Wednesday, January 14, 2015

13 Hours in Benghazi

***** 5 OUT OF 5 STARS
13 Hours in Benghazi is the story of what happened on September 11th 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, when The Annex and Diplomatic Compound were invaded. It is the account according to the security contract operators who were hired at the CIA base, The Annex. There were six operators in total, one losing his life that day along with three other Americans; an American Ambassador, a state department computer specialist, and a former Navy SEAL, all of whom lost their lives.
The book is written as a narrative which is different for a nonfiction book but also makes it so gripping. I read the book in two days as I was not able to put it down. The book was based on the accounts from the five surviving contract operators and everything that was stated was either said or heard first hand by them directly. If there were any varying accounts the author sited them directly.
This dramatic account was not intended to be a political piece but it serves very well to outline the flaws of the Obama Administration handling of the situation before, during, and after the attack. To say the situation was handled poorly is an understatement, accountability also seemed to be non-existent after.
A few specific things that stuck out to me in this book were the parallels to the mistakes and lack of support and communication similar to the Battle of Mogadishu. At one point, one of the operators even recalled believing that if the rebels were to overtake the compound they would drag the lifeless bodies through the streets as they did in Mogadishu. Both were tragic losses, that seemed avoidable with better communication.
It was stated in the epilogue that because the operators were contractors and not active military or CIA staffers they were ineligible to receive certain awards. Awards that other personnel who played minor roles were awarded. This is obviously irritating knowing that these men put there lives on the line to SAVE AMERICAN lives, to attempt to protect an AMERICAN AMBASSADOR, but could not receive the recognition they deserved. I understand that men like this do not complete their missions seeking awards, but when credit is due, active military or not, they should receive the recognition they deserve. Lastly, on the very last page of the book, it is stated that the surviving operators hoped that the four men who lost their lives that day would be remembered "not as victims or political pawns but as brave Americans who put themselves in harms way, believed in their work and their country, and who died serving others." Those men died hero's in every form of the word, however, there are still so many unanswered questions regarding our governments role in this situation.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Baby Van Donsel's Enchanted Forest Shower

This weekend I hosted an Enchanted Forest baby shower for my brother Nick and friend Ashley. They will be welcoming a baby girl into this world sometime next month. I have now hosted baby showers for both of my big brothers as they welcomed their daughters. This has been very special for me as I know just how amazing of fathers they will be for these little girls. As a little sister, I think the world of my brothers, and words cannot describe how blessed I feel to share this special moment in their lives with them.
Yesterday's shower was such an amazing day filled with so many wonderful family members. We are truly blessed to have a family like this. I am reminded of an old saying, "We may not have it all together, but together we have it all." Nothing compares to a family who pulls together to support, love, or in this case, shower, one another with kindness and  compassion. Thank you to everyone for coming to the baby shower and celebrating with us. It means so much to me, my brother, Ashley, and my parents as we prepare for the birth of this little girl into our family.
We had delicious chicken tortilla soup, with all the toppings for lunch. We began the shower with some questions for Ashley, as we played a little game called, Father Knows Best. She did really well guessing Nick's answers correctly! Then we played "Name that Song, Baby," it was a country music game and it was my personal favorite part of the shower. Since my family isn't much on games that was the end of that nonsense ;). We then visited and made baby milestone signs, to take the baby's photo with as she reaches each milestone. It was a wonderful afternoon and time seemed to fly by as it always does when you're having fun!

Baby's Wishing Tree!



I couldn't possibly love my Grandma any more than I already do!

Baby girl's first dolly from Auntie!

A beautiful blanket made by our beautiful neighbor!

Three generations!

Nicky Noodles loves his little cousins!

Baby William was rightfully frightened with Grandma Jane holding him.