Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation's highest honor - We Are The Mighty
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Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Of the roughly 2.5 million service members who have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade, just 16 have received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor.


It’s not an award most aspire to. The criteria for receiving it are incredibly stringent, requiring significant risk to life and limb in direct combat and a display of “personal bravery or self-sacrifice so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.”

But for some service members put into extreme circumstances, the daily grind can give way to moments of incredible bravery that warrants them the nation’s highest award. We’ve collected them here (in alphabetical order).

Cpl. Kyle Carpenter

 

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Photo: The White House

On Nov. 21, 2010, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter was providing security alongside his friend Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio on a rooftop at a combat outpost the Marines had established the previous day. It wasn’t long before the shooting started, forcing both to lie on their backs to avoid getting hit.

An hour later, Taliban bullets began getting closer to the compound, and under that cover fire, insurgents launched three grenades inside at the Marines. One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near a post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to both Marines.

“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”

An extensive investigation found that Carpenter had actually jumped on the grenade, absorbing the majority of the explosion. “The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” his award summary reads.

Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. Eufrazio is still recovering from the attack.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Carpenter said. “We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”

Award Presented: June 19,2014

Staff Sgt. Ty Carter

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Photo: US Army

On Oct. 3, 2009, Carter was one of 54 members of B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment defending Combat Outpost Keating in Nuristan Province. Shortly before 6 a.m., the remote base was rocked with blistering enemy machine gun and rocket fire. More than 400 fighters were attempting to overrun the base.

Then-Specialist Carter sprinted across open ground to join his fellow soldiers on the perimeter, then ran back again to gather up necessary supplies despite withering enemy fire. Later, Carter noticed his fellow soldier Specialist Stephan L. Mace was wounded.

Stripes has more:

While Larson provided cover fire from within a nearby Humvee, Carter stanched Mace’s bleeding and placed a tourniquet on his shattered leg.

He realized he couldn’t carry Mace while he had his weapon. He returned to the Humvee and told Larson his plan. Larson got out of the Humvee and provided cover fire while Carter returned to Mace, picked him up and carried him through the hail of bullets back to the Humvee, and went back to firing.

During the 12-hour long battle, Carter continued to give medical aid to Mace, engage the enemy, and communicate with his fellow soldiers to retake the base. According to the Army’s official narrative of the battle, “Carter’s remarkable acts of heroism and skill, which were vital to the defense of COP Keating, exemplify what it means to be an American hero.”

Award Presented: Aug. 26, 2013

Cpl. Jason Dunham

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

While his unit was engaged in a major firefight in Iraq along the Syrian border on Apr. 14, 2004, Dunham and his team stopped several vehicles to search them for weapons.

As he approached one of the vehicles, the driver lunged at Dunham’s throat and they fought in a hand-to-hand battle. Wrestling on the ground, Dunham then yelled to his Marines, “No, no watch his hand.”

The insurgent then dropped a grenade with the pin pulled. Dunham jumped on top of it, placing his helmet between his body and the grenade in an effort to brunt the explosion.

“He knew what he was doing,” Lance Cpl. Jason A. Sanders, who was in Dunham’s company, told Marine Corps News. “He wanted to save Marines’ lives from that grenade.”

He saved the lives of at least two Marines, and was mortally wounded in the blast.

Award Presented (posthumously): Jan. 11, 2007

Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

On Oct. 25, 2007, Giunta’s platoon was on patrol in Afghanistan’s deadly Korengal Valley when they were hit with a fierce L-shaped ambush from fighters only 10 meters away.

The 10 to 15 enemy fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades, machine-guns, and AK-47s, which immediately wounded two soldiers. With his team pinned down, Giunta left a covered position to give first aid to his wounded squad leader. He was shot twice — one hit the rocket launcher on his back, and the other hit him in the chest of his bulletproof vest.

Once he recovered from the shots, he got up and bounded towards the enemy in order to push them back. When he noticed two Taliban fighters dragging away one of the wounded soldiers, he chased after them, killing one and forcing the other to flee.

“If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero,” Giunta later told The Christian Science Monitor. “So if you think that’s a hero – as long as you include everyone with me.”

Award Presented: Nov. 16, 2010

Pfc. Ross McGinnis

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Photo Credit: US Army

As McGinnis’ platoon was driving through Adhamiyah, Iraq on Dec. 4, 2006, an insurgent on a rooftop tossed a fragmentation grenade into his Humvee.

McGinnis, who was in the gun turret behind the .50 cal, could have jumped out of the hatch and escaped the blast. Instead, he screamed, “grenade” to warn his fellow soldiers as he tried to grab it to toss away, but he missed.

From Command Posts:

He stood as if he were going to leap out of the top of the Humvee, but instead he dropped down from his fighting position into the truck. Newland thought McGinnis was trying to escape the grenade. But he wasn’t. McGinnis had realized that his teammates hadn’t spotted it, and so he was chasing it. Newland couldn’t move quickly enough to get out of the truck with its combat-locked doors, and none of the guys quite understood what was going on because McGinnis hadn’t dived out.

The soldiers watched as McGinnis threw himself on the grenade and took the blast. He gave his life to save the four men inside the vehicle.

Award Presented (posthumously): Jun. 2, 2008

Sgt. Dakota Meyer

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

On Sep. 8, 2009, Meyer was providing rear security as the four other members of his team (along with Afghan troops) headed on foot into the village of Ganjgal, Afghanistan to meet with village elders.

It turned out to be a trap, and they were ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns firing from high ground.

Listening on the radio to his team — who was now cut off — Meyer disobeyed orders to remain in place and manned a .50 caliber machine gun on a gun truck heading into the village. Despite being wounded and braving intense enemy fire, Meyer went in and picked up wounded Afghans and brought them to safety four times. On his fifth trip, he dismounted and recovered the bodies of his four-man team, who Meyer had been trying to save throughout the battle.

“I was a failure,” Meyer later told CNN. “My guys died. That was my whole team.”

Award Presented: Sep. 11, 2011

Staff Sgt. Robert Miller

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

On Jan. 25, 2008, Miller’s Special Forces team was on a reconnaissance patrol near the Pakistani border when they came under attack. The first attack was quelled after calling for close air support, but soon after, insurgents opened up with heavy machine guns.

