These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HEROES

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military

Not all acts of heroism take place on the battlefield. Here are 6 times when troops jumped into harm’s way:


1. Sgt. George Long helped protect his leaders during a Fort Hood shooting

 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Photo: Army Capt. Devon Thomas

 

On Apr. 12, 2014, Sgt. George D. Long was in a meeting with leaders in his battalion at Fort Hood when shots broke out in the building. When the shooter approached the conference room, Long and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson sprinted to the door and held it shut, continuing even when shots began coming through the door. This saved the lives of the other soldiers in the room.

Long received the Soldier’s Medal but remains humble about his service. He opened an interview with an Army journalist by listing other people who saved lives during the Fort Hood shooting, especially Ferguson. Ferguson tragically died during the event.

2. A Fort Drum soldier pulled people from a burning tour bus

 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Jacob Perkins, after a promotion to staff sergeant, accepts the 2012 Soldier of the Year Award. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Sun L. Vega

On the New York State Thruway in 2011, Then-Sgt. Jacob Perkins spotted a burning tour bus that had struck a semi-truck. He rushed into the blaze and began pulling out the survivors. 53 people were on the bus when it hit and 30 were injured but everyone survived thanks to Perkins’ quick actions.

“This is a momentous occasion,” said then-Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, now the Army Chief of Staff, at the Soldier’s Medal ceremony for Perkins. “If there were bullets flying and it was the Taliban, Sergeant Perkins would be getting the Medal of Honor.

3. Two sailors and an airman rescued the crew of a crashed helicopter

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
A Chinook loads passengers at Forward Operating Base Kala Gush’s flight line. Photo: US Army Maj. Christopher Thomas

 

A resupply helicopter carrying mortar rounds and other munitions crashed on the flight line of Forward Operating Base Kala Gush, Afghanistan on May 3, 2010. Immediately, troops sprinted to rescue the aircrew. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven R. Doty arrived in seconds and avoided the still-spinning rotor blades while he forced an opening into the wrecked bird. Once the crew began evacuating, Doty climbed inside and attempted to shut down the engines.

Meanwhile, as leaking fuel spread from the wreckage and coated the mortar rounds strewn on the ground, Hospitalman Corpsman 2nd Class Roy D. Jaquez yelled for non-essential personnel to stay back and used his bare hands to rip out the windshield. He then climbed to one of the injured crewmembers and got him or her to the aid station for treatment.

At the same time, Navy Lt. Kyle Burditt and Army First Lt. Alex DeSeta assisted two aircrew members as they evacuated the helicopter.

After Burditt, DeSeta, Jaquez, and others got the crew safely away, Doty finally gave up on shutting off the engines and escaped the crash site. All four heroes received Soldier’s Medals.

4. An airman lead a rescue attempt in the middle of burning jets

 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Staff Sgt. Greggory Swarz speaks to French journalists after receiving the French Legion of Honor. Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane

 

On Jan. 26, 2015 a Greek F-16 crashed into French jets at a refueling point during an exercise at Los Llanos Air Base, Spain. The flames from the wreck killed two Greek pilots and nine French troops, but U.S. airmen moved in to save everyone they could.

One of the first on the scene was U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Greggory Swarz who rushed into the flames to start pulling out the wounded. Swarz actually burned his own hands while pulling others from the fire, according to another airman at the scene. As Swarz was doing his work, other airmen used mobile fire extinguishers to put out people and loaded the wounded into a van.

Three French service members survived thanks to the airmen’s actions. Swarz received the Airman’s Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and the Spanish Cross of Aeronautical Merit for his actions. Four airmen received French National Medals of Defense and five airmen received Crosses of Aeronautical Merit.

5. An Air Force master sergeant saved dozens after Haiti earthquake

 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David J. Beall

 

Master Sgt. Keith M. O’Grady was on the first plane to land in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there. O’Grady and his team pulled 13 people from the rubble by tunneling into fallen debris with bare hands, concrete breakers, and digging bars. O’Grady voluntarily climbed through miles of these unsupported tunnels to rescue survivors, often burrowing past the remains of people who didn’t survive.

The team also provided advanced medical care to 27 patients and transferred 18 patients to trauma centers. O’Grady received the Airman’s Medal for his work and valor.

6. A soldier in Germany evacuated most of a burning apartment building before police arrived, then helped pull out two final survivors

 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Photo: US Army Richard Herman

 

Spc. Willie Smith was returning from a night out in Stuttgart, Germany when he saw flames rising from a wooden apartment building. His friend called emergency services and Smith began moving through the building, sounding the alarm. Smith’s warnings allowed approximately 30 people to escape before the flames grew too large.

But when the German police arrived, they discovered that an elderly couple was missing. So Smith rushed back in with them. Smith helped the man out while police woke and escorted out the woman. He received the Soldier’s Medal for his actions.

