The Indiana Rangers in Vietnam

The Indiana Rangers in Vietnam

When most people think of Vietnam they hardly every think of the National Guard. Military advisors to the South Vietnamese Army had been operating for several years in Vietnam when President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. By then 16,000 advisors were throughout the country.

In early August 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Johnson the authority, “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force,” to defend South Vietnam (Doubler 2001).

In 1965 the U.S. committed 20,000 Army and Marine combat troops to South Vietnam. The President felt that calling out the National Guard and Reserves might send out the wrong message and prompt the Chinese and the Soviets to enter the war. The decision was made not to disrupt American society with a major mobilization like had been done in World War II.

The decision was made to conduct the majority of the war with expanded active duty forces and draftees. Throughout 1966 and 1967 repeated Department of Defense pressed for a call up of reserve forces. The White House remained fixed on the policy of “a limited war” in Vietnam (Doubler 2001). Finally by early 1968 a limited call up was passed.

The war in Vietnam continued to escalate and so did resistance to the war at home. Several states began using the guard to control demonstrations, especially on college campuses. The future for Company D took an ominous turn with the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo and North Vietnam’s “Tet” incursion into many cities and villages of South Vietnam (Snook 2001).

The Call Up of the Indiana Rangers

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On May 13, 1968, 12,234 Army National Guardsmen in 20 units from 17 states were mobilized for service during the Vietnam War. Eight units deployed to Vietnam and over 7,000 Army Guardsmen served in the war zone.

The only Army National Guard (ARNG) ground maneuver sent to Vietnam was Company D (Ranger), 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard. It was a special unit with almost every member both parachute and jungle qualified (Doubler 2001).

The Rangers arrived in Vietnam in December 1968. As part of the II Field Force, the Indiana Rangers were assigned reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions. Operating deep in enemy territory from a base they called “Camp Atterbury East,” Ranger patrols engaged enemy units while conducting raids, ambushes and surveillance missions.

In just its first six months in Vietnam, D/151 fielded 573 patrols. The Indiana Rangers reported 134 separate enemy observations and participated in 94 combat engagements with 76 NVA/VC killed by direct fire. Many other enemy patrols were engaged and killed by helicopters, Air Force tactical aircraft and artillery, all from information gathered by the Indiana Rangers.

Several patrols reported a massing of enemy troops during Tet of 1969. Most patrols were made up of five or six man teams but many 12 man teams were conducted when previous information suggested that contact was likely.

Four members of Company D made the supreme sacrifice on Ranger missions, with two additional deaths resulting from a helicopter crash. The Indiana Rangers were decorated 538 times in Vietnam. 19 Silver Stars, 1 Soldiers Medal, 123 Bronze Stars (88 with “V” device for valor), 101 Purple Hearts, 111 Air Medals and 183 Army Commendation Medals (29 with “V” device for valor) were awarded for valor and achievement. No other single Army Infantry company was as decorated during a one-year period of time as the Indiana Rangers.

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“Delta Company” achieved an impressive combat record during its tour in Vietnam. The gallant record of Company D, 151st Infantry symbolized the Army National Guard’s performance in Vietnam.

The Impact of Vietnam on the National Guard

On December 12, 1969 the last mobilized Guardsmen returned home. All together more than 9,000 Guardsmen served in Vietnam, either in units or as individual volunteers and replacements. The smooth transition of mobilized ARNG to overseas service in Vietnam vindicated the role of the ARNG in a time of national emergency as a both a strategic and operational reserve.

The ARNG’s Vietnam veterans would perform another heroic service. From their experience developed a group of seasoned officers and non-commissioned officers who, as leaders, would serve at the State and national level over the next two decades (Doubler 2001). When America found itself at war again the ARNG was ready to be called on, again, due to their continued service they had made the Guard a ready service.

INRGR

 

Bibliography:

Doubler, Michael D. I Am The Guard: A History of the National Guard, 1636-2000. Washington D.C. : U.S. Government Printing Office , 2001.

Snook, David L. History of the Iowa National Guard. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2001.

State University of New York, Albany. HIstory of the Army National Guard . Albany, New York : State University of New York Press, Albany , 2006.

