Memorial Day – 2015 “Just a Common Soldier” Video Tribute

Today we remember the bravest of the brave…the men and women who laid down their lives, the ultimate sacrifice, for safeguarding this country’s enduring freedoms that we live with daily.  It’s a common soldiertime to reflect on and give thanks for those liberties that we enjoy as a result of the courageous consequence of their actions.

In this video, popular Hollywood actor and Tony Award Nominee narrates a truly inspirational poem called, “Just a Common Soldier” by A. Lawrence Vaincourt.  It’s a deeply moving tribute to those who have so bravely served our country, and no less than our veterans deserve to keep them from fading Tony & Meblogfrom our memory. This video is also very special to us, as one of our MMCIS instructors, Suzanne, was a part of the production team, and did Mr. Lo Bianco’s hair and makeup for the filming.  You can view the video on the official website by clicking here.

We hope you enjoy this incredible video and please do visit the website and share it with others.  It will be broadcast on many television stations over this weekend, and the official Release being today, Memorial Day, May 25th.

 

Memorial Day 2014 – Remember the Fallen

Memorial-Day-GraphicMost Americans think of Memorial Day weekend as the signal for picnics in sunshine, swim parties, and cookouts.  Historically, it’s also a special time set aside in this nation to honor the men and women of our Armed Forces who have made the supreme sacrifice in service to our country.  For many who have lost loved ones on the battlefield Memorial Day is far more than just pools and barbeque;  it’s a reflection of how great a debt we owe our fallen for holding the line for these daily freedoms we enjoy, and most often taken for granted.  They gave up their future hopes and dreams, families and friends to willingly place their lives in great peril and forfeit.  This was our “homeland security” throughout the generations that was bought on battlefields with a great price, and we should always have a profound sense of gratitude.  A gratitude that should compel us to live a life of service to one another as well.

Most Americans don’t realize that, in December 2000, Congress passed an additional law for Memorial Day, to set aside time at 3:00 PM to pause and honor the fallen.  There are many ways you can do this, such as a moment of silence anmemorial-day-2014d reflection, thanking a service member you see in uniform, or attend a Memorial Day event.  President John F. Kennedy honored the sovereignty of our country with a Memorial Day tribute in these words: “The cost of freedom is always high, but American’s have always paid it. And the one path we shall never choose is the path of surrender or submission”.  For Americans, our warriors will have never died in vain, as their legacy lives on in keeping liberty and freedom alive and well through those who have served, are serving, and those who will serve in future generations.

“Who kept the faith and fought the fight; The glory theirs, the duty ours.” –Wallace Bruce

Theatrical Blood Effects for Realistic Casualty Simulation: Part 4

In part 3 of this series we covered some important elements to keep in mind for maintaining high realism results when selecting and using theatrical bloods in your casualty simulation event or training exercise.  You may want to review theBlood previous blog installment that talks about the three essential requisites for realistic portrayal, as well as the importance of blood undertone colors, surface mobility factors, and the 5 basic textures of blood products, which can be read by clicking here.   In this final installment we will share a few extra tips, tricks, and techniques we have employed and that you might find useful for your own active bleeding scenario requirements.  Although we use modified versions of some of the basic techniques shared below, these are easy for a beginner or novice casualty simulation moulage artist to try for a successful outcome.  Once you get some creative experience in rigging blood loss you will find your own ways to customize the application process and function that will allow you to trick out or push up the realism up where you need it.

