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

Articles

Quadruple amputee Travis Mills wows the crowd with appearance on ‘Ellen’ show

Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills went out on a foot patrol on April 10, 2012. It was his third tour in Afghanistan. He woke up on his 25th birthday to find that he’d stepped on on improvised explosive device, or IED, and that he’d suddenly become a quadruple amputee.


David Vobora was an NFL athlete who’d been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” after being the last draft pick of the season in 2008. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Vobora blew out his shoulder. It would ultimately force him to retire from the NFL at just 25 years old.

In the intervening years, Mills and Vobora forged an unlikely friendship.

“I had 25 good years with my arms and legs, and now I got the rest of my life to still keep living and pushing forward,” Mills said during an interview on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” yesterday.

“Something was missing,” Vobora, who is now a personal trainer, said. He noted that his work with professional athletes and wealthy clients was failing to fill a void in his life.

When Vobora met Mills, “I just knew I had to work with him.”

Mills talks about his predicament with lots of humor. When thanked for his heroism, Mills somewhat shrugs and replies, “I didn’t do more than anyone else. I just had a bad day at work, you know; a case of the Mondays.”

His wife, with whom he is expecting their second child, is equally humorous. “I’m in it for the handicapped parking,” Mills quotes her as having said shortly after his leg had to be amputated.

Vobora combined his research into the training he’d done with professional athletes with Mills’ experience at Walter Reed to build two non-profits: The Travis Mills Foundation and The Adaptive Training Foundation.

Both men were gifted with generous checks from Ellen and Walmart for their foundations.

Articles

The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.


Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.

Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
An early aircrew patch from MAAG Vietnam.

After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.

Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.

Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)

Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.

The DoD now recognizes the date the MAAG was set up, Nov. 1, 1955, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam — the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Richard Fitzgibbon’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The Fitzgibbons were one of three father-son pairs who died in the Vietnam War.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Adrenaline on ice: Veterans excel at Para bobsled

Twists and turns, bumps and bruises, the occasional crash. For many Veterans, the sport of bobsled is a metaphor for life.

Army Veteran Will Castillo’s story began on April 27, 2007. Castillo – then a staff sergeant – was riding along with Spc. Eddie Tamez and Pfc. David Kirkpatrick on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, when their Humvee struck an improvised explosive device (IED).

The aftermath was a blur. When Castillo awoke, his sister and mother were by his bedside.


“I could hardly talk I was so heavily medicated,” he said. “I was just trying to survive.”

He was 27 years old, and his injuries had cost him his left leg – but he was alive. Tamez and Kirkpatrick did not survive.

Castillo spent the next two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering and learning to navigate life with one leg. Visitors came by to give him hugs, handshakes and well wishes. The Director of Homeland Security even offered him a job.

In 2009, he was discharged from Walter Reed, and he moved to Orlando to start anew. But life wasn’t good.

“I had survivor’s guilt. I thought about my guys, what had I done wrong. I was depressed. I was suicidal.”

His marriage crumbled, and his mental health deteriorated.

“All the struggles I was going through. I was Baker Acted,” Castillo said, referring to the Florida law that allows for emergency or involuntary commitment for mental health treatment.

He recovered, remarried and again tried to rebuild. But his struggles continued and, in 2015, he divorced for the second time.

In 2017, Castillo returned to Walter Reed for a follow-up operation to his injured leg. His life took an unexpected turn.

“A friend of mine was there and said to me, ‘You should try bobsled.’ I was extremely overweight, but I figured it would be something to keep me busy.”

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

Army Veteran Will Castillo displays his gold medal from the Empire State Winter Games para bobsled competition. Castillo is one of the world’s top ranked sledders in the sport. (Courtesy photo)

That conversation led Castillo to a para-bobsled and para-skeleton camp for Veterans at Lake Placid Olympic Sports Complex in upstate New York.

His first attempt was skeleton, a sport where the slider rides face down and head-first on a small sled down an ice track at speeds of more than 80 mph.

