Archive for the ‘hero’ Category

Vietnam War Hero, With His 600 Men, Stopped 20,000 Enemy and 200 Tanks

November 3, 2008

Retired Marine Col. John Ripley, who was credited with stopping a column of North Vietnamese tanks by blowing up a pair of bridges during the 1972 Easter Offensive of the Vietnam War, died at home at age 69, friends and relatives said Sunday.

Associated Press

Ripley’s son, Stephen Ripley, said his father was found at his Annapolis home Saturday after missing a speaking engagement on Friday. The son said the cause of death had not been determined but it appeared his father died in his sleep.

In a videotaped interview with the U.S. Naval Institute for its Americans at War program, Ripley said he and about 600 South Vietnamese were ordered to “hold and die” against 20,000 North Vietnamese soldiers with about 200 tanks.

“I’ll never forget that order, ‘hold and die’,” Ripley said. The only way to stop the enormous force with their tiny force was to destroy the bridge, he said.

“The idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous,” Ripley said. “When you know you’re not going to make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you’re going to save your butt.”

Ripley crawled under the bridge under heavy gunfire, rigging 500 pounds of explosives that brought the twins spans down, said John Miller, a former Marine adviser in Vietnam and the author of “The Bridge at Dong Ha,” which details the battle.

Miller said the North Vietnamese advance was slowed considerably by Ripley.

“A lot of people think South Vietnam would have gone under in ’72 had he not stopped them,” Miller said.

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SEAL Killed in Iraq To Get Medal of Honor

April 1, 2008

 By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2008; Page A04

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor fought dozens of battles in the streets of Ramadi, shouldering his MK48 machine gun without complaint in the 130-degree heat of Iraq’s violent Anbar province.

In May 2006, only a month into his first deployment to Iraq, the 25-year-old Navy SEAL from Garden Grove, Calif., ran under fire into a street to drag to safety a wounded comrade who was shot in the leg, earning a Silver Star for his courage.
Michael A. Monsoor died saving three fellow SEALs. Michael A. Monsoor died saving three fellow SEALs.

On Sept. 29, 2006, another act of valor would cost Monsoor his life — and save the lives of three comrades. For that act, he will posthumously be awarded a Medal of Honor on April 8, the White House said yesterday.

Monsoor “distinguished himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life,” said an official summary of action. He is the first sailor and the third service member overall to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in the war in Iraq.

That September morning, Monsoor and a group of SEAL snipers took up position on a residential rooftop as part of an operation to push into a dangerous section of southern Ramadi. Four insurgents armed with AK-47 rifles came into view, and the SEAL snipers opened fire, killing one and wounding another. Loudspeakers from a mosque broadcast calls for insurgents to rally, and residents blocked off nearby roads with rocks.

Insurgents shot back at the SEAL position with automatic weapons from a moving vehicle and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the building. The SEALs knew that more attacks were inevitable but continued their mission of protecting the troops clearing the area below, according to an official account.

Monsoor’s commander repositioned him in a small hidden location between two SEAL snipers on an outcropping of the roof, facing the most likely route of another insurgent attack. As Monsoor manned his gun, an insurgent lobbed up a hand grenade, which hit Monsoor in the chest and bounced onto the roof.

“Grenade!” Monsoor shouted. But the two snipers and another SEAL on the roof had no time to escape, as Monsoor was closest to the only exit. Monsoor dropped onto the grenade, smothering it with his body. It detonated, and Monsoor died about 30 minutes later from his wounds.

“He made an instantaneous decision to save our teammates. I immediately understood what happened, and tragically it made sense to me in keeping with the man I know, Mike Monsoor,” said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, Monsoor’s platoon leader in Ramadi.

Monsoor, the third of four children, played football at Garden Grove High School and joined the Navy in 2001, where he was a top performer in his SEAL training class. He graduated in 2004. Monsoor’s sister Sara, a nurse, said her brother’s e-mails never revealed the dangers he faced, but she knew the SEAL team was like his family. “He already had it in his head — he would be the first one to jump in and protect,” she said.

Woman Earns Silver Star in Afghan War

March 12, 2008
Dodging insurgent gunfire, a 19-year-old Lake Jackson soldier used her body to shield five injured comrades after a roadside bomb struck her convoy in Afghanistan last spring. That act of bravery has earned her the Silver Star.

Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown is only the second woman since World War II to receive the medal, one of the nation’s highest military awards given for gallantry in combat.

”She just did what she was trained to do,” her 74-year-old grandmother, Katy Brown, said from her Lake Jackson home on Sunday.

