Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

UAP recently sat down with U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Eric Gilmet, a MARSOC Special Operations Independent Duty Corpsman (SOIDC) and veteran of the Marine Reconnaissance community as a Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman (SARC).

Gilmet was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is married to Mindy Gilmet and they have three beautiful young children. Gilmet enlisted in the Navy on 3 September, 2002, and his personal decorations include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and three Combat Action Ribbons.

Enjoy this exclusive interview with Chief Gilmet, a trained lifesaver and Special Operations medic.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Chief Gilmet (Photo credit: Lloyd Wainscott)

Why did you join the military and what led you to eventually pursue being a SARC and SOIDC?

I was in my senior year of high school – about halfway through. I had already applied for college. I got accepted to Western Michigan University. Then one day there was a Navy recruiter at the school, and I talked to him a little bit and then went to the recruiting station. I’ve always been interested in medicine because my mom is in the medical field.

The recruiter told me about Navy Corpsmen and about how the military can help pay for college. Paying for college was actually one of my fears at the time. I had slacked off a lot my senior year, and I didn’t want to just go there and waste all of my money and my parents’ money.

So, I signed up that day and I went home and told my parents about it. They were kind of stunned, but either way, the whole premise was to come in, get money for college, go to college, and then eventually maybe become a doctor.

After I joined, I realized I didn’t know a lot about the military at all. When I was in basic training, our equivalent of a drill instructor talked about Corpsmen and how they can go work with Marines. I had no idea before that. I asked him what it was like and he said, “it’s a living hell” (laughs).

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Gilmet during a deployment.

And for some reason that just caught my attention and that’s what I wanted to do. That really changed my outlook on what I wanted to do as far as my career. I really enjoyed being on the combat side of medicine and doing things along that line of work, although that wouldn’t come until a little later.

I was around 24 years old when I was about ready to get out of the Navy. I had already started my final physical, and something inside me was just telling me, there’s more that you need to do. And I just didn’t want to look back on my life and be disappointed that I didn’t take the opportunity to try to become a Recon Corpsman.

So, I stopped the process of getting out and reenlisted. In February of 2009 I began the Recon Corpsman pipeline and that’s how I got on the path to where I am today.

In your experience, what was the most difficult military school – or aspect of your training as a SARC or SOIDC – that most people wouldn’t be aware of?

I actually really enjoyed all the schools to become a Recon Corpsman. I enjoyed all of them. I feel like I did pretty well in most of them, but the one I struggled with a great deal was actually dive school. You know, to be able to do PT (physical training) and workout on land, it’s totally different than being in the water.

A lot of people don’t realize that it’s so physically and mentally demanding. I struggled with that a good amount. But I was able to push through and obviously finish it, but that was definitely the most difficult portion of the training for me.

What part of your training came most naturally to you, and why do you think that was?

I think it would be the combat medicine portion of the medical courses that we go to. I believe most Corpsmen who attend that course excel in that area because we have already learned the basics of that stuff earlier on. We have a good base before we attended the special operations medical course.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Gilmet pauses for a photo during dive training.

I already had some real-world experience too – I spent three years in the infantry and done a few deployments – so I felt confident in my skills. I’m more of a hands-on learner anyways.

It’s interesting that the first part of that training is all didactic learning, which is very strenuous in how much information they give you in a short amount of time. A lot of people, I think just struggle with that. Not necessarily their ability to learn the knowledge, but their ability to retain a lot of knowledge in a very short amount of time and then remember that for a test it’s very, very difficult. But I always appreciated and enjoyed the hands-on portion of medicine.

What are some of the traditions or history from the Navy Corpsman community that more people should know about?

One thing that’s interesting about Navy Corpsman history is that there are more Corpsmen who have received the Medal of Honor than any other job in the Navy. And, you know, that has to do with the fact that we are on the ground, fighting alongside Marines.

I think that’s something that’s interesting that people don’t really know about. There are at least 23 recipients that I am aware of, and that of course includes several Corpsmen who went on to join the Navy SEAL community at some point in their careers.

History and traditions are definitely a big thing in the Navy, especially for Chief Petty Officers. Chiefs are tasked by the Chief of Naval Operations to maintain and teach our history and heritage to junior sailors. Even before I became a Chief, naval history was just something I liked anyways. And I take that responsibility very seriously because it is important to know our history and where we come from and the things that people have done before us. It lays a good foundation of principles for us, as sailors.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Pictured: Hospitalman John E. Kilmer. Awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for heroism in combat on 13 August 1952, while serving as a medical corpsman with the First Marine Division in Korea. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

One notable Medal of Honor recipient was a Corpsman (Hospitalman) named John Kilmer. He was from the Korean War era. At one point in my career, I was stationed in Texas, and we did Recon Corpsman screeners for reserve Corpsmen that wanted to try to get into that pipeline. On the last night of it, during the final exercise, we would always complete it by going to a local cemetery in the middle of the night where John Kilmer was buried.

