Veteran Bettie J. Morden was an advocate for women’s rights in the military and later became a quintessential historian, sharing her stories on and off the field.
Bettie J. Morden dedicated her life to the U.S. Army in active service and beyond. She was born in August 1921 in Huron, St. Clair County, Michigan. She grew up with her parents, William James Morden and Leah Marie “Bonney” Morden, and five siblings.
In 1939, Morden graduated from high school. The following year, she attended Cleary Business College in Ypsilanti, Michigan. During this time, she also worked as a corporate office secretary.
On Oct. 14, 1942, shortly after her 21st birthday, Morden became one of the first women to enlist in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). She completed basic and administrative training at the first WAAC Training Center in Fort Des Moines, Iowa.
During World War II, Morden served at the Third Women’s Army Corps (WAC) Training Center in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. As a member of the WAC, Morden was quickly promoted to first sergeant of the Headquarters Company, South Post, at Fort Oglethorpe.
When World War II ended, Morden was discharged from the Army. She began studying at Columbia University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a Master of English in 1950.
In September 1949, Morden joined the U.S. Army Reserve. She became a second lieutenant in the WAC in 1950. In 1952, she returned to active duty as a first lieutenant. She served for 21 years on active duty and worked as a personnel officer with the National Security and Army Security Agencies. Morden also acted as a personnel staff officer at the Defense Language Institute in Washington, D.C.
Morden commanded WAC detachments at Fort Riley, Kansas, as well as Heidelberg and Pirmasens in Germany. At Fort McClellan, Alabama, she served as the commander of the WAC Training Battalion. In Washington, D.C., Morden was the first executive officer at the Office of the Director WAC. She then served as deputy director to two WAC directors, Brig. Gen. Elizabeth P. Hoisington and Brig. Gen. Mildred I. C. Bailey.
Morden also served during the Korean War and Vietnam War. On Dec. 31, 1972, she retired with the rank of colonel. For her service, she received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Joint Services Commendation Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. She was also a graduate of the WAC Officers’ Advanced Course; Command & General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and the Army Management School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Two years later, Morden came out of retirement to write the second volume in the Army Historical Series, “The Women’s Army Corps 1945-1978,” which was published by the U.S. Army Center of Military History. Her work detailing the history of the WAC was a significant contribution to military history and highlighted women’s achievements in the military. Morden wrote about WAC directorship and outlined the WAC’s struggle to gain Army and reserve status. Her book also helped give women military credit for WAC service – only after Morden’s book was published were women able to attain a rank of lieutenant colonel or higher.
Morden continued working as an associate staff historian at the Center of Military History until her book was officially published in 1990. In 1991, “The Women’s Army Corps 1945-1978” won the Distinguished Book Award from the Society of Military Historians.
After she retired again, Morden remained an active supporter of women Veterans. For over 30 years, she served as the president of the WAC Museum Foundation. During this time, she campaigned to raise money for the WAC Museum building at Fort McClellan.
When the WAC Museum at Fort McClellan closed, Morden successfully relocated the museum to Fort Lee, Virginia. The new U.S. Army Women’s Museum opened on May 11, 2011. It occupies 13,000 square feet and honors all women soldiers. This space is the only museum in the world dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories and contributions of women in the Army.
Five weeks after the museum’s dedication, Morden resigned as her inoperable breast cancer worsened. Morden passed away on Oct. 12, 2001. She was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.
Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)
Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.
This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.
“I don’t know what story you can write about me except that I’m here,” quipped the dapper 78-year-old during an interview in his modest apartment just off the Clemson University campus. Dressed in his typically stylish manner, with dress slacks, a button-up shirt and fine leather shoes, Williams certainly doesn’t look 78 and, as a college sophomore studying computer information systems, doesn’t act 78 either.
But there’s nothing extraordinary about that, he says. He isn’t back in school in his late 70s because of some insatiable zest for life. He just needs a good job.
“Everything I’ve done in life I’ve done late. I’m the only clown in my whole family that didn’t get a degree,” he said. “When they started dying on me I said I’d better get back to school.”
Both of his parents and his only sibling, a younger sister, have passed away, and since he’s fairly new to the Upstate he doesn’t have any close friends in the area.
“Basically, I don’t have anybody,” he said matter-of-factly. “Let’s face it, it’s all up to me now.”
Malcolm Williams, 78, a rising sophomore at Clemson University studying computer systems, in his apartment in Clemson.
Williams has a tendency to downplay his life and didn’t particularly relish telling his story, but as he talks it becomes clear that, despite what he may think, he is quite extraordinary.
Born in 1939 in Highland Park, Michigan, his mother, Esther, was a substitute teacher, and his father, David was a graduate of Columbia University who spent 50 years working at Ford Motor Company.
Because of his father’s position, Williams enjoyed a privileged upbringing and could rely on support from his parents throughout his life. Nevertheless, he joined the Army in 1956 straight out of high school and served in both Korea and Vietnam as a surgical technician and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles.”
He experienced the South for the first time when he was sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for medical training. It was his first time away from Michigan.
“When I got to Fort Sam, I had never seen signs that said ‘Black Only’ or ‘White Only’,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener. I said, ‘Oh mercy this is going to be pure hell and it was.'”
Williams was sent to a Nike missile base in Illinois, and then to Fort Campbell, Tennessee. They gave him the nickname ‘Doc.’ One night he went to a local bar with two dozen soldiers from his company and experienced a scene right out of a movie.
“The guy behind the bar looked right at me and said ‘I don’t serve n——’,” calling him a racial slur, recalled Williams. “The guys in my group said, ‘You ain’t going to serve who?’ They said, ‘Well guess what – if you don’t serve Doc you won’t serve any of us. We all walked out together and never went back.'”
That was his first taste of a brotherhood that would follow him all the way to Clemson.
Williams attends an introduction to sociology class in Brackett Hall.
Williams’ Army career took him all over the country and the world. He was stationed with the 249th Surgical Detachment at a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) in Korea, and then in the U.S. Army 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon, Vietnam. All told, he spent six years in the Army caring for soldiers.
He downplays that too, balking at being called a hero, or even a veteran.
“I never saw war,” he said. “I got to Korea after the war, and then I got to Vietnam before the war, so I’m a peacetime veteran.”
His fellow veterans disagree with that assessment.
“The military needs all sorts of people doing all sorts of jobs to make it work,” said Sam Wigley, a Marine veteran, Clemson graduate and outreach director for Upstate Warrior Solution, a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans in the Upstate area of South Carolina. “I’m sure if Malcolm asked those wounded fellows he was working on if they thought he was an important part of the military and a veteran they would not hesitate to agree.”
