It has been far too long since our last post on the Graffiti of War blog but to those who have been following us over the past decade, we offer our renewed focus for the next ten years of the Graffiti of War! As a tribute to our renewed efforts, we wanted to show our gratitude and what better way then to share a poem by one of our newest fans, Merissa Kelley.
Merissa is the daughter of a hero as her father, Stephen Kelley, served both in the Army as well as the Air Force. He was drafted during World War II and served four years and then spent 26 years in the Air Force, retiring from Langley AFB in 1974. Merissa, a true military brat, spent time in multiple bases from Texas to Alaska, Mississippi and Nebraska, from Germany to Taiwan, following her father's assignments across the globe. She states, "I am honored to be a well-traveled Air Force Brat!"
In addition to being the daughter of a veteran, she is also a mother, as her son Ryan served in the National Guard, deploying to Iraq from 2006-07. Due to her intimate knowledge of veterans and their service, Merissa understands the sacrifice, the duty, the honor, and the service our men and women dedicate their lives to on a daily basis. With this in mind, she wrote a poem as tribute to all military veterans to ensure they know their service is rememberd, their sacrifices are respected, valued and appreciated. In her words, "this poem is just a small way to express that".
We wanted to share this poem with our fans and the millions of men and women within the military and veteran communities. This project is dedicated to those who have served and continue to serve and most of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country we all call home. We want to thank Merissa for sharing this with us and we encourage all of our fans to send us their creations for us to share with the world. Thank you, Merissa, for your heartfelt poem!
by Kelli Brewer
It’s difficult to repay the debt we owe to the veterans and service members who’ve risked their lives to keep us safe. The men and women of our military often need help after their active service has ended. There are many ways you can help service members and veterans, whether by donating money to support programs or offering assistance with the needs of everyday living.
Care Packages and Coping Techniques
Helping service members in far-flung parts of the world feel a little less homesick is a patriotic gesture, and there are several ways you can do it. Soldiers’ Angels offers services that help deployed and wounded military personnel and their families, as well as our veterans. Through FOCUS, military families can learn practical skills that help them cope with the stresses of military life, from deployment and reintegration to family communication.
For senior veterans, getting to medical appointments and making full use of a Medicare Advantage plan can be a challenge. Some Advantage plans like those offered by Humana provide vision and dental coverage as well as access to exercise facilities, but these plans often change. If you’re a Medicare beneficiary, review the terms of your coverage each year to ensure you’re getting the most out of your coverage. Otherwise, you could be missing out on a valuable health resource.
Seeking Civilian Success
Service members returning to civilian life with a serious wound or disability often struggle to find a sustainable source of income. Sometimes, all they need is someone to point them in the right direction. If you know a veteran or recently separated service member who doesn’t know where to turn, tell them about the 100 Entrepreneurs Foundation, a resource for wounded members of the military who want to start their own businesses. Veterans and their family members can pick up valuable information by attending classes and workshops, where they learn skills that serve them well as entrepreneurs and help them return to the workforce.
Give a Lift
Many of our veterans suffer long-term physical and mental consequences because of their service. As a result, it can be hard for them to keep medical appointments or get to the grocery every week. Consider driving a veteran to appointments; it’s a great way to learn what it means to serve in our military and make a new friend, who may be lonely and looking for someone to socialize with. Contact the DAV Transportation Network, an organization that coordinates the activities of volunteers who provide this important service.
It’s on Me
Why not pick up the tab the next time you see a veteran waiting in line for coffee. Some of our older veterans may have trouble making ends meet, which makes this more than just a nice, symbolic gesture. (Arrange to pay anonymously if you’re worried about embarrassing someone.)
Support a Service Pet
Veterans who struggle with disabilities and the psychological residue of combat stress sometimes require the aid of a service dog. Service pets help veterans recover a measure of independence and do wonders for their self-esteem and mood. You can donate money for the training of a service dog, which can cost more than $30,000.
