For Marine Corporal Alex Monaghan, who retired from the Corps in 2009 after four years as a rifleman during which he deployed twice (once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan), the phrase “boots on the ground” has taken on a far different meaning than those words typically suggest.
That’s because Alex is the first graduate of a brand-new Semper Fi Fund program: Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program, which helps service members learn valuable skills that they could one day leverage to start a business.
In Alex’s case, that skill is making high-quality cowboy boots.
It all began when Alex was considering going on “one of these horse stints,” as he describes it, as part of the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program. While filling out the paperwork, there was a question at the bottom asking, “Are you interested in learning any of these skills?” Among the skills listed were knife-making, silver-engraving, roping … and making cowboy boots.
“It was weird that it was on there,” Alex recalls. “I always wanted to design my own boots. It’s a two-week program in St. Jo, Texas. The days are long—12 hours a day, six days a week—and there’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time. You get a pair of customized boots when you’re done.”
The time may have been short, but Alex was learning from the best: The boot-making program is run by Carlton T. Chappell, a third-generation award-winning bootmaker who started in leathercraft in 1964 and has been recognized as one of the very best bootmakers in the world.
“It’s pretty neat,” Alex says. “You can’t learn everything in two weeks—Carl is in his 70s or 80s now, and he’s still learning new techniques every day–but it’s interesting. There’s always something new to learn, a new skill to master.”
While making a quality pair of cowboy boots is intricate and artistic work, Alex felt he had something of a head start over his half-dozen or so classmates.
“I did tattoo work for a couple of years,” he explains. “As far as working with machines and stuff, you have this huge thing on the table—you still have to draw out your sketch pattern and sew it up. I felt as if I had some advantage, because I’d been doing something similar to it.”
After finishing the two-week seminar, Alex went on to serve a month-long apprenticeship in Vernon, Texas, with award-winning bootmaker Dew Westover. Dew spent 20 years as a working cowboy, attended Carl’s seminar in 2002 and opened his own boot shop in 2004.
Alex made two pair of boots during his apprenticeship, and now he’s studying business at Texas AM as part of an entrepreneurship for veterans program.
Looking back over the years since he’s left active duty, Alex has seen a number of ups and downs in his own life, but he credits the Semper Fi Fund with helping him get out and get active—and he encourages his fellow veterans to do the same.
“If there are vets who are thinking about these sorts of programs, and they’re itchy or worried about it, I say just give it a try.”
“A lot of vets create a bubble and don’t go out in public,” Alex continues. “I think it’s a great experience—you have buddies to hang out with, you’re pushing yourself to do things that your anxiety or PTSD is preventing you from doing. I do these things, it pushes me to get out and go on the road and deal with people.”
“I would encourage more vets to get out there and find something they enjoy. Whether it’s bike riding or horseback riding or whatever—I’m sure the Semper Fi Fund has something for them.”
Special thanks to the incredible generosity of one very special family for helping to provide funding for this important program in memory of their brother who wished to remember whose who serve.
We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.
Jariko Denman loved two things as a kid: the military and movies.
Every day after school, he’d watch films like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, or Uncommon Valor.
“I wanted to be in the military, and I was fascinated by war, and that was really the only way I could kind of get a glimpse at it was through movies,” Denman said.
Even then, he could tell when certain things were fake, or not as they would’ve happened in real life.
Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.
“It’s always something that I’ve really kind of been drawn to is making those things better.”
Now, he gets to do it for a living as a tech advisor in Los Angeles, consulting for military films on everything from the screenplay to costumes and props.
“Anytime there’s a firefight or any big gun scenes, I’m working with the stunt department to choreograph those fight scenes to not only get a great shot that’s entertaining and looks good but also authentic — that guys are doing things they’d normally be doing and making it as authentic as possible,” he said.
Denman’s passion stems from a family history of military service; both of his grandfathers served in the Navy during World War II and his father and brother retired from the Army. He joined the Army straight out of high school and spent 20 years in the service, including a dozen or so in the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, where he deployed 15 times (and met Black Rifle Coffee Company co-founder Mat Best).
Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.
He ended his career in 2017 as an ROTC instructor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York City, and was thinking about traveling or going to school after retirement. That’s when a friend who knew someone in the film industry asked Denman if he’d be interested in advising on a National Geographic miniseries, The Long Road Home.
“It was something that I thought would just be a cool experience less than would be an opportunity for a future career,” Denman said. But a few months later, he got his second gig. Then another.
So far, he’s worked on a TV series, five recruiting commercials for the Army, and four movies, including The Outpost, which came out earlier this year and is based on the true story of the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan.
Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.
Denman said he’s usually hired during a movie’s preproduction stage to help department heads know the type of uniforms and guns that would have been used at the time a movie is set.
The Outpost producer Paul Merryman said Denman gave him a full education on plate carriers and the type of equipment each soldier would have carried at the time that distinguished him from another.
“It was much more complex than any one of us thought,” Merryman said. “He was crucial because if something was wrong, we were going to get called out for it. Our director knew that early on. Jariko was always like, ‘They’re going to call bullshit on that. This is inaccurate. If you do it this way, you’re going to get laughed at.'”
“Jariko is very unfiltered in the best of ways,” he continued. “That made the collaboration work that much better because we can get straight down to it: What’s wrong? How do we fix it? How do we do this right?”
He said he once saw Denman yell at the director when one of the actors improvised a line and referred to someone as “Sarge.”
“He cares about how his brothers are portrayed, and he will fight tooth and nail to do something properly and make something look good to prevent someone or a group of someones from being embarrassed because he cares about reputation and integrity, and he cares about the craft,” Merryman said.
