Tony Nadal is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who spent his whole life with the military in some way. Nadal was born on Fort Benning, Georgia, and his father was also an Army officer.
The younger Nadal only ever wanted to go to West Point and be an Army officer. That’s exactly what he did.
His first duty station after airborne school and Ranger school took him to Munich, Germany. After three years of European service, Nadal got wind of Special Forces operations in Laos. He decided to move toward the sound of the guns.
After a Special Forces deployment in Laos, he returns to the U.S. to lead soldiers in an Air Mobile Division. On July 28, 1965, his Air Mobile Division was sent to Vietnam. His battalion was the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore. By November, they were responding to intelligence about an NVA position in the Chu Pong Mountains.
Moore led his battalion to an area called Ia Drang, landing at a place the Army dubbed LZ X-Ray. The battalion’s eight Huey helicopters could only carry six men each, so they had to bring the entire battalion in 48 men at a time. By the time the 7th Cavalry landed 124 men, intelligence from a captured North Vietnamese soldier informed the Americans they were outnumbered 19-to-1.
“I can forget a lot of things about life but I won’t forget the feel, the sense, the smell of LZ-XRAY,” Nadal said in a video interview. “Colonel Moore immediately realized it was going to be a battle for survival.”
Over three days, 3,500 U.S., South, and North Vietnamese soldiers fought for a contested victory, leaving 308 Americans and 660 NVA dead, with 544 U.S. and 670 NVA wounded. It was the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the North Vietnamese Army.
Then-Capt. Tony Nadal lost 15 of his men in the first two days of fighting. Sleepless and battered, his command was ordered out before the Air Force cleared the area out.
The video below was produced by AARP Studios for the American Heroes Channel. Tony Nadal describes how he feels as he pushes himself into the machine gun and grenade fire to retrieve the bodies of some of his soldiers.
“I feel the loss of all my soldiers,” Nadal said. “When you get through all of the bravado, what you’re left with is anguish. They fought for a cause… there was the expectation that when your country calls, you go.”
The legendary battle was depicted in the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young” and the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers.”
TrueCar and DAV (Disabled American Veterans) just launched their second annual DrivenToDrive program, which is aimed at helping disabled veterans by retrofitting vehicles to accommodate their injuries. Last year, TrueCar gave their first-ever recipient the keys to a brand-new and modified cargo van.
And now it’s time to give away another car.
The CEO of DAV, Marc Burgess spoke in a March 15 press release, “DAV is grateful to partner with TrueCar and their DrivenToDrive program, which is designed to help the brave men and women who served our country regain their freedom and independence. Awarding a vehicle is a special way to recognize the sacrifices a veteran made and dramatically improve his or her quality of life. We’re additionally grateful to TrueCar for supporting DAV’s mission to honor our heroes and make them aware of the assistance we provide at no cost.”
“Driving is an expression of freedom and independence,” said Lucas Donat, Chief Brand Officer at TrueCar. “Helping injured veterans, those that have sacrificed so much for our freedom, to drive again is a cause close to our heart. Last year we had such an incredible response that we are excited to open up the contest again, and we’re honored to be working with DAV.”
Applicants are selected by a panel based off criteria to determine who will receive the vehicle. The program is only giving one deserving member of the military community a new vehicle. Active duty, veterans, and immediate family members are eligible to enter by visiting the link here. While there, visitors will be asked “what drives you” and how they would use the new vehicle to help them reach their goals.
Entrants must act fast as the submission period ends Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 9PM (PST.) Up to five finalists will be notified on or about March 26 and the Grand Prize winner will be notified on April 9. The official announcement will take place on or about May 21, 2018.
Recently, a video of Secretary of Defense James Mattis surfaced as the retired, decorated Marine met with a group of deployed service members. As the former general started to speak, a school circle quickly formed around him as his words began to motivate those who listened.
Mattis is widely-known for his impeccable military service and leadership skills, earning him the respect by both enlisted personnel and officers.
Mattis broke the ice with the deployed service members by humorously introducing himself and thanking them in his special way — an epic impromptu speech.
“Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it of being friendly to one another, you know, that Americans owe to one other,” Mattis said. “We’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”
Sexual assault is a mortifying secret for far too many veterans. Although it is not often talked about, Military Sexual Trauma, or “MST” as it is often called, is a significant problem in the military. Some of this is due to hazing, dominance and other unexplained reasons. Regardless of the cause, individuals who are victims of MST can experience various mental health problems.
According to Stephanie Cojocaru, Psy.D., a psychologist in Florida, screening conducted on veterans who are treated through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and clinics shows that “one in four women and one in 100 men report experiencing [Military Sexual Trauma] while in the military.” However, Dr. Cojocaru believes that those rates are much higher because “many service members do not report the [Military Sexual Trauma] at all.”
Although the results of the VA screening indicate that women are more likely to suffer from MST than men, Dr. Cojocaru believes that the numbers are more evenly split than they might initially appear. She bases this on a recent Department of Defense study of 21,000 service members who reported MST in the year of the study. Dr. Cojocaru explains that 52 percent of those who suffered MST were men. This means that many veterans, both male and female, have been victims of MST.
MST can affect different people in very different ways. For example, Dr. Cojocaru states that she has “seen many veterans who had been raped in the military … who go on to develop severe depression, anxiety, PTSD or substance abuse.” However, she has also “met many veterans who have been sexually assaulted in the military who went on to live seemingly normal lives, being somewhat unscathed by the event.” This means that depending on the veteran and circumstance, the outcome can vary widely. Some individuals may be impacted so severely that they have difficulty maintaining employment, in social situations or even functioning in day-to-day life.
Because this is such a problem in the military, the VA has made special regulations to make it easier for MST victims to obtain disability benefits. MST will often present as a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. Although normally the VA requires that veterans provide some corroborative evidence of the event, in cases of MST, the veteran need only show evidence of a change in behavior. Change in behavior can be shown by a request to transfer to another unit, decline in work performance, substance abuse, depression, panic attacks, anxiety without an otherwise discernable cause or unexplained economic or social behavioral changes.
If the veteran can show that there was a change in behavior during military service and there is a current psychiatric diagnosis due to the MST, the VA will grant a service connection. Once the VA decides that the MST is due to military service, the next step is for the VA to rate the severity of the condition. Because the symptoms of MST can vary from person to person, so do the VA’s ratings. However, often, a veteran still must appeal the VA’s initial rating of MST to eventually obtain a rating as high as is actually deserved.
MST remains an ongoing problem in the military. However, in the meantime, victims of MST should seek treatment immediately and consider applying for VA disability benefits upon discharge. According to Dr. Cojocaru, “a good rule of thumb is to seek help sooner rather than later … because it can more often than not lead to a better prognosis.”
This article originally appeared on Military1. Follow @Military1 on Twitter.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Air Force Emergency Medical Technicians hop over a barrier during the ‘Commando Challenge’ for the 27th Special Operations Medical Group’s EMT Rodeo Aug. 9, 2017, at Melrose Air Force Range, New Mexico. Twenty-one teams from Air Force bases around the world visited MAFR and Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, to participate in the EMT Rodeo, giving the technicians a wide assortment of scenarios to test their knowledge and training in the medical field.
Two combat controllers with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron observe an A-10 Thunderbolt II landing on Jägala-Käravete Highway, Aug. 10, in Jägala, Estonia. A small force of eight Special Tactics combat controllers from the 321st STS surveyed the two-lane highway, deconflicted airspace and exercised command and control on the ground and in the air to land A-10s from Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron on the highway.
A Soldier with 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat team, 7th Infantry Division reaches for her drink tube during an operational test of the Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) and Tactical Communication and Protective System Lite (TCAPS-L) hearing protection on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, August 8, 2017. Soldiers put the IHPS and TCAPS-L to the test while conducting training and gave feedback to data collectors about how the new equipment performed.
Soldiers from A Battery, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, provide the 15-gun salute during the Honors Ceremony, Aug. 8, 2017, held for the outgoing I Corps Deputy Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Mark Stammer, in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. During the ceremony Stammer received the Legion of Merit and his wife, Donna, was awarded The Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.
U.S. Navy Sailors direct an aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Aug. 9, 2017, in the Arabian Gulf. Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) fires its 5-inch gun during a live-fire exercise as a part of exercise Saxon Warrior 2017. The U.S. and United Kingdom co-hosted carrier strike group exercise demonstrates interoperability and capability to respond to crises and deter potential threats.
