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Florent Groberg Honored At Citizenship Ceremony

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By Debbie Gregory.

Capt. Florent Groberg was the special guest at a citizenship ceremony last month, where he was honored with the Outstanding American by Choice award.

The Outstanding American by Choice initiative recognizes the outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens. Through civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship, recipients of this honor have demonstrated their commitment to this country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans.

Groberg, one of  only 11 living Medal of Honor recipients from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Poissy, France, and became an American citizen in 2001 at age 17.

Groberg addressed 164 newly minted American citizens who hailed from 43 different countries. He shared with them that he had come to understand what it meant to be an American through his seven years of military service.

“When I lost my friends, when I felt that pain, it reminded me why this is the greatest country in the world. Because of its people, because of our history,” he said. “We stand up while others run. We face our struggles head on, and when we get back down, we get back up.”

Army Secretary Eric Fanning, another guest of honor at the ceremony, gave more weight to passages in the oath of citizenship that commit new citizens to “bear arms on behalf of the United States” and “perform noncombatant services for the Armed Forces” when required by law to do so.

Fanning hailed the diversity in the room, saying it was crucial to American military strength.

“For me, the existence and frequency of these naturalization ceremonies ranks as an important national achievement,” he said. “As Army secretary, when I look at a formation of soldiers, I want to see strength. I want to see the resilience. I see that as I look around this room today. These characteristics are what makes Americans and America great.”

“We are the greatest country in the world. This is a place where we can make anything we want of ourselves; this is the land of opportunity,” Groberg said. “So I’m very confident in the leadership that we have had, and will have. And I just, every day, am grateful to call myself an American. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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From Media Scandal to Medal Of Honor?

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Medal of Honor could be the final vindication in the battle to clear the name and reputation of a Green Beret soldier who served in Vietnam 47 years ago.

In September, 1970, Green Beret Gary Michael Rose was the lone medic for a company of Special Forces soldiers and indigenous Vietnamese fighters, called Montagnards,  in Laos. Rose, who himself was badly injured, helped bring all the soldiers back alive. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, during a ceremony at the time in Vietnam.

But in 1998, Rose and the other men of Operation Tailwind were wrongly accused of taking part in war crimes.

Stunning claims were alleged that the Green Berets were sent to Laos to kill American defectors and that the military used sarin gas during the mission. The charges were fully discredited.

The story, which was co-written and presented by famed journalist Peter Arnett, was retracted by CNN and Time. But you can’t un-ring a bell. The retraction never erased the allegations in the view of soldiers who conducted Operation Tailwind.

The highest recognition of heroism is close for Rose. In Congress’s final version of its annual defense policy bill is legislation that clears the way for Rose to receive the Medal of Honor. While lawmakers remain deeply divided on many defense and veteran issues, there is agreement that the Green Beret medic should have his Distinguished Service Cross upgraded.

In September 1970, Rose, 15 Green Berets and their company of Montagnards were on a classified mission to take pressure off the CIA, which was running operations in the Laotian highlands, by drawing the attention of at least two North Vietnamese Army regiments in the area, according to retired Maj. John Plaster, a former Special Forces sniper and military historian who served with Rose in the Studies and Observations Group.

Rose and his unit, backed by U.S. air power, almost never stopped moving for the next four days while taking small arms, mortar and rocket fire.  By the second day, about half of the Green Berets were wounded. Many more of the Montagnards had injuries. By the fourth day, all of the American had been wounded.

Plaster said, “Gary kept them moving, it was emergency medicine on the go. Think of how many people could have put up with that much stress and stay organized and cool and treat all of those people.”

Rose was wounded multiple times and had treated about 60 injured troops. The Marines had lost three Sea Stallions. But all of the soldiers had survived.

Rose’s lifesaving actions on the battlefield will become the new face of Operation Tailwind and turn a national media spotlight on the missionl.

