The inspiring story of MOH Recipient and Catholic priest Fr. Emil Kaupan.
During his time as a POW Gen. Mechenbier heroically stood up to the Communist guards, in the Vietnamese camp, who tried in vein to stop the American prisoners from having a weekly prayer service. “You can have no church services,” the camp commander said. “You embarrass us in front of the Russians.”
Gen. Mechenbier’s response, according to another POW was, “It doesn’t matter what you do including killing every one of us, but as long as one man is alive we are having that church service.” He said it so simply, coolly and firmly, recounts this same POW, that the guards knew and the Americans knew that there was going to be no compromise.
Gen. Mechenbier was subsequently beaten for his resistance but did not give in. …The prayer services continued.
The mortal remains of Major Howard V. Andre Jr. and Major James E. Sizemore –shot down in Laos 40 years ago– were discovered and positively identified in 2012. In September 2013 they were layed to rest in Arlington Cemetery. A flyover would have been more than appropriate but was refused because of government budget cuts. This did not stop retired pilots, members of the non profit group Warrior Aviation, from stepping in to provide a Flight of Honor for two of their own.
“Carpenter was nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor following reports that he covered a grenade to save the life of his friend, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, during an insurgent attack in the Marjah district of Helmand province as the two Marines were standing guard on a rooftop on Nov. 21, 2010. Carpenter and Eufrazio survived the blast, but suffered severe wounds. Carpenter lost an eye and most of his teeth and shattered his jaw; his arm was also broken in several places.
“Damage from shrapnel to the frontal lobe of Eufrazio’s brain left him unable to speak for two years.
“The Marine Corps investigation of the incident to determine whether Carpenter deserved the award was complicated by several factors: There were no other witnesses, Carpenter couldn’t remember what happened because of trauma and Eufrazio was unable to speak until late 2012.”
To read more click here.
Those who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are at their post 24/7, no matter the weather conditions. As many Americans along the East Coast hunkered down and stayed warm during this years harsh winter weather, members of The Old Guard stood watch over the bodies “Known but to God.” Have you ever wondered what motivates these men?
We will let Sergeant of the Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Tanner Welch tell you.
“It’s about the collective respect for people who have gone before us. And it’s about the sacrifice of the unknowns and all the service members who have gone in front of us. So we want to honor their service. The guys fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan right now are not going to stop if it starts snowing tomorrow. The guys who fought in the mountains of Korea didn’t stop because it started snowing. So we have that same mentality down here and to honor their same sacrifice and their same service we’re not going to stop either.”
Probably the best Flash Mob performance you will ever see. Go Air Force!
by: Norman Fulkerson
The Annual Veterans Conference put on by the American Veterans Center is always a special event, dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of our brave servicemen. They did not fail once again to put on a splendid event this November 9-11.
“Dear Jesus, Please Forgive my Sins, so I Can Go to Heaven”
The first evening’s event featured a panel of Wounded Warriors. During the reception beforehand, I was surprised when one of those warriors, Corporal Garrett Jones from Newberg, Ore., happened to sit across from me for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. It turned out to be one of the most memorable conversations of the event.
What struck me most about this 28-year-old Marine was the utter absence of self-pity in spite of the fact that he was an amputee. He told the gripping details of how he lost his leg while serving in Iraq back in July of 2007. When a 155mm Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated under his feet, he was thrown into the air like a rag doll. He never lost consciousness and attributed his survival to the “grace of God.” He thought he was dying because of the difficulty he had breathing. He then started feeling very cold from loss of blood and felt his death was certain.
“Dear Jesus,” he recalled praying, “please forgive my sins, so I can go to heaven.” He would go on to survive and surprisingly tells how he never suffered a day with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He humorously defined himself as a “black-and-white kind of guy. There are three types of people in the world,” he said, “sheep, wolves and sheep dogs.” It was clear that he placed himself squarely among the latter. Another word for sheep dogs, he explained, is “warrior.”
|“Dear Jesus, please forgive my sins, so I can go to heaven,” prayed a dying Garret Jones, right, after an IED had detonated under his feet. Although an amputee, he resisted self-pity and even deployed with his unit when they deployed the following spring. (Courtesy of Tony Powell)|
“Such men need to be willing to do violence on behalf of the sheep,” he continued. “That means they need to be ready to fight, be wounded, and if necessary, die… and be fine with it.”
This no-nonsense Marine described his reaction when he heard his unit would be deployed to Afghanistan after his injury. “I am going with you,” he informed his commander in a very decisive way. With the help of higher ups including the then-Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Conway, he did in fact deploy the following spring.
Medal of Honor Panel
During the following day’s Veterans Conference, attendees were treated to a wide variety of heroes and legends. Medal of Honor recipients Gen. Patrick H. Brady and Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha were part of one panel. They took questions from the audience while the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation President and top gun pilot, Maj. Gen. Thomas Wilkerson moderated. Like most recipients of the Medal of Honor, both men showed great humility in wearing our nation’s highest honor for valor.
“I did what any other soldier would have done,” said Staff Sgt.Romesha as he choked back tears in remembrance of those who did not survive. Gen. Brady drew a laugh from the audience by describing how he was “embarrassed” to receive the award. He went on to describe how the medal represents “all those who didn’t make it back. They don’t come from easy days,” but rather from a difficult moment “when you’re faced with an adversity.”
The Honor Banquet
The highlight of the conference however was the Honors Award Banquet. Doris Day, the charming and gracious widow of Col. Bud Day was there to accept The Doolittle Tokyo Raider Wings of Valor Award that was posthumously awarded to her late husband. With her always sparkling blue eyes, this wonderful lady expressed her gratitude and explained how Jimmy Doolittle was her husband’s hero.
The last living member of the legendary Navajo Code Talkers, Chester Nez was also on hand. During World War II, the Japanese broke every code devised by Americans except the one devised by a Navajo Indian named Philip Johnston. His undecipherable code was based on their language and was so effective that the 29 original code talkers could communicate in 20 seconds what it previously took coding machines half an hour.
Mr. Nez was only a tenth grader when Marine recruiters came to his boarding school looking for young men who were fluent in both English and the Navajo language. He jumped at the chance to serve his country, lied about his age, and signed on with the Marines. He was the first of the original Code Talkers, which took part in every Marine assault in the Pacific. They sent thousands of messages that baffled Japanese military cryptologists who were unable to decipher a single one.
The Devil of Ramadi
The most special part of the evening however was the moment when the late Chris Kyle was posthumously awarded the Paul Ray Smith Award. It was difficult to restrain one’s emotions as a moving video tribute of this All American Hero was projected on screens at both ends of the room.
|With the parents of the late Navy S.E.A.L., Chris Kyle, who had racked up 160 confirmed kills, earning him the nickname, The Devil of Ramadi. (Courtesy of Carrie Hanna)|
His parents, Wayne and Deby were there to receive the award on behalf of their fallen son. As a Navy SEAL sniper, Chris Kyle racked up an astounding 160 confirmed kills during his time in combat, a US military record that is unlikely to be broken. He was so deadly he earned the nickname, The Devil of Ramadi by the enemy who placed an $80,000 bounty on his head.
His life was brought to an abrupt end when he was shot and killed by a Marine suffering from PTSD that he was trying to help. As his grieving parents walked on stage to receive the award, the audience erupted with a standing ovation that seemed to go on forever. I personally could have clapped until my hands were bleeding for that man.
Doolittle Raider Toast
As the evening winded down, conference organizers explained the significance of the bottle of Hennessey Cognac sitting at the center of each table. As we were celebrating heroes in our nation’s capital, another crowd at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio was honoring three of the last four remaining Doolittle Raiders. This heroic group of pilots conducted the retaliatory raid on Tokyo, Japan after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. Their historic feat had the double result of lifting American moral and demoralizing an intransigent enemy that thought they were invincible.
In 1959, the city of Tuscon, Arizona presented the group with 80 sterling goblets etched with the names of all the original Raiders and a bottle of 1896 Hennessey Cognac in honor of the birth year of their founder Jimmy Doolittle. At each yearly reunion since then a tradition was born. The remaining living members would toast those who had passed away on the previous year, then turn the goblet of the deceased upside down. The original plan was to save the 1896 bottle of Hennessey for the last remaining Raider. With the death of Thomas Griffin earlier this year and the failing health of another, it was decided to bring this extraordinary tradition to a ceremonious end.
As the remaining Doolittle Raiders were making their last toast, attendees of the Veterans Conference were with them in spirit. It was a chilling moment as the shining amber liquid was poured into each of our goblets. This spine-chilling event gave me time to reflect on the previous days’ events.
We are truly the land of the free because of such daring men like those Raiders and other selfless “sheep dogs” like Chris Kyle and Corporal Garret Jones. Men such as these ask nothing in return for laying their lives on the line for us. This became clear for me as I remembered a comment made by Corporal Jones during our conversation on the first evening. When he was blown into the air by an IED and felt sure he was dying, he admitted “being okay with it. Warriors always are,” he said, “as long as [America] drapes a flag over their coffin.”
Tags: Chester Nez, Chris Kyle, Clinton Romesha, Corporal Garrett Jones, Doolittle Raiders, Gen. Conway, Gen. Patrick H. Brady, Maj. Gen. Thomas Wilkerson, Navajo Code Talkers, Philip Johnston, PTSD, Veterans Conference, Wounded Warriors
by: John Horvat
The citizens of Radford, Virginia took time out on this Veterans Day 2013 to honor one of their own, the late Col. John Ripley, USMC. Since his untimely death in October 2008, this grateful city in southwestern Virginia, through a group termed the “Ripley Committee,” has honored the Marine legend in a number of ways.
Through their efforts, a painting of the late colonel in his dress blues was dedicated last Veterans Day and now hangs in the Radford Public Safety Building lobby. Earlier this year, Radford City council went one step further and declared April 2 to be Colonel John Ripley Day.
In another gesture of devotion, the decision was made to go yet one more step with the renaming of the University Drive Bridge after their favorite son. Visitors to the city will now cross the Col. John Ripley Bridge when they visit the New River and take a peak at Castle Island, where the city’s “Huckleberry Finn” lived his adventurous boyhood.
On hand for the dedication was Col. Ripley’s sister Mary Susan Goodykoontz (pictured above) and TFP member Norman Fulkerson. As the author of An American Knight, the only biography to date of the late colonel, he was invited to speak and was received by locals with a standing ovation. Many had read his gripping account of a man they had known as a mischievous youth whose eyes “danced with a sense of wonder” and who later earned legendary status in the Marine Corps. Col. Ripley was most commonly known for having halted the largest Communist offensive of the Vietnam War when he destroyed the Dong Ha Bridge on April 2, 1972. Mr. Fulkerson chose to focus his remarks on the man’s moral courage.
Norman Fulkerson opened his brief remarks by commenting on the “irony of naming a bridge after a man who was most commonly known for destroying one.”
He opened his brief remarks by commenting on the “irony of naming a bridge after a man who was most commonly known for destroying one.” Enriching this theme he explained how the Dong Ha Bridge was not the only structure Col. Ripley destroyed during his memorable life.
“We live in a very bad world,” Mr. Fulkerson explained, “and there is a subtle tactic among those who hold contrary opinions to get us to make concessions on our principles. This is a gradual process that he metaphorically referred to as “building bridges” between conservative and liberal opinions. Through such a tactic, he concluded, we are not asked to give everything at once but merely make small compromises. Col. Ripley was not one to fall for such a tactic, as was exemplified with the proverbial “bridges” he destroyed through his energetic testimonies against allowing open homosexuals to serve in the Armed Forces and sending women into combat.
He finished his remarks by explaining how Col. Ripley did build one bridge. It was a task to which he devoted his whole life. It was the “bridge that would link him to God, our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Marines’ Hymn has a stanza that speaks of the streets of Heaven being guarded by United States Marines, Mr. Fulkerson concluded. “When we cross the bridge he erected, I feel certain we will meet one great United States Marine on the other side, Col. John Ripley.”
by: Norman Fulkerson
With so much negative news these days, the story about Capt. William Swenson, who received the Medal of Honor last month is truly a breath of fresh air. He earned our nation’s highest award during the same fierce battle as fellow recipient and Kentucky native, Dakota Meyer.
