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Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler » Archive for Unsung Glory
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Archive for the “Unsung Glory” Category

Since the time of Imperial Rome man has gone to war with dogs by his side. In those barbaric days war dogs were unleashed to thin the enemy line and strike fear in their hearts. There was no thought to the dogs well being or to his other innate abilities, only the strength of is jaws, the sharpness of his teeth, and the viciousness of his heart.

Today we have a different relationship with our war dogs. They are valued as fellow soldiers and Marines, as special warriors with exceptional and unique skills. Their wounds are tended and their futures provided for. And it is an investment well worth the expense. Since WWII, war dogs have demonstrated their invaluable skills and devotion to their handlers. Their keen sense of smell could detect an ambush or sniper, and they could actually hear the wind “singing” across booby trap trip wires. Being more in tuned with their instincts, the could sense things that even the most combat experienced grunt would miss. There is the story of the Army dog handler in Viet Nam who received a new war dog, a rambunctious and stubborn German Shepherd. War dogs were in constant demand and the handler found his self on point with a dog who seemingly refused to listen to his commands. Moving through a field the dog would guide left, then right, going his own direction and ignoring the handler, who found his self along for the ride, as was the platoon following them. When they had crossed the field the platoon commander called a halt and approached the dog handler, who braced himself for an ass chewing of monumental proportions. Instead, the Lieutenant praised him and his dog for avoiding all of the mines and booby traps that his men had found at every “undisciplined” turn the dog had made. Later in his tour the same handler lay exposed and wounded in the middle of a firefight. The rambunctious Shepherd grabbed his LBE gear with his teeth and pulled him to safety. He then covered the handler with his own body and took five rounds that would have hit him instead. That kind of bond is as deep as any bond shared between men in combat. One such bond has come full circle this week.

Give us more, O Emperor! »

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In Unsung Glory #3 you read the story of Lt. Michael Murphy receiving the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during an ambush of his SEAL team in Afghanistan. Of his four man team, only one man, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Marcus Luttrell survived the firefight and began an amazing journey of escape and evasion until he was finally rescued on the night of July 2, 2005 with the help of some Afghani villagers. But it was not just the Afghanis who helped him that dark and moonless night.

The United State is somewhat unique in the way it values it’s fighting men. Most have probably heard the phrase “No man left behind”, but it is truly a catechism of the American Military that we will do what ever we can to bring a warrior home, dead or alive. So much so that an entire science of Combat Search And Rescue has been developed.

When it was learned that Petty Officer 1st Class Luttrell, who is now called “The One” in the SEAL community, was still alive, a full court press to rescue him was launched, the largest CSAR mission ever launched in the Afghanistan Campaign. As has been done so often in the past air crews sprang into action determined to bring him home.

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“Corpsman Up!”

Those two words have saved more Marines lives than can be counted. Fleet Marine Force Corpsmen, Navy “Docs” who serve with Marine units, are a platoons most valued asset. When called, no matter how precarious the firefight, the “Docs” are there, tending to “Their Marines” with a level of devotion that can not be adequately described by mere words alone.

On February 2nd 2006 Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Joshua Chiarini, a native of Coventry R.I., was assigned to 1st Battalion 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division on his second tour in Anbar Province and was riding in the third vehicle of a four humvee patrol. He joined the Navy straight out of high school in 2000 and estimates that he has since been in at least 20 firefights, ridden in 30 convoys hit with IED’s and three suicide bombers, and has treated over 100 wounded Marines, never losing one.

At 1100 that morning the lead humvee of his patrol was engulfed in a dust cloud from a roadside bomb. Undamaged, the truck sped out of the kill zone and stopped to engage insurgents firing at them 400 meters away. Four of the five occupants, three Marines and an Iraqi interpreter called Kenny, set up defensive positions, while the fifth man stayed in the turret to provide cover with the vehicles machine gun. That was when the second, more powerful IED detonated. Kenny’s arm was nearly severed by the blast and all four of the dismounted men were wounded. The enemy fire intensified, pinning them down.

Doc Chiarini was unaware of this however. Dust and distance had kept him from seeing the humvee speed ahead and get hit by the second blast. After the first hit the convoy had become separated and the second humvee in the column and the thick black smoke from the first blast blocked his view. The radio was silent and all he could here was the bang of grenades and the staccato pop of small arms fire. After the second blast the inexperienced driver of Chiarini’s vehicle balked at moving forward into the fight. Chiarini said “Screw it, I’m going forward”, grabbed his M3 medical bag and M-16 and bolted out the door.