Williams got out of the Army in 1962 as a specialist second class and spent the next few years trying to figure out what to do with his life. He describes a definitively 1960s Detroit existence during those years. He tells of dating songwriter Janie Bradford — who wrote “Money, (That’s What I Want)” and several other hits — while he was still in the Army. He said that while he was with her he became something of a fixture at Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio.
“Janie and I dated for four years. She had three secretaries at one time at the Motown office and I had to go through all three just to meet her for lunch,” he laughed. They also put him to work. At one point he was enlisted to chauffeur The Supremes to appearances.
“My dad had a convertible Thunderbird and [Motown founder] Berry Gordy would ask me to ride the Supremes around in it. I didn’t like him, but at the time The Supremes were struggling, so I said, ‘I can’t do this all the time, because it’s my father’s car, but I’ll take you around,'” he chuckled.
He landed work as a bartender in the Detroit club scene, where he rubbed elbows with people like Jackie Wilson and Dinah Washington. After that he moved to California for a time (“People are kooky there – I think they get too much sun.”), then returned to Michigan to attend college at Ferris State College in Big Rapids, where he became a charter brother of the school’s Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity chapter in 1966. He left before graduating when state funding to the school was cut, leaving him without the means to continue.
He spent the next portion of his life as an auditor for technology companies, which kept him moving around the country until an old Army friend convinced him to move to Greenville in 2001. He worked for Columbus Serum Company until the company was sold in 2008.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, he was 68 and unemployed. Retirement was not an option — that’s what old people do. It was time to figure out the next chapter. In the meantime, he found a place in the Brockwood Senior Living center.
“I didn’t like the ‘senior’ part,” he said. “Everybody there was just vegetating.”
Williams knew that he couldn’t become stagnant. He recalls Henry Ford II at his father’s retirement ceremony asking, “Well Dave, what are you going to do now?”
“My dad said ‘I’ll keep at it,'” said Williams. “But he didn’t. He only lived two years after his retirement. It was tragic. He was 72 when he died and he should have had all kinds of years left.”
Williams chats with a student on the way to class. “Apparently I’m an inspiration because of my age,” he told her when she asked why a photographer was following him around.
Already having outlived his father by several years, he enrolled at Greenville Technical College to avoid the same demise.
“I have a Ph.D. in dressing. I can tie a bow tie,” he said. “But I’m tired of just looking like I’m educated, so I enrolled because I want to be educated, not vegetated.”
After several semesters at Greenville Technical College, Williams decided to seek a four-year college degree. He set his sights just down the road on the home of the Tigers. He’d heard nothing but good things about Clemson since moving to South Carolina, so he figured he might as well go for the best.
He applied and, being an honor student at GTC, was immediately accepted. Now his only problem was getting to class. Clemson was an hour-long bus ride away, and that sufficed for a while, but it was exhausting. He needed to move closer, but he hadn’t worked since 2008, so he had no resources to make that happen.
That’s when his brothers-in-arms stepped in. When Wigley and the other administrators of Upstate Warrior Solution found out Williams was in need, they contacted the Clemson Student Veteran Association to help. On a cool and overcast Saturday in January 2018, a squad of Clemson student veterans, strangers until that moment, showed up at Williams’ apartment in Greenville. They loaded his belongings into their cars and moved him to an apartment they had found for him in Clemson. He was one day away from the end of his lease.
Williams with the group of student veterans that moved him into his new apartment.
It was a reminder from his fellow veterans that, even though he might feel alone sometimes, he is not and never will be.
“This is anecdotal evidence of what every veteran knows: that the bond between service members transcends race, gender, generational gaps, political affiliations, military branches and occupations, and even wars,” said Brennan Beck, Clemson’s assistant director for Military and Veteran Engagement, who was one of the vets that helped Williams move that day. “Despite all of our differences, we’re connected by what unites us: our sworn service to defending and serving our country in the U.S. military. That’s the strongest bond.”
Williams said those student veteran Tigers probably kept him from becoming homeless that day. He’d had a few reservations about coming back to the American South, where he first experienced blatant racism, but those fears abated as his fellow vets and the greater Clemson family welcomed him with open arms.
Williams adjusts his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity hat in his apartment in Clemson.
“I did have a few unpleasant thoughts about coming back to the South,” he said. “However, while I have struggled to adapt to university life, Clemson’s administration and its faculty continue to encourage me and treat me with dignity and respect.”
Now, Williams gets up every day and goes to class like very other student and hopes to become a consultant after graduating two years from now at the age of 80.
“I used to say, ‘Oh well I’ve got time,'” he reflected. “Well, you don’t have time. Believe me. You get to be 20, all of a sudden you’re 30, then all of a sudden you’re 40. Hey, time flies. Next year I’ll be 79 and I’m still trying to get an education.”
Williams has taken up studying German in his spare time and likes to recite his favorite quote: Wir werden zu früh alt, schlau zu spä.
“It means ‘We get old too soon, smart too late,'” he said, nodding gently. “Don’t I know it.”
Whether he knows it or not, he’s having an impact on the people around him just by being here.
“He inspires me,” said Ken Robinson, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice and a charter member of Clemson’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. “To hear his story is very encouraging. I was introduced to Malcolm by a graduate student who knew that he was an Alpha and recommended that I meet him. Well, I reached out to Malcolm and I’m very pleased that he’s here. I think it’s really good for his fellow students to interact with him and to learn from his rich experience.”
Williams remains nothing if not pragmatic about what lies ahead for him.
“I’m going to stay with it until I graduate, if I live,” he said, pensively. “When I dress up I want that big Clemson ring on my hand. Dylan Thomas said ‘Don’t go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ That sticks in my mind all the time. If I go out of here I’m going out kicking and screaming, and that’s a fact.”
Joe Quinn, a West Point graduate and the current Director of Leadership Development for Team Red, White Blue (RWB), has been hand-selected as in the incoming Executive Director for Headstrong, a non-profit organization that provides post-9/11 military veterans with free mental health care. He’ll begin his new role on Jan. 1, 2018.
U.S. Marine Zach Iscol, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Headstrong Project (and a previous veteran-to-watch on WATM’s Mighty 25) personally attested to Quinn’s character in the announcement made to the Headstrong team:
Despite graduating from West Point, Joe has had an exemplary and impressive career. He deployed twice to Iraq, served as an advisor to General Petraeus’ Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance team’s in Afghanistan, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard. As the Director of Leadership Development at Team RWB, a leading Veteran Service Organization, he has managed their growth to a major national organization and personally developed nearly 2,000 community leaders.
