This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

So, President Ronald Reagan managed to make it into the news about 15 years after his death due to some leaked audio with inflammatory, racist remarks. But, oddly enough, 20 years before his death, Reagan accidentally sent Soviet forces in Vladivostok into high alert thanks to another bit of leaked audio. Specifically, he told an ill-advised joke about outlawing Russia.


The joke came on Aug. 11, 1984. Reagan was in the middle of a re-election campaign, and so he had a big announcement planned for his weekly radio address to America. He was going to be at his ranch in California, and so he asked National Public Radio engineers to do the address from there. They agreed.

So, the engineers came out and set up. As they were going through the mic checks, they asked him to say a few words to make sure they had all the levels right. Reagan agreed and went off on a quick riff:

My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.
This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Ronald Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July 1981.

(White House Photo)

The engineers in the room got that it was a joke, and they were part of a deal not to release informal or off-the-record audio. So they chuckled, got the levels right, and let the president give his actual, scheduled address.

But they weren’t the only ones who had heard the remarks. The audio was already being sent to some of the radio stations that would broadcast the remarks, and those stations were recording the feed in case they missed the start of the presidential address.

And not all of them were part of the agreement to hold recordings not meant for broadcast. Someone leaked the audio.

Most of the world got that it was a joke and the punditry class took on its typical role of either condemning or praising the remarks. Most condemned, especially in those countries in Europe that Russia’s missiles could reach. The Soviet Union was also predictably, not a fan.

But one group of Soviet soldiers weren’t entirely sure that it was a joke. There were reports of a low-level Soviet commander putting his troops in Vladivostok on a wartime footing on August 13, in the belief that America really was going to war with the Soviet Union.

The story is disputed, but it says the troops were told to stand down about 30 minutes later as the Soviet officer wasn’t actually allowed to issue that level of alert. Also, obviously, if the August 11 remarks about bombing the Soviet Union in five minutes were real, there wouldn’t be an undamaged Soviet Union on August 13.

Reagan was overwhelmingly re-elected despite the blowback from the joke, and he actually established a productive relationship with Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev in the late ’80s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 American jet fighters that later became devastating bombers

Some planes have long had a reputation for being deadly in air-to-air combat. That is an arena built for the fast and evasive — and planes get faster and more evasive all the time. But what do we do about the older fighters? Retirement or being passed on, second-hand, to other countries happens to some models, and some of these designs are so good, they last for decades (the P-51 served in a military role until 1985). Other planes, however, undergo a little role change and start dropping bombs instead.


This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
An F-51 Mustang of the U.S. Fifth Air Force’s 18th bomber wing releases two Napalm bombs over an industrial military target in North Korea. The Mustang was a preview of jet fighters that later proved very capable at bombing the enemy. (USAF photo)

In fact, when you look at the most prominent fighters from World War II (the P-51, the F6F Hellcat, the F4U Corsair, the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-38 Lightning), they were all multi-role fighters. The jet age was no different — many planes designed for air-to-air became very good at dropping bombs on the enemy on the ground. Here are some of the most prominent.

1. North American F-86 Sabre

The F-86 Sabre dominated the skies during the Korean War, but as the war went on, this plane also had a significant impact as a fighter-bomber. This plane did so well dropping ordnance that the Air Force eventually bought the F-86H, a dedicated fighter-bomber version of the F-86, which served until 1972.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
F-86H Sabres deployed during the Pueblo Crisis. While F-86A/E/Fs were rapidly retired, the F-86H served until 1972. (USAF photo)

2. North American F-100 Super Sabre

Like the F-86, the F-100 was initially intended for air-to-air combat. But the F-100A had its teething problems, and it never saw much combat as a fighter. The F-100D version, however, became a very reliable fighter-bomber. In fact, a later model, the F-100F operational trainer model, was among the first of the Wild Weasels — Vietnam-era bombers that were responsible for taking out enemy air defenses. The F-100 fighter-bombers stuck around until 1979.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
A North American F-100D Super Sabre drops napalm on enemy positions. This plane hung around with the Air National Guard as a fighter-bomber until 1979! (USAF photo)

3. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom

The Navy’s version of the Phantom, the F-4B, was an all-weather interceptor. The Air Force was the first branch to use this airframe as a tactical fighter, and the others quickly followed suit. As F-14s and F-15s emerged into service, F-4s took on more ground-attack missions. Today, those still in service with Turkey and other countries are primarily used for bombing.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
20 years after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, the F-4 was still a reliable plane for attack missions, dropping precision-guided weapons like this TV-guided GBU-15. (USAF photo)

4. Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Lessons learned from Vietnam and the development of new Soviet bombers spurred the development of the F-14 as a pure fighter. It had quite the long reach, too. With the end of the Cold War, though, the Tomcat quickly ran thin on targets in the air and was quickly retooled to attack ground targets. Sadly, it also saw its production ended shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union and was retired in 2004. It leaves us to wonder just what could have been for carrier air wings.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
Maverick, Goose, and Iceman made the Tomcat a movie star as a fighter in Top Gun, but in the War on Terror, it was carrying laser-guided bombs to blast terrorists on the ground. (DOD photo)

5. McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle

While the Navy replaced its F-4s with the F-14, the Air Force chose to replace them in the air-to-air role with the F-15. The F-15 dominated as an air-superiority fighter (it still hasn’t lost a for-real dogfight). Then, the Air Force sought to replace the F-4 for the ground-attack missions – and the F-15 was selected. Today, the F-15E is still going strong, bringing the fight to ground forces.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

The fact is, an air-superiority fighter need not despair when newer jets come along. It can earn a second lease on life by dropping bombs on the bad guys. It might not be as thrilling as a dogfight, but it’s plenty effective.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army lost a super heavy tank prototype for 27 years

As the Allies advanced on all fronts in World War II, the United States needed a new weapon. It had to be able to protect Allied troops while being powerful enough to break through the German defenses at the Siegfried line and land on the Japanese mainland. 

