A MOH for SGT Clinton L. Romesha

In the Outpost, Jake Tapper covered the heroism behind the COP Keating attack. And now, SGT Clinton L. Romesha will receive the Medal of Honor for his brave efforts:

A former staff sergeant who helped repel one of the largest, most vicious battles against U.S. forces in Afghanistan will receive the Medal of Honor, the White House announced Friday.

Clinton L. Romesha, 31, will be the fourth living service member to receive the nation’s highest award for valor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Seven other service members have posthumously been awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in those wars.

Romesha will be awarded Feb. 11 at the White House.

Romesha was a section leader in B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division during the Oct. 3, 2009, attack on Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan.

The hero Sergeant currently lives Minot, N.D., working as a field safety specialist for a profitable, oil-field construction firm. . .

Great Americans and the Stolen Valor Act

Should claiming a medal you are not authorized to wear be a crime? Often, the person parading around with that Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Medal of Honor, served in a minor role in the military. And they want to puff themselves up.

Now, there is a way to check a medal database. The gory details:

The issue might never have reached this stage if not for the efforts of Sterner, and her husband, Doug.

He is a decorated Vietnam veteran who has made it his work in recent years to ensure that service members get the recognition they deserve and expose those who falsely claim acts of heroism under fire. Rather than wait for the government to act, Doug Sterner has entered nearly 100,000 award citations since Civil War in his online database, including all 3,475 Medal of Honor winners in U.S. history. His archive is used by the Military Times newspapers, published by Gannett Co.

Pam Sterner went back to school in her early 40s at Colorado State University in Pueblo, Colo. In a political science course, she wrote a paper that grew out of her husband’s frustrations over phony award claimants whose worst punishment was public embarrassment. That paper eventually led to the Stolen Valor Act.

Doug and Pam Sterner photographed in Alexandria, Va. Pam is the author of a college paper that led to the drafting of a federal law in 2006, the Stolen Valor Act.

 The Sterners, two great Americans. We, in uniform, salute you. . .

Major General Patrick Henry Brady, United States Army, Medal of Honor Recipient

Remember the the Next Great Military Blogpost? A reader, Coastie, sent me the below story:

Before I was in the Coast Guard, I did a tour in Reagan’s Army as a 71Q1P, Photojournalist.  I was one of the editors on the Paraglide, the base newspaper at Fort Bragg.  We were pretty good and in 1987 we won the Keith L. Ware award for best newspaper (CE category) in the Army.  The Army Chief of Public Affairs, a one-star, came to present the award.

Major General Patrick Henry Brady

Now a good soldier can tell a lot about someone’s career just by reading their ribbons and badges.  This fellow had a lot of them and one of them was the big one, the one everyone in the military knows.  Another “guest of honor” and I (and the irony there did not miss us) were trying to figure out how to ask this General what he had done to earn the Medal of Honor and eventually we just walked up to him during the low-key reception and asked.  Politely of course.  He just smiled and said “You know I had a bad day in Vietnam once.”

And that was it.  One of the nation’s great heroes and, as I have since found to be the case with most heroes, humble to a fault.  That’s how I met Brig. Gen. Patrick Brady.

Before retiring, BG Brady was promoted to Major General. The MOH citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Maj. Brady distinguished himself while serving in the Republic of Vietnam commanding a UH-1H ambulance helicopter, volunteered to rescue wounded men from a site in enemy held territory which was reported to be heavily defended and to be blanketed by fog. To reach the site he descended through heavy fog and smoke and hovered slowly along a valley trail, turning his ship sideward to blow away the fog with the backwash from his rotor blades. Despite the unchallenged, close-range enemy fire, he found the dangerously small site, where he successfully landed and evacuated 2 badly wounded South Vietnamese soldiers. He was then called to another area completely covered by dense fog where American casualties lay only 50 meters from the enemy. Two aircraft had previously been shot down and others had made unsuccessful attempts to reach this site earlier in the day. With unmatched skill and extraordinary courage, Maj. Brady made 4 flights to this embattled landing zone and successfully rescued all the wounded. On his third mission of the day Maj. Brady once again landed at a site surrounded by the enemy. The friendly ground force, pinned down by enemy fire, had been unable to reach and secure the landing zone. Although his aircraft had been badly damaged and his controls partially shot away during his initial entry into this area, he returned minutes later and rescued the remaining injured. Shortly thereafter, obtaining a replacement aircraft, Maj. Brady was requested to land in an enemy minefield where a platoon of American soldiers was trapped. A mine detonated near his helicopter, wounding 2 crewmembers and damaging his ship. In spite of this, he managed to fly 6 severely injured patients to medical aid. Throughout that day Maj. Brady utilized 3 helicopters to evacuate a total of 51 seriously wounded men, many of whom would have perished without prompt medical treatment. Maj. Brady’s bravery was in the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.

