This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross - We Are The Mighty
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This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

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.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

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.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

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.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

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

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

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How to handle sleep deprivation, according to a Navy SEAL

Everybody always says the same thing when you announce you’re expecting: “Better catch up on your rest!” Or, “Sleep in while you still can!” Or even worse, “I’m your carefree single friend who stays out until two AM and then goes to brunch!” All of them also think they’re sharing a secret, as if they’re frontline soldiers watching new recruits get rotated to the front. These people are incredibly annoying. Or maybe they’re not. Who knows, you’re in a groggy, sleep-deprived haze.


Related: What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

How you deal with sleep deprivation defines your first years as a parent. If there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about propping up sagging eyelids, it’s John McGuire. A Former Navy SEAL, he not only survived Hell Week — that notorious 5-day suffer-fest in where aspiring SEALs are permitted a total of only four hours of sleep — but also the years of sleep deprivation that come with being a father of five. McGuire, who’s also an in-demand motivational speaker and founder of the SEAL Team Physical Training program, offered some battle-tested strategies on how to make it through the ultimate Hell Week. Or as you call it, “having a newborn.”

Get Your Head Right

It doesn’t matter if it’s a live SEAL team operation or an average day with a baby, the most powerful tactic is keeping your wits about you. “You can’t lose your focus or discipline,” McGuire says. In other words, the first step is to simply believe you have what it takes best the challenge ahead. “Self-doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever has.” This applies to CEOs, heads of households, and operatives who don’t exist undertaking missions that never happened taking out targets whose the Pentagon will not confirm.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
U.S. Navy photo

Teamwork Makes The Lack Of Sleep Work

“In the field, lack of communication can get someone killed,” says McGuire. And while you might not be facing the same stress during a midnight diaper blowout as you would canvassing for an IED, the same rules apply: remain calm and work as a team. Tempers will flare, but the last thing that you want, per McGuire, is for negativity to seep through.

One way to prevent this? Remind yourself: I didn’t get a lot of sleep but I love my family, so I’m going to really watch what I say. At least that’s what McGuire says. And when communicating, be mindful of your current sleep-deprived state: “If you are, you’ll be more likely say something along the lines of, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling myself because I didn’t get enough sleep,'” he says.

Put The Oxygen Mask On Yourself First

The more you can schedule your life – and, in particular, exercise – the better, says McGuire. And this is certainly a tactic that’s important with a newborn in the house. “It’s like on an airplane: You need to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can put one on your kid.” Exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and get the endorphins pumping. “You can hold your baby and do squats if you want,” he says. “It’s not as much about the squats as making sure you exercise and clear the mind.” Did your hear that, maggot!?

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates from class 284 participate in Hell Week at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. U.S. Navy photo

Don’t Try To Be A No-Sleep Hero

McGuire has heard people say that taking naps longer than 20 minutes will make you more tired than before you nap. Tell that to a SEAL (or a new dad). McGuire has seen guys sleep on wood pallets on an airplane flying through lightning and turbulence. He once saw a guy fall asleep standing up. The point is, sleep when you can, wherever you can, for as long you can. “Sleep is like water: you need it when you need it.”

Know Your Limits

Lack of proper sleep effects leads to more than under-eye bags: your patience plummets, you’re more likely to gorge on unhealthy foods, and, well, you’re kind of a dummy. So pay attention to what you shouldn’t do as much as what you should. “A good leader makes decisions to improve things, not make them worse,” says McGuire. “If you’re in bad shape, you could fall asleep at the wheel, you can harm your child. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Students in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL class 279 participate in a surf passage exercise during the first phase of training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Surf passage is one of many physically strenuous exercises that BUD/S class 279 will take part in during the seven weeks of first phase. The Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Forces and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air and land. U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau

Embrace The Insanity

It would be cute if this next sentiment came from training, but it’s probably more a function of McGuire the Dad than McGuire the SEAL: Embrace the challenge because it won’t last long. Even McGuire’s brood of five, which at some point may have seemed they may never grow up, have. “You learn a lot about people and yourself through your children,” he says. “Have lots of adventures. Take lots of pictures and give lots of hugs,” he says. It won’t last forever — and you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when it’s over.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA will fight flu, addiction, and poison on a genetic level

Protection against many common pathogens and environmental stressors is written into our DNA. Our skin responds to sun exposure. Our immune system mounts defenses when we get the flu. Our bodies inherently work to mitigate the potential for harm caused by these health threats. However, these intrinsic responses are not always quick, robust, or appropriate enough to adequately defend us from harm, which is why many people experience sunburn after intense sun exposure or suffer severe symptoms, even death, following exposure to the flu.


