Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima - We Are The Mighty
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Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima

As I leaned in to shake retired Col. Dave Severance’s hand, the small white shapes polka-dotting his navy-blue tie came into clear relief as the iconic image of Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. When we met in 2002, Severance was in his 80s and serving as the reviewing officer for a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Severance’s style choice that day was fitting. To him, the men immortalized on his tie were more than heroes from the past. The Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi in the midst of one of the Corps’ bloodiest battles were Severance’s men.

Severance enlisted in the Marines in 1938 and attended recruit training in San Diego. He volunteered for and completed airborne training, and in 1942, the young, college-educated sergeant was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
Capt. Dave Severance on Camp Pendleton in 1944. Archive photo.

In 1943, Lt. Severance deployed to the Pacific theater with the Paramarines and saw combat for the first time in the jungles of Bougainville Island. During the battle for Bougainville, Severance proved himself in combat, leading his cutoff platoon out of a Japanese ambush with minimal casualties.

He never made a combat jump before the Marine paratrooper units were disbanded in 1944, but in April of that year, Severance was promoted to captain and given command of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment.

On Feb. 19, 1945, Severance and the men of Company E landed on the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima, having no idea the mark they would leave in the hearts and minds of future generations of Americans.

“We didn’t think much about it for a long time,” Severance told me in 2002. “It took a long time to see the impact of that day unfold.”

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
Retired Col. Dave E. Severance participates in a plaque ceremony honoring his service at Mount Soledad, La Jolla, Calif., July 25, 2020. Severance’s men raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi Feb. 23, 1945. Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty/US Marine Corps.

That day was Feb. 23, 1945. At 10:20 a.m., one of Severance’s platoons reached the summit of Mount Suribachi and raised a small American flag.

“All the ships at sea started their sirens going, and troops were yelling and cheering,” Severance told San Diego’s NBC 7 during a 2015 interview. “You definitely could see that it is an American flag.”

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
From the crest of Mount Suribachi, the Stars and Stripes wave in triumph over Iwo Jima after Marines fought their way inch by inch up its steep lava-encrusted slopes. Public domain image.

Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal landed on the beach shortly after the first flag went up, and Forrestal asked to have the flag as a memento.

“My battalion commander got that word, and he was heard to say, ‘Hell no! He can’t have our flag! We put it up there, and we’re going to keep it,” Severance said in a mini-documentary for the National WWII Museum.

Severance’s commander sent a lieutenant down to the beach to get another flag, and the lieutenant came back with the larger, second flag the Marines raised that day. The small task that turned out to be an incredibly significant undertaking fell to a group of Marines who had been chosen to deliver batteries and string wire to the summit.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima

At the top of the mountain, the Marines constructed a larger flagpole with an additional piece of pipe, tied the large flag to it, and wrote themselves into the history books.

When he heard the second flag was going up, The Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal took his position at the summit and snapped his famous Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph.

Sgt. Bill Guneaust, a Marine combat photographer, was also there to capture the moment with his movie camera.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press. Public domain photo.

Despite all the attention the raising of the flag received that day, none of the Company E Marines suspected their actions would receive so much recognition in the years to come.

“It really wasn’t a big deal at the time,” Severance told me. “It wasn’t until 1949 when The Sands of Iwo Jima came out — I realized the impact that moment and battle had on the nation.”

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
US Marines assigned to Marine Barracks Washington perform during a sunset parade June 12, 2012, at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. Sunset parades are held at the memorial every Tuesday during the summer months. Photo by Sgt. Christopher A. Green/US Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps War Memorial, inspired by Rosenthal’s picture, was dedicated near Arlington, Virginia, in 1955, on the Marine Corps birthday, further embedding the event in the annals of American history.

Company E fought at Iwo Jima for 36 days, and 80% of Severance’s men were either killed or wounded in action there.

“We didn’t lose any more or less than any of the other units in the battalion,” he said.

Severance was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on Iwo Jima. His award citation tells the story:

When his company was ordered to launch an attack on a heavily defended ridge south of Nishi Village, Captain Severance skillfully directed the assault against this strong enemy position despite stubborn resistance and courageously led his unit in the accomplishment of its mission. Once the objective was gained, he tenaciously held the position which formed a salient in the line. When the enemy made a fanatic effort to dislodge the company with a concentrated barrage of mortar, machine gun and rifle fire, Captain Severance marshaled his men and held the ridge until the friendly units on his flanks were able to advance and regain contact along the entire front.