No stranger to service-after-service (Team RWB enriches the lives of vets by connecting them to their community through various activities), Quinn’s own letter to the Team RWB family was filled with sentiment, purpose, and praise for his team:
Beginning January 1st, I’ll be the next Executive Director of the Headstrong Project, an organization that heals the hidden wounds of war through stigma-free, bureaucracy-free, cost-free, evidence-based treatments. At Headstrong, we are going to lead a vast movement across the country that heals the hidden wounds of war to help prevent veteran suicide. This is only the beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.
Quinn is a highly respected member of the veteran community, and one who knows the space and is connected to the vets he serves. He’s someone to watch out for in the coming year and we can’t wait to see what good he’ll do for veterans next!
A VA hospital in Wisconsin is under scrutiny for potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The infections are being blamed on a dentist at the Tomah VA hospital.
According to a report by WEAU.com, 592 veterans are in the process of being informed about the potential exposure, brought about by the re-use of equipment from October 2015 to October 2016. A substitute for the dentist’s regular assistant noted the unidentified dentist’s actions and reported him.
The dentist has since been re-assigned to an administrative position. VA regulations require that equipment not be re-used.
“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Victoria Brahm, the acting director of the medical center, told WEAU.com. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”
The Tomah VA hospital came under fire in the past for allegedly over-prescribing painkillers. The hospital is providing free medical screenings and will also provide free treatment of any infections. The VA Inspector General has been notified and will be investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed.
“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” Brahm told WEAU.com. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”
This is not the first VA medical center to have issues. A VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, used “separate waiting lists” to hide a backlog of cases, leading to at least 200 deaths. A VA center in Chicago reportedly had a cockroach infestation that was so bad, some of the bugs got into food intended for the patients.
On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.
Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.
Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.
After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.
Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.
Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)
Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.
Almost every military career ends with the service member making a decision: find a job or start a business. For those in the National Guard or reserves, this choice parallels time in uniform.
Veterans who choose the path of entrepreneurship have an added resource to lean on. Jason Van Camp founded Warrior Rising — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their immediate family members start their own businesses.
“When you were getting out of the military you had a question, and that question was ‘now what? What am I going to do with myself?'” Van Camp said. “You probably thought to yourself ‘you know I could just sit back and collect my retirement or I could get a job or I could start a business.”
Starting a business after leaving the military is a journey Van Camp knows well. The former green beret left the Army after a seizure disorder forced him to medically retire. He founded Mission 6 Zero, a leadership development firm with high-profile clients including the NFL and Major League Baseball.
Warrior Rising was launched to help other veterans make the transition to business ownership. The resources provided by the organization are free to veterans and their immediate family members. It is funded by donations with 82.4% of every dollar going to veterans. The rest, Van Camp said, goes to overhead. He added that initially, 100% of donations went to veterans, but the company grew too large and he had to hire paid staff to keep up with demand.
In the five years since its founding, Warrior Rising has grown exponentially. In 2015 the company helped six veterans establish businesses. Last year the number was 1,016. This year, Van Camp said, Warrior Rising on pace to help 1,500 veterans start new businesses with about 40 signing up every two weeks.
Despite frequently saying during an online interview that “business is hard,” Van Camp said Warrior Rising already has some success stories.
Firebrand Flag Company, for example, recently sold out on a limited run of fireproof American flags.
“They’re ramping up business right now and I have no doubt this is going to be a multi-million-dollar company,” Van Camp said.
People interested in using Warrior Rising’s free services should first go to the organization’s website to sign up. Van Camp said an intake specialist will call the applicant within 48 hours.
“So, you have an intimate one-on-one conversation with someone about your business idea, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re trying to do it. Is it a good idea? Do you have the money for this? Does your spouse support you?” Van Camp said. “Questions about the actual journey you’re about to embark on.”
From there, applicants are sent to Warrior Rising’s education platform, Warrior Academy – online training that translates a military operations order into a business model. Van Camp said the training is designed to be difficult to prepare would-be entrepreneurs for the realities of owning a business.
“You can’t start out with 0,000 salary. That’s not how it works in business,” he said. “You’re going to have to grind and go without pay and suffer for a while before you start seeing revenue — before you start seeing everything start to pay off and you see a return on investment.”
After the training is complete, applicants are paired with mentors who are successful in the industry the veteran hopes to succeed in. Van Camp said the mentors are usually, but not always veterans.
Eventually, after the veteran has met all of the requirements, they can ask Warrior Rising for financial assistance and the organization will assist them in finding investors, loans or grants.
But that’s not the end of a veteran entrepreneur’s journey with Warrior Rising.
“What I realized is it wasn’t just about starting a business and finding your purpose through business ownership, it was also about creating a community and joining a community and joining a tribe of people that can support you and you can feel comfortable with like you’re part of the family with,” Van Camp said. “We have platoons all over the country.”
In the past, the organization hosted numerous in-person events, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced Warrior Rising to turn to online venues for events.
Van Camp described coronavirus as a game changer in many ways for those hoping to start businesses. First, he said, more people are applying for Warrior Rising’s assistance.
“It’s been even more prevalent because of COVID,” he said. “Because people are at home looking for that next step because they ask the question ‘now what’ and they come to Warrior Rising for help.”
He said the pandemic will continue to affect the business world for the foreseeable future. He said trucking and logistics, online services and recreational vehicle sales businesses are doing well. His outlook is equally optimistic for credit card processing companies, home security and solar sales.
The outlook is less rosy for commercial real estate.
“Clients of mine that have office space, they’re realizing right now that they don’t need office space. They can work from home,” Van Camp said. “They’re putting as much product out the door as they did before. Private equity firms, venture capitalist firms, the companies that basically control their finances are going to say ‘listen, anything that doesn’t affect the bottom line, get rid of’. They’re going say ‘we don’t need office space. We don’t need to pay rent.’ Coronavirus is going to change the game.”
Van Camp said it’s hard to predict what kind of businesses will be successful. The deciding factor usually has more to do with the would-be entrepreneur than the business itself. Even those with ideas others think are bad might succeed if they’re tenacious and adaptable, he added.
“We try to make it difficult for them and if they continue to try to move forward and if they say ‘I don’t care what you think. I don’t care if you laugh at me, I’m doing this no matter what’, those are the guys that succeed,” Van Camp said. “We try to make sure they understand all the risks. We try to help them understand there’s no guarantees and they’re probably going to fail. We give them all the stats. For some people it scares them off. That’s a good thing because they would have been scared off during their business endeavor anyway. I’ve seen some things that I thought ‘well that’s a dumb idea.’ Because they didn’t quit, they proved me wrong.”