Active bleeding is arguably central in creating a believable injury simulation psyche, from drips to flows, and there are a number of ways to rig blood loss from small areas all the way to significant hemorrhaging.  For instance, blood trickles or drips from the mouth can be easily achieved from pre-filled gelatin-based blood capsules held in the mouth until bitten to give a slow bloody drip effect.  We like to rig a small cut piece of cell-like sponge soaked in edible theatrical blood, and when placed in the mouth next to the lips it mixes with the saliva to make a nice dripping consistency.  When ready to drip it out the actor simply inserts the sponge and manipulates it a bit with the teeth.  For nosebleeds we also use specially made reticulated sponges prepared with edible blood that, when inserted in the nostrils, will “bleed” automatically upon the actor breathing through the nose.  If you need a semi-drying dripped blood look from the ears, mouth corners, or nose that needs to be more stationary, we use blood colored gelatin to which some blood paste or additional glycerin has been added for a slightly wet effect.  Our favorite trick is to use a scar making material mixed with some theatrical blood product.  This method gives very high realism for film and TV use, and the best part is it’s durable and waterproof in wear.

squibSquibs and pump assemblies are great to use when you need a more significant amount of blood flow, such as from gunshots, impalement (stabbing), amputations, etc.    Blood squibs are small sealed bags of liquid blood that are hidden under clothing, and that can be pyrotechnically rigged to explode, mechanically operated to flow by pneumatic liquid means, or simply break open upon surface impact.  Pyrotechnic blood squibs involve electrical charges that trigger a ballistic action to spatter the blood bag, and that can be very dangerous or fatal if not done by a professionally trained and licensed technician.  We prefer to use mechanically rigged squibs and pump assemblies because most often on a training exercise these have to be operated directly by the role player portraying the injury.  One type of safe squib we make is from a dissolvable plasticized material containing blood powder, and rigged with a fast acting dissolving fluid that creates a gravity blood flow.   This works great under clothing for gunshots or impalements.  You can make your own blood squib bags to size from many kinds of pneumatic capable or collapsible containments, such as litre bottles, plastic zip close food bags, and even small cut off fingers of disposable gloves.  They can be custom rigged to flow or release theatrical blood in a variety of ways and in the manner you need them to flow.

Pump assemblies allow you to generate a sustained blood volume flow over a period of time, especially when you need a “bleeding out” scenario that reflects a more critical injury situation.  There are a couple of ways you can create pump assemblies using fillable bags, tubes, and syringes.  We like to use empty hospital type saline solution IV bags with long thin tubes that can be attached directly to a prosthetic injury appliance, and the blood flow actuated by a hand pump placed in the tube line.  Another way is to rig a length of thin tubing to which one end is attached to the end of a liquid volume syringe fitted with an adaptor, and the other end attached to the apsyringepliance.  The size of the syringe needed will depend on how much sustained simulated blood flow will be needed for realism in the injury portrayal.  One handy item we always have on hand is an air pump style garden sprayer  in which we mix up a solution of blood powder and water.  We use it several different ways such as for rigging long tubing lines or to dress out a casualty simulation scene that calls for blood transfer or splashed effect.  It’s also an easy way to create a bleed out scene on the ground.  Another handy item is “blood bombers” made from large plastic syringes in which the needle connector has been closed off and additional random holes punched into the bottom of it.  Fill the barrel with thinned theatrical blood and replace the plunger at the top.  When ready to use aim the syringe where you want it and quickly pop the plunger with the palm of your hand to force the blood though the holes on the other end.  The end result creates a very realistic looking blood hit effect similar to an exploded squib.

Whether you are working with theatrical bloods indoors or out, on a field training exercise or on a film set, always treat these products safely and securely to avoid accidental spillage or leaking.  To us this means making sure bottles, jars, and buckets are always closed tightly or sealed off immediately after using the container.  Believe me, theatrical blood “oops” CAN happen as blood seems to have a way of sneaking out of an unsecured lid and leaving very inconvenient messes where you don’t want them!  Also, keep a big supply of paper towels and wet wipes handy and within instant reach. Obviously this needs no explanation if you have worked with blood products before, so it goes without saying.  Keep all tools you use to apply blood products in a separate containment and away from your other moulage supplies.  We like to keep a large bucket and large plastic bags handy for temporary storage on site so we make double sure we don’t cross-contaminate blood application tools and supplies with other equipment.  And finally, always keep theatrical blood products at normal room temperature for best application results.  This means keeping tBlood Colorshem out of excessive heat or direct sun, in which we use rolling coolers to store them while in use on site. Likewise, if working under cold climate or freezing conditions make sure you keep them warm enough in an ambient temperature that won’t cause them to be thickened or compromised in their normal performance.