 

 

Winston Churchill and the Nanny Who Saved Western Civilization

I always loved this story about Winston Churchill, one of my heroes.  It shows you the influence one person can have on another.   A great quote by the famous baseball player Jackie Robinson reads, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”  I think that quote is applicable here.

Winston Churchill

Winston

The man some called the “Greatest Man of the Age,” lay dying in 1965 at the age of ninety, there was only one picture that stood at his bedside. It was the picture of his beloved nanny, gone to be with her Lord seventy years before. She had understood him, she had prayed him to his best, and she had fueled the faith that fed the destiny of nations (Manchester 2012).  The nanny’s name was Elizabeth Anne Everest and the boy she had loved was named Winston Churchill.

Mrs. Everest was one of thousands of nannies who spent her days caring for the children of the aristocrats in Victorian England.  In February 1875 when she became the nanny of a rosy checked baby boy named Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.  There was little hint of the greatness that he would one day command.  Churchill (as Prime Minister) would lead his tiny island nation to stand alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany in World War II (Manchester 2012).

Winston & Mrs. Everest

Few pedigrees read as impressively as Winston’s: descendant of John Churchill, “the Duke of Marlborough,” according to some historians the greatest military leader Britain has ever produced.  Son of Randolph Churchill, a man of such political ability he was made England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons simultaneously at the unheard of age of only 37. His mother was Jeanette Jerome Churchill, a beautiful American heiress whose favor was sought throughout Victorian high society.

Despite his impressive oratory ability and personal charisma Winston’s father was your standard issue upper-class curmudgeon.  His ambition and pride drove him to make disastrous decisions leading to the destruction of his career with alcohol and drugs and ultimately his death by syphilis in 1892 at the age of 48.

His mother was a young woman of great beauty but questionable morals. She was a notorious adulteress whose renowned promiscuity saw her married three times and forever scandal-ridden. The marriage of Winston’s parents was a hushed and hurried affair as Jeanette had gotten pregnant prior to it, presumably by Lord Randolph but no one could be quite sure.  Of his mother, Winston later wrote, “I loved her, but at a distance,” (Churchill 1930).

Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill ignored their two son’s – Winston the first, John the second (believed sired by someone other than Sir Randolph) – devoting their time to far more important matters of high society and career advancement. What time they did spend with young Winston was hurried and fraught with contempt at their “little monster.” His father thought Winston was retarded, rarely talked to him, and regularly vented his mounting rage on the child.

They sent off their child, a sickly redhead with a tendency to throw temper tantrums, to the new nanny’s care as they lived the 19th Century equivalent of ‘la vita loca’. As the years passed, Winston’s father became publicly prominent and a well known politician. His mother spent her time throwing parties and seducing other men. She hired a wetnurse, who fed the child and when he was a month old, she hired Elizabeth Everest to care for him.

Woom

It was in Elizabeth Everest – whom he called “Woom”, it was the closest thing he could to say to ‘woman’- became not only his nanny, but his dearest companion. He would share with her an understanding of his widening world as he grew older.

She was the stereotypical British nanny; plump, simple, cheery, ever optimistic, and always compassionate. The boy grew to love her completely. Of their special relationship, Violet Asquith later wrote, in Winston’s “solitary childhood and unhappy school days, Mrs. Everest was his comforter, his strength and stay, his one source of unfailing human understanding. She was the fireside at which he dried his tears and warmed his heart. She was the night light by his bed. She was security,” (Asquith Bonham-Carter 1966 ).

Mrs. Everest

 

“Woom” changed his diapers, offered him her arms for comfort, and wiped his tears. She gave him all the love and parenting that his own parents should have given, but did not. She was his love, his caretaker, and shaped him in the ways of life in ways that his foolish, frivolous mother and cruelly insane father could not hope to do so.  Her encouragement would deeply shape the man he would become.

When the boy was seven, he was exiled to a series of boarding schools where he was abused and beaten; when he came home for holidays, he often found his parents gone –without warning – and spent his holidays alone with his nanny and the other servants of the house.

Mrs. Everest provided a steady regimen of love, understanding, faith, firm principles, gentle guidance, and Christian instruction. When the tests of life had prepared him and his day of destiny arrived, Winston Churchill was ready to lead the world with a trumpet call of the solid faith he had learned from his godly nanny.

