Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Frank Buckles is now 109 and lives on a 330-acre cattle farm in Charles Town, West Virginia.
He is America's oldest living veteran, and the United States’ last living veteran of World War 1, the “War to End All Wars” that lasted from 1914-1918.
To put that into perspective, there are 3 million living veterans from World War II, 3 million living veterans from the Korean War, and over 7 million living veterans from the Vietnam War.
On being among the last living “Great War” veterans, Buckles says, “For many years, I would read the figures in The Torch [a veterans magazine] in two columns -- one was the number of 4.7 million-something veterans who served, and the other, which kept going down, was the number of us that were still alive. I knew one day it would come to this."
In World War 1, Buckles served as an ambulance driver in England and France, and when the war ended in 1918 was assigned to a prisoner-of-war escort company charged with returning POWs to Germany.
Later in his life, while he was on business as a civilian in the Philippines in 1941 during World War, II, Buckles was taken prisoner by the Japanese. He was held prisoner in their notoriously harsh conditions for 3 ½ years, where he lost 50 pounds and witnessed executions of fellow prisoners. He was rescued in 1945.
When asked about the secret of his long life, Buckles replied: "Hope."
He also added, "[W]hen you start to die... don't."
He said the reason he has lived so long is that,
"I never got in a hurry."
Considering that I was only able to serve for under two months but still have dozens of stories to tell about the experience and the wonderful characters who were around me in basic training, this last remaining World War I veteran must have countless memories that we all would love to know … and probably need to know to lend perspective to our times.
Surely if anything is a national treasure, the oldest living American veteran is.
Frank Buckles, I salute you, and all the veterans who risked their lives -- including the millions who

Flag Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has nominated Navy Capt.  James W. Crawford III, JAGC,  for appointment as legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and appointment to the rank of rear admiral (lower half).  He is currently serving as legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C.

First Enlisted Turbanned Sikh Soldier Successfully Completes Basic Training in Two Decades

Recruit Accepted by Fellow Soldiers and Excels During Training

(Columbia, SC)  November 10, 2010 – Another major barrier fell today in the campaign to end the U.S. military’s ban on turbaned Sikhs.  To great fanfare, Simran Preet Singh Lamba became the first enlisted Sikh soldier in more than two decades to complete basic training while maintaining his religiously-mandated turban and unshorn hair.

The past year has now seen Sikhs graduate as both an enlisted soldier and as commissioned officers. Enlisted soldiers are the U.S. Army’s “new recruits” who are below the rank of an officer.  All the Sikh graduates were represented by the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and the Sikh Coalition.

“I am thrilled to serve with my fellow soldiers and serve the United States of America,” said Simran Preet Singh Lamba. “I humbly believe I was able to excel in all aspects of my training. Most importantly, I was overwhelmed by the support and camaraderie I felt with my fellow soldiers and base leadership. I thank them all and look forward to my service.”

Recruited by the Army in 2009 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program for his language skills in Punjabi and Hindi, Mr. Lamba was initially advised by an Army recruiter that his Sikh articles of faith would likely be accommodated. Subsequently, in March 2010, his formal request for a religious accommodation was denied. Lamba appealed the decision, and his appeal was accepted in September 2010.

Contrary to the concerns of some, Mr. Lamba was able to meet all the requirements of a soldier during basic training.  He wore a helmet over a small turban during field exercises. During gas mask exercises, he successfully created a seal. He also enjoyed deep bonds with fellow soldiers and his superiors.

Present Army policy still excludes Sikhs who maintain their turban and beard. Sikhs in the U.S. military may maintain their religiously-mandated turban and unshorn hair only if they receive an individual exemption to do so.

