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“Sometime” Never Comes

Claire O'Brien

Claire O’Brien
Photo Credit: Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

“We should have you on the show sometime.”  This week that became my least favorite phrase.

It has been four years since I stepped up to assure that the messages of American Warrior Radio would not go silent upon the untimely death of the program’s founder Dave Sitton.

My initial decision was driven by passion for the message, not business sense.  Many listeners and guests are surprised to learn that the radio station does not compensate me for broadcasting the show. Quite to the contrary, I pay them for the pleasure to rent an hour of their airwaves.  Thanks to our generous advertisers, this year will mark my first that American Warrior Radio will not be a very expensive personal labor of love.

My fourth year as host marked another important threshold. American Warrior is gaining sufficient traction that publicists, movie studios and public relations firms are now calling us suggesting their clients for guest spots on the program.   We still do most the research and bookings ourselves, seeking out stories that inspire and need to be heard by the 99% of the population who never served in the military. But getting phone calls from New York, Hollywood or…Sioux City Iowa can be a real morale booster.

This brings me to my least favorite phrase.  Not long ago I came across a series written by Tim Gallagher of the Sioux City Journal. It was about women veterans. One in particular fired my imagination; 95 year old Claire O’Brien who volunteered for the WAVES during World War II and served our nation for two and a half years.  HERS was a story I wanted to help tell.

So I contacted Mr. Gallagher and not long after received a phone call from Claire O’Brien.  Her voice was strong for someone who had witnessed nearly a full century and she said she would be happy to come on the program.

Year end is always tough. Programming is adjusted to fulfill promises. Many Veteran’s charities make a special push during the holidays.  “Yes, we must have you on the show sometime.”

Claire O’Brien died this past Sunday.  Luckily for our nation, her story had been told by others.  But there remain so many others from her generation whose story, whose messages, if not recorded will be lost forever.

Douglas Dillard

Doug Dillard

One year ago, we had Douglas Dillard on the show. He jumped in behind enemy lines during D-Day, survived the Battle of the Bulge and went on to lead covert operations in both Korea and Vietnam.  He held every rank in the Army except General. Doug was a great interview and we agreed that he should come on the show again sometime.  In September I received a note from his daughter – Doug had passed.

Often, “sometime” never comes.  If you know a Veteran from that generation, ask for their story. Record it if they are willing to share.  Their sacrifices must transcend time.

 

2nd Battle of Fallujah – Donald Baker, USMC

Fallujah

Donald Baker in Fallujah. Photo Credit: Patrick K. O’Donnell

The 2nd Battle of Fallujah was the bloodiest of the Iraq War.  So then why don’t more people know about it?

 

Donald Baker is a Marine Veteran with 9 years of service including three deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.  His path to becoming a Marine was set forth by two elements; his father’s service as a Force Recon Marine in Vietnam and Donald’s dream of becoming a filmmaker.

One of his early films about World War I won an award and motivated him to make other movies about war.  But Donald believed he could not properly tell stories about war if he had never been in the military or seen war.  Inadvertently he would find himself at the tip of the spear in a battle that would become part of Marine Corps lore; the most brutal house to house combat since Hue City in Vietnam.

Before returning home, his Gunnery Sergeant said something that would come full circle; “The world doesn’t care, they have already forgotten you. They’ve already moved on.”  Donald has found that when he mentions the 2nd Battle of Fallujah he often gets blank stares. This reinforces his belief in the need to tell the story of his fellow Marines at Fallujah. His article “This is Why Fallujah is One of the Marine Corps Most Legendary Battles” was recently published by We Are the Mighty   .

Much like the Marine battles of World War II, the 2nd Battle of Fallujah was fought up close and personal with rifles, hand grenades and Bangalore torpedoes. Donald shared that sometimes the enemy was within inches of his muzzle. Donald related one particular mortar attack that wiped out all but two of his seven man machine gun squad.  He also shares his respect and admiration Patrick O’Donnell, a civilian author and historian who stood shoulder to shoulder with his platoon during the battle.

So long as they speak your name, you shall never die. Here are the names of comrades from Donald’s Company who made the ultimate sacrifice at Fallujah:

  • Sergeant William James – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Nicholas Larsen – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Staff Sergeant Russell Slay – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Nathan Wood – Nov. 9, 2004
  • Corporal Theodore Bowling – Nov. 11, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Benjamin Bryan – Nov. 13, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Michael Hanks – Nov. 17, 2004
  • Lance Corporal Luis Figueroa – Nov. 18, 2004

TAKEAWAY:  “I think every Veteran has to deal with thoughts about their brothers who didn’t get to come home. It weighs upon your heart. They don’t get to tell their story so it is up to those of us who are left to be able to do that for them. “

 

Veterans Day – Maj. Gen. Ted Maxwell and PFC Jessica Lynch

Veterans Day

Maj. Gen. Edward Maxwell

Our Veterans Day show features guests from the one of the highest ranks to the lowest; Major General Edward Maxwell (US Air Force) and Private First Class Jessica Lynch (US Army).

