistic glasses with saving his life.
As for his continued good fortune, Smiley credits a higher source.
"I definitely believe God has been with me and blessed me beyond words. It's not a normal thing for a totally blind soldier to serve and to keep giving back to the Army," Smiley said.
Lt. Gen. Robert VanAntwerp, who nominated Smiley for Army Times Soldier of the Year, said of the captain, "There's no 'say no' in him. He wants to do it all. He's not daunted by the challenge. He loves soldiering," he said.
VanAntwerp paved the way for Smiley to spend a year with the Individual Training Assessment Team at U.S. Army Accessions Command, Fort Monroe, Va. There, he used a special computer and audio equipment he acquired through the Tricare system to do his work.
During his time at Accessions Command, he traveled around the Army to talk to both healthy and wounded soldiers about honor, duty service to country, and the value of staying in the Army to contribute hard-earned expertise. He, his wife Tiffany and their new baby, Grady, have since moved to North Carolina, where Smiley will pursue a master's degree in business administration from Duke University.
"He's an example for all soldiers. He has stepped up to make sure others don't fall behind," said Col. Mary Carstensen, director of the Army Wounded Warrior Program. Carstensen said Smiley is one of only 39 severely wounded soldiers who continue to serve on active duty.
"He challenges soldiers to stretch themselves and establish goals," she said.
His friends and family say Smiley's faith in God and lifelong determination have kept him steady.
Some call him a "stud" whose blindness "hasn't changed him in any way but to make him better."
"He's always been a strong kid, a man of character. He's my younger brother, but a brother I look up to in many ways," said Capt. Neal Smiley, a Special Forces soldier serving overseas.
After Duke University, the family will move to West Point, where Smiley will teach management and the philosophy of military leadership.


2007 Army Times Soldier of the Year CAPTAIN Scott M. Smiley HEADQUARTERS , US Army Accessions Command, Fort Monroe , Virginia
While deployed in Mosul , Iraq leading his platoon of Stryker soldiers, Captain Scott Smiley attempted to slow down a suspicious vehicle as an effort to protect his platoon. Unfortunately, it did not stop. Captain Smiley was hit by shrapnel in the face when the suicide bomber detonated, causing a brain injury and permanent blindness. Although Captain Smiley almost lost his life, it did not affect his spirit as he has continues to live his life by his faith and not by his sight.
Everyone believed his career was over since a blind person cannot serve in the military. Yet, Captain Smiley felt he still owed back – for his education at West Point and his service obligation, and that he could still make a contribution. He spent a long time recovering, yet Captain Smiley inspired everyone else he came into contact with. His senior leaders state that “his faith, drive, and bravery are inspirational”, and that “he knows what it takes to overcome adversity. And, no one does it more effectively.”
Captain Smiley refused to give up on his strong desire to return to full active duty, and was assigned to the US Army Accessions Command under the Wounded Warriors Program. He is 1 of 39 severely-wounded soldiers serving on active duty and he serves as an advocate for this program, advising them on Army resources that assist those who are wounded with their lives and still want to serve.
Captain Smiley travels across the country to various military training centers and schools, providing his expertise on enemy tactics and advising military personnel on current training needs for soldiers deploying to current war zones. He has led an effort to rewrite training and doctrine regulations that have been completely vetted by brigade commanders and their sergeants major, and it has been touted as the best revision anyone has seen in the past.
This past summer Coach Mike Krzyzewski invited him to talk to the US National Basketball team as they prepared for the World Championships, motivating them with the same message of courage and faith he shares with hundreds of service members he has encountered since his injury. Captain Smiley's efforts play a major role in the Army's Strategic Outreach Program, reaching into the public arena as he shares the Army story, one of concern and compassion, in national, regional and local media.
Captain Smiley finds no obstacles to living life and musters the courage to do it every day – walking to work by memorizing the number of steps and the directions to turn, enjoying any physical activity (running, cycling, surfing, sky diving, and snow skiing) and just earlier this week, he climbed Mt. Rainier in Washington, proving that he is truly “ARMY STRONG”. His senior officer said, “Scotty embodies the Army Values and demonstrates them in principle and practice every day.” “He inspires you to be more than you though you could be, just by him being himself,” says another.
A native of Pasco , Washington , Captain Smiley and his wife Tiffany, have a newborn son, Grady Douglas. They have recently moved to Durham , North Carolina , for Captain Smiley to attend graduate school at Duke University , with a follow-on assignment as a faculty member at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the Leadership Department. Please join all of our readers as we salute Captain Scott M. Smiley as this year's Army Times Soldier of the Year.