In an age of mounting skepticism at the dawn of World War II, Churchill proclaimed the cause of “Christian civilization.” It was threatened, he believed, by “that barbarous paganism called Nazism.” This was critical he felt, for “once the downward steps are taken, once one’s moral intellectual feet slipped upon the slope of plausible indulgence, there would be found no halting-place short of a general Paganism and Hedonism,” (Manchester 2012).

Churchill defined the challenges of western civilization in the stark terms that moved his countrymen to greatness to stand against the Nazis until America joined the war. It was from his kind nanny that he learned all evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing.  Behind the arsenal of his words, behind the scope of his vision, was the simple teaching of a devoted nanny who served her God by investing in the destiny of a troubled little boy through love and patience.

Winston had a lifetime of achievements. He displayed physical courage as a Cavalry Officer on the battlefield serving in India, Afghanistan, Africa and France during World War I.  He wrote vivid articles for British newspapers that were well received and advanced both his literary and political career. His oratory and bulldog determined leadership was instrumental in his country’s defeat of Nazi Germany.  He was knighted and awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his six volume history of World War II.  Time magazine named him “Man of the Year” in 1940 and in 1949.  He attributed many of his greatest accomplishments to his devoted nanny’s support and understanding.

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When Winston learned that Mrs. Everest was gravely ill he rushed to her bedside. He was the only member of his family to attend to her, and upon her death provided the tombstone for her grave. “She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole twenty years I had lived.”  “I shall never know such a friend again,” (Churchill 1930).

Bibliography:

Asquith Bonham-Carter, Violet. Winston Churchill As I Knew Him. London , 1966 .

Churchill, Winston. My Early Life: A Roving Commission . London : Thronton Butterworth, 1930.

Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.

 

The Leadership of General Joshua Chamberlain

General Joshua Chamberlain at the Battle of Gettysburg

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Chamberlain as a General

This past July marked the 151st anniversary of the action at Gettysburg which gave him the Medal of Honor.

Chamberlain the Man

Chamberlain did not come from a military background. He was a Professor of Modern Languages at Bowdoin College. He was not the only college professor in the Union Army but he was the only one fluent in nine languages other than English (Eishen 2004).

In August 1862, Chamberlain, a 32 year old college professor, joined the Union Army. He was offered the command of the 20th Maine Regiment but he declined it feeling his lack of military experience did not make him fit for command (Hastings 2006).

Both rival armies had citizen volunteers in its ranks. Later the Union Army would have conscripts. Most of the higher commands of both armies had professional Soldiers who were graduates of West Point or the Virginia Military Institute. More than two thousand alumni of those institutions provided the leadership on both sides of the war.

A small portion of those leaders were talented commanders and none more than the professor from Maine who at the end of the war would be a brevet major general (Hastings 2006). Most of his promotions would come as a result of heroism on the battlefield.

The 20th Maine was assigned to the Army of the Potomac and would fight in some of the biggest battles of the Civil War to include Antietam, Fredericksburg and throughout the Wilderness Campaign. It would be in the Battle of Gettysburg the boys from Maine under Chamberlain’s command would become heroes (Eishen 2004).

July, 1863- Gettysburg

July 2, 1863 found Chamberlain and the 20th Maine were to the extreme left of the Union line of the on an important hilltop overlooking the battlefield of Gettysburg. Their position on the hill was key. If the 20th was pushed off the hill the Union line could have been flanked and the Union would have most likely lost the battle.

By this point in the war Chamberlain had been a Soldier barely nine months but his grasp of the tactical situation was significant. He saw his flank was exposed and under fire he ordered his men to curl among the boulders along the south-east face of the hill.  Realizing he was outnumbered and outgunned and how important holding the hilltop was he doubled the 20th Maine’s front ranks.

The volunteers from Maine came under heavy attack from the Confederate 15th Alabama Regiment. Throughout the battle Chamberlain walked among his men, supervising the gathering of the dead and wounded, closing ranks and offering the reassurance of the his calm presence (Eishen 2004). He was he hit twice by shell fragments but never let his men know how much pain he was in.