 

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Destroyer Named for MoH Recipient Michael Monsoor

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By Debbie Gregory.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor was described by his mother as being “very loyal, silent and determined,” but a character none the less.

Michael Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2008 for his actions in Iraq

On September 29, 2006, an insurgent threw a grenade onto a rooftop where Monsoor and several other SEALs and Iraqi soldiers were positioned. Monsoor quickly smothered the grenade with his body, absorbing the resulting explosion and saving his comrades from serious injury or death. The 25 year old died about 30 minutes later from serious wounds caused by the grenade explosion.

“The grenade hit him in the chest and bounced on the ground before he dove on it,” U.S. Sen. Angus King said. “It was knowing and deliberate. He was completely conscious of the sacrifice he was about to make.”

At Monsoor’s funeral, as the coffin was moving from the hearse to the grave site, Navy SEALs were lined up forming a column of twos on both sides of the pallbearers route. As the coffin passed each SEAL, they slapped down the gold Trident each had removed from his own uniform and deeply embedded it into the wooden coffin. For nearly 30 minutes the slaps were audible from across the cemetery as nearly every SEAL on the West Coast repeated the act.

President Bush, who attended the funeral, spoke about the incident later, saying: “The procession went on nearly half an hour, and when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten.”

The future USS Michael Monsoor , a DDG 1001 guided-missile destroyer, was christened by Michael’s mother Sally, before a crowd gathered next to the Kennebec River at Bath Iron Works named for the Medal of Honor recipient.

Sally Monsoor, her daughter and her daughter-in-law were escorted to the bow of the destroyer by members of SEAL Team 3, Delta Platoon, with which Michael served.

The 610-foot-long destroyer features two advanced gun systems that fire long-range, land-attack projectiles up to 63 nautical miles, designed to support ground troops.

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Special Forces Soldier Denied Medal of Honor

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By Debbie Gregory.

A commander’s recommendation for a Medal of Honor to be awarded to Green Beret Staff Sgt. Earl D. Plumlee has been denied.

Instead, Plumlee has been awarded a Silver Star, an award considered two levels lower.

The award recognizes Plumlee for his role in repelling a bloody Taliban attack on August 28, 2013, on Forward Operating Base Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan. The member of 1st Special Forces Group from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington is credited with killing several attackers at point-blank range, using both small arms and hand grenades, as their suicide vests detonated.

Plumlee rushed to the site of a car bombing outside the military base as Taliban attackers reportedly tried storming in through a damaged wall. Troops, including Plumlee, returned fire and helped the wounded receive medical aid. Unfortunately, Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis was killed in the attack.

Other troops received Silver Stars, including a posthumous award to Ollis.

“I think there are plenty of Medal of Honor recipients out there whose actions surpassed mine. But I think a downgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross wouldn’t have got everyone stirred up.”

The Distinguished Service Cross is one level below the Medal of Honor.

Plumlee’s recommendation was backed by senior battlefield commanders, including Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. But in May 2015, Plumlee instead received the Silver Star, prompting Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter to request an inspector general’s investigation.

One of the voting members said his decision not to recommend the Medal of Honor came down in large part to one thing: Plumlee’s rank. Because Plumlee was a staff sergeant, he was expected to be a leader once the Taliban attacked rather than “a private who would be seized by the moment and take extremely valorous and courageous action,” the board member told the inspector general, according to the report.

“One’s a leader. One’s a Soldier,” the member said, according to the report. “And so when I looked at the circumstances and, although the battle was ferocious and unfortunately a couple members were killed, I just thought that it wasn’t a sufficient level for the Medal of Honor based off of the individual and the circumstances and that, I just felt there was an expectation of a leader who did a phenomenal job, that there was something more that [the nominee] needed to have done in order to, in my mind, to make a recommendation for a Medal of Honor.”

Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith declined to answer whether it is fair that when reviewing valor award recommendations, the service may consider similar actions by soldiers of different ranks differently.

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Retired Army Vietnam Vet to Receive the Medal of Honor

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By Debbie Gregory.

