Monday, November 08, 2010

Wounded Warriors Honored in New York City

From Navy Safe Harbor Public Affairs

NEW YORK (NNS) -- Seven Navy wounded warriors were honored Nov. 3, in New York City at the Bob Woodruff Foundation's 4th annual "Stand-Up For Heroes" benefit.

Throughout the week, these Sailors, their spouses, family members, and friends participated in receptions and sightseeing, attended a comedy show, and were part of the Good Morning America audience.

"This is a fun and well-deserved opportunity for these service members," said Capt. Key Watkins, director of Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior program. "They've dedicated so much to our Nation -- to their fellow citizens; it's great for them to enjoy New York City while being recognized for their commitment and their sacrifices."

Stand-Up For Heroes was hosted by Jon Stewart and featured special performances by music and comedy icons such as Jerry Seinfeld, Tony Bennett and Bruce Springsteen. Stand-Up brought together leaders from business, entertainment and philanthropy to raise funds to help injured service members and their families as they return to their communities.

"It was a tremendous honor to be included," said Stephnie Rose, wife of Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Justin Rose, who was injured in Afghanistan in July 2009 when an IED explosion rocked the vehicle he was in.

"It meant so much seeing the generosity of organizations like the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and the support of people like Jon Stewart and other celebrities was amazing," said Mrs. Rose.

As for her nerves about walking the red carpet leading up to the event, Mrs. Rose said, "Being beside my husband and being proud of him took all my worries away."

The event was broadcast to troops on Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) and ABC News, reaching hundreds of thousands of service members and support personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of service members recovering or rehabilitating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation provides resources and support to service members, veterans and their families to successfully reintegrate into their communities so they may thrive physically, psychologically, socially and economically. Through a public education movement called, the Bob Woodruff Foundation helps educate the public about the needs of service members returning from war — especially the one in five service members who have sustained hidden injuries such as Traumatic Brain Injury and Combat Stress, including Post Traumatic Stress, Depression and Anxiety and empowers communities nationwide to take action.

"The Navy is committed to caring for our wounded warriors and their families, so being part of an event that creates an even greater awareness of their sacrifice and commitment, and also the invisible wounds of war was truly amazing," said Watkins.

For more information about Navy Safe Harbor, visit or follow the program on Facebook and Twitter.

Retired Guardsmen Preserve War History, Camaraderie

By Spc. Jessica M. Lopez
Louisiana National Guard

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 5, 2010 – At the Jackson Barracks Military Museum, Wednesdays are a time for reminiscing and restoration for the members of the 122nd Bomb Restoration Squadron Unit.

The unit is a group of volunteer retired Guardsmen who help to restore old military aircraft and cannons for the museum and the members have stories of their own to share while they work.

Not long ago, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. John Cordero was recalling Thanksgiving Day 1946, when a B-29 crashed at an airbase in Tokyo.

“Horrendous crash,” Cordero recalled. “I was scared. It was the first time I had to talk to J.C.”

His comrades listened more closely.

“We have the same initials,” said Cordero. “I figured I could ask him a favor.” The favor?
“Please take me now. I don’t want to burn.”

The unit is a place where stories like Cordero’s are all too familiar.

“Our get-together is more about the camaraderie … we enjoy the companionship,” said retired Air Force Col. Ernest “Buddy” Gossom. “We start telling stories. We don’t know who is telling the truth and who is not, and we don’t care.”

Before Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans, the 122nd had 25 active volunteers.

“Right now we have about eight to 10 people who come out here and join us,” said Gossom. “Everyone is getting older, and they just can’t make it.”

The reduction of members is not the only challenge the 122nd is facing.

“Since Katrina our work has grown, and our work space has changed at least four times,” said retired Air Force Col. Arthur Alberti. “We look forward to our next workspace which is made just for us to do our restorations.”

The multi-use complex building, scheduled to be completed in January 2011, will have two bays in which the 122nd can work.