We long for better days but have lost sight of the fact that it was because of men such as these that our country achieved the success –economic and otherwise– we now see slipping away. Over the years we have lost track of what matters most in life. We give too great importance to material things, such as our favorite technological devices, and fail to realize the inestimable value of immaterial things like honor. America desperately needs the “rule of honor” so well explained in my favorite book “Return to Order” by John Horvat.
If/when we hit bottom, it will not be to our i-phones that we will turn for help, nor to our “nanny government” whose socialist programs will eventually impoverish our nation. Rather, we will turn to selfless heroes like William Swenson who courageously faced withering gunfire and even death out of love for neighbor and a higher cause.
Thankfully such men are not as uncommon as we might think in our great nation. They are easily recognizable as those who seek to surpass the proverbial Joneses, not by the amount of money in their pockets, but by the amount of courage and honor in their hearts.
Flight Turns Unforgettable
By: John E. DiScala
Delta Flight 2255 from Atlanta to Los Angeles seemed to be an ordinary flight with the exception of Candy, who was the most loving flight attendant I’ve ever encountered. Besides using her Southern charm to quickly defuse every situation, she began her welcome announcement by thanking the handful of uniformed soldiers on-board for serving our country. Her poignant message was followed by applause, and it put into perspective that none of us would be able to do what we do without these brave men and women.
But this transcontinental flight turned out to be everything but ordinary. We later learned, when the captain got on the PA system about 45 minutes prior to landing, that we were transporting a fallen soldier. The plane went quiet as he explained that there was a military escort on-board and asked that everyone remain seated for a couple of minutes so the soldiers could get off first. He also warned us not to be alarmed if we see fire trucks since Los Angeles greets their fallen military with a water canon salute. See my video below.
A few minutes after touchdown, we did indeed have a water canon salute, which I’d previously only experienced on happy occasions like inaugural flights. This time, the water glistening on the windowpanes looked like tears.
Passengers in the airport must have been worried when they saw our plane pull into gate 69A, as we had a full police and fire escort, front and back.
I was on the left side of the plane and later realized that the family could be seen off to the right, standing with the United States Army Honor Guard. According to Wikipedia, each military branch has its own honor guard, usually military in nature, and is composed of volunteers who are carefully screened. One of the primary roles for honor guards is to provide funeral honors for fallen comrades.
When the jet door opened, another military officer addressed the escort who was standing at attention. He then stepped on the plane and told us passengers “I just addressed the escort. It is a sworn oath to bring home, to the family, the fallen.” He paused and then said, “Today you all did that, you are all escorts, escorts of the heart.” And then thanked us for our time and walked off the plane.
As you can imagine, everyone was silent and no one got up, not even that person from the back row who pretends he doesn’t [understand] English so he can be first off the plane. I’m sure most had meteor-sized lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes like I did.
It only got more emotional when I deplaned. There was a large number of passengers, who are normally in a hurry to get home or make a connection, standing by the window to witness something truly moving. To see the Honor Guard and family waiting patiently, while LAX baggage handlers and a military loadmaster removed the flag covered casket first from the cargo hold, was humbling to say the least. I’m not sure if it was the fallen soldier’s mother or wife who I watched slowly walk up to the coffin while a few other family members, wrapped in blankets, stood near with a dozen or so of the Honor Guards standing in salute.
As soon as I saw her reach out to put her hand on her baby’s casket, I walked away.
This ordinary flight became extraordinary and is one that I will never forget.
Thank you to all the military who protect our beautiful country and let us live the lives we are able to lead. Without you we would be nothing. And thank you to the Honor Guard for making sure these fallen soldiers, warriors and heroes are not treated like just any piece of luggage as they used to, but rather with the care and respect they so rightly deserve.
Emily Hulsey | On 15, Oct 2013
During a mission in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan, the U.S. Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion was attacked by a massive suicide explosion that left four members of the team dead. Ranger Josh Hargis, one of the survivors, was severely wounded from the attack.
Here is a picture of Josh recovering in a hospital in Afghanistan. About fifty soldiers crowded into the room to award him with the prestigious Purple Heart for his wounds received in action. Despite the horrible pain he was experiencing, he still gave this incredibly beautiful salute to his commanding officer. This is the definition of true patriotism:
Here is what Josh’s wife posted, along with the photo, to her Facebook page:
“I received this picture today along with a letter from the commander of the team Josh was a part of on the night of his injuries. A letter to explain to me what kind of man I have the privilege of being married to. He explained to me what happened and what was going on in the picture.
“Josh was seriously wounded as you know, and survived for almost two hours after his injury before arriving to the hospital. Josh was immediately pushed through a series of surgeries and emerged hours later into an intensive care unit here at our base in Afghanistan.
“Despite being in intense pain and mental duress, Josh remained alert and compassionate to the limited Rangers that were allowed to visit his bedside. Prior to Josh being moved to Germany for his eventual flight to America, we conducted a ceremony to award him with the Purple Heart for wounds received in action.
“A simple ceremony, you can picture a room full of Rangers, leaders, doctors, and nurses surrounding his bedside while the Ranger Regimental Commander pinned the Purple Heart to his blanket. During the presentation the Commander publishes the official orders verbally and leaned over Josh to thank him for his sacrifice.
“Josh, whom everybody in the room (over 50 people) assumed to be unconscious, began to move his right arm under the blanket in a diligent effort to salute the Commander as is customary during these ceremonies. Despite his wounds, wrappings, tubes, and pain, Josh fought the doctor who was trying to restrain his right arm and rendered the most beautiful salute any person in that room had ever seen.
“I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day. Grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh’s courage and character. The picture, which we believe belongs on every news channel and every news paper is attached. I have it hanging above my desk now and will remember it as the single greatest event I have witnessed in my ten years in the Army.”
Their may concern was to return with HONOR… Need we say more?
Four days before Christmas 1943, in the darkest hours of WWII, a miracle took place. Two enemies—an American bomber pilot and a German fighter ace—met in combat over Germany and did the unexpected: They decided not to kill one another. Even more incredibly, as old men, they found one another and became best friends.
Below is a segment of the 2010 Veterans Day Speech given by Gen. John Kelly where he describes, in eloquent terms, the final seconds of two great Marines: Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. After hearing their story he took the time to find out the heroic details of what they did, then made sure these Marines got the medals they deserved. Both were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. This speech went viral on the internet, but I figured some readers of Modern American Heroes might not have seen it. This speech was given merely weeks after Gen. Kelly tragically lost his son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly. The younger Kelly was on his third combat deployment since 9/11 when he stepped on an IED and was killed instantly. On November 19th Gen. John Kelly received his 4th Star and was named the new Commander of Southern Command.
Six Seconds to Live
“I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are…about the quality of the steel in their backs…about the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans. Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda.
Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island. They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
“Let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”
The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.
A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way-perhaps 60-70 yards in length-and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.
“No sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”
When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event-just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured…some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They [didn’t] run like any normal man would to save his life.” “What he didn’t know until then,” he said, “and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal.” Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. No sane man. They saved us all.”
Last Six Seconds in the Life of Two Heroes
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “…let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.
It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were-some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
With One Second to Live They “Leaned into the Danger”
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the [driver] who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers -American and Iraqi- bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe…because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty…into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight-for you.
We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth-freedom. We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious-our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines-to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can every steal it away. It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the “land of the free and home of the brave” so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.
God Bless America, and….SEMPER FIDELIS!
by Norman Fulkerson
For many years, General. David Petraeus was the public face of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was seen as a battle-hardened veteran, a four-star general who enjoyed what many called a “storied career.” Thirty six year Marine Corps veteran General John Allen has a similarly illustrious career and was awaiting confirmation on his nomination to become Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Both of these warriors were seen as men of honor. This image has been crushed: first by the admittance of General Petraeus to an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell which has now wrecked his career and could destroy a 37- year marriage: then by the voluminous email exchanges, now being scrutinized for wrongdoing, between General Allen and what the media is labeling as Broadwell’s archrival, Jill Kelley.
We now find ourselves standing in the glow of a giant media spotlight that is turning this story into juicy soap opera. Political pundits are raising reasonable suspicion that all this is merely a smokescreen to take attention off the Benghazi attack which left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead and a lot of unanswered questions. Others still are raising national security concerns over whether or not General Petraeus shared classified information with his paramour. While these are valid concerns, there are others that those shining the spotlight have conveniently overlooked.>>
Thankfully there are many who question the morality of Paula Broadwell, a married woman and mother of two, being “embedded with the troops” which set the stage for this particular scandal. Sexual scandals, however, be they consensual or by way of assault and harassment, are lamentably becoming all too common in our modern military.
According to the Army’s own “Gold Book,” a report on wartime personnel stress made public by the Center for Military Readiness, sexual assaults have increased in all branches by 22 percent since 2007 and violent rape has doubled since 2006. This should naturally lead a person to recognize the obvious pitfalls of a mixed Armed Forces and the now hotly contested issue of women in combat. This is a blatant denial of man’s human frailty, a consequence of our fallen nature. Whereas we should be praying with renewed fervor for God to “lead us not into temptation,” we turn a blind eye towards the wrecking ball of social experimentation wreaking havoc on our military. One sad consequence is the disgrace which Mrs. Petraeus, Mrs. Allen and their families now have to endure.
A similar question has yet to be raised with the case of General Allen. There was mention early on that he could stand trial for adultery which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This manual, the foundation for military law in the United States, also holds sodomy to be a crime, yet during the debates concerning repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” this manual was never mentioned. The so-called upholders of morality were initially holding Gen Allen’s feet to the fire for what, thankfully, is still considered unacceptable behavior (adultery), yet they gushingly embrace the unnatural vice of sodomy. Homosexuals are allowed to live side by side with the men of honor who still exist in our military. They are allowed to make a political statement–stringently denied other servicemen—by marching in homosexual parades in uniform. They kiss their same-sex lovers upon returning from oversees, and these flagrant violations against the UCMJ and basic morality are never mentioned.
The biggest concern however is the deleterious effect such scandals have on Americans who yearn to see men of honor. There are many people, for example, who consider General John Allen to be a man of impeccable character. John Ullyot who served with him said he “was known as a warrior monk.” Is this a mere chimera?>
In a society which appreciates the value of honor, appropriate actions would have to been taken, but any disgrace would be kept discreet, not continually aired for all to see like the proverbial “dirty laundry.”>
At the writing of this article, General Allen has forcefully denied inappropriate behavior. We pray this is the case, but even if he is totally exonerated of wrong doing, his career just might be over. Worse yet, his image as a man of honor is irreparably smeared and there will be no New York Times’ article to sufficiently repair the damage done to him and those who loved what he represented, even if he is proven innocent. Those who had looked upon him with pride are left to pick up the pieces of the marvelous dream he embodied and hold their breath for fear that others might suddenly meet the same fate. Can a nation continue to exist without such dreams?>
Those in search of dreams and those who destroy them are much like the sons of Noah who survived God’s punishing deluge. The noble prophet had unintentionally become intoxicated with wine and was reduced to a state of disorientation. Scripture describe how two of his sons preserved their father’s dignity by walking backwards with a cloak to cover his nakedness. Such was their appreciation for what their father represented. The other son took an entirely different attitude, laughed at his father’s drunken state and was subsequently cursed.>
One cannot help but see a parallel to the scandals that are unfolding before us. While we cannot compare the central figures in this drama to a man of Noah’s stature, we can identify the two opposing attitudes of his sons with two types of Americans and how they see our military. There are those who love the military and cannot help but admire its member’s daily sacrifices and heroic service. They recognize that we sleep comfortably at night because our brave servicemen faithfully stand watch. There are others, however, who seem to take joy in finding examples of dishonor and deserve the same punishment meted out to the bad son of Noah.
