Meet Stella Goren, one of the first females in Connecticut to sign up for the Marine Corps during WWII. Find out how her fighting spirit and willingness to try new things keep her in the fight.
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.
If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.
Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “Tunnel Rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense.
“The most dangerous part would be psyching up to get into the tunnel,” Carl Cory says, a former 25th Infantry Div Tunnel Rat. “That was the part that was most frightening because you didn’t what you were getting into.”
In 1946, the Viet Minh were the Viet Cong resistance fighters who began digging the tunnels and bunkers to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat.
By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100-miles of tunnels with which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing.
The numerous spider holes (as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called) were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.
It was the duty of the brave Tunnel Rat to slide alone into the tunnel’s entrance then search for the enemy and other valuable intelligence. Due to the intense and dangerous nature of the job, many Tunnel Rats became so emotionally desensitized that entering a spider hole was just another day at the office — no big deal.
With danger lurking around every corner, the Tunnel Rat not only had to dodge the various savage booby traps set by the Viet Cong, but typically only carried 6-7 rounds of ammunition with him even though the tunnels were commonly used to house up to a few dozen enemy combatants.
With all those physical dangers to consider, the courageous troop still needed to maintain a clear and precise mental state of mind and not let the fear get the best of him.
After completing a search, many American and South Vietnamese units would rig the tunnels with C-4 explosives or bring in the always productive flamethrowers to flush out or kill any remaining hostiles.
On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.
Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.
Entering Shok Valley
The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.
The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.
Combat breaks out
After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.
Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.
The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.
“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”
The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.
Three-story explosion and sniper warfare
As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.
“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”
The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.
Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.
Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.
Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.
Planning to leave
American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.
Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.
Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.
Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.
Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire
Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.
Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.
Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.
One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.
After the battle
Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.
In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.
NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
YouTube, We Are The Mighty
From fighting pirates in the First Barbary War of 1801 to seizing the Kandahar International Airport in 2001 and beyond, Marine Corps infantrymen have been fighting and winning our nation’s battles for more than 200 years.
Known as “grunts,” infantrymen receive specialized training in weapons, tactics, and communications that make them effective in combat. And while many things have changed for grunts over time, they continue to carry on the legacy that was forged from the “small wars” to the “Frozen Chosin” to the jungles of Vietnam.
After more than a decade of war following the 9/11 attacks, many grunts have deployed to combat …
… In Iraq, where they earned their place in history at Nasiriyah, Najaf, and Fallujah (shown here), and many others.
While others deployed to Afghanistan, into the deadly Korengal Valley …
… Or more recently to Marjah, in Helmand Province.
But before infantrymen join their units, they need to complete initial training. For enlisted Marines, that means going to the School of Infantry, either at Camp Pendleton, California or Camp Geiger, North Carolina.
For officers, their training at Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Va. involves both tactics and weapons, along with a more intense focus on how to lead an infantry platoon.
While most enlisted grunts become 0311 riflemen, others receive more specialized training, like 0331 machine-gunners, which learn the M240 machine gun (shown here), the MK19 grenade launcher, and the M2 .50 cal.
0341 Mortarmen learn how to operate the 60 mm (shown below) and 81 mm mortar systems, which help riflemen with indirect fire support when they need a little bit more firepower.
0351 Assaultmen learn basic demolitions, breaching, and become experts in destroying bad guys with the SMAW rocket system. The Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) is shown below.
Packing even more punch that’s usually vehicle-mounted, 0352 Anti-tank missilemen learn their primary M41 SABER (below) heavy anti-tank weapon and the Javelin, a medium anti-tank weapon.
Some more experienced infantrymen go into specialized fields, such as Reconnaissance or snipers (below).
Always present is a focus on mission accomplishment, and to “keep their honor clean” — to preserve the legacy of the Corps …
… That grunts are proud of. Always remembering heroics from the Chosin Reservoir Marines in Korea …
… To those who fought in Vietnam jungles, or the storied battles of Hue and Khe Sanh.
Since Vietnam, grunts have been repeatedly been called upon for minor and major engagements, such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation United Shield in Somalia in 1995 (below).
But it’s not all combat.
Marine grunts are constantly training, whether it’s practicing amphibious landings …
… Or learning the skills needed to survive and thrive in a jungle environment.
Sometimes they take a break to catch up on their reading.
And when they’re not training, they are trying to have fun.
Sometimes … maybe too much fun.
While technology has made today’s infantrymen even deadlier, the life of the grunt has always been spartan.
Grunts often work in rough conditions, and they need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
And quite often, they need to be self-sufficient. At remote patrol bases, that means everything from burning their trash and other waste …
To fixing their morning coffee in any way they can.
Grunts learn to appreciate the little things, like care packages from home …
… Any privacy they can get …
… Or a “FOB Pup” to play around with in between missions.
When they get into a fight with the enemy, they battle back just as their predecessors did.
And with solid training and leadership, they can easily transition, as Gen. Mattis says, from no worse enemy to no better friend.
When things don’t go exactly as planned …
… Grunts can usually shake it off with a smile.
Especially in a combat zone, humor helps a unit through tough times.
And there are plenty of opportunities for laughs.
Whether it’s graffiti on a barrier …
Or taunting the Taliban with a Phillies t-shirt.
But the bottom line is that grunts are the Marine Corps’ professional war-fighters.
They forge brotherhoods that last for a lifetime.
And they never forget those who didn’t make it home.
“You always get enemy snipers,” says Roy Cadman, a WWII veteran of Britain’s No. 3 Commando, talking about fighting the Nazis in Europe. “… And they’re a bloody nuisance.”
