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

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 HISTORY

Why World War II veterans are returning captured Japanese flags

It’s not uncommon for troops who overrun an enemy position to take a photo with a captured enemy banner. It’s just as common for them to take that banner home as a souvenir. There are a lot worse things to remove from the battlefield. American troops have been capturing flags since the founding of the republic.

So, why are these World War II veterans returning captured Japanese flags?


The importance of a unit’s standard dates back to antiquity. Roman legions carried standards that took on an almost divine quality, representing the Legion, the Emperor, and even the Gods themselves. They would take extraordinary measures to recover a captured standard, even invading neighboring countries decades after losing the standards just to get them back. The Japanese had a similar tradition with their Yosegaki Hinomaru.
Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

The hinomaru was a blank flag carried by every drafted Japanese soldier. It was signed by everyone in their life; mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, teachers, wives, and children. It was a good luck charm that wished bravery and a safe return home to the carrier. The Japanese troop then marched off to war, the flag folded and tucked somewhere on his person.

These are usually the flags that were captured by American troops in World War II. Because no one enjoys taking photos with the flags of their fallen enemies like U.S. troops.

Read: These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

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

U.S. Marines with a yosegaki hinomaru after the Battle of Iwo Jima.

But American troops had no idea these flags were the personal keepsakes of fallen individuals and not unit flags carried by the Japanese army. Now that the men who captured these battlefield trophies are aging and dying, the flags are being sold off or thrown away altogether, but there’s a better way to handle these pieces of history: giving them back.

And that’s what World War II veterans and their families are doing. Through the international nonprofit Obon Society, families and veterans who still possess a captured yosegaki hinomaru are tracking down the Japanese veterans and families of Japanese veterans of the Pacific War to return the family heirlooms and help the aging veterans heal their decades-old, invisible wounds.

If there’s any doubt about the power of these standards, even to this day, just watch below as a Japanese man reacts to seeing his missing brother’s yosegaki hinomaru.

There are no better frenemies than American and Japanese veterans of WWII. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan grew ever closer as allies and as people. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the war, the enduring friendships that developed in the years since have been a testament to the idea that peace is always possible, even in the face of such hard fighting. The only thing that remains is handling the losses incurred along the way – brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.

Groups like the Obon Society and its team of researchers make it easy to start healing the pain that remains between families and friends who lost loved ones in the war. If you or your departed veterans have a flag like the ones seen in the photos above, contact the Obon Society to return the flag to its family and maybe even make contact with them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are the most civic-minded group in America for the 3rd year in a row

It should come as a surprise to no one that the men and women who fought for the United States are the ones who care most about how it’s run — and the people who run it. For the third year in a row, American military veterans are shown to volunteer, assist neighbors, join civic groups, vote, and engage public officials at rates higher than non-veterans.

The finding comes as a result of the 2017 Veterans Civic Health Index, a study conducted in cooperation with Got Your 6, a veteran’s empowerment nonprofit designed to encourage and enable veterans to continue serving in their local communities while fostering greater cultural changes in the United States, and the National Conference on Citizenship, a Congressionally-chartered national service project dedicated to strengthening civic life.


Civic health, defined as a community’s capacity to work together to resolve collective problems, has been shown to positively impact local GDP, public health, upward income mobility, and has other benefits that strengthen communities. By releasing this annual study, Got Your 6 and its partners aim to eliminate common misconceptions about veterans, while highlighting the civic strength of America’s returning servicemen and women.

The study found that veterans are what it calls “the strongest pillar of civic health” in the United States and calls on the country to adjust the way it frames veteran reintegration. Consistent with Got Your 6’s mission, the study aims to help in changing the perception of veteran transition from one of a series of challenges to the opening of a potential source of leadership and training.

Significant findings from the study include:

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

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Voting

73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections versus 57.2 percent of non-veterans.

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

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Service

Veteran volunteers serve an average of 177 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25% fewer hours annually. Delivering critical services to a community without regard for wages or reward is a vital service to local areas in the United States.

In this, specifically, the female veteran population goes above and beyond the call of duty.

