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Author Topic: Great Americans  (Read 87572 times)
Soul Crusher
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« Reply #50 on: March 10, 2011, 11:51:47 AM »

Beach Bum has my nomination, but only if he renounces christianity and accepts the teachings of Mohammad and the Qu'ran as the one true faith.

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« Reply #51 on: March 12, 2011, 01:10:10 PM »

Beach Bum has my nomination, but only if he renounces christianity and accepts the teachings of Mohammad and the Qu'ran as the one true faith.

Cannot.  I would rather focus on exterminating Al Qaeda.   Smiley
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« Reply #52 on: March 12, 2011, 01:11:27 PM »

Last WWI vet to receive Arlington honors
By: CNN's Alison Harding

Washington (CNN) – The last U.S. World War I veteran to die will receive an honors burial at Arlington National Ceremony next week, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, announced Friday.
"Allowing our country to pay its respects to Mr. Buckles and all of our courageous World War I veterans is necessary and important. It's a fitting way to say goodbye to our last Doughboy – a man whose life spanned more than 100 years and who was our last living American connection to the Great War," Rockefeller said.

Rockefeller had been seeking permission to hold a public ceremony in the U.S. Capitol honoring Buckles, who died at the age of 110 on February 27, but House and Senate leadership turned down his request.
In a statement released last week, Rockefeller expressed disappointment that legislation to allow Buckles to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda had been blocked by House Speaker John Boehner.

"This is a big disappointment and a surprising decision by the Speaker," Rockefeller said in the statement. "Surely, Speaker Boehner can agree that the Congress should pause for a moment to pay its respects to Mr. Buckles and all our World War I veterans."

But Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said that no legislation has been blocked, and said that Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid decided that Arlington National Cemetery is a more appropriate venue.
"Everyone honors Mr. Buckles' service to the United States, and the extraordinary sacrifices made by every member of our Armed Forces who served in World War One," Steel said. "That's why Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid will ask Secretary Gates to allow Mr. Buckles' family to use the amphitheater at Arlington cemetery for his memorial service – surrounded by honored veterans of every American war."

Buckles dedicated that last years of his life to advocating for the creation of a national World War I memorial on the National Mall. He made several trips to Washington to work with members of his congressional delegation to persuade lawmakers to grant federal status to an existing World War I monument that currently only honors residents of the District of Columbia.

Both Sen. Rockefeller and Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito - who represents Buckles' West Virginia district - have been strong supporters of Buckles' advocacy of World War I veterans, and have cosponsored legislation to rededicate the District of Columbia War Memorial as the District of Columbia and National World War I Memorial.

Buckles will lie in honor for public viewing at Arlington from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 15, and will receive full military honors during a private burial service. Flags will also be flown at half-staff on the day of his burial.
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« Reply #53 on: March 20, 2011, 06:43:41 AM »

Mixon relinquishing Pacific Army command
Wiercinski will take leadership tomorrow in rite at Fort Shafter
By William Cole
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 20, 2011

Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. “Randy” Mixon spoke at the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony held at Palm Circle Field in Fort Shafter on Sept. 10.

As a three-star general, Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. "Randy" Mixon could be outspoken — occasionally to his detriment — but he always stayed grounded when it came to his soldiers, those who know him say.

The Army is advising residents and businesses around Fort Shafter that cannon fire will be heard in the area tomorrow morning for the change-of-command ceremony. The cannon fire will begin at about 11:30 a.m. and last about one minute. People are advised to turn off car alarms, which could be set off by vibrations.

Mixon, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, will pass the command to Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski tomorrow at Fort Shafter and retire May 1 after a nearly 36-year career.

"He's a very unique soldier," said Allen Hoe, who served as a combat medic in Vietnam and now is a civilian aide to the secretary of the Army. "He's very quiet, unassuming, but he's got an incredible record. And I think the thing that makes him very unique and I think why he is endearing to his soldiers is because he is the son of a sergeant major — so he understands and appreciates the young soldiers and what motivates them."

Mixon commands about 3,800 soldiers at Fort Shafter and 62,000 soldiers total in the region.

He took the job in January 2008, after commanding the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, which included a 2006-07 deployment in northern Iraq.

The performance of his soldiers during the surge — the buildup of American troops — remains a source of pride.

"That was obviously a very difficult period," he recalled. "Casualties were significant, but we surged up and stayed the 15 months over there."

He made headlines in 2007 in Iraq for saying he didn't have enough troops for the mission in Diyala province, candidly complained about the inefficiency of the Iraqi government, and said that deployment strain on the military needed to be addressed.

"I think that's the way you have to deal with the free press," Mixon said. "If there's something there and it's true and factual and it's not going to harm operational requirements — it should be laid out there."

Last year, Mixon drew a Pentagon rebuke when he penned a letter to the editor of Stars and Stripes saying service members should speak up against the "ill-advised" repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"I simply reminded them in the article that they had a voice," Mixon said.

Mixon more recently agreed to discontinue efforts to pursue company-size live-fire exercises in Makua Valley, and instead has focused on improving training at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.

Hoe credits Mixon with improving relations with the Hawaiian community.

"In that regard, I think he's done remarkably well," Hoe said. "He has kind of helped re-set the stage, if you will, for interaction between the community and the Army."

Mixon's tenure at U.S. Army Pacific has seen several years of growth.

The 8th Theater Sustainment Command, the 311th Theater Signal Command and the 8th Military Police Brigade were moved to Hawaii. Last May, a $21.5 mil lion design contract was awarded for a 330,000-square-foot Contingency Command Post at Fort Shafter.

The pendulum is now swinging the other way as the Army looks to cut costs, but Mixon said he doesn't foresee extensive cuts in the command.

"I think our combat brigades of the 25th Division and the enabling commands that we've stood up here at U.S. Army Pacific are in pretty good shape," Mixon said. "There may be some minor (budget) trimming on the edges."

He added, "Ultimately, (the Army) will probably have to look at brigade flags and see how many brigades they can actually afford to keep in. All that's coming down the road. You can sense it."

U.S. Army Pacific extends from Alaska to the Maldives and exercises with Asia-Pacific nations have become an increasing focus. The command conducted 130 engagements over the past year — a 30 percent increase over several years ago — with countries such as Japan, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia in support of a theater security cooperation strategy, Mixon said.

Mixon said he and his wife, Rhonda, are looking at a move to Florida. Mixon said he may work for a nonprofit and plans to get involved working on conservative social issues.

The change of command ceremony is scheduled at 11 a.m. tomorrow at historic Palm Circle.
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« Reply #54 on: March 30, 2011, 10:32:10 AM »

State honors sacrifice of 17 with medal
By William Cole

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 30, 2011

Katie Luff, holding her 10-month-old son, Aiden, is greeted by State adjutant Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, far right, after she was presented with the Hawaii Medal of Honor by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, far left. House Speaker Calvin Say hugs a person behind Luff. Luff’s husband, Army Sgt. David J. Luff Jr., died in combat Nov. 21 in Tikrit, Iraq. The Legislature convened in a joint session in the state Senate chambers to award the state Medal of Honor to families of 17 fallen service members.
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Their lives together were just beginning.

Army Sgt. David J. Luff Jr. and his wife, Katie, had a young son, Aiden, and planned to be in Hawaii a few more years after David got back from Iraq.

Pfc. JR Salvacion and his wife, Joy, also had a son, Zildjian, named after the cymbal company because JR loved music and played guitar and drums.

They had plans and dreams and hopes for the future.

Instead, through blinking tears and barely checked grief, Katie Luff and Joy Salvacion each accepted a state Medal of Honor and the condolences and gratitude of the Legislature yesterday in memory of their husbands, who were killed overseas.

For the sixth year in a row, the Legislature convened in a joint session to honor service members with Hawaii ties who were killed or died in a war zone, and to present their families with the state Medal of Honor.