“It was terrifying,” he said. “I was 260 pounds. I was crashing into the walls. Those little sleds are not made for that weight.”

After a year at skeleton, he switched to monobob, a one-person bobsled that looks like a rocket on ice skates. He knew instantly he’d found his sport.

“Everything just slowed down, I was able to see everything. There was danger, but I did it. There’s no disability on that ice. For that one minute, it’s awesome.”

Veterans like Castillo are dominating the sport in the United States, thanks in large part to camps like the ones at Lake Placid. From 2015 to 2020, VA’s Adaptive Sports Grant had funded 16 camps for Veterans at Lake Placid and Park City, Utah, the only two bobsled track sites in the country.

Thanks to the VA grant, Veterans’ only cost to attend is travel to and from the camp.

“(The grant) is huge for us because it allows us to do the camps,” said Kim Seevers, USA Bobsled and Skeleton Para-Sport Development Committee chair.

Camps are typically five days and allow Veterans to stay on site at the Olympic Training Center. Once there, Veterans receive training from strength and conditioning experts, physical therapists and sports psychologists. After completing initial training, they head to the ice track where they learn the fundamentals of para-bobsled and skeleton.

“With bobsled, things are pretty expensive,” Seevers said. “To get the ice time and the bobsleds is a lot. Each of the bobsleds is ,000. For us to rent the sleds and pay for track time is typically between ,500 and ,000, dependent on the number of Veterans sliding.”

Veterans among world’s elite

At the 2019-2020 Para World Cup competition, all five U.S. team members were Veterans. They finished the season ranked 7th, 16th, 18th, 21st and 24th in the world.

Castillo is the number one ranked para-bobsledder in the U.S. and will pilot USA 1, the name of the monobob designated for Team USA’s top slider, in upcoming competitions. It’s an opportunity he humbly accepts.

“It all starts with VA and those camps,” he said. “Then you really have to put the work in and you start seeing the rewards. You get to put that uniform on again (and) represent the USA with integrity and honor.”

Para bobsled and para skeleton are relatively new sports with the first international competitions having taken place in 2013. Still, neither sport is recognized as Paralympic eligible. But that may soon be changing.

In August, the International Paralympic Committee is voting on whether to include it into the Paralympic Games in 2026.

Competition is gender neutral

Marine Corps and Army Veteran Sarah Frazier-Kim is hoping her success can help the sport and other Veterans advance to the pinnacle of international competition.


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

Marine Corps and Army Veteran Sarah Frazier-Kim is one of the United States’ top para bobsledders. Athletes are hoping the sport will become one of the newest Paralympic competitions. (Courtesy photo)

“I always liked winter sports, even though I don’t like the cold,” she said. “I’d watch the Olympics on TV and bobsled and skeleton were sports I always loved.”

In 1995, Frazier-Kim was injured in a training accident in the Marine Corps. In January 2019, after years of complications, pain and suffering, doctors at Ft. Sam Houston amputated her right leg above the knee.

“(My doctor) asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I want to make Team USA. And he said, ‘We’ll get you there.'”

In November 2018, in anticipation of her surgery, she was sent for physical therapy to get her into shape.

“I changed from a mom body to an athletic body.”

After the surgery, she continued physical therapy with her therapist, an ex-football player.

“He worked me out like I was on the football team. I was working out like a beast, doing balancing exercises, strength training, and someone there knew Kim Seevers.”

Like Castillo, Frazier-Kim says she was invited to one of the camps at Lake Placid. She completed her first camp in October 2019.

In less than a year, Frazier-Kim has become one of the top female sliders in the sport. Para bobsled is gender neutral with men and women competing together.

“There’s nothing like it. It’s the most exhilarating feeling. The excitement, the adrenaline rush, you’re going so fast. It’s crazy,” she said.

But her rapid success did not come without bumps and bruises along the way.

“Your legs and shoulders are hitting the sides of the bobsled. It’s not for everyone,” she said. “You have to think about every curve while you’re being slapped back and forth.”

Despite the challenges, she says her goal now is simple – to be the best.

