4 Vietnam War heroes you've never heard of - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

There was no shortage of heroes in the Vietnam War. Whether fighting in the pitched battles of the Ia Drang, in Hue City, or in the skies above, American troops served with valor.


Here are four lesser known heroes of that conflict:

1. Drew Dix — U.S. Army

 

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
President Johnson poses with four U.S. servicemen to whom he presented the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam. Left to right: Navy Lt. Clyde E. Lassen, Marine Maj. Stephen W. Pless, President Johnson, Air Force Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson, and Army Staff Sgt. Drew D. Dix. January 16, 1969. (Photo: Dept. of Defense)

Maj. Drew Dix holds a unique place in military history. He was the last of four men from the city of Pueblo, Colorado, to receive the Medal of Honor and he was also the first Special Forces soldier to receive the Medal of Honor.

If there is indeed “something in the water,” as President Eisenhower said, then Dix must have had more than his fair share. Dix first enlisted in the U.S. Army hoping to join Special Forces but had spent three years in the 82nd Airborne Division before being accepted.

By 1968, Dix was a Staff Sergeant serving as a Special Forces advisor in Vietnam. On January 31, 1968, the first day of the Tet Offensive, Dix was stationed near Chau Phu when the city was attacked by two heavily armed Viet Cong battalions.

Supervising Vietnamese soldiers, Dix led his small group on an attack into the city. Receiving information that civilians were trapped, Dix systematically, and sometimes single-handedly, attacked multiple buildings, killing or driving out enemy forces and rescuing some fourteen civilians from the battlefield.

Over two days of fighting, Dix, while leading his small group, was also credited with fourteen enemy killed and possibly as many as 25 more while capturing a further twenty enemy.

2. George “Bud” Day — U.S. Air Force

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

Col. George Day’s story starts the day his F-100 was shot out of the sky over Vietnam on August 26, 1967.

Then-Major Day was leading a Misty Forward Air Control flight when his plane was crippled by anti-aircraft fire. He ejected but was badly injured in the process. Not long after reaching the ground, he was captured and taken to a small POW camp.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, he tricked the guards and made a break for it into the jungle.

Despite his injuries, and incurring more, Day traveled south towards the DMZ. He survived on berries and raw frogs. He made it very close to American lines but was unable to signal several American planes overhead.

Suffering from delirium, he began wondering aimlessly until he was recaptured by the Viet Cong who shot him in the hand and leg in the process.

Once in captivity, Day offered nothing but maximum resistance to the enemy and kept the faith with his fellow POWs. Along with receiving the Medal of Honor for his bravery in escape and resistance also received the Air Force Cross for his staunch refusal to cooperate.

To date he is the only man to receive both awards.

3. Jay Vargas — U.S. Marine Corps

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
Jay R. Vargas, USMC (retired); recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Col. Jay Vargas was a Captain leading Company G, 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines, when he assaulted the village of Dai Do on May 1, 1968.

The previous day he had already received painful wounds but had refused to be evacuated. Despite his wounds and a large volume of enemy fire, Vargas successfully maneuvered his company and two others through open ground to gain a foothold in the village.

When his men became pinned down, Vargas personally led the relief effort and then led the attack into the village. Wounded for a second time, Vargas again refused to be evacuated and continued the fight to ensure that the objective was secure.

No sooner had Vargas secured the perimeter than enemy counterattacks and probes began, but the Marines held through the night.

After receiving reinforcements, the Marines again went on the offensive. When a massive enemy counterattack threatened to drive back their position, Vargas remained in the open, offering aid and encouragement to the beleaguered Marines.

He was then hit for a third time in as many days. Ignoring his wounds once again, Vargas continued to lead his Marines until he saw his battalion commander go down.

Charging through a hail of gunfire, Vargas successfully evacuated his commander to safety before rejoining his Marines and reorganizing their defense.

For his actions over those three days, Vargas received the Medal of Honor.

4. Thomas Norris – U.S. Navy

Lt. Thomas R. Norris and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nguyen Van Kiet. Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor and Kiet was recognized with the Silver Star. 

On April 2, 1972, an EB-66 carrying Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was shot down near the DMZ and right in the middle of the North’s Easter Offensive. Hambleton’s extensive knowledge of critical information made him a high priority for rescue.