Miller’s team captain was seriously wounded early in the battle. Completely disregarding his own safety, he ran into the hail of bullets from over 100 enemy fighters to give his team an opportunity to escape to covered positions.

Even after being shot in his upper torso, he ignored the wound and ran over open ground, ultimately killing at least 10 insurgents and wounding dozens more, according to his award citation.

“Five members of his patrol had been wounded, but his team had survived,” President Barack Obama said at the award presentation. “And one of his teammates surely spoke for all of them when he said of Rob, ‘I would not be alive today if not for his ultimate sacrifice.'”

Award Presented (posthumously): Oct. 6, 2010

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

While providing sniper overwatch in Ramadi, Iraq on Sep. 29, 2006, Monsoor and his SEAL Team eliminated insurgents that were planning a coordinated attack.

As the enemy activity ratcheted up, Monsoor took up a rooftop position to watch for more insurgents. Then a grenade bounced off his chest and landed at his feet.

From The Washington Post:

“Grenade!” Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.

“He made an instantaneous decision to save our teammates. I immediately understood what happened, and tragically it made sense to me in keeping with the man I know, Mike Monsoor,” said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, Monsoor’s platoon leader in Ramadi.

Award Presented (posthumously): Apr. 8, 2008

Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

On Jun. 21, 2006, Monti’s unit established a small base on a ridge above a valley in northeastern Afghanistan to support troops below.

Later that evening, a group of at least 60 insurgents established two firing positions only 50 yards away and opened up on the team of only 16 soldiers.

“We were taking so much fire we couldn’t make out where the mortars landed. It was coming in so close that … you could hear it right over your head, just like whizzing through,” Private First Class Derek James told Stars Stripes. “They were so close at one point you could hear their voices.

With soldiers killed and wounded, Monti called in artillery and close air support. But one of his soldiers was hit and cut off from the rest of the men.

Monti left the cover of rocks and moved through open ground and gunfire to try and rescue Specialist Brian Bradbury, saying, “that’s my guy. I am going to get him.”

He tried twice to make it to his wounded comrade, but intense enemy fire pushed him back. With his men laying down covering fire, he went once more, almost making it before being shot himself.

Award Presented (posthumously): Sep. 17, 2009

Lt. Michael Murphy

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

While leading his Navy SEAL team on Jun. 28, 2005 to infiltrate and provide reconnaissance on a Taliban leader, Murphy and the three other members of his team came under withering gunfire from 30 to 40 enemy fighters.

The fierce gunfight pitted the SEALs against insurgents on the high ground, and they desperately called for support as all four operators were hit by gunshots.

When his radioman fell mortally wounded, and with the radio not able to get a clear signal, Murphy disregarded the enemy fire and went out into the open to transmit back to his base and call for support.

From his Summary of Action:

He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in.

“I was cursing at him from where I was,” Hospital Corpsman Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of the battle, later told The New York Times. “I was saying, ‘What are you doing?’ Then I realized that he was making a call. But then he started getting hit. He finished the call, picked up his rifle and started fighting again. But he was overrun.”

Award Presented (posthumously): Oct. 23, 2007

Staff Sgt. Leroy Petry

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

After his platoon of Army Rangers jumped out of helicopters in Paktia Province, Afghanistan to look for a high-value Taliban target on May 26, 2008, they came under serious attack.

Spotting a nearby compound, Petry led his soldiers in clearing the courtyard which had three Taliban fighters inside. Despite being hit in both legs by gunfire, Petry pushed in and led his soldiers to cover and assess other wounded soldiers.

Only a short time later, both of his soldiers were wounded by a grenade thrown at them by one of the fighters, and then another landed nearby. That’s when Petry decided he would throw it back.

“It was almost instinct; off training,” Petry told the Army News Service. “It was probably going to kill all three of us. I had time to visually see the hand grenade. And I figure it’s got about a four-and-half second fuse, depending on how long it has been in the elements and the weather and everything and how long the pin has been pulled. I figure if you have time to see it you have time to kick it, throw it, just get it out there.”

Saving the lives of two soldiers, the grenade exploded just as he was throwing it, taking off his right hand. He then calmly placed a tourniquet on his arm as other soldiers neutralized the threat from the Taliban.

Award Presented: Jul. 12, 2011

Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

On July 13, 2008, Taliban fighters attacked a small outpost in Wanat, Afghanistan in an attempt to overrun it, and almost immediately, a number of soldiers were wounded or killed in a blistering volley of rocket-propelled grenade fire.

“It was just a barrage of RPGs, and it was very disorienting,” Pitts told the Army Times. The first volley left Pitts’ lower body peppered with shrapnel, forcing him to crawl to areas where he could return fire. “I’d blind fire, spraying along the rock, and once I thought I had laid down enough suppressive fire, I’d pop up and try to take out whatever I could.”

From Business Insider:

Crucially, Pitts maintained radio contact between the OP and the command post as the battle progressed, warning of enemy movements. After fighting for over an hour despite being critical wounded, Pitts was medically evacuated.

Were Pitts not present at the Battle of Wanat, the outcome would have been significantly different.

Award Presented: Jul. 24, 2014

Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

With only 53 U.S. troops at Combat Outpost Keating, Afghanistan, the early morning of Oct. 3, 2009 was quite different than what they had endured before.

Over 300 Taliban fighters were attacking from all sides with the goal of overrunning the remote base. But Romesha wasn’t going to let that happen. “We weren’t going to be beat that day,” he later said.

As fighters breached the perimeter of the camp, Romesha calmly rallied his men to repel the assault even after he was wounded. He personally played “peek-a-boo” with an enemy sniper, took out an enemy machine-gun position, and called in airstrikes that killed at least 30 Taliban fighters.

From The New York Times:

His bravery, Mr. Obama said, helped prevent the outpost from being overrun by Taliban fighters. He was wounded in the neck, shoulder and arms by shrapnel after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a generator he was hiding behind. Eight American service members were killed in the October 2009 battle, one of the most intense of the war.