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

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Civic Involvement

In terms of involvement, 11.5 percent of veterans have attended a public meeting in the last year versus 8.3 percent of non-veterans. The rate at which veterans belong to a local or national civic association was significantly higher as well. These groups can have a large collective impact on American communities.

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

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

Community Engagement

Some 10.5 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.7 percent of non-veterans. But engagement goes beyond fixing problems, it’s also about stopping them before they start — something veterans are proactive in doing.

More than that, engaging one’s community forms the bonds that can bring people together in good times and in bad. Veterans who transition from the military tends to miss the closeness and brotherhood aspects of their service, leading them to more often reach out within communities.

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

(2017 Veterans Civic Health Index)

It should also come as no surprise that the youngest generation of veterans (23.4 percent of all veterans are younger than 50) is a diverse one, inclusive of more females (one in six) and ethnic minority groups. The United States, as a whole, is becoming more diverse and the veteran population is a reflection of that diversity.

As a subset of U.S. population (just nine percent of Americans are veterans), vets are more likely to lend a hand to their neighbors and fellow citizens, leading the charge in recovery operations for the multitude of natural disasters that affected the U.S. in 2017.

With these numbers, we can reasonably expect veterans to continue being at the forefront of civic action in American communities. This is the country veterans earned through hard work and, in some cases, sacrifice. The maintenance of the nation understandably means a great deal to this relatively small group of Americans.

If the result of this study predict a trend for the future, the country is in good hands.

For more information, be sure to read the full study.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America’s oldest veteran gives you the secrets to life at 112

Richard Arvin Overton was already 35 years old when he fought at Pearl Harbor. Now, 73 years after the end of World War II and his service in the Pacific Theater, the 112-year-old is alive and kicking. Today, the City of Austin and its Mayor, Steve Adler, even came out to wish America’s oldest veteran a happy birthday.

Find out how to live your life like Richard Overton lived his.


Overton is still completely independent — he lives on his own, walks where he wants (albeit with the aid of a cane), and drives where he needs to go. He enjoys cigars, good whiskey, and dating his “lady friend.”

That also happens to be Richard Overton’s big, anti-aging secret, which he shared over a few drinks with We Are The Mighty’s Orvelin Valle during the celebration.

“The secret to life,” Overton says, “is Scotch and cigars.”

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin,u00a0joins WWII veteran Richard Overton and his neighbors at Overton’s home as they celebrateu00a0his 112th birthday.
(Mark Harper)

You’ll never catch Overton without a pocket full of cigars and, while you might think they’re hazardous to his health and well-being, it seems they’re doing more good than harm. He passes every medical test the doctors (and the DMV) can throw his way.

Although he drives himself because he thinks too many people around his neighborhood drive crazily, he isn’t afraid of anything, even at his advanced age. He even remarked that he feels completely comfortable sleeping with his doors unlocked at night.

“You see a soldier with a gun,” he once told National Geographic (while holding his issued M1 Garand rifle), “you don’t see him turn around and come back this way.”

But that stress-free life starts with a good cigar or twelve. He often smokes a dozen or more per day. He doesn’t inhale, though, saying there’s no point.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Richard Overton getting a light for his cigar on his 112th birthday.
(Mark Harper)

“Forget about swallowing it,” Overton says. “There’s no taste to it. It just makes you cough.”

Not inhaling his cigars is what he calls “the healthy way.” This lifestyle also includes a diet of milk, fish, corn, and soup. But the 112-year-old vet also starts his day with about four cups of coffee and ends each by eating butter-pecan ice cream.

And, sometimes, he adds whisky to the mix

He doesn’t spend his money on buying things he doesn’t need and he definitely doesn’t use credit cards. He’s been driving the same truck for decades, which he paid for with cash. Still, it’s a far cry from his first car – a Ford Model T.

To live like America’s oldest veteran, just live a stress-free life. Start with the simple pleasures, like ice cream, whisky, and cigars. If you don’t take his advice, that’s fine. As he says, “that’s your bad luck.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 celebrity veterans who went AWOL

There are few acts more shameful for a member of the military than deserting their unit, and going AWOL is the first step in that decision. We Are The Mighty has covered what can happen to a deserter before, and it’s not a fate any servicemember should willingly bring upon him or herself.