MIGHTY HEROES

This wounded cav scout saved his unit during an enemy ambush

Army Pfc. Craig H. Middleton was the Mk. 19 gunner on his convoy when it came under an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan. But despite his grievous wounds, Middleton was able to beat back the ambush and help save the lives of two wounded airmen — an action that earned him the Silver Star.


Middleton and his unit, Apache Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, were making their way through a dry riverbed bordered by steep hills in Afghanistan on Nov. 16, 2011, when a series of rocket-propelled grenades rained down from the hills on one side.

Related video: Wounded soldier saved his unit from enemy ambush

 

The first RPG impacted a scout truck, the second hit the truck behind Middleton, and the third flew through the back window of Middleton’s Mine-resistant, Ambush-protected, All-Terrain Vehicle and exploded inside it. Middleton was instantly peppered with shrapnel up and down his legs, but he was still doing better than the two Air Force joint terminal attack controllers in the back of the vehicle. Both of them had received shrapnel and blast damage to their upper bodies.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
The Mk. 19 can hurl 40mm grenades like they’re going out of style.

(Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Phillip Steiner)

The wounded and embattled gunner opened up with his Mk. 19, firing 40mm grenades where the rockets had come from as well as any muzzle flashes or fighters he could spot. Out of targets, Middleton dove into the back of the MATV and applied a tourniquet to one of the JTACs.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military

While he treated the first JTAC, another RPG hit the vehicle, so Middleton rushed back up to engage the enemy.

He fired more 40mm grenades, but the nearby hills were too steep for that weapon to reach some of the enemy positions. Middleton switched to his M4 and fired over 100 rounds before going below once again to give the other wounded JTAC a tourniquet. Throughout all of this, Middleton was bleeding from dozens of shrapnel wounds. At some point he was also shot in the thigh.

The Army platoon inflicted an estimated 25 kills against the insurgents despite tough odds. As the fighters retreated, Middleton reassessed the casualties and spotted a severe groin bleed on the second JTAC which he treated with another tourniquet.

The truck then headed to the casualty collection point to get the two wounded airmen to medical care. It wasn’t until Middleton had helped prepare the other wounded for the MEDEVAC that he admitted that he was also severely wounded.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military

For his actions in Nangarhar Province that day, Middleton was awarded the Silver Star in a 2012 ceremony. Unfortunately, his wounds proved severe enough that he underwent a medical separation from the military. In an interview during that process, the cav scout told Army Staff Sgt. Elwyn Lovelace that he hoped to become a dentist and enjoy a nice, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work life.

We’re pretty sure he’s earned it.

Articles

How one Soviet agent single-handedly changed the course of World War II

When Richard Sorge was born, his German parents were living in what is now Azerbaijan, working for the Russian government. He moved with his family to Berlin at a very young age. He was raised in a typical upper-middle-class family, supporters of the German Empire and the Kaiser.

Like many Europeans, he became disillusioned with the state of affairs during and after World War I, and his political views changed. If Richard Sorge hadn’t become a Communist, World War II might have lasted much longer – or ended differently. 

At age 18, Sorge enlisted in the German Army and was sent to the Western Front. As a member of a reasonably wealthy family, he was supportive of the Kaiser and the war – at first. As the war dragged on, his views on war not only changed, his entire political point of view changed along with it. 

Sorge was wounded in his hands and both legs and was discharged in 1916. By the time he left the army, he was no longer a German nationalist. As he recovered from his wounds, he read the works of Karl Marx and became a Communist. After earning a doctorate degree, he joined the Communist Party and moved to the Soviet Union.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Sorge (left) in uniform in 1915 (German Federal Archive)

It was in the USSR that he was recruited to work for the Red Army’s intelligence directorate. He was sent back to Germany posing as a journalist. He would spend years in Germany, China, and Great Britain, reporting back to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) on the development of communist parties in those countries and the outbreaks of violence in China. 

Once Japan had taken parts of China in 1931, the Soviet Union was worried that the Japanese Empire would invade the Soviet Far East. Sorge was sent to Germany to join the Nazi Party, get a job as a correspondent in Japan, and set up an intelligence gathering ring there.

That’s exactly what he did. After reading Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he became adept at creating Nazi propaganda and began attending beer hall meetings. He was so good at his work in Germany that three publications commissioned his work in Japan. Sorge’s farewell dinner was attended by Joseph Goebbels himself. 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
He was so good at peddling fake Nazi bullsh*t that he had this guy buying in (German Federal Archive)

By 1933, Sorge was working in Japan as a correspondent for Germany’s top newspaper. His real job, from his Soviet handlers, was to determine if Japan was planning an attack on the USSR. He recruited a team of communist informants and by 1935 had contacts in both the German military presence in Japan, as well as the Japanese military and government. 

