Perfectly Bound - How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together - We Are The Mighty
Mighty Moments

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

Chances are you have read a book that changed your mind, and possibly, your life. That is why most of us read, to learn something new, to be inspired, entertained, feel a closeness, or simply to transport us to a different place. I never anticipated how a book I opened last year would awaken my spirit in every way, offering generational and timeless truths. Moreover, it made me believe in fate again. 

However, there is a catch. This life-altering book and its promise can only be retold here—because there was only one that was accidentally printed. 

What Are the Odds? 

Although I published my book a few years ago, the story about it that came to life happened in January 2019. It began when I placed an order with my distributor to restock my stash of hardcovers that dwindled from holiday sales. I love being gifted a signed copy of any book, so I keep this purchase option on my author website too. As my husband says, reading a signed book is like eating outside—the food always tastes better. 

On my way out the door after the morning shuffle of grabbing jackets, bags and breakfast, a large box sitting in the foyer caught my eye. It was that resupply of books, having arrived the day before. Ever the multitasker, I grabbed a knife from the kitchen, slit the taped seam of the box and took the first copy on top of the stack. Stuffing it into my purse, I planned to drop this in the mail to fulfill the personalized order in my inbox and knock one more thing off my to-do list! Yet sitting in my Jeep in front of the post office later that day, the universe stood still when I opened the book to autograph it.

It was not my book. 

I snapped it closed—I was in utter disbelief—and stared at the paper jacket wrapped around the hardcover: The Frontline Generation: How We Served Post 9/11. Yes, that was my book cover. I removed the jacket, checked the gray cloth bound outside, which did have my last name and book title embossed on the binding. But when I opened it for a second time, this time slowly turning the first blank page at the beginning, I landed again on a cover page that was not the title of my book. I’m sure my lips mouthed the foreign words. 

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath was the manuscript bound inside my hardcover, in its entirety, which was revealed after inspecting the first few pages individually, to fanning to the end with my thumb landing on acknowledgments. Speaking of odds, I thought, what are the chances that two different books are accidentally and perfectly combined during a print run? The fact that the two bound together just happened to be books written by two veterans—from two different generations, two different wars—seemed unbelievable. 

I returned to my home office, and after a few minutes of internet sleuthing, I discovered the other author—and he was alive! After digging up a phone number and being transferred through two secretaries, I was asked to hold. An older, warm inquisitive voice came through my iPhone. “Is this true? Our books are bound together?” Charles W. Newhall, the Vietnam Veteran and author whose book was combined with mine was the man on the other end of the call. I recounted the discovery, ending with, “Well, it appears to me I’m supposed to read your book.” He aptly replied, “And I yours. Let’s determine if we like each other and reconnect then.” 

I smiled in response, “Sounds perfect.” I liked him instantly. And I was glad to hear he went by Chuck, since funny enough, my husband, who is also a veteran, shares his name—talk about alleviating confusion! I emailed him a short video of our book. Chuck was equally amused and replied he had already placed his online order for my book. I planned to start Fearful Odds over the weekend, but a cryptic one sentence email from Chuck a few days later kept me up all night reading his book. 

“Just finished yours … much to discuss …” 

The Striking Differences, the Eerie Similarities 

Before the trending “OK, boomer” pejorative that mocks that crowd I’ll simply define here as those who won’t retire or stop running for public office, I had already (and unexpectedly) unearthed a deeper affinity for the Vietnam generation during my book tour. This unexplained connectedness made no sense to me then, nor did it as I began to read through the striking differences outlined in Fearful Odds. Chuck’s opening is the gut punch annihilation of 40 percent of his platoon the first few days in battle—casualties for the Global War on Terror are nowhere near those lost and immortalized on black granite in Washington DC. Make no mistake, though, every loss of life in combat is heartbreaking, even if it is one soldier from a battalion, as described in my book. 

Nevertheless, Chuck’s counterinsurgency fight in the A Shau Valley and the jungles of Vietnam are a bloody contrast to the unforgiving mountains and deserts in the Middle East, in particular the narrow dirt roads described in my memoir about Eastern Afghanistan. Also, consider that while Chuck endured enemy fire alongside those who were drafted, I served with an all-volunteer force when rockets pounded our bases. In the 1960s and ’70s, families talked about our foreign policy commitments around the kitchen table because someone they knew would have their number drawn. Post 9/11, America has continued to go shopping at the mall while the smallest number in our history—less than 1 percent—wears our nation’s uniform. 

These startling disparities of our times cannot be understated. I shook my head in disgust when reading about Chuck getting kicked out of a bar when he returned home—vulgarities and disrespect were hurled at him and another service member for simply wanting to buy their first stateside beer. When I walked through crowded airports upon my arrival, I experienced glares, too, but in another way. A stranger anonymously bought my lunch when I stopped to eat on my layover, passing along a simple message through the waiter: “Thank you for your service.” Let me say this: no post 9/11 veteran must go on a book tour to appreciate how differently we are treated from the Vietnam generation of service members. 