Expressing gratitude to a veteran or service member can be a very simple matter — as easy as spending a buck or two to buy coffee or give a veteran a ride to a medical appointment. No such act of kindness is too small, or too insignificant. The effort and gesture themselves are a poignant and meaningful act that says you understand and appreciate their sacrifice.
by Betty Rodgers
Ten years ago, Ken and I reluctantly attended a session about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He was a Marine. He was tough. He didn’t have any disorders. This would be a waste of time. The room was packed with Vietnam veterans and their wives.
As the speaker began talking about the manifestations of PTSD, we wives began looking around the room in amazement, pointing to our husbands and chuckling, suddenly aware that he was describing every one of the men. Nightmares and lack of sleep, sudden outbursts of rage, avoidance and periodic self-isolation, hyper-vigilance, and more. That moment of realization formed a real bond of understanding amongst the veterans, and among the wives.
In 1968, my husband left Khe Sanh where he had just survived the 77-day siege, one of the longest battles in US Marine Corps history. As he stepped off the helicopter in Dong Ha, he looked back at the ravaged hills of Khe Sanh, and thought, “That was one hell of a story.”
After coming back to the US, he finished his enlistment, married, had a son and a daughter, earned a degree in accounting, worked in the ag business, and later went through a divorce. He also became an alcoholic, experimented with other substances and rarely talked about his combat experience.
We married in 1985, and although I was aware he had fought in Vietnam, I knew very little about what he had survived. He talked about it a little, and we went on with our lives, building a real estate business together, and then moving on to other enterprises. As I grew to know my husband better through the years, I admired his strengths and rode out his sudden outbursts of rage, his periodic self-isolation, his hyper-vigilance, his regular headaches. To me, these were just a part of his personality, a part of who he is.
Until we attended that presentation on PTSD, and came to a realization that Ken carried the classic manifestations of post-combat stress.
In the meantime, Ken had started writing, ultimately earning an MFA in Creative Writing. Invariably, no matter what he wrote or intended to write, the war always came out. Poetry, essays, short stories, a novel: All about his wartime experience. But he was never satisfied that he had fully expressed what he wanted to say.
41 years after leaving Vietnam, Ken and I decided to combine our skills and make a documentary film about the siege. Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor was born. As first-time filmmakers, we were very fortunate. We filmed Ken and 14 of his comrades who gave incredibly open and vivid interviews as if they had lived through the experience the week prior instead of more than 40 years before. And I learned the full story of what Ken had survived.
Then we were contacted by another Vietnam veteran, John Nutt, who had worked as an editor in the film industry for his entire career with the likes of George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and many other well-known creators. John offered to assist us, and we believe helped create a masterpiece out of our material and storyline.
Since then, we have shown Bravo! all around the country at universities, theaters, prisons, high schools, on PBS, and more. It is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and we have received exceptional reviews. One of the things that has pleased us the most is that we’ve come to understand that Bravo! is a timeless story. The men talk about the same reactions to the experience of war that have been described from ancient times to the present-day wars on terror. It’s a story to which all combat veterans can relate.
And in this journey from 1968 to now, we came to realize there was another important story to tell: My story--the story of wives of combat veterans. The spouses of warriors are a segment of our society that has long been overlooked. So we agreed now is the time to give wives a voice, too, in a companion piece entitled I Married the War.
Wives live with war on a personal level when it comes home in our husbands who are forever changed. Like in Ken’s writing, in nearly every facet of our lives, the war shows up in one way or another. We carry on while our spouses are deployed, we welcome them back, we learn to aid them in their darker moments, to appreciate their newfound strengths, we gradually learn how to adapt to the changes. We support them through manifestations of Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, moral injury, physical injury, and more. We try to shield our children and help them understand their daddies instead of fearing them or blaming themselves for making Daddy mad, or for unrest between their parents.
And we strive to not let our own hopes and dreams fade in the process. We learn to adjust, to “pick our battles,” to really listen to our spouse, to do research for better understanding, to reach out for help when we need it, to take care of ourselves. And to help other spouses by sharing what we’ve learned.