The Army built two prototypes of a super-heavy, super armored tank for just that purpose in 1945 – and then lost one of them almost as quickly. 

T28 Super Heavy Tank, Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky
T28 Super Heavy Tank, Patton Museum, Fort Knox, Kentucky (Mark Holloway, Wikimedia Commons)

Toward the end of 1944, American war planners knew the war was coming to a close. They were looking at how they would be able to smash through the vaunted defenses of the Siegfried Line that blocked their path into greater Germany. 

Nazi Germany’s Siegfried Line was a 300-mile line string of fortifications along the German border that was filled with bunkers, “dragon’s teeth” tank traps, pillboxes for machine guns and anything else that might slow or stop an enemy advance. 

Meanwhile, they were also preparing for the final invasion of the Japanese mainland. The year 1945 would bring them to the doorstep of mainland Japan, after the fall of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Japanese resistance had been extremely strong almost everywhere the Americans fought them. 

For both these reasons, the United States decided it needed an equalizer. It decided that this equalizer would come in the form of a massive tank, the T28 Super Heavy Tank

The T28 Tank on October 3, 1946 (US Army Signal Corps)

Concepts for super heavy tanks were nothing new. Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom were already developing their own versions of massive tanks for the war. The American version came in at 95 tons, with 12-inch armor plating, and a massive, fixed 105mm turret as a main gun. This behemoth was powered by a Ford V8 engine that could only move at a top speed of eight miles per hour. 

Originally planning to build five, the full order had to be cancelled as the war had ended by the time the first working prototype was completed in the Fall of 1945. Still with two in the arsenal, the Army decided it would test the ones it had. 

The tests did not go as well as the Army had hoped. The first T28 was scrapped after an engine fire heavily damaged the tank during its first trials at the Yuma Proving Grounds. The second T28 fared much better but the program was scrapped anyway. Army planners had already created two newer, more versatile tanks without making it super heavy.

Then, everyone, including the Army, forgot about the T28. Literally. As tank concepts continued to evolve and more and better tank programs were rolled out in the 27 years following World War II, the Korean War, and even the Vietnam War, the T28 sat abandoned in a field. 

By the time someone discovered the massive World War II-era super heavy tank in a Fort Belvoir field in 1974, it was covered in brush and bushes had grown up around the tank. No one really knows if it had been there the entire time or where it could have been if it wasn’t there the entire time. 

It was soon moved to the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox in Kentucky, as the remaining T28 prototype had really just become a museum piece in the intervening years. The Vietnam War was over, the Army was in its second generation of main battle tanks with the M60 Patton tank, and Japan and West Germany were now American allies. 

The T28 was moved from the Patton Museum at Fort Knox to Fort Benning in Georgia in 2010. 

Humor

11 hilarious Marine memes that are freaking spot on

Marine humor is super dark and most people outside of our community will never understand it.


But it’s all good — so long as we’ve got these memes, we know we’re not alone.

Related: 9 military photos that will make you do a double take

1. Maybe this is why Marines are so obsessed with pull-ups (via Marine Corps Memes).

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
And faster than a speeding bullet.

2. They must have been a 0311 Marine. But still saltier than a staff sergeant…

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
And still gets more respect than any POG… ever.

3. When you’re so excited that you forget how to speak proper English.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
Yeah, what he said.

4. The main difference between a Marine and an Airman (via Pop Smoke).

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
Killers vs. paper pushers.

Don’t Forget About: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

5. I can no longer see these rhyming pairs without hearing Taylor Swift… (via Military Memes).

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
It’s all fun and games until gunny finds you skating this hard.

6. It’s the one injury prevention tip that isn’t endorsed by the safety NCO (via Military Memes).

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
But hey, as long as that PFC lifts with his legs, he’ll probably be fine.

7. Becoming a Marine means you change forever.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
F*ck yeah, the change is forever! Semper Fi!

8. The Marine Corps Fashion show is very hit or miss.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
But you know you still want to bang one of them.

Also Read: 12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

9. Don’t complain, boot.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
It’s better than using your toothbrush.

10. The legend has finally been proven.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
We never doubted it. We swear we didn’t.

11. Sgt. Pennywise was just named recruiter of the year. True story.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
Even his nameplate says Pennywise. That’s freakin’ classic!

MIGHTY HISTORY

The destroyer that took on WWII kamikazes is coming to the big screen

During the Battle of Okinawa, one United States Navy ship went up against unbelievable odds — and survived to tell the incredible tale. The Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724) faced off against a horde of Japanese pilots — some of whom, now known as kamikazes, were willing to crash into American vessels and sacrifice their lives to complete their mission.

Now, the Laffey’s story is coming to the big screen.

Mel Gibson, acclaimed actor and director of the Academy Award-nominated film Hacksaw Ridge, is currently working on Destroyer, a film based on the Wukovits’ book, Hell from the Heavens: The Epic Story of the USS Laffey and World War II’s Greatest Kamikaze Attack. The film will be centered around the 90 minutes of chaos experienced by the crew of the Laffey on April 16, 1945. In the span of roughly an hour and a half, the Laffey was hit by four bombs and struck by as many as eight kamikazes.


This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

USS Laffey (DD 724) during World War II, packing six dual-purpose five-inch guns and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.

(U.S. Navy)

USS Laffey’s story didn’t start and end with those fateful 90 minutes, however. After Okinawa, she was repaired and went on to see action in the Korean War. After Korea, she served until 1975, when she was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register of Vessels. Unlike many of her sister ships that went directly to the scrapyard, she was preserved as a museum and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

USS Laffey (DD 724, right) next to USS Hank (DD 702), a sister ship named after William Hank, the commanding officer of the first USS Laffey (DD 459).

