As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.


Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.

My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.

But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.

Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.

Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.

And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.

My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.

My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.

I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.

From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.

I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.

After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.

She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.

Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.

My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.

Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?

The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.

In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

Department of Defense

In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.

I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.

And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.

I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.

I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.

Veterans

Camp Southern Ground reopens to in-person camps

This Veterans Day we are celebrating the unique experiences that veterans face both during their military service and after their military service. Read more of our Veterans Day pieces here

The COVID-19 pandemic and the required restrictions led to a halt in any activity outside the home in March. On Sept. 24, Georgia’s Camp Southern Ground, a non-profit organization founded by GRAMMY Award-winning artist Zac Brown, announced it is reopening for on-site veteran programming, Warrior Week and Warrior PATHH (Progressive Alternative Training for Healing Heroes). 

This year has been especially difficult for many veterans, specifically those that are experiencing mental health issues. Camp Southern Ground was focused on re-opening so they can continue to provide the services many veterans need.

“The impact this year has had on the mental health and wellbeing of our nation’s veterans cannot be understated,” Camp Southern Ground said in a statement on its website.

Camp Southern Ground’s CEO Mike Dobbs shared in a press release that the camp “remained connected with our veterans through virtual programming, but we know the importance of building community and support face-to-face.” Camp Southern Ground’s motto is “where goodness grows” and that is their mission. The goal of their veteran programming is to provide and build supportive networks for transitioning post-9/11 veterans. 

About Camp Southern Ground

Warrior Week

Warrior Week is a 12-month workforce and wellness program that begins with six days at camp. The camp week focuses on identifying strengths through team-building exercises, training sessions with world-class instructors about Clifton Strengths (90% Fortune 500 Companies use this, read: marketable assessment) and Enneagram assessments that prepare the attendees for the transition from military life. Team efforts of shared meals, ropes exercises and other events help build the veteran community outside of their immediate units in the military. The goal of the program is to help transitioning veterans build an action plan for their life after service after determining their strengths and purpose for their life to transform what they do as a career but also personally.  

One veteran’s testimony shared “This program provided me what I needed to understand what my experiences, feelings, and reactions are. Now I am aware of my strengths and know how to capitalize on these strengths to help me focus on my career and wellbeing. I know now what I need to do moving forward. I cannot say thank you enough for helping navigate out of the fog.”

Upcoming Warrior Weeks are posted here. Post-9/11 veterans can begin their application online. Any questions about the camp can be emailed to warriorweek@campsouthernground.org.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just rescued two Americans lost at sea (and their dogs)

The Sasebo-based amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) rendered assistance to two distressed mariners, Oct. 25, whose sailboat had strayed well off its original course.


The mariners, Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, both from Honolulu, and their two dogs had set sail from Hawaii to Tahiti this spring. They had an engine casualty May 30 during bad weather but continued on, believing they could make it to land by sail.

Two months into their journey and long past when they originally estimated they would reach Tahiti, they began to issue distress calls. The two continued the calls daily, but they were not close enough to other vessels or shore stations to receive them.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud
Tasha Fuiaba, an American mariner who had been sailing for five months on a damaged sailboat, climbs the accommodation ladder to board the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). Ashland, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a routine deployment, rescued two American mariners who had been in distress for several months after their sailboat had a motor failure and had strayed well off its original course while traversing the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

On Oct. 24, they were discovered 900 miles southeast of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel. The fishing vessel contacted Coast Guard Sector Guam who then coordinated with Taipei Rescue Coordination Center, the Japan Coordination Center, and the Joint Coordination Center in Honolulu to render assistance.

Operating near the area on a routine deployment, Ashland made best speed to the location of the vessel in the early morning on Oct. 25 and arrived on scene at 10:30 a.m that morning. After assessing the sailboat unseaworthy, Ashland crew members brought the distressed mariners and their two dogs aboard the ship at 1:18 p.m.

“I’m grateful for their service to our country. They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief,” said Appel.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud
USS Ashland (LSD 48) Command Master Chief Gary Wise welcomes aboard Jennifer Appel, an American mariner who had received assistance from Ashland crew members. Ashland, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a routine deployment, rescued two American mariners who had been in distress for several months after their sailboat had a motor failure and had strayed well off its original course while traversing the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

Appel said they survived the situation by bringing water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board, primarily in the form of dry goods such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.