In 1946, Severance attended flight training and became a Marine aviator. During the Korean War, he flew 69 combat missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
Col. Dave E. Severance received this plaque highlighting his accomplishments as an infantry company commander and aviator, at Mount Soledad, La Jolla, Calif., July 25, 2020. Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty/US Marine Corps.

Severance retired from the Marine Corps in 1968 while serving as assistant director of personnel, headquarters, Marine Corps.

In June 1996, Severance carried the Olympic torch from the Arlington National Cemetery to the steps of the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Neil McDonough portrayed Severance in Flags of Our Fathers — the Clint Eastwood film that depicts the epic battle at Iwo Jima.

Today, Severance is 102 years old and lives in La Jolla, California.

On his 100th birthday, he told NBC 7 his secret to long life: “I look back, and I didn’t die. As a matter of fact I didn’t even get hit. I came close a couple of times. I made it through three wars.”

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
Brig. Gen. Ryan P. Heritage, right, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, and the Western Recruiting Region, and Severance speak to each other after wishing each other a happy Marine Corps birthday in La Jolla, Calif., Nov. 10, 2020. Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty/US Marine Corps.

Severance also said his wife, who died four years ago, had something to do with his long life well lived.

“I had a wife that took care of me day and night,” he told NBC 7.

When I was a young Marine corporal stationed at MCRD San Diego in 2002, Severance told me he doesn’t understand why people are in awe when they discover his link to that unforgettable moment on Mount Suribachi.

“Sometimes people ask for my autograph, and I don’t understand why,” he said.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
Severance participates in a plaque ceremony honoring his service at Mount Soledad, La Jolla, Calif., July 25, 2020. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary T. Beatty.

A letter the commandant of the Marine Corps sent Severance in 2019 offered a simple explanation. “You played a crucial role in shaping the warrior ethos of our Corps,” it read.

That is undoubtedly true, and it echoes what a young Marine NCO said about Severance when he visited the depot in 2002.

“The man made history,” said then Cpl. Michael Musick, administrative clerk, Headquarters Company. “Marines in Japan take tours of Iwo Jima and take sand from the island as a souvenir. We put up statues on our desks and pictures in our offices, commemorating our heroes. He is one of those heroes.”

Semper Fi, Col. Severance.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring Vets: Carry The Load partners with VA’s national cemeteries

Carry The Load is partnering with VA’s national cemeteries to honor and remember America’s heroes during Memorial May, the third year in a row.

Carry The Load provides an active way to honor and remember the fallen. During visits across the nation, people can join to hike or bike alongside members. This connects Americans to the sacrifices made by military members, Veterans, first responders and their families. Participants many times carry a paper affixed to their back or backpack, highlighting a fallen hero. This shows who they honor by “carrying the load.”

The Carry The Load team stopped at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia May 10. The group was part of the East Coast relay team that started in West Point, New York. One of the team members was Andrew DeLeon, a Marine Corps Veteran who is a current Air Force Reservist and firefighter in Dallas, Texas. He said the relay hits home because he’s lost teammates both in the military and as a firefighter.

“Our mission is to raise awareness across America to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day,” DeLeon said. “We are honored to be here at one of the national cemeteries. I, along with my fellow teammates, are just trying to pay back, even if it’s just a small piece of appreciation for those that laid down their lives.”

The Culpeper National Cemetery director, an Army Veteran, said the partnership is mutually beneficial by honoring the fallen.

“Carry The Load events enhance the true meaning of the National Cemetery Administration by bringing even more awareness to the sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes,” Jason Hogan said. “Seeing a giant American flag through Culpeper and being a Veteran myself, it gives me a great sense of pride of the millions of people who have sacrificed for this great nation.”

Want to participate?

The partnership started April 29 and runs through Memorial Day weekend. Carry The Load marchers will visit 43 national cemeteries in all.