(U.S. Navy)

Laffey’s commanding officer, Commander Frederick J. Becton, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that April day in 1945. Becton was a well-decorated troop in World War II. He received the Silver Star four times, including once for heroism on D-Day and twice more for actions in the Philippines while commanding the Laffey.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

The first USS Laffey (DD 459), a Benson-class destroyer, pulling alongside another ship in 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

A previous USS Laffey, a Benson-class destroyer with the hull number DD 459, saw action in the Battle of Cape Esperance, but became a legend during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in the early morning hours of Friday, November 13, 1942. The destroyer closed to within 20 feet of the Japanese battleship Hiei and wounded Vice Admiral Hiroaki Abe before being sunk by enemy fire. The sinking of the Laffey cost many US lives, but left the Japanese without command in a pivotal moment.

It seems as though the name ‘Laffey’ is destined to fight the odds.

Check out the video below to see director Mel Gibson’s excitement as he discusses the near-impossible bravery of the USS Laffey at Okinawa.

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MIGHTY MOVIES

5 epic military movie mistakes you have missed

Military movies are emotional to watch as many are based on real and fascinating stories of man’s ability to overcome any obstacle and fulfill his or her goals and destiny and all that sh*t.


With so many important aspects to pay attention to, filmmakers commonly make mistakes that veteran moviegoers can spot.

So check out some epic mistakes we managed to find in our favorite Hollywood war films.

1. Where did the German tank go?

“Saving Private Ryan” is one of the best war movies ever recorded on film, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. In the 3rd act — just as the final firefight is about to end — Capt. Miller fires his pistol at a tank headed toward him. After firing a few shots, the tank blows up, bursting into flames and stopping dead in its tracks.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
Bang! Bang! (Source: Dream Works)

The tank surprisingly blowing up isn’t the mistake, but moments later the Tiger tank vanishes.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
It must have been magic, right? (Source: Dream Works)

2. Playing musical chairs

In Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” Desmond Doss sits on the right side of the bus saying his goodbye to his girl.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
Good movie, but a humorous mistake. (Source: Lionsgate)

Cut to a few moments later and Desmond is now sitting on the left side of the bus after it departs the station.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
Either that or it’s a 180 break. Either way, we’re confused. (Source: Lionsgate)

3. No force protection…at all

In the Clint Eastwood directed “American Sniper,” the SEAL team enjoys a meal with an Iraqi man and his family who is about to be discovered for being a bad guy. Although the team is on a crucial mission, the lights are on, and someone forgot to close the curtains on the window.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
A good sniper would love to take a pop shot through that window. (Source: WB)

4. A non-combatant?

We love the film “Full Metal Jacket” just as much as other veterans, but this Stanley Kubrick directed film has a lot of screw-ups — especially here. As the Marine squad advances on the Vietnamese sniper, you can spot a crew member in the bottom of the frame. Oops!

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
He should have ducked a little better. (Source: WB)

5. Marine sniper training on an Air Force base?

In 2006, Universal pictures gave us the Desert Storm film “Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes. In this scene, Anthony Swofford (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) reports for bugle tryouts at the Marine Corps parade deck. Look at the water tower behind him; the Air Combat Command emblem is clearly represented in this shot. The A.C.C. is a major command of the Air Force and wouldn’t be located on the Marine Corps base.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert
WTF! (Source: Universal)

The Air Combat Command emblem up close.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

MIT technology could reduce the number of nukes in the world

Even in peaceful times, stockpiled warheads can pose a danger if they’re accidentally set off or fall into the wrong hands. Plus, there’s always a chance conflict could escalate, which is why many experts support dismantling nuclear warheads around the world.

But most arms-control treaties don’t require warheads to be inspected, since the process could reveal military secrets. And even if inspections were required, nuclear experts worry that nations could try to fool inspectors by offering imitation warheads.

To eliminate the risk that countries would lie about this, two MIT researchers have come up with a novel way to verify that a warhead is authentic — all without revealing how the weapon was built.


The scientists describe the new technology in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications. Their method uses neutron beams: streams of neutrons that can plunge deep into a warhead and reveal its internal structure and composition, down to the atomic level.

The technology, if implemented, could encourage countries like Russia and US to allow their warheads to be inspected and verified as real before they get dismantled.

Nations typically don’t inspect warheads 

The US and Russia recently dissolved the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which kept both countries from possessing, producing, or testing thousands of land-based missiles. Shortly after, each nation conducted a missile test, stoking fears of a nuclear arms race similar to the Cold War.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

(Defense Ministry)

During the Cold War era, the US and Russia built up their arsenals of nuclear warheads. By 1967, the US had acquired the most warheads in its history — around 30,000. The Soviet Union reached its peak warhead supply in 1986, when it had around 45,000.

When the Cold War ended in 1991, the nations agreed to dismantle some of these weapons, but they didn’t allow each other to inspect the actual warheads. Instead, they showed proof that the devices that carried these warheads, such as missiles and aircrafts, had been torn apart — which meant that the warheads couldn’t be deployed.

The US, for instance, cut off the wings of B-52 bombers and splayed them out in a “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. Russian officials could then verify via satellite that the planes were out of commission.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

A B-52 bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah E. Shaw)

Today, the US and Russia each have around 4,000 warheads left in their military stockpiles, in addition to around 2,000 warheads each that are “retired,” or ready to be dismantled. The Federation of American Scientists estimates that Russia is dismantling up to 300 retired warheads per year, but confirming that number isn’t easy.

That’s where the technology from the MIT researchers comes in.

The tool captures a warhead’s unique shadow, not classified details

The MIT researchers’ tool can detect isotopes like plutonium, which are found in the core of a warhead, since those atoms release specific wavelengths of light. These measurements then pass through a filter that scrambles and encrypts them. This allows a warhead’s unique structure to get probed without any resulting 3D image of its exact geometry. (It’s kind of like looking at a shadow of the warhead rather than the object itself.)

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

W80 nuclear warhead.

