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Special Thanks The Office of the President of the United States, Gary Sinise, Arthur G. Sharp, Richard “Dick” Marcinko, Dan O’Shea, Mike Fong and Bruce Parkman.
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SHOW ’EM WHAT’S UNDERNEATH #ShowEm your Jockey
Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation 1501 Lee Highway, Suite 300 Arlington, VA 22209 Tel: 703-469-1861 www.cmohfoundation.org President & CEO Ron Rand
Chief Operating Officer Mike Caldwell Vice President, Finance and Administration Kristine Hamilton
President & CEO, Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation
Calling these Heroes “Recipients” Shows Respect and Knowledge By Ron Rand
Thomas G. Kelly
Gallantry and Intrepidity
President Barack Obama
The Medal of Honor
George W. Bush
William Jefferson Clinton
Old Glory Never Touched the Ground
The Badge of Military Merit
Arms in Alms: The Four Chaplains
President, Congressional Medal of Honor Society
By Bob Woodruff
The Story of the Medal of Honor By Arthur G. Sharp Enduring a Legacy of a Century and a Half of Changes By Keith Olexa By Gene Hayes
Sergeant William Carney By Juli Branson By Ray Raymond By Gina Renay
Recent Medal of Honor Recipients
Brothers, Bookends and Men of Honor By Dick Marcinko
Charles S. Kettles
The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation is Shining a Light on America’s Unsung Heroes By Caled Downs
Edward C. Byers, Jr.
The Green Beret Foundation
Major General David A. Morris
Florent A. Groberg
Alonzo H. Cushings
77 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor
Bennie G. Adkins
Warriors for Freedom, Brothers Forever
Ryan M. Pitts
By CDR Dan O’Shea (SEAL)
William Kyle Carpenter
The Future of the U.S. Warrior
Donald P. Sloat
130 138 6
Leaving a Legacy
By Arthur G. Sharp
CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL of HONOR FOUNDATION 1501 Lee Highway, Suite 300 Arlington, VA 22209 703.469.1861 www.cmohfoundation.org !
CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL of HONOR FOUNDATION !
Jack H. Jacobs Co-Chairman
Louis R. Chênevert
Co-Chairman Former Chairman & CEO UTC Jack H. Jacobs Senior Industry Advisor to Goldman Sachs Co-Chairman Merchant Banking Division Louis R. Chênevert
Richard A. Grasso Co-Chairman Vice Chairman Former Chairman & CEO UTC Former Chairman Senior Industry Advisor to Goldman Sachs New York Stock Exchange Merchant Banking Division W. Thomas Matthews Richard A. Grasso Treasurer Vice Chairman Former CEO Former Chairman Citi Smith Barney New York Stock Exchange
March 14, 2016 March 14, 2016 Dear Fellow Americans,
Bruce Brereton W. Thomas Matthews
President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation in December 1861 to establish the Dear Fellow Americans, Medal of Honor. The Civil War raged on with horrific intensity and loss of life for another years, and the Medal Honor would become the primary meansthe of Presidentfour Abraham Lincoln signedoflegislation in December 1861 to establish recognizing the notable deeds ofraged Unionontroops. Medal of Honor. The Civil War with horrific intensity and loss of life for
Secretary Treasurer Former Managing Director Former CEO Smith Barney Citi Smith Barney
Ronald T. Rand Bruce Brereton
President & CEO Secretary Kevin N. Ainsworth Former Managing Director General Counsel Smith Barney Partner Ronald T. Rand Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky President & CEO and Popeo, PC Kevin N. Ainsworth
another four years, and the Medal of Honor would become the primary means of Since then, the Honorofhas evolved dramatically. Today, it is America’s recognizing theMedal notableofdeeds Union troops. ultimate symbol of courage and sacrifice in combat, awarded for personal acts of valor andMedal beyond call has of duty to those who serveToday, in uniform and defend our Since above then, the ofthe Honor evolved dramatically. it is America’s freedoms. The recipients of and this sacrifice prestigious honor found within the of ultimate symbol of courage in combat, awarded forthemselves personal acts courage to deal with an extraordinary situation and prevail under the most extreme valor above and beyond the call of duty to those who serve in uniform and defend our circumstances. The price of they paid is high: almost 60% ofwithin Medalthemselves of Honor recipients freedoms. The recipients this prestigious honor found the since the beginning of World War I received their Medals posthumously. courage to deal with an extraordinary situation and prevail under the most extreme
Thomas G. Kelley General Counsel
President Partner Medal of Honor Society Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky Jay E. Town and Popeo, PC Chairman, Audit Committee Thomas G. Kelley Prosecutor President State of Alabama Medal of Honor Society
Bruce N. Whitman Jay E. Town
Immediate Past Co-Chairman Chairman, Audit Committee Chairman, President & CEO Prosecutor FlightSafety International State of Alabama
--------------------- Bruce N. Whitman
circumstances. The price they paid is high: almost 60% of Medal of Honor recipients To celebrate these true American the Foundation joined with Professional since the beginning of World Warheroes, I received their Medalshas posthumously. Media Group, LLC to publish Medal of Honor: Valor, Courage and Sacrifice. We believe this publication will reinforce the the spirit of freedom that so many To celebrate these true American heroes, Foundation has joined withAmericans Professional have fought and died for, and it will help perpetuate the legacy of the Medal ofWe Honor Media Group, LLC to publish Medal of Honor: Valor, Courage and Sacrifice. and the this stories of courage, service and patriotism demonstrated by believe publication willsacrifice, reinforceselfless the spirit of freedom that so many Americans the men who wear it. have fought and died for, and it will help perpetuate the legacy of the Medal of Honor
James F. Albaugh Immediate Past Co-Chairman Senior Advisor Chairman, President & CEO The Blackstone Group FlightSafety International Wesley G. Bush ---------------------
Chairman, CEO & President James F. Albaugh Northrop Grumman Corporation Senior Advisor John L. Glotzbach The Blackstone Group
Alex Gorsky Wesley G. Bush
Chairman & CEO Chairman, CEO & President Johnson & Johnson Northrop Grumman Corporation
Marillyn A. Hewson John L. Glotzbach
Chairman, President & CEO Alex Gorsky Lockheed Martin Corporation Chairman & CEO David L. Joyce Johnson & Johnson President & CEO Marillyn A. Hewson General Electric Aviation Chairman, President & CEO Thomas A. Kennedy Lockheed Martin Corporation Chairman & CEO David L. Joyce Raytheon Company President & CEO Kenneth G. Langone General Electric Aviation President & COO Thomas A. Kennedy Invemed Associates Chairman & CEO Bruce R. McCaw Raytheon Company Co-Chairman, Apex Foundation Kenneth G. Langone Co-Chairman, Talaris Foundation President & COO David J. McIntyre, Jr. Invemed Associates President & CEO Bruce R. McCaw TriWest Healthcare Alliance Co-Chairman, Apex Foundation
Dennis A. Muilenburg Co-Chairman, Talaris Foundation President & CEO David J. McIntyre, Jr. The Boeing Company President & CEO Duncan L. Niederauer TriWest Healthcare Alliance Former CEO & Director Dennis A. Muilenburg NYSE Euronext President & CEO Phebe N. Novakovic The Boeing Company Chairman & CEO Duncan L. Niederauer General Dynamics Corporation Former CEO & Director Alexander W. Rangos NYSE Euronext Chairman & CEO Phebe N. Novakovic CarSpa Chairman & CEO Lenny Sands General Dynamics Corporation Chairman, Capital Brands, LLC Alexander W. Rangos Chris Sultemeier Chairman & CEO Executive Vice President, Logistics CarSpa Walmart Lenny Sands Greta Van Susteren Chairman, Capital Brands, LLC Host of On the Record Chris Sultemeier Fox News Channel Executive Vice President, Logistics Walmart
Medal of Honor Recipient Directors Donald E. Ballard H.C. “Barney” Barnum Patrick H. Brady Paul W. Bucha Bruce P. Crandall Drew D. Dix 1501 Lee Highway, Suite 300 Arlington, VA 22209 703.469.1861 www.cmohfoundation.org Harold A. Fritz Joe M. Jackson Jack H. Jacobs Thomas G. Kelley Brian M. Thacker Leo K. Thorsness Medal of Honor Recipient Directors Donald E. Ballard H.C. “Barney” Barnum Patrick H. Brady Paul W. Bucha Bruce P. Crandall Drew D. Dix Harold A. Fritz Joe M. Jackson Jack H. Jacobs Thomas G. Kelley Brian M. Thacker Leo K. Thorsness
and the stories of courage, sacrifice, selfless service and patriotism demonstrated by We are confident the men who wearthat it. everyone who reads this publication will find the information about the Medal of Honor and the stories of the recipients inspiring and educational. We hope thatthat everyone whowho reads it will that the values in the We also are confident everyone reads thisrealize publication will find embodied the information Medal – courage, commitment, citizenship and patriotism – reside about the Medal ofsacrifice, Honor and the stories integrity, of the recipients inspiring and educational. in every American, and that everyone can make a difference in the lives of others. We also hope that everyone who reads it will realize that the values embodied in the Medal – courage, sacrifice, commitment, integrity, citizenship and patriotism – reside Sincerely, in every American, and that everyone can make a difference in the lives of others. Sincerely, Louis R. Chênevert Co-Chairman
Louis R. Chênevert
Ronald T. Rand President & CEO Ronald T. Rand President & CEO
CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR SOCIETY UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CHARTERED BY THE CONGRESS
dyc.edu/admissions/veterans 800.777.3921 716.829.7836
National Headquarters 40 Patriots Point Road Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464 (843) 884-8862
March 14, 2016
Because You Serve We’re Here to Serve You
To the Citizens of America, Of the more than 43 million men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces since the Civil War, fewer than 3,500 have been awarded the Medal of Honor, our Nation’s highest award for valor in combat. Today, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which consists exclusively of the living Medal of Honor recipients, numbers fewer than 80 members.
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We recipients of this prestigious honor share a common bond and love for the United States of America, and we wear our Medals to inspire our nation and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice or were never recognized for their bravery. This year marks the 155th anniversary of the establishment of the Medal of Honor by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. As always, we hope to celebrate this milestone by reminding all Americans that our destiny lies in the youth of our nation and that our freedom is not simply handed over from one generation to the next. Our goal is to inspire and educate all Americans to live by the values embodied in the Medal we wear. Our message is that everyone can make a difference in the lives of others, and that everyone can be a hero to someone. You don’t need to wear a uniform to serve your community. We understand that our freedom is America’s most precious commodity. It is up to the generations to come to preserve that freedom, which is the foundation upon which America’s greatness is built. This publication will increase your awareness of the Medal of Honor and everything it represents. We hope that it will also persuade you that courage and sacrifice, commitment and integrity, and citizenship and patriotism reside in everyone, and that every citizen can challenge fate and change the course of history.
Call or e-mail the D’Youville College Office of Veterans Affairs to Discuss Your Educational Options
Thomas G. Kelley President
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ince the first Medals of Honor were issued under Abraham Lincoln, this distinct award has been our Nation’s highest military decoration. Those who have received it embody the courage and valor that have sustained America and an unbroken chain of patriots for over two centuries.
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As President, I have no greater privilege than serving as Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces and honoring our heroes for their extraordinary actions during some of the most difficult moments of war. This award is a recognition of conviction and commitment - not just to the values for which our Nation stands, but also to the people our service members selflessly defend. After their time in uniform, many Medal of Honor recipients have continued to give back to our national life. Their acts of service and kindness here at home reflect their abiding commitment to their communities and our country, and they remind us of our obligation to serve our patriots as well as they have served us. We owe them a debt we can never fully repay, and we must never stop working to forge a future worthy of their sacrifices. I am grateful to all our men and women in uniform for their unwavering dedication to our county. May God bless our service members and the families that serve right alongside them, and may God bless the United States of America.
No matter where you are — PenFed Credit Union is here for you, with great rates on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, checking and more. Discover how you belong where members do better. It’s easy to apply and no military service is required. Visit PenFed.org/GreatRates or call 800-246-5626 To receive any advertised product, you must become a member of PenFed. 1 Rates and offers current as of August 8, 2016, and are subject to change. Your actual APR will be determined at the time of disbursement and will be based on your application and credit information. Not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Rate also depends on amount borrowed and term. Other restrictions, including vehicle age and mileage, may apply. Vehicle weight restrictions apply. Financing up to $100,000. Up to 110% financing is available to qualified members for vehicle purchases. One hundred percent financing available for refinanced vehicles. New vehicles are where you are the original owner and the vehicle is a current (2017) or prior model year (2016). New vehicle payment example: $20,000 loan with rate of 1.49% APR, 36 monthly payments of approximately $568.41. Maximum used car loan advance will be determined by PenFed using a NADA value. Used car loan example: $20,000 loan with a rate of 1.99% APR, 36 monthly payments of approximately $572.76. PenFed does not permit internal refinances of an existing PenFed auto loan. 2 Rates and offers effective August 8, 2016, and are subject to change. Your actual APR will be determined at the time of disbursement and will be based on your application and credit information. Not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Loan amount determines rate and term. All loans are subject to a minimum monthly payment of $50. PenFed does not permit internal refinances of an existing PenFed Personal loan. Loan payment example: $15,000 at 9.99% for 36 monthly payments of approximately $483.94 each. 3 Offers current as of August 8, 2016 and are subject to change. Cash advances, credit card checks, and balance transfers do not earn cash back rewards. You must be in military service, the National Guard, the Reserves, or an honorably discharged Veteran of the United States Military to apply. Federally Insured by NCUA. © 2016 PenFed Credit Union. All rights reserved.
To the heroes on the field and the ones at home.
GEORGE W. BUSH
© Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc. 2016
To the men and women who serve our country,
he Medal of Honor is part of a cherished American tradition that began with the signature of President Abraham Lincoln. It is the nation’s highest military distinction and the greatest award for bravery a President can bestow. It is giving for gallantry above and beyond the call of duty, and for valor beyond anything that duty could require. For any President, presenting the Medal of Honor is a high privilege. I awarded the Medal to twelve brave Americans. Their stories – which spanned World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq – are awe-inspiring.
Many patriots who have been awarded this medal gave their lives in the action that earned it. Whether they lived to wear the medal, all who earned it will always be honored in the annals of our country’s history. By risking their own lives to save others, they exemplified the highest ideals of military service. I appreciate the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation for your work to preserve the history of those who have received this high award. Laura and I are forever grateful to all the men and women of our Armed Forces and their families who have sacrificed so much to defend the freedoms we hold dear. We salute our Medal of Honor recipients for their unmatched bravery and heroism. And we ask for God’s blessings on all who wear the uniform of the United States.
and the families who support them, we thank you for your courage and sacrifice.
SALUTES OUR MILITARY
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON
AUGUST 31, 2016
hen our Founding Fathers set forth their bold vision for a new society, they guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the birthright of all Americans. To protect these rights, we rely on the extraordinary sacrifices of ordinary citizens who join our Armed Forces.
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The courageous men and women in uniform who have shouldered the burden of our defense have always deserved our utmost respect and gratitude. Since 1861, in a tradition established by Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War, we have recognized those who have demonstrated exceptional heroism on the battlefield with the Congressional Medal of Honor, and it has now been earned by and bestowed on more than 3,400 American heroes.
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Each of them has a story. Some of them ran into Danger. Some held back enemy assaults against all odds. Some manned their posts until their final breaths. Some suffered grievous injuries or gave their lives to save their comrades. From Antietam to Ap Bac to Asdabad, all of them served with a selflessness and valor far above and beyond the call of duty. Those who were alive to receive their medals did so with a humility and reverence for those who served with them that left a lasting impression on any American lucky enough to meet them. The Medal of Honor recipients I have met inspired me in ways I still have difficulty expressing in words. This book commemorates 155 years of the bravest and best of America’s Armed Forces and preserves their remarkable stories. As a nation, we must always honor their service, cherish their memory, and remain eternally grateful to them for offering themselves to ensure enduring freedom for future generations of Americans.
GEORGE BUSH MARCH 2016
t is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this beautiful publication that commemorates the 155th anniversary of the establishment of the Congressional Medal of Honor and that pays tribute to the brave Americans on whom this singular honor has been bestowed. Too often it is said that we have no heroes. Not so! We do have heroes, and each Medal of Honor recipient â€“ men of clear purpose who put service ahead of self â€“ is a hero in the truest sense of the word. Their sacrifice and gallantry should never be forgotten.
Lest we take the blessings of liberty for granted, it is imperative that we as Americans pause from time-totime to recall the sacrifices of heroes as these that have helped to preserve our liberties. The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation does a wonderful job of reminding us of their valiant service and of spreading awareness and a fuller understanding of the values that the Medal represents and values upon which the Nation was founded â€“ courage, sacrifice, integrity, and duty to country. There is not a more important mission today. Keep up the great work! Sincerely,
JIMMY CARTER AUGUST 19, 2016
am honored to express my gratitude to the men and women of our military on the 155th anniversary of the Medal of Honor. This award, the highest that can be given to our troops, was instituted during the Civil War and through the years has been presented for valor above and beyond the call of duty. These brave Americans who have performed extraordinary deeds are the finest example of selfless service for their country. I join a grateful nation in paying tribute to these American heroes. I am proud to have been able to award this medal during my time as President and personally have found the recipients to be humble, selfless, patriotic Americans, often reluctant to accept such an honor.
Rosalynn joins me in thanking our Medal of Honor recipients for their service, their sacrifice, and their example. May God bless them, and God Bless America. Sincerely,
his edition is full of powerful accounts and inspiring images of true American heroes. Their stories remind us that the freedom we enjoy today has been earned by the courage, commitment, and sacrifice of Americans who have answered the call to serve since Lexington and Concord. Of the millions who have served, an elite few have received the Medal of Honor. Their stories are a national treasure. On behalf of the men and women serving today, we are honored to thank and salute our Medal of Honor recipients. We are proud to follow in your footsteps.
JUNE 24, 2016
Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation 1501 Lee Highway, Suite 300 Arlington, VA 22209 Dear Friends,
was first introduced to six members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in February of 2004 at an event at Fordâ€™s Theatre in Washington DC. Six amazing heroes of great courage. I had the special privilege of sharing their stories with a national television audience and I was so moved by the incredible heroism of each of these men.
Three years later, I was invited to Seattle to receive the Bob Hope Award for Excellence in Entertainment from the Medal of Honor Society and from that moment on I have had the honor to support the society and CMOH Foundation serving on the Presidentâ€™s Advisory Council for the foundation, as an Advisory Board member for the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, as well as participating in many Medal of Honor events throughout the country. The spirit of patriotism, service, integrity, and sacrifice that each of these men embodies is an inspiration and I am humbled each time I am in their presence. I count many of them as personal friends and watching their efforts to educate our young people through the Character Development Program (CDP) is a tremendous motivation to continue to do more to highlight the mission of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
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s a journalist, I am often asked what interests me about covering wars. What is so compelling that reporters are willing to put themselves in harm’s way?
My best explanation is that war provides a window into the extremes of human nature. Conflicts offer numerous examples of how the absolute worst in mankind can coexist alongside the truly exemplary. Reporting in war zones isn’t so much a calling, as it is a desire to turn the lens on situations that are both tense and boring, volatile and cyclical, heart-breaking and, more often than not, inspiring. Which is why it was an absolute honor for me to be asked by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and Society to write the forward for Medal of Honor: Valor, Courage and Sacrifice. The Medal of Honor, and the individual acts of bravery and heroism for which it is bestowed, represent the very characteristics that make our service members and their families one of the most sacred aspects of America. The legacy of service stretches backward in time and forward into the future, connecting all of us to the very liberties on which this nation was founded. Our military live by a code of honor and sacrifice that is second nature. It’s a commitment to brotherhood and connection to community, where the goal is to never to leave a comrade behind. And yet you will be hard pressed to meet a humbler group than our veterans, most of whom are uncomfortable being called “hero.” They were just people, they insist, simply “doing their jobs.” At the time of this writing, America has been engaged in the longest running war in our history. And the divide between our military and civilians has never been greater. Less than 1 percent raise their hands, often for numerous deployments, to willingly go into areas of conflict and defend the freedoms that the rest of us enjoy daily. I have had the pleasure of meeting a few of the Medal of Honor Recipients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to report on some of their stories. And while the numbers of Recipients from these conflicts
are slim, it is my hope that additional honors will be bestowed on these brave warriors, who face slightly different challenges on the home front than those of previous generations.
We believe in the American Dream and the freedom to pursue individual aspirations; we pay tribute to our country and honor and respect those who serve our great nation.
It’s virtually impossible not to feel both patriotic and passionate as you read the history of the Medal of Honor and the stories in this publication. It is up to every one of us to keep these stories alive and to help reinforce the spirit of freedom that so many Americans have fought and died for. This publication demonstrates how one person can make a difference in the lives of others. But most of all, it’s a reminder to future generations about the obligation we have to carry forward the respect for a tradition which so bravely upholds the rights of all Americans.
Robert “Bob” Warren Woodruff is an American television journalist. His career in journalism dates back to 1989, and he is widely known for succeeding Peter Jennings as the coanchor of ABC News’s weekday news broadcast, World News Tonight, in December 2005. In January 2006, Woodruff was critically wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Author, In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing.
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Calling these Heroes “Recipients” Shows Respect and Knowledge By Ron Rand, President & CEO Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation
he Medal of Honor is our Nation’s highest award for valor
Sadly, their stories are frequently told with descriptions of them
in combat. Since the Medal was approved by President
being “winners,” and with reports of them having “won” their
Lincoln in 1861, more than 43 million men and women
Medals. But it’s wrong to call them “winners” or to say they “won”
have served in the armed forces of the United States. Fewer
their medals, and here’s why: The living Recipients of the Medal
than 3,500 of them have earned the Medal. That’s a tiny fraction
of Honor are a rarity in today’s world because they don’t want
because Medal of Honor actions must be reflective of the highest
to be called “winners.” They find that word inappropriate and
standards of courage, sacrifice, service and patriotism. The Medal
even offensive when used to describe them, because the Medal
is earned at great cost: Since World War I, almost 60 percent of all
is awarded as a result of deliberate acts of courage and sacrifice
Medals have been awarded posthumously.
in the service of our Nation, not for beating anyone at anything.