U.S. Navy Hospital corpsmen are part of a tradition that predates the American Navy itself. In the age of sail, corpsmen (then called loblolly boys) helped the ship’s surgeon stay on his feet with sand and kept the cauterizing irons hot. The role has evolved over the decades, and the name of the corpsman’s rating evolved along with it. The loblolly boy became the nurse, who became the bayman, who became the surgeon’s steward, then the apothecary, hospital apprentice, hospital steward, pharmacist’s mate, until after World War II, when the modern corpsman (as we know it) was born.
Update: This story was corrected to reflect that Byers was a Special Operations Combat Medic.
The corpsman is part medic, part nurse, part pharmacist, who serves in the Navy and on its ships, but also deploys with Marines. A corpsman’s importance in combat is unrivaled and requires the skill and courage of any grunt. 2,012 corpsmen were killed in action in the history of the U.S., with 42 of those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their work earned the recognition of twenty ships named for them and more than 600 medals for valor, including twenty-two Medals of Honor. Here are the stories of twenty-two of the Navy’s bravest:
1. Hospital Apprentice Robert H. Stanley
Stanley volunteered to carry and deliver sensitive messages between the American and British forces while under heavy gunfire during the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing, China.
2. Hospital Apprentice First Class William Zuiderveld
Zuiderveld was known as “Doc” to his company of armed Navy sailors (nicknamed “Bluejackets”) during the seizure of Vera Cruz. During an ambush, one of the men was shot in the head and Zuiderveld answered the call for a “corpsman.” Rushing to their aid, he purposely exposed himself to enemy fire to reach his wounded comrades.
3. Hospital Apprentice Fred H. McGuire
During the Philippine Insurrection, McGuire began running low on ammunition, causing him fight off the fierce enemy forces with only his rifle’s butt stock until relief arrived. Finally free to treat the wounded, McGuire attended to several Americans who otherwise would have died.
4. Hospital Steward William S. Shacklette
After the deadly boiler explosion on the USS Bennington and suffering from 3rd-degree burns over much of his body, Shacklette risked his life to assist dozens of sailors off the ship and to safety.
5. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Balch
Fighting alongside his Marines from the 6th Regiment during the Battle of Belleau Wood, Balch exposed himself to high-explosive fire to secure the wounded. He worked tirelessly for his save his patience’s lives.
6 . Hospital Apprentice First Class David E. Hayden
Crossing into a hail of heavy machine-gun fire in an open field during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Hayden administered lifesaving treatment to a wounded Marine. Hayden was wounded but saved the Marine’s life by carrying the man to safety.
7. Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert Eugene Bush
Stationed with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in action against the Japanese on Okinawa, Bush took shrapnel from three enemy grenades. Despite the losing one eye, he was able to do his job and while tending to his wounded platoon commander. While holding the plasma bottle he was giving the Marine officer, he unloaded first his pistol and then the officer’s carbine into an oncoming wave of Japanese soldiers. The Japanese retreated and Bush ensured his wounded were evacuated before administering to his own wounds.
8. Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class William D. Halyburton
Serving in a rifle company with the 5th Marines on Okinawa, Halyburton noticed his company was suddenly pinned down. Moving forward towards the enemy, he reached a wounded Marine and unselfishly shielded the man using his body to shield incoming Japanese gunfire. He continued with his medical treatment until he collapsed from his wounds, sacrificing himself for the wounded Marine.
9. Hospital Apprentice First Class Fred F. Lester
Crawling towards a casualty under a barrage of hostile gunfire and bleeding badly from gunshot wounds, Lester successfully pulled a wounded Marine to safety and instructed two of his squad members how to treat the Marine. Realizing his own wounds were fatal, he instructed two others on how to treat their wounded comrades. Soon after, Lester succumbed to his injuries but saved dozens of lives during his tour.
10. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Francis J. Pierce
Pierce earned his Medal of Honor at the Battle of Iwo Jima. With his rifle blasting, he courageously unveiled himself to draw off enemy attackers while he directed litter teams to carry off wounded Marines towards the medical aid station. He again drew fire while trying to treat a wounded troop and killed another Japanese soldier in the process. He ran across 200 meters of open ground to pick up a wounded Marine and carry him back across the same open 200 meters. Francis rendered the care of several severely wounded men while during the campaign.
11. Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class George E. Wahlen
Under the command of 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines at Iwo Jima, Wahlen was positioned adjacent to a platoon that had come under fire and began taking mass casualties. Dashing more than 600 yards to render medical care on fourteen Marines before returning to his platoon unharmed.
12. Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Jack Williams
Under intense enemy fire, Williams dragged a wounded Marine on his hands and knees, using his body to shield the man as managed to apply battle dressings to the wounded. Shot in both the abdomen and groin, Williams was stunned, but unwilling to give up, recovered and completed to treat the wounded Marine before addressing his injuries.
13. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Willis
Injured by shrapnel and refusing to seek medical attention, Willis advanced up to the front lines under heavy mortar and sniper fire where he saved an injured Marine laying in a crater. Willis administered plasma to the patient as the Japanese intensified their attack throwing grenades. Willis returned the frags launching back towards the enemy. After surviving several attempts, one grenade exploded in his hand killing him instantly. The Marine survived.
14. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Edward C. Benfold
Benfold was killed in action in Korea while trying to help two Marines in a crater at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His company was battered by an enemy artillery barrage and the charged by a battalion-sized unit. Benfold ran from position to position to help his injured comrades. When he came upon the two Marines in a crater, he saw two grenades thrown in as two enemy soldiers rushed the position. Benfold picked up the grenades and charged at the two attackers, pushing the grenades into their chests. He was mortally wounded in the subsequent explosion.
15. Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette
While attending to a wounded man during the Korean War, an enemy grenade landed within a few feet of William, who immediately threw himself on the man, absorbing the blast with his body. Now experiencing extreme shock, he continued to administer medical care to his wounded brother before patching up himself.
16. Hospitalman Richard D. Dewert
As a fire team became pinned down by an overwhelming source of gunfire, Dewert darted into the fray on four different occasions. He carried out the wounded from the front lines even after suffering a gunshot wound to his shoulder. His courageous acts and refusal to quit allowed his brothers to survive their life-threatening injuries.
