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12 minutes | Dec 28, 2018
Ep 17: To Protect and To Serve, Spc Joseph Kennedy
Thoughts of time on the Mississippi River might bring quotes of Mark Twain to mind or perhaps the sound of boat’s horn. Joseph Kennedy followed in his father Jim’s footsteps working on the river as a deckhand and terminal operator. No doubt, that on those long patrols in Afghanistan that Joe thought of his five years on the river. Those sounds. The smells. The constant motion of water and machine. Servicemen and women fill the void of thoughtless time by thinking of home. Thinking of that safe place. It delivers some solace and peace even in war. Joe penned a letter and poem to his father about six months after joining the army. Both the letter and poem strike a unique tone of humility and "others above self." He writes about his father as an inspiration and his greater teacher. In the poem he titled “My Hero,” Joe deliberately deemphasized the “I” putting it in lower case while emphasizing the beginnings of other words with the upper case. It’s telling in the message he wanted to send. My Father is My Hero He has Taught me Everything i Know about Being A Man How to Control My Anger and How to Control My Love i Have Failed to Listen to Him From Time to Time and Made Mistakes i Can’t Help but Feel i Have Failed Him He Does His Very Best in Everything He Is and surely Everything He Will Be My Word is True when i Say i Love Him with Every Fiber of My Being He is Everything i Wish i Could be A True, Faithful Lover and Inspiring Father He is My Father and He is My Hero Before Joe’s death, his father had been working on a barge that he’d christen “Shmolie” after Joe’s nickname. Shmolie was an extension of Joe Shmo. One can imagine the unique bond they forged on the river. Listen to the rest of the story on the podcast
14 minutes | Dec 20, 2018
Ep 16: Big Brother, Major Samuel Griffith
There’s a reason Mother’s Day overloads the post office or someone might say “I bet you’re a proud dad.” The paternal and maternal instinct creates a powerful bond and children recognize that as they mature. The honor and responsibility of big brother can carry an equal weight as it did for Sam Griffith. The marine flew fighter jets and later controlled their firepower from the ground. He served fearlessly, loved his family well, and died in the service of his nation. His death left a void in the life of many as his family now carries the adjective “gold star.” We often speak of a gold star mother or gold star wife, but for Renee Nickell, she became a gold star sister. Her 2018 book, Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following My Brother's Death in Afghanistan, offers a powerful testimony of one gold star sibling as she navigates the difficult stages of grief while her husband and children shared in her difficult days. She not only lost a big brother, she lost the man that had been a father figure to her. In fact, Sam Griffith had been a big brother and father figure to many. “I’m going to be a fighter pilot.” Kindergartner Sam Griffith said that with the conviction of someone that knew their destiny. Earlier generations of boys might announce they want to be an astronaut, the President, or major league pitcher are always popular choices. After the film Top Gun released, aspirations to fly jets exploded across classrooms and playgrounds across the country. Cool shades and “the need for speed” made for popular discussion, but Sam made his declaration in 1970’s Pennsylvania. His passion for motorized things that go fast also developed through tinkering on cars with his father. Sam especially loved the Ford Mustang and gained so much proficiency that he’d eventually have his own parts website that he dedicated to his father and wrote articles for Mustang Monthly. His proudly restored, and owned, a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback, one of America’s most iconic American muscle cars. The family dynamics and relocations caused Sam and Renee to depend on one another and they developed a deep bond. After a mischievous incident that sent Renee to the ER, Sam wrote her a letter of apology. She recovered quickly but his letter expressed a deep remorse, appropriate humor, and promise that it wouldn’t happen again. He added: “Just remember if anyone ever picks on you (except me, of course), tell them if they don’t stop, your big brother will take them for a ride they’ll never forget!” Through his teen years, his passion to become an aviator never wavered. He applied for, and won, a Naval ROTC scholarship to Penn State. There are several paths to become a military officer. Some attend Officer Candidate School after their civilian college experience or they graduate from one of the nation’s military academy. ROTC graduates typically attend a short school to acclimate to their military branch and then train for their field. The United States Marine Corps offered Griffith the chance to earn his wings. After basic infantry school, a requirement for every marine, he began