(Public domain)

The researchers estimate that the scan can be completed in less than a hour.

The test’s encryption process is more secure than encrypting information on a computer, which can be hacked.

If nations are confident that their military secrets are safe, the researchers said, they could be more inclined to allow their warheads to be inspected. Of course, the method would need to be more thoroughly vetted before it could be implemented, they added.

But eventually, they said, it could help to “reduce the large stockpiles of the nuclear weapons that constitute one of the biggest dangers to the world.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Featured

A top German doctor recommends whiskey to protect against COVID-19 (he’s joking…but still)

Updated: In keeping with Facebook’s efforts to report fake news, we have updated this article to include the doctor’s full statement.

While the World Health Organization vehemently disagrees, Dr. Juergen Rissland, a lead doctor at the Institute for Virology at Saarland University Hospital in Germany, went on the record to say: Drinking whiskey can protect against COVID-19.

And that is definitely one report we can all get behind.


While appearing on “The Morning Show,” Dr. Rissland was asked about whether or not drinking could kill any viruses a person may have ingested. “Yes, of course, that’s true,” Dr. Rissland responded. “And the higher the percentage of alcohol, the better it is. For example, if you are a whisky lover, then that certainly isn’t a bad idea,” he continued, while offering this bit of sage advice to pace yourself: “But of course you need to bear in mind that you can’t do that every 15 minutes, that is something else to consider.”

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alertVirologist Jurgen Rissland, who says alcohol can protect against COVID-19. Credit: Newsflash/Newsflash

After being prodded a little further by the show’s co-hosts who asked him if he was really suggesting folks drink high-proof alcohol, Dr. Rissland laughed. “I would like to say it can’t hurt, but in the end, it is definitely not a panacea. For God’s sake, you shouldn’t get me wrong here. I just wanted to make the point that the virus is vulnerable to high-proof alcohol, because it has an outer layer made of fat, and high proof alcohol destroys the virus. And one would need to drink quite a lot to get any sort of protection from infection.”

So we’ll take his advice with a good sense of humor… and probably a shot of whiskey.

Prost!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Was Oak Ridge Tennessee a top secret town?

Oak Ridge, Tennessee, isn’t a secret anymore, but in 1942, Tennessee’s fifth largest town didn’t exist on a single map. Adding to the mystery – residents weren’t allowed to talk about it, either. So what was going on in Oak Ridge that was so important that the government needed to keep it top secret? Well, it turns out, a lot.

The History of Oak Ridge

Before it was the Atomic City, Oak Ridge was just a sleepy blip of a town in Tennessee. The earliest settlers to the region probably never thought it would the future home of the nuclear bomb. But that’s exactly what happened in WWII when the American government needed a place to conduct top secret atomic bomb research.

Nicknames like the City Behind the Fence and the Secret City were all deployed to keep the true nature of Oak Ridge a secret. Now it’s just a suburb of Knoxville, but Oak Ridge was a major nuclear development powerhouse during WWII.

Established in 1942, Oak Ridge was the production site for the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. It has a pretty spooky origin story if you believe in that kind of thing. Legend has it that after his wife and daughter’s death, local resident John Hendrix started telling anyone who would listen that he saw visions. In one of these visions, Hendrix reportedly described a pretty accurate depiction of what Oak Ridge would come to be. Relatives and neighbors have all reported Hendrix saying that eventually Bear Creek Valley would be filled with buildings and factories with one mission to help win the “greatest war that will ever be.”

Hendrix’s visions even went so far as to describe where roads would be during the development of Oak Ridge.

Whether or not his “visions” have been embellished over the years will forever remain a mystery. But what we do know is the government chose Oak Ridge with care.

Location, location, location

As with all real estate, it’s location location location. And that’s exactly what Oak Ridge had to offer. Not only was it nestled deep in a valley, but there were also very few people who called the region home. That meant that the government bought the land super cheap. Adding to that, Oak Ridge is accessible by both road and land. Those are very important details when you’re trying to build the world’s deadliest bomb, which is exactly what happened with the Manhattan Project.

And since no one was living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and those who did weren’t too keen on asking questions, the government set up shop without a lot of fanfare or fuss.

By 1943, the region was officially a military district making it off-limits to anyone without confirmed access. Cut off from the rest of the state and country, Oak Ridge really was a complete and total secret. At least it was until the end of WWII. Now it’s still a hotbed site for tech and scientific development – but there aren’t any top-secret projects … that we know of.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine makes miraculous recovery after brain injury

Olivia Nord doesn’t remember much from Marine Corps boot camp, or the car accident that killed her three friends, and almost killed her and her mother.

Her mom, Jennifer, doesn’t remember anything either. But as she looks at her daughter, says she knows one thing for sure.

“She’s my miracle. She’s my absolute miracle.”

The two were returning home Dec. 2, 2016, for Olivia’s first leave after she graduated from basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.

“I don’t have any memory of that,” Jennifer says. “The last memory I have is waiting at the airport in South Carolina.”

“I don’t even remember basic training,” she adds. “I remember running and shooting. That’s it.”


Olivia’s boyfriend, Austin, joined the Marines six weeks ahead of her. His family — mother, Dawn; sister, Dylan; and Dylan’s 2-year-old son, Payton–met them at the Minneapolis Airport. As they drove onto the interstate, another driver having an epileptic seizure slammed head first into their car.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Olivia Nord is all smiles after graduating from Marine Corps basic training. Hours later, she would be in a coma from a head-on car crash.

Dawn, Dylan and Payton were killed.

“I was broke in half,” Jennifer says. “My pelvis was crushed. I have a moderate brain injury and a rod in my back, with four screws holding it together.”

First responders didn’t have much hope for Olivia. Paramedics first took her to Hennepin County Medical, a level-1 trauma center, before she was transferred to Walter Reed in Maryland, and finally, to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Jan. 12, 2019. She had a severe brain injury and was in a coma, along with a shattered femur, torn aorta and lacerated liver. She had a tracheotomy, and was kept alive with artificial respiration.

