It took 104 years, but the Marine Corps Reserve has grown from just 35 personnel to more than 40,000. To celebrate the USMC Reserve’s August 28 birthday, here’s a look at Marine heritage and culture.
USMC-R History and Origins
The Marines’ reserve component dates back to the Civil War when military and civilian readers recognized a need for a Naval Reserve to augment the fleet during wartime.
Leading up to WWI, individual states tried to fill the need through state-controlled naval militias, but the lack of a centralized national force limited combat effectiveness.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson recognized the need for an operational Reserve Force, and on August 29, the USMC Reserve was born. The organization grew from just 35 Marines on April 01, 1916, to 6,467 by the time Germany surrendered in November 1918.
Reserve Marines fought on the sea and land in major battles during WWI, and as the Marine Corps began expanding its horizons during WWII, the Reserve component continued to grow. The USMC Women’s Reserve was activated in July 1942, and in 1943, the USMC WR swore in its first director, Maj. Ruth Cheney Streeter.
However, by 1947, it seems like the Marine Corps and the Reserve component were going to be disbanded. Fortunately, the Armed Forces Unification Act created the Department of Defense, which helped standardize pay for Marine Corps Reserve service members, along with creating a retirement pay program.
At the end of the military draft and the transition to an all-volunteer military in the 1970s, the USMC-R would grow to be almost 40,000 members strong.
Celebrating the USMC-R Birthday
This internal observance isn’t a widely known date or public holiday, but Reservists don’t mind. To honor and celebrate the history of the USMC Reserve on its birthday, you might consider flying the Marine Corps flag alongside the American flag this week.
Consult the Marine Corps Flag Manual to learn how to properly display a USMC-R service flag alongside the national colors. Fair warning, and in true USMC nature, this flag-flying manual is no less than 50 pages long, so be prepared for a long and thorough read.
TL;DR: The flag represents a living country and is considered a living thing. The right arm is the sword arm, and so the right is the place of honor, so the edge of the flag should be toward the staff. Flags should be displayed from sunrise to sunset. If a “patriotic effect is desired for specific occasions,” the flag can be displayed for a full 24 hours if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.
Famous USMC Reservists
Like the other branches of the military, being a part of the USMC-R can significantly impact civilian careers. For Reservists, being a Marine often means being able to also continue with life’s other passions. Take a look at the most famous Marine Reservists. You might not know they were Leathernecks, but we’re pretty sure you know their work!
After enlisting in the Reserves in 1980, Carey went on to serve a total of six years. The comedian says that he adopted his trademark crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses because of his time in service. During his time in the Reserves, Carey was always looking for new ways to make money. Someone in his unit suggested using his jokes. Of his big break in Hollywood, Carey has often remarked that he would still be serving if he hadn’t made it big.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Cory W. Bush/Released)
Retired Lt. Col. Riggle served in the USMC Reserve as a PAO from 199-2013. He served in Kosovo, Liberia and Afghanistan. He joined the Marines after getting his pilot’s license with the intent of becoming a Naval Aviator but left flight school to pursue his comedy career. He has appeared on the Daily Show and had a running role on The Office.
Interested in joining the USMC Reserves?
The USMC-R is a critical component to being able to provide a balanced, ready force. There’s no telling that you’ll end up a famous comedian like Drew Caret or Rob Riggle, but chances are you’ll grow as a person and learn something in the process, too. Find out more here.
Alcohol is a staple of military culture and troops have been consuming it en masse since the first sailor left port for lands unknown. But as times have changed, so, too, have the rules of consumption. Since the good ol’ days, the rules for drinking have become much stricter — especially in combat zones. But, that doesn’t stop service members from finding a way to get their fix.
Reddit user Lapsed_Pacifist shared a story of how he and his buddies essentially made home brews out of their makeshift barracks room during one of their deployments — violating the UCMJ for a cold one.
If you plan to brew beer out of your barracks room (we don’t recommend it), make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and exercise extreme caution — and, of course, don’t go telling people we gave you the idea.