This year, 17 were recognized, and nine families came from Hawaii, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and California to accept the koa-framed medals.

"In many ways today's events bring up mixed emotions great sorrow for those who have fallen and also great pride in the bravery, dedication and commitment these soldiers possessed," said Senate President Shan Tsutsui.

State adjutant Maj. Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong added: "No one who puts on the uniform wants to die for their country, but they are nonetheless willing to if it means that others may live in peace and security.

"At the very least, such selflessness deserves public recognition of the highest order, and that is why we are here today."

Aship's bell tolled twice as the names of 10 Army soldiers and seven Marines were read and their families received the state Medal of Honor. The ceremony concluded with a rifle salute outside, the playing of taps and a moment of silence.

JR Salvacion, 27, was killed on a foot patrol on Feb. 21, 2010, in Senjaray, Afghanistan, when his unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device. The Ewa Beach man was with the 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colo.

Salvacion's mother, Milagros Robiniol, said after the ceremony yesterday that it's been hard to deal with her son's death, "especially if we see some person in a uniform the same as my son. So sad."

The soldier's wife, Joy, said, "It's terrible, especially for my son, when he grows up without a dad." Zildjian is 2.

David Luff, 29, of Hamilton, Ohio, died Nov. 21 in Tikrit, Iraq, when his unit was attacked by small arms fire. He was with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry out of Schofield Barracks.

"Each day is different. I don't know that it's any better. I'm getting better at figuring out how to handle it," Katie Luff said as her mother, Judy Halcomb, held 10-month-old Aiden.

Luff said it was an honor to receive the state Medal of Honor.

"I just felt like I had to do it for (David)," she said.
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« Reply #55 on: April 06, 2011, 05:30:17 PM »

Army Veteran Turns 110

March 30, 2011
Army News Service|by Rikeshia Davidson

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. -- "Waiting and watching, looking above...Lost in His love...Praising my Savior, all the daylong" are the words of "Blessed Assurance," one of two songs sang to Shelby Harris.

Harris quietly reflected for a moment saying, "The Lord is my shepherd".

On March 26, 2011 family, friends, church members, local leadership and well-wishers gathered to celebrate Harris'110th birthday and the Joint Munitions Command also honored the veteran for his service.

Actually born on March 31, the longtime Rock Island, Ill., resident and World War II veteran arrived wearing a crown. And king for the day he was.

The day began with songs from the Second Baptist Church (Rock Island) male choir, the church where Harris actively served as deacon until the age of 102.

Visibly moved, when asked if he wanted to have a word, Harris said, "What could I say?"

"I would like to say something but I just can't get it out." But at the end of it all, he said, "It's the most wonderful day of my life and I want to thank everyone for coming."

Quite humble for a man who held the keys to the city of Rock Island and holds a proclamation granting him his very own day.

Col. Arnold P. Montgomery, chief of staff, JMC, presented Harris a certificate of appreciation, 75 mm artillery shell and JMC coin. (The 75 mm artillery shell represented the type of ammunition used during World War II; and interestingly enough, the 75 mm would have been produced at Kingsbury Ordnance Plant in LaPorte, Ind., some five and a half hours north of Harris' hometown.)

On behalf of JMC, Montgomery expressed thanks to Harris.

"We appreciate your tireless efforts in support of our U.S. Armed Forces. Your dedication to our country and its military is commendable and an honorable addition to the fight for freedom throughout the world. Your legacy of service inspires today while adding to the history of this great nation. A history steeped in service, love of one's country and the tireless fight for the very freedoms we enjoy today. "

And for this day, Harris was surrounded by relatives from his home state of Indiana.

He was joined by two grandchildren: Al (Cynthia) and Beverly; two great-grandchildren: Sasha and Stacy (Emily); as well as at least two great-great-grandchildren, Marquice and Jade. The Harris family also includes eight great-grandchildren and at least six great-great-great grandchildren.

Harris is a native of Ayrshire, Ind., and according to family, he was a coal miner.

After relocating to Illinois, he made the Quad Cities his home. Employed with Union Malleable (now John Deere), it was there that Harris left his employment in September 1942 for World War II. He recalls being in the Army, serving for no more than a year.

Resuming life in the Quad Cities after the war, he was active in his church well past the age of 100 and worked at another Quad Cities staple: The Dutch Inn. Harris' active life was most recently recounted in The Rock Island Argus and The (Moline) Dispatch as he cast his ballot in the 2008 Presidential Election at the age of 107.
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« Reply #56 on: April 13, 2011, 04:39:50 PM »

President Obama to award Medal of Honor to Maui man
By William Cole
POSTED: 12:41 p.m. HST, Apr 13, 2011

President Obama will present a posthumous Medal of Honor to Anthony Kahoohanohano next month. Family members from Hawaii will attend the ceremony at the White House on May 2.

A Maui man who died fighting in Korea in 1951 will get a long-delayed Medal of Honor for his bravery on May 2, when President Barack Obama will make the award to his relatives at the White House, officials said.

Army Pfc. Anthony T. Kahoohanohano gave his life in a one-man stand against overwhelming numbers of enemy troops so fellow soldiers could survive.

As enemy troops tried to overrun Kahoohanohano's gun emplacement, the 21-year-old from Wailuku fought back with bullets, grenades and then his hands, according to a Distinguished Service Cross citation presented to the family in 1952.

"Private Kahoohanohano fought fiercely and courageously, delivering deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy" until he was killed, the citation states.

U.S. troops subsequently found 11 dead enemy soldiers in front of Kahoohanohano's position, and two in the gun emplacement itself who had been beaten to death with an entrenching tool.

The upgrade to the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, was approved by Congress in 2009 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Kahoohanohano's sister, Elaine Kahoohanohano, and brother, Eugene Kahoohanohano, will join the president at the White House to "commemorate their brother's example of selfless service and sacrifice," the White House said.

The addition of Kahoohanohano's name to the Medal of Honor roll represented a more than decadelong effort by his family and Hawaii lawmakers to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross he received and to give him the recognition they said he deserved.

The quest by the family started by Abel Kahoohanohano Sr., one of Anthony's brothers, and taken up by Abel's son, George Kahoohanohano, after his father died.

A recommendation for a Medal of Honor was made by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink in 2001 but the request was denied by the Army. U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, then took up the cause.

Former Army Secretary Pete Geren wrote to Akaka saying that after giving the request "careful, personal consideration, I have determined that the Medal of Honor is the appropriate award to recognize Private First Class Kahoohanohano's heroic actions."

All six Kahoohanohano brothers served in the military — four in the active duty Army, one in the Marines and another in the National Guard.

Kahoohanohano, who was with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, of the 7th Infantry Division, was in charge of a machine gun squad supporting a company of soldiers as a much larger enemy force advanced in the vicinity of Chup'a-ri, Korea, on Sept. 1, 1951.

According to the posthumously awarded Distinguished Service Cross citation, as the men fell back, Kahoohanohano — although already wounded in the shoulder — ordered his squad to a more defensible position while he gathered grenades and returned alone to the machine gun post.

"When his ammunition was depleted, he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed," a White House statement said. "His heroic stand so inspired his comrades that they launched a counterattack that completely repulsed the enemy."

In 2009, Madeline Kahoohanohano remembered Anthony, her brother-in-law, as a fearless man of his word. The son of a police officer, he was a football and basketball standout at St. Anthony's School for Boys.

"He didn't seem to be afraid of anyone," Madeline Kahoohanohano said at the time. "He always was a toughie. He always used to stand up — even for his younger brothers. He would step up and protect his younger brothers."
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« Reply #57 on: April 19, 2011, 09:56:20 AM »

Life redeemed, POW turns to helping youths
By William Cole
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 19, 2011

"The more interests (young people) have, the less chance they are going to get into trouble. If they can play tennis, go play tennis. I didn't play tennis — I used to go rob the pie shop."
— Louis Zamperini
WWII veteran

Louis Zamperini was an unstoppable hellraiser as a kid in Torrance, Calif., smoking at 5, getting drunk at 8 and breaking into people's homes to steal food when he was not much older.

