Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush - We Are The Mighty
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Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.


Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.

In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”

Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.

“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.

The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.

“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”

Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.

Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.

During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.

He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.

“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”

Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.

Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.

“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.

“We’re indebted,” he said.

Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.

“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.

Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.

“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.

Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.

“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everything you need to know about the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

It took 104 years, but the Marine Corps Reserve has grown from just 35 personnel to more than 40,000. To celebrate the USMC Reserve’s August 28 birthday, here’s a look at Marine heritage and culture.


Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

(Wikimedia Commons)

USMC-R History and Origins

The Marines’ reserve component dates back to the Civil War when military and civilian readers recognized a need for a Naval Reserve to augment the fleet during wartime.

Leading up to WWI, individual states tried to fill the need through state-controlled naval militias, but the lack of a centralized national force limited combat effectiveness.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson recognized the need for an operational Reserve Force, and on August 29, the USMC Reserve was born. The organization grew from just 35 Marines on April 01, 1916, to 6,467 by the time Germany surrendered in November 1918.

Reserve Marines fought on the sea and land in major battles during WWI, and as the Marine Corps began expanding its horizons during WWII, the Reserve component continued to grow. The USMC Women’s Reserve was activated in July 1942, and in 1943, the USMC WR swore in its first director, Maj. Ruth Cheney Streeter.

However, by 1947, it seems like the Marine Corps and the Reserve component were going to be disbanded. Fortunately, the Armed Forces Unification Act created the Department of Defense, which helped standardize pay for Marine Corps Reserve service members, along with creating a retirement pay program.

At the end of the military draft and the transition to an all-volunteer military in the 1970s, the USMC-R would grow to be almost 40,000 members strong.

Celebrating the USMC-R Birthday

This internal observance isn’t a widely known date or public holiday, but Reservists don’t mind. To honor and celebrate the history of the USMC Reserve on its birthday, you might consider flying the Marine Corps flag alongside the American flag this week.

Consult the Marine Corps Flag Manual to learn how to properly display a USMC-R service flag alongside the national colors. Fair warning, and in true USMC nature, this flag-flying manual is no less than 50 pages long, so be prepared for a long and thorough read.

TL;DR: The flag represents a living country and is considered a living thing. The right arm is the sword arm, and so the right is the place of honor, so the edge of the flag should be toward the staff. Flags should be displayed from sunrise to sunset. If a “patriotic effect is desired for specific occasions,” the flag can be displayed for a full 24 hours if properly illuminated during hours of darkness.

Famous USMC Reservists

Like the other branches of the military, being a part of the USMC-R can significantly impact civilian careers. For Reservists, being a Marine often means being able to also continue with life’s other passions. Take a look at the most famous Marine Reservists. You might not know they were Leathernecks, but we’re pretty sure you know their work!

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

(Wikimedia Commons)

Drew Carey

After enlisting in the Reserves in 1980, Carey went on to serve a total of six years. The comedian says that he adopted his trademark crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses because of his time in service. During his time in the Reserves, Carey was always looking for new ways to make money. Someone in his unit suggested using his jokes. Of his big break in Hollywood, Carey has often remarked that he would still be serving if he hadn’t made it big.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Cory W. Bush/Released)

Rob Riggle

Retired Lt. Col. Riggle served in the USMC Reserve as a PAO from 199-2013. He served in Kosovo, Liberia and Afghanistan. He joined the Marines after getting his pilot’s license with the intent of becoming a Naval Aviator but left flight school to pursue his comedy career. He has appeared on the Daily Show and had a running role on The Office.

Interested in joining the USMC Reserves?

The USMC-R is a critical component to being able to provide a balanced, ready force. There’s no telling that you’ll end up a famous comedian like Drew Caret or Rob Riggle, but chances are you’ll grow as a person and learn something in the process, too. Find out more here.


MIGHTY TRENDING

How Iran will try to fight sanctions before they topple the regime

Aligning with a superpower worked for some countries during the Cold War, and for many others, it didn’t. But Iran never aligned itself with the US or the Soviet Union, preferring to maintain its independence and sovereignty. But where the Non-Aligned movement was dedicated to the principles of pretty much minding one’s own business, the coalition Iran is building is more dedicated to pushing back against the US.

But just for one very specific reason: inflation.


Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Ever since the United States left the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the ‘Nuclear Deal’ – sanctions imposed by the U.S. have left Iran’s currency and economy in tatters. As today is the day Iranians celebrate the New Year, Iran’s Supreme Leader is celebrating the regime’s resistance to the economic hardship.