After an hour and half of continuous fighting the 20th was running low on ammunition.  Realizing things were getting desperate Chamberlain gave the order to fix bayonets.  He led the charge downhill which surprised and scattered the Confederates and ended their attack on the hill.

Josh on Round Top

Chamberlain’s decisive actions on that historic day have been credited with helping to turn the tide of the war (Eishen 2004). For his bravery and decisive action he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

In the movie “Gettysburg” Chamberlain is portrayed by the actor Jeff Daniels.

Jeff as Josh

June, 1864- Petersburg

Chamberlain was badly injured on June 18, 1864, nearly a year after Gettysburg, in the battle of Petersburg. A bullet passed through his right hip and groin and exited his left hip.  Despite being badly wounded he withdrew his sword and stuck in the ground in order to balance himself and continued to give orders until he passed out from loss of blood. Chamberlain was taken off the battlefield, his wound was pronounced fatal.

General Ulysses S. Grant gave Chamberlain a battlefield promotion to the rank of brigadier general after hearing the brave Soldier was at death’s door. Chamberlain not only recovered but five months later he was back in command. In early 1865 he took command of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the 5th Corps. The wound would bother him for the rest of his life.

April, 1865- Confederate Surrender at Appomattox

Chamberlain’s actions on Little Round Top could have been the crowning achievement of any professional Soldier’s career. His defense of that hilltop is remembered for in the film, “Gettysburg” and literature, in Michael Shaarha’s Book “The Killer Angels.” All of this was a promise of things to come. In the last twelve days of the war his leadership was even more notable.

In the last few battles of the Wilderness Campaign he performed brilliantly. In the battle of Quaker Road Chamberlain was wounded again. He kept a bible and framed picture of his wife in his left chest pocket. A Confederate bullet went through his horse’s neck, hit the picture frame, passed off a rib and exited his back. During the assault he continued to press the Union assault. Recovering from his wound, in the battle of White Oak Road, Chamberlain led attacks that drove a wedge into the Confederate line at Petersburg (Hastings 2006).

For his brave performance Grant selected Chamberlain out of dozens of other generals who outranked him for the honor of commanding the infantry division of the Union Army to receive the Army of Northern Virginia’s formal surrender on April 12, 1865. As the Confederate Army passed before him, “…down-hearted and dejected in appearance,” (Chamberlain 1992).

Chamberlain gave a brief order, a bugle call rang out and the Union Soldiers shifted their rifles from “order arms” to “carry arms”- the salute of honor. Startled the Confederate Commander, John B. Gordon, looked up suddenly and turned smartly to Chamberlain and his men and gave the order to “carry arms” to his men in return of the salute.

It was a token of mutual respect and although it was a controversial act won Chamberlain the acclaim of the American people after a long and bloody war. His generosity during the Union’s hour of triumph in how he treated the defeated Confederates during the Union’s hour of triumph, earned him as much praise for his compassion as his heroic deeds on the battlefield (Hastings 2006).

Chamberlain was received a brevet promotion to major-general in recognition for his outstanding service and assumed command of the 1st Division. On May 23, 1865 Chamberlain would receive a final tribute when he headed the 5th Corps in the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington D.C. It was one of the most emotional moments of his life.

In all, Chamberlain served in 20 battles and numerous skirmishes, was cited for bravery four times, had six horses shot from under him, and was wounded six times.

The conflict ended before Chamberlain was tested in higher commands, but he had already shown himself one of the Union’s finest officers, a model of courage, intelligence and inspirational leadership. When to these qualities were added charity, humanity and generosity of spirit, a knight emerges who might be deemed worthy of a place at an Arthurian Round Table (Hastings 2006).  “General, you have the soul of the lion and the heart of a woman,” said General Sickel to General Chamberlain in 1865 (Eishen 2004).

After the Civil War

After the war Chamberlain would be elected to four-one year terms as the Governor of Maine and serve as the President of Bowdoin College. Chamberlain emerged from the War as a human and intelligent man who always displayed a romantic enthusiasm for the nobility of the conflict despite having seen some of the worst fighting of the war.

He was active in veterans groups and regularly returned to Gettysburg to give speeches at Soldiers’ reunions. In 1898 at the age of 70 he volunteered for duty in the Spanish-American War and later said not being called to serve was one of the major disappoints of his life.

