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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Letters to Baghdad: a tribute to our troops

"Mark Miner's words inspired me, that night I wrote 'When I Get Home,' he asked me for the lyrics, and through the power of inspiration we became friends, and this project was born..."-- Cliff Knizley

Inspired by blogger Mark Miner of Boots in Baghdad, musician Cliff Knizley set to work creating a powerful tribute to our Heroes, and turned his talent into a way to support some of the projects that provide assistance to those who give so much to us."Letters to Baghdad: a tribute to our troops" is the result. I first heard of Cliff quite a while ago, when he was still working on the CD. Recently, he sent me a copy to listen to, and asked if I'd be willing to help get the word out.I told him I'd be happy to listen, review, and let people know about the CD, where they could get a copy, and how it's quite a bit more than just a CD.

The line-up of musicians on "Letters to Baghdad" is impressive: Drummer Stan Lynch was an original member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, playing with them for about twenty years. His songwriting / producing efforts include work with Don Henley, The Mavericks, and Tim McGraw, to name a few. Bass player Ronny Cates is a Grammy winner, and a veteran of Petra. Guitarist/engineer Jeff Sims is a well-known veteran of the Gainesville music scene. And then there's singer/songwriter/guitarist Cliff Knizley - when I first checked out his website, I was hooked just listening the musical snippet you find there.

In the emails we've exchanged, Cliff's sincere desire to give something back through his music comes through loud and clear. And in the lyrics of his songs, so does his sincere appreciation for our Heroes.When I first listened to the CD, it was just before Christmas. Sort of unusual cookie-baking musical fare for me, but then again, maybe not so unusual. I found, as I listened, that the CD became intensely personal, right from the very first note. Each tune had some special significance for me - each reminded me of someone I knew. From the beginning, you find out that Cliff Knizley's lyrics are pointed and poignant.

From the start, this CD brought to me images and memories of the heroes I've been privileged to meet through letters, instant messages, pictures, emails, stories, and family members. It became a sort of a musical photo album, conjuring images of the finest among us. The instrumentation isn't artificial or unnecessrily complex - guitars, bass, drums... But it doesn't need to be - it's better than that, and forms a perfect, pure backdrop to the keen-edged lyrics.

Today saw the passing of a legend.
A hero to everyone he knew.
Today saw the passing of a legend.
Never has a soul been so true.

And no he didn't seek fortune and fame.
Few will ever remember his name.
His life wasn't given in vain
Today saw the passing of a friend.

The CD opens with "Passing of a Legend." It's a song that describes a simple hero, and a profound loss. I found myself remembering fallen heroes like PFC Gunnar Becker, Major Steve Reich, and so many others who have paid the ultimate price for all the gifts that freedom gives us. Although each name may not be familiar, each name in the casualty list is a son, a daughter, a spouse, a parent, a friend - a Hero. And each is felt..

Eighty days away from coming home.
After two years of bullets and blazing heat and sandstorms...

When I get home, I'll drop to my knees
and kiss that sacred ground.
When I get home, I'll thank God I'm back in my hometown.
When I get home, I'll still
see the blood and the sweat and the tears
and part of me stays right here.

The second song, "When I Get Home," literally had me trying to keep tears out of the cookie batter. Right away, I was taken back to instant message sessions with my first Soldiers' Angels adoptee - talking about what he was going to do when he left the sights and sounds of duty in Baghdad for the welcome return to his family, talking about what it was like to patrol the city streets. It was about my other adoptees, too - M---, doing convoy security, and who sent me a package, and C---, who voluntarily extended for another year to work with his original unit's replacements, and rejoiced over the historic Red Sox win. This is the song that blogger Mark Miner asked for the lyrics for; those lyrics are found inside the CD jacket. This is my favorite tune on the album, the one that, above all the others, I find playing in my head in idle moments. There's raw emotion in Knizley's voice, with well-woven guitar as a backdrop to deeply moving lyrics.

This is the story of the ones at home.
Who keep the faith and hold it strong.
This is the story of the ones at home.
Who keep the fire burning on.

"The Ones at Home" reminds you that the war isn't just over there - it's here at home, too, in the hearts and the minds and the fears of family and friends waiting and worrying. A wife trying to manage a household without her husband, a father clinging to the last moment with his daughter before she leaves to serve her country. For me, this was about the spouses I've met, the parents who have grieved over a loss, the Soldiers' Angels and others who work tirelessly to support our troops. It's was about the fact that they are all a part of this war.

Lie in waiting, senses are sharp and keen.
Anticipating something you've never seen.
Your heart is pounding and sweat beads up on your face.
For all you know, about to leave this human race.

Moment to moment, day to day,
The Great Unknown is just a step away.

This one is about what civvies like me can't possibly really understand - being there. Again, I was reminded of letters from the Sandbox - words that told of what it was like to be thousands of miles from home in a warzone. It's another one of my favorites. Once again, profoundly moving lyrics ride a wave of pure sound - Cliff's acoustic guitar.