“The 122nd is a part of the history department, which is why we have an area for them in our new building,” said Stan Amerski, acting director of the Jackson Barracks Museum and curator. “It’s important to honor their service by restoring the aircraft they flew.”

Most of the members of the 122nd were the pilots of the aircraft that need to be restored.

“It’s a blessing to have them because they are the experts,” said Amerski.

On the move-in date, the 122nd will begin restoring the aircraft in the air park outside the museum, to include: the T-11, A-26, F-4, F-15, T-33, F-100 and F-102.

“Once we have our spot, we will be able to start on more than two projects,” said Cordero. “But we are going to need extra hands.”

The 122nd is accepting volunteers of all ages to help with the restoration process and to keep military history alive.

History – CGC Tamaroa and “The Perfect Storm”

Written by: LT Connie Braesch
Post Written by William H. Thiesen, Ph.D., U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian

Since 1790, Coast Guard vessels have ventured into harm’s way to carry out the service’s missions. Some were overcome by conditions and tragically lost at sea, while others were able to complete their mission – relying heavily on the skill and courage of their crews. In the so-called “Perfect Storm,” the major nor’easter made famous by a bestselling book and film of the same name, the Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa (WMEC-166) deployed into a maelstrom of heavy seas and high winds to help vessels caught in the storm. Despite the conditions, she managed to complete her SAR mission and return to port but not without a fight.

Last weekend marked the nineteenth anniversary of the Perfect Storm, also known as the “Halloween Nor’easter.” By October 28, 1991, two large weather systems were on a collision course off the East Coast – Hurricane Grace was moving from the southeast toward an un-named extra-tropical cyclone. The two weather systems merged to spawn a much larger and more powerful storm. By October 30, NOAA offshore weather data buoys reported sustained winds of more than sixty miles per hour with gusts exceeding seventy miles per hour and wave heights as high as forty feet.

The “Tam” would find itself at the center of the Perfect Storm and the centerpiece of Sebastian Junger’s recounting of the events that took place that fateful weekend. Built for the U.S. Navy in 1943 as a seagoing tug for towing damaged World War II warships, the Tamaroa (ex-USS Zuni) had only a single screw, a relatively high freeboard of ten feet and was nick named the “Automatic Trough Finder” by her World War II crew. In 1946, the Coast Guard received the surplus navy vessel into the fleet and by the time of the storm she was celebrating almost fifty years of service. The 205-foot antiquated cutter presented far more challenges to her crew in a monstrous storm than would the more modern twin-screw 210-foot Coast Guard Cutters.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 30)--The Tamaroa's rigid hull inflatable rescue boat is sent to help the sailing vessel Satori. Satori, with three people on board, needed help about 75 miles south of Nantucket Island after being caught in the storm. U.S. COAST GUARD PHOTO
Despite the challenges, Tamaroa and her crew would make several rescues in the midst of the powerful storm. One such case involved a New York Air National Guard HH-60 helicopter returning from its own storm-related mission. The aircraft was low on fuel, could not connect with its C-130 fuel tanker and had to ditch ninety miles south of Montauk, New York. When an HH-3F helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod attempted to hoist the downed aircrew but was unable to make the rescue due to winds blowing up to 100 miles per hour, the Tamaroa would prove the victims’ best chance for survival.

After a four-hour transit, Tamaroa arrived on scene but the sea state and winds had worsened. Commander Brudnicki, Tam’s captain, looked out from the bridge to see wave tops towering over the ship sweeping the deck and swamping the crew. The engine room crew worked feverishly to keep the fifty-year-old powerplant running. A breakdown during this critical point, especially with only one screw, would prove disastrous. With the aircrew fighting for their lives in mountainous seas, Brudnicki tried several times to position the cutter upsea of the survivors and drift down on them for the rescue. After two hours, the Tam succeeded in maneuvering next to the hypothermic aircrew. The deck gang dropped a scramble net over the ship’s side retrieving one airman before pulling up a group of three others. The downed H-60’s pararescueman, Rick Smith, was never found despite a massive search effort.