Cadman is a 93-year-old Chelsea pensioner, a resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is a nursing care facility for veterans of the British Army of an advanced age.
In the video below, he explains that you hear the crack of the bullets before the discharge of the sniper’s rifle in the distance. The distance between the two sounds helps determine how far you are from the sniper shooting at you.
“You can work out the distance,” Cadman continues, “but you can’t work out the angle of where he is. You have to look out at that distance from your right. If you were him, where would you go?”
The idea is to find a place where a sniper would hide himself in a European battle, things like bushes, houses or roofs. Cadman explains that it’s a skill the Tommies learned and honed over time, learning exactly where to look.
In other interviews, the old, bold commando also told the Army Museum about his landing at Sword Beach on D-Day, how he joined the British Army at age 17, and how to scale cliffs, build bridges, and span rivers with a simple length of rope.
He notably returned to Normandy in June 2016 to spread the ashes of his departed No. 3 Commando comrade Fred Walker.
The video is one of many from the U.K. National Army Museum’s “The Old and the Bold” series, where veterans of World War II and the Korean War share their stories and experiences from the battlefield.
Feature image: screen capture from YouTube
Jason Hall, screenwriter of American Sniper stops by The Mighty studio to discuss his process writing the film and getting to know legendary sniper, Chris Kyle.
You all know flossing, right? The sort of ridiculous, little dance that became a meme with kids and then went into Fortnight and now you can’t go to a ball game without seeing a bunch of people on the Jumbotron acting like they’re running a towel between their legs? Well, the 1930s had their own dance craze like that called the Lambeth Walk. And after a Nazi party member decried it in 1939 as “Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping,” a British video editor got to work.
The Lambeth Walk has a simple history, but like six things in it are named “Lambeth,” so we’re going to take this slowly. There’s an area of London named Lambeth which has a street named Lambeth Road running through it. Lambeth Walk is a side street off of Lambeth Road. And all of it was very working-class back in the day. So, Lambeth=blue collar.
Three Englishmen made a musical named Me and My Girl about a Cockney boy from Lambeth who inherits an earldom. It’s a real fish-out-of-water laugh riot with a cocky Cockney boy showing a bunch of stodgy aristocrats how to have fun. Think Titanic but with less Kate Winslet and more singing.
And one of the most popular songs from the musical was “The Lambeth Walk.” It was named after the side street mentioned before, and the lyrics and dance are all about how guys from Lambeth like to strut their stuff. The actual dance from the musical is five minutes long, but was cut down and became a nationwide dance craze.
The King and Queen were down with the whole dance, Europe thought it was a sweet distraction from all the civil wars and growing tensions between rival royalties, and the Nazis thought it was some Jewish plot.
Yeah, the Nazis were some real killjoys. (Turns out, lots of murderers sort of suck socially.)
A prominent Nazi came out and gave that earlier quote about Jewish mischief. Then World War II started in late 1939, and British propaganda got to start taking the piss out of Germany publicly. Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information went to Nazi Germany’s top propaganda film and started cutting it up.
Triumph of the Will was a 1934 video showing off the Third Reich, and it included a lot of video of Nazis marching and Hitler gesticulating. Ridley spliced, copied, and reversed frames of the video until he had a bunch of Nazi soldiers doing a passable Lambeth Walk.
Goebbels and other Nazi officials were not amused, but the anti-Nazi world was. It got played in newsreels and cinemas around the world. And Danish commandos forced their way into cinemas and played a version of the video titled “Swinging the Lambeth Walk.“
WATM’s Skye P. Marshall took us to the red carpet of the 2016 MTV Movie Awards – held this year at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California. Marshall snagged interviews with Bellator MMA fighters, the New York hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa, Blake Anderson of Workaholics fame, and even a surprise interview with 2016 MTV Movie Awards host Kevin Hart!
The WATM team sums up the classics to save you time as you go about living your busy lives. VX gas, chemical warfare and Alcatraz-infiltrating SEALs are all a part of this rundown of Michael Bay’s classic flick, “The Rock.” And it’s all presented in under 2 minutes. You’re welcome.
You can watch the trailer below, and watch the full film here.
Hank Hughes is the first Post-9/11 veteran filmmaker to be nominated for an Oscar.
Hughes sat down with WATM’s Blake Stilwell and discussed his beginnings as a filmmaker and being mentored by George Lucas.
‘Day One’ is inspired by a Hughes’ experiences in Afghanistan. The film depicts a female translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit on patrol. As she quickly discovers, her job involves dealing with the brutal complexities of gender and religious barriers with lives hanging in the balance.
The Humvee (High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle) is a classic icon of today’s military, often seen wherever there is a war or a disaster. However, just as the Jeep proved to be not quite what would be needed for World War II, the Humvee proved to have some shortfalls during the War on Terror.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle from Oshkosh is intended to at least partially replace the Humvee. The Humvee will be sticking around – possibly until 2050 – in many of the support units, as opposed to fighting in front-line combat situations.
The big difference will be in the level of protection. Humvees, even when up-armored, couldn’t completely protect troops from the effects of roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices. The JLTV addresses that through providing MRAP-level protection in a lightweight package that can be hoisted by a helicopter like the CH-47F Chinook or a CH-53K King Stallion.
The first of the JLTVs will be delivered to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, followed by the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy. Both units are expected to receive their vehicles in 2019.
The JLTV has four variants in service, the M1278 Heavy Gun Carrier, the M1279 Utility vehicle, the M1280 General Purpose, and the M1281 Close Combat Weapons Vehicle.
Check the video below to see how the JLTV and the Humvee stack up against each other.