Be like Jim: No legs, no problem - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

He’s had triple bypass surgery, two leg amputations, gallbladder removal and eye surgery.

So how does Jim Jacobi feel?


“I feel healthier now at (age) 75 than I did at 50,” said the U.S. Army Veteran. “I’ve had a lot of things done to me, but I feel healthier now (because of) my attitude and the (Milwaukee) VA.

“I just have a positive attitude about everything.”

For many, the ravages of disease and age take their toll mentally as well as physically. But Jacobi, a Milwaukee native who served one year in Vietnam after being drafted in 1965, has chosen a different path.

“It’s better to be happy and friendly,” he said. “When I was 50, I said, ‘You gotta be happy. Don’t let things bother you.'”

And he has stuck by that philosophy, tackling his various physical ailments with determination and fortitude that belie his age.

“He’s unique, he’s an outlier,” said Milwaukee VA prosthetist Justin Heck. “He’s an inspiring guy.”

Sarah Mikesell, Jacobi’s physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA, agreed.

“Statistically, he’s an anomaly, being as old as he is and being able to walk with bilateral prostheses. That’s definitely against the odds.

“Jim is really super motivated. He does a good job taking care of himself and following through on recommendations. And he tries to share his good, positive attitude with everybody else.”

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Jim Jacobi, a U.S. Army Veteran, stands with the help of physical therapist Sarah Mikesell at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center after putting on his new prosthetic leg.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Jacobi was just a few months out of high school when his number came up.

His job in the Army was ordering food for the troops — 150,000 when he arrived and 200,000 by the time he was discharged.

“Me and the captain were the two people that ordered all the food for the II Corps,” he said. “When I left, the captain and I got replaced by a whole company.”

His job took him to the front lines, and he remembers being shelled by mortar fire his very first day in the country.

Somewhere along the way – he’s not sure when or how – he was exposed to Agent Orange. And that is what led to the disease that has gnawed away at him – diabetes.

Exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides has been linked to the disease. And while heredity is also associated with diabetes, Jacobi said he’s the only member of his family to develop it.

After Vietnam, Jacobi worked in manufacturing for a number of years before opening a gas station. That eventually led to a job with a company that oversaw 13 convenience stores.

The work played to Jacobi’s strengths of being friendly and outgoing.

“I realized that in a factory, you see the same people every day,” he said. “When I was working for the convenience stores, I would be going to different stores. I had a lot of people working for me, and I got to know some of the customers. I’m more of a people-oriented person.”

It wasn’t long after Jacobi’s retirement when the diabetes began to take its toll.

He remembers getting an infection in the big toe on his right leg. A month later, all of his toes on his right foot had to be amputated.

“Since I’ve had this, I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling — I do all of that.”

— Jim Jacobi, talking about how his life changed after losing his first leg.

Three years later, the leg had to be amputated. Jacobi was fitted with a prosthetic, and within months he was walking again. But that wasn’t all. Besides hooking up with the Walk a Mile or More group of Veterans at the Milwaukee VA, Jacobi also became involved with recreation groups through the Spinal Cord Injury center.

“Since I’ve had this,” he said, pointing to his first prosthesis, “I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. “We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling – I do all of that.”

He found a “great bunch of guys” at the SCI and WAMM, which gathers three days a week at Lake Wheeler on the Milwaukee VA campus not only to walk for exercise but also to socialize.

“You meet such wonderful people,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he also went on outings to Harley-Davidson and organized bicycle rides on the Hank Aaron Trail. He and his buddies would also serve free coffee once a week at the hospital’s South Entrance.

But diabetes wasn’t done with Jacobi yet.

A familiar scenario began last summer when the little toe on Jacobi’s left leg had to be amputated. The remaining toes were taken in succession within months.

In February, he was back in the hospital, having his remaining leg amputated.

During his recovery, his friends would drop by his room every day, doing what they could and bringing him anything he needed.

“The nurses on the seventh floor, they were amazed I would have about 10 guys visiting me before the virus shut it down,” he said. “They’re great buddies… They’re always there to help you. And I’m the same way – I’ll do anything I can to help them.”

In June, Jacobi was fitted with his new prosthesis, and physical therapy began again.

He hasn’t been able to take it home yet – it’s still being tweaked. Meanwhile, the remainder of his left leg continues to heal after the amputation.

As is his nature, Jacobi has not seen this latest amputation as a roadblock, but merely a hurdle to get over.

“My goal is to walk without any device – no walker, no cane – by the end of the summer,” he said.

And according to the experts, he’s likely to do it.

“I think he’s on track,” Mikesell said.

Heck agreed.

“It’s all him. He wants to do it,” Heck said. “How positive he is – that’s the hardest part.

“Physically, we know people can walk or stand with the prosthetics. That’s fairly simple. To do it well and stay positive and work at it every day – that’s the hard part.”

Diabetes threw Jacobi another curveball in June.

He woke up one Sunday morning and noticed his vision was impaired.

“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring. I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complaint about VA.”

— Jim Jacobi talks about the care he receives at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

“It was like hair was hanging in my eye,” he said. “But I don’t have any hair.”

After talking with his primary care physician’s nurse on Monday, Jacobi walked into the eye clinic at the Milwaukee VA the next day and had laser surgery on the spot.

As Jacobi explained it, the diabetes led to the formation of blood vessels in the back of his eye.

“It looks like hair, but it’s actually blood,” he said.

Jacobi has one more procedure for the eye, scheduled in August.

Through all of this, Jacobi has continued to maintain his positive, upbeat attitude while lauding the care he has received at the Milwaukee VA.

“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring,” he said. “I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complain about the VA.”

His health care providers at the Milwaukee VA are equally as appreciative of Jacobi.

“Jim’s a really good advocate for himself and other amputees,” Mikesell said, noting that Jacobi annually volunteers to work with students in training to be physical therapists. “He’s willing to share his knowledge and wisdom.”

“He has been an advocate for other Veterans as well as for the workers here,” Heck said.

Jacobi has a theory about people, saying 25% have “wonderful attitudes,” 50% have “normal” attitudes and the remaining 25% have “negative” attitudes.

“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “I wish we could get to that 25% who are angry.

“I see patients when I’m in the hospital, and some guys are so grumpy and negative. That’s a shame to see,” he said.

“It’s better to have a positive attitude. You make everybody else feel positive too.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran to cut four zeros from currency to fight hyperinflation

Iran’s parliament has voted to slash four zeros from the national currency, the rial, to fight hyperinflation caused by crippling U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers also decided on May 4 that the rial, which has been Iran’s national currency since 1925, wiil be replaced by the toman, which will be equal to 10,000 rials, according to the IRNA and ISNA news agencies.

President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers under which Tehran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.


Washington then reimposed most sanctions on Iran, dealing a hard blow to the Islamic republic’s economy.

