Military moms: America's all too often forgotten heroes - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HEROES

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

I’ve long been aware of the old Marine Corps axiom that sergeants are the backbone of the Corps, and when I was a sergeant serving on active duty, I was certain that it was right. In the years since, however, I’ve had to opportunity to view service with a broader scope, and to be honest, I think the backbone of our nation’s military isn’t any specific rank… I think the backbone title actually rightfully belongs to military moms.

Military moms come in a number of varieties: there are the mothers that serve on active duty or in the reserves, there are moms that raise their kids alone, sometimes for months on end, to support their spouses in uniform, and of course, there are the moms that worry about their sons and daughters as they ship off to basic training.

There may be more than one type of military mom, but there’s one thing that they all have in common: they’re all too often forgotten when we’re expressing our gratitude to the military community. Military moms give of themselves while honoring the service of their peers, their children, or their spouses. And all too often, we forget to let them know just how much that means to us.

“I joined to make a difference in my life,” Marine veteran Cheyenne Weaver told Sandboxx News, “And then once I became a mom, to make a difference in her life too. Being in the service matters because it helps show children that moms can do anything.”

I got to witness Cheyenne’s experiences as a military mom first hand, as the non-commissioned officer in charge of the shop she and I worked together in back in our days aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-Nine Palms. Serving in the Marine Corps is ripe with challenges, and I saw as those challenges multiplied once she became responsible not only for her duties in uniform, but for the well being of her beloved kids as well.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
Cheyenne with the rest of our shop while pregnant with her first child.

Another military mom I had the honor of serving with was Nicole Yager. She joined the Marine Corps to make her parents proud, and today, she carries that same drive when it comes to making her kids proud too.

“I joined the Marine Corps because everyone doubted that I could even make it through boot camp. I ended up being voted into the leadership position, Guide, and graduated boot camp with the honor graduate title,” Nicole told Sandboxx News.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

“I still have the same mentality today, the same longing to do something bigger. The only difference is now, in addition to wanting my parents to be proud, I want my children to be proud (all four) and to see that, with hard work and dedication, you really can accomplish whatever you want in life.”

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

Of course, raising kids with a spouse in the military isn’t easy either. Bree Salas, the proud wife of a Marine and mother of three has been working full time on Sandboxx’s Customer Happiness team while taking care of their kids on her own for the past nine months. Her husband is on a 24-month unaccompanied tour of duty overseas.

“Being a military spouse has allowed me to grow as an individual and learn my own place in the military world. I have filled the shoes of ‘dad’ for two separate 6-month deployments and I’m currently 9 months into a 24 month unaccompanied tour. Each of these stretches of time have come with their own sets of battles–to include blowing out a knee, needing emergency surgery on a gallbladder, home issues, car issues, broken bones on our rambunctious boys, and currently navigating through parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Bree explained to Sandboxx News.

Without Bree’s hard work and sacrifices, her husband couldn’t complete his mission. He certainly deserves our respect and admiration for his duty to our country, but we can’t forget that Bree and thousands of mothers like her are doing their duty at home as well.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

“While my spouse consistently has my back and we currently talk daily through FaceTime and email, being the soul parent handling it all has given me immeasurable strength and opportunities to learn about myself,” Bree says.

While my wife and I were together throughout my time in uniform, we didn’t have our beautiful daughter until after I’d already transitioned off of active duty. My wife is an incredible mother and takes great pride in her time as a military spouse, but there’s another military mom in my family that I can assign credit for my own successes in the Corps: my amazing mother–an infection control nurse that has put off her retirement to continue working through the COVID-19 pandemic that remains ongoing.

Of course, I had to reach out to my mom to ask her what being a military mom has been like for her.

“Being a military mom makes me part of a larger body in the world that I would not be if it were not for my Marine son,” she explained.

“As a result of him, my family has an increased appreciation of family values, strength, thoughtfulness, and love. I value the qualities he bestows in his every day life and to my family.”

