As President Joe Biden was addressing the nation Wednesday after swearing in as the 46th U.S. president, a quiet moment was captured 110 miles away from the nation’s capital.
A journalist with The News Journal in Delaware saw a lone person in a blue uniform kneeling over the grave of the president’s late son, Beau Biden, who died in 2015 at the age of 46.
“No one else was around on this cold, windy afternoon except for a few people doing outside work at the cemetery,” Patricia Talorico, the News Journal reporter, wrote about the moment. “… The person in the uniform bowed their head and clasped their hands. The image brought tears to my eyes.”
The person captured in Talorico’s viral photo, which was shared by tens of thousands on social media, has not been identified. Talorico said that while the journalist in her wanted to ask the person’s identity and see why they were there, she “knew it was a time to be respectful.”
“I drove away,” she said, adding, “Some things in life you just let be.”
Beau Biden, a lawyer who served in the Delaware National Guard, is buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church cemetery in Greenville, Delaware. In 2008, he deployed as a major to Iraq, where he served on the staff of Biden’s defense secretary nominee, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin.
Before Biden left Delaware this week ahead of his inauguration, he spoke at the Major Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center, which is named for his son.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I only have one regret: He’s not here,” Biden said of his son, fighting back tears. “Because we should be introducing him as president.”
The person at Beau Biden’s grave kept their head bowed before and after Biden’s roughly 20-minute inauguration address, clasping their hands, Talorico wrote.
Biden, who said in a 2019 speech that he suspects his son’s cancer was caused by exposure to burn pits in Iraq, is expected to expand medical benefits for veterans who became sick after being exposed to environmental toxins.
“President-elect Joe Biden has made clear that our nation’s most sacred obligation is to take care of the members of our military and their families, when they’re deployed and when they return home,” Leo Cruz, Biden’s military and veterans issues campaign director, told McClatchy after the November election.
American Presidents are civilians by design, some with little or no military experience at all – and are unlikely to ever serve in a combat role while in office (unless they’re in office while aliens attack Earth). In the voters’ minds, military experience always seems to be a plus when considering who would be the next Commander-In-Chief. It probably helps when they actually take the office.
But not every veteran POTUS saw action. Eisenhower was a great logistical planner but never served in a direct combat role. George Washington’s combat record as a junior officer is spotty, but his decision-making capacity, strategic vision, and ability to inspire those around him were infinitely more essential to his legacy and to the history of the United States.
And then there were those whose service would affect the outcomes of battles, of entire wars, and of the nation itself. Here are 8 presidents who actually saw combat in a big way:
1. Andrew Jackson (War of 1812, Indian Wars)
No president ever held a grudge like Andrew Jackson. This was a guy who fought 103 duels before he was ever elected President. Yet he only killed one man (in a duel, I mean).
When he was 13, he served as a messenger for a militia unit in the Revolutionary War. When captured, he refused to shine the boots of a British officer, who then used his saber to give the Young Jackson the scars that would be on his face for the rest of his life. That sort of thing stays with a young man.
As a general, his most famous military success was at New Orleans during the War of 1812. The British threatened the city under Jackson’s command. Jackson pulled together Army regulars, militia, sailors, Marines, citizens, Choctaw warriors, and a band of pirates under Jean LaFitte, to a force of 4,700 men. They held off 11,000 British troops and the Royal Navy fleet in a battle that couldn’t be won.
His victory would (eventually) put Jackson in the White House, where Old Hickory would be the first US President anyone tried to assassinate. An unemployed house painter pulled two pistols on Jackson but they both misfired, allowing Jackson to beat the would-be killer with his cane.
2. William Henry Harrison (War of 1812, Indian Wars)
Harrison was the commander of American forces at Tippecanoe, architect of Shawnee leader Tecumseh’s defeat, and gave the United States its first victory against violent religious extremists. Not bad.
Tecumseh and his brother, a “prophet” called Tenskawata, began using visions and magic to incite Natives in the Indiana territory against American settlers. In 1810, Tecumseh met then-Governor Harrison with 400 warriors to demand the rescission of a treaty. When Harrison refused, Tecumseh ordered his warriors to kill Harrison, who responded by drawing his sword. A Potawatomi chief intervened and Tecumseh’s warriors left for the time being.
When the war came, Harrison assaulted the tribes repeatedly – most notably at Tippecanoe, where the magical forces were defeated by actual forces.
Guns over Magic. Every time.