In recent months, the rial has shed more than 60 percent of its value, with hyperinflation also accelerated by the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. Iran is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

The law must be ratified by the Guardians Council, a powerful hard-line constitutional watchdog.

State television said Iran’s Central Bank will have two years to “pave the ground to change the currency to the toman.”

The Iranian currency was trading at about 156,000 rials per dollar on the unofficial market on May 4, according to foreign-exchange websites.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China looks to Russia for help with inexperienced troops

The Russian and Chinese armed forces are putting their military might on display on land, in the air, and at sea in a massive exercise in Russia’s far east, where China is learning lessons from Russia’s warfighting experience in Syria and other global hotspots.

Chinese troops, as well as helicopters and tanks, are participating in Vostok 2018, reportedly the largest drills in the history of the Russian army, and while the Chinese and Russian militaries have held drills together in the past, this year’s exercise is different.

“In the past decade, China-Russia military drills mainly focused on anti-terrorism and other non-traditional threats,” Major Li Jinpeng, the battalion commander for a Chinese artillery battalion, told Chinese state-run broadcaster CGTN, noting that these exercises appear focused on classical battle campaigns.


A military researcher told Chinese media that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army could learn from Russia how to “fight in cities, in deserts, and in mountains.”

In the age of renewed great power competition, China is pushing to build a modern fighting force that can win on the battlefield, whether that be the defense of the mainland, a fight over Taiwan, or an armed conflict in disputed waters. During the drills, Russia shared its wartime experiences with China, which has not fought in a conflict in decades.

“The Russian military is interested in seeing and assessing China’s progress in the military field,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of the Moscow Defence Brief, told the Financial Times recently, “I believe that for China the opportunity to get acquainted with the Russian armed forces is much more interesting since the Russian army has in recent years a great deal of combat experience in Ukraine, Syria, etc while China’s armed forces are completely deprived of modern combat experience and have not fought since 1979.”

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation.

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

A recent article in the Global Times explained that one of the reasons for the ongoing exercises is to learn from the Russian military. “The Russian forces that performed operations in Syria are among the participants of the military exercise. Undoubtedly, joining in such a military exercise with them is helpful for the PLA to become familiar with actual combat,” the article said. This particular point was driven home by Chinese state media as well.

“Almost all the Russian helicopter pilots in this drill have participated in the Syria conflict, so they have very rich real combat experience,” Senior Colonel Li Xincheng, a commander and veteran Chinese helicopter pilot, told CGTN, adding, “Their equipment has been tested in the real battlefield, which we can learn from.”

He added that the Chinese and Russian troops practiced complex strikes not commonly seen in Chinese military exercises. “Unlike the many drills before, this time from the top to the bottom, we have fighter-bombers, helicopters and tanks firing shells at the same time in a three-dimensional attacking system,” Li explained.

Russian state media confirmed by way of a commander that “generalized Syrian experience was used in the drills – from limited objective attacks by landing forces down to firing and reconnaissance rules.” Newsweek, citing the South China Morning Post, reported that Russia is compiling a textbook focused on its Syrian war experience and plans to share it with China.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Vostok 2018.

China’s military is undergoing an extensive military modernization program designed to build a lethal force that is able to fight and win wars by the middle of this century. This effort has involved leadership changes, new recruitment standards, and enhanced training with an emphasis on actual live-fire combat exercises for war rather than the rough equivalent of a military parade, even though that still occurs.

“One of my soldiers told me that he fired so many shells in these drills that it is almost equivalent to his total over the past five years,” Captain Zhang Lei, whose armored vehicle battalion participated in the Vostok exercises, told Chinese state media in a commentary on the expenditure of ammunition during the drills.

Both Moscow and Beijing have stressed that the exercises are not aimed at any third party, but both countries have bonded over their mutual interest in challenging US hegemony. The Pentagon said that while the US respects Russia and China’s right to hold military drills, just as the US does with its allies and international partners, the US will be watching closely.

Featured image: Chinese military vehicles through a field during the Vostok 2018 exercises in Russia.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The Army has released the names of three soldiers killed in Ghazni Province on Tuesday, November 27 by an IED strike that also wounded three more servicemembers and a U.S. contractor.


The deceased include Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia; Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania.

“Dylan had an unusual drive to succeed and contribute to the team. He displayed maturity and stoicism beyond his years, and was always level-headed, no matter the situation,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Walsh, commander of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dylan’s family, fiancé, and friends. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.”

“Andrew and Eric were invaluable members and leaders in 3rd Special Forces Group and the special operations community. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of these brave men,” said Col. Nathan Prussian, commander of 3rd Special Forces Group, in an Army Special Operations Command press release.

The city of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, has been heavily contested in the past year as Taliban militants have asserted themselves there. Earlier this year, militants managed to take the city, forcing Afghan security forces and U.S. allies to retake it.

The deaths of these soldiers came only days after the loss of aU.S. Army Ranger, Sgt. Leandro Jasso, likely due to an accidental fratricide incident while working with Afghan personnel in a close-quarters battle. Also this month, Mayor Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major, was killed in an apparent attack by a rogue Afghan special forces soldier.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was killed when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Approximately 14,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan in support of that country’s security forces. While U.S. and Afghan leaders are quick to point out that Afghan forces are in the lead and are taking the brunt of the casualties in fighting, the country is still reliant on American partners for some capabilities and help in others.

While Afghanistan has set up its own air support, intelligence networks, and even contracted for air ambulance services last year, some of the Afghan-led services have shown shortcomings. District centers have fallen every few weeks or months, though they often are retaken soon after.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, has said that there is no military solution to the stalemate in Afghanistan because the Taliban isn’t currently losing. Instead, he says that Afghan and international leaders should focus on taking the peace process forward while military forces provide them the window.

Articles

6 interesting facts about American Indians in the US military

America’s first warriors are also the first to defend America.


As a people, they are disproportionately dedicated to the defense of the United States; yet, as it has been pointed out many times, they don’t always get a fair shake.

Related video:

But they deserve our respect. Our warrior culture starts with their warrior culture. No other group in America gave so many of their own as selflessly.

1. American Indians enlist in wildly disproportionate numbers.

During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Natives were 1.7 percent of the U.S. military, more than twice their population proportion of the entire United States, which is .8 percent.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

During WWII, the War Department estimated that if every racial segment of the American population enlisted like Native Americans did, they wouldn’t have needed a draft.

2. They served in greater numbers than any other group since the founding of America.

Per capita, more American Indians serve than any other ethnic group. This includes during World War I, when they weren’t even citizens of the United States.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Depending on which state they were in, some tribal members weren’t able to vote until 1957.

3. American Indians claim 27 Medal of Honor recipients.

Recipients include legendary Marine Corps fighter ace and original Flying Tigers pilot “Pappy” Boyington.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

The first American Indian Medal of Honor was awarded to Co-Rux-Te-Chod-Ish, a Pawnee scout accidentally killed by his own unit. They then spelled his name wrong on his award citation.