A Vietnam War helicopter pilot recently selected to receive the Medal of Honor said Thursday he didn’t hesitate to volunteer leading an airborne rescue mission that saved the lives of dozens of troops despite the prospect of coming under intense enemy fire.

Retired Army Lt. Colonel Charles S. Kettles, 86, will be awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony on July 18, 2016. Kettles will receive the honor for conspicuous gallantry during an ambush in Vietnam.

The retired officer was an Army major and a flight commander who led a platoon of UH-1D “Huey” helicopters providing support to a 101st Airborne unit ambushed near Duc Pho in the Republic of Vietnam on May 15, 1967.

A battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers pinned down American troops there, and Kettles volunteered to lead an extraction effort.

“There wasn’t any decision to be made. We simply were going to go and pick them up,” Charles Kettles told reporters inside a Michigan National Guard building in his hometown of Ypsilanti.

Kettles returned with more reinforcements and to carry off the dead and wounded, making four trips to the hot landing zone. The last trip to rescue the last remaining soldiers was made with only his helicopter.

“The helicopter was already overweight and it flew like a two-ton truck, but we were able to get up in the air and get everyone to safety.”

Kettles was credited with saving 40 troops on the ground that day, along with four of his own crew. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

Lawmakers in Kettles’ home state of Michigan sought not only to upgrade his award, but also congressional action to waive the statute of limitation that bars the medal from being awarded after five years.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award bestowed upon U.S. troops. Kettles will be the 260th recipient from the Vietnam War, and only its 54th living recipient, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

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Dramatic Rescue Earns Navy SEAL the Medal of Honor

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By Debbie Gregory.

As his SEAL Team Six unit raided a Taliban hide-out where an American doctor was being held hostage, Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers displayed actions that have earned him the Medal of Honor. Tragically, one member of the team was killed.

Byers will be the first sailor in a decade to receive the award. Although his actions in Afghanistan in 2012 have been deemed heroic and self-sacrificing, few details about the rescue or Byers’ actions have been made public.

“There’s no margin of doubt or possibility of error in awarding this honor,” a defense official said. “His actions were so conspicuous in terms of bravery and self-sacrifice that they clearly distinguished him to be worthy of the award, including risk of his own life.”

While the White House usually gives a detailed account of what a service member has done to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Byers commendation cites only “his courageous actions while serving as part of a team that rescued an American civilian being held hostage in Afghanistan, December 8-9, 2012.”

Dr. Dilip Joseph, the medical director for Colorado faith-based nonprofit Morningstar Development, had been held captive in a shack by ransom-seeking Taliban fighters in the mountains east of Kabul.

On December 9th, just after midnight, the SEALs burst in to the shack. The forward-most SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas Checque, was shot in the forehead. “Is Dilip Joseph here?” shouted another member of the SEAL team, wearing night-vision goggles and speaking English. When Joseph identified himself, Byers immediately laid down on top of him to protect him from the fighting. As they waited for a helicopter 12 minutes out, the SEALs protected Joseph by “sandwiching” him between two team members.

Byers and other medics performed CPR on Checque during the ride to Bagram Airfield, but Checque, 28, was pronounced dead.

Byers joined the Navy in 1998, serving as a hospital corpsman before attending Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 2002.

A Toledo, Ohio native, 36 year old Byers will be the 11th living service member to receive the medal for actions in Afghanistan and the third sailor to earn the distinction since Sept. 11, 2001.

His awards and decorations include five Bronze Stars with combat “V” device, two Purple Hearts, a Joint Service Commendation with “V,” three  Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals — one with “V”— and two Combat Action Ribbons.

President Obama will present Byers with the nation’s highest award for valor in a February 29th ceremony at the White House.

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Army Captain Florent Groberg Awarded Medal of Honor

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By Debbie Gregory.

“On his very worst day, he managed to summon his very best.”