On a personal level, while the combat Chuck and I experienced was separated by nearly forty years, there were far greater chasms between the baby boomer Chuck and this Xennial (a person born between Gen-X’rs and Millennials). For example, the obvious—I am a woman, and he is a man. Raised in the southwest in tract housing where baseboards are not flush, I have a Nashville spark perhaps only matched by the maverick fire Chuck emits from his palatial, East Coast, private school upbringing. And as I stand on the doorstep of middle-age, middle class, and rising, Chuck is perched atop a breathtaking legacy that most would not even dare to dream. 

This is where the divergence in our stories end, overpowered by eerie similarities that still make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. 

Despite where each of us started, what we have in common was the unequivocal drive to start living as quickly as possible. Both of us share an unshakable reverence for tradition yet are clearly wired to defy norms and ask questions. Our yearning for adventure and thirst for knowledge can easily be romanticized as those who may be so bold to passion chase, speak up, take risks. The unflattering and imperfect side to ambition is present, too, as we both confide our edges with the reader. And, of course, our devotion to country and its higher ideals made the decision to serve in the military as natural as breathing. 

Yet it was what was revealed in the pages beyond our like constitutions that kept me reading throughout the night. 

For two absolute random books to be combined by mistake, both of our stories were set against the backdrop of serving in combat at the peak of military surges, for Vietnam and Afghanistan. Ironically, we were in the same unit too—he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, while I was attached to the Screaming Eagles four decades later. And he carried the weight and responsibility of lives—just as I did—as it was that we were both commanders. 

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Marjorie K. Eastman in Afghanistan.

It is easy to dismiss all this coincidence up to a point. But with the turn of every page, there was more that fueled the mystery of our printing error. Our equal commitment and love for those who fought by our sides is palpable. Just the same is our shared lessons learned on leadership, where our quotes dance around the same virtues. Resolute beliefs were sown—views that span generations—that service members must only be sent to win wars, not fight them endlessly. And chills ran through my body when I read the names of his soldiers that were identical to mine—every generation has a Schmitty and a Mac. However, it was the “close call” that made me set down the book and take a deep breath—we both drove over a roadside bomb that did not detonate. 

Our stories together were culminating in timeless truths. Bound together, a new wisdom began to emerge. 

Homecoming 

chuck newhall
Chuck Newell in Vietnam

I was about halfway through Chuck’s memoir when I flipped ahead to study the photos in the center of his book. His piercing eyes were a marked contrast to my ready smile; nevertheless, I knew that gaze. I looked at the clock and groaned. It had been a long time since I pulled an “all-nighter.” Yet this next part of the story was about homecoming—leaving the military and establishing a new mission as a civilian. Or, simply, starting anew. The tired, catchy phrase transition overused by the post 9/11 military community was exactly the current chapter of my life. I had to keep reading. 

I anticipated sage insight from this warrior who had gone before me that would help guide me through the maze of my newfound wilderness. I was, again, astonished by our similar steps and struggles. 

Up to this point, both of our books also described how love shaped and empowered us. Particularly, the love we had with our spouses. Interestingly, we both highlight our R&R and the recharge it provided to finish our deployments. That said, he met his wife Marsi in Hong Kong in a Rolls Royce with a bottle of Dom Perignon, while my husband Charles picked me up in his Ford F150 with handpicked flowers, and we hid away in a townhome near the border of Kentucky. Call it coincidence, again, but Chuck and I both went on to business school, forged paths tied to entrepreneurship, and started our families. Charles and I had a son. Marsi and Chuck had two boys. 

During this period, hardships that transcend and transformative events shook both of us to our core. 

Life’s greatest battles are not necessarily reserved for those in combat. For years, I carried the burden as a spouse of a soldier, since Charles continued back-and-forth combat tours, juggling the fear of losing him and our ongoing pain of multiple miscarriages and infertility. Then, it happened on a Wednesday when the doctor told us our only child had infant cancer. There is a special kind of hell for moments in life like this. Chuck knew this all too well, and suffered greatly from Marsi’s bipolar disorder, depression and infidelity. On what was supposed to be just another cold, gray Saturday in winter, Chuck discovered Marsi’s body in the woods behind their house—she’d committed suicide. 

His account of this awful tragedy and aftermath is some of the most gripping and honest writing one could read. 

We may not all share the same experiences, but we do all have the same emotions. Chuck and I both recognized how the hardening from our past helped us overcome these crucibles. Every person has been through something—there are chapters in everyone’s lives that they would not want to read out loud. Even so, the human spirit is relentless. Resilience, grit, and courage is earned when you go through the tough times. Those reservoirs, faith, and professional help led both of us to new frontiers. For Charles and me, our little boy beat cancer and provides us never-ending happiness. For Chuck, a beautiful ray of sunshine named Amy brought his family back to life and has been by his side for thirty-seven years. 

Healing can be found in the gardens of life. 

In the gardens we meet 

Indeed, we had much to discuss. Amongst other things, our combined stories tackle assumptions and dispel the notion of what we are all capable of enduring and producing. Yet the greatest revelation occurred when we met face to face in the spring. 

