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Anja Niedringhaus, Kathy Gannon,

Anja Niedringhaus, 48, an internationally acclaimed German photographer, was killed instantly, according to an AP Television freelancer who witnessed the shooting.

Kathy Gannon, the reporter, was wounded twice and is receiving medical attention. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel.


By Anita Fritz, The Recorder

Greenfield Recorder

ORANGE, Mass. — It was 1948, three years after the end of World War II, when Earl Shaffer, a U.S. Army veteran from Pennsylvania, hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, something no one else had done to that point.

More than 14,000 people have hiked the entire trail since Shaffer, and U.S. Army National Guard veteran Joe Young of Orange says he hopes to be one of the next.

Many have attempted the 2,180-mile trek — some have finished, some have not. They’ve done it for many reasons: the challenge, the sheer exhilaration or just to be able to say they did it.

Others, like Young, decide they want to do it to find the piece of their soul they lost somewhere along the way — Young says he lost his in Iraq.

The 61-year-old veteran retired after spending 42 1/ 2 years in the National Guard. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, a type of anxiety disorder that occurs after someone has gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involves the threat of injury or death.

It’s obvious that he doesn’t like to talk about the specifics of what he saw in Iraq when he was deployed from 2003 to 2004 and again from 2005 to 2006. He served at Abu Ghraib prison and says if someone tries to push him too hard into talking about it and he starts to feel too uncomfortable, he simply leaves the room.

“I hope that sometime during my six-month hike with 13 other veterans I find that piece of my soul I’m looking for,” he said just days before he left for Georgia on March 14.

Young planned to begin on Spring Mountain in Georgia on St. Patrick’s Day and spend the next six months hiking to Mount Katahdin in Maine. He expects to cross Mount Greylock in North Adams in late July and reach Katahdin’s summit in September.

Last year, while perusing the Internet, he found the Warrior Hike’s “Walk Off the War” program for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and immediately contacted organizers.

“I’m in good shape and am an avid hiker, so I thought this would be perfect for me,” he says. “I needed something.”

The veteran, who is in the best shape of his life, according to himself and his wife, says he found it difficult re-adjusting to civilian life when he retired from the National Guard several years ago.

“You’re up early every day when you’re in the guard and you have a purpose each day,” he says. “After I retired I was still getting up early, but I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

That’s when Young says he found VetNet at Greenfield Community College, a club that helps veteran students return to their communities and school, and decided to enroll in college.

“I didn’t want to get a specific degree,” he says. “I wanted to do it for fun and learning. I took a lot of history classes, because that seemed really interesting to me.”

He says it took time to adjust to school.

“I had to sit in the back of the room, because I didn’t want anyone sitting behind me,” says Young. “You learn to do that when you’re deployed, especially to a place like Iraq.”

Young says there are plenty of groups that help returning veterans adjust, apply for benefits, and more, but veterans have to know where to go. He says a veteran should start with his or her local veterans agent and expand their search from there.

“Go online, too,” he says. “That’s where I found Warrior Hike. There are plenty of people out there who want to help.”

Like Shaffer did in 1948, Young says he plans to work out the sights, sounds and losses of Iraq on his hike. He says he won’t have a lot of contact with his family.

“I’ll have my cellphone, but I only plan to use it on weekends or in an emergency,” he says. “That’s just a choice I’m making so I can experience this to the fullest.”

Young says the 14 veterans, including himself, are expected to hike eight to 14 miles a day. They will each be carrying sleeping bags, tents, food, clothes and other necessities.

“We won’t all be sleeping in the same spot,” he says. “Some will move faster than others, but the end of the week, we are expected to be in the same spot.”

Young says the veterans will have the opportunity to stay with other veterans in their homes on weekends.

“We’ll be greeted each weekend by veterans from different VFWs, American Legions, and other veteran groups,” says Young. “I hear they are very helpful and hospitable.”

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which oversees the entire trail, statistics show that about one in four people who set out to hike from Georgia to Maine make it, while the rest return home for many different reasons, including injury, family matters, bad experiences or they run out of money. The hike typically takes from four to seven months to complete.

“I’m really looking forward to this being a therapeutic cleansing for me,” says Young. “I want to get my head back where it belongs.”

He says he is looking forward most to hiking with other veterans who understand what he has been through.

“We’ll be able to help each other,” he says.

“I also want to find some enjoyment,” says Young. “I have it here at home with my wife, and my kids and grandchildren, when they visit. I find it on my motorcycle. Now, I want to find it out there, on my own.”

Two years ago, two veterans started the Warrior Hike and finished the Appalachian trek. Last year, 12 others joined those two and did the same.

“We’re a determined bunch,” says Young. “When you think about what some of us have been through in war, you realize this shouldn’t be all that bad.”

Recognizing the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of long-distance hiking, Warrior Hike has partnered with the conservancy, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and the Pacific Crest Trail Association to create the “Walk Off the War” program, which takes place all over the United States.

The program is designed to support combat veterans who are transitioning from military service by hiking through American’s national scenic trails.

Young says he was provided all of the necessary equipment and supplies by Warrior Hike. He has to supply his own food and clothes.