Coming out of the coma

The Minneapolis VA is one of five major polytrauma centers in the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers an array of integrated services for those in inpatient, transition and outpatient care. Brain-injury runs the gamut from someone with a concussion or stroke, or in Olivia’s case, all the way to a coma — one of their most severe cases.

“She was in our ‘Emerging Consciousness’ program, but wasn’t very responsive,” said Christie Spevacek, a nurse who oversees some of the most acute polytrauma cases. “We had to wean her from the vent, and she was in a very minimal state. Wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything.

“You see that, and you say, ‘Let’s get to work.’

“In the next month or so, she started waking up, but she’d maybe have five minutes, and then would be down again,” Spevacek said. “We had to bring up her endurance.”

Olivia shares photos from that time. Tubes and wires run everywhere. In another, she hugs her mom with a vacant stare in her eyes.

“She was awake, but she wasn’t awake,” Jennifer said. “She wasn’t aware of what was happening and didn’t know she was hurt. We had to keep reminding her.”

At one point, Olivia woke up and it didn’t know where she was at.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Olivia Nord suffered a severe brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver and crushed femur. She was in a coma for more than a month.

“I didn’t know I was hurt or why I was there,” she said. “I didn’t know my one leg didn’t work. I started to get up and fell down. The nurse came in to get me.”

Doctors, nurses, and therapists continued working with her. They’d take her out of the room. The goal was to make her feel normal again. They painted her fingernails and gave her lipstick. She worked on walking, talking, remembering, and all those things taken for granted.

“It was amazing to see her flourish,” said Kristin Powell, a recreation therapist who worked with her on the acute side, and now as an outpatient. “We were able to take her on outings. She was able to take what she learned in physical therapy and use those skill and flourish in the community.”

Not every outcome is as good as Olivia’s, which makes the recovery even more remarkable,” Powell said. “You see them come in here at their worst, in acute care, with tubes going in and out, and that was Olivia. And look at her now.”

Olivia is training to ride the recumbent bike at the upcoming VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. She works as a grocery cashier and has plans to go back to school for elementary education.


No one expected 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Private Olivia Nord to survive …

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Patrick Hayes, the man who caused the crash, was not even supposed to be driving. He was sentenced April 9, 2019, to 100 months in prison. Olivia and her mom both gave victim statements at the sentencing.

“I feel like we are a flicker of a flame, and you caused three of those flickers to burn completely out,” Olivia sobbed in court.

The car crash is still a blank for mom and daughter.

“In one way, it’s a blessing,” Jennifer says. “But there is a part of us that wants to remember, just so we can grieve.”

“It’s just like they were here one moment, and now they’re gone,” Olivia adds.

She and her boyfriend are no longer together.

“We don’t talk,” Olivia says. “He was back home for his birthday and I sent him a ‘Happy birthday’ text.”

“We know it’s hard for him, too,” Jennifer says. “He lost his mom. He lost his family.”

Recovery beyond the Minneapolis VA

Today, in a lot of ways, Olivia is like any 21-year-old. She laughs, tells jokes and likes to cuss like… well, like a Marine.

Jennifer and Olivia help each other remember dates and even the right words that sometimes get lost or garbled.

“She’ll help me and I’ll help her,” Jennifer says. “The other day, I said, ‘I’m going out to vacuum the lawn.'”

“I said, ‘No, you’re going to mow the lawn,'” Olivia added.

Olivia uses a leg brace to walk, and also participates in Wounded Warrior events in the community. But sometimes it’s hard not to get angry.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Jennifer and Olivia Nord lost their three friends, and were both nearly killed in a head-on collision. Today, mom and daughter are thriving despite brain injuries.

“I’m still not the best,” she says. “I see how far I’ve come. My gosh, I’m out of the hospital. At some point, I don’t want any injuries. I can’t run. I can’t use my left arm. But I’m getting better. My thinking process is better. I’m always thinking.

“My friends think I’m crippled,” she adds. “I’m not crippled.”

Mom and daughter have tattoos that show their love for one another — and those they’ve lost.

Both sport a red fox tattoo on their ankles. Jennifer’s says, “Love you, bebè.” Olivia’s says, “Love you, mamá.” She also has another, larger tattoo on her waist. It’s an American flag shaped like the United States, a cross and three dog tags bearing three names Dawn, Dylan and Payton. She has another on her inside right arm — four different colored roses for family members, and a tiny cross on a chain that says, “Faith.”

“For me, the faith is not always what you believe in. It’s what you do to get better,” Olivia says. “I have faith in myself that I will get better.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US doesn’t know what to do with Turkey’s undelivered F-35s

Congress is offering the Defense Department the option to purchase Turkey’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and giving the defense secretary discretion to spend up to $30 million to store the fifth-generation jets until a plan for their use is formalized, according to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been given the green light to spend funds “to be appropriated for fiscal year 2020 for the Department of Defense to conduct activities associated with storage, preservation, and developing a plan for the final disposition of such F-35 aircraft and Turkish F-35 aircraft equipment, including full mission simulators, helmet-mounted display systems, air system maintenance trainers, and ancillary mission equipment,” the bill states.


That money would fund storage for up to six jets and associated materials. F-35 deliveries to Turkey had originally been slated to occur between late summer and the end of this year.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

(photo by Tom Reynolds)

Lawmakers will not allow the F-35As once destined for Turkey to be transferred unless that country gets rid of its S-400 surface-to-air-missile systems and associated equipment and promises never to purchase or use the Russian-made weapon again, according to the bill.

“Turkey’s possession of the S-400 air and missile defense system adversely affects the national security of Turkey, the United States, and all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance,” lawmakers said.

