27 August 2013

Medal of Honor

Staff Sgt. Ty Carter receives Medal of Honor. (credit: Pool)

“I am an American soldier, just like thousands who have served, will serve and are continuing to serve this great nation.”

- Staff Sergeant Ty Carter

Yesterday, SSG Carter received the Medal of Honor for his actions at COP Keating in 2009. Leo Shane of Stars and Stripes reports:

Carter is the second Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Kamdesh, one of the few fights in Afghanistan to catch the attention of the American public. Clint Romesha received his award earlier this year, for fighting done on the other side of the remote Army firebase.

On Oct. 3, 2009, more than 300 Taliban fighters descended on Combat Outpost Keating, a soon-to-be-abandoned site near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in a well-coordinated ambush. Eight U.S. soldiers would be killed in the daylong battle, and 22 wounded.

When the fighting began — a hail of bullets from above, almost immediately overwhelming the 54-man force inside the COP — then-Spc. Carter was asleep. He rushed into battle wearing a tan T-shirt and PT shorts but did manage to grab his body armor.

He spent most of the day out of uniform, just trying to survive.

Carter and three others were pinned down around a sandbagged Humvee serving as a guard tower, dodging between cover as the enemy advanced.

He watched two friends die in the early assault and two more die trying to support his position. Another, Spc. Stephan Mace, was gravely wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade and left stranded in the middle of the kill zone.


Carter ran onto exposed ground to pull the almost lifeless Mace to safety. He had to make two trips — out to stabilize the fallen soldier, back to coordinate cover fire with Larson, out again to drag Mace across the kill zone back to relative safety.

On his next scavenging mission, Carter found a fallen comrade’s radio and managed to connect with the men across the COP. They set up an evacuation plan, got themselves out of the Humvee prison and took Mace to the medics.

“I had told myself long before that if I ended up in that kind of situation, I wouldn’t let fear make my choices for me,” Carter said. “All I thought about was supporting [our] men.”


Carter still describes his actions largely as a failure, especially when reflecting on Mace’s death. Mace’s mother, Vanessa Adelson, disagrees.

“My son didn’t die in the dirt alone, because of what Ty did,” she told reporters last week. “After seeing another soldier get killed trying to rescue my son, Ty still went out there to save him.

“Because of what he did, Stephan had a few more hours with his brothers. He was able to speak with them (before he was evacuated). He was joking about getting a beer with the surgeons afterwards.

“Because of Ty’s actions, my son died thinking that he was coming home. He was at peace.”

Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, part of the White Platoon fire team, 8-1 Cavalry, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, provides overwatch on a road near Dahla Dam, Afghanistan, July 2012. COURTESY OF THE U.S. ARMY.

Carter didn’t attend Romesha’s Medal of Honor ceremony, saying the 4-year-old battle still felt too raw for him. He talks about the nine losses his troop suffered in that battle — fellow soldier Ed Faulker Jr. battled PTSD and took his own life a year after the attack.

He has been open about his own struggles with PTSD, and said he hopes to use the new honor as a forum to talk about the stress of war and the stigma of seeking mental help. He deployed again to Afghanistan last year and has been in counseling to help him handle the battlefield horrors he can never unsee.

“America’s citizen soldiers are doing amazing things to make them proud,” he said. “But people need to be more aware of the wounds of combat, both the visual wounds and the unseen ones.”

That’s the man he wants people to see receiving the nation’s highest military honor: a U.S. soldier who did his job and is struggling with the aftermath.

There's lots more to the article here.

And here are SSG Carter's remarks after yesterday's ceremony. MUST SEE.

Oh beautiful, for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self, our country loved,
And mercy more than life,
America, America, may God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain devined.

(From Ray Charles' rendition of America the Beautiful)

America falls in love with Jesse and Kelly Cottle

Jesse and Kelly Cottle. Photo: Sarah Ledford.

BOISE, Idaho -- A photo of former Marine Jesse Cottle and his wife is going viral on Facebook.

Jesse joined the Marine Corps in August 2003. He had a very dangerous job: To find and dismantle improvised explosive devices.

It was on patrol in Afghanistan in 2009 when Jesse's life changed forever.

"About five hours into that patrol, into that mission, I was struck by an anti-personnel IED," Jesse said. "It was a pressure plate, I stepped on it and lost both legs right away."

One of his fellow Marines was wearing a helmet camera, and the explosion that injured Jesse was caught on tape.

"I remember most everything," he said "I was awake the whole time."

Jesse says it was rough going at first, but support from friends and family helped him through it.