The citation for every Medal of Honor begins with the same
They did their duty, and in doing their duty, they earned their
sentence: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk
Medals. They are Recipients. And to a man, they wear their
of life above and beyond the call of duty. Every Medal of Honor
Medals to honor all who served, and especially in memory of all
Recipient is a combat hero, and every Medal of Honor story is a
who made the ultimate sacrifice. They believe that calling them
tale of love - love of country, love of family, and love of the men
“winners” cheapens all that.
and women fighting on your left and on your right. These heroes have demonstrated valor, selfless service and Today, there are 77 living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. Six
patriotism, in combat and in their everyday actions since. Today,
earned their Medals in World War II, six in Korea, 54 in Vietnam,
they take every opportunity to tell Americans - especially our
and 11 in Afghanistan. America’s truest heroes, they are remarkable
youth - about the importance of courage, selfless service and
and humble men. They come from all across America, and from
sacrifice in making a difference in the lives of others.
We a re p roud t o sup p or t the M ed a l of Hon or Foun d a t io n a n d t h a n k you t o a l l t h e b ra ve m en a n d w om en w h o ser ve a n d p rot ect our h om el a n d , f a m i l i es, f ri en d s a n d l oved on es.
all walks of life. They are lots of things: Soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen. Patriots, neighbors, friends. Husbands, fathers, sons,
Before I met any Recipients, before I knew them and their
brothers, grandfathers. Businessmen, farmers, students. Most are
stories of heroism, before I came to work at their Foundation,
retired now, but several still work for a living.
I used to call them winners, too. Now, with utmost respect for all they’ve done for our country, with gratitude for their service
One thing they are not, however, is “winners.” To a man, they will
on our behalf, and with knowledge of how they feel about being
tell you, with quiet humility and respect, that they didn’t “win”
called “winners,” I call them Recipients. That’s their shared wish,
their Medals because war isn’t a competition for personal glory.
asked repeatedly with their trademark humility and respect. On
When faced with seemingly insurmountable odds in combat,
their behalf, and spurred by their simple request to “Please ask
they simply refused to quit. They didn’t give up. They did what
people to stop calling us winners,” I ask everyone to do them
was expected of them. They did what they knew the men fighting
that honor and call them Recipients. Today and every day, these
with them were doing. They did their job.
heroes have earned that much.
The Corrine and Lenny Sands Foundation
From the War with Mexico to the War on Terror
olt’s Manufacturing Company founded in 1836 has a long and storied history of supplying the nation’s warfighters with some of the finest weapon systems ever designed. Since 1847 when the Colt-Walker revolver was the first revolver ever purchased by the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps for service in the Mexican-American War, Colt has stood shoulder to shoulder and never beyond arms reach, with the fighting men and women of this great country, as has been exemplified in the stories and actions of those we have honored with our nation’s highest award for valor since its inception in 1861. First Sergeant Roswell Winans (U.S. Marine Corps) Dominican Campaign; (who would later go on to become a Brigadier General by his retirement in 1946), calmly manned his Colt-Browning 1895 “Potato Digger” MachineGun while exposed to withering enemy fire in open ground during a battle outside the city of Santiago during the Dominican Campaign, until the enemy was dispersed from their entrenchment, or had been dispatched. One of many battles in which a Colt firearm would be used in what would later be known as the Banana Wars. Sergeant Alvin York (U.S. Army) WWI; The Colt 1911 .45 Caliber Pistol was famously used by then Corporal Alvin York during the Meuse-Argonne offensive along with his service rifle to neutralize 25 Germans and capture 125 more as prisoners after eliminating an enemy Machine-Gun nest. Hospital Apprentice 1st Class Robert E. Bush (U.S. Navy) WWII; Used his pistol to defend wounded Marines on Okinawa. “As the attack passed over a ridge top, Bush was advancing to administer blood plasma to a Marine Officer lying wounded on the skyline when the Japanese launched a savage counter attack. In this perilously exposed position, he resolutely maintained the flow of life giving plasma. With the bottle held high in one hand, Bush drew his pistol and fired into the enemy’s ranks until his ammunition was expended.” His citation reads.
Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia (U.S. Army) Vietnam; While attempting to render aid to his fellow wounded soldiers, Specialist Erevia came under fire from four enemy bunkers. Crawling to each of the men and collecting grenades and ammunition, Specialist Erevia took up two Colt M16’s, charging each of the bunkers one by one and dispatching their occupants through suppressive fire and the use of his grenades until each of the positions were neutralized. Specialist Ty M. Carter (U.S. Army) Afghanistan; “Armed with only an M4 Carbine rifle, placed accurate, deadly fire on the enemy, beating back the assault force and prevented his units position from being overrun, over the course of several hours.” His citations reads. Sergeant Dakota Meyer (U.S. Marine Corps) Afghanistan; Then Corporal Meyer whose team members attended a meeting with village elders only to be ambushed, risked his life making five separate trips into the ambush area with his driver. Utilizing his machinegun and service rifle to dispatch and repel the enemy, in order to evacuate the allied wounded and dead in Ganjgal, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
Colt’s 180 year history of innovation has enabled the company to serve the American Warfighter in nearly every theater of war. Colt has supplied everything from revolvers in the Mexican-American War, to muskets during the American Civil War, to Modular Rifles, Machine-Guns and Grenade Launchers that have been missiontailored for today’s multi-security threat level environment. Our core responsibility to the American Warfighter is to continue to produce weapons of unrivaled quality and reliability to support these heroes when they are in, as President Kennedy once referred, their own “hour of maximum danger.” We welcome the responsibility – and opportunity –to ensure that our fighting men and women continue to be well served the world over. That is why Colt’s weapons continue to be Built One at a Time, Proven Every Round™
By Arthur G. Sharp
“For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of one’s life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in military operations against an enemy of the United States.”
resident Abraham Lincoln authorized the Medal of Honor (MOH) in December 1861 for the U.S. Navy. On July 14, 1862 he signed a bill authorizing a similar medal for the U.S. Army. Since then, thousand of members from all branches of the U.S. military and a handful of civilians have earned the MOH, the United States’ most prestigious military award for bravery in combat. Former U.S. President and MOH recipient Theodore Roosevelt summed up the overall philosophy of what stimulates service members to perform deeds worthy of the Medal of Honor: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” That addresses a common theme among MOH recipients: they make quick decisions, do the right thing, and often save their comrades’ lives and change the directions of battle in the process, with little or no regard to their own well-being. Almost universally, Medal of Honor Recipients act spontaneously above and beyond the call of duty with no intention of earning a medal for their bravery. That is evidenced by the large number of posthumous awards and the words of a citation, “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.”
The fact that only 3,496 MOHs have been presented over 155 years suggests that the Medal of Honor is not awarded lightly. There is a rigorous, albeit fluid, set of rules that governs the award process. There have been changes in the process over the years and occasional debates and controversies over who should or should not receive the MOH. Changes, debates, and controversies aside, the MOH has sustained its prestige.
The Forerunners of the MOH Originally, military medals did not have to be based on heroism in battle. For example, the nation’s oldest award, the Fidelity Medallion, aka the “Andre Capture Medal,” was enacted by the Continental Congress in 1780, and awarded only once for a specific military operation. The second, the Badge of Military Merit, which has morphed into the Purple Heart, was not exclusively for valor in combat. As General George Washington wrote, it was “Not only for instances
This is the Fidelity medal and is the oldest military award in American military history. This was given out to the men who participated in the capture of the British Spy Major John Andre. The men who received this medal were Private John Paulding, Private David Williams, and Private Isaac Van Wart. Photo courtesy of MinuteManWord.tumblr.com.
The relief force rode mules to the pass. Along the way they fought several skirmishes with - and captured a few - Indians and recovered stolen horses and cattle. They reached Bascom’s party and the enemy withdrew. The troops returned to their station and the incident was forgotten until Irwin was preparing to retire on January 21, 1894. Then someone remembered Irwin’s heroism, which resulted in his receipt of the Medal of Honor. Not all the early recipients had to wait as long. 30 recipients, including 25 soldiers and 5 sailors, were nominated for MOHs in 1861, prior to the official enactment. They included Dr. Mary Walker, one of only 8 civilians to earn the MOH - and the only woman ever to receive one. Hers was a temporary award. A train car set on fire by the raiders in an attempt to set a covered railray bridge ablaze and thwart pursuit, from Deeds of Valor
The First Recipients Battle of Spottsylvania [sic] / Thulstrup. L. Prang & Co. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward.”
services petitioned for medals for bravery. Both wanted their medals restricted to enlisted men only.
The concept for an award strictly for valor was introduced during the Mexican-American War on March 3, 1847, when Congress authorized a “certificate of merit” to be awarded by the president to a “private soldier who has distinguished himself by gallantry performed in the presence of the enemy.” The certificate, which was awarded only to members of the regular army, included an additional 2 dollar pay increase per month, which was a heady sum in those days.
The navy got its medal first. Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced a bill on December 9, 1861 to create “the production and distribution of medals of honor.” Like the Badge of Military Merit, it was not strictly for bravery in combat. Rather, it was for “petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War).” The bill, which authorized 200 medals, passed twelve days later. President Lincoln signed it quickly.
The government awarded 539 Certificates of Merit before the Mexican-American War ended on May 30, 1848. After that the certificate was discontinued until it was resurrected in 1874 and dispensed with altogether in 1918, when the MOH took on added luster.
On February 17, 1862 Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson introduced a bill to authorize “the President to distribute medals to privates in the Army of the United States who shall distinguish themselves in battle.” The specifics changed as the bill wended its way through Congress.
The 1850s were relatively quiet for the navy and army. They participated in a limited number of engagements that did not result in the issuance of many military awards. That changed once the American Civil War began in April 1861 and the two
By the time President Lincoln signed it on July 12, 1862, 2,000 Medals of Honor were authorized for the army, but none for officers. That changed on March 3, 1863, when a separate act allowed for officers to earn the medal. Both services began the award process forthwith.
The first presentation ceremony took place on March 25, 1863, when Secretary of War Stanton bestowed MOHs to six survivors of “Andrews’ Raid,” which resulted in an 87mile train chase across northern Georgia. A party of Union Army volunteers, led by civilian scout James J. Andrews, commandeered a train and went on a destructive rampage toward Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Confederates gave chase by train, captured some of the raiders, and executed them as spies.
In 1917, a Medal of Honor Board amending the rules for the medal deleted 911 names from the Army Medal of Honor Roll. Dr. Walker was among them. Nevertheless, she kept wearing her medal until her death in 1919. Then, in 1977 President Jimmy Carter reinstated her MOH. She became one of only 6 people who have earned reinstatement. Photograph showing Civil War surgeon Mary E. Walker in a full-length studio portrait, facing left, hand resting on a book. Photo by Holyland John, Library of Congress.
Other raiders, including Andrews, escaped and survived. The six MOH recipients were among them. They did not include Andrews. He was ineligible for the medal, because he was a civilian. Ironically, even though the initial MOHs presented were for Civil War heroism, the first action leading to an MOH predated the Civil War. Moreover, it was not awarded until 1894-29 years after the Civil War ended, which set a precedent for delays that became more prevalent in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The first MOH recipient was U.S. Army Assistant Surgeon Bernard J. D. Irwin. He volunteered to rescue 60 7th Infantry soldiers under the command of 2nd Lieutenant George Bascom, who were trapped by Chiricahua Apaches at Apache Pass, AZ. They were 100 miles away from Irwin’s post. Remarkably, Irwin and his 14 troops did not have any horses to ride to Apache Pass.
Tinkering with the Rules
There have been numerous attempts since 1861-62 to change the requirements for the Medal of Honor. For a while, between the Civil War and the end of the 19th century, the army, navy, and marine corps were awarding MOHs for actions entirely unrelated to military heroism. On one day alone in the Civil War 864 members of the 27th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment earned MOHs simply for guarding Washington, DC. Only 300 were nominated, but a clerical error named 864. All 864 were stripped in 1917. During the four-year Civil War there were 1,523 MOHs awarded. (All the numbers here are approximate, depending on who does the counting.) Another 426 were awarded during the ensuing Indian Wars, and 110 during the SpanishAmerican War (April 25, 1898 to August 12, 1898). Altogether, the 3 wars accounted for 2,059 MOHs. The proliferation led to a tightening of the rules.
The first major change came in 1876, after the June 25-26 Battle of the Little Big Horn resulted in the deaths of 268 members of George Armstrong’s 7th Cavalry Regiment. Another 55 were severely wounded, 6 of whom died later. Many of the soldiers were nominated for the Medal of Honor. There were so many that the army formed a special review board to consider the requests.
included the founding of the Medal of Honor Legion in 1890 to protect the medal’s integrity, the 1896 approval by Congress of “a rosette or knot to be worn in lieu of the medal, and a ribbon to be worn with the medal,” and a slight design change to the suspension ribbon. That change affected only the Army’s MOH.
The board ultimately awarded 24 MOHs, and the army inaugurated a new standard: “the conduct which deserves such recognition should not be the simple discharge of duty, but such acts beyond this that if omitted or refused to be done, should not justly subject the person to censure as a shortcoming or failure.”
Prior to 1897 individuals were allowed to submit an application for an MOH simply because they felt they deserved it. Between 1890 and 1897, over 700 Civil War veterans filed applications. In response, President William McKinley ordered the army to create new guidelines for the process. The service published new regulations on June 26, 1897.
There was a low level of activity in addressing MOH requirements between 1876 and 1896. The primary changes
General Custer’s death struggle. The battle of the Little Big Horn, H. Steinegger; S.H. Redmond del.; Lith. Britton, Rey & Co. S.F. Photo contributed by H. Steinegger, Library of Congress.
New Guidelines and Medals
• Medals of Honor could only be awarded for “gallantry and intrepidity” above and beyond that of other soldiers • Applications had to be submitted by someone other than the person who performed the noteworthy action • One or more witnesses had to attest under oath to the act • After 26 June 1897applications had to be submitted no more than one year after the action. In February 1898, the army issued regulations regarding the display of the MOH: it was to be suspended from a ribbon hung around the recipient’s neck. Some recipients ignored the directive and pinned their medals to their tunics. About that time a February 15, 1898 explosion aboard the navy battleship Maine led to a spate of nominations for MOHs. Maine blew up in Havana, Cuba harbor, killing 258 Americans. That led to the U.S.’s involvement in the SpanishAmerican War, for which 109 MOHs were awarded. Subsequently, separate actions like the 1900 Boxer Rebellion in China (29 MOHs) and uprisings to be quelled in Samoa (4 MOHs) required American military intervention.
Congressional Medal of Honor, first design, 1895 (Above). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Congressional Medal of Honor, second design (Right). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
In 1901 Secretary of War Eli Root established a Board to look into the proliferation. The investigation remained ongoing for 16 years. It wasn’t until 1917 that action to change the medal authorization process occurred. In the meantime, two significant changes took place: a design change to the medal in 1904 the amendment of the presentation in 1905.
The 11th regiment of infantry launch a general offensive on Tientsin, China / Tanaka, Ryozo. Battle scene of the Boxer uprising. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Dignifying the Presentation Process
President Theodore Roosevelt changed the presentation ceremony in a September 20, 1905 Executive Order. He directed that the presentation “will always be made with formal and impressive ceremony,” in Washington, DC, and by “the President, as Commander-in-Chief, or by such representative as the President may designate.” If that was not possible, suitable arrangement would be “prescribed by the Chief of Staff for each case.” If the medal were to be awarded during a campaign, “the presentation will be made by the Division or higher commander.” Ironically, President Roosevelt was a recipient of an MOH for his bravery at the Battle of San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898. There was no ceremony of any type for him. Due to his reluctance to approve his own medal, political animosity between him and his Secretary of War, Russell A. Alger, and the army’s slow authorization process, his medal was not presented until January 16, 2001, 103 years after his act of valor was performed. That was not the first time there was a long delay between the act leading to the recommendation for a Medal of Honor and the presentation. Nor would it be the last.
Siege of Vicksburg 13, 15, & 17 Corps, Commanded by General U.S. Grant, assisted by the Navy under Admiral Porter--Surrender, July 4, 1863. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The Tweaking Continues
There were some radical changes in the Medal of Honor process in 1916-17, at least on the army side. They began innocently enough. Congress authorized a 10 dollar monthly pension for MOH recipients over age 65. Then the army created a board comprising five retired general officers to investigate past awards or “issue of the so-called congressional medal of honor.” The board reviewed every army MOH award from the Civil War to 1916-17. The process was impartial. The recipients’ names were not revealed. Each one was assigned a number and examined anonymously. That’s when the board revoked the awards of 911 recipients. Congress promptly awarded two more retroactively.
Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, in uniform, full-length portrait, standing, facing slightly left. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the top of the hill which they captured, Battle of San Juan. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
On April 17, 1917, MOHs were awarded to Civil War veterans Henry Lewis and Henry Peters for their bravery at the Battle of Vicksburg in May 1863. Those were the last two MOHs awarded for Civil War actions. That ended the controversy over the petitioning for and granting of Medal of Honors to Civil War veterans, and led to another major change in the process.
In 1918 U.S. troops started fighting in WWI. That led to 119 more Medals of Honor awarded. The war was not even over before Congress acted to change the rules for MOH qualification, create a new hierarchy of medals to make them more prestigious, and lay the groundwork for future awards. Prior to WWI there were only two significant awards soldiers and sailors could earn for bravery: the Certificate of Merit and the Medal of Honor. Congress changed all that with its July 9, 1918 act and subsequent clarifications that: • Eliminated the Certificate of Merit • Established a hierarchy of new awards: the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, and Silver Star • Restricted the MOH to bravery in combat • Set time limits for MOH applications, i.e., recommendations had to be made within 2 years of the act of heroism and the medal, if authorized, had to be presented within 3 years • Prohibited the authorization of more than one MOH to any individual (nineteen individuals had earned dual MOHs.) These radical changes stayed in place for several decades.
Wars Come, Wars Go... the Process Stays the Same
Between 1941 and 1956 there were two major wars, WWII and Korea, but only one major change in the issuance of the MOH. The U.S. Air Force, established in 1947, was authorized to have its own Medal of Honor, effective August 10, 1956. (4 air force officers had earned MOHs in the Korean War.) After 1956 there were few changes to the process, with one notable exception. On July 25, 1963, Congress clarified the MOH qualification guidelines to specify that “...it would be awarded for action against an enemy of the United States... or to individuals serving with friendly forces in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.”
A Major Oversight Corrected
In 1948 President Harry Truman ordered the U.S. armed forces to integrate fully. The resulting process was slow. It lagged considerably when it came to awarding the Medal of Honor to minorities. The status quo regarding MOH guidelines and awards obtained until 1991, when political and military leaders noticed that minority members of the military were left out of the process. Congress started correcting that imbalance on April 24, 1991 when President George H. W. Bush awarded a posthumous MOH to the family of African-American Corporal Freddie Stowers, a WWI hero. 6 years later, President Clinton did the same for 7 AfricanAmerican veterans of WWII. Those 2 actions led to similar presentations to Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Native-Americans... in short, all Americans. For example, on June 21, 2000 President Clinton awarded 22 MOHs to Asian-American WWII veterans who had been overlooked because of their minority status. Finally, Truman’s dream of integration became a part of the Medal of Honor award process. There have been more changes over the years. Congress has passed exemptions from Medal of Honor rules specifying that heroic actions have to have taken place within 5years to be considered. So, even though the MOH is governed by statutory limits, there are exceptions available to all branches of the armed forces.
THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA BEST COLLEGE FOR VETERANS One section in the Department of Defense manual reads: “All Military Departments: In accordance with section 1130 of Reference (k), a MOC (Member of Congress) can request consideration of a proposal for the award or presentation of a MOH not previously submitted in a timely fashion. See section 4 of this enclosure.” And, 10 U.S.C. § 1130 is 10 U.S. Code § 1130 - Consideration of proposals for decorations not previously submitted in timely fashion: procedures for review,” explains in detail how belated requests can be made. Those exceptions have led to belated MOHs for many recipients, and numerous other requests for retroactive awards are in the pipeline.
The Future of the MOH
As long as there are wars there will be MOHs to award. The process and eligibility requirements are still reviewed periodically, and past wrongs are often righted through retroactive awards. As President Obama said after presenting MOHs in June 2015 on behalf of World War I veterans William Shemin and Henry Johnson, “It has taken a long time for them to receive the recognition they deserve and there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated.” He added that there is still work to do to ensure that the stories of all heroes are told. That means the MOH still has a future in America’s military world. It has certainly had an interesting past. For more information about MOH eligibility and requirements, visit http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/ corres/pdf/134833vol1.pdf.
Arthur G. Sharp has written 14 books and over 2,500 articles on a variety of topics. He edits two military association magazines, The Graybeards (Korean War Veterans Association) and Old Breed News (First Marine Division Association). He has B.A. and M.A. degrees in history. Sharp, who lives in Sun City Center, FL, served four years with the U.S. Marine Corps.
The American Flag Plaza, located near the Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, is a gift from the Class of 2004. It is part of the War Memorial, which honors members of the OU family who lost their lives in military service to our country. Built with funds donated by the Edward L. Gaylord family of Oklahoma City, for whom the stadium is named, the monolith and bronze elements of the War Memorial were designed by OU’s artist-in-residence Paul Moore.