In recognition of Tamaroa’s heroic efforts to overcome technological and environmental obstacles and conduct her missions, the cutter received the Coast Guard Unit Commendation and the Coast Guard Foundation Award. In addition many of the crew received the Air Force Commendation Medal and eighteen of Tam’s crew received the Coast Guard Medal, the largest group to receive this award in the history of that honor.

Remembering a WWII Coast Guardsman

Friday, November 5, 2010
Written by: Christopher Lagan

Earlier this week, the remains of Vice Admiral Thomas R. Sargent III were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. A World War II hero and member of the Greatest Generation, Sargent rose to the rank of vice commandant of the Coast Guard before retiring from the service in 1974.

As an ensign, Sargent served aboard the Cutter Modoc on the Greenland Patrol and on convoy escort duties at the beginning of World War II. LCDR Sargent was awarded the Bronze Star as the commanding officer of the patrol frigate USS Sandusky escorting war ships as part of the Allies’ Philippine Campaign. On July 1, 1970 Vice Admiral Sargent became the 11th Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard.

“Vice Adm. Sargent epitomized our core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty,” said Vice Adm. Sally Brice-O’Hara, vice commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, adding, “He answered our Nation’s call to duty in war, serving in each of the World War II major naval combat zones, as well as in peace by guarding our waters and protecting the mariners who use them.”

Vice Admiral Sargent was a founder of the Association For Rescue At Sea, Inc. (AFRAS). As the organization’s first chairman, Sargent established the AFRAS Gold Medal – presented annually to an enlisted man or woman for an act of extraordinary bravery during a rescue at sea, which was recently renamed in his honor.

Stay tuned to the Compass during Veteran’s Day week as we cover events honoring all who have worn the uniform in service of freedom. We’ll also share ways you can convey your thanks to all veterans, or honor those special to you.

Veterans’ Reflections: Going to War in 1944

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2010 – John J. Kushwara didn’t have to risk his life.

Unlike many of his fellow recruits at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in 1944, the 24-year-old Kushwara had volunteered to don the uniform and go to war. It was a choice, technically, but he didn’t consider it much of one. Though he had a perfectly good job at the time, he said, he knew his country needed him.

“I felt it was my duty to go,” he said. “I told my foreman if he didn’t let me go, I was going to quit. So he let me go.”

But fortune smiled on Kushwara after he enlisted. He had to take some leave during training to tend to his wife, who was sick at the time. The night before he returned to Camp Lejeune, his unit was sent to war, ultimately to Iwo Jima. Two friends he had planned to meet up with after the war didn’t make it back from the Pacific front.

At Lejeune, Kushwara became a bit of an oddity. Leadership didn’t know what to do with him, he said, so he ended up repeating infantry training 11 times. By the end, he joked, he was untouchable, because he knew the training course so well.

“I went through so many times, I knew where all the booby traps were,” he said.

His extensive infantry training came in handy when he finally was assigned to a new unit and sent to the Pacific. Thirty-one days on a boat took him to Okinawa, where he fought enemy soldiers and vicious weather.

“I went through a tidal wave and a typhoon in Okinawa. … I was only 24. I never thought I’d make it home,” Kushwara said. “We lived in a tomb for a while [to escape the weather], and had a truck parked outside. When the storm was over, the truck was gone. The waves took ships out of the water and put them on land.”

At one point on the island, Kushwara recalled, he had a moment of profound irony. Early into his time on Okinawa, he lost his dog tag.

“Later on, I was in the chow line, and I found a tag on the ground,” Kushwara said. “I was scratching the surface of it, and I [turned] to the fellow in front of me and said ‘Here’s a poor bastard [who] got killed,’ and it was my own dog tag.”

A few years ago, in his hometown of Wallingford, Conn., Kushwara was honored at the celebration of the Marine Corps birthday. He took part in the cake-cutting and was central to a ceremony with a young Marine, a moment he said he found very touching.

