Gen. George Patton: archetypal leader of men.

On June 6, 1944, General George S. Patton wrote this letter to his twenty-year-old son, George Jr., who was enrolled at West Point. Patton Sr. was in England training the Third Army in preparation for the battles that would follow the invasion at Normandy.

Note: The letter’s grammar and spelling have been slightly edited for clarity.

Dear George:

At 0700 this morning the BBC announced that the German Radio had just come out with an announcement of the landing of Allied Paratroops and of large numbers of assault craft near shore. So that is it.

This group of unconquerable heroes whom I command are not in yet but we will be soon—I wish I was there now as it is a lovely sunny day for a battle and I am fed up with just sitting.

I have no immediate idea of being killed but one can never tell and none of us can live forever, so if I should go don’t worry but set yourself to do better than I have.

All men are timid on entering any fight; whether it is the first fight or the last fight all of us are timid. Cowards are those who let their timidity get the better of their manhood. You will never do that because of your blood lines on both sides. I think I have told you the story of Marshall Touraine who fought under Louis XIV. On the morning of one of his last battles—he had been fighting for forty years—he was mounting his horse when a young ADC [aide-de-camp] who had just come from the court and had never missed a meal or heard a hostile shot said: “M. de Touraine it amazes me that a man of your supposed courage should permit his knees to tremble as he walks out to mount.” Touraine replied “My lord duke I admit that my knees do tremble but should they know where I shall this day take them they would shake even more.” That is it. Your knees may shake but they will always take you towards the enemy. Well so much for that.

There are apparently two types of successful soldiers. Those who get on by being unobtrusive and those who get on by being obtrusive. I am of the latter type and seem to be rare and unpopular: but it is my method. One has to choose a system and stick to it; people who are not themselves are nobody.

To be a successful soldier you must know history. Read it objectively–dates and even the minute details of tactics are useless. What you must know is how man reacts. Weapons change but man who uses them changes not at all. To win battles you do not beat weapons–you beat the soul of man of the enemy man. To do that you have to destroy his weapons, but that is only incidental. You must read biography and especially autobiography. If you will do it you will find that war is simple. Decide what will hurt the enemy most within the limits of your capabilities to harm him and then do it. TAKE CALCULATED RISKS. That is quite different from being rash. My personal belief is that if you have a 50% chance take it because the superior fighting qualities of American soldiers lead by me will surely give you the extra 1% necessary.

In Sicily I decided as a result of my information, observations and a sixth sense that I have that the enemy did not have another large scale attack in his system. I bet my shirt on that and I was right. You cannot make war safely but no dead general has ever been criticised so you have that way out always.

I am sure that if every leader who goes into battle will promise himself that he will come out either a conqueror or a corpse he is sure to win. There is no doubt of that. Defeat is not due to losses but to the destruction of the soul of the leaders. The “Live to fight another day” doctrine.

The most vital quality a soldier can possess is SELF CONFIDENCE–utter, complete and bumptious. You can have doubts about your good looks, about your intelligence, about your self control but to win in war you must have NO doubts about your ability as a soldier.

What success I have had results from the fact that I have always been certain that my military reactions were correct. Many people do not agree with me; they are wrong. The unerring jury of history written long after both of us are dead will prove me correct.

Note that I speak of “Military reactions”–no one is borne with them any more than anyone is borne with muscles. You can be born with the soul capable of correct military reactions or the body capable of having big muscles, but both qualities must be developed by hard work.

The intensity of your desire to acquire any special ability depends on character, on ambition. I think that your decision to study this summer instead of enjoying yourself shows that you have character and ambition—they are wonderful possessions.

Soldiers, all men in fact, are natural hero worshipers. Officers with a flare for command realise this and emphasize in their conduct, dress and deportment the qualities they seek to produce in their men. When I was a second lieutenant I had a captain who was very sloppy and usually late yet he got after the men for just those faults; he was a failure.

The troops I have commanded have always been well dressed, been smart saluters, been prompt and bold in action because I have personally set the example in these qualities. The influence one man can have on thousands is a never-ending source of wonder to me. You are always on parade. Officers who through laziness or a foolish desire to be popular fail to enforce discipline and the proper wearing of uniforms and equipment not in the presence of the enemy will also fail in battle, and if they fail in battle they are potential murderers. There is no such thing as: “A good field soldier:” you are either a good soldier or a bad soldier.