“In the face of severe, and according to them unprecedented, sanctions from America and Europe, the Iranian people showed a strong and powerful reaction both in the field of politics and economy,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in a pre-recorded speech. President Hassan Rouhani echoed that sentiment and called for Iranian to stop fighting each other a band together against the United States.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

With sanctions crippling the value of Iranian currency, the Iranian government is looking to its neighbors to strengthen the rial. Other countries like Germany and France, who are still party to the nuclear plan, have opened channels to Iran for trade without using the dollar. While this has eased the out of control inflation in the Islamic Republic, the rial is still trading at 190,000 to one. Iranians have seen their savings and their net worth plummet in the past few years, which is the first result of rampant inflation.

Banks, merchants, and institutions have also seen the values of their businesses and livelihoods decline as a result. Throughout Iran, the inflation and unhappiness with the sanctions, and the regime’s inability to do anything about it has caused widespread protests and demonstrations – some on the same scale of the ones that brought down the Shah and saw the Islamic Republic come to power.

Articles

Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.


Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”

Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.

“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”

Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.

“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”

Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.

“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”

On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.

“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”

It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.

“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”

Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”

It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.

“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”

CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.

The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.

“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.

Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”

Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).

“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”

Now: Artist takes his craft to war and back again

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Army needs 6 years to field the new light tank

U.S. Army modernization officials defended the rapid prototyping strategy for the service’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system, even though infantry units won’t receive the new light tank until 2025.

The Army announced Dec. 17, 2018, that it awarded contracts to General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. and BAE Systems, worth up to $376 million each, to produce prototypes of the MPF.


The two companies will each build 12 prototypes so the Army can begin testing them in early 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022.

“We are excited about this opportunity,” Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, head of Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We have an aggressive schedule to take a look at these two companies as they build the prototypes.”

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

BAE Systems displays an early prototype of its Mobile Protected Firepower at AUSA’s meeting and exposition in Washington. Events such as this provide industry with opportunities to showcase technologies and discuss requirements for new capabilities.

(BAE Systems photo)

GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner, ST Engineering Land Systems Ltd., but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.

Service officials lauded the contract awards as a major step forward in streamlining Army acquisition and said they plan to use the rapid prototyping approach as a model for future programs.

But even if the Army in 2022 selects one of the companies to build production MPF systems, it likely will take another three years before the service will field the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks to infantry brigade combat teams.

Army officials said it would take longer to field the MPF if they hadn’t used what’s known as “Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping (Section 804)” contracts, an acquisition tool designed to streamline testing and development of prototypes.

The process is quicker than other acquisition procedures in that the MPF program will not use time-consuming preliminary and critical design reviews to ensure that platforms meet requirements, Army officials explained.

“For a new system, [going through that process] could add as much as a year-and-a-half to two years onto the whole cycle,” said David Dopp, Mobile Protected Firepower program manager, adding that the Army is pleased it will take just 14 months for GDLS and BAE to produce the 12 prototypes each.

“Fourteen months is very challenging. I don’t think you can find another program that ever got prototypes in 14 months,” he said. “When you build these vehicles and you put them together, [sometimes] they don’t work, or if they do work, we take them out and test them, and there are things that happen, and we need that time to prove it out.”

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

A General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin II prototype vehicle. GD was selected to produce similar, medium-weight, large-caliber prototype vehicles for the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program.

(General Dynamics photo)

Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said the Army will use the 14 months to get a headstart on figuring out how infantry units will utilize the MPF to destroy enemy bunkers and other hardened battlefield positions.

“Right now, we are doing experiments and tactical training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with vehicles that have a similar profile of the Mobile Protective Firepower to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for the light forces to work with mechanized vehicles in the close fight,” he said.

The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform for light infantry forces equipped with a cannon powerful enough to destroy hardened targets.

Since then, the MPF program has been placed into the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, or NGCV, portfolio, the second of the Army’s six modernization priorities that fall under the responsibility of the new Army Futures Command.

Coffman said he was pleased with the MPF’s progress, calling it the “first NGCV major decision that’s come out, as far as procurement actions.”

“If anything needs to be changed, we are not afraid to do it,” he said. “We want what is best for our soldiers as fast as we can get it.”

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

Articles

This is the best aerial footage of a raging Swedish fighter you’ll see today

It doesn’t matter if you’re on a speeding boat, jumping off a building, or zooming through the air on a fighter; Gyro-stabilized Systems (GSS) makes some of the best gear for action film shoots.