Luckily, he found an outlet for his energy — running — and was so good at it he thrilled the 1936 Berlin Olympics with a mad dash in the 5,000-meter race, covering the final lap in a blistering 56 seconds, a finish that earned him not a medal but a handshake from Adolf Hitler.

During World War II his life took another turn — for the worse — when as a bombardier flying out of Hawaii, his B-24 Liberator conked out and crashed in the Pacific.

Zamperini spent 47 days on a life raft, fighting off sharks, thirst and starvation, then the remainder of the war as a Japanese prisoner of war, enduring sadistic beatings, medical experimentation and disease.

The erratic arc of his life didn't end there.

After the war, he fell into alcohol abuse and in sleep he battled the guard who delivered daily beatings in POW camps before Zamperini found God and peace in a tent where evangelist Billy Graham was preaching.

At 94, he's still going strong.

Zamperini is the subject of the best-selling book, "Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption," by Laura Hillenbrand, the author of the racehorse tale "Seabiscuit."

On Friday, Zamperini brought all that history back to Hawaii when he spoke to about 475 people on the fantail of the Battleship Missouri, in an event presented by the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the Navy League.

When asked if anything good came out of his POW experience, Zamperini quipped that it prepared him for marriage.

The former Olympian followed Missouri military liaison Mike Pagano on a tour down three decks — up and down steep ladders and past doorway "knee-knockers" — to see the Missouri's "Broadway" and 2nd Battleplot, where past crew fired the ship's big guns.

The Hollywood Hills, Calif., man was skateboarding at age 81, skiing at 91, still drives a car and mows his lawn.

He ran an outdoors program called the Victory Boys Camp for delinquent youth — something he knows a thing or two about. He still speaks to groups several times a week mainly in California, but also around the country, and his preferred audiences are high school and college students.

Before speaking on the Missouri Friday, Zamperini doled out advice about problem kids and recalled the events that shaped his life, including his captivity in war — the greatest endurance test of all.

"I know what kids want," Zamperini said. "I don't need a psychiatrist or anyone else (to tell me). That's why I've had success with kids. You've got to take a kid, a delinquent kid, take him on a hike and start getting the endorphins going. They are feeling good, then they talk. I've done this so many times, it works every time."

Zamperini, the son of Italian immigrants, said he had too much idle time when he was a youth.

"The more interests (young people) have, the less chance they are going to get into trouble," Zamperini said. "If they can play tennis, go play tennis. I didn't play tennis — I used to go rob the pie shop."

After the 1936 Olympics, during which Zamperini stayed in a cottage with several other athletes, including Jesse Owens, he studied and trained at the University of Southern California before taking a job as a welder with Lockheed, Hillenbrand writes in her book.

In early 1941, Zamperini joined the Army Air Corps and the next year he and his B-24 were sent to Kahuku airfield.

"Long bombing missions," Zamperini recalled of the wartime duty. "We would fly to Midway and then to Wake (Island) and back."

Life was good in Hawaii, he said.

"Everyone wanted to come into Honolulu, so we'd try to make it once a week," he recalled.

In May 1943, the "Green Hornet" lost engine power and crashed in the Pacific with Zamperini aboard. A life raft with the lieutenant and another crew member drifted 2,000 miles before the pair was captured by the Japanese in the Marshall Islands, Hillenbrand said.

They were taken to Kwajalein, where Zamperini would beg for water from his cell and a guard would return with a cup of scalding water and throw it in his face, she said.

Interrogators questioned Zamperini about the number of aircraft, ships and personnel in Hawaii. He said he didn't know.

Zamperini remembers being injected at least three times with a solution that caused dizziness and his skin to burn, itch and sting, followed by a rash.

He was subsequently shipped to an interrogation center known as Ofuna, where captives were beaten and starved, and then Omori POW camp, where Zamperini would run into a guard who would beat him regularly and haunt his dreams for years to come.

Cpl. Mutsuhiro Watanabe was given special orders to work over Zamperini on a daily basis.

Hillenbrand described one encounter when Wata­nabe, called the "Bird" by the Americans, removed his belt and twice swung the heavy brass buckle into Zamperini's temple, blows that made him feel as though he had been shot in the head and which left him dazed on the floor.

Watanabe eluded capture after the war, and he eventually opened a successful insurance agency in Tokyo.

Hillenbrand writes that in the late 1990s, Zamperini was ready to forgive Wata­nabe.

In a letter to his former captor, he wrote, "The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, "Forgive your enemies and pray for them.' "
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« Reply #58 on: April 19, 2011, 04:53:34 PM »

Someone told me about this.  It's floating around the internet.  Great story.

Asleep in the Arms of Someone who Cares

He is a Chief Master Sergeant in the USAF serving in Afghanistan
As high as you can go in enlisted ranks (E-9) Wouldn't it be fitting if
this went completely around the world!

John Gebhardt's wife, Mindy, said that this little girl's entire
family was executed.  The insurgents intended to execute the little girl
also, and shot her in the head....but they failed to kill her. She was cared
for in John 's hospital and is healing up, but continues to cry and moan.
The nurses said John is the only one who seems to calm her down, so John has
spent the last four nights holding her while they both slept in that chair.
The girl is coming along with her healing.  He is a real Star of the war,
and represents what the combined service is trying to do.

This, my friends, is worth sharing. Go for it!! You'll never see
things like this in the news.  Please keep this going.  Nothing will happen
if you don't, but the world needs to see pictures like this and needs to
realise that what we're doing over there is making a difference.  Even if it
is just one little girl at a time.

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« Reply #59 on: April 21, 2011, 06:32:43 PM »

<a href="" target="_blank"></a>
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« Reply #60 on: April 21, 2011, 06:38:06 PM »

HBO made a movie called "taking Chance", I highly recommend it. It shows the process of how fallen soldiers are returned home and the military escorts that travel with them.
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« Reply #61 on: April 21, 2011, 06:40:57 PM »

HBO made a movie called "taking Chance", I highly recommend it. It shows the process of how fallen soldiers are returned home and the military escorts that travel with them.

Thanks.  I'll check it out.
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« Reply #62 on: May 23, 2011, 05:55:55 PM »

WWII sergeant who lost legs honored for helping veterans

Sgt. Odell Vaughn, a World War II veteran, and all veterans were honored on Armed Forces Day on Saturday at Duncan Park.

By Jenny Arnold
Published: Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 10:28 p.m.

As Odell Vaughn lay on the battlefield in Italy in July 1944, he prayed to God to die.

While going in to save a wounded soldier, Vaughn, a soldier with the National Guard 178th Field Artillery unit, stepped on a landmine. He lost a leg on that battlefield, and made a tourniquet from his belt to stop the bleeding. He lay there for hours with his comrade, waiting for help.

Then he thought about his wife, Virginia, and his 2-year-old son, Odell Jr., who he had not yet met, and realized that praying to die was wrong.

“I had a wife, and a child I never seen,” Vaughn, now 89, said. “I quickly changed my attitude.”

Vaughn, a Greenville native raised in Spartanburg, enlisted with the National Guard at age 17 to serve his country in World War II, while still a student at Spartanburg High School. He was sent to England and later served in North Africa and Italy.

Vaughn came home a double amputee, having lost his other leg nine days after he stepped on the landmine because doctors were unable to repair the damage. He was anxious if his wife would accept him after the loss of his legs.

He didn't have to worry. He recuperated in the hospital for 13 months, and his wife moved closer to the hospital so she could see him every visiting hour.

Vaughn received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service and sacrifice.

After his recovery, nothing could slow him down.