Well this has been quite a sermon but don’t get the idea that it is my swan song because it is not–I have not finished my job yet.

Your affectionate father.

Sgt. Rafael Peralta died while smothering a grenade during the battle for Fallujah.

I just came across a story the other about Pfc. Ricardo Peralta, who joined the Marines to carry on the legacy of his brother, Navy Cross Recipient Sergeant Rafael Peralta.

Sgt. Peralta died very much like Michael Monsoor when he led a group of other Marines through a series of house clearings, during the November 2004 Battle for Fallujah. They were successful in the first three house, but things went bad in a hurry as they charged the fourth.

The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project describes how Sgt. Peralta “found two rooms empty on the ground floor, but upon opening a third door he was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire that left him severely wounded. He dropped to the floor and moved aside in order to allow the Marines behind him to return fire.”

Moments later terrorist inside the room threw a grenade at the Marines. Sgt. Peraldas Wickapedia page describes how “The two Marines with Sgt. Peralta tried to get out of the room, but could not. Sgt. Peralta was still conscious on the floor and reports indicate that, despite his wounds, he was able to reach for the grenade and pull it under his body absorbing the majority of the lethal blast and shrapnel which killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow Marines.”

In a Newsweek article about the event, Cpl. Robert Reynolds explained how Sgt. Peralta collapsed onto the floor in a “pool of blood,” after being shot. “Then Reynolds spotted what is the dread of every infantryman: a grenade bouncing toward the squad. “It was yellow and it came from a room to our side,” he says. Reynolds says he watched Peralta reach out and drag the grenade under his body.”

Pfc Ricardo Peralta was only 14 when his brother died in such a selfless way, but is quoted in the above article as saying, “I knew what I had to do, and that was to enlist in the Marine Corps.”

Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell visiting a wounded warrior. His upbeat spirit never fails to encourage those in most need.

Some may not take the time to read excerpts from an email (see below) that I just received from Lt. Colonel Tim Maxwell, but those that do will be inspired. Colonel Maxwell was the subject of an article I wrote some years ago, titled Heroism:

“Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell, a 20-year veteran in the Marine Corps also knows what war is like. While stationed in central Iraq in October 2004, he laid down for what he hoped would be a ten minute nap. His brief respite from battle was rudely interrupted when a mortar round exploded nearby and knocked him unconscious. He would later wake up in Bethesda Naval Hospital with tunnel vision, broken bones and severe brain damage. As an officer who for years had led men in battle with a compass, he would now have to re-learn what one is.”

Since writing that piece, on this true American Hero, I have received news from friends about Colonel Maxwell’s medical condition. It is not good. However, Marines who know him personally have told me that he accepts his many illnesses with an admirable patience. The most amazing thing about this man is that, in spite of his wounds, he continues his excellent work for other wounded servicemen through Semper Max Mission.

Please keep this true American Hero in your prayers.

Hello all-

You have not heard from me in quite a while. For the last 2 months, I’ve been on vacation. Free! Yup, it’s been great. If you have never been on the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center vacation ship, you don’t know what you’re missing!

OK, it’s time for the truth.

It has been a terrible summer, but I think it’s over now. Late June my left arm, the one with the shattered elbow, was hurting… rear bad. Being that it is the arm that does work, and it was not working without extreme pain, it wasn’t very much fun. I went to the ER 3 times. For 2 weeks they (Orthopedic Doctors) had checked the fluid that is in all of our elbows for infection. Nothing…

It took 2 weeks for the Orthopedic Doctor to admit that he didn’t know what to do. Finally, he went to his boss, who immediately contacted Dr. M. She is a wrist/elbow expert. She immediately made me and inpatient at Bethesda NNMC. The next day she went in my arm and removed the steel that had been there since 2004. The infection had not gone to my elbow, as the initial doctor thought. Apparently, steel attracts infection. Go figure. She told me that when she had open my arm puss had poured out. I had surgery 2 more times over the next couple of weeks. I’m not a big surgery fan.