the two-year process of learning to fly. No one simply jumps into a cockpit. Hours upon hours are spent in the classroom learning aerodynamics, navigation, and aviation mechanics. The Marines sent him for preliminary training at Naval Air Station Pensacola. There’s nothing easy in these schools where even the brightest and physically fit struggle to learn everything from the Bernoulli Equation of the airfoil to survival if shot down. Then follows hours and hours in various training aircraft. Only the best and brightest are chosen to fly fighters, and Griffith made the cut. The Marines fly the F/A-18, a smaller platform than the famed F-14 Tomcat or larger attack aircraft. This plane combines fighter capabilities, the ability to deliver ordnance payloads, and has conversions for in-flight refueling and electronic warfare. While most fighter pilots have ten manuals to learn for air-to-air combat, the F/A-18 pilot must learn an additional ten for air-to-ground operations. Griffith learned them all and earned his wings as he’d first proclaimed he would as a kindergartner. After stints in Meridian, Mississippi and Lemoore, California, he’d eventually settle into life in Beaufort, South Carolina with the Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533. Life as a marine aviator in peacetime is one of constant training. This also meant he had to gain qualifications by successfully landing on the pitching flight deck of an aircraft carrier, moving toward a catapult to be shot off, and land again to earn enough “traps” as they’re called. One of his fellow pilots remembers him as a true professional in the cockpit while also a loving husband, doting father, and tremendous friend. On the day that changed everything for everyone, 9/11, it set Griffith on a path for war. The United States had assets in Afghanistan almost immediately, but his first experience happened in the Iraq War in 2003. He flew in Iraq every day delivering ordnance for both the army and marines in highly tense s
14 minutes | Oct 25, 2018
Ep 15: The Right Guy, William "Chief" Carlson
The United States Army keeps the selection process for Delta Force a highly-guarded secret. Former Delta operator Pat Savidge has said that “It's not always the best guy that makes it. It's the right guy. That’s the key." Most all special operation units have minimum standards for an invite to a selection course. Once there, applicants are tested daily, and many quit as the training tempo increases. Tons of video from the Navy SEALSs BUD/S crucible exists but few are aware of the multi-course process to become an Air Force Combat Controller. Those trainees know the standard. However, Delta Force selection see many pass the course but don’t select them. Some have Adonis-like bodies and a Harvard intellect. Yet, they don’t make it. William “Chief” Carlson checked off all the qualities one would think are necessary in a Delta operator. He passed the course. Yet, Delta didn’t select him the first time. By his second go-round, they deemed him “the right guy.” Carlson grew up in the northern California area to a family steeped in Native American history with an older brother and older sister. As members of the Blackfeet, his father and grandmother taught him the Plains Algonquian language. His mischievous nature never worried his mother since he stayed out of major trouble, but his father, a former marine, made life difficult for him. A tough father and tough neighborhood gave him the grit he’d need later in life. He excelled at art and spent hours drawing but also found time for sports and enjoyed football the most. Although he didn’t have the best grades, he managed to make his way through. Over time he developed a love for reading, in particular, biographies and military history. He considered college and visited the University of California at San Diego in 1979 but surprised his mother that he had joined the army infantry. He became Airborne qualified, earned a Ranger tab, and served with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Carlson left the army after four years but reenlisted in 1985. Before long, he entered the Q-Course for the U.S. Army Special Forces and earn the right to wear the Green Beret. He not only passed but also achieved one of the toughest accomplishments in the army by becoming Combat Diver qualified where many struggle with the physics and physiology in the classroom. Nothing seemed to dissuade the tough Blackfeet soldier. The list of friends he made along the way remains long and distinguished by others that sewed a Ranger tab on their sleeve or wore a Green Beret. They all called him “Chief,” aside from the military discipline that required those under him to call him Staff Sergeant Carlson, for example. Others might have tried to call him “Carlson,” or “William,” or “Bill,” be he always corrected them. “No, just Chief,” he’d say. The proud man never shied away from his heritage. Many might mistake him for another race or another American Native Tribe, but he was Blackfeet, period. Listen to this podcast now for the rest...