Military service members, first responders, and civilian populations face threats far more severe than sunburn and respiratory infections. Pathogens with pandemic potential, toxic chemicals, and radioactive materials can all quickly and powerfully overwhelm the body’s innate defenses. And though significant public and private investment has been focused on the development of traditional medical countermeasures such as drugs, vaccines, and biologics to guard against the worst effects of these health threats, current countermeasures are often limited in their effectiveness and availability during emergencies.

DARPA is looking to make gains beyond the status quo. Inspired by recent advances in understanding of when and how genes express their traits, DARPA’s new PReemptive Expression of Protective Alleles and Response Elements (PREPARE) program will explore ways to better protect against biological, chemical, or radiological threats by temporarily and reversibly tuning gene expression to bolster the body’s defenses against – or directly neutralize – a given threat.

“The human body is amazingly resilient. Every one of our cells already contains genes that encode for some level of resistance to specific health threats, but those built-in defenses can’t always express quickly or robustly enough to be effective,” said Renee Wegrzyn, the PREPARE program manager. “PREPARE will study how to support this innate resistance by giving it a temporary boost, either before or after exposure, without any permanent edits to the genome.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

The program will focus on four key health challenges as proofs of concept for what DARPA ultimately envisions as a generalizable platform that can be rapidly adapted to emerging public health and national security threats: influenza viral infection, opioid overdose, organophosphate poisoning, and exposure to gamma radiation.

“Each of these four threats are major health concerns that would benefit from disruptive approaches,” Wegrzyn said. “Seasonal flu vaccines, for example, are limited in that they try to hit a perpetually moving target, so circulating flu strains are often mismatched to vaccine strains. Programmable modulation of common viral genome sequences could potentially neutralize many more circulating viral strains simultaneously to keep up with moving targets. Combining this strategy with a temporary boost to host protection genes could change how we think about anti-virals.”

PREPARE requires that any treatments developed under the program have only temporary and reversible effects. In so doing, PREPARE diverges sharply from recent gene-editing research, which has centered on permanently modifying the genome by cutting DNA and inserting new genes or changing the underlying sequence to change the genetic code. Such approaches may cause long-lasting, off-target effects, and though the tools are improving, the balance of risk versus benefit means that these therapies are reserved for individuals with inherited genetic disorders with few to no other treatment options. In addition, some indications, including treatment of pain, may only require temporary solutions, rather than life-long responses.

The envisioned PREPARE technologies would provide an alternative that preserves the genetic code exactly as it is and only temporarily modulates gene activity via the epigenome and transcriptome, which are the cellular messages that carry out DNA’s genetic instructions inside cells. This would establish the capability to deliver programmable, but transient, gene modulators to confer protection within brief windows of time for meaningful intervention.

“Focusing only on programmable modulation of gene expression enables us to provide specific, robust protection against many threats at once, with an effect that carries less risk, is limited but tunable in duration, and is entirely reversible,” Wegrzyn said.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
A section of DNA

Success will hinge on developing new tools for targeted modulation of gene expression inside the body. Researchers must identify the specific gene targets that can confer protection, develop in vivo technologies for programmable modulation of those gene targets, and formulate cell- or tissue-specific delivery mechanisms to direct programmable gene modulators to the appropriate places in the body. Although the immediate program goal is to develop defenses against one of the four focus areas determined by DARPA, the ultimate objective of PREPARE is to develop a modular, threat-agnostic platform solution with common components and manufacturing architecture that can be readily adapted to diverse and emerging threats.

Research will be conducted primarily using computer, cell culture, organoid, and animal models to establish proof of concept. However, DARPA’s vision is to generate new medical countermeasures for future use in humans. As such, DARPA is working with independent bioethicists to identify and address potential ethical, legal, and societal issues.