• The University of Oklahoma ranks in the top five colleges nationally for Veterans, according to USA Today. • OU is among leading universities across the country selected to participate in the Warrior-Scholar Project, which is designed to address the academic challenges of Veterans as well as the social, emotional and cultural adjustments needed to successfully transition from the military into college. • OU Green Zone is a network of faculty and staff who volunteer to take the extra step to provide assistance for those students who served our country. • To support projects and initiatives of the OU Student Veteran Association, a Veteran Support Alliance Fund has been established at the OU Foundation. • OU is a Pat Tillman Foundation University Partner, which invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships. There is an annual application process for the Tillman Scholarship, which covers direct study-related expenses, including tuition and fees, books and living stipend, for eligible service members, veterans or military spouses who are pursuing undergraduate, graduate or post-graduate degrees as a full-time student at a public or private, U.S.-based accredited institution. The University of Oklahoma is an equal opportunity institution. www.ou.edu/eoo
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“We got the 44 out. None of those names appear on the wall in Washington. There’s nothing more important than that.” -Charles Kettles
harles S, Kettles, a native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he lives today, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951 at the age of twenty-one. Even though the Korean War was ongoing at the time, he was not called to participate. He did not see any combat until the Vietnam War. Kettles was commissioned as an armor officer in the United States Army Reserve on February 28, 1953 after he completed basic training and Officer Candidate School. Subsequently he graduated from the Army Aviation School in 1954, then served tours in South Korea, Japan and Thailand. Following that, he returned to civilian life but continued to serve in the Army Reserve. When the Vietnam War accelerated, Kettles volunteered for active duty in 1963. He completed Helicopter Transition Training at Fort Wolters, Texas in 1964 and was cross-trained to fly the UH-1D “Huey” the following year. It was during his first of two tours in Vietnam that he earned his Medal of Honor, although it wasn’t awarded until July 18, 2016. Kettles, the flight commander with the 176th Assault Helicopter Company, 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, America Division, learned on May 15, 1967 that elements of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were ambushed in the Song Tra Cau riverbed by a large force of North Vietnamese army regulars and had sustained numerous casualties. He volunteered to lead six UH-1D helicopters to deliver reinforcements to the site and evacuate wounded personnel. Despite heavy enemy weapons and mortar fire that caused severe damage to their “choppers,” he and his
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kettles for conspicuous gallantry, in the East Room of the White House, July 18, 2016. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy.
fellow pilots completed the mission - and then repeated the process! The second mission proved more costly to Kettles’ unit than the first. One chopper was destroyed by enemy fire and others were rendered unserviceable. His own was damaged and streaming smoke from leaking fuel as Kettles nursed it back to his base, carrying his seriously wounded gunner. Yet, his day was not over. There were still 44 U.S. troops left at the firefight scene, including the crew of the downed helicopter. Their Infantry Battalion Commander requested their extraction. Kettles volunteered to return to the site for a third time—which technically became a fourth. Kettles led six choppers, including the only remaining serviceable UH-1D “Huey,” supported by U.S. gunships, to the scene. Just as the choppers were loaded and departing, Kettles learned that there were still eight soldiers who had not been able to reach the site on time for evacuation. He ordered the other aircraft to leave the area and he returned alone to complete the mission. Enemy troops concentrated their fire on Kettles’ chopper as the eight soldiers climbed aboard. They damaged it considerably. Nevertheless, Kettles managed to get the chopper airborne and return to base, even though it was not easily controllable. His heroic efforts that day earned him a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), which ultimately was upgraded to the Medal of Honor on July 18, 2016. Kettles retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1978.
By Keith Olexa
t’s America’s most prestigious commendation for military valor, as exceptional as it is rare. It holds its own against such hoary old counterparts as Britain’s Victoria Cross (established in 1856, it’s really more an older sister), France’s ancient Legion d’honneur and Russia’s intermittent Order of St. George. Envisioned only for the Navy initially, it exists in all parts of America’s armed services, honoring acts of exceptional heroism, but through medals as varied as the diverse nation they exemplify. This decoration is well known to all Americans by name, though many would probably not know it to look at it.
So how many Americans would recognize a Medal of Honor today? That it’s the only U.S. military medal that’s not worn as a pin may be a giveaway; by convention the Medal of Honor hangs around the neck on a wide blue silk ribbon vivid enough to almost overwhelm the medal itself. Still, you would have to know that. Our nation’s highest honor doesn’t resonate like the other well-known American military medal, the Purple Heart. Given to those soldiers injured or killed in the line of duty, this one is easy to spot. Heart-shaped and purple, its name conveys its identity perfectly. But if the Medal of Honor reveals itself less blatantly, its symbolism is no less profound. Both more complex, and also more diverse (as stated above, each branch of our Armed Services awards its own distinctive medal), America’s Medal of Honor nonetheless radiates a potency equal to those soldiers it honors.
The Victoria Cross. Photos courtesy of VictoriaCross.org.
The Medal of Honor’s symbolism is as resonant today as when the Philadelphia Mint first starting producing them at the request of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, based on the design from William Wilson & Sons.
Where it Began - The Navy Medal
Surprisingly, the links join to the medallion not at the top points of each arm of the star; it might be expected (due especially to the choice of hanging the star in an inverted position) that the medal would be fastened in this way. But for mostly aesthetic reasons, dill holes were made half way on each of the two upper arms instead. The only difference between the historic version of the medal and today’s version was the use of a second simple bar-shaped bail that held the medal’s pin. The pin disappeared with the 1904 ribbon design change.
Army Medal - Forging its own Valor On December 9, 1861, Senator James W. Grimes introduced a bill to “promote efficiency” in the U.S. Navy (this at the Civil War’s start), through the awarding of “Medals of Honor.” A similar bill was introduced on February 17, 1862 by Senator Henry Wilson to bestow the same honor on Army soldiers - specifically to those enlisted men for distinguished action in combat. Perhaps because the Navy’s medal was the first suggested, it has undergone the least change out of any of its equivalents. The Navy’s Medal is also the only medal still awarded within other branches of the military - specifically the Marines and the Coast Guard. The Navy Medal of Honor shares elements in common with its fellow Medals: Each medallion is an inverted star. The arms on all of the stars are tipped with a trefoil and filled with laurel and/or oak leaves (representing victory and/or strength, respectively). At the stars’ centers, surrounded by an oversized circle, is an image or portrait. But beyond these basics, each medal had an identity all its own. The Navy Medal features classical Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and skilled in battle, at the Medal’s center. An owl (classic totem of wisdom) sits atop her helmed head. Her left hand touches fasces, a bundled rods topped with an axe that was a symbol martial authority in ancient Rome, while her right holds the shield of the Union against a disheveled man holding two snakes, representing discord (resonant of Civil War discord being driven away
Minerva, Roman Goddess of Wisdom.
by exceptional American valor). A ring of 34 stars encircle the image - each star representing a state, both Union and Confederate, that existed in1862. The medal’s ribbon, originally a blue bar with 13 red and white stripes running vertically, has multiple meanings. Thirteen represented the original 13 colonies. White represented purity; red valor and blood and blue justice. The ribbons would change twice during the Medal’s life, though the change would be universal. The bails used to hold the ribbon on the Navy Medal, unlike on other medals, would remain the same. Perhaps owing its original status, the Navy Medal’s bail maintains a simplicity using an antique anchor to hold the medallion to the ribbon via a pair of chain links.
When the Army Medal of Honor was first introduced, its medallion featured an inverted star design identical to the Navy Medal (a convention established by Congress in 1863). To distinguish itself from the Navy Medal, it featured two symbolic and decorative bails that held the ribbon to the medal and the ribbon to the pin. The bottom bail was an American eagle, a national symbol of power and freedom, perched upon two cannons and cannonballs with a saber clutched in one of its talons. While an aggressive icon of war - a Civil War affectation - it was softened by the upper bail, which held medal’s pin. This bail symbolized victory with laurel leaves, national pride with the U.S. Shield of Union, also abundance and prosperity with its flanking pair of cornucopias. Despite the initial differences, the Army would initiate further changes to their Medal - due in part to its often being mistaken for the badge of the fraternal military organization called the Grand Army of the Republic. The star medallion and both distinctive bails would be revised, and a Medal of Honor recipient himself would realize this revision Brigadier General George Gillespie, part of the Army Corps of Engineers. Gillespie completed his new Medal in 1904. He struck the scene with “Minerva repelling discord” in favor of Minerva’s head in portrait form (though still sporting the owl of wisdom on her helmet). He replaced the 34 stars ringing Minerva’s portrait with the words United States of America, and removed laurel leaves from within the arms of the star, leaving the oak leaves behind. Gillespie added a
Brigadier General George Gillespie. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
circlet of laurel leaves around the medallion instead… the new Medal’s most distinctive feature. Gillespie retained the eagle on the Medal’s lower bail, but redesigned it to hold arrows and laurel leaves in a shift closer to traditional symbolism. The eagle now perches atop a bar embossed with the word Valor (an ironic addition, as one of the original names for the Navy Medal of Honor was the Medal of Valor; the army commendation has always been known by its current title). But the changes didn’t stop there. Gillespie revised this Medal of Honor right to the skin. Medals of Honor, irrespective of service branch, all begin their existence similarly. Each is pressed out of a blank comprised of brass alloy. After an annealing and second press, each is then trimmed and drilled if needed. Each then undergoes a different final process. The traditional antique finishing used by the Navy was replaced on the
Air Force - Some Turbulence Ahead
Army Medals by a gold plating phase, which ends with a lacquering, polishing and a step to further distance the Army Medal from its Navy counterpart. Green enamel is applied in the oak leaves and in the laurel circlet, resulting in a more vivid patina on the Nation’s second oldest medal. Gillespie also introduced two further Medal of Honor innovations. Originally designed to be pinned to a recipient’s chest, Gillespie’s did away with that, choosing instead to suspend the medal on a long ribbon to be worn around the neck. Each medal would now be hung on by simple blue ribbon attached to a blue silk moiré pad, set off with a series of thirteen embroidered white stars (representing America’s first 13 colonies). Medals of Honor must now all be worn draped over one’s neck, and are never pinned to clothes. Gillespie’s second “innovation” was to patent this medal design in order to preserve it from theft, eventually turning the patent over to then President Taft. The U.S. still jealously guards this medals’ integrity, and it’s a serious crime to buy or sell one of these prestigious medals.
Tiffany Cross - The Star - Crossed Medal
There are many out there who constantly ask one question when the Medal of Honor is discussed: Why is the Medal’s star inverted? This question comes in a diverse manner of styles, from the naïve to the ridiculous. First off, the Medal’s supposedly sinister connotations are groundless. There may or may not be a seed of truth regarding Masonic influences in the Medal’s creation. American symbolism is rife with Masonic imagery - a number of our founding fathers, and the important men that followed them, were masons, and a star has meaning in that devotion as it does in many others. The concern over the inverted star is a decidedly modern manifestation. But regardless of what reason exists for the star’s inversion, it couldn’t be trumped by a new type of medal - which happened to be a cross.
President Roosevelt with Commander Richard Byrd. Harris & Ewing, photographer. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The Tiffany Cross, originally approved by the Navy to further distinguish exceptional service, was created by Tiffany Company. The Cross would now be awarded to sailors/Marines demonstrating exceptional valor in combat, with the inverted star medal awarded for all noncombat actions. The Cross departs design-wise from the original in nearly all respects save in base material and patina. A classic cross pate over a laurel and oak wreath, the Cross’ central element, an octagon, encloses the seal of the United States, with the United States of the America inscribed along its perimeter. Antique anchors, positioned to point toward the medal’s center, filled in each arm of the cross. The Tiffany Cross was created in 1919, after World War I, but didn’t survive long into the World War II, being officially eliminated in 1942. Speculation over the medal’s unpopularity abound, with issues like its resemblance to Germany’s Iron Cross often cited. But the Cross’ mismanagement may also play a role. Though guidelines as to who could receive the Cross were established early on, at least two famous figures, Commander Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett were awarded the Cross for their courageous; non-combat - feats at the south pole, revealing troubling inconsistencies. The Tiffany Cross may simply not have been suitably impressive. When it was withdrawn, two lower Naval commendations - The Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the Navy Cross were inverted in status with the Navy Cross being awarded to sailors for all combat actions from then on.
From the start of World War I to the end of World War II, with that one brief exception mentioned above, the Medals of Honor would change little physically unlike everything around them. Purge of 1917, the biggest shake up in the Medal of Honor’s history, revoked hundreds of medals from recipients in an attempt to reform. The military saw endless changes at this time; two wars, innovations, growth, evolution, division. The Air Force - which had barely existed in 1914, separated from the Army in 1947 to form its own military service arm, a pivotal point of change. The now independent Air Force strove to forge its own identity from the 50s onward, including establishing its own Medal of Honor. And while this event moved along softly, and the final product suggests a compromise between the extant medals more than anything else, a quiet battle was fought to secure a very unique medal. The sheer length of time it took from when this commendation was approved in 1956 to when it finally was presented in 1965 suggests that there were some twists in the road. The Air Force’s Medal of Honor designs would face some pushback. Organizations within both the Army - specifically the Army Institute of Heraldry - and the Air Force drafted and redrafted proposals for the final Air Force Medal of Honor design. Changes included striking Minerva from the medal all together - and a number of other Roman Gods too - striking all eagle iconography (it was an Army symbol), and most of all insisting the star (one element to be preserved) be positioned right-side up. All these designs saw numerous revisions… it is here a sound argument for the use of an inverted star was proposed by Army Lieutenant Colonel J.T. French. He cited the inverted position’s stability as well as a “contradistinction” to other medals employing upright stars as key reasons to preserve the original design. Flouting Roman gods arose from several sources: concern over dumping other Air Force commendations and a desire to distance themselves from the Army Medal both high on the list. Air Force Medal of Honor dramatically changed in 1965, ultimately retaining many elements from the Navy Medal
- specifically the stars encircling the central image, and the use of laurel and oak in each of the star’s arms. Surprisingly, the Medal retained a number of Army medal elements, too namely the dramatic ring of laurel leaves encircling the star, as well as a simplified central image - though the Air Force would choose Lady Liberty, looking to the left, as their patron as opposed to the Army’s right-gazing Minerva. The Medal of Honor Convention website claims that the figure representing Lady Liberty on the Air Force Medal comes from images representing Queen of ancient Babylon, Semiramis, a woman of legendary power, wisdom and beauty for whom one of the Ancient Wonders of Antiquity - Babylon’s Hanging Gardens was constructed. It’s likely attempts to reproduce Lady Liberty on the Air Force’s Medal resulted in a bloated unusable image. The Air Force bail is highly distinctive in contrast to the medallion itself, and highly elaborate. The central feature is the winged thunderbolt with its arrow-tipped lightning bolts - part of the Air Force’s coat of arms. A bar lies atop this element, embossed with the word Valor much like the Army’s Medal. This Medal of Honor’s star doesn’t hang from its bail via chain links, but is joined directly via a small rod. In a final curious reversal to the Air Force’s desire to distance themselves from the Army, the plating, finishing and enameling process used on these medals is nearly identical to that of the Army’s: Namely, a gold and red-gold plating and a near identical enameling, green in the laurel and oak in each arm of the star, as well as in the laurel ring. It’s clear to see now: The Medal of Honor represents something sacred, symbolic, rare and resonant. It is awarded by the president in the name of the U.S. Congress. Yet despite its symbolism, its quality, and its beauty, the most important thing about the medal is not what it is, but what it honors: Those men and women who performed acts of great valor and courage, over and above the call of duty.
Keith Olexa’s work span the entertainment, technology, lifestyle and history fields. For the last 20 years, he has interviewed numerous celebrities for magazine and webzines, including John Travolta, Dakota Fanning and Vin Diesel, and such creative luminaries as novelist Orson Scott Card and Japanese music composer Yoko Kanno.
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“I want to emphasize that I am no different than any of my teammates. I am certain that any one of them would have taken the same actions I did during that mission. I have seen countless heroic acts in my time working with the nation’s most elite operators.” -Edward C. Byers Jr.
oledo, Ohio native Edward C. Byers Jr., received his Medal of Honor on February 29, 2016 in recognition of his actions on December 8, 2012 when he participated in an operation to rescue American citizen Dr. Dilip Joseph, the medical director of Morning Star Development, a non-profit group that trains health care workers in Afghanistan. Joseph had been abducted with his driver and Afghan interpreter three days earlier. Byers, the most decorated living Navy SEAL, is a fourteen-year veteran of the Navy. He has participated in eleven overseas deployments, with nine combat tours. He is one of two Medal of Honor Recipients serving on active duty. (The other is United States Army Major William D. Swenson.) Intelligence sources indicated that Joseph was protected by guards in a small, single-room building in a remote mountainous area. They also suggested that he might be moved elsewhere imminently. Allied forces quickly launched an all-volunteer patrol to rescue Joseph. Byers selflessly volunteered. The patrol members endured an arduous four-hour trek across rough trails and mountainous terrain before they deployed outside the house. Their success relied on speed and surprise. An alert guard mitigated the surprise element when he spotted patrol members about 28 yards from the building. Nevertheless, the patrol attacked.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers, Jr. poses for a portrait April 15, 2016 at the Pentagon. U.S. Navy photo.
Byers, the primary breacher, endured heavy gunfire as he tried to rip down the “door,” which comprised six blankets attached to the ceiling and walls. A guard shot and mortally wounded the first patrol member entering the room, which erupted in chaos. In the confusion, Dr. Joseph identified himself to patrol members. Byers unhesitatingly covered the hostage’s body with his own to protect him from the rampant gunfire. While protecting Dr. Joseph, Byers detected an unidentified person racing toward the corner of the room. He grabbed the fleeing person, who was an armed guard, and subdued him in hand-to-hand fighting until a teammate shot him and eliminated the threat to Byers and the hostage. Once Byers ensured that Dr. Joseph was able to move, the patrol disengaged and retired to the helicopter-landing zone to begin the 40-minute flight to Bagram Airfield. En route, Byers, a certified paramedic and 18D medic, helped provide medical aid to his mortally wounded teammate while others performed CPR on him. (18D medics are first response/trauma medical technicians who specialize in trauma medicine. They also have a working knowledge of dentistry, veterinary care, public sanitation, water quality and optometry.) Although their efforts to save their teammate were unsuccessful, the mission was not. Byers and his teammates rescued Dr. Joseph. Byers’ selfless role in the operation and disregard for his own safety resulted in his well-deserved Medal of Honor.
Photo courtesy of Bruce McCamish Photography.
noxville takes great pride in the support it shows our military and veterans – and it shows. First-time visitors become regulars, and regulars often become residents.
Our military guests like to visit the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial at World’s Fair Site, a public plaza with granite pillars bearing the names of fallen heroes from East Tennessee. Attendees of the 2014 Medal of Honor Convention, hosted in Knoxville, gathered here to pay respect to the region’s Medal of Honor recipients whose names are inscribed here. Knoxville is home to one of the oldest and largest Veterans Day parades in the nation, not to mention Knoxville Honor Air; all reasons why Knoxville has been recognized as one of America’s Most Patriotic Cities. We invite you to experience our appreciation and hospitality for yourself. Located at the intersection of I-75, I-40 and I-81, Knoxville is within a day’s drive of nearly half of the
U.S. population. We boast a vibrant downtown with a variety of unique shopping and dining options in and around Market Square. Should you be tempted to make Knoxville home, you will enjoy a quality of life that is second to none. Our growing population demonstrates that people from all over are attracted to the city’s ever-expanding downtown, quaint suburbs, and serene rural areas. Residents appreciate Knoxville’s moderate climate, a cost of living that’s almost 13 percent less than the national average, affordable housing, and numerous cultural and recreational activities. The region’s breathtaking landscape boasts 97 miles of greenways, two national forests, nine state parks, and over 75 golf courses. Knoxville is a place where you can take a hike through the wilderness, take in world-class museum experiences, and see a show at a historic theatre all in a day’s time. Diverse experiences in close proximity to one another are part of what makes the quality of life in Knoxville so phenomenal… and visits so rewarding. We look forward to welcoming you.
By Gene Hayes
Captain Edward Richenbacher. U.S. Air Force photo.
ewspaper salesman, dairy peddler, brewery worker, shoe factory worker, monument maker, car salesman, race car driver, aircraft manufacturer, car manufacturer, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, airline owner, aircraft accident survivor, Americaâ€™s Ace of Aces during World War I and non-military advisor to the United States Secretary of War during World War II â€“ how could one man even hope to accomplish any or all of this? Edward Vernon Rickenbacker did and he was also awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on December 31, 1931 for his actions in World War I.
Eddie was born in Columbus, Ohio, on October 8, 1890. His parents christened him Edward Rickenbacher, but he later added the middle name of Vernon because he thought it to be ‘classy’ and he changed the spelling of his last name to Rickenbacker as it sounded less Germanic. He liked to be called ‘Rick’ but in later life he was best known as ‘Captain Eddie.’ Young Eddie became passionate about engines - so much so that at age 16 he found a job with Lee Frayer, a race car driver and head of the Frayer - Miller Automobile Company. Frayer indulged the young man allowing him to ride in major races as his mechanic. Rick pursued his passion and became a salesman for the Columbus Buggy Company and later joined car designer Fred Duesenberg in 1912, beginning on his own to become a race car driver. In 1914, Rickenbacker set a world speed record of 134 mph at Daytona, yet he never was able to win the biggest prize at the Indianapolis 500. In 1916 while preparing for the Vanderbilt Car Race in California, Rick took his first ride in an airplane flown by Glenn Martin. Martin was embarked on his own career as a
pilot and aircraft manufacturer and later accepted a merger offer from the Wright brothers becoming the Wright-Martin Aircraft Company. Ironically, Rick had a lifelong fear of heights yet he didn’t suffer any ill effects on his first flight. When America entered World War I in 1917, Rickenbacker volunteered at a time when he was reportedly earning 40,000 dollars a year. At 27 years old he was too old to enter flight training and didn’t have a college degree, but he wanted desperately to become a pilot. Because of his fame as a race car driver, he was offered and accepted an appointment as a Sergeant and assigned as a chauffeur. His first assignment was to Colonel ‘Billy’ Mitchell, driving his twin-six Packard. Rick wasted no time in talking to the Colonel about pilot training until Mitchell acquiesced. Rick graduated after 17 days of flight training and was commissioned as a lieutenant and assigned to the 94th Aero Squadron based near Toul, France. At first Rickenbacker was shunned by his fellow pilots, perhaps because he did not have the same Ivy League background, but he was happier tinkering with engines than with socializing. Initially he was coached
by Major Raoul Lufbery, but soon developed his own aerial fighting techniques. Rick’s first victory was shared with Captain James Hall on April 29, 1918 followed by his first solo kill on May 7. As he gained successive victories, gained more respect from his fellow pilots. On May 30, Rickenbacker scored his sixth victory and subsequently was grounded due to a severe abscess in his right ear. He returned to duty on July 31 and resumed his string of victories on September 14 when he downed a Fokker D.VII (German fighter aircraft). On September 25, he was given command of the 94th and on the same day gave himself a solo patrol. While on patrol, Rickenbacker came upon a flight of five Fokkers and two Halberstadt CL.IIs (German World War I fighter/ground attack aircraft) near Billy, France. Without hesitation he dived in among the aircraft and downed one of each type aircraft. His daring action earned him the French Croix de Guerre and the Congressional Medal of Honor the latter was not awarded until 12 years later. By October 1, Rick had scored 12 victories and was promoted to the rank of captain. He was the most successful American aviator alive and the press dubbed him ‘America’s Ace of Aces.’ During October of 1918, ‘Captain Eddie’ scored 14 more victories for a total of 26 – a total that in the 1960s the United States Air Force fractionalized to 24.33 including four balloons. Undisputed was his total of 300 combat hours flown, more than any American aviator and he survived 134 aerial encounters with the enemy. Rickenbacker ascribed his survival to the ‘Power’ above in his memoirs. Now a national hero, Rickenbacker was wined and dined across America with several offers for endorsements and was even offered 100,000 dollars for motion picture roles – he declined them all even though he was then broke from supporting his family. When Rick left active duty, he was promoted to Major, but he said, ‘I felt that my rank of captain was earned and deserved,’ and he used that title for the remainder of his life.