I Married the War is now in post-production. We have completed our final interview, and the cast is a remarkable representation of women from WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and present-day wars. They have shared their stories with great heart and openness in the belief that they will help thousands, perhaps millions of other spouses, and educate the general public about these hidden costs of war. These women will play a huge part in a growing movement in our country to more fully understand and support the needs of our citizens who have served in our armed forces.
For more information about BRAVO!:
Watch on Amazon:
For more information about I Married the War:
We are restarting our weekly blog and we are going to feature a guest blogger at least once per month. For this month we are featuring a veteran spouse to give a different perspective and provide some insight into the lives of our warfighters and veterans and their families.
All too often our service men and women return home, only to find themselves fighting a whole new war, civilian life. Reintegration into civilian living is a difficult transition in itself. Life is different now, unscheduled, less regimented. Life take a whole new turn. There are many wounds that can’t be seen. Many unseen battles that can’t be won because they simply can’t be put into words. The mind is a beautiful organ, yet when trauma strikes it can be the enemy within. As loved ones, it is our duty to help them battle this enemy within.
I ask my husband several times a day if he is ok, I already know the answer, but I never want to miss that opportunity to hear what he has to say. I don’t care if it’s something he may have said before. I want him to always know his voice matters.
Sure, we all have our moments when we get impatient or frustrated. Making a conscious effort of patience and understanding at least keeps the door open on an individual’s mind to share their experiences and begin the process of healing.
These individuals that have made a commitment beyond themselves need your support when they return to the home front. You are the attachment to civilian life, the shadow that every service member has, no matter where they may travel. Whether they’re your brother, sister, spouse, or even the neighbor. Every battle they fight, whether overseas or at home, they depend on your support. It may not be shown or expressed with words. You may never know the extent of their hardship. Battles cannot be fought alone. They need you.
Original article published on www.SOFREP.com on January 1st 2016
The War on Terror continues to be the major focus of many as 2016 dawns today. As Obama’s administration begins their final year at the helm of the most influential nation on earth, the eyes of the world remain fixed on the U.S. election and who will be steering America’s military and foreign policy for the next four years. However, regardless of the ultimate decision, new leadership is still a year away and the current occupant of the people’s White House must make real decisions impacting the security of this country.
With that said, America’s destiny for the next four years and potentially that of the entire free world rests in the hands of each one of us. Viewed in such terms, it is truly an enormous responsibility that requires an equal or greater consideration. As each of us rings in 2016, we must reflect on the fact that voting is not only a right, but a solemn duty we call a privilege of citizenship. This privilege is secured through the sacrifices of so many; it’s a right that was purchased with the blood of countless men and women through the ages.
This country we enjoy, the freedoms taken for granted, are a culmination of thousands of years of human evolution and civilization. From the dawn of man in the savannahs of Africa and Mesopotamia, through the ancient empires of Egypt, Babylon, and Persia, to Greece and the Roman republic whose footsteps guided our founding fathers, through each age of human history, the groundwork of this nation took shape. From the Magna Carta and the founding of the English parliament to the Mayflower Compact, our ancestors framed the beginnings of man’s inalienable rights to freedom while fixing the limits of power for those that governed. These forward steps toward universal freedom came at great cost in lives through wars that circled the globe hundreds of years before WWI and WWII.
As another year falls behind and a new one begins, our responsibility to those who came before us and, to a greater degree, to those who will come after, has never been more tangible. We find ourselves living in a pivotal time in modern history, perhaps one from which our decisions will ripple on for many years into the future. Our future is filled with frightening uncertainties, but also with great potential—a dichotomy much like the founding of America, a beacon of justice born of inequity.
Original Published Article Found at www.SOFREP.com
2016 has been a historic year, one for the books my friends. The Cubbies, my Cubbies, have won the World Series and America has elected a brash businessman turned reality star into the White House. As I write this article I could have sworn I saw a pack of pigs flying out my 23rd floor window in downtown Chicago. America has spoken and Mr. Trump is our president-elect, like it or not, so let’s kindly move on.