"It was tough and it is tough in general, but I just kind of always had the attitude that it's really tough now but things will just be okay, and I had my family around me I had good friends and basically just my faith really helped me to carry me through and I was lucky to be able to go through the tough recovery, and then still live my life, and meet my beautiful wife."

He met his future bride, Kelly, during his recovery. She was a swimmer for Boise State and the pair met during a swim meet in San Diego.

"I just remember being very intrigued by him," Kelly said. "He was just very different and not just because of his legs, just who he was."

They were married last year and now make their home in San Diego.

Recently, while in Idaho visiting Kelly's family, they took family portraits.

"It was a normal photo shoot, we finally got together and Jessie had his legs on and everything," said Kelly.

Photographer Sarah Ledford suggested a picture in the water.

"So we said 'well, you can just pop off your legs and get on one of our backs and we'll take you in' and so, 'cause that's just how we get around sometimes, like at the beach," said Kelly. "It's just pretty normal, so he hopped back on my back and then Sarah's like 'oh, we'll take some couples shots.'"

Ledford posted one of those shots on her Facebook page. She had no idea the image of Kelly carrying Jesse on her back would get the reaction it did.

"Overwhelming, I can't even keep up with my page," said Ledford. "The picture just blew up, America just fell in love with Jesse and Kelly."

More at the link, and you can watch the entire interview below.

There's also a documentary about Jesse, his injury, and his recovery called "Coming Home". You can watch it here.

18 August 2013

“God kept me a live for a reason”

First Lt. Ryan Timoney and wife, Kelby, is greeted by his mother, Diane Timoney, after the hero's welcome he received along the route to his parents' house in St. Johns County. He's gone through six months of surgery and rehab for wounds received in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan. Photo: Bob.Self@jacksonville.com.

A wonderful homecoming for a Soldier who almost didn't make it. Ryan's recovery is one of those miracles we always pray for.

Veteran's welcome home: 'People you don't even know appreciate what you have done'

Posted: August 16, 2013 - 3:35pm
By Beth Reese Cravey

He had been home for quiet visits before, in between surgeries and rehabilitation, since he was severely wounded while serving in Afghanistan in 2012.

But Army 1st Lt. Ryan Timoney, who grew up in Mandarin and St. Johns County, had never received a hero’s welcome home. The kind with a police escort and screaming fans and signs made especially for you and getting to ride in a cool convertible.

Until Friday.

“I never ever imagined myself having something like this,” Timoney said. “Coming home and seeing people you don’t even know appreciate what you have done. It feels really good.”

His first clue that this 10-day visit would not be typical was the Florida Highway Patrol escort from the Jacksonville International Airport. His second clue was when his father, Greg, who was driving Timoney, his wife Kelby and mom Diane to their Julington Creek home, made a pit stop at the Fields Cadillac dealership on the Westside.

Dozens of military veterans on motorcycles were there, as well as many more state troopers and officers with the Jacksonville and St. Johns County sheriff’s offices. Also there was Kathy Signorile, who founded the St. Michael’s Soldiers volunteer nonprofit that organized the event, and her husband, Jim, general manager of the dealership, who had arranged a special ride for Timoney and his wife.

They were driven the rest of the way home in a 2012 BMW convertible, escorted by a large contingent of the veterans and law enforcement officers on motorcycles and in vehicles. A rolling roadblock cleared the way on Interstate 295 south.

As the motorcade passed St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Mandarin, which Timoney attended, the entire student body was standing in line at the edge of the campus to wave to him.

“Going by my school ... It was wonderful. They were screaming,” he said.

Kathy Signorile said everyone who she and her 150 volunteers asked to help with the event jumped on board.

“That’s all you have to do in this town. People step up. They love our military,” she said.

The veterans said they participate because they and other war heroes have not always been greeted enthusiastically upon their returns.

“One generation of veterans will not abandon the new generation,” said Darryl Ingle, one of the other veterans on hand. In the past, returning veterans were not appreciated, much less welcomed.

“That should never happen,” he said.

Timoney, 28, left for Afghanistan in April 2012. Less than a month later, he and five other soldiers were attacked by a suicide bomber. Two of them were killed, three injured. Timoney had a fractured left leg, shrapnel wounds to his abdomen, arms, legs and back and a devastating head wound from a ball bearing that crossed through his brain and lodged behind his right ear.

In Kandahar, surgery saved his life by relieving pressure on his brain. He was later moved to a hospital in Germany and then to Walter Reed in Bethesda, Md. Since then, Timoney has had multiple surgeries and hundreds of hours of physical therapy. One surgery replaced the portion of his missing skull with titanium, another amputated his left leg a few inches below the knee. At least one more surgery is expected within the next year or so, to remove that ball bearing.