In 1981, the Army banned “conspicuous” religious articles of faith, including turbans and unshorn hair, for its service members.  The ban was enacted despite a long and storied history of Sikhs serving in the U.S. military with their religious identity intact. Sikh soldiers served in the U.S. Army as far back as World War I. Thousands of Sikh soldiers helped liberate France in WWII. Today, Sikhs serve in the militaries of England, Canada, India and Austria, among others, often alongside American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the past year has seen welcome progress in the campaign to restore Sikh service in the U.S. military.  In March, Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, a dentist, became the first Sikh commissioned officer to complete basic training in more than two decades. In September, Captain Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a physician, became the second Sikh commissioned officer to complete basic training.  The addition of Mr. Lamba to the group of Sikh military graduates is a critical step forward in proving that Sikhs can successfully serve in the U.S. military.

“To be an American is to be able to serve his or her country in the defense of the justice and equality we all enjoy as citizens.  We appreciate the U.S. Army’s willingness to consider the overwhelmingly positive experiences of Captains Rattan and Kalsi – as well as the success of dozens of Sikhs who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces over the past century – in giving Mr. Lamba the opportunity to serve the United States,” said Amandeep Singh Sidhu lead counsel for McDermott Will & Emery LLP.  “We hope that his success in enlisted basic training continues to dispel misconceptions about the ability of a Sikh solider to conform to the Army’s standards for neat and conservative uniformity, safety, military readiness, and unit cohesion.”

“We are grateful to the U.S. Army and its forward thinking here. We are hopeful that the success Mr. Lamba enjoyed during basic training will impress upon the U.S. military the necessity of ending its general policy of Sikh exclusion,” said Amardeep Singh, Program Director, Sikh Coalition. “Over the past year Sikh service in the U.S. Army has been successfully tried and tested. We know it works. All Sikhs should now be welcome in the military. We look forward to working with military leadership to make that happen. Our military and the United States of America will be stronger for it.”

To learn more, please visit our Campaign Media Center or email us at

Coast Guard Heroes: Isaac Mayo

Written by: LTJG Stephanie Young
With contributions from LTJG Ryan White

This Compass series chronicles the first 14 heroes the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters have been named for. These men and women, who stood the watch before us, lived extraordinary lives as they lit the way for sailors in times past, braved gunfire in times of war and rescued those in peril at sea. As Coast Guard heroes, their stories are a constant reminder of our service’s legacy. As the namesake of the Coast Guard’s newest patrol boats, they will inspire the next generation of Coast Guard heroes.

In the spring of 1879 a raging snowstorm blanketed the shores of the Northeastern United States. The perilous seas and weather caused a three-masted schooner to wreck on the shores of Cape Cod, Mass. Issac Mayo, a junior surfman at Life-Saving Station 7, displayed exemplary character during the disarray as he and his crew faced the storm to rescue the schooner’s sailors. In moments of chaos, Mayo was a leader and a hero.

On April 4, 1879, the three-masted schooner Sarah J. Fort was caught in the snowstorm and wrecked across the beaches of Cape Cod. A rescue boat head out, but with the heavy snowfall and darkness still looming, they could not reach the schooner. Mayo’s fellow surfmen worked tirelessly to get to the wreckage, but they could not reach the schooner and two sailors fell into the sea from exhaustion and perished.

The heavy seas and snow continued to build and buried the schooner causing the main and mizzenmasts to fall. The schooner’s remaining crew huddled together in the only part of the ship still in tact, the port bow. Another attempt to reach the vessel with a surfboat became possible when the tide went out, but the original rescue crew was too fatigued.

Mayo stepped in to lead the relief crew for the second rescue attempt and his boat launched but was forced to go back to the beach after it became filled with water. A second launch was made and the boat cleared the first breaker. As the boat went over the second set of breakers, Mayo and his crew were thrown from the surfboat, which was now broken beyond repair.

Mayo and his fellow surfmen could not fail, and another surfboat was brought to the beach. Mayo assumed command of the smaller boat, and chose a crew of fresh men, some from neighboring stations and some town volunteers.