Charles and I had planned a weekend road trip with our son to see the nation’s capital during the peak bloom of cherry blossoms. Since Chuck and Amy reside outside the Beltway, we coordinated a Sunday lunch before our drive back to North Carolina. We had chatted on the phone a few more times by now, delightful banter and, of course, divulging exclusive footnotes. I also learned Chuck’s book had a companion volume, Brightside Gardens: A Dialogue Between the Head and the Heart, which presents the emotional and visual impact of the Newhall’s exquisite fifty-four individual gardens on their private property. When we pulled into the driveway, Chuck walked outside to meet us in the courtyard. 

He stood defiantly tall and ready to give us a personal tour of the grounds, in particular, A Shau Garden. Clutching a cane to help steady the shaky encounters Parkinson’s mounts on his aging vessel, I walked straight in his direction. My instinct said the only appropriate greeting would be how one would embrace an old comrade. I gave him a hug. Customary introductions were exchanged once Charles and our seven-year-old son climbed out of the Jeep. Then we followed Chuck’s lead through the iron gates.

chuck newhall

My little boy skipped ahead as we inhaled the crisp early spring air and took in the beauty that surrounded us. It’s been said that you find meaning when you want or need meaning. Making sense of why I was walking beside Chuck, why our books were combined, was reminiscent in how his interwoven gardens urge you to not overthink nature. Accept remarkable turns of fate and allow them to touch your heart and ignite your spirit. Because when you stand amongst winter aconites, which Chuck planted in A Shau Garden to honor the fallen, one is reminded that the gift of each new day is rooted in both the joys and trials we face. 

Whatever your war, cultivate hard-earned wisdom and you will not only prevail, but thrive. 

Amy welcomed us as we approached the house, yet her glow and charisma was felt from the terrace. She reaffirms that our society should widen the definition of heroes. Our son immediately warmed up to her and their dear elderly pug, which was roaming through the ornate living room. We took a seat, and I finally presented Chuck with “our” book. He mirrored my response to this implausible printing error, looking over it slowly and carefully. And then, looking up at me and smiling. 

Not every story about war is a war story. 

Before we departed that day, Chuck and I made sure to exchange signed copies of our books. Overwhelmed by the surreal moment, I tried to inscribe a fitting note to him. Yet, for a person who is an author, I wrestled for the right words. Of all the personalized copies I have signed, this one was on a level all its own! Chuck finished what he wrote in his copy, closed the book, and handed it to me. 

chuck newhall

On our drive home, I found the treasure that awaited me inside his signed hardcover. 

Perfectly bound 

What are the odds that my book was combined with Chuck’s? Well, our books printed out of a warehouse that is part of the largest distributor of books in the world, Ingram Content Group. Despite proprietary confidentiality on the total numbers Ingram prints daily, it is safe to conclude our combined book is inimitable. I learned our books were not lined in the queue because we were the same genre or alphabetically close, either. And print errors of any kind are minuscule—Ingram boasts a Quality Efficiency Rating of 99.865%! 

The team at Ingram said they have never heard of a printing error like this. 

Our combined story was a harmonious call to action to live with conviction and for each other, to do so fearlessly, or otherwise said, find your frontline. One of Chuck’s favorite quotes captures this sentiment, which is actually the title of his third book that will be released later this year. When I saw Chuck and Amy again while passing through Baltimore for a conference, he handed me an early draft of Dare Disturb the Universe: A Memoir of Venture Capital. I would be captivated once more by the powerful details of his professional journey (he refers to it as a quest) that changed the world. 

As we were wrapping up our lunch, I joked with Chuck, “Our printing error really should be a movie.” Without missing a beat, he replied, “It absolutely should be—it could save lives.” I knew the depth of his statement, not just meant for those in the throes of some form of adversity, for those searching or listless. Every twist in our paths matter. And sometimes they are intertwined to awaken us and bridge our understanding of life.

The mistake of our combined book was a perfect symbol to that point, solving the mystery. However we are tied in, each of us is unique, destined, certain the way we are. And not singular. We are not alone. In a time where isolation and feeling disconnected are more pronounced, the fateful error of our combined book is a reminder that our stories, our world, is bound together. 

The providence of Chuck’s inscription exposed this epiphany: “It is so great—someone understands me.”

Mighty Moments

This homeless veteran and good samaritan just bought a home

A homeless man who used his last $20 to fill up the gas tank of a stranded motorist in Philadelphia has bought a home with some of the nearly $400,000 raised for him by the woman he saved.


Johnny Bobbitt Jr. says on his GoFundMe page that he bought a home over the weekend.

Related: This storied American brand is helping vets get into their homes — literally

Kate McClure, of Florence Township, New Jersey, ran out of gas on an Interstate 95 exit ramp late one night. Bobbitt walked a few blocks to buy her gas. She didn’t have money to repay the Marine veteran, so she created the online fundraiser page as a thank you. The fundraiser has raised more than $397,000.

Bobbitt says he’s donating some of his money to a grade school student who is helping another homeless veteran.

Watch Johnny find out that Kate raised a little over $700 in two days:

(Kate McClure | YouTube)
Featured

16 photos that show what Thanksgiving is like at war

In the middle of the Civil War the president felt like the nation needed some context, a chance to reflect on America’s collective gifts. So in 1863 Abraham Lincoln set apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”


The proclamation begins with this thought:

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.”