Award Presented: Feb. 11, 2013

Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

On April 4, 2003, after his unit briefly battled and captured several Iraqi fighters near the Baghdad International Airport, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith instructed his men to build an impromptu holding area for the prisoners in a nearby walled compound.

A short time later, his troops were violently attacked by a larger force. Smith rallied his men to organize a hasty defense, then braved hostile fire to engage the enemy with grenades and anti-tank weapons.

He then ran through blistering gunfire to man the .50 caliber machine gun on top of an armored personnel carrier to keep the enemy from overrunning the position, completely disregarding his own safety to protect his soldiers.

Smith was mortally wounded during the attack, but he helped defeat the attacking force which had more than 50 enemy soldiers killed, according to his award citation.

Award Presented (posthumously): April 4, 2005

Capt. Will Swenson

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

On Sept. 8, 2009 while assigned as a trainer and mentor to the Afghan border police, Capt. Will Swenson’s team was ambushed by a force of more than 50 Taliban fighters. With no reinforcements and repeated denials for fire support, Swenson repeatedly risked his own life to search for members of the team who were cut off.

From the U.S. Army:

With complete disregard for his own safety, Swenson voluntarily led a team into the kill zone, exposing himself to enemy fire on three occasions to recover the wounded and search for missing team members.

Returning to the kill zone a fourth time in a Humvee, he exited the vehicle, evaded a hail of bullets and shells to recover three fallen Marines and a Navy corpsman, working alongside then-Marine Corps Cpl. Dakota Meyer, who on Sept. 15, 2011, received the Medal of Honor for his own actions in the battle.

“This award was earned with a team, a team of our finest: Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and our Afghan partners, standing side by side,” Swenson told reporters after his award ceremony. “And now that team includes Gold Star families who lost their fathers, sons and husbands that day. This medal represents them. It represents us.”

Award Presented: Oct. 15, 2013

Sgt. Kyle White

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

On Nov. 8, 2007, Kyle White repeatedly ran through intense enemy gunfire to get to wounded troops, called in steady reports and air support to beat back Taliban fighters, and directed medical evacuations for the dead and wounded, Army Times reports.

“An RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] hit right behind my head and knocked me unconscious … it was just lights out … when I woke up, I was face-down on a rock,” White told Army News Service, recalling that as he came to, an enemy round fragmented near his head and sent a shower of broken rock chips and debris into the side of his face. “I didn’t feel pain at all, just numb like when you go to the dentist.”

With chaos all around him, White realized that 10 of those with his 14-man team embedded with Afghan soldiers had been forced to slide more than 150 feet down the side of a rocky cliff. As one of four soldiers left above (and closest to enemy fire), White tended to a wounded soldier for some time before seeing a Marine on the team lying wounded out in the open.

White then ran through blistering enemy fire to reach wounded Marine Sgt. Philip Bocks, but unfortunately his injuries were mortal. “I worked on him until he was no longer with us.” Remarkably, White was never hit by enemy fire during the 16-hour battle, although his pack, weapon, and equipment were hit multiple times.

As night fell, White — now suffering from two concussions — directed Afghan Army soldiers to set up a defensive perimeter as he kept a badly-wounded Spec. Kain Schilling from falling asleep and marked a landing zone so helicopters could land and bring the soldiers out.

Award Presented: May. 13, 2014

MIGHTY TRENDING

PTSD treatment helps veteran 48 years after firefights

“A few years ago I heard about the treatment from my friend in Washington state. I went on the computer and I checked a few things out, and I thought, ‘Why not? It’s time that you do something.'”

For Jerry, that time came 48 years after he had returned from Vietnam…


“Bullets are flying everyplace…”

“It was quite an experience coming back from ‘Nam, and I could tell I had changed an awful lot. And I think the biggest thing in my behavior was the fact that I was so jumpy. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m in the middle of Vietnam, and bullets are flying everyplace, and my bed is ringing wet.”

“What they didn’t know is I was scared of myself.”

Something was wrong. He didn’t know what it was or what to do about it. And Jerry didn’t want to jeopardize his career in the military by speaking up. He went on to finish two tours in Korea, then was stationed in Germany where he met his future wife and started a family. “I just felt that if I said there’s something wrong with me the Army wouldn’t need me.”

Instead of asking for help, Jerry buried himself in his work. “I was working around the clock. I was trying to control my mind, and I was trying to block it. I was in control most of the time.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

But he also lost control. Stupid mistakes felt intolerable, and they could easily set him off. “I can talk like a sailor, and in talking like a sailor, I could take your head off and put it in your lap, and you’d never know it.”

Loose cannon

These types of outbursts affected his work-life. He later learned that his colleagues didn’t like to be around him because he was too unpredictable, too volatile. One called him a loose cannon, another told him years later that people were afraid of him. “What they didn’t know is I was scared of myself.”

Time passed. Jerry’s two sons grew into men. And more recently, his beloved wife became ill and passed away. For all those years Jerry had wanted to ask for help, but he didn’t know where to go. He couldn’t trust anyone.

Then one day a friend told him about the treatments at the VA. Treatments for PTSD. Eager to get help, but still skeptical, Jerry went in for an appointment.

“She was just that good.”

“I’ll tell you right now, as I sit here, when I walked in that room and saw that petite little thing sitting there, I said there is no way in hell this young lady has any clue about what I’ve been through, what I’ve done, and she can’t help me. I feel like an ass now but it didn’t take long for me to change my mind. It didn’t take long. Within 30 minutes I knew I wanted to come back for my next appointment. I could have probably stayed there the rest of the week and talked to her. She was just that good. She was ready for me. I wasn’t ready for her, but she made me ready. She was good.”

Jerry finished his therapy, an evidence-based therapy called Prolonged Exposure, in nine weeks.

“I felt that the treatment helped me in the fact that I can control myself a lot better. I control my anger. I can do a lot of things that I couldn’t do before. I still have moments where I don’t know, something snaps or something build’s up or whatever [but] I accept life a lot easier. I’m more tolerant of people.”

“I’ll just say it this way. It takes a lot to piss me off. I’m so proud of that.”

Here’s a five-minute video of Jerry sharing his story.

Read more about Veterans’ experience with PTSD Therapy Here.