By the end of the four-year program, DARPA aims for each funded team to submit at least one final product to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory review as an Investigational New Drug or for Emergency Use Authorization. Throughout the program, teams will be required to work closely with the FDA to ensure that the data generated and experimental protocols meet regulatory standards.

DARPA will hold a Proposers Day on June 13, 2018, in Arlington, Va., to provide more information about PREPARE and answer questions from potential proposers. For additional information, visit: https://fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-18-45/listing.html. Advance registration is required; please visit: https://events.sa-meetings.com/PREPAREProposersDay. A full description of the program will be made available in a forthcoming Broad Agency Announcement.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military embarrassed as spies continue to blunder

Russia’s military leaders have reportedly called its intelligence service “deeply incompetent” after Western investigators accused its agents of being behind the nerve agent poisoning in England and an attempted hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog.

Western investigators found that agents of Russia’s military intelligence service — commonly known as the GRU — were behind the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and an attempted hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog’s headquarters in 2018.

Both missions ultimately failed, and investigators pointed fingers at GRU agents — Russia’s leaders are reportedly not happy.


The country’s defense ministry held a secret meeting on Oct. 6, 2018, to discuss the recent reports of GRU blunders, and had some angry words to say, Russia’s MBK news site reported on Oct. 8, 2018, citing an unnamed source.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Photographs showing Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov, two men accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal.

(London Metropolitan Police)

The GRU was described in the meeting, MBK said, as “deeply incompetent,” “infinitely careless,” “morons,” and people that “would still wear the budenovka” — a phrase that means being outdated. The budenovka was a military hat worn in the late 1910s and early 1920s, shortly after the Russian tsar was deposed.

The defense leaders are also considering a “big sweep” at the GRU and ask some of its generals to leave, MBK said.

MBK was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent Kremlin critic.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal buying groceries in Salisbury, England, days before he was poisoned with military-grade nerve agent.

( ITV News)

in September 2018 the UK accused two Russian men of traveling to Salisbury, England, and poisoning Skripal and his daughter with military-grade nerve agent this March, and said they were GRU agents traveling under pseudonyms.

Putin, whose government has long denied having any knowledge of the attack, initially claimed that the two men’s names — identified at the time as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — “mean nothing to us,” then said that they were civilians.

The two men also went on national Russian TV to say that they only visited England to visit a cathedral.

Investigative journalism site Bellingcat, however, has since identified Petrov as Dr. Alexander Mishkin, “a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” and Boshirov as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated officer with the GRU.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT’s editor-in-chief they had nothing to do with the Skripals’ poisoning. Sept. 12, 2018.

In early October 2018, the Netherlands also accused four Russian GRU agents of trying to launch a cyberattack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical weapons watchdog. The OPCW was, at the time, investigating the nerve agent attack on Skripal and a reported chemical attack in Douma, Syria, where Russian jets have bombed.

The men — two tech experts and two support agents — were caught red-handed and attempted to destroy some of the equipment to conceal their actions, Dutch authorities said.

The Netherlands then determined that they were agents of the GRU after finding that one of their phones was activated near the GRU building in Moscow, and discovering a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the Moscow airport, the BBC reported.

Mark Urban, a British journalist who recently wrote a book about Skripal, wrote in The Times on Oct. 9, 2018: “It would be surprising if this series of compromised operations did not trigger some realignment in Moscow, a further round of struggle between the spy bosses.

“The mockery of the GRU for its recent upsets, both globally and on Russian social media, must have rankled. Whatever the intentions of the Salisbury operation, they cannot have included opening decorated heroes of the agency up for ridicule,” Urban added, referring to Chepiga and Mishkin.

Putin’s popularity at home also hit a record low this year when he broke a 13-year-old promise not to hike the country’s national retirement age, which could mean that many Russians will miss out on a pension altogether.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Over 400 US Navy sailors are desperately fighting the 1,000-degree fire raging on a warship for more than a day

A devastating fire continues to spread throughout the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, a US Navy official revealed in an update Monday, over 24 hours after the ship burst into flames.

Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told reporters that the fire, which is believed to have originated in the lower vehicle storage area, has damaged the superstructure, collapsed the masts, and spread to the bow.