Monica Brown, a medic, was part of a four-vehicle convoy patrolling near Jani Kheil in the eastern province of Paktia when a bomb struck one of the Humvees on April 25, military officials said.

After the explosion, she braved insurgent gunfire and mortars to reach five wounded soldiers. She shielded them as she administered aid and helped drag them to safety, the military said.

“I did not really think about anything except for getting the guys to a safer location and getting them taken care of and getting them out of there,” Monica Brown told The Associated Press on Saturday from a U.S. base in the province of Khowst.

Katy Brown said her granddaughter graduated from Brazos River Charter School in Morgan at 15. She joined the Army with her brother, Justin Brown, in November 2006 to get a college education, Katy Brown said.

She said she is not surprised by her granddaughter’s heroics.

”She’s just a strong, strong young woman, and she’s very caring,” Katy Brown said.

Monica Brown told her grandmother she didn’t have time to be scared.

She just jumped into action and ”made medics out of those infantry men,” Katy Brown said.

Monica Brown, of the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, said ammunition going off inside the burning Humvee was sending shrapnel in all directions. She said they were sitting in a dangerous spot.

“So, we dragged them for 100 or 200 meters, got them away from the Humvee a little bit,” she said. “I was in a kind of a robot-mode, did not think about much but getting the guys taken care of.”
Monica Brown knew all five wounded soldiers. She said they eventually moved the wounded about 500 yards away and treated them on site before putting them on a helicopter for evacuation.

She is expected to leave Afghanistan on April 15, but Katy Brown didn’t know when her granddaughter would arrive home or where she would receive the medal.

Mary Moreno, founder of Military Moms in Lake Jackson, said Monica Brown deserves the medal because she is a giving person.

”When she came home last April, she was an inspiration to all of us,” Moreno said. “She became one of us and said, ‘What can I do?’ ”
Monica Brown helped the group pack care packages for soldiers, Moreno said. She also helped them tie yellow ribbons on trees along Oyster Creek Drive in Lake Jackson in honor of the soldiers, she said.

”She is just an amazing young woman who is very down to earth and full of life,” Moreno said.

The military said Brown’s “bravery, unselfish actions and medical aid rendered under fire saved the lives of her comrades and represents the finest traditions of heroism in combat.”

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, of Nashville, Tenn., received the Silver Star in 2005 for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. Two men from Hester’s unit, the 617th Military Police Company of Richmond, Ky., also received the Silver Star for their roles in the same action.

Medal of Honor awarded to Sioux soldier for heroism in Korea

March 4, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush apologized Monday that the country waited decades to honor Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble for his military valor in Korea, giving him the Medal of Honor more than 25 years after he died.

Keeble is the first full-blooded Sioux to receive the nation’s highest military award. But it came almost six decades after he saved the lives of fellow soldiers. Keeble died in 1982.

“On behalf of our grateful nation, I deeply regret that this tribute comes decades too late,” Bush said at the White House medal ceremony. “Woody will never hold this medal in his hands or wear it on his uniform. He will never hear a president thank him for his heroism. He will never stand here to see the pride of his friends and loved ones, as I see in their eyes now.”

However, Bush said, there are things the nation can still do for Keeble, even all these years later.

“We can tell his story. We can honor his memory. And we can follow his lead, by showing all those who have followed him on the battlefield the same love and generosity of spirit that Woody showed his country every day,” the president said before a somber East Room audience that included three rows of Keeble’s family members.

Fellow soldiers, family members and others have been pushing Congress and the White House for years to award Keeble the medal. They said the man known as “Chief,” a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux tribe, deserves the medal for his actions in Korea in 1951, when he saved the lives of other soldiers by taking out more than a dozen of their enemies on a steep hill, even though he himself was wounded.

“Soldiers watched in awe as Woody single-handedly took out one machine gun nest, and then another,” Bush said. “When Woody was through, all 16 enemy soldiers were dead, the hill was taken, and the Allies won the day.”

Pentagon officials had said the legal deadline had passed to award the medal to Keeble unless Congress specifically authorized it. Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; and John Thune, R-S.D., introduced legislation to award Keeble the medal, and it was signed by Bush last year.

Keeble was recommended twice for the medal in the 1950s but the applications were lost both times. He instead received the Distinguished Service Cross.

“Some blamed the bureaucracy for a shameful blunder,” Bush said. “Others suspected racism — Woody was a full-blooded Sioux Indian. Whatever the reason, the first Sioux to ever receive the Medal of Honor died without knowing it was his.”