When he returned to South Carolina, Vaughn began working for Veterans Affairs in Columbia and later in Florida. He served with the American Embassy in the Philipines and later moved to Washington, D.C., serving as national Veterans Affairs director under two presidents.

Not happy in retirement, Vaughn became a spokesman for Veterans Life Insurance Co. He has received more than 50 awards and other recognition for his long service to veterans over the years.

He's never let the loss of his legs slow him down, according to those who know him. He's golfed, skied and hiked, and has quite the reputation as an amateur carpenter and gardener. His wife said he has just one speed: Full steam ahead.

“It's an honor just to meet him,” said Jeff Sprinkle during an Armed Forces Day ceremony at the veterans memorial at Duncan Park on Saturday. “Odell Vaughn is a true American hero to me.”

Sprinkle introduced Vaughn to those attending the ceremony, which was organized by the Upstate Amputee Support Group.

Vaughn, who has only been using a wheelchair for the past few years, smiled humbly as he was recognized. It was a surprise — he didn't realize he was going to be one of the guests of honor Saturday.

“It was a great honor,” he said. “Very humbling.”

Letters from Congressman Trey Gowdy, State Sen. Glenn Reese and Gov. Nikki Haley thanking Vaughn for his service were read during the ceremony.

Haley recently became the 46th governor to sign a proclamation declaring April as Limb Loss Awareness Month, Don Davis told those in attendance. Davis is president of the Upstate Amputee Support Group and is also a double amputee.

After the ceremony, Vaughn, who now lives in Boiling Springs, said there were not a lot of double amputees from World War II. As technology advanced over the past several decades, he was the recipient of several different prosthetics.

“I've been through about four sets of legs,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said he's had the chance to talk to veterans, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are coming home from battle missing limbs from improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs.

“It makes you feel good if you can help someone who has military service,” Vaughn said.
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« Reply #63 on: May 28, 2011, 09:04:00 AM »

Warriors who became walking libraries
By Moni Basu, CNN
May 28, 2011

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Roland Marbaugh wrote 509 pages of his tales of war -- from the swampy Solomon Islands in World War II to the frozen Chosin Reservoir in Korea.

His son typed them all up on an electric typewriter in the 1980s but unpublished, Marbaugh's stories remained largely in his mind. Until now.

Marbaugh's story will soon be among 600 others on Witness to War, a virtual library of Americans in combat. When his testimony is posted in a few days, viewers will be able to hear the former Marine captain, now a spry 91, recount harrowing tales with photographic precision.

Some things never dulled in Marbaugh's memory. Like how fellow Marine "Wee Willie Wilson" killed 19 Japanese in their foxholes on the Pacific island of Bougainville and was awarded a prestigious Naval Cross for his "valiant fighting spirit."

"He had 20 rounds of ammunition; killed 19 Japanese. Willy was a show-off," Marbaugh said of his fellow Marine. "We don't know how he got in their bunker. He never told me."

Marbaugh might have never gotten a chance to recount his stories had it not been for Atlanta entrepreneur Tom Beaty, the founder of Witness to War.

Beaty's own interest in combat tales developed rather unusually.

He didn't come from a military family. Nor did he grow up like Marbaugh's children, listening to war stories from daddy. He didn't even like history lessons in school, in which he learned about the sweeping nature of war -- dates and names, but nothing that gave a boy a clear idea of what it was like to be there.
What I learned in high school was the high-level view of things, not the horror of delivering freedom. Our mission is simple -- to preserve, honor and educate.
--Tom Beaty, founder of Witness to War

Then, when he was 11, Beaty's mother gave him a pictorial history of World War II. He flipped through the pages and stared at each photograph. What was it like to be there? What did war smell like? How did it feel to be wounded or watch someone die?

He earned a degree in military history at the University of North Carolina and more than anything, he wanted other Americans to appreciate the view from the foxhole as much as he did.

Later in Atlanta, he began attending World War II roundtable meetings. Someone, he realized, needed to capture the veterans' stories for posterity.

He bought a camera and recording equipment and launched Witness to War in 2002. Outside of his business consulting job, Beaty spent his own money and time interviewing soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen. It was a labor of love and a project that married his personal interest with a desire to give back to those who had sacrificed.

War at Home: A soldier's war on two fronts

Today, it's a searchable archive of 600 such accounts. Beaty hopes to grow the virtual library by at least a thousand more tales in two years. Eventually, he'd like to see it all in the Library of Congress.

He knows he's racing against time with World War II veterans, many in their 90s, like Marbaugh, or even older. They are dying off at the rate of 1,000 per day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and taking their stories to cold graves.

"Every time a veteran dies, a library burns," Beaty said in his suburban Atlanta office.

"What I learned in high school was the high-level view of things, not the horror of delivering freedom," he said. "Our mission is simple -- to preserve, honor and educate."

Imagine, he said, if the stories of Revolutionary War or Civil War veterans had been captured on video.

Beaty used to do all the interviews himself. Now he has an assistant and hopes one day to be able to deploy a team of interviewers to record veterans' stories.

He has interviewed Medal of Honor recipients whose experiences are well known. But it's those who have rarely spoken who interest Beaty the most. And sometimes, it's his curiosity that leads him to them.

When Beaty was visiting his father's grave in Union County, North Carolina, he noticed a dual grave with two headstones.

The father had passed away, but there was only a birth date for the son. It was an unusual name: Arch de Castrique.

Beaty looked up de Castrique and ended up eating breakfast at McDonald's with him, listening to stories about Japanese soldiers and their combat tactics and agreed to tell them on camera. Shortly afterwards, de Castrique developed Alzheimer's and could no longer recall his experiences. Eventually, the disease took his life.

But his story lives on because of Beaty's project.

Sometimes, the interviews are emotional, filled with painful pauses and tears. Others are cathartic, as it was for Glenn Gooch, who fought with the 4th Infantry in World War II.

Gooch told Beaty how he had come across dead Americans during his first combat experience in France, some with their throats slit. It was meant to scare the living.

Or another time, when he fired his M1 rifle at a German soldier close up in the dark.

"I can see it just as plain today as I did that night. Shooting at him so much until his body, his hips, in that area, looked like it was on fire."

All the while Gooch speaks, his eyes never meet Beaty's camera. It was the first time he had talked about his combat memories publicly.

Beaty is constantly on a search for more stories. He contacted Marbaugh after he read an account of the 17 days of brutal battle in North Korea's Chosin Reservoir on its 60th anniversary.

The Marines were encircled by Chinese troops. They fought for their lives. Beaty said he was struck by the accounts of hand-to-hand combat with Chinese troops.

Marbaugh said many of his fellow Marines froze to death as they were forced to retreat south. When the Chinese charged down a hill, he gave the orders: a bayonet or a bullet.

"We had to do what we had to do," he said. "Not too proud of it."

Marbaugh, then a captain, started off with 500 men under him. After Chosin, he was left with 75.

The temperatures fell to 16 below. The dead were covered up and left to freeze.

Marbaugh said "Tootsie Rolls" was the code name for ammunition. But somebody who loaded up the ammo for airdrops thought the Marines wanted candy. So with every case of ammo came the sweet stuff.

"You could do nothing with food or water," he said, referring to the frigid weather. "But you could put a Tootsie Roll under your arm. It would get warm and soft."

Marbaugh also told Beaty a harrowing tale of napalm, when there were hundreds of Chinese soldiers coming their way and the Air Force stepped in to save the surrounded Marines.

There were four planes -- one to spot and three to attack.

"The second plane dropped his napalm but not the third or fourth. At the same time Marines from all sides opened up with mortars and heavy machine guns.

"Why didn't you drop?" the second pilot asked the others.

"There was no target left," they replied.

"We had massacred them," Marbaugh said.

Marbaugh was honored to be able to share his stories. "I'm glad they picked me," he said.