That still didn’t stop these 8 famous veterans from going Absent Without Leave, and they all faced the consequences.

8. Humphrey Bogart

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

Humphrey Bogart is an iconic Academy Award winning actor, but prior to his acting career, Bogie served in the United States Navy during the tail end of World War I. While most of the other cases on this list were clearly some level of intentional, in Bogart’s case, going AWOL seemed to be a complete accident.

The full story is unknown, but what’s on public record is that Bogart missed a connection to the USS Santa Olivia while in Europe, leading to him officially officially declared AWOL. He immediately turned himself in only to face a 3-day prison sentence.

It seems the misunderstanding was eventually cleared up, as he was honorably discharged in 1919.

7. Steve McQueen

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Screenshot of Steve McQueen in film The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).

Steve McQueen got his reputation as a tough guy and a rebel, and while going AWOL is no joke, it’s easy to picture him smiling and laughing while he did so. Legend has it the young Marine took a few extra days (or weeks) off while visiting his girlfriend on Weekend Leave.

When the King of Cool finally returned to his post, he was sentenced to 41 days in the brig for his insubordination. McQueen served his sentence and eventually returned to duty, ultimately using the benefits of the GI Bill to sponsor his acting education.

6. Jerry Garcia

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Garcia in the 1970s.

Some vets will probably be pissed to learn some of these celebs almost deserted, but could anyone be surprised to learn about Jerry Garcia? The Grateful Dead singer/guitarist/songwriter was one of the faces of the 60s countercultural movement, but before becoming a rock legend, he served in the United States Army upon his mother’s insistence.

Unsurprisingly, Garcia never took the Army particularly seriously, regularly missing roll call and going AWOL on several occasions. Ultimately he was generally discharged after less than a year of service.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger

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

The only foreigner on the list, Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, where a year of military service was mandatory for teenage males. Even as a young man, the future Governor was far more focused on bodybuilding, and chose to go AWOL to hone his craft.

Also read: 15 celebrities we’d love to see in boot camp

Appropriately, the Terminator star secretly climbed over a wall to attend a competition, and wound up imprisoned in a military stockade for seven days for his crime.

4. Sinbad

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

All Sinbad ever wanted to do was play basketball, which is a pretty misguided reason to join the Air Force, but it didn’t stop the comedian from doing just that. After he failed to make the Air Force basketball team, Sinbad says he repeatedly went AWOL under the assumption the military either wouldn’t notice or would dishonorably discharge him, relieving him of his duty.

The Air Force never did, however, and eventually Sinbad stopped going AWOL and started appearing in Air Force Talent Shows, beginning his career in standup.

3. Nate Dogg

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

Nate Dogg was a rapper and G-funk singer popular for his collaborations with Warren G and Dr. Dre, amongst other rap superstars. When he was only 16, Nate Dogg dropped out of high school intending to join the United States Marine Corps. The “Regulate” singer served as an ammunitions specialist for three years before going AWOL and being dishonorably discharged.

2. C.J. Ramone

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
C.J. Ramone at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of Burning Down the House, a documentary about famous New York City rock and roll venue CBGB. (Image by David Shankbone)

The other celebrities on this list came to fame after they were discharged, but the final bassist of the legendary rock band the Ramones went AWOL in order to become famous. Serving in the Marine Corps, Ramone claims he was nearing his discharge, taking extended unapproved leaves to jam with the Ramones while they searched for a new bassist.

More: The 6 best WWE ‘Tribute to the Troops’ matches

After realizing he would get the gig, Ramone turned himself in and asked what he had to do to be discharged and allowed to play with the band. For going AWOL, Ramone had to serve five weeks in jail — but to his surprise, Johnny Ramone called him to tell him he still had a job if he wanted it.

1. Randy Orton

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
This is how Randy Orton stands at attention. (Image by Ken Penn)

Randy Orton is a 12-time WWE from Charleston SC, known professionally for his short temper and rebellious attitude. They say the best characters stem from real life, and Orton’s rebelliousness started as a member of the USMC, where he went AWOL twice, serving 38 days in jail.