Of course, no one has control over what someone else sends them… Right?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brian Ferguson)
It all started when a soldier deployed to Iraq wanted the taste of the sweet nectar known as beer but, of course, couldn’t find enough to quench his thirst. He had friends mail him some hoppy, carbonatedcontrabandknowing that not all of the mail coming into base would be checked, and that worked out for a while— butit just wasn’t enough.
This is what one of these kits looks like.
(Photo by Coin-Coin)
This soldier had heard tales of another member of his unit stashing brewing equipment in locations throughout another base but, where he was living, obtaining such materials was no easy task. After a discussion with some friends, they decided to risk it all by ordering, directly from Amazon, a home-brewing kit.
After a tense waiting period, their equipment finally arrived and they were able to begin their own underground (and highly illegal) brewing operation.
Don’t f*ck with the UCMJ.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Naomi Griego)
Now, possessing alcohol in a combat zone violates the Uniformed Code of Military Justice — but it seems like these guys didn’t give a flying f*ck. Their goal was to have the sweet taste of alcohol bless their tongues, fill their bloodstreams, and mingle with their livers.
In no time at all, their room began to smell like a chemist’s lab and their adventure in illicit alcohol picked up speed.
This is how the professionals do it.
(Photo by Hong Reddot Brewhouse)
You see, the home-brewing kit they ordered only could only produce 3 gallons of beer with every fermentation cycle, which took a couple of weeks. They had several months left of their deployment, and they simply couldn’t wait that long to drink so little.
So, what did they do? They started fermenting in plastic water bottles. To use a direct quote from the story,
Professional brewers and distillers don’t brew or distill in plastic 2-liter water bottles of dubious origin because, in short, they are not f*cking morons.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Evan Loyd)
Needless to say, their illicit brewing company, referred to as “Riyadh Brewing Corporation, Ltd. (Established 2008),” ended up blowing up in their faces — literally. The plastic bottles couldn’t withstand the pressure build-up and they ended up losing more of their stock than they wanted.
Thankfully, they were able to clean up the mess and cover their tracks before anyone too high in their chain of command could find out — and now we have this beautiful story to laugh about.
The Danish Royal Air Force posted a video on August 22 of two of their fighter jets intercepting a Russian bomber, Newsweek International first reported.
The video shows two Danish F-16s flanking a Russian Tu-95 on both sides, and one Danish pilot signaling towards the bomber, near the island of Bornholm, which is between Poland and Sweden according to Newsweek.
The Danish Air Force posted the video on Facebook, but did not detail when the incident took place.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes, the military translates this axiom as “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” So while the idea of this simple window washing tool saving lives sounds silly, there are six people who sure are glad to be window washers that day.
As if being a window washer on a New York City skyscraper wasn’t harrowing enough, the sheer terror didn’t stop for these six men that day, even though they were in the building. Polish immigrant Jan Demczur and five others were in an elevator in the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, when the building was struck by American Airline Flight 11.
The cleaners were on their way up to work when the elevator suddenly started plummeting down to earth.
Victoria Dawson, in her July 2002 article in Smithsonian magazine “Handed Down to History,” wrote that Demczur or one of the other men managed to press the emergency stop button on the elevator. But stopping their sudden descent was only half of the problem – they still needed to get out.
“We felt a muted thud,” said Shivam Iyer, one of the other workers. “The building shook. The elevator swung from side to side, like a pendulum.”
When they finally forced open the elevator’s doors, they were faced with walls of sheetrock and smoke started to fill the elevator shaft. A voice warned them of an explosion in the building. They were on the 50th floor and the express elevator they were on didn’t stop there. It was lucky that someone had a pocketknife and the men were able to start cutting through the wall. Then, Demczur dropped the knife down the elevator shaft.
“I was very upset with myself,” he told Smithsonian. “We had a problem and now a bigger problem.”
There was no time to think. One of his coworkers simply grabbed up the squeegee from their work bucket and resumed working on that wall. The men took turns going to town on the wall with the squeegee handle. Eventually, they punched through four layers of sheetrock, finally punching into a tile wall under the sink of a men’s room. They escaped from the building – via a stairwell – as soon as they could. It took them 90 minutes.
Eligible veterans can submit a 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return for their reimbursement of taxes paid on their disability severance payment.
Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director for the Armed Forces Tax Council, said the Defense Department has identified more than 130,000 veterans who may be eligible for the refund.
According to the DoD’s press release:
“The deadline to file for the refund is one year from the date of the Defense Department notice, or three years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or two years after the tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made, according to the IRS.”
The IRS will accept a simplified method of filing for the refund, in which veterans claim a standard refund based on the year they received their disability severance payment. The standard refund amounts are as follows:
Tax years 1991 – 2005: id=”listicle-2587881382″,7590
Tax years 2006 – 2010: ,400
Tax years 2011 – 2016: ,200
The disability severance payment is not subject to federal income tax when a veteran meets the following criteria:
“The veteran has a combat-related injury or illness as determined by his or her military service at separation that resulted directly from armed conflict; took place while the member was engaged in extra-hazardous service; took place under conditions simulating war, including training exercises such as maneuvers; or was caused by an instrumentality of war.”
“The veteran is receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs or has received notification from VA approving such compensation.”
Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016
The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 is the solution to eligible veterans being wrongly taxed on their severance payment. The bill asked the Department of Defense to examine disability severance payments that occurred after Jan. 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income.
Even if a veteran did not receive a letter from the Defense Department, they may still be eligible for a refund. Veterans who may be eligible can visit the IRS website and search “combat injured veterans” for further information.
Estates or surviving spouses can file a claim on behalf of a veteran who is now deceased.
This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.
The Navy has now completed at least one-fourth of the design drawings and begun advanced work on a stealthy “electric drive” propulsion system for the emerging nuclear-armed Columbia-Class ballistic missile submarines — as part of its strategy to engineer the quietest, most technically advanced and least detectable submarine of all time.
The Columbia-class, slated to begin full construction by 2021, is to be equipped with an electric-drive propulsion train, as opposed to the mechanical-drive propulsion train used on other Navy submarines.
“The electric-drive system is expected to be quieter (i.e., stealthier) than a mechanical-drive system,” a Congressional Research Service report on Columbia-Class submarines from 2018 states.
In today’s Ohio-class submarines, a reactor plant generates heat which creates steam, Navy officials explained. The steam then turns turbines which produce electricity and also propel the ship forward through “reduction gears” which are able to translate the high-speed energy from a turbine into the shaft RPMs needed to move a boat propeller.
Designed to be 560-feet–long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will use a quieting X-shaped stern configuration.
“Of the required design disclosures (drawings), 26-percent have been issued, and the program is on a path to have 83-percent issued by construction start,” Bill Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven several months ago.
The “X”-shaped stern will restore maneuverability to submarines; as submarine designs progressed from using a propeller to using a propulsor to improve quieting, submarines lost some surface maneuverability, senior Navy officials told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.
Navy developers explained that electric-drive propulsion technology still relies on a nuclear reactor to generate heat and create steam to power turbines. However, the electricity produced is transferred to an electric motor rather than so-called reduction gears to spin the boat’s propellers.
The use of an electric motor brings other advantages as well, according to an MIT essay written years ago when electric drive was being evaluated for submarine propulsion.
Using an electric motor optimizes use of installed reactor power in a more efficient way compared with mechanical drive submarines, making more on-board power available for other uses, according to an essay called “Evaluation and Comparison of Electric Propulsion Motors for Submarines.” Author Joel Harbour says that on mechanical drive submarine, 80-percent of the total reactor power is used exclusively for propulsion.
“With an electric drive submarine, the installed reactor power of the submarine is first converted into electrical power and then delivered to an electric propulsion motor. The now available electrical potential not being used for propulsion could easily be tapped into for other uses,” he writes.
Research, science and technology work and initial missile tube construction on Columbia-Class submarines has been underway for several years. One key exercise, called tube-and-hull forging, involves building four-packs of missile tubes to assess welding and construction methods. These structures are intended to load into the boat’s modules as construction advances.
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland.
(US Navy photo by James Kimber)
“Early procurement of missile tubes and prototyping of the first assembly of four missile tubes are supporting the proving out of production planning,” Couch said.
While the Columbia-Class is intended to replace the existing fleet of Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarines, the new boats include a number of not-yet-seen technologies as well as different configurations when compared with the Ohio-Class. The Columbia-Class will have 16 launch tubes rather than the 24 tubes current on Ohio boats, yet the Columbias will also be about 2-tons larger, according to Navy information.