Carry The Load invites people to hike or bike alongside them. Upcoming dates include national cemeteries in the following states:

East – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas

Midwest – Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas

West – California, Arizona, Texas

Mountain – South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma

Carrying the load
Screen capture from Veterans Affairs video on Youtube

In keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, people wishing to participate in different legs of the Carry The Load march should register in advance at www.carrytheload.org.

Upon registering, participants can participate several ways. People can host a Carry It Anywhere experience, organize a youth Carry The Flag activity, walk in the National Relay, attend a City Rally, or take part virtually throughout the 32-day event.

The event ends May 31 in Dallas, Texas.

Cemetery guidelines

While visiting any VA national cemetery, participants should wear face masks and exercise social distancing. Gatherings at national cemeteries will also be subject to size limits.

The list of national cemeteries participating is at https://www.cem.va.gov/docs/National_Cemeteries_along_CTL_Relay_in_2021.pdf.


-Feature image: U.S. Army Photo by Rachel Larue

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Florent Groberg earned his Medal of Honor

Just shy of twenty years ago, Florent Groberg was getting ready to graduate from high school. He was a newly-minted American, an immigrant from France. Like many Americans, he went on to college and studied things he was passionate about while playing college sports in his spare time.

Unlike many Americans, Groberg didn’t go off to work in the civilian sector after graduating. Groberg joined the U.S. Army and became an officer in 2008. That decision would alter the course of his life forever.


Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg

Since entering the Army in 2008, Groberg has had some 33 surgeries and was retired from the service. His time in the Army was, of course, consequential for many, not just himself. His second tour in Afghanistan would be the defining event of his service.

He was a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in August 2012. One day, while escorting high-ranking senior American and Afghan leaders to the provincial governor’s compound, Groberg noticed one person making a beeline for their protected formation. Noticing a significant bulge in the man’s clothing, the Army officer didn’t just shout at the man, he ran toward him.

Before anyone else could react, Capt. Groberg used his body to push the would-be suicide bomber away from the formation, not once but twice before he could detonate his vest. The blast killed four members of the formation but it could have been a lot worse – Groberg managed to push the man well outside the formation’s perimeter, limiting the damage to the group, while taking the brunt of it himself. The blast detonated a second vest nearby, which blew up almost harmlessly.

For Groberg, the first explosion was anything but harmless. The blast took off half of his calf leg muscle while damaging his nervous system, blowing his eardrums, and delivering a traumatic brain injury – but it could have been a whole lot worse.

You can catch Florent Groberg speak at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference in the Washington, D.C. area on Sept. 8-10, 2019, courtesy of Caliber Home Loans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Celebrities and veterans teamed up to raise millions to fund mental healthcare for post-9/11 vets

On October 19, 2018, a crowd of over 700 guests gathered at Pier Sixty at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers for one reason: to help provide mental healthcare to the men and women who fight for our freedoms. During their 6th annual gala, Headstrong, an organization that provides cost-free, stigma-free, and bureaucracy-free mental healthcare to post-9/11 military veterans, put on a fun-filled event — and raised over $2 million in the process.


Headstrong is making a huge impact on the veteran community.

“We have served over 750 veterans over 16,000 therapy sessions by 150 best-in-class clinicians in 23 cities across the country. All through private donations. Simply incredible,” said Army veteran and Headstrong Executive Director Joe Quinn.

During the event, three veterans seeking treatment through Headstrong, Amanda Burrill, Derek Coy and James Byler, opened up about their struggles and successes in finding effective mental healthcare. Their stories inspired the hundreds in attendance.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima

Left to Right: Joe Quinn, Executive Director of the Headstrong Project; Derek Coy; Amanda Burrill; James Byler

Despite the seriousness of the organization’s goals, the night wasn’t without a good dose of levity — after all, it was more than a fundraiser, it was a celebration. World War II veteran and former POW, Ewing Miller, was celebrating his 95th birthday — and he did so by being served cake by actor Jake Gyllenhaal and late night host Seth Meyers.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima

Left to Right: Seth Meyers, Host of ‘Late night with Seth Meyers’; Jake Gyllenhaal, Actor; Ewing Miller, WWII veteran; CNBC’s Kenny Polcari

Ewing Miller served from 1942 to 1945. On February 5, 1945, his aircraft was shot down — he was the sole survivor. He endured capture by the Germans until he was eventually freed by legendary military leader, General George S. Patton. Ewing earned several decorations during his time in service, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two clusters, the POW Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal.