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Eric M. Smith, left, commanding general of 1st Marine Division, and Maj. Rich Mackenzie, infantry officer with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, hike to Alligator Creek, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Aug. 9, 2017. The tour was used to teach the Marines about Alligator Creek and the Battle of Guadalcanal, which took place from Aug. 7, 1942 to Feb. 9, 1943.
Sgt. Kyle H. Csizmar, a squad leader with India Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, takes point during close-quarters battle training aboard the USS Ashland (LSD 48) while underway in the Pacific Ocean, August 7, 2017. Marines with India Company, the mechanized raid company for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, train regularly to enhance their understanding and capabilities for battle at close quarters. The 31st MEU partners with the Navy’s Amphibious Squadron 11 to form the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, “America’s Tall Ship,” arrives in New York City, August 11, 2017. The summer 2017 deployment spans five months and 14 ports, including multiple ports along the Eastern Seaboard, Canada, and Bermuda
Petty Officer 2nd Class Evan Staph, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, is hoisted from a Station Boston 45-foot rescue boat to an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, during a training exercise, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in Boston Harbor. Shortly after the training completed, the aircrew was diverted to hoist an injured fisherman off the coast of Gloucester.
On D-Day, Richard Todd was one of the paratroopers who took part in the capture of Pegasus Bridge. Todd had parachuted in after the original assault and helped reinforce the British Army’s Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry led by Maj. John Howard.
Little did Todd know at the time that he would find himself portraying that same British commander when legendary director Daryl Zanuck was making Cornelius Ryan’s book “The Longest Day” into an epic movie.
Imdb.com reports that Todd was very nearly killed on D-Day. He had been assigned to a new plane. The switch was a fortunate one since his original transport was shot down by the Nazis, killing all aboard. A 2004 article by the London Guardian reported that Todd’s D-Day involved making his way to Pegasus Bridge, reinforcing Howard’s unit, and helping to fend off German attacks on the bridge while under Howard’s command until seaborne forces linked up with the paratroopers.
Todd never discussed his actions on D-Day. However, in his memoirs, “Caught in the Act,” he would write, “There was no cessation in the Germans’ probing with patrols and counter-attacks, some led by tanks, and the regimental aid post was overrun in the early hours. The wounded being tended there were all killed where they lay. There was sporadic enemy mortar and artillery fire we could do nothing about. One shell landed in a hedge near me, killing a couple of our men.”
By 1962, Richard Todd had become a well-known actor, with his most notable role having been Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the 1954 movie, “The Dam Busters.” Todd had also starred in “D-Day, the Sixth of June” three years later as the leader of a commando group sent to take out German guns.
When he was asked to play himself in “The Longest Day,” he demurred, admitting his own role in the invasion had been a small part. The London Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I did not do anything special that would make a good sequence.” Zanuck, determined to have Todd in the film, cast him as Howard instead.
“The Longest Day” was one of Todd’s last big roles, as British cinema moved in a very different direction in the 1960s. He still found work acting, narrating the series “Wings over the World” for AE Television and appearing in several “Doctor Who” episodes, among other roles.
Todd would die on Dec. 3, 2009, after having been named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1993. Below is the trailer for “The Longest Day.”
Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.
Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.
The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.
The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.
“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.
“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”
The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.
Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.
The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.
Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.
“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”
One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.
“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.
“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”
The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.
McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.
The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.
Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.
However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.
Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.
They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.
It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.
Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.
The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.
“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.
“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.
In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.
Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.
The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.
“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.
“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”
The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.
Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.
The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.
That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.
“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.
“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.
The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.
In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.
The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.
First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.
Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.
All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.
Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.
San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.
Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.
Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.
Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”
“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”
They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.
Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.
The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.
The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”
“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”
Hundreds of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, Army veterans, Pittsburgh-area officials, and Army leaders recognized U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his heroism April 5, 2019 — 16 years to the day after he was killed in action while serving in Iraq.
Booker’s mother and sister were presented with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor, during a ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood — near the University of Pittsburgh — as family, fellow soldiers, city officials and veterans watched.