To fight the infection I had a pic lines inserted in my upper arm. That is run through your veins to your heart. Like an IV that lasts for 4 weeks. Good news in that every time, I say again EVERY TIME, someone tries to give me an IV, they fail. Usually it takes 3 attempts, with 3 different people. It has always been that way. No idea why, but it is. It had gotten so bad, I had an IV in my throat/neck. I was running out of areas available for an IV. So the pic line seemed good.

But, alas, it also got infected. I went back to the hospital and had it removed. Thankfully, the infection was not too bad. That’s the good news. The bad news? The medicine that I am now taking is causing quite a few problems. 2000 mg of any medicine is too much. But it was messing up my brain. I took that much for several weeks. No one knew that that was the problem I was having. My neuropsychiatrist, Dr. W., has been involved the entire time. He knows about my surgery and my medicine. So we kept modifying my medicine, not including the penicillin, trying to fix my new problem. Changes were not working. So I contacted the infection specialists and asked him if I could reduce the amount from 2000 mg to 1500 mg.

In spite of the severity of his injuries, Lt. Colonel Tim Maxwell is still capable of smiling as he continues to fight the good fight.

This just happened 3 days ago. So far, things are much better than they have been in some time. Having conducted my own research over the Internet, I found out that this type of penicillin I am taking can cause “confusion”. Pretty good explanation of my problem. Of course, seizures are a big concern of the doctors. Like the arthritis arguments, many doctors think I am having mini seizures. And like the arthritis, I know they are wrong.

So from June 14 to August 8, I have been miserable.

On top of it, my computer is all screwed up. I had to have a specialist come and fix it. Then, I find out that the company, *****, has subcontracted all e-mails. In the new company, whoever it is, has decided that I can only send 50 e-mails at a time. Given that I e-mail 500 wounded warriors and 1000 supporters, it’s a little tough. Still working on this, actually.

I wish I had a better story to tell everyone.

Maybe next month?

Tim

Nice outfit but it is not real

August 18, 2010

Xavier Alvarez of Pomona, Calif., said during a public meeting  in 2007 that he was a retired Marine who received the Medal of Honor.

The initial reaction, from the Indland Valley Daily Bulletin, in an article titled Xavier Alvarez Must Resign Now was what one might expect. “We call upon Xavier Alvarez, the water board member whose lies stand as an affront to every member and veteran of the U.S. armed forces, to resign his elected position immediately.”

Well hold onto your seats. According to an AP article out today, “A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with [Alvarez] in a 2-1 decision Tuesday, agreeing that the law was a violation of his free-speech rights.” The article affirmed that the “three-year-old federal law that makes it a crime to falsely claim to have received a medal from the U.S. military is unconstitutional.” To read more click here.

Not only can you protest at the funeral of a hero, you are now able to impersonate one. The question I have is this. Does the Constitution give us the right to lie?

While most Americans mourn the death of our brave warriors, Westboro Baptist Church goes so far as the "Thank God for IED's" that kill them.

Take a moment and compare the news brief below with the last article posted on this blog, about the Marine Corps Body Bearers. Westboro Baptist Church,  and its founder, Fred Phelps,  are known for protesting at the funeral of America’s servicemen. This group had the insensitivity to protest at the funeral of St. Joseph Missouri Native, Army Spc. Edward L. Myers, who was killed in Samarra, Iraq when an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) detonated near his Humvee. Imagine the pain and suffering Myer’s family were forced to endure. Not only had they lost their son (who died serving his country) they were also forced to tolerate a group of people holding signs in support of the very ones who killed him.

Marines Corps Body bearers, featured in the last post, treat the mortal remains of deceased service members with the respect and dignity they deserve and one which resonates with the majority of Americans. Westboro Baptist Church, on the other hand, is allowed to dishonor American Heroes, because of freedom of speech. Isn’t there something very wrong about this? What will our young people think if we continue to allow our heroes to be treated in such a way? Is freedom of speech so absolute that it trumps the dignity and sacredness of a last tribute to someone who died for his country? And tramples on the sorrow and pain of his grieving family and friends?

*                                *                                *

Washington (CNN) — Missouri’s tight restrictions on protests and picketing outside military funerals were tossed out by a federal judge Monday, over free speech concerns.

A small Kansas church had brought suit over its claimed right to loudly march outside the burials and memorial services of those killed in overseas conflicts. The state legislature had passed a law to keep members of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church from demonstrating within 300 feet of such private services.