Captain Edward Richenbacher. U.S. Air Force photo.
as an automobile manufacturer. With three other well known automobile executives backing him, Rickenbacker became Vice President and Director of Sales for the Rickenbacker Motor Company. The recession of 1925 led to the company’s downfall and to Rick resigning in an effort that he thought might help the company – it didn’t, and two years later it went bankrupt. Captain Eddie found himself in over a quarter of a million dollars in debt but he refused to declare personal bankruptcy and vowed to pay off every penny of debt which he eventually did.
‘I felt that my rank of Captain was earned and deserved’ -Rickenbacker
Captain Edward Richenbacher. U.S. Air Force photo.
Inclined to get into some aspect of aviation, he found his ideas not ready for the time period so he made his second career choice
Fortune followed Rick when in November of 1927 he was offered financing by a friend to buy the majority of common stock of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The job was not time consuming as he served as president of the speedway allowing him to look for other means of paying off his debts. He started a comic strip and published a book based on his World War I exploits. Not content to rest on his laurels, Rickenbacker was also appointed head of sales by General Motors for La Salle and Cadillac.
government in control, Captain Eddie had little to do but make sure his Eastern obligations were met. In September 1942, Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson asked Rickenbacker to be a non-military observer in England. His job was to evaluate military equipment and personnel based on his own experiences in commercial aviation. Offered a commission as a Brigadier General, Captain Eddie declined. The offer was increased to Major General and was once again declined. He took a salary of only 1 dollar per year and paid his own expenses as he wanted to feel free to criticize whatever he found wrong. In October of 1942, Rickenbacker returned to the States and Secretary Stimson immediately sent him to the Pacific on the same type of mission. Part of that mission included taking a memorized, verbal message to General Douglas MacArthur from President Roosevelt. He was en route from Honolulu to Canton Island in a Boeing B-17 when the pilot got lost and had to ditch the aircraft due to lack of fuel.
Captain Edward Richenbacher. U.S. Air Force photo.
During all the activities and responsibilities he had, Captain Eddie continued to ‘barnstorm’ the countryside promoting aviation and was actually involved in several crashes as a passenger but miraculously escaped unharmed each time. His speeches drew crowds as everyone wanted to see and hear ‘America’s Ace of Aces” and Rick was credited with persuading city fathers of 25 cities to develop airports including one in Washington, D.C. In 1926, Rickenbacker and several partners formed Florida Airways. When it failed, he was appointed Vice President of General Aviation Corporation followed in 1933 by Vice President of North American Aviation and General Manager of Eastern Air Transport. In February 1934 President Roosevelt cancelled the airlines’ air mail contracts and announced that the Army Air Corps would replace them. Maintaining that the airlines were better qualified to fly the mail, Rickenbacker, along with the Vice President of Trans World Airlines, Jack Frye, flew coast to coast in a Douglas DC-1 along with some journalists in 13 hours and 2 minutes, a coast to coast record for commercial aircraft.
Many innovations and accomplishments followed Rickenbacker as a result of the national headlines he was making: a weather reporting and analysis system; radio communications improvements; and reduction of fares increasing passenger traffic. Eastern became the first airline in the world to become a bonded carrier – goods entering the United States could be transported by Eastern for delivery to any city that had a custom house. In 1937, Eastern was the first airline to be awarded by the National Safety Council for having operated seven consecutive years, flying more than 141 million passenger miles without a fatality – that ended in August 1937 with a fatal DC-2 crash at Daytona Beach. By the end of 1941, Eastern was serving 40 cities with 40 DC-3s as well as three aircraft used for instrument training and an autogiro (a forerunner to the helicopter) that was a mail carrier on an experimental basis from Philadelphia to Camden, New Jersey. Predictably, the advent of World War II changed all commercial carriers. Eastern was required to give up half its fleet to the military services and began military cargo airlifts to South America and across the South Atlantic to Africa. With the
The next 22 days were harrowing for all of the eight men aboard that aircraft - it became a classic survival drama. Looking dapper dressed in a gray fedora hat and business suit, Captain Eddie assumed command of the other military members as a civilian. Over all those days, Rickenbacker cajoled, insulted and angered everyone in an attempt to keep their hopes alive. No search planes appeared (no one knew where they were) and the men weakened with each passing day. Using rafts from the ditched aircraft, tied together to make it easier for a search plane to see them, Rickenbacker doled out what rations there were and made himself the center of antagonism to keep the others alive. Search planes flew in their general area but never close enough to see the rafts. After two weeks afloat, with some wrangling, the men decided to cut the three rafts apart, allowing them to drift in hopes that one of the search aircraft would see them. After three weeks, one of the rafts was found leading to the rescue of seven men; the eighth was lowered into the ocean soon after he died of his injuries during the plane wreck. Captain Eddie, once again, became front page news – he had lost 60 pounds, had a bad sunburn and salt water ulcers and was barely alive. The Boston Globe captioned his picture as ‘The Great Indestructible.’ Rickenbacker could have come home immediately but he insisted on continuing his mission to General MacArthur and visited some of the bases in the war zone. Upon his return to Washington, he briefed Secretary Stimson making extensive recommendations about survival equipment that should be adopted on a priority basis.
Captain Edward Richenbacher. U.S. Air Force photo.
Rickenbacker’s rescue boat. United States. Office of War Information. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Workers on Rickenbacker rescue boat. United States. Office of War Information. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
did not like the way that the CAB interfered with private enterprise, believing that it leaned more towards bureaucracy and control. He battled the CAB about routes and fares, resisting what the competition was forcing him to adopt against his better judgment. In 1953, Captain Eddie became chairman of the board of Eastern but remained general manager. In his memoirs, he proudly wrote that ‘we always showed a profit, never took a nickel of the taxpayer’s money in subsidy, and we paid our stockholders reasonable dividends over the years.’ Edward Vernon Rickenbacker reluctantly retired from Eastern on the last day of 1963 at age 73. He passed away 10 years later on July 23, 1973.
Air Safety Conference at the Department of Commerce, Eddie Rickenbacker’s famous World War I Ace. Harris & Ewing, photographer. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Rickenbacker continued to make speeches at bond rallies and he toured defense plants. In mid-1943 he was sent on a threemonth, 55,000-mile trip to Russia and China and any other areas he deemed appropriate. The mission included looking at what the Russians were doing with American equipment under the Lend-Lease agreement. With the war drawing to an inevitable end in Europe and the Pacific, the airlines began to return to normal operations. Rick led Eastern’s expansion ordering Lockheed Constellations and Douglas DC-4s followed by Martin 404s and Lockheed Electras. The induction of jets in the late 1950s caused serious adjustment issues with the airlines. Rickenbacker resisted the change to some extent, extolling the virtues of good pistonpowered aircraft and deciding that the other airlines should be the first to take the risk.
A SERVICE MEMBER struggling to make ends meet. A WOUNDED SOLDIER who needs continuing treatment. A MILITARY FAMILY looking to buy their first home. These are some of the many people the PENFED FOUNDATION has helped. But, we need your support to continue delivering our wide range of programs and services.
General James H. ‘Jimmy’ Doolittle delivered Rickenbacker’s eulogy in Miami. His ashes were buried beside his mother in the Columbus, Ohio, family plot. During the ceremony four jet fighters flew overhead; one turned on its afterburners and zoomed up and out of sight in the traditional Air Force ‘missing man’ salute to a brother pilot. William F. Rickenbacker, one of Captain Eddie’s two sons wrote an obituary published in a national magazine: ‘Among his robust certainties were his faith in God, his unswerving patriotism, his acceptance of life’s hazards and pains, and his trust in persistent hard work. No scorn could match the scorn he had for men who settled for half-measures, uttered half-truths, straddled the issues, or admitted the idea of failure or defeat. If he had a motto, it must be the phrase I’ve heard a thousand times: I’ll fight like a wildcat!’
‘If he had a motto, it must be the phrase I’ve heard a thousand times: I’ll fight like a wildcat!’ -William F. Rickenbacker in his father’s obituary
The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) was a federal agency created by the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 that regulated aviation services, including scheduled passenger airline service, and provided air accident investigation. Rickenbacker
We are T H E R E for our Nation’s Defenders
Gene Hays is a retired Marine and Vietnam War veteran. He has authored 6 books available on Amazon. com or his website; two are about his Vietnam War experience. Gene is also the author of “The Marine Corps Combined Action Program in the Vietnam War” soon to be published by the Marine Corps History Division. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi and does freelance writing for local newspapers and other military publications. He can be reached through his website: www.GeneHaysAuthor.com.
The Defenders Lodge is a “haven for heroes” receiving outpatient treatment through the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Veterans and their caregivers stay free of charge— eliminating the significant cost of travel and hotels.
The Dream Makers Fund provides closing cost assistance and matching down payment grants to low-to-moderate income service members wanting to buy their first home. The fund also provides grants for home repairs or renovations.
62,000 OV E R
OV E R
ON LODGING EXPENSES
The Military Heroes Fund fills critical gaps for wounded, ill, or injured veterans addressing immediate needs through emergency financial assistance for short term needs and transition support for family members and caregivers.
TO DATE, WE HAVE PROVIDED MORE THAN
WE HAVE PROVIDED
NIGHTS’ STAY AND HAVE SAVED VETERANS AND THEIR CAREGIVERS
Service Members and Veterans are sadly often the targets of predatory lenders. Our answer to this problem is the Asset Recovery Kit (ARK). This program provides interest-free microloans for a flat $5.00 application fee.
WE HAVE PROVIDED MORE THAN
TO HELP SUPPORT MILITARY FAMILIES TO PURCHASE THEIR
FI R ST HOM E
INTEREST-FREE LOANS TOTALING NEARLY
SINCE THE MILITARY HEROES FUND WAS STARTED, IT HAS PROVIDED FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO MILITARY FAMILIES T O T A L I N G MORE THAN
Learn how you can make a difference in the life of a military hero in need. Visit PenFedfoundation.org or call 800-558-9224.
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“He taught us all to always give back more than you’re asked to do. From my father came this wonderful generosity and this wonderful sense of honor. If our country needs you, you go. No discussion. You go and you do more than is asked for you.” -Elsie Shemin-Roth, daughter of William Shemin.
machine-gun and rifle fire. No sooner did he dash out of his trench than the Germans opened and maintained continuous bursts of machine gun and rifle fire. Despite that, Shemin completed his rescue missions without regard to his own wellbeing. He led all three wounded comrades to safety and then returned to the battlefield.
Shemin’s Army service comprised 22 months. He left his job as a forester in Bayonne, New Jersey, where he was born, to enlist on October 2, 1917. He was assigned to Company G, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Force as a rifleman. He arrived in France a few months later to participate in the Aisne-Marne Offensive.
The constant crossfire from both sides resulted in ever increasing numbers of casualties. The attrition rate among Shemin’s platoon’s officers and senior noncommissioned officers due to casualties grew critical as the stalemate dragged on. Shemin seized the initiative and took command of the platoon, until he became a casualty himself.
illiam Shemin received his Medal of Honor on the same day as Henry Johnson, June 2, 2015. The exploits that led to their respective awards were similar, although they occurred a few months apart.
His unit was engaged in trench warfare against German troops near Vesle River, Bazoches, France in early August 1918. The conditions were brutal. The soldiers on the Western Front were restricted to their sides’ trenches, which were about 150 yards apart. That “no man’s land” proved deadly to any individual who ventured into it. Virtually everyone who did was shot and left to die or to be rescued, which was risky at best. That did not sit well with Shemin, who opted to rescue as many of his wounded comrades as he could or die trying. Three times between August 7th and 9th Shemin left his cover and crossed the “no man’s land” to rescue wounded soldiers. In the process he knowingly exposed himself to heavy enemy and
Portrait of Sergeant William Shemin in uniform overcoat. Photo courtesy of the Shemin family.
On August 9th, Shemin was wounded by shrapnel. Worse, a machine gun bullet pierced his helmet and lodged behind his left ear. He was found unconscious the next day. Those wounds ended his combat participation - and plagued him throughout his civilian life. Doctors could not remove the shrapnel in his back, since it was too close to his spine. And, the bullet that pierced his helmet left him deaf in his left ear. Shemin was hospitalized for three months after he was wounded and then placed on light duty during the Army’s post-war occupation in Germany and Belgium. He had earned the assignment - just as he earned the Medal of Honor, albeit 97 years later.
t was a warm Saturday evening just after dusk on July 18, 1863, when mortar shells began raining down on Sergeant William Carney as he and the rest of his regiment stormed the small South Carolina beachhead that successfully barricaded one of the most important ports for the Confederacy from the advancing Union soldiers – Charleston, birthplace of the Confederate cession movement.
By Juli Branson
Despite the fact that they were paid less, untrained and armed with older model muskets, the soldiers of the newly formed 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment were eager to prove themselves in their first, formal battle in the Civil War – the Battle of Fort Wagner, Morris Island. Carney was part of the first wave of soldiers to charge onto the small sliver of beach at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, leading to Fort Wagner. Despite raining mortar shells and artillery fire, the brave Union troops kept moving forward, even as their fellow soldiers fell all around them.
just a few feet from the fort’s parapet, Carney saw the color bearer begin to fall to the ground after being fatally wounded. Instinctively, the sergeant dropped his rifle and grabbed the tattered flag before it could hit the ground. He would make it all the way to the ramparts with the flag despite bullet wounds that would later end his military career. Though his citation would refer to two wounds, other reports from the battlefield stated that Carney was shot in both legs, the chest and his right arm. When Union soldiers were ultimately forced to retreat after 10 hours of fighting, Carney would crawl back on one knee to what remained of the Union troops. He handed what remained of the flag to the regiment’s last surviving officer, Captain Luis F. Emilio, who would commend Carney for his bravery.
“Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!” -Sergeant William
The Gallant Charge of the 54th Massachusetts, 1863. Boston Athenaeum, Gift of Raymond Wilkins, 1944. Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.
These Army troops had endured more than most to earn the right to defend the notion of freedom that the United States of America represented. These men were members of one of the first military regiments comprised entirely of black soldiers, and were now the first regiment of black soldiers to be sent into this battle to gain liberty for all.
The New York Evening Post reported, “General (Crockett) Strong said (the 54th Regiment) ‘had no sleep for three nights, no food since morning, and had marched several miles… under cover of darkness, they had stormed the fort, faced a stream of fire, falter(ed) not till the ranks were by shot and shell.” Carney ran bravely in the forefront of his regiment headed toward the enemy’s stronghold. At the moat,
“Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!” Carney reportedly said of his actions just before he collapsed in the field hospital. Carney’s action date of July 18, 1863, was the first recorded for an African American Medal of Honor recipient, though Carney would wait to be recognized with the Medal on May 23, 1900, after several other Medals of Honor were handed out to African American soldiers who served later in the Civil War.
The Legacy of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded to Sergeant William H. Carney, Co. C, 54th Massachusetts Infantry for Gallantry at Fort Wagner, SC, July 18, 1863, issued 1900, bronze and silk, 3 3/4 × 2 1/8 in. (9.3 × 5.3 cm). Carl J. Cruz Collection. Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.
Of the estimated 600 black soldiers and 29 white officers of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, a little more than half would return from the Battle at Fort Wagner, Morris Island. Yet, their legacy would have a lasting impact on the Union and the treatment of black soldiers. Two of the most significant and welldocument impacts were in the way black soldiers were treated if caught by the enemy during wartime and in the pay they would receive for their service.
William H. Carney, James E. Reed, c. 1901–1908. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University. Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Art.
“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Sergeant William Harvey Carney, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 18 July 1863, while serving with Company C, 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, in action at Fort Wagner, South Carolina. When the color sergeant was shot down, Sergeant Carney grasped the flag, led the way to the parapet, and planted the colors thereon. When the troops fell back he brought off the flag, under a fierce fire in which he was twice severely wounded.” For his efforts, Carney would not receive his medal in a traditional ceremony. It would be sent to him uneventfully in the mail. When asked why he served despite the unequal treatment, Carney said, “We continued to fight for the freedom of the enslaved and for the restoration of our country.”
Many of these men were born into slavery, and had become free men either through escape via the Underground Railroad or legally freed by slave owners. As soldiers, these free men now ran the risk of being recaptured and returned to slavery, or killed for insurgency, if they were caught by the Confederacy as a result of battle.
Yet, these free black men volunteered to fight for the Union even as their neighbors, Northern whites, doubted their bravery and resented them, blaming them for the war.
The only surviving officer from the Battle of Fort Wagner, Morris Island, Emilio would later write a book on the bravery of his troops, titled “Brave Black Regiment.”
The actions of the black regiment at the Battle of Fort Wagner, Morris Island, opened the eyes to the white troops who fought behind them in that skirmish. The 54th Massachusetts set a high standard that would attract thousands more black soldiers into various Union regiments.
In response to the outpouring of praise for the 54th Massachusetts, President Abraham Lincoln – who had hesitated in the beginning to allow blacks to join the military – said the inclusion of black soldiers now had been legitimized and called it a turning point in the war.
Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana, a former journalist, was quoted as saying that, “The bravery of the blacks completely revolutionized the sentiment in the army with regard to the employment of negro troops. I heard prominent officers who had formerly in private had sneered at the idea of negroes fighting express after that as heartily in favor of it.”
Of the 272 men of the 54th Massachusetts who were killed, wounded or captured during the Battle of Fort Wagner, Morris Island, it was estimated that 60 men were captured by the Confederates and killed because they were considered slaves involved in “servile insurrection.” This reportedly was the first time a large number of black soldiers were put to death under these rules of engagement.
General Order No. 252
This led to Lincoln issuing General Order No. 252 just a few weeks later on July 30, 1863: “It is the duty of every Government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations, and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person on account of his color, and for no offense against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism, and a crime against the civilization of the age. “The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave any one because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession. It is therefore ordered, that for every soldier
Carney would continue his public service as a civil servant overseeing the maintenance of the city streetlights for a little over a year before moving to California to work as a shipping clerk for the local Army Quartermaster in San Francisco. Carney would soon return to New Bedford as one of the town’s four mail carriers, where he would serve for many years. In 1901, he took a job as a messenger for the State House in Boston. It was 7 years into this job that Carney would receive fatal injuries in an elevator accident at the State House.
Sergeant William Carney, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 18681963, collector. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Sergeant William Harvey Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry carried the flag in the assault on Fort Wagner, on July 18, 1863. Severely wounded twice, he was awarded the Medal of Honor 37 years later for his valor in this battle. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
of the United States killed in violation of the law, a Rebel soldier shall be executed, and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a Rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works, and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.” The second issue of equal pay would take another year before Congress would pass a bill making the change on June 14, 1864. The soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts had refused their pay until their checks were the same as their white counterparts. Prior to the law’s passage, black soldiers and white soldiers were technically all paid $10 per month. However, black soldiers had $3 deducted every month for uniforms, while white soldiers had $3 added every month as a uniform allowance. This effectively made the paychecks $7 for black soldiers and $13 for white soldiers.
The Long Life and Loves of Sergeant William H. Carney
Carney’s wounds would prohibit him from continuing his military career. He received an honorable discharge on June 30, 1864, and embarked on a long and prosperous life. Born a slave in Norfolk, Virginia, on February 29, 1840, the young Carney’s path appeared to be leading him to a short life of hard labor. Fortunately, his father, William Sr., had escaped to freedom reportedly through the Underground Railroad, and Carney joined him in Massachusetts. Reports vary as to whether the younger Carney escaped via the Underground Railroad or if he was freed or purchased along with his mother and sisters who also came to live with them up North.
This new life brought Carney to the fishing town of New Bedford where he reportedly worked in the domestic shipping business. He would have a religious conversion that drew him to the ministry. However, in March 1863 he heeded the call of Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew for black soldiers to fight in the Union Army. “I felt I could best serve my God by serving my country and my oppressed brothers,” Carney was quoted as saying when asked why he chose to be a soldier instead of a minister. At the age of 23 – a year after the average southern slave would live and just months after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation – Sergeant Carney enlisted. He was in good company. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass personally recruited many of the soldiers, including his own sons Lewis and Charles; and the grandson of fellow abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, James Caldwell. All four men would serve together in the 54th Massachusetts. After his discharge from the Army, Carney returned to New Bedford, where he soon married Susanna Williams. Mrs. Carney was the first African American woman to graduate from the New Bedford high school and one of the first to teach in Massachusetts’ public schools. Together, they had a daughter, Clara Heronia.
He died, still serving his country, at the ripe old age of 68 – almost twice the expected age for an African American at that time. Throughout his post-Army life in New Bedford, Carney would be called upon to speak at public events, local schools and patriotic rallies. He also was noted for his singing voice. Today, Carney’s rescued battle flag rests in Memorial Hall in Boston, and his face is memorialized on the SaintGaudens Monument in Boston Common. A dramatized depiction of the storied Battle of Fort Wagner, Morris Island can be seen in the 1989 movie Glory.