Denman sees it as a personal responsibility — not just a professional one.
Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.
“Your average civilian doesn’t know any military members or veterans. They’re gleaning all their opinions about who a veteran or who a soldier or a Marine is through pop culture, and that’s through movies and TV now. So, it’s up to us as veterans in this industry to really try to make all these things as […] authentic as possible,” he said.
Denman’s dream is to produce and direct military movies himself, and he’s been using the slower pace of the last few months to work on a few projects.
He’s also currently working on a movie with a famous actor, whose name he can’t reveal just yet. And some days, he still has to pinch himself.
“I was like, Holy shit, I never thought I would be doing this — waking up to go and hang out with this dude all day every day and tell him war stories and wrestle and go shooting, you know,” he said.
“I do enjoy telling people what I do. It’s a cool fucking job. I’m very, very blessed to have it.”
Twenty-eight years after the untimely death of T. E. Lawrence — the Englishman known the world over as “Lawrence of Arabia” — Hollywood made a movie about him.
It was, in the parlance of the day, a “doozy.”
Epic in scale and scope and concerning the extraordinary particulars of Lawrence’s role in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire leading up to World War 1, “Lawrence of Arabia” was nominated for ten Academy Awards in 1963 and took home seven including Best Picture.
Though many with first hand knowledge of the true events of Lawrence’s life were quick to criticize the film’s dramatic liberties, much of the frisson that makes it a cinematic tour de force arises from the undeniably ambiguous nature of the man himself.
T. E. Lawrence was a poet, an archeologist, a diplomat and a spy. He spoke French well enough to translate whole volumes of its literature to English. He spoke Arabic well enough to forge alliances between feuding Bedouin tribes. The question of his sexuality has been a matter of scholarly gossip for the better part of a century. Setting his extreme need for personal privacy against his talent for finding the center of world-changing events, the journalist Lowell Thomas famously commented that Lawrence “had a genius for backing into the limelight.”
But for all that’s debatable about T. E. Lawrence, many of his military superlatives are accurately recorded and verifiably real. As a British Army advisor to Arab Prince Faisal, Lawrence helped organize — and in many cases participated in — a number of the most pivotal maneuvers of the Arab Revolt. We was, to use a modern term, as deeply embedded amongst the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula as the necessity of his assignment required, perhaps more than his superiors in the British Army would deem advisable, certainly beyond what Edwardian cultural empathy could possibly conceive.
Lawrence saw the desert and went all in.
The film culminates with the Oct. 1, 1918, reclamation of Damascus, when the Arab forces, led in part by Lawrence and backed by the British Army, marched through the gates of the city in triumph. All across the Arab Peninsula, the forces of the Ottoman empire were retreating or surrendering to Prince Faisal’s nationalized Arab army.
The organized harassment campaign deployed against Ottoman railroads, depots and installations–a guerrilla approach perfected by Lawrence and his Bedouin irregulars from 1917 through 1918–had so destabilized the Ottoman position in the region that when it finally came time to take Damascus, the city surrendered without resistance. By the end of the war, the Arab Coalition had seized Palestine, Transjordan, Lebanon, southern Syria and vast swaths of the Arabian Peninsula. British General Allenby hailed Prince Faisal for his role in the victory (but was surely, in the same breath, congratulating himself for following Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence’s lead with the strong-willed Arab peoples):
I send your Highness my greetings and my most cordial congratulations upon the great achievement of your gallant troops … Thanks to our combined efforts, the Ottoman army is everywhere in full retreat.
As word of the adventures and exploits of Lawrence of Arabia spread throughout the West, the sheer romantic gall of the man, not to mention the exotic backdrop against which he won his fame, fired an insatiable public story engine that would spin over the particulars of his life forever after. The 1963 film was, among many takes on the subject matter, perhaps merely its most high-profile.
Lawrence’s own memoir of the Arab Revolt, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” complicates his legacy far more than it elucidates, fueling unending debate among his biographers. As fodder for the imagination, it’s really all too perfect. His story is the stuff of legend precisely because it raises more questions than historical sleuthing can answer. But whatever the truth, the film that emerged is a juggernaut, a four hour cinematic tone poem about the ravenousness of Destiny when it’s got a man like T. E. Lawrence in its jaws.
A 10th Mountain Division squad leader credited with saving the lives of three of his soldiers by throwing himself atop a suicide bomber in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the White House announced March 12, 2019.
Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins went above and beyond the call of duty on June 1, 2007, while his unit — Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team — conducted route clearance southwest of Baghdad.
During the mission, Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, heard a report over the radio of suspected insurgents crossing an intersection in the Iraqi town of Abu Samak.
As the truck commander in his Humvee, Atkins ordered the driver to pull the vehicle up to the intersection so they could interdict the suspected insurgents. Once stopped, Atkins exited the vehicle and approached one of the men to check him for weapons while another soldier covered him.
When Atkins attempted to search him, the man resisted. Atkins then engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent, who was reaching for an explosive vest under his clothing, according to an award citation.
Atkins then grabbed the suicide bomber from behind with a bear hug and slammed him onto the ground, away from his soldiers. As he pinned the insurgent to the ground, the bomb detonated.
Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast. With complete disregard for his own safety, he had used his own body as a shield to protect his fellow soldiers from injury. They were only feet away.
Soon after, another insurgent was fatally shot by one of Atkins’ soldiers before he could detonate another suicide vest.
For his actions, Atkins was initially given the Army’s second-highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Now that award has been upgraded to a Medal of Honor.