When the lights finally dimmed on the evening’s celebrations, Headstrong had raised over million, which will be used to directly improve the lives of many post-9/11 veterans that are struggling with mental health — and it’s a cause worth championing. Marine veteran and Founder of Headstrong, Zach Iscol, said,

“When you put goal-oriented veterans together with top mental healthcare providers, they get better. The panic attacks go away, the anxiety goes away, the anger goes away, the self-medicating goes away…they blossom,”

To learn more about Headstrong, their initiatives, and what you can do to support veteran mental healthcare, visit their website.

Articles

These vets opened a coffee cafe — and found community

If you’ve ever worked a job that you hate, you know how unfulfilling it can be spending hour after hour trying to stop day-dreaming scenarios in which your life hadn’t led you to this point.


A couple of years ago, Ben Owen and Brolen Jourdan found themselves in just this situation. Both veterans with history in the food service and hospitality industries, the office job life just wasn’t providing the stimulation or reward they were used to. Together, they decided to do something about it, and in July 2016, they opened the doors to their cafe, Liberation Coffee Co. in Coppell, Texas.

“We liberated ourselves from lives we were unhappy with and followed our dreams to open a shop,” says Owen, who in addition to needing a career change, saw a need within his community as well. “I live in the area and was always on the hunt for a craft shop that was convenient. It was a tough ticket to fill, so we built one.”

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima

Our shop is pretty straightforward, with no frills, doing our best to do a few things well.

Like many veterans, Owen’s experiences in the armed forces — he served both in the Army and the Air Force — have informed much of his worldview, including his philosophies on running a business.

“I think that my years in the service come through in our model quite a bit,” he says. “Our shop is pretty straightforward, with no frills, doing our best to do a few things well.”

The craft coffee industry can feel a little over-the-top, Owen says, sometimes sacrificing form for fashion. While latte art and trendy aprons can do plenty to garner the attention of consumers, they can act as a deterrent to people seeking a plain cup of coffee. He hopes he can bridge the disconnect he perceives between craft coffee and vets.

“I can’t speak for all vets, but I think there is definitely a disconnect between the veteran community and craft coffee shops,” Owen says. “We’re used to function over form, so a lot of folks don’t know what they’re missing. Using my veteran status, I hope to alleviate that disconnect and bring other vets some quality coffee they might not otherwise seek out. We offer a military discount, and I’m always up for talking shop with my fellow servicemen and women.”

This philosophy of function over form is evident upon entering the space. Absent are the forests-worth of wood, exposed brick walls, and upcycled furniture composing the aesthetics of many DFW specialty cafes. In their place are comfy armchairs, tasteful light fixtures and Ed Sheeran on the sound-system.

Despite these “second-wave” aesthetics, the underlying care for the craft of coffee is apparent from the Kalita Wave pour-over drippers on the shelves to the coffee taster’s flavor wheel poster displayed prominently on the wall.

Also read: A brief history of coffee in the US military

Liberation’s coffee is courtesy of Eiland Coffee Roaster’s, which, as one of DFW’s oldest specialty roasting companies, has been producing traditionally roasted coffees in Richardson since 1998. A variety of blends and single-origin offerings are available as both drip and pour-over, and while the espresso is dialed in, the milk could use some work.

In addition to coffee, a variety of pastries like a rosemary-provolone scone ($3.50) and blueberry bread ($2.59) are available from Zenzero Kitchen Bakery, as well as macarons in flavors like espresso, strawberry and honey (all $2) from Joe the Baker.

The food and coffee menus cover all the necessary bases for coffee-house expectations without complicating things too much, making decisions quick and easy. Drinks come out quickly as well, so if you’re in need of a commuter-cup in the morning, don’t let the absence of a drive-thru fool you into thinking you don’t have time to pop in and out.

Establishing a specialty coffee presence in an area like Coppell can be challenging, but Liberation Coffee’s lack of pretension, cozy and casual environment and friendly staff all bode well for their success in the area.