Tecumseh made a comeback in the War of 1812, backed up by the British. Harrison quickly captured Detroit (for better or worse) and then invaded Canada. He defeated the British and got some vengeance against Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh was killed, the Americans burned a local settlement (built by pacifists probably to avoid getting their settlement burned down), and then went back to Detroit.
Harrison delivered the longest inaugural speech in American history without a coat on a cold, wet day, which resulted in the shortest presidency in American history.
3. Zachary Taylor (War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican-American War)
Taylor also cut his teeth fighting Tecumseh during the War of 1812, famously holding Fort Harrison with 20 men against 600 under the “inspiring” battle cry “Taylor Never Surrenders!” Turns out, he was pretty good at checking native tribes. He also fought them in the Black Hawk War and Seminole War.
By the time war with Mexico broke out, Taylor was a general and was widely known as “Old Rough and Ready.” He lost only 37 men against an army that vastly outnumbered his own, marched on the “impregnable” city of Monterrey, and captured it in four days. This wasn’t even his biggest victory.
President Polk deliberately gave all but 4,650 of Taylor’s troops to General Winfield Scott to capture Veracruz in an effort to check Taylor’s growing popularity back home. Having learned of Taylor’s weakened army, Mexican General and dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna sent his entire army of 15,000 to annihilate him.
As Taylor’s army turned the Battle of Buena Vista into a complete rout of the numerically superior Mexicans, his order “Double-shot your guns and give ’em hell” was used as a campaign slogan to catapult Taylor to the presidency.
He was so popular, he was elected as the Whig Party candidate despite disagreeing with almost every issue for which the party stood.
4. Franklin Pierce (Mexican-American War)
Franklin Pierce was so itchy to fight for his country, he turned down President Polk’s nomination as Attorney General. For this he gets a lot of respect. The first part of his military career, however, was less like Zachary Taylor’s and more like Ernest goes to Mexico.
He volunteered to join the Army as soon as war with Mexico broke out in 1846, despite the lack of New England regiments actually existing. When Congress authorized those regiments, he was appointed the Colonel in command and sent to Veracruz.
When he arrived in Mexico, he was promoted to Brigadier General and linked up with General Winfield Scott at the Battle of Contreras. Everything was okay until his horse was startled, causing his saddle to jam his groin as hard as possible. The horse then fell into a crevice, pinning Pierce under it and forcing someone else to take command. He injured his knee the next day and fell so far behind his men, the battle was over by the time he caught up.
General Scott wasn’t going to let Pierce command his brigade at the Battle of Churubusco the next day, but he eventually did. But Pierce’s wounded leg hurt so much, he passed out on his horse in the middle of the battle.
5. Ulysses S. Grant (Mexican War, Civil War)
Grant famously became the general the Union needed to win the Civil War. He was forced to resign from the Army for drunkenness before the war. But when the South seceded, he raised a regiment of volunteers that he used to take the fight to the Confederates in the West.
Eventually, he commanded friend and General William T. Sherman to burn the South to the ground.
He always showed this level of doggedness in his military career. During the Mexican War, he led cavalry charges despite only being a quartermaster. As a messenger, he braved the sniper-lined streets of Monterrey while hanging off the side of his horse, using it as a shield.
At the Battle of Chapultepec, he carried a howitzer to the top of a church steeple, a move essential to the final assault on Chapultepec Castle and to winning the war itself.
6. Rutherford B. Hayes (Civil War)
Not much is really said about Rutherford B. Hayes these days, but the former President has probably one of the most active war records of any Chief Executive. He was a Union officer during the Civil War, volunteering after Fort Sumter fell and serving in an active combat role until the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.
In September 1862, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was advancing northward into Maryland. The Union Army under General George B. McClellan met the divided Confederates in a series of three pitched battles. At the head of the lead regiment was Lieutenant Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes.
As Hayes’ 23d Ohio charged an entrenched Confederate position, a bullet tore through his arm, shattering the bone. After tying a handkerchief tourniquet around it (and presumably rubbing some dirt on it), he continued the attack.
While most Civil War veterans would lose an arm to such an injury, Hayes probably didn’t get an infection because gangrene was afraid of him. Instead, he spent the next two years skirmishing with Confederate forces in Tennessee and Virginia.
He had his horse shot from under him Battle of Kernstown, where he was then shot in the shoulder. He was also struck in the head by a spent round at Cedar Creek in 1864, the year he was promoted to Brigadier General and Brevet Major General.