Ducking enemy fire he ran the 200 meters to the wounded Marines. Kenny looked at him through trauma shocked eyes and asked if his arm was still there. “Some of it” he said and pointed Kenny towards the relative cover of the rear of the burning humvee. A Marine who had been blinded was busy firing wildly at the sounds of the enemy weapons. Doc Chiarini pointed him in the right direction and began tending to the other wounded men. Often times working on the wounded men with one hand and retuning suppressive fire with the other, the doc tended to his Marines.

Chiarini then walked each of the wounded Marines to the protection of the second armored humvee, providing cover fire as they moved. He made three 100 meter trips across the bullet swept battlefield retrieving his Marines. The severely wounded Kenny still remained and weak from blood loss and shock could no longer walk. With one hand Doc Chiarini carried Kenny back while he fired his M-16 with the other.

Once he had all four wounded men behind the humvee he began treating them in earnest. “I felt like corpsmen that had gone before me in earlier wars were there. I could feel their hands on my shoulders as I worked.”

After about five minutes a QRF arrived and its corpsmen took over care for his wounded. Doc Chiarini then joined the firefight, killing several insurgents, including a twelve year old boy with a detonator for yet a third IED.

“It was a pretty crazy day.” he would say later.

The Marine Corps agreed. On October 22, 2007 Doc Chiarini was presented with the Silver Star for his heroism on that “Crazy Day”.

“He reacted the way he did for one simple reason: to take care of the Marine at his right and the Marine to his left,” said Brig. Gen. David Berger, 2nd Marine Division’s assistant division commander when he presented the Silver Star to Chiarini. “He would not let his fellow warriors down. He used himself to protect his comrades. We can not ask anything more.”

All four men survived thanks to Doc Chiarini and earning the Silver Star was a special recognition for him. But he received the best tribute several weeks after returning to Camp Lejeune when he ran into one of them at 8 Ball Pizza, a corporal nicknamed Redhead.

“Doc, I knew everything was going to be OK when I saw you come through the smoke,” the Marine told him.

chiarinij_cardfront.jpg

Comments 30 Comments »

[”Stickied” to the top of the page because it’s bloody well needs to be. The usual incoherent rants from yours truly will appear below this post for today — Emp. Misha]

I promised Joe D a story about a paratrooper many weeks ago. Well, better late than never.

Heroism comes in many forms. Often times it involves saving your buddies lives while under fire, other times it is one courageous act which turns the tide of battle, maybe even the war. All of our warriors are doing their part to win the war, and much of the time the impact of their individual service can not be seen. It is easy to tell that you have won an engagement, you possess the field of battle and the only enemy remaining are the corpses bleaching in the sun. That is a visible indicator of progress. Other signs of victory are harder to immediately see. The candy bar you give to a child today may only bear fruit when he becomes of voting and military age and decides whose side he is on.

Sometimes though just a soldiers natural love for children in a war zone can transcend even his death and continue to have a positive impact on the real future of Iraq, the children watching our soldiers everyday.

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I’ve been fighting a nasty bug all weekend so I did not do any research on this weeks intended Unsung Glory and I was tempted to skip it for this week. But seeing as I’ve been told that there are people who actually look forward to this feature I decided against it.

Instead I will relate a story I read many years ago about heroism which can come in some unsuspecting packages. I am writing from pure memory here so I do not have names, dates or places, for which I apologize. If any of the fine LC’s are familiar with the story and can fill in the blanks please do so.

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So far Unsung Glory has been dedicated solely to heroes from The Long War since their stories have largely been ignored. But recently I came across a story of heroism from Viet Nam that needed to be told.

Last Sunday at Mass a visiting priest (whom I believe was his self a vet) beautifully wove the Gospel reading into the service of veterans. He spoke eloquently of service to causes greater than ones self, commitment, duty, sacrifice; words which seek to define the ideals that so many vets have dedicated their lives to.

Then he had all of the veterans attending the mass stand to be recognized. After such an eloquent homily, there was a bit of hesitation, and quite a few elbows nudged into quite a few ribs (including Bangie Things into mine), but eventually we all rose. So there I stood with a dozen or so vets while the congregation applauded us. It was a humbling and moving experience and I was actually somewhat embarrassed by the accolades. After mass I made it a point to thank the priest, and as I shook his hand he reminded of my old Battalion Chaplain from 3rd Bn. 8th Marines, Father Dennis Rocheford.