In his first major interview, Trump has commented on 60 Minutes that he will forgo the annual salary of the office which sits at a healthy (though to Mr. Trump this is a few minute’s pay) $400k a year and will only accept the by law minimum which he believes is $1. I must say, this is a bit refreshing and though will only amount to a savings to the government of nearly $1.6 million, it’s the thought that counts.
Speaking of the thought, I have a better idea for our new President-Elect Trump. Instead of an empty, though no doubt good-intentioned, gesture, perhaps take it to another level. My challenge to Mr. Trump is to take that $399,999 he is entitled to as our Commander-in-Chief and donate it to a veterans or service member-centered charity.
Considering President-Elect Trump has had his share of controversies, specifically as it relates to his claim he would give $6 million to veteran organizations, going further to say he would donate $1 million of his own money to these organizations. He eventually did but it appears only after he was called on the carpet by the Washington Post, but let’s not open old wounds, so to speak.
Starting a new charitable giving slate, donating his presidential salary to veteran and service-member-centered organizations would go a long way to wipe it clean and produce some much-needed goodwill for the President-Elect. Starting once he is inaugurated, President Trump could choose a new organization each year, benefiting up to eight different organizations over the course of his max term potential as president. Just an idea, but seems to me would have a much more effective impact on these men and women who have served our nation than it would on the bottom line of the US budget, considering the size of our shortfall, an estimated $544 billion-with-a-B. The 4-year savings of nearly $1.6 million just seems less likely to make an impact but could be powerfully felt by these organizations. I have listed four worthwhile organizations below as examples for President-Elect Trump’s first term as president. Mr. President, go one step further and start your presidency with a giant leap in the right direction for our veterans and military communities.
Hope for The Warriors – 94.18 Charity Navigator Rating
Fisher House Foundation – 97.17 Charity Navigator Rating
Disabled American Veterans – 98.23 Charity Navigator Rating
Special Operations Warrior Foundation – 96.46 Charity Navigator Rating
Sources: Congressional Budget Office; Charity Navigator; Forbes.com
Click HERE for Doc's Original Published Article on SOFREP.com
By Helen Young
As we’re all painfully aware, the VA is staggering under the strain of all the suffering veterans in need of help. Unable to get the conventional help they need (and perhaps not really benefiting from the nature of that conventional help), many vets are falling through the cracks. It is suspected that far more veterans than actively seek help are suffering from PTSD and similar conditions - and of those who do seek help, many do not receive it. This is an extremely worrying situation, given the scale of the problem. However, some veterans are getting help from alternative or unconventional therapies. We’ve already covered some of these in passing, but here I’d like to take a closer look at one such treatment method: pet or animal therapy.
Animals and Mental Health
There have been many studies into the effects of animals upon our mental health. It seems that animals with which we form an emotional connection - particularly dogs - are capable of having a beneficial and even transformative effect upon our state of mind. Animals can calm us, reduce our stress levels, boost our moods, play a significant part in banishing conditions like depression, lower our blood pressure, improve our physical health, raise our self-esteem, and even help us to get over addictions. The reasons behind this are varied, and have a lot to do with our precise relationship with the animals in question. Although therapy animals brought in to meet patients who do not know them frequently do have an uplifting effect (and we’ve all heard the anecdotes about how things like swimming with dolphins and communicating with horses can enact healing ‘miracles’) - it’s generally agreed that those in need feel the most benefit from animal therapy if they have a permanent to semi-permanent relationship with the animal. For this reason, some organizations are offering ‘service animals’ for veterans suffering from war-related mental trauma.
