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.
Just about every military unit has a motto of sorts, but some are way cooler than others.
From “get some” to “fire from the clouds,” we looked around the world for some of the military’s best mottos. Here’s what we found:
1. “Whatever It Takes”
1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor — the first for the battalion.
2. “Get Some”
3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.
3. “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”
US Navy SEALs: SEAL training isn’t easy, and neither is the day-to-day job. While individual SEAL Teams, stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Coronado, Calif., and Little Creek, Va., have their own mottos and phrases, the community’s feeling about hard work is summed up in this motto.
4. “Balls of the Corps”
3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current commandant of the Marine Corps.
5. “Peace Through Strength”
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76): Commissioned in 2003, the Ronald Reagan is a nuclear-powered supercarrier homeported in Coronado, Calif. Named after the 40th president, the “Gipper” takes its motto from a mantra Reagan adopted while countering the Soviet Union.
6. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”
3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.
7. “Retreat Hell”
2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.
8. “Molon Labe” (Greek for “Come and take them”)
I Army Corps (Greece): This former Greek Army unit (disbanded in 2013) had the Spartans’ King Leonidas to thank for its awesome motto. When the Persians told them to lay down their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas defiantly responded in the most badass way possible.
9. “Better to die than to be a coward”
The Royal Gurkha Rifles (United Kingdom): The Gurkha Rifles are a very unique regiment of the British Army, since its members are recruited from Nepal. Known as the “bravest of the brave,” the battlefield heroics of the Gurkhas made international headlines in 2010, with the actions of Cpl. Dipprasad Pun.
While alone at a Helmand checkpoint that became surrounded by 12 to 30 Taliban fighters, Pun shot more than 400 rounds, chucked 17 grenades, set off a Claymore mine, and even threw his tripod from his machine gun at a bad guy. He received the second highest military award for his heroics, The Daily Mail reported.
10. “Facta Non Verba” (Latin for “Deeds, Not Words”)
Joint Task Force 2 (Canada): Based out of Ottawa, Canada, JTF 2 is an elite special operations force. It’s basically Canada’s version of Navy SEAL Team 6. The unit has deployed all over the world, although most of its actions remain secret.
11. “Mors Ab Alto” (Latin for “Death from Above”)
7th Bomb Wing: Stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, it’s one of only two B-1B Lancer bomber wings in the Air Force.
12. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”
13. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (Latin for “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.”)
Royal Navy (United Kingdom): The Royal Navy’s motto is a lot like the USS Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength,” except a bit more badass. The latin phrase comes from Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, a Roman author who penned the Iron Age version of a military technical manual.
14. “Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen!” (German for “learn to suffer without complaining!”)
Kampfschwimmer (Germany): This elite unit from Germany wants its members to know they should just suck it up. Which makes sense, since the Kampfschwimmers of the German Navy are that country’s version of US Navy SEALs. Like most other special operations forces, its size and operations are classified.
15. “De Oppresso Liber” (Latin for “To liberate the oppressed”)
U.S. Army Special Forces: Created in 1952, Special Forces is known for producing elite warriors, with a primary focus on unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. With those tasks, many soldiers have lived up to the motto, by going to both friendly and un-friendly nations to train and support militaries, rebel groups, and engaged in combat around the world.
16. “Semper Malus” (Latin for “Always Ugly”)
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.
17. “Fire From The Clouds”
33rd Fighter Wing: Stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the wing’s mission is to train F-35 pilots and maintainers.
18. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.
19. “Make Peace or Die”
1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”
After serving in Vietnam as an infantryman and a combat correspondent, Dye served for a number of years before he retired from the Marine Corps and moved to Los Angeles with the idea of bringing more realism to Hollywood films. Despite the door being shut in his face plenty of times, his persistence paid off when Oliver Stone took him on as a military technical advisor for “Platoon.”
That film jumpstarted Dye’s Hollywood career. But before he became the legendary technical advisor who helped shape everything from “Born on the Fourth of July” to “Saving Private Ryan,” Dye, 70, served three tours as a Marine on the ground in Vietnam; a three-time recipient of the Purple Heart and recipient of the Bronze Star (with combat “V”) award for heroism, in fact.