4. One of the Iwo Jima flag raisers was an American Indian.

He was one of the six men photographed by Joe Rosenthal on Iwo Jima. Many know this story from Clint Eastwood’s film “Flags of Our Fathers.” Johnny Cash sang a song about him.

5. Unlike other Vietnam vets, American Indians were welcomed back as heroes.

Call it a true “warrior culture.” Despite the ongoing anti-war protests, whenever American Indians in the U.S. military returned home from Vietnam they were welcomed as warriors.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Some Vietnam vets were spit on and called “baby killers,” even if they were drafted. While 90 percent of American Indians who fought in Vietnam were volunteers, their people still welcomed them back.

6. The first American Indian female to die in combat was killed in Iraq.

Lori Piestewa of Arizona was from the Hopi tribe. She was killed by Iraqi forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She died in the ambush in which Jessica Lynch’s unit was captured.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

She was wounded in the head near Nasiriyah and died from her wounds due to poor electricity in Iraqi civilian hospitals. Arizona’s Squaw Peak was renamed Piestewa Peak in her honor.

Articles

These startups are hiring thousands of military veterans — as long as they have a car

There are plenty of companies willing to hire veterans, and for those wanting to break into the startup world, it could be as easy as having your own car.


Veterans and service members have a new opportunity to earn money with a flexible, autonomous schedule. DoorDash, a fast-growing tech startup out of Silicon Valley, is looking for new people — called Dashers — to join its ranks. The company also isn’t alone: Veterans around the country can find on-demand job opportunities at other companies such as Uber and Lyft. Uber, for example, is looking for 5,000 drivers in Houston alone.

“As a former Force Recon Marine and veteran of the Iraq war, I understand the difficulty of transitioning out of the military,” said Chris Clark, DoorDash’s Operations Manager in Orange County. “It can be a challenge both financially and psychologically. That’s why I am fighting as hard as I can to get vets positions in our Dasher fleet.”

Todd Bowers, who runs Uber’s military outreach program, described driving for the company in a recent interview as “a unique opportunity for military families who really appreciate flexibility, mobility, and safety.”

DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft offer the kind of flexible work that defines the modern, on-demand economy. There is no resume required, or interview process to prep for prior to making money. All you need to do is be licensed to drive a car and — for DoorDash — be able to carry some food from Point A to Point B. It’s a pretty good gig for someone looking to make cash on the side, or even full-time.

“Former military members make the best Dashers – they are reliable, disciplined, timely and professional. I would love to fill my entire fleet with veteran Dashers. They know the meaning of hard work, don’t complain, and get the mission done,” Clark said.

Active duty, reserve, and veterans can all apply for this opportunity, which pays up to $25 per hour. If you’re interested in applying, fill out this Dasher application, which takes roughly two minutes. To help fast-track people applying with military experience, put Veteran in the “Referred By” field.

For vets who are interested in going all the way and relocating to Silicon Valley, check out a recent recap of tech companies who are hiring and read through a great explanation of the hiring process at most tech companies.

William Treseder served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011. He now writes regularly on military topics, and has been featured in TIME, Foreign Policy, and Boston Review. You can follow him on Twitter @williamtreseder.

NOW: 5 high-paying jobs for veterans without a college degree

MIGHTY FIT

5 ways CrossFit benefits veterans

Have you ever wondered why there’s so much hype surrounding CrossFit? Well, it seems veterans are benefiting from the intense workouts in more ways than one.

Take Air Force Veteran Rachel Escolas for example. She tried out CrossFit for the first time while on deployment in Kandahar in October of 2012. After deployment, she had a burning passion for the sport and eventually became certified as a trainer in 2014 while founding her own CrossFit gym, CBUS Lifting Co.


CrossFit benefits the veteran community in several ways.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Air Force veteran Rachel Escolas powers through the workout of the day at her gym, CBUS Lifting Co.

(CBUS Lifting Co.)

Fitness

It’s no secret that as soon as military personnel are shipped off to boot camp or basic training, fitness becomes heavily incorporated into their lifestyle. Physical activity becomes second nature, and is essential to keeping in the best shape for performing day-to-day duties.

With its dynamic arrangements of barbell work, Olympic lifts, strength training, and more, CrossFit can kick anyone’s a** into shape. CrossFit requires discipline and dedication, qualities that already run deep among every branch of the military. The trainers are like drill sergeants that don’t cuss. They don’t let anyone slack and they keep an eye on proper form, correcting when necessary.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

There’s nothing like sharing the pain of a workout with others.

(CrossFit323)

Camaraderie

Do you remember waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 am to run in formation, in the cold, heat, sleet, or snow? Who would have thought that veterans would grow to miss that nonsense? Behind any grueling physical fitness routine is camaraderie that stems from accomplishing goals collectively, as a team.

When veterans get out of the military, there’s often a gravitation toward working out in a team environment, like the one CrossFit provides. There’s a sense of community that’s built into a CrossFit gym that’s unlike any other. Regular gyms are fine places for lifting and letting off steam, but fostering more than surface-level acquaintances there is a rarity.

Navy veteran and CrossFit trainer Isabel Beutick states, “Crossfit, for me, has kept me in tight circles. I loved the camaraderie I had in the Navy, and that’s the same feeling I get when doing CrossFit. That tight-knit community.”

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Certified CrossFit Trainer and Navy veteran Isabel Beutick, demonstrates how to achieve proper form in an overhead squat.

(CrossFit 323)

Workout modifications

Although there have been major medical advancements throughout the years, an increasing number of veterans come back with combat-related injuries, both physical and mental. It has become evident that, for many, pills are not the solution. Alternative means of healing are helping mend bodies and minds.

CrossFit is not just an outlet for mental stress, there are many attentive trainers out there invested in providing workable modifications to compensate for physical injuries. With the right trainer, there’s nothing stopping a veteran from completing a CrossFit workout, no matter the ailment.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Above, Army Veteran Juan Puentes says, “CrossFit is hard sh*t. It reminds me of all the challenging sh*t I did in the military.”

(CrossFit 323)

Competition

Although CrossFit promotes a team mentality, there’s also an element of competition. To put it lightly, veterans are extremely competitive. Daily workouts are timed and everyone knows who comes in first and last. Now, we’re not saying we should focus on this entirely, but it kindles the fire in veterans to keep pushing.

Throughout your CrossFit experience, trainers keep track of daily goals on a whiteboard or online. This data helps the competitive veteran see their progress and the progress of others and gets them ready to compete in national tournaments.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

The ‘Murph,’ dedicated to Navy Seal Michael P. Murphy, is only one of many WOD’s created to honor fallen warriors.

Hero WODs

Hero WODs (workouts of the day) honor fallen service members and provide a way to bridge the civilian-military divide. Most veterans find it complicated to connect with civilian friends, family, and co-workers because they’ve experienced things that are, frankly, hard to explain.