Sobeck said at the moment it is believed that there are two decks standing between a fire as hot as 1,000 degrees in some places and about 1 million gallons of fuel, but he said that while the risk of the fire reaching the fuel was “absolutely a concern,” the response team would “make sure” the fire does not reach the fuel.

With all the water that has been dumped onto the ship, the Bonhomme Richard is listing on its side. Navy helicopters alone have dumped 415 buckets of water on the ship.

And a total of 57 people, including 34 sailors and 23 civilians, have suffered injuries, such as smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. Five remain in the hospital.

Sobeck told reporters Sunday evening that “we’re absolutely going to make sure it sails again.”

He added: “We’re just going to get right back at it once we get this thing contained and put out.”

On Monday, he reiterated that he remained hopeful.

There are more than 400 sailors battling the blaze aboard the Bonhomme Richard. “We’re doing everything we can,” the admiral said, adding that the Navy responders would “make every effort to save the ship.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Firefighters battle a fire aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross)

‘Hell in a very small space’

The ongoing fight aboard the ship is intense. “Shipboard fires are enormously hard to fight,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO commander, wrote on Twitter Monday.

“Having been through a couple, I can tell you they are hell in a very small space,” he said. With temperatures as high as they are in some places on the ship, sailors are rotating in and out on 15-minute firefighting shifts.

The specific cause of the fire is unknown and will likely remain unknown until the fire can be extinguished.

The ship was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego when the fire ignited.

“At least some, if not all of, the major firefighting systems are tagged out for maintenance,” retired US Navy Capt. Earle Yerger, the former commander of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, told Insider. Sobeck confirmed that the Halon fire-suppression system was not active.

Furthermore, “in the yards, you have multiple cables, wires, and hoses running straight through passageways,” he said. “As a result, you can’t close the fire doors. Once [the fire] got seeded and got going, there is no way to contain it. It was like a chimney all the way up to the island.”

Yerger added that limited manning may have also hindered the crew’s early ability to fight the fire, saying that had the ship been at sea with a full crew, they would have likely had it under control in less than an hour. At the time of the fire, there were only 160 people on the ship.

While Sobeck has expressed optimism the ship could be saved, Yerger said the ship was likely too far gone.

“You’re not going to fix it,” he told Insider, adding that the ship’s future probably involved being towed out and sunk to a “deep point in the ocean.”

“Build a new America-class and call it a day. This ship is 23 years old. You’d be better off to start fresh,” he said, referring to the newer amphibs replacing the Wasp-class vessels. “Just let it go.”

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

Articles

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Veterans are likely to play a significant part in what has been called “the Moon shot” in cancer research — the plan announced by President Barack Obama last week for a cancer fight effort to equal the country’s determination to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.


Fittingly, the veterans’ role in the cancer Moon shot, as well as in scores of other research projects into illnesses that impact vets and non-vets alike, will be doing something they were prepared to do back in their active duty days: shed some blood.

“When they realize that this could help other veterans most of them volunteer right away” when asked, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said during a visit to the VA Medical Center in Boston on Friday, when he toured the lab and growing biorepository.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham | U.S. Navy

The VA project, called the Million Veterans Program, predates the cancer Moon shot by six years. Its goal is to collect blood samples — and with it the DNA — of at least a million veterans, and use it to research illnesses, including at the genetic level.

“This is fascinating what they’re doing here,” McDonald said. “The whole role of genomics will be huge in, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted you to see this, because I think the work of the Million Veteran Project underscores the importance of genomics in the Moon Shot in eradicating cancer.”

It is veteran-centric, for sure, and already is being used in alpha and beta projects that focus on veteran issues, according to the VA.

The veterans’ blood samples, informed by medical health records that, depending on the veteran, may go back 20 or more years, could hold the key to understanding causes and discovering treatments and cures for myriad illnesses. The VA is looking at some 750,000 genetic markers that medical researchers believe could be linked to illnesses that plague veterans, ranging from cancers to heart disease, kidney disease to post-traumatic stress disorder.

To date, the effort has collected close to 445,000 vials of blood, each one spun in a centrifuge prior to storing to divide red cells, white cells and plasma. The vials are kept in an oversized refrigeration unit within a lab at the hospital.