“I plan on doing it for as long as I can – as long as my body can take it. And being a Marine, I don’t know any other way.”

For a list of recipient organizations and more information about VA’s Adaptive Sports Grant, visit www.blogs.va.gov/nvspse/grant-program/.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

The mission to accelerate veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs

Want your veteran owned business to succeed—fast?


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The program welcomes 50 veteran and mil-spouse entrepreneurs from around the country—and offers an intense 3 day education, mentoring, and networking experience designed to help their businesses succeed.

Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) was started by Taylor McLemore as a volunteer effort to help veterans and mil-spouses gain access to mentors, educational programming, and a robust community of experts and peers. It was built to help them innovate and build impactful technology businesses.

Also read: Officers and enlistees confess the best and worst about each other

Charlotte Creech, a veteran spouse, and the CEO of Patriot Boot Camp, discusses the impact of the program for entrepreneurs.

“I am continually impressed by the determination and mission-focus of the entrepreneurs that come through Patriot Boot Camp, as well as the magnitude of the problems they aim to solve.”

Creech adds that most veteran and military spouse founders don’t merely set out to build a business; rather, they work to make the world a better place and it’s inspiring to hear the stories of what motivates them to succeed and to follow their progress along the entrepreneurial journey.

“What makes the program so powerful, is when we combine these talented, mission-driven entrepreneurs with a community of peers and mentors that are dedicated to helping them achieve their business milestones and goals. By the end of the event, we all leave with new insights and new network contacts that will help us advance and overcome the challenges of startup life.”

The core, three-day program is modeled after the popular Techstars accelerator and continues to leverage the Techstars network to empower and advance military/veteran and spouse founders.

Since its first program in 2012, nine Patriot Boot Camp alumni have been accepted into the Techstars accelerator programs, with many others gaining acceptance to prominent accelerators including Y Combinator and Vet-Tech.

Related: This is how drunken shenanigans influence pilot callsigns

Four of PBC’s alumni have appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank television show, and five have had successful exits via acquisition.

Creech adds: “It’s inspiring to see these alumni achieve great business outcomes, but what’s really powerful about the PBC program and network is that our high-performing alumni continue to come back to PBC as mentors and guest speakers to share their lessons learned and coach new entrepreneurs to success.”

The boot camp works as follows:

The Patriot Boot Camp staff facilitate the planning and execution of the program where they organize external guest speakers and mentors to provide the educational content and workshops.

Each PBC program is entirely unique because the speakers vary in each 3 day intensive. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to attend multiple programs to continue learning as the needs of their business change over time.

If you’re interested in learning more or applying for this year’s Patriot Boot Camp, visit http://patriotbootcamp.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 6 veterans never stop serving

In 1783, a Welsh immigrant named Evan Williams founded Kentucky’s first commercial distillery and began producing Bourbon whiskey. Today, Evan Williams Bourbon continues his legacy, and remains synonymous with smooth taste, strong character, and American pride.

That’s why Evan Williams started their American-Made Heroes Program, which celebrates military heroes by sharing veterans’ stories of service to their country and community. After reviewing thousands of entries, Evan Williams selected six new American-Made Heroes.


TYLER CRANE, SERGEANT 1ST CLASS – U.S. ARMY
Charity: Veteran Excursions to Sea

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

U.S. Army Ranger Tyler Crane led platoons on multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before an IED blast cut his military career short. Forced to reconsider his path, he made it his mission to improve the lives of fellow veterans in and around Port Charlotte, Florida.

Tyler started the non-profit organization Veteran Excursions To Sea (V.E.T.S.), which works with military families and a dedicated group of local guides to promote “healing through reeling.”

He takes veterans and their families on fishing charters to encourage camaraderie, fun, and relaxation. “It’s just good therapy,” Tyler says. “There’s nothing like spending a day on the water.”

DR. ARCHIE COOK JR., MAJOR – U.S. AIR FORCE
Charity: Veterans Empowering Veterans

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

Dr. Archie Cook Jr. graduated from the Dental program at the University of North Carolina with help from the Air Force ROTC. After completion of service, he opened his own private practice. At his clinic, Archie offers medical discounts to members of the military and provides free and low-cost dental care to struggling veterans.