Maj. General Maxwell is the Component Commander for the Arizona Air National Guard. He is an Air Force Academy graduate and also holds an MBA from the University of Arizona.  Ted is a command pilot with more than 4,500 flight hours – some in the skies over Iraq.

Veterans Day

Jessica Lynch

Jessica Lynch came into the public eye when her Army convoy was ambushed March 23, 2003 in Iraq. She was wounded and captured by enemy forces.

Despite serving for different lengths of time at different ranks, both Jessica and Ted’s observations when discussing Veterans Day share several common themes; their admiration for Veterans of the previous generation and the importance of supporting and taking care of Veterans who have returned from war.

Ted and I discuss my perception of the growing gap of understanding between our civilian and military populations. We also touch on the emergence of a “warrior caste” in America – families with multi-generational traditions of service.

Ted and I also discuss one of my biggest gripes; people who wish Veterans a “Happy Memorial Day”.

In the 15 years since her combat experiences, Jessica has become a teacher and has been very involved in programs that support Veterans and their families.  Reflecting upon Veterans Day she says that it should all be about the love, care and support our communities can provide for those who served.

Both Ted and Jessica feel very confident about the young people that are now stepping up to “fill their boots”.

TAKEAWAY: “The best thing that people can do to honor the service of Veterans is to learn more about what we do and the challenges our families may face.”

 

So. AZ Law Enforcement Assoc. – Bonnie Faircloth

Law Enforcement

The men & women of Law Enforcement are the thin but resilient blue thread that binds the fabric of any decent and civilized society.  On any given day they may be called upon to help bring a life into our world, to save a life, or to take a life.

Bonnie Faircloth is the Executive Director of the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Foundation.  Their mission is to raise funds to acquire or supplement the purchase of critical lifesaving equipment, technology and ongoing officer safety training. They protect and support those who protect and serve.

Bonnie has a special passion for the SALEF mission; her husband recently retired from the Sheriff’s department.  She knows what it was like to hold her breath when her husband left for his shift and breathe a sigh of relief when he returned safely.

Since their inception, they have provided over 400 bullet proof vests for patrol officers, helped to acquire a K-9 dog and paid for officers to travel for essential duty training. They also conduct a program called the Safe Teen Accident Reduction Training Program which provides hands-on life saving driving skills and training.  Bonnie said she has had parents call to state that the training helped their child avoid and accident immediately after the program.

 

The Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Foundation organizes several major fundraising events that not only help subsidize their programs but provide a good forum for the community to get to know members of law enforcement.  Some of these include the annual “Cops and Rodders” car show and “Canine Walk for Cops”.

Bonnie emphasizes that one of the elements that makes SALEF somewhat different from other similar agencies across the country is the fact that their Board of Directors is truly community based. While there are Law Enforcement Veterans involved in leadership, there is a clear delineation between themselves and the agencies they serve.

If you do not have a similar organization in YOUR community and would like to explore how to get one started, please contact SALEF via their website.

 

The Korean War – Three Veterans who were there

Korean War

(L-R) Wally Howard, Chuck Hudson, Lacy Bethea

Three Korean War Veterans join us in studio. Despite US losses of 36,574 killed and 103,284 wounded, Korea is known as “The Forgotten War”.  An astounding 7,747 Americans remain unaccounted for.

 

Wally Howard’s first enlistment was with the US Navy stationed aboard the destroyer USS Frank Knox. Their role during the Korean War was surveillance, radar and backup shore gunnery.  After departing the Navy, Wally enlisted for two tours as a Marine reservist.

Lacy Bethea enlisted in the Marines on October 4, 1946 and was a Gunnery Sergeant in charge of ammunition during Korea. Lacy is a member of “The Chosin Few” – the 30,000 United Nations troops encircled by 120,000 Chinese troops at the Chosin Reservoir.

Chuck Hudson is an Air Force Veteran and served with the 18th Fighter Wing toward the end of the Korean War. He went on to serve in Vietnam as well.

Wally is Chapter President for the Arizona Korean War Veterans Association. He discusses their support for “Bravo Base” a mini military encampment made up of homeless Veterans.  They recently secured the donation of a mini-van to provide transportation for the 30-35 residents of the encampment.