Although the project name suggests it will store a million samples, it will continue to grow the biorepository as long as there is funding support and vets who volunteer.  There is storage space for several million samples. During a tour of the lab, McDonald climbed a ladder to look into the storage site, where a robotic arm, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, plucked newly deposited vials one at a time from small containers and moved them into trays that were then automatically transferred into the unit and stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius.

“When I do my recruiting speech to try to attract people to VA, this is exactly the issue — come be on the cutting edge, the tip of the spear [in medical research] that can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” McDonald said.

The department has spent about $130 million on the program since it began laying the foundation for it in 2010. Its nearly 445,000 samples have come from nearly 245,000 veterans. It currently is getting in about 100,000 samples per year, which means it will hit the million mark around 2022.

They hope the speed that up by opening the program to active-duty personnel. The VA estimates that would add an additional 25,000 samples a year to the collection and perhaps allow them to reach one million by 2020, said Dr. Mary Brophy, director of the biorepository.

Because the donations are for research purposes, neither the VA nor the Defense Department can simply request use of a veteran’s or service member’s blood for the project.

Donors — strictly veterans right now — may volunteer for the project at a number of VA sites across the country. In signing up, they are told their blood and medical information will be shared with researchers and that they may not benefit directly or immediately from any of the research.

But their identities are masked on the samples, so that researchers do not know whose blood or DNA they are working with. For its part, the VA does retain a link between the sample code and the veteran so that changes in health or long-term effects of drugs and medications can be incorporated into the veteran’s research profile.

While Britain began building its own biorepository before the U.S. and currently has more samples –about 500,000 — the VA is quickly catching up and will pass that number.

It’s not only because the veterans have volunteered in such large numbers, but because VA has been able to build the computing capacity to handle the data.

“It’s not just the samples, it’s the informatics platform. The reason VA can do that better than anyone … is that we have an electronic health record,” she said. “We have the health record already in a data base, and it’s been around for 20-30 years.”

The British Health System — it does not have a separate system for veterans – is largely decentralized, with many medical records still in paper form and residing in doctor’s offices across the country.

Not only has an existing data base of electronic records and a willing veteran population allowed VA to rapidly build its biorepository, it has already provided the VA enough samples and data to launch several research studies of benefit to veterans.

The projects include cardiovascular risk factors among African American and Hispanic Americans, to determine how genes influence obesity and lipid levels affect the heart; an examination of genetic risk from chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and opioids; and a study into how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease — a major risk factor for veterans, according to researchers.

The biorepository is essentially one-stop shopping for a specific patient cohort and control group for any research institution wanting to investigate an illness or try out a new drug, according to Brophy.

“If I want to do a study in Gulf War Illness, before I would have to go out and find all these patients with Gulf War Illness, do it myself, Then get the samples, store it and send it out” to research lab, she said. The biorepository eliminates those time-consuming steps, she said, by making VA the go-to place for medical researchers.

Now, she said, if a research lab needs 5,000 patients with Gulf War Illness, it can get that cohort from the VA, as well as a control group without Gulf War Illness.

“The infrastructure is there to do key PTSD research, Gulf War Illness research. The hard work of getting people together, knowing who has Gulf War Illness [is done],” she said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

MARSOC gets more lethal with this new sniper rifle

The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.

The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.


The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.

Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.

“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System

The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.

The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.

The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.

“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
.300 Winchester Magnum (center) flanked by its parent cartridges.

The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.

“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.

“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”

MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.

“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”

In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.

“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Army soldier pushes limits to reach insane running goal

When people think of traveling 1,000 miles it often conjures thoughts of long, uncomfortable drives with kids shouting “are we there yet?” or perhaps of long lines waiting to get through airport security.

But what it almost certainly does not evoke is the thought of running those 1,000 miles.

The mere idea of running such a distance would seem crazy to most people. But it seemed like a great idea to Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, and he decided to set out to accomplish it in one year.

For Hanson running 1,000 miles in a year was a chance to strive for a goal that would stretch his physical and mental limits.


“I believe if you are not setting goals that stretch you, you’re probably not setting those goals high enough,” said Hanson.