“I’m proud that I was a Marine. I’m proud that I stood for my country,” he said. “I could have stayed home, but I felt it was my duty to go. I’m very proud. Very, very, proud.”

(“Veterans’ Reflections” is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veterans Day.)

Veterans’ Reflections: Fighting in the Battle of the Bulge

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2010 – John Reep almost missed out on his chance to serve. On Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he was turned away at his local Marine Corps recruiting station in Chicago.

The medical personnel testing new recruits said he had tuberculosis and was ineligible for service, so he went to the Cook County Sanitarium to seek medical assistance.

“I was in there for six weeks before a doctor said, ‘Get the hell out of there, you ain’t got TB,’” Reep said. It would take years before the cause of his plight would be discovered.

“Finally, when I was living [in the Washington, D.C., area] – I had asthma – a doctor asked me if I’d ever been hit in the chest as a kid,” he said. “My old man was drunk, he came home one night wanting to fight, and he hit me in the chest and knocked me out. But what happened is there was a spot on my lung, and apparently it stays with you for life – but I never had tuberculosis. I’d probably have been in Guadalcanal with the Marines.”

After a year of medical checkups, Reep was drafted into the Army in 1943. The spot on his lung hadn’t changed, but he had medical records stating clearly that he didn’t have tuberculosis, so he was allowed to serve.

“They asked me if I wanted to join the Air Corps, and I said, ‘No, infantry,’ and boom, there I was, in the infantry,” Reep said.

His unit, the 30th Infantry Division, “Old Hickory,” was sent to Southampton, England, to supplement infantry forces after the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Normandy. The casualties of the invasion were so high that his division had to be sent in to replace the troops who were killed on the beach.

“We had three-day passes to Paris,” Reep said. “We got up in the morning and the sergeant says, ‘Hey, where are you going?’ We said, ‘We’re going to Paris,’ and he said, ‘Like hell you are. You’re going to Belgium. The Germans broke through.’”

Reep’s next steps would take him straight into the Battle of the Bulge. His unit started moving from one city to the other, sifting through the wake of repeated German assaults and retreats as they headed toward the Siegfried Line, a series of fortifications on Germany’s western border.

“In [one village] we saw a lot of bodies – women and children,” Reep recalled. “[German forces] came through and said they were traitors in that town.”

They also came upon the aftermath of the Malmedy Massacre, in which 84 American prisoners of war were murdered by their German captors. Reep said the men had been captured and grouped in a field, where a German truck backed toward them, ostensibly as a transport to take the prisoners into custody. When the canvas was lifted, a machine gun opened fire.

“It was just a slaughter,” he said.

Reep said the most memorable thing about being in Malmedy was the time an American soldier in his unit took out what appeared to be three American tanks and 17 U.S. soldiers on Dec. 21, 1944. The American soldier, Sgt. Francis Currey, had been suspicious of a ruse and asked a suspect soldier if he was excited for the Rose Bowl that year.

The man’s response, “No, I’m not interested in flowers,” was enough at the time to tip Currey off that the suspect soldier wasn’t American, Reep said.

“He machine-gunned them all down – the kid was crazy,” Reep recalled. “He had a bazooka and a lot of rounds, and he took out the three tanks.”

Currey earned the Medal of Honor that day. The tanks he destroyed were German tanks repainted to look like American tanks, and the soldiers he killed were enemy soldiers who had tried to infiltrate his unit.

Though the fighting eventually landed Reep in a Dutch hospital for a few weeks – the wet cold of northwestern Europe in the winter had given him pneumonia and frostbite – he would continue to fight until he left the Army as a staff sergeant in 1952 and returned home after 10 years of service.

(“Veterans’ Reflections” is a collection of stories of men and women who served their country in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the present-day conflicts. They will be posted throughout November in honor of Veterans Day.)