Sorge was, soon after he was established, committed to the role of the hard-drinking playboy and ladies man, a typical Nazi diplomat in Japan at the time. He was so trusted by the German delegation in Japan that they weren’t just sharing information with the Soviet spy, Sorge was actively writing diplomatic cables back to Berlin.

After some Japanese officers started a border clash with the USSR near Manchuria, Sorge learned that it was an isolated incident and that Japan had no intentions of an all-out invasion of the USSR. 

By far, the two most important intelligence findings of Sorge’s time in Japan came after World War II had started in earnest. He learned that Nazi Germany was planning its invasion of the USSR in 1941, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wrote off Sorge as a drunkard. Sorge’s next intelligence coup would not be ignored.

In September 1941, Sorge learned that the Japanese military command was resisting German pressure to go to war with the USSR and wanted to attack the United States’ possessions in the Pacific instead. He reported to Moscow that the Japanese would not invade the Soviet Union until the Nazis captured Moscow, the Japanese had enough troops to invade Siberia, and a civil uprising could be started there.

After receiving this intelligence and seeing the Germans halted before Moscow, Stalin felt he could move Soviet Far East divisions to counter the Nazi invasion and turn the tide against the Germans. 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
This intel was crucial to the Soviets driving the Germans out of Stalingrad and turning the tide on the Eastern Front (Wikimedia Commons)

Sorge was eventually arrested under the suspicion of espionage. He confessed under torture and was hanged as a spy in November 1944.


Feature image: German Federal Archive

Articles

A Medal of Honor recipient tore his way through Vietnam while being stalked by a tiger

Bennie Adkins was bleeding after his intense run-in with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. So were most of his comrades in arms. Somewhere in the dark of the night and dense jungle foliage, a tiger stalked him and his fellow soldiers.

The then-32-year-old NCO was stationed with South Vietnam’s irregular forces at Camp A Shau in March 1966. A Special Forces soldier, Adkins was training those forces to take the war to the North Vietnamese the way the Viet Cong took the war south of the demilitarized zone. 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
U.S. Army

In March of 1966, their camp was attacked by an overwhelmingly large combined force of North Vietnamese regulars and Viet Cong troops. Some of his South Vietnamese troops even defected to the North in the middle of the fighting. 

Immediately, Adkins took up a mortar position, lobbing explosive after explosive at the oncoming communists. Even when hit by shrapnel from enemy mortars, he continued fighting. Seeing wounded friendly soldiers in open territory, he directed the mortar fire with another soldier and braved the melee to rescue his wounded comrades. 

He later took the wounded to an airfield outside the camp and drew fire away from the departing aircraft so it could escape safely. Just before the first day of fighting ended, Adkins braved enemy-held ground to retrieve a supply drop that had fallen too far from the friendly lines – and ended up in a minefield. 

The next morning, the NVA hit the camp once more. Bennie Adkins was waiting for them. He fired every mortar round the camp had left at the oncoming enemy. When that ran out, he used his rifle, machine guns, recoilless rifles, other small arms, and hand grenades to take them down one by one as they assaulted his positions.

Forced to withdraw to a more secure location, Adkins moved deeper into the camp, securing a bunker as he fought off waves of attackers and even sporadic mortar fire as he moved. Once inside, he destroyed the camp’s classified documents and helped other soldiers dig their way out of the bunker through the back of the camp. 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Adkins receiving his Medal of Honor in 2014 from President Obama (U.S. Army)

Sgt. 1st Class Adkins and his group of wounded, tired soldiers escaped into the jungles surrounding A Shau. They had just fought a 38-hour battle royale with the communist Vietnamese.

The Americans missed their helicopter extraction because they were moving slower due to their wounds and because they were carrying wounded. Bleeding and exhausted, they would have to evade the North Vietnamese for a full 48 hours before finding a place where rescue helicopters could land and extract them. 

On one night, they took a position on top of a hill that was surrounded by communist troops. 
“The North Vietnamese soldiers had us surrounded on a little hilltop and everything started getting kind of quiet,” Adkins told the U.S. Army in his Medal of Honor report. “We could look around and all at once, all we could see were eyes going around us. It was a tiger that stalked us that night. We were all bloody and in this jungle, the tiger stalked us and the North Vietnamese soldiers were more afraid of the tiger than they were of us. So, they backed off some and we were gone. The tiger was on our side”

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
“Here kitty kit- just kidding, stay there, please.” (Wikimedia Commons)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch: California firefighters go toe-to-toe with wildfire

Firefighter helicopters, bulldozers, and airplanes —oh my! When a wildfire sparked in the scrubby hills outside Sacramento, California, on May 1, Cal Fire sent ground crews, machinery, and multiple aircraft after it, in what was both a rapid response and an early season warmup for what authorities expect to be a fire-heavy summer. Cal Fire officials from Butte addressed the need to pre-position equipment and personnel during a May 5 press conference for fire preparedness week.