Once on Ashland, the mariners were provided with medical assessments, food and berthing arrangements. The mariners will remain on board until Ashland’s next port of call.

“The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland commanding officer.

Part of U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward deployed naval forces out of Sasebo, Japan, Ashland has been on a routine deployment for the past five months as a ready-response asset for any of contingency.

MIGHTY FIT

6 stereotypes you’ll see in every military gym

The military is full of individuals from all cultures who come together under one roof to workout and better themselves, both physically and mentally. Over the past few decades, the government has spent vast amounts of cash in designing and building some amazing and well-equipped fitness centers for the troops.


Now, joining a military gym isn’t as easy as getting roped into a monthly subscription by someone at the front desk — first, you’ll have to go through boot camp. But once you do become a member, you can use any fitness center run by the military. But no matter where you are, the very first time you use these workout facilities, you’re going to encounter some interesting gym-goers.

Don’t let these 6 stereotypes scare you away!

Also Read: 6 things you should never do or say at the gym

The creeper

You’ll probably catch a guy or girl peeking at you in the mirror when you’re not looking. We’ve got a name for people like that: “creepers.” Most of the time, they’re completely harmless — they’re just admiring your figure, but it can get annoying after a while.

Now, when you’re stationed in the infantry, having a girl show up to a predominately male gym is like finding the Holy Grail. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, many a gym-goer is guilty of becoming a creeper.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

Well, well. Look who’s here again?

(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. John Robbart III)

The gym rat

It doesn’t matter what time of day you go to the gym — you’ll see this person when you enter and they’ll still be there working out as you leave. They’re so jacked that it seems like they live at the gym. Seeing these guys will leave you wondering, “do these guys ever go to work?”

The popular one

Everyone loves this guy or gal. They’ve got a winning smile and they say hello to everybody else in the gym. You know what? We like this stereotype, too, so we’re not going to hate on them. We’re just going to move on.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

Now, there’s no proof he’s grunting, but it looks like he should be.

(Army photo by Spc. Cassandra Monroe)

The grunters

When you’ve got your earphones in and you’re listening to some great tunes, its tough to hear the sounds you’re making as you lift those heavy weights. Unfortunately, everyone else in the gym totally hear you.

We get it — that leg press looked extremely hard to push out, but when you’re screaming louder than a woman in the throes of childbirth, it gets distracting. Grunting is a way many people motivate themselves, but nobody wants to hear your bellows while they’re trying to concentrate.

The ab checker

Most gym walls are plastered with mirrors. We use these mirrors to check our form, gawk look at other people, and monitor our physical progress. Some people take it a step further, though, periodically lifting up their shirts to check out their abs as if they might disappear somehow.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

Nothing motivates you to workout harder than focusing on a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The daredevil

This brave trooper doesn’t mind twisting his or her body into some interesting positions in order to get their pump on. You’ll see the “daredevil” doing handstands, muscle-ups, and clapper push-ups in the middle of the gym and they don’t care what kind risk is involved.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief tells Trump to bring it on

A top Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander in Iran says his forces are ready to confront U.S. forces should President Donald Trump act on his warning that Tehran will “suffer consequences” if it threatens the United States.

“Mr. Trump, how dare you threaten us?” Qassem Soleimani, who leads the IRGC’s elite foreign operations Quds force, was quoted as saying on July 26, 2018.


“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine…. Come. You will start the war, but it is us who will end it, ” Soleimani said in a speech in the central city of Hamedan.

He made the remarks in response to a July 22, 2018 all-capital-letters post on Twitter by Trump in which Trump warned Iran not to “threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

Trump’s tweet came following comments by Iran’s President Hassan Rohani who said: “America should know peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Soleimani called Trump a “gambler” and said his language belongs in “nightclubs.”

“We’re ready to stand against you,” Soleimani, who has been blacklisted by Washington, added.

Rohani said on July 25, 2018, that Trump’s “empty” threats did not deserve an answer.

Iran’s governmental IRNA news agency reported that, after Rohani mentioned “baseless comments” by “some U.S. leaders,” he told a cabinet meeting “there is no need for us to respond to any nonsensical comment and answer back to them.”