To reach for such a goal, Hanson would take the lessons he learned while attending the Senior War College.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, stands with the shoes and race bib he wore when running the Revel Mt. Lemmon Marathon, along with the medal he earned for completing the race held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)

“In 2017 I accepted admission into the Senior War College,” said Hanson. “I had seen several of my friends and leaders come out of the school wrecked. It is very hard to keep a balanced life in that, and so I decided when I accepted Senior Service College that I was going to make sure I kept all my fitness’s in check.”

For Hanson, this simply means focusing on establishing and maintaining a balance between all aspects of his life.

“Try not to be over-focused,” said Hanson. “If our goals support other goals, all of our fitness’s, I think that we find that we have a much better experience in getting to those goals and accomplishing them.”

Running 1,000 miles in a year is difficult in the best of circumstances, but it would be nearly impossible without the support of his wife. Fortunately for Hanson, his wife was right beside him providing support, balance, and often a training partner.

“In my case, my spouse is very involved in my military life, and she’s very involved in my spiritual life, and she’s very involved in my physical life,” said Hanson. “We’d go places and we’d run together. We’d go places and we’d hike together. We find ways to make physical fitness not separate from each other.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, gestures to the camera as he runs the Revel Mt. Lemon marathon in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)

Hanson also had the support of his Army Family to help bolster his efforts.

“I know my team out here, they would make sure that I would hydrate,” said Hanson. “They would make sure that I ate properly. They would support me and motivate me.”

As he approached the homestretch of his journey, the idea of running a marathon to complete his 1,000 miles began to gain traction in his mind. He also saw it as an opportunity to take another shot at a goal he had once reached for but fell short of grasping.

“I did a marathon in 2004 and I did not reach my goal of doing a less than 3 hour and 30-minute marathon,” said Hanson. “But this one here, as I was running I was kind of watching my splits and in the back of my mind, I knew I had not met my goal in 2004. I started to mention to my wife that my splits are getting close to Boston times.”

Hanson decided to complete his journey and pursue his secondary goal at the Revel Mt. Lemmon marathon held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019. As the marathon progressed, he knew he would complete his 1,000 miles and felt confident he would finally achieve the goal that eluded him in 2004.

“I would say I was pretty doggone focused,” said Hanson. “Certainly you’re feeling discomfort, but up until the point I started having debilitating cramps, I fully felt I was going to be able to accomplish my goal.”

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, returns the salute of Capt. Aaron Thacker, Public Affairs Officer In Charge, Arizona National Guard, at Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix, Ariz. on Nov. 07, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)

Hanson would complete the marathon and reach 1,000 miles. However, despite his spirit willing him to keep going, his body would rebel and he would fall short of his secondary goal of a sub 3 hour and 25-minute marathon. He would cross the finish line with a time of 3 hours and 40 minutes, which would place him in the top 23% of all finishers.

“So, my goal was to be under 3 hours and 25 minutes,” said Hanson. “I think I was on pace to be under until mile 23. Somewhere in the 23rd is when the cramping started and I lost my pace.”

Failure to reach a goal, even if not the primary goal, is often enough for many people to avoid striving for difficult goals in the future. For Lt. Col. Hanson it is simply a confirmation that he is setting goals that will continually push him to expand his own limits.

“Not meeting a goal is a disappointment, but it’s only a setback,” said Hanson. “It’s a mentality thing. Although I felt like I failed, it’s just setting goals for yourself that are relevant to yourself that push you to the next level.”

And that disappointment is not enough to stop Hanson, it is just more motivation to keep chasing his white rabbit.

“There is a marathon here in Phoenix/Mesa in February,” said Hanson with a grin. “I think I can get it next time. I just need to tweak a couple of things.”

Articles

This is the military branch R. Lee Ermey says Marines made fun of the most

Deep down, we all knew it was going to be the Coast Guard.


In 2015, a TMZ reporter stopped R. Lee Ermey at the airport and asked if he had to pick one branch to send into a fight, who would it be?

This is “The Gunny” we’re talking about. You’re damn right he trusts the Corps and every knuckle dragging Jarhead in it. Next were the Squids, because SEALS. Then soldiers, because Special Forces.

No love for the Chair Force.