To hear more Veteran’s talk about their experiences with PTSD and PTSD treatment, visit AboutFace.

For more information on PTSD visit the National Center for PTSD website, www.ptsd.va.gov/. This site offers resources such as:

PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide self-help symptom-management tools. The app is always with you when you need it.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

These are some of the best non-food freebies this Veterans Day

Companies grateful for the military’s service show their appreciation each year with free or discounted meals. Every Nov. 11, troops and vets map out an itinerary to maximize the best day ever.


The festivities can begin a week in advance and many troops stick with their tried and true classics. Cracker Barrel for breakfast, Red Robin for lunch, Hooter’s for Dinner, Old Chicago for beer and pizza with buddies.

If you really want to maximize your day, throw in a few things to do between meals. Be sure to grab your military or veteran ID and said buddies to share the Saturday of freebies with!

Free Haircuts

You can’t go out looking like a slob and expect civilians to take you seriously. After breakfast, why not grab a free haircut?

There are countless local and chain barbershops this year — too many to name. Everyone from Great Clips and Super Cuts to that place you like down the road (probably) are giving free hair cuts.

Give them a call in advance to verify.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
It also helps to book a time slot. (Image via Defense.mil)

Free Oil Change

If that light has been on for a bit too long on your dashboard, now is the time to get it checked out. You’ll need your car working in the best shape if you plan on driving all over for more deals.

Car care centers are also giving free oil changes including Meineke, Jiffy Lube, and many other local auto shops. Give them a call in advance to make sure.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
They’re like the motor pool for your personal ride. (Image via Trucker)

Free Car Wash

Speaking of car care things people have been pushing off for too long, it’s time to get your car cleaned if you plan on showing up in style.

The organization Grace For Vets is working with over 3,215 car wash locations across the world to offer free car washes for veterans.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
You may be paying 26% interest rate on it, but you’ve got to keep it looking good! (Image via Agency360)

Free Bowling

And to round the night out before the bars start opening up, have everyone meet up at the bowling ally for a game on the house. If you live near a Main Event bowling center, you even get a free entrée and $10 FUNcard to use at that location.

Many locations also offer free bowling Saturday, as with all the other fun deals, be sure to call in advance so you don’t end up being “that guy” who makes a scene about not getting a free round of bowling.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
And who doesn’t want to enjoy one of the only professional sports that allows you to drink? (Image via Military.com)

Free Wedding Dress

If you’ve got that one perfect date set in mind, now is the time to check one more thing off that list if you, or your fiancé, are military or a first responder.

Hands down the most impressive freebie this year is a free wedding dress. Granted, there are many stipulations on this one including: wedding in the next 18 months, you or your fiancé deployed in the last 5 years or about to deploy, and only certain deployed locations count. But submarine, Navy, and Special Ops orders all count. You can also qualify if you’ve had a civil ceremony in the past and are now planning a formal wedding.

To register through Brides Across America, click on this link here.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Saber arch not included (Image via af.mil)

Free Beer

There’s no way to finish a perfect day of freebies than by having a beer on the house.

Places like Mockery Brewing in Denver and Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas is offering up your first beer free while the First Division Museum is giving two “tastings.” Orlando Brewing in Orlando, FL; 38 State Brewing Co in Littleton, CO; and Blackfinn Ameripub in Vienna, VA all have variations on a “buy a vet a beer” program.

Many more exist out there. It all depends on how your local bar is handling it. Chances are, if you’re a regular and they know you’re a vet, the bartender will probably just slide you one on the house.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
And at the end of the day, isn’t a nice cold beer the best way to celebrate?

Veterans

23 heroic Navy corpsmen who earned the Medal of Honor


U.S. Navy Hospital corpsmen are part of a tradition that predates the American Navy itself. In the age of sail, corpsmen (then called loblolly boys) helped the ship’s surgeon stay on his feet with sand and kept the cauterizing irons hot. The role has evolved over the decades, and the name of the corpsman’s rating evolved along with it. The loblolly boy became the nurse, who became the bayman, who became the surgeon’s steward, then the apothecary, hospital apprentice, hospital steward, pharmacist’s mate, until after World War II, when the modern corpsman (as we know it) was born.

Update: This story was corrected to reflect that Byers was a Special Operations Combat Medic.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Petty Officer 3rd Class Heston Johnson, corpsman, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, provides security during a mission in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 4, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan)

The corpsman is part medic, part nurse, part pharmacist, who serves in the Navy and on its ships, but also deploys with Marines. A corpsman’s importance in combat is unrivaled and requires the skill and courage of any grunt. 2,012 corpsmen were killed in action in the history of the U.S., with 42 of those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their work earned the recognition of twenty ships named for them and more than 600 medals for valor, including twenty-two Medals of Honor. Here are the stories of twenty-two of the Navy’s bravest:

1. Hospital Apprentice Robert H. Stanley

Stanley volunteered to carry and deliver sensitive messages between the American and British forces while under heavy gunfire during the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing, China

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Photo from Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Department of the Navy

2. Hospital Apprentice First Class William Zuiderveld

Zuiderveld was known as “Doc” to his company of armed Navy sailors (nicknamed “Bluejackets”) during the seizure of Vera Cruz. During an ambush, one of the men was shot in the head and Zuiderveld answered the call for a “corpsman.” Rushing to their aid, he purposely exposed himself to enemy fire to reach his wounded comrades.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Navy photo

3. Hospital Apprentice Fred H. McGuire

During the Philippine Insurrection, McGuire began running low on ammunition, causing him fight off the fierce enemy forces with only his rifle’s butt stock until relief arrived. Finally free to treat the wounded, McGuire attended to several Americans who otherwise would have died.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

4. Hospital Steward William S. Shacklette

After the deadly boiler explosion on the USS Bennington and suffering from 3rd-degree burns over much of his body, Shacklette risked his life to assist dozens of sailors off the ship and to safety.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Navy photo

5. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Balch

Fighting alongside his Marines from the 6th Regiment during the Battle of Belleau Wood, Balch exposed himself to high-explosive fire to secure the wounded. He worked tirelessly for his save his patience’s lives.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Navy photo

