Articles

This Ranger and adaptive athlete recaptured the military bond at the Warrior Games

Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Howard "Howie" Sanborn was an all-star on active duty. He was an Airborne Ranger infantryman who conducted long-range surveillance for the XVII Airborne Corps before doing five years as a member of the U.S. Army's premier high-altitude demonstration team, the Golden Knights.


As a Golden Knight, it was Howie's job to share his experiences in the Army with civilians and act as a brand ambassador. Now, he uses a wheelchair and is off active duty, but he still spreads the Army message far and wide as an adaptive athlete.

"For me," Howie said, "the Warrior Games are an amazing opportunity to get back with my team. I'm part of Team SOCOM. Once you leave the military and you're retired or you just get out, you don't necessarily lose that sense of camaraderie but you're kind of separate from your buddies. So when you get to do events like this together or training events together, it's a chance to rub shoulders with guys who've been through the same thing you've been through."

At the 2016 Warrior Games, Howie competed in his racing chair in track events, taking home three gold medals for Men's 1500 Run 2.0, Men's 800 Meter Run 3.0, and Men's 400 Meter Dash 3.0, as well as one silver medal in Men's 200 Meter Dash 2.0.

Military veterans and adaptive athletes prepare for the start of the 2016 Warrior Games. Sgt. 1st Class Howard Sanborn is in the grey shirt in the foreground. (Photo: WATM)

Author's Note: The events are broken down by each athlete's functional ability. The 2.0 and 3.0 notations in the event titles refer to Howie and his competitors' functional ratings.

Outside of the Warrior Games, Howe competes on the Parathriathlon Team for the U.S.

As an alumni of the Golden Knights and an adaptive athlete, Howie was the obvious choice for narrator during the Golden Knight demonstration in the opening ceremonies.

A US Army Golden Knight parachutes into the 2016 Warrior Games. (Photo: WATM)

As part of his duties in the opening ceremony, Howie presented a special award to Gen. Frederick M. Franks. Franks was pioneer in the wounded warrior community, fighting his way back into combat units after losing his left leg below the knee.

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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