But the creation of a national holiday didn’t end the war, and since that time American service members have spent many Thanksgivings in war zones. Here are 16 photos that show some of what that experience has been all about:

1. On the first official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863 Union troops took a break from the fighting to enjoy an actual sit-down dinner. (Photo:Nat’l Archives)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

2. Here a sailor and a Doughboy enjoy turkey legs during World War I. (Photo: Nat’l Archives)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

3. During World War II these soldiers were giving the run of a farmer’s stock of turkeys. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

4. A group of soldiers sit down for Thanksgiving meal during World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

5. Thanksgiving dinner for the 1st Signal Battalion at Hamhung during the Korean War. (Photo: Department of Defense)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

6. Marilyn Monroe got in on the Thanksgiving act in the early ’60s, much to the delight of GIs serving across the globe.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

7. During the Vietnam War the Army designed special Thanksgiving Day meals that were shipped to war zones in metal tins. Yum! (Photo: U.S. Army)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

8. Members of Det “A”, 5th Special Forces Group, located north of Saigon in War Zone D line up for Thanksgiving meal. (Photo: Fold3.com)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

9. SP/4 Ron Dillon, B Co, 2nd Bn, 8th Cav, 1st Air Cav Div, shares his turkey dinner in the field with a Vietnamese dog who had wandered in for the occasion in 1967. (Photo: Fold3.com)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

10. President George H.W. Bush shared Thanksgiving with the troops in Saudi Arabia in 1990 as they got ready to invade Iraq for Desert Storm a few months later. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

11. Thirteen years later President George W. Bush followed his dad’s lead and surprised the troops by showing up in Iraq for Thanksgiving dinner. (Photo: Army.mil)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

12. In 2010 Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM commander, served turkey to sailors (including Petty Officer Third Class Albrian Crisotomo) while visiting the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) underway in the Persian Gulf. (Photo: Navy.mil)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

13. Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Robert Flake, from Fort Smith, Ark., serves himself aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during Thanksgiving 2013. (DoDLive.mil)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

14. Those who get to eat their turkey in the comfort of a dining facility are relatively lucky. Here soldiers are assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade sit down for dinner at Combat Outpost McClain in 2012. (Photo: Army.mil)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

15. Those on the tip of the spear have to get resourceful to get any turkey at all. (Photo: Army.mil)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

16. Wherever our troops are serving in the world the team at WATM says “Happy Thanksgiving!” Here’s hoping AFN beams an NFL game to a widescreen TV at a FOB near you and you get all the turkey you can eat. (Photo:USO.org)

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

Articles

This Army veteran’s new mission is to rebuild New Orleans’ most devastated ward

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.


New Orleans native Burnell Cotlon has spent the last five years on a mission. He’s turning a two-story building that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (along with most of his Lower 9th Ward neighborhood), into a shopping plaza. Already, he’s opened a barber shop and a convenience store, and as of last November, is providing the neighborhood — identified as a food desert — with its first full-service grocery store in almost a decade.

The Lower Ninth Ward, which experienced catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina, has had a much slower recovery than most New Orleans neighborhoods. Before Katrina, the area had a population of around 14,000 and boasted of the highest percentage of black homeownership in the country. According to the last census, however, only around 3,000 people live in the neighborhood. Many of its roads are still torn up, it lacks basic resources and the closest full-service grocery store is nearly 3 miles away in the neighboring city of Chalmette.

Burnell’s merchandise is still mostly limited to non-perishables and fresh produce, but he hopes to add poultry, bread and dairy this year.

Burnell Cotlon relies on a lot of second hand supplies, and with the right equipment, he could meet his goal of offering more food options for members of his community. Please consider making a donation and spreading the word in order to support his work.

Click here to show your support

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This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

Mighty Moments

Love and duty: Army Sergeants Major marry – virtually – after meeting at Academy

This April, sitting in front of their respective work emails, Joe and Jenn McAuliffe were pronounced man and wife. In separate states, distant Army bases and during work hours, their life as a married couple began.

This was possible due to a Montana regulation that allows for double-proxy weddings – where neither party has to be present in order to be married. Both are represented by fill-ins. This was a plan they put into place due to the ongoing saga that is COVID-19.

After their Memorial Day weekend wedding plans had been pushed to the right, and with no clear feasible date in mind, the pair decided to make their own path.

“I said, ‘What if we get married on paper, because if something happens to one of us – we’re not married – the other couldn’t get leave [and travel];” Joe, who works in TRADOC, said.

He added that, while five states allow for marriage by proxy, only one allows for a double-proxy union. So it was decided: they would file in Montana, choose their anniversary date and time, and continue the day as usual.

“We were both literally at work in our offices. We got an email that said, ‘Congratulations you’re married,’” Jenn, working in INSCOM said.

The wedding came three years after the couple first emailed – a nod to their future – as upcoming classmates in the Army Sergeant Major Academy. Each was searching for roommates among their respective peers, and they, along with others, moved under a single roof.

