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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Tech. Sgt. Charles Coolidge, who fought the Nazis throughout Europe and North Africa with the Army‘s 36th Infantry Division, earned the Medal of Honor for his courage during a fierce forest battle in France in 1944.
The Defense Department on Sunday reposted archival video of the June 18, 1945, award ceremony near Dornstadt, Germany. The video shows then-Lt. Gen. Wade Haislip, who commanded the Army’s XV Corps in Western Europe and after the war served as vice chief of staff of the Army, presenting the Medal of Honor to Coolidge.
In October 1944, Coolidge took command of a small group of men when they encountered a German force, estimated to be a company, in the woods near the French village of Belmont-sur-Battant. For four days, through the rain and cold, Coolidge rallied his men and beat back one German attack after another.
When the Germans made a final assault, with two tanks in tow, Coolidge tried to take them out with a bazooka. When the bazooka malfunctioned, he threw it away, grabbed as many grenades as he could carry, and hurled them at the German infantry. When it became clear the Germans would overrun their position, Coolidge organized his men in an orderly withdrawal and was the last to leave.
Until his April 6 death in Chattanooga, Tenn., Coolidge was the oldest living Medal of Honor recipient.
There’s a cast of characters that pop up in any military unit: you have the “grandpa,” the “fighter,” and the “smiley-jokester” that everyone loves immediately.
For SEAL Team five, Rob Guzzo was the “smiley jokester” — everyone who encountered him loved him right away.
“As soon as Rob checked in and he was going to be a comms guy, I mean we just hit it off right off the bat,” one Navy SEAL states. “We were just laughing all the time.”
Rob’s teammates commonly remember him as being a “walking holiday.” Sadly, Rob passed away in 2012, but this popular and fun-natured SEAL will live on through the memories in which he made with family and the SEAL community.
“Rob was a total jokester, which is awesome but at the same time was serious,” another SEAL admits. “His parents were both military, and he had that sense of pride.”
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
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.
2. A Fort Drum soldier pulled people from a burning tour bus
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
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.
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
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.
5. An Air Force master sergeant saved dozens after Haiti earthquake
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
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.
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.
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.
(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.
While he treated the first JTAC, another RPG hit the vehicle, so Middleton rushed back up to engage the enemy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Marines repelled the invasion, but that didn’t stop the Japanese attack. The commander shelled the island incessantly.
War heroes can emerge from plenty of unexpected places, and that includes kennels, lofts, and stables. Here are seven awesome war heroes who didn’t let being an animal get in the way of winning human conflicts.
1. The pigeon who saved 194 American lives after being shot through the chest.
Cher Ami was a messaging pigeon serving in the Argonne Forest with the 77th Infantry Division when the battalion of 550 soldiers she was with was completely cut off by German forces. After four days of heavy fighting, friendly artillery decided the battalion must have surrendered already and began firing on the 77th.
In 1917, Stubby joined a group of American soldiers training for the trenches of World War I. He deployed with the men overseas and proved himself in battle multiple times, waking soldiers as he sensed incoming artillery attacks and infantry assaults that human sentries hadn’t yet detected.
Despite being caught in multiple gas attacks, Sgt. Stubby survived the war and the supreme commander of American Forces in World War I, Gen. John Pershing, personally awarded him a gold medal in 1921 for his efforts.
Wojtek the bear was bought and adopted by Polish soldiers making their way back east after they were released from a prison camp in Siberia in 1942.
4. The horse that ferried ammunition and wounded Marines despite two wounds from enemy fire.
Sgt. Reckless was a Marine in an anti-rifle platoon during the Korean War. She served in a few battles as an ammo carrier and evacuated wounded troops when necessary. In the Battle of Vegas in early 1953, Reckless carried rounds for three days straight.
5. Simon continues catching rats during a siege after nearly dying of injuries from artillery fire.
In April 1949, the HMS Amethyst was ordered up the Yangtse to guard the British embassy in Nanking during the war between Communists and Nationalists in China. As the Amethyst moved up the river, it came under heavy fire from a Communist shore battery and ran aground.
Besieged by Communist forces, the Amethyst was trapped for a total of 101 days. The ship’s cat, Simon, was riddled by shrapnel and partially burnt by artillery fire in the initial attack but forced himself back into service to combat a surge of rats that were damaging the limited rations in the ship. His efforts allowed the men to just barely survive the siege as rations nearly ran out. He was the first member of the Royal Navy to receive the Dickin Medal for animal valor.
