Category: Military Remembrances

Happy Veterans Day 2021

Veterans Day is a day to thank all who have served our country in the United States Armed Forces. In the divisive climate we find ourselves in during these troubled days, I think it is important to remind ourselves what it means to be an American and why so many Americans have willingly served in the defense of Freedom, and many making the ultimate price to ensure our Freedoms continue.

In light of that, I thought I would share this poem I discovered by Lynne Carey

Veteran

I was a proud veteran
That served my country well
To those that would listen
I had many stories to tell.

We fought for America’s freedom
In far away places on foreigh land.
Wherever the battle for Democracy raged,
America’s finest made a stand.

We fought for your future
And the right to remain free.
For we saw what freedom meant
To those without Liberty.

For you and yours
We would gladly have given our life.
We faced the fears and perils of battle
We braved endless turmoil and strife.

Please remember us veterans
And the sacrifices we made for you.
Please share the blessings of freedom.
Proudly wave the red, white and blue.

Lynne Carey
Copyright 2004

With Respect, Honor, and Gratitude, Thank You Veterans!

Happy 246th Birthday, US Marine Corps

Marine tradition holds that the Marine Corps was formed in a bar. The story dates back to November 1775, when two newly commissioned Captains, Samuel Nicholas and Robert Mullan, reportedly organized the first Marine Corps muster at the Tun Tavern, a popular bar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the tale, the two officers enticed potential recruits with mugs of beer and the promise of adventure on the high seas.

These recruits made up the first five Marine Corps companies that served aboard Continental Navy warships. Some historians maintain that a pub called the Conestoga Wagon was the more likely recruitment site; however, that is also a bar, and so, this tale remains a part of Marine lore to this day.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia even features a restaurant appropriately named “Tun Tavern.”

Somehow, given the reputation of the US Marines as “life takers and heartbreakers,” this seems oddly entirely appropriate. I mean, how many other US military services can brag they were formed in a bar?

All joking aside, if you see a Marine today, wish them a Happy Birthday, and maybe buy them a beer!

Happy Birthday, Marines!

On this Memorial Day Weekend …

Do you know the difference?

  • Armed Forces Day is for those currently in uniform.
  • Veterans Day is for those who once wore the uniform.
  • Memorial Day is for those who never made it out of their uniform.

As you celebrate the beginning of summer, and try to put the stress and turmoil of 2020 behind you, take a moment to reflect on your freedoms and to thank those who fought and died to keep those freedoms intact and to protect them for others.

IT IS FOOLISH AND WRONG TO
MOURN THE MEN WHO DIED.
RATHER, WE SHOULD THANK GOD
THAT SUCH MEN LIVED

GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON

K9 Veteran’s Day

Remember our four-legged heroes!

Conan, the Belgian Malinois who took part in the Syria raid
that killed ISIS leader Baghdadi.

On Oct. 27, 2019, Conan, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois military K9, played a key role in the Barisha raid, which resulted in the death of the ISIS leader. Conan is one more dog on a long list of our heroic military working dogs.

World War II

Chips, a WWII hero.

One famous K9 hero from WWII was Chips, a German Shepherd/Alaskan Husky/Collie mix donated by a New York family. Chips is credited with saving the lives of many U.S. soldiers and earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star. He once broke free from his handler and took out a sniper nest in Sicily, capturing four enemy soldiers.

Korean War

Five years after WWII, the Korean War again demonstrated the value of military working dogs. Chiefly deployed on combat night patrols, they were hated by the North Koreans and Chinese because of their ability to ambush snipers, penetrate enemy lines, and sniff out enemy positions. The enemy propaganda teams began using loudspeakers to blast the message, “Yankee, take your dog and go home!”

Vietnam War

Luke, a retired military working dog, sits at the United States War Dogs
Association display at the 2016 Shaw Air Expo and open house,
“Thunder Over the Midlands,” at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.,
May 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Zade Vadnais)

Now, fast forward to Vietnam. This was a totally new environment and job description for these K9 warriors. Their duties became more widespread – scout, sentry, patrol, mine, and booby-trap detection. Like their predecessors in Korea, these four-legged soldiers were so hated by the Viet Cong that they attracted a $20,000 bounty for their capture.