Beaty looked at Marbaugh and his son and thought about all the lifelines that were stopped by war, all the families that never were because a man died on the battlefield. He said he felt a need to make the connection between the sacrifices that were made and the freedoms that Americans enjoy.

He was thankful for men like Marbaugh, who survived to tell. They were warriors who became walking libraries.
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« Reply #64 on: May 28, 2011, 09:10:52 AM »

Hawaii Loses a Great Patriot – Harold B. Estes, U.S. Navy (ret.)
Monday, May 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Duane Vachon

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. – Harold B. Estes and many of his peers are part of a generation that is known as “The Greatest Generation.”  Estes, a World War II veteran credited with helping bring the USS Missouri and Bowfin museums to Hawaii, and who gained Internet fame with a letter written to President Barack Obama telling him to “shape up and start acting like an American,” died Tuesday May 17, 2011.

Bringing the battleship Missouri to Pearl Harbor started as an idea tossed around in 1994 by Estes, retired Adm. Ron Hays and Navy veteran Edwin Carter, according to the museum.

It was a day in mid-February 1994 when Ronald Hays, a retired four-star admiral who had headed all U.S. forces in the Pacific, said to Estes, a retired chief boatswain’s mate, something like: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get the Missouri here?”.

Anyone who has served in the United States Navy knows that the people who get things done in the Navy are chief boatswain’s mates.  This includes four-star admirals.

Estes,  who had been out of the Navy since 1954, had worked with Carter to arrange for the deactivated submarine USS Bowfin  to be brought to  Pearl Harbor as the centerpiece of a submarine memorial complex.

Estes served over 20 years in the Navy.  He took to the Navy like the proverbial duck takes to the water. Estes loved the Navy and the Navy returned that love.  His first ship was the battleship California, later sunk at Pearl Harbor.

When Estes called Carter about the Missouri, Carter arranged for Estes and Hays to meet with him for lunch at the Waialae Country Club. “Cheap lunch,” Carter has been quoted as saying.  ”Nobody ordered booze.”

All three – the admiral, the chief boatswain’s mate and the naval reservist – agreed it should be possible to get the deactivated Mo here. Hays, who was going back east on a business trip, said he would  talk to our congressional delegation (all approved) and to the vice chief of naval operations, Stanley Arthur, who had been a fighter pilot over Vietnam with Hays.

Arthur approved, too. Interestingly, he shared a story about a Japanese delegation that  had startled him by asking to have the Missouri towed to Tokyo Bay in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the surrender ceremonies on the battleship.

“Why?” Arthur asked them. The Japanese delegation told him that the Missouri represented a new beginning.  It turned the rhetoric of democracy, freedom and prosperity into reality for Japan.

This idea was welcomed by the three. As it has turned out, the Japanese have become major visitors to the Missouri.

It’s interesting to note that when the Missouri opened as a museum ship at Ford Island, it become a “bookend” to the Arizona Memorial. The beginning and end of the Pacific war is dramatically portrayed by these two ships.

This Author of this article had the pleasure of meeting Estes. I can attest that he was a true gentleman. He didn’t have a political bone in his body, and  he loved America and his fellow veterans.  I have no doubt that Harold Estes and Fred Ballard are sitting together with the Supreme Commander talking story.

A letter critical of Obama penned by Estes several years ago went viral on the Internet and references to it are still numerous. Estes began his letter with these words, “One of the benefits of my age, perhaps the only one, is to speak my mind, blunt and direct even to the head man.”

Estes will join his wife Doris at Court 11, niche 129P,  at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
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« Reply #65 on: June 01, 2011, 10:54:12 AM »

Army sergeant to get Medal of Honor for Afghanistan heroics

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry has served six tours of duty in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.

June 1st, 2011

An Army Ranger who lost his right hand while tossing an enemy grenade away from fellow soldiers in Afghanistan will be awarded the Medal of Honor, the U.S. Army announced this week.

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry will be the second living recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Iraq and Afghan wars, according to the military. President Barack Obama will present the award to Petry on July 12.

"It's very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day, to nominate me for that," Petry said, according to an Army News Service report.

Petry is being awarded the medal for actions on May 26, 2008, in Paktia, Afghanistan.

Already wounded by a bullet that went through both his legs, Petry picked up an enemy grenade that landed near him and two fellow Rangers and threw it back toward the enemy, according to the Army News Service report. The grenade detonated and amputated Petry's right hand. Petry applied a tourniquet to his wound and called for help.

"If not for Staff Sergeant Petry's actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed," a fellow Ranger, Sgt. Daniel Higgins, wrote. Read the full Army News Service report on the battle.

Petry, now assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, will be the ninth service member to be presented the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. The other living recipient is Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta.

Petry, a father of four from Santa Fe, New Mexico, has served two tours of duty in Iraq and six in Afghanistan.
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« Reply #66 on: June 08, 2011, 02:06:03 PM »

Staff Sergeant Kristofferson B. Lorenzo
Private First Class William S. Blevins
Private First Class Thomas C. Allers
Private First Class Andrew M. Krippner

These four young men gave their lives serving their country.  Killed in action on 23 May 2011 in Afghanistan. 

Attended a memorial service for them today.  One leaves behind a wife and two young children.  All four families lost their only son.  Two families lost their only child.  Keep this in mind when you read headlines about the casualties of war, and keep their families in your prayers.
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« Reply #67 on: June 19, 2011, 10:25:01 AM »

United, They Serve: On Father's Day, Military Dad and Son Find Common Ground
By Joshua Rhett Miller
Published June 19, 2011

Sgt. Chris Meis and Pvt. Caleb Meis

Army Sgt. Chris Meis, 47, and his 19-year-old son, Pvt. 1st Class Caleb Meis, of St. Charles, Iowa, now serve in Afghanistan in different platoons within Charlie Company 1-168, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division.

Army Sgt. Chris Meis isn't a sentimental man, but having his son Caleb nearby helps beyond words as they serve together in Afghanistan, thousands of miles from home.

"I can't imagine deployment without him," the elder Meis told by phone from combat post Rahman Kheyl, about 75 miles south of Kabul. "It's been such a good experience to have him here with me."

Meis, 47, a carpenter by trade, spent three years in the Iowa National Guard in the 1980s before re-enlisting in 2007. His 19-year-old son, Pvt. 1st Class Caleb Meis, would join three years later. The father-son duo from St. Charles, Iowa, is now assigned to different platoons within Charlie Company 1-168, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, an arrangement that keeps them connected, but not too close for comfort.

"We normally see each other every day and spend quality time together maybe once or twice a month," Chris said. "We play chess every once in a while. He plays a lot of video games and lifts a lot of weights, like the other young kids do."

On Father's Day, however, the Meises won't get to reminisce in person about their shared military career. That'll come later, perhaps beginning this summer when the Meises are due to return to Iowa.

"I am not real sentimental about holidays," Chris Meis said. "I appreciate 'em when they come around, but I'm honestly not going to miss Father's Day other than the fact that I won't be around my son."

On Sunday, Sgt. Meis will be in Gardez, Afghanistan, the capital of its Paktia province. As of now, Caleb says he has no specific plans on how to mark the holiday, but that's subject to change.

"It's not like we have any kind of store to go to," Caleb said about buying his father a gift.

While all U.S. military branches are stocked with fathers, mothers, brother and sisters, the Meises are among a select group of service members who serve alongside their relatives. Military spokesmen were unable to supply specific numbers for how many active-duty soldiers currently serve with their sons or daughters, but they told that the configuration is rare.

Following the deaths in 1942 of five Iowa brothers on the USS Juneau during World War II, the topic of close relatives serving together in combat was examined by Congress, which considered proposals to ban siblings from being assigned to the same unit. No bill eventually passed, however.

Each military branch handles such relationships differently, and the uniqueness of such close family affairs has been well-chronicled, dating back to the Sullivan brothers who died on the Juneau.