17. Hospitalman Francis C. Hammond
After sustaining a vicious attack from hostile mortars and artillery by enemy troops, Hammond maneuvered through rough terrain and curtains of gunfire, aiding his Marines along the way. He skillfully directed several medical evacuations for his casualties before a round mortar fire struck within mere feet of him.
18. Hospitalman John E. Kilmer
During the Korean War attack on Bunker Hill, Kilmer suffered from multiple fragment wounds but still traveled from one position to another, tending to the care of the injured. Although he was mortally wounded, he successfully spearheaded many medical evacuations. As mortar shells rained down around him, Kilmer rushed to a critically wounded Marine. Shielding the man from the incoming shrapnel, Kilmer was struck by enemy fire. He’s credited with saving many lives.
19. Hospital Corpsman Second Class Donald E. Ballard
Upon returning from rendering care on two heat casualties, his platoon came under a determined ambush from the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Noticing an injured Marine, Ballard dashed to the man’s aid, treating his wounds. He directed four Marines to form a litter team to evacuate the almost dead Marine when he spotted an incoming enemy grenade. Ballard threw himself on the explosive device, protecting his brothers. The grenade failed to detonate. He stood back up and continued the fight, treating the other Marine casualties.
20. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Wayne M. Caron
While patrolling through a rice patty, Caron’s squad began taking small arms fire. Seeing his comrades sustain mortal wounds, he raced to each one of them and delivered medical attention to at least four Marines while suffering from two gunshot wounds. The injury didn’t stop Caron, he continued onward, putting the well-being of his Marines above his own.
21. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Robert R. Ingram
During an intense battle against dozens of NVA troops, Ingram’s platoon began to thin out. Danger close, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the weathered terrain to reach a downed Marine as a round ripped through his hand. Hearing the desperate calls for a corpsman, Ingram collected himself and gathered ammunition from the dead. As he moved on from patient to patient, he resupplied his squad members as he passed by. Continuing to move forward, Ingram endured several gunshot wounds but continued to aid his wounded brothers. For nearly eight hours, he blocked out severe pain as he pushed forward to save his Marines.
22. Hospital Corpsman Second Class David R. Ray
During the early hours of the morning near Phu Loc 6, a battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the position Ray’s squad occupied. The initial attack caused numerous casualties. Ray moved from parapet to parapet, tending to his wounded Marines. Protecting his own, Ray killed one enemy soldier and wounded a second. Although mortally wounded, he held off the enemy until running out of ammunition. While treating his last patient, Ray jumped on a wounded Marine as a nearby grenade exploded, saving the Marine’s life.
23. Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers
Then-Chief Edward Byers was trained as a Special Operations Combat Medic at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before going through SEAL training in 2002. As part of a hostage rescue force in Afghanistan, he assaulted an enemy sentry while rushing into a small room filled with heavily armed enemy fighters. He assaulted, tackled and fought the insurgents in hand-to-hand combat and then threw himself on the hostage to shield them from small arms fire. While shielding the hostage, Byers subdued others with his bare hands. The 36-year-old is still serving on active duty after 11 deployments. He is the most decorated living Navy SEAL.
Of the roughly 2.5 million service members who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade, just 16 have received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.
It’s not an award most aspire to. The criteria for receiving it are incredibly stringent, requiring significant risk to life and limb in direct combat and a display of “personal bravery or self-sacrifice so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.”
But for some service members put into extreme circumstances, the daily grind can give way to moments of incredible bravery that warrants them the nation’s highest award. We’ve collected them here (in alphabetical order).
Cpl. Kyle Carpenter
On Nov. 21, 2010, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter was providing security alongside his friend Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio on a rooftop at a combat outpost the Marines had established the previous day. It wasn’t long before the shooting started, forcing both to lie on their backs to avoid getting hit.
An hour later, Taliban bullets began getting closer to the compound, and under that cover fire, insurgents launched three grenades inside at the Marines. One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near a post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to both Marines.
“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”
An extensive investigation found that Carpenter had actually jumped on the grenade, absorbing the majority of the explosion. “The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” his award summary reads.
Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” Carpenter said. “We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”
Award Presented: June 19,2014
Staff Sgt. Ty Carter
On Oct. 3, 2009, Carter was one of 54 members of B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment defending Combat Outpost Keating in Nuristan Province. Shortly before 6 a.m., the remote base was rocked with blistering enemy machine gun and rocket fire. More than 400 fighters were attempting to overrun the base.
Then-Specialist Carter sprinted across open ground to join his fellow soldiers on the perimeter, then ran back again to gather up necessary supplies despite withering enemy fire. Later, Carter noticed his fellow soldier Specialist Stephan L. Mace was wounded.
While Larson provided cover fire from within a nearby Humvee, Carter stanched Mace’s bleeding and placed a tourniquet on his shattered leg.
He realized he couldn’t carry Mace while he had his weapon. He returned to the Humvee and told Larson his plan. Larson got out of the Humvee and provided cover fire while Carter returned to Mace, picked him up and carried him through the hail of bullets back to the Humvee, and went back to firing.
During the 12-hour long battle, Carter continued to give medical aid to Mace, engage the enemy, and communicate with his fellow soldiers to retake the base. According to the Army’s official narrative of the battle, “Carter’s remarkable acts of heroism and skill, which were vital to the defense of COP Keating, exemplify what it means to be an American hero.”
Award Presented: Aug. 26, 2013
Cpl. Jason Dunham
While his unit was engaged in a major firefight in Iraq along the Syrian border on Apr. 14, 2004, Dunham and his team stopped several vehicles to search them for weapons.
As he approached one of the vehicles, the driver lunged at Dunham’s throat and they fought in a hand-to-hand battle. Wrestling on the ground, Dunham then yelled to his Marines, “No, no watch his hand.”
The insurgent then dropped a grenade with the pin pulled. Dunham jumped on top of it, placing his helmet between his body and the grenade in an effort to brunt the explosion.
“He knew what he was doing,” Lance Cpl. Jason A. Sanders, who was in Dunham’s company, told Marine Corps News. “He wanted to save Marines’ lives from that grenade.”
He saved the lives of at least two Marines, and was mortally wounded in the blast.
Award Presented (posthumously): Jan. 11, 2007
Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta
On Oct. 25, 2007, Giunta’s platoon was on patrol in Afghanistan’s deadly Korengal Valley when they were hit with a fierce L-shaped ambush from fighters only 10 meters away.
The 10 to 15 enemy fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades, machine-guns, and AK-47s, which immediately wounded two soldiers. With his team pinned down, Giunta left a covered position to give first aid to his wounded squad leader. He was shot twice — one hit the rocket launcher on his back, and the other hit him in the chest of his bulletproof vest.