Orton also disobeyed orders from a commanding officer and was dishonorably discharged. His poor record of service lead to controversy when WWE announced Orton would star in The Marine 3, a casting choice that got scrapped when his poor military record became public.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA enhances mental health treatment with measurement based care

How do we measure mental health?

Mental health treatment can be complicated, and adjustments are often needed to make it as effective as possible. When treatment isn’t meeting the Veteran’s goals or leading to improvement, VA encourages the Veteran and provider to discuss potential reasons and consider modifications or alternative treatments that better meet the patient’s needs.


To help, VA uses standardized questionnaires to measure change along the way. This process, known as measurement-based care (MBC), transforms the way VA delivers mental health care. MBC involves the following steps:

  • The Veteran routinely completes brief questionnaires about their symptoms and progress toward treatment goals.
  • The provider and the Veteran review and talk about the results together, using the questionnaire as a starting point for discussing what’s working in treatment — and what’s not. The provider explains what the findings mean and may offer ideas for changing treatment based on the results.
  • Based on these conversations and considering the Veteran’s perspective, the provider and Veteran work together to select the best treatment options.

Benefits of MBC

Data from MBC questionnaires can signal when treatment isn’t working. It also helps the clinician and Veteran develop a plan to get back on track. MBC helps foster an open dialogue between Veterans and their providers, ensuring that the treatment process is progressing toward each Veteran’s mental health goals. This dialogue may include meaningful conversations about personal goals, collaborative development of treatment plans, assessment of progress over time, and joint decisions about adjustments to the treatment plan. Veterans’ participation in developing their treatment approach has the added benefit of helping them to actively engage in their care.

Change can be challenging

Using MBC can be a pretty big adjustment for many mental health providers. Changing a health care practice is challenging even when the new method is simple, and the MBC approach involves several steps and many considerations. That’s why VA is rolling out MBC in phases, so that along the way we can learn from providers’ experiences the best ways to put MBC into practice.

Members of the VA Center for Integrated Healthcare, the VISN 4 MIRECC and the Behavioral Health QUERI are studying how providers at 10 sites are implementing MBC into their primary care and mental health integration programs. Their goal is to understand what it takes to help providers shift their practice to the MBC approach. Their results will be used to help providers at other VA sites figure out how to adopt MBC.

Coming to a VA location near you

Veterans in VA care may have already had MBC interactions with their providers. For those who have not, MBC is coming to a VA facility near you! VA is continuing to expand measurement-based care across its many medical centers, clinics and other facilities.

To learn more about MBC, download this handout.

For more information about the mental health treatment options offered at your local VA facility, visit the Mental Health Community Points of Contact Locator.

Interested VA providers can check out MBC resources, including handouts and trainings, on our MBC SharePoint page.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Damages for the sailors killed on the USS Cole goes to the Supreme Court

In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.

On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.

It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.

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


At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.

Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.

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

Osama bin Laden spent five years in Sudan after moving there from Afghanistan in 1991. He invested heavily in Sudan’s infrastructure before he was expelled in 1996. Sudan says it was his expulsion from Sudan that turned him into the world’s most wanted terrorist and, before that, he was little more than a businessman.

The judge awarded $8 million to the families through the Death on the High Seas Act, much of which was taken from Sudanese assets frozen in the United States. That act did not allow compensation for mental anguish.

In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Two flightline personnel at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, pay their last respects to the five sailors killed in an apparent attack on the USS Cole as they are escorted from the C-17 Globemaster III that arrived from Yemen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)

By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”

Articles

6 tips we learned from ‘Ferris Bueller’ on how to ‘skate’ in the military

Ferris Bueller is the ultimate skater.


Skating is an art form which most people will never fully learn — until now. In 1986, Paramount pictures released “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” which taught countless teens how to play sick and get out of school.

Written and directed by the legendary John Hughes, the film focuses on a teenager who embarks on an incredible journey throughout Chicago while being unknowingly stalked by his high school principal.

While taking the day off, Bueller and his two friends learn more about themselves in a day than they would ever expect.

Related: 8 tips for ‘skating’ in the military

So check out our list of how Bueller taught us the art of the skate.

1. Be convincing

First, come up with an epic excuse why you’re unable to partake in a military activity (like going to work), and make sure you sell that sh*t like Bueller sold being sick to his parents.