Soleimani said he’s responding to Trump “as a soldier.”

“Don’t threaten to kill us; we’re thirsty for martyrdom,” he was quoted as saying by the hard-line IRGC affiliated Fars news agency.

Following his Twitter warning, Trump suggested on July 24, 2018, that he’s ready to talk to, saying, “We’re ready to make a real deal.”

In May 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and announced that the United States is moving to reimpose tough sanctions.

U.S. officials have been telling countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil by November 2018.

Iran has warned of equal countermeasures, with Rohani suggesting that the country could block Persian Gulf oil exports if its own exports are halted.

“The Red Sea, which was secure, is no longer secure today with the presence of American forces,” Soleimani said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 24th

It seems the Army is planning a system for evaluating the effectiveness of potential battalion commanders with a new five-day program at Fort Knox. That’s good news for the staff officers worth their weight in salt, and it’s fantastic that they’re finally doing away with the all-around ass-kissing that goes on around OER season. It’ll also bring the hammer down on commanders who fail height and weight, give them a “leadership test,” and bring them in front of a board of officers and non-commissioned officers.

I know my opinion on the matter probably means nothing, but if I may make a suggestion…randomly select NCOs in their unit to give honest feedback – you know, the soldiers most affected by their actions.

You could ask them things like: Are they the type to step on the toes of the sergeant major? Would the candidate for battalion commander literally throw their troops under an actual bus if it meant a bronze star? How many times has Private Snuffy become a heat cat during the speeches they said would be quick yet they kept talking about themselves? You know, the actual things that separate the toxic CO’s from the ones that stick with their troops forever.


But that’d make too much sense, and apparently, online tests can determine these things better than troops. Anyways, here are some memes.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Call for Fire)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Not CID)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army offers to repay soldiers’ college loans if they go infantry

The U.S. Army is offering to pay off student loans of up to $65,000 or to give $15,000 bonuses to recruits willing to sign up for the infantry.


The Army has been offering increased financial incentives to attract recruits to take on one of its most physically challenging jobs since it missed its recruiting goal in fiscal 2018 by 6,500 soldiers.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

“There’s a very unique bond between infantry soldiers not found in any other [career] in the Army,” Staff. Sgt. Leonard Markley, a recruiter in Toledo, Ohio, whose primary career field is infantry, said in a recent service news release. “It’s us against the world, and we as infantrymen all know about the hardships that come with this [career]: walking countless miles, sleep deprivation and rationed meals.

“Even when I see another infantryman walking by, I have respect for him and have his back, because we are brothers through all our hardships,” he added.

To qualify for the infantry, applicants must score a minimum of 87 on the combat line score of the Armed Forces Qualification Test and pass the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the heavy level, according to the release.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

Recruits attend a 22-week Infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. During training, they will list their specific infantry job preferences, although assignments are determined by the needs of the Army. Upon graduation, soldiers are assigned as either an infantryman (11B) or an indirect fire infantryman (11C), the release states.

“The Infantry has instilled a work ethic in me that is noticeably different than my peers,” Markley said. “This work ethic and discipline will set me apart wherever I go after the military. It is the premier career for leadership and management development skills. I can go anywhere and be a successful manager in any civilian field.”

Until recently, Army recruiters were offering bonuses of up to ,000 for a six-year enlistment in the infantry. The Army began paying out hefty bonuses for infantry recruits in May 2019 to meet a shortfall of about 3,300 infantry training seats by the end of fiscal 2019. It was part of a sweeping new recruiting strategy launched at the beginning of fiscal 2019, after the service missed its fiscal 2018 goal.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

France flexes by firing nuclear-capable missile

France, one of Europe’s two nuclear powers, said on Feb. 5, 2019, that it had fired a nuclear-capable missile from a fighter jet, while the US and Russia feud over the death of a nuclear treaty that saw Europe purged of most of its weapons of mass destruction during the hair-triggered days of the Cold War.

France tested all phases of a nuclear strike with an 11-hour mission that saw a Rafale fighter jet refuel and fire an unarmed missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, Reuters described France’s military as saying.