These are the words that President Obama said, just prior to presenting Army Captain Florent Groberg with the Medal of Honor.

In 2012, Groberg rushed and tackled a suicide bomber while serving in Afghanistan.

Although Groberg has spent much of the last three years recovering from 33 surgeries, he saved countless lives on that fateful day when he disregarded thoughts of personal safety and allowed his training to kick in.

As the head of a personal security detachment in the Fourth Infantry Division, Groberg was escorting commanders on foot to a weekly security meeting at the provincial governor’s office in Asadabad, the capital of Kunar Province.

When the group approached a narrow bridge, they saw two motorcycles heading toward them, which tuned out to be a diversion from the real threat.

As Groberg tells it, “A man came out of a building walking backwards, which was eerie, and then started walking towards us. I left my post. As I maneuvered towards him, Sergeant Mahoney to my left maneuvered with me,” referring to Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, who received a Silver Star for his actions that day.

Captain Groberg confronted the man. “I pushed him as hard as I could and honestly I just wanted to get him as far away from my guys as possible. He had a dead man’s trigger, which means he had already pressed the trigger prior to walking towards us. As he hit the ground chest first, he let go the trigger and he detonated.”

The explosion set off another bomb nearby. “It was the worst day of my life because even though we defeated the enemy, I lost four of my brothers.”

The four Americans who lost their lives were: Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin and Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy of the Army; Maj. Walter D. Gray of the Air Force; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, a Foreign Service officer with the United States Agency for International Development.

Brigade Boasts Three Medal of Honor Recipients

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By Debbie Gregory.

Army Captain Florent Groberg, formerly of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, left Afghanistan in 2012 with a mangled left leg that required more than 30 surgeries, and confined him to a hospital bed for three months.

Groberg had been charged with protecting a formation of senior leaders. On August 8, 2012, an insurgent armed with a suicide vest attacked the group. Groberg tackled him and the vest exploded. The Army said his actions saved many lives.

But surviving the attack that day left Groberg feeling a big responsibility to the four men who did not survive: Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Griffin, Air Force Maj. Walter David Gray, Army Maj. Thomas Kennedy and Ragaei Abdelfattah, a USAID foreign-service officer.

“So what do I do now?” Groberg asked himself. “I live my life to the best of my ability for four individuals, who unfortunately did not have the same luck — if you want to call it luck.”

For his heroic actions that day, Groberg will receive the Medal of Honor. He is the third Fort Carson soldier to receive the Army’s highest award.

He joins former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha and former Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, both of whom received the prestigious honor in 2013 for their bravery during a deadly fight in a remote area Afghanistan in 2009.

In 2009, Romesha was assigned to defend Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan. The post was overrun by hundreds of Taliban insurgents on October 3rd. Despite shrapnel in his arm, Romesha coordinated counterattack airstrikes, killed insurgents with a Soviet-era sniper rifle he found on the ground, and made a bold 100-meter dash through a barrage of gunfire to retrieve the bodies of men who were killed. His actions saved Keating and most of its troops. Romesha was discharged from the Army in 2011.

On that same day, Carter also was wounded when fighting broke out at Keating. Like Romesha, despite his injuries, Carter braved enemy fire to rescue a wounded comrade, Spc. Stephan Mace. Carter pulled Mace to safety and dressed his wounds, but unfortunately, Mace succumbed to his injuries.

Following an Army investigation, Combat Outpost Keating was later declared to be “tactically indefensible.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Navy Cross Will Set Sail: Military Connection

Military Connection: peralta

By Debbie Gregory.

Nearly seven years after the award was approved, the family of fallen Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta has accepted his Navy Cross. But the family will only hold onto it temporarily, as they intend to donate it to the Navy destroyer Rafael Peralta for its October 31st christening

On November 15, 2004, Sgt. Peralta absorbed a grenade blast during a building-clearing mission in Fallujah, Iraq. He had already been shot multiple times by an AK-47, when insurgents threw a hand grenade in the room where Peralta and two additional Marines were. According to his 2008 Navy Cross citation, Peralta pulled the enemy grenade to his body to protect his fellow Marines.