What’s unique about CrossFit’s Hero WODs is that everyone is aware that the workout honors a fallen service member. People truly give it their all on these particular workout days. These workouts create a bond between civilians and veterans that’s truly fascinating to witness.

Articles

This group works to salvage good from the ultimate tragedy of war

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem
The children of fallen troops and USNA midshipmen volunteers form a circle during a team building event at the U.S. Naval Academy on January 31. (Photo: TAPS.org)


Bonnie Carroll understands the cost of war as intimately as anyone in America – not the dollars and cents cost but the price paid by families for generations after warriors fall in battle. A few years after losing her husband in a military aircraft mishap in Alaska, Carroll turned her grief into action and founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as “TAPS.”

Also Read: These Aging Vets Shared Inspiring And Sometimes Heartbreaking Wisdom In Reddit AmA’s 

“Twenty years ago there was no organization for those grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the armed forces,” Carroll said while overseeing a recent TAPS event for nearly 50 surviving children held at the U.S. Naval Academy.  “We are the families helping the families heal.”

“Grief isn’t a mental illness,” she continued. “It isn’t something you can take a pill for or put a splint over. Grief is a wound of the heart, and there’s no one better to provide that healing than those who’ve walked this journey and are now trained to help the bereaved. And as they help others they continue their own process of healing.”

Carroll pointed out that TAPS has strong relationships and formalized memorandums of understanding with all of the Pentagon’s branches of services but that the mission of assisting survivors is best done by a private organization and not a government bureaucracy.

“We have protocols in place so that when a family member dies, the families are told that TAPS exists,” Carroll said. “They will not be alone.”

That wasn’t always the case. For the first three years of TAPS’ existence the organization had trouble breaking through the mazes that surrounded the entrenched (and generally ineffective) agencies charged with dealing with the families of the fallen.

That changed dramatically in 1997 after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, attended a TAPS gathering. “Hearing the stories and seeing the healing taking place was a game changer for him,” Carroll said. “When he got up to speak he said, ‘I really didn’t get it until I was here tonight. I didn’t realize how powerful this organization is.'”

And most importantly with respect to DoD’s responsibilities, the general said, “We can’t do for you what you must do for each other.”

Shalikashvilli went on to speak about the loss of his first wife 25 years earlier, which caused his second wife to lean over to Carroll and remark, “He’s never talked about this in public before.”

“In a room where he felt so safe, where he felt like he was in a place where you could share without judgment, he opened up,” Carroll said. “He got it.”

Shalikashvili went to the Joint Chiefs the following week and directed every branch of the service to connect with TAPS.

“We walk alongside the casualty officers,” Carroll said. “When they knock on the door, when they brief families on the benefits, they let the families know that there will always be comfort and care for them.”

The utility of TAPS was made evident on 9-11 when they moved into the space in the Sheraton across from the Pentagon where the FBI had been gathering forensic evidence. “As hope faded of finding remains, TAPS very quietly moved in,” Carroll said. “We were there for six weeks with peers to provide support for the families.”

On the day the family support center closed – all the remains that could be identified had been so, and some families would be going home without resolution – the general in charge said, “We are headed into war and don’t know what lies ahead.” He pointed to the TAPS staffers dressed in red shirts along the conference room’s back wall. “For those in the room who have lost loved ones, the red shirts will be there forever.”

“It was a wonderful hand off,” Carroll said. “Many of those families are still with us today.”

With a small percentage of Americans actually associated directly with the military, TAPS’ role has also been to educate a disengaged public. Carroll told an anecdote about a young boy who refused to wear anything to elementary school but the jeans he was given by his older brother – a soldier who was killed in combat shortly thereafter. The boy’s teacher sent a note home telling the mother that he would be sent home if he didn’t wear something besides those jeans. The mother was emotionally upset and unsure how to react, so she reached out to TAPS for advice.

“We contacted the school’s principal and suggested he help us educate the teacher on how to better deal with the child’s situation,” Carroll said. “We also recommended the teacher allow the boy to do a ‘show and tell’ to the class about his brother and his dedication and sacrifice.” The school took the TAPS staff advice and the situation improved for all parties – civilians and survivors – after that.

TAPS has a core staff of 77 people running seminars, a national help line, doing case work, and facilitating “Good Grief” camps (the organization’s signature offering). Ninety-two percent of the full-time staff are survivors of fallen warriors. The staff is supplemented by more than 50,000 volunteers nationwide.

On this day at the Naval Academy, surviving children team up with midshipmen mentors and do team building exercises in Halsey Fieldhouse and then break into smaller groups for discussions about loss and healing.

“One of my good friends lost her brother in Afghanistan,” Midshipman 4th Class Kyle McCullough, a member of the Midshipmen Action Group, said. “She told me about TAPS and how they helped her through a rough time with her family. When I heard [TAPS] was coming to the Naval Academy I jumped on the opportunity to come out and volunteer.”

For more information on the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors go to taps.org or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 800-959-TAPS (8277).

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army drops rapping recruiters video and it’s pretty awesome

In case you missed it, U.S. Army Recruiting Command dropped its newest music video “Giving All I Got,” beckoning all potential recruits to step up and help strengthen the Army team.

Sgts. 1st Class Arlondo Sutton and Jason Brenner Locke, who are assigned to the Atlanta and Houston recruiting battalions, respectively, wrote and produced the new single.

“We’re trying to convey this positive message, [that] you can maintain your individuality and still be a soldier,” Locke said about producing music to support Army recruiting. “[Soldiers] have emotions, dreams, and aspirations, just like anybody else.


“We just decided to throw on a pair of boots, wear this uniform [to help] carry our nation and carry on our family name.”

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Sgts. 1st Class Arlondo Sutton and Jason Brenner Locke, who are assigned to the Atlanta and Houston recruiting battalions, respectively, wrote and produced the new single.

(Photo by Elliot Valdez)

‘Army changed my life. Gave me a new clock.’

Starting with the track’s hook — “Giving all I got. I’m never going to stop. Army changed my life. Gave me a new clock” — the song highlights the positive impact the Army had on both recruiters, Sutton said.

Sutton had a humbling start to his life while growing up in a single parent home in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Growing up in poverty is very difficult,” he said. “I didn’t know whose shoes I had on, I didn’t know whose clothes I had on. I grew up staying with my grandmother … in one room, and sleeping at the edge of the bed.”

On the cusp of going down the wrong path in life, his high school track coach, who was a retired soldier, reached out to mentor him.

“My father figure: My coach. He [mentored me] when I was going through a hard time,” Sutton said. “He was the one to actually notice my [athletic] talents. I joined the Army to better myself, [and] to follow in [his] footsteps.”

It was long after joining the Army when Sutton realized he had some musical talent.