President Donald J. Trump will present the medal to Atkins’ family on March 27, 2019.
Before he joined the Army, Atkins worked for concrete and painting contractors and as an engine mechanic in Montana. He enlisted into the infantry in 2000 and less than three years later he deployed to participate in the invasion of Iraq.
Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.
Atkins left the Army in late 2003, but rejoined two years later and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.
He deployed to Iraq again with the division in the summer of 2006 and became a staff sergeant in May 2007, a month before his death.
At Fort Drum, New York, the division honored Atkins by naming a fitness center after him in 2013.
During the dedication ceremony, then-Sgt. Aaron Hall, who was Atkins’ battle buddy, described the staff sergeant as a “quiet professional” who always had the respect of others.
“When my 4-year-old son Travis tells me his favorite superhero is Captain America and asks me who my favorite superhero is, my reply always has and will be Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins,” Hall said.
According to his obituary, Atkins was also known to hunt, fish, camp, and ride snowmobiles. His first love, though, was his son, Trevor Oliver, who was 11 years old at the time of his father’s death.
Atkins was buried June 12, 2007, in his hometown of Bozeman in south-central Montana. He is also survived by his parents, Jack and Elaine Atkins.
China’s move to boost defense spending has sparked dismay among US officials in recent days, but it is Beijing’s efforts to gain influence that are more worrisome, the secretary of the US Navy said on March 7, 2018.
China’s finance ministry said this weekend that the country’s defense budget will rise 6% to 1.1 trillion yuan or $173 billion. It is the biggest increase in three years and makes China’s defense budget the world’s second-largest — behind only the US.
Chinese state media defended the new budget as proportionate and low. “If calculated in per capita terms, China’s military lags well behind other major countries,” official English-language newspaper China Daily said.
On March 6, 2018, US Navy Adm. Scott Swift, the head of US Pacific Fleet, said the military budget lacked transparency and that China’s “intent is not clearly understood.”
On March 7, 2018, US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — asked about Russian and Chinese activity in relation to the newest US National Security Strategy— echoed those concerns but pointed to a different kind of spending.
“When it comes to China, the bottom line there is the checkbook, to be very frank with you,” Spencer told members of the House Appropriations Committee. “Not only in the dollar and cents that they are writing to support their military expansion and their technological [research and development] work, but what they’re doing around the globe that I know you all are aware of, which is weaponizing capital, to be very frank with you.”
Spencer pointed to a summer 2017 deal China signed with Sri Lanka, the island nation just south of India, where Beijing agreed to a 99-year lease to operate the strategically located deep-water port of Hambantota, which is located near important shipping routes in the Indian Ocean.
“Going into Sri Lanka, redoing the port, putting an interest rate — not as aid, but as a total secured loan with a pretty hefty coupon — [the] debtor fails on that, and the asset owner comes and reclaims it and says, ‘These are now ours,'” Spencer told the committee of the deal. “They’re doing that around the globe. So their open checkbook keeps me up at night.”
Many Sri Lankans were themselves dismayed with the agreement, taking to the streets to protest what they saw as growing Chinese influence in their country. India, which has eyed Chinese infrastructure deals and military activity in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region warily, also objected.
“This is going to be a standing example for the other countries to watch, because China is not Father Christmas, handing out dollar bills. They want return on the money, and they want the money to come within a certain, certified period,” K.C. Singh, former secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said in July 2017.
“Is it a model then for future extension of the Chinese strategic footprint?” Singh added. “When … countries can’t return the money, then you grab territory?”
The port deal was a part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a project to link scores of countries in Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Europe through Chinese-backed railways, shipping routes, and infrastructure projects.
As a part of that effort, China has funded development projects in poorer countries, which it leverages for more advantageous relations or for regional access. The trend has also been called “debt-trap diplomacy.”
Hambantota is not the only port deal secured by the Chinese government or a Chinese state-owned company in recent years. Beijing has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to win over locals and develop a deep-water port in Gwadar, on Pakistan’s Indian Ocean coast.
The moves are a departure from China’s usual approach to such foreign projects, but the focus has concerned India and the US, which see Beijing’s investment in Gwadar as part of efforts to expand Chinese naval influence.
Chinese state firms are also growing their presence in Europe, buying up ports and cargo terminals on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts — including Spain, Italy, Greece, and Belgium.
Chinese state-owned enterprises now control about one-tenth of all European port capacity.
European leaders have become concerned Beijing plans to leverage its financial interests into political clout. Greece, where Chinese influence has grown in recent years, has blocked recent EU efforts to condemn China over its human-rights record and other policies.
US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, speaking alongside Spencer, voiced similar concerns about China.
“The Chinese are playing the long game. They are, as the secretary said, everywhere I go, they’re there,” Neller said. “They’re going and they’re buying airfields and ports to extend their reach … they want to win without fighting.”
Since April 2014, U.S. Army Europe has rotated units from the U.S. to the European continent in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The ongoing operation aims to enhance NATO’s eastern flank against Russian aggression and deter future conflicts like the War in Donbass. The rotations and joint and multinational training build readiness and strengthen bonds with NATO allies. For one helicopter crew, the training turned into a real-life emergency response.
On December 15, 2020, the five-soldier crew of a CH-47F Chinook was returning from a training mission. The crew, assigned to B Company, 6th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is posted in Illesheim, Germany in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. However, on their way home, the crew witnessed an emergency on the ground.