Dubbed the Salmon Fire, the blaze that sparked on May 1 was 100% contained by May 4, burning only 32 acres.

Watch the video below to see how they did it:

The video covers nearly every element of wildfire attacks.

Field crews chop and cut trees near the fire to limit fuel with chain saws and hand tools, within feet of the blaze. There are also specially equipped fuel-clearing bulldozers on hand.

Overhead, helicopters circle to dump water, including both California’s new Fire Hawk H-60s (modified versions of the military H-60 Black Hawk), which use internal water tanks, and older helicopters carrying so-called “Bambi Buckets.” The video captures the helicopters refilling with water from a pond.

Above the helicopters, Grumman S-2T aircraft (former Navy submarine hunters) orbit and wait their turn to dive over the flames to release chemical retardants.

During the Cal Fire Butte Unit event on May 5, the California Office of Emergency Services Fire Chief Brian Marshall said that pre-positioning personnel and equipment enables them to catch the fires when they are small and more easily extinguished.

“To date, we’ve spent almost $24 million in pre-position funding to make sure that local jurisdictions have the resources available to have the capacity available to stop the fires when they’re small,” Marshall said. “Because when they’re a million acres — it’s difficult, it’s time-consuming, but if we can jump on that fire when it’s small, we will be highly successful.”

YouTube user Max McGregor posted the video of the Salmon Fire operations.


This article by Joshua Skovlund was originally published by Coffee or Die. Follow Coffee or Die on Facebook.

-Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube video above

Articles

This trailblazing Asian American Olympian was also an Army doctor

Samuel “Sammy” Lee was born in Fresno, California in 1920. His parents were of Korean descent and owned a chop suey restaurant and market. When the 1932 Olympics came to Los Angeles, Lee became driven by the Olympic fever that swept over the state to become an Olympian himself. That summer, he discovered his natural ability to perform somersaults. This set him on his path to become an Olympic champion diver.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Lee soars into a dive (USC Athletics)

Lee’s family later moved to Highland Park in Los Angeles. However, Latinos, Asians and African Americans were restricted at the Pasadena Brookside Park Plunge pool. They were only allowed in on “International Day,” the Wednesday before the pool was drained and refilled. This forced Lee to get creative.

Attending his father’s alma mater, Occidental College, Lee had no on-campus dive coach. Rather, he was privately instructed by renowned dive coach Jim Ryan. They dug a sandpit in Ryan’s backyard and mounted a one-meter springboard for Lee to practice on. On top of constant chafing from the sand, Lee endured constant verbal abuse from Ryan, but it wasn’t without reason.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Lee in his Army uniform with coach “Big Jim” Ryan (Public Domain)

On one rainy afternoon, 1928 silver medalist diver Farid Simaika stopped by the sandpit to visit his former coach and see Lee’s progress. Wet, sandy and fresh off a beratement from Ryan, Lee was visibly upset and frustrated. “You know why he is so tough on you?” Simaika asked Lee. “At the 1928 Olympics, I won the gold but 3 days later they said there was an error and replayed the medal ceremony. I gave the gold to Pete DesJardins.”

Ryan was furious with the amended medal ceremony. “I’ll be back with a non-white diver and beat all of you!” Ryan yelled as he threw chairs into the pool.

Simaika, an Egyptian American, was neglected by the Egyptian Olympic Committee and could not compete in 1932. “That is why he is so tough on you,” Simaika reassured Lee. “You are his intended champion!”

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Lee gives advice to fellow diver and serviceman Miller Anderson in 1948 (Public Domain)

In 1942, Lee won the U.S. National Diving Championships in both 3-meter and 10-meter platform events. In doing so, he became the first person of color to win the national championship in diving. Four years later, he repeated his 10-meter platform victory and came third in the 3-meter event.

Simultaneously, Lee attended the USC School of Medicine and received his M.D. in 1947. In order to pay for school, he joined the Army Reserves.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Lee and Manalo at the 1948 Olympics (Life Magazine)

At the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, Lee won bronze in the 3-meter springboard and gold in the 10-meter platform diving events. His achievement came just two days after his friend and fellow Asian American, Vicki Draves (née Manalo), won gold in springboard diving. At the games, the Egyptian delegation approached Lee and informed him of Simaika’s prophecy. “He said Sammy Lee would be the first non-white diver to win an Olympic diving gold medal,” they told him. Simaika became a U.S. Army pilot and was KIA over Indonesia during WWII. Still, he was right about Lee.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Lee wins gold at the 1952 Olympics (Public Domain)

By 1952, Lee reached the rank of major. Before going to the war in Korea, he was allowed to compete at the Helsinki Olympics. “But you better win,” he was told. Sure enough, Lee took home another gold medal in the 10-meter platform event. Afterwards, he went to Korea and served there as a doctor from 1953 to 1955.