To read more click here.

Marine Corps Body Bearers carry the coffin of Colonel John W. Ripley to his final resting place in the Naval Academy Cemetery.

My first exposure to Marine Corps Body Bearers was at the funeral of Colonel John Ripley. Below is a very interesting article about the men who have the honor to carry fallen heroes to their final resting place. The next time I saw them was at the funeral of Colonel Ripley’s wife Moline. NJF

by: Cpl. Scott Schmidt | Tuesday, June 29, 2010 10:56

WASHINGTON – It’s an iconic scene: Six men stand together halfway around the world from home and raise a flag on top of Mount Suribachi. When the men returned home, their story of valor on Iwo Jima lifted a nation to its feet in the midst of the turning point of World War II.

Now, more than 60 years later, another six Marines stand tall in the shadow of the Marine Corps War Memorial’s valor as it depicts that iconic scene.

They belong to the group of 13 Marines who carry the caskets of fellow Marines through the streets of Arlington National Cemetery and surrounding National Capital region cemeteries, (sometimes up to a mile,) as the last salute to the fallen members of the 234-year-old brotherhood.

To read more Click Here.

The author with Sammy Davis at his home in Southern Indiana

by Norman Fulkerson

This is the story of Samuel L. Davis who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. When his 42-man unit was attacked by a 1500 man Vietcong battalion, he refused to give up. After suffering a broken back and perforated kidney, he was not only able to repel the enemy, but carry three men to safety, AT THE SAME TIME. One of the defining moments in his life was the noble way he endured the ungrateful treatment upon his return home.

Bowling Alley
Born November 1, 1946 in Dayton, Ohio, Sammy Davis’ family eventually moved to southern Indiana where he graduated from Mooresville High School. During his junior year, he worked in the lumber industry taking down 200-foot white pines. This not only provided pocket money, but also contributed to an upper body physique one commonly associates with lumberjacks. All in all, Sammy was pretty much your garden variety, hard-working, Midwestern boy living an average existence in America’s heartland.

Colonel Roger Donlon, on the day he received the Medal of Honor, was an inspiration for Sammy Davis

All of that changed, during an evening with friends at the local bowling alley. Above the din of smashing pins, Sammy’s attention was momentarily drawn away from the game to watch a news item that piqued his interest: Colonel Roger Donlon was being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson, for his heroism in Vietnam. It was not so much the fame and glory of the event that attracted Sammy, but the way Colonel Donlon stood so straight and tall as he received our nation’s highest honor.

“I want to grow up to be just like him,” he said. “I want my daddy to be proud of me.” It did not take long for him to act on this good inspiration. At seventeen, he decided to join the Army. Before he left for basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, his father who had fought in World War II looked at him and said, “Son, now it’s your time to serve.” After finishing advanced artillery training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma he was sent to Vietnam in March of 1967 as a Private First Class.

Eight months later he would accomplish a feat that would make his father and the nation very proud.

“Go, Kill the GI!”
For a small-town boy from Indiana, war was a different experience. Three days after arriving into Vietnam, he received a baptism of fire when the Long Binh ammunition dump was blown up by member of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). It was the largest such storage facility in the world at that time. Private Davis or “Dave,” as his fellow soldiers called him, remembered the experience of unexploded eight inch rounds landing all around their compound. Although this caused him no small amount of alarm, it was nothing compared to the life-defining battle which occurred later that same year.

Private Davis in Vietnam the year he earned the Medal of Honor

Sammy Davis in Vietnam, the year he earned his Medal of Honor

On November 15, Private Davis, forty-one other soldiers and four 105mm howitzers were dropped into a swampy area known as The Plain of Reeds: a vast wetland located in the southernmost portion of Vietnam along the Mekong River. Their mission was to provide close and continual artillery support for infantry units fighting hard to push the advancing Vietcong back over the border into Cambodia. Their home for the next days was Fire Base Cudgel, during an operation code named Coronado One.

Just before five in the afternoon on November 17, Sammy remembers very well the arrival of a helicopter. On board was an officer who informed the men that there was a 100% probability they were going to get hit that night. Since arriving in the area on November 15, they had already seen a plenty of action. Therefore, it was hard to fathom what this officer was speaking about. Private Davis figured it would be pretty much the same and regrets they were not given more details.