Given the long and extensive relationship humans have enjoyed with dogs, our brains tend to be better equipped to connect on an emotional level with dogs than with other animals. This is not to say that people cannot form deep and beneficial bonds with non-canine buddies, but in general dogs are the favored option for service animal organizations. Not only are they capable of great bonding, communication, and emotional understanding with humans, they can also be trained to fulfil roles which may actively help to improve or avoid PTSD symptoms and triggers. For example, a PTSD assistance dog could be trained to recognise specific sights, sounds, and smells which may provoke a reaction from their handler. Given the enhanced sensory repertoire available to canines, it is likely that the dog would be able to sense the trigger before their handler did, and lead their handler away from it. Many former service men and women have also noted that the presence of a dog makes them feel as though they can relax and ‘drop their guard’ a little more than they otherwise would. Hyper-vigilance being quite a large problem for many veterans, this is a considerable advantage. On a more ephemeral level, dogs (and many other animals) can help the traumatized to reconnect with their emotions, to develop their communication skills, and to generate confidence in themselves. Being loved and relied upon by an animal gives both a sense of responsibility and a sense of self-worth which is invaluable for those who have experienced trauma. Some have also said that their animals help them out socially by providing a ‘safe’ talking point, thus enabling them to re-integrate more effectively into society.
A Burgeoning Business
As yet, there are no official routes by which one may obtain a PTSD assistance animal. But there are charities and other organizations springing up which help those in need to find and train assistance animals in accordance with their needs. Some people train their own family dogs to help them out in specific ways, while others are assigned or choose puppies from the relevant organization. Due to the highly individualized ways in which service-related trauma presents itself, one cannot train a ‘general’ assistance animal in this respect. Instead, dog and handler must go through the training process together from day one. For most, the training process itself is very therapeutic, not only helping dog and handler to bond, but also allowing the veteran to learn about and perhaps start coming to terms with their own triggers and issues.
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Originally published at www.SOFREP.com on December 4th 2015
As the conflict with radical Islam’s newest creation continues, the U.S. remains divided on the solution. President Obama has stated emphatically that his administration will not be flooding the region with conventional troops, preferring to increase the frequency of air strikes and the deployment of special operations units. On the right side, several Republican senators, including John McCain from Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and presidential candidates such as Donald Trump, have called for the insertion of a large contingent of ground troops as a supplement to the air strikes currently underway. Meanwhile, ISIS has expressed their deep desire to meet the U.S. and its allies on their turf, a marked difference from al-Qaeda’s mission to bring the war to our shores.
This time around in the continued War on Terror, despite the fact that the U.S. can now count on the cooperation of France and possibly Russia, the script remains largely the same: We’re once again facing off against radicalized Muslims hell-bent on the destruction of anything resembling Western culture, fixated on the establishment of Sharia-based state. Our previous reaction was to go balls-deep in Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and capture the much-reviled Osama Bin Laden. However, the Bush administration was obsessed with what they believed was a clear and present danger to U.S national security and insisted, despite UN (and ironically French) opposition, on the departure of Iraqi president and former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein. Bush got what he wanted, though at a great cost in American lives (4,400+ killed/32,000+ wounded) and to the American treasury (immediate cost of $1.7 trillion, not including interest and VA costs). That’s not to mention the foreign-relations disaster the war caused when it was realized the evidence Colin Powell presented to the UN, which ruined his political career, was based on faulty intelligence (and I’m being very diplomatic with that description).
The original intent was to establish a democratic Iraq, with the hope that democracy would spread throughout the Middle East and thus ensure a more secure world for all. The outcome was decidedly different than our objective; we not only failed to increase world security, but we inadvertently created an enemy far more brutal and savage than our worst fears could imagine—ISIS.
After over a decade (and still counting) of bloodshed and unprecedented spending to eliminate the threat of terror for Americans and the rest of the free world, the U.S. is an even larger target for the world’s Islamic radical. The American-brand Iraqi government and military, forged by our blood and treasure, quickly succumbed to ISIS, despite being better equipped and being vastly larger in number. The only adversary to ISIS of any consequence in the region was, and remains, the Kurdish militia, who despite being outnumbered and virtually surrounded, have continued to make a stand against ISIS in Iraq as well as in Syria.