“We want to make coffee accessible,” Owen says. “The community here is very locally focused, so for us, it’s important to do right by these folks. We try to offer the very best we can to continue to support that local mentality.”

The brand has plans for a small expansion within Coppell, in addition to simply growing their business in their current space. They may have forgotten about Zenzero when writing their Facebook bio claiming the title of “first specialty shop in Coppell,” but it’s great to see the coffee community growing in the area all the same.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.


Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.

Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.

“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.

The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veterans who worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASH staff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.

Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?

“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homeless were able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.

Recover, heal, grow

The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.

He’s the proof he inspires in others.

To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.

To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran guides others with PTSD to avoid suicidal thoughts

These days, Jeff Henson is doing what he believes has been his calling in life. He’s showing people who have attempted or have had thoughts of suicide that there is another way.

The Air Force Veteran (pictured above) is a volunteer at Save A Warrior. The nonprofit provides counseling in mental health, wellness and suicide prevention to Veterans, active-duty military and first responders. More than 1,100 men and women have gone through the program since it began eight years ago.


Many of these people, Henson explains, are missing “their family, their tribe” with whom they once built a friendship and camaraderie in the military or elsewhere. A lot of them not only have PTSD, he says, but PTSD and moral injury, which is essentially a conflict with one’s personal code of morality.

A Veteran may feel guilt, shame or self-condemnation for violating his or her moral beliefs in combat by killing someone, witnessing death or failing to prevent the immoral acts of others.

The will to live

Henson believes moral injury is a form of “complex PTSD” that can also stem from negative circumstances in one’s childhood.

“We introduce a Veteran to a tribe of 12 other Veterans who came to Save A Warrior at the same time as total strangers. They can leave as ‘brothers’ with an understanding that it’s not always what happened down-range that has them stuck in life. We provide hope and magic that is the will to live.”

Henson has been there himself. Diagnosed with PTSD and void of hope, he went through the Save A Warrior program in 2016 while in Veterans’ treatment court in Orange County, California.

Flashbacks from the Gulf War

His court time stemmed from a domestic violence incident in 2013. At the time, he was experiencing many of the classic PTSD symptoms: nightmares, mood swings, anxiety, depression, isolation and flashbacks. When the incident happened, he had flashed back to a moment when he unintentionally witnessed a decapitation in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, during the Gulf War in 1990, and he lost control.

Study links PTSD with criminal justice involvement

Earlier this year, a VA study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that Veterans with PTSD — compared to those without — are six times more likely to experience run-ins with the law.

The researchers say it is unclear what is driving the ties between PTSD and criminal justice involvement. They say the general strain theory may partially explain the results. That theory asserts that the risk of criminal behavior is higher among people who have experienced traumatic events and report negative effects, such as high levels of anger or irritability,

It gave me hope

Meanwhile, as part of getting his life back together, the 59-year-old Henson is pursuing a doctorate in psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

He’s also trying to give back to the organization that gave him so much.

“Save A Warrior did not save my life, but it gave me hope,” he says. “It’s the difference between `being alive’ and `living.’ It’s also about being of service. I’m one of the shepherds who helps people through the process that I went through.

“When we’re kids, we’re told by our parents not to use four-letter words,” he adds. “I dispute that because hope is a four-letter word. And hope is powerful.”

Click here to read more of Henson’s story.

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

Articles

Medal of Honor recipient who held off 9 German attacks has died

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced that Medal of Honor recipient Wilburn K. Ross died on May 9, 2017. According to a press release, Ross, who was working in a shipyard before he was drafted, was 94 years old and is survived by six children.


According to his Medal of Honor citation, Ross’s company — assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division — had taken heavy casualties in combat with elite German troops near St. Jacques, France, on Oct. 30, 1944 – losing over 60 percent of the troops. Ross then set his machine gun 10 yards ahead of the other Americans and used it to hold off German forces for eight attacks – receiving less and less help as the other troops ran out of ammunition.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
Troops from the 3rd Infantry Division in Nuremburg. (US Army photo)

Ross, too, was running low. After the eighth attack, Ross was also out of ammunition. As American troops prepared for a last stand, salvation came in the form of a resupply of ammunition. Ross was able to use that ammunition to defeat the ninth and final German attack.