The Columbia-Class, to be operational by the 2028, is a new generation of technically advanced submarines intended to quietly patrol the undersea realm around the world to ensure second-strike ability should the US be hit with a catastrophic nuclear attack.
The nuclear-armed submarines are expected to serve all the way into and beyond the 2080s.
General Dynamics Electric Boat has begun acquiring long-lead items in anticipation of beginning construction; the process involves acquiring metals, electronics, sonar arrays, and other key components necessary to build the submarines.
Both the Pentagon and the Navy are approaching this program with a sense of urgency, given the escalation of the current global threat environment. Many senior DoD officials have called the Columbia-Class program as a number one priority across all the services.
“The Columbia-Class submarine program is leveraging enhanced acquisition authorities provided by Congress such as advanced procurement, advanced construction and multi-year continuous production of missile tubes,” Couch added.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Listen, condoms will save your life. You may not believe it, but the condom is a multipurpose force multiplier that does more than protect one’s little trooper from NBC threats during unarmed combat. The idea of having condoms isn’t even all that new, so this may be old news to many readers. Even the Army’s official survival handbook lists condoms as a necessary item for survival kits.
The reasons are many, and I’m going to list them without a single dick joke. Sorry.
Water is the number one reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a U.S. troop. Water is the number two reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a civilian. Condoms, of course, are designed to keep fluids in – and they are really, really good at it. When properly handled, a condom can carry two liters of water. Just tie it off with a stick and wrap it in a sock, and you’ve got yourself a durable water container.
You should probably use non-lubricated condoms for this purpose.
I don’t mean you should be using condoms just for the Tinder dating app (although you should definitely be using condoms if you’re on the Tinder dating app). A condom can carry a lot of flammable material and – as I mentioned – the condom is totally waterproof so it will keep your cotton, newspaper, Doritos, whatever you use as tinder, dry.
Also, be advised that a condom will go up in flames faster than you’re going to be comfortable watching. You can use them as tinder themselves and will even start a fire.
Turns out condoms are good at protecting a rifle and a gun, whether you’re fighting or having fun. This is actually a fairly common use among survivalists who spend a lot of time outdoors. You may see (again, non-lubricated) condoms over the barrel of a weapon to keep mud, dirt, and water out. They even make little condoms for this purpose.
If you haven’t noticed by now, the condom’s greatest strengths are its elasticity and waterproofing. You can use the condom as a crude tourniquet in case of injury, but you can also use it as a rubber glove to protect both yourself from blood-borne disease and protect your patient from whatever muck is on your grubby little hands.
Joshua T. asks: What were all those metal things you see on the beaches in pictures of the Omaha landing?
The Normandy Invasions represented one of the single largest military maneuvers in history. Beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion was the largest amphibious assault of all time and involved what basically amounted to the collective might of a large percentage of the nations in the industrialized world working in tandem to defeat the Nazi war machine. One of the most iconic images of the invasion was that of a French beach covered in oppressive-looking metal crosses. As it turns out, those crosses were merely a small part of an expansive network of sophisticated defences the Allies managed to somehow circumvent in mere hours.
Dubbed “the Atlantic Wall” and constructed under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler himself in his Directive 40, the formidable defences stretched and astounding 2000 miles of the European coast. Intended to ward off an Allied invasion, the Atlantic Wall consisted of endless batteries of guns, an estimated five million mines (of both the sea and land variety) and many thousands of soldiers who occupied heavily fortified bunkers and fortresses along its length.
German soldiers placing landing craft obstructions.
The wall has been described as a “three-tier system of fortifications” where the most valuable and vulnerable locations were the most heavily fortified while positions of lesser importance became known as “resistance points” that were more lightly defended but would still pose an imposing obstacle to any invasion force.
In the rush to create defences, gun batteries were haphazardly thrown together, consisting of basically whatever the Nazis could get their hands on. As a result, everything from heavy machine guns to massive cannons cut from captured French warships were utilized in the construction of fortresses and bunkers. Though they looked threatening, this “confusing mixture of sizes and calibres” proved to be an issue for the Nazis when they couldn’t scrape together the ammunition to arm them all. Still, the guns, in combination with the several other layers of defences, were believed to make the coast of Europe “impregnable”.