He was elected to the Presidency by sheer force of will in 1876, despite not winning a majority of electoral or popular votes.
7. Theodore Roosevelt (Spanish-American War)
Colonel Roosevelt was an adventurer, explorer, scholar, author, historian, boxer, cowboy, big game hunter, and elected official. Teddy, as he hated being called, was also fearless and nearly indestructible even before he went to war.
Unfortunately for Spain, when the USS Maine was sunk in Havana harbor, Roosevelt resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to go and liberate Cuba. He and Colonel Leonard Wood raised the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment – known to this day as the “Rough Riders.”
They distinguished themselves at the Battle of San Juan Hill. During the fight for nearby Kettle Hill, he lead the charge as the only man on horseback. Roosevelt moved from position to position as his men advanced up the hill, over open ground, against an entrenched enemy. When his horse was stopped by barbed wire, he walked the rest of the way.
The Americans reached the top of the hill fighting hand-to-hand to dislodge the Spaniards. In Spain’s defense, there’s no shame in getting dropped by a punch the face from Teddy Roosevelt.
Roosevelt would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for that action (he is still the only President with one), blocked at the time for political reasons – the most likely being that he was Theodore Roosevelt and everyone else was not.
8. Harry S. Truman (World War I)
Truman was initially denied enlisting into the Missouri National Guard because of poor eyesight – well past the standard for legal blindness. Not one to let not being able to see keep him from killing Germans, he secretly memorized an eye chart and passed the vision test. He was even elected to be the lieutenant of his unit.
By the time he arrived in France, he was the captain of an artillery company. He was unpopular at first… until his unit was overrun by the Germans in the Vosges Mountains. His men started to break and run but Truman let rip a string of profanity so awful and venomous his men were actually more afraid of him than the Germans – and they stayed to fight.
His time in the mud didn’t stop there. At the start of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918, Captain Truman observed German artillery setting up to attack a unit out of his area of responsibility. An animal lover, Truman waited until the Germans moved their horses before lighting them up.
We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.
For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.
But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)
Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.”
In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.
It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.
The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.
“Out on a hike all day, dear
Part of the army grind
Weary and long the way, dear
But really I don’t mind
I’m getting tired so I can sleep
I want to sleep so I can dream
I want to dream so I can be with you
I’ve got your picture by my bed
‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head
To keep me company the whole night through
For a little while, whatever befalls
I will see your smile till reveille calls
I hope you’re tired enough to sleep
And please sleep long enough to dream
And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”
Click play on the video below and try to sing along.
(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
A new short film created by the U.S. Air Force has been nominated for an Emmy Award.
Produced by Airman Magazine, the two-minute video captures the harrowing challenges airmen face during SERE training. “The Perfect Edge” compares the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program that airmen undergo to the process of forging a survival knife, and the parallel is visually striking.
It features real footage of participants engaging in the intense wilderness survival and physical training exercises at SERE, along with narration by Senior Airman Joseph Collett, an instructor at the school.
Being a military spouse is a job. A job that requires grace and standing on your head while sewing new rank onto your spouse’s 15 sets of uniforms. It’s a job that commands that you hold your head high while certain people question or scoff at the value of your position.
Let me tell you a story that you probably already know a little too well.
A young girl is told by her parents that she can do anything, that she can be anything she wants to be, as long as she sets her mind to it. She works hard in school and graduates at the top of her class. She sets her sights high and has high career aspirations.
In college, she meets the man of her dreams. This young man, too, has big dreams. His dreams involve serving his country and protecting their freedom. As college comes to an end, the young man receives orders to be stationed overseas and the young girl must make a choice – chase after the career that she has been working towards all these years or choose the man that has unexpectedly entered her life and has become her life. She chooses love. Five years later she takes a moment to reflect and decides that if she could go back in time, she would still make that same choice all over again. She would choose love. She would always choose love.
That does not mean that it has been an easy journey. Life as a military spouse has been a bumpy ride – a worthwhile ride, but a bumpy ride nonetheless. In the early days of being a military spouse overseas, I struggled with the transition from being independent to being a dependent. I no longer had an identity other than being a dependent. I had my husband’s social security number memorized better than my own. I couldn’t even pay my own cell phone bill without my husband present or a power of attorney.