A profile of Ross on a VA loan site adds some more background. Ross was a dead shot, practicing a trick shot that involved using a .22 rifle to light a match. He later described how he had selected his position beforehand. He also related that he had no idea that a dead soldier he’d been shooting over wasn’t dead at all – it was an Army lieutenant who was alive, and who reported Ross’s actions.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
The Medal of Honor

Ross would be presented the Medal of Honor on April 14, 1945. During his service in World War II and in the Korean War, he’d be wounded four times. He served in the Army until 1964, when he retired  as a Master Sergeant. Afterwards, he settled down in DuPont, Washington, where he raised his kids. A park in that town was named in his honor, and includes a monument that displays his Medal of Honor citation on a plaque.

Articles

This is what happens when celebrity Lidia Bastianich cooks for WATM’s vets

Over the holidays, the Emmy award-winning TV host and celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich prepared a world-class cuisine for the troops aboard the USS George Washington.


But leading to the holiday festivities, she traveled the country meeting veterans and learning their incredible service stories.

Related: Back in the day a soldier’s chow came in a can

“I was inspired as I learned about their food traditions and offered them comfort through food,” Lidia said in her PBS video Lidia Celebrates America.

One of her stops included a visit with some of We Are The Mighty’s veterans who shared some of their fondest food memories while serving in the military.

For Edith Casas (U.S. Navy), it was missing her mother’s meals during deployments. For Bryan Anderson (U.S. Army), it was the meals he prepared in the barracks. For Mike Dowling (U.S. Marine Corps), it was sharing his last meal with Rex, his military working dog.

Here’s a short clip from our visit with Lidia:

Lidia Bastianich, YouTube

Watch the full hour-long documentary special on PBS to see how Lidia pays homage to the men and women of our military and the sacrifices they make. 

Veterans

Military spouse juggles motherhood, business, and deployments

Flossie Hall has one of the hardest jobs imaginable. She’s a mother of four and an active duty Navy spouse. She’s also the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE).

As a military wife, Hall has lived at 10 different addresses over the last 14 years. For much of that time, she’s also had to be a solo parent.

“Plan something and the military laughs,” Hall quips. “Business is the same way.”

After successfully navigating the financial challenges that come with new deployments, new homes, and newborns, Hall has dedicated herself to the business of helping other military families.

AMSE is an entrepreneurship program built by military spouses, exclusively for military spouses. It teaches men and women around the world how to start their own businesses. And military spouses are perfectly suited to be entrepreneurs because, as Hall puts it, “entrepreneurs have to curve and swerve every single day.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Hall was the first person in her family to graduate from high school – let alone college.

Today, she has a daughter in college whose education expenses weren’t budgeted for because Flossie and her husband were very young when they had her. As a result, they learned the value of proper financial planning.

The Halls’ three younger children will also likely attend college. This time around, Hall and her husband are prepared. They opened college savings accounts that will help pay for each child’s education.

They started 529 accounts for each of them. These special savings accounts have allowed the Halls to save over time in a tax-advantaged way for this specific financial planning objective. Money in the accounts grows tax free until withdrawn. When it is taken out to pay for specific education expenses, it also avoids taxation.

529 plans are offered by each of the states and many educational institutions. They don’t require account owners or beneficiaries to reside in the state offering the plan, but some plans do offer specific advantages to in-state residents.

Because there are no residency requirement, there is ample opportunity to shop around in order to find a plan that best suits the needs of the beneficiary.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when comparing plans:

1)      Every state offers at least one type of plan.

There are two types: Prepaid Tuition Plans or College Savings Plans.

2)      Some plans allow others to contribute.

Most 529 plans allow people other than the account holder to make contributions to the beneficiary’s account.

3)      The account holder owns and controls the account.

The account holder may withdraw money. The beneficiary may not.

4)      Gift tax exclusion may apply.

529 plan contributions fall under annual and lifetime gift tax exclusions.

5)      Consider a UGift® account.

UGift lets you invite family and friends to contribute to a child’s 529 account.

For more information and useful financial tools visit VCM.com/military.

Articles

This Marine’s powerful music earned him an epic record deal

Keeping your head on a swivel, eyes always on alert, and being prepared for anything are just a few of ways Marines serving in the infantry stay vigilant while forward deployed.