He says the six-month hike will allow him to decompress and come to terms with his wartime experiences, while learning to use the outdoors as an alternative form of therapy.

“It’s the camaraderie that I am looking forward to most,” says Young. “That runs so deep when you are serving in the military and then you get home and you miss it.”

Young says he has also been told by many veterans that everyone eventually has a good cry.

“I haven’t had my good cry yet,” he says. “I’m hoping it happens on the trail.”

According to Warrior Hike, the “thru-hikes” and the interaction veterans have with other veterans and members of trail towns’ veteran organizations and local communities along the way restores their faith in humanity and builds a network of lifelong friendships and relationships.

Young, who was born in Winchendon, grew up in Orange, where he lives today. He attended Orange schools and graduated with a degree in agriculture from Smith Vocational Agricultural High School in Northampton.

The retired sergeant-major plans to write about his experiences each day. He says he will not cut his hair or shave until he returns home — he started growing his beard six weeks ago.

“It’s the first time I’ve had a beard in my life,” he says. “I hope there are going to be a lot of firsts for me over the next six months.”

Young’s trail name is Quabbin Trekker, and in his first entry, dated Jan. 25, he writes, “I have decided to dedicate this hike in honor of all my brothers and sisters that have paid the ultimate price.” He ends each of the entries he has made since then, “Onward, upward, forward.”


Sgt. Daniel Vasselian killed in Afghanistan last December

Instagram/joevass826

ABINGTON, Mass. — The brother of a Massachusetts Marine killed in Afghanistan used Wednesday’s snowstorm to honor him in a unique way.

Joe Vasselian, 24, built a snow sculpture in memory of his brother, Sgt. Daniel Vasselian.

The Abington native died Dec. 23 in combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Joe Vasselian’s simple caption for the photo posted on Instagram was “love you bro.”

Joe said he’s always enjoyed making snowmen for his grandmother, who lives next door, but was inspired to make something to remember his brother in this recent winter storm.

Thousands of people lined the streets, roads and overpasses of Boston and surrounding suburbs in support when Sgt. Daniel Vasselian’s body was brought from Logan Airport back to his hometown.


Ruzana Ibragimova is the subject of a search by Russian authorities in connection with terror threats against the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

By Richard Engel, Albina Kovalyova and Erin McClam, NBC News

MOSCOW — Russian security services may be looking for as many as four “black widows” dispatched to carry out terrorist attacks related to the Winter Olympics, including at least one woman believed to be in or near the Olympic city of Sochi, U.S. and Russian sources told NBC News on Monday.

Wanted posters distributed in Sochi, where the games open Feb. 7, describe at least one suspected terrorist — Ruzana Ibragimova, also known as Salima, the 22-year-old widow of an Islamic militant killed by Russian security forces last year.

The notices describe her as having a limp in her right leg, a left arm that does not bend at the elbow and a 4-inch scar on her cheek.

In a video, recorded before their deaths, that has recently surfaced, two suicide bombers suspected of a deadly attack on a Volgograd train station threaten a “surprise” during the Olympics at Sochi.

The notices say that Russian security officials have been informed of her possible departure from Dagestan, a Russian republic in the restive Caucasus area, earlier this month, and that she may be used for an attack inside the Olympic zone.

Terrorists threaten ‘surprise’ at Olympics

Militant groups in the Caucasus are known to use “black widows,” female terrorists so called because some seek to avenge the deaths of their husbands. They considered by security experts to be harder to pick out in a crowd because they do not fit the stereotype of an Islamic militant and because they can easily alter their appearance with clothing and makeup.

The disclosure Monday added to terror fears as the games approach. On Sunday, a video surfaced in which two men from an Islamist militant group threatened to attack the Olympics, warning that “a surprise” is in store for President Vladimir Putin and tourists attending the games.

The men claim responsibility in the video for two suicide bombings last month in the Russian city of Volgograd that killed 34 people. The Olympic torch passed through Volgograd on Monday on its way to Sochi, where the games open Feb. 7.

“That which we will do, that which we have done, is only a little example, a little step,” one the men, from the Islamist organization Anars Al Sunna, says in the hour-long video, released Sunday.

“We’ll have a surprise package for you,” one of them says, addressing Russian officials. “And those tourists that will come to you, for them, too, we have a surprise.”

With less than three weeks to go before the opening ceremony, security in Sochi is already tighter than at most airports, and Putin has vowed to take every step necessary to protect the Olympics.

The video surfaced Sunday as American officials expressed frustration at what they called a lack of cooperation from Russian security officials.

“They’ve now moved 30,000 armed troops to the region. That tells you their level of concern is great,” Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on the CNN program “State of the Union.”

“But we don’t seem to be getting all of the information we need to protect our athletes in the games. I think this needs to change, and it should change soon.”

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said on the same program: “I would not go, and I don’t think I would send my family.”

Russia has promised to protect Sochi within a “ring of steel.” The city is packed with metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs and explosive detectors. But groups threatening the Olympics say they will target not just the host city but other areas of Russia.

“I think the threats are real,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think it’s more likely that the attacks would probably happen outside the perimeter, more soft targets, transportation modes, if you will.”