Archie also packs and distributes lunches to the homeless and volunteers with Veterans Empowering Veterans: an organization that provides basic services to help disenfranchised veterans get back on their feet. “If you’ve dedicated part of your life to serving our country,” he says, “you should at least have a hot meal and a roof over your head.”

CHRISTOPHER BAITY – VETERAN U.S. MARINE CORPS
Charity: Semper K9 Assistance Dogs

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

Christopher Baity specialized as a Military Working Dog Handler and Kennel Master during his time with the U.S. Marine Corps. He completed three tours in Iraq, canvassing combat zones with his canine team to detect enemy explosives. After completion of service, Chris and his wife Amanda founded Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, a non-profit organization that turns rescue dogs into service dogs.

Chris trains each animal to provide companionship and emotional support to military veterans and their families, addressing a range of physical and psychiatric needs including PTSD and mobility challenges. “I continually try to learn the techniques and options being offered to disabled veterans,” he says. Since 2014, Chris has graduated over thirty dog teams.

AMANDA RUNYON, HOSPITAL CORPSMAN 2ND CLASS – U.S. NAVY
Charity: Veterans of Foreign Wars – Post 8681

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

Amanda Runyon learned the value of community service early on while volunteering at local health clinics. Raised in a family with a proud military tradition, she became the first woman in her family to enlist. As a Hospital Corpsman, Amanda provided medical care to Sailors and Marines. She was assigned to intensive care overseas, treating American service men and women suffering from combat injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After nine years of active duty, Amanda returned to her hometown of Spring Hill, Florida, where she continues to serve as a Registered Nurse in the school district. She also volunteers her time to activities in the surrounding community.

MICHAEL STINSON, CHIEF HOSPITAL CORPSMAN – U.S. NAVY
Charity: U.S.O. of Wisconsin

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Photo by TJ Lambert, Stages Photography

Chief Hospital Corpsman (Ret.) Michael “Doc” Stinson deployed several times as a combat medic with the Marine Corps. After 23 years of service, Michael retired and became a police officer with the Harbor Patrol in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Michael is an active member of the American Legion and serves as Treasurer of the Nam Knights Tundra Chapter: a motorcycle club honoring the sacrifices of military veterans and police officers. They raise funds and awareness for local causes and organizations, including HighGround Memorial Park in Neillsville, Wisconsin, that pays tribute to the heroism of all American veterans.

MICHAEL SIEGEL, SERGEANT MAJOR – U.S. ARMY (RET.)
Charity: U.S.O. Club at Fort Leonard Wood

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

Sergeant Major (Ret.) Michael Siegel enlisted in the US Army at 17 and served for the next 25 years. Then and now, his mission in life is to lead soldiers, teach soldiers, and guide soldiers to be the best they can be.

Since his retirement, Michael continues to serve his community. He leads by example, volunteering with several youth organizations and fundraising for local charities. Today, he is the Director of Columbia College at Fort Leonard Wood, where he helps educate and position soldiers for successful careers after their military service.

Learn more about each of these incredible veterans and the work they’re doing in their communities at American-MadeHeroes.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why it’s awkward to thank veterans on Memorial Day

Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.

Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”


Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.

In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
It was expanded after WWI to include all fallen troops from all wars.

The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.

After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.

The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
As pleasant as it is to enjoyu00a0time off and au00a0cookouts are, it turned into a double-edged sword.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.

Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
If a veteran can make it there, this is generally how they spend their three-day weekend. If they can’t, this is where their head is at.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)

To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.

Articles

This Green Beret is starring in the first-ever story mode for ‘Madden 18’

For the first time ever, EA Sports’ “Madden” franchise will feature a story mode in “Madden NFL 18.” Called “Longshot,” the story is about overcoming all odds, not just winning football games or scoring the big contract.