Despite his Olympic success and military service, Lee still faced discrimination at home. When he tried to buy a house in Garden Grove, California, residents compiled a petition of signatures to keep him out of the neighborhood. Still, Lee remained in Southern California where he practiced as an ENT doctor until his retirement in 1990.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Lee remained active in the diving community after he stopped competing (USC Athletics)

Lee was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2009, he was added to the Anaheim/Orange County Walk of Stars. The next year, Sammy Lee Square in Los Angeles’ Koreatown was named for him. The Los Angeles Unified School District also named the Dr. Sammy Lee Medical and Health Sciences Magnet School in his honor in 2013. Three years later, Lee passed away. His legacy of service and excellence is carried on by other Army Olympians like Sagen Maddalena and Phillip Jungman.

Feature Image: Public Domain

Articles

The Navy SEAL who shot Osama Bin Laden wants you to invest in a new beer company

Robert O’Neill, the former SEAL Team Six operator who is credited for firing the shots that killed Osama bin Laden, has a new venture. This time the only “pop-pop” coming from O’Neill is the pop of a beer tab. 

He has a pre-IPO investment opportunity for anyone who’s both a fan of the armed forces of the United States and of craft brews: Armed Forces Brewing Company

O’Neill made a fun, goofy and at times purposely over-the-top commercial/investment pitch video, recently shared on YouTube. The video takes shots at foreign breweries, beer hipsters and more, all to get you to invest in the company. 

The former Navy SEAL kills aliens, trashes the competition and even pokes fun at himself, referencing the Delta Airlines flight in which he refused to wear a mask and was subsequently banned from the airline. Have a look:

The new venture is a brewing company comprising three brands: Seawolf Brewery, Soldier Brewery and Airmen Brewery. As of July 2021, only two beers under the Seawolf brand appear on the website. Launched by O’Neill and other special operations veterans, it’s designed to pay tribute to all branches of the military (yes, even the Space Force). 

If beers like Special Hops IPA and Cat Shot American Craft Lager sound good to you, then you can not only buy one, you can own a piece of the company. Armed Forces Brewing Company is looking to raise $7.5 million in a campaign to grow its business. With a $200 minimum investment at $10 per share, interested parties can not just get a piece of the company, they can score some fun perks.

According to the investment site, there’s more to the brews than a gimmicky commercial and one of the world’s most famous special operators. The site says its products are brewed by an award-winning brewmaster, that it’s run by successful, seasoned hospitality industry veterans and that there are plans to hire a workforce made up of 70% military veterans.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
The commercial was not clear on whether or not dress blue yoga pants will be issued to employees (screen capture from YouTube)

Right now, the beer is available only in a handful of states but will soon be available in as many as 46. The company also says it’s planning a national expansion and already has a foothold to get three of its beers into military exchange stores.  

As for the perks, $200-$499 will get investors an Armed Forces Brewing Company logo stick, challenge coin, a 5% discount online, along with your name on its online wall of investors and an invitation to the company’s annual shareholder event. Other levels offer VIP access at events, early tastings and even the chance to create and name one of the company’s beers.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military

Perks are all well and good for a casual investor who wants a stake in a veteran-owned business. The biggest question for any serious investor is: is it a sound investment? According to the company’s SEC filing, Armed Forces Brewing Company has some big obstacles:

  • It’s a relatively new entity with limited tangible assets and its continued operation may require substantial additional funding
  • The company has a very short operating history and no assurance that the business plan can be executed
  • The company has entered a highly competitive industry and within this highly competitive industry are companies with established track records and substantial capital backing. 
  • The industry in which the company participates is highly speculative and extremely risky.

But there’s no significant reward without significant risk, as Robert J. O’Neill would likely tell you. Armed Forces Brewing Company could become the veteran-owned longshot-turned-competitor, in the vein of great companies like Black Rifle Coffee and Hire Purpose.

Articles

The hilarious way a CIA agent was able to leave Iran with a fake passport

One of the Central Intelligence Agency’s biggest intelligence coups (without instigating a real coup) came in Tehran in 1980. While every westerner was scrambling to escape Iran in the days following the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the CIA was trying to shuffle people in.