Juli R. Branson has been a professional storyteller for more than 20 years. She started as a newspaper journalist, landing her first big break at one of the major newspapers in San Antonio, TX. She covered a wide variety of stories, including features, breaking news and investigative pieces. She left journalism to serve as U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith’s communications director, where she was part of the team that rallied citizens and the media to successfully save San Angelo’s Goodfellow Air Force Base (AFB) that had been targeted for closure during a round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). She went on to work at the Pentagon, just outside Washington, DC, as the communications director for two U.S. Under Secretaries of Defense and as speechwriter for Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates.
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“The least we can do is to say, ‘We know who you are, we know what you did for us. We are forever grateful.” -President Barack Obama at Private Johnson’s award ceremony
enry Johnson, who was born in North Carolina but moved to New York, was actually assigned to the French Army when he earned his Medal of Honor, which was awarded on June 2, 2015. He joined the U.S. Army’s all African-American Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, American Expeditionary Forces, formerly the 15th Regiment New York Guard, on June 5, 1917. Most of the unit’s officers, including their commander, Colonel William Hayward, were white. Color aside, once they got to France, U.S. General John J. Pershing loaned the 369th to the French 161st Division. Ostensibly, Pershing was willing to make the loan because white American troops did not want to fight alongside African-Americans. Nonetheless, Johnson fought willingly and bravely - alongside the French, who had no qualms about African-Americans.
Sergeant Henry Johnson of the 369th Infantry Regiment was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for bravery during an outnumbered battle with German soldiers, February 12, 1919.
Johnson was on guard duty with Needham Roberts on May 15, 1918 when a large German Army raiding party surprised them. (Some reports suggest that the action took place on May 14, 1918. The official MOH citation lists May 15th.) Estimates vary, but there may have been as many as 24 German soldiers attacking. Johnson did not concern himself with the numbers. He simply engaged the Germans in an amazing display of courage. As the struggle degenerated into hand-to-hand combat, Johnson threw grenades, swung the butt of his rifle, wielded a bolo knife, and fought with his bare fists to repel the attackers as he inflicted numerous casualties on them. Johnson was by no means unscathed; he incurred 21 wounds during the battle. More important, he saved Roberts’ life and prevented his capture by the Germans.
The regiment arrived on the Western Front on December 27, 1917, although some sources say Johnson got there on January 1, 1918. Either way, the members of the unit were not sent into combat immediately. They performed common labor tasks until they joined the French.
Roberts was badly wounded in the battle. As a German soldier attempted to capture him, Johnson ignored his own wounds and stabbed his foe in the head with his bolo knife. Then he returned his attention to the remainder of the attacking Germans, who soon retreated. As a result, Johnson and Roberts survived the battle - and the war.
Johnson was assigned to Outpost 20 on the edge of the Argonne Forest, in the Champagne region of France. The term American Expeditionary Forces hardly applied. The French issued French rifles and helmets to Johnson and his comrades. They were for all intents and purposes French troops when they got their first taste of combat.
For his exploits, Johnson earned the nickname “Black Death.” Moreover, he was the first American soldier in World War I to receive France’s highest award for valor, the Croix de Guerre with star and bronze palm. His was a rare achievement: earning two nations’ highest military awards, which is an uncommon deed indeed.
By Ray Raymond
asbrouck House, Newburgh, New York, Wednesday, August 7, 1782. George Washington, the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, sat at his desk in what had once been the Hasbrouck family kitchen. The intense summer heat was relieved only by the gentle breeze from the Hudson River about 400 yards away. This grey dressed stone and rubble Dutch vernacular style house had served as Washington’s headquarters since 31 March when he had returned north to the strategic Hudson Highlands after his victory at Yorktown. By August 7, 1782, hostilities had ended and peace talks were under way in Paris. That day, George Washington’s thoughts were with his men camped nearby at New Windsor. They had suffered appalling privations for over six years. His officers were on the verge of mutiny because of lack of pay, rations and supplies withheld by a corrupt and negligent Congress. Worse, Congress had taken away the authority of his general officers to recognize their soldiers’ courage and leadership by awarding commissions in the field. Congress simply could not afford to pay their existing officers let alone any new ones. As a result, faithful service and outstanding acts of bravery went unrecognized and unrewarded. George Washington was determined to end that. So from his headquarters perched 80 feet above the Hudson, he issued a general order establishing the “Badge of Distinction” and “Badge of Merit.” Honorary Badges of distinction are to be conferred on the veteran Non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the army who have served more than three years with bravery, fidelity and good conduct; for this purpose a narrow piece of white cloth of an angular form is to be fixed to the left arm on the uniform coats; Non-commissioned officers and Soldiers who have served with equal reputation more than six years, are to be distinguished by two pieces of cloth set in parallel to each other in a similar form. The General, ever desirous to cherish a virtuous ambition in his soldiers, as well as to foster and encourage every species
of military merit, directs that whenever any singularly meritorious action is performed, the author of it shall be permitted to wear on his facings, over his left breast, the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding. Not only instances of unusual gallantry, but also of extraordinary fidelity and essential service in any way shall meet with a due reward... The road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus opened to all. “Thus, George Washington established the “Badge of Merit”.
In its shape and color, the Badge anticipated and inspired the modern Purple Heart. In the exceptional level of courage required to be considered for the Badge, however, it was the forerunner of the Medal of Honor. This year we celebrate its 155th anniversary. In his book Almost a Miracle, historian John Ferling writes that “the forlorn conditions under which America’s soldiers were made to live and campaign was a national disgrace. That the army did not implode in a frenzy of mutinies long before 1781 was little short of miraculous.” Professor Ferling is correct. Never in modern military history has an army been so cruelly abused by its political masters. It was bad enough that these citizen soldiers had to face the formidable force of the professional British army. What was worse was that they faced the harrowing experiences of eighteenth century warfare – the agony of long marches, the debilitating illnesses, the appalling casualties - without the proper weapons, often without boots, winter coats or food. The memoir of Private Joseph Plumb Martin, who left his grandfather’s Connecticut farm in 1775 and served for eight years in the Continental army, has left us a grim, vivid description of how bad conditions truly were. In January 1780, for example, his unit took up a position in Westfield, New York prior to mounting an attack on a British fort on Staten Island. Private Martin writes: “we… took up our abode for the night upon a bleak hill, in full rake of the northwest wind, with no covering or shelter than the canopy of the heavens and no fuel but some old rotten nails which we dug up through the snow which was two or three feet deep… we were absolutely, literally starved… I saw several of the men roast their old shoes and eat them.” He added: “Here was the army starving and naked, and there their country sitting still and expecting the army to do notable things while fainting from sheer starvation.” The reason why Private Martin and his comrades were starving and unprotected against the bitter winter cold was the outrageous corruption and profiteering surrounding the army’s supply chain which Congress failed to address throughout the war. George Washington was acutely aware of the suffering endured by his troops. The Commander in Chief was, of course, a strict and sometimes ruthless disciplinarian. He had to be. But Washington was also a compassionate military manager deeply devoted to the well-being of his enlisted men. If you read his papers, you come away impressed by the almost superhuman energy he devoted to improving the health and welfare of his troops and to lobbying Congress and the States
for the food and other supplies they had promised him. No detail was ever too small for him to attend to if it improved the life of an enlisted man. Washington was indomitable usually working at least 1214 hours per day, but his task throughout the war was monumental. He had to transform thousands of brave, inexperienced and undisciplined citizen soldiers into an effective fighting force capable of fighting a conventional as well as a guerilla war. Moreover, the Commander in Chief also had to create an effective intelligence service that would deliver accurate, actionable information on the enemy’s capabilities and intentions, persuade Congress and the States to deliver the supplies they had promised him and work effectively with the French who had different strategic objectives. Add to that the constant political interference in the appointment and promotion of officers and the corruption and profiteering in the supply chain and you begin to understand the appalling burdens that sat upon Washington’s shoulders for over seven years. It was understandable that it was not until after Congress took away the power to grant commissions in the field and the war
was winding down in August 1782 that the Commander in Chief had the time to devise ways to honor the courage of his enlisted men and non-commissioned officers. George Washington’s decision to create two awards exclusively for enlisted men and non-commissioned officers was unprecedented. Neither the British nor any other European army had decorations for anyone other than their officers. But Washington believed passionately in the republican ideals of the revolution, and he also understood that his continentals were the first people’s army of patriotic volunteers who had fought for these ideals and who had been pushed to the outer limits of human endurance during the war. Washington was committed to honoring his troops, but the idea for the “Badge of Military Merit” was probably Baron Von Steuben’s. The tough Prussian general may have had difficulty in instilling military discipline and order into the Continental army, but he admired their courage and fighting spirit. As a veteran of European wars, he would have been aware that the Czar of Russia had created the Cross of St. George for Gallantry and it is reasonable to speculate that he wanted the Americans to have a similar award for gallantry.
If we do not know for sure who inspired the “Badge of Military Merit”, we are even less sure about who designed it. Speculation runs from Pierre L’Enfant, later the architect of Washington DC, to Martha Washington or even General Washington himself. We will never know the truth. The original badge was made of purple silk edged with silver colored lace or binding on a wool background. One was embroidered with a leaf design; another – Sergeant Elijah Churchill’s - has the word “merit” crocheted into the fabric. The heart symbolized courage and devotion. Purple was associated with royalty and would stand out on any uniform. To determine who should receive the badge, Washington ordered that a board of military officers be convened whenever the Adjutant General had recommendations for them to consider. This board never met because the Adjutant General never supplied any recommendations. Given the brewing mutiny among the officer corps at this time, it is reasonable to speculate that the Adjutant General offered no recommendations because he never received any. Preoccupied with their own pay and pension problems, too many officers had too little time to worry about writing recommendations for this new gallantry medal for their soldiers. By April 1783, when
the Commander in Chief had received no recommendations for the “Badge of Military Merit” and when news of the peace agreement reached headquarters, Washington demanded immediate action before the Continental Army began to disband. On April 17, 1783, Washington ordered that a new review board be created and he demanded and got immediate results within days. The new board recommended two candidates: Sergeant Elijah Churchill, Fourth Troop, Second Troop of Light Dragoons and Sergeant William Brown of the 5th Connecticut regiment. A little later, they recommended a third candidate: Sergeant Daniel Bissell of the 2nd Connecticut regiment, one of Washington’s most important and successful spies. It is, however, possible that Washington himself recommended Bissell. All three were superb choices. The first recipient was Sergeant Elijah Churchill from the 4th Troop, 2nd Regiment of Light Dragoons which had conducted some of the most daring and spectacular raids of the Revolutionary War. Sergeant Churchill received the “Badge of Merit” in recognition of his leadership in two commando-style raids. The first was on November 23, 1780 against Fort St. George on Long Island when he led the advance team. He surprised the British defenders, captured
and destroyed the fort. The goal of the mission had been to destroy a storage depot which housed several hundred tons of much needed hay for winter forage for British army horses. Fort St George protected the forage depot and so the capture and destruction of the fort made a vital contribution to the success of the mission. The second raid for which Sergeant Churchill was honored occurred a year later in October 1781 while the main army was at Yorktown. Once again, Sergeant Churchill led the advance party this time against Fort Slongo on the north shore of Long Island. And once again Sergeant Churchill’s bold leadership of the advance party surprised the British defenders and led to the capture of a large quantity of enemy supplies. These and other daring raids not only kept the British off-balance unsure whether Washington was going to try to recapture New York, but also forced British commanders to detach large numbers of troops from their over-stretched army to reinforce isolated and exposed outposts. The second recipient of the Badge of Merit was Sergeant William Brown from the 5th Connecticut regiment. George Washington honored Sergeant Brown for his extraordinary heroism at the Battle of Yorktown. There, on the night of October 14, Sergeant Brown led the advance party of
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton’s troops against British Redoubt No 10, one of two key strongholds protecting the British inner defense line at Yorktown. Without waiting for the sappers and pioneers to clear away the sharpened trees designed to impale attacking troops, Sergeant Brown led his men on what could easily have been a suicide mission. To help ensure silence and surprise they attacked with unloaded muskets. Armed only with bayonets, Sergeant Brown and his advance party ran over a quarter of a mile climbed over the sharpened trees and charged the redoubt. Despite a murderous hail of musket fire, they and the remainder of Hamilton’s troops overcame the defenders in ten minutes of intense fighting. The third recipient of the Badge of Merit whose exceptional heroism can be documented was Sergeant Daniel Bissell of the 2nd Connecticut regiment, one of George Washington’s
We know for sure that Sergeants Churchill, Brown and Bissell received the Badge of Military Merit. Recent research by the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s National Americanism officer, Ron Siebels, shows that Peter Shumway, John Sithins and William Dutton, three other soldiers in Washington’s Continental Army, also received the Badge of Military Merit. But we do not yet know the exceptional acts of courage for which they were honored. It is possible that there were other candidates and other recipients. But we will never be sure unless the “Book of Merit” (in which all of the recipient’s names and heroic deeds were to be recorded) is found. But it has been missing for over two centuries.
bravest and most successful spies. In August 1781, acting under direct orders from the Commander in Chief, Bissell posed as a deserter and joined Benedict Arnold’s Corps of loyalists in New York City. From August 14, 1781 to September 29, 1782, Bissell served as a quarter master sergeant for Arnold. He used his position to gather a vast amount of information on British troop strength and deployments in and around New York. He recorded these in a series of notes and memoranda that he planned to send or bring to Washington. Every moment of every day for over a year, Bissell’s life hung by a thread. One wrong move, one mistake and he would have been executed as a spy. When British military intelligence began to suspect that there were American sleeper agents in their midst, the British commander in chief ordered that any soldier found with military documents would be regarded as a spy. Bissell destroyed all of his memoranda but only after committing every detail to memory. When he escaped from New York and reached headquarters in Newburgh, he was able to dictate his intelligence to Lieutenant Colonel David Humphreys, Washington’s aidede-camp. If Washington had decided to attack the British in New York rather than at Yorktown, Bissell’s intelligence would have been vital.
Unfortunately, we also do not know for sure whether Washington presented Sergeants Churchill and Brown with their honors personally. We do know from Sergeant Bissell’s pension records that his Badge of Military Merit was presented to him on the lawn at Hasbrouck House by Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Trumbull, Washington’s Military Secretary. Although Washington intended the Badge of Military Merit to be made permanent, it was allowed to lapse after the army was disbanded in June 1783. At the end of the Revolutionary War, no federal decoration was awarded to American servicemen until the Navy Medal of Honor was created in 1861 during the Civil War. On this special anniversary, when we honor the 155th anniversary of the Medal of Honor, all Americans should take time to reflect and give thanks for the extraordinary leadership of General George Washington, for the heroism of Sergeants Churchill, Brown, and Bissell and for the bravery and selfsacrifice of all the soldiers in the Continental Army whose, “Patience fortitude and long and great sufferings” were, in Washington’s words, “Unexampled in history.”
Dr. Ray Raymond is Associate Professor of Government and History at the State University of New York in Stone Ridge and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Politics and International Relations at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he also served as the Thomas Hawkins Johnson Visiting Professor in 2009. For his work in helping develop West Point’s academic program, Dr. Raymond was awarded the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal by the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.
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RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“I just felt I had so many high-ranking official with me. That was unusual. That’s the spidey sense” -Florent A. Groberg
hen Captain Florent Groberg formed his detail American and Afghan soldiers on August 8, 2012, something just didn’t seem right. His mission was to escort a group of high-level military and civilian officials to meet with local Afghans. It was just a short walk on foot, including a passage over a narrow bridge. It wasn’t much different from what he had been doing since he returned to Afghanistan for his second tour of duty, but something bothered him. “I changed everything that day, where I positioned myself and where to position some of my guys because I didn’t feel comfortable with what was happening,” he recalled. “I just felt I had so many high-ranking officials with me. That was unusual. That’s the spidey sense.” At first, they passed pedestrians, a few cars and bicycles, even some children. As they approached the bridge, a pair of motorcycles sped toward them from the other side. The Afghan troops shouted at the bikers to stop – and they did, ditching their mikes in the middle of the bridge and running away. That was the diversion.
A man in dark clothing came out of a building and began walking backward parallel to the moving formation. “It was weird, odd,” Groberg said. “All right, what the hell is this guy doing? He did a 180 and then made a 90-degree turn to face me. I left my position and went at him. I hit him with my rifle as (Sergeant Andrew) Mahoney followed me right into it. “When I hit him, I said ‘S—t, he’s got something on. I grabbed him and knew it was a suicide vest. All I could think about was, I had to get him as far away from everyone else – the boss specifically. You don’t think about the consequences of it. You have a job. As long as the boss gets to go home, you’ve had a successful day at work.” As he and Mahoney pushed the assailant to the ground face first, the suicide vest exploded. But since all of the ball bearings are in the front of the vest, the damage was limited – although still deadly. The blast threw Groberg into the middle of the road and some of the ball bearings ripped into his legs. Somehow he and Mahoney survived, but three other U.S. officers and a U.S. AID foreign service officer died. A second suicide
Continued on Next Page... President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Captain Florent Groberg during a ceremony at the White House, November 12, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Eboni L. Everson-Myart.
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
Captain Groberg. U.S. Army photo.
bomber was still in the building, and the blast from the first one made him lose his grip on his trigger and he exploded without killing anyone else. In awarding Groberg the Medal of Honor November 12, 2015, President Obama described the scene this way: “Ball bearings, debris, dust exploded everywhere. Flo was thrown some 15 or 20 feet and was knocked unconscious. And moments later, he woke up in the middle of the road in shock. His eardrum was blown out. His leg was broken and bleeding badly. Still, he realized that if the enemy launched a secondary attack, he’d be a sitting duck. When a comrade found him in the smoke, Flo had his pistol out, dragging his wounded body from the road.” Had both suicide bombers been successful, many more allied lives would have been lost, Obama said. For three years Groberg endured 32 surgeries and slow, painful rehabilitation. Even though he had lost 60 percent of his left calf and suffered lots of nerve damage, he resisted amputation. Encouragement of other wounded vets – many far more severely injured than he – gave him the positive attitude to keep going, he said. Now he is able to walk again – and looking to pay back that debt.
President Barack Obama, along with with Army Sergeant Andrew Mahoney, adjusts the Medal of Honor on retired Army Captain Florent A. Groberg in the Blue Room of the White House, Nov. 12, 2015. White House photo by Pete Souza.
Capt. Florent Groberg (U.S. Army, Ret.) Medal of Honor Recipient
No longer able to stay in the Army, Groberg is completing a master’s degree in intelligence management at the University of Maryland University College to prepare himself for a new career. But whatever he does as a vocation, he says he always will work with vets. “The Medal gives you a platform and a voice in your community,” he said. “My community is the veterans and their families. You do it on the side, and it soon becomes a lifestyle.”
We salute you.
And he said he also owes something to those killed while he miraculously lived.
University of Maryland University College salutes Capt. Florent Groberg
“The Medal represents those who died,” he said. “I’m here. I got ESPN on right now. My beautiful girlfriend who lives with me is coming home. I got to live life. Four individuals can’t go home and more importantly, four families are missing a key member. Who are the heroes in this?”
(U.S. Army, Ret.) for his courage in the face of adversity. To Capt. Groberg and all recipients of the Medal of Honor—thank you for your commitment, dedication and sacrifice—today, and every day.
Copyright © 2016 University of Maryland University College
By Gina Renay
n February 3, 1943, four courageous and calm chaplains, joined their arms in alms and stood boldly singing hymns and praying. The sound of English, Hebrew, and Latin was heard among those who were being jogged within the vast sea of dimly-fading, red lights. Each chaplain was aware that their mission had been completed, and within their last few moments of life is where their story would begin and they would becomeâ€Ś immortalized. In November of 1942, Reverend Fox, Father Washington, Reverend Poling, and Rabbi Goode, were introduced to each other while attending Chaplains School at Harvard University. As they each waited to hear where they would be sent to serve, they found a common bond in brotherly love through their mutual love for God.
Four clergymen standing together as the torpedoed Dorchester sinks. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Reverend George L. Fox, Methodist Minister, 42 Reverend Fox, was only 17-years-old when he convinced the Army he was 18 and enlisted as a Medical Corps Assistant in WWI. Then, being that he was no stranger to war, when WWII broke out he said, “I’ve got to go. I know from experience what our boys are about to face. They need me.” However, upon his return he did not enlist as a medic, he returned as a chaplain. Fox wanted to not only be of service to help heal their wounds, but also heal their hearts.
Father John P. Washington, Catholic Priest, 34 Father Washington was one of nine children in an immigrant Irish family. A lover of music and born with a beautiful voice, the strong-witted street fighter, never ran away from a challenge, and had a unique gift of getting others to confide in him, unaware. When he heard that America was at war, he knew that despite a permanent injury to his right eye, he had to try and enlist. Washington applied for enlistment in the Navy, but after his examination his application was rejected, Washington then applied for enlistment in the Army, and his application was accepted.