With the constant threat of danger lurking around every corner, many veterans use music as a way to relax and recenter; some, like John Preston, take it one step further and use music to tell their stories and encourage others not to give up hope.

Related: This Marine rapper spits lyrics that veterans know all too well

During a tour in Iraq, Preston began his music career by writing the song “Good Good America,” which propelled John into the industry and landed him a record deal upon his return home.

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
John takes a moment for a photo op while deployed. (Source: John Preston)

For the next few years, John slowly veered away from music and became a firefighter — but his passion for music didn’t die out.

Luckily, he managed to return to music signing with Pacific Records and quickly released his first single “This Is War” in the fall of 2014. The song became a national media topic after a Marine veteran made a call-to-action to veterans across the nation to make a stand against ISIS.

John’s musical momentum began taking shape once again as his record label released several of his songs in the following months.

Also Read: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Meet 102-year-old retired Col. Dave Severance, the man who led the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima
Marine veteran and talent musician, John Preston. (Source: John Preston)

“We are taking our message to the public, and today we tell the mainstream that we are here and we are loud. The perception of the broken veteran is a myth that we refuse to buy into,” Preston tells WATM. “My music is about our lives and the real battles we have and continue to fight: on and off the battlefield. We are here to show our community and the general public our talent, work ethic, and our drive to push forward through all adversity.”

Sadly, in January of 2016, John’s brother ended his own life after a hard battle with post-traumatic stress. The action almost convinced Preston to end his music career once again but has instead fueled his passion and his new single “Superman Falls.”

Preston is an executive producer on the album, which climbed to #21 on the iTunes rock charts. The song continues to spread throughout the veteran community as well as the mainstream music scene. To check out the John Preston’s music on iTunes click here.

Currently signed with Concore Entertainment/Universal Music Group, his newest single “Before I am Gone” was released on September 5, 2017. To check out the John plans on donating 100 percent of his profits to Stop Soldier Suicide.

John plans on donating 100 percent of his profits to Stop Soldier Suicide.

Check out John Preston’s video below to watch his behind the scenes footage.

(Youtube, John Preston Music)
Articles

7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

With so many war movies out there to choose from, not many come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the war efforts of our service men and women were predominantly overlooked as they returned home.

The son of a successful stockbroker, Stone dropped out of Yale in the 60s and joined the Army, becoming one of the first American troops to arrive in Vietnam.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Here’s what he taught us:

1. Respect is only earned, never issued.

Chris Taylor, played by Charlie Sheen, just landed in the “Nam” with a fresh shave and a stainless uniform. Before saying a word to anyone, he was automatically picked apart by war-harden soldiers passing by.

In war and in life, it doesn’t matter how you start the game — it’s how you finish it.

“Welcome to the suck, boot.” (Image via Giphy)

2. You have to keep up

Being in the infantry is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs ever. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest, but you need to pull your own weight…literally.

Move it! Move it!  Move it! (Image via Giphy)

3. Staying positive

In the eyes of a “newbie,” the world can seem and feel like one big sh*t show — especially if you’re burning a barrel of sh*t with diesel fuel.

Finding new ways to approach a bad situation can boost morale — especially when you have a lot of time left in the bush.

Negativity can get you hurt, positivity can get you through it. (Image via Giphy)

4. We’re all the same

Regardless of what your race, religion, or education level — when it comes down to being a soldier in a dangerous combat zone, none of those aspects means a thing.

Preach! (image via Giphy)

5. Never quit

Sgt. Elias, by played Willem Dafoe, was intentionally left behind by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) with the hope the V.C. would kill him off.

Although Elias struggled to stay in the fight, after taking several AK-47’s rounds, he showed the world he’s truly a warrior.

His back must have been killing him. (Image via Giphy)

6. War changes a man

The bright-eyed bushy-tailed boy that showed up in the beginning isn’t the thousand yard staring man who stands in front of you now.

Kill! (image via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. Brotherhood

When you break into the circle of brotherhood, there’s no better feeling.

Safe travels. (Image via Giphy)To all of our Vietnam war veterans, everyone at We Are The Mighty salutes you.