“These real strikes are scheduled in the life of the weapons’ system,” said a spokesman for the French air force, Col. Cyrille Duvivier, according to Reuters. “They are carried out at fairly regular intervals, but remain rare because the real missile, without its warhead, is fired.”

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

A French Dassault Rafale.

France also operates a fleet of ballistic-missile submarines that can fire some of its 280 some nuclear warheads, but the subs move in secrecy and don’t provide the same messaging effect as more visible fighter jets.

France’s announcement of a nuclear test run came after the US and Russia fell out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which barred both countries from building nuclear missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. Signed in 1987, it saw Europe and Russia remove an entire class of nuclear warheads from the continent in one of the most successful acts of arms control.

The US has accused Russia of having violated the treaty for years, and with all of NATO’s backing, the US decided to exit it.

But while France, as part of NATO, sided with the US, it has increasingly sought to distance itself from the US in foreign-policy and military affairs, and increasing the visibility of its nuclear arsenal is one way to assert independence.

France flexes its nuclear might against Russia — and the US


In 2018 French President Emmanuel Macron, during a spat with US President Donald Trump, pushed the idea of creating a European army, which got backing from Germany.

Experts, however, have said this idea is largely redundant under NATO and unlikely to ever take shape.

Nonetheless, Trump took direct offense at Macron’s idea and mocked him over it on Twitter.

Reuters reported that France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly, said on Feb. 25, 2019, at a conference in Portugal, “We Europeans cannot remain spectators of our own security.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldier recalls serving with Medal of Honor recipient Travis Atkins

“He was a selfless leader, a brother and a friend.”

That is how Stuart Hollingsworth remembers Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the former 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 2019.

Hollingsworth, a former staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, had first met Atkins a month before their deployment to Iraq in August 2006. He said that Atkins was originally with another company, but he was needed to serve as a team leader in D Company.


“He was training his previous team for combat, and was such a master of his craft, that he was able to step into another team leader role and earn the trust of everyone he met,” Hollingsworth said.

“My first impression of him was that this man was very much an authoritative leader. He led from the front and led by example — never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

Soldiers kneel to pay their respects during a memorial ceremony June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker for Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.

(Photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO)

Hollingsworth said that theirs was a tight-knit team, and they developed a bond that would carry them forward into combat.

“Staff Sgt. Atkins was a huge proponent of team camaraderie and unity,” Hollingsworth said. “We would do everything as a team — we moved as a team, trained as a team, ate, slept — everything.”

With that, it was easy to learn everything there was to know about his teammates, and Hollingsworth said that Atkins spoke constantly about his son Trevor.

Also read: What you need to know about the solider receiving the Medal of Honor

“He was very much a family man, always talking about them,” Hollingsworth said. “I would also say that he probably loved his men almost as much, if not the same.”

That camaraderie and the love he had for his team is demonstrative of his actions on June 1, 2007, when Atkins sacrificed his life to shield his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. Atkins had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent who had resisted a search, and then threw himself on top of the suicide bomber to bear the blast of the detonation.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, stands in front of the monument honoring 2-14 infantry soldiers who died in service to their nation.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Hollingsworth said that every soldier learns the words to the Soldier’s Creed, but some of those words impact him more now because of Atkins.

“There’s that one phrase — ‘I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life’ — that has more meaning to me today than ever before,” he said.

In November 2007, Atkins’ name was among those added to the 2-14 infantry monument at Fort Drum. Atkins’ heroism received national attention when he was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross during a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Drum in 2008.

Also read: This is the infantryman posthumously receiving the MoH

Hollingsworth had attended both ceremonies, but he said that words failed him upon meeting Trevor, who was 12 at the time.

“I was not able to adequately describe to Trevor how much I appreciated his father, what he meant to me and how truly great a man he was,” Hollingsworth said. “So being here at the Medal of Honor ceremony, I am incredibly grateful to be in the presence of the Atkins family. To have this opportunity to spend this time with them is a great honor.”

To learn more about Atkins and to watch the live webcast of today’s Medal of Honor ceremony, visit www.army.mil/medalofhonor/atkins.

MIGHTY TRENDING

11,000 pounds of hashish seized by US warship

The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) interdicted a shipment of narcotics aboard a stateless vessel while conducting maritime security operations in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden, Dec. 27, 2018.

Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team seized over 11,000 pounds of hashish while conducting a flag verification boarding.


“We have been conducting maritime security operations along suspected maritime smuggling routes in order to interdict illicit shipments into Yemen and Somalia,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brent Jackson, commanding officer of Chung-Hoon. “It’s critical in an effort to curb the ongoing shipments of illicit weapons and narcotics. I am grateful that Chung-Hoon was able to play a small part in an ongoing effort to deter and limit these illicit shipments of contraband.”

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team board a stateless dhow that was transporting 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden.

(US Navy photo)

The vessel was determined to be stateless following a flag verification boarding, conducted in accordance with customary international law. The vessel and its crew were allowed to depart once the narcotics were seized.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team prepare to board a stateless dhow.

(US Navy photo)

Chung-Hoon is one of the many ships currently conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet. Maritime security operations as conducted by the U.S. Navy entail routine patrols to determine pattern of life in the maritime as well as enhance mariner-to-mariner relations. The relationships built as a result allow the U.S. Navy to disrupt the transport of illicit cargo that often funds terrorism and unlawful activities, and also reassures law-abiding mariners in the region.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

USS Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure team board a stateless dhow that was transporting 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs in the international waters of the Gulf of Aden.

(US Navy photo)

Chung-Hoon is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud

Aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chung-Hoon, U.S. Navy Yeoman 2nd Class Michael Rawles, left, and Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Cervantes observe a stateless dhow found to be carrying over 11,000 pounds of illicit drugs.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Logan C. Kellums)


The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The region is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

6 abdominal exercises to help tone your tummy

Heading out to the beach or chilling out by the pool are some of the best ways to spend a warm, summer day. Unfortunately, countless people feel insecure about getting into swimwear because they don’t like the way their body looks. But, by taking just 10 to 15 minutes out of your day, you can tone up that tummy with a few exercises and restore your confidence.

Do the following and get out there and soak up the sun’s rays



And, of course, don’t forget proper sun protection.

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Leg raises

Start by getting into a laying position. Now, place your hands under your lower back, extend your legs out, and hold them up, slightly bent. Begin the rep by raising your legs upward toward the sky and then slowly lowering them back down, but do not touch the ground with your feet. It’s a solid exercise for our lower abdominal muscles. Make sure you engage that core throughout.

Got it?

Now repeat this 10-15 times and do at least two or three more sets.

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Supermans

Lay flat on your tummy and — just like how Superman flies — hold your arms and legs straight out, lifting them slightly. This action creates controlled stress on your lower back, which you should hold for two to three seconds before releasing.

Got it? Sweet!

Now repeat this 10-15 times and do at least two more sets.

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Planks

Start by laying face-down on the ground. Now, hold yourself up by your elbows and toes — while wearing shoes, of course. Using a stopwatch, hold yourself in place for 30-60 seconds.

If you can hold yourself up for at least 30 seconds, do it for another 30 seconds and see how that feels. It’s all about progression.

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Bicycle crunches

This excellent exercise can be done anywhere that you have enough space to lay on your back. Once you’re in position, bring your knees, one at a time, toward your face, tightening your abdomen in the process. Then, simply pedal your feet as if you’re riding a bike.

It’s easy and your abs will thank you in a few weeks.

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Flutter kicks

Start in a laying position and place your hands under your glutes (buttocks) for stability and comfort. Then, squeeze your core and quickly raise and lower your straightened legs.

You want to get those feet up about 12-18 inches off the ground to really work your core.

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Russian twists

While in a modified sitting position with your feet flat on the floor, put a slight tilt in your back as you lean and bring your hands together as if holding an object.

Then, by merely twisting your core and bringing your hands close to your hips, you’ll engage your obliques. Remember to maintain proper control throughout the movement for best results.

Articles

This quadruple amputee is opening retreat to help other wounded warriors

Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills awoke in a hospital on his 25th birthday to learn that an explosion in Afghanistan had robbed him of all four limbs. He later told his wife to take their daughter and their belongings, and just go. He didn’t want her saddled with his burden.


“She assured me that’s not how this works,” Mills said, “and she stayed by my side.”