A fitting tribute on this day, 70 years after Pearl Harbor. Thanks Coastie. As is usual, please feel free to forward any military stories, folks. . .

Quantico and Bruce Springsteen, the Marine Corps and Me

Virginia, last month.

I’m pounding down I-95 in my lousy rental. Enterprise did not upgrade me despite my best aw-shucks, big-guy schtick with the counter-girl and I am stuck in an American car made in a foreign country for foreign shoulders. I simply don’t fit, but I am too cheap to shell out the fifty, hundred bucks for an upgrade. I always prefer those Japanese cars made in Kentucky, to American cars made in Mexico, Korea. Daniel Boone would’ve driven him a ‘Tucky Toyota. Not some American hunched-up hooptie.

The 95, me and her, are old friends. How many times have I roared along her long lanes, past the trees, the box condos, Quantico and that Marine Museum I kept thinking that I needed to visit? Finally I had the time.

Sgt Strank, Cpl Block, PFC Sousley, PFC Gagnon, PFC Hayes, PM2 Bradley (It takes 5 Marines to equal 1 Sailor?)

I exit 95 at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Crossroads of the Marine Corps exit. Signs beckon me to the museum, but I want to see the base and I need to stop at a tactical shop.

LAX, that airport thief, stole my glasses, the ones I deployed with, and now I need a new pair. And my internet promised me some at a store on base. LAX and the internet, sentient beings that they are, thieves and promisers respectfully. (Bitter fellers: insert ex-wife joke here.)

I breeze towards the gate, almost through, and some civilian copper salutes me. Real tall, elbow back, arm angled straight, hand knifed, thumb hidden. I am not in uniform, but I snap one at him. It is not correct this, homaging out of khakis. But if a man is going to render honors, a civilian, I’ll get him back. Heck, I’ve saluted shy six-year old boys who pop off quick, two-finger salutes at me, with their other hand wrapped around their mommy’s legs. Those may be the favorite of my saluting career.

The base is quiet, peaceful. Marine country has order to it. I putter along the main road, at the speed limit. I don’t want to get pulled over, not by some ticket-happy Master-at-Arms.

Wait, Bradley Manning is or was in the brig at Quantico, right? If I speed, like really speed, would they throw me in the clink? Please? To roundhouse him once? Heck, I’d give up a paycheck for it. Bread and water for three days? You bet your sweet ass. (Hmm, prolly should lose that phrase seeing that I’s about to serve time and all.)

Other possible attacks: the seven elbows of Krav Maga. I hear traitorous pieces of filth are great practice for lethal elbows. Any other time and our country would be less: five M-1 Garand bullets and one seditious private. (Accounting for one jammed rifle from the six-gun firing squad.)

I know Chesty once said: “Take me to the Brig. I want to see the real Marines.” Except Manning (of all names, how did he get issued that one?) is Army. So he does not count.

Sergeant Major Dan Daly: “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?”

I pass a golfer slinging a bag of clubs. Medal of Honor Golf Course, a sign says. I think of Sergeant Meyer and his Medal of Honor (MOH.) A good piece of gear from Kentucky. I wonder if he drives a ‘Tucky Toyota like his fellow long-rifleman Boone?

Now more than ever we need the John Basilones, the Dan Dalys. The Mike Murphys. Surely we have more heroes, more MOHs from the last ten years, in addition to what has been awarded. Am I wrong? I (almost) always act my rank in uniform, but senior leadership can I call you out in here? Generals, Admirals: please! Surely this man deserved one. And there are undoubtably others.

One way to know you are on a Marine base: all the signs are red and yellow. The Corps beat MacDonalds to the colors by several years. Marines: does that get your goat? It shouldn’t. Us Sailors been gruffing you’all since we decided to let ‘cha hitch free rides on our dinghys.

And I have some leeway, considering I have been around the Marine Corps since childhood. I remember me as a midget in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Tattoo parlors and strip clubs, that hole, Camp Lejeune. But I knew neither at that age, only thinking they both sold neon signs. Cool purple ones. Some which flashed. And all those car dealers with the Camaros and Mustangs with the fat rear tires.

I roll past the Irregular Warfare schoolhouse. And I think, irregular warfare, is that where you deprive your enemy of fiberous food choices?

Pull-up bars wrapped in tape, unravelling like an untidy mummy, loom off my starboard car-side. We never, ever have to wrap our pull-up bars. Of course, we don’t even have pull-up bars in the Navy. (A pull-up bar to a Sailor is a Trader Vic’s with a drive-through window. A pull up bar, get it?)

To be continued*

* I know I have used that phrase before and have not followed through, but I feel really strongly that this one will be finished. After all, I have not yet gotten to the Museum. Nor Bruce Springsteen. And his name is in the title, right?