In 1914 he died at 85, from complications of the wounds of he had received at Petersburg in 1864. He was the last Civil War veteran to die as a result of wounds received from the war.

Josh Old

Bibliography

Chamberlain, Joshua L. The Passing of the Armies: An Account of the Final Campaign of the Army of the Potomac, Based upon Personal Reminiscences of the Fifth Army Corps. New York: Bantam, 1992.

Eishen, Thomas. Courage on Little Round Top. Skyward Publishing, 2004.

Hastings, Max. Warriors: Portraits from the Battle Field . New York : Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group., 2006.

 

 

 

General Teddy Roosevelt Jr. on D-Day

General Teddy Roosevelt Jr. on D-Day

Ted_Cane_FranceOn June 6, 1944, the invasion of Normandy to bring Allied troops into France. This day, also known as D-Day, marked the beginning of the Allied counterattack in Europe.

This was an epic undertaking for Allied Forces involving hundreds of thousands of men and women. One British and two U.S. airborne divisions (the 82nd and 101st) dropped behind the beaches the night before the invasion.

The assault went well on British beaches, where one Canadian and two British divisions landed, and also at UTAH, westernmost of the U.S. beaches, where the 4th Division came ashore (Matloff 1968 ). The story was different at OMAHA Beach. Eventually the courage of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions were able to make their way slowly inland. At the end of the first day some 50,000 U.S. troops made their way ashore.

Casualties were lighter than expected: 6,500 American and 4,000 for British and Canadian. Some heroic stories came from that bravery. Nineteen boys from Bedford, Virginia- a town with the population of just 3,000 in 1944- died in the first few minutes of D-Day (Matloff 1968 ). They were part of Company A of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division. They were in the first wave of American soldiers to hit the beaches. Later in the campaign, three more boys from this small Virginia town died of gunshot wounds. Twenty-two sons of Bedford were lost in less than a week.

When asked what the bravest act he had ever seen was, General Omar Bradley responded with, “Ted Roosevelt on UTAH Beach.”  Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the oldest son of President Teddy Roosevelt.  Bradley said, “He braved death with indifference that destroyed it terror for thousands of thousands of younger men.  I have never known a braver man nor a more devoted soldier,” (Bradley 1951).

Roosevelt before WW II

Roosevelt first served his country in World War I. He was recognized as the best battalion commander in his division. He was gassed and wounded at Soissons in the summer of 1918. For his actions he received the Distinguished Service Cross (our nation’s second award for valor). He finished the war as a thirty one year old Regimental Commander.

After the war Roosevelt returned to civilian life but stayed in the Army Reserves. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of Puerto Rico (1929–32), Governor-General of the Philippines (1932–33).  He served as a founder of the soldiers’ organization that developed into the American Legion.

With World War II looming, late in 1941, Roosevelt was mobilized for Active Duty and promoted to brigadier general. He was given command of the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division when war was declared.  The same unit he fought with in World War I.

Roosevelt was popular with Soldiers. Despite being in his fifties, suffering from arthritis, and heart issues, Roosevelt went on marches with his men. Despite his rank, Roosevelt wore a full field pack and marched alongside his men joking with them all the way. Perhaps no other senior officer in the war realized how heavy a burden the enlisted man shouldered.

After service in Africa and Sicily in February 1944 Roosevelt was assigned to England to help lead the Normandy invasion. He went to the staff of the 4th Infantry Division. It would be here he would make his greatest contribution to the war.

Teddy 1

D-Day

General Roosevelt was the only general to land on D-Day in the first wave. He rode aboard on one of twenty Higgins boats in the first wave. His boat was the first to land.  At fifty-six years old, Roosevelt was the oldest soldier in the invasion. Roosevelt’s son Quentin landed at Omaha beach on the same day. The only father-son team in American Army uniforms to set foot on the soil of France on D-Day.

Roosevelt splashed ashore using his cane and sporting an old stocking cap instead of a helmet. He realized that the landmarks were in the wrong location. The first wave had landed a mile south of their intended destination. He made the decision to eliminate the shore defenses and march inland. He knew it was critical that his men get off the beach as soon as possible to link up with the airborne units that had landed the night before.

Briefing a group of officers Roosevelt said, “We’ll start the war from right here,” a phrase that was later made famous in the movie D-Day: The Longest Day.