But when the reporter asked Ermey “When you were in the Marines, which branch did you make fun of?” And with a grin on his face, The Gunny jokes “That would be Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club“.

But that had to have been from back in his active duty days. No one would ever make fun of the branch that’s closest to the TSA Agents staffing metal detectors in our nation’s air ports these days, right?

It’s all in good fun, guys. Only family can mock family. “You know, everyone bleeds the same color,” Ermey said.

Articles

13 of the funniest military memes for the week of June 30

I found these memes. I have no idea what else you want from me in these things. Like, you’re only here for the memes, right?


Why are you still reading this? The memes are RIGHT there, just below this. Scroll down, laugh, and share them. Stop reading. If you want to read so much, we have lots of actual articles. Like this one. I was proud after writing this one. Lots of audience members enjoyed this one.

So like, scroll to the memes or click on one of the links. These paragraphs are nonsense in literally every memes list. I just think of 50-ish words to put here and hope no one notices them.

1. Let’s be honest, Canadian snipers can kill you regardless of distance, but they’ll only do it if you’re rude.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Warning: They think suicide bombers are rude.

2. If you somehow haven’t seen this video, you have to. Never seen someone this poised after the enemy misses by a fraction of a degree (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
But then she blames someone else for not telling her an enemy sniper was out there, which is weak.

ALSO SEE: This is what happens when the Army puts a laser on an Apache attack helicopter

3. I mean, PT belts do prevent pregnancy (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
They’re nearly as effective as birth control glasses.

4. Stop playing Sergeant White, we all know we’re basically your personal dwarves (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Also, Jody lives at my home now, so there’s no point.

5. Lol, like he really cares whether he gets the corn chip (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
They don’t do it for the swag, they do it because they hate you.

6. Every soldier getting out ever: I’m gonna be a legend (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Make sure to PLF when you hit rock bottom.

7. Gonna get swole, y’all (via Shit my LPO says).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Marines don’t even limit them to after they work out. These are basically meal replacements.

8. This statement is explosive (via Military World).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Just gonna leave these puns floating here.

9. Operators gotta operate (their pens and pencils).

(via Coast Guard Memes)

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Operations Specialists like their jobs, though. Maybe because people mistake them for operators.

10. Is it this hard? My commanders’ lies were always super obvious (via Pop smoke).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

11. How to brush up on your skating skills before it counts (via Decelerate Your Life).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Try the engine room. It’s a great level.

12. A good safety brief leaves you motivated to go use condoms and sober up before you swim (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Captain William Ferrell, commanding.

13. When your new policies are basically blue falcon bait:

(via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
I guess making the Blue Falcon its logo wasn’t effective enough.

Articles

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

 


“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”

Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars.  Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.

“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.

“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world.  So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.

“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”

“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”

The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.

The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue.  It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.

“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”

The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.

“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”

 

Learn more about Pin-Ups for Vets and purchase the calendar at PinUpsForVets.com.

 

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

You know the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”?  That’s precisely what you should remember when you meet singer-songwriter, Brandon Mills.


The six-foot-tall dirty blonde haired blue-eyed Mills isn’t just another pretty face; behind those blue eyes, there is a bad ass who was once known as Sergeant Brandon Lanham, Marine Corps reconnaissance scout sniper.

He goes by Mills because, as he puts it, “Mills is my middle name, all my favorite singer songwriter’s names are 3 syllables, not sure why but I think there is a method to their madness.”

Mills joined the Marine Corps with his brother and they attended boot camp together and were later reunited in the Recon community.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills.

Mills served his first tour in Afghanistan with Golf Co. 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines out of Hawaii. After some continued motivation from his brother, he took the leap, passed the requirements and indoctrination process, and got to 1st Recon Battalion, with whom he would deploy to his second tour in Iraq.

Also read: This musician and veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

All along the way, Mills was writing lyrics and honing his craft as a musician.

“I just wanted to travel and play music for everyone,” Mills said about his desire to perform.

“My youngest memory of recorded music is a Beach Boys greatest hits tape that I spent my lawn mowing money on,” reflects Mills as he explains his earliest passion for music that has stuck with him since playing the saxophone in school.