While deployed to Iraq as a young sergeant, he produced hip-hop tracks to help ease his mind.

A friend later convinced him to compete in a rap music competition and Sutton took third place. This evolved into his new passion and profession, Sutton said.

Similar to his partner, Locke also said he had a rough childhood as he grew up in a “not so great area” of Houston. And while Locke did not share much about his past, he remains focused on the positive in life.

“I just wanted to kind of change the lifestyle I was in. I knew that one of the ways of changing my life was to step outside the confines of comfort,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where I was at. What matters is what the Army did for me and where I’m going now.”

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

A behind the scenes photo of Sgts. 1st Class Arlondo Sutton and Jason Brenner Locke, shooting their new music video titled “Giving All I Got,” at Fort Benning, Ga. Dec. 11, 2018.

(Photo by Lara Poirrier)

Locke admitted hip-hop was not his first choice in music. During his early teenage years, Locke spent most of his time bouncing from band to band, or as he called it, “bandhopping.”

“I was trying to find people that were as invested in music as I was. I never found them,” Locke said.

Locke then turned to a friend for help, who explained to Locke how his talent was better suited for hip-hop. After some changes to his lyrics, Locke was hooked.

“It changed my perception of how to write [music]. It turned into a poetic ordeal and … an emotional outlet for me,” he said.

‘Join A-R-M-Y’

“Giving All I Got” was created as a way to bridge the gap and speak the language of today’s youth, according to both recruiters.

“I think it’s easier to bend someone’s ear when you throw it into a rhythmic pattern,” Locke said. “You’re going to be a little bit more inclined to listen.”

While some may criticize their work, the duo keeps their eyes on the bigger picture.

“The main target audiences are not people that are in the Army,” Locke said. “The main aim is the people that are not aware of the Army, and all the preconceived notions and … stereotypes [they have]. That’s what we, as recruiters, are consistently having to overcome. That is what we’re doing with this music.”

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

U.S. Army Recruiting Command dropped its newest music video “Giving All I Got,” beckoning all potential recruits to step up and help strengthen the Army team.

(U.S. Army Recruiting Command)

In their music video, both recruiters can be seen singing and dancing in locations throughout Fort Benning, Georgia, and the streets of Atlanta. The video features a variety of Army career fields, to include military working dogs, infantry, snipers, and the Maneuver Center of Excellence Band.

Behind the scenes, Army visual information specialists helped put the video together. Moreover, soldier stationed at Fort Benning assisted in bringing the video to life.

‘We just tryin’ to be better’

Recently, the Army identified 22 focus cities with growing populations, known to have minimal exposure to the Army. The new video aims to inspire highly-qualified 18- to 24-year-olds, as part of a larger USAREC led social media engagement effort.

In the end, reaching the Army’s recruitment goals will require all recruiters and soldiers to go that extra mile, Sutton said.

“There are going to be people out there that have a lot of good talent,” Sutton said, commenting on his career and music success. “My talent is just outworking my competitors. We all could get up at the same time, but I choose to get up earlier.”

Giving All I Got

www.youtube.com

Inspired by one of his role models, Sutton is determined to be the LeBron James of the Army, he said, smiling.

“If [James] went out there and said, ‘Hey, I need 50 people to come and join,’ people would join based on his character and his beliefs,” Sutton said. “That’s what I want to do for the Army.”

Likewise, Locke is motivated to leave his mark on the Army, all while solidifying the idea that you can be both an individual and a soldier.

“I want to be remembered as someone that made a difference,” he said.

Lists

5 reasons why ‘Bangin’ in Sangin’ was like the Wild West

In October 2010, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines started clearing the Taliban insurgency from the Sangin District in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Once 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines handed over the area of observation to 3/5, things escalated quickly, making this campaign one of the bloodiest in American history.


Marines who headed out to clear the enemy-infested area were met by a dangerous environment and an extremely complicated IED threat — as a result, casualty rates climbed.

Eventually, the actions of the Marines of 3/5 were unofficially dubbed, “Bangin’ in Sangin.” The narrative that unfolded there was very close to that of a story set in the Wild West. Here’s why:

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

Marines of 3/5th Marine patrol through unpredictable, enemy terrain in Sangin, Afghanistan.

Paved roads were scarce

In most parts of the world, people drive on paved roads with designated lanes. Well, for British and American forces, the only option was to drive and patrol on roads made from loose gravel. The main roads in the district were described as nothing more than “wide trails.”

Since the majority of the Sangin population uses animals to haul their cargo, in the troops’ perspective, it was like jumping into a time machine and transporting back to the Old West.

The local cemeteries

How many Westerns have we seen where the cowboys, on horseback, encounter an eerie cemetery as they travel through uncharted land? Too often to count, right?

Well, Sangin was no different. Many of the graves were decorated with rocks and flags tied to wooden staves — just like the movies.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

HM3 Mitchell Ingolia, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment conducts a security patrol through the dangerous area known as Sangin, Afghanistan.

(Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. David Hernandez)

The nasty terrain

In many Westerns, the cowboys add days to their journeys because of some unmarked obstacle blocking their path, forcing them around.

In Sangin, the rough terrain provided for some unique challenges. Harsh conditions plus the fact that mud structures can be destroyed and rebuilt quickly made keeping maps current nearly impossible.

The locals lived in tribes

In the old days, Native Americans lived in settlements and did every they could to make ends meet while answering to the chief of the tribe. In Afghanistan, Marines commonly patrolled through similar villages — and the locals answered to their Islamic religious leader, known as the “Mullah.”

Though modern in many ways, social organization on the local level remains tribal.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jose Maldonado (left) and Cpl. Rocco Urso (right), both with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provide over watch security during an operation in Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, on Oct. 7, 2010. The Marines conducted a two-day operation to clear insurgents from the Wishtan area.

(USMC photo by Cpl. David Hernandez)

The Marines lived like cowboys

When Marines left the wire for several days, they packed ammo, food, and their sleeping system. Since they didn’t know where they were going to be sleeping each night, Marines found rest in places most people couldn’t even imagine.

Articles

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

The Army has started building an emerging technology connecting soldier night-vision goggles to thermal weapons sights, allowing soldiers in combat to more quickly identify and destroy enemy targets, service officials said.


Army officials told Scout Warrior that Low-Rate Initial Production of the technology, called Rapid Target Acquisition, began in recent months. The system is slated to be operational in combat by 2018.

Also read: You’d better get used to the M4 carbine because it’s here to stay

Rapid Target Acquisition merges two separate Army developmental efforts to engineer, deliver and combine new, upgraded night vision goggles, called Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, or ENVG III, with next-generation thermal weapons sights –called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, or FWS-I,  Army officials said.

Army Soldiers tracking and attacking enemies in fast-moving combat situations will soon be able to shoot targets without bringing their rifle and weapons sights up to their eyes, service officials told Scout Warrior.