We hope you have enjoyed this series on theatrical blood effects, and found it useful for your casualty simulation endeavors.  We hold several casualty simulation moulage workshops throughout the year and teach extensively on high fidelity techniques.  Come and learn some more great things you can do with theatrical blood products for your next exercise or event.  We welcome your comments and suggestions on this series so please feel free to post your thoughts!

Theatrical Blood Effects for Realistic Casualty Simulation: Part 3

In the two previous blog posts in this series on theatrical blood effects we’ve discussed important facts and characteristics of human blood (and how it bleeds from the body) that you need to know in order to portray blood loss accurately in a simulation.  We also covered some important requirements and what to look for in choosing theatrical blood products for realistic portrayal.  Real time field training, clinical laboratory exercises and visual effects for film and TV production demand products with high fidelity elements for diverse types of real-to-the-eye end results.  Above all, they must contain the three prerequisites essential to high realism portrayals and that is opacity, texture, and color.  For film and TV use, this is vitally important as theatrical bloods can have different visual reactions in a range of light sources, especially in variable sunlight and stage/set lights.  To this end, you must be very careful in making sure the blood has the correct undertone in its color, so that it doesn’t render too orange or pink, or too purple or blue in camera.  If you ignore the undertone color then your simulation will have a visual skew in the overall performance fidelity, regardless if you have the right opacity, texture and redness in color.  In addition, it also must have a believable behavior/mobility on human skin or artificial appliances, meaning it must flow or dry realistically to the eye.
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The biggest question everyone has is “will it stain skin and/or clothing?”  Here is the short scoop from our decades of experience in using nearly every theatrical blood brand on the market: all commercially available products will remove completely from human skin with soap and water.  Sugar based bloods will usually wash off completely with the first washing.  Non-sugar based bloods will come off with the first washing, but may leave a slight red halo effect on skin that will wash off with a second washing.  We have found it’s best to wash these bloods off skin with an orange based cleanser, such as Fast Orange Hand Cleaner, which is a mild scrub that has granules in it to help remove the remaining residue.  As for clothing: never rely on any manufacturer’s product statement that their blood products will completely wash out.  That depends entirely on the fabric and its reaction to the red cosmetic pigments used in the blood, and how long the blood has been left to dry on the fabric.  We have had some sugar based bloods, such as the Graftobian brand, wash out completely from military uniforms while others have left a slight red halo residual effect.  So, the bottom line to all this is that some products MAY launder out completely, some products might semi-stain (meaning they will wash out eventually) and some products will be permanent stain.  We always recommend role players should wear clothing they won’t mind getting stained with any kind theatrical blood so plan accordingly.

For our professional theatrical blood needs we stick to trusted commercial manufacturers that use high quality control with proven results in their products, and that we have established to be safe and consistent in our performance requirements.  We are also very careful in making sure blood has the correct undertone to the red color as discussed previously, so we do have our favorites for this reason.  One of the major problems in using cheap discount/bargain brands is that they always end up being poor in color undertone, texture, and opacity, which is not a good trade-off for the money savings.  “Pantry Made” theatrical bloods also tend to be off-color in undertone, because food based pigments aren’t nearly as strong, precise, and stable in a mixture as cosmetic based pigments are, especially when you are trying to achieve true color realism for film and TV use.  To this end we have developed a unique blood color “planograph”, in which we use accurate blood color swatches representative of the correct range of actual venous and artery blood colors in fresh to dried/aged blood.  This planograph has been tested thoroughly in HDTV cameras and monitors for super accurate color rendering.  It’s a vital tool for anyone in selecting theatrical bloods for the truest color resolution for the camera or human eye engagement, whether used for film and TV or live training exercises.