“Longshot” is the story of Devin Wade, a quarterback who played at the University of Texas but joined the Army in the middle of his college career. While in, one of Wade’s commanding officers encourages him not to give up on his dream of starting in the NFL.

The captain in “Longshot” is played by a real Green Beret, whose story is very similar to that of Devin Wade. Army veteran Nate Boyer was a Special Forces soldier who played at Texas after leaving the Army.
“It was  a big coincidence that the storylines were so similar, especially with him going to University of Texas,” Boyer told We Are The Mighty. “Some things are switched around. Devin Wade went to college first and then joined the army and now is going back to try and play football in the NFL. But still, it was kind of weird.”

Boyer is joined in the cast by “Moonlight” and “Luke Cage” actor Mahershala Ali, who plays Devin’s dad, Cutter, as well as real pro players J.R. Lemon and Dan Marino.

Even the title “Longshot” resonates in Nate Boyer’s life. ESPN featured Boyer and his story in a piece called “The Longshot.”

ESPN’s feature documented then-34-year-old Boyer trying to get on the Seattle Seahawks as a long snapper after leaving the University of Texas.

“When I came out of the army I was 29 and I never played football in my entire life,” Boyer recalls. “I just wanted to try and make the University of Texas roster. That was like my first goal: Just make the team.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Boyer as a Green Beret in Iraq and later as a long snapper with the Seattle Seahawks.

Then Boyer wanted to get on the field. He did. Then he wanted to start. For three years, Boyer was the starting long snapper for the Longhorns. He even made Academic All Big-12 during his tenure.

Now Boyer will play Capt. McCarthy, U.S. Army. He’s part-mentor to Devin, part-life coach. Like Boyer, McCarthy pushes his troops to live without regrets – that they could do anything if they want it badly enough.

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

“Captain McCarthy was kind of like the voice in my own head,” says Boyer. “The good voice. The angel, not the devil on the other shoulder, sort of pushing myself and encouraging myself and wanting me to believe in myself.”

The story mode in “Madden 18” is a simplified version of the game, according to Kotaku. The plays are called by the computer and there are no time outs. You can only control Devin and whichever receiver gets the ball. But you do get to play a pick-up game in a deployed location.

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

To any aspiring “Devin Wades” out there who might be wearing the uniform of the United States right now, but who hope to wear an NFL uniform (or any uniform) in the future, Boyer recommends fearlessness and hard work.

“No matter what it is you’re interested in, if it’s something positive and it challenges you, just go for it,” he says. “Even if you’re a little afraid to pursue it, just put everything you have into it. Take the things you overcome and accomplish, the sacrifices you make, and apply that moving forward. The military is a stepping stone, not the pinnacle of your life. Find that next challenge.”
Articles

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

Bravery is a thing you see every day in the military. In all branches, in moments great and small, it’s an expression of the fundamental courage it takes to put your life on the line for love of country and to serve those you swore to protect.

Former Navy SEAL David Meadows proved exemplary in this capacity, serving 11 years in some of the harshest theaters of war throughout the Middle East.


But unlike many of his fellow Oscar Mike alumni, Meadows chose, upon reentry, to translate his habituated bravery into a civilian arena that would, honestly, make most servicemen and women want to crawl out of their natural born skins…

Yeah, he became an actor.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
On the set of Banshee (2016) (Photo from IMDB)

And we can tell you from experience that there are few professions that require a more constant personal brokerage with public shame, mortal embarrassment, insecurity, and rejection — in short, all of the types of feelings that normal people avoid like their lives depend on it.

Being the Special Ops-trained bad ass that he is, though, Meadows surveyed this new theater of war and then dove in head first. Acting for a living takes guts.

“I think that if there is a magic left in the world…it’s really for a person to be affected, to be changed — by one human being actually affecting somebody else on a really human, natural, soulful level. Does that make sense? And performing artists have that power. And I thought…that’s absolutely amazing. And I want to be a part of that.”