11 minutes | Oct 18, 2018
Ep 14: In Harm's Way, Sgt Anthony Maddox
The sight of two uniformed individuals approaching a front door almost always ends the same. They have the unsettling and difficult job of telling loved ones that their son, daughter, husband, or wife has perished. The parents of Anthony Maddox didn’t experience that. Not at first anyway. His father, Jerome Maddox, received the initial call that there’d been an accident and Anthony had suffered burns on 50% of his body. Jerome updated his wife Frances as they waited for more information. Anthony’s mother, Glenda Key, looked at her husband, Ron, as he took a similar call with similar news. She noticed the shock on his face but thought the call was about another family member that had been sick. All four began a series of phone calls searching for answers. Each call seemed to deliver worse news. They planned for travel to meet Anthony wherever he was. The Army had transported him to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany with plans to transfer him to a burn unit in San Antonio. As the phone calls progressed, the news worsened. Anthony never left Germany. When parents or spouses receive news that their loved ones serving in Afghanistan have been injured, they correctly assume it the result of a firefight or IED. However, combat zones carry numerous other perils. Afghanistan, in particular, is filled with danger such as terrorism, kidnapping, drug lords, extreme weather, and civil unrest. Military work, even in non-combat roles, can present risks unlike those in the general workforce. Service-related deaths from training occur all too often. They train for dangerous work and thereby practice with dangerous ordnance, weapons, and machinery. EOD technicians live in constant peril as they seek out and secure explosives. Those flying and riding in helicopters risk their lives every time they go up in the air. Those working on the flight decks of aircraft carriers are in close proximity to spinning propellers, jet blast, and arresting gear cables that might snap. Anthony Maddox carried an M-4 and had seen combat. He wasn’t a stranger to the daily hazards around him. He served with honor and distinction. A casualty of war in a dangerous place. A respected leader taken too early. He was fortunate in early life to live in a neighborhood near Bloomington, Illinois where he and other friends played a lot of pickup basketball and tackle football. They often ended up at one another’s homes and stayed for dinner. He could be very physical and excelled in football from a young age. He took his turn at running back but loved playing linebacker. He had a strong Christian faith, was active in youth programs, and encouraged his little sisters to obey Mom and Dad. Hurricane Katrina displaced his mother and he moved in with her in Port Arthur, Texas, where he continued as a standout football player for Nederland High School. His fellow Bulldogs nicknamed him “Mad Dog” for his fierce playing style. Maddox carried an appropriate level of extremes: hardcore on the playing field but a gentle touch with friends and siblings.
13 minutes | Sep 20, 2018
Ep 13: Born to Serve, Cpl Jacob Leicht
Jacob Leicht always liked that he was born on the Fourth of July. Who else gets a parade on their birthday? Some may not like sharing their special day with another holiday, but he embraced it. On a day when America celebrates its independence and freedoms, it seemed like destiny that Leicht’s life would be dedicated in service to America. That ultimately, he’d give his life for his country on Memorial Day weekend. If that wasn’t enough, that he’d be the 1,000th service member killed in Afghanistan theatre of war according to the Department of Defense. It’s certainly not a number anyone wants to report but rather serves as a marker to the sacrifice our service members, and their families, have made in fighting the War on Terror. If the irony were not already thick enough in his life, Leicht was never supposed to return to combat after suffering a horrific injury in Iraq. Doctors wanted to take his leg and told him he’d never return to combat. He faced dozens of surgeries and months of rehabilitation. However, the man born on Independence Day would not be denied. Where most might give up, he persevered. He fought to get back into the fight. Jacob came into the world at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California to navy parents but was immediately adopted by the Leicht family. The Leichts boast a large family of six with both biological and adopted children. They raised Jacob in church and homeschooled the kids. Everyone called him Jake, except for mom, Shirly, who preferred Jacob. It’s no surprise that his mom found him a strong-willed child based on many actions later in life that revealed his relentless nature. She also found him an artistic child, yet, his greater characteristic was that of protector. The Leichts fostered many children and Jacob became attached to these temporary siblings and often cried when they left. The manner and faith in how his parents loved others made a deep impact on Jacob as can be seen in this letter he wrote early in his Marine Corps service on the occasion of Mother’s Day. “Now that I am older and on my own, I can look back with new eyes and see just how much love, time, and effort you put into making me the man I am today. We may have not always seen eye-to-eye, and even now live different lifestyles, but you gave me that good solid foundation on which I live my life. You showed me God, taught me, and showed by example how a decent, Christian person should live.” 1 That determined young man actually had plans to become a naval officer after earning an ROTC scholarship to the University of Texas. His father had served as a medical officer in the navy. After only a semester, some Marines convinced him that he epitomized the Marine Corps. Jacob agreed and left college for boot camp in 2006. Tall and lean, he graduated to serve as a mortarman in support of infantry.