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem
U.S. Army PFC Michael Freise fires an M4 carbine rifle during a firing exercise. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day

A wireless link will show the reticle from thermal weapons sights directly into the night vision goggle display, allowing soldiers to quickly track and destroy targets with great accuracy without needing to actually move the weapon to their shoulder and head to see the crosshairs through the thermal sights.

Enhanced targeting technology is of particular relevance in fast-developing battle circumstances such as Close Quarter Battle, or CQB, where targets can emerge and disappear in fractions of a second. Being able to strike quickly, therefore, can bring added lethality and make the difference between life and death for soldiers.

“This provides rapid target acquisition capability. The soldier no longer has to shoulder their weapon. If you can imagine looking through a goggle and some target or threat presents itself, a soldier no longer has to come all the way up. He or she can put the bubble on the image and engage the target in that manner,” Lt. Col. Timothy Fuller, former Product Manager, Soldier Maneuver Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year, before initial production began.

FWS-I is a thermal sight mounted on top of an M4 rifle. It can also be configured for crew-served weapons such as a .50-cal machine gun or sniper rifle, Army officials said.

“The thermal image you are seeing is wirelessly transmitted to the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III and is displayed in its display. What you ultimately have is the crosshairs and a portion of the thermal weapon sights image spatially aligned to the image that the soldier sees in the night vision goggles,” said former Maj. Nicholas Breen, Assistant Product Manager, Family of Weapon Sights-Individual.

The Army’s ENVG III, which will begin formal production next Summer, will provide soldiers with image-intensification, improved resolution and a wider thermal camera field-of-view compared to prior models.

“The night vision goggle takes two channels. This incorporates an image-intensification where you look through your goggle and are seeing a standard night vision goggle view and a thermal image all in one image.  The two channels are on top of one another and they are fused together so that you get all of the benefit of both channels,” Maj. Brandon Motte, former Assistant Product Manager, Enhanced Night Vision, said.

The improved, or higher-tech, ENGV IIIs will also help with maneuverability and command and control by enabling soldiers to see a wider field of view with better resolution and even see infrared lasers, Motte added. The technology is now going through production qualification testing and will be operational in 2017.

“This greatly improves the lethality and visibility in all weather conditions for the soldier – one very small, very lightweight night vision goggle,” Motte said.

Of greatest importance, however, is that the ENVG III will enable the wireless link with the weapon sights mounted on the gun.

“The reticle will show up in the night vision goggle when the weapon is pointed at a target,” Fuller explained. “As soon as you see a target, you can engage. You no longer have to bring it up to your face. The display is right in front of your eyes.”

The Army plans to acquire as many as 40,000 ENVG IIIs. ENVG III is being engineered to easily integrate FWS-I as soon as it is slated to be operational in 2018.

BAE Systems and DRS are the defense industry vendors involved in the developmental effort, Army officials said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army wants more soldiers, and it’s using esports to put a ‘finger on the pulse’ of potential recruits

After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.


The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.

Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, “build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth.”

By January 2019, more than 6,500 soldiers had applied for a team that was expected to have about 30 members. In September 2019, the Army credited the esports team, one of two new outreach teams set up that year, as having “initiated some of the highest lead-generating events in the history of the all-volunteer force.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5c9bb3f5dc67670a5124f08a%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=15&h=47927b7e7b54a83740065fb68b1412252e6db4073e1b350f21cfc4e552f996db&size=980x&c=3152663958 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5c9bb3f5dc67670a5124f08a%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D15%26h%3D47927b7e7b54a83740065fb68b1412252e6db4073e1b350f21cfc4e552f996db%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3152663958%22%7D” expand=1]

Staff Sgt. Michael Showes, far right, with fellow Army Esports Team members and a game enthusiast at an exhibition in San Antonio, January 19, 2019.

US Army/Terrance Bell

“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of the team, said in January 2019.

Team members who were competing would train for up to six hours a day, Jones said at the time, and they received instruction on Army enlistment programs so they could answer questions from potential recruits.

“They will have the ability to start a dialogue about what it is like to serve in our Army and see if those contacts are interested in joining,” Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, said in early 2019.

Thousands of soldiers play esports, Muth said, and the audience for it has grown into the hundreds of millions — West Point even recognized its own official esports club in January — but the appeal wasn’t obvious at first to Army leaders, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Friday.

“This was one [idea] that when the first time Gen. Frank Muth briefed … Army senior leadership, we’re like, ‘What are you talking about, Frank?'” McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“We’re about 18 months into it,” McCarthy said, and with that team, Army recruiters were “getting their finger on the pulse with 17- to 24-year-old Americans. What are they into? How do they communicate? And [finding] those right venues and shaping our messaging to talk about here’s the 150 different things you can do in the Army and the access to education and the kinds of people that you can meet and being a part of something as special as this institution.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e47ebc42dae5c390718a332%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=556&h=b012f2641050e004d2b86c09ab311b4723df8c6358ea7a7bfe33f50681fa5b46&size=980x&c=1129351162 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e47ebc42dae5c390718a332%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D556%26h%3Db012f2641050e004d2b86c09ab311b4723df8c6358ea7a7bfe33f50681fa5b46%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1129351162%22%7D” expand=1]

The Army Esports Team trailer at ArmyCon 2019, October 12, 2019.

Army Esports Team/Facebook

In 2019, the Army rolled out an esports trailer with four gaming stations inside, as well as a semi-trailer with eight seats that could be adjusted so all eight players played the same game or their own on a gaming PC, an Xbox 1S, a PS4 Pro, and a Nintendo Switch, Jones, the NCO-in-charge, told Task Purpose in October.

One of the senior leaders dispatched to an esports event was Gen. Mark Milley, who was Army chief of staff at the time and is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is the president’s top uniformed military adviser.

“He said, ‘You’re going to make me do what?'” McCarthy said Friday. “Then when he went, he learned a lot, and he got to engage with young men and women, and what we found is we’re getting millions of leads of 17- to 24-year-olds to feed into Army Recruiting Command to engage young men and women to see if they’d be interested in a life of service.”

The esports team is part of a change in recruiting strategy, McCarthy said, that has focused on 22 cities in traditional recruiting grounds in the South and Midwest but also on the West Coast and the Northeast with the goal of informing potential recruits about what life in the Army is actually like as well as about the benefits of serving, such as money for college or soft skills that appeal to employers.

The service has also shifted almost all its advertising spending to digital and put more uniformed personnel into the Army Marketing Research Group to take more control of its messaging.

McCarthy on Friday called it “a comprehensive approach” to “improve our performance in a variety of demographics, whether that’s male-to-female ratios or ethnicities.” That geographic focus yielded “a double-digit lift” among women and minorities, McCarthy said last year.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e47e8493b62b732c91515c2%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=690&h=f974abec753166744e583d09692388081e2e789fc4488de259574fc7bdc32e61&size=980x&c=3764889681 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e47e8493b62b732c91515c2%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D690%26h%3Df974abec753166744e583d09692388081e2e789fc4488de259574fc7bdc32e61%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3764889681%22%7D” expand=1]

Army Gen. Frank Muth, back row, third from right, with members of the Army Esports Team in front of USAE gaming truck, in Washington, DC, October 14, 2019.