The Ship of Honor
This all leads an admirer of honor to wonder if the institution of the military has not suffered the same fate as the Titanic which sank 100 years ago. Has the proverbial ship of honor sunk?
There is a very beautiful legend famous among the people of Brittany in France called la Cathedrale Engloutie (“The Submerged Cathedral”). It speaks of an old city that was submerged by a mysterious cataclysm in the Atlantic Ocean, not too far off the coast of Europe. On certain nights when the moon is full and the tide is low, one can see the majestic steeple of the town Cathedral among the waves. From time to time, it is said, angels ring the cathedral’s bells at the bottom of the sea. Those beautiful sounds then rise all the way to the surface, allowing fishermen going by, on a calm evening with a tranquil sea, to hear them. Those same fishermen say that one day the cathedral will return to dry land even more beautiful, as it has been kept unscathed under the waves.
While this is only a story, we could say this legend describes our beloved military which sometimes appears to be like a sunken ship of honor. Those who love honor in our day also experience moments like the calm evening on a tranquil sea. They know that this ship of Honor will also return to dry land even more beautiful because it also remains unscathed under the waves.
We can hear the “bells of honor” in men like Marine Corps Colonel John Ripley, Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. They allow us to hear the bells of honor because they kept their honor clean.
Tags: Army Gold Book, Center for Military Readiness, Col. John Ripley, Don't ask Don't tell, Extramarital affair, Gen. David Petraeus, Gen. John Allen, Gen. Peter Pace, Honor, Jill Kelley, La cathédrale engloutie, Michael Monsoor, Noah, Paula Broadwell, Submerged Cathedral, women in combat
…Told by Ace Vietnam Pilot Gen. Steve Ritchie
At 07:00 this morning the BBC announced…the landing of Allied paratroopers…. This group of unconquerable heroes, whom I command, are not yet in, but we will be soon….I have no immediate idea of being killed, but one can never tell and none of us can live forever. So if I should go don’t worry, but set yourself to do better than I have….
To be a successful soldier you must know history. Read it objectively—dates and even minute details of tactics are useless. What you must know is how man reacts. Weapons change, but man, who uses them, changes not at all. To win battles you do not beat weapons—you beat the soul of enemy man….
You must read biography and autobiography. If you will do that you will find that war is simple. Decide what will hurt the enemy most within the limits of your capabilities and then do it. TAKE CALCULATED RISKS. That is quite different from being rash. My personal belief is that if you have a 50% chance you should take it, because the superior fighting qualities of American soldiers led by me will surely give you the extra 1% necessary….
You cannot make war safely, but no dead general has ever been criticized, so you have that way out always. I am sure that if every leader who goes into battle will promise himself that he will come out either a conqueror or a corpse, he is sure to win… Defeat is due not to losses but to the destruction of the souls of the leaders. The “live to fight another day” doctrine.
Soldiers, in fact all men, are natural hero worshipers; officers with a flare for command realize this and emphasize in their conduct, dress, and deportment the qualities they seek to produce in their men…..
Tags: Gen. George Patton
However, this group of federal employees still went to the office as they do Every Day!
THIS IS ONE OF THOSE GESTURES FOR WHICH THERE ARE FEW WORDS.
The object of war is very simple: victory. The combatants engage in a very physical struggle to resolve a crisis that generally has failed by other more diplomatic means. It is a battle where the stakes are high and the life or death of men and the future of nations is in play.
The means employed to secure this victory are many. Nations make use of big assets such as tanks, aircraft and battleships. They make use of technology which includes all sorts of radars, drones, smart bombs and other devices.
However, when push comes to shove, what really decides the outcome of battle is the man on the field. Modern warfare has yet to find a substitute for the infantry soldier who slugs it out with the enemy and is disposed to make the ultimate sacrifice of his life.
In normal times, everyone recognizes that the task of hand-to-hand combat is best done by fighting men trained in the art of war. It is a biological fact that men have the stamina, strength and mindset needed and, if victory is the goal, men should be employed. That is all there is to it.
But these are not normal times, what everyone used to take for granted is now up for grabs. There is a concerted push by liberals who decree in the name of equality that women and men are equal in combat. These same liberals, many of whom will never experience a bullet fired in anger, are rushing to push women into the line of fire. They are demanding that women be thrust into combat, and anyone who dares oppose such a decree is labeled hopelessly sexist. And if the chances of victory be diminished (and soldiers unnecessarily die), so be it!
While the military is rung through the sexist ringer, there is another game in town that is left unscathed by the left and liberal media. The screams for equality are curiously absent.
That game is sports. The object of sports should be very simple: healthy competition. It is a very physical contest to distract and entertain. There are no high stakes involved beyond mere commercial interest or personal prestige.
And yet, as the Olympics are played, no one dares to point out that these international games enjoying all kinds of prestige and praise are absolutely “sexist.” The whole affair is divided right down the middle into the categories of men and women. No one has suggested that nations field non-sexist teams where men and women compete together in any field.
The reason why is obvious. The biological fact is that men and women are physically different and if the competition were left to all comers, save some exceptional Amazon, men would win all the competitions where stamina and physical strength are needed. Indeed, one can go over the lists of Olympic records and verify that in these categories the men’s records are all well above those of women.
Olympians know this biological reality. They don’t play sexist games with their games. In fact, they employ all the seriousness of war to gain victory. They train unceasingly. They study every possible advantage. Unfortunately, some even resort to steroids and other performance enhancers to gain the victory — and commercial endorsements. These latter athletes have turned what should be a source of entertainment and healthy sportsmanship into a savage and commercial enterprise.
It seems the world is upside down. War is war and sports is sports. Why must the double standard of sexist politics get in-between? Isn’t it time we stopped playing games with our wars and stopped playing war with our games?
During the 1968 Tet Offensive, then Captain Gordon Batcheller earned the Navy Cross when his unit, Company A, 1st Battalion Marines, engaged a numerically superior force of the North Vietnamese Army. Although injured by shrapnel, he aggressively led his men in a fierce assault against the enemy and was seriously wounded in both legs when the column began receiving heavy fire from both flanks. He supported himself with his elbows, resolutely continued to direct his men, and bravely encouraged those near him even as he lay receiving medical treatment. As a result of his determined efforts, the reaction force reached the embattled city of Hue.
Colonel Batcheller joined the Marine Corp in 1960 and retired in 1991. His assignments included rifle platoon commander, 81mm mortar platoon commander, rifle company executive officer, rifle company commander, landing support battalion commander, and infantry battalion commander. He is a National War College graduate, and was a professor of military and strategic studies for seven years at the Army Management Staff College.
Women in Combat
Why We Should Not Send Our Mothers, Wives
and Daughters to Fight Our Wars
Crusade Magazine: Do you think that the current operational effectiveness of our military is lacking because we refuse to allow women in combat?
Colonel Gordon Batcheller: For the last forty years we have deliberately increased the involvement of women in combat. They fly combat airplanes and helicopters, man navy ships, including nuclear submarines, and fill combat support and service positions that expose them to close combat. Just recently 14,000 positions in the combat zone were opened to women. Civilians are pressuring the military, primarily the Army and Marine Corps, to open the infantry and other combat arms positions to women.
The process started when the All Volunteer Force discovered it wasn’t getting enough men; rudely put, women weren’t better than men, but they were better than nothing, at least when restricted to assignments where their associated friction could be best managed. As their presence increased, so did substantial evidence of the difficulties the mix created. No one has sought more women to better the combat force or claimed that our current mixed force is more effective than an all male force would be; and no historian has held that a coed force would have fought any of our wars more effectively than they were fought. If women improved the force’s combat effectiveness, you would expect the military to pressure its civilian master to give it more women without restrictions. The pressure today is in the other direction; civilians are trying to impose a less effective force on the military.
Crusade: Would allowing women in combat positions lead to the loss of combat effectiveness? If so why and how?
Colonel Batcheller: Yes! I guess the basic reason is that women are not equal substitutes for men. They are different, and this causes a host of problems. It is not their “fault,” nor is it attributable to any inherent incompetence. Women are different, and men view and treat them as such. Our cultural values, distilled from our Judeo-Christian civilization affirm this truth and inform us on what is appropriate or acceptable.
Effectiveness in combat depends on trained individuals, bound by trust and confidence — a belief ultimately that we will do right by each other. I have never known any man who thought it right to expose women to the butchery he will accept for himself or his male colleagues. Our idea of manhood would hold such butchery as shameful. Shame is not an inspiring war-winning emotion.
The infantry lives and works in a violent, barbaric world where the most grotesque of Hollywood’s special effects is routine reality. There is no quality of life beyond staying alive: no comfort, no privacy, and no provisions for hygiene. Endurance — both physical and emotional — and raw strength are essential. The battlefield is a man’s world.
Crusade: Should we want our women to fight? Why not?
Colonel Batcheller: The values of our major religions, Western Civilization, and our culture say “no.” The values that sustain our military say “no.” Our idea of manhood says it would be shameful. The thought of sending wives, mothers, and daughters to fight our wars while their men drive the children to soccer practice is contemptible. It is not that women cannot fight and kill and help us repel an attack or invasion in a “last stand.” But our culture objects to enlisting them in a “first call” case, and operational effectiveness resists their involvement in any case. Ideally, the military would be a male operation. In our world the challenge is to find a sensible, cost-effective use of women in the military while keeping them where they would not have to fight, or be able to distract or disrupt those fighting.
Crusade: Back in 1993, surveys showed that an overwhelming majority of women said they did not want to be in a combat unit. Is there a purpose for women to be placed in infantry positions?
|The military is created and structured to win wars, and its personnel policies are crafted to serve that end, not satisfy vocational whims.|
Colonel Batcheller: Not on the basis of military merit. Militant feminists and diversity worshippers have their fatuous “purposes,” but no positive purpose motivates the military to put women in foxholes.
While some seek to radically change the United States by destroying our current values, others seek to weaken the military and humble our nation. One does not have to be a conspiracy nut to acknowledge that such people exist and are active, and that this destructive initiative fits their purposes.
Some advocates also insist it is a woman’s right to serve in the military if she wants. That, of course, is nonsense. The military is created and structured to win wars, and its personnel policies are crafted to serve that end, not satisfy vocational whims.
Crusade: Some claim women push for infantry positions because they want to achieve higher rank and advance their careers. Is this being forced on women or is it something they want?
Colonel Batcheller: It is fair to say that achieving high rank is dependent on having had the “right” jobs, and having done them well. Command assignments of combat units during combat are essential for professional credibility.
A female Marine communicator is not going to become commandant. But the military exists to win wars, not to provide successful career patterns. Personnel policies, and their derivative assignments, are for the good of the service, not the happiness of the individuals being assigned.
Crusade: Do mixed units favor the enemy when it comes to combat?
Colonel Batcheller: Yes. By weakening our side we help the enemies. You will hear of the success other countries have had with coed forces, with Israel usually mentioned as the ultimate proof. But it is my understanding that the Israelis have found the concept doesn’t work and have abandoned it. The male soldiers became too concerned, protective and distracted. Women help defend their kibbutz just like American women helped defend their wagon train or homestead; and they serve in the military, but not in coed combat formations.
Crusade: People have made this issue one about gender equality. How would you answer those who subscribe to this ideological egalitarianism?
Colonel Batcheller: Men and women may be equal in the Declaration of Independence, but how many women play in the National Football League? College football? High School football? Last time I looked, men and women are different. And even if the differences created no performance advantages, the inescapable sexual dynamics inflict seriously disruptive forces on our coed organizations. The military exists to win wars, not to serve as an equal opportunity employer.
Crusade: Could you comment on the physical requirements of combat and are women capable of enduring it?