I would read his Medal of Honor citation out loud to the group and it was actually very emotional. Every time we did that, we just went through this, you know, long two days of land navigation, running around and getting yelled at, and having to do all these physically demanding things. And then we would always point out while at Kilmer’s gravesite that, while what each participant just went through was difficult, they should think about what John Kilmer had to go through, how he lost his life.

It was just a powerful way, I think, to finish the exercise. It was this tiny, tiny headstone. Nothing elaborate or anything. You literally would not see it unless you stumbled across it by accident or knew exactly where it was. Just this tiny little gravestone on the ground, but it was so powerful.

Is there a moment or accomplishment that you’re most proud of in your military career?

For me, it was becoming a Recon Corpsman. I wanted it really bad. That was probably the most satisfying moment in my career.

There are only about three hundred SARCs in the Navy/Marine Corps, and it was just a difficult process.

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?

Well, I think I’m a good dad (laughs). I’m not perfect – that’s for damn sure – but I like to think that I’ve done okay with that in spite of the challenging circumstances involved with being in the military.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Gilmet with his wife and children.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

It would have to be woodworking – whether it be making wooden American flags or furniture – and stuff like that. Mixology would be another one.

For me personally, when it comes to a hobby, I like to do things that will take my mind off of everything else going on in my life and just be able to focus on the now. For me it is carpentry and mixology.

A few months ago, I made some new mobile woodworking benches in my garage and bought some new tools and stuff like that. I love it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA postpones 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration events

The Department of Veterans Affairs, in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the COVID 19 virus, is postponing Vietnam War commemoration events until further notice.


As a commemorative partner to the Department of Defense led 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration program, hundreds of events were planned for late March and early April to coincide with the National Vietnam War Veterans Day observance on March 29.

VA’s event coordinators will retain all commemorative lapel pins and other materials shipped from the Department of Defense to support events in the future. Please visit www.vietnamwar50th.com for more information about the program.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

For Veterans with a Facebook account, they can download a frame at www.facebook.com/profilepicframes/?selected_overlay_id=908037382943967 to place a picture and show their pride for serving. The frame ­­­­shows the Vietnam War Veteran day pin and the text “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

For the latest VA updates on coronavirus and common-sense tips on preventing the spread of disease, visit https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/.

For more information about coronavirus, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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

Articles

These 4 Gurkha stories will make you want to forge your own kukri knife

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  Nepal, a tiny Himalayan country country bordering India and Chinese Tibet, was one of many countries invaded by the British Empire. But the British were never able to colonize tiny Nepal. The reason the largest Empire in history couldn’t completely subdue a small mountain country? Gurkhas.

Gurkhas have long been known as the world’s fiercest and most skilled warriors, earning the respect (and often fear) of friend and foe alike. Even the British, who decided that trying to fight more Gurkhas wasn’t worth the effort, wanted the Gurkhas on their team, and Nepalese warriors have been fighting for the crown ever since.

1. Afghan Ambush

The Gurkhas have been fighting with the United Kingdom for 200 years. Today’s war in Afghanistan is no exception.

In 2008, a team of Gurkha warriors were crossing an open area when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters. One of their own Yubraj Rai, was shot and wounded. Like many armies, the Gurkhas don’t leave men behind.

In the face of overwhelming enemy fire, Captain Gajendera Angdembe, Rifleman Dhan Gurung, and Manju Gurung carried their buddy across 325 feet of open ground. One of them even used a dual wield with his rifle to return enough fire for the group to get out of there.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Rifleman Dhan Gurung returned fire using two rifles at the same time.

2. WWII Burma

In 1944, Agansing Rai, a Gurkha fighting the Japanese in Burma, came across a ridge as his platoon moved through the countryside.  The ridge was designed to be protected from any combination of armor and infantry. Leading up to the ridge was an open field and on the ridge were dug-in Japanese defenders, hiding in dense Jungle.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Agansing Rai was award the Victoria Cross for his actions and leadership that day.