Once he recovered from the shots, he got up and bounded towards the enemy in order to push them back. When he noticed two Taliban fighters dragging away one of the wounded soldiers, he chased after them, killing one and forcing the other to flee.
“If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero,” Giunta later told The Christian Science Monitor. “So if you think that’s a hero – as long as you include everyone with me.”
Award Presented: Nov. 16, 2010
Pfc. Ross McGinnis
As McGinnis’ platoon was driving through Adhamiyah, Iraq on Dec. 4, 2006, an insurgent on a rooftop tossed a fragmentation grenade into his Humvee.
McGinnis, who was in the gun turret behind the .50 cal, could have jumped out of the hatch and escaped the blast. Instead, he screamed, “grenade” to warn his fellow soldiers as he tried to grab it to toss away, but he missed.
From Command Posts:
He stood as if he were going to leap out of the top of the Humvee, but instead he dropped down from his fighting position into the truck. Newland thought McGinnis was trying to escape the grenade. But he wasn’t. McGinnis had realized that his teammates hadn’t spotted it, and so he was chasing it. Newland couldn’t move quickly enough to get out of the truck with its combat-locked doors, and none of the guys quite understood what was going on because McGinnis hadn’t dived out.
The soldiers watched as McGinnis threw himself on the grenade and took the blast. He gave his life to save the four men inside the vehicle.
Award Presented (posthumously): Jun. 2, 2008
Sgt. Dakota Meyer
On Sep. 8, 2009, Meyer was providing rear security as the four other members of his team (along with Afghan troops) headed on foot into the village of Ganjgal, Afghanistan to meet with village elders.
It turned out to be a trap, and they were ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns firing from high ground.
Listening on the radio to his team — who was now cut off — Meyer disobeyed orders to remain in place and manned a .50 caliber machine gun on a gun truck heading into the village. Despite being wounded and braving intense enemy fire, Meyer went in and picked up wounded Afghans and brought them to safety four times. On his fifth trip, he dismounted and recovered the bodies of his four-man team, who Meyer had been trying to save throughout the battle.
“I was a failure,” Meyer later told CNN. “My guys died. That was my whole team.”
Award Presented: Sep. 11, 2011
Staff Sgt. Robert Miller
On Jan. 25, 2008, Miller’s Special Forces team was on a reconnaissance patrol near the Pakistani border when they came under attack. The first attack was quelled after calling for close air support, but soon after, insurgents opened up with heavy machine guns.
Miller’s team captain was seriously wounded early in the battle. Completely disregarding his own safety, he ran into the hail of bullets from over 100 enemy fighters to give his team an opportunity to escape to covered positions.
Even after being shot in his upper torso, he ignored the wound and ran over open ground, ultimately killing at least 10 insurgents and wounding dozens more, according to his award citation.
“Five members of his patrol had been wounded, but his team had survived,” President Barack Obama said at the award presentation. “And one of his teammates surely spoke for all of them when he said of Rob, ‘I would not be alive today if not for his ultimate sacrifice.'”
While providing sniper overwatch in Ramadi, Iraq on Sep. 29, 2006, Monsoor and his SEAL Team eliminated insurgents that were planning a coordinated attack.
As the enemy activity ratcheted up, Monsoor took up a rooftop position to watch for more insurgents. Then a grenade bounced off his chest and landed at his feet.
From The Washington Post:
“Grenade!” Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.
“He made an instantaneous decision to save our teammates. I immediately understood what happened, and tragically it made sense to me in keeping with the man I know, Mike Monsoor,” said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, Monsoor’s platoon leader in Ramadi.
Award Presented (posthumously): Apr. 8, 2008
Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti
On Jun. 21, 2006, Monti’s unit established a small base on a ridge above a valley in northeastern Afghanistan to support troops below.
Later that evening, a group of at least 60 insurgents established two firing positions only 50 yards away and opened up on the team of only 16 soldiers.
“We were taking so much fire we couldn’t make out where the mortars landed. It was coming in so close that … you could hear it right over your head, just like whizzing through,” Private First Class Derek James told Stars Stripes. “They were so close at one point you could hear their voices.“
With soldiers killed and wounded, Monti called in artillery and close air support. But one of his soldiers was hit and cut off from the rest of the men.
He tried twice to make it to his wounded comrade, but intense enemy fire pushed him back. With his men laying down covering fire, he went once more, almost making it before being shot himself.
Award Presented (posthumously): Sep. 17, 2009
Lt. Michael Murphy
While leading his Navy SEAL team on Jun. 28, 2005 to infiltrate and provide reconnaissance on a Taliban leader, Murphy and the three other members of his team came under withering gunfire from 30 to 40 enemy fighters.
The fierce gunfight pitted the SEALs against insurgents on the high ground, and they desperately called for support as all four operators were hit by gunshots.
When his radioman fell mortally wounded, and with the radio not able to get a clear signal, Murphy disregarded the enemy fire and went out into the open to transmit back to his base and call for support.
From his Summary of Action:
He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in.
“I was cursing at him from where I was,” Hospital Corpsman Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of the battle, later told The New York Times. “I was saying, ‘What are you doing?’ Then I realized that he was making a call. But then he started getting hit. He finished the call, picked up his rifle and started fighting again. But he was overrun.”
Award Presented (posthumously): Oct. 23, 2007
Staff Sgt. Leroy Petry
After his platoon of Army Rangers jumped out of helicopters in Paktia Province, Afghanistan to look for a high-value Taliban target on May 26, 2008, they came under serious attack.
Spotting a nearby compound, Petry led his soldiers in clearing the courtyard which had three Taliban fighters inside. Despite being hit in both legs by gunfire, Petry pushed in and led his soldiers to cover and assess other wounded soldiers.
Only a short time later, both of his soldiers were wounded by a grenade thrown at them by one of the fighters, and then another landed nearby. That’s when Petry decided he would throw it back.
“It was almost instinct; off training,” Petry told the Army News Service. “It was probably going to kill all three of us. I had time to visually see the hand grenade. And I figure it’s got about a four-and-half second fuse, depending on how long it has been in the elements and the weather and everything and how long the pin has been pulled. I figure if you have time to see it you have time to kick it, throw it, just get it out there.”
Saving the lives of two soldiers, the grenade exploded just as he was throwing it, taking off his right hand. He then calmly placed a tourniquet on his arm as other soldiers neutralized the threat from the Taliban.