“I am so honored … I am so proud of all my son accomplished,” said Freddie Jackson, Booker’s mother. “I didn’t realize how much my son did and how he inspired other people. Steve died for his country, not just for the Booker Family,” she said.
Booker died on April 5, 2003, while serving as a tank commander with Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 34-year-old Apollo, Penn., native was killed in action near Baghdad while serving in Iraq during the “Thunder Run” mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Booker attended Apollo-Ridge High School, near Pittsburgh, and enlisted in the Army in June 1987, at age 19, shortly after his high school graduation. He was promoted to Army staff sergeant in February 2001 and deployed in March 2003 to Iraq.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, left, deputy commanding general of Forces Command, speaks in Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, during the presentation of the Distinguished Service Cross to Freddie Jackson, right, the mother of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his 2003 heroism while serving in Iraq.
(Photo by Mr. Paul Boyce)
“We’re here to honor his service, his sacrifice and his heroism … as well as his Family” said U.S. Army Forces Command Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson. “He gave his life for something bigger than himself; he gave his life for others. He’s a Pittsburgh hero, an Army hero and an American hero.”
Richardson attended Friday’s ceremony along with 3rd Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, the 3rd Infantry Division Band and two retired Army generals. Army and Air Force cadets from the University of Pittsburgh’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program participated and attended as well.
Veterans of Booker’s unit also travelled from across the United States to attend the medal-presentation ceremony, organized by the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga. The Army ceremony honored Booker for his heroic actions, personal dedication, and commitment to his fellow soldiers.
Booker’s platoon led a task force on April 5, 2003, along Highway 8 towards Bagdad International Airport. About 1.2 miles after the line of departure, the platoon came under heavy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from enemy forces. Booker immediately communicated the situation to his chain of command, encouraged his crew, and returned fire with his tank-mounted machinegun.
“When both his and his crew’s machineguns malfunctioned, Booker, with total disregard for his personal safety, exposed himself by lying in a prone position on top of the tank’s turret and accurately engaged the enemy forces with his personal weapon,” according to the award’s summary. “While exposed, he effectively protected his platoon’s flank and delivered accurate information to his command during a critical and vulnerable point of the battle.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker.
Booker’s “fearless attitude and excitement over the communications network inspired his platoon to continue the attack and assured them and leadership that they would defeat the enemy and reach their objective safely,” the award’s narrative explains. “As he remained exposed, Booker identified an enemy troop carrier which was attempting to bypass his tank, but within seconds engaged the enemy vehicle and destroyed it prior to the enemy troops dismounting. Along the five-mile route he remained exposed and continued to engage the enemy with accurate rifle fire until he was mortally wounded.”
Army Col. Andrew Hilmes, Booker’s former company commander in Iraq, said the heroic staff sergeant prepared his crew well for that day’s battle. “His ability to train his soldiers saved a lot of lives. Not just his actions on April 5, but the training he put his soldiers through prior to the 5th of April paid off for the unit.”
Booker’s sister echoed their mother’s comments during a media conference attended by Pittsburgh-area news media prior to the awards ceremonies, which included a plaque dedication in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial’s Hall of Valor. “He’d be very proud. He’d probably be pumping his chest right about now,” said Booker’s sister Kim Talley-Armstead. “It’s a bittersweet moment, but we are extremely proud.”
After giving careful consideration and reviewing the recommendations from the Senior Army Decorations Board, Army officials said, the Secretary of the Army made the determination that Staff Sgt. Booker be awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross. In recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty, 12 soldiers recently received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for their valor.
Previously recognized for their bravery by awards of the Silver Star, the Department of Defense upgraded the soldiers’ medals as part of a 2016-2018 comprehensive review of commendations for heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Four soldiers are still on active duty; three are posthumous awards; three recipients have since retired and two recipients previously separated from the Army.
On Sept. 6, 2005, Air Force Pararescueman Master Sgt. Mike Maroney plucked 3-year-old LaShay Brown out of flood-ravaged New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
And for a decade after that, they lost touch.
At the time of the rescue, Maroney had spent six days on missions, and was battling post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When we were going to drop [Brown] off she wrapped me in a hug…that hug was everything. Time stopped,” Maroney said in a 2015 Air Force release. “Words fail to express what that hug means to me.”