However, efforts by air led to the loss of additional aircraft and more airmen killed. Finally, an attempt by ground was ordered.

The man in charge of the mission was U.S. Navy Seal Lt. Thomas Norris. He initially led a five-man team into hostile territory and was able to recover another downed flyer, Lt. Mark Clark – son of WWII General Mark Clark, who had been shot down searching for Hambleton.

Norris then led another mission but was unsuccessful in locating Hambleton. With time running out Norris devised a daring mission.

Norris, accompanied only by a South Vietnamese Commando, Nguyen Van Kiet, disguised themselves as fishermen and traveled deep into enemy territory. Patrolling through enemy infested jungles, Norris was able to locate Hambleton.

He loaded Hambleton into their sampan and covered him with bamboo and successfully navigated their way back to American lines while evading North Vietnamese patrols.

Just as they were reaching their base, they came under intense enemy fire, which Norris neutralized with a well-placed air strike.

For his highly successful, highly classified mission Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor. Nguyen Van Kiet became one of the few Vietnamese to receive the Navy Cross.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Updates to Post-9/11 Gi Bill transfers are coming

The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family. Once the DoD approves benefits for transfer, the new beneficiaries apply for them at Veterans Affairs.

The option to transfer is open to any member of the armed forces active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted who is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and meets the following criteria:


  • Has at least six years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces from the date of election.
4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

  • Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by service branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
  • Transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.
  • Effective July 12, 2019, eligibility to transfer benefits will be limited to service members with at least 6 years but not more than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service. So service members with more than 16 years of service should transfer benefits before July 12, 2019.

For more information, go to https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_transfer.asp.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Veterans

Everything about this monument is far more symbolic than most notice

There are many memorials scattered throughout this beautiful land of ours, dedicated to the sacrifice and honor shown by our men and women in uniform. At these monuments, crowds gather from all over the country to pay their respects on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

But there’s a memorial, located in Anthem, Arizona, that is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing — the Anthem Veterans Memorial. It’s truly a spectacular sight and it makes an annual appearance on social media. Every year, at around 11:11 AM on the 11th of November, the light shines through it perfectly, spotlighting an image of the Great Seal of the United States of America.

It’s a beautiful and breathtaking thing to see, surely, but with so much attention on that single, annual moment, many intricacies fall to the wayside. In actuality, every tiny, little detail of the site is symbolic — here’s how.


4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
The Army pillar is 17 ft tall, the shadow on the ground reaches 7ft off the base of the monument, and the Coast Guard pillar is 6 ft tall — because 17-7-6.
​(Anthem Community Council)

Located just north of Phoenix, Arizona, the Anthem Veterans Memorial was first envisioned in 2009 and finished in 2011. It was created by Renee Palmer-Jones, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. (Retired) Ron Tucker, and James Martin to give the city a way to honor the veterans within their community.

The memorial consists of five pillars, each bearing the insignia of a branch of the Armed Forces, stacked in order of Department of Defense precedence: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The pillars are made of white marble, arranged on red brick, and stand against the backdrop of the blue Arizona sky — the colors of Old Glory.

Once a year, when the light shines just right, the pillars cast a combined shadow that perfectly encircles the Seal of the United States, symbolizing how the joint effort of our armed forces support this great nation.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
You can still see it fairly well in mid-November, but it’s only going to be spot-on perfect on Veterans Day.
(Anthem Community Council)

Surrounding the Great Seal are 1750 red paver bricks — over 750 of these pavers bear the names of the servicemen and women who have supported our nation. On the outside of the pavers are two rows of bricks called the “Soldier Rows,” which symbolize the unbreakable defense our troops offer.

The knowledge of math, geometry, and astronomy required to get the monument right was intense. Construction began in June, 2010, which meant there was only one single moment (November 11, 2010) to make sure everything was just right before it was officially unveiled on November 11th, 2011. On any given year, the perfect circle will happen at 11:11:11 AM, give or take 12 seconds.

Each year, on Veterans Day, crowds will gather, unblinkingly, waiting for that perfect moment, honoring those who fight or have fought for our nation.

MIGHTY MONEY

There is no one in NFL history more devoted to veterans than Jared Allen

During his 12-year NFL career, Jared Allen was a heavyweight defensive player, making his presence known on multiple teams, especially the Minnesota Vikings. It was as a Viking that Allen went on a trip that touched his heart and soul, touring with USO to visit servicemen and women deployed overseas. He even told the assembled troops as much.

That’s what led to Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors (JAH4WW).


“It has been one of the best experiences of my life – something that I’ll never forget,” Allen said of his time visiting troops. “We, as players, probably get more out of it than you do as soldiers and Marines.” Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create his own charity to support America’s wounded.

Even after he was traded to Chicago and later Carolina, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors carried on no matter where Allen was playing. Even though he’s listed as one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time, the uniform he wore on the field wasn’t what defined him. If you ask the man himself, he’ll tell you what he does off the field is what matters most.

“Football is what I do, it’s not who I am. The things that we do today — to impact these lives, to change people’s lives — can last forever,” he told SB Nation. “We have a great responsibility to the community that supports us, and to our veterans who allow us to do what we do.”
4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen presents free Super Bowl LII tickets to eleven-year-old Tallon Kiminski, son of Minnesota Air National Guard member, Maj. Jodi Grayson.

(U.S. Air National Guard photos by Capt. Nathan T. Wallin)

When it comes to helping wounded veterans, Jared Allen is a godsend. On its website, the JAH4WW says, “Jared was moved by the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices that our soldiers make every day to protect our freedom. He wanted to say thank you to every soldier in the only way that Jared knows how. By embracing the conflict and making a positive life-changing difference in the lives of those who need it most, Jared and his JAH4WW will help make life for wounded vets just a little bit easier.”

Talk is big, but in practice, Jared Allen is much, much bigger than just words. Since its founding in 2009, his organization has helped raise funds to build or revamp homes for injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, raised tens of thousands of dollars from corporations like Wal-Mart and Proctor Gamble to provide everyday household goods for veteran families in need, and on Veterans Day, you can always find the now-retired Allen doing something to help veterans in need.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

NFL player Larry Fitzgerald signs an autograph for troops from the Washington Army National Guard at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, along with Will Witherspoon from the St. Louis Rams, Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings, and Danny Clark from the New York Giants in 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Emily Suhr)

“I knew I had to do something to serve our country,” Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. “I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us.”

If you’re a veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan who is in need of housing or alterations to suit your disability, apply to Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors on the organization’s website. Jared Allen is one guy you definitely want in your corner.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA says average wait time down to 2 days in 2018

For Dr. Stephen Gau, an emergency medicine physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loma Linda Healthcare System, a recent encounter with a veteran confirmed a key benefit of his choice of a VA career: the ability to spend more time with patients.

Despite recently documented progress in reducing wait times since the Phoenix controversy erupted in 2014, Dr. Gau said his patients often voice concerns about VA care. One of Dr. Gau’s patients, frustrated and frightened after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer, even asked, “Is this going to be another Phoenix?”


Dr. Gau said VA Loma Linda’s relatively low doctor-patient ratio allowed him the time to thoroughly review the veteran’s medical record. He confirmed that follow-up appointments were scheduled and specialty care was coordinated. Dr. Gau discussed the cancer care process and answered the veteran’s many questions.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

It was sea change compared with Dr. Gau’s experience in the private sector, and an eye-opener for the patient. “I don’t know if I would have had that kind of time in the community (hospital) — to really talk to a patient and really explain what was going on and relieve his fear,” he said.

Wait times are down, study shows

This anecdote shines a light on how VA’s effort to reduce patient wait times in primary care and other specialty care services — in part through increased access to care — can manifest at the patient level.

Broader data from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirm that service improvements are happening VA-wide. The study, released Jan. 18, 2019, found that, in 2017, VA physicians, including primary care doctors and cardiologists, saw patients 12 days sooner than their private-sector counterparts.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the study results confirm that systematic changes are working. “Since 2014, VA has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care,” he said in a statement.

The study, “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” looked at VA and private-sector hospital wait-time data across 15 major metropolitan areas. In 2017, average wait times were significantly shorter for VA compared with private hospitals, in primary care, cardiology and dermatology. (Orthopedic wait times were longer for VA in both 2014 and 2017, although they were down during the study period.)