“We were flying over a ridgeline in a rural area,” said pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dave Acton. “Once we cleared it, my crew chief in the back came on the comms system and said he saw a puff of white smoke on the road below.” A civilian car got into a serious accident on the road below the Chinook.
“After I called that in, I looked further down the road and saw a car roll over two or three times, “said crew chief Spc. Bruce Cook. Now aware of the emergency situation on the ground, the crew requested permission to assist.
“It was like we all simultaneously thought the same thing…that the right thing to do was to assist however we could,” said co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Riedel. “I like to think its natural human instinct to want to stop and help in any way that you can.” The air mission commander gave them the green light and the Chinook descended to the site of the car crash.
Once the helicopter was on the ground, brigade flight surgeon Maj. Benjamin Stork assessed the situation, jumped out, and ran to the crash. “I checked my medical pack attached to my vest to make sure I had everything I might need to stabilize possible injuries,” said Stork. “Once I got to the man in the crash, I checked his vitals and made sure he was cognizant; thankfully, he spoke English pretty well because my German is pretty broken.”
Stork stabilized the man’s neck and back before an ambulance arrived on the scene. After briefing the paramedics on the situation, Stork helped them transfer the man to the ambulance and ran back to the helicopter. “All in all, from noticing the car flip to getting the wheels up off the ground, about 30 minutes passed,” said Stork. “Every piece of the operation felt organic, smooth and controlled because of how well these guys talk to each other.”
The quick, efficient, and professional response by the Chinook crew demonstrates the effectiveness of the countless hours of training that they go through. “We are in Europe in support of Atlantic Resolve, and for the most part that means that we train together with our ally and partner military forces,” said Col. Travis Habhab, commander of the 101st CAB. “I think that an important part of building that partnership and trust also lies in connecting with and supporting the local community where we can. The level we train at is what allows us to let these types of responses happen organically, and I’m incredibly proud of our Wings of Destiny Soldiers for making the call to help someone in a situation that could have been much worse.”
The one-of-a-kind helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, has found a new home in the Southern Hemisphere. The Brazilian Navy has acquired the carrier and will use it to replace the French-built Clemenceau-class carrier Sao Paolo (formerly known as Foch).
According to a report by TheDrive.com, the Royal Navy is letting HMS Ocean go despite an extensive and expensive refit. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, HMS Ocean displaces 21,578 tons, is capable of operating 12 transport helicopters and six attack helicopters, and is armed with three Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems and five 20mm cannon. The vessel also operates four Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP), modern versions of the World War II “Higgins boats.”
HMS Ocean was commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1999 and had served for 19 years. The vessel was used to provide security support for the 2012 Olympics in London. While designed to haul 500 Royal Marines, HMS Ocean also carried out humanitarian missions, including relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Irma last year.
Brazil was seeking a replacement for the French-built Clemenceau-class carrier Foch, which they chose to decommission and scrap after 17 years of service. Known as Sao Paolo under Brazilian service, the carrier displaced just under 31,000 tons and was able to operate up to 37 aircraft. The Sao Paolo operated 14 Skyhawks and five helicopters.
While the former HMS Ocean is not able to operate the Skyhawks, it will still give Brazil a measure of power projection. The vessel is still quite young (France operated the Foch for 37 years before handing it over to Brazil), so Brazil may be able to get a lot of use yet from this ship.
For more on the sale of HMS Ocean, check out the video below:
Heroes come in many forms; some are even furry and four-legged. Due in part to their superior ability to sniff and hear trouble, dogs have long been a fantastic ally and a great protector of humans. After all, it was Lassie who, through a series of barks, told the grown-ups that Timmy was in trouble again (Note: Timmy never actually fell down a well. Mineshaft, sure, but no well.) Dogs can also be quite brave and have been known to run into dangerous situations without a moment of hesitation. Throughout history, several dogs have gained a reputation as being courageous in wartime.
Here are the stories of five such dogs that became war heroes and helped saved human lives:
Gunner – Australia’s Alarm
Japanese bombs started raining down on the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory, Darwin, around 10 am on February 19, 1942, just over two months after the Japanese bombing of America’s Pearl Harbor. After the initial attack, which sunk eight ships and badly damaged 37 others, soldiers went looking for the injured among the rubble.
Under a destroyed mess hall, they found the smallest survivor of them all, a six-month-old male stray kelpie (an Australian sheep dog). He had a broken leg and was whimpering. Eventually, the injured pup ended up in the hands of Leading Aircraftman Percy Westcott. He made it his duty to get this dog help. Westcott took the dog to the doctor, who said he couldn’t treat any “man” who didn’t have a name or serial number. So, Westcott named the kelpie “Gunner” and gave him the number 0000. Satisfied, the doctor put a cast on Gunner’s leg and set them on their way.
From that point forward, Gunner and Westcott were inseparable. When Gunner’s leg began healing (despite his habit of chewing the cast), he would join Westcott on his daily tasks. One day not long after the attack, as the men worked on repairing several planes in the airfield, Gunner started barking and jumping up and down. The men paid no attention to the dog, but within a few minutes Japanese raiders swooped in and commenced shelling Darwin again.
Luckily, the men and Gunner managed to dive to safety, but it was another surprise attack. Well, to everyone but Gunner. In general, Australian Kelpie hearing, even more so than many other breeds of dogs, is fantastic. Two days later, Gunner again started making a commotion. This time, the men knew to find cover and prepare for the upcoming attack.
From February 1942 to November 1943, over sixty air raids were commenced on Darwin. Gunner warned the soldiers of nearly every one, saving countless lives. Another amazing aspect of this was that Gunner never barked when Australian planes took off or were returning. He was able to differentiate between Australian aircrafts and Japanese aircrafts. It is not known what happened to Gunner after the war.