The hug was captured in an iconic photo by Veronica Pierce, an airman first class at the time. Maroney didn’t know who Brown was, or how she’d fared.
The PJ went on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeping the photo to inspire him during tough moments. But according to a 2015 Air Force release, he always wondered what happened to the girl, especially around the anniversary of the rescue.
In 2015, they were reunited after 10 years on an episode of “The Real.” Since then, they’ve have stayed in touch.
Two years later, LaShay, now a Junior ROTC cadet, invited Maroney to her school’s JROTC ball. And Maroney accepted.
“I’m going because I would do anything to repay the hug to LaShay and her family. They mean as much to me as my own,” Maroney told People.com.
LaShay has intentions of joining the military but hasn’t decided which branch she will choose, a decision Maroney supports.
“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” he told People. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”
Jake Larson, a World War II veteran, will be returning to Normandy, France June 2019 after 75 years. Jake is the last surviving member of a unit that stormed Omaha Beach. Many men died during World War II, and Jake often questioned why he had survived.
Jake, 96, told the New York Times, “I never thought I’d be alive 75 years later. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and had only returned to France in his mind. His humble salary at a printing business never afforded such a luxury.
However, with the help of two women and an online fund-raising campaign, Jake can now return to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
“I can’t believe people would donate to me — they don’t even know me,” Jake stated.
Jake is planning to write a memoir and calls his trip to France the final chapter.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Military Influencer Conference, held in Dallas, Texas, from Oct. 22 to Oct. 24, was organized by recently retired Army 1st Sergeant Curtez Riggs, who dreamed of designing a conference that merged entrepreneurship, military spouse networking, and the blogging community into what would ultimately become the Military Influencer Conference.
The event was supported by major sponsors, including USAA and National Geographic, which helped contribute to its massive success.
We Are The Mighty was there and we were blown away by how great the event was — but don’t take our word for it. Here are 18 sources who will back that up:
Lakesha Cole, entrepreneur, blogger, and military spouse, explains how the Military Influencer Conference “reset the standard moving forward” for all other military oriented conferences. Diversity and the ability to network are just two of the things Cole found to be game changers for future conferences.
Shiang-Li and Miranda from The Hive and Co. were motivated to find different content than they normally see at conferences. Their thoughts on whether you should attend the conference next year? “You won’t be disappointed.”
Pilcher’s in depth focus on TNT, or Trust, Need, and Transparency, explains how Military Influencer Conference founder Curtez Riggs was able to put together this explosive conference in only months. A little help from Philip Taylor — (PT Money and founder of FitCon) — and a whole lot of elbow grease, and Riggs set the whole place on fire.
Dan Dwyer, owner of Vet2BizLife, LLC, recognized the passion, motivation, and ambition of the attendees at the Military Influencer Conference, and he has 10 tips on how to keep that ambition moving forward after the fact. His 10 tips will help you solidify “an action plan that you’ll be able to execute once you’re recovered, reinvigorated, and ready.”
Founders Dave and Sharon Gran both had two very interesting things to say about the Military Influencer Conference. Sharon: “The Military Influencer Conference is the only conference around for military spouses, veterans, and active duty members who blog, write, speak or own businesses in the military space to come together and learn from each other.” Dave: “The conference is not only a venue to hear the stories and advice from successful entrepreneurs, but an opportunity to network and build relationships.”
Retired Air Force veteran and founder of the Unconventional Veteran Bernard Edwards praised the Military Influencer Conference in its hands on approach and ability to relate to the typical veteran (who is, apparently, not a general or a pilot).
Global business advisor Ed Marsh outlines what made the Military Influencer Conference different from most conferences, and how that difference is what made the entire experience worth him waiving his normal speaking fees and travel costs. Calling the attendees “Quiet Professionals,” Marsh notes that “there was the quiet confidence of a group that knows they’ll win. They may not yet be sure how, and may not even yet be clear on what challenge they’re facing — but experience tells them that their grit, determination, doggedness, ingenuity, and flexibility will enable them to prevail.”
Founder of GreenZone Hero John Krotec writes “I can’t ever recall experiencing anything like it at any of the professional conferences that I’ve attended throughout my thirty-plus year business career. Honestly, it was electric.” His observations of the Military Influencer Conference are a must read.