The largest of these guns represented the first line of defence of the Atlantic Wall and the Germans spent countless hours practise shelling “designated killing zones” experts predicted Allied ships would most likely use to invade. After this were expansive submarine nets and magnetic mines chained to the ocean floor to deter submarines and ships. In shallower water, the Nazis attached mines to sticks and buried large logs deep in the sand pointed outwards towards the ocean — the idea being boats would either be taken out by the mines or have their bows broken against the poles.
After this was a defensive emplacement known as the Belgian gate which were large heavy fences attached to steel rollers which could be positioned in the shallows. Following this were millions of mines lying just beneath the sands waiting for soldiers who managed to make it ashore.
Along with all of this, there were also those metal cross thingies — or to give them their proper name, Czech hedgehogs.
As the name suggests, the Czech hedgehog was invented in Czechoslovakia and was mostly designed to serve as a deterrent for tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well as in this particular case if the tide was right, approaching ships attempting to land on shore.
Originally designed to sit along the Czechoslovakia-Germany border as part of a massive fortification effort conducted in the 1930s, the hedgehogs never ended up serving their original purpose when the region was annexed by Germany in 1938.
It’s reported that the Czechs originally wanted to build a large wall between the two countries, but a cheaper solution was found in the form of these hedgehogs, which could be mass-produced by simply bolting together beams of steel.
So what purpose did they serve? Put simply, if a tank or other such vehicle tried to drive over one, the result was inevitably it becoming stuck on the thing, and even in some cases having the bottom of the tank pieced by the hedgehog. When used on a beach like this, as previously alluded to, they also had the potential to pierce the hulls of ships approaching the shores if the tide was high at the time.
On top of that, particularly the anchored variety of hedgehogs proved difficult to move quickly as even massive explosions didn’t really do much of anything to them.
Speaking of anchored hedgehogs, it isn’t strictly necessary for the hedgehogs to be anchored to anything normally. It turns out that tanks trying to drive over the unanchored ones had a good chance of getting themselves stuck just the same. In these cases what would usually happen was the hedgehog would roll slightly as the tank tried to power its way over, with then the weight of the tank often causing the steel I-beams to pierce the bottom of the tank, completely immobilizing it. In fact, in testing, unanchored hedgehogs proved slightly more effective than their anchored variety against heavy vehicles.
However, because of the tide issue in this case, to keep the hedgehogs in place, those closest to the water did have thick concrete bases anchoring them in the sand.
Using about a million tons of steel and about 17 million cubic meters of concrete, the broken wall these Czech Hedghogs created was a much more viable option than trying to create a solid wall over such a span, while also not giving the enemy forces too much cover, as a more solid wall would have done.
That said, while initially a deterrent, the hedgehogs ended up helping the Allies after the beaches were secured, as they proved to be a valuable source of steel and concrete that was repurposed for the war effort. For example, almost immediately some of the steel beams were welded to tanks, turning them into very effective mobile battering rams.
Yes you read that correctly — the Allies cut up dedicated anti-tank fortifications and welded them to their tanks to make them even more badass of weapons.
The Soviets also made extensive use of Czech hedgehogs, often using the concrete to literally cement them in place in cities and along bridges to halt German armored divisions in their tracks. As you can imagine, just one of these in a narrow street proved to be an extremely effective barrier that also left the enemy trying to get rid of it open to weapon fire.
While some Czech hedgehogs were constructed to specific factory specifications, which stipulated exact measurements (usually 1.4 meters in height) and materials (anything sturdy enough to survive around 500 tonnes of force), most were made of scavenged materials.
In the end, the hedgehogs along with the countless other fortifications proved to be a formidable, but not impassable obstacle for the Allies. In fact, thanks to a massive, concerted bombardment effort from the naval and air-based forces of the Allies, strategic commando strikes, and the bravery of the hundreds of thousands of troops who physically stormed the beaches all those years ago, all of the defences were bypassed in a matter of hours, though at the cost of several thousand lives on D-Day alone.