Rip the Rescue Dog
The Blitz commenced on London on September 7, 1940. For the next 57 days, German bombers enveloped the city in destruction. Right after a particular heavy shelling during one of the first days of the Blitz, an Air Raid Warden named E. King found a hungry stray walking the streets. He threw it some meat and the dog refused to go away. The dog followed King back to his post and, eventually, became something of a mascot. But Rip, as they called him, soon showed his worth beyond a simple mascot.
Rip came out with King after a bombing one night and his nose started twitching. Rip followed the scent to a collapsed building and started digging. What Rip found was a man, still alive, buried beneath. It was probably the best image this man had ever seen; a barking, sniffing mutt.
Despite never being formally trained, Rip became England’s first urban search and rescue dog. It was reported that he found and rescued over hundred people with his sensitive, life-saving nose. Due to Rip, today London’s police force and military trains hundreds of dogs per year to be part of their urban search and rescue teams.
In 1945, Rip was awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery, an honor bestowed animals for their service during war. On the medal, it reads “For Gallantry. We Also Serve.” Rip passed away in 1946 and is buried in Ilford Animal Cemetery in London.
Antis – The “German” Who Saved Frenchmen
As French Air Force gunner Robert Bozdech came barreling toward Earth in his now-disabled plane, death was on his mind, not making a new best friend. But that is exactly what happened when he crashed landed in Northern France, ominously known as “No Man’s Land.” He, amazingly, emerged from the wreckage of his plane barely hurt, but heard sounds from a nearby farmhouse. Thinking it was the enemy, he took out his gun, ready to shoot. What emerged was a gray ball of fur, a German Shepard puppy. He took the pup in his leather jacket and hitched a ride back two hundred miles to St Dizier Air Base. Bozdech’s peers were stunned he was still alive, much less having a new best bud.
Antis, named so because Bozdech loved to fly Russian ANT dive-bombers, became not just a loyal friend, but a seasoned war veteran. Much like Gunner, he barked in warning about oncoming enemy fire. Just like Rip, he learned how to sniff and dig for survivors. Robert and his comrades also considered Antis a good luck charm and, most importantly, braver than many a human soldier. He would hide away in Bozdech’s gunner plane to ensure that he would be there to protect his pal. Antis would also run into enemy fire to notify others where the injured men were. He was even once injured himself, yet that didn’t stop him from performing his duties. Several days after being injured, he somehow snuck onto Bozdech’s plane as a stowaway.
After the war, Antis was also awarded the Dickin Medal and lived with Bozdech the rest of his life, passing away at the age of 14 in 1953.
Salty and Roselle Safety Guides on 9/11
While 9/11 wasn’t necessarily during war, it was certainly an act of war and war-like situation. Salty and Roselle were both part of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program in New York, but came upon their fates differently. Roselle was only one and half when she was introduced to Michael Hingson, the man she was to guide. Hingson had been blind since birth, but earned a masters in physics from the University of California. On September 11, 2001, he was working as a computer sales manager on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center Tower 1.
Roselle was asleep when the plane struck the 99th floor. Calmly and cooly, she guided Hingson, and several others in the office, down over 1400 hundred darkened stairs and out of the door. The whole escape took about an hour, but within moments of making it to the street, Tower 2 collapsed, sending debris everywhere. Roselle was struck by pieces, but she was unfazed and continued moving, just like she was trained to do.
As Hingson said,
She saved my life. While everyone ran in panic, Roselle remained totally focused on her job. While debris fell around us, and even hit us, Roselle stayed calm.
Salty had always loved fast-paced, city-living. When he was introduced to Omar Rivera, it was a perfect match. Rivera had gone blind due to glaucoma, but continued to work for New York’s Port Authority as a senior systems designer. He was working on the 71st floor of the World Trade Center Tower 1 on 9/11. Salty was lying next to Rivera when the plane hit. The whole building swayed, but Salty calmly got up, offered Rivera his guidance, and lead them down the stairs. At one point a co-worker, thinking the dog needed help, tried to take Salty’s leash, but he refused to leave his master’s side. They made it out the door and were two or three blocks away when the second tower collapsed.
Both Salty and Roselle were given the Dickin medal for their heroics despite all the chaos around them. Salty passed away in 2008 and Roselle in 2011. They are remembered as American heroes.
Dogs weren’t the only animal to be bestowed the honor of a Dickin medal. In fact, pigeons were awarded the medal thirty two times, more than every other animal combined. It was given eighteen times to a dog, three times to a horse, and once to a cat. The cat’s name was Simon and he was given the medal in 1949 for his efforts in raising morale, surviving a cannon shell injury, and killing off a rat infestation during the Yangtze Incident. The Yangtze incident involved the British Royal Navy ship Amethyst being trapped on the Yangtze River for three months during the Chinese Civil War.
It isn’t known whether the dog was purposefully domesticated by humans or if they were self-domesticated, with certain of the gray wolves becoming friendly with humans from continually scavenging food scraps around human camps. Also, similar to the domestic cat that all likely descended from just a handful of cats, it is thought that all dogs descend from just a handful of gray wolves in a small number of domestication events. In the dogs’ case, this probably took place in East Asia, with the dogs quickly being bred and spreading throughout the world, even to North America around 10,000 years ago.