Rai led his platoon against the heavy machine guns and a number of 37mm anti-tank emplacements, knocking them all out while taking some serious casualties. A ridge designed to stop tanks and infantry couldn’t stop a small Gurkha force.

3. A Commander Joins His Gurkhas

Colonel Peter Jones was fighting in Tunisia with his Gurkha battalion in 1943. As his frenzied men charged the Nazi German-manned machine guns at Enfidaville, Jones started taking out the positions with a Bren gun.

The Gurkhas charged the Nazis with their Kukri knives and fought them in hand-to-hand combat. They killed 44 Nazis, breaking the German lines and causing them to flee before advancing further.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Yeah, I’d flee too.

4.The Cold War Turns Hot in Borneo

Indonesia, supported by Communist China and the Soviet Union, was opposed to the creation of Malaysia by the Western powers, especially the United Kingdom. So Gurkhas patrolling the island jungles were ready for anything the Communists were willing to throw at them — especially the Gurkhas.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Gurkha troops patrolling the dense Borneo jungles circa 1965.

Captain Rambahadur Limbu was in enemy territory when he and his unit met an enemy advance. He repelled them using only grenades, then went back into friendly territory to alert his superiors about the advance.

With one of his friends dead and the other wounded, Limbu went into the enemy-controlled area of the battlefield, back and forth across 100 yards of no man’s land — twice — to pull out the wounded and retrieve his dead friend.

Learn more about these ferocious fighters in the video at the top.

Watch More Elite Forces:

This is what made ancient Roman gladiators so fierce

This is how Rome’s Praetorian Guard held so much power

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

These are the slave soldiers that defeated the Mongols

This is the legend of the Knights of the Round Table

Veterans

Army Veteran and Bronze Medal Paralympian partners with Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble launched its Tokyo Olympic Games campaign with two moving short films depicting the beauty of motherhood and being the good in the world. The organization then announced the recipients of their Athletes for Good fund, with one extraordinary Army veteran and Paralympian among them. 

United States Army combat veteran Melissa Stockwell was the first female service member to lose a limb in combat. It didn’t slow her down — rather, fueled her to go even harder. “I lost my leg while serving over in Iraq in 2004 from a roadside bomb. So, I was suddenly 24 years old trying to navigate life with one leg,” she explained. Seeing fellow service members around her with what she considered bigger losses and traumas, she decided to count her blessings. 

“I really realized how lucky I was and it helped me accept the loss of my leg and move on…that decision helped propel me into a life I could have never imagined otherwise,” Stockwell said. 

Move on she did. Stockwell not only pushed through healing and reintegrating into her new life, but then decided to try out for the Paralympics on top of it. Her reasoning? Why not. She learned about the Paralympics after losing her leg and decided she wasn’t going to let her loss stop her from doing anything

“What greater honor than putting on a USA uniform and representing our country that I had defended in Iraq on the world’s biggest stage,” she explained. “You fast forward a whole bunch of years and I am now a two-time Paralympian going for my third.”

In 2011 she co-founded Dare2tri, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities through confidence building and community through sports and wellness. Her selection through the Proctor and Gamble campaign brought a $10,000 grant into the organization. 

“I am a very proud athlete with a disability. I am a mother of two and a mother that looks a little bit different but wants to show them it doesn’t matter what you look like. You can still get out there and reach for your dreams and do the things you want to do,” Stockwell explained. In 2016, she earned a Bronze Medal in the Paratriathlon. “I want to teach them to be strong, kind, courageous and have compassion.”

The Procter & Gamble Olympic campaign short film, Love Leads to Good, really struck a chord with Stockwell when she saw it for the first time. “I think any parent out there can relate to it. That visually shows what you want your child to be. Being a mother is the best and hardest job I’ve ever had,” she said. “I’m really proud to partner with P&G [Procter & Gamble] on the campaign going into Tokyo. It’s all about leading with love. We want the world to be inclusive and equitable.”

The excitement of making her way to Tokyo was visible and her joyful energy palpable. Stockwell explained how the entire world had just been through a shared hardship and how coming together for the Olympics will be such an incredible celebration of life and sport. “I am really looking forward to hopefully being back on the podium too,” she said with a smile. 

Stockwell remains eternally grateful to the military organizations who stepped forward to support her after she lost her leg. She credits them with getting her out of the hospital in record time and active again. The community of veterans who surrounded her was also a big part of her recovery, she said. 