The common stabilizing system for aerial filming is made to withstand speeds up to 135 knots and usually helicopter-mounted. But when Swedish aerial specialist, Peter Degerfeldt at Blue Sky—one of Scandinavia’s premier aerial filming companies—challenged GSS to build something that could withstand at least 300 knots, aerial filming took a giant leap forward.

GSS’s calling came when Saab Defense and Security required a film shoot from a Gripen fighter.

“Our philosophy is to push boundaries in everything we do,” said Jonas Tillgren, Brand and marketing manager at Saab, according to the film’s description. “In this case, we needed to do both still photography and footage at the same time to maximize outcome. One advantage of this system is that we can fly in speeds where Gripen flies more naturally.”

Here is the result from the unprecedented shoot:

Video: Peter Degerfedt Blue Sky Aerial, Vimeo

MIGHTY TRENDING

New nuclear cruise missiles could go on the Zumwalt destroyer

The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) includes a long-term plan that could put nuclear cruise missiles aboard the new Zumwalt class (DDG 1000) of stealthy Navy destroyers, according to the commander of U.S. Strategic Command.


Air Force Gen. John Hyten, StratCom chief, said the plan to develop a new, low-yield nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM, or “Slick-em”) would not be limited to using ballistic submarines as the sole launch platform, as many assumed when the NPR was endorsed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis early February 2018.

“It’s important to know that the NPR, when it talks about the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile, does not say ‘Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile,’ ” Hyten said in a Feb. 16, 2018 keynote address in Washington, D.C., at the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Also read: The Navy has new, long-range ship killer missiles for the Zumwalt

In response to questions, he said, “We want to look at a number of options — everything from surface DDG 1000s into submarines, different types of submarines” for the SLCMs.

“That’s what the president’s budget has requested of us — to go look at those platforms, and we’re going to walk down that path,” Hyten said.

The USS Zumwalt, the first of three new stealthy destroyers billed by the Navy as the world’s largest and most technologically advanced surface combatants, experienced numerous cost overruns in construction and problems in sea trials. It also broke down while transiting the Panama Canal in 2016.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. (U.S. Navy)

The second ship in the Zumwalt class, the Michael Monsoor, had to cut short sea trials in December 2017 because of equipment failures.

The NPR called for the development of two new, low-yield nuclear weapons — the SCLM and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Hyten said the U.S. will be modifying “a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a prompt, low-yield capability, as well as pursuing a modern nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile in the longer term.”

He added, with some regret, that both are necessary to enhance U.S. deterrence against growing tactical and strategic nuclear threats from Russia and China.

“I don’t have the luxury of dealing with the world the way I wish it was,” he said. “We, as a nation, have long desired a world with no or at least fewer nuclear weapons. That is my desire as well. The world, however, has not followed that path.”

New developments with the Xian H6K strategic bomber, a version of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine bomber, has given China a nuclear triad of bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines “for the first time,” Hyten said.

Related: Why the new Zumwalt destroyers’ guns won’t work

He also cited repeated statements from Russian President Vladimir Putin about modernizing his own nuclear force and developing a new generation of low-yield weapons. “Russia has been clear about their intent all along,” he said.

In the question-and-answer period at National Defense University, an official from the Russian Embassy in Washington challenged the general’s assessment of the threat posed by his country.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Vladimir Putin.

Hyten responded, “We listen very closely to what your president says, and then watch closely” through a variety of means to see Putin’s thoughts put into action. “We have to consider those a threat.”

Earlier, he said, “Our adversaries are building and operating these strategic weapons, not as a science experiment, but as a direct threat to the United States of America.”

In an address preceding Hyten’s, Pentagon policy chief David Trachtenberg said that the new NPR developed for the Trump administration should not be seen as a divergence from the 2010 NPR adopted by the Obama administration.

More: Watch Russia test fire a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile interceptor

“Contrary to some commentary, the Nuclear Posture Review does not go beyond the 2010 NPR in expanding the traditional role of nuclear weapons,” said Trachtenberg, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

“The goal of our recommendations is to deter war, not to fight one,” he said. “If nuclear weapons are employed in conflict, it is because deterrence failed, and the goal of the 2018 NPR is to make sure that deterrence will not fail.”

However, “it is clear that our attempts to lead by example in reducing the numbers and salience of nuclear weapons in the world have not been reciprocated,” Trachtenberg said.