Theatrical blood products are available in 5 textures: thin liquids, thick syrups, semi-solid gels, solid pastes and dried/powders.  Each has differing degrees of viscosity, along with a range of reds that you should always test first for color/undblood_spatterertone, texture and opacity before implementing them into your particular needs.  Always be aware of their classification as either cosmetic/external use only or food grade safe, especially if you are going to use it near the eyes, nose or in the mouth.

Liquid Stage Bloods: these can be thin with a viscosity like water, and transparent in color.  They are great for running through simulator manikin bleed lines, external pump tubing assemblies, or spraying through an atomizer, squirt guns, syringes, or rubber bladders for spattering effects.  They work well for blood splashes, or residual dripping effects in a scene or on clothing and props.  You can adjust sprayers for a light misting or full soaking effects.  Be aware that these liquids will dry fairly quickly and need re-application for a fresher blood effect.

Syrup-Based Liquid Stage Bloods: these are thicker viscosity liquids that are made from a sugar (usually corn syrup) base.  They are the most commonly used bloods to portray fresh bleeding injuries or to create pooling blood, and are typically available in both venous and artery colors with high opacity results.  The texture allows it to flow or drip slowly, and they stay wet for a reasonable length of time, depending on how much is applied and how hot the weather is.  Sugar based bloods are often food grade/edible so they can be used in digestible gelatin blood capsules to portray mouth bleeding.  Non sugar based bloods are often petroleum/mineral oil based, or methacrylate based, and available in both venous and artery colors with high opacity results.  They are ideal to use on both human skin and silicone based prosthetics or manikins when you need continuity in texture when using blood on combined surfaces.

Semi-Solid Blood Gels: these are products that have a very thick and smooth texture, much like a fruit jam consistency, but heavier.  They have very slow movement and can drip slightly once in contact with skin temperature or downward gravity.  Blood gel is usually darker in color so it’s better used as most wound cavity filler or as coagulating venous blood.  It is completely opaque once applied, but maintains a realistically wet sheen to it.  It never dries down completely, so it has a nice semi-coagulation effect, and great to use for abrasions that need some slight active bleeding effects.  Some gel brands, like Graftobian, will actually issue when sprayed with a mist of water, so it gives a nice blood ooze effect

Solid Paste Blood: this is a very dense, dark red soft-solid product that resembles vegetable shortening in texture, and is also completely opaque.  It has a dull sheen to it and it doesn’t dry out.  It’s best applied with a spatula or similar tool on skin or prosthetics for exact placement.  The viscosity is super thick and it stays in place once applied, and does not drip.  It’s ideal to use as clotted wound filler or scabbing wound material, and in some cases it can even hold small lightweight impalements in place. It’s also easy to mix with liquid theatrical bloods if you need to soften the texture down a bit or change the color, but it will mm-1289_lglose some of its firmness if you do. It will also issue slightly when sprayed with a mist of water.

Blood Powder: is a super pigmented highly concentrated powder mixture, and an important product to have in any casualty simulation moulage kit!  Blood powders allow you to apply a myriad of finishing touches to any trauma portrayal, especially when you need that extra layer look of active bleeding or blood “splash back” look on your role players, props or casualty scene.  It can be sprinkled or brushed dry onto any surface and then sprayed with water to produce a highly realistic looking fresh bleeding or oozing effect.  It will eventually dry in place when sprayed with water, but the beauty of this stuff is that it can be sprayed again multiple times to “reactivate” the bleeding effects.  You can also apply more powder over an application to build up the effects.  When blood powder is mixed into a small amount of corn syrup, it becomes a base to disperse in water to make a large amounts of liquid blood.  It can also be mixed directly into other forms of makeup products, such as gelatin, to create deeper realistic blood effects.

In Part 4, our final segment in this series, we will finish up with some extra tips and techniques in using blood products safely and effectively, so tune in next month.  We welcome your comments and suggestions on this series so please feel free to post your thoughts!

