Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wednesday's Heroes

Every Wednesday, we highlight the bravery and heroic actions of our men and women in uniform. These are people and stories that you will not hear on your nightly news or read in your papers. These are the stories that will inform our next generation what courage and sacrifice in the face of adversity means.

Camaraderie, Patriotism, Pride Spur On Troops in Combat

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2007 – Each day, as the nation’s volunteer military men and women perform their mission in Iraq and Afghanistan, they know the enemy they’re up against employs uncommon tactics and weapons. They know that a simple misstep could cause disfigurement or death.[snip]

On behalf of these wounded and fallen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace honored four Purple Heart recipients, one from each service, at an evening parade at the historic Marine Barracks here.

Pace said Army Cpl. Mathew Murray, Marine Sgt. Nicholas Wahle, Navy Senior Chief David L. Hall and Air Force Senior Airman Michael Fletcher also represent those who serve around the world protecting America’s way of life.

“Another 2.4 million Americans just like them serve our nation tonight so we can … live the lives we want to live, enjoy our families, pray where we want to pray – or not pray – and just live our lives as Americans,” Pace said. “To each of you and all those you represent, thank you.” [snip]

Marine Sgt. Nicholas Wahle

In November 2005, during his third deployment in Iraq, Marine Sgt. Nicholas Wahle led his squad in combat in Ramadi. During an attack on an observation post by indirect rocket-propelled-grenade and small-arms fire, he was struck in the face by shrapnel. Despite his injury, Wahle exposed himself to enemy fire as he delivered vital ammunition to all posts.

In January 2006, Wahle observed enemy activity and, anticipating an assault, assembled the reaction force and forward air controller. During the attack, he coordinated his post’s response and told the forward air controller where to lay down fire. By foreseeing the attack, he enabled the post to gain fire superiority and defeat the attack.

Wahle, who received a Bronze Star Medal for the courage he demonstrated, said he was honored to represent the Marine Corps’ warriors. (read the rest of their stories)

Airman 1st Class Charity Trueblood: Bronze Star with V Device (valor in combat)

Trueblood, 22, earned a Bronze Star with “V” for her actions during that attack during a convoy mission outside Balad, Iraq, 18 months ago.

The airman first class was driving an up-armored Humvee near the middle of the 30-vehicle convoy when the lead vehicle spotted what looked like a roadside bomb.

Her unit had encountered snipers and bombs in the area in the past and anticipated a possible ambush. When shots rang out from the darkness as they slowed to examine the bomb, they reacted instantly.

“You just go,” she said. “As soon as the attack starts, you return fire and get out of their range. I moved the [Humvee] towards the side of fire to block the unarmored ones, but we all started moving.”

Two of the contractors’ trucks she was trying to shield were riddled with bullets as they sped away. Trueblood said the first had a tire blown out, sending sparks across the asphalt as the vehicle bounced down the highway on a rim.

The second truck caught on fire after being hit, and the troops forced it to a stop as soon as they got out of the shooters’ range. When they opened the truck door they found that the shooters had also hit the driver, contractor Robert Martin.

Her crew pulled him from the burning car, threw him on the hood of the tightly packed Humvee, and crept away from the growing fireball.

“He said I had a good Humvee-side manner,” said Trueblood, who was promoted to senior airman after her efforts that day.
(read the rest of Sr. Airman Trueblood's rescue of Rob Martin)

Arizona's "Triple Deuce" truckers happy to be alive

"We were scanning our sectors and everything," Buckley said. About two hours into the drive, he was sitting on the edge of his seat, looking out the window as the truck cruised at about 55 mph.

"Everything looked perfectly fine," he said. "Without warning, boom. Everything just went silent. My door was blown off. The front of the truck was on fire. All along my door, where the frame is, that was just burning. The tires were destroyed. The front axles were gone. The truck was facing to the left. We were seeing the side of the road while the trailer was still straight. My driver here, Sgt. May, kept it upright. I've never been in a jackknife before. I thought we were going to flip it. I scooted over towards him. I'm holding on. It was a crazy ride. It was like being on an old wooden rollercoaster."

Fumes stung Buckley's eyes and sinuses. "It was miserable," he said. "I smell something burning now and it makes me nauseous."

The Soldiers say the IED may have been made from a 155 mm artillery round laced with an accelerant, buried beneath the road surface and detonated remotely.

"Somebody out in the desert, just timing, hit the jackpot," May said. "Nothing personal."

"I heard a thud, and the next thing I know everything I saw was orange," he said. Knowing they would roll if he went off the road into a drainage ditch, May fought to control the truck. (read Triple Deuce)

Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond E. Bittinger Hometown: Chicago, IL

It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach – when you know something is wrong. For Staff Sgt. Bittinger, that feeling came on April 9, 2004, as his troops approached the small town of Behriz, Iraq. Military intel and a recent attack suggested insurgents were planning actions against U.S. forces in the area. And now Bittinger and his team found themselves in what appeared to be a ghost town: not an Iraqi in sight and no security visible.

Suddenly, the men spotted movement in the palm groves; insurgents unleashed a torrent of RPG and small-arms fire. During the battle, as enemies directed their fire toward specific targets, Bittinger weaved in and out of the line of fire, protecting his comrades by drawing gunfire to his own vehicle. As they fought, Bittinger’s gunner took a hit, and fell from his seat. Bittinger quickly removed his flak jacket, used it to pressure the wound, and then jumped behind the gun and kept firing. (read Bittenger)

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- May no soldier go unloved