I only cried a little when she sent me that.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
Shaking my moms hand as a newly minted U.S. Marine.

My mom was there to talk on the phone when I was a young corporal struggling with leading my first teams. She helped me weigh my options when it came time to re-enlist, and when I became a funeral honors NCO tasked with some of the most difficult work of my life, she was there to remind me that what I was doing was potentially some of the most important work of my life as well. She was there once again as I transitioned back into the civilian world, and I’ll never forget my mom and I both finishing our bachelor’s degrees together shortly after I got out.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
My mom and I celebrating when we both completed our Bachelor’s Degrees.

My mom raised me to go after challenges head first, to roll with the punches when they came, and above all else, to be able to laugh at myself, even in the hard times. Without my mom’s support, there never would have been a Sergeant Hollings. Without her telling me to go after what I cared about, there may never have been an Editor Alex Hollings either.

So as we roll into this Mother’s Day weekend, take a minute to honor the military moms: the women raising their kids while serving their country, the women running the Homefront while their husbands are overseas, and the women that gave us the heart and the tenacity we needed to chase our own dreams of earning the title Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Coast Guardsman.

These strong women represent the best of us, and through that, they help to bring out the best in us. For their hard work, their sleepless nights, and their sacrifices… thank you military moms, from the bottom of my heart. And to all moms, military or otherwise, happy Mother’s Day!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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‘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.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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.”

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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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2 Daughters honor slain police and firefighter dads at high school graduation

Two teenagers on opposite sides of the country paid tribute to their fathers — one a cop, one a firefighter, both killed on the job — as they graduated from high school last week.

In Anderson, South Carolina, Karlee Burdette crossed the graduation stage at Crescent High School wearing her father’s graduation cap and gown, applauded by about 30 members of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. Her father, Alex Burdette, was an Anderson County sheriff’s deputy when he died in 2005 helping to clear a traffic accident.

In California, Joslyn Carlon was saluted by lines of over 100 firefighters as she arrived to her Saugus High School graduation ceremony outside Los Angeles. She accepted her diploma wearing a turnout coat worn by her father, Tory Carlon, who was shot and killed in a workplace shooting while on duty in Agua Dulce just two days before the ceremony.

Tory Carlon was 44 and a 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. A firefighter captain wounded in the shooting remains in the hospital.

In South Carolina, Karlee Burdette graduated as the valedictorian of her high school, the same school her father, Alex Burdette, had attended. 

“I had to get a little bit creative to find a way to get him to be here,” Burdette told WSPA. “I thought I would wear his cap and gown as a way to honor him and also to have him with me on that stage.”

Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride brought 30 deputies and employees, some who had known Alex and even been present at his death, and saluted Burdette as she crossed the stage.

Today was a day of celebration for the Sheriff's Office family. Karlee Burdette, daughter of fallen Master Deputy Alex…

Posted by Anderson County Sheriff's Office SC on Thursday, June 3, 2021

“I was actually very surprised at how many of them actually came,” said Burdette’s mother, Nicole Burdette. “Some of the guys that were here, were working with Alex that night. One of the guys was the first one on scene. So I know it means a lot to me to have him here and have them all here.

In California, where the death of Tory Carlon was only two days old, over 100 firefighters attended Joslyn Carlon’s graduation. As she received her diploma, the group took a knee.

At a Tuesday vigil, according to KABC-TV, a fellow firefighter said of Carlon, “When it comes to being a father, when it comes to being a fireman, when it comes to being a mentor, there was nobody that could parallel that.”


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

Feature image: Photo courtesy of Anderson County Sheriff’s Office

MIGHTY HEROES

This Marine pilot took 22 Japanese fighters head on – then led an infantry charge

The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor must have been a strange time for the U.S. military. But many didn’t get the chance to ponder the new world order they lived in.