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The study affirmed additional progress in cutting wait times since 2014 cited by Wilkie in December 2018 testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ committees.

“The average time it took to complete an urgent referral to a VA specialist has decreased from 19.3 days in FY 2014 to 3.2 days in FY 2017 and less than 2 days in FY 2018,” Wilkie testified.

Choose VA to prioritize patient care

Wilkie also credited VA’s workforce for improving services across the board and committed to using the tools of the VA MISSION Act to recruit and retain talented healthcare providers, including additional hiring resources and incentives.

Dr. Gau, who moved to VA from a private sector hospital, said it was the veteran-centric mission and the sizable benefits that ultimately lured him to government service. More time with patients has been an added benefit.

It’s a career choice he doesn’t regret. “I tell you what, it’s been a really positive experience for me,” he said.

Choose VA today

Physicians like Dr. Gau find that choosing a VA career means being able to deliver the highest quality healthcare in a time frame that works for veterans and providers. See if a VA career as a physician is the right choice for you, too.

Read more about the JAMA wait time study.
Explore a VA career as an emergency room physician.
Apply for an open position near you.
Learn how to Choose VA at www.VAcareers.va.gov.
Follow our Choose VA blog series:

Articles

This is how many of some of the most heroic WW2 planes are left

According to a 2014 report by USA Today, 413 World War II vets die each day on average. However, the men (and women) who served in uniform are not the only things vanishing with time.


Many of the planes flown in World War II are also departing one by one from the skies.

In one sense, it may not be surprising – after all, World War II has been over for 72 years. But here are the production totals of some of the most famous planes: There were 20,351 Spitfires produced in World War II. Prior to a crash at a French air show near Verdun in June, there were only 54 flying. That’s less than .3 percent of all the Spitfires ever built.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
Spitfire LF Mk IX, MH434 being flown by Ray Hanna in 2005. The Spitfire served with the USAAF in the Mediterranean Theater from 1942-1944. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Of the over 15,000 US P-51 Mustangs built, less than 200 are still flyable – about one percent of the production run. Of 12,571 F4U Corsairs built, roughly 50 are airworthy. Of 3,970 B-29 Superfortresses built, only two are flying today.

Much of this is due to the ravages of time or accidents. The planes get older, the metal gets fatigued, or a pilot makes a mistake, or something unexpected happens, and there is a crash.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
Fifi, one of only two flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. (Photo by Ilikerio via Wikimedia Commons)

Finding the spare parts to repair the planes also becomes harder – and more expensive – as time passes. A 2016 Air Force release noted that it took 17 years to get the B-29 bomber nicknamed “Doc” flyable. Kansas.com reported that over 350,000 volunteer hours were spent restoring that B-29.

Many of the planes built in World War II were either scrapped or sold off – practically given away – when the United States demobilized after that conflict.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
P-47 P-51 — Flying Legends 2012 — Duxford (Photo by Airwolfhound)

As David Campbell said in “The Longest Day” while sitting at the bar, “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.” Below, you can see the crash of the Spitfire at the French air show – and one of the few flyable World War II planes proves how true that statement is beyond the veterans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How one hotel brand is going above and beyond to show support to veterans

This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.

When America’s big business lends its support to the men and women in uniform, it’s usually about giving a good, old-fashioned military discount. While military members and veterans alike love and appreciate getting a deal as a nod to their service, it’s always a surprise when someone goes the extra mile. Be it someone on the staff, a kind business owner, or a company policy, the appreciation given to service members and their families is always appreciated in return.

But what Super 8 by Wyndham does for military members and their families is more. Yes, right now, they’re offering a twenty-percent military discount and 500 Wyndham Rewards bonus points through December 10th to military members and their families, but they always go the extra mile for service members who are miles away from their homes.


Preferred Parking

This is one of those ideas that undoubtedly sprang from a big-hearted employee. The Super 8 in Adrian, Mich. had an employee by the name of Juice Majewski — a veteran. Majewski was the chain’s maintenance manager and his boss, Jennifer Six, came from a family of military veterans. Six honored his service by creating a veterans-only spot in the Adrian Super 8’s parking lot. When corporate leaders saw the initiative, they decided to take the idea nationally. Now, every Super 8 in North America features preferred parking for vets.