Award Presented: Jul. 12, 2011
Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts
On July 13, 2008, Taliban fighters attacked a small outpost in Wanat, Afghanistan in an attempt to overrun it, and almost immediately, a number of soldiers were wounded or killed in a blistering volley of rocket-propelled grenade fire.
“It was just a barrage of RPGs, and it was very disorienting,” Pitts told the Army Times. The first volley left Pitts’ lower body peppered with shrapnel, forcing him to crawl to areas where he could return fire. “I’d blind fire, spraying along the rock, and once I thought I had laid down enough suppressive fire, I’d pop up and try to take out whatever I could.”
Crucially, Pitts maintained radio contact between the OP and the command post as the battle progressed, warning of enemy movements. After fighting for over an hour despite being critical wounded, Pitts was medically evacuated.
Were Pitts not present at the Battle of Wanat, the outcome would have been significantly different.
Award Presented: Jul. 24, 2014
Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha
With only 53 U.S. troops at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan, the early morning of Oct. 3, 2009 was quite different than what they had endured before.
Over 300 Taliban fighters were attacking from all sides with the goal of overrunning the remote base. But Romesha wasn’t going to let that happen. “We weren’t going to be beat that day,” he later said.
As fighters breached the perimeter of the camp, Romesha calmly rallied his men to repel the assault even after he was wounded. He personally played “peek-a-boo” with an enemy sniper, took out an enemy machine-gun position, and called in airstrikes that killed at least 30 Taliban fighters.
From The New York Times:
His bravery, Mr. Obama said, helped prevent the outpost from being overrun by Taliban fighters. He was wounded in the neck, shoulder and arms by shrapnel after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a generator he was hiding behind. Eight American service members were killed in the October 2009 battle, one of the most intense of the war.
Award Presented: Feb. 11, 2013
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith
On April 4, 2003, after his unit briefly battled and captured several Iraqi fighters near the Baghdad International Airport, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith instructed his men to build an impromptu holding area for the prisoners in a nearby walled compound.
A short time later, his troops were violently attacked by a larger force. Smith rallied his men to organize a hasty defense, then braved hostile fire to engage the enemy with grenades and anti-tank weapons.
He then ran through blistering gunfire to man the .50 caliber machine gun on top of an armored personnel carrier to keep the enemy from overrunning the position, completely disregarding his own safety to protect his soldiers.
Smith was mortally wounded during the attack, but he helped defeat the attacking force which had more than 50 enemy soldiers killed, according to his award citation.
On Sept. 8, 2009 while assigned as a trainer and mentor to the Afghan border police, Capt. Will Swenson’s team was ambushed by a force of more than 50 Taliban fighters. With no reinforcements and repeated denials for fire support, Swenson repeatedly risked his own life to search for members of the team who were cut off.
With complete disregard for his own safety, Swenson voluntarily led a team into the kill zone, exposing himself to enemy fire on three occasions to recover the wounded and search for missing team members.
Returning to the kill zone a fourth time in a Humvee, he exited the vehicle, evaded a hail of bullets and shells to recover three fallen Marines and a Navy corpsman, working alongside then-Marine Corps Cpl. Dakota Meyer, who on Sept. 15, 2011, received the Medal of Honor for his own actions in the battle.
“This award was earned with a team, a team of our finest: Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and our Afghan partners, standing side by side,” Swenson told reporters after his award ceremony. “And now that team includes Gold Star families who lost their fathers, sons and husbands that day. This medal represents them. It represents us.”
Award Presented: Oct. 15, 2013
Sgt. Kyle White
On Nov. 8, 2007, Kyle White repeatedly ran through intense enemy gunfire to get to wounded troops, called in steady reports and air support to beat back Taliban fighters, and directed medical evacuations for the dead and wounded, Army Times reports.
“An RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] hit right behind my head and knocked me unconscious … it was just lights out … when I woke up, I was face-down on a rock,” White told Army News Service, recalling that as he came to, an enemy round fragmented near his head and sent a shower of broken rock chips and debris into the side of his face. “I didn’t feel pain at all, just numb like when you go to the dentist.”
With chaos all around him, White realized that 10 of those with his 14-man team embedded with Afghan soldiers had been forced to slide more than 150 feet down the side of a rocky cliff. As one of four soldiers left above (and closest to enemy fire), White tended to a wounded soldier for some time before seeing a Marine on the team lying wounded out in the open.
White then ran through blistering enemy fire to reach wounded Marine Sgt. Philip Bocks, but unfortunately his injuries were mortal. “I worked on him until he was no longer with us.” Remarkably, White was never hit by enemy fire during the 16-hour battle, although his pack, weapon, and equipment were hit multiple times.
As night fell, White — now suffering from two concussions — directed Afghan Army soldiers to set up a defensive perimeter as he kept a badly-wounded Spec. Kain Schilling from falling asleep and marked a landing zone so helicopters could land and bring the soldiers out.
With the news that Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster has been chosen to serve as National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump, this marks the fourth time an active-duty military officer has filled this position.
Here is a look at the previous three.
1. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft
Brent Scowcroft was active-duty for less than a month while serving as National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford, taking the job on Nov. 3, 1975, and retiring on Dec. 1, 1975. Still, he is technically the first active-duty military officer to serve in this position.
Scowcroft served for the remainder of the Ford administration, then was tapped to serve as National Security Advisor for a second stint under George H. W. Bush – holding that post for the entirety of that presidency. During his second run as NSA, Scowcroft’s tenure saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, Operation Desert Storm, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
2. Navy Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter
Perhaps the most notorious active-duty officer to hold the position due to his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, Poindexter was National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan during the 1986 Freedom of Navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra that turned violent, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and the Reykjavik Summit in October, 1986.
Poindexter was initially convicted on five charges connected with Iran-Contra, but the convictions were tossed out on appeal. In 1987, he retired at the rank of Rear Admiral (Upper Half).
3. Army Lt. Gen. Colin L. Powell
Probably the most notable active-duty officer to serve in the post, Colin Powell served as National Security Advisor from November 1987 to the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term. While he was in that position, the U.S. and Iran had a series of clashes culminating in Operation Praying Mantis and the downing of an Iranian Airbus by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49).
After his tenure as National Security Advisor, Powell went on to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – then was Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s first term as president.
As a note for the fashion-watchers, while all three predecessors wore suits, We Are The Mighty has learned from a source close to senior Trump staffers that incoming Nationals Security Advisor McMaster has been given the option to wear his uniform while holding the post.
A spokesperson for Scowcroft noted, “It is not against the law but it is not usually done.”