In 1968 Fr. Rocheford was Lance Corporal Rocheford with Company A, 1st Bn. 1st Marines fighting in Hue City, Republic of Viet Nam during the Tet Offensive. He was wounded twice in Viet Nam, one bullet passing clean through his torso with out hitting any vital organs. The wound was scrubbed with surgical soap and bandaged, and LCpl Rocheford continued the march. During Tet Father Rocheford was the radio operator for Capt. Ray L. Smith, A Company commander. Capt. Smith had earned the nick name of “E-tool Smith” for killing three (some say five) NVA soldiers in hand to hand combat with an entrenching tool at Hue. Capt. “E-tool” Smith later became Col. “E-tool” Smith and was the regimental commander of the 8th Marines. When we pestered Father Rocheford about the veracity of our CO’s nick name, he just smiled and confirmed the details, elevating the Colonel to mythical status in our young eyes.

It was a status Father Rocheford shared as well. He was constantly in the field with us, joining us on every hump. Anytime there was a break, as we sat on our packs and nursed sore shoulders and even sorer feet, there was the ubiquitous Father Rocheford walking up and down our ranks, handing out candy from his cargo packets, bucking up our spirits, easing the pain of the welts left by 80 pound packs. His long suffering chaplains assistant (personal body guard is a better term, since he was armed whilst the priest wasn’t) kept pace, longing to join us sitting on the side of the road, resting our aching brogans. Despite the exhaustion on his face, he kept pace with the indefatigable Father. Although he was at least 20 years our senior, he routinely out marched us. We held him in awe, not only because he was a Viet Nam vet and former infantryman, nor because of his physical endurance and stamina, or even because of the solemnity with which he ministered to our spiritual needs. We were in awe because he was one of us when he didn’t need to be. He could have stayed at Battalion HQ and no one would have thought any less of him. But instead he chose to be in the field with us grunts. He left the service in the early 90’s after The Gulf War. He rejoined on September 12th 2001 and is currently deployed in Iraq, his third war.

All of these memories of one of the finest men I have ever known came flooding back to me after that mornings mass and as I surfed the net that night I came across the story of Father Vincent Capodanno, Lt. USNR Chaplain Corps, and Viet Nam Medal of Honor recipient. The coincidence was to much, and Father Capodanno’s story to compelling to ignore.

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The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest award for valor that the U.S. Army can bestow for battlefield heroics. Only the Medal of Honor ranks higher in precedence. Since the Viet Nam War ended in 1975, only six have been awarded. At a presentation in the Pentagons Hall of Heroes on Friday November 2nd the total was raised to seven.

Secretary of the Army Peter Geren presented the DSC to 1st Lt. Walter B. Jackson for actions while he was a 2nd Lt. serving in Al Anbar Province with Company A, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry. On September 27th 2006 his unit was engaged in fierce combat when one of his vehicles was disabled. While attempting to retrieve it he and his soldiers came under intense machine gun fire and several of his men were wounded.

2nd Lt. Jackson, a West Point graduate from Oak Harbor Washington, began treating the most severlely wounded of his men until he himself was hit in the thigh. Temporarily knocked unconscious from the blood loss, when he came to he alternated between returning fire and tending to the wounds of his soldiers.

He was hit again while helping to carry one of his men to safety. Despite his own grave wounds, 2nd Lt. Jackson’s first concern remained with his men,  and he refused medical attention until he was sure they had been properly cared for.

After receiving the  DSC 1st Lt. Jackson humbly thanked his West Point classmates and the soldiers he has served with. Stereotypically modest about his own heroics, 1st Lt. Jackson simply said “I believe I just had to do what I had to do in that situation… I think many soldiers would have done the same thing.”.

1st Lt. Jackson has undergone more than a dozen surgeries while recovering from his wounds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He is currently awaiting orders to assume command of an MLRS platoon with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.

 walterbjacksondsc.jpg                            dsc.jpg            

With the plethora of media outlets feigning righteous indignation anytime some peasant dares to question their support of our troops, one would be inclined to think that a soldier receiving the nations second highest award for valor would be all over the pages of the media right?

Well, outside of the blogosphere, exactly one media outlet carried the story. The Army Times.

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I first discovered the Rottweiler in November of 2004, just as Operation Al Fajir, the Second Battle of Fallujah, was beginning. MOUT fighting, or Military Operations in Urban Terrain, is the most dangerous and difficult type of warfare there is. From Stalingrad, to Aachen, to Hue City, house to house combat is up close, savage, and brutal. I knew that the Marines and soldiers clearing the vipers nest of Islamofascists in Fallujah were doing it down and dirty when I saw a photo of Marines preparing to clear a house. Each and every one had a bayonet attached to their rifle. In this age of push button warfare, laser and GPS guided bombs, and UAV’s which can read a license plate from 20,000 feet, these grunts were destroying the enemy with the oldest weapon in the infantryman’s arsenal, cold steel. Cold steel, and an even stronger resolve.