Mission: Healing for Families of Our Fallen Soldiers

Captain Kevin Landeck

PFC Matthew Bean

This entry was written by Marlene Morschauser, wife of LTC Robert Morschauser:

It is hard for me to find words to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to Veterans Airlift Command. The reason for my struggle is that I honestly believe the words do not exist. I will do my best, however, to share my experience w/ this phenomenal organization.

In August, my husband LTC Robert Morschauser, deployed his Battalion to Mahmaydiyah, Iraq for a 12 month, now 15 month tour. Sadly, on February 2, 2007, our unit suffered our first KIA. Capt Kevin Landeck was killed in action when his vehicle struck an IED. Kevin was 26 years old, married for a year, loved by all who knew him. As the unit remained forward, those of us here scrambled for ways to afford airfare for the funeral in Chicago. It is certainly no cliché to say that when you join the Army, you become part of a unique family within itself. It was not an option for those in a leadership role not to attend Kevin’s services. I contacted Mr. Fricke and he immediately sprung into action. Within hours I was told that not only had he secured air transportation, but ground transportation as well. This remarkable generosity enabled myself (Battalion Commanders Spouse), the Battery Commander’s spouse, the Battery lst SG (home on r & r) and his wife, to attend the funeral. Our presence at Kevin’s funeral affected those involved in different forms. It helped us to provide comfort and support to Kevin’s wife Bethany, as well as his parents. It also gave our husbands solace in the fact that although they could not attend, there was proper representation on behalf of the unit. We were able to provide the link between his unit family in Iraq to his family mourning him in Illinois.

Sadly, tragedy struck our unit once again on May 31, 2007, when 22 year old PFC Matthew Bean was killed while searching for 3 missing soldiers from our sister unit. Matthew loved landscaping, playing his guitar, and being outdoors. He proposed to his girlfriend Sarah right before deploying. They had just started to plan their future together. Once again, I placed the call to Mr. Fricke. This time my husband, home on R & R, felt very strongly about attending a service for his own soldier, whom he loves as his own. Once again-Mr. Fricke went into action and Mr. Quinn agreed to fly this mission as well. The town of Pembroke, Massachusetts came out to support Matthew and his family. American flags lined the streets as we drove to the grave site. My husband was so moved by what he saw, the emotions came pouring out. Being out of country for almost a year, hearing the media reports about the war, it gave my husband a sense of what this country is really about. It showed him the support of so many Americans. He kept saying over and over again, I wish I had a camera so I could show all the guys. It was also beneficial for Matthew’s family to feel the love of his commander and unit. Again, it gave unit closeness to the family.

When the Fischer House initially provided me w/ the veteran airlift command contact info, I found it hard to believe that such generosity would be extended. However, after speaking w/ Mr. Fricke and our pilot, Mr. Quinn, I realized their genuine care, dedication and support for soldiers and their families. The level of professionalism and kind manner in which they conducted themselves is remarkable. While “thank you” seems like such an inadequate response to your actions, I will say it anyway “THANK YOU” on behalf of the soldiers and families of 2-15 FA BN. I look forward to the day that Veterans Airlift no longer needs to exist, but when that day comes, I will know that I have been touched by amazing people who were a part of it.


Marlene Morschauser2-15 FA BN FRG Advisor

Mission: Chad Watson

Dear Fellow Volunteers,
I just recently completed my first mission. For those of you who have
already had the privilege of flying a mission, you know what it's
like. For those of you who are yet to fly or have not quite decided
if this is for you, let me tell you it was one of the most gratifying
days of my life!
I picked Chad up at the Matoon, IL airport and returned to the D.C.
area to continue his rehab at Walter Reed. It is impossible to
adequately describe in words the upbeat and positive mental attitude
Chad has, as well as the driver who met us at the airport in
Gaithersburg, MD.
Chad was full of excitement and described what he had been through
since his injuries. You can tell just by being around him that
because he lost a leg that it is in no way a disability! He never
once hinted or even mentioned anything that he couldn't do now, but
only excitedly spoke of the things he could do and was going to do!
His rehab is three months ahead of schedule. He was explaining to me
how lucky he was. To quote Chad, he said; "When I got to Walter Reed,
I saw how lucky I was. They didn't have to do anything to me, just
cut part of my leg off, and it only took eight (8) surgeries to get me
fitted for the prosthetic." You had to be there to hear how
enthusiastic he was when he said this to me.
Having heard all of the horror stories about Walter Reed, I asked Chad
for his opinion. He said he loved it there and Walter Reed was great.
He said he gets better each day he is there.
When I dropped Chad off, he and his driver thanked me so much it was
almost embarrassing. I felt so humbled because these young folks have
made such a great sacrifice and are so grateful for what the VAC is
doing, and what we do pales in comparison to what they are doing for our country.
It is something you'll have to experience because I can't describe it,
and you'll come away from your mission with one of life's greatest
God Bless Our Veterans

Chuck Myers