US Army Esports Team/Facebook

The outreach hasn’t been universally welcomed.

After the 2018 recruiting shortfall, service chiefs, including then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, said schools were not letting uniformed service members in to recruit. Anti-war activists attempted to disprove that claim by offering ,000 to schools that admitted to barring recruiters.

Suggestions the Army start recruiting children in their early teens also received criticism for both its impracticality and the harm it could do to the military as an institution.

But recruiting has improved year-over-year, hitting the goal set last year and being ahead of pace now, McCarthy said.

“This has been a major turnaround, because I think we just got a little lazy and we started losing touch with young men and women … but you have to sustain this,” McCarthy added. “We’re in a war for talent in this country — 3.5% unemployment, they have a lot of opportunities.”

“We travel to a lot of American cities, and we meet with mayors and superintendents of schools and other civic leaders to try to educate those influencers, to try to help us in recruiting, and it’s yielded tremendous benefit.”

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

Articles

Army investigating ‘We Were Soldiers’ legend for inflating awards

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem
Command Sgt. Maj. Plumley and Lt. Col. Harold Moore in Vietnam. (UPI photo by Joe Galloway, used with permission)


The U.S. Army is investigating allegations by a military researcher that the late Command Sgt. Major Basil Plumley — a legend in the airborne and infantry communities — wore unauthorized combat and valor awards that exaggerated the wartime achievements that made him famous.

Plumley, who died Oct. 10, 2012 from cancer at the age of 92, was a major figure in the 1992 book, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” coauthored by Joseph L. Galloway and retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.

The book was moving account of the November 1965 Battle of Ia Drang Valley in the Vietnam War and the heroic fight that 450 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, put up against a superior force of 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers at LZ X-Ray.

Brian Siddall, an independent researcher whose father and uncle served during World War II — the latter as a paratrooper who was killed during the D-Day invasion of Europe — leveled the allegations against Plumley after an extensive study of his service records. He said he has been doing research for his website for the last decade.

“It’s been a lifelong thing for me,” he told Military.com. “My uncle was killed on June 6, 1944. He was a paratrooper in Company B of the 307th Airborne Engineers.”

Siddall added, “Even as a kid, I used to ask my father — because it was his kid brother — what happened to him, and he didn’t have an answer. And by the way, my dad was a navigator on a B-17 in World War II.”

His research into Plumley’s famed exploits in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II later prompted him to write two online articles in 2015 that show discrepancies between Plumley’s service records and the awards and actions he took credit for.

According to Siddall, who obtained Plumley’s service records, Plumley inflated his heroism in battle by wearing two Silver Stars and Bronze Star medals for valor in combat instead of wearing the single Silver Star he was awarded in Vietnam.

Plumley also exaggerated the number of Combat Infantry Badge awards he was authorized, Siddall maintains. The CIB is a sacred award only bestowed upon infantrymen for engaging in direct combat with the enemy.

In light of Siddall’s research, officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are investigating the allegations and are considering Siddall’s request to have the information on Plumley’s headstone corrected.

AN AIRBORNE LEGEND

In “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” Plumley is described as “a two war man and wore master parachutist wings with five combat-jump stars,” referring to Plumley’s service in World War II and the Korean War.

“Plumley had survived all four combat jumps of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II: Sicily and Salerno in 1943, and then in 1944, D-Day at Normandy, and Market-Garden in the Netherlands,” according to the book. “For that matter, he also made one combat parachute jump in the Korean War, with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment.”

In the 2002 Hollywood movie “We Were Soldiers,” Actor Mel Gibson, playing then Lt. Col. Moore, gave a similar description of Plumley, who was played by actor Sam Elliott.

Siddall argues Plumley’s records show that he served in 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion as a scout. Plumley was Glider, meaning he was an 82nd Airborne Division gliderman, not an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, Siddall writes.

As a scout, Plumley’s job was to search out locations for emplacements for the 105mm guns, according to Siddall.

The 320th participated in two glider assaults in the European Theater, Siddall writes. Plumley’s first was on June 6, 1944, during the invasion of Normandy, he writes. Plumley’s second was for Operation Market Garden on Sept. 18, 1944, he writes. Plumley was shot in the hand the same day, according to copies of Army records in Siddall’s articles.

Glider operations in WWII were extremely dangerous. The plywood Waco and Horsa gliders presented larger targets to enemy ground fire and often crash landed, resulting in heavy casualties, according to historical sources.

Plumley was authorized to wear the glider badge and master parachutist wings, according to Army records. Plumley graduated a jump school set up by the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, Plumley’s records show.

But Plumley never served in Korea during the Korean War, so he couldn’t have participated in one of the two combat jumps of that conflict, according to Siddall’s research.

“When you look at his overseas assignments it speaks for itself,” he wrote. “Look where Plumley was between 1951 through 26 February 1953, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky then he went to Germany,” he wrote, adding that Plumley’s service records show him serving in Korea in 1972-73.

“When I spoke with him in July of 2011, he never claimed to have jumped out of an airplane in combat in WWII or any other wars,” Siddall writes. “He did talk briefly about that he jumped out of helicopters but never an airplane in wartime.”

Talking to Military.com, Siddall said, “We talked for seven minutes on Skype. I asked him about the four jumps and he laughed and said ‘no'” he had never jumped from a plane in combat.

The reason he got really interested in doing research on Plumley was after he noticing Galloway’s obituary on Plumley contained the same exaggerations about Plumley’s career, Siddall said.

EXAGGERATED ACHIEVEMENTS

The best-selling book and the Hollywood movie elevated Plumley to celebrity status long after his retirement from the Army in 1974.

A May 2010 photograph of Plumley appearing at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in an Army Dress Blue uniform shows him wearing a Combat Infantry Badge with two stars — which means three CIB awards — one for WWII, one for the Korean War and one for the Vietnam War, Siddall maintains.

Plumley’s service records show he was only authorized to wear one CIB for his service in Vietnam, Siddall argues.

“When Plumley retired December 31, 1974 on his DD 214 he had 2 CIBs listed not three,” Siddall wrote. “When Plumley was interviewed by Galloway for the book he said he had three CIBs by that time (early 1990s). The Awards and Decorations Branch has Plumley listed as one, not three CIBs. Plumley didn’t meet the criteria for WWII and wasn’t in Korea so his first and only CIB was in Vietnam.”

Among the many documents Siddall provides in his research is an Oct. 2, 2015, letter from Army Lt. Col Wil Neubauer, chief of Awards and Decorations Branch, confirming that Plumley was authorized to wear one CIB and states that “we are unable to verify” the Combat Infantry Badge with “one star” listed on Plumley’s DD Form 214.