To get a taste of the kind of courage an actor has to muster every day, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis visited Meadows at his acting studio in Los Angeles and submitted himself to a battery of drills that actors employ to help them behave truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

Each exercise is designed to increase physical sensitivity, dial up emotional availability, and to inure actors to the fear of ridicule that can shut them down at crucial moments. Like all high-stakes training, it’s effective — but it ain’t pretty.

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

Today’s lesson is clear: in a successful civilian life, emotional bravery matters. But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can just watch as Curtis cracks under the pressure and and begs to postpone the big payoff in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s time to get together for Wreaths Across America

The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.


Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.

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

Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.

In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.

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

Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.

In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.

Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.

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

The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.

Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.

Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

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

Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)

Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.

To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.

Articles

This Army vet is crazy motivated

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  Former NFL player and Army Veteran Daniel Rodriguez seeks out battlefields.

Enlisting after the untimely death of his father, Rodriguez served grueling deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, survived heavy action and the loss of comrades, and returned stateside with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star — all by age 19.

Battling PTSD, Rodriguez reinvented himself as a college football player, joining the Clemson University team and eventually going on to play pro with the St. Louis Rams. Continuing to master the improbable, he wrote a bestselling autobiography about his experience entitled “Rise: A soldier, a dream and a promise kept.”

And now he’s reinventing himself again, having just signed to play pro soccer in Europe. You might think you’re motivated, but sorry, not like this dude.

“If I had any one of my friends that could be here today that were killed, what excuse would they make to not want to be with their loved one, to not want to be productive, to not want to do something one more day if they had the opportunity to.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Dust, and where to eat it. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Rodriguez invited Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis to spend a day with him on the off-season training pitch, a battlefield that would soon test the limits of Curtis’ athletic prowess. Not content to merely survive a session in the sh*t in Rodriguez Boot Camp, Curtis attempted to recapture some manhood by asserting his prerogative to throw down the now familiar Oscar Mike Challenge.

The results were all too typical.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
For a brief moment, things looked promising for Curtis. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Watch as Rodriguez shows Curtis how to put some twinkle in his toes and where he can shove his “spinning cartwheel block” in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

Veterans

That real time three ex-Navy pilots fought a Hollywood-style brawl at 19,000 feet

FedEx flight 705 was scheduled for a routine flight from Memphis, Tenn. to San Jose, Calif. on a clear April day in 1994. Its captain, David Sanders, was an experienced ex-Naxy pilot. First Officer James Tucker was an ex-Navy flight combat instructor.


FedEx Flight Engineer Auburn Calloway – also an ex-Navy pilot –  didn’t know that when he tried to hijack the plane in midair.

Calloway was flying for free with the shipment, a perk for FedEx employees, so it wasn’t strange when Calloway informed the officers he would be hitching a ride. What was strange was that the official Flight Engineer for 705, Andy Petersen, kept finding the circuit breaker for the plane’s cockpit voice recorder turned off. He kept an eye on it, pre-flight checks were cleared and the plane headed for San Jose.

 

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
A FedEx DC-10 like the one Sanders commanded that day.

 

At 19,000 feet, with a total of four passengers, Calloway pulled a hammer from his guitar case – it was well before the increased security introduced after 9/11 – and attacked Petersen with repeated blows to the head. Next, Calloway assaulted Tucker and readied to attack Captain Sanders.

Calloway and Sanders wrestled before Sanders took a blow to the head himself, but this gave time for the other crewmen to wake up. Calloway retreated to the back to grab a speargun and, with the new weapon in hand, ordered them to sit down.

That’s as far as the hijacking got.

Tucker pulled on the controls and pulled the DC-10 into a steep climb. The other three men were tossed out of the cockpit. Captain Sanders and Petersen were wrestling over the speargun with the uninjured Calloway. Petersen had a fractured skull, severed temporal artery, and profuse bleeding. Sanders was a little better off, but not by much. They wouldn’t last long.

The First Officer and ex-Naxy flight combat instructor took control of the fight by taking control of the helm. He took the plane on its side, then upside down. As Calloway hit Captain Sanders in the head again, Tucker took the plane into a steep dive. But Tucker’s own fractured skull was starting to cause motor problems in his body. He began to lose movement and sensation as the plane plummeted to Earth.