For example, in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Wade Corell, of Strawberry Point, Iowa, currently serves alongside his father, U.S. Army Col. Benjamin Corell, the commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. Along with the Meises, the Corells are part of some 2,800 Iowa National Guard soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan, the largest deployment since World War II, Army officials told

And U.S. Army Maj. Benjamin Rex celebrated Father's Day in 2009 with his son, Pfc. Jeromy Bruce Rex, while stationed in Baghdad, an experience the younger Rex said he'll never forget.

"It's been really great having him here because he encourages me to do better," Jeromy told the Army's official website. "I'm just really glad to share this experience with him. I feel it's going to bring us closer as father and son, and hopefully someday after he gets out of the military, I can step up and fill his huge shoes."

Like Jeromy, the younger Meis said he's grateful to have been able to cultivate his relationship with his father in a way that most men will never do.

"Other guys I've talked to about it always say they couldn't imagine having their Dad on deployment with them," Caleb said. "But I've had somebody who I can go talk to and identify with much more closely than other guys.

Caleb said his always-solid relationship with his father has "definitely" gotten better while in Afghanistan, and he intends to continue cultivating that bond when they return home this summer. Caleb then plans to start classes at Des Moines Area Community College and marry his fiancee, Sarah.

"Time cannot go fast enough," Caleb said.

Chris Meis, meanwhile, will probably return to carpentry. But the father and son will always have Iowa's Camp Dodge, where they'll continue to conduct drills as part of the National Guard.

"So we'll still be together," Chris said. "We don't anticipate any separation."

For his part, Chris said he'll call his father David on Sunday, and later his wife of 24 years, Karla. And while he's eager to return home to reunite with his three other children -- Erin, 22, Bethany, 17, and Joshua, 15 -- Meis realizes a special chapter with his first-born son is coming to a close.

"Further down the road, when we have time to reminisce, we'll be able to talk about the same experiences," he said. "And we'll both just know."
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« Reply #68 on: July 03, 2011, 11:00:59 AM »

Army's Last Draftee to Retire After 39 Years
Published July 03, 2011
Associated Press

June 27, 2011: Army Command Sgt. Major Jeffery Mellinger, 58, talks about his nearly 40-year career during an interview in his office in Fort Belvoir, Va.

FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- A homemade wind chime with the word "Whining" under a red slash is made from metal parts put in his leg after a parachute accident. Every Sunday he trims his crew cut. He didn't join the Army willingly, but as Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger prepares to retire, he's grateful he found his calling.

Mellinger was drafted to fight the Vietnam War, and the Army believes he's the last draftee to retire, after 39 years. Most did their two years and left. But Mellinger had found home.

"I think I'm pretty good at it, but I like it. That's the bottom line. I love being a soldier and I love being around soldiers," he said.

Mellinger's motto is simple: No whining -- as the wind chime attests.

When the draft notice arrived in the mail in 1972 at his home in Eugene, Ore., tens of thousands of troops had been killed. Anti-war protests were rampant. Draft notices were being set on fire and returning soldiers were treated as part of the problem. The military wasn't a popular job.

The return address on the letter was the White House. Just 19, he was impressed that President Richard Nixon would write to him.

"I opened it up and it said, `Greetings from the president of the United States.' I said, `Wow, how's he know me?"' Mellinger said, laughing. "It was a form letter that said my friends and neighbors had selected me to represent them in the Armed Forces and I was hereby ordered to report for induction."

Mellinger told the draft board there was a mistake.

"I ... told them I don't need to go into the Army, I've got a job," said Mellinger, who hung drywall for a living. "They just kind of laughed."

Once the path was set, he said, he didn't consider trying to find a way out.

He heard so many war stories in training that he was fired up about going, and was disappointed he was instead assigned to be an office clerk in Germany.

In Germany, Mellinger immediately stood out with his positive attitude, short haircut and mastery of physical fitness skills, said Bob Myers, 64, of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, then his company commander who now runs a chain of convenience stores. He replaced a soldier in trouble for illegal drug use, Myers said.

"He wasn't a part of that culture and everyone knew that," said Myers, who was instrumental in getting Mellinger to enlist when his draft term was over.

Mellinger wasn't long for clerking. He earned a spot in the Army Rangers, and would go on to do more than 3,700 parachute jumps. And despite the 1991 parachute accident that gave him the material for the wind chime, breaking his leg in several places, he went on to run nine marathons. He was made a command sergeant major in 1992.

Nearly a decade later, he was sent to ground zero in New York right after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as part of an advance party from the First Army. Then came his time in Iraq as the top enlisted soldier of the multi-national forces in Iraq, where he says he survived 27 roadside bombings during his deployment of nearly three years straight.

Mellinger, 58, says his stories of being in the Army during the tumultuous 1970s as the Army struggled with issues of drugs, race and the role of women are so foreign to young troops that they look at him like he's a dinosaur when he shares them.

A recruiting poster hanging today on Mellinger's office door at Fort Belvoir, where he's the command sergeant major for the Army Material Command, that encourages female troops to try out for female engagement teams that work in war zones with Special Forces troops shows just how much things have changed since Mellinger was drafted.

Until 1978, female troops were in the Women's Army Corps separate from the regular Army. Mellinger said he recalls when most female troops weren't allowed to carry weapons and were taken out of the field at night to sleep in a separate barracks away from the men.

"There were some stymied leaders. What do we do with all these females?" he said. "A lot of those things together caused a lot of turmoil, caused a lot of difficulty and problems and a huge leadership challenge because the military was being torn apart like the country was."

Mellinger understands well the tragic side of soldiering. He knows 40 to 50 people buried at Arlington National Cemetery and goes to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit wounded troops and their families most weekends he's in town.

It was in a hospital room in 2009 that Jill Stephenson met Mellinger, who was standing near the bedside of her son, Cpl. Benjamin Kopp, 21. Mellinger had heard that Kopp, a fellow Ranger, had been shot in Afghanistan and he went to see him. Mellinger immediately embraced Stephenson, she said.

"It was the most compassionate, caring hug around me that I ever have received from a stranger. It was very comforting," said Stephenson, 44, of Rosemount, Minn.

Kopp died soon after. Stephenson has since stayed with Mellinger and his wife, Kim, on multiple occasions while in Washington to attend ceremonies at Arlington cemetery, where her son is buried.

Several soldiers who served directly under Mellinger in Iraq have reached out to him to talk about their combat-related mental health issues. One was a soldier who rang his doorbell and said he was haunted by the memory of helping to collect the remains of a fallen Marine, and he was bothered that he didn't know the Marine's name.

"I told him his name and we sat and talked for several hours," Mellinger said.

Mellinger said he has a roster with the names of the 2,614 troops killed, the 19,304 wounded, and two missing in action from his time in Iraq. He wears a metal bracelet with those numbers sketched in it in their honor.

Mellinger's happy with the set-up of today's all-volunteer force, but he does think the contributions of draftees have been forgotten, particularly since there's such a romantic notion that after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II, everyone "ran down to the recruiting station." In reality, thousands were drafted in that war and many others, he said.

"Draftees are pretty maligned over time," he said, "but the fact is they are part of every branch of service up to 1973, and when you look at what those military branches accomplished over time, I'll let the record speak for itself."
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« Reply #69 on: July 03, 2011, 11:02:39 AM »

1st. Lt. Vernon J. Baker, U.S. Army (1919-2010) – Only Living Black Medal of Honor Recipient WWII

1st Lt Vernon J Baker receives his Medal of Honor from President Clinton.

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. - Born December 17, 1919 in Cheyenne Wyoming,  Vernon Joseph Baker was orphaned at age four when his parents were killed in an automobile accident.  Baker and his two older sisters were raised by his grandparents in Cheyenne, a town that had only 12 other black families.  At 5’5” and with the prevailing climate of racism that existed, Baker had a fairly turbulent childhood. Baker was to spend three years of his adolescence at Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Omaha Nebraska. He graduated from high school in Iowa while living with his Aunt, and began work as a railroad porter.