Mayo navigated the boat through the violent seas and the mass of debris from the wreck and finally, after multiple attempts, was able to reach the Sarah J. Fort. The four survivors were brought aboard the surfboat and with Mayo captaining the boat, brought the rescued sailors were brought safely to shore.

There is no doubt that Mayo’s exemplary surfman skills shined the day he saved the Sarah J. Fort’s sailors and for his leadership throughout the challenging rescue, Mayo was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal on November 10, 1879.

A special place in the Coast Guard’s history

Chief Brian Guarino is the current Officer in Charge of a Coast Guard Station on the Cape, Station Woods Hole. His crews experience the same elements and hazards of the surfmen at Station 7, and he is constantly in awe of the surfmen in times past.

“These heroes of the surf did with wooden boat and oar what we do today with twin props and rudder,” said Guarino. “They did with oilskin and kapok what we do with dry suits and gore-tex. The weather was just as foul in Chatham and Provincetown then as it is now. The water of Woods Hole Pass was just as swift and cold then as now. They did with stars and compass azimuth what we do with gadgets and gizmos.”

Today, as in the past, Coast Guard men and women continue to operate in the unforgiving surf and on the shifting seas to save those whose lives are in peril.

“The Coast Guard has the privilege to live out a proud set of core values every day, and upon a visit to Plymouth, Provincetown, Chatham, or the Islands of Cape Cod, one can see not only the pride of the Guardians in their stations, but they can see the tradition kept secured in the old station houses as well,” said Guarino. “Our proud people have always led this tradition of excellence in one of the more unforgiving areas to conduct our business and we continue to honor their memories and strive each day for excellence in our missions.”

This Day in Naval History - Nov. 10

From the Navy News Service

1775 - Congress votes to raise two battalions of Continental Marines, establishing the Marine Corps.
1941 - U.S.-escorted convoy WS-12, carrying 20,000 British troops to Singapore, sails from Halifax.

Veterans’ Reflections: 'It Was a Thing I Had to Do'

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2010 – Buster Adams dedicated his life to serving his country, though he didn’t intend initially to do it through military service.

Originally from Texas, Adams moved here to work as a civilian for the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1942, when the Pentagon was still under construction and the War Department was based in downtown Washington.

His talents with encryption came in handy when he was drafted into the Army in 1942. He would end up spending three years in the service, encoding messages at Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s rear headquarters in Oro Bay, New Guinea.

He hadn’t intended to join the Army, he said, but when he got his draft notice, he knew he had an obligation to fulfill.

“I wasn’t particularly happy about it [at the time],” he said. “It was a thing I had to do, so I did it.”

Adams’ Signal Corps experience paid off in more ways than giving him the skills needed to be a cryptographic clerk. His island station, he recalled, was sandwiched between sandy beaches with clear, warm water and coconut plantations.

Timing was on his side, as well.

“When I first arrived there, the Battle of Buna was over,” he said. “It was still technically a combat zone, but the combat had already moved up the coast away from us.”

Upon returning to the United States in early 1946, Adams put away his uniform and became a government civilian employee with the Signal Corps. He ended up serving more than 30 years of federal service as a servicemember and civilian. He retired from his job with Naval Air Systems Command on Jan. 1, 1977.

Though he hadn’t intended to don the uniform when he started working for the Army, he said, he learned a lot of valuable lessons as a soldier -- lessons he thinks every young person needs to learn.

“I think it builds character,” he said. “It gives people an appreciation for what we stand for in our country, and I think everybody, every male at least, should have some military duty.”

(“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.)

Why Is Veterans Day Always Celebrated on November 11?

Veterans Day is an American federal holiday honoring military veterans. It is also celebrated in many countries around the world every November 11, where it is known as Armistice or Remembrance Day. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

November 11 was declared "Armistice Day" in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson to honor the soldiers of World War I, and was changed to "Veterans Day" in 1954. Today Veterans Day is intended to thank veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Veterans Day is always observed officially on November 11, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls. The Veterans Day National Ceremony, like most ceremonies around the nation, is held on Veterans Day itself. However, when Veterans Day falls on a weekday, many communities choose to hold Veterans Day parades or other celebrations on the weekend before or after November 11 so that more people can participate.