Months into the school the pair started dating, then after two years as an item, they became engaged.  

It was happenstance, they said. Not expecting to meet “the one,” both McAuliffes were caught off guard.

“I actually think we were very fortunate in the amount of time that we were able to spend together, even with him deploying,” Jenn said. Citing quick flights and four-day weekends, the couple averaged a visit together every six weeks, except for Joe’s stint overseas.

After years of long-distance dating, they were married. Joe popped the question after returning stateside.

But with the pandemic in play, their time together became nonexistent – they didn’t see each other for six months. After rendezvousing over President’s Day weekend in 2020, they wouldn’t meet again in person until they were legally wed.

With military travel regulations and restrictions at their respective bases, visits were simply not an option.

In fact, the reason they ended up getting multiple visits together, once bases allowed, was due to Jenn’s shoulder surgeries. Joe traveled there for her treatments and she was able to travel with him to recover.

“Our recent time together, it’s kind of funny, it was from convalescent leave,” she said.

All-in-all, however, the McAuliffes are dedicated to making their union joyful, even if they got a non-traditional start. Eventually, that will mean a shared home with acreage and distant from big cities. But for now, it means traveling when their jobs allow and sharing their best moments through smiles and playful banter. Jenn, from her rented house that she shares with a roommate. And Joe, from his stationary camper slot, with Jenn’s rescue dog, Roxy.

The rest? They’ll figure it out as they go. With the last two-plus decades planned for them, there’s time to plan. Joe, who’s coming up on his 27th year in the Army, says he always knew he wanted to join the military.

“Once I hit year 11 I said, ‘Ok I’m staying in,’” he said, also citing his daughters as reasons for finding success.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

Lauren, 24 and daughter, Izabella, 6, top left. Shania, 23, top right, Katelynn, 21 bottom left, and Roxy, 11.

Meanwhile, Jenn just hit 25 years of service, giving credit to her father for serving as her inspiration. However, it was never a life goal to stay in until retirement.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in for any longer but I did,” she said. “Something that Joe and I talk about, we were meant to go to the academy and meet each other, that’s why I stayed in.”

“Not necessarily for the Army or aspirations to be a Sergeant Major, but I was meant to meet Joe at the academy.”

popular

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.


As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.

That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.

Born in the Mid-’50s

Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.

In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.

Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Top secret spy photos taken by Det-A in the early ’60s showing detail of the Berlin Wall. (Photo: Bob Charest)

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.

Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.

Training and tools of the trade

Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.

Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
The Det A boys ready to go all cloak and dagger circa ’72. (Photo: Bob Charest)

 

But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.

All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.

Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.

Mission

During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.

“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.

In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Patch for Operation Storm Cloud. (Courtesy: Bob Charest)

Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.

When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.

Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.

“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”

Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.

Articles

That time Chick-Fil-A sent deployed troops a care package

When troops are deployed, they soon find themselves missing the comforts – or tastes — of home. MREs can get old, and even when fresh food is available, it just doesn’t compare to what troops are used to.


A Texas National Guard unit deployed to the MidEast realized that very quickly.

According to a report by Todd Starnes, those troops were facing a serious letdown every Sunday night, which for them was “Chicken Tender Night.” The chicken at the undisclosed military base was just not up to the troops’ specs.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Who’s hungry? (Photo: yoppy/Flickr)

“Every Sunday is chicken tender night – which is one of the highlights of every week,” a National Guard first lieutenant identified as Jessie, wrote to Starnes. “With this being said, the chicken is okay at best,” he added.

The troops hit on the idea of using BBQ sauce to help address what Jessie would describe in a Facebook post as “overcooked and bland chicken tenders.” However, when forward deployed, refrigeration became an issue, as most bottles of BBQ sauce instruct people to “refrigerate after opening.”

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
A Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Port Charlotte, Fla. has a long line of customers. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jessie then took a stab at a solution — acquiring individual packets of BBQa sauce. He reached out to the Chick-Fil-A restaurant at Founder’s Square in Flower Mound, Texas, with the request for some sauce.

Two weeks later, on Chicken Tender night, the deployed Texas National Guard unit got a delivery: two cases of sauces, one of the requested BBQ sauce, the other of Chick-Fil-A’s signature “Chick-Fil-A” sauce.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Chick-Fil-A’s signature food item: The chicken sandwich. A Chick-Fil-A restaurant came to the culinary rescue of deployed National Guard troops. (Wikimedia Commons)

“Who would have ever thought you would see Chick-fil-A sauces in Iraq. It was our pleasure and honor to send you the BBQ and CFA sauces, and what a miracle that they actually arrived on Chicken Tender night!” Jason Driscoll of Chick-Fil-A posted on the local restaurant’s Facebook page after Jessie shared the story of the sauces arriving.

Bravo Zulu to Chick-Fil-A for rescuing our troops’ taste buds!

Articles

27 gorgeous photos of life in the US Navy

From foreign ports to polar explorations, life at sea is an adventure.


Out of all the service branches, the Navy requires the most traveling from its troops. Life at sea is anything but boring and the foreign port visits with your best friends are worth the long stretches of isolation.

