10 Heroic Stories of Sacrifice on Memorial Day
Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a special day of remembrance for the men and women who gave the greatest sacrifice to keep this country free.
The town in which I live has a lovely veterans memorial less than a mile from my house, and our local Veterans Service Organizations held an hour-long remembrance at it this morning.
The keynote speaker was a 99-year-old World War II veteran who parachuted into Holland after D-Day, only to get captured by the Germans. His stories were riveting and served as further reminders to always be grateful for this remarkable nation in which I live.
In the spirit of this special day, here are 10 remarkable acts of self-sacrifice.
1. Sergeant Robert J. Miller - Medal of Honor, Operation Enduring Freedom.
On January 25, 2008, Robert J. Miller was part of a team leading Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition soldiers on patrol in the remote northwest of Afghanistan. His team was attacked by insurgents, and risking his own life, he remained at the front to lay down fire and allow his wounded commander to be moved to safety, which saved his life as well as the lives of other members of his patrol.
2. Sergeant Travis Atkins - Medal of Honor, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On June 1, 2007, Travis Atkins, while on patrol in Abu Samak, Iraq threw himself on an insurgent suicide bomber, mortally wounding himself but saving three of his fellow soldiers.
3. Private Melvin L. Brown - Medal of Honor, Korean War.
On September 4, 1950, Melvin Brown was taking Hill 755 near Kasan when his platoon came under attack. Brown took a position near a wall and, although he was wounded and eventually ran out of ammunition, maintained his position throughout the battle. The attack was successfully held off, but Brown was declared missing in action the next day.
4. Lieutenant Colonel Bruce P. Crandall - Medal of Honor, Vietnam War.
On November 14, 1965, Bruce Crandall he led the first major division operation of the Vietnam War landing elements of the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, and the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, into the Battle of La Drang. During battle, Crandall's helicopters evacuated more than 75 casualties during a flight day that lasted more than 16 hours. Later, he flew unarmed in ammunition needed for the 7th Cavalry to survive.
5. Sergeant Elmer J. Burr - Medal of Honor, World War II.
On December 24, 1942, Elmer Burr was deployed in New Guinea when his company was under attack by the Japanese when a hand grenade landed in front of three men, including Burr. Instantly, Burr leaped on the grenade and huddled over it to save the other two men.
6. Master Sergeant Raul "Roy" Benavidez - Medal of Honor, Vietnam War.
On May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces team was dropped in the jungle near Loc Ninh, Vietnam on an intelligence-gathering mission. Soon, the team met with a heavy attack by the North Vietnamese Army. Roy Benavidez heard their radio call for help and boarded a helicopter to respond. Armed only with a knife, he jumped from the helicopter carrying his medical bag and ran to help the trapped patrol. He exposed himself constantly to enemy fire, receiving multiple injuries. His refusal to stop saved the lives of at least eight men.
7. Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Rascon - Medal of Honor, Vietnam War.
On March 16, 1966, Alfred Rascon was a medic in a Reconnaissance Platoon of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The platoon's mission was to reinforce another battalion that was under attack near Long Khánh Province. Rascon made his way forward to aid his fallen comrades. On more than one occasion Rascon exposed himself to enemy fire by covering the bodies of those whom he was aiding and absorbing the blast and fragments of the grenades with his own body. Each time he would drag his comrades to safety and crawl back to aid someone else. Rascon was so badly wounded that day that he was given his last rites. He survived his wounds and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2000.
8. Petty Officer Michael Monsoor - Medal of Honor, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On September 29, 2006, Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor's platoon was engaged in a firefight in Ramadi, Iraq. along with three SEAL snipers, he took up a rooftop position. A grenade was thrown onto the rooftop by an insurgent on the street below. The grenade hit Monsoor in the chest and fell onto the floor. Monsoor jumped onto the grenade, covering it with his body. The grenade exploded seconds later and Monsoor's body absorbed most of the explosion. Monsoor was severely wounded and died 30 minutes later. Two other SEALs next to him at the time were injured by the explosion but survived.
9. Sergeant Ross F. Gray - Medal of Honor, World War II.
On February 21, 1945, two days after D-Day on Iwo Jima, Ross Gray was acting platoon sergeant of one of Company A's platoons which had been held up by a sudden barrage of Japanese hand grenades in the area northeast of Airfield No. 1. Through enemy fire, Gray cleared a path through the minefield and then returned to his own lines. He went back to the battalion and grabbed twelve satchel charges, including one that weighed twenty-four pounds. Under covering fire, Gray ran up the path he had cleared and threw the charge into the enemy position.
Under continued fire, Gray returned, obtained another charge, returned to the position and this time completely destroyed it. He continued this one-man attack, all under heavy small arms fire and grenade barrage until he had destroyed six enemy positions.
Gray survived the battle; however, he was killed six days later by an enemy shell.
10. Corporal William "Kyle" Carpenter - Medal of Honor, Operation Enduring Freedom.
On 21 November 2010. Kyle Carpenter was a member of a coalition force comprised of two reinforced Marine squads partnered with an Afghan National Army squad. Carpenter and a fellow Marine were manning a rooftop security position on the perimeter of Patrol Base Dakota when the enemy initiated a daylight attack with hand grenades, one of which landed inside their sandbagged position. Without hesitation, and with complete disregard for his own safety, Carpenter moved toward the grenade in an attempt to shield his fellow Marine from the deadly blast. When the grenade detonated, his body absorbed the brunt of the blast, severely wounding him, but saving the life of his fellow Marine.