11 minutes | Sep 13, 2018
Ep 12: Second Chances, HM2 Clayton Beauchamp
”Corpsman!” The Marine fires at the enemy and then places a hand on his fallen comrade. “Corpsman!” he yells one more time. He looks down. “Hold on, buddy.” A similarly dressed man runs up and drops down next to both of them. “I’ve got this,” he says. The Marine who had called out returns to firing. The corpsman begins a blood sweep and then reaches for a bandage. “We’re going to get you out of here,” he tells the wounded man. That fictional scene is seen in nearly every war film. These brave young men fight alongside other soldiers and marines, yet also perform battlefield medicine as bullets zing past them. They’re trained to calm their patient while treating sometimes horrific injuries as explosions ring out and dirt flies. They call them corpsman in the United States Marines and medics in the Army. Clayton Beauchamp epitomized the job. He spent his childhood years in Weatherford, Texas; a child of the 90s. Full of personality, he had an affinity for hard work, humor, and family. His big smile helped him win many friends. His father, Jack Beauchamp, worked for a time as the pit boss for motocross racing. Have gave Clay the job of flagging a downed rider. He quickly became the best at this role and gave him his first taste of being a first responder. At giving the rider a potential second chance to get back into the race. Clay, a patriot, desired to serve his country and had a great-grandfather that served a medic in World War II. His father encouraged him to work as a hospital corpsman in the navy as Clay’s brother Christopher was serving. Following his service, Clay could then work as an EMT. One month after high school graduation, the Navy sent him to Great Lakes, Illinois for boot camp and initial corpsman training. He followed that with emergency medical training at his first duty station in Pensacola, Florida.
11 minutes | Sep 6, 2018
Ep. 11: They Call Me Doc, Spc Jerod Osborne
Dust trailed behind a civilian truck carrying thirteen Afghan citizens in March of 2010. It was likely a normal day for them going about their business. Their normal, however, meant navigating a war-torn landscape where forces from a host of countries battle the Taliban. Herat Province, Afghanistan, was far from normal. Boom! The bus hit an IED, killing five. The other eight lay in or near the vehicle. Nineteen-year-old Jerod Osborne, an army medic, arrived on the scene having barely missed the IED in his vehicle. As his training kicked in, he quickly triaged the wounded and provided battlefield medicine. For the newly arrived Osborne, his first taste of working as a medic involved saving many grateful civilians. For that, the Army awarded him a Bronze Star. His actions impressed his commander, Kyle Bruffy. “It was good to see the kid running in there. He proved himself.”1 Osborne spent his growing years in Royse City, Texas, a small town thirty miles east of Dallas. The downtown buildings make visitors think they’ve stepped back in time. It’s one of the first towns where folks say they live in East Texas as opposed to those closer to Dallas. This podcast tells the story of Army medic Jerod Osborne.
13 minutes | Aug 17, 2018
Ep 10: Wounds Unseen, SSgt Jeffrey Reber
Jeffrey Reber was an American hero. The list of Marines willing to praise his battlefield leadership is long and distinguished. Many of them would suggest they’re alive today because of his split-second decisions during combat. The 1st Marine Division agreed, awarding him the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for demonstrating “sound, aggressive leadership over the course of seven offensive engagements with the enemy.” The citation continues to list specific actions where he orchestrated the enemy’s defeat. Junior enlisted Marines looked up to him and junior officers learned from him. However, the nature of his death prevents his name from appearing on some memorial walls. His wounds were not so clearly seen. After ten years of honorable service, Reber took his own life on August 12th, 2014. Another casualty of experiences where our servicemen and women see and do things most of us couldn’t imagine. Yet, he didn’t imagine them. They were reality seared into his memory. Constant reminders of the ugliness of war, the hurt of losing friends, and the pain from doing his duty.