The Human Hug Project

Super 8 is a proud partner of the Human Hug Project, a non-profit organization with the goal of raising awareness for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. Members of the Human Hug Project visit VA facilities across the nation in order to spread love and awareness for veterans and their families.

Founder Ian Michael is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gino Greganti is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Erin Greganti is a Marine Corps wife who knows exactly what service members’ families go through when a loved one returns home from war. Super 8 helps the HHP by providing places to stay as they make their way across the U.S. to visit all of the VA’s healthcare facilities.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

ROADM8 Auction

Recently, Super 8 by Wyndham designed a one-of-a-kind Jeep to showcase the latest and greatest amenities found in their newly revamped guest rooms. From the built-in coffee maker to the upholstery that looks like one of the comfortable beds you’d find in a Super 8, this monster of a vehicle is a hotel room in a car.

But it’s more than just an awesome concept car. Super 8 by Wyndham auctioned off the ROADM8 to benefit one of the best charities around: Fisher House Foundation. Fisher House Foundation provides a “home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

Working with Vets

Super 8’s parent company, Wyndham Hotels Resorts, supports those who are working hard to make a living by using veteran-owned supplier companies.

From maintenance companies to security services to bedding manufacturers, it takes a full complement of amenities and facilities to make guests comfortable — Wyndham knows that by working with veteran-owned businesses, they’ll constantly achieve their mission of giving you a fantastic place to rest.

So next time you hit the road, whether it’s to visit an on-base family member or a spontaneous road trip, know that Super 8 is there to support you all the way.

This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Team RWB encourages Veterans to stay connected, stay active

Every year, more than 200,000 service members transition from military to civilian life, joining more than 18 million Veterans to form one of America’s largest and strongest communities. But like most big transitions in life, this one is not easy. Since its inception in 2010, Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) has been helping Veterans stay active, connecting to their new communities and developing a resilient mindset. Today, Team RWB is 217,000 members strong, with chapters across the country. Volunteer leaders run these chapters, and collectively, they host nearly 40,000 events per year.


4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

Providing Veterans more opportunities

Through a newly formalized partnership (signed memorandum of understanding) with the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA stakeholders will have access to Team RWB’s wide-ranging network of events, providing Veterans and supporters everywhere opportunities to connect at the local, regional and national levels.

In addition, Team RWB will work with local VA staff to bring the power of the Eagle network to communities across the country. Events range from hikes to yoga classes, to preparing care packages for deployed service members.

“Team RWB is a non-profit organization, but in that, we are so much more, ” says Mike Erwin, founder and Executive Director of Team RWB. “We are a movement and an identity, a mindset and a community that challenges and supports each other. We are accountable to each other, especially when it comes to creating healthy habits in our post-military lives. Through this new partnership with VA, Team RWB is positioned to engage every Veteran in our country—to help them re-discover the power of physical activity in their lives. And through that, a sense of pride, confidence, purpose and belonging.”

Last fall, Team RWB released a mobile app to engage Veterans wherever they are throughout the day. The Eagle app makes it even easier to discover nearby events and participate in virtual challenges like last month’s March Madness Challenge that had states competing with each other. In May, a new update will introduce social networking, the ability for members to create events and more.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

Born for the Storm

As Team RWB prepares to celebrate its 10th year, the organization has rolled out a new mantra for its Veterans: Born for the Storm. It’s a virus now, but it could be something else by the fall. Life is unpredictable and adversity is certain. Team RWB knows that every Veteran has persevered through numerous physical and mental challenges while serving the nation, and reminds its Veterans that they have the character to weather whatever storms they may be facing.

Team RWB is fired up to partner with VA and wants you to explore the idea of joining the Team and becoming active in virtual challenges right away. You, the Veteran community and our country, will be better for it.

Download the Team RWB app
Android
Apple

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

Articles

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

Veterans

Fox News Martha MacCallum champions veterans

Fox News anchor of The Story is committed to veterans issues and their stories being put at the forefront of news. For Martha MacCallum, it’s personal. 