I went through various stages of grief. At first I was angry. “Do you have any idea what I have given up so you can pursue your dreams?” Then I was sad. I would ask through tears, “What is my purpose?” After some time, I made it to acceptance. I understand that I am supporting the greater cause. Every choice that I have made until now has led me to this point. I am successful, but in a very different sort of way than I believed in growing up. Before, I thought success was measured in career status and income level. Now I understand that there are different kinds of success. I have a loving husband, a beautiful baby, and a home that we can call our own.
Every day military spouses everywhere are working hard, often in single-parent-type circumstances, to find a way to make our career goals fit into our unusual lifestyle. It’s a cost that’s difficult to comprehend before you experience it.
Giving up the dream job for a PCS.
Finding out your career field is nonexistent at a new duty station.
Not knowing how you are going to balance everything while he’s away this time.
Even though I am in the acceptance phase of my journey, it doesn’t mean that snarky remarks from others don’t hurt. Someone very close to me said the other day, “Enjoy your day at home. I’m on my way to work because I don’t have a husband that supports me.” Others have made comments about how it must be nice to be a stay-at-home wife (and now mom). While they would never say it to my face, I have heard people comment about other military spouses being lazy or not doing anything with their lives. These comments are usually made from a combination of both humor and misunderstanding. It’s time to stop making assumptions based on the surface-level appearance of each other’s situations. Every military spouse has a story and we have all made sacrifices to live the life we are living.
On June 5, 1944, 150,000 troops were massed in Southern England waiting to begin the world’s largest amphibious assault.
The success of D-Day would open a new Allied front against Nazi Germany, leading to the downfall of Hitler and the Third Reich. On the eve of the assault, Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the following statement to all troops taking part in the operation. To hear a recording of Eisenhower reading the statement to the troops, check out the video below the letter.
One of our favorite stories from this year’s NFL Draft is Nate Boyer.
Boyer is a 34-year-old Army Special Forces veteran who was offered a contract as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks. He served six years in the Army and five years with the University of Texas Longhorns football team. He was considered one of the best college long snappers for the past three seasons, according to Texas Sports. Even while he was playing for the team, Boyer served in the Texas National Guard during summers.
Here is Boyer’s remarkable story, leading up to his selection by the Seattle Seahawks:
After touring Iraq, Army vet Casey Tylek created a Tumblr blog that helps veterans during the transition to civilian life.
Tylek told Buzzfeed he was inspired to begin the page, called justWarthings, after feeling disconnected from his peers at University of Masssachusettes, Amherst because of his military experience.
justWarthings is modeled after the viral internet page justgirlythings, another Tumblr blog that uses stock photos and overlay text to communicate themes that are supposedly universal to teenage girls.
Tylek juxtaposes these images with photos of servicemen and women serving overseas, and the results are sometimes hilarious, but more often sobering.
FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — It can be a challenge to reintegrate from the military into civilian life, especially if you’ve lost a limb and your former toe is now your thumb, Mike Trost said.
And he would know.
Trost, 53, of Maryville, Tennessee, served in the U.S. Army for 32 years until he suffered serious injuries in 2012.
“I was shot with a machine gun in southeastern Afghanistan,” he said of being hit in both legs, buttocks and his right hand.
Trost lost a leg and fingers, but via modern medical technology, he gained a toe for a thumb.
While he talks casually about his hand and refers to his new thumb as “Toemos,” Trost knows all too well recovery can be a physically and emotionally painful, long journey.
“It’s good to be around like company,” Trost said of spending time with veterans who sustained traumatic experiences during their time in the military. “There’s a bond. It’s different than you have with regular friends.”
Trost on Friday was in Fort Ashby for a turkey hunt that’s part of Operation Heroes Support — a local veteran-operated, nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders.
“The whole thing with the hunts is just to make you feel, even for one day, that there’s … nothing wrong with you,” he said. “And the people here are fantastic. They give a lot of time and energy.”
Trost and several other veterans from Wednesday through Sunday were at the residence of Bruce Myers and his wife Judy, located in rural West Virginia.
In addition to hunting, the group fished in a lake owned by Dave and Joyce Cooper — neighbors of the Myers couple. Skeet shooting was also on the agenda.
The Myers’s hosted a similar event last year and hope to continue the tradition.
“The veterans, they deserve it … they sacrificed,” Bruce Myers said of the former military members who were injured during their service to country.
Steven Curry, 33, of Nokesville, Virginia, was new to this year’s Fort Ashby hunt and killed his first two turkeys — a 19-pounder on Thursday and a bird that weighed over 20 pounds on Friday.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said of his hunting success. “We were only in the woods about 20 minutes when I shot the first turkey.”