11 minutes | Aug 3, 2018
Ep 9: The Moose, SSG Curtis Oakes
General David Petraeus pinned a Purple Heart on Wayne Swier’s chest as he lay in a Bagram Airfield hospital bed. He had yet to leave Afghanistan with thoughts on his future after a horrific injury but also on one of the buddies he left behind—Curtis “Moose” Oakes. Both were soldiers in the 101st Airborne. The army sent Swier to Walter Reed Medical Center where he faced over two years of rehabilitation. On his last call with Oakes, they had discussed having a beer soon. Another friend, Aaron Murphy, had been calling Swier regularly, but one day, he called sobbing. He gave him the news that their friend, Curtis Oakes, had been killed. In reality, he had been murdered by a rogue Afghan Border Policeman. The news devastated Swier. He’d lost his best friend. A few days before, at Thanksgiving, Val Oakes had talked to her son. On November 29, 2010, a chaplain and other officers arrived and delivered the crushing news that her “Moose” had been killed. “Curtis has been my hero his whole life. Sixteen months after having Curtis, my uterus ruptured, losing Bradley, Curtis's younger brother. He saw me [later], flashed that incredible smile, and ran right over to me, giving me the best hug ever!”1 Curtis Oakes was a giant of a man, standing 6’9”. He played basketball, satisfying the cliché, but wasn’t known as an athlete. His slow manner of running earned him the nickname “Moose,” which he wore proudly. His infectious smile and desire to make others laugh made him a true gentle giant. A caring giant. Full of life.
13 minutes | Jul 26, 2018
Ep 8: Tip of the Spear, Mike Spann (CIA)
They’re known as the tip of the spear. Trailblazers we ask to go in first. Highly trained. Fearless. When America was attacked on 9/11, we needed those trailblazers on the ground in Afghanistan to find those responsible and stop their reign of terror. Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann was one of those who dared to enter that rugged and strange terrain. The CIA paramilitary officer and former Marine had received extensive training in intelligence gathering, unconventional operations, and combat leadership. When one references “boots on the ground,” Spann was one of the first pairs of boots. As the first combat loss in Afghanistan, his name resonated with many Americans in those early days of the war on terrorism as they wondered what lay before them. How long would America fight in Afghanistan? How much blood and treasure would be required to end that evil? Mike Spann grew up in Winfield, Alabama. He was a curious child often found with his nose in encyclopedias. He loved all things military and history but especially became fascinated with the Marines. He covered his walls with posters of the Few and the Proud. When his family moved, the posters came down but went right back up in the next house. As he matured he’d set one goal after another such as earning his private pilot’s license at seventeen years of age. He attended Auburn University, excelled academically, and earned a degree in Criminal Justice. He still longed for that military experience. His father gave him pause since he had become a husband and father. Mike replied that if he didn’t go now he never would. Fulfilling those early dreams, he attended officer candidate school and became a United States Marine Corps officer. **** Listen to the rest of this amazing story on the podcast
14 minutes | Jul 19, 2018
Ep 7: Where's My Chariot, SSG Bryan Burgess
An amazing photo from Afghanistan emerged in 2011 of a soldier kissing the helmet atop the battlefield cross for SSG Bryan Burgess. The 101st Airborne Screaming Eagle patch is prominent on medic Brit Jacob’s arm as his hand holds the back of the helmet. The symbolic act signified something Burgess had done to each of his soldiers prior to a mission. He did this as an act of leadership, sacrifice, and resolve. His fellow soldiers are quick to speak well of him. They believe he epitomized the selfless, steadfast squad leader; the model leader who didn’t seek credit or complain when events deteriorated. He wasn’t simply a good soldier; he was an outstanding one. It sounds cliché, but one soldier said he’d follow him to Hell and back. He placed himself in harm’s way often, and they knew they could count on him in the toughest of situations. He was the kind of man others named their children after, as his commanding officer Tye Reedy did, using the name Bryan for his son. Reedy considered Burgess a man of few words. Reserved. A silent professional. During the Battle of Barawala Kalay Valley, Burgess gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Bryan Burgess grew up in Cleburne, Texas, thirty miles south of Fort Worth. It’s one of those typical Texas towns passionate about football, cowboy boots, and hard work. He was well liked by classmates and active in sports but loved soccer the most. He had great concern for his family’s safety, often concerned about someone staying out too late or reminding them