Lacy served with “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in US history. During the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Puller said “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.”  Lacy said that following their first battle with Chinese troops they sent a message back to headquarters and received a reply that the “No, the Chinese weren’t there”.  Lacy also shares what it was like fighting a 17 day pitched battle during the coldest winter in Korean memory.

Chuck recalls having a stove in the center of the tent. If one turned the stove up you risked burning the tent down but turning the stove down meant potentially freezing to death.

Takeaway:  “They may call it the Forgotten War but we sure as heck never forgot.”

 

Craig Morgan – Operation Finally Home

Craig Morgan

Craig Morgan

Country music entertainer and TV host Craig Morgan has been both behind a rifle and behind a microphone. Craig has been named the Operation Finally Home 2017 Ambassador and is helping to raise money via his “American Stories” concert tour.  We are also joined by Operation Finally Home Executive Director Rusty Carroll.

Operation Finally Home builds mortgage free homes for military heroes and families of the fallen. Since 2005 they have completed or are in final planning stages of providing 218 homes for Veterans in 33 states.

Craig Morgan

Rusty Carroll (L) & Craig Morgan (R) inform Army Vet Justin Raymer & wife Kaci they will be receiving a free home. (Photo Credit: South Bend Tribune)

Craig Morgan knows the importance of community support for the military; he served nearly 17 years as a member of the 101st and 82nd airborne divisions.  He loved his time in the military and would do it again if called. During a re-enlistment talk Craig’s Commander told him he could become a Sergeant Major but he also showed great promise as an entertainer.

After consulting with his wife, Craig decided to give it a try, but stayed in the active reserves “just in case”. When fans started showing up looking for autographs outside the post gate, Craig decided it was time to make the jump to entertainment as a full time career.

 

As a soldier in the audience at a USO concert, Craig never imagined himself on stage. He has now completed 14 overseas USO tours and is the recipient of the USO Merit Award.  In fact, during his first USO tour he performed for some of the same soldiers that he had previously served with.

Executive Director Rusty Carroll says God had his hand in bringing Craig Morgan and Operation Finally Home together.  They would like to build MORE homes for Veterans and are looking for developers, builders and corporate sponsors in markets all across the country. If you have contacts in your local market, PLEASE consider helping to build a home for a deserving Veteran in your community!

 

Operation Surf – Van Curaza and Bobby Lane

Operation Surf

Van Curaza (R)

Operation Surf saved Bobby Lane’s life. Surfing saved Van Curaza’s life. Together, they are helping to rebuild and save other lives. Operation Surf is the subject of the award winning documentary “Resurface”.

Bobby said he wanted to serve with the best, so he became a Marine.  Serving in Iraq, his platoon suffered five roadside bomb attacks in the span of 11 days. Bobby was exposed to all of them but was so committed to the Corps he removed shrapnel from his arms and legs himself because he didn’t want to be sent home.

Operation Surf

Bobby Lane

Bobby says “You go to war but the REAL war starts when you get home.” He was struggling.  His fellow employees feared him.  His family didn’t understand. Physicians prescribed medication – lots and lots of medication.

When offered the opportunity to participate in Operation Surf – something that had always been on his bucket list, he accepted. His plan was to check that box and then commit suicide. But he found peace in the ocean. Bobby is still trying to figure out how to transition but the surfing community has welcomed him with open arms.

Van Curaza, the President  & Founder of Amazing Surf Adventures, had a rough start in life. As he got older, lifestyle changes began taking him down the wrong road of alcohol and drug abuse.  The one thing that kept him in order was the idea that if he were arrested he would not be able to surf.  He has now been involved with the sport for over 40 years.  Because surfing helped him turn his life around, he began offering those experiences to young people and eventually Veterans.

Operation Surf is a free program that exposes Veterans and active duty military to the healing power of the ocean through adaptive surfing and supportive curriculum.  An in depth medical study showed a 35% decrease in PTSD symptoms and a 47% reduction in depression among Operation Surf participants.

Takeaway: “The VA kept giving Bobby meds to address his PTSD related nightmares, but after only three days on the ocean all he dreams about now is surfing.”

 

Old Glory Relay – Marco and Diane DeLeon

Old Glory

Marco and Diane DeLeon

The Old Glory Relay honors the sacrifices of the thousands of men and women who have fought for America’s freedom and promotes the ideal of unity under the stars and stripes of the US Flag.  Volunteers with Team Red White and Blue are moving a flag 4,600 miles across the country. The relay began September 11th in Seattle and will conclude with arrival in Tampa on Veterans Day.

Marco DeLeon will be participating in the Tucson portion of the relay. Following the 9/11 attacks, Marco decided to join the military at the young age of 38. He was old enough to be the father of most his fellow recruits but felt that young persons should not be bearing the entire burden of this war.