As Hawaii came under attack, other American military forces were under the gun from Japan at the same time. While the Imperial Navy left the U.S. Pacific Fleet in ruins within hours, the Battle of Wake Island would last for 15 days.

Unfortunately for the invading Japanese, the Marines posted an aviator named Capt. Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Elrod to Wake Island four days prior to the attack.

Elrod and his fellow pilots started with 12 F1F-3 Wildcats to defend the island. After the initial Japanese aerial bombing, only four survived.

 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
Henry T. Elrod (Marine Corps photo)

That’s when the full Japanese invasion fleet arrived.

The Marine pilots provided air cover for the defenders of the island. They helped the 450 Marines on the ground fend off a large naval bombardment from three light cruisers and six destroyers.

Marine artillery, using WWI-era battleship guns, struck the Japanese destroyer Hayate – they hit its magazine and the ship exploded. Elrod then bombed and strafed the destroyer Kisiragi, sending it to the bottom of the Pacific. His plane was heavily damaged and had to be scrapped for parts.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
The Kisragi. (Kure Maritime Museum)

The Marines repelled the invasion, but that didn’t stop the Japanese attack. The commander shelled the island incessantly.

When the Japanese bombers returned hours later, only one Wildcat still remained operational. With Hammerin’ Hank at the controls, it flew to intercept 22 incoming enemy planes. He threw everything he had at the incoming planes and managed to take down two of them.

Over the next two weeks, the flightline mechanics managed to fix more planes — two at a time — by using the inoperable ones for parts. There was just too much coming at them.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
Wreckage of Wildcat 211-F-11, flown by Capt Elrod on December 11, in the attack that sank the Japanese destroyer Kisaragi. (U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command)

Hank Elrod was killed on the beach at Wake Island as he led a group of Marines against the oncoming invasion troops, but not before capturing an enemy machine gun during an infantry charge.

While 90 percent of the defenders at Wake survived, they were sent to prison camps for the duration of the war. American forces would not attempt to retake the island, but would instead use a blockade to starve the Japanese defenders.

The Japanese would hold Wake Island until September 1945, two days after the formal surrender of Japan.

Henry Elrod was posthumously promoted to major and awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman.

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Watch: Chicago police survive 6-second, point-blank shootout

It all happens in 6 seconds.

Two police officers jump from their car as a man is walking — slowly, almost casually — toward them in an alley. The cops yells at him to stop.

In a flash almost too quick to see, a gun appears. Everything is point-blank. A spray of shots ring out.

Both officers — Julio Garcia, 28, and Mark Nakayama, 25 — are hit. As one cop falls, he returns fire and hits the shooter.

This officer body camera video includes graphic images of two shootings including the shooting of a police officer and bullet wound injuries.

The Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) released gripping body-worn camera footage Wednesday showing an early morning shooting in an alleyway on May 16, 2021. The footage shows just how quickly police have to make split-second decisions in lethal situations. 

Two calls to 911 had reported a man firing shots, and a police-run listening system had located the sound of gunfire in Chicago’s West Douglas Boulevard, about 5 miles west of downtown. Within minutes, officers found a man matching caller descriptions in a nearby alleyway. As two officers followed the man, identified as 45-year-old Bruce Lua, on foot, Garcia and Nakayama pull into the alley ahead of him, cutting him off and leaving him surrounded.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
A screengrab from Chicago Police officer Julio Garcia’s body-worn camera shows the moment Bruce Lua fired, and captures the brass casing of Garcia’s bullet as it ejects from his pistol on May 16, 2021. Lua’s shot hit Garcia in the right hand within a split-second of this image. Screengrab from COPA Vimeo video.

Garcia and Lua are a few feet apart as they fire at each other, almost simultaneously. One frame from Garcia’s camera appears to capture the exact moment that he both fires his weapon and is hit by Lua’s shot. In the frame, a brass casing is ejecting from Garcia’s weapon as he fires, but his hand appears to be deflected by Lua’s bullet.