After all, the embassy staffers were being held hostage and six Americans were hiding out from Iranian police in the Canadian Embassy. Those six Americans might have met the same fate as the 52 embassy employees, being held hostage for 444 days, were it not for Canadian intervention.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Iranian students climbing the U.S. Embassy gates in Tehran (Wikimedia Commons)

When the six Americans were safely out of Iranian airspace, the CIA agents on the ground who aided the effort to extract them still had to get home. They were also running out of time. One of them was detained as he was leaving Tehran on a false West German passport. 

The CIA made a serious error in creating the fake passport, and it might have gotten their man killed – were it not for his quick thinking. 

Documents released in the CIA’s Reading Room website list details that were later dramatized in the 2012 film Argo. The CIA document essentially picks up where the film left off during the credits. Carter announced the successful extraction of employees hidden by Canadian officials in Tehran in January 1980.

Carter directed the CIA to enter Tehran as a film crew and in other capacities to train the embassy employees on how they could best be extracted from the suddenly hostile country. He also said that Canadian Ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, was “justifiably an American hero.” 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Kenneth Taylor (Wikimedia Commons)

The former president went on to say that the two or three of the agency were experts in documentation and were critical to securing the visas for the trapped Americans suddenly using Canadian passports – with no entry stamps. 

Canada was not severing diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic in its effort to rescue the Americans. It was simply sending its personnel home under the cover of temporarily shuttering the Embassy in Tehran. The Americans were smuggled out of Iran on a morning Swiss Air flight, while the ambassador left on a later flight the same day. 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Americans showing their gratitude for Canada’s role during the Iran hostage crisis (State Department)

The Americans all made it through the airport terminal and boarded their Swiss Air flight without incident. The CIA agents who were leaving later were not so lucky. One of them was traveling with a false West German passport, one that featured a fatal mistake, a middle initial. West German passports did not use initials and one Iranian immigration official noticed. 

If caught using a suspected fake passport, and discovered to be intelligence agents for the United States, the clandestine CIA operatives could look forward to beatings, torture, mock executions and, of course, a hanging in Tehran’s Azadi Square. 

The official told the undercover operative that in all his time working in immigration, first for the Shah’s government and then for the Islamic Republic, a total of 25 years, he’d never seen an initial. The operative, thinking quickly, asked for the official to speak with him privately. The two men stepped aside and talked in low tones. 

The CIA officer leaned in and told the Iranian official that he was born in the early 1930s, and that his middle name was “Hitler,” given to him by his parents. Because of this, the West German government had always allowed him the special privilege of using an initial, rather than having “Hitler” on his passport. 

He was allowed to leave the country.

MIGHTY HEROES

Why this heroic Navy diver was awarded the Medal of Honor after a submarine sank

Chief Gunner’s Mate Frank William Crilley recognized the urgency unfolding 265 feet below the surface. Responding to a lost submarine in April 1915, a fellow Navy diver was operating at extreme depths when his life line and air hose became tangled in the hawser cables of a salvage ship. He could not ascend or descend without help. Crilley, a Navy diver with 15 years of experience in the fleet, immediately volunteered to don a diving suit and descend to reach Chief Gunner’s Mate William F. Loughman.

As Crilley entered the water off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii, he knew that the US Navy didn’t want to lose any more sailors. A month prior, the USS F-4 submarine belonging to the 1st Submarine Group, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla, had plummeted to the ocean’s floor. An investigation later determined a corroded battery had caused an explosion, killing all 21 submariners. 

It was the first underwater disaster for the US Navy. And despite attempts by four tugboats with the assistance of Navy divers to attach heavy lifting cables around the submarine, their efforts at rescue or salvage had so far failed.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Chief Gunner’s Mate Frank Crilley was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing another Navy diver during the salvage of the USS F-4 submarine in 1915. Photo courtesy of the Naval History & Heritage Command.

“Any attempt at raising the F-4 and rescuing any possible survivors presented the Navy with a situation in which [it] had practically no experience,” wrote Alfred W. Harris in a June 1979 edition of Sea Combat magazine. “While fires, explosions and numerous other types of accidents had occurred about other U.S. submarines, F-4 was the first of our boats to take her crew to the bottom, unable to return.”

Never had the US Navy successfully rescued or salvaged a submarine beyond 20 feet. The F-4 submarine lay 304 feet below the surface. Loughman had ascended to 265 feet when he began the struggle for his life.

Crilley braved the pressured depths, reaching 306 feet, where he could touch the side of the wrecked submarine. He needed to get a better angle to rescue his shipmate. No diver had previously ever reached such depths. In the two hours and 11 minutes it took to bring Loughman to the surface, the pair collectively experienced “depth narcosis” or underwater drunkenness — a condition that makes doing the most simple of tasks difficult.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Frank Crilley was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in the salvage operation of the USS S-4 submarine in 1927. This photograph of the salvage crew was likely taken at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, circa March 19-20, 1928, shortly after the salvaged S-4 entered dry dock there. Crilley is believed to be kneeling at left. Photo courtesy US Naval History and Heritage Command.