“If the things that I do can influence someone else or inspire someone to do something they never thought possible. If I can inspire a veteran who is suffering from PTS or maybe someone sees my story and thinks she went through it and if she can do it, I can too. If it helps them break out of their shell well those are the things that are the cherry on top,” Stockwell said. “You live the life you love and I am fortunate to live the life I do and hopefully that can carry on to others.”

When asked what she’d want readers to glean from her story, she was direct. “We all go through time and especially in the military. It’s okay to not be okay, ask for help when you need it. Those resources are there but never doubt yourself. Never think you can’t do something.” Stockwell explained. “Whether you are a wounded veteran or not, get out there and try something before you tell yourself you can’t do it.”

Why not?

Articles

7 struggles these veterans know all too well about humping gear

SAPI plates, hundreds of rounds of ammo, and as much water as you can haul is just a fraction of the gear our ground troops carry on their back as they move through their objectives every day.


Related: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Not too long ago, WATM ran a story featuring a TV show host who wanted to know what it felt like to carry the typical combat load a Vietnam War GI would haul. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, click here: This is why grunt gear isn’t for the average man

Many members of our loyal audience took the opportunity to chime in after reading the article and commented about what the heavy equipment they had to lug around during their time serving “in the suck” and here’s what they had to say.

1. The veteran grunt

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

2. The motivated Corpsman

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

3. The usual checklist of gear for this grunt was…

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

 

Related: 8 things Marines love to carry other than their weapon

4. The proud and seasoned machine gunner

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

5. Packing some major heat

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

6. He’s down to do it all over again

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

7. Ready for just about anything

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

 

What gear did you carry? Comment below.

Veterans

This airman called in dozens of ‘danger-close’ airstrikes – killing 27

The mission was supposed to be standard: move into enemy territory and capture or kill marked Taliban leaders in the middle of the night in the Kunduz Province.


But for a team of 12 Army Special Forces soldiers, 43 Afghan Army commandos, and one Air Force combat controller, all hell was about to break loose. Soon after the sun had risen on Nov. 2, 2016, the coalition team had already engaged the enemy through various curtains of intense ambushes and gunfire — with four allied troops injured.

During the barrage of gunfire, Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a combat controller with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, began engaging the enemy right back.

Related: How this Marine inched his way to knock out a Japanese machine gunner

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter, a 23rd Special Tactics Squadron combat controller. (Source: Air Force)

While taking multiple casualties, Hunter put his exceptional combat training to good use, calling in a total of 31 airstrikes from AH-64 Apaches and AC-130 gunships onto the enemies’ elevate position — killing 27.

Some of the airstrikes landed within just meters of Hunter’s position. Hunter then coordinated with the quick reaction force and medical evacuation helicopters to export the wounded. But Hunter’s fight wasn’t over with just yet.

Also Read: How these few Marines held the line at the Chosin Reservoir

He heard a familiar voice calling for help desperately. As he looked to investigate the sound, he noticed one of his teammates was injured and pinned down approximately 30-meters away.

With disregard for his own life, Hunter leaped over a wall and dashed toward his injured teammate. Once there, he quickly scrabbled the wound and pulled him to safety.

Reportedly, the engagement lasted around eight hours, and for Hunter’s heroic efforts he’ll receive the Air Force Cross.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The House just passed a veteran mental healthcare act

Veterans denied basic mental health care service benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs because of an “other than honorable” discharge may soon be able to receive the care they need.


The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed the Veteran Urgent Access to Mental Healthcare Act, spearheaded by Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican and Marine Corps combat veteran.

“Today, this House sent a critical message to our men and women in uniform,” Coffman said in a release. “That message is that you are not alone. We are here to help those suffering from the ‘invisible’ wounds of war.

“The passage of [this bill] is an important bipartisan effort to ensure that our combat veterans receive the mental health care services they need. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line,” he said.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Photo courtesy of VA.

The legislation, H.R. 918, would require the VA to provide initial mental health assessments and services deemed necessary, including for those at risk of suicide and or of harming others, regardless of whether the individual has an “other than honorable” discharge.

Currently, individuals who have such discharges, known as “bad paper,” are not eligible for veteran benefits beyond some emergency mental health services. Veterans who received a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge would still be ineligible to access the services.

“It’s important that we give all of our combat veterans, irrespective of the discharges they receive, access to mental health care through the Veterans [Affairs Department],” Coffman told Military.com during an interview in February, when he reintroduced the bill.

He is the only House member to serve in both the first Iraq War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

At the time, Coffman said of the “bad-paper” separations, “I question the nature of the discharges in the first place, and I’m exploring that.”