Czech hedgehogs are near identical in design (save for their massive size) to caltrops — a tiny metal device designed to always land with a jagged spike pointed straight into the air used extensively throughout history to hinder advancing enemy, particularly effective against horses, camels, and elephants, but also foot soldiers.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
There’s an old USMC saying, “If the Corps wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one.”
While the phrase is meant as a joke, when analyzed further, it becomes clear that “the most difficult job in the Corps,” or being a military spouse, requires a variety of attributes if you want to cultivate a successful partnership.
If the Marine Corps was responsible for issuing spouses, these are the five attributes they’d have.
5. Spouses would come from military families
The Marine Corps is well-known for issuing Gulf War-era Army gear and your new life partner is no exception. Get ready to sign for and receive your 45-year-old Army brat that supply is going to issue you.
They may not look all shiny and brand new, but what they lack in aesthetics they more than make-up for in years of proven, valuable experience.
4. Maximum capacity of three offspring
Marines are trained to plan for the worst — to have a backup plan for their backup plan. That mentality is just exactly what issued spouses would be accustomed to, which is why having a primary, secondary, and tertiary legacy is appropriate.
Any more and the situation would seem redundant, any less and you’re playing with fire.
3. Financial accountability
In all honesty, junior enlisted Marines are not well-known for their financial foresight. Given the high tempo training cycles, their chances of overlooking a few things are close to inevitable.
That’s why every Marine-issued spouse will have a degree in accounting from the Armed Forces University. You can rest easy, Marine, while your money is managed by the one you’ve been told to trust the most.
Carry the two and — he spends way too much on Copenhagen long cut Rip-its.
2. Diplomatic superiority
Marines have a storied history of high morale, foul mouths, and dirty minds. This translates to acting a fool at parties which, unfortunately, can land those same devil dogs in some hot water. Betrothing a Marine-suppressor in the form of a life companion that is classy AF is essential.
Changing duty stations regularly is a part of life for any Marine and moving with a family can be stressful, to say the least. That is why all issued spouses will come equipped with the same capabilities of USMC Logistics/Embarkation Warrant Officer and, if you’re lucky, the same sweet disposition.
On a high plain in the Paktika province of Afghanistan, sits a remote outpost known to many simply as Firebase Shkin. In the early days of the War in Afghanistan, it was a hotspot of insurgent activity. According to Col. Rodney Davis, by 2003 Shkin was known as “the evilest place in Afghanistan.”
The firebase, looking like a cross between an old Wild West fort and the Alamo, sat right on the border in the middle of a major infiltration route for the Taliban from Pakistan. Contact was inevitable. Making matters more difficult was the ambiguous loyalty of the Pakistani Border Guards and armed forces in the area. The remote location meant that help was a long way off if things took a turn for the worse. Finally, the high elevation, 7,700 feet, meant every patrol was grueling.
Patrols wound through wadis and mountain passes on dirt tracks with names like Route Saturn, Chevy, and Camaro. Friendly Afghan Militia Forces inhabited adjoining buildings and ran the dreaded South Camp – a captured insurgent’s worst nightmare.
The base had first housed Special Forces soldiers and Rangers before being handed over to conventional forces from the 82nd Airborne Division, part of Task Force Panther, in 2002. The first casualty from the 82nd in the War on Terror was incurred here on December 20, 2002 when Sgt. Checo, assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), was killed in action. The firebase was often unofficially referred to as Firebase Checo in his honor.
Task Force Panther was relieved by Task Force Devil in January 2003. The elements of Task Force Devil, particularly those operating out of Firebase Shkin, were essential in establishing the tactics and standards of conventional forces operating in low-intensity conflicts. This information would be used to great effect as the war in Afghanistan grew and more troops came into the country. For the soldiers of Task Force Devil—and those that followed—these were lessons learned the hard way.
In April 2003, a contingent centered on elements of B Company 3rd Battalion 504th PIR, supported by gun trucks from D Company as well as artillery and other support, took control of the firebase. Contact began almost immediately. On April 25, a quick reaction force from the firebase was ambushed by Al Qaeda fighters. Using a reverse-slope ambush, a technique taught to them during their war against Russia, the Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) inflicted significant casualties on the firebase’s most recent inhabitants.
