Fallen Air Force Tech Sgt. Approved for Medal of Honor
Air Force Technical Sgt. John “Chappy” Chapman is slated to receive the Medal of Honor, the first airman to receive the designation since the Vietnam War.
Chapman was alone in the thigh-deep snow of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan when scores of Al Qaeda fighters closed in on him. Drone footage revealed that Chapman launched a solo fight against the enemy after his unit had departed.
The Air Force combat controller and six members of Navy SEAL Team 6 were to helicopter-insert to direct air strikes and provide intelligence for conventional troops below them. But their intelligence was flawed, and instead of 200-300 lightly armed Al Qaeda fighters, they faced some 1,000 heavily armed fighters outfitted with heavy machine-guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and artillery.
His citation reads, “From close range he exchanged fire with the enemy from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds. His engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second position enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact.”
Unconscious, Chapman’s teammates believed that he had been killed in the firefight, but low-quality drone footage coupled with video feed from a C-130 showed Chapman alive up to an hour after his teammates left the area.
“It was really grainy. But there was still somebody up there fighting, and you could see that,” Kenny Longfritz, Chapman’s first sergeant at 24th STS, said of the Predator drone footage he viewed after the battle. There was no doubt in his mind, or among many others in the squadron, that it was John.
He would go on to kill more enemy fighters, engaging one al-Qaida fighter in hand-to-hand combat.
“As a daddy, he didn’t want to leave his babies,” his mother, Terry said. “But as a soldier, he wanted to go and serve his country and, as he said, ‘kick ass!’”
Special Forces Legend, “Iron Mike” Dies
Last month, the Army lost a special ops legend.
Maj. Gen. Michael D. Healy, 91, spent 35 years serving in the military, completing tours in Korea and Vietnam. Healy began his career with parachute training followed by attendance at a number of Army Colleges, including Ranger School.
Maj. Gen. Healy earned the nickname “Iron Mike” while serving as a young officer leading Army Rangers on combat patrols deep behind enemy lines in Korea in the early 1950s. The nickname, which stuck with him throughout his life, was a testament to his stamina and ability to take heavy loads, as well as helping others with their loads.
The Chicago native enlisted in the Army at the age of 19.
He entered the Korean War as a Company Commander with the Airborne Rangers, which at the time was a newly formed unit of the Army. Most of his career was spent in Vietnam, where he served five and a half tours, leading the 5th Special Forces group for almost 20 months, and earning him his first Distinguished Service Medal.
When he retired in 1981, Maj. Gen. Healy was the nation’s most senior Special Forces soldier.
Iron Mike’s legend made it to the big screen as the inspiration for John Wayne’s character, “Col. Iron Mike Kirby,” in the 1968 film “The Green Berets.”
Maj. Gen. Healy’s legacy would not be forgotten in the close-knit Special Forces community, according to Retired Sgt. 1st Class Cliff Newman, executive director of the Special Forces Association.
“He was one of the first Americans to go into Vietnam and one of the last to leave,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Healy was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, two Silver Star Medals, a Legion of Merit with three oak-leaf clusters, a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star Medal with valor device, an Air Medal with Valor device, a Navy Commendation Medal with valor device and two Purple Heart Medals. He is also a member of the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.
In 2016, Maj. Gen. Healy was inducted as a Distingished Member of the Special Forces Regiment. He had a special bond with the men he lead, and was a beloved hero of the Green Berets. He always credited his success to the men he lead.
In an interview, Maj. Gen. Healy said: “I would like to walk in the back gate at Fort Sheridan like I first did and say, ‘Yes, sir, I’ll go.’ But today, I’m in civilian clothes. My uniform is packed away.”
Maj. Gen. Healy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his mentor, the late Gen. Creighton Abrams.
President Trump signed a bill to award a Medal of Honor to 80-year-old Vietnam veteran, retired Marine Sergeant John Canley. The move upgrades the Navy Cross Sgt. Canley had previously been awarded to the highest U.S. military decoration. The decision was approved by Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Canley, a quiet, tall Marine lifer from Arkansas, took command of his company during the Battle of Hue because his captain was down. He carried several wounded Marines from under heavy enemy fire and maintained the unit’s organization and morale.
Congress had to waive the five-year limit for recommending the Medal of Honor. That fight was taken up by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), and once that hurdle was overcome, it was go time.
“The credit for this award really should go to all the young Marines in Vietnam who inspired me every day,” said Canley. “Most of them didn’t receive any recognition, but they were the foundation of every battle in the Vietnam War,” he added.