However, the Kurds are despised and officially unrecognized by their neighbors, which include Iran, Iraq, Syria, and American ally Turkey, which attacked Kurdish positions in Syria via air strikes this year. This only adds to the increasing diplomatic strain inside the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, which includes our former Cold War nemesis, Russia, whose own relations with Turkey continue to deteriorate. Let’s hope we can emulate our grandparents and put aside these fundamental differences and disagreements to unite against a common enemy. At the moment, this doesn’t seem very promising.
We must consider the results of the 2003 intervention in Iraq and the deployment of conventional forces in large numbers; the outcome was a disaster of epic proportions. The use of surgical air strikes, though effective, will not win this war by themselves. No war has ever been won without boots on the ground, as history attests. The U.S. has inserted special operations forces and continues to do so to support coalition efforts to strike at ISIS targets in the region. However, with every new attack executed by members of ISIS (officially or otherwise), the clearer it becomes that more is needed.
The question remains: What must be done, in addition to current operations, to ensure the annihilation of ISIS? How can we secure victory in the region while avoiding the catastrophic outcome of the war in Iraq? In addition, how can we ensure the security of our nation at home without sacrificing our national ideal of freedom? Should we close up our borders, withdraw within, and introduce a period of Wilsonian isolationism, rejecting any and all immigrants despite our long history as the destination for the world’s huddled and yearning masses fleeing from tyranny? Will we allow ISIS to fundamentally transform this nation into something hardly recognizable to our founding fathers? And will that actually produce the victory we all so desperately want for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children? More importantly, will this latest sacrifice—to include more bloodshed of tens of thousands of American lives and more spending pushing us ever closer to total financial ruin—be worth the cost? Will it produce the outcome we seek, or are we doomed to repeat the disaster that was the Iraq War?
This increasingly complicated issue is poised to affect the lives of millions for generations to come. Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis has America been in such threatening and complex circumstances, and not one of the current candidates inspires like Kennedy. Let’s hope the new administration we elect to the White House is stacked with this country’s best and brightest. They, and we, are gonna need it.
Written by Helen Frazier
We’ve spoken at length about the power of art to treat traumatized veterans. Nor are we the only ones to appreciate art’s potential in this arena. However, what works for some may well not work for others - particularly when it comes to something as complex and individualized as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The VA and the government tend to stick strictly to evidence-based medicine when recommending PTSD treatments (and why should they not?). However, their facilities for actually providing these treatments are sadly lacking - due largely to overwhelming demand. Do not despair, though. If art therapy is not helping you to heal, and you’re struggling to get conventional treatment, there are other options out there. Here are just a few ideas which may help you.
Yoga & Meditation
Yoga and meditative practices are becoming widely accepted as treatments - even in famously conservative military circles. So much so that you may actually find that you’re covered for it if your yoga/meditation treatment comes from a recognized provider. While it doesn’t work for everyone, an astonishing number of suffering people have said that they found their symptoms diminished and their quality of life considerably improved by yoga and/or meditation. How can this be? Well, yoga and meditation help people to break negative or traumatic thought cycles. Yoga in particular can force the brain to quit worrying and relax. It does this by essentially working backwards from body to mind. By deliberately inducing symptoms of calm in the body - i.e. steady breathing, a relaxed heartbeat, smooth movements - the body sends signals to the brain that everything is absolutely fine and it can calm down. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. Meditation has a similar effect. What is more, both yoga and meditation can send the brain into a ‘safe space’ - a calm, unpressured level of thought in which negative emotions and experiences can be processed by the psyche without excess trauma being expressed through the consciousness. Needless to say, this can contribute enormously to the healing process.
There are several charities out there which are pioneering the use of assistance dogs for those with PTSD. Animals - dogs in particular - are known to be good for the mental health of those who love them. On one level, interacting with and being responsible for an animal gives one a sense of purpose. They also bestow pride, give companionship, allow the expression of love (which many traumatized individuals struggle with), draw out emotions, help communication, soothe stress and much more. The simple act of stroking a pet can lower both your stress levels and your blood pressure. In addition to these benefits, trained PTSD assistance dogs can aid their masters in more specific ways. Hypervigilance, for example, can be put on hold if the patient knows that their dog is there to take on some of that burden. Furthermore, dogs can be trained to recognize their owners ‘triggers’ and either warn their owners or those around them of an impending PTSD situation. According to many sources, these dogs do an awful lot of good.