As if Robert Rudolph Remus wasn’t already a badass wrestling name on its own, upon becoming one of the now-WWE’s most beloved Superstars, Remus chose the stage name “Sergeant Slaughter.” It was appropriate at the time, even wearing his character’s trademark Smokey Bear-style campaign hat: Remus was not only a United States Marine, he was also a Drill Instructor.
Remus will now be known as “Sergeant Slaughter” until the end of time, his beloved character has transcended wrestling into areas even Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson hasn’t been able to invade. The WWE’s NCO is not only one of the Superstars that turned wrestling into mainstream entertainment worldwide, his definitive strong chin is also in the G.I. Joe universe, as well as the WWE Hall of Fame. Getting there was tough going, though.
The man we know as Sgt. Slaughter started his wrestling career way back in the early 1970s, when wrestling was little more than a regional patchwork of stunts and characters, far removed from the international spectacle we know of it today. That all changed when Vince McMahon consolidated wrestling and updated its stodgy image over the course of some thirty years or more. Sgt. Slaughter came to the then-WWF in 1980 as a villain – a “heel” in wrestling terms. But it wasn’t until just before 1984 that Remus’s character found the popularity we know of today.
He’s so popular, he still comes around the ring.
It was at this time a heel known as the “Iron Sheik” emerged as the World Champion. The Sheik is arguably one of wrestling’s greatest villains ever – and every great villain needs a hero. Or in the world of wrestling, a “face” – also known as a babyface, one of the good guys. Enter America’s Drill Instructor: Sgt. Slaughter. His feud with the Iron Sheik catapulted the two to mainstream stardom, making Slaughter the second most popular face, second only to Hulk Hogan. It was the pinnacle of his wrestling career. He would take a heel turn in the days of the 1991 Gulf War, sympathizing with the Iraqis and feuding with Hulk Hogan, even losing the World Championship as a result.
Still, it’s a long way from Parris Island to Madison Square Garden and Sgt. Slaughter packed both.
In 1966, the Marines in Vietnam found themselves with an unusual opportunity – to turn the tables on the enemy.
This came by way of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese defectors who were willing to be retrained to work and fight with American combat units. In exchange, they would receive better treatment and pay than they had at the hands of the communists.
This program dubbed “Chieu Hoi” (translated as “open arms”) offered defecting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese amnesty, healthcare, money, and employment assistance. After barely surviving under communist oppression, many were more than willing to give it up.
Kit Carson scouts were recruited from Vietcong defectors for their knowledge of the terrain and the local population. (Photo from AirborneOCS.com)
These incentives were enough to convince thousands of Viet Cong to desert and join the Americans. Due to their inherent knowledge of the terrain and the locals, the Marines called them Kit Carson scouts after the famous American frontiersman.
To the Vietnamese they were Hoi Chanh – or “one who has returned.”
To prepare for missions with American forces, communist defectors first had to pass training to become Kit Carson scouts.
For the 3rd Marine Division, an early proponent of the Kit Carson program, this training took place at Quang Tri City. Sergeant Maj. Tran Van Tranh, a communist infiltrator who defected when he saw the good life in South Vietnam, led the school there.
At the school he lectured on mines, booby-traps, snipers, and ambushes. And how to detect and disarm each one.
In 1967, after seeing the effectiveness of the program with the Marines, U.S. commander Gen. William Westmoreland ordered all divisions to recruit and train at least 100 scouts each.
Other schools with other divisions soon followed. In the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division the Hoi Chanhs became known as Tiger Scouts.
Despite their training and experience many Kit Carson Scouts lacked English language skills. This was overcome in the Marine Corps by training young Marines in the Vietnamese language prior to arriving in country. These Marines were then assigned as “handlers” to the scouts assigned to their unit.
The Kit Carson Scouts were able to perform numerous tasks that made them priceless to the American fighting men. They were able to talk to the local Vietnamese in their native language and could identify Viet Cong guerrillas in the villages.
Through their training and experience they became adept at spotting booby traps – often having laid some themselves – saving countless Americans from death and dismemberment.
Due to the nature of their work and being out in front of American forces the Kit Carson scouts often found themselves engaged in combat as well. Relying on their guerrilla instincts and proper military training from the Americans, they excelled.
Many were recommended for awards for their bravery.
The scouts proved their value early on. In a short period of time in late 1966 the few Kit Carson Scouts assigned to the Marines were credited with nearly 50 enemy kills and the detection of nearly 20 mines, booby-traps, or tunnels.
Another scout led Marines through unfamiliar territory, at night, allowing them to surprise and capture a 15-man contingent of Viet Cong.
In another instance, a scout on patrol with Recon Marines fought savagely when the unit was ambushed. His suppressive fire in the face of overwhelming odds drove the enemy back. He then located a suitable landing zone for extraction and single-handedly carried two wounded Marines there. It was only after he fell, exhausted, while working to clear the landing zone that the Marines realized he had been shot three times but had never stopped.
The usefulness of the Kit Carson Scouts did not stop on the battlefield though.
They were equally as valuable in civil affairs and psychological operations due to their understanding of the local population and the enemy. Most importantly, they could help recruit more Viet Cong to rally to the government’s cause.
In total, over 83,000 Viet Cong were convinced to defect to South Vietnam, though only a small number would become Kit Carson Scouts.
In a paper detailing his experiences as the Officer in Charge of Kit Carson Scouts for the 3rd Marine Division Capt. William Cowan explained “the methods of effective Scout employment are restricted only by the imagination…success varies proportionally with the unit’s attitude and methods of employment.”
He gives the example of a Kit Carson Scout, Nguyen Thuong, who worked with 2nd Battalion 9th Marines. This particular scout could do it all.