Canley led the drive for a Medal of Honor to be awarded posthumously to Sgt. Alfredo Cantu “Freddy” Gonzalez, who along with Canley opened up a hole that allowed the bloodied battered Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment to advance into Hue and the heart of the Tet Offensive. The 21-year-old Gonzalez was mortally wounded by a rocket. He took cover in the Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church, where he died.
John Ligato, a private first class who became an FBI agent after the war, praised Canley’s actions, likening him to John Wayne.
“We all like to think we’re a little brave. He’s on a different plane,” said Ligato.
In 2005, Ligato started a drive to upgrade Canley’s Navy Cross, along with a purple heart and two bronze stars, to the Medal of Honor. It took 13 years.
Luckily, Ligato approached Brownley’s staff in 2014 and asked the congresswoman to join the drive. The rest is history.
Canley’s citation states: “By his dynamic leadership, courage, and selfless dedication, Gunnery Sergeant Canley contributed greatly to the accomplishment of his company’s mission and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.”
By Debbie Gregory.
Although the National Football League (NFL) has taken some heat for the #PleaseStand controversy, the league has announced plans to honor veterans during Super Bowl LII.
The brouhaha began when the NFL rejected an ad for the Super Bowl program from AMVETS that featured the American flag, saluting soldiers and the words “Please Stand,” urging players and fans to stand during the national anthem. The ad was in direct opposition to the movement of NFL players protesting racial inequality and injustice by kneeling during the performance of the National Anthem before the start of games.
NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said the programs should not be used for political messaging. AMVETS declined the opportunity to amend their ad.
Controversy aside, the participation of 15 Medal of Honor (MoH) recipients from WWII, Vietnam and Afghanistan may be one of best parts of the Super Bowl.
WWII Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams, 94, will flip the coin that gives the winning captain the opportunity to elect to kick off or receive. Williams will be surrounded by fellow MoH recipients from the Vietnam War: Bennie Adkins, Army; Don Ballard, Navy; Sammy Davis, Army; Roger Donlon, Army; Tom Kelley, Navy; Allan Kellogg, Marines; Gary Littrell, Army; Walter Marm, Army; Robert Patterson, Army; and James Taylor, Army.
MoH recipients from Afghanistan who will be participating are: Sal Giunta, Army; Flo Groberg, Army; Leroy Petry, Army; and Clint Romesha, Army.
“These courageous individuals deserve to be recognized on America’s biggest stage,” said Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner.
The NFL’s military appreciation initiative “Salute to Service” has been running all season. The league also partners with military nonprofits Pat Tillman Foundation, TAPS, USO, and Wounded Warrior Project.
By Debbie Gregory.
As Director of Employer Engagement for California Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), I had the pleasure of meeting Retired Army Capt. Gary “Mike” Rose at a September ESGR event.
Rose, a Vietnam veteran, will receive the Medal of Honor on October 23rd.
In 1967, Rose decided to volunteer for the Army. Thanks to high aptitude test scores, jump school and Special Forces training followed, and by October 1968, he was a Special Forces medic.
In 1970, Rose, a Green Beret, participated in Operation Tailwind, a classified mission in support of the Royal Lao Army, creating a diversion aimed at North Vietnamese Army troops.
While serving as a medic with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam — Studies and Observations Group, 5th Special Forces Group, Rose “repeatedly ran into the line of enemy fire to provide critical aid to his comrades, using his own body on one occasion to shield a wounded American from harm,” according to the White House.
Despite being wounded on the final day of the mission, Rose helped move wounded personnel to a helicopter extraction point.
“As he boarded the final extraction helicopter, intense enemy fire hit the helicopter, causing it to crash shortly after takeoff,” according to the White House. “Again, ignoring his own injuries, Sergeant Rose pulled the helicopter crew and members of his unit from the burning wreckage and provided medical aid until another extraction helicopter arrived.”
Over the four-day battle, Rose is credited with treating between 60 and 70 wounded troops, saving numerous lives.
Rose has asked the White House to include his fellow MACV-SOG veterans in the ceremony, as well as the Marines and Air Force personnel who supported the mission, particularly the A-1E Skyraider and AH-1 Cobra pilots who were there.
“To me, this medal is a collective medal, and it honors all those men who fought.”
In spite of the fact that Rose has only just taken up playing golf in the last few years, he is no stranger to hitting a hole in one. I suggested he might consider buying a lottery ticket.
By Debbie Gregory.
In July, 2017, a retired West Michigan high school teacher and coach who is credited with saving the lives of 10 members of his platoon in Vietnam will receive the Medal of Honor.