Growing up, MacCallum often heard the stories of her cousin, Harry Gray. A Marine who’d enlisted during World War II, his letters home were treasured among the family. She’d spend hours in her grandparents’ basement, pouring over those letters and the weathered newspaper clippings from the war. He lost his life during the final days of the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, fighting alongside his brothers in the 3rd Marine Division.  

The legacy of his heroism and sacrifice would not only lead her to traveling to Iwo Jima but writing Unknown Valor, a book dedicated to sharing the lives of Marines like her uncle who gave all in the name of American freedom. “I was always really moved by his letters and ever since I wrote the book, which his letters were such a big part of, I keep receiving similar letters from families all across the country. I am just so moved by them,” MacCallum explained. “The humility and dedication to something bigger than themselves is a quality that’s scarce these days. I think that the military is one of the places where it exists in a real way.”

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
Photo provided courtesy of Fox News

After going deep into the lives of those Marines, MacCallum found herself forever changed from the experience. “I admire them greatly and they have courage that I could have never had. It really comes from that story,” she explained. 

It led to a commitment to tell the stories of veterans of all wars, she said. Since then, she has championed a number of veteran issues and highlighted them on her show. Well-known for her dedication to journalism, MacCallum has received the American Women in Radio and Television award twice for her reporting and journalistic approach. 

Recently, she interviewed Jon Stewart. Currently advocating for veterans impacted by the toxic burn pits and fighting for the recognition of the devastating harm they caused, he implored the Department of Defense and Congress to act. MacCallum said she was moved by it. 

The Department of Veterans affairs has estimated that around 3.5 million service members have been exposed to the fumes from toxic burn pits. President Biden has said that he believes it was those pits and the fumes that caused his own son to develop brain cancer and eventually lose his life. 

MacCallum shared that essentially the service members who return home after being around all of those toxic fumes become defendants in a trial for their own healthcare. “I had read about it all and was aware of it but became more aware of it because of his [Jon Stewart] work,” she explained. “That’s really sad. That’s not where we want to be as a country. We have to respect the sacrifice of these individuals. I just hated seeing them fighting for benefits for medical impact that clearly they would never have if they hadn’t gone to war.”

“We can’t forget the sacrifices they’ve made whether it’s World War II or Afghanistan…It is incumbent upon us that we recognize their sacrifices and their struggles,” MacCallum implored. She went on to explain that in the generation of World War II, everyone knew someone who was serving and it was a war that was deeply felt by most. As America approaches 20 years at war against terrorism, it’s vital that civilians know the cost of their freedom. 

7,036. That’s how many lives have been lost to combat against the enemy. Almost 1 million service members have suffered from injuries, both visible and invisible, due to the War on Terror. The number of troops who’ve sacrificed their lives in training accidents or lost their internal battles to suicide has surpassed combat deaths. 

MacCallum encourages the public to dig in and research their own ancestors and uncover the lives of the veterans in their own families. “Once you start digging and you find those people who have served, it gives you a connection in your own life and I think it makes you respectful of those who are still doing it today,” she explained. 

It was this approach of researching her own family that led her to writing about World War II and the Battle of Iwo Jima for Unknown Valor. “It was really the most rewarding experience of my professional life. I spent three years studying this period. When I began I couldn’t have found Iwo Jima on a map,” MacCallum said. “It was a real eye opener for me in understanding what pacific island fighting was like…how incredibly difficult it was and how incredibly brave they were.”

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
Photo provided courtesy of Fox News

“Through the course of writing the book I was astonished that I actually found two living World War II veterans who were with my cousin when he was killed,” MacCallum said. She called one of those veterans, George, one day. When she explained who she was, he was stunned and told MacCallum that he thought of her cousin every day. “It gave me a window into that depth of brotherhood and friendship that I never understood before.”

As citizens of a country where only 1% of the population wears the uniform of service, we owe it to them to find those windows of empathy and understanding. To truly thank someone for serving, it starts with knowing what raising their right hand means and the cost of stepping forward, so you don’t have to. 