Although his superiors put him in for the Medal of Honor, a succession of defense secretaries determined that the evidence of Peralta’s heroism wasn’t conclusive enough to meet the high standard for military’s highest award for valor. Additionally, there have been conflicting stories of the events of that day.

Peralta’s family resisted receipt of his Navy Cross, insisting he earned the Medal of Honor.

Peralta’s sister, Icelda Peralta-Donald, said the family had a change of heart last October during the keel-laying ceremony for the Rafael Peralta. Navy officials told Peralta’s mother, Rosa, that it was traditional for the family to donate a personal item for the ship in honor of its namesake.

Peralta-Donald said that her mother now feels that her son’s Navy Cross will keep all the crew members safe.

Peralta-Donald said the family’s decision to accept the Navy Cross was not a concession or an indication that they would stop pursuing a higher award.

“Deep in our hearts we still believe somebody will do the right thing and upgrade to the Medal of Honor,” she said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has never been asked to consider the Peralta case, so there remains the possibility of a new review in coming years.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Navy Cross Will Set Sail: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Medal of Honor Push for Hero: By Debbie Gregory

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In times of war, there are many stories of remarkable heroism from our service members that define courage and valor.  Army Sergeant 1st Class Alwyn “Al” Cashe was a hero, in every sense of the word. Everyone knew that. Cashe, a Sanford, Florida native was awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third highest honor for individual valor. Normally, such an honor would be humbling for anyone who served. But in this instance, the awarding of a Silver Star does not do justice to the actions of heroism performed by Cashe. Those who know his story believe that Cashe deserves the Medal of Honor. That’s why Cashe’s story needs to be told… and retold.

On October 14, 2005, outside the city of Samarra, SFC Cashe was assigned to 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, which was part of the 15thInfantry Regiment at Operating Base MacKenzie, Iraq. An improvised explosive device (IED) blew up under the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) that Cashe was riding in as senior man. The blast ruptured the BFV’s gas tank, and it went up in flames. As the vehicle exploded, insurgents began attacking the convoy with small arms fire.

Confirmed reports of the incident state that Cashe was able to escape the inferno of the BFV, braving the small arms fire and the blazing vehicle, rescuing six soldiers who were trapped inside. At one point, the leaking fuel got all over Cashe, engulfing him in flames. Even though burns covered 90% of his body, Cashe risked being shot by the terrorists and continued to pull his soldiers from the wreckage.

Determined to leave no soldier behind, Cashe pulled all six of his brothers from the BFV, and made sure that they were all medevaced before he was. Despite this great act of heroism, only two of the soldiers survived.  But they did survive, solely due to the efforts and sacrifice of SFC Cashe.

On November 8th, Cashe made the ultimate sacrifice, as he died from his wounds at a military hospital in Texas.

Before he perished, Cashe was visited by his sister, Kasinal Cashe White. She was informed of the IED explosion, but had no idea what actions led to her brother’s condition until a nurse at the hospital told her.

White told news reporters that Cashe’s first words to her were, “How are my boys?” The wounded enlisted leader was referring to the soldiers he had  tried to save.

“I couldn’t get to them fast enough,” Cashe told his sister.

Months after the incident, and after SFC Cashe passed away, Brigadier General Gary Brito, Cashe’s commanding officer, was made aware of all the details of the incident, and the extent of SFC Cashe’s valor. Even though it was Brito who originally nominated Cashe for the Silver Star, he was the one who also began the campaign to award the fallen hero the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award.

Because General Brito is actively pushing for the award, an act of Congress is not needed at this time to award the MOH to Cashe. But we hope you will  pass along SFC Cashe’ story, and his heroic acts, to others. His is a story needs to be told to honor Cashe’s memory and garner support for him to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Medal of Honor Push for Hero: By Debbie Gregory