James C. McCloughan was a 23-year-old medic when in May, 1969, his platoon was engaged in a fierce battle with the enemy. PFC McCloughan returned to the combat zone multiple times to retrieve wounded soldiers, despite the fact that he had been shot in the arm and had shrapnel injuries.
McCloughan, now 71 years old, received numerous awards for his actions, including the Combat Medical Badge, two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars. But he was not eligible for the Medal of Honor until a recent change did away with the previous time limit.
Prior to leaving office, President Obama signed the waiver into law that did away with the five year time limit from the time of the action as part of a defense authorization act.
McCloughan’s old platoon leader, Randy Clark, was the driving force behind the push to award McCloughan the Medal of Honor.
McCloughan vividly remembered the battle, when 89 soldiers were flown in by helicopter in an effort to block a North Vietnamese advance, only to find that they were greatly outnumbered.
According to the White House, in order to receive the award, “the meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life.”
James C. McCloughan certainly displayed these qualities, and for that, he has earned the nation’s highest military honor.
We congratulate him and thank him for his service and sacrifice.
By Debbie Gregory.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. It is generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
On December 9, 1861, Iowa Senator James W. Grimes introduced Senate Bill No. 82 to “promote the efficiency of the Navy” by authorizing the production and distribution of “medals of honor.” Less than two weeks later, the bill was passed, authorizing 200 such medals be produced “which shall be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen and marines as shall distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities during the present war (Civil War).” Similar bills were introduced and passed to honor service members from other branches.
Sadly, the award is often bestowed posthumously to fallen heroes in recognition for their extraordinary acts of valor. Living Medal of Honor recipients are given the following special privileges and special benefits:
One footnote: Medal of Honor recipients are just that, recipients. They are not winners, because they didn’t win their medals, they earned them.
By Debbie Gregory.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (Rep. CA) is hoping that the fourth time’s the charm for fallen Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta.
The lawmaker, a veteran Marine officer, sent a letter petitioning Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to review Peralta’s nomination for the Medal of Honor — a nomination that three previous defense secretaries have opted not to approve.
Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. “Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away,” the citation read.
Peralta had been wounded by a bullet ricochet to the back of the head immediately before his death, and some investigators have questioned whether he could have been conscious and able to grab the grenade after sustaining that wound.
Peralta’s desire to become a Marine was sparked shortly after he moved to California as a teenager. A native of Mexico, he had moved from Tijuana to San Diego after his mother grew concerned that he could get swept up in gang violence.
Peralta, an undocumented immigrant during his first years in San Diego, enlisted the day his green card arrived in the mail in 2000.
Hunter’s letter came just days after the Navy took ownership of the USS Rafael Peralta, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer named in honor of the fallen Marine.
Eyewitness accounts remain a sticky point in the Peralta case. Hunter notes that three Marines who were there in Fallujah during the firefight credit the sergeant with saving their lives.
A Marine colonel assigned to investigate the facts wrote in a Nov. 17, 2005, report that he was convinced that the Marines who testified to Peralta’s actions “gave an honest account.” He also found that Peralta was “probably” shot by friendly fire and listed both the gunshot and shrapnel wounds from the grenade as the cause of death.
“Jim Mattis can now make the right decision on this after others have failed to do that,” said Hunter.
By Debbie Gregory.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is recommending that two service members, either Sailors or Marines, be upgraded to the Medal of Honor following an extensive review of medals awarded since Sept. 11, 2001. The names of the two service members were not made public.
To end his near-record seven-and-a-half year tenure, Mabus has made the recommendations as part of a Defense Department review of all service crosses and Silver Stars awarded to troops to determine if any of them are eligible for upgrade.
Some 1,100 combat awards meet those criteria.
The Pentagon’s official military awards database shows that nine sailors and 38 Marines have received the Navy Cross.
Among those being considered for the upgrade are: Navy Cross recipient Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who posthumously received the award in 2008 for throwing himself on a grenade in Fallujah to save the lives of fellow Marines during a 2004 battle; Navy Cross recipients Cpl. Jonathan Yale and Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, who sacrificed their lives to keep a truck loaded with explosives from entering the base they were guarding in Ramadi, Iraq in 2008; and Navy Cross recipient Lance Cpl. Brady Gustafson, who courageously engaged enemy fighters as a turret gunner in Afghanistan in 2008 despite sustaining grievous wounds to his leg.
Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, a member of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during a December 2012 raid in Afghanistan to rescue an American doctor, Dilip Joseph, who had been captured by the Taliban. Senior Chief Petty Officer Edward Byers Jr., another member of the team, received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in subduing the Taliban captors and rescuing Joseph.