While the practice of sticking needles in someone to alleviate their troubles may sound dubious, acupuncture actually appears surprisingly effective in treating PTSD. Further trials are certainly needed in order to scientifically establish the efficacy of acupuncture in this field, but experiential evidence is generally positive.The scientific and spiritual theories behind acupuncture are too complex to go into here, but (put very basically) acupuncture is supposed to alter and smooth the flow of both liquids and more ephemeral forces around the body. It’s certainly been proven to have an effect upon the circulation, and may improve blood flow to the brain - something which could be of enormous help for those with mental trauma. On a less cellular level, acupuncture is also very soothing. It’s generally acknowledged to help patients to sleep deeply and well, which is in itself an immensely healing process. It will also fight stress, and help the patient to relax. Crucially, it can help the patient to reconnect with their own vulnerabilities, to accept them, and to trust. For those who have suffered mental trauma following combat, this can be invaluable.
Originally published at www.SOFREP.com on March 21st, 2016
These are some of the most haunting two-syllable words the English language has ever produced. They have been screamed out by thousands of men and women across the battlefields of years past and will continue as long as man rules this planet.
It was an episode of “Band of Brothers” that first inspired me to want to be a medic. Maybe you’ve seen it. Episode six highlights the world in which Doc Roe lived during the fateful battle in the forests outside Bastogne. What amazed me most was watching how, when the shelling started and all the men of Easy Company were diving for their foxholes, Doc Roe was jumping out of his, running to the cries of “Medic!” and “Doc!” After seeing that, I was hooked. Becoming a medic was my purpose—my calling, if you will.
Now, I am no Doc Roe, friends. Though I have my share of fateful encounters and combat stories, and though I hope my work as a medic ranks on the good side, there are medics from across the decades that provide truly jaw-dropping inspiration. With that in mind, I want to showcase the actions of what were ordinary men (boys, really) who rose to accomplish the extraordinary. Their motivation was not for fame, riches, or glory, but simply for the love that is the brotherhood—a bond that defies reason and propels men to heroic feats beyond comprehension. Just maybe, one of these stories will provide the inspiration for America’s next generation of combat medics and corpsman, perhaps even one who will save your life or those of your children should they answer this nation’s call.
World War II
CPL Thomas J. Kelly—U.S. Army
Assigned as an aidman (medic) with the 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, with the 48th Armored Infantry Battalion, 7th ID, CPL Kelly and his platoon were performing a flanking maneuver, advancing down a small open valley near the town of Alemaert, Germany. This valley, overlooked by wooded slopes, was hiding enemy machine guns and tanks, which quickly attacked with murderous fire—inflicting heavy American casualties. Ordered to withdraw, CPL Kelly reached safety with the uninjured remnants of the unit. However, upon realizing the extent of his platoon’s casualties, he voluntarily retraced his steps and began evacuating his comrades under direct machine-gun fire.
He was forced to crawl, dragging the injured behind him for most of the 300 yards separating the exposed area from a place of comparative safety. Two other volunteers who attempted to negotiate the hazardous route with him were mortally wounded, but with complete disregard for his own life, he kept on with his Herculean task, dressing the wounded and carrying them to relative safety.
In all, he made 10 separate trips through the brutal fire, each time bringing out a man from what would have been certain death. In addition, he encouraged and guided seven more casualties who were able to crawl by themselves, aiding their escape from this hailstorm of fire.
After he had completed this heroic and completely self-imposed task, and while near collapse from fatigue, he refused to leave his platoon until the counterattack had resumed and the final objective was taken. CPL Kelly’s gallantry and intrepidity in the face of seemingly certain death saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers and was a shining example of bravery under intense enemy fire.