Reverend Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed Minister, 32 Reverend Clark Poling was pastoring in New York when WWII threatened
On January 23, 1943, sixty-four ships lined the New York
Whatever danger laid waiting, the chaplains would not
freedom, and he wanted to enlist in the Army. His father (having served as
Harbor. Within its mist was the USAT Dorchester, also referred
waste their time with worry. Their job (explained within
a chaplain himself in WWI) told his son, “Don’t you know chaplains have the
to as ship number twenty-three. The USAT Dorchester was
the Chaplains Training Manual) is to be… “the servant of
highest mortality rate of all? As a chaplain you’ll have the best chance to be killed.
set to sail that day bound for Greenland with 902 officers,
God for all, and no narrow sectarian spirit should color his
You just can’t carry a gun yourself.” Poling, having understood the wisdom of his
servicemen and civilian workers; four of which were the
utterances, nor should his personal work assist only a special
father, accepted the commission and joined the Chaplains Corp.
chaplains: Reverend George Fox, Father John Washington,
group.” From the moment they stepped foot on board they
Reverend Clark Poling, and Rabbi Goode. As the passengers
got to work - visiting each of the men in their quarters.
boarded the ship, the four chaplains stood side-by-side,
The majority of the time they visited together, sharing the
(watching as each passenger entered) and with an occasional
gratitude that America had towards them and encouraging
shout of “Welcome aboard!” they were showing the men that
them that the ship they were on was fit to sail. After all, the
Rabbi Alexander Goode, the idealistic intellectual, followed his father into
when people joined together from different faiths or religions
USAT Dorchester had already been on five missions and
ministry and became a Rabbi. When the war was declared, he wanted to serve
- all things were possible.
always returned home safely.
was to create a “new world” from the pulpit in what he called the “century of
The USAT Dorchester set sail at 7 o’clock in the morning. The
The seas were rough, and as they travelled onward to their
humanity.” Alex wrote, “because Christianity and Judaism have influenced the
ship convoy included freighters, tankers, and was escorted by
destination, the majority of the men caught the sickness of
progress of democracy through their common Bible. The moral standards of
corvettes and destroyers. The fleet sailed in a single file until
the sea and needed to be tended to. The chaplains were not
religion have become the standards of democracy… The democratic element in
the New York skyline receded from their sight. Once out to sea
spared from this ordeal; for they too became ill, but not one
religion lies in the fact that it regards God as the father of all men; consequently,
they continued on in a zig-zag formation, in hopes that would
of them let that stand in their way of their obligations to the
all men are brothers and as brothers we are responsible to one another by ties of
enable the ship to dodge all possible torpedoes ahead.
men. The men became very close to their chaplains because
Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rabbi, 31
the people who would find themselves within harm’s way. His larger passion
(by example) they had shown
that might bring about fond memories of home. They also
possible because they were driven by more than duty to their
them that they truly were, “all
wanted to make death less painful for the men, in the event
country - they were inspired by the love they had for their
for one and one for all!”
that death actually arrived.
God. As the ship began to rapidly sink, the four ran from their stateroom onto the main deck. As they approached the deck,
February 2, 1943, began to
After the party was over, Father Washington gave a service
they heard wounded and frightened survivors as they screamed
show promise. The storms
sharing that all the men were to follow the orders of their
in terror, frantically groping in the dark for exits they couldn’t
had finally begun to subside
captain, and then was quoted as saying, “All of you know the
locate. Within the darkness is where many of the men began
and because most of the men
Lord’s prayer. Go and sing it, say it, whatever. It’ll help you.”
to hear the calming of the light, as the four chaplains began
were still ill, they worried
Later, it would be shared that, that was the only time Father
to speak words of comfort, trying to bring order within the
Washington ever brought religion into one of his services. The
panicked ship. Gradually the men began finding their way to
might still be lurking within
rest of the time he was just a man who was there to take care
the deck of the ship. Many clothed in only their underwear they
the waters below. How could
of other men.
were met by the freezing wind.
it already was? Shortly they
Before the four chaplains retired for the night, they went
Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, was one such man who, when
would learn how. At 3:30 PM,
around the ship reiterating to the men what their captain had
he arrived on the deck realized that he had forgotten his gloves.
they received communication
said, “every soldier
is ordered to sleep
their suffering be greater than
“All of you know the Lord’s prayer. Go and sing it, say it, whatever. It’ll help you.” -Father John P. Washington
blinked a short message to the
USAT Dorchester, “We are
and life jacket on.”
being followed. Submarines
estimated in our vicinity.
had passed, many
Inform all ships to close up
of the men thought
tightly and stay closed for
have escaped the danger, and because of the engine’s heat, many
With a few choice words he turned back to retrieve them
heard Rabbi Goode ask, “Where are you going?”
“To get my gloves,” Mahoney replied.
of the men disregarded their captain’s orders and decided to At around 6:30 PM, as the men U.S. Army photo.
were gathering for their dinner,
sleep in their underwear. Other’s ignored the warning because
“Don’t bother, Mahoney. I have another pair. You can
their life jackets were too uncomfortable.
have these.” He pulled off the gloves and gave them to
the voice of Captain Danielson
him. At first Mahoney refused to take them, because he
blasted over the loudspeaker: “Now hear this: This concerns
change within the men, stood up and announced that it was
At 12:55 AM on February 3, 1944, the men unitedly met their
knew it would be hard for anyone to survive in the icy
every soldier... Now hear this: Every soldier is ordered to sleep
time for a party. Weeks prior the chaplains had decided that
greatest fear face-to-face when, only 150 miles from their
water without gloves. It seemed unacceptable to condemn
with his clothes and life jacket. Repeating, this is an order! We
they were going to have an amateur night to lift up the spirits
destination, one of Erich Pässler’s torpedoes smashed into the
the rabbi to death. Mahoney slipped the gloves over his
have a submarine following us... If we make it through the night,
of the men, but the rough seas and the health of the men had
USAT Dorchester - entering slightly behind the starboard side
bitter hands and returned to the freezing deck. It wouldn’t
in the morning we will have air protection from Bluie West One,
prevented it from happening. At this point, there was no reason
near the engine room, ripping a hole from below the waterline
be until he reached safety where he came to a new
which is the code name for the air base in Greenland, and of
to put it off any longer. There might not be another tomorrow,
to the top of the deck. Immediately the lights went out, men
understanding of what transpired within the heart of his
course we will have protection until we reach port.” Captain
so it was announced over the loudspeaker that there was going
were thrown from their bunks, pipes broke, the strong odor
fearless chaplain. Rabbi Goode must have suspected that
Danielson repeated it one more time, ensuring that every man
to be a party in the mess hall.
of gunpowder and ammonia arrived, and much like a tidal
he would never leave the USAT Dorchester alive.
on board understood that they were to sleep dressed in all the
wave the water rushed in, drowning many of the oilers and
clothes they had including: shoes, hats, gloves, parkas, and their
For the first time since the four chaplains had arrived,
engineers. Many others were scaled to death by vapors from
Through the twenty minutes of chaos that would bring
life jackets. When he was sure there was no miscommunication
they were finally doing what they wanted to do when they
broken steam pipes and the broiler. Within minutes (as many
the men to safety or their death, the four Army chaplains
in his orders, he wished them all good luck.
volunteered to serve in the war, and God willing the USAT
as) 300 men had drowned.
brought hope to the men as they quickly spread themselves
Dorchester would arrive safely in Greenland. The four
out among them. Each trying to tend to the wounded, calm
Silence immediately reigned as the men stopped eating, their
chaplains had no idea what their fate would be that night,
In the meantime, the four chaplains jumped from their bunks
the frightened and guide the men who were going into
appetites suddenly gone. But then Reverend Fox, noticing the
and they wanted to give the men at least a few hours of joy
and with unwavering faith, set out to save as many men as
shock towards safety into the water. By the time most of the
Law 86-656, 86th Congress) and awarded by President Eisenhower on January 18, 1961. Congress attempted to confer the Medal of Honor but was blocked by the stringent requirements that required heroism performed under fire. The special medal was intended to have the same weight and importance as the Medal of Honor; also known as the Chaplain’s Medal of Honor and the Chaplain’s Medal for Heroism. The Statute Awarded the Medal Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States men made it topside, the chaplains opened a storage locker
of America in Congress assembled, the President is authorized
and began passing out life jackets that had red flashlights
to award posthumously appropriate medals and certificates to
attached to them. The red lights were attached in hopes that
Chaplain George L. Fox of Gilman, Vermont; Chaplain Alexander
their rescuers would be able to find them within darkness of
D. Goode of Washington, District of Columbia; Chaplain
the sea. And when there were no more life jackets within the
Clark V. Poling of Schenectady, New York; and Chaplain John
storage room, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to
P. Washington of Arlington, New Jersey, in recognition of the
four (unknown) young men.
extraordinary heroism displayed by them when they sacrificed their lives in the sinking of the troop transport Dorchester in
As the USAT Dorchester was positioning itself for its final
the North Atlantic in 1943 by giving up their life preservers to
descent, survivors in nearby life boats could see the four
other men aboard such transport. The medals and certificates
chaplains and watched as they joined their arms in alms
authorized by this Act shall be in such form and of such design as
and stood boldly, singing hymns and praying. The sound of
shall be prescribed by the President, and shall be awarded to such
English, Hebrew, and Latin was heard among those who were
representatives of the aforementioned chaplains as the President
being jogged within the vast sea of dimly-fading, red lights. Of
may designate. For more information on the Four Chaplains:
the 902 men aboard the USAT Dorchester, 672 died, leaving
230 survivors, many of which would spend the rest of their days retelling the story of the four chaplains - whom when giving their life jackets; Reverends Fox and Poling did not call out for a Protestant; Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; and Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic. They simply gave their life jackets as the purest example of what the Talmud teaches: Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. On July 14, 1960, a one-time only posthumous Special Medal for Heroism was authorized by an Act of Congress, (Public
Photos courtesy of U.S. Army and U.S. Navy
BIO Gina Renay is an Author, Freelance Writer, Editor and Entrepreneur. Gina is the author of Onward by Faith: A Mother’s Journey to Iraq and Back. The founder of Owie BowWowie and Friends Foundation - a non-profit organization that creates and gives gifts of comfort to children who are hospitalized with a life-threatening illness. She has also co-founded Marine Comfort Quilts, which provides thousands of quilts for Gold Star Moms. The group’s mission is to deliver a comfort quilt to each mother of the fallen who have given their life for our freedom.
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“Faithful unto Death”
The inscription on Cushing’s headstone at the West Point Cemetery, Section 26, Row A, Grave 7.
t is not surprising that First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing was not present to receive his Medal of Honor on November 6, 2014. It was bestowed on him posthumously - 151 years after he performed the deeds for which he earned it. Although he was born in what is now Delafield, Wisconsin, Cushing was raised in Fredonia New York. He graduated from West Point with the class of 1861, when he was only twenty years old. The American Civil War had been in progress for only two months at the time of his graduation, so the Union needed all the qualified officers it could get. The need was so great that Cushing received his commissions as first and second lieutenants on the same day. Cushing began a meteoric career immediately. He saw action as an artillery officer at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia (1861), Antietam, Maryland (1862), Fredericksburg, Virginia (1862), and Chancellorsville, Virginia (1863). He also trained volunteer troops in Washington, D.C. and served as an ordnance officer on the staff of Gen. Edwin V. Sumner and as a topographical engineer. During the Chancellorsville campaign, Cushing was promoted to command Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, in the Army of the Potomac’s II Corps. His experience served him in good stead as the Confederate and Union armies clashed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in early July 1863 in what many historians consider the turning point of the war.
U.S. Army photo, courtesy of West Point Public Affairs.
The battle began on July 1st. The two sides fought hard, but neither could gain a decisive advantage. That changed on the third day, when Cushing played a major role in turning back the Confederates. That day, July 3rd, Cushing commanded 126 men who manned six cannons positioned on Cemetery Ridge. Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet launched an assault on the Union lines during which Confederate artillery poured withering fire into Cushing’s battery. Cushing did not know it at the time, but he and his battery were positioned at the exact point where Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett planned to break the Union defense in what became known historically as “Pickett’s Charge.” Cushing defended his position valiantly. The Confederates killed all but two of his officers and destroyed four of his guns. Cushing was wounded in the abdomen and the right shoulder, but he refused to concede defeat. He kept his two remaining guns in action as the Confederates reached within 100 yards of his position. At that point, Cushing was shot in the head. He died instantly - but not in vain. The Confederates were repulsed due largely to Cushing’s heroism and his gunners’ steadfastness. From that point on the Union forces gained the upper hand, due in part to Cushing’s personal last stand. It took a century-and-a-half for people to recognize his role in the war’s turnaround, but they did eventually, and he finally received the honor he so richly deserved.
By Dick Marcinko
hy “Brothers”? Because they are both U.S. Navy Seals, so by that alone they are brothers in that occupational and traditional description of Team existence.
Why “Bookends”? Because they are physically and characteristically at the opposite extremes of the spectrum. Mike Thornton, the gregarious, confident, dancing-bear and Tommy Norris, the epitome of the “Silent Option”. Why “Men of Honor”? Because they both have been awarded the highest award this nation can bestow. The Medal of Honor! Although they are at the extremes physically, demur and lifestyles, they are bound by the same courage, patriotism, team spirit and principles. Their styles may be completely different but their results are the same. They are “bookends” that embody what we all who serve would hope someday to be.
In the United States Navy, it is a great honor and privilege to be in command. It is a tradition that has survived the challenges of history. War and Peace present different varieties of unique challenges but in the end - Command is command; I have been blessed to have been in command of SEAL Team TWO, post-Vietnam; facing the “lessons learned” of Vietnam and attempting to forecast and prepare for the next theatre of combat. My time was focused on updating equipment worn by back to back deployments in combat and writing requirements for what will be needed for the next deployments to combat. The men were engaged in finally documenting what was successful and what was near failure. In this process it was my duty to ensure all the awards earned in combat were not only submitted, but properly included in each recipients’ service record. A task that quickly brought back my personal memories that I maintained from my combat engagements - it is during this effort that the first of the two brothers enters this script, Tommy Norris. While reviewing awards for the men Photo courtesy of the Navy SEAL Museum. at SEAL Team TWO, it was brought to my attention (by Ryan McCombie) that Tommy Norris had been nominated to receive the Silver Star with combat V for operations rescuing downed U. S. Air Force pilots in enemy held territory. The paperwork had been submitted via a joint command process. After reading the submitted description of the events and doing additional research, it was apparent to us that the “due process” was written by someone grateful for the success but did not recognize the risk Tommy had taken, not just once, but several times to save fellow warriors from being captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). I felt the anxiety and dedication Tommy had to have experienced. It was my duty, as a fellow Brother, to re-submit the nomination and change it to the Medal of Honor. Tommy went back into the same rendezvous point knowing the over powering enemy strength with only two Vietnamese Navy Seals or Lien Doc Nquoi Nhia (LDNN), communications and air support, as needed, behind the
same enemy lines. Obviously, I was not the only person that believed Tommy Norris deserved the Medal of Honor. The next time Tommy and I crossed professional paths was years later when I was Commanding Officer of SEAL Team SIX and Tommy was one of the original candidates for the newly formed FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), headed up by Danny Coulson. By this time Tommy had been gravely wounded, loss portions of his brain and an eye. Tommy focused on getting a waiver to apply for the FBI and made the grade, as expected by himself if no one else. In the FBI field duty, he was a “jewel” for undercover tasking due to his professionalism, personality and “dirt-bag”, no-threat image. He was, once again, the “Silent Option”. The fact that Tommy was alive to apply for the FBI is a sole credit to the other “Bookend” – Mike Thornton. It was Mike Thornton who risked his life saving Tommy, who had been declared dead above the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The two led a reconnaissance mission above the DMZ and were inserted in error, further north than planned. Mike’s “Leave no teammate/Seal behind” creed earned Mike the Medal of Honor. Brothers - one earns a Medal of Honor saving another who had been nominated for the Medal of Honor himself. The glue that bound them then is even stronger today living up to the demands of a Medal of Honor Recipient. Their story is well illustrated in their recently published book, By Honor Bound, Tom Norris and Mike Thornton with Dick Couch; St. Martin’s Press. The forward is written by another Seal Medal of Honor recipient Bob Kerrey and the Preface written by Drew Dix, a U.S. Army Special Forces warrior that also received the Medal of Honor for action during Tet of 1968 which I witnessed. They are all Brothers - in - kind due to their actions and subsequent Medals of Honor. Back to Tommy. Since SEAL Team SIX was located in Virginia Beach, VA, and the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, it was a
quick trip up and down I-95 to exchange training scenarios and work together. HRT also exchanged training criteria with DELTA Force at Fayetteville, NC. We all knew that there were more bad guys than the few of us; the good guys! HRT came on line later than both military units so we had already worked through a list of trial and error events. HRT had more than just Tommy onboard as an operator with SEAL background. There was a “Seal mafia” within the FBI by that time. It was almost a mini-reunion for us to visit each other’s units for the sharing of tactics, equipment and intelligence. I was impressed with the accomplishments of Tommy who was fighting toeto-toe with only one eye. Obviously, shooting was a challenge but more than that was that only one eye causes a depth perception deficit. Can you image leaving a helicopter at 100 feet off the ground reaching for a fast rope? Two eyes are hard enough; one means sometimes you miss and end up hugging the line with your whole body until you hit the ground. Depth perception is normal with only one functional eye. Tommy took a lot of friendly ribbing but always accomplished the task. Nothing had changed in his drive and focus on achieving his goals. If there was any obvious impairment, it was when he suffered headaches. He would endure the pain until it was just too much and he had to take a break. When you read
the book you will see that those breaks never interfered with operations or mission accomplishment. Tommy retired after 20 years of service with FBI and much of that accomplished were his unique ability to function under cover and his courage throughout both careers. Those same headaches continue today and he continues to have surgery to alleviate them or make corrective restructuring. Each procedure has to be another benchmark in his desire to fulfill his life’s dreams. His recent marriage is just one more accomplishment that demonstrates his desire to remain a well-rounded individual. Mike Thornton was present for that major event in Tommy’s life as a loyal Brother should be. Tommy was never a heavy drinker; in fact, he was a “token” drinker. The combination of his slight of body size and no real desire to consume allowed him to reach his “dry humor” level in any social sipping event early and almost at will. He was always there to be with the team and worked hard at maintaining unit integrity with whoever he worked with. The highlight or warning order when Tommy had reached the plateau of the social event is when he teasingly removes his glass eye and puts it in the glass as he orders a refill.
on” tutelage of “The Eagle” Bob Gallagher. Bob was a hardened combat veteran who excelled in combat. His Navy Cross to wit. They were a dynamic duo to have in any one command. Both provided realistic and dynamic training exercises but were just as professional in the required basics of all functional mission profiles. I often wished I could be a “fly-on-the-wall” for their planning sessions. From there Mike served on exchange duty with the British Royal Marines at Special Boat Service (SBS), UK’s Special Forces. I’ve always considered exchange duty assignments a value. Not only does it expose the individual to new customs; similar but different tactics; different equipment but most importantly the native culture and value system of our allies. It maintains a great “good-old-boy” network for years to come among the warriors that count on a personal basis.
The reaction of the bartender or new comrades in libations is priceless. He doesn’t do it often; but each time he has it has been for good reason and a fond memory to all that shared it. If you were there to witness this act you definitely recognize how well he blended in “undercover” in FBI field operations. Tommy rose to team leader; operations and Executive Officer (XO) while at HRT. He always accomplishes tasks he sets for himself without fanfare or one ounce of bravado. No one ever has to look over their shoulder when Tommy is on scene. The “Silent Option” or “Cool Breeze” has always been his characteristic trademark. Back to the other bookend – Mike Thornton. My first exposure to Mike was when I was commanding officer of SEAL Team TWO. It was a short and limited visitation because I was transferred to my next duty station. Based on his previous assignments he went right to the training unit under the “hands
In late summer 1980 I was commissioned to form SEAL Team SIX. In that process I actively recruited Mike Thornton from his California sanctuary. I am guilty of being selfish in wanting Mike as one of my key plank owners (personnel assigned to the start-up of a new command). He had just completed an accompanied tour overseas with the British SBS and I thought that that stability would give Mike a family license to meet the deployment schedule I was going to impose. I was wrong. Mike is a great family man and loves his kids dearly; even through present day and their adulthood. I did not consider the family conditions in England and forgot the weather there is traumatic when you are used to California. Nontheless, I wanted him and with some persuasion he came. Consider the calendar being 1980. The last real continued missions under fire for SEAL troops were 1972. Most of the combat experience was reaching the 20 active duty year mark and getting ready to retire. My first priority in selecting enlisted was combat experience which in my language meant shot at and the bullet went past their ear with their name on it. It was a diminishing pool of experience. The next priority was apprentice trade union skills so they could penetrate a hostage situation and service a utility and collect tactical intelligence that was fresh and meaningful, and
the last was foreign languages skills. I’m never comfortable with translators. My selection for officers was similar in that I selected exchange experience; combat experience and professional officer sources to round off the wardroom. This new mission was on the heels of our failure to free the hostages in Iran. No one wanted another failure! The demands on the plank owners were beyond anyone’s expectations. Adjust to “modified grooming” standards; civilian clothing; heavy counter-intelligence exposure; new equipment, (often designed by the troops); saturation training in all functional areas of being a SEAL and finding adequate command accommodations. Every plank owner was deployed at least 220 days the first year. So much for family life? With this type of a circus going on day to day it was people like Mike Thornton who did set the example; did lead from the front; did offer leadership and had time to learn the personalities of each team member. He was hard-nosed; professional; a sea-daddy and an executioner if you flunked lunch. He more than lived up to my demands and expectations. Mike is not without sin; none of us are. That’s why we are in unconventional warfare. We act and think differently and/or when under duress take action and work out the ramifications later. Please do not let “political correctness” remove the “special” from Special Warfare. Mike has always been physical and he uses it as a tool. All of his experience in training cadre made him a cog in making sure we mastered the basics before we moved on to hi-speed or modified procedures. His British experience was apparent in this mode. He worked hard at getting all of his team comfortable in all disciplines. He did lead and he was a harsh instructor. This was a hi-stakes game and he was playing for real world. I was always amazed at how he could charge like a bull; wrestle like a bear and then be light-footed and pivot like he was floating on air. I admit that he counseled me often late at night after night operations. He didn’t pull any punches. Speaking of punches, I didn’t mention his fast hands. He does not waste time pushing and shoving like a grade school playground encounter. When the hands move duck, because what is coming is big, hard and has a “snap” to it. When we share the past these days there are many memories of incidents in which we were both either at fault or damn lucky. Of the 75 enlisted members selected to be a plank owner at SEAL Team SIX all but 5 have gained a commission through one program or another available in the U.S. Navy. Those that did not were senior enlisted (E-8/E-9) and preferred to remain in that category. They all served well and many continue today as contractors within the command
Photo courtesy of the Navy SEAL Museum.
structure to provide lessons-learned and corporate memory of how and why things were done. Mike moved on and gained his Limited Duty Officer (LDO) commission in the salvage and diving world. Limited Duty Officer; or for those of us that strive on sarcasms it stands for (Loud Dumb and Obnoxious). The incidents that Mike and I share certainly could fall into the latter category at times. It speaks highly of him though on how he adapted his leadership skills and aggressive nature to solve problems of major proportions in the operational environment of the general navy. I am proud of all of his accomplishments and his ability to do it and remain Mike Thornton. Today, both Mike and Tommy are always available to serve the needs of the Medal of Honor Society and further, do their utmost to attend charitable events, nation-wide to assist our wounded vets. They continue to serve; they maintain that patriotic fervor without consideration of their own comfort or personal satisfaction. Nothing has changed with age and experience in their love of this nation, our vets and their families. Until I read their book I had not considered the
weight and responsibility of wearing the Medal of Honor. Think about it! The Medal of Honor is awarded for doing their mission, one act that was so challenging that they did not have time to consider what they were doing. They had the courage and character to take action, it was not a calculated risk assessment. They performed above and beyond the call of duty. Now that they wear the Medal of Honor, every act they perform must be weighed. It was easier earning it than it is wearing it! Finally recognizing that effort, they must bear today makes me feel we need to honor them even more. They deserve it for what they did then and now more so for the personal liberties they have lost NOW! I salute my brothers; The Bookends!