In one instance Thuong discovered a well-concealed trap but because of his experience he suspected an enemy observation post in the area. His keen instinct was correct and the Marines were able to sweep through and destroy it.
In a later mission, Thuong braved enemy mortars to determine their firing position and called out the coordinates, in English, to the Marines who were able to call for fire and silence the position.
Thuong also made broadcasts for the Marines psychological operations efforts and acted as a clandestine agent in the villages around the Cam Lo artillery base. His intelligence gathering was far superior to anything the Marines could hope to accomplish on their own.
The service of men like Thuong proved invaluable to the overall war effort. By wars end over 200 Kit Carson Scouts had been killed in action out of less than 3,000 who served with the Americans.
Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.
This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.
What key policy positions does your party hold that made you choose to be affiliated with it?
Fundamentally, Libertarians believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, and respect for the rights of individuals to make their own personal choices, provided those choices do not harm others. And in foreign policy, we are very hesitant and skeptical when it comes to intervening in the affairs of other nations when there is no clear U.S. interest at stake. We are not isolationists, but we err on the side of nonintervention unless intervening is necessary to protect and defend the U.S. and its citizens.
In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?
There are many issues facing today’s military men and women. First, they need and deserve a Commander-in-Chief who will not send them into harm’s way as part of a vague foreign policy that has too often involved intervening in conflicts with no clear outcome or U.S. interest. Our military must be second to none and invincible as a national DEFENSE. But it must be used judiciously with clear congressional authorization, rules of engagement that do not put our troops at unnecessary risk, clear objectives, and clear U.S. interests at stake.
Likewise, when we ask our military members to put their lives at risk for our freedoms, we must give them concrete assurances that their families will receive the support they need and deserve. And they must know that when they leave the military, our commitment does not end. The transition to civilian life is not easy and presents unique challenges. From the GI Bill to medical treatment to emotional support, I believe we have a moral obligation to treat the members of the military as we would our own families.
What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?
I did not serve in the military. However, my father is a World War II veteran, and in his older years, has been a patient in the VA health care system. Also, as Governor of New Mexico, I had many opportunities to work with the veterans’ community — and it was an honor to do so.
In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?
It is an inexcusable disgrace that the VA system has failed so many veterans. There can be no short-changing or equivocation in meeting our obligations to those who serve, and making them suffer at the hands of a failed bureaucracy must not happen. We all know there are many dedicated, caring health care professionals in the VA system. The failure is at the top and in the bureaucracy.
First, we must broaden the health care options through vouchers or a similar mechanism by which veterans can go outside the VA system to private providers if doing so will allow better and timely care. However, for the many for whom the VA system remains the most accessible and convenient care, and for whom the VA has unique capacities to serve the needs of veterans, we must also fix that system. As Governor, my greatest satisfaction came from applying common sense business practices to improve state services. It was amazing how many times simply asking the right questions and applying obvious solutions could easily resolve problems caused by the bureaucracy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the VA.
Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12 – 26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?
The most important priority for improving employment opportunities for military spouses is to create an economic environment in which there is robust demand for whatever skills they have to offer. As long as job-seekers dramatically outnumber jobs, the realities of military life will present challenges in that competitive marketplace. Frequent relocation, “single parent” responsibilities and other factors common among spouses create obstacles, and we must face that fact.
At the same time, I believe there are a great many employers who are anxious to help support our military families. There is much government at all levels can do to simply help connect military spouses with those employers. The Presidency is a powerful voice and can be used to lead that effort.
Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?
Almost without exception, my speeches include my belief that entrepreneurship is the key to America’s future. I am an entrepreneur myself, having started in business as a one-man “handyman” and growing that business into a construction company with more than 1,000 employees. Thanks to technology, never before have entrepreneurial opportunities been greater — and military members enter the game with the right skills to succeed. My highest priority as President will be to create a level playing field, end crony capitalism and otherwise remove obstacles to small business ownership and success. I know what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and my policies will, across-the-board, be intended to maximize entrepreneurial opportunities.
Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?
As Governor, and if elected President, removing the shackles from education innovation was and will remain one of my passions. I firmly believe that education entrepreneurs will revolutionize — for the better — the ways in which our kids learn, if only they are allowed to do so. Federal mandates, outdated public school restrictions and lack of flexibility have made it difficult, if not impossible, for educators to fashion educational opportunities that meet the needs of individual students.
Clearly, the children of military families do face unique circumstances. However, accommodating those circumstances should not be difficult if we abandon the one-size-fits-all approach that has burdened U.S. schools for decades.
To me, the first step toward creating flexibility is to remove the Federal Department of Education as a stifling force. If allowed to do so, the states will become laboratories of innovation, and obviously, those states with significant military populations will adapt to the needs of that population.
There are few, if any, problems with credit transfers, varying curricula, etc., that cannot be readily addressed if teachers, local schools, and parents are allowed to do so — with common sense and creativity.
What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?
In business, and even more so, as Governor, I succeeded by seeking the smartest and most qualified counsel I could find. I thoroughly enjoyed digging into problems and challenges, understanding them, and making informed decisions. I think my record speaks to my success in doing that. Perhaps even more important, I would bring to the job of Commander-in-Chief a clear vision of what our military should be asked to do — and what it should not be asked to do. I am a skeptic when it comes to deploying military force, meaning that I will do what it takes to defend this nation, but I will approach any such deployment by asking the tough questions and leaving no doubt in my mind that putting our military men and women in harm’s way is absolutely necessary. And I will never put those men and women in harm’s way simply to pursue a political agenda.
Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?