Following the shooting, Garcia can be seen with blood dripping down his right arm and hand. He then almost immediately switches his weapon from his right hand to his left, covering Lua.

This officer body camera video includes graphic images of three shootings including the shooting of two police officers.

Nakayama — who on his body camera footage can be heard telling other officers he is shot in the leg — falls but appears to fire at least one shot that strikes Lua, causing him to fall as well.

Garcia covers Lua until other officers arrive who disarm and cuff Lua and begin to treat Nakayama.

At one point, a fellow officer can be heard yelling, “Where the f*ck is that ambulance?”

Both officers and Lua were transported to the hospital and released. The CPD Case Incident Report lists the officers’ injuries as “serious,” with Garcia shot once and Nakayama shot twice. Lua is being held on $10 million bail and charged with two counts of attempted murder.


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

Feature image: Screen grab from COPA Vimeo video

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.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

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.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

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.

MIGHTY HEROES

6 badass women in the military

Amongst the backdrop of our relatively male-dominated world, women have often taken supporting roles. This is especially true in male-dominated fields like the military. Despite the perception that women weren’t suited to physically demanding jobs, many women have gone on to take leading roles in several branches of the U.S. military. Today, we’re turning the spotlight to shine on some of the most badass women warriors around.

1. Captain Linda Bray 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

Captain Linda Bray was the leader of the 988th Military Police Company in 1989. Out of the 700 women who took part in Operation Just Cause in Panama, Bray was the first woman to command American soldiers on the battlefield. In several interviews, Bray said that she joined the Army to be challenged on a personal level, as well as to represent her country.

And boy, she did not disappoint. Bray’s leadership shined a light on the marginalization of female soldiers in the U.S military and ultimately caused leaders to reconsider the prohibition of women in the military. The ban officially ended in 2013. To this day, Linda Bray serves as a role model to many female soldiers who still often find themselves challenged within the military system. 

2. General Ann E. Dunwoody 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

In 2008, Ann E. Dunwoody became the first female officer to reach four-star rank in United States military history. Before retiring in 2012, Dunwoody led Army Materiel Command. During the First Gulf War in 1992, she was also the first female commanding a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division. Regardless of her achievements, Dunwoody retains a humble vision of her military career, stating that she “sees herself as simply a soldier.”

Perhaps this viewpoint can be attributed to Dunwoody being a fourth-generation Army officer. In her family, serving your country isn’t an extraordinary achievement; it’s just what you do. She stresses the importance of recognizing the journeys of other women in the military, as the women serving today are paving the way for those to come. In 2015, Dunwoody compiled all her knowledge from past military campaigns and experience in leadership, releasing a book called “A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America’s First Female Four-Star General.”

3 & 4. Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

In 2015, Captain Griest and 1st Lieutenant Haver became the first female soldiers to successfully finish Army Ranger School and subsequently earned their ranger tabs. The Ranger School, established in 1950, has had over 77,000 tabbed soldiers, but Griest and Haver were the first women to qualify. Both graduates of the U.S Military Academy at West Point, Haver served as an AH-64 Apache pilot, and Griest was a military police platoon leader. Both women viewed Ranger School as an excellent way to prepare themselves for leadership positions.

Haver has stated before that she wanted to attend for much of the same reasons men do: to gain experience and be exposed to potential opportunities. In addition, she’s also said that normalizing female representation in the military will not only make the military atmosphere more diverse and accepting, but also a better institution all around. Griest and Haver’s trailblazing mission has proved even more successful; over 30 women, including National Guardsmen and enlisted soldiers, have since earned their Ranger tabs.

5. Eileen Collins

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

Eileen Collins, perhaps better known for her role as the first female space shuttle commander, also had a highly accomplished military background in the Air Force. Collins was one of the first women to be recruited for Air Force training right after graduating from Syracuse University and completed her training in 1979. After graduating, she also became the first female flight instructor for the Air Force, teaching pilots how to fly complex military aircraft.