7. Nemo the dog fights off attackers after being blinded.
Nemo and his handler, Airman 2nd Class Bob Thorneburg, were patrolling a cemetery near their base in Vietnam on Dec. 4, 1966 when they were attacked by the Viet Cong. Nemo was shot in the eye while Throneburg took a round to the shoulder.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was awarded the Silver Star on March 17, 2021 — his 89th birthday — for actions that took place when he was a member of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment nearly 70 years ago. In September 1951 Naimo, a rifleman in “Howe” Company, found himself in the midst of bitter fighting along the 38th parallel, fighting for “the Punch Bowl.” High casualties among Naimo’s company meant his heroism was nearly lost to history.
The year 1950 had seen maneuver warfare up and down the Korean Peninsula with the Communist North sweeping aside allied resistance in June 1950 until the desperate defense of the Pusan Perimeter. Gen. Douglas MacArthur regained allied initiative with a brilliant counteroffensive landing Marines at Inchon in September 1950.
With Marines spearheading an Allied sweep North to the Yalu River, MacArthur all but guaranteed victory by the end of 1950 by declaring troops would be “Home by Christmas.” China entering the war in November 1950 once again changed the balance, leading to the fabled “Battle of the Chosin Reservoir” and a mass retreat south by Allied forces on the peninsula. By the summer of 1951, they were increasingly locked in stalemate with the front lines settling along the 38th parallel.
June 1951 began with armistice talks, but they began to fall apart by the end of summer. In August 1951, in an effort to drive the North Koreans and Chinese back to the negotiating table, Naimo, along with some 30,000 other members of the Allied task force, found themselves attacking a mountainous region on the far eastern part of the 38th parallel in what would become known as The Battle of the Punch Bowl.
The operation lasted from Aug. 31 until Sept. 21, 1951, and featured frequent and vicious engagements in mountainous terrain resulting in at least 5,000 Chinese and North Korean dead. On the Allied side, 69 Americans and 122 South Koreans would be killed in action and more than 1,000 Allied troops wounded.
On the morning of Sept. 14, 1951, Naimo and his fellow members of Howe Company were digging into a key ridge atop the Punchbowl, with Naimo’s platoon occupying the far left flank of Howe Company’s position. Suddenly, the Chinese Army began to drop well-aimed and concentrated mortar fire on the Marines, effectively suppressing the company.
With a mortar scoring a direct hit on the position adjacent to his, and critically wounding two Marines, cries for help rang out. Naimo immediately rushed from his position to the aid of his fellow Marines. Picking up the first wounded Marine and rushing back out into the barrage, Naimo proceeded to carry him toward the aid station when another round detonated — this time wounding Naimo and knocking him to the ground. Undaunted, Naimo picked up his fellow Marine and pressed on, reaching the aid station.
“The normal reaction when under fire is fear; that is the reaction. It’s a very difficult and deliberate decision to act, especially to put yourself at risk to save or protect your fellow Marine,” said Col. John Polidoro, chief of staff, US Marine Corps Forces, Central Command, who awarded the Silver Star on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Going against the will of corpsmen and others at the aid station, Naimo ignored his own injuries and again rushed to the aid of another wounded Marine, bringing him to the aid station as well.
It was at this point in the engagement that Chinese forces began transitioning from indirect “prep” fire into a ground attack on Howe Company’s position. Observing Chinese soldiers advancing up the hill, Naimo once again ignored his own wounds and sprang into action. He jumped into a fighting position and began firing his weapon and throwing grenades into the ranks of the advancing enemy. Naimo continued to do this until he was nearly out of ammunition and the Chinese assault broke on Howe Company’s rocky ridge.
“I earned this for something I was trained to do,” Naimo said.
While immediately recognized for heroism by his platoon commander, Naimo waited 70 years before being awarded — two days after this engagement, and before he could submit the paperwork, Naimo’s platoon commander was killed in action.
On his 89th birthday, Naimo, surrounded by family and friends rather than Marines, was presented the nation’s third highest award for valor.
“It doesn’t matter if the Marine’s actions took place yesterday, or 70 years ago, we will always ensure our Marines are recognized for their performance,” Polidoro said.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”