His friends felt he was cheated, Bush said, “Yet Woody never complained. See, he believed America was the greatest nation on earth — even when it made mistakes.”

Seventeen members of Keeble’s family, along with soldiers who served with him, attended the ceremony. Keeble’s stepson, Russell Hawkins, accepted the award along with Keeble’s nephew. He said after the ceremony that he does not believe it was racism that delayed the honor.

“I think it was truly lost,” he said of the original recommendations. “I don’t think Woodrow would say it was discrimination. He didn’t see racial colors, he didn’t see racial barriers.”

Hawkins said the family has been pushing for the medal since the early 1970s.

Keeble, who was born in Waubay, S.D., moved to North Dakota as a child. He was also a veteran of World War II and received more than 30 citations, including four Purple Hearts.

Bush saluted Keeble for his military heroism, but also for his conduct in his personal life — pursuing a woman he loved, becoming “an everyday hero” in his community and maintaining cheerfulness — despite his own grief and physical suffering. The wounds he suffered in Korea would “haunt him the rest of his life” and strokes paralyzed his right side and took away his ability to speak, but he mowed lawns and gave money to down-and-out strangers.

“Those who knew Woody can tell countless stories like this — one of a great soldier who became a Good Samaritan,” the president said.

Both Conrad and Dorgan attended the ceremony.

“This day is long overdue,” said Conrad. “Master Sgt. Keeble is finally getting the public recognition he deserves for his loyalty, devotion and sacrifice for our country.”

Dorgan said Keeble is worthy of the nation’s highest military honor.

“His bravery on the battlefield saved a lot of American lives, and today’s ceremony finally brought him the recognition he deserves,” Dorgan said. “That should be a source of pride for his family, the state of North Dakota, and all American Indians.”

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven also traveled to Washington to attend. He noted Keeble’s service with the North Dakota National Guard.

“This is a great day for North Dakota, a great day for the Sioux nation, and a great day for the North Dakota National Guard,” Hoeven said.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Sangsan-ni, Korea, on October 20, 1951. On that day, Master Sergeant Keeble was an acting platoon leader for the support platoon in Company G, 19th Infantry, in the attack on Hill 765, a steep and rugged position that was well defended by the enemy. Leading the support platoon, Master Sergeant Keeble saw that the attacking elements had become pinned down on the slope by heavy enemy fire from three well-fortified and strategically placed enemy positions. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Master Sergeant Keeble dashed forward and joined the pinned-down platoon. Then, hugging the ground, Master Sergeant Keeble crawled forward alone until he was in close proximity to one of the hostile machine-gun emplacements. Ignoring the heavy fire that the crew trained on him, Master Sergeant Keeble activated a grenade and threw it with great accuracy, successfully destroying the position. Continuing his one-man assault, he moved to the second enemy position and destroyed it with another grenade. Despite the fact that the enemy troops were now directing their firepower against him and unleashing a shower of grenades in a frantic attempt to stop his advance, he moved forward against the third hostile emplacement, and skillfully neutralized the remaining enemy position. As his comrades moved forward to join him, Master Sergeant Keeble continued to direct accurate fire against nearby trenches, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Inspired by his courage, Company G successfully moved forward and seized its important objective. The extraordinary courage, selfless service, and devotion to duty displayed that day by Master Sergeant Keeble was an inspiration to all around him and reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Bhutto’s husband calls for UN probe

January 5, 2008
By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Benazir Bhutto‘s widowed husband accused members of Pakistan‘s ruling regime of involvement in his wife’s killing and called Saturday for a U.N. investigation, as British officers aiding Pakistan’s own probe pored over the crime scene.

“An investigation conducted by the government of Pakistan will have no credibility, in my country or anywhere else,” Asif Ali Zardari, the effective leader of Bhutto’s opposition party, said in a commentary published in The Washington Post. “One does not put the fox in charge of the hen house.”

Calls for an independent, international investigation have intensified since the former prime minister was killed Dec. 27 in a shooting and bombing attack….

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Read the Washington Post Commentary:

“My Wife Died For Pakistan”

“My Wife Died For Pakistan”

January 5, 2008

By Asif Ali Zardari
The Washington Post
Saturday, January 5, 2008; Page A17

KARACHI, Pakistan — Last week the world was shocked, and my life was shattered, by the murder of my beloved wife, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.  Benazir was willing to lay down her life for what she believed in — for the future of a democratic, moderate, progressive Pakistan.  She stood up to dictators and fanatics, those who would distort and defy our constitution and those who would defame the Muslim holy book by violence and terrorism. My pain and the pain of our children is unimaginable.  But I feel even worse for a world that will have to move forward without this extraordinary bridge between cultures, religions and traditions.