Still, he has a positive outlook.

“God kept me a live for a reason,” he said.

12 August 2013

Airman killed in Okinawa helicopter crash was Pararescue Hero

Coalition Special Operations Forces pararescue jumpers lower a stretcher during a medical evacuation in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, April 13, 2012. Then U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mark A. Smith, 33rd Rescue Squadron flight engineer, is pictured here hoisting the PJs down. Smith died when the HH 60G Pave Hawk helicopter in which he was flying went down during a training mission Aug. 5, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Clay Weis/Released)

Team Kadena mourns loss of downed helicopter crew member

by 18th Wing Public Affairs

8/10/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Officials confirmed today the death of a technical sergeant assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron here following Monday's crash of a helicopter in the Central Training Area, Okinawa.

Tech. Sgt. Mark A. Smith, 33rd RQS flight engineer, died when the HH 60G Pave Hawk helicopter in which he was flying went down during a training mission. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

"Smitty was a total professional and true warrior," said Lt. Col. Pedro Ortiz, 33rd RQS commander. "He led by example and was wise beyond his young age of 30. In combat or out, I am proud to call him my brother."

Smith, originally from Bakersfield, Calif., joined the Air Force on July 5, 2000, after graduating high school.

"He was a quiet guy outside the aircraft, but in the aircraft, a totally different person," Ortiz said. "In the aircraft, he was blunt and told you how it was. I loved that. His ever-present drive was to make you better and to take care of everyone in combat."

During Smith's 13 years of service, he advanced as a structural maintenance specialist before entering flight engineer upgrade training in 2008. Since arriving here in the fall of 2011, Smith deployed twice to Afghanistan with the 33rd RQS, where he participated in numerous missions to save the lives of service members on the ground.

"One that stands out is the rescue of a commando in the Kamdesh," Ortiz said. "They were under fire by rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. Smitty was rock solid with his hoist despite the imminent and close threats."

During this rescue, a photo was taken by a combat photographer who was nearby in an overwatch position, Ortiz said. The photo has since gone viral in the rescue community. Upon returning from this deployment, Smith was presented the Air Force Commendation Medal by then-18th Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Matt Molloy in a ceremony here.

Off the battlefield, Smith is remembered as a caring father, mentor and friend.

"Smitty was a mentor to all the young Airmen and pilots; he was a father figure to those that didn't have one," Ortiz said. "He and his wife took care of those in need. They always had lots of single Airmen over to his house."

He is survived by his wife, Jessica, also from Bakersfield. The couple has two daughters.

"Team Kadena has lost a hero," said Brig. Gen. James Hecker, 18th Wing commander. "Our hearts are with Smitty's family, friends and loved ones. We all suffer through the loss of one of our precious own."

Hecker urged anyone needing assistance at this difficult time - or who knows someone who may need assistance - to ask for help by contacting their supervisor or any Team Kadena chaplain.

The other three crew members involved in the mishap were rescued by emergency responders and received medical care at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.

Here in Japan, the 33rd Rescue Squadron is most recently known for its role in providing disaster relief and search and rescue functions during Operation Tomodachi following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated mainland Japan.

The Pave Hawk's primary mission is to conduct day or night personnel recovery operations. It also supports civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response and humanitarian assistance.

11 August 2013

Navy EOD building dedicated to Fallen Marine

From the Battle Rattle blog:

The Navy organization responsible for leading the Defense Department’s explosive ordnance disposal research and development recently dedicated its administration building to a Marine killed in combat in Afghanistan.

The Explosive Development Facility Administration Building and Change House in Indian Head, Md., was dedicated Aug. 7 to Lance Cpl Terry Edward “T.J.” Honeycutt, Jr. who was killed in Oct. 27, 2010 from wounds sustained during combat in Helmand province. Honeycutt, a Charles County, Md., resident deployed with 2nd Battlaion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Lance Cpl. Terry E. Honeycutt Jr. of Waldorf, Md.

Honeycutt’s former unit commander, Lt. Col. Jim Fullwood, spoke at the ceremony.

“When T.J. deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010, our battalion was sent to Northern Marja, which at the time was the most hostile area of Afghanistan,” Fullwood said, according to a Navy news release. “It had been a base of operations for the Taliban for many years prior. T.J.’s company was placed in the roughest part. Until the day T.J. was killed in action, he carried out hundreds of patrols and fought daily battles. That’s what Marines do."