6 . Hospital Apprentice First Class David E. Hayden

Crossing into a hail of heavy machine-gun fire in an open field during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Hayden administered lifesaving treatment to a wounded Marine. Hayden was wounded but saved the Marine’s life by carrying the man to safety.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

7. Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert Eugene Bush

Stationed with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in action against the Japanese on Okinawa, Bush took shrapnel from three enemy grenades. Despite the losing one eye, he was able to do his job and while tending to his wounded platoon commander. While holding the plasma bottle he was giving the Marine officer, he unloaded first his pistol and then the officer’s carbine into an oncoming wave of Japanese soldiers. The Japanese retreated and Bush ensured his wounded were evacuated before administering to his own wounds.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

8. Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class William D. Halyburton

Serving in a rifle company with the 5th Marines on Okinawa, Halyburton noticed his company was suddenly pinned down. Moving forward towards the enemy,  he reached a wounded Marine and unselfishly shielded the man using his body to shield incoming Japanese gunfire. He continued with his medical treatment until he collapsed from his wounds, sacrificing himself for the wounded Marine.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

9. Hospital Apprentice First Class Fred F. Lester

Crawling towards a casualty under a barrage of hostile gunfire and bleeding badly from gunshot wounds, Lester successfully pulled a wounded Marine to safety and instructed two of his squad members how to treat the Marine. Realizing his own wounds were fatal, he instructed two others on how to treat their wounded comrades. Soon after, Lester succumbed to his injuries but saved dozens of lives during his tour.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

10. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Francis J. Pierce

Pierce earned his Medal of Honor at the Battle of Iwo Jima. With his rifle blasting, he courageously unveiled himself to draw off enemy attackers while he directed litter teams to carry off wounded Marines towards the medical aid station. He again drew fire while trying to treat a wounded troop and killed another Japanese soldier in the process. He ran across 200 meters of open ground to pick up a wounded Marine and carry him back across the same open 200 meters. Francis rendered the care of several severely wounded men while during the campaign.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

11. Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class George E. Wahlen

Under the command of 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines at Iwo Jima, Wahlen was positioned adjacent to a platoon that had come under fire and began taking mass casualties. Dashing more than 600 yards to render medical care on fourteen Marines before returning to his platoon unharmed.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

12. Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Jack Williams

Under intense enemy fire, Williams dragged a wounded Marine on his hands and knees, using his body to shield the man as managed to apply battle dressings to the wounded. Shot in both the abdomen and groin, Williams was stunned, but unwilling to give up,  recovered and completed to treat the wounded Marine before addressing his injuries.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

13. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Willis

Injured by shrapnel and refusing to seek medical attention, Willis advanced up to the front lines under heavy mortar and sniper fire where he saved an injured Marine laying in a crater. Willis administered plasma to the patient as the Japanese intensified their attack throwing grenades. Willis returned the frags launching back towards the enemy.  After surviving several attempts, one grenade exploded in his hand killing him instantly. The Marine survived.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

14. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Edward C. Benfold

Benfold was killed in action in Korea while trying to help two Marines in a crater at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His company was battered by an enemy artillery barrage and the charged by a battalion-sized unit. Benfold ran from position to position to help his injured comrades. When he came upon the two Marines in a crater, he saw two grenades thrown in as two enemy soldiers rushed the position. Benfold picked up the grenades and charged at the two attackers, pushing the grenades into their chests. He was mortally wounded in the subsequent explosion.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

15. Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette

While attending to a wounded man during the Korean War, an enemy grenade landed within a few feet of William, who immediately threw himself on the man, absorbing the blast with his body. Now experiencing extreme shock, he continued to administer medical care to his wounded brother before patching up himself.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

16. Hospitalman Richard D. Dewert

As a fire team became pinned down by an overwhelming source of gunfire, Dewert darted into the fray on four different occasions. He carried out the wounded from the front lines even after suffering a gunshot wound to his shoulder. His courageous acts and refusal to quit allowed his brothers to survive their life-threatening injuries.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

17. Hospitalman Francis C. Hammond

After sustaining a vicious attack from hostile mortars and artillery by enemy troops, Hammond maneuvered through rough terrain and curtains of gunfire, aiding his Marines along the way. He skillfully directed several medical evacuations for his casualties before a round mortar fire struck within mere feet of him.

18. Hospitalman John E. Kilmer

During the Korean War attack on Bunker Hill, Kilmer suffered from multiple fragment wounds but still traveled from one position to another, tending to the care of the injured. Although he was mortally wounded, he successfully spearheaded many medical evacuations. As mortar shells rained down around him, Kilmer rushed to a critically wounded Marine. Shielding the man from the incoming shrapnel, Kilmer was struck by enemy fire. He’s credited with saving many lives.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

19. Hospital Corpsman Second Class Donald E. Ballard 

Upon returning from rendering care on two heat casualties, his platoon came under a determined ambush from the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Noticing an injured Marine, Ballard dashed to the man’s aid, treating his wounds. He directed four Marines to form a litter team to evacuate the almost dead Marine when he spotted an incoming enemy grenade. Ballard threw himself on the explosive device, protecting his brothers.  The grenade failed to detonate. He stood back up and continued the fight, treating the other Marine casualties.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

20. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Wayne M. Caron

While patrolling through a rice patty, Caron’s squad began taking small arms fire. Seeing his comrades sustain mortal wounds, he raced to each one of them and delivered medical attention to at least four Marines while suffering from two gunshot wounds. The injury didn’t stop Caron, he continued onward, putting the well-being of his Marines above his own.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

21. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Robert R. Ingram

During an intense battle against dozens of NVA troops, Ingram’s platoon began to thin out. Danger close, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the weathered terrain to reach a downed Marine as a round ripped through his hand. Hearing the desperate calls for a corpsman, Ingram collected himself and gathered ammunition from the dead. As he moved on from patient to patient, he resupplied his squad members as he passed by. Continuing to move forward, Ingram endured several gunshot wounds but continued to aid his wounded brothers. For nearly eight hours, he blocked out severe pain as he pushed forward to save his Marines.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