Colonel Batcheller: My experience was as an infantryman. Our world was somewhat different than that of a tank crewman or artillery officer. We had to be half beast of burden and operate far off the beaten track and beyond reach of reliable mechanical support. Conditions were primitive, quality of life non-existent, exposure to the elements constant. What we had, we pretty much carried. Coverage of the wars of the last ten years has provided a good picture of the loads carried by individual soldiers during operations — loads increase when units have to relocate. Upper body strength and load-carrying ability are essential — the stronger and more enduring, the more valuable. We have never been able to reduce the individual soldier’s personal load — it frequently exceeds 75 pounds, before you add a wounded colleague. Women in such an environment quickly become liabilities. Nor would they function well in the miserable living conditions, lack of privacy, absence of hygiene and so forth. It’s a man’s world.
Crusade: Are there emotional issues that need to be addressed?
Colonel Batcheller: There would be emotional issues for both sexes, and for the nation as a whole. This is something alien to our national character and hostile to our concept of civilization. The butchery of our wives and daughters and mothers would generate a national mood of sadness and shame. There has been no coverage of the killed and disabled women in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as we “celebrate” the male wounded warriors. We’re proud of our fighting forces, but ashamed that they include women. Infantrymen would feel this shame tenfold — they can handle the butchery until it involves someone that reminds them of their kid sister.
|During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica D. Lynch was captured by enemy forces and raped repeatedly.|
Crusade: What should we expect from the enemy should a woman combatant fall into their hands?
Colonel Batcheller: History has answered this question. Human nature hasn’t changed. Our enemies seldom start with our basic values, and combat is corrosive and de-humanizing. But, if we’re comfortable ordering our women and girls into the explosive violence of the battlefield, why should we be upset if they are violated?
Crusade: Based on your experience, do you think our young servicemen could, over time, be trained to treat women troops the same as men?
Colonel Batcheller: No. Nor would women accept being treated as men. This issue becomes especially significant in leader/led relationships. Most men have serious problems subordinating to women in a neutral environment. This would only get worse in a masculine environment. Thinking we can eliminate or tame sex reflects colossal arrogance, or stupidity.
Crusade: Because this is such a politically charged issue, do you think some are afraid to express their honest opinion? If so, do you feel that this limits our ability to make the best choice for our national security?
Colonel Batcheller: Yes. The military is properly subordinate to civilian authorities. The Commander-in-Chief is the President, the rule writers and check payers are Congress. Most of us have trouble “taking on the boss.” In the military there are additional concerns about disloyalty, disobedience, and insubordination. Additionally, the “pyramids” of these organizations are manned by ambitious individuals who generally want to keep their careers alive. Candor and honesty are dangerous, sometimes fatal. We have had four-star officers — generals and admirals, active duty and retired — publicly support the admission of homosexuals into the military, and the assignment of women into combat roles. None argued from military merit or advantage; it was the politically advantageous thing to do. Washington is a corrosive, disorienting environment. The major “players” are politicians, even if they wear a uniform. Very few leave Washington with more virtue than they brought in. Some go over to the dark side, most find reasons to justify not being contentious, or accept unsound policies after token opposition. Given the ignorance Congress and the President demonstrate about military matters, we should expect to observe respectful resistance from our military “leaders” with public examination of the objects of disagreement. For a host of reasons, we don’t. National security suffers as it ultimately depends upon an educated citizenry. Don’t believe anyone that says this is not a serious morale problem.
There is another major concern that is widespread, but difficult to isolate. Producing combat units — companies and battalions and squadrons and such — is a complex undertaking, and the primary business of the military. In the face of complexity the sacred tenet of KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid — is frequently invoked. Adding women to the mix creates frictions and burdens not only in the units where they mix, but in service-wide areas of personnel management, logistics, facilities, and administration; the more pervasive the mix, the more extensive the costs. All the Service academies have experienced sex-based scandals, and all services have been plagued with such misconduct, both in operational units and the support establishment. The cumulative cost of our coed military in time and effort is beyond calculation, but considerable.
Tags: Afghanistan, Col. Gordon Batcheller, egalitarianism, equality, feminist, Iraq, kibbutz, National War College, Navy Cross, North Vietnamese Army, Pfc. Jessica D. Lynch, Tet Offensive, women in combat
Sgt. Abbate and his scout-snipers were patrolling Sangin’s northern green zone when Taliban fighters and insurgents attacked the Marines. The squad didn’t know it but they were in the midst of a minefield. Two Marines and the Navy corpsman hit improvised explosive devices in rapid succession. Abbate quickly reacted.
From Navy Cross Citation:
“With the squad leader incapacitated, and the rest of the patrol either wounded or disoriented, Sergeant Abbate took command. With total disregard for his own life, he sprinted forward through the minefield to draw enemy fire and rallied the dazed survivors. While fearlessly firing at the enemy from his exposed position, he directed fires of his Marines until they effectively suppressed the enemy, allowing life-saving aid to be rendered to the casualties.”
“As the medical evacuation helicopter was inbound, Abbate swept the landing zone for explosives, but the patrol again had to duck enemy fire. Still, the sergeant persevered.
“Realizing that the casualties would die unless rapidly evacuated, Sergeant Abbate once again bravely exposed himself to enemy fire, rallied his Marines and led a counter attack that cleared the enemy from the landing zone, enabling the helicopters to evacuate the wounded.”
By Major General James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret.)
The federal government failed us all on June 28th, and in more ways than one. Days before Americans celebrated the anniversary of our nation’s hard-fought independence, the Supreme Court of the United States declared unconstitutional the Stolen Valor Act. Overshadowed by its decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), the Court’s decision was a landmark blow to a definitive feature of American culture: The prestige and honor we bestow upon sacrifices made by few while protecting the freedoms enjoyed by all.
According to the Court, Congress violated your First Amendment rights to free speech by making it a federal crime for you to knowingly issue false claims about your receipt of military awards and decorations for heroism, including America’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. If, that is, you do so without the intent to defraud — as if one would falsely claim their receipt of America’s top military awards and decorations for heroism for other purposes.
While the Supreme Court effectively consents to imposing limitations to the First Amendment in the instances of slander and unfounded character assassination attempts targeting persons and organizations, according to SCOTUSblog, “The Court concluded that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional because the Government had not shown that the statute is necessary to protect the integrity of the system of military honors — the interest the Government had identified in support of the Act.”
The decision to eliminate any penalty for those persons falsely claiming receivership of these hard-earned and treasured honors is disturbing in many ways. But it brings to mind two simple questions: Can we meaningfully protect the integrity of the system of military honors without legally deterring activities that diminish the sanctity of those honors? Moreover, by scrapping such legal deterrents, by making it lawful for anyone to falsely claim participation in that system, has the Supreme Court not diminished the integrity of the system of military honors, which so clearly stems from its inclusion of a select few, for select reasons?
The great irony of this decision is glaring. It is a crime to falsely claim degrees earned from universities for personal gain and employment. It is a crime to cheat on professional examinations in college. It is a crime to provide false or misleading information on a bank or mortgage loan application. Likewise, it is a crime to lie to law enforcement officials during the course of an investigation, and pose as an unlicensed professional, such as a doctor, lawyer or police officer. It is even a crime to falsify a student education loan or a passport application.
These are all examples of fraud for personal gain. And I fail to see how falsely claiming undeserved military combat honors, especially the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, or any award for valor is anything less than the greatest of frauds. Particularly as perpetrators’ agendas are virtually always focused on attaining notoriety and some form of accommodation by claiming receipt of special acknowledgements for service to our country which are reserved by the federal government for a very special group of patriots.
Those who make such claims regarding the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart and other decorations for valor tarnish the prestige, sanctity, honor and sacrifices of those who have legitimately earned these distinctions. In so doing, they denigrate the system of military honors, public perception of that system, and chip away at the prestige our society rightly assigns to military service, and combat heroism.
I have personally served with fine young Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who legitimately earned accolades and honors reserved for military heroes for their service to our country — many of whom never lived to benefit from their sacrifices. In my view, it is a disgusting and tragic footnote to our collective history that our highest court has determined accolades for such service are, in essence, free to acquire, without proper sanction, and may be displayed in the public domain under false pretenses by individuals who might not have even served in uniform.
It is a privilege for Americans to serve in uniform, and in particular an honor to be chosen to serve in the United States Marine Corps. But these imposters, these brazen charlatans who lay claim to these undeserved honors make it an absolute disgrace — a true dishonor — to all of us who have served in uniform. Let alone suffered the pain of battle, faced an enemy, collected the dead and wounded, and lived with the aftermath of doing a job that most cannot fathom, or would ever wish to perform.
Of course, these imposters do more than dishonor those of us who have served. They dishonor the values and integrity of our nation and its proud heritage.
Our current administration and the Supreme Court — through their continued and questionable actions — have made it abundantly clear that personal accountability, personal and national honor, individual integrity, and duty to the nation above oneself mean much less than self-gratification, the agendas of political action committees, currying favor for elected office, and claiming unearned honors for personal gain through any means.
These are neither the values, nor a legacy we should impart to future generations of Americans. If the federal government is unwilling to do what is right in this case, individual states must rectify this gross lapse in judgment. Just as states implemented their individual versions of immigration reform laws after being let down by the federal government, the states should establish laws to protect these honors which, according to federal law, are now so easily degraded and devalued by the shameful actions of a despicable few.
The implementation of laws to protect our honor, and punish those who would abrogate, who would pursue such conduct to dishonor those of us who have fought to protect their freedoms, is long overdue in many states. And there is no better time than the present to take action to address our federal government’s failures.
Major General James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret) is a recipient of the Medal of Honor. In addition to serving on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards, he is the CEO of Kronos Advisory. An autobiographical account of Gen Livingston’s military career, including his courageous actions at Dai Do, Vietnam that earned him the highest military decoration awarded by the United States Government, is presented in his book Noble Warrior: The Story of Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret.), Medal of Honor.
Billie D. Harris was an American WWII Pilot who disappeared in July of 1944. It took 62 years for his wife Peggy to find out what happened to him. She not only found out where he was buried but also found out that the townspeople of Les Ventes, France, consider him a hero. The main street which runs through the city is named “Place Billie D. Harris”. The word “place” in French is generally used in conjunction with a very well known landmark and designates a very specific geographic location or section of street. It is usually the area or section of street in front of or encircling the landmark.
“…Ranger School isn’t about improving the career prospects of individual candidates. Our motto is “Rangers lead the way.” Many a Ranger has lived these words before being killed in action—certain that if a Ranger couldn’t accomplish the mission, nobody could. This unique culture lures the kind of young, smart soldiers needed to get the toughest jobs done. The promise of something bigger than oneself—bigger than any career track—is what motivates these men.
“…The notion of allowing women into Ranger School because denying them the experience would harm their careers makes Ranger graduates cringe. Such politically correct thinking is the ultimate expression of the “me” culture, and it jeopardizes core Ranger ideals.”
To read more CLICK HERE.
Forty years ago Monday, [Sergeant] Leslie Sabo of Ellwood City died in Cambodia while trying to save his buddies from a North Vietnamese ambush that killed seven of his 101st Airborne Division comrades.
The 22-year-old was recommended posthumously for the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
“I had to keep my promise, which was to bring my guys home,” said Sgt. Christopher Farias. “I promised my best friend’s wife that I would get him home. I could hear him screaming and I knew I had to do something.”
To read more CLICK HERE.
One of the Few, the Proud and the Youngest
by: Norman Fulkerson
The citizens of Flora, Indiana said their final farewells to Cody Green, a proud United States Marine, on May 5, 2012. News of his death sent shockwaves through the blogosphere. He was simply too young to die. While he bravely faced death on three separate occasions –and never lost his cheerful spirit– the final engagement with an intransigent enemy proved fatal. His adversary was not a member of the Taliban, as you are probably thinking, it was leukemia. While the disease might have taken his life, it did not rob him of his cheerful attitude and generous spirit. There is something else about Cody which makes his story all the more moving. He was only 12 years old at the time of his death and is most likely the youngest Marine, even if only an honorary one, that has ever existed.
Cody was first diagnosed in 2001 with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer that appears most often in children. He was two months shy of his second birthday at the time. Over the next eleven years he would endure aggressive treatment which, on three separate occasions, sent this fast growing cancer into remission. Each time it came charging back until March 2, 2012 when he was admitted into Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana.