Theatrical Blood Effects for Realistic Casualty Simulation: Part 2

High fidelity blood simulation is a pivotal component in creating true-to-life bleeding traumas for accurate response in training, so there are some physiology facts to keep in mind about it when you are planning blood loss in your scenarios.266-520x190  First of all, the human body contains roughly a gallon plus a quart of blood, about 168 ounces, and depending on the body size.  Clinical symptoms of hypovolemia (shock due to blood loss) becomes apparent after about 20% or 1/5th of whole-blood volume has been compromised, so be aware of this detail when assigning large blood loss type of injuries.  The amount of circulating blood in the body also drops if there is a loss of other body fluids through burns, excessive perspiration, or vomiting, etc.  Internal hemorrhaging is blood loss into a body cavity or space as a result from acute trauma to the vascular system, and it can be severe enough to also cause hypovolemia.  If you are planning to include internal bleeding as part of a multi-system trauma with external bleed out, then be aware of what is realistic and accurate in portraying overall blood loss.  For instance, a broken pelvis will cause an internal blood loss of a little over a pint (16 oz) of blood, whereas an open femur fracture can represent over a quart and a half (or about 51 oz) of blood loss.

Blood color is also an important factor because there are two distinct types of blood that circulate throughout the body.  Artery blood is oxygenated as it moves away from the heart and lungs, so it is a lighter or brighter red looking blood. Venous blood is a darker red hue because it is oxygen depleted and high in carbon dioxide as it travels back to the heart.  You’ll need to determine how much theatrical blood of both colors will be needed to portray active bleeding through the flowing, dripping, or oozing from compromised veins and arteries portrayed, as well as any splashing, splattering, or smearing resulting from contact or an impact.  Blood age is also a consideration, from the moment of impact to care and evacuation, sarticle-2103251-11CE366D000005DC-334_634x651uch as a fresh bleeding wound or an older congealing wound. As blood begins to coagulate it thickens and gradually darkens as it dries, so it is important to be accurate to the way blood behaves and changes texture over a given time frame.  Understand how human blood reacts on environmental debris so you can replicate these effects more accurately.  For instance, blood pretty much remains pooled on pavement, but gravel or sand will absorb it.

Another important point to consider is how blood actually looks and displaces as it flows out of the body.  Fresh artery blood is slightly more viscous than water, and has a translucent quality because it contains oxygenate matter that contributes to its color.  Venous blood is more opaque because of the metabolic waste it carries.  Blood flows unevenly and downward out of the body due to gravity, whether one is standing, sitting, or lying down.  It also follows a path of least resistance around any body contours it comes in contact with, whether it is a small drip or a fast flow.  It can also “splash back” due to force or impact.  Choosing the correct theatrical blood characteristics, such as color, viscosity, texture, flow properties, “wet to dry” factors and even the ooze or coagulation quality are important considerations for optimal visual appearance, whether you are doing it for simulation training or a high definition film shoot.  To this end, how you place the blood into the bleeding trauma is central to its performance, believability, and most importantly portraying its visual relevance in the amount of blood loss realistic to the injury.  Never pour a theatrical blood product directly on a simulation from its original container unless it is pre-fitted with a dispenser spout, pipette, or some kind of regulating/squeeze valve that you can control or measure out as you apply it.  Applying blood products under some kind of conservative control allows you to build it to what you need, because once it’s applied it’s pretty much done and in place, whether you applied too little or too much!

Keeping your actor role players or standardized patient simulators safe while employing stage bloods should always be a top priority.  This means using theatrical blood formulations that are safe and flushable for sensitive use, such as on smallskin, in simulator tubing, blood capsules in the actor’s mouth, or dripping away from ears and noses. Formulations are generally classified as either cosmetic grade or food grade.  Cosmetic grade is be used on skin but directed away from body orifices, and some types can also be used in blood pumping devices.   Food grade means the theatrical blood is edible, however you should always check first with the manufacturer to make sure it contains safe ingestible ingredients. Caution: avoid using any food grade/sugar based blood simulation products if you are doing outdoor exercises outdoors for an extended length of time, especially if you have your casualties lying on the ground or in forested areas. Insects, such as bees, hornets, and ants are attracted to the scent and you don’t want your victim to become a real casualty due to a sting or bite!