I found that though I played the CD with posting about it in mind, I was quickly lost in the songs - in the stories, in the emotions, and the music. It quickly became less about the post, and more about tones and words and feelings - and about the Heroes that formed the inspiration for it all. Every time I listen to it - and I've listened alot, I find something new to like - some piece of the lyrics that sticks with me.

You can purchase the CD's at Cliff's website - Click to enter the site, and then click the "Boots in Baghdad" icon to sample music, read the lyrics, or purchase the CD. You can also click "albums" to view his other CD's.

Proceeds will be used to benefit some great charities - like Homes for Our Troops, the Freedom Alliance, and Lest They Be Forgotten, and you'll be getting top-notch music, too.

And Cliff has a special offer for Soldiers' Angels members - great for purchasing copies to send to your adoptees - email me for the details.

This is Mark Miner, Gregg Garvey (Lest They Be Forgotten) and Cliff at a recent release party

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by Spc. Clydell Kinchen

January 9, 2006

Water splashes from a pipe during the grand opening of a well in a small village near Forward Operating Base Q-West, Iraq. Capt. Adams, from 4th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, whose unit helped with the project, assists with the ribbon cutting. This photo appeared on

A Valentine's Day Card for the Record Books

Soldiers Angels in collaboration with Library of Life is mounting a Guinness Book of Records attempt, called Operation: Love Our Troops, to create the largest digital Valentine's Day card ever and send the messages to our deployed military. Library of Life is an organization that offers the public a way to celebrate life and share memories on line, through a digital library that will last forever. They are sponsoring the campaign, hosting the Valentines messages for free and created a way to raise funds for Soldiers Angels. Before the site is promoted and Operation Love Our Troops is announced to the public, we want to populate the site with genuine, heartfelt messages. We are reaching out to Angels for support with this.

We're asking that you visit and send a message of support to the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. "Who would better deserve the largest Valentine's Day card than our troops abroad," says Patti Patton-Bader. Library of Life has retained The Bohle Company, a top public relations company based in Los Angeles, to promote the campaign. They will be seeking major media coverage for this effort that will greatly enhance Soldiers’ Angels visibility. We are really excited about this partnership and trust you will be too.Let's show the troops how much they are appreciated. You're welcome to forward this email on to others. We want Operation Love Our Troops to be an overwhelming success. Thank you for helping us attain this goal.

Take care,

Patti Bader, Founder
Ana-Marie Smith, President
Soldiers' Angels

What are you waiting for? Send your Valentine's Day message now
IED DISCOVERY — Marines use their binoculars and rifle scopes to examine the area surrounding a discovered improvised explosive device (IED) during a motorized patrol near Forward Operating Base Hit, Iraq, Jan. 2, 2006. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

In Today's News - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Quote of the Day
"The great destroyers of nations and men
are comfort, plenty and security.
A coward gets scared and quits.
A hero gets scared, but still goes on."
-- Unknown

News of Note
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Bush to outline expectations for Iraq in 2006 Video
Iraq bombers breach tight security; 29 killed
Newspaper seeks release of captive U.S. journalist
Bremer says he sought more troops in spring 2004
Baby Noor's first surgery leaves doctors optimistic
Iraq enjoys rare respite from violence

Homeland Security / War on Terror
Spain arrests seven terror suspects
Afghan leader's remarks trigger more threats

Court denies DeLay's requests
Cheney hospitalized briefly

Supreme Court
Judging Alito
Alito: No Person Is Above the Law
Video: Opening Statements
Video: Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
Video: Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
Alito fight has failed to ignite public passion
Comments from senators
Complete Alito coverage

Sad, on so many levels..

Other News of Note
Stunt pilot killed during routine flight

Fox News
Starbucks Bomb Defused
Sunni Politician Blames Iraq Violence on Americans
Police Search for U.S. Journalist
Iran Reopens Nuke Plants
Sharon Eases Out of Coma
Last Funerals for Mine Victims Planned
Toys R Us to Shut 87 Stores
New Jersey Pols Pass Death Penalty Moratorium
Korean Stem-Cell Data Faked
Today's Stocks to Watch
DOE: Retail Gas Up 8.9 Cents

Reuters: Top News
Iran resumes nuclear research, angering West
Palestinians can vote in E.Jerusalem
Asian automakers quietly lay claim to future
Video: BMW CEO sees 'sustained success'
Home Depot to buy Hughes Supply
US govt. would likely support GM: Toyota chief
McAfee president resigns, moves to Websense
Alcoa shares slide on disappointing profit report
Turkey battles to halt bird flu outbreak Video
New Jersey lawmakers pass two gay rights bills
N.Korea's Kim on way to Russia via China: source
US puts faith in technology to curb warming
Apple may offer new laptops at Macworld: analysts
Battle to legalize abortion heats up in Brazil
Germany begins to ask how many states it needs
No evidence cough syrups work: panel
Bird flu spreads to humans more easily than thought