As I watched the battle unfold live on network TV, I told my son that there would be stories of heroism coming out of that battle that would rival any from any previous war. And so it was with Sgt. Rafael Peralta, USMC.

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Another Monday, another installment in LC 0311 Crunchie, Imperial Military Historian’s excellent series. I do believe that this one is going to make the room you sit in feel like it suddenly got full of dust, because that’s certainly what it did for me.

Take it away, Crunchie:

“Greater Love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.
St. John 15:3

I often think of these words, spoken about our Lord Jesus Christ, when I read of our warriors’ heroics and contemplate what motivates them to do the deeds they do. Is it really possible for a man to so love his comrades that he willingly sacrifices his life for them? And I do not mean in an abstract way by losing his life while serving his country, but in the visceral, immediate, and deliberate choice to willingly lay down his own life so that others may live.

Diving on a grenade to save your buddies may seem an overused cliché from jingoistic war movies of days gone by, but it has in fact happened so often as to give you pause and make you say “My God, they really did that”.

Twenty-two Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines and Navy Corpsman (and one Navy LCI commander) during the three week long battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, nearly a quarter of all the Medals of Honor awarded to Marines during WWII. Of those, an amazing eight of them were for Marines who willingly dove on grenades to save their comrades. Think of that for a second. You are in a fighting position, or a shell crater, huddled with your brothers in arms when a sizzling instrument of death lands amongst you. Could you, in a half a heartbeat, make the decision to smother it with your own body to save the others? What could possibly motivate those that do? That instant of self sacrifice can not be a thought out decision, but an immediate indicator of the true nature of ones character.

I believe that it is not hate that motivates the American warrior to do what he does, but love. Love of his fellow Marine or soldier. Love of his nation and the ideals it strives towards. And love of us. Each and every one of us, the American citizen peacefully enjoying the freedom they pay for.

Give us more, O Emperor! »

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It’s Monday, and so LC Crunchie 0311’s excellent series, “Unsung Glory”, continues with the story of SFC Paul R Smith. Take it away, Crunchie!:

Last week you read of Lt. Michael Murphy being posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. On Tuesday President Bush will formally present the medal to Lt. Murphy’s family in a ceremony at the White House.

Most of you know that the Medal of Honor is the highest award for battlefield valor that our nation can bestow, awarded to individuals who distinguish themselves “…conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States…” and is held in such esteem that it is presented personally by the President in the name of Congress. Often mistakenly called the Congressional Medal of Honor, due to it being the only medal to be presented in their name, over the years it has become almost iconoclastic in the reverence for which it is held. So much so that President Truman once said “I would rather have the blue band of the Medal of Honor around my neck than be president”.

When our nation was first formed there were no medals for bravery, they being viewed as “smacking too much of European affectations” and contrary to the egalitarian ideals of the Revolution. There were however three Badges of Military Merit awarded by Gen. Washington during the war. These were the original genesis for the Medal of Honor today. On December 12, 1861 President Lincoln signed Public Resolution 82 which created the Medal of Honor for the US Navy and Marine Corps. On June 12 1862 an Army medal was authorized by Congress and both were made permanent in 1863.

Prior to WWI the criteria for receiving a Medal of Honor were not as stringent as they are today. In fact, there were 1522 awarded in the Civil War, compared to only 124 for WWI, 464 for WWII, 131 in Korea, and 245 in Viet Nam. In 1916 the War Department, in an effort to curtail abuse of the Medal and ensure its prestige and prominence, reviewed every citation for the Medal of Honor and revoked 911 of them in what became know as the “Purge of 1917”.

To illustrate the prestige the War Department sough to protect, since its inception, 3459 medals have been awarded to 3,444 individual recipients, (including nine unknowns). That is 144 years, seven major wars, and countless smaller engagements in which millions of our nation’s sons have gone in harms way, and only 3459 acts sufficient to be awarded the Medal.

There are currently only 109 living recipients, and the last Medal of Honor awarded to a living recipient was presented to Lt. Bruce Crandall on February 26th 2007 for his actions of November 14, 1965 at the Battle of Ia Drang (memorialized in the book and movie “We Were Soldiers Once…”). Since the Viet Nam war, there have been, including Lt. Murphy’s, only 5 acts of bravery for which the Medal of Honor has been awarded. All five have been posthumous.

Which brings us to the subject of this week’s Unsung Glory, Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith.

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