Russia and China have made clear their intentions to “expand the numbers and capabilities” of their nuclear arsenals, he said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Jet Li turned down being Nixon’s personal bodyguard

When he was just a boy, Jet Li traveled to the United States with the Chinese National Wushu Team. While there, he and his team performed for the American President, then Richard Nixon. It was then that Nixon tried to make the young martial artist his personal bodyguard.


Wushu is the standardized form of Chinese martial arts, created in 1949 to bring all the disparate Chinese arts together. Though relatively young as a sport, the separate forms making up the whole of wushu are much, much older.

Li was only 11 when he met President Nixon. Being selected to represent Chinese wushu practitioners was quite the honor for anyone, let alone an 11-year-old boy — considering an estimated 20 million Chinese people practiced the art form. In 1974, Li was good enough to tour the U.S., a tour that culminated with a performance for the President.

He performed his routine on the White House’s South Lawn as Nixon watched on, standing next to one of Li’s female teammates. After his performance, the young man went to stand next to then-Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
(JetLi.com)

Next, he was introduced to the President, who was very impressed with his skills.

Nixon leaned in to Li and said, “Young man, your kung fu is very impressive! How about being my bodyguard when you grow up?”

Li replied, “No, I don’t want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!”

The room was stunned into silence and no one knew what to say until Kissinger said aloud, “Heavens, such a young boy and he already speaks like a diplomat!”

The next year, Jet Li began his reign as the national martial arts champion, a title he would hold for five consecutive years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Multi-Purpose Canine retires with his handler

For an average service member, it takes an obligation of 20 years to retire from the military. For their furry four-legged counterparts, it takes over 30 years to accomplish the same goal in dog years of course. Marine Corps working dogs date back to Nov. 1, 1943, during World War II when 1st Marine War Dog Platoon out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina attacked the beach of Bougainville, Solomon Islands.

Today, working dogs lead regular Marine Corps careers by deploying, taking official photos and even attaining rank. A Marine Special Operations Command working dog, however, has much more rigorous training, increased mission capability and known as a Multi-Purpose Canine (MPC).


“A dog handler is around for about five years,” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Koman, multi-purpose canine handler, Marine Special Operations Command, “around the same time as them leaving we try to retire their dog.”

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Koman, multi-purpose canine handler with Delta Company, 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, awaits command during the retirement ceremony of his multi-purpose canine, Roy, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 29, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

Roy is one such multi-purpose canine with MARSOC, and Koman just so happens to be his handler. On March 29, 2019, the command held a formal retirement ceremony to honor Roy’s five years of faithful service as a specialized force multiplier within the special operations world. After spending 16 weeks developing skills in explosives detection, tracking, controlled aggression, Roy’s amphibious capabilities, such as water insertion and extraction techniques, prepared him to serve in combat. For this accomplishment, Roy received the Military Working Dog Service Award, an award presented to working dogs and MPCs that deploy into combat.

As a Marine receives a ceremony after 20 years, MARSOC conducts the same for MPCs. Once the MPC retires, it is put up for adoption and given priority to the owner. According to results from recent data from the Department Of Defense Military Working Dog Adoption Program, more than 90 percent of military working dogs and MPC’s adopted by their handlers.

“The handler and dog have been through so much together,” said an unnamed MPC master trainer with MARSOC. “It’s a no brainer for the dog to go to the handlers.”

Before Roy was ready to transition into civilian life, the unit was required to ensure that there are no signs of aggression towards humans and animals. After this assessment, Koman was able to proceed in filing the necessary paperwork for adoption.

“When I first saw him I knew he was the dog I wanted,” added Koman, “it’s just surreal that he’s officially mine today!”

When asked about his and Roy’s plans for the future, Koman stated that he plans to give Roy the most relaxing life possible.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

This is how the misfit crew of ‘Old 666’ became the most decorated in history

History remembers Capt. Jay Zeamer as a tremendous pilot, but he had a rough time getting into the cockpit.


Originally commissioned in the Infantry Reserve, he later transferred to the Army Air Corps to fulfill his dream of flying. There was just one problem: he couldn’t pass the check ride to get into the pilot’s seat.

Despite many attempts, when war came to America in 1941 Zeamer was still stuck co-piloting B-26 Marauders.

Bored with life as a co-pilot, Zeamer asked for a transfer to another unit hoping to start over. Zeamer was eventually transferred to the 403rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group to fly B-17s.