He made a reconnaissance of the area to the rear of the beach to locate the causeways that were going to be used for the advance inland. He returned to the point of landing and contacted the commanders of two battalions, and coordinated the attack on the enemy positions opposing them.

His plan worked. With artillery landing close by, each follow-on regiment was welcomed on the beach by a calm and collected Roosevelt. Using humor and reciting poetry and telling anecdotes of his father he steadied the nerves of the men under fire. Roosevelt pointed each regiment to its changed objective. He worked as a traffic cop guiding trucks and tanks all struggling to get inland and off the beach.

Throughout World War II, Roosevelt suffered from health problems. He had arthritis, mostly from old World War I injuries, and needed a cane. He also had heart trouble.

On July 12, 1944, one month after the landing at Utah Beach, he died suddenly of a heart attack in his sleep in his tent near Normandy. On the day of his death he had been selected by General Omar Bradley for promotion to major general and orders had been cut placing him in command of the 90th Infantry Division.

Roosevelt was buried at the American cemetery in Normandy. He now lays next to his younger brother, Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt (his son’s namesake) a pilot, who had been killed in France during World War I. Quentin was exhumed in 1955 from Fère-en-Tardenois, France and moved to the Normandy cemetery to be re-interred next to his brother Ted.

Teddy 3

Originally Roosevelt was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on D-Day. The award was upgraded at higher headquarters to the Medal of Honor which Roosevelt was posthumously awarded on 28 September 1944.

President Teddy Roosevelt and General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. are one of two sets of fathers and sons to have received the Medal of Honor. President Roosevelt was given the Medal of Honor in 2001 for his charge up San Juan Hill in 1898. The other set is Arthur and Douglas MacArthur.

Roosevelt’s actions on D-Day are portrayed in The Longest Day, a 1962 film in which he was played by actor Henry Fonda. The movie is based on the book of the same name, published in 1959 by Cornelius Ryan.

Teddy 2

Bibliography:

Bradley, Omar N. Omar N. Bradley. A Soldier’s Story . New York : Henry Holt and Company , 1951.

Kershaw, Alex. The Bedford Boys: One American Town’s Ultimate D-day Sacrifice. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003.

Matloff, Maurice- General Editor. Americanm Military History 1607- 1967. Washington D.C. : Office of the Chief of Military History , 1968 .

Ryan, Cornelius. The Longest Day. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959.

Marching the Bataan Memorial Death March for a Fallen Hero

Guys,

I finally made it to New Mexico to do the Bataan Memorial Death March. This year is a little different.

I often think my greatest gift is making and keeping extraordinary people as my friends as evidenced by this e-mail. I have lived an amazing and blessed life. I am trying to pay back some of the kindness I have received in my life by doing something for a fallen hero.

Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Neil Roberts

In support of Operation Anaconda, the opening salvo in America’s new war on terror, deep in the mountains of Afghanistan PO1 Neil Roberts was a member of a special operations element that was to be inserted on a reconnaissance and scouting mission (Couch, 2004).

As the big CH-47 Chinook helicopter flared for landing, it came under heavy machine gun and rocket fire. 3 RPG Rockets ripped through the helicopter without exploding. There was confusion in the troop compartment as the deck become slick with fluid from ruptured hydraulic lines.

An air crewman slipped from the exit ramp and dangled from a nylon tether. Neil immediately went to his aid and hauled him back into the aircraft as the pilot struggled to gain control of the dying aircraft.

Neil fell from the helicopter just as the pilot regained control and veered away from the enemy fire. The pilot crashed landed his helicopter a few miles away from the insertion site. All aboard were safe-all except Neil.

He activated his tracking beacon to let his teammates know he was alive, and crawled away from the insertion site. There were more than 60 well-armed al-Qaeda fighters around him.

He should have gone to ground and waited for help. The machine gun emplacement that had so badly shoot up the Chinook was still active. Neil knew his teammates would come back for him. He knew they would face another around of deadly fire. Neil was a SEAL to his core and did what he was trained to do, what he was born to do- he attacked!

He maneuvered 200 yards to a position above and behind the al-Qaeda gunners. With his grenades, he destroyed the machine gun and killed the gun crew. Then the remaining al-Qaeda fighters came for him.