Loughman was semiconscious but alive and needed nine hours in the recompression tank to recover. For his actions on April 17, 1915, Crilley was awarded the Medal of Honor, presented by President Calvin Coolidge in 1929 (shown at top, with Coolidge at left). Although the Medal of Honor is awarded for heroism in combat, the US Navy had authorized the award for heroism in peacetime up until 1940. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal or the branch equivalent is awarded today for heroism in a non-combat capacity.

The F-4 submarine was later salvaged and recovered in August 1915. Four members of the 21-member crew were identified and delivered to their families. The remains of the other 17 sailors were sealed in four coffins and placed together in Arlington National Cemetery under a single headstone that read “Seventeen Unknown US Sailors, Victims of USSF–4, March 25 1915.” In 2000, submarine veterans lobbied in Washington, and Arlington installed a larger joint headstone. The old headstone was delivered to the USS Bowfin Museum at Pearl Harbor and is the only headstone ever transferred from a national cemetery.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HEROES

This Indian Air Force commando stopped terrorists cold after taking six bullets

The Indian Air Force’s Pathankot Station in Northern Punjab, very near the border with Pakistan, was attacked in the early hours of January 3, 2016.


Six terrorists from a Kashmir-based separatist group, heavily armed and dressed in Indian Army uniforms, breached the base walls and moved 400 meters into the base before being stopped by Garud Commandos. A raucous small arms battle ensued as the attackers opened up on the Indians with AK-47s and grenade launchers. The battle lasted until 4:15 pm on January 5th, ending with the death of all six attackers, six Defence Security Corps troops and one Indian Air Force Garud commando.

Garuds are the Special Forces of India’s Air Forces. Tasked with airfield seizure, reconnaissance, air assault, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, combat search and rescue, as well as air base defense, they are akin to the U.S. Army’s Delta Force operators or the British Special Air Service.

 

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
IAF Garud Commandos in an Indian Air Force training video (IAF Video Still)

Corporal Shailabh Gaur was part of a three-man team deployed outside the high value asset area of the air base. One of his teammates immediately took three bullets, so Shailabh took over his position. Fighting for nearly half an hour, Shailabh took 6 bullets in his abdomen but kept returning fire. Reinforcements would not arrive until a full hour after the initial contact between the terrorists and commandos.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Corporal Shailabh Gaur, post-surgery (Facebook)

The three man team prevented the attackers from entering the part of the base housing the aircraft and kept them from surprising other IAF personnel who might not have been as capable in their response. Shailabh was medevaced to a nearby hospital where he under went surgery for bullet wounds and ruptured intestines.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Corporal Shailabh Gaur (Facebook Image)

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This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.


JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.

Gutierrez was part of a nighttime raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.

The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.

“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.

“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”

Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.

“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.

“How close?”

“Less than 10 meters.”

Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
An A-10 bombing run, too explosive to support Gutierrez’ team (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.

The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.

After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.

To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.


Feature image: USAF photo

MIGHTY HEROES

MIGHTY HEROES: Meet pediatric nurse, Megan Dursky

For Megan Dursky, a registered nurse working in pediatrics in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, keeping perspective during COVID-19 has helped her perform to the best of her capabilities.

“When I do get scared – I think about how I would hope my child/nephew/niece would be taken care of when they are ill,” Dursky said. “What sort of treatment would I want for them? I then try to provide that for my patients.”


These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military

Megan and her husband, Trevor. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.

Dursky, whose husband Trevor serves in the Iowa National Guard, shares that when she first heard about the novel coronavirus, it seemed far away.

“Like many Americans, I did not think it would affect me personally, especially since I live in a rural area of the United States. I brushed it off for the most part and went about my normal routines of life. As I started to hear about how it was affecting Italy and began reading and seeing pictures of healthcare providers there — I started feeling uneasy — fearful of the unknown or what was to come.”

Almost immediately, Dursky began noticing changes in her day-to-day protocols at work.

“Things began to change in my workplace on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis,” she shared. “Some of us wore paper masks while conducting patient care — others thought this was maybe a little over the top. We began to have daily, sometimes twice daily huddles to discuss new guidelines/procedures to implement. My work inbox began to fill with COVID-19 updates and our patients’ families began calling with questions regarding the outbreak. Things really sunk in when positive COVID-19 cases began to pop up locally in our communities and further PPE and protocols were put into place. By this point, our office was in the process of establishing a specialized clinic to receive patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms.”

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military

Dursky, left, in PPE. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.

While the threat of insufficient PPE looms and seeing stress on her co-worker’s faces happens more regularly, Dursky admits that working with families has sustained her in such an emotional and uncertain time.