Getting a “Sick in Quarters” slip is the goal if you’re in the military.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
I hope I look sick enough. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

2. Use your assets properly

Unfortunately, Bueller doesn’t have a car to drive himself around. So once he officially earns his day off via his parents, it’s time to get on the phone and find someone to pick you up.

Skating should be a team effort, but make sure you repay the favor and help someone else skate on another day.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Come over to the barracks and pick me up. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

3. Know the loopholes

Here, Bueller hacks the school’s computer absence program and changes how many days he has been absent. You probably won’t have this ability unless you have a special security clearance, but the moral of this story is to understand your limits.

For instance, if your boss isn’t going to be around — you’re not going to be around. Get it? Good.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Knowing the loopholes will get you far in life. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

4. Have an epic backstory

During roll call, Bueller’s name is called out several times before this hot girl (Kristy Swanson) gives the teacher a bullsh*t reason why he isn’t in school. It works well during military roll call when the service member calling out names just wants to get on with the day and not hear any excuses — another loophole.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
How could you not trust this face? (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

5. Play the role

In the event you get an unknown phone call or run into someone outside your skating circle, divert into the sick mode ASAP.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Remember act sick. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

Also Read: 11 hiding spots for an E-4 to sham

6. Make it a team effort

Ferris uses his best buddy Cameron to impersonate his girlfriend’s dad to get her out of school. Now, you probably won’t have to do all that, but it’s awesome to have military friends who are willing to skate alongside you that you trust.

Medal of Honor: Meet The 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor
Our favorite hypochondriac, Cameron Frye. (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Iraq War interpreter joined the Army and is now a US citizen

“I didn’t have a normal and safe childhood,” Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum said woefully. “I did this so my kids could live, and be safe.”

Kadhum was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. Growing up, he never considered the life he lived was anything out of the ordinary, until he was an adult and attending his first year of college in 2003, when U.S. forces entered Iraq.

“It was a complicated feeling then,” Kadhum remembered. “We were happy, but it was also scary, because during the Saddam regime we had nothing. In 2003, we had hope.”


Iraq had become a warzone right in front of his eyes.

“When the coalition forces had come to Iraq to free us from Saddam, I was in college and decided I needed to help.”

Kadhum was hired by a U.S. contractor and used the time to establish himself and work on his English. When the request for translators was made from the U.S. Army, he knew he could do more.

Kadhum learned immediately that his job as an interpreter could have either a negative or positive effect based on his translations.

“If I missed one word when translating, then something could have happened,” he said.

Kadhum started his job as an interpreter working with a Military Transition Team. His team worked directly with the Iraqi army, training them and providing guidance on how to use equipment, clear rooms and other necessary tactical skills.

Being in the position he was in, Kadhum was sometimes the only connecting piece between the Iraqi forces and U.S. forces. Eventually, he would become a target of the enemy and had to start concealing his identity whenever traveling outside of his job.

“Our people think we aren’t good people because we help the U.S. Army,” he said. “They started threatening us and following us many times. They would threaten us either directly or indirectly.

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

Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum, an 88M (truck driver) assists in fueling vehicles during a driver’s training class, July 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

I had to move my family with me from place to place. “

As a result of the threats, Kadhum felt pressured to leave the Military Transition Team and started working at a prison, still as an interpreter.

“This was another challenge for me,” he said. “To help the prisoners, and most of them were terrorists. But it was their human right.”

Kadhum said he gained experience in the proper and fair treatment of prisoners, despite the crime they committed. Ensuring the imprisoned received the right food and water in accordance with their rights was, at times, difficult for Kadhum, but despite his struggle, he continued to help facilitate the standard.

In 2007, Iraq had become a more dangerous place. Enemy forces were relentless with their attacks on the government, U.S. forces and the people of Iraq.

Kadhum’s main purpose for working with U.S. forces was to benefit the country and people of Iraq. Unfortunately, others did not feel that was the purpose of the interpreters.

“I felt like I was serving my country more than I was serving the U.S. Army,” Kadhum said. “I don’t feel like I did something wrong in my country, but other people did.