To find out more about Martha MacCallum’s book, Unknown Valor, click here

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA finally approved benefits for this WW2 human test subject

Arla Harrell, a 90-year-old Missouri veteran who was intentionally exposed to mustard gas during World War II, has been awarded his backdated benefits from the VA, following a decades-long fight and legislation from US Senator Claire McCaskill on behalf of Mr. Harrell and his fellow service members.


The VA’s decision cited McCaskill’s legislation, and her testimony on the family’s behalf, in the awarding of Mr. Harrell’s benefits.

McCaskill testified in July at Mr. Harrell’s Veterans Affairs claim appeals hearing after the VA’s repeated denial of his benefits-asking the judge to take a careful look at his case and grant him the right to hear that his government believes him.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled for Arla and his family, that after so many decades being told ‘no’, so many claims denied, so many bureaucrats refusing to believe he had been mistreated by his own government-the VA is finally saying ‘yes'” said McCaskill, herself the daughter of a World War II veteran, and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. “This law, that so many folks put party aside to pass, is already getting results: long-overdue justice and the simple recognition of what Arla and so many of his fellow soldiers, sacrificed for their country. And three simple words that the government should have said to Arla decades ago, ‘we believe you.'”

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey greets Senator Claire McCaskill (right). Photo from SecDef Flickr.

In August, President Trump signed McCaskill’s Arla Harrell Act into law after it was approved by the Senate, capping a two-year battle and paving the way for decades-overdue relief to veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas.

As the document granting Mr. Harrell’s claim states, the reversal comes after McCaskill, who is listed as a witness for Mr. Harrell, passed her legislation. “During the pendency of the Veteran’s appeal, the President of the United States… signed legislation [the Arla Harrell Act] that directs the VA to reconsider previously denied claims for disability compensation for veterans who allege full-body exposure to nitrogen mustard gas, sulfur mustard gas, or Lewisite during World War II… [ Arla Harrell’s claims] will be reconsidered in light of this new legislation.”

During World War II, thousands of US servicemen were exposed to mustard agents through secret US military experiments. By the end of the war, 60,000 servicemen had been human subjects in the military’s chemical defense research program, with an estimated 4,000 of them receiving high levels of exposure to mustard agents.

For decades, these servicemen were under explicit orders not to discuss their toxic exposure with their doctors or even their families. The US military did not fully acknowledge its role in the testing program until the last of the experiments was declassified in 1975. The military did not lift the oath of secrecy until the early 1990s.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of
Alra Harrell. Photo from the Harrell family via St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Following her investigative report, McCaskill battled what she called a “decades-long record of ineptitude and failure” at the VA, and enlisted the support of Republican and Democratic colleagues, including Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana, who introduced companion legislation in the US House.

McCaskill also rallied veterans service organizations in support of her bill, and successfully pressured President Trump’s Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin in support of the legislation.

The law required a re-examination of Arla Harrell’s claim for VA benefits, and the inclusion of Camp Crowder on the list of sites where full body testing took place. It also mandates a quick review of previously denied claims, places the burden on the VA (instead of the veteran) to prove or disprove exposure, revamps the VA’s application and adjudication process in the future, and mandates an investigation by both agencies to determine what went wrong with this process and officially acknowledge the horror these servicemen endured.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sergeant Slaughter really was a sergeant of Marines

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.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The veteran’s guide to not being ‘That Guy’ on Veterans Day

Veterans Day is quickly approaching and, honestly, it’s one of the greatest times to be a veteran. You can drive around town with your military or VA ID and treat yourself to all the free pancakes, haircuts, and oil changes you could possibly desire!

It’s amazing that so many companies are willing to take a financial dip for the sake of showing support to our nation’s veterans — though they probably recoup their losses by bringing in family members who otherwise wouldn’t have dined there that day, but hey, who are we to complain?

Potential PR gains aside, it’s fantastic to see veterans come out in droves and proudly let the world know that they served their community and their country — but despite all the patriotic goodness going around, there’s always that one guy who has to ruin it for the rest of us.

Veterans of America, here are a few helpful hints to keep in the back of your mind when you’re out there getting some free buffalo wings this holiday.


Remember the spirit of the holiday: civilians honoring veterans

The civilian-military divide is very real. With each passing year, the number of civilians with troops or veterans in their circle of friends or family decreases. Veterans Day gives these civilians, who know to honor veterans, a name and a face towards which to express that gratitude.