This goes without saying, but in the interest of common sense and safety, NEVER consider using human or animal blood in any form on a role player or patient simulator!  No further explanation needed, as everyone should consider this extremely unsafe practice, and for many obvious reasons.   In part 3 we continue this series with the applications of the various kinds/brands of theatrical blood products that are best to use for specific needs, and deliver high fidelity results.

Theatrical Blood Effects for Realistic Casualty Simulation: Part 1

Dramatizing blood effects properly in bleeding injury simulations requires a bit of knowledge in how the human body hemorrhages as a result of trauma. head bleed  Trauma simulation scenarios can include both internal and external bleeding, and creating realistic looking blood loss requires familiarity in using the right kind of theatrical products.  Blood effects is arguably one of the most important visuals in creating the most life-like looking injury results on actor role players and patient simulators for engaging positive triage training outcomes.  This series on theatrical blood effects is written as a helpful general guideline in selecting and using stage blood products for casualty simulation arts, also known as medical moulage.

Bleeding injuries can be internal as well as external, and depending on the mechanism of injury.  Internal bleeding can result from blunt force trauma due to an impact to the body at a given rate of speed in which blood vessels inside are compromised.  Penetrating trauma occurs when a force or object breaks through the skin into the body, thus creating blood loss at the wounding point of entry.  Injuries resulting in internal bleeding can occur within the tissues, organs, or in body cavities such as the abdomen and chest.  When blood seeps into soft tissues it is typically seenblood-splatter-brushes-1 on the surface as a bruising area that is significantly reddish purple in color.  Blood loss from a piercing wound can be nominal, such as in surface abrasions.  Or, it can be massive hemorrhaging, such as a bleeding out from an open body cavity, scalp/head injury, or from the loss of limb.

In planning your blood effects for a realistic training scenario, keep in mind the number of casualties involved in the exercise whose proximity of exposure to the impact would result in primary bleeding wounds along with secondary transfer.  This includes not only blood flow from the victims, but also that which would be consistent in blood patterning residue transfer throughout the blast environment.  For example, a bomb blast in a public venue will have varying degrees of minor to critical internal/external bleeding injuries assigned to each role player, and based on their concentric position near to or further away from the initial explosion force and debris.  With this scenario you will have a variety of blood effects, from surface abrasions and lacerations that involve capillary/artery bleeding to deep puncturing wounds or even amputations that involve both artery and venous colored blood flow.  Open bleeding wounds from a blast wave will also scatter blood residue throughout the scene by some means of transfer, including physical contact with the ground, touching another bloody victim, bloody clothing and props, and so on.7048690843_bbf28dcea3_m

Bleeding traumas must also be physically accurate in relation to the type of injury that would be sustained from their position to the blast exposure, and blood flow must be consistent with the cause and effect for realism.  Blood must also stream or disperse in a manner and direction within the scene that relates correctly to both their wounds and body posture (standing, lying on ground, physical contact with another bleeding role player, etc).  Theatrical blood color and texture is also vitally important to properly replicate the true characteristics of blood as it behaves, from the moment it begins to bleed from the body to how it changes as it begins to coagulate.  In Part 2 of this series we will talk about identifying, selecting, and applying the right theatrical blood products that produce the most realistic simulations for believable results real time training exercises as well as for film, TV and live staging productions.

Memorial Day 2013 – Pause and Reflect

The Civil War stands as having claimed the most US service member lives than any other war in our history.  In 1868, Union Army Major General John Logan formally declared a day in May to be set apart as ”Decoration DNever Forget Our Fallen Soldiers-731866ay”, a memorial occasion to honor those who served and fell in the Civil War.  It was a day that the North and South would set aside all their differences and come together in solidarity to pay tribute to their fallen warriors.  It eventually became a tradition for Americans to gather together in their communities across the nation, to pay homage with parades, speeches, prayers, and flowers placed on gravesites of those who served in uniform during this era.