Nemo, a German Shepherd, saved his handler, Robert Throneburg, during an enemy attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam in 1966.

Surplus Equipment

Thanks to politicians and the media, we exited Vietnam in too much of a hurry, and the military working dogs that served our forces so admirably and saved untold lives were left behind, classified as “surplus military equipment.” Despite the outrage and pleas from many handlers who were prepared to pay for their dog’s flight home, the military command would not permit it. Some dogs were transferred to the South Vietnamese military and police units that were not trained to handle them, and many others were euthanized. It is estimated that of 4,000 that served, about 200 made it back to the U.S.

Fortunately, that should never happen again. Following a huge public outcry led by many angry U.S. military-dog handlers, Congress passed “Robby’s Law” in 2000, allowing for the adoption of these dogs by law-enforcement agencies, former handlers, and others capable of caring for them.

Middle-Eastern War K9s

A military working dog accompanies U.S. Soldiers conducting
an inspection of an Afghan Border Police checkpoint.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann/Released)

The hot, dusty desert and rugged mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan serve up new challenges for military K9s trained for explosive and drug detection, sentry, therapy, and other work.

A dogs’ sense of smell is roughly 50 times better than ours, meaning they can sniff out IEDs before they detonate and injure or kill U.S. servicemen. Ground patrols can uncover approximately 50 percent of these deadly devices, but with the help of these K9 warriors, the detection rate increases to about 80 percent.

When you go into your grandmother’s kitchen, you smell the stew. The dog goes into your grandmother’s kitchen, he smells carrots, pepper, tomatoes, and lettuce. I mean he smells all the ingredients.

William Cronin, American K9 for Afghanistan and Mali, West Africa

Military K9s Today

Special Forces K9s

Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was a member of Seal Team Six that killed Osama bin Laden. He was part of a new breed of elite canine soldier, a Special Forces dog whose training includes such skills as parachuting and fast-roping from helicopters.

According to retired Air Force K9 handler, Louis Robinson, a fully trained bomb detection canine is likely worth over $150,000, and considering the many lives these dogs may save, you could characterize them as priceless.

On The Home Front …

It would be a disservice not to mention the working dogs of Law Enforcement, who go to work every day and help keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. The courage and loyalty of these four-legged police officers are amazing and deserving of our respect and gratitude.

And then, last but not least, is the family dog who, without a second’s hesitation, would put themselves between their family and any danger.

To those dedicated, loyal K9 partners who work night and day worldwide, helping the military and law enforcement, who faithfully protect our families and us, we say thank you!

Remembering a WWII Veteran

I got an email from my dad this afternoon telling me his Uncle Bob passed away today. He was 95. My Great Uncle Bob was a WWII veteran, serving in the Army Air Corps on Okinawa at the end of the war.

In the email, my dad mentioned that when he was born, the whole Widmer clan lived in the same house in Herkimer, NY. By the time my father was a toddler, he’d identified Bob as his favorite uncle. Bob would take my dad to the playground and kept a watchful eye on him as he grew older. All the time Uncle Bob was in the Army, he would send my dad a dollar each month to put in a bank he had given him. When he returned from overseas, Uncle Bob took my dad and the money, bought my dad’s first bicycle, which he taught him to ride.

Uncle Bob was not drafted until July of 1945, and Japan surrendered in August of 1945. Hence, the war was over before he arrived at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, where he served as an aircraft mechanic. As I understand it, he worked on B-29s and P-47s, which continued to fly air defense and other missions during the occupation. Bob received a commendation signed by President Harry Truman for his service.

I still remember going to my Great Uncle Bob’s house as a very young boy and playing with his two girls, Ellen and Ruth. We would also see them at Raquette Lake in upstate New York and at family reunions. I guess Ellen and Ruth would be second cousins. Uncle Bob and Aunt Lillian were wonderful people, and these are such great memories. American has lost another one of its heroes.

He was truly a wonderful man.

A Memorial Day Celebration

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is an American holiday dedicated to honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It became an official federal holiday in 1971 and is observed on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day has a history dating back to the Civil War and Decoration Day, a day initially set aside to honor those who died during the Civil War.