Read Also: This is what John McCain thinks of the VA’s Veterans CARE Act proposal

May 2017 Government Accountability Office report found 62 percent of the 91,764 service members separated for minor forms of misconduct between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2015 had been diagnosed within two years prior to separation with post- traumatic stress disordertraumatic brain injury or other conditions that could be associated with their misconduct, according to the release.

The bill applies to those with other-than-honorable discharges who served in a combat zone or area of hostilities; piloted unmanned aircraft; or experienced a military sexual trauma.

The VA secretary can sign off on outside care if specific care at a VA facility is clinically inadvisable; or if the VA is unable to provide necessary mental health care due to geographic location barriers.

H.R. 918 also requires the VA to establish a formal “character of service” determination process, triggering reviews of the “character of discharge” for potential eligibility of VA benefits.

High Ground Veterans Advocacy, a grassroots organization training veterans to become leaders and activists in their local communities, has advocated for the move.

“There are some veterans out there who’ve been waiting for this day for decades — but there’s still a fight ahead of us,” said High Ground founder and chairman Kristofer Goldsmith.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

“Until the Senate passes this bill, and the president signs it — some of our nation’s most vulnerable veterans, who served between Vietnam and today’s Forever Wars, are being denied the holistic care that they deserve from the VA,” he said in an email.

Goldsmith continued, “Today, the House recognized that the United States has failed to care for hundreds of thousands of veterans in the way that they deserve — veterans who were administratively discharged and stripped of a lifetime of essential benefits without the right to due process.

“But the problem isn’t yet fixed. Until Congress holds hearings dedicated to looking at the problem of bad-paper discharges, we won’t have all available solutions on the table,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taking on veteran suicide, one pair of ‘Ranger panties’ at a time

Active-duty servicemembers and veterans share many common experiences which often sets us apart from civilians. We can come together over a tour-of-duty station, a shared commander or unit, or the unforgettable aspects of our training. But it’s often our dark sense of humor — stories about Jody, tales of ass-grabbing antics on and off post, and the ribbing of comrades and competing branches alike — which underpins military culture and unites the community. That’s why I was excited when I recently discovered a growing non-profit organization, Irreverent Warriors, whose mission is to bring service members and veterans together using humor and camaraderie. Their target is to improve mental health and end veteran suicide through humor.

I was intrigued.


Fortunately for me, Irreverent Warriors was organizing a very popular event that I could attend right in New York City: a Silkies Hike. The hike was designed to get veterans, active-duty soldiers, reservists, and retired servicemembers together (in Silkies shorts — also known as “ranger panties” or “Catch-Me-F**K-Me’s”) to be among friends and build new bonds. The New York City Silkies Hike was just one of five going on that day. The hikes were held throughout the country and drew hundreds of hikers.

“As of now, we have 65 hikes scheduled for 2021,” Irreverent Warriors CEO Cindy McNally said. “We doubled the number of hikes in two years!”

But the group does more than Silkies Hikes. According to McNally, the organization has put together “camping trips, Silkies Olympics, boat trips, community clean-ups, events to serve disabled and senior vets, and much more.”

And the events are strictly for the military. The purpose is to ensure that members know that everyone who participates either wears the uniform or has worn it before.

That was reassuring for me. I knew my dirty jokes and endless f-bombs would be welcomed — even encouraged. That toilet humor doesn’t always fit well with civilians, but a soldier, airman, marine, or seaman (quick chuckle) will always get it.

So I went for it, Silkies and everything.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

Warriors SP at 0830 hours led by event organizer, Marc Herzog, taking point and donning the black Irreverent Warriors flag.

As if sensing my newness, Irreverent Warriors New York Area Leader Marc Herzog told me that his first social event in 2017 “was the most amazing experience ever.”

“I found my people for the first time,” he added.

Another Irreverent Warriors member, a Marine named Kevin Bunn, assured me: “Many of us shared your experience… we’re not gonna push you. I know where you were and I know what you’re going through.”

In fact, I was quite comfortable around every hiker. I knew what type of people was around me: gritty, hard-working, selfless Americans who would jump at any opportunity to help a brother or sister in uniform.

Kevin confirmed what my gut knew: “[The vets] need these events to keep them from feeling isolated,” he said. “Just one or two events gets them through the year.”

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

The Warriors report to formation for a photo in Times Square, NYC. (Photo courtesy of Arturo Martinez, Marine.)

I also knew they can party, as I have done many times before (probably too much). And some partying was the first thing I saw that morning.