During the years of my wife’s governments, she was constrained by a hostile establishment; an interventionist military leadership; a treacherous intelligence network; a fragile coalition government; and a presidential sword of Damocles, constantly threatening to dismiss Parliament. Despite all of this, she was able to introduce free media, make Pakistan one of the 10 most important emerging capital markets in the world, build over 46,000 schools and bring electricity to many villages in our large country. She changed the lives of women in Pakistan and drew attention to the cause of women’s rights in the Islamic world. It was a record that she was rightly proud of.

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Jay Zeamer Jr., World War II Bomber Pilot, Hero

November 8, 2007

As we near Veterans Day November 11, we are honoring some of our favorite heroes…. 

Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2007
Associated Press

Jay Zeamer Jr., a World War II bomber pilot who was awarded the Medal of Honor for fighting off enemy attacks during a photographic mapping mission, died 15 March 2007 at a nursing home in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. He was 88.

Zeamer, a major in the Army Air Forces, also earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars and two Air Medals for his service in the South Pacific.

He was awarded the nation’s highest military honor for his actions on June 16, 1943, after volunteering for the mapping mission over an area near Buka in the Solomon Islands that was well-defended by the Japanese.

Lt. Col Jay Zeamer, Jr.

United States Army Air Corps


While photographing the Buka airdrome, Zeamer’s crew spotted about 20 enemy fighters on the field, many of them taking off. But Zeamer continued with the mapping run, even after an enemy attack in which he suffered gunshot wounds in his arms and legs that left one leg broken.

Despite his injuries, he maneuvered the damaged plane so that his gunners could fend off the attack during a 40-minute fight in which at least five enemy planes were destroyed, one by Zeamer and four by his crew.

“Although weak from loss of blood, he refused medical aid until the enemy had broken combat. He then turned over the controls but continued to exercise command, despite lapses into unconsciousness, and directed the flight to a base 580 miles away,” according to the citation posted by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

He had been listed by the society as one of 36 living Medal of Honor recipients from World War II.

Second Lt. Joseph Sarnoski Jr. of Simpson, Pa., Zeamer’s wounded bombardier, shot down two of the planes and kept firing until he collapsed on his guns. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Zeamer’s wife, Barbara, said her husband rarely talked about his experience during the war.

“His daughters never knew he’d won the Medal of Honor until they were in junior high school,” she said. “I think he didn’t feel he deserved it. He was so close to his bombardier, and he felt terrible about his being killed.”

A native of Carlisle, Pa., Zeamer grew up in Orange, N.J. He studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering.

After the war, Zeamer worked at Pratt & Whitney in Hartford, Conn., before moving on to Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles and then Raytheon Co. in Bedford, Mass. He retired in 1968 to Boothbay Harbor, where he had spent summers as a boy, rowing his homemade boat across the harbor.

In addition to his wife, Zeamer’s survivors include their five daughters.

He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.


The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to:

ZEAMER, JAY JR. (Air Mission)Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Army Air Corps. Place and date: Over Buka area, Solomon Islands, 16 June 1943. Entered service at: Machias, Maine. Birth: Carlisle, Pa. G.O. No.: 1, 4 January 1944.


On 16 June 1943, Major Zeamer (then Captain) volunteered as pilot of a bomber on an important photographic mapping mission covering the formidably defended area in the vicinity of Buka, Solomon Islands. While photographing the Buka airdrome. his crew observed about 20 enemy fighters on the field, many of them taking off. Despite the certainty of a dangerous attack by this strong force, Major Zeamer proceeded with his mapping run, even after the enemy attack began. In the ensuing engagement, Major Zeamer sustained gunshot wounds in both arms and legs, one leg being broken. Despite his injuries, he maneuvered the damaged plane so skillfully that his gunners were able to fight off the enemy during a running fight which lasted 40 minutes. The crew destroyed at least 5 hostile planes, of which Major Zeamer himself shot down one. Although weak from loss of blood, he refused medical aid until the enemy had broken combat. He then turned over the controls, but continued to exercise command despite lapses into unconsciousness, and directed the flight to a base 580 miles away. In this voluntary action, Major Zeamer, with superb skill, resolution, and courage, accomplished a mission of great value.

Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy to receive Medal of Honor from the President

October 16, 2007
 Associated Press Writer

President Bush announced Thursday that the Medal of Honor would be posthumously awarded to Lt. Michael P. Murphy, of Patchogue, who was killed while leading a reconnaissance mission deep behind enemy lines in Afghanistan in 2005. The medal recognizes valor in action against an enemy force.

Michael Patrick Murphy

Navy Lt. Michael Murphy, while shot and wounded in Afghanistan, managed to crawl onto a ridgeline and radio headquarters at the nearby air base for them to send in reinforcements. He later died of his wounds. He will be awarded the Medal of Honor on Oct. 22.

Two Medals of Honor have been awarded posthumously in the Iraq war: to Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, who was killed in 2004 after covering a grenade with his helmet; and to Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, who was killed in 2003 after holding off Iraqi forces with a machine gun before he was killed at the Baghdad airport.

Bush is to present the Medal of Honor to Murphy’s parents, Daniel and Maureen Murphy, at a White House ceremony on Oct. 22.

Both parents described the honor as bittersweet at a news conference Thursday, balacing their loss with their pride in their son, who was 29.

“It almost is like a snapshot of how he lived his life,” Maureen Murphy said. “We know how he was, but now the nation knows what a brave and honorable man he grew up to be.”

According to a Navy citation, Michael Murphy and three fellow SEALs were searching for a terrorist in the Afghan mountains on June 28, 2005, when their mission was compromised after they were spotted by locals, who presumably reported their presence and location to the Taliban.

A fierce firefight ensued, with more than 50 anti-coalition militia firing on the outnumbered SEALs.

Despite the intensity of the firefight, Murphy _ already wounded _ is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his comrades by moving into the open for a better position to transmit a call for help.

While still under fire, Murphy provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force. At one point he was shot in the back, causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in.

Murphy then returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.

By the end of the two-hour gunfight, Murphy and two of his comrades were dead. An estimated 35 Taliban were also killed. The fourth member of their team managed to escape and was protected by local villagers for several days before he was rescued.

“His sacrifice reminds us of the dangers the men and women of our armed forces face in order to defend our nation,” said Rep. Timothy Bishop, a Democrat who represents eastern Long Island. “I can think of no one more deserving of this medal today. It can never make up for his loss, but it extends the honor which he and his family so well deserve.”

A 1994 graduate of Patchogue-Medford High School, Murphy attended Penn State University, where he graduated with honors with bachelor’s degrees in both political science and psychology. He was accepted to several law schools but instead accepted an appointment to the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in September 2000.

Murphy is the fourth Navy SEAL to earn the award and the first since Vietnam. His heroics have been widely recognized on Long Island, with the Patchogue post office renamed in his honor.

“I guess what bothers me most is that he was a man who had so much to offer the world, and now he’s not here anymore to carry on and make the world even a better place,” Murphy’s father said. “He accomplished so much in 29 years, but he could have accomplished so much more.”


Navy SEAL Michael Murphy Awarded Medal of Honor at the White House Today

NBC Relents: Honors Medal of Honor Recipient Michael P. Murphy

Link to the Navy Times:

Jay Zeamer Jr., World War II Bomber Pilot, Hero

David R. Ray, Medal of Honor

McCain Resurects Vietnam POW Experience With Video

August 31, 2007

By Carl Campanile
The New York Post

August 31, 2007 — Trying to revive his presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain released a video yesterday touting his storied military service – including extensive footage of him as a badly injured Vietnam POW being interrogated by his captors.

The opening of the film shows grainy footage of a gaunt, 31-year-old McCain sitting up in a body cast.

“What is your name?” a Viet Cong officer asks.

“McCain,” he answers, puffing on a cigarette.

McCain, a Navy pilot, was captured in October 1967 after his plane was shot down near Hanoi while on a bombing mission. He ejected and landed in a lake, breaking both arms.

A narrator’s voice talks about McCain’s leadership. “Most certainly, it is a matter of the heart. The heart to have humility. The heart to never surrender,” the narrator says.

Of the top-tier candidates in either party, McCain is the only one to have served in the military.

Later in the video, McCain says Islamic extremism will be the struggle of the 21st century. “I, with considerable ego, say I’m the best prepared and qualified to meet this challenge,” he says.

The video also includes interviews with McCain’s mom and two colonels he served with.

“I’m the luckiest guy I’ve ever known,” McCain says.


Vietnam veteran McCain back from the dead … again

McCain: Last Man Standing
(February 8, 2008)