I tried to Google my way to how he earned the Bronze Star award with little results. As far as I know, the story is not known to the general public. So I decided to ask him in an interview at his home, north of Hollywood. This is what he told me.
“I had made it through Hue, in Tet of ’68, and I’d been hit in the hand. Just about blew my thumb off here and I got a piece of shrapnel up under my chin, and I was in the rear. And a unit that I had been traveling with — 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines — they called it rent-a-battalion because it was constantly OPCON/ADCON to various things, and they were really hot, hot grunts. I mean these were good guys. And so I heard that they were going on this operation, and I knew all the guys, you know the 3rd Platoon of Echo Co. was my home. And so, I said I well I’m going. They said ‘ah you’re not ready for field yet.’ I said ‘yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m going.’
So I packed my shit and off I went. And I joined up with Echo Co. 2/3 … and we were involved in a thing called Operation Ford and it was either March, I guess March, of ’68 and the idea was that there had been a bunch of [North Vietnamese Army] that had escaped south of Hue, or been cut off when they were trying to reinforce Hue. They had moved south of Hue along this long spit of sand — I think it was battalion-strength — and they had dug in there according to reconnaissance guys who had been in the area, and they were waiting for ships or boats to come down from North Vietnam and pick them up and evacuate them and get them out of there.
So the idea was that 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines was going to be sent in and we were going to sweep, I think north to south along the perimeter along that peninsula. And then there were guys who were gonna block in the south — another battalion, I think. And so we started walking — spread out as you usually are — and hadn’t really run into much. We were running through a few [villages] and sweeping them and taking a look, and then we started hitting boobytraps. And these were pretty bad because they were standard frag in a can — fragmentation hand grenade inside a C-ration can tied to a tree, pin-pulled, fishing line attached across the trail — you hit the fishing line, it pulls the frag out, spoon pops and the frag goes. Or we were hitting 105mm Howitzer rounds that were buried. So we got a few guys chewed up pretty bad.
And there was this one guy named Wilson who was walking maybe two or three ahead of me, and he should have known better than to go through this hedgerow. But I guess squad leaders were pushing us on or something like that, [and] Wilson went through the hedgerow and he hit a frag. Frag dropped right below his feet and blew up. So everybody was down and I could see what happened, so I ran up to see if I could help Wilson out. He had multiple frag all over him. It blew his crotch out, blew his chest out, and he had holes all over his face where the shrapnel had come up this way so I got a Corpsman up and we went to work on trying to save him. You had to play him like a flute. We tried to close his chest — and in those days we didn’t have all the medical gear, the QuikClot and all that sort of thing — we just did it with an old radio battery [and] piece of cellophane we got off it and closed his chest.
And we tried to breathe into him, but you had to play him like a piccolo, because the sinuses had shrapnel holes and you had to stick your fingers in there to make sure he didn’t leak air. Anyway, we kept him alive until they got a helicopter to come in and we got him out. He died on the way back to Danang. But they had noticed me go up and see what I could do for this guy.
So we continued to march and then we got hit really, really hard in the flank. And for some reason, I was out on the flank that got hit. And I was walking around by a machine gunner, name of Beebe, Darryl Beebe, Lance Corporal, and he had the M-60. And so they hit us really hard.
The third platoon commander, Lt. “Wild” Bill Tehan, ordered the platoon to pull back to this line of sand dunes where we had some cover from the fire. Beebe and I couldn’t get back. We were just trapped out there. And they started hitting us with grenades and 60mm mortars, and we couldn’t move. We couldn’t get back and we couldn’t go forward. And Beebe’s [assistant] gunner got killed, and he had ammo, maybe 20 meters up to the side. And I crawled over and got all his ammo and then crawled back to Beebe and started loading the gun. Off we went, and we just ripped them up. We tore into these bunkers that were taking us under fire. And Hell, I even pulled out my pistol and went to work. I mean we fired everything we had, threw every grenade we had.