22. Hospital Corpsman Second Class David R. Ray

During the early hours of the morning near Phu Loc 6, a battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the position Ray’s squad occupied. The initial attack caused numerous casualties. Ray moved from parapet to parapet, tending to his wounded Marines. Protecting his own, Ray killed one enemy soldier and wounded a second. Although mortally wounded, he held off the enemy until running out of ammunition. While treating his last patient, Ray jumped on a wounded Marine as a nearby grenade exploded, saving the Marine’s life.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

23. Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers

Then-Chief Edward Byers was trained as a Special Operations Combat Medic at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before going through SEAL training in 2002. As part of a hostage rescue force in Afghanistan, he assaulted an enemy sentry while rushing into a small room filled with heavily armed enemy fighters. He assaulted, tackled and fought the insurgents in hand-to-hand combat and then threw himself on the hostage to shield them from small arms fire. While shielding the hostage, Byers subdued others with his bare hands. The 36-year-old is still serving on active duty after 11 deployments. He is the most decorated living Navy SEAL.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

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.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

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.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

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.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

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

New VA appeals process is starting and it looks promising

Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.


Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.

This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.

For more information on Appeals Modernization, visit http://www.va.gov/decision-reviews.

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

Articles

This vet threw a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ round for a fellow vet

“Wheel of Fortune” is one of the most popular game shows in the country — running every weekday night at 7:30 PM Eastern Standard Time on most TV stations.


According to a report from the Independent Journal Review, during a November 2015 taping for the Veterans Week shows, Nura Fountano did something that has since gone viral.

During the “Final Spin” puzzle, Fountano, who had a commanding lead over the other two contestants, Troy and Steve, began to make some… questionable letter guesses. She picked the letters “Z,” and “X” and in at least one case, let time run out.

Steve ultimately correctly guessed the puzzle, “Following Footprints,” and won $6,400. Troy, the other vet, came away with $4,300.

The author, who was twice selected for in-person auditions for Jeopardy, notes that there is a minimum of $1,000 in prizes for each contestant. However, contestants usually have to pay for their own airfare and hotel stays related to the appearance on the shows.

The video clip below ends before we find out if Nura won the bonus round – but we think she is a winner, anyhow.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Montel Williams seeks veterans for home makeovers

Saying thank you for your service is not enough, according to veteran and talk show icon Montel Williams. But he does have a few ideas on other ways to show gratitude for military service.

He’s teamed up with WWE to find the next veteran for a home makeover that will be featured on Lifetime TV’s “Military Makeover with Montel.”


“We take these veterans and we literally make their home over from top to bottom,” Williams said during a phone interview. “We do, not just a facelift, but everything, from the floors, the ceilings to you name it, to make sure the veteran has what we call a forever home once we get done.”

Since 2015 the show has worked with one veteran family per quarter to makeover their home within 10 days, with 20 homes completed to date. Most episodes, Williams said, have featured families who have been in the midst of transitioning from military to civilian life. A few have featured veterans who have already left the military, but Williams adds any deserving veteran family will be considered as long as they own their own home.

He’s personally been involved in making over six homes, having taken over the show after the death of Military Makeover’s previous host Lee Ermey.

Williams said the reactions on the show have been great, not just from the service members, but from everyone in the community. The show uses volunteers and donations from local vendors to renovate the homes.

“Everybody is uplifted,” Williams said.

Hosting a home makeover show is also a good way to show appreciation for a group Williams describes as underappreciated.

“I think it’s a really good way to do more than say ‘thank you for your service,'” Williams said.

Williams is a 22-year veteran who served in the Marine Corps and Navy before starting his television career. Like many veterans, he’s come to see the phrase ‘thank you for your service’ as hollow and meaningless.

“I’ve been saying this for over a year. When people say ‘thank you for your service’ it’s lip service or a passing phrase, like you say ‘good morning’ to people when you walk by and don’t even wait for a person’s response,” he said.

In addition to his own service, Williams is a longtime veterans’ advocate. He serves on the board of directors for the Fisher House — a charity providing lodging near DOD and VA facilities for the families of those receiving care. He also works with an organization that help veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury and has an upcoming project designed for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Williams launched a new national campaign to makeover the home of a veteran. (Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.)

Williams said he believes the current coronavirus pandemic has put showing genuine gratitude to veterans even further from the forefront of people’s minds.

“Right now, while we’re suffering through this COVID-19 pandemic, every day of the week people applaud our first responders. When they think about people on the frontline, they think about doctors, nurses and first responders to this virus here on U.S. soil,” Williams said. “We have ships and submarines and aircraft carriers and airplanes and deployed forward bases where people don’t have the same luxury of being able to social distance. These guys are out there every single day putting their lives on the line for us.”

While not everyone has the resources of a television legend, Williams insists there are things average people can do to show their appreciation to veterans.

“You don’t have to makeover a veteran’s home to contribute to a veteran’s life,” Williams said. He said providing meals, volunteering to babysit or mowing an injured veteran’s lawn are great ways for people to show their appreciation.

“Why not go out and do a gesture, not just of being a good neighbor, but deliberately doing something to help out our veterans?” Williams asked. “Remember that there’s a military family on every block in every community across this country. Reach out and do a little bit more than just say ‘thank you for your service.'”

Another way people can show appreciation is by going to Tag A Hero and nominating a veteran for a home makeover before May 31.

Williams has joined forces with WWE star Lacey Evans, a Marine veteran, to gain awareness for the new national campaign, but they are in need of more nominations.

“Lacey Evans, who is one of their stars, has become one of our team members on Military Makeover. She convinced [WWE] to reach out to their viewers to nominate veterans in their community,” Williams said.

The application submission deadline for the latest campaign is May 31st. On July 13, Montel Williams and WWE Superstar Lacey Evans will appear on Facebook and Instagram announcing the home makeover recipient.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

Combat Marine and double amputee just became a Long Island cop

Matias Ferreira is a combat Marine who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy on March 24, 2017. Prior to the graduation, he was elected as president of his academy class, and a recruit platoon leader. All of this while walking on two prosthetic legs.


You read that right. Matias Ferreira is a double-amputee.

According to a report by Newsday, Ferreira lost both of his legs after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during the fighting in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Ferreira recovering after losing both his legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan (Screenshot from PIX11.com video).