Outnumbered, outgunned and wounded several times, he fought until he exhausted all his ammunition. Finally after almost two hours of bloody fighting he was cut down and al-Qaeda dragged his body away. But SEALs never abandon their own.

Less than an hour later Navy SEALs, assisted by British and American special operations personnel were on the ground to help Neil. After 8 hours of fierce, close-quarter combat, Neil’s body was recovered by his teammates. More than 300 al-Qaeda died at the hands of the American and British special operators. 6 other Americans died in the battle; 2 Navy SEALs were seriously wounded. A stiff price, but thanks to the sacrifice of his brothers, Neil would be able to go home to his family (Couch, 2004).

Neil was one of 12 children, including a twin brother. He left behind a widow and an 18 month old son. Before Neil deployed to Afghanistan, he left a letter with his wife and instructions that it be opened only if he were killed. Patty Roberts made the letter public, wanting everyone to know of her husband’s devotion to his nation and brother warriors. In part the letter read:

“I consider myself blessed with the best things a man could ever hope for. My childhood is something I’ll always treasure. My family is the reason I’m the person I am today. They supported and cared for me in the best way possible.

The Navy, although I sacrificed personal freedom and many other things, I got just as much as I gave. My time in the Teams was special. For all the times I was cold, wet, tired, sore, scared, hungry and angry, I had a blast. The bad was balanced equally with the good.

All the times spent in the company of my teammates was when I felt the closest to the men I had the privilege to work with. I loved being a SEAL. If I died doing something for the Teams, then I died doing what made me happy. Very few people have the luxury of that.”

The dramatic circumstances of Neil’s death – the lone man, hopelessly outgunned, going down fighting – makes him a legend among the Special Operations Community. The Davy-Crockett-in-the-Alamo aspect captured hearts and imaginations outside the military as well. The Battle of

Roberts Ridge, as Roberts’ last stand and the subsequent rescue attempt came to be known, would go on to be the subject of two books, a Time magazine cover story and a two-hour NBC news special. Neil’s Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW, hangs on the wall at the headquarters of Navy SEAL Team Six as a reminder of his courage (Owen, 2012).

Doing Bataan for Neil’s Family

I am sponsoring the son and wife of Neil Roberts by doing the Bataan Memorial Death March. Any money I raise will be used to send his family to summer camp. The mission is being undertaken by my buddy Kent Solheim, a highly decorated Special Forces Officer who lost his leg in the battle of Karbala, Iraq.

His mission in that Gold Star Families (folks that have lost Service Members in the line-of-duty) Teen Adventures provides unique summer adventure opportunities for Gold Star Youth. The purpose of the programs is to provide healing, mentorship, development, and opportunity to the children of special operations Service Members who lost their lives in the line of duty.

This is a strictly a “mom and pop” operation with his amazing wife Trina building and designing the website and Kent spending his nights on the phone arranging support for this heroic endeavor. Here is the link: http://www.gstadventures.org/.

The Camp is one of the four camps offered by Gold Star Teen Adventures, a non-profit organization that excels to serve the surviving children of special operations service members killed in the line of duty by providing healing, mentorship, and character development opportunities for these families.

Adventure SCUBA advanced Alumni Bonaire 2014 offers Gold Star families the opportunity to earn their advanced open water certification in the scuba diving Mecca of Bonaire in the Caribbean. The cost of this camp is $3000 per family member.

I will match any donation dollar for dollar. Anything given from just a $1 to something more would be appreciated. I thought this was an awesome opportunity to give something back to a family that had given so much. Neil’s son is now almost 14 years old and Kent said he looks a lot like his dad. Here is the link:

http://www.razoo.com/story/Bataan-Memorial-Death-March-Gsta-Operation-60-Fundraiser

I will keep you guys updated on how my training is going. This will be the 6th time I am doing the Bataan Death March and I think it will be my best year yet. Know you are all missed and thought of often.

Dom

Bibliography:

 

Couch, D. (2004). The Finishing School: Earning the Navy SEAL Trident. New York City: Crown Publishing Group.

Owen, M. (2012). No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission

That Killed Osama Bin Laden. New York: Bantam Publishing.

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