“All the time I must hide everything, even the ID I had, I had to hide in my boot. We had to travel together [the interpreters] to go home to make sure we were safe.”

Kadhum continued his support to the American forces until he determined it was no longer safe to stay in Iraq.

“I was scared for my son when he went to school,” Kadhum explained. “My wife would go with him and wait because maybe someone would kidnap him; every time he went to school my wife stayed with him.”

With the help of the program established for interpreters who assist the U.S., he was able to get a Special Immigration Visa and come to America with his wife and two children in August 2016.

“I feel like at first when I came here I felt safe,” he said. “My oldest is almost ten and my daughter is now three. Now I feel safe.

“If my son wants to go to the playground, I’m not scared someone will kidnap him. I’m not scared someone will be threatening me through him,” Kadhum continued. “Now I feel like my kids can grow up normal.”

A few months later, Kadhum was in a U.S. Army recruiter’s office looking for a way to give back to the very institution that he had already given so much.

“Right now for me the Army is not a job, it’s not a career,” he started. “I’m serving. This is what I feel because at least I can pay back what the U.S. Army did for me.

I came here and the first thing I thought was I needed to serve; because this Army has worked to help people to do better in their life. I believed it at the time even when I was an interpreter.”

In early July 2018, Kadhum recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and became an official U.S. citizen with more than 15 other soldiers during a ceremony on Fort Hood.

“I’m really happy but at the same time it is a big responsibility,” he said. “While serving in the Army it is a responsibility, but even if I get out of [the] Army as a civilian I still have more responsibility.

When you choose to get that citizenship it is different from the people who are born with the citizenship. When it’s harder to get it, it is a big commitment. I have more appreciation for it.”

Kadhum is looking ahead to the future for himself and his family.

“The best thing is because of the naturalization, I can do anything now,” he said. “My hopes are for my kids that they get to live a normal life and every thing will be perfect for them.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army takes a staggering majority of traumatic brain injuries

The sheer magnitude of traumatic brain injury in the military is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Troops can get TBI from any number of actions. Everything carries a TBI risk, from routine training to combat operations, so it’s no surprise the injury is getting more attention in recent years. The U.S. military has counted the number of TBI cases suffered by its troops since 2000, and the numbers are sadly very big.

More than 383,000 American troops have suffered some form of TBI, either in daily operations or in a theater of combat. What is most startling about the numbers isn’t just how many, it’s how many people in each branch suffered such injuries. Soldiers of the U.S. Army are far more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.


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

While the numbers of overall penetrating and severe TBI are thankfully relatively low, mild injuries make up a bulk of the cases, even when the injuries are broken down by branch. And while “moderate” TBI may not seem as dire as the word “moderate” sounds, those with moderate brain injuries can find themselves with reduced mobility, motor function, and unable to speak effectively. A recent video highlighting caretakers of TBI veterans by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation highlights just how hard life can be for a victim of moderate TBI.

Unfortunately, moderate brain injuries are the second largest number of injuries suffered by U.S. troops. But the real tragedy is how many TBI sufferers are in the U.S. Army.

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

Of the more than 383,000 troops that have suffered TBI since 2000, a staggering 225,144 of them have been in some component of the Army. Some 15.8 percent of that was National Guard troops, while 7.3 percent were Army Reserve. The rest, 76.9 percent, were active-duty troops. The numbers on what types of TBI mirror the numbers of all branches put together, with mild being the most widespread, followed by moderate, penetrating, and severe cases.

The rest of the branches hover between 52,000 and 54,000, the Marines have slightly more TBI reports, probably by nature of what they do. This data also reflects an update to the definitions of TBI, more information about the injuries, and subsequent reviews of existing Pentagon data.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 veteran qualities that civilian employers go crazy over

When it’s time for troops to hang up their uniform for the last time and go pick up that beautiful DD-214, they’re subjected to countless classes on how to adapt in the civilian world and use the strengths they’ve picked up in the military to give themselves a leg up in a competitive civilian marketplace.

Troops who had more POGy jobs in the military may have an easier time making the transition. If you worked in the commo shop, there’s countless IT desks out there you can apply for. Flight-line mechanics can make bank working for airlines. But even combat arms guys aren’t limited to positions as security guards or fast-food workers, no matter how many times the retention NCO tells you so.