The Veterans Pride Initiative encourages America's veterans to wear their medals or miniature replicas on civilian attire on patriotic national holidays.

The Library of Congress (LOC) maintains the Veterans History Project (VHP). The VHP collects and preserves the remembrances of American war veterans and civilian workers who supported them. These stories are made available to researchers and the general public.

Veterans’ Reflections: Volunteers Who Join the Fight

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2010 – Like many young people in the 1940s, Jessie Clark didn’t think of the military so much as an option after college, but rather as an obligation.

When she enlisted after graduating from Lasell College in Newton, Mass., there was no questioning her motive or reasoning.

“Well, everybody was going to war,” Clark said. “At that time that’s what you did, I thought, so when I graduated from college, I joined the Navy.”

Clark was stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Corvallis, Ore., near a naval auxiliary air station. As a hospital corpsman, the young petty officer cared for troops who were ready, or almost ready, to be released from care.

“They had to go through a period of observation and rehabilitation before they could be sent home,” she explained.

During her service, she learned a lot about nursing and medicine, a skill set that would help her later on in life when her late husband, himself a pilot and veteran of World War II, became sick in his later years.

“I learned a lot about medicine and about taking care of patients,” she said. “It was very helpful for me, because my husband became ill, and it didn’t bother me to care for him. I took care of him for 20 years.”

Clark said her husband was the more admirable of the two of them – though the patients who stayed in Corvallis may disagree. He flew some 30 missions over Germany, and survived being shot down once while he was based in Italy.

“To me, he was more of a hero than I was,” she said.

During a recent visit here, Clark visited the World War II Memorial for the first time. Though the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, resident had visited the National Mall previously, she had yet to see the memorial dedicated to her service and the service of her peers.

“It’s this massive thing!” she exclaimed. “It brings back memories. You can see people. The Atlantic, I think of my husband. The Pacific, I think of my brother. You see the states, and you think of people you knew from those states.”

Clark said it’s important for people to keep in mind that today’s conflicts aren’t fought by everyone; they’re fought by a group of volunteers who signed up to join the fight. Servicemembers, she said, should be proud of that.

“Servicemembers should feel honored to be able to serve the country,” she said. “And people should honor those who do serve. They volunteer, it’s what they want to do, and they should be allowed to. They should be honored, every day.”

(“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.)

Navy Commissions New Guided Missile Destroyer Jason Dunham

The Navy will commission the newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer, Jason Dunham, during a ceremony Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010, at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  The new destroyer honors Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos will deliver the ceremony's principal address.  Debra Dunham will serve as sponsor of the ship named for her late son.  The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when she gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

Dunham was born in Scio, N.Y., Nov. 10, 1981, sharing the same birthday as the U.S. Marine Corps.  On April 14, 2004, Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah, Iraq, when his battalion commander’s convoy was ambushed.  When Dunham’s squad approached to provide fire support, an Iraqi insurgent leapt out of a vehicle and attacked Dunham.  As Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground, he noticed that the enemy fighter had a grenade in his hand and immediately alerted his fellow Marines.  When the enemy dropped the live grenade, Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, covered the grenade, and threw himself on top to smother the blast.  In an ultimate selfless act of courage, in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of two fellow Marines.

Designated DDG 109, Jason Dunham, the 59th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection.  Jason Dunham will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and will contain a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime warfare in keeping with “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

Cmdr. M. Scott Sciretta, born in South Amboy, N.J., will become the first commanding officer of the ship and will lead the crew of 276 officers and enlisted personnel.  The 9,200-ton Jason Dunham was built by Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics company.  The ship is 509 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 59 feet, and a navigational draft of 31 feet.  Four gas turbine engines will power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.

The commissioning ceremony will be webcast live at the following location: