Marines from the special operations community have been kicking ass and taking names for years. From hunting down Taliban fighters for questioning to tracking the highest value targets — they’re on the job.
While people know that the Marines have two different special forces units, most don’t understand the differences between them.
Both Marine Recon and Marine Raiders go through a similar training pipeline, but their differences may surprise you.
In many ways, these badasses are similar, but here are three key differences between the two elite units.
1. Their MOSs are different — but not by much.
Every job in the military has a different MOS, or military occupation specialty, designation. Marine Raiders have use MOS 0372 while Recon uses the designation of 0321.
You might’ve noticed that the first two numbers of these designations are same. If you have the numbers “03” at the beginning of your MOS designation, that means you’re a part of the Marine Infantry — and not a POG.
2. Their proud history is different.
The Marine Raiders were established during World War II for special operations, but were disbanded after the war came to a close. Soon after, the Korean War kicked off and decision-makers said, “Oh sh*t,” to themselves as they realized they needed to create another elite unit to continue kicking ass.
So, in March 1951, the Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon was formed and, just two years later, was later expanded into a company, made up of several divisions. The company conducted highly successful missions throughout the Korean War, eventually becoming what’s known today as United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance.
In 1987, United States Special Operations Command was formed, composed of Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Detachment One — which was made up of some of the best Marines, including some Force Reconnaissance, and would eventually become the Marine Raider Regiment. In 2006, MARSOC was formed as part of SOCOM.
At this time, Force Reconnaissance is still fully operational, but many were chosen to become MARSOC.
3. Their missions are different
Marine Recon conduct amphibious assaults, deep recon and surveillance and battlespace shaping in support of the Marine Expeditionary Force.
Marine Raiders support their governments’ internal security, counter subversion, and reduce violent risks from internal and external threats against the U.S.
Nothing says Thanksgiving like football in the backyard, family gathered around the table, and, of course, a nice hunk of meat. For many of us, this means turkey or chicken, but if you’re seeking a good, old-fashioned red meat this holiday season (or just looking to change things up), consider a cold-brew marinated steak.
This meal may seem jarring if you think coffee is only for drinking. But for those of us who have experimented with coffee rubs during grilling season, we know it can infuse a rich nutty flavor and make the meat super tender. This is due to the coffee’s high acidity levels, which help break down tough proteins in the meat. Allowing meat to marinate in a coffee brine for a few hours further assists the softening process, leaving the meat tender and with a smoky flavor.
This cold-brew marinated ribeye is a great way to shake things up for Thanksgiving dinner.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die)
We’ll be using cold-brew coffee as the base for our marinade. This is a great opportunity to finish up the last batch of concentrate you brewed — or make some fresh to use in other seasonal beverages during the holidays.
It’s important to note that cold brew is not simply iced coffee — it’s a completely different process. While iced coffee is brewed hot and brought to room temperature before being served over ice, cold brew utilizes room temperature water and coffee grounds to create a concentrate. Typically, the coffee is ground coarsely and left to brew in temperate water for six to 12 hours. The result is a smooth concentrate that is three times stronger than traditionally brewed coffee and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die)
To mitigate the risk of the meat hardening, we’ll be combining the cold brew with other acid-rich ingredients to make the juiciest possible steak. For our marinade, we’ll be using cold brew, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic cloves, onion powder, parsley, dried oregano, salt, and molasses. The apple cider vinegar cuts the fats and natural sweetness of the steak to help round out its overall flavor. Combined with molasses, we’ll achieve a wonderfully delicate balance between the savoriness of the meat and the tang of the marinade.
The holiday season is a time to show your love, and there’s no better way to do that than with a good cut of meat. Enjoy your steak with fries or your favorite holiday sides.
Recipe by Brittany Ramjattan/Coffee or Die.
(Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die. Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die.)
The Civil War was a revolutionary conflict for the planet with steam power, repeating rifles, and improved cannons all changing the face of warfare. European powers sent observers to see how battles were fought, and how the rules of combat evolved as the conflict wore on.
A cannon sits on Powers Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park.
The exchange came on the morning of July 3, 1863. Two days earlier, on July 1, Confederate scouts had pushed against Union forces near the crossroads at the center of the small town of Gettysburg. Neither side’s generals had chosen the ground, but they both reinforced their men in contact and stumbled into one of the most iconic and deadly battles of the war.
On July 2, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee attacked Union positions on hilltops near the city, attempting to push them off the high ground before more Union reinforcements arrived. Confederate troops were in Union territory, and the balance of power would shift against them more and more the longer the battle wore on.
Civil War reenactors play as Confederate artillery crews in 2008.
By July 3, it was clear that Lee’s invasion of the north would have to either succeed on this day or likely fail altogether. The Union troops, on the other hand, despite some missteps, had improved their positions, and it would take great skill and a bit of luck to dislodge them.
Union forces under Maj. Gen. George Meade were arrayed on a series of ridges, and attackers were able to push Confederate troops out of a nearby field in the early hours of the morning. In a bid to re-seize the initiative and soften Union defenses in the early afternoon, Lee ordered a massive artillery bombardment of the Union troops, focused on Seminary and Cemetery ridges where he hoped to attack and pierce the lines.
When the afternoon artillery duel began, guns on each side began a disciplined but heavy bombardment of the opposing forces. For over 90 minutes, Confederate artillery tried to pick off Union guns and crews as the men ran back and forth from the caissons and ammo dumps to the guns to keep the rate of fire up. Good crews on either side could fire two rounds per minute. Thousands of rounds crisscrossed the field.
It’s the largest artillery barrage ever in the western hemisphere. The Union leaders ordered many of their crews to cease fire in an attempt to fool the Confederates into thinking the Union cannon crews were broken.
If the Confederate bombardment were successful, it would create a temporary gap in the Union defenses, an area where battered riflemen and depleted artillery crews would be hard-pressed to hold the line while reinforcements were moved in.
Union artillery holds its position at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lee prepared a massive infantry column, the core of the assault coming from Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s 4,500-man division, with about 10,000 more men coming from other brigades, for an attack directly into the Union center. This would break the Army of the Potomac in half and force Union Maj. Gen. George C. Meade to withdraw or allow his men to be cut apart.
Despite the quiet Union guns, despite the massive infantry column, some of the Confederate generals still believed that the infantrymen could not possibly capture the hill. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was one of the top detractors of the plan, respectfully telling Lee that he didn’t think 15,000 men existed who could take the hill.
He would be proven right. The Union guns had been mostly sheltered by trees and fortifications during the exchange, and they survived the Confederate artillery attack in good order. Many of the guns on Cemetery Ridge were still in perfect order with ready crews manning them.
The 15,000 Confederate troops faced a march with .75 miles of open ground between the last spot of cover and the first Union defenses. For the entire distance, the Union cannon crews could hit them with balls and shot.
In what would become known as Pickett’s Charge, the Confederates came anyway. The artillery shredded their lines, but still, the Confederates advanced. Units faltered and were slaughtered wholesale on the open field, but the Confederates were undeterred. Fences at the start and end of the march had to be climbed or dismantled under fire, but the Confederates came anyway.
Union troops who had suffered devastating losses the year before at the Battle of Fredericksburg were merciless as the Confederate troops fell, yelling “Fredericksburg” at the fallen.
The Confederate troops did make it into infantry range, once charging at Union lines from only 80 yards away, but Union troops behind stone walls, fallen timbers, or raised terrain slaughtered even these attackers.
In total, Union forces lost 1,500 soldiers. The Confederate losses are estimated to have been over 6,000. The day featured what was, by some measurements, the greatest artillery exchange in Western Hemisphere history. It was an easy contender, by most measures, as the top exchange of the Civil War.
But it had failed to carry the day, failed to achieve its objective.
In 1968, then-Maj. Colin Powell was a Ranger assigned to the Army’s 23rd Infantry Division. It was his second tour in Vietnam.
Just five years earlier, he was one of the American advisors to South Vietnam’s fledgling army. While on a foot patrol in Viet Cong-held areas in 1963, the 25-year-old Powell was wounded by a VC booby trap.
He stepped on a punji stick, which the VC laced with buffalo dung. The excrement created an infection that made it difficult for him to walk.
“The Special Forces medics cut my boot off, and they could see my foot was purple by then,” Powell said in an interview with the Academy of Achievement. “The spike had gone all the way through, from the bottom to the top, and then come right back out, totally infecting the wound as it made the wound.”
That ended his time in combat. Powell was reassigned to the 1st Army of the Republic of Vietnam division headquarters for the rest of that tour.
On his second tour in Vietnam, he was again behind a desk as the assistant Chief of Staff for the Americal Division (as the 23rd was known). Though a staff officer, when you’re a man of destiny like Colin Powell, the action comes to you.
On November 16, 1968, the helicopter transporting Maj. Powell along with the 23rd ID commander crashed.
Powell, injured but clear of the wreckage, ran back to the burning helicopter several times to rescue comrades. Though the helicopter was in danger of exploding, he continued to attempt the rescue.
When he found one passenger trapped under the mass of twisted, burning fuselage, Powell tore away the burning metal with his bare hands.
Powell was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his actions that day. He managed to rescue every passenger from the downed helicopter.
During his deployments to Vietnam, he also earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
Lt. Col. Charles Daniel, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, walks towards the AH-1W Super Cobra prior to its final flight at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, New Orleans, on Oct. 14, 2020. (Robert Brown/U.S. Marine Corps)
After 34 years of service and more than 930,000 flight hours, the AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter made its final flight last week. Maj. Patrick Richardson, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, flew the last Super Cobra flight out of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.
The Marine Corps has transitioned to the “Zulu” variant of the aircraft, the four-bladed AH-1Z Viper.
“This final flight is very important for us to honor the aircraft,” Richardson said in a video released by Bell Helicopter. “… It’s an honor to be the last guy to fly one. I never thought I’d be in this position.”
The dual-blade helicopter Richardson flew over New Orleans on Oct. 14 was received by HMLA-773 in 1994, he said. Marines flew it in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2005. Lt. Col. Charles Daniel, the squadron’s executive officer, said in the video that he flew the aircraft making last week’s final flight during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Marines also flew the Super Cobra in Iraq, Somalia, the Gulf War and with Marine expeditionary units operating on Navy ships around the world.
Both Richardson and Daniel called the Super Cobra’s final flight bittersweet. Richardson said he flies the AH-1Z Viper, while Daniel said the AH-1W’s retirement coincides with the end of his own career.
“I’ve had a lot of great memories in this aircraft,” Daniel said. “It has gotten me back safe every time and done everything I ever asked it to do. I enjoyed every moment of my time with the Whiskey and the Marines around it.”
The newer AH-1Z Viper is faster, carries more ordnance, has an all-glass cockpit, and can stand off further from the fight, Daniel said.
The Super Cobra’s retirement represents just one transition for Marine Corps aviation. AV-8BHarrier squadrons are saying goodbye to that aircraft as the service transitions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Marine Corps is also in the process of upgrading its aging CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter to the powerful new CH-53K King Stallion.
A common gripe among those in the military is that there aren’t enough accurate representations of us in film and on television. There’s plenty of representation, sure, but “accurate” is the operative term, here — and Hollywood tends to get more wrong than they do right. Every once in a blue moon, however, you’ll stumble upon a tiny golden nugget truth on screen. That special piece of media will ignite a fire within you and you’ll be forced to stand up and shout, “that right there! THAT is what it was like!” to all your civilian friends.
Now, we’re not saying Hollywood does a piss-poor job. Service members have a tendency to be extremely nit-picky when it comes to military depictions on screen. We see even the smallest flaw and we say, “nope. They got it wrong again.” Realistically, there are many reasons why that happens, but it’s most likely because they didn’t have someone on set who knew what they were talking about.
But when they get things right? Well, you get the items on this list:
R. Lee Ermey was immortalized by this performance.
‘Full Metal Jacket’
Specifically, we mean the boot camp scene. The entire film is great, but the representation of Marines in the first act of the film is (mostly) accurate. This can be attributed to the legendary R. Lee Ermey. He was actually a drill instructor and Stanley Kubrick was dedicated to making everything as authentic as possible.
Oh, and it has Jake Gyllenhaal in it.
Based on the true story written by Anthony Swafford, the film adaptation paints the character of Marines in a very accurate light. The dark humor put forth by the characters and the way they portray our mannerisms on screen are absolutely spot on.
So, how’d they do it? Well, if you’ve read the book and you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably noticed that they didn’t stray too far from the source material, which was written by someone with first-hand experience.
The Marines in this series are downright authentic.
Based on the novels of Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, this miniseries was produced by none other than Saving Private Ryan star Tom Hanks, and it nails the attitude of Marines. If you’ve served in the Marine Corps, you can appreciate even the smallest details, such as the Marines stealing Army rations because they’re superior.
The nod of approval for this series.
If you thought The Pacific and Jarhead got Marines right, then you’ll be blown away by Generation Kill. When it comes down to it, the series not only got the character and mannerisms of Marines down pat but, the situations, scenarios, and leadership are all true-to-life, too.
Again, this show was based on Evan Wright’s source material, which surely added to the authenticity — he even wrote a couple episodes. Oh, and it certainly helps to have Marines like Rudy Reyes playing themselves.
The cast of this series could not be more perfect.
‘Band of Brothers’
Unsurprisingly, we’ve got another Tom Hanks-produced miniseries atop this list. This series portrays the brotherhood (as the title suggests) experienced in the military better than anything else. Not only do they get the gear, the actions, and the missions right, it’s all capped off by amazing acting performances. Most of the characters are fantastic, but nobody compares to Damien Lewis’ enthralling rendition of Maj. Richard Winters.
So, what’s the secret sauce here? In addition to an immense attention to detail, the actors actually met with their characters’ real-life counterparts. If you’re making a movie about a group of people who did extraordinary things, who better to learn from than the men themselves?
Well, we did and here are six reasons why we think the movie should have been about him.
6. We would have gotten the back story on how he got his epic scar. Just look at that thing and tell us you don’t want to know more about it. Is it from a hand grenade or did he knife fight someone or what?
5. Remember when he shot that woman? We’re not condoning executions, but seeing Sgt. Barnes interrogation methods a few more times could have been cool.
4. Besides the scene where Barnes threatens Chris with that cool looking blade, that knife doesn’t make another appearance. If that film were about him, we probably would have seen Barnes use in on the enemy troops once or twice in hand-to-hand combat.
You could slice and dice the enemy with this sharp and badass looking blade — no problem. (Source: Orion)
3. Pvt. Taylor (Charlie Sheen) would have just been a whiny boot replacement — which he was in the beginning — that no one cares about since the film would have been in Barnes’ perspective.
You just murdered the star of our fictional version of the film — you better cry. (Source: Orion)
2. Sgt. Barnes is a pretty lethal killer, but we could’ve gotten a glimpse of what made him that way. Although we discussed his epic scar earlier, it would be cool to get a flashback or two focusing on some of this bloody missions he was on before Taylor showed up.
1. Barnes would have eventually snapped and put his non-alpha male platoon leader Lt. Wolfe in his place — and audiences would have loved to see that sh*t go down.
It’s about to go down — if the movie was about Barnes. (Source: Orion)
A U.S. Marine Corps photographer took some incredible portraits of Marines assigned to the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group. (The photos were taken in 2017, but they’re worth seeing again).
The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group “support[s] maritime security operations, provide[s] crisis response capability, and increase[s] theater security cooperation while providing a forward naval presence in Europe and the Middle East,” according to the Navy.
The photographer, Sgt. Matthew Callahan, took portraits of Marines assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Kuwait and in Romania, as well as the Marines’ Romanian counterparts with whom they were training.
Check out his photos below:
Pfc. Ken Sicard, a rifleman assigned to Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. He said his uncle, who has since passed away, worked to put his three kids to college. In honor of his uncle, Sicard said he puts a portion of every paycheck in a savings account for his cousins.
US Marine Cpl. Rachel Warford is part of the Female Engagement Team, which is deployed with male infantry units and tasked to help communicate with local families and women.
Cpl. Sunsette Winsler, a military working dog handler assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. “I knew I was going to be a Marine when I was 12 years old,” she said, despite what her mom imagined. “I didn’t tell [her] for about two months,” after enlisting.
Winsler and her military dog, Bella, have been together “since day one,” she said. “I got to train with Bella for six weeks, certify her, bring her to the fleet and stay on her. I am her first handler and she’s my first dog. I have to rely on her for my life and she has to rely on me for everything else.”
An Alabama native and gunner with Tank platoon, US Marine Sgt. Seth Mullins’ duties are operating and firing the weapons systems on board the M1A1 Abrams.
Lance Cpl. James Nemger, a dog handler assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses with his military dog, Caesar. “Caesar has taught me to love life … We can be in the field working on no sleep, out all day in the hot sun doing patrols and Caesar is always having a good time.”
US Marine Gunnery Sgt. Santana Jimenez, platoon sergeant for Tank Platoon and an Arizona native, stands in front one of the Abrams Tank.
US Marine Sgt. Elia Balbaloza, part of the Female Engagement Team, poses during a live-fire training exercise in Romania.
For three days, the Marines participated in Spring Storm 2017 at Capu Midia, training with Romanian soldiers in radio communication, detainee handling, personal security detail, tactical site exploitation and more. It culminated in a live-fire rifle and pistol swap between the two forces.Sgt. Matthew Callahan/US Marine Corps
Romanian Sailor Cpl. Pintilie Madalina, a communications specialist, poses during Spring Storm 2017.
The purpose of the exercise was to provide US amphibious forces with operational training with Romanian Allies in order to enhance interoperability and strengthen enduring partnerships.
US Marine Sgt. Tyler Holcomb is an ordnance maintenance chief with Amphibious Assault Platoon. He’s responsible for inspecting, repairing and maintaining weapons systems for the Marines.
Cpl. Joshua Montgomery, an infantry team leader assigned to Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, poses at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait. “I didn’t want to go to school. I wanted to travel the world and shoot big guns … I got all my wishes,” he said with a laugh.
US Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Hecht, an assault amphibian crewman, smokes a cigarette in front of an assault amphibious vehicle, which he’s tasked with operating and maintaining.
Romanian Navy Lt. Zbrnca Mariuta-Lucia was one of 750 Romanian soldiers to participate in Spring Storm 2017.
US Marine Capt. Rebecca Bergstedt is the officer in charge of the Female Engagement Team.
US Marine Lance Cpl. Clayton McCabe, a driver with Amphibious Assault platoon and Missouri native, poses in front one of his AAV.
Romanian Army Lt. Preda Laura poses during Spring Storm 2017. In 2015, the Associated Press reported that Romania began making specialized flack jackets for female soldiers.
Romanian Navy Sgt. Ramona Griguta poses during Spring Storm 2017. By 2008, more than 50 Romanian women had served in combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Romanian Sailor Cpl. Pintilie Madalina, a communications specialist, stands with her rifle during Spring Storm 2017.
Ever get sore thumbs from loading mag after mag? How about an easier solution that saves not only effort but time as well? Butler Creek has you covered with their EML. This electronic mag loader can hold up to sixty rounds of ammo, and gives shooters the ability to load anywhere from one to forty rounds in their magazine at a time. For speed, efficiency, and thumb relief, don’t pass up an opportunity to check this mag loader out!
In 1997, Britain’s biggest playboy and best special agent Austin Powers rocked movie-goers with his bad teeth and groovy personality.
Completely backed by the powerful Ministry of Defense, Powers stopped at nothing to take down his most villainous arch-enemy, Dr. Evil, who commonly held the world hostage while putting his pinky in his mouth.
Against all odds, Powers continually did his part to finish his mission, regardless of what planet or time period it took place in.
These days, it’s a common political debate. “Dreamers,” illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as infant children and grew up with full lives and roots in the U.S., are sometimes completely unaware they were undocumented until later in life. Back in the days of the Second World War, we didn’t call them “Dreamers,” but the phenomenon was the same: People like Silvestre Herrera didn’t know they were in the United States illegally until they received a draft notice from the Army.
Herrera was born in Chihuahua, Mexico to loving parents in 1917, but they succumbed to the worldwide Spanish Influenza epidemic that killed millions around the globe the very next year. When he was around one year old, his uncle brought him to the United States and raised him as a farmhand in Texas. Silvestre Herrera grew up believing his uncle was his father and that he was born in El Paso, Texas.
Even when he married an American, had American children, and moved to Arizona, Herrera believed he was living a typical Mexican-American life in the Southwest. It wasn’t until he got his draft notice for the Texas National Guard in 1944 did he find out the truth about his entire life.
“Son, you don’t have to go,” his uncle told him soberly. “They can’t draft you.” The reason for this is because the U.S. Army can’t draft a Mexican citizen. But Herrera wasn’t about to avoid serving in the military and was enthusiastic about giving back to the United States.
“I didn’t want anybody to die in my place,” he later said. “My adopted country had been so nice to me.”
Latinos fighting in American wars is nothing new, even by World War II standards. People of Hispanic descent have fought in every American conflict from the Revolution to the War in Afghanistan. Mexicans raised in the U.S. was also a common occurrence by 1944. People of Mexican descent in the U.S. were twice as likely to have been born and raised in the States than not. Those who served were fiercely dedicated to their adoptive homes and Silvestre Herrera was going to be one of those.
“I am a Mexican-American and we have a tradition,” He once said. “We’re supposed to be men, not sissies.”
The 27-year-old Herrera eventually ended up in the 142nd Infantry Regiment and found himself in the Alsace region of France in March, 1945. Though the war in Europe would be over in a few short months, the fighting on the Western front was as fierce as ever. The 142nd was a critical part of Operation Undertone, a 75-kilometer front designed to push the Nazi back across the Rhine and secure bridgeheads to cross the river.
Herrera’s platoon was just five miles from their objective at the occupied city of Haguenau when they took coordinated machine gun fire – one from a nearby wood and another across a minefield. As the rest of the men in the platoon took cover, Herrera charged one machine gun nest, firing his M1 Garand rifle from the hip and chucking two grenades into the nest. Eight enemy soldiers surrendered to Herrera in that action.
His platoon still found itself pinned down by another machine gun nest, this time protected by a minefield. Knowing full well the grass in front of him was a minefield, Herrera grabbed a two by four, pushing it along in front of him as he crawled across the minefield. Frustrated with his slow progress toward the nest, he tossed it away, stood up, and dashed for the gun emplacement. As he approached, he stepped on two mines, one on each foot. The resulting explosions blew off both of his feet.
He continued forward toward the enemy, running on his knees. The bleeding Mexican-American GI fell to his stomach and laid down rifle fire, keeping the attention of the Nazi machine gun as his platoon flanked the position and knocked it out. Bleeding profusely, Herrera still somehow managed to stay conscious. The Army was able to save Herrera’s knees and were eventually able to fit him with prosthetic feet.
When he was to be awarded the Medal of Honor for the heroism that cost him his feet, President Truman was unsure if the man, still bed-ridden from his wounds, would be able to be present for the award. Sure enough, when the time came, Herrera was in full uniform as he rolled his wheelchair to the President of the United States.
“He told me he would rather be awarded the Medal of Honor than be president of the United States,” Herrera told the Arizona Republic in 2005. “That made me even more proud.”
Just one year after receiving the U.S. military’s highest award for valor in combat, the Mexican government decided to award him Mexico’s Order of Military Merit, its highest award for valor in combat. Herrera is the only soldier ever to wear both. Most importantly, as Arizona’s first World War II Medal of Honor recipient, citizens of Arizona started a campaign to get Silvestre Herrera U.S. citizenship and even raised ,000 to help him purchase his first home.
After the war, Herrera went back to work, prosthetic limbs and all, for much of the rest of his life. According to his surviving relatives, his war injuries never kept him from doing anything physical or raising his family. He died in 2007, sixteen years after his beloved wife, Ramona.
Over the last five years, two professional athletes moved from Brazil to the United States, competed in an Ironman World Championship, married and graduated with honors from Navy boot camp.
Silvia Ribeiro, 40, and Rafael Ribeiro Goncalves, 39, were both born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and they met while training for the same team. After years of triathlons and in sports, they said they felt it was time to offer their services to their new home, according to a recent Navy news release.
“I want to give back to the U.S. and what it represents,” Ribeiro Goncalves said in the release. “I spent my whole life competing or being part of projects that require really high performance, but it was always for myself.”
He added he realized later in life that what “really gets me going is when I’m part of something bigger than myself. Once I realized that, the military was the obvious choice.”
One year later, on Jan. 24, the couple graduated with honors from Recruit Training Command. Ribeiro earned the United Service Organization Shipmate Award for “exemplifying the spirit and intent of the word ‘shipmate'” while her husband was awarded the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award for his enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork.
The couple moved to the U.S. in 2015 after their friendship blossomed into love as they spent long periods training on the bike, running and swimming.
“It was so hard in the beginning as we literally arrived with two boxes of belongings, our bikes, a couple of suitcases and only ,000-,000,” Ribeiro said in the release. “It was rough in the beginning but we went for it and competed professionally in triathlons.”
She proposed to Ribeiro Goncalves as he crossed the finish line at the 2015 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Their friends showed up with just a day’s notice to their wedding wearing swim parkas and cycling gear.
Several years later, Navy boot camp separated the couple for two months. They were assigned to separate divisions and recruit interaction directives keep them from talking to each other despite their barracks being less than 1,000 yards apart. To stay somewhat in touch, they used a mutual friend to relay updates on how each other was doing.
“The toughest part was to be away from him and not knowing how he was doing,” Ribeiro said. “We were training together and doing everything together, so it was very hard not having him by my side doing things together. He is everything for me.”
The two have a strong history of athleticism that came in handy with their time at boot camp.
Ribeiro Goncalves was on the Brazilian national swim team for 10 years, winning the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) 400-meter individual medley World Cup medals in 1998 and 2000. Ribeiro was a professional volleyball player who later became a professional triathlete.
“The main thing they teach us in boot camp is how to work under stress,” Ribeiro said. “I had no problems dealing with this because being professional athletes, we’re always under stress and we’re always tired. There was no single day where we were both not moaning about how tired we were when we used to train for the triathlons, so that helped us a lot.”
The two ran into each other once during their training, before they were supposed to go to a Navy Recruit Training Command board for evaluation for awards.
“They told me my uniform would be inspected too,” Ribeiro said after completing a 3-mile pride run with her division, “so when I turned the corner into the hallway, I was busy looking over my uniform and when I looked up — he was in front of me. I almost had a heart attack.”
She said they exchanged looks, and then they both winked at each other.
“We talked with our eyes: ‘I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.’ It was so hard not to cry,” she said.
Their success was not surprising to their friends.
Sailors Graduate From Recruit Training Command
“For them, it’s go hard or go home,” said Jim Garfield, who was Ribeiro’s sports agent. “It’s 110 percent for them and they are also so appreciative of the opportunity to be here, to be citizens, and to be together.”
They advised future couples going through Navy boot camp to remember it’s only temporary, which is “nothing compared to your whole life.”
“A strong relationship makes everything better,” Ribeiro Goncalves said. “I was looking forward to the day I would see her again.”
Ribeiro Goncalves will stay at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois attending his “A” School as a damage controlman, and Ribeiro is going to San Antonio, Texas to begin her “A” School training as a Reserve hospital corpsman. Once they’re done with their training, they plan to reunite at Ribeiro Goncalves’ first duty station once their training is complete.
Distinguishing between the bravery of warfighters like these is tough. After all, what’s the exchange rate between five Navy Crosses and two Medals of Honor? These men cannot be ranked, but they can and should be commemorated. And in that spirit WATM presents this lineup:
1. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly
Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called the “fightenest Marine I ever knew” by the famed Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. In perhaps his most famous action, he encouraged the Marine advance at Belleau Wood in 1918 by turning to his men and yelling, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
Daly was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Belleau Wood, but received the Distinguished Service Cross. He also received two Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, and a Silver Star in addition to a number of foreign awards for other battles during his career.
2. Maj. Audie Murphy
Commonly called the most decorated soldier of World War II, Maj. Audie Murphy received the Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, and two Bronze Stars with Combat V.
Murphy’s foreign awards were especially impressive. He received the French Forrager, Legion of Honor, and Croix de Guerre with Palm and Silver Star and the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm. He also received the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.
3. Col. Edward V. Rickenbacker
When America entered World War I in 1917, race car driver Edward Rickenbacker volunteered for service. He started off as a staff driver but a chance meeting with Col. Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer, saw him reassigned to the new Army Air Corps where he became an “Ace of Aces” with 26 kills in only nine months.
The Distinguished Service Cross and one Navy Cross were received for actions Puller took at the Chosin Reservoir where he personally oversaw the Marine and Army defenses while under withering machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire over five days of fighting.
5. Boatswain’s Mate First Class James Williams
Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Williams holds every level of valor award with a Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, two Navy and Marine Corps Medals, three Bronze Stars with Combat V, and two Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V.
In his Medal of Honor action, Williams was commanding a river patrol boat when he took fire from two enemy Sampans in Vietnam and gave chase. He was lured into an ambush but fought against overwhelming odds for three hours, leading a fight that saw 65 enemy ships destroyed by Williams’ crew and a detachment of helicopters that eventually reinforced him.