We must have hurt them. I know we hurt them because I killed two or three that I saw get up and go and I shot at them and down they went. So I guess we suppressed enough fire where we could pull back and we pulled back. And at that point, I think it was mortars or 81s or the 105 battery that was supporting us, I don’t remember what. Anyway, they hit the bunker complex. And Tehan went up and he looked and we killed a bunch of them. The machine gun, the single machine gun had just killed a bunch of them. And so I guess they marked me down as number two guy, having done two good things.
And then we got hit again, I think it was the next day. We had moved on, and we got hit again, and a corpsman and a couple of other people got hit. And I went up and pulled them out of the line of fire, and treated the corpsman. It was a very embarrassing thing because the corpsman was a guy by the name of Doc Fred Geise and I knew him real well. But he’d taken one in through the chest and I saw him go down, so I dropped my pack and went running up to him and they were firing all over me and one NVA that I didn’t even see, dumped a frag that hit right behind me. And boom it went off, and the next thing I knew, I was airborne. And I could feel stuff running down my legs. And I said, ‘ah, shit, I’m hurt.’ But I didn’t feel anything in particular, just dazed, you know the bell rung. And it was my canteen. That frag had blown out the bottom of both of my canteens, so I had water all over me.
Anyway, so I got up to Fred, and he had one through and through. And so, he was working on a guy who had taken one in the upper arm, broke the bone and I fixed him up the best I could then I got to Geise but there wasn’t much I could do. I stuffed the gauze in the entry wound, and wrapped it up the best I could — I was just winging it — what I could remember from first aid.
And he carried morphine syrettes. They look like those little tubes of toothpaste you get in a travel kit. And they have a plastic — they look like a little tube of Colgate — cover on the needle. And the needle has a loop in it, so you bite or pull the plastic off and break the seal with that little loop, throw that away, then you hit them in a muscle and inject that amount of morphine. I knew that.
But there was fire coming at me. I was working literally on my belly because the crap was just cutting right through us. And rounds were hitting so close they were just blowing dirt all over us. Mud and water and all that sort of thing. But I tried to stay focused and get Doc Geise injected with morphine.
Well I pulled the plastic off the morphine syrette and I hit him three or four times in the thigh, you know trying to
squeeze this morphine in. It wouldn’t go. And I couldn’t figure out — you know the poor guy’s thigh is worse than the gunshot wound — like a pin cushion. And I finally figured it out, ‘oh shit, I forgot to break the seal,’ so I break the seal and finally get morphine in him. But oh, God.
He was saying, ‘Dye, you asshole, you idiot,’ you know. And I’m just, ‘sorry, Doc.’
So anyway, we had a bad night that night because they had moved out of their fortified positions and they were trying to break through us. And we had a pretty serious fight that night.
I think that was the first and only time I burned through every round of ammunition I had and then also borrowed a bunch of ammunition. And in fact, we had a bunch of medevacs that had been taken out on amtracs, and the company gunny had kept their weapons. And so we were over there scavenging all night, getting loaded magazines. We only had the 20-round magazines at that point for the M-16, and a lot of 16s were going down. You know, they were not the best piece of gear we ever had.
So anyway, then we went on ahead and we had another three or four days with four or five sharp fights but nothing as spectacular. And we got to the rear, and I said well okay, I’ve got to go here. I’m going to go somewhere where I can go through my notebooks, and I had a little story about the corpsman, and I had a little story about this guy, and a little story about Beebe and the machine gun, and so on and I realized, a lot of that involved me, which I wasn’t real happy about, you know, mentioning my part in it.
But Lt. Tehan and the company commander really decided that I had done something spectacular, or out of the ordinary, let me put it that way.
And so they got Simmons and Beebe and Lt. Tehan and three or four other guys to write a statement that said this is what Sgt. Dye did. And the next thing I knew, my captain called me in and said ‘I hope you got a clean uniform and some boots that aren’t completely white,’ and I said, ‘oh no sir, I don’t.’ He said ‘well we’re getting you some because the general is going to pin a Bronze Star on you and that’s the first thing I ever heard about it. First time I ever heard that, you know. But that’s the story.”