Family support aided his recovery, Mills said, and now a foundation he created is bringing others with war injuries and their families to Maine to continue their healing while surrounded by others who understand what they’ve gone through.

The retreat at the lakeside estate of the late cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden will be dedicated this weekend after an overhaul that included accessibility upgrades.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud
Staff Sgt. Travis Mills discusses his foundation’s resort on a Maine television program. Screenshot: YouTube/CentralMaineCATV

Mills uses his personal story to offer encouragement: “I don’t look at myself and pity myself. I tell people to never give up, never quit, and to always keep pushing forward.”

The soldier’s life changed abruptly on April 10, 2012, when a bomb that evaded detection detonated when Mills unwittingly dropped his backpack on it.

The blast disintegrated his right arm and leg, shredded his wrist and blew several fingers off. His left leg dangled.

As life drained from him, Mills used what was left of his remaining hand to make a radio call for help for the others.

“My medic came up to me and I tried to fight him off, saying, ‘Doc, you’re not going to save me. There’s really no reason to keep trying. It’s OK. I accept what happened. Just tell my family I love them, and don’t waste your time,'” he told The Associated Press.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud
DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

At the field hospital, his remaining leg came off with his pants as he was undressed for surgery. Two days later, his left arm was removed.

When it came to recovery, Mills said, the support of his family was just as important as top-notch medical care. His wife remained with him. Their 6-month-old daughter lifted his spirits. His father-in-law lived with him at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and oversaw construction of a home adapted for his disabilities.

“Without my wife and daughter, I can’t tell you that I’d be sitting here today doing as well as I’m doing,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. Because we believe there is more healing with the family and other people in the same situation.”

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud
(TravisMills.org)

His wife, Kelsey, pregnant with their second child, said her husband has been competitive since his days as high school football captain in Vassar, Michigan. He was always the “life of the party,” she said, which helps to explain his charisma, enthusiasm, and constant jokes.

“He’s always had a strong drive, and getting injured was like a challenge to him to overcome it,” she said.

These days, he travels 165 days a year, delivering motivational speeches, and it seems there’s little he can’t do thanks to grit and advanced prosthetics. He’s gone skydiving, participated in adaptive skiing and mountain biking, and paddled on lakes. He’s written a book, “Tough As They Come.”

The retreat is an extension of Mills’ work at Walter Reed, where he lifted others’ spirits while recovering from his wounds over a 19-month period.

As a Marine in Afghanistan, I aspired to make my family’s legacy of heroes proud
Walter Reed General Hospital. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley.

This summer, 56 families will be served free of charge.

They’ll kayak, go tubing, and fish, allowing injured soldiers and Marines to see that they don’t have to sit on the sidelines during family activities, Mills said.

Nearly $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions have gone into the camp, building on a pilot program. Mills hopes to raise enough money to create a permanent endowment.

Craig Buck said his son-in-law knows that not all injured military personnel have received the same family support. “This is his way of paying it forward,” Buck said. “That’s the reason we built the retreat.”

Articles

How SAS commandos avoided ISIS capture in a vicious hand-to-hand fight

A recent ambush of British special operations forces in Mosul reportedly required hand-to-hand combat for survival.


Military sources told The Daily Star on July 2 that an intelligence gathering operation by Special Air Service personnel in Iraq turned into a firefight with roughly 50 ISIS terrorists. Over 30 were killed near a riverbed before the British troops ran out of ammunition.

“They knew that if they were captured, they would be tortured and decapitated,” a source told the Star. “Rather than die on their knees, they went for a soldier’s death and charged the ISIS fighters who were moving along the river bed. They were screaming and swearing as they set about the terrorists.”

The Daily Star reported that the SAS operators had roughly 10 rounds between them, so they charged the ISIS bad guys with knives, bayonets and improvised weapons.

One terrorist was reportedly drowned in a puddle by an operator.

“[The  warfighter] then picked up a stone and smashed it into the face of another gunman wrestling with one of his colleagues,” the source said. “Another killed three of the fighters by using his assault rifle as a club. Others were stabbing at the gunmen who wanted to capture the British troops alive.”

The team, all suffering injuries, eventually met up with Kurdish allies after the remaining ISIS fighters fled.