As darkness surrounded the sleeping members of Fire Base Cudgel, the man pulling guard duty that night was finding it hard to stay awake. Private Davis was having the opposite problem, and agreed to relieve him fifteen minutes before his own scheduled 2:00 a.m. shift. Minutes later, he heard the ominous sound of mortars sliding down metal tubes, followed by a mortar attack which lasted for half an hour before stopping abruptly. Private Davis described the silence that followed as “unearthly.” The stillness was suddenly broken by the sounds of whistles and bugles. With the order to charge, 1500 enemy soldiers began screaming in broken English, “Kill the GI!” The intensity of the battle over the next four hours defies description.

An example of the Fleshettes which pierced Sgt. Davis' body

Surviving “Soldier Hell”
Sammy Davis immediately began firing beehive rounds from his 105mm howitzer. This particular shell, containing 18,000 fleshettes that look like miniature spears, virtually turns the howitzer into a gigantic shot gun. After several rounds, the NVA were able to zero in on his gun, by aiming their rocket propelled grenade launcher at the muzzle blast. Their first round of retaliation was a direct hit on the Howitzer which threw Private Davis, now unconscious, back into his foxhole. His commanding officer simply disappeared into the night.

The remaining members of the decimated unit, located behind Private Davis, attempted to stop the advancing enemy. They fired off another beehive from their howitzer which struck Sammy Davis in the back as he lay unconscious. The impact would have killed him if not for the flack jacket he was wearing. When Davis finally regained consciousness, he was laying face up in the fox hole with dozens of wounds from fleshettes that had pierced his body. One of them perforated his kidney, while another lodged in his fourth vertebrae, causing intense pain. The explosion left him temporarily deaf and during the momentary silence, he began to marvel at the multi color tracers, illuminating the sky above him. “Wow,” he thought to himself, with childlike candor, “that looks just like Christmas lights.”

Seargent Sammy Davis made it through that fateful night by remembering a simple phrase: "You don't lose until you quit trying."

As his hearing returned, so did the noise and chaos of battle. Six feet in front of him was the canal with hundreds of enemy troops, at a time, coming through the water to finish what they had started. At this point, Private Davis, thinking he was alone, became a solitary “line of defense.” With a shattered howitzer and little hope of resistance, he clearly remembered thinking, “You don’t lose until you quit trying.”

With this inspirational thought running through his head, he grabbed an M-16 and fired it till he ran out of ammunition. He then found an M-60 and 1000 rounds. As he shot through the first 500 rounds a human wave of enemy combatants continued to come at him, like bees from an agitated hornets’ nest. Seeing the apparent futility of resistance, he struggled with the strange thought that perhaps his gun was not working. By the time he reached the end of the 1000 rounds something even more bizarre crossed his mind.

“I figured I had died and was in ‘soldiers hell,’ ” he said, “and this torturous circumstance was going to last forever.”

Refusing to quit, he looked skeptically at the smoldering howitzer. Although it was badly damaged he felt certain he could get off another shot. Not too concerned with precise measurements, he crammed it full of powder, loaded another beehive and quickly pulled the lanyard. All he heard, in response to his efforts, was a pathetic “poof” sound, giving the sinking impression of wet powder.

Anticipatory excitement soon followed as the big gun began to convulse like a shuttle ready to blast off. The maximum load, for a fully functional howitzer, was a seven charge. They would later estimate Private Davis had given his a twenty charge.

When the gun finally fired, it reared up in the air and off its wheels. The subsequent explosion and burst of fire was so violent that the rest of the men screamed with joy thinking Private Davis had rigged up some kind of hellish flamethrower.

Sammy L. Davis is honored by USA Stabilization Force at the dedication ceremony for the Headquarters building named in his honor at Eagle Base, Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Way to go Dave,” they screamed. As they were jumping with joy, Private Davis was writhing in pain. He had been thrown to the ground by the blast and the two-ton howitzer landed on his back, breaking his third lumbar vertebrae. The swelling caused by the injury pushed against his spine provoking a numbness in his legs.

However, as bad as things were, he was about to face his biggest challenge of the night; rescuing three soldiers caught on the opposite side of the canal.