AP World News
U.S., Europeans Criticize Latest Iran Move
Sharon Shows New Signs of Improvement
Ukrainian Cabinet Fired Over Gas Deal
Hajj Pilgrims Hurl Stones in Annual Ritual
Some Kashmir Villages Cut Off From Aid
Peru Rejects Fujimori's Presidential Bid
Chechens on Trial for U.S. Editor's Death
EU: Airlines Must Compensate Passengers
Protests Fail to Disrupt U.S.-Thai Talks
Dutch Company Selling Nazi Helmets As Joke
Conservatives Ahead in Canadian Polls
7 Pakistan Troops Killed in Rocket Attack
15 Cubans Who Got to Fla. Bridge Sent Home
London Subway Strike Causes Some Delays

The Seattle Times
Screening for prostate cancer doesn't increase survival, study finds
U.S. health-care costs grow 8 percent
Senate sets mine-disaster hearing
Hubble produces first pictures of Polaris' hidden neighbor
Months after storm, cat back with owner
In Cuba, waiting and hoping
A day in the life of quake survivors
Muslim pilgrims hear passionate call for unity
North Korea's leader in China

Chicago Sun-Times
Landmark restaurant closing
Gov wants tougher penalties for fake cops
Wrigley rooftops might build 8 feet higher
State extends deadline for mercury in vaccines
State launches $2 lottery tickets to benefit breast cancer research
Trial of alleged killers of U.S. journalist opens
Arnold to keep on riding despite crash
Runaway cow may escape slaughter Bus driver on workers' comp allegedly runs marathon
No breaks for dentist accused of diagnosing 63 fake cavities

Boston Globe: World
'Girl deficit' grows in India
China reduces its military, aims for high-tech force
Pope condemns terror, urges help for poor
Gunmen in Baghdad abduct reporter with ties to Boston
UN says new cases give bird flu more opportunities to mutate
Palestinian elections to proceed, Abbas declares
Tehran delays resuming research
Army to Discharge Reservists
Iraq War Could Cost US Two Trillion
Bush Predicts More Testing and Sacrifice
U.S. Reporter Kidnapped in Iraq
2006 DoD Authorization Act Now Law
Marines Begin New Helicopter Program
Military Honors at Veteran Funerals Imperiled by Army Rules
U.S. Military, State Department to Prepare Avian Flu Plan
Military Investigating Death of Detainee
Gay Soldier Discharged at his own Request
Downed Black Hawk in Iraq Belonged to Alaska Army Guard
Widows of 3 Servicemen Sue Over 2003 Helicopter Crash
Police, Veterans Prepare for Protests at Soldier's Funeral

Department of Defense
2006 Budget Increases Pay, Benefits - Story
Guard, Reserve Benefit From Defense Authorization
2006 Authorization Act Promotes Recruiting, Retention
Commanders, Pentagon Chiefs Focus on QDR - Story
Four Civilians Died in Iraq Chopper Crash - Story
Gitmo Proceedings to Resume This Week - Story

Artillery Troops Adapt to Infantry Role in Iraq - Story
Operation Red Bull Disrupts Terrorism - Story
Afghan Troops Learn Vehicle Maintenance - Story
U.S. Soldiers Train Afghans to Run Health Clinic - Story

Marines, KBR Feed 50 Millionth Customer in Al Anbar
Rakkasans Take Control in Tikrit
'Ironhorse' Div. Assumes Responsibility for Baghdad

Great-Grandmother Returns from Iraq - Story

Company Recognized for Support - Story
VFW, Wal-Mart Team Up on Books
Anheuser-Busch Extends Tribute

Iraqis Foil Suicide Attack
Kirkuk Gets Electrical Boost
Zakho Military Academy Rebuilds
Prisoner Dies at Abu Ghraib
Iraqi Army Helps Souq Ops Succeed
Helicopter Crash Claims 12
Iraqi Police Find Bomb
Iraqis Hurt in Attack
Report: Strategy for Victory in Iraq
Iraq Daily Update
This Week in Iraq (pdf)
Multinational Force Iraq
Eye on Iraq Update (pdf)
State Dept. Weekly Iraq Report (pdf)
'Boots on the Ground' Audio Archive
Iraq Reconstruction

U.S. Medics Treat Wounded Afghans
U.S. Forces Airdrop Supplies
Army Establishes Justice System
Border Police Open New Facility
Paktika Citizens Welcome Road
Afghanistan Update

Coalition Commanders Confer
Aircraft Support Southwest Asia Ops
Cheney Vows Victory in Terror War
Bush, Former Secretaries Confer
Fact Sheet: War on Terror
Fact Sheet: Terror Plots Disrupted
Waging and Winning the War on Terror
Terrorism Timeline
Terrorism Knowledge Base

MotoMail Links Deployed Marines
JFCOM Provides Force Sourcing
Technology Aids Hospital Patients
Bush Kicks Off Language Initiative
National Guard, Reserve Update

Officials Identify Army Casualties - Story

Al Azamiyah Al Basrah Al Hillah Al Karkh Al Kazimiyah Al Kut An Nasiriyah Baghdad Baqubah Mosul Najaf Nineveh Tall Kayf

Bost/Laskar Ghurian Herat Kabul Qandahar