His online obituary describes him as a person who, although very young, had an indomitable and upbeat spirit. He never asked “Why Me,” and “fought the illness with grace and humility”. It also pointed out how he never complained about his treatment and always thanked the nurses who cared for him.
This solicitude for others was also shown towards his mother Tracy. In August of 2011 she was seriously injured at the Indiana State Fair grounds when a freak storm whipped up and toppled a concert stage, killing seven people. In spite of the fact that he was fighting a life and death struggle, Cody was always more concerned about his mother after the injuries she sustained that day. Her well being came first and this included the times where chemotherapy caused young Cody severe nausea and vomiting. Forgetful of self he would apologize to her for holding bucket.
This care for his mother is what led him to keep meticulous track of his numerous medications and when to take them. He did not want her to worry. This selfless attitude was consistent with the way he lived his life. He was always the kid to look out for the welfare for others before thinking about himself.
The story of his courageous battle with cancer eventually caught the attention of a local retired Marine, Sergeant. Mark Dolfini. He found Cody’s style of bravery identical to that of the Marines and arranged for the young man to be named an honorary member of “the few, the proud.” Along with this distinction he was given his own Marine Aviator Wings.
On the evening of Friday, April 28th Cody’s lifelong fight was finally coming to an end. It was then that Sergeant Dolfini chose to give him something no other kid in America will ever receive. Attired in his full dress blue uniform the Marine Sergeant took his post outside the dying young man’s room and remained there –on guard– from 7:00 PM Friday night till 3:30 AM the next morning. The Marine would only bend from his rigid position of attention long enough to salute Cody’s mother whenever she would enter or leave the room. Sergeant Dolfini only left his post because he felt it was time for the family to be alone with Cody who eventually passed away later that day.
For eight solid hours this little boy received the watchful guard of a United States Marine who took the motto Semper Fidelis one step further.
For midshipmen, ‘teachable moments’ hiking Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah trail
By Daniel de Vise, Published: April 15
Swift Run Gap, Va. — This is the U.S. Naval Academy’s idea of spring break: a 70-mile march along the craggy spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in a sesquicentennial tribute to Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and his torturous Shenandoah Valley Campaign.
Fourteen midshipmen forsook Cancun or Panama City last month for a five-day slog along the Appalachian Trail, eating peanut butter and gorp and drinking water collected from mountain streams. Only nine completed the journey. Injury and exhaustion claimed the rest — a development that only reinforced the week’s lessons about hardship and resolve.
To Read More CLICK HERE.
By Anna Mulrine
“As a barrage of bullets erupted around him during an attack by “well over” 100 enemy snipers and machine gunners, Capt. Barry Crawford Jr., then an Air Force combat air controller assigned to an Army Special Forces unit, watched as his own radio antenna was shot off “mere inches from his face.”
“…Without regard for his own life, Captain Crawford moved alone across open terrain in the kill zone to locate and engage enemy positions with his assault rifle while directing” strafe attacks. He also called in fighter jet runs “along with 500- and 2,000-pound bomb and hellfire missile strikes.”
To read more CLICK HERE.
For Fox News VIDEO Interview with Captain Crawford CLICK HERE.
by Jeremy Nobile
About 40 years passed since Lance Cpl. Joseph Panetta had seen his Lima Company captain, Col. John W. Ripley, in the jungles of Vietnam.
Considering the length of time and numerous Marines who served under him, Panetta was skeptical Ripley would even recognize him at the July 2008 reunion in Orlando, Fla. for Marines of the 3rd Regiment, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Division — an outfit better known as “Ripley’s Raiders.”
“After those 40-some years, I didn’t expect him to remember me,” Panetta recalled, “but he came right up to me and said, ‘Joe, how ya been?’”
Panetta, who was only 19 when he began his tour in Vietnam, was astonished.
“He said, ‘Joe, I remember you by your eyes,’ and I was stunned,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.
To read more CLICK HERE.
- Written by The American TFP
- As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the destruction of the Dong Ha Bridge, our thoughts naturally turn to Colonel
- John Ripley, the man at the center of the story.
- Spring Grove, PA(March 2012) — To most of the world April 2, 2012, will be just another early spring day. To members of the armed forces, veterans, their families, military historians, and other patriotic Americans, the date will evoke images of unfathomable courage: an exhausted Marine captain crawling through razor wire and hand-walking beneath a bridge in Vietnam, rounds from enemy fire blazing all around him, sustained through the ordeal by his sense of duty, his love of country, and his utter reliance on a Higher Power.
- The 40th anniversary of the destruction of the Dong Ha Bridge — which delayed the North Vietnamese Army from taking Saigon for another three years — is a key historical milestone. Yet Norman J. Fulkerson hopes that Americans will commemorate this day by taking a moment to reflect on the example set by the man at the center of this case study in heroism. Not just during the operation itself but throughout his life, Colonel John Walter Ripley displayed a rare and priceless quality: moral courage.“While very few of us could come close to achieving the raw physical courage he possessed, we can emulate Colonel Ripley’s moral courage,” says Fulkerson, author of An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC (The American TFP, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-877905-41-4, $14.95).
- “Our world is crying out for it. In times like these — marked by cultural decay, the unraveling of the principles that made our nation great, and widespread hopelessness and despair — we need men of moral courage more than ever.”
- Fulkerson’s tribute to Colonel Ripley certainly appeals to military circles. (Indeed, the book was the Military Writers Society of America 2010 Gold Medal Winner.) Yet he hopes that its message will resonate with civilians who see much to be admired and valued in the story of a man who truly lived his values. It not only provides a gripping description of the Dong Ha Bridge operation (click here for an excerpt from the book), it paints a portrait of a man who truly personifies modern-day American knighthood.How did Ripley’s moral courage manifest itself in his life? Fulkerson offers the following insights:
- Read more, click here.
Below is an article about Women in Combat with a stirring video by former Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Barrow. It is worth noting that this great man died within days of his friend, the late Colonel John Ripley. Both men testified before congress on the issue of sending our women into combat, a move which Colonel Ripley described as a “quest to neuterize all our institutions under the holy name of equality“. These great men have unfortunately been ignored. Take time to watch this stirring testimony on this issue by General Barrow. He is, like Colonel Ripley, a southern Gentlemen, a great warrior, and another example of An American Knight.
DESTROYING THE MARINE CORPS–WOMEN IN COMBAT
by Andy Weddington
There’s been rumor floating around the retired Marine community for a month or so now women will soon go through formal infantry training–officers to Infantry Officers Course and enlisted to Infantry Training Battalion. Fact or fiction? Credible nods from some senior active duty Marines suggest that’s the plan. Stunning. Is this of our commandant’s ordering or being so ordered? If true, it doesn’t matter. It’s a gargantuan mistake.
“The mission of the Marine Corps rifle squad is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and/or repel enemy assault by fire and close combat.” For readers not familiar with the Marine Corps and fighting terminology, “close combat” includes hand-to-hand. (Note: There’s a reason women are not pitted against men in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) octagon.)
That was the mission of a Marine rifle squad long before I became a Marine. That was the mission of a Marine rifle squad taught to me at Officer Candidates School, and so it remained through three decades of service. That is the mission of a Marine rifle squad today. And the mission of a Marine rifle squad is not likely to change any time soon.
Twenty years ago there was a United States government bureaucratic undertaking (pardon the redundancy) to address the role of women in our armed forces. More directly, the agenda (of many engaged in that undertaking) was to expand the role of women in combat.
The “Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces” was a typical government operation–commissioners and information gathering panels and surveys and fact-finding visits to military installations and formal committee hearings and findings and recommendations. The effort checked every conceivable block. The Commission dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s–the paperwork was in order. It looked good. But if the truth be known, results either ignored or conveniently tailored to meet the desired end state was the modus operandi. No surprise.
But the Commission, and their work, missed the point. And the critical point they missed, probably intentionally ignored, was eloquently addressed in the thoughts of one man–a retired United States Marine–before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1991. During a 41 year career that Marine advanced from private to general. He commanded and fought, including close combat, in three wars–World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He was awarded our nation’s second and third highest decorations–the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Silver Star, and others–for his leadership and heroism under combat conditions.
That infantryman, of unimpeachable credibility and authority, spoke for about 13 minutes. The succinct, sometimes emotional, and compelling sentiments of General Robert H. Barrow (1922-2008), 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, about women in combat, delivered eight years after he retired, are as germane today as when spoken. His blunt analysis is absolutely correct. So are his sobering conclusions. Time to watch the video.
Then entertain a single question…
Will the Marine Corps be destroyed?
Hero of the Easter Offensive
by Norman Fulkerson
The history of the 20th Century saw the spread of Communism the world over the virtual river of blood left in its wake was unprecedented. Communist expansion was greatly facilitated in the West through subtle psychological maneuvers and a policy of appeasement which weakened the anti communist’s will to resist.
From ping pong matches with China to baseball games in Cuba, Western leaders carried out a foolishly optimistic approach to the advancing red wolf. While Communist leaders conquered vast territories at gun point –putting hundreds of millions to death in the process– those same optimists dreamed of disarming the enemy with conciliatory smiles and concessions (a policy which continues until today).
That dream was proven to be a nightmare forty years ago when a handful of brave South Vietnamese soldiers and American servicemen faced and ultimately repelled the largest Communist onslaught of the entire Vietnam War. It was all made possible through fortuitous circumstances which placed Colonel Gerald Turley, then a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, in a crucial position of authority for four adventurous days. His fearless decision making and intestinal fortitude turned certain defeat into a stunning victory and prevented a humiliating outcome for American forces.
First Salvos of the Easter Offensive
At the height of the Vietnam War in 1968, there were over 500,000 American servicemen in the country. Over the next years that number would be drastically reduced when President Richard Nixon took office in January of 1969. His Vietnamization program was aimed at getting American troops out of the country and turning the war over to the Vietnamese.
In the following years massive amounts of Soviet and Chinese weaponry made its way to North Vietnam. This included Soviet MiG aircraft, T-54, T-55 and PT-76 Russian tanks, Surface to Air (SAM) and heat-seeking missiles and an abundance of 130 MM to 152MM artillery. In March of 1972 there were only 50,000 American servicemen in the country. The imminent withdrawal of American support and the buildup of armaments in the North proved to be demoralizing to the South Vietnamese anti communist resistance. They had good reason to be discouraged.
However, what the Vietnamese did not realize at that time, was the quality of the American advisors who returned to help. One of those men was Colonel Gerald Turley. He had already served in the Korean War and had now voluntarily returned to Vietnam for a second tour of duty in a war that was becoming more unpopular by the day.
On Wednesday March 29, only days after arriving in the country, Colonel Turley was in the middle of a four-day trip visiting the firebases, along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). He spent the night at the 3rd ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) Division Headquarters in the AI TU combat base, located five miles south of the Dong Ha village.
The following morning was spent in briefings followed by lunch. When he stepped out of the dining tent the area was suddenly struck by intense artillery fire. It was the first salvos of the historic battle that would come to be known as The Easter Offensive.
“So many artillery shots were going off,” said Colonel Turley, “you could not distinguish one from the other.” Before the sun set that day, over 11,000 rounds rained down on the South Vietnamese firebases and surrounding villages in the northern part of Quang Tri province; and more was to come.
The Hunted Become the Hunters
For eighteen hours the South endured a hellish barrage. On the morning of March 31, the Army Colonel in charge of the 3rd ARVN Division began to suffer from combat fatigue. He eventually approached Colonel Turley with a surprising request.
“Would you mind taking over here for a couple of hours,” he asked.
“I am Marine and am only here as an advisor,” Colonel Turley replied. “I can’t do that.” When the Army Colonel insisted, Colonel Turley asked for his name and Social Security number which he quickly scribbled down on a piece of paper. This seemingly insignificant incident made Colonel Turley the Senior Advisor in charge of the entire 3rd ARVN Division and changed the course of the battle. For the next four days he made numerous critical decisions which ultimately broke the back of the adversary.