Here are 27 amazing photos of life at sea:

1. Sailors conduct a swim call.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialists 3rd Class Bradley J. Gee/USN

2. USS Green Bay conducts amphibious operations.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Barnes/USN

3. USS Germantown conducts an amphibious assault exercise.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Dionne/USN

4.USS Ross conducts a replenishment-at-sea with USNS Leroy Grumman.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones/USN

5. A Sea Hawk helicopter flies off the coast of Kauai.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Ensign Joseph Pfaff/USN

6. Divers participate in an International Mine Countermeasures Exercise.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Rolston/USN

7. Navy ships anchored in the waters of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/USN

8. An Uumanned underwater vehicle searches for mines.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen/USN

9. A Royal Australian Navy ship pulls into the port of Dili to drop off members of Pacific Partnership.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Kristopher Radder/USN

10. Divers return to USS Anchorage during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kimberly Leiter/USN

11. An X-47B unmanned aerial vehicle sits on an aircraft elevator.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/USN

12. USS Iwo Jima holds a swim call.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci/USN

13. Jets fly in formation during an air power demonstration.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II/USN

14. A Sailor prepares for a live-fire exercise.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Collin Turner/USN

15. USS Cape St. George transits Pearl Harbor.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker/USN

16. USS Peleliu conducts a swim call.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Van’tLeven/USN

17. An Amphibious vessel delivers supplies during humanitarian assistance effort.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Grandin/USN

18. The USS Georgia prepares to moor in Diego Garcia.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Williamson/USN

19. Sailors run on the flight deck of USS George H.W. Bush.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/USN

20. The USS Connecticut surfaces through the ice during an exercise.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O’Brien

21. Military and civilian personnel participate in Pacific Partnership 2011.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell/USN

22. USS John C. Stennis conducts helicopter operations.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez/USN

23. Navy divers recover the Orion crew module.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen

24. Sailors conduct morning colors aboard the USS Monterey.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Billy Ho/USN

25. Basic Underwater Demolition (BUD/S) candidates participate in Surf Passage.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell/USN

26. A cruiser in the Arabian Gulf.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Walter M. Wayman

27. USS Mitscher (DDG 57) lights up its mast during night deck landing qualifications.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony R. Martinez/USN

Mighty Moments

Fallen Marine’s mother asks for help in showering a 99-year-old veteran with cards

On August 4, 2017 Lance Corporal Cody Haley was killed at Camp Pendleton when a tree fell on him during routine training. He was only 20 years old. His mother Kim is keeping his legacy of kindness alive and she needs your help. 

Cody always wanted to become a Marine. His grandfather, Dave Crowe, was a Marine Corps Vietnam War Veteran and had passed away in a motorcycle accident not long before Cody enlisted in 2015, right out of high school. A few months after graduating from basic training, Cody was deployed overseas with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in March of 2016, aboard the USS Comstock.

cody marine

His family sent Cody many care packages while he was deployed. Kim later found out that he shared a lot of them with other Marines who never received anything. But that’s the kind of person he was, she said: kind. 

While Cody was deployed, his great-grandfather Jesse was celebrating his 95th birthday. Every year his family would throw a big party in honor of him and Cody didn’t want to miss it. So, they waited. On June 18, 2017 he came home for his post-deployment leave and spent 10 days with his family celebrating his Great-Grandfather, “Grandpa Jesse”, who was a World War II Army veteran. 

It was the last time he saw him.

Cody was extremely close with his great-grandfather. He would spend the night at his house all the time, even after he became a Marine. They’d watch the Andy Griffith show and Gunsmoke, laughing together. They’d also talk about world affairs and the issues that plagued the country. “He was developing into a great man…you could see it,” Jesse said. 

The “spit and vinegar” kid and jokester teenager he was known for being was long gone after becoming a Marine. In its place was a young man devoted to serving his country and making his family proud. Although Cody never vocalized exactly why he joined, Kim is sure it was because he was inspired by his grandfather and great-grandfather. It was their courage and patriotism that Cody hoped to emulate, she said. 

At the time of his death, Cody had earned the nickname “fastest gun in the west” after beating out all the other marines in an exercise while deployed. “He was surrounded by the best and he told me that,” Kim said. At his memorial, over 50 Marines showed up enmasse to remember and honor Cody’s life alongside his family. 

“Last year Grandpa Jesse turned 98 but because of COVID we couldn’t do anything. I know Cody would have wanted us to do something because he was one of his favorite people,” Kim explained. She shared an idea to have cards sent to Grandpa Jesse on Facebook and he received 110 from people across the country. This year, she’s hoping they can do it again and get even more cards to surprise him with. This time, for Cody. 

Grandpa Jesse loved receiving the cards and still has them sitting by his chair, he said. Since Cody’s death, Kim has continually tried to find ways to be kind in his honor, something she’s hoping others will take to heart. “Do something intentionally nice for someone else. I just think that the more positive that can come out of this tragedy, that’s what matters,” she said. 

marine
Cody’s last picture with Grandpa Jesse

Here at WATM we hope you’ll start those acts of kindness to honor Cody’s legacy by writing Grandpa Jesse a message to wish him a happy 99th birthday. #DoItForCody. 