Here is the full citation for the award, which Dye received on Sep. 9, 1968:
For heroic achievement in connection with operations against insurgent communist (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as a Combat Correspondent with the Informational Services Office, First Marine Division. On 14 March 1968, during Operation Ford, Sergeant Dye was attached to Company E, Second Battalion, Third Marines when an enemy explosive device was detonated, seriously wounding a Marine. Reacting instantly, he moved forward through the hazardous area and skillfully administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the injured man. A short time later, the unit came under intense hostile fire which wounded two Marines. Disregarding his own safety, Sergeant Dye fearlessly ran across the fire-swept terrain and rendered first aid to the injured men while assisting them to covered positions.
On 18 March 1968, Sergeant Dye again boldly exposed himself to intense enemy fire as he maneuvered forward to replace an assistant machine-gunner who had been wounded. Undaunted by the hostile fire impacting around him, he skillfully assisted in delivering a heavy volume of effective fire upon the enemy emplacements. Ignoring his painful injury, he steadfastly refused medical treatment, continuing to assist the machine gunner throughout the night.
His heroic and timely actions were an inspiration to all who observed him and contributed significantly to the accomplishment of his unit’s mission. Sergeant Dye’s courage, sincere concern for the welfare of his comrades and steadfast devotion to duty in the face of great personal danger were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.
Sergeant Dye is authorized to wear the Combat “V”.
For The President,
H.W. Buse, Jr.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific
Alleen Cooper’s son Larry was serving in Vietnam during that war — and, like many mothers who children have served in wartime, she set him letters. Her son returned from the war, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but she hasn’t stopped writing.
In fact, according to WHNT.com, her son was not the first serviceman overseas to get a letter. She began writing troops during World War II.
“A lot of soldiers don’t get any mail at all,” Larry Cooper told WHNT.com, adding that Mrs. Cooper’s mission is personal.
According to WGNTV.com, since she started keeping count six years ago, Mrs. Cooper, a 98-year-old grandmother from California, has written over 7,000 letters by hand, and all of them have been unique and at least four pages long. And let’s just repeat the fact that she’s been doing this since World War II, folks.
Just prior to Memorial Day weekend, she connected with one of the servicemen she had written, Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Cantos. When Cantos deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, his unit had no internet access. Their only lifeline was what gets derisively called “snail mail.”
“She would always send us clippings and jokes. She would tell us about her day,” Cantos told WHNT.com.
One of the other troops who received a letter was a wounded soldier in the hospital. He had lost an ear, and needed to get a new one.
“All of the time I think of these people and their families at home,” Mrs. Cooper told WHNT.com.
These days, she will admit her hands are getting tired. But she will keep writing the troops for as long as she can.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
Most of us can’t take a seven-month leave of absence from work, but most of us don’t have as good of an excuse as Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.
Mayor Buttigieg, better known as “Mayor Pete,” took office January 1, 2012, at the age of 29 — making him the youngest mayor in America to serve a city with more than 100,000 residents. He assumed command while still fulfilling his monthly commitments as a member of the Navy Reserve, but after about two years in office, he was called to serve abroad.
After a few months of preparation with his mayoral team, Buttigieg left South Bend in the hands of his Deputy Mayor Mark Neal and departed to perform intelligence counter-terrorism work in Afghanistan for seven months.
Buttigieg grew up in South Bend. His parents were transplants that arrived a few years before his birth to pursue work at the University of Notre Dame. Although his family found opportunity in the Indiana city, Buttigieg would come to learn while growing up that his hometown was a city in crisis: the all-too-familiar tale of a Midwestern town in an economic tailspin due to loss of industry. In South Bend’s case, it was the shuttering of the Studebaker car company, which until 1963, when its factories closed, was the largest employer in town.
After high school, Buttigieg left South Bend to pursue higher education, first at Harvard and later, at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After spending some time in the private sector doing consulting work, he joined the Navy as a reservist in 2008, putting into practice his childhood admiration of his great uncle, a family hero who died while serving in 1941.
The Great Recession hit South Bend hard, and Mayor Pete recalls following his hometown’s news from a distance.