Ferreira is not the only double amputee serving in law enforcement — PIX11.com reported that one other is serving as a state trooper in the western United States.

Ferreira’s roundabout journey to being a police officer involved playing on a select softball team with other amputees, and a moment of heroism in October 2015.

According to the New York Daily News, the ex-Marine leapt into action with his brother and future father-in-law while leaving his wedding rehearsal to rescue an infant from a burning car.

“Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference,” Ferreira said at the time.

Now, he will do so again. After 29 weeks of intensive training in the gym, the classroom, and the swimming pool, during which Ferreira refused offers of special treatment.

Below is an interview that he did with Fox and Friends. Semper Fi.

Veterans

How a ‘zit-faced kid’ transformed into a Navy SEAL — and a powerful advocate for veterans

A meeting with Mikal Vega will surprise you. Upon first glance, he fits every vision one might have of a Navy SEAL veteran. He towers over most people in size and in energy. There’s a confident air about him which screams “military.” You might be surprised to find this SEAL was once the creative glee and drama club teen from a troubled home who never thought about joining the military until he joined the military. As Vega says, the amount of creative in you will attract an equal darkness.


“When I was six, I knew I wanted to be an actor. I would beg my grandmother to send me to acting school,” Vega says. “I started to make movies with an old Super 8 my grandmother gave me. All through Junior High and High School I performed. In drama and in glee club. I was a zit-faced, curly headed glee club kid. I was always into art, I draw and paint, anything creative.”

Vega joined the Navy at 17 as a kid with little or no direction. He went into Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) at first, but found he didn’t fit the EOD culture. Even though it took six years to get into the program, he knew he wanted to become a SEAL.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

“My Dad was a SEAL but he wasn’t around and wasn’t a good influence, to say the least,” Vega recalls. “So I had my grandmother and then these Navy EOD guys. They became that family for me. They played that role in my life. But once I put my package in to become a SEAL, the mood changed, friction started. They felt like I was a traitor.”

Without question SEAL training is difficult. Of the 183 men who went to Vega’s training class, only 11 of them graduated. Once he became a SEAL, his life began to change.

“We started doing personal security detail missions just to get into Iraq,” Vega says. “I was what you call a shit magnet. I attracted action and everyone wanted to be on my assignments because they were hungry, they wanted to prove themselves, to do what we trained so hard to do. I think everyone in the military is like that. Our task group was responsible for 143 missions over six months.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Everyone with Vega was happy to be in the fight but things didn’t always go as his team planned. One night, he was part of a convoy on a direct action mission on a black route (a route that hadn’t been cleared or is unknown since the last clearing) when his Humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), a signature attack of the Iraq War. As his convoy approached the IED in the dark, Vega remembers seeing the flash of the explosion. Luckily it was a low-order, which means it didn’t explode to its full capability.

“The IED didn’t function properly, luckily for me and for a lot of guys. What it did do was slam me over the top of the Humvee,” he says. “The next day, I started getting what I thought was muscle pain and ear issues. It would be another five years before I realized I had a cracked neck, and over the next few years, the symptoms were becoming unbelievable. I went to pain clinics and doctors offices here and there, but eventually they’ll pull you out of the fight if you go too often. Like a lot of the guys out there, I would try to go outside the military system, or get under the table help from the corpsman. No one wants to get taken out of the fight.”

When he returned home, he faced many of the issues experienced by many returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. He wouldn’t sleep for days at a time. He had trouble readjusting. All he could think about was getting back to Iraq.

“Five years later, I’ve lost 80 percent of my grip, my pecs atrophied, I lost full range of motion in right arm,” Vega says. But that was just the beginning “In the military system or the VA, the drugs they give you for post-traumatic stress don’t address the hormone imbalance post-traumatic stress causes in veterans. This makes us irritable, it makes it difficult to reach deep sleep or sleep at all, memory loss… these are the symptoms of PTSD! So I revolted against the system and started doing these things that unwittingly rebalanced my hormonal system. I didn’t realize until the doctors started asking me how I made so much progress. This is a scientific method of increasing the power of the central nervous system to offset the destructive powers of war.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Vega’s revolt took him on a healing alternative journey, starting with rolfing (a kind of structural body therapy) to acupuncture, to meditation, to Kundalini yoga, and finally to teaching Kundalini yoga — a class he gives to veterans and their families for free every Sunday at 11am at the Rama Yoga Institute in Venice, California.

That’s how Vega came to found Vital Warrior, a nonprofit veteran’s resource philosophy is to provide clients with non-pharmaceutical solutions to healing, including hands-on-therapy, knowledge and skills to regaining a re-connection from within through hormonal re-balancing. His goal is to develop decompression centers within close proximity to military bases to provide alternative therapies in an effort to address trauma on a brain-body basis. When it comes to post-traumatic stress, Mikal Vega does not associate it with a disorder.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

“Post-traumatic stress isn’t a disorder,” he says. “It’s a normal response to abnormal conditions. Any job or event that exposes you to high stress environment, you’ll develop these issues. But we as veterans have to take responsibility for our own experiences, we had to make sure we handle our symptoms and the deeper physiological and psychological issues we face.”

In 2014 Vega’s mission to get veterans off pharmaceuticals was recognized by the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights as one of four outstanding individuals presented with the 2014 CCHR Human Rights Award.

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

“I want this to be the Starbucks of healing,” Vega says. “I want buses to bring this to remote areas. I want to visit men and women downrange. I want to teach these techniques in boot camp that they can use throughout their career. We can be proactive and not reactive.”

Vega is now an actor, producer, and President at AK Waters productions as well as working to get Vital Warrior where he wants it to be. Their next film, 9 Line, is set to release this fall. For any returning veteran, especially creatives like himself, his advice is to consider if you are where you should be.

“Why do you want to do what you do?” Vega asks. “Is it what you’re supposed to be doing? Do you know how to find out what youre supposd to be doing? No body teaches us how to look inside ourselves for this answer. We will pay other people a lot of money to tell us whats in our own mind. Consider how to get rid of the garbage and connect with yourself.”