Mail your cards and letters to:

Kim Haley

701 11th Street

Eldora, IA 50627

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Soldiers from the 193rd Infantry Brigade join Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron to execute a parachute jump as a part of exercise Emerald Warrior at Melrose Air Force Range, N.M.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi

A U.S. Air Force combat controller jumps out of an MC-130J Combat Shadow II during Emerald Warrior 2015 at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/USAF

NAVY

USS Freedom (LCS 1) pulls alongside USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment at sea training exercise.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Ignacio D. Perez/USN

Air department Sailors stretch out the emergency crash barricade on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a general quarters drill.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class E. T. Miller/USN

ARMY

Security Forces Squadron members of the 106th Rescue Wing conduct night-firing training at the Suffolk County Police Range in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., May 7, 2015. During this training, the airmen learned small-group tactics, how to use their night-vision gear, and trained with visible and infrared designators.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy/US Army

Army combat divers, assigned to The National Guard‘s 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), maneuver their Zodiac inflatable boat through the surf at Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Staff Sgt. Adam Fischman/US Army

MARINE CORPS

KIN BLUE, Okinawa, Japan – Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force scout swimmers emerge out of the ocean and run to the beach during the Japanese Observer Exchange Program.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Cpl. Ryan C. Mains/USMC

A Marine surveys land from a UH-1Y Huey as part of a reconnaissance mission in Nepal, May 4, 2015. Marines with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, Marine Air Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific provided the UH-1Y Huey to support the Nepalese government in relief efforts.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Lance Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/USMC

Marines assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division brace themselves against rotor wash from a CH-53E Super Stallion during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 2-15 at Del Valle Park, The Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Lance Cpl. Jodson B. Graves/USMC

COAST GUARD

A beautiful start to another weekend of Service to Nation for Coast Guard crews!

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: USCG

U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes crews partner withRoyal Canadian Mounted Police to ensure safety and security on the Great Lakes through the ‘Shiprider’ program.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: USCG

NOW: More military photos

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Articles

7 lies sailors tell their parents while deployed

College life and Navy life are very different, but there’s one thing they have in common: worried parents.


Whether you’re in college or the Navy, you can count on parents constantly checking in and asking a million questions. These conversations can feel like investigations; especially during deployments.

While Navy parents worry about their sons and daughters being in harm’s way, sailors are usually worried about more important things, like when’s the next port visit and what are their duty days. A little white lie can ease a parent’s worries. Here are some of the most common ones offered:

1. “I’m only allowed one call a month.”

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

2. “Sorry I won’t be able to call you during my next port visit, I have duty the entire time.”

3. “Of course I’m eating healthy, midrats is the healthiest meal of the day!”

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Photo: U.S. Navy

4. “With the hours I work, I have no desire to stay out late.”

5. “Yes, I am spending my money wisely.”

6. “No, I never drink during port visits.”

7. “I spent my entire Hong Kong port visit sightseeing.”

Articles

Warrior ethos helped this Airman save his sister

Air Force Staff Sgt. Franciscoadan Orellana, a Gretna, Louisiana, resident assigned to the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Mission Support Group, donated one of his kidneys to his sister, Alejandra Orellana, April 11.


Alejandra’s health issues began 10 years ago when she was pregnant with her son. She suffered from eclampsia, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes, which caused her son to be born premature at 31 weeks.

Although her son was healthy, the doctors said her veins had collapsed and her organs were shutting down. During the following years she experienced further complications, including being diagnosed with stage four chronic kidney disease.

“The whole family was there for me, but mainly my brother took the role of, ‘What do you need? or What can I do for you?'” she said. “He was really wonderful.”

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together

Not wanting to continue with hemodialysis because of the stress on veins in her neck and chest, her doctor recommended peritoneal dialysis which uses the lining of the stomach as a natural filter. Ultimately, her kidney disease progressed and her case was presented to the kidney transplant board.

Waiting List

In November 2016, after numerous tests and reviews of her medical history, Alejandra Orellana’s case was accepted and she was placed on a transplant waiting list. That’s when Franciscoadan took action and informed his family that he would donate one of his kidneys.

“I still remember telling my family the good news, and my sister responding, ‘No, I couldn’t live with myself if something were to happen to you,'” Franciscoadan said. “That’s when I told them I wasn’t asking them for permission and immediately started the process of testing to see if we were a match.”

Out of five siblings, Franciscoadan and Alejandra are particularly close. Franciscoadan describes his sister as the backbone of the family, a confidant who is very supportive of his career in the military.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Louisiana Air National Guardsmen. (Photo by Master Sgt. Toby M. Valadie, 159th Public Affairs Office)

Franciscoadan was determined to donate a kidney to his sister, regardless of personal health risks or career consequences. Knowing that a health issue could potentially have an effect on his military career, he met with his commander and the 159th Medical Group for advice.

“When Staff Sgt. Orellana first told me about his desire to determine his compatibility I was not surprised he was contemplating this,” said Air Force Col. Brian Callahan, the 159th Mission Support Group commander. “When he sees a need, he automatically goes into a ‘fix it’ mode.”