Articles

This group helps vets heal on the hunt

FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — It can be a challenge to reintegrate from the military into civilian life, especially if you’ve lost a limb and your former toe is now your thumb, Mike Trost said.


And he would know.

Trost, 53, of Maryville, Tennessee, served in the U.S. Army for 32 years until he suffered serious injuries in 2012.

“I was shot with a machine gun in southeastern Afghanistan,” he said of being hit in both legs, buttocks and his right hand.

Trost lost a leg and fingers, but via modern medical technology, he gained a toe for a thumb.

While he talks casually about his hand and refers to his new thumb as “Toemos,” Trost knows all too well recovery can be a physically and emotionally painful, long journey.

“It’s good to be around like company,” Trost said of spending time with veterans who sustained traumatic experiences during their time in the military. “There’s a bond. It’s different than you have with regular friends.”

Trost on Friday was in Fort Ashby for a turkey hunt that’s part of Operation Heroes Support — a local veteran-operated, nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders.

“The whole thing with the hunts is just to make you feel, even for one day, that there’s … nothing wrong with you,” he said. “And the people here are fantastic. They give a lot of time and energy.”

Trost and several other veterans from Wednesday through Sunday were at the residence of Bruce Myers and his wife Judy, located in rural West Virginia.

In addition to hunting, the group fished in a lake owned by Dave and Joyce Cooper — neighbors of the Myers couple. Skeet shooting was also on the agenda.

The Myers’s hosted a similar event last year and hope to continue the tradition.

“The veterans, they deserve it … they sacrificed,” Bruce Myers said of the former military members who were injured during their service to country.

Steven Curry, 33, of Nokesville, Virginia, was new to this year’s Fort Ashby hunt and killed his first two turkeys — a 19-pounder on Thursday and a bird that weighed over 20 pounds on Friday.

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said of his hunting success. “We were only in the woods about 20 minutes when I shot the first turkey.”

Curry was in a U.S. Army infantry unit from 2003 to 2008. During his service, he was hit by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq.

As a result, his left leg was amputated below his knee, he had a mild brain injury and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brandon Rethmel, 30, of Pittsburgh, brought his wife and three young children to the event.

Rethmel was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During that time, he was injured by a rocket in Afghanistan.

“I lost my leg below the knee,” he said. His right tricep was also destroyed and he suffered other shrapnel wounds.

“When I got out (of the military) I didn’t connect with people,” he said. “I isolated myself … It was really hard.”

Rethmel said Operation Heroes Support and events including the hunt, as well as support from his family, helped him reclaim his purpose.

“It’s saved my life,” he said. “It’s just really a great program and I hope more (veterans) get involved.”

Greg Hulver, 49, of Kirby, West Virginia, specialized in communications for the U.S. Navy from about 1985 to 1997. Today, he suffers from back injuries and other ailments including PTSD. The hunting events offer him a way to give and receive help, he said

“My military bond is what I have with these guys and that means the most to me,” he said. “There’s just something between us you can’t replace and you can’t get it anywhere else.”

Brady Jackson, 32, of Bristol, Virginia, returned to the event this year to help other veterans.

“I’d never gotten a chance to turkey hunt,” he said of his first experience at the Fort Ashby event last year. “I just had an absolutely amazing time.”

He started volunteering to help get donations for Operation Heroes Support in the fall.

“It’s honestly changed my life,” Jackson said of working with other veterans. “It’s given me a sense of purpose since I got out of the military.”

Jackson was in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was deployed to Iraq where he sustained minor blast trauma, burns and cuts from an explosion. While he knows he was lucky to survive that incident without serious injuries, he needed to spend time with others who understood his experiences.

That’s where Operation Heroes Support came in, he said.

“It’s more about campfire therapy than it is about hunting,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”

Charles Harris, 26, a native of Placerville, California who now lives in Romney, West Virginia, lost his legs after being injured in 2012 while in a U.S. Army infantry unit.

Today, Harris is the president of the local Operation Heroes Support organization.

“It’s given me the ability to give back,” he said of his work with the group. “It’s like we’re back in the military (because) you can count on these guys … It’s like family.”

Harris said the group hopes to grow, include more public servants such as firefighters and police as well as military veterans. To make that happen, donations of cash, meals, airline tickets and other items and services are needed.

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