Two Americans were killed in the exchange and several others wounded, including the company commander, a platoon sergeant, and a forward observer. One of the soldiers killed was Jerod Dennis from B Company. The airfield at Orgun-e would later be named Dennis Army Airfield in his honor. The site of the battle, Losano Ridge, took its name from an Air Force Tactical Air Controller, Raymond Losano, who was also killed that day. However, the paratroopers gave better than they got sending the Al Qaeda fighters back across the border into Pakistan with heavy casualties.
The fight was further complicated by its proximity to the border and the fact that it happened in plain view of Pakistani outposts there. The response from the Pakistani side was to deliberately block and draw weapons on the American quick reaction force that was attempting to cut off the fleeing ACM fighters.
The soldiers of Firebase Shkin continued to engage the ACM and expand on their doctrine throughout the summer of 2003. As their commander, Capt. Dave Buffaloe, put it, “I was given an opportunity that no other captain in the Army was given: to fight his own combined-arms, coalition, joint, multi-agency fight in his own Area of Operations.” Ambushes were frequent and the operations tempo was demanding, especially as there were only six dismounted infantry squads at the time.
By the end of the summer, Task Force Devil began rotating out of the border firebases and handing over responsibility to the incoming 10th Mountain Division task force. For the soldiers of 1st Battalion 87th Infantry that meant it was their turn at Firebase Shkin.
Though contact had tapered off towards the end of the paratroopers’ tour, the ACM came back hard to test the new unit in the area. On August 31, 2003 the task force lost its first soldiers of the tour in a large scale firefight with Anti-Coalition forces. In September Afghanistan’s most intense combat in 18 months claimed the life of another soldier, Evan O’Neill, in a firefight around Shkin. The attack was more sophisticated than earlier Al Qaeda attempts against the American soldiers. This attack involved mortar rounds and what seemed to be an attempt to down an American helicopter. The whole fight, once again, took place within view of the Pakistani Border Guards, who did nothing to aid America or its allies.
The soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division would continue to battle against insurgents in the lonely reaches of Shkin, Afghanistan before they themselves were relieved. The tenacity of the American soldiers at Firebase Shkin would bring relative quiet to the area. Eventually Firebase Shkin would be overshadowed by places like the Korengal Valley and fighting such as the Battle of Wanat. But those who served there in the early days of the war will always remember the hell that was the evilest place in Afghanistan – Firebase Shkin.
Prison time is hard time. Depending on where an inmate is locked up, they can spend anywhere from 21-23 hours a day in their cells, regardless of the severity of their crimes. Wherever possible, inmates who really want to get out are making the most of that time. But it turns out there is one job that is perfectly suited to someone with that much time on their hands: training service dogs for wounded veterans.
America’s VetDogs employs inmates like Tyrell Sinclair, an inmate at Connecticut’s Enfield Correctional Facility, to train service dogs destined for wounded veterans – and the dogs work wonders for the inmates as well. For Sinclair, it gives him something to do, something to look forward to every day. More than that, the increased attention the inmates are able to give the trainee dogs cuts the training time down to just one year instead of two to five years.
“After committing a crime, being in here, you just sit around and think about how bad things are, how bad a person I am for being in this predicament,” said Sinclair. “Once I got the dog and got into the program, things were better. It’s like a whole different outlook.”
Sinclair says he was amazed at the abilities the dogs have once they are subject to the proper training and skills.
“It amazed me,” he said.
But it’s not just the constant companionship of man’s best friend that helps inmates like Sinclair through their jail time. The inmates know the dogs will not be with them for very long if all goes according to plan. It’s knowing that the dogs they train are destined to help someone who served their country that gives the inmates the boost in confidence.
“It almost makes me feel like a proud dad.”
Mark Tyler, who oversees the Enfield program for America’s VetDogs, believes the prisoner’s inclination toward the dogs (and vice versa) is a natural one and the program is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The numbers support that belief. Around 85 percent of Enfield inmates will end up back in Enfield after their release, for the same crime or another crime. For inmates who train dogs, that number drops to 25 percent.