So, when a civilian comes forth and wants to thank you for your service, be polite, be courteous, and be professional. If you leave a fantastic impression on a civilian, they’ll go forward assuming that everyone in the military is as pleasant as you were. If you’re a dick to them, well, that impression will stick, too.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

Veterans Day is a day to celebrate everything that veterans have given this country. Enjoy it with a burger that has an American Flag toothpick in it — because America.

(Photo by Jorge Franganillo)

Think of yourself as an ambassador to the veteran community. You’re going out there to face a population that, in many cases, has only heard of us in pop culture or on the news. Take the time and share some of your lighter stories about your time in the service. Who knows? Maybe you’ll convince someone that military life isn’t all that bad — you just did half of the recruiter’s job for them.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

Just because your career consisted of just doing pointless details for Uncle Sam doesn’t mean you didn’t serve. That just means you were junior enlisted.

(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)

Don’t exaggerate your time in service

We all served as a cog in this grand machine we call the military. There’s no shame in having played any role. If you were a flight-line mechanic in the Air Force, own it — and let people know that you worked your ass off to be the best damn flight-line mechanic around.

There’s no need to pretend you were some badass when, clearly, you weren’t, The military discount applies equally to the Army private who fixed NVGs and the Green Beret who went on a classified amount of missions for Uncle Sam, so keep your cool.

This rule of thumb is important for two reasons. One, exaggerating your role belittles the other troops and veterans who honorably served their country in those seemingly small, but essential roles. Two, it takes away from the level of badassery that actual special operations maintained.

Just be you. If you raised your right hand to support and defend this country, you’ve earned respect.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

It may seem awkward at first, but it really does mean a lot to tell another veteran that you’re thankful for their service.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Adams)

Don’t go too far with inter-branch rivalries

While we’re in the service, we can be a bit harsh on our brothers- and sisters-in-arms about what they do and which branch they serve under. It’s in good fun between us and, usually, there’s no bad blood.

But not every veteran will take your “Marines are crayon-eating idiots” joke as lightly as you’d hope. As bitter as the rivalry between the 101st and 82nd Airborne is, it’s fine to put aside such differences over a beer. And shouting “POG!” at every support guy you see just doesn’t make sense when you two are the only ones who’ll understand what a “POG” is, anyway.

Enjoy the day with other veterans, especially if they served in a different era than you. You just might learn a thing or two from them.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

I honestly don’t get why these dumbasses waste so much money on impersonating veterans just to save 10% on a meal — but hey, that’s just me.

Don’t go patrolling for stolen valor turds.

We get it. There are douchebags out there that try to pretend to be veterans on Veterans Day just to get a free burger and some undeserved attention. F*ck ’em. It’s totally understandable to chew one of these assclowns out for reaping benefits for which they never sacrificed.

With that being said, don’t actively go out searching for these losers because, nine times out of ten, they’re actually veterans.

Use your best judgement when it comes to spotting other veterans. If you see an older guy that’s sitting quietly, eating with his family while wearing a Vietnam War cap, do not go around screaming at them, accusing them of stealing valor. They’re more than likely a veteran. If you see a twenty-something year-old prick wearing a modern uniform all jacked up? Well, feel free to press them about their service a little. Remember, though, that some veterans suffer from traumatic brain injuries, so the answers to very specific questions may be a bit fuzzy.

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

Or you could call ahead or look up online where all the discounts and freebies are. It’ll be all over the internet this time of year.

(US. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski)

Don’t argue with retail clerks at places that don’t offer veteran discounts

Most places will give a veterans discount on Veterans Day — and that’s amazing. This doesn’t mean, however, that every place is required to offer one. Please — I’m begging from the bottom of my heart, here — do not get into a shouting match at some poor, minimum-wage-earning civilian who had absolutely no say on corporate policy.

Unless you’re talking to a real decision-maker, all you’re doing is making that retail worker think that all veterans are pricks. They’ll grow to resent veterans and it’ll put yet another wedge in the civilian-military divide. Just pay full price like everyone else that day, or politely say “thanks anyways” and move on to a competitor that does offer one.

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