During World War I, Decoration Day took on a greater meaning as the United States became engaged into another conflict.  Americans began paying tribute not only to those who died during the Civil War, but to also commemorate all American military who lost their lives in service to this country.  From World War II on, through the Korean War and Vietnam Wars, Decoration Day gradually became known as Mfuelner-web_s640x880emorial Day, and in 1967 Congress declared Memorial Day as the official name.  In 1971 it was declared an official federal holiday observed on the last Monday in May, and a tradition for all US citizens to honor the generations of patriots who fought and died in uniform to preserve the hard-won freedoms of this nation.

On Memorial Day the American Flag has an honored ritual in the manner in which it is displayed, and in observance of the fallen patriots.  In the morning the flag is swiftly raised to full staff, and then somberly lowered to the half-staff position where it remains until 12:00 noon.  It is then raised to full staff for the remainder of the day.  The meaning of this ceremonial tradition is two-fold: The half-staff position is in remembrance and gratitude of the over 1 million military service members who gave their lives in defense of our nation and its values.  At noon, the full staff position commemorates the memory of their sacrifices by the living, and the continuing resolution that their service be not in vain, but to carry on in upholding and protecting this country’s liberty.

Let us not forget that Memorial Day also marks the sacrifices of military families who lost a loved one in battle, or a wounded warrior who survived combat yet to lose their comrades in the process.  Leaving the battlefield never marks the end of war, as men and women in the military and the first-responder communities continue go out every day risking their lives to save others.   No one can really understand how the soul of a hero is formed, but without them our nation would not survive.   Memorial Day is a perfect day to honor courage, commitment, selfless service, and sacrifices.  Can we do any less?  As Winston Churchill put it, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities, because it is the quality that guarantees all others.”

This video, The Path of a Warrior, is a fitting tribute to our country’s fallen heroes across the generations.  Viewing it is a great way to pause and reflect on the cherished freedoms you hold dear and enjoy on this Memorial Day.  May it find a grateful place in your heart.  http://youtu.be/JKqT0-3JV5E

Support America’s Military Heroes This Holiday Season

Christmas is a season when troops particularly feel the lonliness of being deployed, away from home, family and friends, and not much to celebrate with during their everyday duties.  For them, Christmas day is just another work day.  However, there are some ways you can help to brighten up the spirits of these courageous men and women this holiday, and truly touch their hearts so far away from home.  One easy opportunity is Holiday Mail for Heroes, a program sponsored by the Red Cross every year during the Christmas season.  When writing out your holiday cards, why not add one more that includes an encouraging message and thanks for their service? Act now, as they accept cards through the deadline of December 7th for delivery in time to deployed military.  Send your cards to Holiday Mail for Heroes, P.O. Box 5456, Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456.  If you miss this deadline you can always send cards through Amillionthanks.org and they accept and send out cards not only during the holidays, but all year round!

Operation Care Package is a non-profit started by relatives of deployed service members.  They collect Christmas stockings throughout the year to send to soliders overseas so that they will have a bit of Holiday Cheer.   You can send them an emtpy stocking, which the organization will fill, or you can fill it with gifts yourself and send it to them.   The most prized items soldiers love are Slim Jims, protein bars, coffee, and hand warmers. Homemade items are also treasured, such as small pillows with warm greetings on them.  Check out the link above for more information and where to send the stocking.  You will be glad you did, just knowing that troops receiving these presents will give them a special joy and appreciation of those for whom they serve to protect.  The USO has their annual Care Package program going on for Christmas.  For $25.00 you can sponsor a package stuffed with many items, including a prepaid international phone card, travel sized toiletries, and snacks for troops deployed in Afghanistan, Kuwait and other overseas locations.  Visit the USO for more details on how to donate.

Let’s remember that families of deployed military also need remembrance and care, especially the little ones who greatly miss their moms and dads during the holidays.  Operation Home Front collects toys for military kids whose parents are serving overseas.   Currently they are conducting a toy drive, so head over to your nearest dollar store and pick up a board game, stuffed animal or even some craft supplies that are sure to cheer and delight any child.  These are just small ways to show our appreciation and thanks, and what better way to celebrate a season of joy, hope, and love than to pass that on to those who serve for our peace and comforts.