Dick Marcinko is best known as the founder, creator, and first commanding officer of two of the militaryâ€™s premier counter-terrorist units: SEAL TEAM SIX and RED CELL. With a B.A. in International Relations from the Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA and a M.A. in Political Science from Auburn University, Mr. Marcinko brings to the private sector the same skill, dedication and enthusiasm that earned him 34 citations and medals, including the Legion of Merit, the Silver Star and four Bronze Stars with combat â€œVâ€?.
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“This Medal of Honor belongs to the other 16 Special Forces soldiers with me.” - Bennie G. Adkins
n September 15, 2014 retired U.S. Army soldier Bennie G. Adkins received his long overdue Medal of Honor for actions that occurred March 9-12, 1966 - 48 years earlier.
The Oklahoma-born Adkins entered the army in 1956 via the draft. He thrived in a military environment, completing airborne school and volunteering for Special Forces in 1961. He served with Special Forces for over thirteen years, which included three tours in Vietnam (1963, 1965-66, and 1971). During his second tour he earned his MOH for bravery during a 38-hour close combat battle at Camp A Shau against North Vietnamese troops. Adkins was serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces at A Shu when a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force attacked early one morning, Adkins reacted immediately. He manned a mortar position and adjusted fire continually. As he did, he attracted heavy enemy mortar counter fire from which he incurred several wounds, which he ignored. Adkins learned that several soldiers in the center of the camp had been wounded. He turned his mortar over to a comrade and raced through the enemy mortar fire to drag several of the wounded troops to safety at the camp dispensary, enduring sporadic sniper fire in the process. Then, he turned his attention to an unexpected threat. Members of the camp’s Civilian Irregular Defense Group defected to the enemy and opened heavy small arms fire on
President Barack Obama, presents retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins, the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House, September 15, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Courtney Ropp.
Adkins and his fellow defenders. Once again Adkins reacted instinctively to aid his comrades. He exited the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and drew fire upon himself to cover the rescue. Later, he went outside the camp again to retrieve desperately needed supplies that had been air dropped. For the next few hours Adkins was a whirlwind of activity. He fired mortars, recoilless rifles, and small arms fire at the constantly attacking enemy. He sustained more wounds as he fought. At one point he left a communications bunker from which he and several comrades were fighting, raced through heavy fire to a mortar pit, collected badly needed ammo, and returned it to the shelter. Finally, the troops were ordered to evacuate the camp. Adkins and several comrades destroyed all the signal equipment and classified documents, dug out of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp. Adkins’ heroics continued. He carried a wounded comrade to an evacuation point, where he learned that the last helicopter had already left. Undeterred, Adkins led an Escape and Evasion (E&E) operation that culminated in their rescue by helicopter on March 12, 1966. The numbers involved in Adkins’ efforts were astounding. He killed between 135 - 175 enemy troops during the 38-hour battle and 48-hour E&E and sustained eighteen different wounds. Adkins earned his MOH at a great personal expense - which is the norm for MOH Recipients. He retired from the army in 1978.
By Caled Downs
“You don’t have to go to war and earn a Medal of Honor to be a hero in somebody’s life or to make a difference in somebody’s life.”
President and CEO of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
t all began with a twenty dollar bill in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Maumee, Ohio.
When 9-year-old Myles Eckert found the abandoned money, he pocketed it, planning to put it toward a new video game. But inside the restaurant, he saw a man in military uniform who reminded Myles of his father, who died in Iraq just five weeks after Myles was born. Myles gave the airman the twenty dollars wrapped in a handwritten note. The airman was moved by Myles’ act of kindness and told a local news station about it. When the story ran, people started trying to pay Myles his money back. Rather than accept the money, Myles and his family donated it to Snowball Express, an event presented by American Airlines that helps kids who’ve lost parents in combat. That was two years ago. As of today, more than two million dollars has been donated with the help of a matching grant program.
This March, Myles and four others received a Citizen Honors Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to public service and promoting the values instilled in all Medal of Honor recipients. “The hard part is choosing the most deserving nominations,” says Ron Rand, President and CEO of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. “But we think there are no better judges to make those decisions than Medal of Honor recipients.” The group was founded in 1999 and began awarding annual Citizen Honors Awards in 2008. According to Rand, the group’s mission is to “perpetuate the legacy of the medal, increase awareness of the values embodied by the medal and inspire and educate all Americans - especially youth - to live lives guided by those values: courage, sacrifice, citizenship, patriotism, commitment and integrity.” In honor of Memorial Day on May 30, we spoke with Rand to learn more about the foundation’s initiatives and what it means to be a true hero.
Interview Continued on Next Page...
Why is the mission of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation important to you? “We want future generations of Americans to grow up with the same freedoms, privileges, opportunities and hopes that we were able to grow up with. To do that, we have to have the next generation of Americans guided by those core values and principles. It’s a really important mission to teach the next generation of Americans that within everyone lie these values and the opportunities to be heroes. You don’t have to go to war and earn a Medal of Honor to be a hero in somebody’s life or to make a difference in somebody’s life. Everybody can do that.” One of the foundation’s main initiatives is the Character Development Program, which incorporates the stories of Medal of Honor recipients into educational curricula for middle schools and high schools. What do you hope to impart to students through the program? “It’s all about selfless service. It’s all about doing something in your life that is extraordinary because circumstances and the values that you hold within drive you to do that. The 60 lesson plans are based on individual Medal of Honor Recipient stories, and a healthy dose of citizen honor stories is now baked in so that teachers don’t have to teach those values in the context of a combat scenario.” Elaborate on the Citizen Honors Program and the message it sends to the broader community about the nature of the six values embodied by the Medal of Honor. “Every year, we have congressmen and senators, mayors and governors, teachers and parents and friends and coaches nominate ordinary Americans who performed extraordinary acts of courage or service in their communities independent from combat or wearing a uniform. We think that recognizing ordinary people who performed extraordinary acts of kindness and service is the best way anyone can think of to promote those values and to make everyone who watches think, ‘I could be that person too. I could do those kinds of things too. I could make decisions every day that would help make someone’s life better in my community, in my school, in my family, wherever people live and work.’ It’s complementary. The Character Development Program teaches the values. The Citizen Honors Program recognizes the values in people across the country.” How will you be honoring our fallen soldiers this Memorial Day? “Memorial Day and Veterans Day are the two days during the year on which almost every one of the 78 living Medal of Honor recipients will go to ceremonies honoring the service of people who made the ultimate sacrifice and the people
defending our freedom today. They’ll be out and about in force, and they do that with passion and pride. I’ll be at as many of those ceremonies as I can. Our job at the foundation is to help make the activities of the recipients possible: being places, talking to people, comforting families, welcoming returning warriors, going to schools, talking to kids. Watching these American heroes comfort people is better than candy, better than money.” How can those interested get involved with the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation? “Aside from making donations, they can volunteer to teach the Character Development Program. There’s a lot of work to be done. We’ve taught a lot of teachers and kids. We’ve recognized a lot of citizen heroes. But in the big scheme of things, there is a long, long way to go until we have fulfilled the mission of making sure that we’ve inspired and educated every person in America, and particularly every kid in America, to live by the values embodied by the Medal of Honor.” www.Medalofhonor.com. This story originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of American Way magazine. It appears courtesy of and with permission from American Way magazine.
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“The real heroes are the nine men who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home.” -Ryan M. Pitts
ew Hampshire native and current resident Ryan M. Pitts joined the U.S. Army in January 2003 at age seventeen. After completing basic training and advanced individual training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, he attended U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Eventually he completed two tours in Afghanistan, in 2005 (12 months) and 2007 (15 months). He earned his Medal of Honor during his second deployment. On July 13, 2008 Pitts was serving as a Forward Observer in 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. His unit was engaged in combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, near Wanat Village, Kunar Province. Sergeant Pitts was providing perimeter security at OP (Observation Post) Topside, away from the main base, when a large force of more than 200 Taliban militants launched a surprise attack on his position around 4 AM. The attackers poured accurate, intense rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun, and small arms fire onto the OP from close by. The initial wave of grenade rounds wounded Pitts and several of his comrades. The blasts knocked Pitts to the ground, where he lay bleeding profusely from shrapnel wounds to his arm and legs. His wounds did not deter him from supporting his comrades. Pitts assumed control and returned fire on the enemy as they drew nearer. While in a sitting position, he threw grenades in
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts, at the White House, July 21, 2014. Photo by Lisa Ferdinado, ARNEWS.
an unconventional manner. Due to the closeness of the action he could not simply pull the pins and toss the grenades. Rather, he held the grenades after pulling the pins. Then, he released the safety levers to create a nearly immediate detonation on the hostile forces. Pitts was unable to stand and his life was slipping away due to blood loss and the severity of his wounds. Nevertheless, he continued to lay suppressive fire until a two-man reinforcement team arrived. He gave them his main weapon and gathered ammunition while continuing to toss fragmentary grenades until he threw his last one. Weaponless, Pitts crawled to a radio and described the situation to the Command Post (CP) as the enemy attempted to isolate the OP from the main Patrol Base. Even though he was surrounded by the enemy, and he knew he was risking his own life, Pitts whispered in radio situation reports that the CP used to provide indirect fire support. Ultimately, due in large part to Pitts’ courage, the enemy failed to capture the OP and gain fortified positions on higher ground from which to attack the Patrol Base. Nine U.S. soldiers died in that attack on Observation Post Topside. There is no telling how many more were saved by Pitts’ intrepid courage and leadership. Yet, in true Medal of Honor recipient fashion, it is those nine men he wants people to remember. (He received his Medal of Honor on July 21, 2014.) No wonder selflessness is a hallmark of MOH Recipients.
“The Green Beret is a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage and a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom. I know the United States Army will live up to its reputation for imagination, resourcefulness, and spirit as we meet this challenge.” -President John F. Kennedy
n the trying times our nation now faces throughout the globe, President Kennedy’s words ring true as much as ever in our Nation’s history, and the United States Army Special Forces, better known as Green Berets, meet and defeat each and every challenge they face with courage, valor and extraordinary heroism. From the conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia Afghanistan, and countless other hot zones throughout the world, Green Berets represent many Medal of Honor Recipients, many more would be earned if the true magnitude of their heroism were known. Green Berets are deployed in dozens of countries to lead the tip of the spear of America’s military. They are tasked with the most dangerous missions and quietly bring the fight to our enemies so we don’t battle them at home. With little fanfare and uncommon effectiveness, Green Berets are our country’s greatest force multiplier. They are our nation’s finest warriors, and often pay the ultimate sacrifice in the shadows, without seeking credit, and far too often without the American public truly understanding the price they pay. Green Berets sustain the highest casualty rate in the Special Operations community since September 11, 2001, and they have been in constant deployment since that fateful day. It is the norm, rather than the exception for Green Berets to have
completed ten or more combat deployments. This constant rotation in the world’s most austere environments comes at a price, and the Green Beret Foundation 501c(3) was founded to meet the needs of these warriors and their families. The Green Beret has four primary programs to support the Special Forces Community: Casualty Care for the wounded and fallen, Extended Care for the ongoing needs of the wounded, Transition support through the Next Ridgeline, and Family Support for those that care for their Green Berets.
Major General David A. Morris Chairman of the Board Green Beret Foundation
ajor General (Ret.) David A. Morris is the founder and owner of Decisive Edge, LLC, a consulting company focused on the defense and intelligence communities, specializing in Special Operations, Joint, Coalition and Interagency integration as well as stability operations. Commissioned as an Infantry officer in 1975 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Morris subsequently served in Infantry and Special Forces assignments until 1984, including tours in the war in El Salvador, duty as the operations officer for an in-extremis force, and as a Special Forces instructor.
The Green Beret Foundation has supported over a thousand Green Berets and thousands more family members throughout the existence of the Foundation. When a Green Beret is injured, the Green Beret Foundation immediately sends them a ruck sack filled with essential supplies for the Green Beret and their family. In addition, the Green Beret Foundation pays for the transportation of family members so they can be by their Green Beret’s side through recovery. Eventually, the Green Beret will leave a military healthcare facility, and new challenges await in their extended care. When the Veterans Administration can’t meet the needs of Green Berets, the Green Beret Foundation steps in to provide unconventional and personalized support tailored to their needs. Examples include hypobaric oxygen therapy and in-vitro fertilization for those Green Berets whose combat injuries inhibit their ability to conceive children. If there is a proven and effective treatment that helps heal a wounded Green Beret, the Green Beret Foundation will do everything in its power to deliver those services. For family members of a Green Beret, we provide funds for lodging and transportation, counsel the grieving, and provide events for family members to reconnect and heal. We offer scholarships for their children and find very creative ways to assist in any way we can.
We have formed a special sorority known as the Steel Mags to support the women in a Green Beret’s life. Mothers, wives, sisters and daughters all have a circle of support to assist in the challenges they face. Constant deployment creates unique challenges for a family, and a supportive family provides Green Berets the spiritual sustenance they need to complete their missions. When Green Berets come home from the battlefield, they face new challenges as they transition to the next stage of their lives. The Next Ridgeline program provides opportunities for Green Berets to collaborate, train, and develop the skills they need to move from the Team Room to the Board Room. The Green Beret Foundation connects Green Berets with mentors and resources to find the peace they fought so hard to provide for the rest of us. Green Berets are a national treasure and represent the finest of American values. The world is not getting any safer, and Green Berets will be called upon again and again for the foreseeable future. The Green Beret Foundation is honored to support their valor and heroism with the same dedication that they have shown the United States of America.
De Oppresso Liber
As an Army reserve officer, Morris served with a special mission unit, the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and various other Special Operations units. In 1991, he was mobilized for Operation Desert Storm, serving at USSOCOM. After the 9/11 attacks, Morris returned to active duty as a Colonel, for Operation Enduring Freedom, serving as the Deputy Commander of Special Operations Command Joint Forces Command (SOCJFCOM), and also leading a sensitive project for support to Special Operations Forces worldwide. He later deployed for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, where he commanded the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula. Promoted to Brigadier General in 2005, Morris was assigned as the Deputy Commanding General of the US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) (USACAPOC (A)). In June 2007, he was returned to active duty, promoted to Major General and assumed command of USACAPOC (A). In September 2009, Major General Morris relinquished command and was assigned to US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), still on active duty, where he served as the Deputy Director for the Joint Capability Development Directorate (J8) and later as the Director of the Joint Irregular Warfare Center, which included duties as the Department of Defense Executive Agent for Joint Urban Operations. Morris finished out his active duty stint as a Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army, retiring in January 2012 with over 36 years of active and reserve service, with multiple deployments in Latin America and the Middle East. As a civilian, Major General Morris served in the intelligence community including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Intelligence Directorates of USSOCOM, US European Command and USJFCOM, as well as the Joint Analysis Center, RAF Molesworth, United Kingdom. He retired as a member of the Senior Intelligence Executive Service in 2008.
Major General Morris is regarded as a Subject Matter Expert in both Special Operations and Intelligence matters. From 2012-2014, he served as a Vice President at DynCorp International, focusing on Special Operations and Intelligence strategies and business development. He was the Senior National Security Advisor to James Madison University in 2012. Morris also served as an adjunct professor with the American Public University System from 20122014, teaching graduate courses related to Special Operations and Joint Warfare. Morris has participated in “Future of SOF” roundtable discussions and was a featured speaker at the Annual “SOF Summit,” as well as a guest lecturer at the Naval Post Graduate School. He has been a member of the Board of Advisors for LEMKO Corporation since 2012. In early 2013, he was selected for induction into the Civil Affairs Hall of Fame as an honorary member of the regiment.
Major General Morris holds an MPA degree with a triple major from Golden Gate University and is also a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College and the US Army War College. His most significant awards include the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge with Star, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Master Parachutist Badge, the Republic of Colombia Lancero Badge (Ranger), and the jump wings of nine foreign nations. He also received the 2009 John H. Hilldring Award of the Civil Affairs Association.
To the Soldiers of the Past, Present & Future
LIVING MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
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“We must remember that one man is much the same as another, and that he is best who is trained in the severest school.” Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War - 431-404 B.C.
I By CDR Dan O’Shea (SEAL)
walked into Danny’s Bar & Grill in Coronado, California on Friday afternoon prior to the annual West Coast SEAL Team reunion. I intended to start off the weekend by first paying my respects. Contrary to popular local lore, it is Danny’s and not McP’s (founded by a Vietnam era SEAL) that is the post 9/11 SEAL Team generation’s local SEAL hangout or “Frogman” bar of choice in Coronado. The walls are adorned with the portraits of 75 SEAL operators who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. Of course the actual number is much higher when you consider the many retired and former SEALs who have also been Killed In Action (KIA), serving in support of ‘other government agencies’ as defense contractors whether as combat advisors or protecting diplomats - SEALs like Ty Woods and Glen Doherty who were both killed in Benghazi, Libya last year on anniversary of 9/11. In any case, many pre and post Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) deployment parties are regularly held at Danny’s – where all too often, yet another picture is added to the “Our Fallen Heroes… Honor the Brotherhood” memorial gallery. My intent when I arrived was to silently toast some former teammates like Dave Tapper KIA Afghanistan in August 2003, Michael Murphy KIA Operation Red Wings in 2005 and Louis Langlais killed with 31 others on the ‘Extortion 17’ helicopter crash of August 6, 2011. However, as soon as I walked into the bar, I knew I wouldn’t be drinking alone that day… The SEAL Team THREE (ST-3) platoon I’d embedded with during my tour as a counter-insurgency advisor in Afghanistan a year earlier, was there as well - to memorialize a fallen Teammate – Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SO1) Patrick Feeks. At the end of their deployment, as the platoon completed its preparations for its return to San Diego, Patrick had volunteered for one more mission with a sister ST-3 platoon and was regrettably killed along with SEAL Dave Warsen in a helicopter crash. This was one year ago to the day – August 16, 2012.
U.S. Marines and Navy SEALs debrief during a joint visit, board, search and seizure exercise as part of composite training in the Atlantic Ocean. DoD photo.
Far from giving the impression of a somber “wake” the scene was spirited and lively. The entire bar was filled with platoon and Teammates of Patrick’s, all wearing an assortment of T-shirts emblazoned with tributes like “Team Feeks”, “Warsen Legacy Run/Walk”, and “Monsoor” (Michael Mansoor MoH KIA Ramadi, Iraq September 29, 2006) “Loondog” (Lieutenant Brendan Looney KIA in Afghanistan September 21, 2010). Rounds were being served and shared amongst platoon-mates celebrating a reunion since their combat tour ended a year earlier. Each image honored fallen teammates on the walls above who were looking down from Valhalla at this powerful vision of brotherhood below. In Norse mythology, Valhalla “Hall of the Slain” is the lodge of Odin, the God of War, where those who die in combat assemble to drink grog, share exploits and honor heroics. To the initiated, this celebration would seem out of place but not to those in the room. Since the dawn of warfare, remembering fallen fighters who died protecting a culture, a clan or country have been honored by toasts and tributes, in ballads and bars. Every SEAL in Danny’s had a close connection to the brothers on the walls through shared sweat and combat tours – all with one common uniting denominator - BUD/S training.
reputation as the most physically and mentally challenging initiation. The infamous week long “Hellweek” constitutes one hundred and twenty hours of physical exertion with only 4 to 5 hours of sleep for the entire five days. The 70 to 80 percent attrition rates alone mean only the most committed in mind, body and spirit will survive the indoctrination process. When a nation’s survival depends upon a select few at the tip of the spear, the process is meant to be Darwinian and has historical precedent. Yet where and how does a nation develop her youth to become her staunchest defenders and warriors willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve a nation’s sovereignty?