Arriving at the 403rd, Zeamer met up with an old friend, Sgt. Joe Sarnoski, the squadron’s bombardier.

During a combat mission, Zeamer was forced to take over for another pilot, which effectively earned him the right to fly as first pilot. His cool under fire on the mission — and his expert flying skills — also earned him his first Silver Star.

Zeamer’s de facto confirmation made him a pilot, but he had no plane or crew. Through a series of events, Zeamer was able to acquire Sarnoski as both bombardier and navigator. The two began to assemble the rest of the team, testing out compatibility during various missions.

Many of the men, after just one mission with Zeamer, refused to ever fly with him again, but the crazy oddballs and renegades who could hack it ultimately rounded out the crew.

Zeamer and his crew were eventually nicknamed “The Eager Beavers” because they constantly volunteered for missions — especially the most dangerous ones. However, they were still without a plane of their own.

It just so happened that the perfect plane awaited the crew at their next assignment. As new arrivals to the 65th Bomb Squadron, they found a heavily damaged plane being used for parts.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Zeamer’s B17 sure took a beating. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The B-17E had a reputation for taking heavy damage on missions and many believed it to be because of its unfortunate tail number: #41-2666.

Beamer and his crew quickly claimed the plane as their own, and though they never got around to giving it a proper name, often referred to it as “Old 666” after the tail number. The crew repaired and upgraded the plane to their specifications. The .30-caliber machine guns were upgraded to .50-caliber mounts. The waist gunners’ single guns were replaced by twin .50 calibers as well. Zeamer even had a forward-firing gun mounted in the nose so he himself could shoot from the cockpit. All told the B-17 bristled with nineteen guns.

The Eager Beavers soon earned a reputation for their daring deeds. As Zeamer’s friend Walt Krell put it, “Whenever the 43rd got a real lousy mission – the worst possible mission of all that nobody else wanted to fly – they went down to see Zeamer and his gang.”

The Eager Beavers carried out the unwanted missions and earned themselves glory along the way. Every member of the crew received Silver Stars and two more earned Distinguished Flying Crosses. Zeamer himself received a second Silver Star for strafing Japanese searchlights with his forward-firing gun. Sarnoski was rewarded with a battlefield promotion to 2nd lieutenant.

The Eager Beavers and Old 666 took everything that was thrown at them and always returned home.

Then in June 1943, they faced the toughest mission yet – a reconnaissance flight by a lone B-17 over Japanese-infested territory.  The mission was to map Bougainville for the upcoming Allied landings. At the last minute word came down that the crew would also need to photograph Buka Island to the north. Zeamer was livid; an already dangerous mission just became practically suicidal.

When Old 666 arrived over Buka, the lone Flying Fortress was spotted by the Japanese who scrambled 17 planes to intercept. The lead flight of Japanese Zeroes caught up to the Eager Beavers near the end of their mapping run.

Unable to stray from its course, Old 666 lumbered along, bracing as the Zeroes attacked. Five planes fanned out in front and flew headlong at the bomber. As the distance closed, the guns on both sides roared to life.

Zeamer scored a hit with his nose-mounted gun while Sarnoski downed one of the incoming Zeroes. Simultaneously, 20mm shells tore through the cockpit and nose, wounding Zeamer and blowing Sarnoski off his gun. Sarnoski dragged himself back to his gun and scored a hit on another fighter before slumping over, mortally wounded.

The battle raged for almost an hour. Zeamer was severely wounded, both legs shot and his rudder pedals blown away. Four other crew members were also wounded. Still, The Eager Beavers continued to rain fire onto the Japanese fighters while Zeamer struggled to maneuver the bomber. The Japanese fighters had brutally damaged the B-17E, forcing it below 10,000 feet with destroyed instrument panels, limited controls, and no oxygen system.

Eventually, the battered Zeroes retreated home, leaving the Eager Beavers to do the same.

Determined to return with the valuable photos, Zeamer refused to relinquish control of the bomber. The rest of the crew treated each others’ wounds and did what they could to keep the stricken bomber in the air.

Just over eight hours after the mission began, Old 666 landed in New Guinea. The fuselage was riddled with holes. Zeamer was nearly left for dead by the medics. He spent many months in hospitals recovering from the mission. Both Zeamer and Sarnoski would be awarded the Medal of Honor, one of only two crews to be so bestowed in World War II.

The rest of the crew would receive the Distinguished Service Cross.