While honoring and remembering veterans is always a good thing, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their country. You probably won’t offend any veterans by wishing them a happy Memorial Day, but we should remember that this is not the purpose of this holiday.

This year, Memorial Day occurs on Monday, May 25.

Many people take weekend trips, go camping, throw parties, or cookouts on Memorial Day weekend. For many, it unofficially marks the beginning of summer. And that is fine. I hope these people will also take a few minutes to observe and remember the reason behind their long weekend.

Each year on Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time. Maybe you could take a quiet break in your festivities to observe this solemn moment?

Cities, towns, and homes throughout the United States hold celebration activities, fly the American flag, or hold Memorial Day parades. These parades often include uniformed military personnel and/or members of veterans’ organizations. The largest parades take place in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Many Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. I like to do this and have helped a few boy scout troops place American flags at grave markers over the years. And, some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

Please remember the reason for this particular day and take a moment to honor those who have sacrificed their lives so you could live the life you choose.

Armed Forces Day

This is a day to celebrate all six branches of the U.S. military

Nations across the world observe some kind of Armed Forces Day to honor their military forces and the men and women who serve to protect their country. Armed Forces Day is a joint celebration of all six branches of the U.S. military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, and the newly created Space Force.

Today, and every day, we reaffirm our unwavering support for the millions of American patriots who fill the ranks of our Armed Forces. We are eternally grateful for every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman, and member of the Space Force, and we deeply appreciate the sacrifices their families and loved ones make on our behalf. As one Nation, we pledge to always honor this service and this devotion given to our great country.

President Donald J. Trump

It is a day to display the flag of the United States at your home and your businesses. I urge my fellow patriotic American citizens to learn more about our Armed Forces and their dedicated service members by attending and participating in your local observances of this day.

Remember those who protect our great nation

Smooth Sailing, Stephen Stormer

It is hard losing a friend. Unfortunately, it seems to happen more frequently as we get older. I met Steve Stormer through mutual friends and would see him at gatherings, holiday dinners, and on the occasional night out with the guys. A mutual good friend told me Steve was ill. Pancreatic cancer, I believe. Then, a few weeks later, he is gone.

We did have some interesting conversations over the five or six years I knew Steve. Stormer was a Vietnam-era U.S. Navy veteran and since I was an Army veteran (a bit later), we’d swap yarns about our time in the service. We also shared a common interest in the occasional good Tequila.

I only regret not having the time to get to know Stormer better. But, I will remember him as a good man, a friend, a fellow veteran, and a man with a great sense of humor.

I wish you smooth seas and a steady breeze, Stormer. Go with God.

You will be missed.

A Salute to an American Hero!

December 17, 2019 was a sad day. As a long-time dog lover, stories like these always touch my heart. I have had dogs my whole life. Beagles, Dobermans, Labs, Plott Hounds, mutts, and currently … an amazing German Shepherd named Sophie. You could not ask for a truer, more loyal friend than a dog.

And while stories like this do sadden me, I realize that these amazingly loyal and courageous dogs unhesitatingly put themselves between their human partners and danger. That is a true bond of unconditional love, and I suppose in some ways, may be similar to the bonds of brotherhood forged by soldiers in combat.

So, Rest in Peace Agent Bulder. Your loyal service and willing sacrifice will be remembered. Thank you for your service. You are a hero in the true sense of the word.

Below is the story as reported by American Military News:

Border Patrol K-9 killed Tuesday in shootout identified as Agent Bulder

Agent Bulder
Agent Bulder, a CBP K9 officer killed in the line of duty on Dec 17, 2019.
(US Border Patrol Special Operations Group/Released)
DECEMBER 21, 2019 | AARON MARTINEZ – EL PASO TIMES

Agent Bulder, a U.S. Border Patrol K-9, was the dog killed Tuesday during a shootout when a suspect fired multiple shots at law enforcement.

According to FBI El Paso Division officials, Agent Bulder was killed in the line of duty as he was helping law enforcement execute search and arrest warrants at a Northeast El Paso home.

U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, along with FBI, U.S. Border Patrol Tactical Unit agents and El Paso Police Department officers, executed the warrants about 6 a.m. Tuesday at a home in the 4500 block of Capricorn Drive in Northeast El Paso, police officials said.