Testing

Over the next few months, Franciscoadan underwent a series of tests and interviews. To ensure he was a match and was healthy enough to donate, he had between 20-30 vials of blood drawn, X-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs.

He also had to meet with social workers, psychologists, financial advisors, and the transplant team to make certain he wasn’t being coerced and to assure he was acting of his own free will.

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran

“The fact that it was his sister only increased his desire to find a successful outcome. He went through all of the testing and when it was determined he was a match, there was no turning back,” Callahan said. “He went through all of the proper steps to determine if this would impact his military service and, upon hearing there wouldn’t be, he went full speed ahead to help his sister. He attacks his work with that exact fervor.”

Franciscoadan said his military training and mindset is what allowed him to act swiftly and expedite the screening process.

“Warrior ethos came into play. This is a mission,” he said. “It’s a confidence, being in the military. There’s a warrior mind frame and sometimes you don’t get a chance to the think; you just execute.”

The seven-hour surgery was successful, and the siblings were soon on the road to recovery. Overcoming this challenge has strengthened their relationship and allowed them to grow even closer.

“Our relationship is stronger than ever, just like my family’s relationship is stronger than ever,” Franciscoadan said. “It’s humbling to know that you have that support always.”

Perfectly Bound – How a printing error tied a Vietnam and post-9/11 Veteran together
Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Roy Rice

Post-Surgery

Alejandra’s new kidney took effect immediately. She was retaining fluid before the surgery, but that is now going away and she hopes to soon reach an ideal weight to be eligible for a pancreas transplant as she continues her battle with diabetes.

Today, she looks to the future as an advocate for organ donations and plans to speak at schools, businesses, and fundraisers to educate people about the screening process and motivate them to act.

As for Franciscoadan, he wants people to understand that donating a kidney was a privilege and an honor. He has a healthy life, and continues to serve his country, and be an active community volunteer with one kidney. He is scheduled to deploy next year, once he is fully recovered.

“I have noticed that life will put you in situations where all you can do is act. It is at those times when you must stop thinking and simply execute,” Franciscoadan said. “I truly feel God gave me two healthy kidneys knowing that when the time came, I would have the ability to give one up.”
Articles

This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

Master Sgt. Raul “Roy” P. Benavidez was a young special forces linguist and medic when, in 1965, he stepped on a mine in Vietnam and was evacuated to the United States. He was told he’d never walk again. But, wanting to return to Vietnam, he began a nightly ritual of attempting to relearn how to walk despite explicit orders from his doctors.


A year later, his doctor was standing in Benavidez’s hospital room with medical discharge papers. The doctor made a deal with Benavidez that he’d tear up the discharge if Benavidez walked out of the room. Benavidez did one better by walking out of the ward.

Amazingly, this was not the most insane or heroic part of Benavidez’s life. That’s because, after returning to Vietnam, Benavidez volunteered to assist with the emergency extraction of a 12-man special forces team under extreme fire on May 2, 1968. He rode into battle on the fourth helicopter to attempt extraction, the first three having been driven back by withering small arms and anti-aircraft fire. The fourth bird also decided it couldn’t land, but allowed Benavidez to drop out of the helicopter 75 meters from the team.

Benavidez ran the 75 meters and was wounded three times in the process, including once in the head and once in the face. Despite his wounds, he began repositioning the wounded team members so they could lay down fire while also marking the location for aircraft to attempt extraction. When the bird arrived, he ran alongside, providing cover fire, as the helicopter picked up the wounded. Right as the helicopter and Benavidez reached the dead team leader, Benavidez was hit by small arms fire and grenade shrapnel while the pilot was mortally wounded and crashed the aircraft.

Benavidez again recovered the wounded and placed them in a defensive perimeter. He began circuits of the perimeter, distributing ammunition and water. As the enemy increased its pressure on the team, he began calling in airstrikes.

Another aircraft arrived to attempt extraction and Benavidez — despite his own serious injuries — ferried the dead and wounded to the waiting helicopter until he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. He engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the soldier and killed him, but sustained bayonet wounds. While ferrying the last of the wounded to the bird, he engaged two additional enemy soldiers, killing them and protecting the helicopter.

Then, just to prove being wounded 37 times in six hours of combat ain’t no thang, he did a final sweep of the perimeter to ensure no wounded men or classified material was left on the battlefield.

Finally, Benavidez allowed himself to be pulled from the fight. Upon arriving back at the base, he was declared dead by two doctors. As the second one was zipping up the body bag, Benavidez proved he was alive by spitting in the doctor’s face, much like he had been spitting in the face of death for the previous six hours.

It would be nearly 13 more years before Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor, primarily because it was thought that there were no surviving witnesses to testify to his actions. After a team member who did survive, Brian O’Conner, heard Benavidez was still alive and that a witness testimony would allow him to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor, O’Conner provided a 10-page report to satisfy the requirement.

On February 24, 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented the Medal Of Honor. Before reading the citation, he told the crowd, “If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.”

The reading of the citation and Benavidez’s story, in his own words, is available in the video below.

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