Thanksgiving Thanks To Our Troops – 2012

Wishing our troops and their families a safe, peaceful, and healthy “Happy Thanksgiving”. We ask God’s blessings and protection over our brave men and women who are serving world-wide and in harm’s way this holiday, and our thoughts and prayers always with them.  For many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines serving in Afghanistan, war does not take a holiday; it’s still a regular work day.  They will have an opportunity to be served a traditional Thanksgiving meal but it is still far from home, family and friends, and the traditions they share in celebrating together with loved ones.

As we sit down to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal let’s pause and reflect what we have to be grateful for.  Let’s give thanks for those who courageously serve to protect, honor, and secure the blessings this country enjoys, and to freely celebrate what this Thanksgiving Day truly represents.  Our military carries the spirit, courage, and strength of our country’s founding pilgrimage; those who came to this land with the hope of a new future and independence from English rule and oppression.

The settlers dedicated themselves to service, sacrifices, and hard work to grow and protect this establishment.  They created a society of success, and one that produced bountiful harvests from the land that held their cherished freedoms, upon which our Thanksgiving Day has its roots.  Since then our country’s culture has stood on the values of expressing gratefulness and appreciation for the bountiful freedoms and opportunities this country provides.  These liberties have been kept secure and guarded throughout our history by the greatest military in the world, and one that ensures our freedoms and blessings to celebrate ALL of our holidays.

This Thanksgiving Day, think of “support our troops” not as a slogan, but as an action we honor and incorporate in some tangible way in our daily living.  They serve without question, put their lives on the line every moment, and ask for nothing in return.  It’s not too much to ask to remember this in our daily thoughts and deeds.

Army Medical Initiatives Serve in Saving Lives

Medical advancements and achievements in military pre-hospital care medicine have significantly contributed to the highest wartime survival rate in history. According to a recent data gathered by the Secretary of Defense of Health Affairs the battlefield survival rate now stands at 97 percent.  Thanks to ongoing research, development, pre-deployment training, and initiatives that provides solutions to medical issues experienced by deployed military, over 54% of soldiers wounded in action return to duty within 72 hours of treatment.  The military is also experiencing the lowest disease and non-battle injury rates for deployed personnel, with just 5 percent in Afghanistan.

Some examples of initiatives are two major components that have been introduced into field medicine for testing: the use of portable ultrasound machines, and liquid “bandages”.  Ultrasound equipment uses high frequency sound waves to scan inside the body for injuries that are not readily visible. This tool has been invaluable for helping first responder medics streamline their time in triage thereby saving more lives. The ultrasound units were tested in a combat environment last year in Afghanistan and have been proven to be a valuable diagnostic tool for faster treatment in theatre.

These ultrasound devices are small, like a laptop computer, weigh a mere 5 pounds and run on regular batteries. However they are fully capable of locating and identifying internal injuries, such as blood in the abdomen, bone fractures, or a collapsed lung. They provide clear images of nerve bundles and veins which greatly aids in administering anesthesia or inserting intravenous lines.  Soldier physicians and combat medics are pushing for wider distribution and additional medic training initiatives as part of training in their use.

In the final stages of approval is a liquid bandage which can be applied with one hand in a combat environment. The dressing is used for minor laceration, abrasions, and other types of skin irritations.  Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, this liquid bandage may soon include medications to heal infections, speed up healing, and relieve pain.  When applied the dressing quickly forms a protective barrier around the wound and immediately decreases bleeding.  Remarkably it stays in place without sticking and is easily removed by peeling off without harming the injury.  This type of self care greatly improves first aid, and allows the soldier to finish the mission without needing immediate medical assistance.

Our fighting forces can be confident in their mission knowing that today’s combat medics are so well trained and are now certified Emergency Medical Technicians. They are the forward strength of Army Medicine, and more advance and capable than ever before.