The mission to Bougainville is the most highly decorated mission ever. With their cumulative awards, the Eager Beavers are the most decorated crew in American history. General George Kenney would write in his memoirs that the mission “still stands in my mind as an epic of courage unequaled in the annals of air warfare.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Russians just buzzed the US Navy – again

A United States Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was buzzed by a Russian Air Force Su-30 Flanker over the Black Sea earlier today. This is the latest in a series of incidents this year in the Black Sea.


Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A Su-30 makes a low-level pass at Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by FoxNews.com, the two-seat multi-role fighter harassed the Navy plane for 24 minutes, including a pass at full afterburner that was roughly 50 feet away. The P-8 was in international airspace at the time of the incident.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to commander, Task Force 67 participates in a photo exercise during Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

The last time such a close encounter took place was this past June. In that incident, an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane was buzzed by a Su-27 Flanker over the Baltic Sea. The Flanker came within five feet of the American plane, the closest of about three dozen close encounters that took place that month.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be unsafe. (Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Russian planes also buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea earlier this year. The United States Navy released video of the incident, showing Su-24 Flankers making close passes over the vessel. In all of these close encounters, the American ships and planes were in international waters or airspace.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A Su-24 Fencer buzzes USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea on Feb. 10, 2017. (YouTube Screenshot)

The incident came over three weeks after U.S. Navy fighters intercepted a pair of Russian Tu-95 Bears 80 miles from the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as it operated in the Sea of Japan. The Bears were well within range of being able to fire powerful anti-ship weapons like the AS-4 Kitchen.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A Russian Air Force Tu-95 launching from an airport in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Russia hasn’t been the only country involved in buzzing American forces. Iranian and Chinese forces have also operated near American forces, in some cases unsafely. In the Persian Gulf, an Iranian drone flew into an aircraft carrier’s landing pattern, nearly causing a mid-air collision with a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. Chinese J-10 Flounder fighters buzzed a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft operating in international airspace off Hong Kong earlier this year.

Articles

28 rarely seen photos from the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was gritty and painful. These 28 photos from the U.S. National Archives provide another glimpse of what U.S. Marines and their South Vietnamese partners went through in that long war:


1. A U.S. Marine officer teaches a Vietnamese recruit to use a grenade launcher.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marine Maj. Hubert G. Duncan, operations officer with the 4th Combined Action Group, instructs a Vietnamese Popular Force soldier in the use of the M-79 grenade launcher. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R. D. Lucas)

2. Vietnamese Rangers move across the landing zone as a Marine helicopter takes off.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
An ARVN Ranger and a CH-46D helicopter from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 are silhouetted against the early morning sky near An Hoa. The Rangers were participating in Operation Durham Peak. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bob Jordan)

3. Vietnamese armor soldiers try to get their gun into operation.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
4th Army of the Republic of Vietnam armor at Quangi Nai in January 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Pavey)

4. A U.S. Marine and a Vietnamese Ranger search for enemy weapons.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A Marine from the FLC’s Provisional Rifle Company and an ARVN Ranger probe for enemy weapons during a search of Xuan Thiue village near FLC on March 11, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. A. Wiegand.)

5. American Marines enjoy food and mail during a short stayover in their base village.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Combined Action Program Marines receive mail and an occasional hot meal upon returning to their base village. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R.F. Ruis)

6. Vietnamese rangers practice inserting into and exfiltrating from the jungle on special purpose ladders from a Marine helicopter.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
View of CH-46 helicopter passing over photographer as it carries nine ARVN Rangers hanging on an insertion ladder. The rangers are undergoing training in recon ladder insertion-extraction methods at first recon battalion area. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

7. Vietnamese and U.S. troops get ready for a night ambush.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
American and Vietnamese Marines are assigned their positions before departing for their night ambush site in 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R. F. Ruiz)

8. A Marine trainer assists a Vietnamese student.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A Vietnamese Popular Force trainee is aided through a barbed wire entanglement on the infiltration course at Mobile Training Team-1 located just outside Tam Ky on July 28, 1968, by Sgt. William C. Gandy. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joe Collins)

9. A soldier shot by a sniper smokes a cigarette as another soldier looks at the carbine magazine that caught the incoming round, preventing further injury.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A Popular Force soldier from the village of Hoa Vang steadies himself against a hut after receiving an enemy sniper bullet in his ammunition belt. He received a minor burn as a result of the bullet, which lodged in a carbine magazine. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bartlett)