“I was reading headlines from home,” says Buttigieg, “I was thinking, ‘Jeez, we gotta do more, we gotta change things a little bit back home.’ And then beginning to stop asking that question ‘why don’t they…’ and start asking that question ‘why don’t we?’ or ‘why don’t I?'”
Buttigieg returned to South Bend in 2008 and made his first foray into politics: a run for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010 (an effort he lost decisively to incumbent Richard Mourdock). While contemplating his next step, it became apparent that South Bend would soon have an open-seat mayor’s race for the first time in 24 years. Encouraged by his supporters in town, Buttigieg ran and was elected mayor on November 8, 2011, with 74 percent of the vote.
Buttigieg’s administration works hard to reinvent South Bend, while still acknowledging and celebrating its past, including work to redesign the old Studebaker campus into a turbo machinery facility in partnership with Notre Dame. By taking advantage of its excellent Internet capability (thanks to fiber optic cables that run through the town via old railroad routes), the city is attracting tech start-ups. Additionally, a 311 line has been set up for city residents.
But what might be called Buttigieg’s signature program is his plan to demolish, renovate or convert 1,000 vacant homes in 1,000 days. Since 1960, South Bend has lost about 30,000 residents, and empty homes pepper the entire town — attracting crime and lowering property values. This ambitious program, dubbed the Vacant Abandoned Properties Initiative, was launched in February 2013. As of January 10, 2015, 747 properties have been addressed, putting South Bend is ahead of schedule.
Buttigieg recently announced that he is running for a second term, perhaps surprising those who assumed he was only interested in using the mayor’s office to further his career. He is also personally renovating a home in the neighborhood where he grew up, while continuing to give one weekend a month to the reserves. He sees the recent initiatives in South Bend as a way to establish the next era for the community and is excited about the way South Bend is once again investing in itself.
“I would like to believe that if the work matters to you,” says Buttigieg, “and the importance of it is what fills your sails, that people can see that.”
As America’s elite, U.S. Navy SEALs are constantly called for operations around the globe.
With a motto of “the only easy day was yesterday,” the average day in the life of a SEAL is usually anything but. Whether they are deploying to global hotspots, honing new skills in some of the military’s toughest schools, or going through training evolutions stateside, SEALs learn to be ready for anything.
Here are 19 photos showing what they do best around the world.
A former “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor has left Hollywood to battle the Islamic State in Syria, despite having no previous military experience.
English-born Michael Enright, 51, said in a filmed interview with the Gulf-based AlAlan TV network that the extremist organization is “a stain on humanity,” and one that he personally hopes to destroy.
The actor has also stated that his decision to serve was triggered by a desire to right what he considers a national wrong, referring to the execution of American journalist James Foley by a member of ISIS who is believed to be British.
Enright fights alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has become a pivotal player in the American led alliance against ISIS.
Mr. Enright is one of dozens of foreign fighters have travelled to the self-styled Kurdish enclave of Rojava to join the fight. Most have a military background. Many have been recruited via Facebook, and some have funded their airfare on crowd funding websites.
Check out the AlAlan TV video below for the full interview:
Medevac crews have the dangerous job of flying into gunfights in unarmed helicopters to provide medical care to wounded troops. It’s a race against time, and it’s nothing short of astonishing.
The video starts with a crew racing across Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in a Black Hawk helicopter in response to wounded Marine. The terrain makes it difficult to spot ground forces, so they bank and turn to avoid the ground fire, that may, or may not be there.
Green smoke signals the helicopter, which also serves as the chosen landing spot by the Marines huddled just a few yards away. The helicopter doesn’t just land, however; it circles around the troops to assess the danger. Once it finally lands, the Marines rush the wounded corporal to the Black Hawk for evacuation while others stand watch.
Even with a circling pass around the Marines, the medevac crew in the helicopter drew fire from three sides. Watch how the rescue unfolds in this short three-minute video:
As the founder and president of Ranger Up, Nick Palmisciano now commands an empire of apparel sales, MMA sponsorships, digital content, and social media mastery. Started in 2006, the company is on track this year to hit $10 million in revenue, and that’s due in large part to the former Army officer’s ability to overcome significant challenges.