He was assigned to the Arizona Army National Guard 180th Transportation Battalion and while deployed to Iraq, encountered a series of Improvised Explosive Device attacks that would cause severe spinal cord injuries.  His injuries were not readily apparent but after his return to the US, Marco gradually began to lose use of his legs.  He is currently confined to a wheelchair.

Together with his wife Diane, he was seeking help in dealing with the adjustment of returning to civilian life.  An internet search brought him to Team Red White and Blue. They were both attracted by the comraderies of others who might be dealing with the same rough transitions.

Diane is helping to organize the Tucson portion of the Old Glory Relay and Marco will be participating aboard his hand cycle.

Takeaway:  Marco said he wouldn’t want to go back. When he joined the military, he was searching for a way to make a difference. He believes his injuries have granted him the opportunity to fulfill that mission by inspiring others.

 

Transition from Military to Civilian Employment – Jeffrey Marshburn

transition

Jeffrey Marshburn is facing challenges making a transition. He is a highly competent and educated man.  He has three degrees including an MBA.  He has qualified for one of the most demanding organizations in the world and taught at perhaps the greatest leadership development institution on the planet.

So, why can’t he find a job?  Well, Jeff is a Veteran.  He spent half of his career as a member of the Special Forces and the other half as an infantry officer.  He concluded his Army career as Brigade XO at West Point.

And it isn’t really that he CAN’T find a job, he spent a great deal of time and energy preparing for the transition. It is more of the case that after nearly 30 years of service in the military, he is struggling to transition to a civilian job that brings him the same sense of purpose he had while serving in the military. He finds himself in his third job in 18 months.

In his recent Havok Journal article “Reflections on Service, Reflections on Sacrifice” Jeff explains why so many Veterans have trouble transitioning from military to civilian jobs.  Jeff cites an “..almost PTSD-esque” transition to the civilian employment sector. Listeners will find his observations enlightening.

It’s NOT because Veterans are “troubled” or somehow “broken” by combat. It is about modifying thirty years of mental muscle memory.  From simple things like how to go about scheduling a doctor visit to the cultural challenge of attempting to integrate into an organization that often does not emphasize the same values that the military does. While many civilian employers recognize the value of hiring Veterans, just as many have not developed a good formula to best integrate these excellent human resources into their corporate culture.

TAKEAWAY: “How do you become a force multiplier in an organization where the concept is foreign?”

 

Night Stalkers Pilot David Cooper

Night Stalkers

Chief Warrant Officer 5 David F. Cooper (Photo Credit: TDSC)

When you are a pilot for the Army’s elite 160th SOAR Night Stalkers, there is no such thing as a “normal day”.  But November 27, 2006 was a day David Cooper won’t forget.

Cooper was flying an AH-6 “Little Bird” as lead in a six helicopter formation delivering Special Operations Forces on a mission north of Baghdad.  The Night Stalkers earned their nickname as the first unit to fly using night vision equipment. That day they were flying in broad daylight across a featureless Iraq desert.  David says that because of the clandestine nature of their missions, it is rare to hear ANY radio traffic, so it came as an extra shock when he heard words that, up until that moment, he had only heard in World War II films; “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday..”

A lucky RPG round blew off his wingman’s tail rotor, forcing him to make a running landing at 60 miles per hour.  The crew members were injured but alive.  The Special Forces and Cooper landed to secure the crash site while the remaining helicopters returned the injured pilots to base.  Before a recovery team could arrive, an enemy force that included trucks with heavy anti-aircraft guns arrived and began firing at the US Forces. In the wide open desert, the team had no cover. Cooper and his co-pilot took off to engage the enemy and draw fire away from the ground troops.  He was flying at 140 mph at altitudes of less than 75 feet, pouring fire into both the enemy vehicles and terrorists firing from a nearby building.  Things were so intense that his co-pilot took to firing his rifle out the helicopter door.

Coop says “Soon, we were out of ammunition but not out of bad guys.” He landed three times under fire to reload his armaments & fuel from the crashed helicopter, each time returning to the fight. His actions that day earned him the Distinguished Service Cross, an award second only to the Medal of Honor.  Add that to a resume that includes a Silver Star, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars and fourteen Air Medals (7 with Valor Device) and one can see why David Cooper was elected to the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2010.

One of the F-16 pilots providing close air support in this battle was Major Troy Gilbert, who gave his life protecting the ground forces. The pilots injured in the original crash walked right past the doctors, jumped into another AH-6 and returned to the scene with the Quick Reaction Force.

TAKEAWAY: Cooper accepted the Distinguished Service Cross with words one might expect from a true quiet professional; “I accept it on behalf of all Night Stalkers, past, present, and future.”