As we mustered at the start point in Central Park, many Irreverent Warriors members cracked open beers. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous that this affair would get out of control. As a former officer, I knew the math: soldiers + booze = debauchery.

But it turned out to be everything but that.

No matter how many drinks some Warriors had, (and a few had a lot!) they knew what line not to cross. No one urinated on the street, left garbage behind, or damaged any property. With the exception of some slurring and a little stumbling, it was pure professionalism at its finest. I was impressed, a little relieved, and totally at home.

On many occasions, curious onlookers asked the Warriors about the purpose of the group. No matter who answered, the response was always the same: “We bring veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide.”

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

A small platoon-sized element poses for a picture at one of the checkpoints, Washington Square Park, NYC.

Another Warrior, “A.A. Ron,” was asked what the group meant to him: “I met a lot of vets through IW,” he replied. “Regardless of when you served, we’re the same. We’re here for each other to lift our spirits and to enjoy our lives and the lives of others lost.”

The New York City hike hit its climax at Ground Zero. As we rounded a city corner in the Financial District, we were confronted by the Freedom Tower. The direct view of the building and how it dominated the landscape captured everyone’s attention. The party atmosphere quickly dipped into a somber state. The group, whose mood had been one of partying and incessant chanting, became silent. We all felt the same way, we all knew what this meant.

As we mustered outside the Freedom tower, several Warriors took the stage to tell their stories of those lost and remembered. The message was clear: you are not alone!

After a moment of silence, a prayer, and warm hugs we gathered our belongings and carried on with the mission, as all Warriors do.

If you want to get involved or donate to support the Irreverent Warriors mission, go to their website, www.irreverentwarriors.com.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Lone Survivor’ Navy SEAL went ‘John Wick’ on the guys who killed his dog

It was a regular April night around the Luttrell home near Huntsville, Texas. It had been five years since Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell fought the 2005 firefight with the Taliban that was portrayed in the film Lone Survivor. Since then, he received a Yellow Labrador puppy to help him recover from the unseen wounds of the war. He named the pup Dasy, an acronym of the names of his fellow SEALs — the ones that didn’t survive the battle.


A shot rang out throughout the area of the house. Luttrell sprang into action, grabbed a 9mm pistol, checked to see if his mother was alright, and then ran outside to check on Dasy. He found the puppy at the end of a trail of blood.

“When I saw she was dead, the only thing that popped into my head was, ‘I’ve got to take these guys out,'” Luttrell told NBC News.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

Dasy was just four years old when gunmen shot and killed her.

(Marcus Luttrell)

He then spotted a suspicious vehicle nearby and tried to sneak up on it with a 9mm pistol. When he was 25 yards away, the car left — and Luttrell hopped in his pickup in hot pursuit.

“I saw my dog in a ditch and two men standing outside the car,” Luttrell said. “I could hear them laughing.”

He called the local emergency line and warned the 911 operator that he was chasing the men who killed his dog.

“I told them, ‘You need to get somebody out here because if I catch them, I’m going to kill them,'” Luttrell told the operator, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Navy Cross recipient stayed on with the emergency operator as he chased the gunmen across three Texas counties in a 40-mile, high-speed chase. Luttrell was still recovering from a recent surgery but it didn’t stop him from attempting to catch the fleeing suspects.

Dasy was more than just a therapy dog to Luttrell. The four-year-old dog helped Luttrell at a time when he wasn’t talking about what happened and had trouble sleeping. Dasy wasn’t just a pet, she was like a daughter to the former SEAL.

Luttrell’s pickup truck couldn’t keep up with the car in which the suspects fled the scene, but the Texas Rangers eventually stopped the vehicle, arresting two of them for cruelty to a non-livestock animal and the driver for not having a license. According to the Rangers, the shooting was the latest in a series of five dog killings in an area Luttrell describes as “the middle of nowhere.”

When Luttrell arrived on the scene, he immediately confronted the suspects, demanding to know which of them murdered Dasy. According to Luttrell, they started talking smack.

“Marcus is trained to do certain things; he fell back on his training,” a Texas Ranger told NBC News. “I wouldn’t advocate to the general public to do what he has done — to follow them at that rate of speed.”
Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

Luttrell and his new therapy dog, Rigby.

(Marcus Luttrell via Facebook)

Alfonso Hernandez and Michael Edmonds were convicted in 2012 of shooting Dasy with a .357 pistol that night. The conviction was later upheld by a Texas appellate court. Edmonds turned on Hernandez, pleading guilty and testifying against him. Edmonds received five years probation while Hernandez received the maximum sentence, two years confinement and a ,000 fine.