His task would not be an easy one however. His newly acquired area of responsibility spanned the five northernmost provinces of South Vietnam. Between his location in the Command and Control bunker (COC) and the DMZ was twelve firebases manned by South Vietnamese Marines and their American advisors. Over the next days ten of those firebases, including Camp Carroll with its 1,500 troops and twenty-six artillery pieces, fell into enemy hands that were advancing in a three pronged attack.
By Easter Sunday over thirty thousand civilians were making their way down Highway 1 in a desperate attempt to flee the wrath of the adversary. Communist NVA artillery fire was strategically placed right on top of them. Those surviving the deadly rounds melted back into the masses and kept moving. South Vietnamese soldiers, seeing the futility of resistance, removed their military insignias and blended in with the frenzied mob.
“It was absolutely the worst scene I have ever witnessed,” said Colonel Turley, his words trailing off as if the image was too painful to revisit.
The NVA, seeing the South’s weakness, exploited it to the maximum degree and began an unhindered advance towards the Dong Ha Bridge with 30,000 troops and 200 tanks. They were in for a big surprise upon their arrival. The brave men of the 3rd Division under Colonel Turley’s leadership were about to turn the tables. From being hunted, they were about to become the hunters.
Caught In the Cross Hairs of Naval and Air Gunfire
Colonel Turley, who was personally given a carte blanche for B-52 strikes in I CORPS by an Air Force Lieutenant General, ordered over fifty such missions. He then ordered the 3rd ARVN Division to commit its reserve Battalion, the famed “Soi Bien” or Sea Wolves, commanded by Major Le Ba Binh, and legendary Marine Corps Captain (later Colonel) John Ripley. It was the equivalent of playing ones last card.
Leaders in the Army Regional Headquarters at Da Nang, eighty miles south from AI TU, did not realize the gravity of events along the DMZ. They ordered Colonel Turley not to blow the bridge since it would be useful for a counter offensive. Colonel Turley knew there would be no counter measure if the bridge was left standing and courageously ordered Colonel Ripley to destroy it.
With the Dong Ha bridge in flames NVA tanks made a futile rush for the Cam Lo bridge west of the city. Their elongated column provided a perfect target for Naval Gunfire from the USS Buchanan sitting in the Gulf of Tonkin and the B-52 strikes which Colonel Turley had requested hours earlier. The column of Russian tanks was now caught in the cross hairs of naval and air gunfire.
“When the thundering noise and the violent shock waves of the 250 or more bombs… finally subsided, [Colonel] Ripley reported “hearing the cries of the survivors, but no more engine noises.”
“…Continue Naval Gunfire”
Later in the afternoon of that same day another problem developed when an EB-66 Electronic intelligence aircraft was shot down. The only survivor, Lieutenant Colonel Iceal Hambleton, was a ballistic missile expert with top secret clearance.
The Air Force called for a cease fire in a seventeen-mile-radius of the downed pilot which practically encompassed the entire area of operations of the 3rd. Division. When an American Jolly Green HH-53 helicopter tried to rescue the pilot it was struck by a SAM Missile and burst into flames. Ten more aircraft were lost during the eleven-day rescue mission.
Once again Colonel Turley would have to go directly against orders from higher command. To stop firing would have spelled certain defeat and he was not about to lose this battle.
“Fully realizing the fragile defensive posture of the 3rd Division and the seriousness of again violating a direct order,” Colonel Turley said, “I authorized the advisors to commence their pending fire mission.”
It was decided that a three mile radius around Lieutenant Colonel Hambleton was a sufficiently safe distance. In an act of selflessness Colonel Turley accepted full responsibility for the pilot’s safety and directed Lieutenant Joel Eisenstein in the COC to continue coordinating naval gunfire with the USS Buchanan.
No More Ping Pong Games
The Easter Offensive continued through the rest of April. However, the Communists were simply unable to overcome the devastating blow given to them by a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. They were finally halted just outside Quang Tri City on May 1st.. Thus the fall of South Vietnam to Communism was delayed for a full three years and more importantly, America, the anti-communist bulwark in the world, was saved from a humiliating defeat.
It would be an exaggeration to say Colonel Turley’s actions alone are what halted the Easter Offensive. There were many brave men who fought and some who gave the full measure during those fateful days. However, there is a striking difference between Colonel Turley’s actions and theirs. If they survived they could only expect awards and praise –which they richly deserved–, whereas Colonel Turley knew that he would likely receive reprimand, scorn and possibly jail time for his perceived insubordination.
It is for this reason that Colonel Turley is truly the hero of the Easter Offensive. He chose to make war against communism at a time when so many others simply preferred to play games and smile.
 Colonel Gerald Turley, The Easter Offensive: The Last American Advisors, Vietnam 1972 (Annapolis, Md.: US Naval Institute Press, 1995) p. 27)
 Comments made during a lecture Colonel Turley gave at the headquarters of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania. Hereafter referred to as TFP lecture.
 Colonel Gerald Turley, p. 66)
 TFP Lecture
 From an official report about the Easter Offensive, prepared by Colonel Turley, for the purpose of getting Colonel John Ripley’s Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
 The details of this daring feat, for which Colonel John Ripley earned the Navy Cross, are narrated in his biography, An American Knight: The life of Colonel John Ripley USMC.
 Colonel Gerald Turley, p. 205
 Dale Andrade, America‘s Last Vietnam Battle: Halting Hanoi’s 1972 Easter Offensive (University Press Of Kansas) Pg. 76
 Colonel Gerald Turley, Pg 203)
When I read the January 9th New York Times article “Pentagon Allows Women Closer to Combat, but Not Close Enough for Some” by Elisabeth Bumiller I could not help recall what the late Col. John Ripley had to say on the matter. His primary reason for opposing such a measure was his noble desire to protect “womanhood and femininity.” He also pointed out, in his testimony on the subject, that it was a “pathetically few who strive to gain higher command,” that speak most loudly about the matter because they, “feel that they must have served in a combat unit to achieve command, or perhaps higher rank”. This just happened to be the reason given, in the NY Times article mentioned above, for this next step towards woman serving in combat. “Serving in jobs like the infantry,” the Times article points out, “remains crucial to career advancement in the military, and critics of the current policy say that by not recognizing women’s real role in combat, women are unfairly held back.”
So now we are one step closer to our sisters, our daughters, our mothers being sent off into, what Col. Ripley so aptly described as, “the stinking filth of ground combat… If you think women have a so-to-speak right to grovel in this filth,” the late Colonel said in his testimony, “to live in it just because someone above them, senior to them, wants to be promoted, then, my God, what has happened to the American character and the classical idea, western idea, of womanhood?”
Chivalry, contrary to what many might think, is not dead. Thank God for a man like Col. John Ripley who lived by principle and did not stop being an officer and a gentleman when so many others around him did.
The statement below will be published by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) in the Ledger-Enquirer Newspaper this weekend and distributed in the city of Fort Benning, Georgia by TFP Members.
For over twenty years, pacifist protesters have gathered at Fort Benning in mid-November to oppose the activities of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the School of the Americas) and demand its closure.
The protesters are even invited to break the law and trespass upon the military base as a symbolic act.
The annual event is organized by the School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch). This year, the organization has admitted that they will be attracting a dwindling mix of protesters since many activists are “busy” in the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide. These socialist advocates surprisingly claim to represent “99%” of the American people.
In fact, this year’s march is also being called Occupy Fort Benning. Like their comrades in the Occupy Wall Street movement, the activists say they speak in the name of the “99%.” We ask: Who do they really represent?
They do not represent the American people
The American soldier represents 100% of Americans, not “the 99%” or “the 1%.” The American soldier does not use idle
words, illegal actions, and Marxist jargon to do so. Rather, he defends the nation with his service, sacrifice and even his life. He represents the best of America and we should honor and be proud of our brave military heroes.
Not only does the American soldier wish to defend our nation, but he also extends an invitation to those in other countries, to learn from his experiences, and come to Fort Benning to better defend their countries against brutal Marxist movements.
To insinuate that a three or six-month course (where the curriculum is no secret) can turn South American soldiers into assassins is an insult to all these brave soldiers and their instructors. The whole school cannot be judged by deplorable acts of some of its graduates. It would be the equivalent of saying the Occupy Wall Street movement turns all its squatting occupants into criminals because of the increasing number of criminal opportunists who are appearing at “occupy” sites nationwide and committing crimes and sexual assaults that have led to a number of arrests.
By defending the whole nation, the American soldier represents 100% of all Americans. By dividing the nation, Occupy Fort Benning seeks to represent only those Americans sympathetic to its radical view.
Thus we must ask: Who do they really represent?
Looking at all the groups that usually attend the protest, we see scattered fringes of the religious, political and cultural left. The event is used as a platform to push ideas that range from communism to socialism, drug legalization to abortion, homosexual vice to women’s ordination, Liberation Theology to anarchy. Realistically, even the most optimistic observer is forced to admit that such views represent at best only 0.99% of Americans rather than 99%.
They do not represent the Church
Although participants may appear in habits and collars, it would be wrong to conclude that these protesters represent the authentic position of the Catholic Church. The strident socialist tone of the arguments presented by the protesters remind us of the words of Pope Pius XI who warned, “No one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”
The praising of Marxist guerrillas and despots like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro who promoted violent revolution in Latin America obviously does not represent Church teaching. Indeed, while the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation opens its doors to all democratically elected governments in the hemisphere, the protesters have the dubious distinction of favoring the oldest communist dictatorship in Latin America – the Castro dictatorship which has held sway for over fifty years and persecuted the Church.
The idea that protesters somehow represent Church teaching is refuted by the excommunication of Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois who has led the gathering for over two decades. His public support of women’s ordination and persistent dissent has set him at loggerheads with both the Vatican and his religious order.
Indeed, the Fathers and great saints of the Church consistently defend the mission of the soldier to establish order through just war. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, for example, that the military profession must have as its goal the defense of the public good, the poor and oppressed. Soldiers are therefore guardians of legitimate authority.
Yet again, in his role of upholding the Church’s teaching on just war, the soldier represents the full 100% while the Occupy Fort Benning activists represent at best a dissenting 0.99 % element that does not reflect the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.
A Call to Gratitude
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) calls upon the public to thank our heroes. Let us thank them for defending the 100%.
Indeed, we need to thank – not protest – these heroes who put their lives on the line – and represent us all. These heroes guarantee the peace. We live freely because they made the greatest of sacrifices – even that of life itself.
We cannot agree with those who protest against the soldier and see his role as one buttressing “structures of oppression and power.” We do not agree with those who unfairly label those who fight against Marxism as murderers and assassins. We cannot turn a blind eye to a ruthless enemy who breaks all rules and conventions as Marxists have always done.
While we censure any abuses, of course, we will not stand silent while systemic and widespread abuses come from Castro’s Cuba, the FARC guerillas and other leftist movements that still cling to the outdated and iniquitous Marxist ideologies that so ravaged Latin America.
As Americans, let us be proud of these heroes who represent us all as they continue to fight and train others to defend their nations against those who threaten the peace.
May God protect them and their families in their daily battles around the world.
by: Norman Fulkerson
“For those who fought for it,” said an unknown soldier, “freedom has a meaning the protected will never know.”
A collection of military giants who fought for freedom convened in Washington for the 14th Annual Veterans Conference, put on by the American Veterans Center. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen from the greatest to the latest generation were on hand to tell their stories and be honored for their service.
These men from conflicts beginning with WWII up to the current war in Afghanistan have contributed to the demise of the cruelest tyrants and the most despotic regimes of the twentieth and twenty-first Century. It is appropriate for us to take a moment this Veterans Day to reflect on their sacrifices.