10. Marines conducting a joint operation with the Vietnamese catch a break on armored personnel carriers.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marines on sweep with ARVNs on amphibious personnel carriers about 7 miles southwest of Danang on Jan. 8, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. R.D. Bell)

11. A joint force rushes to remove supplies from a U.S. helicopter.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
April 16, 1964. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

12. A U.S.-Vietnamese patrol moves through sand dunes during a mission.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A patrol of Vietnamese Popular Forces and U.S. Marines of Combined Action Program, 3rd Marines, 3rd Regiment and 3rd Battalion, move out across dunes bordering Quang Xuyen village to the south of Danang on March 28, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. H.M. Smith)

13. A Vietnamese trainee practices ambushing North Vietnamese forces during a training activity with the U.S.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A Vietnamese Popular Force soldier and U.S. Marine Cpl. Gilbert J. Davis practice ambush techniques outside the compound of Mobile Training Team-1 near Tam Ky on July 28, 1968. The Vietnamese received two weeks of Marine training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joe Collins)

14. A Marine shows a Vietnamese soldier how to operate the M-60 machine gun during training.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Lance Cpl. Larry W. Elen and an ARVN soldier prepare to fire the M-60 machine gun in mid-December 1969. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. G. J. Vojack)

15. American and Vietnamese troops rush into position as Viet Cong fighters attempt to escape.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
A Popular Force automatic rifleman and his assistant provide cover while a U.S. Marine advances and a Popular Force riflemen leaps over a row of cactus to pursue fleeing Viet Cong. The action occurred during a joint search and sweep operation near Chu Lai on Aug. 24, 1966. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mincemoyer)

16. American and Vietnamese troops share the map during a clearing operation.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Elements of companies A and C of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, joined forces with the 72nd Regional Forces Recon Co., and the 196th Regional Forces co. in a three-day operation near Ky Tra, 40 miles south of Danang. The operation was designed to destroy Viet Cong base camps. Several camps were found along with numerous documents, food, and weapons. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

17. A U.S. Marine checks a local citizen’s identification.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marine Sgt. Williams ‘Budda’ Biller of the Combat Action Program makes a routine check of a villager’s ID Card. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. H.M. Smith)

18. Troops patrol a village destroyed by the Viet Cong after the locals refused to give aid to the fighters.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
During the night of June 10, 1970, Viet Cong terrorist units attacked the villages of Phanh-Ban and Phanh-My near Danang for two hours. More than half of the villages were totally destroyed by fire and explosives used by sapper attackers because the villagers were loyal to the Saigon government and refused to support local Viet Cong activities or give rice to Communists. The few Popular Force Troops were surprised by the attack and more than 150 villagers were killed. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Berkowits)

19. A U.S. Marine rests during operations.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Private First Class Russell R. Widdifield of 3rd Platoon, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, takes a break during a ground movement 25 miles north of An Hoa, North Vietnam. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

20. A U.S. Marine on patrol.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Cross an open field while on patrol 8 miles south of the city of Da Nang. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

21. A U.S. Marine teaches a Popular Force soldier to operate the PRC-25.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marine Cpl. J. R. Stien gives a Popular Force soldier an instruction on the operation of the PRC-25 in late-November 1969. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. G. J. Voljack).

22. A U.S. Marine NCO teaches a firefighter how to properly use his new gas mask.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marine Sgt. Lawrence J. Marchlewski instructs Vietnamese fire fighters in the proper use of their gas mask. The device allows firemen to combat flames in heavy smoke. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. G.W. Heikkinen)

23. A Marine instructor helps a Vietnamese student after an underwater exercise.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

24. Marines and Vietnamese troops offload rice confiscated from a Viet Cong cache.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
American Marines assist two Vietnamese Popular Force soldiers unloading rice from a small sampan. The rice was confiscated from a Viet Cong cache in the walls of a hut in Phu Bai village on Oct. 23, 1966. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Highland)

25. Vietnamese Rangers load onto Marine helicopters for a multi-battalion air assault mission.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Army of the Republic of Vietnam Rangers board CH-46D helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263. The ARVN Rangers spearheaded a multi-battalion Allied helicopter assault. Operation Durham Peak got underway as the first rays of sunlight glinted from the whirling rotor blades. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bob Jordan)

26. Reconnaissance Marines ride to a new insertion point.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marines of Company C, 1st Recon Battalion, ride in a CH-46 helicopter to their next insertion point in May 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. W. P. Barger)