Luttrell said losing Dasy was a huge setback in his life but he soon had another therapy dog in his life, another Yellow Lab named “Rigby.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.


Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:

5. Things could always get worse.

Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.

Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Hell, even being a commo guy sucked back then. (Image via Stars and Stripes)

4. Cleanliness regardless.

If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.

In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
If you can’t clean your damn weapon, you probably don’t deserve one. (Image via Wikicommons)

3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.

In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.

The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
You know what the definition of insanity is? (Image via NATO Canada)

2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.

Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong with burning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve months is called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”

With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
If we want burn pits to be taken seriously, we need to handle the napalm and Agent Orange situation first. (Image via Wikicommons)

1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.

Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.

Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Not to be THAT guy, but a flower isn’t going to stop the bullet from coming out of the barrel. Just saying. (Image via Washington Star)

Veterans

How the US military gave Five Finger Death Punch a huge boost

Metal fans have die-hard opinions on bands they love — and bands they hate. Regardless of which side of the line Five Finger Death Punch falls on for you, there’s one group they connect with like no other: troops of the United States Military.


Maybe it’s their firmly anti-communist point of view (Five Finger Death Punch founder Zoltan Bathory was born in Soviet-dominated Hungary and appreciates American democracy on another level). Or maybe it’s because they never forget the troops or law enforcement (Bathory even assisted a cop on the freeway one time). It might also be because of all the songs they write specifically for soldiers.

 

According to Stereogum, if Billboard’s Top 200 was still based purely on album sales, Five Finger Death Punch would have had the #1 album in 2016. When adjusted for streaming sales, they were still a close second. The band debuted at #2 with their three previous albums and at #3 with their 2011 album, American Capitalist.

 

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Pfc. John Dothage meets Five Finger Death Punch after they performed for U.S. troops at Camp Stryker, Baghdad, March 3, 2010

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Yarnall)

Look at their album titles: A Decade of Destruction, Got Your Six, War Is The Answer, Way of the Fist, Pre-Emptive Strike. It’s clear that the fighting men and women of the United States are never far from their minds — or their work. That might have something to do with all of the USO shows where they’ve performed for troops in combat zones like Iraq.

Ivan Moody, the band’s frontman told Stereogum:

“When we were over in Iraq playing our USO tour, I had one soldier come up to me, and he laid a burnt iPod down on the table. He didn’t ask me to sign it. He wanted me to keep it. I looked at him a bit funny at first. He told me one of his closest friends went out on a mission and didn’t make it back. Let’s leave it at that. When they found him and his things, his iPod was stuck on ‘The Bleeding.’ The last thing he was listening to before he went was one of our songs. I literally teared up.”

Including war imagery in songs and playing for the troops is nothing new, but Five Finger Death Punch takes it a step further by employing a slew of veterans in their shows, tours, and other material.

They raise money for PTSD awareness through a merchandise site, which also offers links to get help. They even help U.S. combat vets fight poachers in Africa. Their affection for veterans earned them the Soldier Appreciation Award from the Association of the United States Army and dog tags donated from their military-veteran fans to adorn their “Wall of Heroes” and soaring album sales from the troops who love them.

Beyond writing songs for troops and performing in USO tours, Five Finger Death Punch is there for veterans long after they get out of the military.

Veterans

These 8 Black-American heroes received Medals of Honor decades later

While Black-Americans have been helping America win wars since the Revolutionary War, they have not historically been recognized for their heroism at the same rate as their white counterparts.


These 8 heroes received Medals of Honor for their actions decades after the battles:

1. Sgt. Henry Johnson

 

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Photo: US Army

One WWI soldier was not bestowed his Medal of Honor until nearly a century later. Sgt. Henry Johnson, assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, came under heavy enemy fire on May 15, 1918, from a German raiding party in the Argonne Forest. Despite being wounded Johnson used grenades, a rifle, a knife, and his bare hands to hold off the German attack.

2. 2nd Lt. Vernon J. Baker

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Soldiers with the 92nd Infantry, 1st Lt. Vernon Baker’s unit, pursue the German Army through Italy. Photo: US Army

2nd Lt. Vernon J. Baker took part in a company attack in Apr. 1945, near Viareggio, Italy. He personally destroyed four German positions that were pinning down his unit and then covered the evacuation of wounded personnel. The next night, Baker led an advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire to capture a division objective.

3. Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, Jr.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Photo: US Army

Sgt. Edward A. Carter was riding on a tank on Mar. 23, 1945 near Speyer, Germany when enemy anti-tank and rifle fire began flying in. Carter voluntarily led a three-man team against the position. He was wounded five times and an enemy squad attempted to capture him, but he killed six Germans and captured two.

4. 1st Lt. John R. Fox

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Photo: US Government Archives

Near Sommocolonia, Italy on Dec. 26, 1944, 1st Lt. John R. Fox was directing defensive artillery fire to slow a German advance. He adjusted the fire closer and closer to his position until finally ordering it onto his own building as the Nazis drew closer. Later, Fox’s body was found with approximately 100 dead German soldiers around him.

5. Pfc. Willy F. James, Jr.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Photo: Wikipedia/Wammes Waggel CC BY-SA 3.0

On Apr. 7, 1945, Pfc. Willy F. James Jr. scouted a vital bridgehead while pinned down, then returned to his unit he assisted in developing a plan of maneuver to take the bridge. He led a squad, designating targets as he advanced, until he was killed by enemy fire while trying to aid his fatally wounded platoon leader.

6. Sgt. Ruben Rivers

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Photo: German Wikimedia Commons

Sgt. Ruben Rivers was a tank platoon sergeant in World War II. On Nov. 16, 1944, he was leading a tank assault when he struck a mine and was severely injured in the leg. He refused to be medically evacuated and led another tank in to save his platoon.

On Nov. 19, Rivers’ wound was infected but he led another tank in a company assault despite his wounds. When an enemy anti-tank unit began firing from concealed positions, the rest of the company withdrew. Rivers spotted the Germans began returning fire alongside another tank. The rest of the company made it out but Rivers’ tank was destroyed, killing him and wounded the rest of the crew.

7. 1st Lt. Charles Thomas

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Photo: US Army

 

Near Climbach, France on Dec. 14, 1944, 1st Lt. Charles Thomas’s armored scout car was subjected to intense enemy artillery and small arms fire. Although wounded by the burst of fire, Thomas, assisted the crew in dismounting before he took additional enemy fire in his chest, legs, and left arm.

Thomas directed his two antitank guns begin returning fire. Realizing he could no longer remain in command, Thomas stayed long enough to brief his subordinate officer on the enemy disposition. Only after he was certain the other officer was in control did he permit himself to be evacuated.

8. Pvt. George Watson

 

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school
Photo: US Navy

Pvt. George Watson was on board a ship near New Guinea on Mar. 8 when it was hit by enemy bombers. The order to abandon ship was given but Watson did not head to safety. Instead he began assisting soldiers who could not swim to a raft. Because of this, he was eventually pulled under the surface of the water by the suction from the sinking ship.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SecVA: Veteran safety from Coronavirus VA priority

Coronavirus (COVID-19) safety is a top priority, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at the American Legion Winter Conference March 10 in Washington, D.C.

With Coronavirus dominating national news, Wilkie addressed VA’s response to the situation, including prevention steps at VA medical centers.


“We are making sure that those who come to us are screened,” he said. Wilkie also said VA is limiting visitors to its community living centers, or nursing homes.

“We need to do that to make sure that those who use VA are protected, that they are cared for,” he said. “We will get over this and we will make sure everything is done to protect those who have done so much for our country.”

Suicide prevention, benefits

Wilkie also talked about the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, executive order. The goal of PREVENTS is to bring together stakeholders across all levels of government and in the private sector to work side by side to provide Veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need. The secretary said VA is weeks away from the PREVENTS initiative task force report. The report will supply a roadmap for greater cooperation at the state, local and tribal level.

The secretary also offered high praise for Veteran Service Organizations like the American Legion. He said through continued engagement and the MISSION Act, Vietnam Veterans are about to receive additional benefits.

Chief Eric Gilmet: A Spec Ops lifesaver’s journey, corpsman history and his toughest school

live.staticflickr.com

“We have finally published the regulations that give financial and material support to the families of our Vietnam warriors who take care of those warriors at home, and it is long past time,” the secretary said.

Wilkie said he has a personal interest in caring for Vietnam Veterans. His father received injuries in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Wilkie said the nation should never turn its back “on those men and women who provide us the very freedoms that we breathe and live every day.”

The secretary also discussed another group of Vietnam Veterans. He said VA started accepting Blue Water Navy compensation claims in January. Wilkie added that VA expects 70,000 to apply for the benefits “that are long overdue.”

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

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