Among those who spoke were wounded warriors like SSgt. Jeremiah Workman. He earned a Navy Cross during the battle for Fallujah when he entered a house to save some Marines who were pinned down by terrorists on the upper floor. Sgt. Workman charged into the house, and ran up the stairs firing on the enemy, dodging bullets as he went. When he realized that the rest of his squad was not with him, Workman was forced to retreat, but only long enough to regroup his men and make a second charge up the staircase with guns blazing. Running low on ammunition the Marines went back down the steps to reload when a terrorist lobbed a grenade in their direction. In spite of the painful shrapnel wounds to his legs and the intensity of the fight he was now engaged in Sgt. Workman was undeterred. He led a third and final assault up the stairs where he was able to secure the house. He was credited with killing 20 enemy combatants.
While he survived the hellish battle, other Marines did not. This was the most difficult thing for him to endure and led to a painful struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Navy Cross, he says, has allowed him to bring attention to many great Marines who did not survive that day.
Steve Maguire, former President of the Ranger association and author of Jungle in Black was also on hand to tell his story. He lost his eyesight during a battle in Vietnam where he stumbled upon an area where 30 Vietcong had just been. He saw their impressions in the grass and realized he hit “pay dirt.” Because of his keen military training he also perceived a booby trap awaiting them. One of the members of his recon platoon inadvertently tripped the wire that set off an explosion which left Mr. Maguire blind. For 42 years he has not seen a speck of light but remains upbeat, even philosophical about his experiences.
“I thought I was invincible,” he told a rapt audience, but with a smile on his face he added, “I was forced to admit, that they could actually kill me.” There is a future for those wounded in battle, he told the audience. “The story of our life is not just about our life, but what we did with it.” Mr. Maguire is now a director for the Army at the Soldier Family Assistance Center in the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
One of the most colorful personages at the Conference was Col. Glenn Frazier. He survived the infamous Bataan Death March and was quick to admit, had he known what was in store for him, he would have preferred death to the march.
He joined the Army when only sixteen and did so under amusing circumstances. He was in a bar having a Coca Cola one day when the bartender rudely told him to leave.
“You boys from Lowndes County are always beating up the boys from Montgomery County,” he said. Although he was only sixteen he took his Harley Davidson, drove it through the front doors of the saloon with such violence it ripped the doors off their hinges, sending them into the air and on top of the bar. He then did a figure eight on the dance floor, with is motorcycle, before leaving.
Frustrated with life he went straight to the Army recruiter to join the military. Since his mother had refused to sign for him he lied about his age and said he was twenty one. After giving him the list of options of where he could go, the recruiter told him that the Philippines were a paradise. He would find out, all too soon, another side of that “paradise.”
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor his unit endured a savage fight against Japanese forces in the Battle of the Points. It was predicted by the enemy that the Americans would be destroyed in 10 days, but when the dust settled, Allied forces were victorious. But the worst was yet to come when he and 15,000 other soldiers were taken prisoner and forced to endure one of the most grueling tortures in our nation’s history, The Bataan Death March. 3000 died during the march and only 4000 came home after the war.
Although he survived the March he then had to endure three years in a POW camp where he was continually told by his captors that he was merely a “guest of the Emperor.” Col. Frazier thought otherwise and wrote about his struggles in a bestselling book titled Hell’s Guest. Living on merely two bowls of rice a day, he said they were treated like animals in the most inhumane conditions.
One day he suffered a severe cut on his hand which went to the bone. It was so cold and he was so emaciated that the wound did not bleed. Some days later he was walking across the camp with his hands in his pocket, to keep warm, and quickly found out that this was against the rules. He was taken before a judge and sentenced to death, but was saved by a miracle of God. With a gun to his back and a saber to his throat, his assassin asked Col. Frazier if he had anything to say before his head was cut off. He was then given, as he recalled “a mouth and wisdom.”
“You can kill me but not my spirit,” he told the stunned Japanese soldier, “and my spirit is going to lodge in your body and haunt you the rest of your life.” A frown came over the face of his would be assassin who took three steps backwards and lowered his sword. Whether it was fear of God or pagan superstition he decided it might not be a good idea to kill this American serviceman. Instead Col. Frazier was forced to endure seven days of solitary confinement and more brutal beatings.
However, his spirit lived on and continues to inspire young Americans across the country. Colonel Frazier can be seen daily at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama signing his books and talking to tourists.
The Doolittle Raiders
One of the highlights of the conference events was the panel that included four of the last five living members of the legendary Doolittle Raiders, named after their founder and Medal of Honor Recipient, the late Gen. Jimmy Doolittle.
These men earned a place in history books for their participation in one of the most heroic actions of World War II. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Gen. Doolittle was handed the task of conducting the first retaliatory air raid on the Japanese homeland. The eighty men asked to participate were told that it was a very dangerous mission and would entail low altitude bombings on targets that were to remain top secret. Everyone in the room volunteered.
In the weeks leading up to the raid, the pilots practiced for the mission by flying tree-top-level over the wheat fields and barns across America. In the earlier days of April 1942 they made their way to the USS Hornet where 16 B-25s awaited them. Because the planes could not fit below deck they had to be stored at the end of the runway top side. This meant that an already short 2000 foot runway was made shorter still at 500 feet, especially for those like Gen. Doolittle who took off first.
One can only imagine their surprise on that bright sunshiny day, April 18, 1942, when the Raiders were finally told that Tokyo, Japan was their intended target.
The original plan was for the planes to take off when the carrier got within 450 miles of the Japanese mainland. This was scientifically calculated by Gen. Doolittle as the distance which would allow them enough fuel to hit their targets and make it to mainland China where they would land at pre-designated air strips. An already complicated mission was made more so when the USS Hornet was spotted by a Japanese fishing boat 600 miles off the Japanese mainland. Not wanting to risk the possibility that Japan might have already been warned by that boat, Gen. Doolittle ordered to planes airborne, 150 miles ahead of what had been planned. The pilots knew they would have barely enough fuel to make it to China much less to the pre-designated air strips.
Major Edward Saylor, an engineer for plane #15 said he “Didn’t expect to survive the mission.” But the element of surprise was something he found delicious.
Major Thomas Griffin, the navigator aboard plane #9, described how he flew right over Emperor Hirohito’s palace. They were ordered not to bomb it “but the fly over was the least we could do,” he said with a smile. He made it safely to China but only because of a favorable tail wind. During his flight he described with a bit of humor how he was forced to think of a contingency plan in the case he would have to ditch it in the sea.
“I would try to land near a friendly ship,” he said, and if it were an unfriendly he added with bravado, “we would take it over with our 45’s.” One of the fellow Raiders sitting close by laughed and said, “Optimistic thinking.”
Of the sixteen original B-25s on the mission, three crash landed on the coast of China, while twelve flew until they ran out of fuel before the airmen bailed out. The last plane was forced to land in Russia.
The value of the raid can only be truly appreciated when one considers that the Japanese did not think their land would be bombed. Besides giving the enemy what one Raider referred to as a “black eye,” the Doolittle Raid changed the whole course of the war because it required the Japanese to change their mindset. They were forced to retain soldiers for the defense of the home islands which had been intended for the Solomons, but they also had to expand the Pacific perimeter of defense well beyond what they had formally thought to be adequate.
At the 1959 Raider Reunion in Tucson, Arizona, the Chamber of Commerce presented a set of eighty sterling goblets to General Doolittle with the name of each Raider engraved on the side. The Raiders who had already died had their names engraved upside down. At every reunion since then the raiders keep up the tradition started on that day. They turn the goblets of those who have died over and then toast their heroism.
The eighty goblets are preserved in an elegant glass trophy case along with a bottle of 1896 Cognac donated by Hennessy to honor the year of Gen. Doolittle’s birth. The tradition of the yearly toast will end with the last two remaining Raiders still standing. Only then will the bottle of Cognac be opened and a final toast offered by the last two men of this historic group.
Only “Ace”  Pilot in the Vietnam War
Another piece of living history and a highlight of the conference as well, was the presence of Gen. Steve Ritchie, one of the most highly decorated pilots of the Vietnam War. After distinguishing himself on his first tour of duty in Vietnam, Gen Ritchie volunteered for a second tour in 1972 and earned a place in aviation record books that will likely never be equaled.
On May 10 of that year he shot down a Russian MIG 21 and then another on May 31. Weeks later he engaged and destroyed two more MIGs in a classic low altitude dog fight which lasted just 89 seconds. On August 28 he shot down a fifth MIG during his 339th combat mission making him the Air Forces only “Ace” pilot since the Korean War and the only American pilot in history to down five of the most sophisticated air craft in the North Vietnamese fleet.
His list of accolades is simply astounding. Besides receiving the Air Forces highest award –the Air Force Cross– he went on to earn four Silver Stars, ten Distinguished Flying Crosses and 25 Air Medals. Before his career ended in 1974 he had logged more than 800 flying hours.
During his talk he illustrated all to well that he knows the enemy at home as well as the enemy he fought abroad.
“Never have we, in America, faced such a dangerous threat,” he said, “which is determined as never before to either convert us or eliminate us and we are not even allowed to say the name of our enemies.”
“They can saw off our heads and put it on television all over the world,” he said, quoting the conservative radio commentator Paul Harvey, “yet we have to tiptoe around their sensitivities.”
“Whether we like it or not,” he finished, “we are in combat and it is a war of good vs evil, right vs wrong, freedom vs slavery, civilization vs chaos.”
The Little American Flag: Hope of a Romanian Girl
After thrilling the audience with his adventurous war stories and inspiring them with his perspectives, he turned the microphone over to his Romanian born wife Mariana. She briefly described what it was like, as a little girl, living under Communism in her homeland. As a five-year-old she remembered having to wait hours in line for such basic things as bread or even water. The word God was not allowed and although her grandfather was a priest, she was threatened for going to church.
The number one enemy of the Communist, she told the audience, was America. It is for this reason that she had hopes of one day being rescued by someone from the United States. One day she saw a picture of an American flag inside a magazine that had been smuggled into the country. She cut that picture out and drew enormous comfort just looking at it.
“I used to take it out and stare at it for a long time,” she said, “sometimes for hours. I was dreaming about America and what it must be like to be free.”
One day she decided to take her flag to school, where children were subjected to Communist indoctrination, and got caught. Although the teacher was furious and threatened to punish Mariana for having the flag, they could not find where she hid it.
“I could afford to lose my life,” she continued, “I could care less. But one thing I could not do is go on living without hope and that little American flag was all I had that kept me going.”
Her dream was that American pilots would go to Romania and blow it up, level it.
“Whatever they needed to do in order to free us: even if I were to die in the process, so be it. It was a price we [Romanians] would have gladly paid in exchange for freedom. We would have given the Americans anything; the oil in southern Romania; the Gold in the mountains; our life and soul in exchange for freedom.”
She finished her words by thanking America for everything, including a “second chance at life,” but also for “giving me a home and teaching me new words like happiness, honor and kindness.”
Whereas most little girls dream of a knight in shining armor, riding a white horse this Romanian girl’s ideal was clearly a twentieth century version. “I dreamed of an American fighter pilot who would rescue me with his fighter jet,” she said, “and take me to America.”
Those Who Fight for Freedom
This burning desire for freedom of a little Romanian girl, left unheeded for years, reminded me of a favorite phrase from a stirring manifesto written by the “Twentieth Century Crusader,” Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira titled, Communism and Anticommunism on the Threshold of the Millenium’s Last Decade. It was a scathing denunciation against those in the west who remained silent about the millions of souls languishing behind the former Iron Curtain.
In it, Prof. de Oliveira described the discontent of those people in countries like Romania and what they would say when it came their time to time to speak. He imagined them questioning Western Historians who “wrote optimistically and superficially about what was happening in the Communist world,” yet chose to say so little about the immense misery. Or the wealthy public figures of the West who did so little to free them from the “dark and endless night of Soviet Slavery.”
“We needed a Crusade to free us,” Prof. de Oliveira imagined the discontent saying, “and you merely sent us some bread to help us endure indefinitely our captivity. Perchance were you ignorant that the best solution for captivity is not merely bread, but freedom?”
That is the reason why, on this Veterans Day, we should remember all those American servicemen who, like modern day crusaders, fought and continue to fight for the defenseless. They do not remain with crossed arms in the face of so much infamy but put their lives on the line, time and time again, for those who are often abandoned by the rest of the world.