In a joint statement provided with the bill Tuesday, Congress said it would “support” the U.S. purchase of all jets originally meant for Turkey. The aircraft have been stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international pilot training is conducted.

“The conferees also encourage the Secretary of Defense to maximize the procurement quantity of Turkish F-35A aircraft associated with Lots 12, 13, or 14 during fiscal year 2020 using the additional funds authorized in section 4101 of this Act,” according to the statement.

Esper has 90 days from the bill’s passage to provide congressional defense committees a report outlining a long-term plan for Turkey’s F-35s, “which includes options for recovery of costs from Turkey and for unilateral use of such assets,” the bill states.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Despite months of efforts to sway the NATO ally from purchasing the S-400, known to Moscow as the “F-35 killer,” Pentagon officials have been steadily phasing Turkey out of the JSF program.

The Pentagon in July officially booted Turkey from participating in the program over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 and asked students — pilots and maintainers — attending F-35 training in the U.S. at Luke and at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to leave.

The DoD also began phasing out aircraft parts manufactured by Turkey. Turkish industries produce 937 parts for the F-35, including items for the landing gear and fuselage.

“We’re on the path to March 2020 to transition all of those parts out. … The U.S. absorbed about a 0 million bill for that,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said in October.

Lord at the time said top brass estimates that Turkey’s surface-to-air missile systems will be ready to track aircraft in the region by the end of 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how much US troops are paid according to their rank

How much are US troops paid?

The answer to that question depends on their rank, time in service, location of duty station, family members, and job specialty — just to name a few.

Other benefits, like government healthcare and tax-free portions of their pay, help service members stretch their earnings a bit farther than civilian counterparts.


To give you an idea, we broke down their monthly salary, or base pay, for each rank. We estimated their pay rate based on how many years they’ve typically served by the time they reach that rank — many service members spend more time in each rank than we’ve calculated, while some troops spend less time and promote more quickly.

We also didn’t include factors like housing allowance because they vary widely, but these are often a large portion of their compensation. We also didn’t include warrant officers, whose years of service can vary widely.

Each military branch sets rules for promotions and implements an “up or out” policy, which dictates how long a service member can stay in the military without promoting.

The full military pay chart can be found here.

Here is the typical annual base pay for each rank.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

A drill instructor shows Marine recruits proper techniques during martial arts training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. While they are in boot camp, service members are paid minimally — but their paychecks will increase incrementally as they gain experience.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christian Garcia)

E-1: ,172

E-1 is the lowest enlisted rank in the US military: Airman Basic (Air Force), Private (Army/Marine Corps), Seaman Recruit (Navy). Service members usually hold this rank through basic training, and automatically promote to the next rank after six months of service.

Rounded to the nearest dollar, base pay (salary) starts at id=”listicle-2629413157″,554 per month at this rank. After four months of service, pay will increase to id=”listicle-2629413157″,681 per month.

The military can demote troops to this rank as punishment.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

These sailors’ uniforms indicate a seaman apprentice, petty officer 3rd class, and seaman.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio Perez)

E-2: ,608

Service members automatically promote to the E-2 paygrade — Airman (Air Force), Private (Army), Private 1st Class (Marine Corps), Seaman Apprentice (Navy) — after 6 months of service.

Their pay increases to id=”listicle-2629413157″,884 per month.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

A Marine Lance Cpl. strums his guitar on the USS Kearsarge during a deployment.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

E-3: ,772

Promotion to the E-3 occurs automatically after 12 months of service. Airman 1st Class (Air Force), Private 1st Class (Army), Lance Corporal (Marine Corps), Seaman (Navy).

Basic pay is id=”listicle-2629413157″,981 at this rank, adding up to a 7 monthly increase in pay after one year on the job.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Senior Airmen conduct a flag folding presentation during a retirement ceremony in 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

E-4: ,684

Although time in service requirements vary between each branch, service members who promote to E-4 typically have at least two years of service. Senior Airman (Air Force), Specialist/Corporal (Army), Corporal (Marine Corps), Petty Officer 3rd Class (Navy)

If an E-3 doesn’t advance in paygrade after two years, their pay will still increase to ,195 rounded to the nearest dollar.

For those who do make E-4 with two years, pay will increase to ,307 per month. Some service members will promote to the next rank after just one year at this paygrade — those who remain at the E-4 level will see a pay raise to ,432 per month after spending three years in service.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

E-5: ,136

Promotions are no longer automatic, but troops can advance to E-5 with as little as three years in service. Those ranks are Staff Sergeant (Air Force), Sergeant (Army/Marine Corps), Petty Officer 2nd Class (Navy).

For these troops, their new paychecks will come out to ,678 per month.

Service members will commonly spend at least three years at this paygrade. While they do not advance in rank during that time, their pay will still increase along with their time in service.

Four years after enlistment, an E-5 will make ,804 per month. After six years of service, their pay will increase again — even if they do not promote — to ,001 per month.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

First class petty officers from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower participate in a community relations project. The logo on their t-shirts is an alteration of the Navy’s E-6 insignia, which shows an eagle perched on top of three inverted chevrons and the sailor’s job specialty badge.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Patrick Grieco)

E-6: ,048

It is unusual for a service member to achieve the rank of E-6 — Technical Sgt. (Air Force), Staff Sgt. (Army/Marine Corps), Petty Officer 1st Class (Navy) — with fewer than six years of service.

An “E-6 with six” takes home ,254 per month.

After another two years in the service, that will increase to ,543 in monthly salary, equating to approximately ,500 per year.

Achieving the next higher paygrade, E-7, before serving for 10 years is not unheard of but not guaranteed. If an E-6 doesn’t advance by then, they will still receive a pay raise, taking home ,656 a month.

Their next pay raise occurs 12 years after their enlistment date, at which point their monthly pay will amount to ,875.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

The late Marine and actor R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

(YouTube)

E-7: ,340

Achieving the coveted rank of E-7 — Master Sergeant (Air Force), Sgt. 1st Class (Army), Gunnery Sgt. (Marine Corps), Chief Petty Officer (Navy) — with fewer than 10 years of service is not common, but it can be done.