The fact is, any good soldier, Marine, sailor, or airman who fit perfectly in the formation comes away from service with valuable skills that employers look for in potential employees. Here are a few qualities that veterans have had drilled into them every day since basic training that help them stand out over most civilian competitors.

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

We’ve mastered the art of “hurry up and wait,” so showing up early and killing idle time is no problem.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

The 15-minutes-prior schedule

If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re fourteen minutes early, you’re still late. Civilians tend to pull some excuse that explains why it’s definitely not their fault that they’re arriving at 10:05 for a 10 a.m. meeting.

That fifteen-minute buffer works wonders with the way most civilians schedule things. The higher up in an organization you go, the more promptly meetings tend to start. If you’ve been ready for 15 minutes already, nobody will end up waiting on you. You’re set.

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

You’ll never find a more open and, uh, “creative” conversation than those held at a deployed smoke pit.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Blunt honesty

We’ve seen it happen a million times: Someone throws out an awful suggestion and it’s met with agreeable silence. Everyone is too afraid to speak up because their reputation is on the line for speaking out of turn. Then, out of the corner, a veteran speaks up and says, “well that’s dumb. Why the f*ck would we do that?”

If there’s one thing that sets a veteran apart in a board room it’s their ability to avoid being a yes man. It may ruffle the feathers of people who expect everyone to nod along, but at the very least, it moves the meter.

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

If you thought vets couldn’t also handle useless and drawn-out PowerPoint presentations, think again!

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alfonso Corral)

No aversion to manual labor

Veterans can safely celebrate the fact that when they get a new job, if something comes up that’s not in the job description, it’s not expected of them. That’s right: if you’re now an office drone working some cubicle job, no one will randomly get on your ass for not cleaning the break room.

Sometimes, however, things just need to get done. Using that same example, an entire day could go by in a civilian office and people will simply walk by that messy break room thinking, “it’s not my responsibility.” Most vets, on the other hand, would instinctively clean it up without giving it a second thought.

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

The same goes the other way around. Knowing who does the leg work in an organization makes a leader’s work a million times easier.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Chlosta)

Acknowledgement of hierarchy

Things are nice and easy when everyone wears their rank on their uniform. You can instantly look at their insignia and recognize where they stand in the chain of command — no questions asked. That simple insignia tells the world what is expected of you, in accordance with your rank.

The civilian workplace doesn’t really have those kinds of markings — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a pecking order. Vets just need to know who’s in charge of them and who’s in charge of the people in charge and they’re set.

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

Sometimes, leading from the front means letting a subordinate take the spotlight. That’s surprisingly rare in the civilian world.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew Parks)

Willingness to take a leadership position

Everyone wants the bigger job, bigger desk, bigger pay check, but too few people are willing to exit their comfort zone to get it. They’ll whine about that one guy getting an extra zero in his paycheck but slink at any opportunity to prove their worth.

Vets, on the other hand, will usually take it upon themselves to organize their coworkers if they see a lack of leadership and make themselves the face of their team without even realizing it. Willingly taking on that leadership role proves to the company that the vet is serious and values the company. This almost always gives that vet more firepower when it comes time to shoot for a raise.

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

The ever-looming glare of a drill sergeant never leaves the back of your mind. Ever.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

Separation of work life and personal life

Keeping what’s going on in your personal life from affecting your work life is a difficult skill to master. It’s a beyond-useful talent to be able to set aside any personal problems when it’s time to get serious and work. The other part of this equation is not letting personal drama bleed into getting the mission done.

Troops and vets have been constantly cattle prodded into moving forward and to quit whining about unrelated stuff. This is second nature.

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There’s no gray area in “until mission complete.” Either it’s impossible or it’ll be done by lunch time.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. David W. Cline)

The mission-first mentality

If there’s a single quality that civilian employers can expect from nearly every veteran, it’s that veterans will always be task-oriented. They’ll see a checklist as a thing to complete rather than a thing to dread.

From the moment troops enlist, they’re taught to juggle roughly seven thousand different tasks inherent to military life, in addition to those associated with their given MOS. There’s a job to be done, so let’s get to it.