“My favorite part of being a nurse is connecting with my patients and their families,” she said. “A high point for me is being able to educate them on ways to protect their families, keeping them as healthy as they can be during this difficult time. Providing reassurance that we will be available in the clinic to take their calls and questions; even as other services of the community are shutting down.”

While the nature of her job is to reassure the community, the thought of work coming home with her is never far from Dursky’s mind.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military

Megan and Trevor Dursky with their family. Photo courtesy of Megan Dursky.

“I’m fearful of contracting the virus myself and bringing it home to my family,” she shared. “Trying to serve patients while protecting those closest to me in my home. Every time you grab a door handle and then rub your forehead without thinking only moments later, have you just made a potentially life-changing mistake?”

Through it all, she says that nurses are truly there for patients.

“Without you — we would not be essential,” she said. “A smile from my patient can clear the day’s troubles from my mind and make everything we do worthwhile.”

We Are The Mighty will be featuring different heroes on the front lines of the battle with COVID-19. From health care workers to teachers, kind neighbors, grocery store employees and other mission essential personnel, if you know someone going above and beyond, please email us to feature them: tessa.robinson@wearethemighty.com.

Articles

‘Not just a box’ — 9 unclaimed veterans to be laid to rest

Nine unclaimed veterans and two spouses will be laid to rest Friday in Iowa, thanks to the tireless efforts of a woman who treats every urn as if it contains the remains of her own family. 

Funeral director Lanae Strovers has been working on the upcoming ceremony for more than two years, but her passion and reputation for honoring veterans goes back much further in her career at Hamilton’s Funeral Home

Having been put on bed rest for three months because of surgery, Strovers was looking for a way to keep busy when she discovered Hamilton’s had about 300 urns sitting in storage. She made it her mission to follow up with families to see whether they could claim the urns or still needed them stored.

After the arduous process of tracking down relatives or guardians for all the urns, Strover said the funeral home ended up with the remains of three unclaimed veterans and organized a service for them.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Law enforcement in attendance at the 2018 ceremony for unclaimed veterans at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

“Since then, people are aware that Hamilton’s makes sure veterans get buried whether they have family or not,” Strovers said. “Local law enforcement has turned in urns, and storage unit owners have turned some in to us, which is an amazing thing because they know that we will hold the ceremony when it’s necessary.”

Strovers was adopted as a child and only recently learned anything about her biological family. Her background made her look at unclaimed remains differently.

“I felt that every person was a possible brother, dad, grandfather, uncle, or family member to me,” she said. “It’s not just a box with cremated remains in it. It’s someone’s family member. For whatever reason, they got separated — that’s not our place to judge those stories at all, but to be respectful that it’s someone’s loved one.”

One of the veterans to be honored Friday is Robert Glen Baumgardner, who served in the Army during the Korean War. He died in 2000. Burglars stole his urn from his sister’s house in 2020 after she died. Police later discovered it in the middle of an intersection and took it to the funeral home.

World War II Army veteran Calvin Dean Sours died in May 2012 at age 93. His urn was later found in the office of an administrator who had failed to bury him.

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Funeral director Lanae Strovers, left, watches as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds receives a flag on behalf of an unclaimed veteran at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in 2018. Photo courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

Knowing that a person’s remains could be forgotten on a shelf doesn’t sit right with Strovers. While the ultimate goal is reuniting remains with the person’s family, giving the person a proper send-off is the next best option.

Friday’s ceremony – the third Strovers has organized – will begin with a 12:30 p.m. service at Hamilton’s in West Des Moines, Iowa. Law enforcement personnel, Patriot Guard Riders, and Iowa combat veterans will lead a procession to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, where Iowa-based country singer Cody Hicks will perform the national anthem. Military honors will be rendered, and local representatives and notable community members will receive the flags on behalf of each veteran.

Rich Shipley, assistant state captain of the Iowa Patriot Guard Riders and a Marine Corps veteran, said the riders would be there to ensure the veterans would be “laid to rest with as many brothers present as possible.”

These 6 heroes show that bravery happens everywhere in the military
Nine unclaimed veterans and two spouses will be laid to rest Friday, June 18, 2021, at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. Photos courtesy of Hamilton’s Funeral Home.

“Our nation’s heroes should never be unclaimed, discarded, or interred with no family present,” Shipley wrote in an email to Coffee or Die Magazine.

“It’s really a great community event where tons of people come together to honor these veterans,” Strovers said. She strongly encourages the public to attend, especially families with children.

“To teach those kids respect for people who served our country is huge,” Strovers said. “And just to see so many people coming to pay respects to people they never knew simply because they served our country is a pretty amazing thing.”


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson, Texas Military Forces Public Affairs.

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