to buckle their seatbelt. After his 1999 high school graduation, he worked for an armored car manufacturer and attended classes at nearby Hill College. The events of 9/11 changed everyone, and Burgess was no different. He vowed to fight back—for himself and his country. His father, Terry Burgess, said, “He was going to war to fight an enemy that had killed Americans on American soil. Bryan didn't know the victim's names, but he fully intended to avenge them.” Military service ran through his family with a great-grandfather who had served in World War I, a grandfather in Korea, and an uncle who served in Germany. He chose the army and the infantry so that he could get into the fight. His 2003 transformation from civilian to soldier was notable after basic training, as he lost weight and toned up. He embraced all the army offered becoming jump qualified and working toward Ranger qualification. Like many, he earned a nickname—the Cookie Monster—for stealing everyone’s cookies, including the First Sergeant’s. No cookies were safe around him, as one would say, including the one about to enter your mouth. For the rest of this podcast click the link and listen
13 minutes | Jul 12, 2018
Ep 6: Through a Hail of Enemy Bullets, SrA Mark Forester.
“Because God wants me to kill bad people.” Mark Forester said that as if it were as normal as anything. He said it many times when asked why he chose to join the fight against terrorism. He never meant it as a flippant or cavalier statement, but one of fortitude and calling. Friends and family knew that once he made up his mind, he couldn’t be convinced otherwise. As a United States Air Force Combat Controller (CCT), Forester’s conviction made him a determined warrior. He was the “new guy” during the first mission of his first deployment to Afghanistan in May 2010. Everyone’s typically concerned about that new guy wondering if he’ll perform under pressure or make a mistake. Trust is a valuable commodity during combat and Forester hadn’t yet the opportunity to earn that trust. In Dalton Fury’s book, Kill Bin Laden, he refers to another CCT in this way: “Most important in this business was his willingness to risk everything for his fellow man, an unhealthy but common trait among Air Force combat controllers.”2 His team approached a village when Taliban forces opened fire on them and another team separated from them. Several were pinned down. Mark’s helmet cam captures much of the action. He can be heard coaching the friendly Afghan forces to fire their weapons. Directing them in true, combat control fashion. Seeking a better visual on the situation, Forester exposed himself to enemy fire. He gathered the correct information and called in a perfect fire mission saving those that were pinned down. His first taste of combat gave him experience, a chance to shake off any first-time jitters, and most importantly, he earned the trust of his fellow combatants. He’d come to Afghanistan to serve his country and kill the bad guys. It wasn’t a bad start. The Foresters are patriots. They’re not only passionate about their country, but also faith, family, and Alabama football. No doubt, “Roll Tide” is an oft-heard expression in their house. Mark grew up with three brothers and one sister in Haleyville, Alabama. As the smallest and youngest of his siblings, he had to work hard for equal playing time. He developed a certain tenacity and hard-headedness that gave him a lifelong trait of determination. Anything he set out to learn, he worked his best to master it. The Forester’s worship in the Mormon faith and Mark was no different. The church encourages young men to spend two years in the mission field before college. He volunteered, and the church sent him to Oakland, California. They paired him with other like-minded young men and they spent six days a week sharing their faith. He returned from his mission, tired and worn, but ready for the next stage of his life. He entered the University of Alabama seeking a finance degree and began working out in preparation to join the military—an interest he’d had since high school. He especially wanted to serve in special forces capacity such the Green Berets or Navy SEALS. When terrorists attacked his country on 9/11, his decision was made. His older brother Joseph served in the Air Force and introduced him to some other members of that branch. They told him about the combat controller’s role in combat and Mark was sold. The average Air Force recruit entering basic training is an eighteen to nineteen-year-old high school graduate. They’re seeking to serve their country, learn a valuable skill, and test themselves. Forester was a twenty-six-year-old college graduate who could have chosen officer candidate school. However, he’d set his mind on the toughest training the Air Force offered combat control and the right to wear the scarlet beret. He had grown several inches in height after high school and bulked his body up for the challenge. ---- Finish listening to this powerful story on the podcast...