Curry was in a U.S. Army infantry unit from 2003 to 2008. During his service, he was hit by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq.
As a result, his left leg was amputated below his knee, he had a mild brain injury and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Brandon Rethmel, 30, of Pittsburgh, brought his wife and three young children to the event.
Rethmel was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During that time, he was injured by a rocket in Afghanistan.
“I lost my leg below the knee,” he said. His right tricep was also destroyed and he suffered other shrapnel wounds.
“When I got out (of the military) I didn’t connect with people,” he said. “I isolated myself … It was really hard.”
Rethmel said Operation Heroes Support and events including the hunt, as well as support from his family, helped him reclaim his purpose.
“It’s saved my life,” he said. “It’s just really a great program and I hope more (veterans) get involved.”
Greg Hulver, 49, of Kirby, West Virginia, specialized in communications for the U.S. Navy from about 1985 to 1997. Today, he suffers from back injuries and other ailments including PTSD. The hunting events offer him a way to give and receive help, he said
“My military bond is what I have with these guys and that means the most to me,” he said. “There’s just something between us you can’t replace and you can’t get it anywhere else.”
Brady Jackson, 32, of Bristol, Virginia, returned to the event this year to help other veterans.
“I’d never gotten a chance to turkey hunt,” he said of his first experience at the Fort Ashby event last year. “I just had an absolutely amazing time.”
He started volunteering to help get donations for Operation Heroes Support in the fall.
“It’s honestly changed my life,” Jackson said of working with other veterans. “It’s given me a sense of purpose since I got out of the military.”
Jackson was in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was deployed to Iraq where he sustained minor blast trauma, burns and cuts from an explosion. While he knows he was lucky to survive that incident without serious injuries, he needed to spend time with others who understood his experiences.
That’s where Operation Heroes Support came in, he said.
“It’s more about campfire therapy than it is about hunting,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”
Charles Harris, 26, a native of Placerville, California who now lives in Romney, West Virginia, lost his legs after being injured in 2012 while in a U.S. Army infantry unit.
Today, Harris is the president of the local Operation Heroes Support organization.
“It’s given me the ability to give back,” he said of his work with the group. “It’s like we’re back in the military (because) you can count on these guys … It’s like family.”
Harris said the group hopes to grow, include more public servants such as firefighters and police as well as military veterans. To make that happen, donations of cash, meals, airline tickets and other items and services are needed.
Most sailors who go out on deployment don’t get into trouble. Others may find themselves on the wrong side of the shore patrol, though. Much of that can be minor, and is usually addressed with a loss of pay, or placing a sailor on restriction. But in some cases, that sailor needs to be confined.
Now, when you’re deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean, or some other hot spot, it’s hard to ship the guy (or gal) back to the States to lock them up. So, on carriers and other large ships, the jail is brought with them – and it’s called the brig.
And in case you think that an upcoming battle earns some leeway for misbehavior, you’d best keep in mind that heading towards a fight won’t keep a sailor from getting tossed in the brig. In the book “Miracle at Midway,” historian Gordon Prange related how Marc Mitscher, captain of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8), threw a couple of sailors in the brig for minor infractions prior to the Battle of Midway.
In many cases where that is necessary, the sailors are sent to the brig after what is known as a “Captain’s Mast,” which is covered under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. According to Naval Orientation, the amount of time someone may be confined is limited. The exact limits depend on the rank of the commanding officer and the rank of the accused. The chart below from the linked manual explains those limits.
The video clip below is from the 2008 documentary mini-series “Carrier,” produced by Mel Gibson’s production company. It provides a tour of the brig on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as it was in 2005.
The most famous photograph of World War II was taken 70 years ago at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Just five days into a battle that would last a total of 35 days, Marines scaled Mount Suribachi and planted the American flag. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there to capture it on Feb. 23, 1945.
It might be hard today to comprehend how a single image can become iconic, exposed as we are to streams of photographs and videos every day from our news and social media feeds. But Rosenthal’s image resonated with all who saw it and was swiftly reproduced on U.S. government stamps and posters, in sandstone (on Iwo Jima, by the Seabee Waldron T. Rich) and most famously in bronze, as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington. The photograph won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 and is considered one of the most famous images of all time.