I am a leader to whom the decision to use military force will be the most serious decision I will make. The members of our military will not be sent into war simply to replace a government we don’t like. They will not be asked to “rebuild” nations who have defied rebuilding for hundreds of years, and they will not be asked to somehow resolve conflicts in other nations that we simply cannot resolve. Members of the military take an oath to protect and defend this nation. That is precisely what they will be asked to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And if and when I do make that decision to send the military into harm’s way, I will ensure that they will go without the burdens and dangers of politically-correct restrictions, that they will have the resources and support they need, and that their mission will be clear.
Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces – an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?
Joining Forces is precisely the type of public-private partnership that a White House can encourage and promote with great effect — provided the commitment is real and the effort maintained. When the initiative was announced, Ms. Obama and Dr. Biden made it clear that the intent is that it will continue beyond their husbands’ tenures. That is as it should be.
What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?
Take the time to examine my record as Governor and my “record” as a person. I am an athlete, an adventurer who thrives on accepting and meeting challenges, an entrepreneur, and a public figure for whom hypocrisy is the cardinal sin. You can keep track of our campaign at JohnsonWeld.com, and on our various social media platforms.
“There’s a very unique bond between infantry soldiers not found in any other [career] in the Army,” Staff. Sgt. Leonard Markley, a recruiter in Toledo, Ohio, whose primary career field is infantry, said in a recent service news release. “It’s us against the world, and we as infantrymen all know about the hardships that come with this [career]: walking countless miles, sleep deprivation and rationed meals.
“Even when I see another infantryman walking by, I have respect for him and have his back, because we are brothers through all our hardships,” he added.
To qualify for the infantry, applicants must score a minimum of 87 on the combat line score of the Armed Forces Qualification Test and pass the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the heavy level, according to the release.
Recruits attend a 22-week Infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. During training, they will list their specific infantry job preferences, although assignments are determined by the needs of the Army. Upon graduation, soldiers are assigned as either an infantryman (11B) or an indirect fire infantryman (11C), the release states.
“The Infantry has instilled a work ethic in me that is noticeably different than my peers,” Markley said. “This work ethic and discipline will set me apart wherever I go after the military. It is the premier career for leadership and management development skills. I can go anywhere and be a successful manager in any civilian field.”
Until recently, Army recruiters were offering bonuses of up to ,000 for a six-year enlistment in the infantry. The Army began paying out hefty bonuses for infantry recruits in May 2019 to meet a shortfall of about 3,300 infantry training seats by the end of fiscal 2019. It was part of a sweeping new recruiting strategy launched at the beginning of fiscal 2019, after the service missed its fiscal 2018 goal.
Tommy Prince was a member of the Ojibwa, one of Canada’s First Nations tribes (what the United States calls Native Americans or American Indians), who tried many times to join the Canadian Army during WWII.
Prince became a sapper first, then a paratrooper, and a member of the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. Eventually, he was sent to a special forces unit, the 1st Special Service Force — a combined special forces operation with the United States known to the enemy as “the Devil’s Brigade.”
These are the unbelievable missions that helped Tommy Prince become one of Canada’s most celebrated soldiers, the country’s most decorated indigenous veteran, and the most decorated member of the Devil’s Brigade:
5. Attacking an impenetrable mountain fortress.
The Italian Campaign was young in 1943, but the Special Service Force was assigned to go behind the enemy lines at the Battle of Monte La Difensa. It was a steep, mountainous fortress that already repelled three full-scale Allied assaults.
The Devil’s Brigade changed the situation in a hurry.
Prince walked across the entire front line near the village of Majo, infiltrated every single machine gun bunker, and killed everyone inside. Without making a sound. When the Allies advanced the next morning, the machine guns were silent.
4. Reporting on German movements right in front of them.
In 1944, Prince was in Italy running a communications line. He was reporting enemy movements back to the Allied forces near Littoria. As a Nazi artillery position fired on his allies, Tommy Prince was about 200 meters away, watching every move the Nazis made and reporting it to his command.
The comms wire was accidentally cut during the battle. Prince disguised himself as a farmer and began to work the land. He shouted curses at both Axis and Allied troops.
When his work took him to the cut in the wire, he bent over to “tie his shoe,” repaired the wire, and pressed on with his 24-hour long watch.
3. Walking three days to fight an entire enemy camp, then capturing everyone.
Just after the start of Operation Dragoon, the Summer 1944 invasion of Southern France, Prince was assigned to locate an enemy camp in the nearby mountains. He walked across the terrain for three days with little food or water to find it. Once he did, he walked back to the Allied lines only to lead the assault force on the camp.
The small assault team captured some 1,000 enemy prisoners. He was called to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI presented him with the Military Medal and the American Silver Star.
2. Rescuing the French Resistance along the way.
As Prince hiked around Southern France, he ran into resistance partisans in a firefight with some Germans. To level the playing field, the Canadian started to pick off as many Nazis as he could with just a rifle and his elevated position.
The young Native was an expert marksman from childhood, so the Nazis were easy pickings.
They quickly broke off the fight and ran. When Prince came down to talk to the Frenchmen, they told him his fire was so intense, thought they were rescued by an Allied infantry company.
1. Using Moccasins to sneak into German barracks…just to show them he could.
His compatriots in the Devil’s Brigade knew Prince carried moccasins in his kit bag. Using these instead of his boots allowed Prince to sneak into anywhere he wanted, including enemy barracks.
At night, he would enter Nazi barracks as they slept, steal their shoes (sometimes off their feet), and slit the throats of every third soldier.