17 minutes | Jun 15, 2018
Ep 5: Go, Do, See, Be - SFC Calvin Harrison
16 minutes | May 31, 2018
Ep 4: The One People Count On, SSgt Sky Mote
MARINE CORPS BASE, CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (January 14, 2014) -- Staff Sergeant Sky Mote and Capt. Matthew Manoukian were posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the highest decoration that can be bestowed by the Department of the Navy and second highest decoration for valor, during an award ceremony at, 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion headquarters, Jan. 18. “Staff Sergeant Mote could have exited the structure to safety. He instead grabbed his M4 rifle and entered the operations room, courageously exposing himself to a hail of gunfire,” cited the award. Manoukian’s award cited “Located in the far corner for the room, Capt. Manoukian dew his pistol and, in the face of near certain death, engaged the attacker while commanding his Marines to maneuver to safety.” Maj. Gen. Mark A. Clark, commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, presented the Navy Cross to Mote’s and Manoukian’s family after speaking of them during the ceremony. “The bravery of Matt, Ryan and Sky was a continuation of the brave choices they made in the beginning, to choose a harder road fraught with peril, in order to have a chance at victory,” Clark said. Both Mote, of El Dorado, Calif., and Manoukian, from Los Altos Hills, Calif., were assigned to Marine Special Operations Team 8133, Marine Special Operations Company C, 1st Marines Special Operations Battalion, Marine Special Operations Regiment, U.S Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when they came under intense enemy fire from a rogue Afghan local policeman attacking from inside the perimeter of their tactical operations center. Mote and Manoukian became the third and fourth Marines in MARSOC’s seven year history to receive this prestigious award, as a result of their extraordinary heroic actions taken during OEF. “The Manoukian family is deeply honored and humbled to accept the Navy Cross on behalf of our dearly beloved son and brother, Capt. Matthew Patrick Manoukian. Our Matthew’s courage and dedication inspires us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” said Socrates Manoukian and Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, Capt. Manoukian’s father and mother. Mote, in his final act of bravery, boldly engaged the gunman, now less than five meters in front of him, until falling mortally wounded. Mote’s heroic actions and selfless actions enabled his fellow Marines to get to safety and survive the attack. During the same attack, Manoukian, the team leader, was working in the operations center when the initial attack commenced with AK-47 fire ripping through plywood walls and partitions of the operations room. Manoukian courageously drew heavy fire upon himself, disrupting the enemy pursuit of his comrades and providing them the security needed to get to safety. Manoukian continued to engage the enemy until he fell mortally wounded. “The actions of Sky and Matt are the essence of what drives us daily in this command. These two men truly believed in their mission, their unit, this country and ultimately each other. I have the honor to watch every Marine and Sailor of this battalion operate with the same passion and hunger daily because they too believe in the mission and one another. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fallen brothers and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them; it is just who we are. ”said Lt. Col. John Lynch, commanding officer, 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion. The Navy Cross is given for great gallantry and valor. “Staff Sgt. Mote’s and Capt. Manoukian’s actions were truly and extraordinarily heroic, and I’m proud that their actions are honored here today,” concluded Clark.
19 minutes | May 17, 2018
Ep 3: Not Forgotten, Pfc Austin Staggs
Discover the story of Pfc Austin Staggs in today's episode of America's Memory.
16 minutes | May 17, 2018
Ep 2: Watching Over You, 1LT Todd Weaver
In this episode, discover the story of 1LT Todd Weaver.
20 minutes | May 16, 2018
Ep. 1: The Story of the Wall
Discover the story of the wall in this first episode of America's Memory Podcast.
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