The suspect, who has only been identified as a 62-year-old man, confronted agents in the backyard of the home and allegedly fired several shots at agents.

Agent Bulder was struck by a bullet and died at the scene.

Law enforcement then returned fired and killed the suspect.

Officials said that the warrant was related to illegal federal firearm charges.

No further information has been released.

James “Willie” Williams: The Most Decorated Enlisted Sailor in Naval History

I discovered this story about James Elliott “Willy” Williams in the Navy Times November 8, 2018 Edition. It was written by Doug Sterner. It is really quite a story and the man is most certainly an American hero! You can read the story here, or click here to read this on the Navy Times website

Willy Williams, the most decorated enlisted sailor in Navy history

By: Doug Sterner   November 8, 2018

In the history of the U.S. Navy only seven men have earned all of the “Big Three” valor awards: Medal of Honor, Navy Cross and Silver Star Medal. Six were World War II officers, including one aviator and four submarine commanders. The seventh was enlisted sailor James Elliott “Willy” Williams in Vietnam.

In 1947, Williams, a 16-year-old from Fort Mill, South Carolina, enlisted in the Navy with a fraudulent birth certificate. His first 19 years in the Navy included service aboard the destroyer USS Douglas H. Fox during the Korean War and tours on a variety of naval vessels from 1953 to 1965.

In May 1966 Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Williams was assigned to River Squadron 5 in South Vietnam to command Patrol Boat, River 105. The approximately 30-foot fiberglass boat usually carried a four-man crew who patrolled inland waterways to prevent the Viet Cong from using them to transport troops and supplies.

On July 1 Williams led a patrol that came under fire from a Viet Cong sampan. His deft maneuvers and accurate fire killed five VC and resulted in capture of the enemy boat, earning Williams a Bronze Star Medal with a “V” for valor. Twenty-two days later the capture of another sampan brought Williams a second Bronze Star for valor. Less than a month later, he received a Silver Star and his first Purple Heart.

On Halloween, Oct. 31, 1966, Williams was commanding a two-boat patrol on the Mekong River when he was fired on by two sampans. He and his crew killed the occupants of one and then went after the other. That pursuit put the Navy boats into a VC staging area containing two junks and eight sampans, supported by machine guns on the river banks. Williams called for helicopter gunship support while holding the enemy at bay. During this movement he discovered an even larger force. Not waiting for the armed helicopters, Williams attacked. Maneuvering through devastating fire from enemy boats and the shore, his two-boat patrol fought a three-hour battle that destroyed or damaged 65 VC boats and eliminated some 1,200 Communist troops. For his actions, Williams was nominated for the Medal of Honor.

On Jan. 9, 1967, the Navy dredge Jamaica Bay was blown up by mines in the Mekong Delta, and PBR-105 arrived to pick up seven of the survivors. Another man was trapped in the rapidly sinking dredge. Williams dove into the water and, with a rope attached to a nearby tug, pulled clear an obstruction, then swam through a hatch to recover the sailor.

Six days later Williams was wounded while leading a three-boat patrol that interdicted a crossing attempt by three VC heavy-weapons companies of 400 fighters. He and his boats accounted for 16 VC killed, 20 wounded and the destruction of nine sampans and junks. Williams was awarded the Navy Cross.

When Williams returned home in spring 1967, he had a list of awards unmatched by any enlisted man in Navy history. He retired after 20 years of service and began a career in the U.S. Marshals Service.

willy williams

On May 14, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Williams with the Medal of Honor. For his lifesaving actions at the sinking Jamaica Bay, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, often called “the noncombat medal of honor.”

During his last seven months in the Navy, Williams received every sea-service award for heroism including the Legion of Merit with “V,” two Navy Commendation Medals for valor and three Purple Hearts.

Williams died on Oct. 13, 1999, and in 2003 his widow, Elaine, watched the launching of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, USS James E. Williams.

Doug Sterner, an Army veteran who served two tours in Vietnam, is curator of the world’s largest database of U.S. military valor awards.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Vietnam Magazine, a Military Times sister publication. For more information on Vietnam Magazine and all of the HistoryNet publications, visit historynet.com.

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Be on the watch for my new thriller, Montagnard, coming out this summer, and check out the original JD Cordell military action thriller available on Amazon.com.