Nicole Bowe-Rahming, aka “The Fortitude Coach,” notes that the Military Influencer Conference elicited moments of “aha!” and humility, as well as a need to get back to the harmony between being an entrepreneur and an influencer. Her biggest “aha” moment? When Daniel Alarik, CEO and founder of Grunt Style, said “You can’t, but WE can.”
Anna Blanch Rabe, an Army veteran who’s worn so many hats she could open her own hat store, attended the Military Influencer Conference against her will after spending 4 months touring the country. She wrote of her concerns with attending the event: “I would regret not spending extra days in Washington D.C. with my husband after the Marine Corps Marathon.” Rabe soon found she was mistaken.
MadSkills co-founder Erica McMannes discusses three things that you missed if you missed this year’s Military Influencer Conference: how to perfect your pitch, the way the military spouse community was embraced as part of the group rather than just married to it, and how important validation is.
Air Force veteran and current military spouse Alana Wilson digs in to what it means to be a military influencer, and how impressed she was with the over-all community. She writes “My biggest takeaway is that I sit back in awe of the military community. Even after being in this community for 14 years now, I have a whole new wave of appreciation for the kind of people that make up this group. These people are some of the most creative, loyal, hard working, no-quite, all grit, give you the shirt off their back type of people.”
According to Fred Wellman, “It was hard to predict how the first MIC would go. It was clear something special was in the making, based on the incredible list of speakers and sponsors taking the leap of faith on a first-time event.”
And special it was. He listed big takeaways from the event, including the fact that sixty percent of the attendees were military spouses, proving what we’ve known for a long time: our families are a vital part of our military experiences and capabilities.
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Diego Hernandez, who was the first Hispanic-American to serve as vice commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has died at the age of 83.
According to a report by the Miami Herald, Hernandez, a Vietnam War veteran who was shot down twice and awarded the Silver Star among other decorations, passed away on July 7 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Hernandez was best known as the Navy’s highest-ranking officer of Hispanic descent.
Born in 1934, Hernandez came from a working-class family in Puerto Rico. In 1955, after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he entered the Navy. In 1956, he was designated a Naval Aviator. After flying 147 combat missions over Vietnam, he attended the Naval War College and served on the faculty.
His later career included tours commanding VF-84 (the famous “Jolly Rogers”), Air Wing Six, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), and the Third Fleet.
During his time at the Third Fleet, Hernandez played a major role in integrating Alaska into United States Pacific Command and turning that force into one that was ready to take on the Soviets around the Aleutian Islands and off the Kamchatka Peninsula.
“Duke’s task was to turn this ‘McHale’s Navy’-style lash-up into a proper combat-oriented staff. It fell to Duke to awaken the whole Pacific Fleet to this, shall we say, cold reality,” retired Navy Capt. Charles Connor told the Miami Herald.
After commanding the Third Fleet, Hernandez took the post as vice commander as NORAD, which also made him the deputy commander of Space Command.
“He had his hands on the red buttons with all our atomic warfare,” former Miami mayor Maurice Ferré told the Miami Herald.
U.S. Navy Hospital corpsmen are part of a tradition that predates the American Navy itself. In the age of sail, corpsmen (then called loblolly boys) helped the ship’s surgeon stay on his feet with sand and kept the cauterizing irons hot. The role has evolved over the decades, and the name of the corpsman’s rating evolved along with it. The loblolly boy became the nurse, who became the bayman, who became the surgeon’s steward, then the apothecary, hospital apprentice, hospital steward, pharmacist’s mate, until after World War II, when the modern corpsman (as we know it) was born.
Update: This story was corrected to reflect that Byers was a Special Operations Combat Medic.
The corpsman is part medic, part nurse, part pharmacist, who serves in the Navy and on its ships, but also deploys with Marines. A corpsman’s importance in combat is unrivaled and requires the skill and courage of any grunt. 2,012 corpsmen were killed in action in the history of the U.S., with 42 of those lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their work earned the recognition of twenty ships named for them and more than 600 medals for valor, including twenty-two Medals of Honor. Here are the stories of twenty-two of the Navy’s bravest:
1. Hospital Apprentice Robert H. Stanley
Stanley volunteered to carry and deliver sensitive messages between the American and British forces while under heavy gunfire during the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing, China.