To learn more about Vital Warrior or to volunteer, visit www.vitalwarrior.org.

NOW SEE: The Most Famous Navy SEALs

OR: The History of the Elite Navy SEALs

MIGHTY TRENDING

This tech-driven nonprofit developed an app to combat veteran suicide

Objective Zero is a mission-driven tech start-up that leads the pack in the fight against veteran suicide, connecting every veteran in America to suicide prevention support and resources. Their arsenal just got a powerful, new weapon.


The Objective Zero Foundation just launched a new mobile app that offers tools and resources to reduce the number of suicides within the military and veteran community. Research shows that social connectedness and access to resources are important factors in preventing suicide, both of which users can find within the Objective Zero app.

The nonprofit organization is comprised entirely of unpaid volunteers and leverages the latest technology and a crowd-sourced model to deliver services on a massive scale at a fraction of the cost. Roughly 92 cents of every dollar is put toward the Program Fund, used to sustain and improve the Objective Zero mobile app and train peer supporters.

The app connects veterans, current military members, their families, and caregivers to a nationwide support network of trained listeners via voice, video, and text message at the touch of a button.

(Blake Bassett | YouTube)The mobile app also connects its users to military and veteran-centric resources, as well as yoga provided by Comeback Yoga and meditation content through Headspace, to enhance user wellness.
“The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I thought putting that round in the chamber was going to wake my wife up,” says co-founder Justin Miller on his struggle with suicidal ideations. “I’m living proof that Objective Zero is going to work. When I was suicidal, a brother contacted me, and that conversation saved my life. With the Objective Zero app, we’ve built a platform where veterans can hit one button and be anonymously connected to other veterans who have lived and breathed the same things.”

Since then, the organization built a staff of veterans and an advisory board of clinical psychologists and counselors to launch their tech-driven strategy to help their community with what is arguably its biggest problem.

Objective Zero is built to save lives and empower veterans by connecting them and building camaraderie and solidarity.

You can sign up for the app as a user with an anonymous username or as an Ambassador. OZ Ambassadors receive calls, texts, and video chats from veterans and are there to be their pillar of support. You don’t need to be a veteran or behavioral health specialist to become an Ambassador.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Ambassadors spend time training to help veterans in need and they continue their learning after achieving the title. It requires dedication to the community but is a very rewarding process. Imagine fighting veteran suicide every day, just by using your phone to communicate as you would with a good friend or relative.

The Objective Zero app is now available to download for free in the United States on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Please visit www.objectivezero.org for more information about the Objective Zero Foundation, the Objective Zero App, and the mission of preventing suicide within the military community.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Same-day emergency mental health care offered at every VA health care facility

As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to provide the best mental health care access possible, VA is reminding veterans that it offers all veterans same-day access to emergency mental health care at any VA health care facility across the country.

“Providing same-day 24/7 access to mental health crisis intervention and support for veterans, service members and their families is our top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s important that all veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.”


VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is the national leader in making high-quality mental health care and suicide prevention resources available to Veterans through a full spectrum of outpatient, inpatient and telemental health services.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

Additionally, VA has developed the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which reflects the department’s vision for a coordinated effort to prevent suicide among all service members and veterans. This strategy maintains VA’s focus on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also adopting a broad public health approach to suicide prevention.

VA has supported numerous veterans and has the capacity to assist more. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, 1.7 million veterans received Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health services. These patients received more than 84,000 psychiatric hospital stays, about 41,700 residential stays and more than 21 million outpatient encounters.

Nationally, in the first quarter of FY 2019, 90% of new patients completed an appointment in a mental health clinic within 30 days of scheduling an appointment, and 96.8% of established patients completed a mental health appointment within 30 days of the day they requested. For FY 2018, 48% of initial, in-person Primary Care — Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI) encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter. During the first quarter of FY 2019, 51% of initial, in-person PC-MHI encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter.

Veterans in crisis – or those concerned about one – should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net.

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

Articles

These are the best military photos for the week of August 26th

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

A U.S. Air Force F-16 “Thunderbird” sits on the flight line during sunrise at the 177th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard Base in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 23, 2017. The Thunderbirds, an Aerial Demonstration Squadron, performed at the Atlantic City Air Show, Thunder over the Boardwalk, in Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 22-23, 2017.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Cristina J. Allen

The propellers of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft spin in the center of Hurricane Harvey during a flight into the storm Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney

Army:

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Italian Army Paratroopers Folgore Brigade, descend onto Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Italy, August 23, 2017. The combined exercise demonstrates the multinational capacity building of the airborne community and the airborne allied nations collectively. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands’ areas of responsibility within 18 hours.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Army Photos by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo

Soldiers selected by 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, as Soldiers of the month while deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti, were offered the opportunity to participate in a limited AT4 live-fire exercise at a range along the southern coast of the Gulf of Tadjoura, Aug. 22, 2017. The AT4 is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon which is disposable after just one use, making it a special opportunity to fire one.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Navy:

USS Constitution fires off a 40 mm 200 gram round from one of her saluting batteries. Constitution fires one round from her saluting battery twice a day to signify morning and evening colors.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Hammond

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Five (EODMU 5), dive in Apra Harbor, Guam, Aug. 20, 2017. EODMU-5 conducts mine countermeasures, improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards, and disarms underwater explosives such as mines.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matthew Flanagan, a cannoneer, attached with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Kilo Battery, Gun 3, fires the M777A2 Howitzer at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, August 23, 2017. The purpose of the Northern Viper training exercise is to maintain interoperability and combat readiness within the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. André T. Peterson

Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) rappel from a Bell UH-1 Iroquois on Camp Pendleton, Calif., August 24, 2017. 1st ANGLICO is conducting training to prepare Marines for future deployments.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck

Coast Guard:

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew medevac a man experiencing symptoms of heart failure approximately 60 miles south of Grand Isle, Louisiana, August 24, 2017. The helicopter crew arrived on scene at approximately 11:30 a.m., hoisted the man and transported him to West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero in stable condition.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans

Three people were rescued by a boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook near Highlands, New Jersey, on August 19, 2017. Their nine-foot John boat capsized sending them into the water.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Station Sandy Hook

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