Those who achieve this milestone will be paid ,945 a month, increased to ,072 per month after reaching their 10-year enlistment anniversary.

Some service members retire at this paygrade — if they do, their pay will increase every two years until they become eligible to retire. When they reach 20 years, their pay will amount to ,798 per month — or ,576 yearly.

The military places a cap on how long each service member can spend in each rank. Commonly referred to as “up or out,” this means that if a service member doesn’t advance to the next rank, they will not be able to reenlist. While these vary between branches, in the Navy that cap occurs at 24 years for chief petty officers.

A chief with 24 years of service makes ,069 per month.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

A US Navy senior chief petty officer’s cover, with the emblem of an anchor and its chain, USN, and a silver star.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class James Foehl)

E-8: ,884

Service members may promote to E-8 — Senior Master Sgt. or 1st Sgt. (Air Force), 1st Sgt. or Master Sgt. (Army), Master Sgt. or 1st Sgt. (Marine Corps), Senior Chief Petty Officer (Navy) —with as little as 12 years of service.

At that point, they will receive ,657 per month.

Troops who retire as an E-8 after 20 years of service will take home a monthly salary of ,374 — or ,488 per year.

If they stay in past that point, they will receive raises every two years.

An E-8 with 28 years in the service makes ,076 monthly.

The Army’s up-or-out policy prevents more than 29 years of service for each 1st Sgt. or Sgt. Maj.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

The Chief Master Sergeant insignia is seen on jackets prepared for an induction ceremony. Less than 1% of US Air Force enlisted personnel are promoted to the rank.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randy Burlingame)

E-9: ,960

E-9s have anywhere from 15 to 30 years of experience, although few selected for specific positions may exceed 30 years of service. Their titles are Chief Master Sgt. (Air Force), Sgt. Maj. (Army), Master Gunnery Sgt. or Sgt. Maj. (Marine Corps), Master Chief Petty Officer (Navy).

Service members who achieve this rank with 15 years of experience will be paid ,580 per month.

They’ll receive their next pay raise when they reach 16 years, and take home ,758 monthly.

After 20 years, they will take home ,227 — that’s ,724 yearly when they reach retirement eligibility.

Some branches allow E-9s to stay in the military up to 32 years, at which point they will make ,475 — or ,700 per year.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers celebrate during their 2018 graduation from the US Naval Academy.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Chief Elliott Fabrizio)

O-1: ,256

Compared to enlisted service members with the same amount of experience, military officers make considerably more money.

A freshly commissioned O-1 — 2nd Lt. (Army/Marine Corps/Air Force), Ensign (Navy) — earns ,188 per month in base pay alone.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

A US Marine 1st Lt. takes the oath of office during his promotion ceremony.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jered Stone)

O-2: ,208

Officers are automatically promoted to O-2 after two years of service. This is a highly anticipated promotion, as it marks one of the largest individual pay raises officers will see during their careers. Those ranks are 1st Lt. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Lt. j.g. (Navy).

An O-2 earns ,184 per month, which comes out to ,208 a year.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

A US Army captain waits for a simulated attack during training in Wiesbaden, Germany.

(US Army photo by Paul Hughes)

O-3: ,052

Officers will receive a pay raise after reaching three years in service.

Using the Army’s average promotion schedule, officers will achieve the next rank automatically after four years in the service.

New captains and lieutenants, with four years of service, make ,671 per month. At this rank, officers will receive pay raises every two years.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

A Navy lieutenant commander talks with pilots from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 from the USS Ponce while the ship is deployed to the Arabian Gulf in 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Peter Blair)

O-4: ,832

By the time they reach the rank of O-4, military officers will have spent an average of 10 years in the service. Maj. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Lt. Cmdr. (Navy)

A major or lieutenant commander with a decade of experience takes home ,236 per month, or just under ,832 a year. Officer pay continues to increase with every two years of additional service.

O-4 pay is capped at ,074 a month, so if an officer wants to take home a six-figure salary — additional pay, bonuses and allowances aside — they’ll have to promote to O-5.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Lt. Col. Goldie, the only US Air Force therapy dog, wears a purple ribbon in support of domestic violence awareness month in October 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

O-5: 5,012

Officers typically spend at least 17 years in the military before promoting to O-5.

They’ll take home ,751 per month until their 18-year commissioning anniversary, at which point they’ll earn ,998 per month. Those ranks are Lt. Col. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Cmdr. (Navy).

After 18 years in the military, officers receive annual compensation of nearly 8,000 a year.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, a Marine Corps legend, circa 1950.

(US Marine Corps Archives)

O-6: 0,092

“Full bird” colonels and Navy captains, with an average 22 years of service, are compensated ,841 per month.

Officers who do not promote to become a general or admiral must retire after 30 years of service. At this point, they will be making ,668 a month, or roughly 0,000 per year.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

An Air Force pararescueman unfurls the brigadier general flag for US Air Force Brig. Gen. Claude Tudor, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

O-7: 5,820

Promotion to brigadier general and rear admiral depends on a wide range of variables, including job availability.

Each of these ranks carries its own mandatory requirement; similar to the enlisted “up or out” policies, officers must promote to the next higher rank or retire.

Officers who have spent less than five years at the lowest flag rank must retire after 30 years of service. Their last pay raise increased their monthly salary to ,985.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Two Rear Admirals and a Captain salute during the national anthem.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Eric Dietrich)

O-8: 4,572

Generals and admirals with two stars — Maj. Gen. (Air Force/Army/Marine Corps), Rear Adm. (Navy) — must retire after their 35th year in the military.

At this point, they will be earning ,381 per month, or 4,572 a year.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

US Army Lt. Gen. Martin lays a wreath for President Abraham Lincoln’s 210th birthday. It takes the corporal in the image roughly half a year to earn the same amount Martin takes home every month.