27. A Marine checks out the home of local pigeons used by the Viet Cong to communicate without the Americans intercepting their messages.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marine Cpl. Donald L. Carlson, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, examines a pigeon coop used by the Viet Cong for carrier pigeons on Oct. 24, 1965, in the 28-structure Viet Cong compound discovered during Operation Trailblazer. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Costello)

28. A Joint U.S.-Vietnamese flag raising ceremony.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush
Marines and Popular Forces of TANGO-1 Combined Unit Pacification Program perform a joint flag raising ceremony in Le Soa Village on Sep. 3, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. R. F. Rappel)

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘America’s Tall Ship’ makes first visit to Norway since 1963

It’s not necessarily the ship that comes to mind when you think about America flexing its muscles abroad to project seapower and dominance.

But when the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle, known as “America’s Tall Ship,” came into port here [Oslo, Norway] May 5, 2019, for the first time since 1963, the locals were eager to see it. More than 1,300 people visited the ship May 5, 2019; the vessel sees 90,000 tourists each year, officials said.

The ship trains hundreds of cadets each summer on the basics of navigation and seamanship — something the service believes can still make a tough and ready Coastie despite the emergence of a near-peer power competition.


It’s not always about learning on the newest technology. The Coast Guard thinks some things are just meant to be done old school.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

“They don’t come here to learn how to sail, although that is a bonus,” said Chief Petty Officer Kevin Johnson, the training cutter’s command chief, master-at-arms and food service officer for the last three years.

“We’re teaching you how to work as a team,” he said during an hour-long tour of the ship. “And it’s tradition.”

Two groups of 150 cadets each will soon embark on the service’s 12-week summer program. The first group is comprised of third-class cadets, the second of first-class cadets.

The cutter will likely hit its max capacity of 234 crew with each group; 50 enlisted and eight officers man the ship year round. Roughly 40 percent of the trainees are women, Johnson said.

The ship, which has only basic radars for navigation, will also host a number of international cadets during the training program. Members “from as far as Micronesia” have come to learn team building and leadership on the Eagle, designated WIX-327, he said.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Coast Guard Academy cadets learn how to furl sail on the Eagle‘s bowsprit under the tutelage of a petty officer while sailing among the British Virgin Islands in 2013.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Life onboard the ship is meant to give cadets the “life as an enlisted person” experience, demanding strength and discipline, he said. They’ll climb to the top of the mainmast, which towers above the deck at 147 feet. Most cadets know that “someone still has to put the flag up” and furl the sail by hand.

“They still climb the rigging,” Johnson said, adding that the small boats need to be lowered by hand.

He said two cadets have gone overboard during his tenure: one while touching up the hull en route to Ireland and another who lost balance on the rigging and fell into the water.

“They’re both OK,” said Johnson, a 19-year veteran of the service.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Helm station on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle.

The cadets will take their meals in five shifts, retire to the berthing quarters to sleep, and leave the ship to explore cities when “there isn’t work that needs to be done,” he said.

The 295-foot vessel is rooted in training. Built in 1936, it was formerly known as the Horst Wessel and operated by Germany for its cadet training program during World War II before it was captured by the British in 1945. It was then traded to the U.S. a year later.

During a four-year service life extension program, completed last year, more than 1,500 square feet of original German hull plate was removed and replaced, Johnson said. The ship was home-ported in Baltimore, Maryland, while the upgrades were being finished.

The Eagle requires “constant maintenance,” and the cadets and crew know it, he said. During its 19-day trip across the Atlantic en route to Portsmouth in the United Kingdom last week, two sails split during bad weather. One split more than once.

Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

The New York Fire Department vessel, Firefighter, honors the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as it rests anchored at the Statue of Liberty, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011.

“I think they even got the sewing machines out” to fix them, Johnson said. There are layers of baggywrinkle — old, fringe-like rope — meant to protect the sails from chafing.

The ship has been largely Atlantic-based, sailing to the Caribbean and various European locations. The Eagle has visited Australia, but otherwise hasn’t made its way to other parts of the Pacific Rim. “Not yet, anyway,” Johnson said.

The Eagle, which can hit 17 knots max speed under sail, heads next to Kiel, Germany, to pick up the first summer class of cadets. It will then sail to Copenhagen, Denmark; Antwerp, Belgium; the Netherlands; the Azores; and finally back to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, which will be its homeport after this summer.

The German-turned-American trainer will also participate in events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 2019

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