24 October 2013

Marine Lance Corporal Ricky Slocum - Forever in our Hearts

Marine LCpl Richard "Ricky" Slocum
Feb 2, 1985 - October 24, 2004

“It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired.

But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives – the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to everything for our country, for us.

And all we can do is remember.”

- Ronald Reagan

Thinking of you Kay, Bob, and all of Ricky’s family and friends today. I promise to remember him always.

Ricky will be forever in my heart.

Ranger delivers 'salute seen around the world'

From the Facebook page of Taylor Hargis, wife of Army Ranger Cpl. Josh Hargis:

I received this picture today along with a letter from the commander of the team Josh was a part of on the night of his injuries. A letter to explain to me what kind of man I have the privilege of being married to. He explained to me what happened and what was going on in the picture.

"Josh was seriously wounded as you know and survived for almost two hours after his injury before arriving to the hospital. Josh was immediately pushed through a series of surgeries and emerged hours later into an intensive care unit here at our base in Afghanistan. Despite being in intense pain and mental duress, Josh remained alert and compassionate to the limited Rangers that were allowed to visit him bedside.

Prior to Josh being moved to Germany for his eventual flight to America, we conducted a ceremony to award him with the Purple Heart for wounds received in action. A simple ceremony, you can picture a room full of Rangers, leaders, doctors, and nurses surrounding his bedside while the Ranger Regimental Commander pinned the Purple Heart to his blanket. During the presentation the Commander publishes the official orders verbally and leaned over Josh to thank him for his sacrifice.

Josh, whom everybody in the room (over 50 people) assumed to be unconscious, began to move his right arm under the blanket in a diligent effort to salute the Commander as is customary during these ceremonies. Despite his wounds, wrappings, tubes, and pain, Josh fought the doctor who was trying to restrain his right arm and rendered the most beautiful salute any person in that room had ever seen.

I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day. Grown men began to weep and we were speechless at a gesture that speak volumes about Josh's courage and character. The picture, which we believe belongs on every news channel and every news paper is attached. I have it hanging above my desk now and will remember it as the single greatest event I have witnessed in my ten years in the Army."

Hargis, whose special operations unit is based at Fort Benning, Ga., was wounded October 6, 2013 when an Afghan woman detonated a suicide bomb vest in Panjwai in Kandahar Province and triggered 13 other explosive devices. The blast killed four members of Hargis' 3rd Army Ranger Battalion and wounded 12 other American soldiers.

To those of us at Landstuhl and other military hospitals, the valiant behavior of our wounded warriors is something that remains with us forever. We're so grateful to Josh's commander and his wife Taylor for sharing an intimate moment for the rest of the world to see. Our thoughts and prayers are with Josh, his family, and all the Heroes wounded and killed in this attack.

23 October 2013

They Came in Peace

This is an annual post.

Beirut, 23 October 1983

"Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers-in-arms"

From Brothers-in-arms: 'They came in peace' by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola.

Originally posted 23 October, 2005.

Update 23 October 2012, from Jeremy in comments.

Update 23 October 2013, from Stars & Stripes: Beirut bombing survivor: 'The worst part for me is that nobody remembers'

18 October 2013

Wounded warrior makes final jump

Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock Jr. prepares for his final jump before being medically retired Oct. 16, 2013, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Yellock endured 28 surgeries and two years of intense physical therapy to be able to walk again after his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan. Yellock is a 23rd Special Tactics Squadron combat controller. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. John Bainter) (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. John Bainter)

From AirForce.mil, by Capt. Victoria Porto, Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs.

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- One by one, Airmen from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron lined up at the back of a C-130 Hercules, paused, then stepped off the aircraft Oct. 16, completing their free fall training jump into the picturesque water of Florida's Emerald Coast.

For Staff Sgt. Johnnie Yellock Jr., this jump was two years and 28 surgeries in the making.

In 2011, Yellock, a 23rd STS combat controller, was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While on a mission checking Afghan local police outposts, his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device.