By 1989, Collins had not only received several more advanced degrees but had also logged over a thousand hours in flight time. Combined, her degrees and flight time were more than enough to be accepted into the competitive Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. From there, Collins proceeded to be the first female pilot for NASA, spending 419 hours in space. She was assigned to the historic Columbia space shuttle in 1999. Now retired from both the Air Force and NASA, she has received a great deal of recognition for her accomplishments, including indictment into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  

6. Mary A. Hallaren 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

According to Colonel Mary Hallaren, there was never a question about whether women should serve in the military. With the onset of Wolrd War II and the shockingly gruesome events at Pearl Harbor, Hallaren enlisted in the first training class of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, commonly known as WAC, in 1942. Hallaren’s pension for leadership proved beneficial; she was quickly promoted to commanding the most expansive female unit overseas.

By 1948, she was the director of WAC and earned the first commissioned officer position in the Regular Army. Unlike most military positions offered to women at the time, it was a non-medical role. Throughout the rest of her career, Hallaren’s passion and dedication made her instrumental in the fight for inclusion. Her work eventually earned her a spot in the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

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

 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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

 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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

 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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

 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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

 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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 reporter performed brain surgery on a Marine using a handheld drill

In April 2003, the Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines entered Baghdad, headed for the Iraqi Intelligence Ministry. Sergeant Jesus Vindaña, a radio operator, was relaying orders from his command when a sniper’s bullet tore through his helmet from behind.


His buddies tried to revive him, but the company corpsman declared him dead at the scene.

Except he wasn’t dead — Vindaña’s heart was beating, but it was so weak it didn’t register a pulse.

Nearby, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, was working as a reporter for the cable news network.

Gupta was embedded with “Devil Docs,” a team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and others who operate out of medical tents called “Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suites” in some of the most dangerous combat zones in the world. It was in this FRSS that Gupta found Vindaña – and his pulse.

Luckily for the wounded Marine, Dr. Gupta is a member of the staff and faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He is the associate chief of Neurosurgery there, and routinely works in its operating rooms.

As the FRSS team worked frantically to save the Marine (who had twice been declared dead already), they asked Gupta for his Neurosurgery expertise, he later recalled in an article on CNN. Turns out, the military didn’t send many brain surgeons to the front-line FRSS units.

They also didn’t have the medical equipment necessary to open skulls during surgery. Not a problem for the resourceful doctor. Gupta borrowed a set of tools from the Marines there and used a Black and Decker power drill to open Vindaña’s head.

Within an hour, Gupta removed the bullet in Vindaña’s brain and the Marine was in the recovery room.

“In all the years I have worked in hospitals, I have never seen resources mobilized so quickly and health care workers move with such purpose,” Dr. Gupta wrote just three years later. “And, remember, it was a tent in the middle of the desert by the dark of night in the most dangerous place on Earth.”

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

Vindaña now advocates for health care reform and maintains contact with Dr. Gupta. (CNN/YouTube)

Years after the surgery, Gupta met with Vindaña again in the Marine’s native Los Angeles. The only noticeable remnants of his bullet to the brain was a “slight limp and weakness in his left hand.”

Articles

The second man on the moon wants you to know that Tang sucks

Tang, the orange-flavored drink mix that intrepid American astronauts took into space, wasn’t selling so well until it famously went into orbit. And there’s at least one astronaut who wishes it never left the ground.

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second person to step foot on the moon, told the audience of the 2013 Spike TV Guys Choice awards that “Tang sucks.”

For those unfamiliar with Tang, it’s the orange-flavored breakfast drink that has somehow managed to stick around grocery store shelves for the past 60-plus years, as if there wasn’t already an orange beverage closely associated with mornings. Except the only thing Tang has in common with oranges is its color.