Rosenthal’s image was the second raising of the flag on Suribachi that day. A few hours before the famous image was captured, a Marine photographer captured the first flag raising, which saw much less fanfare. The first, and smaller flag, was taken down and replaced since a U.S. commander thought it was not large enough to be seen at a distance, reports CNN.
According to the The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, American military planners thought the battle would only be a few days. Instead, it dragged on for five weeks, at a cost of more than 6,800 American lives. The Japanese lost more than 18,000.
Moments after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the U.S. House Majority Whip, was shot in the hip during an attack on a practice for the upcoming Congressional baseball game, an Iraq War vet was treating his wound.
“You never expect a baseball field in America to feel like being back in a combat zone in Iraq, but this morning it did,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup tweeted. The Ohio Republican congressman later told an aide the only difference between the Alexandria shooting and Iraq was being “without his weapon.”
According to a report by WLWT.com, Wenstrup began to treat his wounded colleague after Scalise dragged himself off the field. Wenstrup had seen wounds like that before he had ever entered politics.
According to the official biography on his web site, that is because Rep. Wentrup is also Col. Wenstrup in the U.S. Army Reserve – and he’s has served in the Army Reserve since 1998, after his sister had a battle with leukemia. During a tour in Iraq with the 344th Combat Support Hospital, Wenstrup was a combat surgeon, which he described as “the worst thing that ever happened to me, and the best thing I ever got to do.”
“I remember one Marine we lost on the table, and the anesthesiologist saying, ‘I had breakfast with him this morning.’ Or having to tell a group of Marines their buddy didn’t make it. Those were the tough days,” he told the college’s magazine.
He had good days, too, including helping to treat a four-month old girl who had pneumonia. Eventually, the doctors figured out the girl also needed gluten-free formula, and raised over $400 to help make arrangements for a U.S. company to send the girl’s father the right baby food.
Professional photographer David Jay knows a picture is worth a thousand words, so he applied it to wounded vets.
To comprehend the news he would hear about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Jay visited Walter Reed Hospital to meet with wounded veterans. The visit had such a profound effect on him that he spent 3 years photographing wounded servicemen and women capturing an unadulterated look at their traumatic wounds for his series “Unknown Soldier.”
“We hear about ‘this number of men were killed’ and ‘this many were injured,'” Jay said in a recent interview with NPR. “And we think of them — maybe they got shot — or we don’t really picture what these injured men look like.”
The images are so visually powerful they have been acquired by the Library of Congress to be used as part its Iraq and Afghanistan wars visual documentation.
“You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, ‘Don’t look. Don’t stare at him. That’s rude.’ I take these pictures so that we can look; we can see what we’re not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we created them.”
Jay gave WATM permission to use some of his photos below, but you can see his full gallery here.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Henline. Bobby’s transport was incinerated by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was the lone survivor.
Army Spc. Jerral Hancock. Jerral was driving a tank in Iraq. A roadside bomb pierced the armor, breaching the interior. It is believed that Jerral was trapped under the wreckage for half an hour.
Robert was hit by incoming artillery, sustaining burns over 60% of his body
Maj. Matt Smith, US Army. On June 8, 2013 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, Matt was shot along with five others by a member of the Afghan National Army. The bullet severed his femoral artery, resulting in the amputation of his leg.
Marine Cpl. Michael Fox. On November 15, 2011 Michael was on foot patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan when he was injured by an improvised explosive device.
1st Lt. Nicholas John Vogt, U.S. Army. On November 12, 2011, he was severely injured by an IED while on a foot-patrol in Panjwaii, Afghanistan.
“The only thing that I want to pass on is this: Losing limbs is like losing a good friend,” Vogt said. “We wish we could still be with them, but it wasn’t ‘in the cards’. Then we get up, remember the good times, and thank God for whatever we have left.”
Cpl. Christian Brown, USMC
On Dec. 13, 2011, Christian was leading his squad on foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. Both of his legs were blown off- one above the knee, the other below the hip. Just four days prior, under heavy enemy fire, Christian had carried a mortally wounded Marine almost 1,000 feet to a hovering helicopter — an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Silver Star.
Spc. Marissa Strock. She was injured when her vehicle was struck by an IED buried in the road. She was 20 years old.
Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris. Shilo was severely burned on February 19th, 2007 by a roadside bomb estimated at 700 lbs. He lost three men out of a crew of five. Only Shilo and his driver survived the blast.
To view the entire Unknown Soldier collection by David Jay, visit his website here.