Baker grew tired of his life as a railroad porter and in the summer of 1941 he joined the U.S. Army.  Baker’s leadership qualities were recognized and he was sent to officer candidate school.  He was commissioned a second lieutenant on January 11th,1943.   Baker’s first assignment as an officer was the segregated 270th Regiment of the 92nd Infantry Division, the first black unit to go into combat in World War II.

The 270th landed at Naples in June of 1944 and fought its way north into central Italy. Later that year  Baker, while on night patrol, came face to face with a German sentry. Baker was to win the duel that followed. Baker killed the German but was wounded so badly himself that he had to be hospitalized for two months.  When he awoke from surgery he noticed he was in a segregated ward.

Baker, the only black officer in his company in the spring of 1945, was commanding a weapons platoon that consisted of two light machine guns and two mortar squads. The unit was near the village of Viareggio on April 5th when it was ordered to launch a dawn assault against Castle Aghinolfi, a mountain stronghold occupied by the Germans. It was on the second day of the assault that Baker led a battalion that finally secured the mountain for the American soldiers.

In his book “Lasting Valor” Baker wrote that their white commanding officer ran when the fighting started, ostensibly to seek reinforcements who never arrived.

The intense German fire was decimating the Americans, Baker took charge, moving from one machine gun nest to another, killing the enemy soldiers inside. Then he covered the evacuation of his wounded comrades by taking an exposed position and drawing the enemy’s fire, according to Army records.

The next night, Baker voluntarily led an advance on the castle through enemy mine fields and heavy fire.

In all, Baker and his platoon killed 26 Germans, destroyed 6 machine gun nests, two observer posts and four dugouts. Their heroism enabled the Allies to take the castle shortly thereafter.

Baker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, making him the most decorated black soldier in the Mediterranean Theater.

What he did not know was that his Medal of Honor nomination had been blocked by a military establishment that did not want to give the nation’s highest honor to blacks.

Baker earned a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Cross during his time in service. Baker stayed in the Army until 1968. He lived through its desegregation, and became one of the first blacks to command an all-white company. He joined the U.S. Army Airborne along the way, and made his last jump at age 48.

It was more than half a century after the assault on Castle Aghinolfi, when Baker received a telephone call from a man working on a federal grant to reevaluate the heroism of blacks in World War II. It was during this phone call Baker learned he was to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On January 13th, 1997, 52 years after Baker’s World War II military service, President Clinton presented him with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor. He was one of the most highly decorated black soldiers in the Mediterranean Theater. He was also the only living black World War II veteran to earn the Medal of Honor.

After retiring from the Army, he spent nearly 20 years working for the Red Cross. He lived in Northern Idaho with his wife, Heidy until he died on July 13, 2010 after a long battle with cancer.

The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor

First Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker

General Order:
For extraordinary heroism in action on 5 and 6 April 1945, near Viareggio, Italy. Then Second Lieutenant Baker demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in destroying enemy installations, personnel and equipment during his company’s attack against a strongly entrenched enemy in mountainous terrain.

When his company was stopped by the concentration of fire from several machine gun emplacements, he crawled to one position and destroyed it, killing three Germans. Continuing forward, he attacked and enemy observation post and killed two occupants. With the aid of one of his men, Lieutenant Baker attacked two more machine gun nests, killing or wounding the four enemy soldiers occupying these positions. He then covered the evacuation of the wounded personnel of his company by occupying an exposed position and drawing the enemy’s fire.

On the following night Lieutenant Baker voluntarily led a battalion advance through enemy mine fields and heavy fire toward the division objective. Second Lieutenant Baker’s fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.

Baker has been awarded the following: Medal of Honor; Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart; American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Combat Infantryman Badge; Croce Al Valor Militare (Italian Decoration).

On September 11, 2008, Baker was awarded the Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humankind by Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. Along with the award, Baker received an honorary doctorate from the college.

1st Lieutenant Vernon Baker is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Section 59, Site 4417.
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« Reply #70 on: July 04, 2011, 09:12:54 AM »

Remembering our fallen: Spc. Marlon Jackson
By Carly Costello, Special to CNN
July 4, 2011

Juarez Jackson holds the plaque that commemorates the award of the Purple Heart to his cousin, Spc. Marlon Jackson.

(CNN) -- For most of his life, Marlon Jackson was shy. He was the kind who would stand in the corner at a party swaying side-to-side, quietly sipping on a beer while others danced and socialized.

"We called him Fudgie," Marlon's cousin, Juarez Jackson, said. "Fudgie was a great cousin with a smile that could light up an entire room. He was not the person with the most words, but he had a great sense of humor and personality."

CNN first learned about Marlon when his name was added to the Home & Away database, an interactive memorial for the troops who have lost their lives fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Thanks to Juarez, we were given an opportunity to learn more.

Marlon was nicknamed Fudgie after a character in a reggae song who was known for being outgoing and was quite the ladies man, someone who Marlon was not. Juarez, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, explained that it is common in Jamaican culture to give someone a nickname that is opposite of who they really are.

"If someone's big, we call them smally. If they're tall, we call them shorty," Juarez said. "It was kind of a play on him not being that outgoing and him being a real introvert."

Marlon with his father, Leighton Jackson, at his graduation from Hudson Catholic High School in 1997.

Marlon was born in Jamaica and adopted at nine by Leighton Jackson and Lois La Grenade and a few years later, he moved to New Jersey with his adopted father.

Around 14, his cousins in Georgia, who he would visit often, dubbed him Fudgie. He often introduced himself to others using the obverse nickname.

"He loved it," Juarez said. "Everybody called him Fudgie, and he got a big kick out of it."

Marlon might have been quiet, but according to Juarez, when he did talk, he always had something interesting to say.

"Some people, they don't need to say anything and they just have that way about them," Juarez said. "Everyone listened when he said something because he rarely spoke. (Marlon was) just very on point with the words that came out of his mouth."

But when Marlon enlisted with the U.S. Army in 1999, Juarez saw a big change in his cousin's personality. He started to break out of his shell and became more confident in himself, something his cousin wants people to remember.

Marlon sent this photo of him in his service uniform to his uncle, Raynor Jackson, who he would visit in Georgia several times a year.

"I want people to remember him giving it all but also remember how the service made him better," Juarez said. "I saw how great Marlon had become as an individual. He still had his introvert self, but he was just way more confident, way more powerful as a person. It was great to see that, and I know it was the Army that brought that out of him. I don't think there is anywhere else that could have done that to him like the service did."

When Marlon enlisted, pre-September 11, 2001, it never crossed his cousin's mind that one day he might see combat.

"The most war you'd hear going on is between Biggie and Tupac and they just passed away," Juarez said. "You never thought about any global war going on. That was in the back of our minds."

Even when Marlon was deployed to Iraq in March of 2003, Juarez never thought that Fudgie might not return. But when his uncle told him on November 13, 2003, that Marlon had been killed by a roadside bomb two days prior, on Veterans Day, his whole life changed.

"When the Army sent down soldiers to Jamaica to do the whole 21-gun salute, it brought tears to my eyes," Juarez said. Marlon was laid to rest in Kingston, Jamaica, where his father currently lives.

"In your 20s, you don't think that someone is going to pass away. You just don't think that someone is going to be 25 and not be here anymore," Juarez said. "It was kind of hard to believe."

At the time of Marlon's death, Juarez was in college studying computer science. He had known since he was in the sixth grade that he wanted to be a software engineer, but he did not know in what capacity until his younger brother started working in the defense industry and cousin Marlon enlisted in the Army.

"It was an encouragement to me to do something that I thought was more meaningful," Juarez said. "What Marlon did, what soldiers do, that makes a difference. That's shaping the world. That's shaping the future."