Aldrin, the famous West Point graduate and Air Force astronaut, was not only the second man on the moon, he was a combat pilot in the Korean War. After notching two MiG kills in 66 combat missions, he earned a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and joined NASA. So if Buzz Aldrin says Tang sucks, he’s probably right.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Prime Crew pilot of the Gemini XII space flight, undergoes zero-gravity ingress and egress training aboard an Air Force KC-135 aircraft. He practices using camera equipment. (NASA)

Much of the Twitterverse agreed with him. An informal poll conducted by NPR following his controversial statement found that more than 57.1% of respondents agreed. Another 29.43% disagreed and 13.47% didn’t know what Tang is — and their lives are better off for it.

If you disagree with Aldrin, that’s fine. Just keep in mind that old-school astronauts don’t take guff from laymen. The one time someone tried getting into his face about how the moon landing was faked ended with Aldrin punching that person in the face.

Because NASA took this orange-like beverage on space flights, sales of the drink took off, too. It was so closely linked with the United States’ space program that people came to believe NASA developed the powdered beverage especially for astronauts. That built-in marketing gave it the lift it needed to stay on shelves ever since.

For this American hero’s sake, let’s be clear about Tang. If orange-scented furniture polish tasted exactly how it smelled, it would taste like Tang. The closest Tang powder ever gets to an orange is the picture of an orange on the label. Although it provides 100% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, that’s about all the benefit you’ll get from it.

Tang also contains two artificial yellow dyes, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, which studies by the Center for Science in the Public Interest say can cause allergic reactions, contain possible carcinogens and may cause hyperactivity in children. It also contains BHA, which the label says is used to “protect flavor,” as if that was something we wanted. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health says BHA “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.“

Two good reasons to ditch BHA altogether.

For real food, NASA created dehydrated edibles for the astronauts to consume while in space, including scrambled eggs, curried chicken and raisin rice pudding, all packed in sealed plastic bags.

It’s no wonder U.S. Navy astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich aboard a Gemini mission.


This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Feature image courtesy of NASA.

MIGHTY HEROES

8 men who earned the most Purple Hearts

In the United States military, the Purple Heart is a revered, if unwanted, military accolade bestowed upon those individuals who have been wounded in action with the enemy. The Military Order of the Purple Heart describes it as “awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.”

The Purple Heart traces its lineage all the way back to the Revolutionary War when it was called the Badge of Military Merit. After World War I, renewed interest in reviving the Badge of Military Merit led to the establishment of the modern Purple Heart. When the new Purple Heart was authorized in 1932, it superseded the short-lived Army Wound Ribbon and the wear of Wound Chevrons – devices on the sleeve that denoted the number of times someone had been wounded in combat.

Two million Purple Hearts have been awarded since it was created. The men below earned more of them per individual than any others.

1. Staff Sgt. Albert L. Ireland – Marine Corps

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
Four Marines man a machine gun in Korea, where they are serving with the 1st Marine Division. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Staff Sergeant Albert Ireland has the distinction of being awarded the most Purple Hearts of any individual across all branches of service. During his 12 years of service – spanning two wars from 1941 to 1953 – Ireland was wounded a total of nine times. Albert fought his way across the Pacific with the Marines during World War II, during which time he was wounded five times. During the Korean War, he was wounded four more times, and the last one was severe enough that he was medically discharged.

2. Lt. Col. Richard J. Buck – Army

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
Dressed in parkas (Overcoat, parka type, with pile liner), Missouri infantrymen pose for a New Year greeting, 19th Infantry Regiment, Kumsong front, Korea, 14 December 1951. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Richard Buck graduated from West Point in 1951 before being shipped to the Korean peninsula. During his service in the Korean War, Buck was wounded a total of four times. After the Korean War, Buck stayed in the Army and eventually joined Special Forces before being deployed to Vietnam. There, Buck was again wounded four times, bringing his Purple Heart total to eight for his career. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1970. 