Like their predecessors, longhaired, bearded Scandinavian seaborne raiders, today’s modern day Viking in combat is a CrossFit conditioned, tattooed Special Operation Forces (SOF) operator committed to the warrior’s calling. Many SEALs present an opposing image literally wearing his lionheart ethos vividly painted permanently on his arms. Ever present among the many inked sleeves and torsos is the “Bone Frog”, a skeletal image of a fossilized frog that honors the memory of fallen SEALs. Every time Teammates assemble in Danny’s, an earthly version of Valhalla is created paying silent tribute with each round of grog shared in spirit with our fallen Frog brothers. Each is honored but never openly mourned for a reason. They lived a full life of meaning, purpose and shared sacrifice, vanquishing our nation’s enemies without hesitation or regret. We regard our departed brothers-in-arms as men who gave their last full measure on this earth and now wait on the other side with a fresh pint ready for the next hero to arrive at Odin’s watering hole. This cavalier attitude toward dying is not false bravado but borne by acceptance of a warrior’s calling. Living a life without fear of death despite a very dangerous chosen profession is in the DNA every SOF operator. Each SEAL accepts that our nation’s survival rests on their shoulders and lives by the Samurai - Bushido code that stresses mastery of the martial
Service members do pushups under rushing water during an event at Travis Air Force Base. The training offers a snapshot of what special operations forces do. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese.
arts, loyalty and honor unto death. From the SEAL Creed: I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight. Navy SEALs espouse the “failure is not an option” ethos of the unconventional, elite Special Operations Forces (SOF) community. Traditional SOF consists of SEALs, Army Special Forces & Rangers, Air Force Pararescue & Combat Controllers and now Marine Corps Special Operations Command or MARSOC operators. Each respective service prides itself on the rigors of their own selection process reserved for their most elite service members. Within that SOF fraternity, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training has the
Nearly every society in history has had an elite training academy for the warrior class upon which a military builds its ranks and leadership infrastructure upon and nationalistic core to protect society, preserve her culture and promote her values. The end-state product is a warrior who routinely seeks out and accepts the most demanding (and dangerous) assignments as a means to validate his quest in life to be the very best in his profession of arms. This “mission-quest” for SOF operators shares a universal warrior lineage that traces its origins to the Greek ideal of “Arête” – the pursuit of excellence and living up to one’s full potential. In the ancient Greece city-state of Sparta, it meant courage and strength in the face of adversity or battle. For young male Spartans, the path to arête began at the “agōgē,” a rigorous education and arduous military training commune. Competing in daily athletic competitions and military battle drills, the regime cultivated loyalty to and dependence upon one’s peers, allegiance to the state above personal interests and produced individuals who were indifferent to suffering or pain. The result produced physically and morally superior males and the elite of Spartan’s warrior cult society. Today’s supremacy of Western ideals (rule of law, separation of Church and State, individual rights, etc.) and democratic principles over autocratic rule and state repression owes its success to 300 chosen Spartan Hoplite warriors who the defended the pass at Thermopylae against a Persian horde estimated at more than 300,000 in 480 BC. The Persians were led by Xerxes, a self-declared Zoroastrian demi-god monarch, who intended to add the Peloponnesian archipelago to his list of conquered territories forced to submit to his divine rule. 1,000 to 1 odds would normally overwhelm any defensive advantage, but the Spartans held out for three days. It would prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for Xerxes as Athens was able to evacuate and survive. The democratic Greek city-state model that flourished and evolved into today’s nation state was not pre-ordained. It was only due to the sacrifice of these Spartans
SEAL team members practice desert training exercises in preparation for real world scenarios. SEALs have the ability to conduct a variety of high-risk missions - unconventional warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance, combat search and rescue, diversionary attacks and precision strikes - all in a clandestine fashion. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon.
U.S. Navy SEALs fast rope from an HH-60H Seahawk helicopter during a capabilities exercise on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. DoD photo.
Navy SEALs conduct immediate action drills at the John C. Stennis Space Center as part of their pre-deployment training. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman John Scorza.
who held off a vastly greater force allowing the other Greek states crucial time to gather military might, prepare their defense and ultimately build a fleet that won the naval battle of Salamis and the strategic victory against the Persians on the plains of Plataea a year later. The Battle of Thermopylae remains a case study of the advantages of superior training, equipment and individual soldiers as force multipliers and symbol of steadfast courage against impossible odds.
Michael Murphy and Petty Officer Michael Monsoor. Since OEF/OIF operations commenced, SEALs have earned six out of seven Navy Crosses awarded to Navy personnel and both Air Force Crosses were given to Air Force special operations personnel. Other awards for valor earned by SEALs, Army Special Forces, Rangers and Marine Corps Material Command (MARSOC) Marines number in the thousands. Many of our SEAL brethren have made the ultimate sacrifice. Like the original 300 Spartans, SEALs are all called to accept the sacrifice of life and limb to defend our country and way of life. Our finest intrinsically understand that the West is fighting a menace from the east that has risen again in the form of Islamic extremism that seeks to reestablish the Caliphate and enforce Sharia (Islamic) law. Today’s Navy SEAL lives by the spirit of a Spartan warrior proverb; “This is my Shield. I bear it before me in battle, but it is not mine alone. It protects my brother on my left; it protects my city. I will never let them out of its shadow, nor my city out of its shelter.”
“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” -Thucylides
The modern day Spartan Hoplite is today’s SOF warrior. On constant deployment since 9/11, the elite of our nation’s military represents the tip of the spear that engages our enemy in close quarters combat, and sometimes hand-to-hand not unlike their historical Greek hoplite, Roman legionnaire or Samurai predecessors. SOF operator’s account for less than 1 percent of the total inventory of American military forces yet have disproportionately shouldered our nation’s post 9/11 burdens and taken the fight directly to al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Four out of the eleven Medals of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor, have been awarded to the SOF community since 9/11 including Navy SEALs Lieutenant
On July 5, 2005 when a Troops in Contact (TIC) call came into the Tactical Operations Center from a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance element under fire, Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen, the Task Unit Commander for a Naval Special Warfare Task Force (NSWTU), responded immediately and assembled a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of seven other SEALs included Jacques J. Fontan, Jeffery A. Lucas, Michael M. McGreevy Jr., Jeffrey S. Taylor, Eric S. Patton, Daniel R. Healy, and James Suh. Commander Kristensen, leading by example from the front, was on the helicopter when it was shot down during the attempted rescue mission in the rugged mountainous area in Afghanistan on the Pakistan border. There was no way he would ask his men to go into harm’s way without sharing the risk alongside his fellow teammates. All the SEALs and Army aircrew also on board perished in an attempt to save their brothers in arms. Marcus Lutrell, the only member to come back alive, later recounted their heroic sacrifice in the bestselling novel “Lone Survivor”. Erik Kristensen and the others, died living by a warrior creed and time-honored vow that a SEAL, dead or alive has never been left behind on a field of battle. That is why it is called a brotherhood and it extends beyond only those wearing a Trident – “Any man who sheds his blood with me is my brother.” It is why Ty Woods and Glen Doherty didn’t hesitate to rush to the sound of gunfire on the anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 when the attack at the consulate in Benghazi began. The initial order to “stand down” was ignored and the two former SEALs quickly organized Quick Reaction Forces (QRFs), one at the CIA compound the other in Tripoli the Libyan capital. A cry for help went out and both ran toward eminent danger much like the first responders on 9/11 who rushed into the World Trade Center buildings exactly eleven years to the day. Their actions reportedly saved the lives of more than 30 others but sadly; it came at a tremendous cost along with the loss of our U.S. Ambassador to Libya. Hours later, Ty and Glen, died living by the warrior’s code, defending the CIA Annex building where all the rescued survivors had been safely evacuated. At Thermopylae, a commemorative stone place on top of the burial mound where the last Spartans died. The epitaph reads; “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.” The immortal fame of Thermopylae was the stoic heroism displayed by the Spartan rear guard that remained at the pass despite certain death. Opposing an imperial army who
advanced under threat of the lash, each Spartan was a free man who accepted his fate against overwhelming odds. Where the protection of his city (country), the Hoplite to his left and right, and personal honor weighed more heavily on his conscience then the fear of death. The “stranger” who pays his respects at their burial site is asked to carry the message, that these men died “fulfilling their orders.” The lasting legacy of the Greek sacrifice is the Western conviction that individuals decide where, when and against whom they will fight against an Eastern entitlement of despotism and divine rule that determine when “subjects” will go to war. The modern day Spartan is a SEAL who endured the BUD/S agōgē, spending his service to this nation obedient to a code. Like their Spartan forefathers and role models, the SEALs who have died since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began were killed-in-action “fulfilling their orders” honoring a creed. It is a shared set of principles that Special Forces soldiers and Marines also live by. Lieutenant Brandon Looney’s best friend from Annapolis, Recon Marine, 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion (Silver Star and Bronze Star with Valor) was killed April 29, 2007 when Brendan was in BUD/S. Unable to attend his best friend’s funeral he vowed to finish training in his memory graduating as the class honor man of BUD/S Class 265. When Brendan was laid to rest in Arlington, Travis was reburied next to him. For both Brendan and Travis, ‘brother’ meant more than blood epitomizing the bond of combat veterans. At a charity event honoring both veterans, a picture of the two young men, side by side in uniform included the epitaph - “Warriors for freedom, brothers forever,” a fitting tribute to them and their peers in Valhalla watching over us all.
Dan O’Shea is a former Navy SEAL commander and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veteran who deployed multiple times to the Middle East and Africa over the past two decades. He was the coordinator for the Hostage Working Group at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 2004 to 2006 and served as a counter-insurgency adviser for the commander of International Security Forces-Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. A 1991 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, O’Shea received a master’s in executive leadership from the University of San Diego Business School in 2001. He is the Co-Founder of the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim that has raised more than that 1.7 million dollars for the families of fallen and wounded Navy SEALs.
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“I am just getting started.” -William Kyle Carpenter
he simple words above from the nation’s youngest living Medal of Honor Recipient typify the resolve of all his MOH counterparts. The Mississippi native received his MOH on June 19, 2014.
Carpenter was serving as a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) gunner with Company F, Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, First Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in November, 2010. He was a member of a platoonsized coalition force comprising two reinforced Marine rifle squads and an Afghan National Army squad. On November 19, 2010 the force established Patrol Base Dakota in a small village in the Karez-e Saydi area of Marjah District, to which it had traveled by foot accompanied by a team of engineers and an interpreter. Its mission was to disrupt enemy activity and provide security for the local Afghan population. The Marines did not have to wait long before being attacked. On November 20, 2010 Carpenter’s squad members were manning a sandbagged rooftop security position on the perimeter of the base. They were at Post 2, located atop an Afghan storage shed in the southwest corner of the compound. The weakly built structure was composed of mud, straw, and small timbers. Suddenly, an enemy force employing sniper fire, recoilless rifles, small arms, and grenades initiated a daylight assault. Carpenter was not injured in the action, but two of his fellow
U.S. Marine photo.
Marines were. They had to be evacuated. Post 2 suffered severe damage in the attack. The next day Carpenter moved to Post 1, a storage shed below the damaged Post 2. The new position restricted his field of sight, since he had only an opening in the southeast corner of the wall for observation. Attacking enemy forces took advantage of his limited visibility to get close to Post 1. At approximately 10 AM on November 21, 2010 enemy forces attacked the post once again and threw three grenades. One landed between Carpenter and Lance Corporal Nick Eufrazio. Without hesitation Carpenter placed his body between the grenade and Eufrazio to absorb the blast. The results were devastating for Carpenter. (Eufrazio incurred a shrapnel injury to the head.) Carpenter’s injuries included a depressed skull fracture requiring brain surgery, multiple facial fractures, a collapsed right lung, multiple fragment injuries to both his upper and lower extremities, and the loss of his right eye and most of his teeth. In addition, a third of his lower jaw was missing. He spent five weeks in a coma and underwent dozens of surgeries. All in all, he spent two years in the hospital for rehabilitation. None of that affected his indomitable spirit or personal courage and commitment. Despite the serious wounds he sustained he has by all accounts rebounded well and adapted nicely to civilian life. Eventually he enrolled at the University of South Carolina in pursuit of a business degree. A diploma would be a fitting complement to his MOH.
By Arthur G. Sharp
An F-35 Lightning II assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., takes off July 28, 2015. Since 2010, the F-35 has flown more than 30,000 hours. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sergeant Staci Miller.
Their willingness to work together allows our warriors to take maximum advantage of upgraded weaponry and technology to complete their unique missions efficaciously.
here was a time in the not-toodistant past, as recently as the start of WWII, when horsemounted cavalry still played a role in modern warfare. It has only been about 120 years since the last horse-mounted U.S. warfighter, Theodore Roosevelt, earned a Medal of Honor. Such awards may be a thing of the past, but Medals of Honor in general still have a future.
Ohio Air National Guard’s 121st Air Refueling Wing welcomes an A-10C Thunderbolt II from Moody Air Force Base, September 2016. A-10s were relocated in preparation for Tropical Storm Hermine. U.S. Air National Guard photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Williams.
An analysis of Medal of Honor awards over the years reveals one significant fact: the vast majority of the recipients earned their medals in up-close-combat. That pattern is holding true even as methods of warfare evolve and innovations such as drones and advanced C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) products make it possible to conduct combat from a distance, rather than house-to-house, street to street, town to town… although there is still plenty of that in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. C4ISR is a critical component of the U.S. military’s attempt to win the “battlespace of tomorrow.” That battle can only be won today, as threats to global security increase and prescient military specialists strive to ensure that the acquisition and implementation of reliable technology and information is maximized to compensate, despite limited budgets. Their work
is crucial if the U.S. military expects to maintain its superiority in intelligence capacity and decision making. Much of the advanced technology employed by U.S. warfighters places them at arm’s length from enemy combatants. Yet, that does not shield them entirely from infantry-type attacks, IEDs, suicide bombers or other tactics used by enemy combatants in current war zones. That is evidenced by the MOH recipients whose profiles have been included throughout this publication. Without exception they earned their MOHs by placing themselves in imminent danger in close-up, sometimes hand-to-hand, combat. That is likely to be the case in the immediate future, despite warfighters’ technologically advanced equipment. Ironically, one of the factors that ensures a battlefield will exist in the near future is current enemies’ lack of technology.
Because they are using less sophisticated weaponry and equipment, they have to engage U.S warfighters in close combat. So, technology may make the U.S. warfighters’ jobs easier, but it doesn’t always lessen their danger. That is a contributing factor in ensuring that warfighters will continue to earn Medal of Honors, because in-close fighting will always be necessary. The quest for new technology and related products goes on with the assumption that battlefields will not disappear any time soon. Among some of the new products engineers and military researchers are developing to reduce warfighters’ close-up involvement in combat are unmanned submarine hunters, artificial intelligent systems that help human commanders make split-second decisions, and inexpensive reusable rockets. The U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has invested millions of dollars into projects to develop such technologically advanced weapons and systems. Again, the resulting products may reduce in-close combat, but they will not eliminate it altogether. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Sletten, an F-35 Lightning II program integration officer, lowers the canopy on an F-16 Fighting Falcon before taxiing to take off at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. More than 30 maintenance Airmen worked an early shift to help launch several jets to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, for Checkered Flag 16-1, a largeforce exercise that simulates a large number of aircraft in a deployed environment to cross-check weapons systems. U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sergeant Joseph Swafford.
Different branches of the U.S. armed services are introducing new or updated products to enhance their individual warfighters; safety and efficiency. They do not always act unilaterally to do so. Examples abound. New military reconnaissance data transfer and imaging systems ranging in size and power are now available. One of them is a lightweight system designed for rapid data transfer from mobile vehicles, e.g., planes, ships, and Humvees, to ground stations. Operators can remove the lightweight canisters containing recorded data and replace them in less than two minutes to ensure the steady flow of intelligence data to ground stations from mobile vehicles. Larger storage systems can move data at up to 4600 MB per second, which is a major breakthrough in data transmission rates. New products such as these that focus on small or big data applications fulfill warfighters’ needs for uninterrupted communications from field to base and enhance their safety. On a larger scale there is an upgraded, transportable, 3-D, ground-based, long-range surveillance radar system called AN/TPS-59A(V)3. The system, used by the U.S. Army for anti-air warfare, is effective at a maximum range of 300 nautical miles or for tactical ballistic missile surveillance
up to 400 nautical miles. It can detect and track airbreathing targets, including aircraft and cruise missiles as small as one meter wide, at elevations of nearly 200 miles at a 360-degree coverage. The system is not designed specifically for the Army’s use. It can provide tactical air surveillance protection to land forces in general, such as the U.S. Marines, and can contribute to the Navy’s Cooperate Engagement Capability (CEC), a realtime sensor netting system that enables high quality situational awareness and integrated fire control capability. CEC enhances the Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) capability of ships and aircraft by integrating battle force sensors to provide a single, distributed AAW defense capability. It also enables Integrated Fire Control to counter increasingly capable cruise missiles and manned aircraft. The fact that systems such as AN/TPS-59A(V)3 and CEC can support one another is significant. It demonstrates that no one branch of the armed forces is operating in a vacuum and that their willingness to work together allows them to take maximum advantage of upgraded weaponry and technology to complete their unique missions efficaciously. Perspective military leaders do not wait for the future. They create their own. That is what the Marine Corps is doing by modernizing its M1A1 Abrams tank, one of its most reliable battle platforms. The Corps’ philosophy is that there is always room for improvement - and there is no reason to wait for it to happen. Thus, it is implementing three technological upgrades to give tank crews a “hunter-killer edge” over the enemy: better sights on the Abrams’ Integrated Display and Targeting System (AIDATS), simplified handling with a single set of controls, and a “slew to cue” button that repositions the turret with a single command. Display improvements will replace a black-and-white camera view with a color camera and add thermal sights that can be used day or night. Crews did not like the black and white camera that was in the tank, because they had a hard time
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. U.S.M.C. photo by Corporal Gabrielle Quire.
distinguishing between different color trucks. That change, combined with the others, will allow M1A1 crews to upgrade their target engagement time from six seconds to three. Moreover, the tank commander and the gunner will be able to work closer and collaborate better on target acquisition. For instance, the commander will be able to assist the gunner when the tank is moving, making it easier to manipulate the turret toward a target. The examples above all share one common element: they impact ground troops, the warfighters who most commonly react with extreme heroism in exigent circumstances to earn Medal of Honors. None of the improved weapons or systems mentioned have changed the fact that warfighters will continue to play a vital role in conventional warfare - nor do some of the products on the drawing board. The U.S. Army is trying to develop a hoverbike that was known at one time simply as a Tactical Reconnaissance Vehicle. Now, it is called a Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle (JTARV). As the latest name suggests, it will be deployed as a resupply vehicle that can be operated by a single warfighter. The JTARV resembles a recreational drone that’s strong enough to carry one person. Army researchers are working
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with the “joint community,” i.e., a coalition of developers such as universities, industries, smack businesses, and government agencies… any entity interested in participating…to develop the vehicle that they envision will be able to resupply any troops on the battlefield within thirty minutes. Again, the key to the development is that there will be a battlefield on which to employ the JTARV. That idea is at the heart of similar concepts. For example, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is looking for innovative, affordable, and rapidly deployable systems and technologies to protect ground troops against small unmanned air systems. A la the JTARV developers, DARPA has invited a consortium to propose ideas for such products with an eye to developing and implementing them within 3-4 years. The timetable may be short, but the proposal suggests that there will still be a need for ground troops in that time period - and ongoing opportunities for them to earn Medal of Honors. In the same vein, DARPA is seeking innovators who can think outside the proverbial box to develop new designs for optics and imagers unconstrained by “laws” of classical optics. DARPA’s goal is to develop vastly smaller, lighter, and more capable devices for advanced
The Abrams Integrated Display and Targeting System, or AIDATS, upgrades the thermal and day sights on the stabilized commander’s weapon station through a state-of-the-art, high definition camera and permanently-mounted color display. The AIDATS program is part of a suite of systems being developed by Armor and Fire Support Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command to increase the accuracy, range and lethality of the M1A1 Abrams tank on the battlefield. U.S.M.C. photo by Corporal Gabrielle Quire.
imaging applications that can be employed in an effort to strengthen warfighters’ advantages on the battlefield, which is in no danger of disappearing. The fact that the need for such combat still exists means that opportunities to earn the Medal of Honor will continue for the warfighters who still perform operational tasks such as patrols, manning outposts, and community outreach. As long as there are enemies to confront them, they will still be in harm’s way - and the Medal of Honor will not go the way of the horse cavalry in modern combat.
Arthur G. Sharp has written 14 books and over 2,500 articles on a variety of topics. He edits two military association magazines, The Graybeards (Korean War Veterans Association) and Old Breed News (First Marine Division Association). He has B.A. and M.A. degrees in history. Sharp, who lives in Sun City Center, FL, served four years with the U.S. Marine Corps.
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RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
RECENT MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENTS
“The booby traps were really, really awful. You can handle slugging it out with the enemy, but the booby traps were a special kind of torture.” -Former Specialist Michael W. Muhlheim, who was on the patrol that cost Sloat his life.
eptember 15, 2014 was a significant day at the White House for the U.S. Army. That day, two of its members, Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Army Specialist Four Donald P. Sloat, received their individual Medals of Honor. Sloat received his posthumously. Sloat was assigned to 3rd Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division as an M-60 machine gunner in the Republic of Vietnam during combat operations on January 17, 1970. He had been in the Army less than a year after enlisting from Coweta, Oklahoma on March 19, 1969. Company D was operating out of Fire Support Base Hawk Hill in an area of I Corps, southwest of the coastal city of Danang. Its mission was to provide security for local villages and conduct regular searches to locate North Vietnamese Army units. The company’s expansive patrol territory stretched from the coastal lowlands to the mountains and jungle. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were thorns in the company’s side. Among their favorite harassment tactics were sniper fire and booby traps. They were extracting a heavy toll on company members, many of whom became casualties to them. (During a single three-week patrol, it was not uncommon for 2-3 men to be killed and another
Sergeant Henry Johnson of the 369th Infantry Regiment was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for bravery during an outnumbered battle with German soldiers, February 12, 1919.
6-10 to be wounded badly enough to be sent back to the U.S.) It was one of those booby traps that led to Sloat’s heroism - and death. On the morning of January 17, 1970, Sloat was operating with his squad during one of its routine three-week patrols. The squad acted as a blocking element in support of tanks and armored personnel carriers from F Troop in the Que Son valley. As it moved single file through dense foliage up a small hill, the lead soldier tripped a classic booby trap wire attached to a hand grenade. The grenade rolled down the hill toward Sloat. He ascertained immediately that he had two choices: seek cover or pick up the grenade and throw it away to protect his squad members. Without hesitation he opted for the second choice. But, there was a flaw in his plan. As Sloat tried to hurl the grenade away, he realized that he did not have the time to do so. It was about to detonate. The two or three squad members next to him would be harmed if he did not react. Selflessly, he pulled the grenade next to his body to shield his comrades from the detonation. As a result, he saved their lives at the expense of his own, which is a common hallmark of MOH recipients. The twenty-year-old Sloat may have served less than one year in the Army, but the legacy of his MOH will last forever.
2016 Marked the 155th anniversary of the establishment of the Medal of Honor by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Abraham Linc...
Published on Jul 12, 2018
2016 Marked the 155th anniversary of the establishment of the Medal of Honor by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Abraham Linc...