Nevada Governor Recalls Desert Shield, Desert Storm Duty

By 2nd Lt. Jason Yuhasz
Nevada National Guard

RENO, Nev., Nov. 5, 2010 – It was Pearl Harbor Day 1990 when the Nevada Air National Guard was called up to serve in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

One of the airmen called to duty in 1990 was a young lieutenant colonel and Nevada state legislator, who would go on to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his extraordinary achievements as a flight leader during the conflict.

Today, he's recognized across the nation as Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons.

The Nevada airmen were deployed to Shaikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain, where they flew their RF-4C Phantoms in extreme heat on demanding missions and often encountered enemy fire.

Twenty years after the conflict, Gibbons recently recounted his experiences, including his time serving under Army Gens. Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, and the friendship he developed with another young officer, who would eventually become the current Nevada adjutant general, Bill Burks.

Gibbons said the leadership of retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Ron Bath, now the vice-chairman of the Nevada Military Support Alliance, stands out in his memory the most.

"Ron took charge when things weren't going well, or if someone had a problem," he said. "Ron was the individual whom everybody turned toward to help solve a critical problem ... a guy I grew up with, went to war with, a great friend and someone I admire tremendously."

Gibbons said he applied many of his military lessons learned to his civilian career. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997-2006 before becoming the Nevada governor.

"Military experience allows you to create great friendships in addition to learning many things you would never get to learn as a civilian, including leadership skills and teamwork," Gibbons said. "Most importantly, the military challenges you as an individual to discover your greatest
abilities, especially in trying times."

Gibbons began his Air Force career with an active-duty stint from 1967-1971.

He graduated from the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College and eventually attained the rank of colonel before retiring as the vice commander of the Nevada Air Guard's 152nd Reconnaissance Group in 1996.

"As governor, there are times I look back on my years in the Air Force and appreciate the ability I gained to forge ahead during challenging times when situations seemed impossible," he said.

Gibbons said the intangible value of friendships established during combat are some of the most valuable and longest-lasting relationships of one's life.

"Those individuals you see regularly, you train with, you trust implicitly: those are the greatest friends you can ever have," Gibbons said. "Those friends you make while in the military are probably the most valuable, enduring relationships you will ever have."

Distant War

Distant War: Recollections of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia by Marc Yablonka is a newly edited collection of articles covering some 18 years of his freelance reporting on the aftermath of the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. He became interested in Vietnam through the refugees he met in Los Angeles as an adult education teacher and during his five trips to Southeast Asia. He is not a war correspondent but as he notes became a chronicler of war by telling the stories of those who had “been there.” He has written for Reuters, Agence France Presse, and been published in the Army Times, Stars and Stripes, and Vietnam Magazine to name a few.

His post-war visits to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia chronicle the lives of those who were left to face an oftentimes grim situation. Their interviews and stories bring back forgotten stories of sacrifice and suffering. He also writes about the challenges faced by Vietnamese refugees who reconstructed their lives in the United States. I particularly found his story about Nick Ut, a Vietnamese photojournalist for the AP, very interesting. Most of us are familiar with Nick Utʼs photo of the “napalm girl” which became an icon of the war and its tragedies. Yablonka also tells us the story of that girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, and her long and painful journey of recovery.

The book also presents interviews with a wide variety of military and civilian Americans including former Red Cross girls, Air America Pilots, photographers, combat journalists, civilian doctors and orphanage workers, exploring their exploits, trials and regrets. All of their stories are interesting but it is the story of Cherie Clark who worked in the orphanages, flew out with the children as Saigon fell, and returned to Vietnam to continue her work that I found the most touching. Those of you who visited orphanages and those kids during your tour know what I am talking about.

To say there are many untold stories of the Vietnam War is an understatement. The war was a many faceted conflict that involved soldiers serving their country, and a wide variety of American and Vietnamese civilians. Yaklonka’s articulate and sensitive reporting brings the personal stories of these men and women alive on the page, providing a very interesting retrospective of that distant war.