3. Maj. Gen. Robert T. Frederick – Army

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Major General Frederick began World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel tasked with raising the 1st Special Service Force.  With this force he would fight in the Aleutian Islands, North Africa, and Italy before being promoted to Brigadier General and taking charge of the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force. During his time with 1st Special Service Force, he was wounded numerous times. At Anzio he was wounded twice in the same day. Frederick was once again promoted and took command of the 45th Infantry Division until the end of the war. Major General Frederick ended WWII with eight Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Service Crosses, and a Silver Star. He retired in 1952.

4. Col. David H. Hackworth – Army

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Colonel Hackworth was awarded eight purple hearts over the course of the Korean and Vietnam wars. During the Korean War, Hackworth served with several elite units – 8th Ranger Company, 25th Recon Company, and the 27th Wolfhound Raiders – before earning a battlefield commission and volunteering to serve another tour, which he completed with the 40th Infantry Division. During his time in Korea he was awarded three Purple Hearts. During the Vietnam War, Hackworth served multiple tours in Vietnam in multiple capacities but was well known for creating the Tiger Force with the 101st Airborne and revitalizing the demoralized 4/39th into the ‘Hardcore Recondo’ Battalion. There he received another five Purple Hearts. Col. Hackworth also holds the record for the most Silver Stars with ten awards.

5. Capt. Joe Hooper – Army

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Joe Hooper enlisted in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Infantryman in 1960. He was stationed at a number of locations before being assigned to D Co., 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment just prior to that unit’s deployment to Vietnam. On February 21, 1968, Hooper’s actions outside of Hue earned him the Medal of Honor as well as one of his Purple Hearts. Hooper would serve a second tour in Vietnam from 1970-71, during which time he received a direct commission to 2nd Lieutenant. During his tours, Lt. Cooper received eight Purple Hearts, the Medal of Honor, and two Silver Stars as well as numerous other awards.

6. Col. Robert L. Howard – Army

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
(Photo: U.S. Army)

 

Robert Howard enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1956 and by 1967 found himself assigned to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) in Vietnam.  Howard served a total of 54 months in Vietnam. During one thirteen month tour, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor on three separate occasions, but due to the covert nature of the operations, two were reduced – to the Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart for actions in December 1968. In the remainder of his time in Vietnam, Howard was given a commission to 2nd Lieutenant and wounded a further seven times giving him a total of eight Purple Hearts for his career. He retired as a Colonel in 1992.

7. Col. William L. Russell – Army

William Russell first enlisted in the 153rd Infantry Regiment of the Arkansas National Guard during World War II, seeing action in the Aleutian Islands before being given a direct commission. After Advanced Infantry Officer Training, he was assigned to I Co., 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division. During his time with the 83rd Infantry Division, he earned a Silver Star, was nominated for the Medal of Honor, and was wounded seven times, earning him the nickname ‘The King of the Purple Hearts.” After WWII, Russell returned to Arkansas before being called up to participate in the Korean War where he led the 937th Field Artillery Battalion into combat. Russell retired from the military in 1965 with the rank of Colonel, having been awarded eightPurple Hearts.

8. Sgt. Maj. William Waugh – Army

 

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
(Photo: U.S. Army)

William Waugh enlisted in the Army in 1948 and was briefly assigned to the 187th Parachute Regimental Combat Team in Korea before earning his Green Beret in 1954. Waugh deployed to Vietnam with Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha team in 1961. During numerous tours in Vietnam, Waugh was involved in many different operations including multiple combat High Altitude Low Opening insertions. During the Battle of Bong Son, Waugh was grievously wounded and was later awarded the Silver Star and his sixth Purple Heart. By the time Sgt. Maj. Waugh retired in 1972, he had been wounded two more times for a total of eight Purple Hearts. After his illustrious Special Forces career, Waugh continued on working for the CIA during which time, at the age of 71, he participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

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.”


Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

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.”

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

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.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes

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.

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.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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.

Military moms: America’s all too often forgotten heroes
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.

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