This no doubt is what led Mariana Ritchie to finish her discourse with something that seldom makes it into print, but needs to be plastered on the walls of every newspaper office in the country.
“You are not hated, like some people like to say. You are loved by millions of people who are hoping that someday you will go and rescue them next.”
 From the gospel of St. Matthew.
 Today the goblets can be seen at the National Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio located at Wright-Patterson Air Force base.
 Ace designates a pilot who has shot down five or more enemy planes
 Title of the first biography about Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira written by Prof. Roberto de Mattei
Tags: Afghanistan, Bataan Death March, Battle of Points, Col. Glenn Frazier, Communist indoctrination, Doolittle Raiders, Gen. Steve Ritchie, Goblet Ceremony, Hell's Guest, Jeremiah Workman, Jimmy Doolittle, Major Edward Saylor, Major Thomas Griffin, Mariana Ritchie, Navy Cross, Plinio Correa de Oliveira, Romania, Steve Maguire
Men of Honor
by Norman Fulkerson
October 11, 2011
On the evening of September 28, 2011 hundreds of Kentuckians gathered in downtown Louisville to catch a glimpse of a distinguished group of men who were visiting the state. The classic red carpet treatment one would expect for such an event was rolled out over a section of Main Street while a gigantic American flag waved overhead.
Those honored to walk this red carpet however were not movie stars or musicians. They were members of the most elite group in America, who earned their fame through blood, sweat and tears. During some point in their lives they had been either shot at, blown up, burned, broken, beaten, starved, imprisoned and in some cases, all of the above. For their heroism they earned our nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor (MOH).
History of the Medal
Originally created in 1861 by Abraham Lincoln, the Medal is bestowed upon members of the Armed Services who distinguish themselves in battle by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their life above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. In 1958 President Dwight Eisenhower signed a piece of legislation forming what is known today as the Congressional Medal of Honor Society (CMOHS). Since its inception there have been 3458 recipients. There are only 85 living recipients today.
Every year, the Medal of Honor Society holds a convention in a host city for those distinguished service members who have received this prestigious award. The city of Louisville, Kentucky was delighted to have the 2011 convention because this year marks the 150th Anniversary of the medal’s creation and more importantly the most recent recipient of the award, Cpl. Dakota Meyer, hails from nearby Greensburg, Kentucky. Besides being the youngest, he is the first living Marine since the Vietnam War to receive the honor. Although he is a mature and serious 23-year-old man now, he was only 21 when he defied death numerous times to save the lives of his friends.
Besides the opening day red carpet treatment dubbed the Walk of Heroes, there were a number of other events which provided locals the chance to meet and honor members of this distinct group. One of the conventions premier events was the Tribute to American Valor held at the Yum Convention Center.
The evening began with a demonstration by the famous Marine Corps Silent Drill Team followed by theatrical narrations of select recipients from wars going all the way back to World War II. When the skit was finished the actual person who performed the deeds would step onto the stadium floor to thunderous applause.
Considering the location of this year’s event, it is not surprising that organizers chose to single out those from the Bluegrass State. Kentucky has had 56 honorees accredited to the state. Don Jenkins, from Quality, Kentucky was working in the coal mines when at 19 he was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam in January of 1969. During an intense fire fight he ran into an exposed area cradling an M-60 machine gun. When it ran out of ammo, he grabbed a rifle, and then made multiple trips through heavy fire to get more ammunition from dead GIs. He later grabbed two anti-tank weapons and ran straight at the enemy once more, taking out two enemy bunkers. After receiving shrapnel wounds in his legs and stomach, Mr. Jenkins heard the cries of help from fellow soldiers trapped in the midst of the battle. He ignored his injuries and went back into the fray on four more occasions and dragged those men to safety. He returned to the U.S. later in the same year, received his medal in 1971 and returned to the coal mines of Kentucky until he was forced to retire in 1999 because of disability.
Sgt. Gary Litrell, a former president of the CMOHS is from Henderson, Kentucky. He earned his medal in Vietnam in 1970 during a four-day battle where he showed superhuman endurance. His was an advisor to 473 fellow Vietnamese Army Rangers who were attacked and almost overwhelmed by 5000 enemy troops. When his commanding officers were killed Sgt. Litrell took command and over the next four days he repeatedly abandoned a position of relative safety to direct artillery and air support, distribute ammunition and help the wounded.
The best was saved for last when the deeds of Dakota Meyer were recounted. Cpl. Meyer received his medal for saving the lives of 36 American and Afghan soldiers and Marines who were ambushed by a much superior Taliban force in the village of Ganjgal. During a battle which lasted over six hours, Cpl. Meyer made five trips into the fire fight with the certainty he would not come out alive. On a several occasions, he was forced to fire, at point-blank range upon enemy soldiers trying to take over his vehicle.
Cpl. Myer merely stood there with hands folded in silence as the audience applauded the narration of his feats. Like all MOH recipients he feels he did nothing worthy of praise. “I was only doing my job,” he often responds to those who laud his actions.
Visits to Schools
The recipients also took time to participate in an outreach program in which some of them visited fifteen area schools throughout the Jefferson Country public school system. They were received with admiration by star struck youth, who sat up straight, and hung on their every word.
Louisville did something different from other host cities in the past. Each of the recipients received a personalized welcome letter from an area high school student. The envelope carrying the letter described how the class had “read about the Medal of Honor recipients who were coming to the convention and wanted to be sure you knew how much it means to them that you are here.”
Col. Harvey Barnum received a letter from a student at East High School who explained he was contemplating the military life because of the example of men like him. The student then briefly narrated Col. Barnum’s deeds and how he was able to “rally his troops” and “raise the moral of the other units while under heavy fire.”
“This to me is amazing,” he said, “and something I don’t believe I could do. You give me an inspiration and make me want to give back to this country.”
“It’s Like They Have a Halo Around Them”
A visit to Louisville would not be complete without a trip to historic Churchill Downs. After taking a look at 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, in the paddock area — brought in especially for the occasion — the heroes were treated to lunch in Churchill Downs 4th floor Millionaire’s Row. Since it was open seating, attendees could pick the hero of their choice to have lunch with. I was honored to sit at the table of Col. Walter Marm. To my left was Cory Etchberger, the son of MOH recipient Richard Etchberger. His father was killed during heroic actions in Vietnam but was only awarded the Medal last year.
He shared his thoughts on the experience of attending his first convention and one particularly interesting story about a lady he bumped into named Michelle. She was in town for a Christian Education convention and at the suggestion of her husband decided to stay on for a couple of days. To her surprise she ran into Cory who explained the convention and the feats of some the men standing around her. She was amazed at her good fortune but overwhelmed when Mr. Etchberger kindly offered to take her picture with MOH recipient Col. James Fleming. She was speechless as she walked away in tears.
I had a similar experience when I spotted Don and Sherry Gilbertson in the Churchill Downs museum. They are from Pebble Beach, Fl. and just happened to be in town for a car show. Mrs. Gilbertson could hardly contain her enthusiasm for the opportunity to just stand in the same room with such heroes. “I feel in awe just being next to them,” she said. “It’s like they have a halo around them.”
When the recipients gathered for a group photo in the paddock area, a lady standing next to me could hardly contain her childlike enthusiasm as she took one picture after another. “Oh, my gosh,” she just kept exclaiming, “oh my gosh!”
On the way out I happened to jump on the elevator with a Churchill Downs employee who felt the need to share his experience of the day. He described watching each of the recipients as they walked across the blue carpet and into the park. “I could hardly keep my eyes dry,” he said.
The distinguished group of Medal of Honor recipients attending this years event. During some point in their lives they had been either shot at, blown up, burned, broken, beaten, starved, imprisoned and in some cases, all of the above. For their heroism they earned our nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor (MOH).
It is hard to describe what it was like being in the midst of such men. It seemed like everywhere you turned you were either in the presence of a hero or someone related. At Churchill Downs, I happened to be standing next to Megan, the 23-year-old daughter of Army Specialist John Baca. He could not make it to the event but she described how her father jumped on a live grenade during the Vietnam War and lived to tell about it. This act of selflessness is not an uncommon thing among American servicemen.
Standing next to her was the daughter of Sgt. Maj. Allan Kellogg. I had met him the day before and was impressed with the way he calmly told of his encounter with a live ordnance during his 1970 tour in Vietnam. The grenade bounced off his chest and landed at his feet as he was leading his men through a rice paddy. Sgt. Kellogg jammed it into the mud then fell on it. The subsequent explosion knocked his .45 pistol out of his hands and detonated his ammunition belt. In spite of the severity of his injuries, he re-assumed command of his men and led them to safety.
Col. Don Ballard, a hospital corpsman in Vietnam, was also at the convention. On May 16, 1968 his company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese unit. He was caring for a Marine who had been badly wounded when another Marine yelled “grenade.” Col. Ballard refused to allow any harm to his patient and instinctively jumped on it. After what seemed like an eternity — and no explosion — he stood up and threw the grenade which detonated in midair.
World War II veteran Robert Maxwell was not so lucky. He and I chatted in front of Churchill Downs paddock area where he told about the feats which earned him our nation’s highest honor. He was holding some Germans at bay during a firefight with only his .45 pistol. Suddenly a grenade landed in the courtyard of their compound only a few feet away from the door of the command post. His first impulse was to throw it but feared there would be no time to do so. He then decided to smother it with his body so as to save others from injury. What most impressed me about him was his “grandfatherly” kindness and willingness to recount a story he has told so many times before.
These informal conversations were, by far, what made the convention most special. I found myself constantly gravitating between an objective reporter of events and an adoring fan. I was not alone.
Col. Jim Coy is a retired Medic with the Special Operations who served as the senior surgeon with the Army Special Forces. In spite of his own noble service to our country he, like many other hero worshipers, patiently waited as the recipients passed to get their signatures in a beautiful book titled, Medal of Honor; Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Nick Del Calzo and Peter Collier.
Another permanent fixture in the hotel lobby was Dave Loether. His son is currently serving our country in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. Among Mr. Loether’s most prized possessions is a flag he proudly unfurled for me. He had it signed by all the Army MOH recipients as a gift for his son.
“The Biggest Honor I Have Ever Had.”
The convention’s final event was the Patriots Awards Dinner. Officer Patterson stopped me at the entrance to check my identification. He was involved in escorting the recipients and explained how impressed he was at the reception they received from the public. “As each of them arrived in the airport,” he said, “they were welcomed with a standing ovation from passengers. People would approach to touch them and shake their hand.”
During the cocktail hour, a charming Kentuckian named Tonnia was serving hors d’oeuvres with a big smile on her face. “What do you think about this group of men?” I asked. “I feel special just being here,” she responded.
Clay Smith expressed similar sentiments. He was one of the bus drivers hired to transport the recipients during the week’s events. I had seen him earlier in the day holding the door to the entrance of Churchill Downs with one hand, while playing “My Old Kentucky Home,” on a harmonica, with the other. Being a die-hard Kentuckian, I gave him thumbs up for his performance.
He explained how the harmonica was a gift given to him by Sgt. Sammy Davis. When he opened the box I could see it was engraved with Sgt. Davis’ favorite saying, “You don’t lose until you quit trying.”
“I cried for over an hour after receiving such a gift,” Mr. Smith said. “I have driven this bus for over 30 years,” he continued, “but this has been the biggest honor I have ever had in my whole life.”
Tags: 2011 Medal of Honor Convention, Abraham Lincoln, Army Rangers, Churchill Downs, Col. Don Ballard, Col. Harvey Barnum, Col. James Fleming, Col. Jim Coy, Col. Walter Marm, Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Dakota Meyer, Don Jenkins, Dwight Eisenhower, Funny Cide, Ganjgal, John Baca, Marine Silent Drill Team, Millionaires Roll, Richard Etchberger, Robert Maxwell, Sgt. Allan Kellogg, Sgt. Gary Litrell, Sgt. Sammy Davis, special forces