The love of music and the desire to create it has been a lifelong aspiration for Mills even before he joined, so it would make sense that he leave the Marine Corps and become a musician. Right?

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Even after all his success and accolades in the Corps, Mills was not ready to aimlessly jump straight into the music scene when he left the Marines. He admits he was nervous — even scared — to chase the dream without a safety net, so he did what many Veterans do: he became a contractor.

Eventually, the bug bit harder and he found it impossible to not take the risk and pursue his true first love.

Now managing his own gigs, website, and social media, Mills has made his transition from Marine to musician rather successfully.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

He has played shows all over the country, supporting non-profits like Intersections International, Force Blue, and Society of Artistic Veterans. He has recorded several tracks and even shot a few music videos of himself performing.

Recently Mills finished a residency at Umami burger in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “That was just me hustling, literally going from business to business asking, do you guys do live music? If not, why? If you do, how do I get involved?”

That’s the work ethic and resolve all warriors take to their tasks.

(Brandon Mills | YouTube)It might go without saying that the persistence, determination, and even stubbornness are strong character traits in most, if not all, of our elite warriors.

You don’t make it into our military’s special units without being resilient, steadfast, and dedicated — Mills without a doubt carries those same values and characteristics into his music career.

I asked Mills if the transition was hard, going from stone cold warrior to writing and performing love songs. I wondered if there was any identity crisis there and how he dealt with it.

Also read: 8 songs that are essential to any successful military convoy

He explained that it was difficult dealing with other ideas of masculinity and letting that warrior machismo block his flow, but he has learned to temper those instincts and allow himself to feel the positive vibes and let his creativity through, not worrying about what others think and only focusing on great storytelling through song.

I don’t think Brandon would mind the comparison of his sound being somewhere between John Mayer in his vocal delivery and Jack Johnson in his light-hearted muted acoustic.  Mills’ vocals have that bluesy, gravely register that urges the listener to lean in and feel the lyrics, while his guitar style is playful and rhythmic like a campfire sing-a-long.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Mills isn’t commercially successful yet, or famous for that matter; however, he understands that it’s a long road in the music industry, requiring a ton of work — but he feels he has all that in him.

He wants to help veterans tell their stories through music and let them know that it’s okay to express themselves through art, using himself as an example. Brandon’s music is all about spreading positivity, uplifting spirits, and connecting people with passion.

“I hope that I can give some people what they need,” Mills said, when discussing his forthcoming album. “I’m so critical of myself, I know what I want — if it’s not good enough I will do it again.”

It’s relentless drive and focus like this that will push Mills into the spotlight, eventually.

The strength, tenacity, and perseverance saturated in his warrior spirit will undoubtedly meld with his passion and creativity to help Brandon Mills become a renowned singer-songwriter for years to come.

Articles

A previously ‘unknown’ sailor killed at Pearl Harbor is returned home 75 years later

Seaman 2nd Class Lewis Wagoner was the first of the Wagoner boys to join the Navy. He loved school, and cared deeply for others.


This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
Lewis Wagoner after joining the Navy. (AARP)

Read Now: See the intense Navy deck logs from the Pearl Harbor attack

Lewis was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He died on the USS Oklahoma with 427 of his shipmates.

“It made life hard,” said his brother, Carl Wagoner. “To think about it.”

Seaman Wagoner’s remains could not be identified and were placed in mass graves with 393 other sailors. Generations of the Wagoner family have made the trip to Hawaii to see the memorial to those unidentified sailors and the names included on it.

“I was glad to see there was something,” said Lee Longaker, Lewis Wagoner’s niece. “But it was still empty as far as who’s really there.”

After decades, the POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the sailors from the Oklahoma and used new techniques to identify their remains. Luckily, Carl Wagoner was still alive to see his brother’s remains repatriated to their home in Haysville, Kansas in October 2016.

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross
An Honor Guard at Lewis Wagoner’s funeral, 75 years after his death. (AARP)

AARP studios brings the story of Lewis Wagoner’s remains and his family’s efforts to bring him home in the video below.

“To have him come home actually, to be close to all of us, means a whole lot to them and to me,” says Mark Wagoner, Lewis Wagoner’s nephew. “Now I can show my children and tell my children what and who he was.”

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