Click here to see the Army’s Oct. 2, 2015, memo on Plumley’s awards.

In that same photo, Plumley wore valor awards he did not earn, Siddall wrote. Plumley wore a Silver Star with a bronze oak leaf cluster, which indicates a second Silver Star. Plumley also wore a Bronze Star with a V device for valor and one bronze oak leaf cluster for two awards.

The October 2015 letter from the Army states Plumley was authorized only one Silver Star and the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster, not two OLCs. The letter also states that Plumley was not authorized to wear the V device with his Bronze Star medals.

TRUE HEROISM

What’s indisputable is that Plumley did earn a Silver Star for courage and valor he showed during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley.

In the early-morning hours of Nov. 16, 1965, the command post of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, fell under heavy attack.

“The command post was being savagely attacked by an unknown number of Viet Cong,” according to a copy of Plumley’s Dec. 27, 1965, Silver Star Citation.

Enemy automatic weapons fire was pouring into the forward command post and aid station area, which was located about 150 meters behind the “line of contact,” it states.

“At approximately 0500 at the height of the savage attack, a flare, still burning landed in an open box of fragmentation hand grenades in the pile of small arms, mortar and other ammunition less than 10 meters from the battalion command group,” according to the document.

“Sergeant Major Plumley, voluntarily and unhesitatingly, rose up in the face of intense small arms and automatic fire, dashed to the burning flare, lifting it with his bare hands out of the box of grenades and threw it. He extinguished the flare with his feet as well as other small fires which it had ignited around the ammo area,” it states.

Plumley’s brave action, it goes on, “performed under fire with complete disregard for his own personal safety, undoubtedly prevented the complete ammunition supply from exploding.”

Be like Jim: No legs, no problem
CSM Plumley at West Point in 2010. (Photo: Wikimedia)

In his research, Siddall acknowledges that “Plumley received the Silver Star Medal for what he did, and it was important,” Siddall writes.  But, he adds, “that wasn’t enough for someone like Plumley. Plumley had to build himself up even more. For Plumley to be seen wearing the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with the 3 CIB Badge at West Point in 2010 was disgusting.”

Military.com contacted Galloway about Siddall’s research and why Plumley’s service records contradict what Galloway, the only journalist present at LZ X-Ray, wrote about Plumley. Military.com sent Galloway Siddall’s two articles, which contained hyperlinks to Plumley’s service records.

Galloway wrote the following response by email:

“I don’t know a thing about Mr. Siddall and his research that slanders a fine old soldier who died four years ago and can’t speak for himself.

“My co-author Lt. Gen. Hal Moore vouched for CSM Plumley when we were working on the books. I read the Plumley biography when Moore and Plumley received the Doughboy Award quite a few years ago. It sure looked official to me and matched details I had been told about his service. I have no interest in commenting on this any further.”

The Doughboy Award is presented annually to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions to the United States Army Infantry. The award is a chrome replica of a helmet worn by American Expeditionary soldiers during World War I and the early days of World War II.

PLUMLEY’S HEADSTONE

Siddall sent his findings to Fort Benning in late 2015 and asked if the information on Plumley’s headstone was going to be corrected.

Fort Benning officials eventually referred Siddall to Army Human Resources Command’s Awards and Decorations Branch.

Military.com contacted Benning on May 4 about Siddall’s request.

Col. Andy Hilmes, the garrison commander for Fort Benning, said his office is reviewing the request and that it’s possible Plumley’s headstone will be corrected.

The issue is the information in question on Plumley’s headstone — which reads “Silver Star with OLC” and “BSM W/V 2nd OLC” — comes from Plumley’s DD 214, the Army’s separation of service form.

Hilmes acknowledged Siddall’s research of Plumley’s records shows several discrepancies and that Plumley’s DD 214 does not match the official letter from the Army’s Awards and Decoration Branch stating there is no verification that Plumley is authorized more than one Silver Star or the Bronze Star Medal with V Device for Valor with a second oak leaf cluster.

“I want to do the right thing,” Hilmes said. “I have looked at how do we go about changing the headstone. … I can’t change the DD 214 at Benning; that is really up to the Department of the Army.”

Fort Benning reached out to Plumley’s daughter, who is currently looking through her father’s records.

Among the records she sent to Benning is a diploma from the 82nd Airborne Parachute School, stating that Plumley became a qualified parachutist on March 11, 1943. The document is signed by Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne during World War II.

The documents she sent, however, contain no mention of any combat jumps in WWII or the Korean War.

The plan is to forward all of Plumley’s personal records to Army Human Resources Command for a further review, according to Benning officials.

Military.com tried to contact retired. Lt. Gen. Harold Moore, who commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, but he “suffers from advanced dementia and is unable to discuss this matter,” according to his son Dave Moore in an email to Military.com.

“Having read the allegation and scanned portions of Mr. Siddall’s extensive research, it is clear that discrepancies exist,” Dave Moore wrote the email. “The fact that the DoD could not verify all of the CSM’s awards is not surprising given the lack of rigor in the maintenance of records in the 1940s. I am confident that my father wrote the truth as he knew it, and that Mr. Galloway accepted that truth. I am confident there was no willful intention to deceive readers.”

Steve Moore, another son of Lt. Gen. Moore’s sons, said even his own father was the victim of poor record-keeping when he was being added recently to Fort Leavenworth’s International Hall of Fame.

“As part of that process, they coordinated with the family to obtain [Moore’s] bio and other material,” Steve Moore wrote in an email. “One of the items they shared with us was the current bio the General Officer Management Office (GOMO) had for Dad. We were horrified. It showed him with a CIB with 2 stars and added an extra award of the BSM/V and other medals.

“Apparently, the clerk who assembled the list years ago did not know that an oak leaf cluster represented the 2nd and subsequent award. So “CIB(2Awd)” on Dad’s DD214 became a CIB with 2 stars, added extra BSM/V … Thank goodness we fixed this before there were any stolen valor accusations.”

Siddall says he just wants the record about Plumley to be corrected.

“I just want the correct information out there because there are so many people that are really heroes, and it is so frustrating when they give the hero status to someone who was anything but,” he said.

Military.com also reached out to Doug Sterner, curator for Military Times Hall of Valor, for his insight into this story. Sterner, who has been compiling and digitizing military awards for more than 20 years, has exposed many individuals for stolen valor, or wearing unauthorized military awards.

Sterner said he doesn’t see the point in bringing up the discrepancies about Plumley, a man he calls a “genuine hero” because he earned a Silver Star in battle. He said he knows of hundreds of cases in which soldiers have been awarded Silver Stars or other valor awards and the records cannot be found.

“I don’t see the point in trying to be so historically accurate we destroy a genuine hero,” Sterner said.

–Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.