(US Army photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

O-9: 9,600

Military officer pay is regulated and limited by US Code.

Both three- and four-star admirals and generals who stay in the service long enough will receive the maximum compensation allowed by the code. These ranks are vice admiral for the Navy and lieutenant general for the other branches.

Excluding additional pays, cost of living adjustments, and allowances, these officers make up to ,800 every month.

That’s about 9,600 a year.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

Retired Gen. James Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, shares a story with Marines during a visit to a base in Hawaii.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Reece Lodder)

O-10: 9,600

Regardless of continued time in service, once a military officer achieves the four-star rank of general or admiral, they will no longer receive pay raises and are capped at ,800 per month.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

US service members across all branches conduct state funeral services for former President George H. W. Bush.

(US Army photo by Spc. James Harvey/)

Extra pays and allowances help take their salaries a bit further.

Base pay can seem stingy, especially at the lower ranks where enlisted receive around ,000 per year.

But troops receive a number of benefits and may qualify for extra allowances.

TRICARE Prime, the military’s primary healthcare package, is free for active duty troops — saving them the ,896 average annual premium for single payers.

When eligible to live off base, service members receive a basic allowance for housing (BAH), which increases at each paygrade; the exact amount is set based on location and whether the individual has any children. Service members also receive allowances to help cover the cost of food and in expensive duty locations receive a cost of living allowance (COLA). Enlisted personnel also receive a stipend to help them pay for their uniforms.

Any portion of a service member’s salary that is labeled as an “allowance” is not taxed by the government, so service members may only have to pay taxes for roughly two-thirds of their salary.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

Hundreds of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, Army veterans, Pittsburgh-area officials, and Army leaders recognized U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his heroism April 5, 2019 — 16 years to the day after he was killed in action while serving in Iraq.

Booker’s mother and sister were presented with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor, during a ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood — near the University of Pittsburgh — as family, fellow soldiers, city officials and veterans watched.

“I am so honored … I am so proud of all my son accomplished,” said Freddie Jackson, Booker’s mother. “I didn’t realize how much my son did and how he inspired other people. Steve died for his country, not just for the Booker Family,” she said.


Booker died on April 5, 2003, while serving as a tank commander with Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 34-year-old Apollo, Penn., native was killed in action near Baghdad while serving in Iraq during the “Thunder Run” mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Booker attended Apollo-Ridge High School, near Pittsburgh, and enlisted in the Army in June 1987, at age 19, shortly after his high school graduation. He was promoted to Army staff sergeant in February 2001 and deployed in March 2003 to Iraq.

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, left, deputy commanding general of Forces Command, speaks in Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, during the presentation of the Distinguished Service Cross to Freddie Jackson, right, the mother of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his 2003 heroism while serving in Iraq.

(Photo by Mr. Paul Boyce)

“We’re here to honor his service, his sacrifice and his heroism … as well as his Family” said U.S. Army Forces Command Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson. “He gave his life for something bigger than himself; he gave his life for others. He’s a Pittsburgh hero, an Army hero and an American hero.”

Richardson attended Friday’s ceremony along with 3rd Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, the 3rd Infantry Division Band and two retired Army generals. Army and Air Force cadets from the University of Pittsburgh’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program participated and attended as well.

Veterans of Booker’s unit also travelled from across the United States to attend the medal-presentation ceremony, organized by the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga. The Army ceremony honored Booker for his heroic actions, personal dedication, and commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Booker’s platoon led a task force on April 5, 2003, along Highway 8 towards Bagdad International Airport. About 1.2 miles after the line of departure, the platoon came under heavy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from enemy forces. Booker immediately communicated the situation to his chain of command, encouraged his crew, and returned fire with his tank-mounted machinegun.

“When both his and his crew’s machineguns malfunctioned, Booker, with total disregard for his personal safety, exposed himself by lying in a prone position on top of the tank’s turret and accurately engaged the enemy forces with his personal weapon,” according to the award’s summary. “While exposed, he effectively protected his platoon’s flank and delivered accurate information to his command during a critical and vulnerable point of the battle.”

This single joke by Reagan put the Soviet military on alert

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker.

(Facebook)

Booker’s “fearless attitude and excitement over the communications network inspired his platoon to continue the attack and assured them and leadership that they would defeat the enemy and reach their objective safely,” the award’s narrative explains. “As he remained exposed, Booker identified an enemy troop carrier which was attempting to bypass his tank, but within seconds engaged the enemy vehicle and destroyed it prior to the enemy troops dismounting. Along the five-mile route he remained exposed and continued to engage the enemy with accurate rifle fire until he was mortally wounded.”

Army Col. Andrew Hilmes, Booker’s former company commander in Iraq, said the heroic staff sergeant prepared his crew well for that day’s battle. “His ability to train his soldiers saved a lot of lives. Not just his actions on April 5, but the training he put his soldiers through prior to the 5th of April paid off for the unit.”

Booker’s sister echoed their mother’s comments during a media conference attended by Pittsburgh-area news media prior to the awards ceremonies, which included a plaque dedication in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial’s Hall of Valor. “He’d be very proud. He’d probably be pumping his chest right about now,” said Booker’s sister Kim Talley-Armstead. “It’s a bittersweet moment, but we are extremely proud.”

After giving careful consideration and reviewing the recommendations from the Senior Army Decorations Board, Army officials said, the Secretary of the Army made the determination that Staff Sgt. Booker be awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross. In recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty, 12 soldiers recently received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for their valor.

Previously recognized for their bravery by awards of the Silver Star, the Department of Defense upgraded the soldiers’ medals as part of a 2016-2018 comprehensive review of commendations for heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Four soldiers are still on active duty; three are posthumous awards; three recipients have since retired and two recipients previously separated from the Army.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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