Palmisciano founded the company while pursuing his M.B.A. at Duke University, after he started printing funny military-themed t-shirts for ROTC students there. But the part-time passion that followed him into the corporate world became a full-time job after he refused a promotion that would’ve slapped on the “golden handcuffs,” according to an interview he gave to Steven Pressfield Online.
“I knew that if I took that promotion, the golden handcuffs were being slapped on and Ranger Up was going to die,” he told the site. “And I was going to spend my life working for other people doing something I really didn’t care about that much.”
He left the corporate world soon after his promotion was announced, but it wasn’t an easy decision.
“I was scared, to be honest,” Palmisciano told WATM. “I was scared about giving up the security of the whole thing, but I also felt very free for the first time in ages, because I just — I controlled my destiny — and being able to control your destiny is a very American trait and it’s something I didn’t fully appreciate. Like I thought of myself as an entrepreneur when I was doing it part-time, but you know, when poor performance means you don’t get a paycheck it hits home so much more.”
But less than two months after he went all-in with Ranger Up, Palmisciano was facing disaster when his bank account dwindled to just $1,300. “I was going through a divorce, so I rapidly ran out of personal [funds]. I sold everything that I had, and mutual funds and all that stuff and I was down to $1,300. And the key there, just like the key has been in every other time that I’ve had a crisis with the company is to focus on one thing at a time every single day and try to improve.”
His business improved, Palmisciano said, after he broke down tasks into manageable blocks that would get him to where he wanted to go. He looked at costs and realized the company was bleeding money. Then he found out that most of his sales were coming from just 20 percent of his inventory. “It was embarrassing because I knew this stuff from business school, but it’s completely different when you’re in it, day to day,” he said.
His account went up to $1,350 next month, then to $1,500. The company began growing and it never stopped, due in large part to social media. Though, Palmisciano admits, it never gets easier. “There’s a new [challenge] every year,” he said.
According to Internet Retailer, the company saw $750,000 in sales in 2013 driven from social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where it has a large audience of die-hard fans.
“Our whole concept is we want to entertain our friends. That’s the way that we look at our business,” Palmisciano said. “How can we entertain, educate, or just generally amuse our friends, and if we do that right everything falls into place. And if we don’t do that right, we’re just another t-shirt company.”
Now, the company sponsors MMA fighters and also owns rugby apparel brand American Sin Bin and Unapologetically American, a brand meant to reach beyond the military veteran demographic. And Palmisciano personally helps fellow entrepreneurs and continually supports veterans’ causes.
Entertaining friends is what has given rise to Ranger Up’s latest venture: making a feature film. On Tuesday, the company announced its intention to make a movie titled “Range 15,” a post-apocalyptic comedy film made by and for veterans. In partnership with fellow veteran-owned business Article 15 Clothing, Ranger Up launched a crowdfunding campaign to ensure it would be the “military movie you’ve always wanted someone to make.”
At this writing, they are about 75 percent of the way there.
“It’s gonna be really funny and it’s going to be for us, and because we’re doing it for us we don’t have to compromise the message at all. You know we don’t care if someone’s offended by it, we don’t care if this isn’t Hollywood appropriate,” Palmisciano said. “We don’t care about any of that stuff. Because we’re doing a movie that our fans want us to do.”
Want to hear more from Nick? Check out his “how to get a job” series for veterans below, or follow him on Twitter at @Ranger_Up.
There’s not a lot the volunteers and employees at Arlington National Cemetery won’t do for veterans and their families. Every Memorial Day, they adorn each gravesite with a flag of remembrance. The Arlington Ladies make sure no veteran is buried alone or forgotten. Now, you can add one more amazing volunteer to that list.
Recently 96-year-old George Boone was brought to the cemetery by an Honor Flight to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He was a B-24 Liberator pilot who was shot down over Romania and held prisoner by the Nazis in 1943.
Boone also asked if he could stop by his wife’s grave. Alma Boone, his wife of 56 years, died in 2007 and was buried right there in Arlington. So of course they made time for this stop.
Unfortunately for the North Carolina World War II veteran, in their haste to get to the cemetery, they forgot to bring George Boone’s wheelchair. Where it was isn’t important – he thought he would have to just “see” her from a distance. That’s when an Arlington employee and one volunteer offered to carry Boone to his wife’s grave.