“They know all too well the crime they committed will likely become an extension of who they are,” Tyler said of the prisoners. “The dog doesn’t care what that person did in the past, he cares about who they are today.”
Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.
Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.
Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.
His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.
Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.
The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.
This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.
Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.
Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.
When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.
“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”
After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.
Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.
For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.
During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.
The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.
Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.
Old Kentucky home
A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.
Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.
Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.
He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.
Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.
Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”
In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.
For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.
When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”
Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.
Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.
“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”
Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.
He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.
As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.
But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.
The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.
“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.
Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.
A hero’s welcome
On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.
The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.
Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.
Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.
Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.
“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.
When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.
“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”
But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.
Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.
“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”
“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”
Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.
He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.
Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.
At any cost
On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.
As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.
As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.
Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.
Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.
Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.
Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.
Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.
“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”
Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.
“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”
While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.
Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.
“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”
At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.
“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”
Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.
Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.
Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.
Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.
He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.
There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.
“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”
The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.
Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.
Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.
“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.
With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.
“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”
The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.
“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.
Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.
“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”
Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.
Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”
In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.
Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.
The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.
“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.
But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.
Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.
That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.
Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.
Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.
Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.
Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.
As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.
“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”
Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.
“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”
Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.
“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”
Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.
Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.
Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.
In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.
Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.
“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”
At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.
“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”
Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.
Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.
A final plea
Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.
New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.
After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.
But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.
But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.
Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.
“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”
Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.
Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.
Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.
The following Monday the phone rang.
“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.
“I go by Pauline,” she said.
“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.
“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.
“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.
“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.
“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.
“I am,” she confirmed.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”
The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.
A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.
“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”
Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.
Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.
“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”
“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”
The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.
Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.
“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”
Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.
No matter how well you plan, PCSing is expensive. You’re going to make (at least) 15 trips toTarget to get all the little things you had no way of knowing your new home lacked. You’ll probably be ordering a lot of pizza and eating in restaurants while you wait for your household goods to arrive. And, you’ll be doing all this spending while your family is likely living on just one income. It’s the catch-22 of military spouse life: You can’t afford childcare until you have a job, but how can you search for or accept a job when you can’t afford to pay someone to watch your kids?
Starting this month, soldiers and their families can get extra help with childcare expenses after PCSing from Army Emergency Relief (AER), a non-profit organization that helps soldiers with unplanned financial hardships caused by military service. AER will provide up to 0 per month to qualifying Army families through grants and zero-interest loans to help offset childcare expenses, for up to 90 days following a move.
AER’s assistance goes hand-in-hand with a program all the branches of service have to help families find and pay for childcare. Last year Secretary of the Army Mark Esper (now Secretary of Defense Esper) heard the cries of military families and put together a plan to help families find and pay for childcare. Under Esper’s plan, the Army (and now all the other branches of service, too) pay a subsidy to service members to cover the difference between the cost of childcare in a Child Development Center (CDC) and the cost of a civilian childcare center.
The Army program subsidy, for example, pays up to id=”listicle-2645026519″,500 per child per month. Which, while it may sound like a lot of money, in some areas, for some families, was still not enough. “The childcare piece has always been a struggle for families with young children, especially dual-income families,” said Krista Simpson Anderson, an Army spouse living near Washington, DC, who serves as the Military Spouse Ambassador for AER. “Let’s say your kids are in daycare at the Child Development Center at Ft. Carson, and then you PCS to Ft. Bragg. You don’t automatically get a slot at Bragg. You get put on a waitlist. But you have to have childcare so you can go out and find a new job. The CDCs are usually more affordable than daycares in the community, but you may have to use a community daycare or a babysitter while you wait for a slot at the CDC. This money is intended to help with the difference in cost.”
AER’s CEO, LTG (Ret.) Ray Mason said that even with the Army Fee Assistance program, some families were still experiencing an average of 5 in additional out of pocket expenses for childcare.
AER is funded entirely by donations and distributes grants and loans based on need. So, to get the extra financial assistance, soldiers or their spouses must go to the AER office on their new post and show proof of their income and their monthly expenses.”Individual soldier readiness and spouse employment are top priorities for the Army,” Gen. Mason said. “Providing child care assistance helps soldiers focus on their mission, while also supporting spouses returning quickly to the workforce after they arrive at a new duty station.”