Neither Powell nor the White House Press Office responded to a WATM request for comment by post time.
Vets get their first rounds in THC Design’s training program
After a career in the military, veterans are equipped with numerous skills that make them an easy hire for thousands of civilian jobs. At first glance, the cannabis industry might not seem like the most ideal fit for veterans, but it’s shaping up to be a fruitful union.
U.S. Army Cavalry Patrol In Kandahar Province
(Chris Hondros/ Getty Images)
It’s no secret that many soldiers have found solace from military-related ailments with medical marijuana: everything from PTSD to slipped discs, to insomnia, have been eased with aide from the versatile plant. In fact, according to a recent study by American Legion, a vast majority of veterans support both marijuana legalization and further research. That kind of support for cannabis extends past personal use and into the job market, where veterans are finding themselves increasingly more involved in the industry.
The most direct translation of military skills is into the cannabis security sector. There are many federal restrictions on the young industry, leading to the reluctance of financial institutions to open accounts for cannabis-centric companies. This means that a plethora of cannabis companies rely on a strictly cash-only basis. This, in turn, leads to a demand for a security detail to convoy alongside both the product and the money.
This demand has formed a reliable network of security companies that hire hundreds of veterans to simply accompany shipments, or post up outside of brick-and-mortar stores like armed bouncers.
Dispensaries are no stranger to security detail
However, the military contributions to the cannabis industry reach much further than security. A growing number of veterans are beginning to get involved in, not only the retail side of the cannabis industry, but the cultivation side as well. According to “The Cannabist” the president of OrganaBrands (a Denver-based company that sells cannabis), Chris Driessen, says about 10% of his total workforce are veterans.
“The veteran community pairs so well (with our business), regardless of the branch of armed forces you’re in. (As a veteran) you learned systems, you learned processes, you learned chain of command,” he continued. “The fact that we don’t have to train people on some of those things — about work ethic and respect and doing what you say you’re going to do… is a huge benefit for any company, and of course ours as well… [they] set themselves apart in the interview. A lot of these folks are, on their own merit, heads and shoulders above their competition.”
(Veteran’s Cannabis Coalition blog)
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t training involved for veterans in the industry. One company, THC Design, actually has a paid internship and mentorship program exclusively for veterans. The course is 12 weeks long and gives veterans a tangible, hands-on, experience with every aspect of cultivation. According to co-founder Ryan Jennemann, the work ethic and problem-solving ability of military veterans makes them the perfect candidate for cannabis.
“What I was hiring for was not experience,” he told The Cannabist. “I was hiring for a work ethic, an ability to handle adversity, an ability to solve problems.” The program is both open source and available online as well, making it accessible for veterans looking to see if the cannabis industry is right for them.
As the legalization of marijuana spreads (Illinois just joined 10 other states as of January 1st), the stigma surrounding the cannabis industry begins to lessen. It’s no secret that marijuana has been a functional part of treatment for veterans returning from overseas, but now veterans are becoming a functional part of the cultivation and distribution of the cannabis industry itself.
With most veteran service organizations, the only way to get in the door is to show your military cred — if you didn’t serve, they don’t serve.
And that’s great for some. But for groups like Team Red, White Blue, the whole point is to bring veterans and the civilian community together.
If you didn’t serve, we’re here to serve, they say.
And that proved a crucial difference for Mark Benson, a former Army fire direction specialist who left the military in 2004 after serving a tour during the invasion of Iraq. It was that civilian-to-military connection that attracted Benson to Team RWB, and it’s a distinction that he believes helps former service members survive in the civilian world.
“Team RWB’s mission is also to help folks rejoin the civilian world. If you’re not engaged with civilians then how are you ever going to connect with the civilian world?” Benson said. “If you’re just hanging out with a bunch of veterans, then you just kind of have your own little microcosm.”
Living in the Los Angeles area is like living in a military veteran desert, he said, it’s hard to find folks who get what doing a combat deployment means. But through his work as a community liaison with Team RWB, Benson found that even those who didn’t serve have a lot of support to offer.
“Some of these non-veterans did experience things in their life where they had a hard time and they kind of can relate to a certain extent,” Benson said. “A lot of the people that are in the leadership in the LA chapter aren’t veterans, but they do have a story. And I think that’s important.”
Benson has been a community liaison for Team RWB for almost a year and helped run with the “stars and stripes” in this year’s cross-country Old Glory Relay. It was Benson’s first run and served as a poignant reminder of the service he and others gave of themselves and provided an outlet to show a new generation the meaning of patriotism and selflessness.
During a stretch of the relay, Benson and his team of runners passed by an elementary school where the kids were lined up outside reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Later in the run, the Old Glory Relay team paid their respects with the flag at a veterans memorial cemetery.
“It was kind of cool to start out with the young future leaders of the world and then go pay our respects to those who gave their lives to help those young leaders live their lives in peace,” Benson said.
With just over a year being part of Team Red, White Blue, Benson sees his involvement deepening and the influence of his organization growing. Particularly in a non-military town like Los Angeles, it’s groups like Team RWB that bring veterans and their community together and help narrow that military-civilian divide.
“LA is probably one of those areas that has a larger civilian-military divide,” Benson said. “But it seems like in our area at least, there’s definitely a lot more understanding.”
Military retirees, those who receive disability or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, and social security recipients will see a 2.8 percent pay raise in their monthly checks in 2019.
Thanks to the increase, the average military retirement check for an E-7 with 20 years of service will go up by a month, while an O-5 with the same time in uniform will see a 6 monthly increase.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather L. Rodgers)
Retirees who entered military service on or after Aug. 1, 1986 and opted in for the Career Status Bonus (CSB/Redux retirement plan), have any COLA increases reduced by 1 percent, so they will see a 2019 increase of 1.8 percent or monthly for an E-7 with 20 years of service, or each month for an O-5 with 20 years of service.
VA disability increase
Disabled veterans will also get a bump. The average VA disability check will go up about per month for those with a 10 percent rating, and for those rated at 100 percent.
Other federal retirees and beneficiaries
Military retirees and VA beneficiaries aren’t the only ones who benefit from the COLA increase. Civil Service retirees, and Social Security recipients will also see the 2.8 percent jump in their monthly checks as well.
For Social Security recipients, the monthly increase will mean an extra per month for the average beneficiary.
Largest COLA bump in years
This annual COLA is determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a measurement of a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI is compared to the previous year, if there is an increase there is a COLA. If there is no increase, there is no COLA.
The COLA affects about one in every five Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, federal retirees, and retired military members.
In 2017, the COLA increase was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase.
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