“I thought, ‘Carry me at my age, size and weight?'” Boone told Fox 5 DC. “I would like him to know how greatly I appreciate what he did. His kindness was overwhelming.”
Boone stood next to his wife, on a spot next to her where he will be interred one day. But he would not have been able to do it were it not for the generosity of the Arlington National Cemetery staff and volunteers.
Military spouses can be buried at Arlington, provided they meet certain criteria. Even though Alma Boone was not a member of the Armed Forces, she still met the criteria as George Boone’s wife to make Arlington her final resting place.
The employee and volunteer who helped George Boone see his wife wish to remain anonymous.
In the 20th century, Cambodia saw more than its fair share of war and conflict. In the United States, we may be familiar with U.S. incursions into the country from neighboring Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but the conflict didn’t end with the U.S. withdrawal.
The years that followed brought the rise of the brutal dictatorial regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, along with an invasion by neighboring Vietnam. All of them laid landmines as a means of defending their wartime gains.
Over the course of several decades, the estimated four to six million mines laid in the country have been all but forgotten – except by the people who still live there.
An estimated 4,320 people were killed or wounded by landmines in 1996. Around 20 years later, that figure fell to just 77. International efforts from the United Nations and Japan work to reduce minefields along the country’s borders, mines remain a threat to those local in remote areas, area where living off the land is part of their daily lives.
Cambodia has set a goal of being free from mines by 2025, and one former child soldier is determined to do everything he can do personally to free his country from the terror of the mines.
Aki Ra was born in the early 1970s (he doesn’t know exactly when) to parents who were murdered by soldiers of the Khmer Rouge. Almost as soon as he was strong enough to carry equipment and weapons, he was trained by the armed forces of Cambodia as a soldier.
When neighboring Vietnam invaded Cambodia, it not only ended the Khmer Rouge’s genocide against its own people, it toppled the government. Aki Ra was captured by the Vietnamese and forced to fight against the dictator’s forces. When the new government was formed, he enlisted as a soldier in the Royal Cambodian Army.
“I had [bad] feelings, because sometimes we were fighting against our friends and relatives,” Aki Ra told the Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction. “I felt sad when I saw a lot of people were killed. A lot of people were suffering from landmines. [But] I did not know what to do, [because] we were under orders.”
He was trained to place landmines along the Cambodia-Thailand border. More than a decade later, Aki Ra found himself attending school for the first time in his life. Now, he was learning to remove mines. When a UN peacekeeping force arrived in the country in 1991, he helped clear as many as he could.
After they left, he no longer had the specialized equipment they used to clear minefields, but he still had the skills of a minelaying soldier. Using his bare hands, a stick and a knife, he began his work of making the country safe for his people.
Using these hazardous methods for more than a decade, he finally worked to get accredited international demining training and explosive ordnance disposal certification at the
International School for Security and Explosives. Once he had that, he could establish his own organization, which he did in 2008.
Aki Ra had cleared an estimated 50,000 land mines by 2000, long before founding Cambodia Self-Help Demining.
The Cambodia Self-Help Demining organization he founded not only works to help remove the mines, it also trains others to go out into greater Cambodia to do more work to that effect. Eventually, he started collecting the detonated and harmless landmines he and his workers have dug up over the years.
That collection is now the foundation of Aki Ra’s Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Facility in Siem Reap, Cambodia. There, visitors learn about how the mines got there, how they are removed, and for a small fee for entry, help pay for the removal of even more mines.
“We must all do what we can to educate our children and make Cambodia a safe country again so that Amatak (his son) and all children can really live forever,” he says.
Understanding the mental cost of taking someone’s life can be nearly impossible for those people who have never experienced it. In this StoryCorps video, Joseph Robertson, an infantryman who served during the Battle of the Bulge, tries to explain to his son-in-law the guilt he has carried since he killed a German soldier approaching his position.
StoryCorps, which works nationwide to collect oral history, has a veteran specific program, Military Voices Initiative, where veterans and service members can tell their stories.