Juarez started working for the defense industry in 2005 as a software engineer, and one of his first projects involved outfitting U.S. military Humvees with armor that could help protect troops from rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, something that Juarez believes could have possibly saved his cousin.

Juarez is still with the defense industry, working side-by-side with service members from all around the world. He knows that what he and his fellow engineers do makes a difference, and he loves that they are all working towards the same goal: helping the brave men and women serving in the armed forces.

"I think (Marlon) would have been proud of the accomplishments that my brother and I have made," Juarez said. "I am just kind of disappointed that he's not here to share in some of this."

But to this day, Juarez can't say has bad feelings about his cousin going to war.

"He did an admirable thing. He did something that I think is one of the highest callings you can have in life -- to serve other people. He did that with zeal and gusto, and no one had to pull him dragging to do it. He did it because he wanted to do it, and he knew it was something that would make him better."
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« Reply #71 on: July 04, 2011, 10:11:24 PM »

While I am sure some soldiers have good intentions most of them are merely dumb Americans.

"In Haig's presence, Kissinger referred pointedly to military men as 'dumb, stupid animals to be used' as pawns for foreign policy."

-- Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein, The Final Days, p. 208

I see Henry Ford and Thomas Edison as great Americans. Men that literally defend their families against invaders are great heros. Soldiers fighting wars for jews are not great Americans.
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« Reply #72 on: July 12, 2011, 09:56:36 AM »

Medal of Honor Awarded to Ranger Leroy Petry
PHOTO: Sergeant First Class Leroy A. Petry

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry of the Army Rangers. (Courtesy of The U.S. Army)

July 12, 2011

At a White House ceremony later today, Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, an Army Ranger, will become only the second living recipient of the Medal of Honor for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Petry lost his right hand while throwing a live grenade away from his fellow soldiers.

Petry will become the ninth service member to receive the nation's highest award for valor in those conflicts. Until Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was honored with the award last year for his heroism in Afghanistan, the previous awards had been made posthumously. Like Giunta, Petry will be honored for actions while serving in Afghanistan.

When it was announced in late May that he had been selected to receive the medal, Petry said in a brief statement, "It's very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day, to nominate me for that."

That day was May 26, 2008, when Petry and his fellow Rangers were conducting a rare daylight raid on a Taliban compound in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia Province.

As the senior non-commissioned officer, Petry, 31, was to have played an oversight role in the raid. But he quickly found himself in the fight when one of the assaulting squads needed extra help.

After securing a building in the compound, Petry and Pfc. Lucas Robinson entered a courtyard to take on three enemy fighters readying to fire on soldiers at the other end of the courtyard.

They immediately came under fire and Petry was shot by a round that went through both of his legs. Although wounded, Petry led Robinson to take cover behind a chicken coop. Another Ranger, Sgt. Daniel Higgins, came to help his wounded soldiers.

But a short time later, Higgins and Robinson were wounded by a grenade thrown at them by one of the Taliban fighters. Then, another grenade landed in their midst.

It was at that moment that Petry, already wounded in the legs, lunged for the live grenade to throw it away from his fellow Rangers.

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

But just as he did so, the grenade exploded in his right hand. "I actually didn't think it was going to go off," Petry said. "I didn't really feel much pain. I didn't know it had gone off and taken my hand until I sat back up and saw it was completely amputated at the wrist."

Remarkably, Petry placed a tourniquet on his right arm then reported by radio that he and the other two Rangers had been wounded and were still under enemy fire.

Eventually, the Taliban fighters were killed by other soldiers, but not before one of them fatally shot Spc. Christopher Gathercole, who had arrived to help Petry, Higgins and Robinson.

At a news conference shortly after it was announced that Petry was to receive the Medal of Honor, soldiers who had served with him praised his bravery.

Medal of Honor Recipient Re-Enlisted

"We would like to say that every Ranger would do that given the exact same situation, but you're never going to know that until he's placed in that situation," Master Sgt. Steven Walter said.

Sergeant 1st Class Jerod Staidle, who came to help Petry that day, said Petry could have "saved himself but then the other two Rangers would probably be dead." Staidle said, "He put his own life at risk to grab that grenade and throw it around the corner to save all three of them."

Petry now wears a high-tech robotic artificial hand. "I could shake people's hands today. I'm meeting people all the time," he told the Army News Service. "It feels great to actually shake their hands with my right hand."

The prosthesis even allowed him to take up a new sport, golf.

An elite Army special operations force, Army Rangers serve four-month tours of duty in the war zones and rotate more frequently than conventional forces given the intense combat operations they experience.

Since enlisting in the Army in 1999, Petry has served almost his entire Army career as a Ranger and has deployed twice to Iraq and six times to Afghanistan.

He continues to serve on active duty as a liaison officer with wounded warriors and plans to remain a soldier. The married father of four recently re-enlisted for another eight years of Army service.
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« Reply #73 on: July 23, 2011, 12:49:42 AM »

Medal of Honor will go to first living Marine in 41 years
Pentagon officials say President Obama will present the Medal of Honor to a former Marine who braved enemy fire in Afghanistan in a bid to find and retrieve three Marines and a Navy corpsman.
By The Associated Press


Dakota Meyer, a Marine who left active duty in June 2010, will receive the Medal of Honor.

WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials say President Obama will present the Medal of Honor to a Marine who braved enemy fire in Afghanistan in a bid to find and retrieve three Marines and a Navy corpsman.

Dakota Meyer, who left active duty in June 2010, will be the first living Marine in 41 years to receive the nation's highest award for valor.

Only two living recipients — Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry — have received the award for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Petry, 31, has also been awarded two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, among other honors. He serves in the 75th Ranger Regiment unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma and has made deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Seven Medals of Honor have gone to soldiers killed in Afghanistan or Iraq, all but two awarded posthumously.

About 3,400 Medals of Honor have been granted since the Civil War, including 248 in Vietnam, 136 in Korea and 465 during World War II.

The decision to present the award to Meyer was first reported Tuesday by Leatherneck, a Marine Corps Association publication, and by the Marine Corps Times, an independent newspaper.

Both said the president called Meyer on Monday to break the news.
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« Reply #74 on: July 23, 2011, 02:22:43 PM »


John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dies
By the CNN Wire Staff
July 23, 2011

Gen. John Shalikashvili, shown in a 1996 photo, recently expressed support for repealing "don't ask, don't tell."

(CNN) -- Retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, who rose from being an Army draftee to serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has died of complications from a stroke, his executive assistant said Saturday. He was 75.

Shalikashvili died Saturday at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, according to assistant Rachel McLain.

An open memorial service will be held on August 6 at the Tacoma Convention Center. A funeral will be held at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery.

Born in Poland in 1936, Shalikashvili became the first foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993. He held the post until his retirement in 1997, serving under former President Bill Clinton, who awarded Shalikashvili the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Prior to that, he was NATO's 10th supreme allied commander in Europe.

"The United States has lost a genuine soldier-statesman whose extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "From his arrival in the United States as a 16-year old Polish immigrant after the Second World War, to a young man who learned English from John Wayne movies, to his rise to the highest ranks of our military, Shali's life was an 'only in America' story."

Shalikashvili was drafted into the Army in 1958 and rose through the ranks, serving in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 and heading up the 1991 international relief operation that airlifted food to and provided protection for the Kurds in northern Iraq.

Obama said the general forged closer ties with Russia and improved the quality of life of U.S. service members and their families.

Shalikashvili was granted U.S. citizenship after his family immigrated to Peoria, Illinois, from southern Germany, where they had sought refuge after the 1944 Warsaw Uprising in Poland.

Shalikashvili suffered a stroke in 2004, but continued to work in several capacities.

Most recently, he was in the news because of his support for a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," the ban of gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military. He also had served as a visiting professor at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

The retired general is survived by his wife, Joan; their son, Brant; and other family members.
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