“You Never Leave a Buddy Behind.”
In spite of the severity of his injuries, Sammy Davis was somehow able to fire three more beehives before hearing, what sounded like an American soldier shouting for help. “Don’t shoot, I’m a G.I.,” the person screamed from across the canal. American servicemen were warned to treat such cries with suspicion. The enemy had learned to say the same thing, in perfect English, as a way of drawing them into an ambush. Nevertheless, after firing an illumination round, Sammy Davis clearly saw the individual, frantically calling for help, was a black man named Gwendell Holloway.

With a broken back and his energy almost gone, Private Davis grabbed an inflatable mattress and began to cross the canal, as bullets pelted the water all around him.

Arriving on the other side, he found three members of a recon unit commanded by Lt. Lee Alley, who narrates the night’s events in his book Back from War. Gwendell Holloway, Billy Ray Crawford were both badly wounded, but the third man, Jim Deister, lay lifeless after being shot point blank in the head. The bullet entered the ear and, it was later determined, lodged in his brain: very much like the fatal shot inflicted on President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Sammy was forced to perform the gruesome task of pushing Jim Deister’s oozing brains back into his head.

Jim Deister center with his nephew, Slade Deister (far left) at the Dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Pittsburg Kansas State University, owes his life to Sammy Davis (far right).

With the battle still raging, Private Davis reasoned that three separate trips to get the wounded to safety would be risky. To carry all three at the same time seemed virtually impossible. But after “calling on help from above,” that is exactly what he decided to do.

“When I was little,” Sammy Davis says, describing his actions, “and we would go out to play, my mom would always tell us, ‘now don’t leave your brother.’ It was the same way in the Army. I wasn’t going to leave my brother behind.”1

With iron resolve, he placed the limp body of Jim Deister over his shoulders. He then grabbed the other two, one in each arm, and began to make his way back to the canal. Periodically he was forced to stop, when a group of enemy soldiers passed. He would then lay his men down in the tall elephant grass and cover them, very much like a protective mother hen. Whenever the enemy noticed they were alive, Sammy was forced to silence them.

After arriving to the other side of the canal he put the wounded soldiers on the helicopter and after placing the lifeless body of Jim Deister among the KIA (killed in action) he collapsed from exhaustion. As the chopper slowly ascended, the medic looked with astonishment at the soldier with the horrifying head wound. Jim Deister was actually breathing. They immediately began tending to his wounds and, although no one could figure quite how, he ultimately survived.

Sammy Davis was eventually promoted to corporal. Although he endured that battle, he would face another, almost as painful, upon his return to the United States.

“To Get to Your Aircraft You Have to Run the Gauntlet.”
It occurred on the day Sammy Davis was about to board his final flight in San Francisco, the last leg of a very long trip home to Indiana. One can only imagine his joy at being reunited with his family after the horrors of war and the pride for having served his country admirably. His father would no doubt be proud of him, but others would not.

Milling around in the San Francisco airport were a group of twenty hippies. In order to circumvent the laws forbidding clubs, all of them pretended to be disabled, and carried canes instead. They also had brown paper bags full of what Corporal Davis described as the “nastiest things you can think of” such as “dog droppings.”2

It is hard to find a more striking contrast that the one that exists between a man like Sammy Davis and Hippies of the 60's.

Although Sammy and two other servicemen were dressed in civilian clothes, as instructed for those on commercial flights, their military bearing made them clear targets for revolutionary aggression. One soldier reminded Sammy of the specific orders given by their sergeant, back at Travis Air Force base. They were explicitly forbidden to retaliate, should someone start an altercation, since the media would inevitably spin it against the returning soldiers.

“Hey, if you want to get to your aircraft,” one of the hippies said, “you have to run the gauntlet.” Seeing the scene before him, Sammy Davis said he and his fellow soldiers decided they would not run the gauntlet, they would walk it: and do so with pride and dignity.

The first hippies began rubbing the contents of their bags in the soldiers hair, on their face and stuffing it into their ears. When they failed to get the desired response they began beating them with the canes which opened up head wounds, causing Sammy and the others to bleed profusely.3

This was the despicable treatment for a man who proved himself on the field of battle to be one of America’s great warriors. Yet through it all, Sammy Davis accepted these injustices with dignity and kept his composure till the end.