The Obama administration has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for possible U.S. military assistance for Americans inside Sochi in the event of a terror attack, senior U.S. officials told NBC News on Monday.

The military’s European Command has worked up a plan that would rely on military assets already in place — moving warships into the Black Sea, where they routinely operate, and putting transport planes on standby at military bases in Europe.

The plan has not yet been submitted to the State Department or Pentagon, the officials said.

Any U.S. involvement in a military operation in Sochi would require a request from the Russian government to the State Department, then an order from President Barack Obama.

Senior U.S. military officials Monday suggested the likelihood that Putin would ask the U.S. for military help was zero.

The men in the video claim to be from Dagestan, about 1,000 miles from Sochi. Militants see an attack on the Olympics as a chance to humiliate Putin.

The men in the video appear to construct explosive devices and document, step by step, how they planned the Volgograd attacks. They say in a part of the recording directed at Russian officials that they “will continue to kill you and your soldiers.”

“This is for all the Muslim blood that is shed every day around the world, be it in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, all around the world,” they said. “This will be our revenge.”

Putin said over the weekend that he “will try to make sure that the security measures taken aren’t too intrusive or visible and that they won’t put pressure on the athletes, guests and journalists.”


Omar Sobhani / Reuters

The file photo from December 12 shows security forces not far from the entrance of the U.S. Embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

By Fazul Rahim and Alexander Smith, NBC News

KABUL, Afghanistan – Two rockets hit the U.S. Embassy compound in Afghanistan just before dawn Wednesday, an embassy spokesperson said.

No one was injured in the attack and all U.S. citizens were accounted for, Elizabeth Howard, acting spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, told NBC News.

In a statement read over the telephone, Howard said: “At approximately 6.40 a.m. local time in Kabul (8.40 p.m. ET Tuesday), approximately two rounds of indirect fire impacted the U.S. Embassy compound.

“All Americans are accounted for and no injuries were sustained. The embassy continues to investigate the attack.”

A source said the rocket did not cause any damage to the embassy, but rather impacted the ground within the compound perimeter.

Alexander Smith reported from London.

Related:


Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, 19, to be laid to rest

FAIRHAVEN, Mass. —A funeral is being held for a U.S. Marine from Massachusetts who was killed in combat operations in Afghanistan earlier this month.

Watch Report   

The funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez is scheduled for Monday at the First Congregational Church in his hometown of Fairhaven. He will be buried at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.

The 19-year-old Rodriguez died Dec. 11 during combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

He was assigned to the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Rodriguez graduated in 2012 from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School and enlisted in the Marines in August 2012.

Gov. Deval Patrick ordered all flags to half staff Monday in honor of Rodriquez.


Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez of Fairhaven

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. —A sad homecoming is scheduled as the remains of Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez return to Massachusetts.

The 19-year-old U.S. Marine from Fairhaven was killed in combat operations in Afghanistan last week.

Watch NewsCenter 5′s report

A plane carrying the body from Dover Air Force Base is set to arrive at New Bedford Airport on Thursday. Family members are expected to be on hand along with honor guards and representatives of local police and fire departments.

A procession will bring the remains to a funeral home in Mattapoisett, passing Rodriguez’ home along the way.

A wake is set for Sunday, followed by a funeral on Monday at a Fairhaven church. Burial will be at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.

The New Bedford airport says it plans to name a playground under construction in honor of Rodriguez.

 


By CNN Staff

NATO soldiers are shown outside Kabul, Afghanistan, in June.
NATO soldiers are shown outside Kabul, Afghanistan, in June.
(CNN) – Six U.S. troops were killed Tuesday in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan after what appears to be an engine failure, a U.S. defense official said. There was one survivor in the crash.

There was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash, according to NATO, and the U.S. defense official said early reports indicate the helicopter‘s engine failed.

The troops were members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

The troops’ names have not been released. It is ISAF policy to allow national authorities to identify casualties.


Christopher Berry charged in connection with death of William Berry

BOSTON —A Lowell man has been indicted on a second-degree murder charge in connection with the death of his 9-week-old son.

The Sun reports that a grand jury on Thursday indicted 22-year-old Christopher Berry in connection with the death in May of William Berry.

Prosecutors say the baby was taken to a hospital on May 11 suffering from “catastrophic brain injuries” authorities say were caused by violent shaking. The little boy died at a Boston hospital about a week later.

Berry has been held on $500,000 bail after pleading not guilty in May to assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury.

Berry’s attorney has said his client has post-traumatic stress disorder after serving a year in Afghanistan and has been receiving medication and counseling.

 


Matthew R. Rodriguez died while conducting combat operations

FAIRHAVEN, Mass. —A 19-year-old Marine from Fairhaven has been killed in Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Rodriguez died Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, the Department of Defense announced.

He was assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School Superintendent Linda Enos confirmed that Rodriguez was a 2012 graduate of the school.

Enos spoke with his mother who said her son was “a very good person, and he was excited about graduating and going into the service.”

His personal awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and NATO Medal- ISAF Afghanistan, officials said.

NewsCenter 5 and WCVB.com will have more information when it becomes available.

 

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