For these incredible acts of courage, CPL Thomas Kelly was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Korean War
HC3 William R. Charette—U.S. Navy
In the early morning hours, while participating in a fierce encounter with a cleverly concealed and well-entrenched enemy force occupying positions on a vital and bitterly contested outpost far in advance of the main line of resistance, HC3 Charette repeatedly and unhesitatingly moved about through a murderous barrage of hostile small-arms and mortar fire to render assistance to his wounded comrades.
When an enemy grenade landed within a few feet of a Marine he was attending, he immediately threw himself upon the stricken man and absorbed the entire concussion of the deadly missile with his body. Although sustaining painful facial wounds, and undergoing shock from the intensity of the blast—it ripped the helmet and medical aid kit from his person—Charette resourcefully improvised emergency bandages, tearing off part of his uniform and gallantly continued to administer medical aid to the wounded in his own unit as well as those in adjacent platoon areas.
Observing a seriously wounded comrade whose armored vest had been torn from his body by the blast of an exploding shell, Charette selflessly removed his own battle vest and placed it upon the helpless man, fully aware of the added danger to himself. Moving to the side of another casualty who was suffering excruciating pain from a serious leg wound, Charette stood upright in the trench line and exposed himself to a deadly barrage of enemy fire in order to lend more effective aid to the victim while he was evacuated to a position of safety. By way of his indomitable courage and inspiring efforts on behalf of his wounded comrades, Charette was directly responsible for saving many lives and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
The Vietnam War
SPC Alfred Rascon—U.S. Army
Specialist Four Alfred Rascon distinguished himself by way of a series of extraordinarily courageous acts on 16 March, 1966, while assigned as a medic to the Headquarters Company, Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, of the 173d Airborne Brigade. While moving to reinforce its sister battalion under intense enemy attack, his platoon came under heavy fire from a numerically superior enemy force. This intense enemy fire from crew-served weapons and grenades severely wounded several soldiers. Specialist Rascon, while ignoring commands to stay behind shelter until covering fire could be provided, bravely made his way forward.
He repeatedly tried to reach the severely wounded point machine-gunner laying on an open enemy trail, but was driven back each time by the withering fire. Disregarding his personal safety, he jumped to his feet, ignoring flying bullets and exploding grenades to reach his comrade. To protect him from further wounds, he intentionally placed his body between his casualty and the incoming enemy machine-gun fire, sustaining numerous shrapnel injuries and a serious wound to his hip. Disregarding his serious wounds, he then dragged the larger soldier from the kill zone.
Next, after hearing the second machine-gunner yell that he was running out of ammunition, SPC Rascon, under heavy enemy fire, crawled back to the wounded machine-gunner, stripping him of his bandoleers of ammunition, giving them to the operational machine-gunner, who was then able to continue his suppressive fire. Specialist Rascon, fearing the abandoned machine gun, its ammo, and spare barrel could fall into enemy hands, made his way to retrieve them. On the way, he was wounded in the face and torso by grenade fragments, but disregarded these wounds to recover the sensitive items, enabling another soldier to provide added suppressive fire to the pinned-down squad.
In searching for the wounded, he saw the point grenadier wounded by small-arms fire and grenades thrown at him. With continued disregard for his own life and his numerous critical wounds, SPC Rascon reached this casualty and quickly covered him with his body to absorb the blasts from exploding enemy grenades, saving this soldier’s life. In the process, SPC Rascon sustained additional wounds to his body.
While making his way to the wounded point squad leader, grenades were hurled at the sergeant. Again, in complete disregard for his own life, he reached and covered the sergeant with his body, absorbing the full force of the grenade explosions. Yet again, SPC Rascon was critically wounded by shrapnel, but without regard to his own wounds, he continued his search to aid the wounded. He remained on the battlefield, inspiring his fellow soldiers to continue the fight. After the enemy broke contact, he disregarded aid for himself, instead treating the wounded and directing their evacuation. Only after being placed on the evacuation helicopter did he allow aid to be adminstered to him.
For these heroic acts of valor and sacrifice, SPC Alfred Rascon was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
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