It is worth mentioning, for the record, the treatment they received on the plane. Solicitous stewardesses gratuitously seated them in first class, served them champagne, cleaned their shirts and wiped the blood from their head and faces.

Where They are Today
Because of his injuries, and the lingering effects of Agent Orange, Sammy Davis was forced to retire from the Army in 1984 with the rank of sergeant. Besides the Medal of Honor he also earned a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

After being medically discharged from the military, Jim Deister returned to college where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in psychology and later a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling. He now resides in Salina, Kansas where he works as a counselor for the deaf and hard of hearing for the State of Kansas, in 18 different counties.

Jim Deister (right) with his friend Sammy Davis at the dedication of a War Memorial in Salina Kansas. Jim Deister was able to go on because he learned, from Sammy, that one must not only be willing to die for their country, but also to live for their country.

When people ask him about retirement, his response is always the same.

“I will retire,” he tells them, “when my secretary, comes in and finds me dead at my desk.” If not for the speech impediment, one might never know the trauma he endured. There are two reasons for this.

First of all, he detests the way Vietnam veterans are often portrayed in books and movies, with what he calls, the “victim syndrome.”

“The majority of us did our duties,” he says, “then we came home, went to work and raised our families.”

The second reason is more personal. Mr. Deister recognizes that Sammy Davis not only saved his life, but gave him the inspiration to go on living. He received this motivational nudge from one sentence in a speech given by his friend, which moved him profoundly. “You not only have to be willing to die for your country,” Sergeant Davis often tells audiences, “you must also be willing to live for your country!”

“That particular phrase sort of shocked me out my guilt feelings,” Mr. Deister admitted, “and I told myself that yes, that means me. I am alive, now I have to live for those men who were killed that night.”

Today Sergeant Davis lives a simple life amidst the corn fields of southern Illinois. He is a member of the Medal of Honor society along with his boyhood hero Colonel Roger Donlon. He continues to give an average of 300 inspirational talks around the country each year. In spite of the ill effects of war, he accepts his sufferings with patience and calm. However, he will candidly admit that memories of November 18 still haunt him, but quickly adds, “Its only been 41 years. So tomorrow night will surely be better.”4

The Congressional Medal of Honor

In spite of everything he has accomplished in life, Sergeant Sammy Davis retains a refreshing humility and, one could say, almost boyish simplicity. It is not hard to imagine how such a man could think about Christmas while contemplating the multi-color tracers during a hellish firefight in Vietnam: perhaps that is what makes Sergeant Sammy Davis so special. Not one for complicated formulas, he sees life through a different prism. It was for this reason that he was able to overcome life’s toughest battles. He knew that you really don’t lose until you quit trying.

1. http://blogs.uiowa.edu/jmcglobal/2010/03/05/the-real-forrest-gump [back]
2. http://blogs.uiowa.edu/jmcglobal/2010/03/05/the-real-forrest-gump [back]
3. http://www.pritzkermilitarylibrary.org/medal-of-honor/ [back]
4. http://www.courierpress.com/news/2008/jul/05/soldiers-tale-of-uncommon-valor [back]

From left to right: Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, Cpl. Dakota Meyer and Navy Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton. (Photo by Brent Layton)

Heroism in ambush may yield top valor awards

By Dan Lamothe –  Staff writer for Marine Corps Times

With no air or artillery support, the Marines of Embedded Training Team 2-8 were trapped deep in a kill zone in eastern Afghanistan. Their radios worked only sporadically, and dozens of insurgents fired on them repeatedly from three sides.

“We’re surrounded!” Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson yelled into his radio in the early-morning hours of Sept. 8, 2009. “They’re moving in on us!”

At least twice, a two-man team attempted to rescue their buddies, using an armored vehicle mounted with a .50-caliber machine gun to fight their way toward them. They were forced back each time by a hail of bullets, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. An enemy bullet hit the vehicle’s gun turret, piercing then-Cpl. Dakota Meyer’s elbow with shrapnel. He shook it off, refusing to tell the staff sergeant with him because he didn’t want to make the situation worse, according to U.S. Army documents outlining a military investigation of the ambush.

What he did next will live on in Marine Corps lore — and, some say, should earn him consideration for the Medal of Honor.