2. Hospital Apprentice First Class William Zuiderveld
Zuiderveld was known as “Doc” to his company of armed Navy sailors (nicknamed “Bluejackets”) during the seizure of Vera Cruz. During an ambush, one of the men was shot in the head and Zuiderveld answered the call for a “corpsman.” Rushing to their aid, he purposely exposed himself to enemy fire to reach his wounded comrades.
3. Hospital Apprentice Fred H. McGuire
During the Philippine Insurrection, McGuire began running low on ammunition, causing him fight off the fierce enemy forces with only his rifle’s butt stock until relief arrived. Finally free to treat the wounded, McGuire attended to several Americans who otherwise would have died.
4. Hospital Steward William S. Shacklette
After the deadly boiler explosion on the USS Bennington and suffering from 3rd-degree burns over much of his body, Shacklette risked his life to assist dozens of sailors off the ship and to safety.
5. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Balch
Fighting alongside his Marines from the 6th Regiment during the Battle of Belleau Wood, Balch exposed himself to high-explosive fire to secure the wounded. He worked tirelessly for his save his patience’s lives.
6 . Hospital Apprentice First Class David E. Hayden
Crossing into a hail of heavy machine-gun fire in an open field during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Hayden administered lifesaving treatment to a wounded Marine. Hayden was wounded but saved the Marine’s life by carrying the man to safety.
7. Hospital Apprentice First Class Robert Eugene Bush
Stationed with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines in action against the Japanese on Okinawa, Bush took shrapnel from three enemy grenades. Despite the losing one eye, he was able to do his job and while tending to his wounded platoon commander. While holding the plasma bottle he was giving the Marine officer, he unloaded first his pistol and then the officer’s carbine into an oncoming wave of Japanese soldiers. The Japanese retreated and Bush ensured his wounded were evacuated before administering to his own wounds.
8. Pharmacist’s Mate 2nd Class William D. Halyburton
Serving in a rifle company with the 5th Marines on Okinawa, Halyburton noticed his company was suddenly pinned down. Moving forward towards the enemy, he reached a wounded Marine and unselfishly shielded the man using his body to shield incoming Japanese gunfire. He continued with his medical treatment until he collapsed from his wounds, sacrificing himself for the wounded Marine.
9. Hospital Apprentice First Class Fred F. Lester
Crawling towards a casualty under a barrage of hostile gunfire and bleeding badly from gunshot wounds, Lester successfully pulled a wounded Marine to safety and instructed two of his squad members how to treat the Marine. Realizing his own wounds were fatal, he instructed two others on how to treat their wounded comrades. Soon after, Lester succumbed to his injuries but saved dozens of lives during his tour.
10. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Francis J. Pierce
Pierce earned his Medal of Honor at the Battle of Iwo Jima. With his rifle blasting, he courageously unveiled himself to draw off enemy attackers while he directed litter teams to carry off wounded Marines towards the medical aid station. He again drew fire while trying to treat a wounded troop and killed another Japanese soldier in the process. He ran across 200 meters of open ground to pick up a wounded Marine and carry him back across the same open 200 meters. Francis rendered the care of several severely wounded men while during the campaign.
11. Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class George E. Wahlen
Under the command of 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines at Iwo Jima, Wahlen was positioned adjacent to a platoon that had come under fire and began taking mass casualties. Dashing more than 600 yards to render medical care on fourteen Marines before returning to his platoon unharmed.
12. Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Jack Williams
Under intense enemy fire, Williams dragged a wounded Marine on his hands and knees, using his body to shield the man as managed to apply battle dressings to the wounded. Shot in both the abdomen and groin, Williams was stunned, but unwilling to give up, recovered and completed to treat the wounded Marine before addressing his injuries.
13. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John H. Willis
Injured by shrapnel and refusing to seek medical attention, Willis advanced up to the front lines under heavy mortar and sniper fire where he saved an injured Marine laying in a crater. Willis administered plasma to the patient as the Japanese intensified their attack throwing grenades. Willis returned the frags launching back towards the enemy. After surviving several attempts, one grenade exploded in his hand killing him instantly. The Marine survived.
14. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Edward C. Benfold
Benfold was killed in action in Korea while trying to help two Marines in a crater at the Battle of Bunker Hill. His company was battered by an enemy artillery barrage and the charged by a battalion-sized unit. Benfold ran from position to position to help his injured comrades. When he came upon the two Marines in a crater, he saw two grenades thrown in as two enemy soldiers rushed the position. Benfold picked up the grenades and charged at the two attackers, pushing the grenades into their chests. He was mortally wounded in the subsequent explosion.
15. Hospital Corpsman Third Class William R. Charette
While attending to a wounded man during the Korean War, an enemy grenade landed within a few feet of William, who immediately threw himself on the man, absorbing the blast with his body. Now experiencing extreme shock, he continued to administer medical care to his wounded brother before patching up himself.
16. Hospitalman Richard D. Dewert
As a fire team became pinned down by an overwhelming source of gunfire, Dewert darted into the fray on four different occasions. He carried out the wounded from the front lines even after suffering a gunshot wound to his shoulder. His courageous acts and refusal to quit allowed his brothers to survive their life-threatening injuries.
17. Hospitalman Francis C. Hammond
After sustaining a vicious attack from hostile mortars and artillery by enemy troops, Hammond maneuvered through rough terrain and curtains of gunfire, aiding his Marines along the way. He skillfully directed several medical evacuations for his casualties before a round mortar fire struck within mere feet of him.
18. Hospitalman John E. Kilmer
During the Korean War attack on Bunker Hill, Kilmer suffered from multiple fragment wounds but still traveled from one position to another, tending to the care of the injured. Although he was mortally wounded, he successfully spearheaded many medical evacuations. As mortar shells rained down around him, Kilmer rushed to a critically wounded Marine. Shielding the man from the incoming shrapnel, Kilmer was struck by enemy fire. He’s credited with saving many lives.
19. Hospital Corpsman Second Class Donald E. Ballard
Upon returning from rendering care on two heat casualties, his platoon came under a determined ambush from the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Noticing an injured Marine, Ballard dashed to the man’s aid, treating his wounds. He directed four Marines to form a litter team to evacuate the almost dead Marine when he spotted an incoming enemy grenade. Ballard threw himself on the explosive device, protecting his brothers. The grenade failed to detonate. He stood back up and continued the fight, treating the other Marine casualties.
20. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Wayne M. Caron
While patrolling through a rice patty, Caron’s squad began taking small arms fire. Seeing his comrades sustain mortal wounds, he raced to each one of them and delivered medical attention to at least four Marines while suffering from two gunshot wounds. The injury didn’t stop Caron, he continued onward, putting the well-being of his Marines above his own.
21. Hospital Corpsman Third Class Robert R. Ingram
During an intense battle against dozens of NVA troops, Ingram’s platoon began to thin out. Danger close, Petty Officer Ingram crawled across the weathered terrain to reach a downed Marine as a round ripped through his hand. Hearing the desperate calls for a corpsman, Ingram collected himself and gathered ammunition from the dead. As he moved on from patient to patient, he resupplied his squad members as he passed by. Continuing to move forward, Ingram endured several gunshot wounds but continued to aid his wounded brothers. For nearly eight hours, he blocked out severe pain as he pushed forward to save his Marines.
22. Hospital Corpsman Second Class David R. Ray
During the early hours of the morning near Phu Loc 6, a battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the position Ray’s squad occupied. The initial attack caused numerous casualties. Ray moved from parapet to parapet, tending to his wounded Marines. Protecting his own, Ray killed one enemy soldier and wounded a second. Although mortally wounded, he held off the enemy until running out of ammunition. While treating his last patient, Ray jumped on a wounded Marine as a nearby grenade exploded, saving the Marine’s life.
23. Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers
Then-Chief Edward Byers was trained as a Special Operations Combat Medic at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before going through SEAL training in 2002. As part of a hostage rescue force in Afghanistan, he assaulted an enemy sentry while rushing into a small room filled with heavily armed enemy fighters. He assaulted, tackled and fought the insurgents in hand-to-hand combat and then threw himself on the hostage to shield them from small arms fire. While shielding the hostage, Byers subdued others with his bare hands. The 36-year-old is still serving on active duty after 11 deployments. He is the most decorated living Navy SEAL.