"When I opened my eyes, I was on top of the truck with my legs hanging down onto the bed," Yellock said. "I had open fractures on both of my feet through my boots."

Despite his injuries, he continued to pass information to his team, including the details for a helicopter landing zone for his own medical evacuation.

"I'd been in the career field for years and I was trained for this type of situation, trained on medical trauma care," he said. "I took pride in the knowledge I had, and I was confident I'd be able to help a teammate if needed. I didn't expect it to be myself."

For two and a half months his parents and sister stayed by his side while he was recovering in the hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Once released, he began his outpatient rehabilitation and the long road to recovery. The first year, he stayed mostly in a wheelchair before he was finally able to walk, first with crutches, then unassisted.

The idea for the jump originated in the 23rd STS as his leadership was coordinating his return to Hurlburt Field to outprocess and medically retire Oct. 18.

"We have a lot of wounded warriors in various stages of recovery, and maintaining care and contact with our wounded brothers is important to us," said Lt. Col. Mason Dula, the 23rd STS commander. "Of course, the jump is important for (Yellock) and a nice exclamation point for his career, but it's also equally important for the guys in our squadron to see him come back and see the commitment we have with all of our wounded warriors. They are still our teammates."

Yellock said his leadership made sure his doctors approved and that he could accomplish multiple tasks to prove he was ready, like swimming 100 meters with his gear on and going to wind tunnel training to show he could handle a free fall.

"People have said this is a symbol of resilience -- my attitude -- since the injury hasn't gotten me down," Yellock said. "But I tell them anybody in my situation, any of these other special tactics operators would handle it in the same way. I just hope they wouldn't have to."

During the jump, Yellock was surrounded by his fellow operators and teammates from the deployment, and supported by the same leaders who were there when he was hurt. He said that was even more meaningful than the jump itself.

"It just represents (Air Force Special Operations Command's) never-ending support for our wounded guys and our fallen comrades," he said. "I may be retired from the military, but I'll always be a combat controller."

13 October 2013

Remembering Staff Sergeant Brian Cowdrey

This is a repost from 2011 in memory of a friend and Hero, Brian Cowdrey. Always loved, always remembered.

Prior stories about Brian:
All-American DUSTOFF (II)
All American DUSTOFF
The Gypsies
‘No one dies in my aircraft’

We are deeply saddened to learn that Staff Sergeant Robert 'Brian' Cowdrey was killed on October 13 while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. According to his wife Jill, he was on a mission treating patients when he came under enemy fire.

In the above photo taken in February of 2010, Brian was captured by AP photographer Brennan Linsley while comforting a patient aboard his MEDEVAC helicopter during Operation Mushtarak in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. As Brian himself said about the photo, "this picture sums it all up".

Brian can also be seen in action during his 2009/2010 Afghanistan deployment here, and another article about his unit can be found here.

Brian was serving his fourth deployment in a combat zone. Prior deployments were Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004/2005, Operation Enduring Freedom 2007/2008, and Operation Enduring Freedom 2009/2010.

He loved his job, and he loved his family. To say he impacted the lives of countless people is an understatement. To some, he swooped down from the sky to rescue them on the worst day of their lives. To others, he provided inspiration through his career of compassionate and courageous dedication. One of his three sons has followed in his father's footsteps and is currently serving in Germany. To all three of them, he has been a Dad - and a Hero. To his friends, his faith, enthusiasm and caring nature were a joy. And to his wife, he was a loving partner and best friend.

Brian's shadow and that of his DUSTOFF helicopter as he goes down the hoist to treat the patients seen at the lower left in September 2011. Like many other MEDEVAC missions, it was carried out under enemy fire. Photo courtesy Brian Cowdrey.

This is how we will always remember Brian - his Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces. Our love, prayers, and deepest condolences are with his family.


Update: Others honoring Brian include Assoluta Tranquillita and Blackfive. Brian had just finished conducting this first of what was to be a series of interviews with War on Terror News when he was killed.

Members of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade held a memorial service in Afghanistan for Brian yesterday. The moving photographs can be seen here. And here is the Dignified Transfer at Dover Air Force Base.