Fullwood said the work of Honeycutt and other Marines transformed that area.

07 August 2013

Purple Heart Day

Today is Purple Heart Day. On August 7, 1782, General George Washington - then the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army - established the Purple Heart award, originally designated as the Badge of Military Merit.

The Purple Heart exists in its current form since 1932, and is awarded to service members "wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces".

During World War II, almost 500,000 Purple Heart medals were produced in anticipation of the huge number of casualties estimated to result from the planned Allied invasion of Japan. The invasion never happened due to the dropping of the atomic bomb on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, the total combined casualties of the sixty-five years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number, so the Purple Heart medals awarded today are part of that stock.

As of 2010, a total of over 1,900,000 Purple Hearts have been awarded in our nation's history - over 35,000 to service members for wounds sustained in the Iraq War and over 7000 for the war in Afghanistan.

Bringing home critically wounded troops: "They're very young, very stoic"

The interior of a C-17 aeromedical evacuation flight back to the U.S. from Germany. Photo: USN&WR

Great story from US News & World Report about one Soldier's medical evacuation from Afghanistan via Germany, and the chain of care that saves nearly 99% of critically wounded troops.

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Barry and Lorria Welch sit solemnly in the jump seats of the massive C-17 cargo plane. Their son, who joined the Army three years ago to pay off thousands of dollars in student debt from getting his associates degree, is strapped to a stretcher a few feet in front of them. He is in a medically induced coma with a ventilator tube regulating his breathing.

This most grievously wounded soldier involved in a fatal attack outside Kabul in late July returned to the U.S. this week, following two failed attempts to transport the blast victim for fear the flight would kill him.

The military flew his parents from their home in Salem, Ore., to this medical facility after he was wounded by an insurgent fighter who detonated an explosive-laden donkey next to a U.S. Army patrol. The Welches then accompanied their son for his return journey to Walter Reed Army hospital in Washington, his body riddled with shrapnel from the attack.

The blast killed three of his fellow troops based at Combat Outpost Soltan Kheyl in Wardak Province, and blinded and likely paralyzed this soldier. The unit's translator and four other Afghans were also killed in the attack.

This journey for the Welches would not have been an option 30 or 40 years ago, at a time before the military put a top priority on sending wounded troops home quickly, and allowing families to reunite with their grievously injured loved ones.

This system of aerial medical evacuation from the war zone saves nearly 99 percent of the critically wounded troops. It employs 21st century medical techniques that allow a soldier injured deep in enemy territory abroad to get the critical care he needs within hours. Medical technicians who spoke with U.S. News say the remainder are usually those who will likely succumb to their wounds but can be stabilized long enough for a reunion with family members in Germany or the U.S.

"It means the world to us," says Lorria Welch, from the deck of the C-17 carrying her son. This traumatic but important journey for her marks the second ever time she's been on an airplane, after first flying to Kentucky to witness their son's graduation from his basic training. "As a parent we say we'd beg, steal, or rob a bank to get here."

A medic from the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron tends to a wounded Marine being flown back to the U.S. from the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Most of the military's medical treatment was exported to the war zone in Vietnam, says Air Force Col. William Rogers, a doctor at Georgetown University and Vietnam veteran. This included advanced therapies, such as fitting for prosthetics as well as rehabilitation. Wounded soldiers could spend months at these facilities before returning home.

By contrast, troops in Operation Enduring Freedom are subject to a long train of medical experts, from the corpsmen who treats their wounds in the mountains or deserts of Afghanistan, to the medevac operators who rescue them by helicopter, to the field hospitals dotted throughout the country. All are able to incrementally treat and stabilize the complicated kinds of wounds from the ever-present improvised explosive devices that have defined the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At each stage, these experts work solely to stabilize a patient long enough to move them onward to more advanced care.

More than 90,000 patients have been transported back to Ramstein since 2003 from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, says Air Force Capt. Denise Covert, who oversees the medical facility at Ramstein where troops receive treatment. Of those, more than 51,000 have been sent back to the United States, while the rest of the wounded received the necessary treatment to rejoin their unit back in the war zone.

In total, the medevac service under the Air Force's Air Mobility Command moves roughly 17,000 patients per year, according to an AMC spokesman.

"What helps the warfighter most is they know they'll be able to get out of the [war zone]" if they're hurt, says Air Force Maj. Mike Lucore, a 17-year veteran of air medical evacuations.

An HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter hovers over the air strip at Bagram Air Field in eastern Afghanistan.

You can read the rest of the article here.