Back in the galley, Calloway hit the Captain in the head one last time, but the Captain had enough. He caught the hammer, forced it from the attacker’s hands and beat him with his own hammer until Calloway stopped moving. They informed the Memphis air traffic control of the situation, requested an ambulance and a SWAT team and headed back to Tennessee.

As the crew flew with the autopilot on, Tucker kept the speargun on Calloway. But the moment Tucker’s injuries caused the speargun to dip from his hands, Calloway attacked again.

They tried to pin him down, but their injuries restricted their movements. Once Sanders was able to help his fellow crew mates, Tucker beat Calloway with the hammer again.

By the time the captain got back to the cockpit, alarms were blaring. The fully-loaded and fully-fueled plane would not have enough room to stop on the runway provided. Even worse, Calloway was waking up again, so there was no time to do another pass. At the last second, Sanders hit another runway that had more room.

Just 300 feet off the ground, Calloway was struggling for the hammer one more time. The plane landed hard, barely stopping with just 900 feet of runway left. Petersen and Tucker were in critical condition. Luckily all three men survived. Though they received medals for their heroism, they were medically unfit to fly from then on.

It turns out Calloway was a martial arts expert and originally planned to be the official flight engineer. He would have only had to kill two people.

The assailant’s life had taken a turn in the past four years. He lost his wife and children and was on the verge of losing his job for forging flight documents. So after transferring large amounts of cash and securities to his wife, he planned to disable the cockpit recorder then crash a plane so his kids would get his life insurance settlement, ensuring they could go to school.

Instead, he got two life sentences without parole.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it’s like to visit America’s Gold Star Families

In 2018, Navy veteran Anthony Price burned through more than 450 gallons of gasoline and three sets of tires. He spent more than 700 miles in the rain, many days in temperatures above 100 degrees, and at least one day in the snow. He did all of it to honor the families who lost a loved one to America’s wars. And he’s going to do it again in 2019, as he has for the past six years.


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

The Gold Star Ride of a lifetime.

Price began his ride for Gold Star families in 2013 as a means of calling attention to those families and saying thank you in his own way. Since then, he has been to more than 44 states, enduring extreme temperatures and conditions just to ensure the families of fallen service members are taken care of. As the Gold Star Ride website says, “We ride because they died… We do the work that our fallen heroes would do if they hadn’t fallen for all our freedom.”

Soon the Minnesota-based Price and his fellow riders were a full-fledged nonprofit, dedicated to the mission of helping those in need. Gold Star Riders actively support, comfort, and provide education benefits to Gold Star Families throughout the United States directly with personal visits via motorcycle. They also vow to partner with any group who actively helps these Gold Star families.

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

Price literally even wrote the book on the subject, “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.” the story of their 2018 ride, which covered 18,000 miles over 58 days, visiting 64 families of fallen troops. The proceeds of which go toward the Gold Star Ride Foundation.

“The families themselves are not looking for any stardom or any fame or any glory,” Price says. “They’re just looking for someone to remember, to remember a huge sacrifice.”

The title of Price’s book is a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s “Bixby Letter,” a letter the 16th President penned to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. In it, the President is said to have written his regret at her loss and his attempt to console her by reminding the mother of the Republic they died to save. He ends the letter with “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.”

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

Price in an interview with a Fox affiliate.

The letter is an apt reference, as Price describes on commercial producer Jordan Brady’s Respect the Process” Podcast. Price mentions that he would talk to twenty or so people a day, on average, for two months straight. He found that 19 of those 20 didn’t know what a Gold Star Family was. In one case, even a Gold Star Family did not realize they were a Gold Star Family.

To be clear, a Gold Star Family member is the immediate family of any military member who lost their life in military service – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children.

“One of the reasons we do this is because no one else was doing it,” says Price. “Every once in a while I hear someone say ‘you’re adding an element that makes [the loss] a little more palatable… the work you’re doing is helping me make sense of the tragedy I have to go through.'”

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