After helicopter pilots called on to respond said fighting was too fierce for them to land, Meyer, then 21, charged into the kill zone on foot to find his friends. Under heavy fire, he reached a trench where the pilots had spotted the Marines, by then considered missing.

He found Johnson, 31; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30; 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25; Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, 22; and an Afghan soldier they were training — all dead and bloody from gunshot wounds. They were spread out in the ditch, their weapons and radios stolen.

“I checked them all for a pulse. There [sic] bodies were already stiff,” Meyer said in a sworn statement he was asked to provide military investigators. “I found SSgt Kenefick face down in the trench w/ his GPS in his hand. His face appeared as if he was screaming. He had been shot in the head.”

Rather than give up, Meyer, of Greensburg, Ky., fought to bring his buddies back home. Bleeding from his shrapnel wound and still under fire, he carried their bodies back to a Humvee with the help of Afghan troops, and escorted them to nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce, about a mile to the northeast of Ganjgal…”

To read the entire story of this heroic Kentuckian click here.

What I found most noteworthy about this story is how Cpl. Meyer refuses to read the media coverage of what he did. “The main thing that we need to get from that day,” he is quoted as saying, “is that those guys died heroes, and they are greatly missed. This isn’t about me. If anything comes out of it for me, it’s for those guys.”

This is a true sign of a hero:  a person who does not realize the grandeur of the deed he has accomplished. I happened to stumble across this article while driving through Kentucky in the Louisville Courier Journal, which carried the story. It obviously gives me no small amount of pride that a fellow Kentuckian could accomplish such a magnificent deed.

Glenn Hockton wearing the rosary which helped save his life in Afghanistan

but I could not pass this story up, since it is along the same lines as the last post about the Catholic Marine.There are those who might consider such religious practices as something incompatible with heroism and the military life. However, true men, see the value of prayer, even AND MOST ESPECIALLY FOR WARRIORS.

Colonel John W. Ripley, to whom this blog is dedicated, screamed “Jesus, Mary, get me there,” when he saw his strength fading under the Dong Ha bridge. He did so because he saw the value of calling upon God (for Whom it is child’s play to create universes) in his hour of need. Colonel Ripley received the Navy Cross for his heroic efforts but readily admitted it would not have been possible without Divine Assistance and was not ashamed to say so in public.

This story is about a British Soldier named Glenn Hockton, who likewise attributes his survival, after two near death experiences in war, to the fact that he carries the rosary. On one occasion he was shot in the chest and his parents still have the bullet which lodged in his body armor. More recently his mother described how he felt like he had been slapped on the back. When his rosary fell to the ground, he reached down to pick it up, only to realize he was standing on a land mine. The ironic thing about this story is that Glenn’s grandfather, who fought in WWII, also attributed the rosary to saving his life, when he miraculously survived an explosion that killed six members of his platoon.  If you have not done so already, read the rest of this story by clicking here.

Similar stories have been documented in the articles No Greater Love and The Ideal Soldier.

Those who wear St. Christopher's medal (shown here), do so because he is the patron Saint of safe travel.

However, this Marine had a little help, from above, and from a very good mother.

*                             *                             *

Wounded Marine from Adams County ready to return to unit

By KATHARINE HARMON

July 25–Lt. Nathan Jeffcoat, of Orrtanna, didn’t always want to be a U.S. Marine, but it’s safe to say it’s something that runs in his blood.

After being hit by an improvised explosive device, IED, in Afghanistan on June 30 and traveling back to the states, doctors went looking for him in his hospital room to do physical therapy, and the platoon commander in the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines was nowhere to be found.

Turns out, in true commander fashion, he had escaped and made his way through a quarantined hospital area to check on one of his men who had been injured two weeks before him, and was still in the hospital.

Jeffcoat knows he’s a lucky man, a lucky Marine…

Devotion to the Holy Rosary has saved many a soldier in battle.

“He’s really, really lucky,” [his mother] Sue  said, as she watched her son.

She breaks the eye contact to say she tells him all the time it’s because of the number of times she said the rosary for him, and all the prayers.

When he came back, the only things he had on him where his dog tags, watch, St. Christopher’s medallion and his rosary.

“Pray pray pray,” Sue Jeffcoat said.

That’s how they got through this, and that’s how they’ll get through it during the next tour.

To read the complete story about this tough Marine and his mother click HERE.

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