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Message 21 of 30

I have a war buddy i was with in Vietnam.We all called him Tex because he was from Texas. We all had nicknames over there.We were all in the gun squad in the infantry unit in the first cavalry in 1969.We were in c company the first of the eighth cav.This man was one of the bravest men that i ever knew.I cannot count the number of times he got us out of dangerous situations with minimal losses of life and injuries.He was promoted to staff sargent because he refused a field commission of first lieutenant.I am sorry to say that the last 2 years he has been treated for cancer due to agent orange my guess.anyway our guys in our platoon all hope for a speedy recovery.I keep in touch with him by phone.If it was not for him me and a lot of other guys would not be here today .We are all brothers now and were brothers then.His real name is Don Goff A true hero if there ever was one.                                                                                              sgt  Bob LEcuyer   Leicester Mass.

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Message 22 of 30
I am honored to have such a family in the service of our Navy. Thank you for finding your true path in the Medical corps. I have to wonder if your Great Uncle wasn't looking over your shoulder and giving you the strength to keep asking those three years.
He truly was a hero, I pray you don't need to make that same sacrifice.
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Message 23 of 30

Is there any way to know if my story will be printed in the AARP magazine?

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Message 24 of 30

I wasn't even close to any fighting. I was on a missle sub who's only job was to "go out and hide" as a deterant. One time, a shipmate suddenly grabbed the handle on my jacket's zipper and clipped it off. What kind of prank was that? He must have been really bored.

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Message 25 of 30

My Great Uncle Vito The Hero I’ll Never Forget

 

When I joined the Navy in 1982 no one told me about any relatives who ever served in the military.  As far as I knew I was the first, but years later I would learn that fact was only partially true.

I came into the Navy as a non rate sailor (one without a designated job).  It was up to me to find out my purpose and passion. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  Growing up in a Sicilian/Cuban household my parents probably figured I’d get married after high school.  There was never any talk about my future or my dreams. I had worked in an office in New York City after high school and had my own place, but it was a dead end existence.  Now at twenty years old I was thrust into a world I knew nothing about. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I hated being in the security division. I watched all my friends take whatever rate was open just so they could get out of the division.  I couldn’t see myself becoming a boatswain mate or a mess cook. I always felt like I was meant for something better. I wanted to do something that would make a difference.

Then one day I met this group of people known as “Hospital Corpsman”.  I didn’t really know anything about them except I wanted to be one of them.  When I expressed a desire to become a Corpsman I was met with a lot of resistance.  It took me three years to finally get accepted to go to Corps school. I shared the news with my Grandma Corso when I was home for the weekend.  Silently, she went into her bedroom and pulled out a long wooden plaque with a newspaper article that was mounted on it.

It read:  Brooklyn Hero Lost Saving Three

My Grandmother explained the man in the article was her brother, Vito Accardi who served during WWII.  Vito Accardi was a Pharmacist's Mate Second Class (PhM2c).  The Hospital Corps has had many names over the years, but always the same mission. (http://www.corpsman.com/history/history-of-the-hospital-corps/)

The article detailed how Vito Accardi saved 3 men while becoming injured himself and with no regard for his own safety. He served on the USS Eversole during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Eversole_(DE-404)

Vito Accardi perished and went down with the ship, but the Commanding Officer survived because he left the ship before it was hit the second time.  My Great Uncle made the ultimate sacrifice in saving the lives of his shipmates. He reflected great credit upon himself, the Hospital Corps and our family.

Vito Accardi is the hero I'll never forget and proud to share his legacy.Vito.jpg

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Message 26 of 30

BLIND HONOR

BY

Sally Bee Brown

 

   When I was a young woman of 19 to 21, I lived in Waikiki, Hawaii. This mostly was during the Vietnam War, and Oahu was crawling with military.  Guys were either headed to their first tour of a very active conflict or had already been there but were having a brief respite before heading back for more.  Respite, R & R--rest and rehabilitation, rest and relaxation, rest and recreation, or all of the above.  Rest from slogging through snake-infested swamps, ducking bullets and witnessing their friends get blown to bits.  Applying tourniquets, applying pressure, supplying body bags and filling them.  Their lives were often at the mercy of others and the dangers were so real as to have many young men get their affairs in order before they ever left the mainland.  It was an unpopular war, to put it mildly, but most of these guys didn’t have a lot of choices.  To save our freedoms they had the “privilege” of leaving their homes, many for the first time, away from family, from friends, maybe from a girlfriend who might not be there when they returned…if they returned.  Perhaps a first time out of their own country, a first tromping through a strange jungle packing a M16, of being wet to the core in a monsoon, or plastered with mud to the hips.  Of meeting an enemy whose goal was nothing more than to kill every one of them. 

   I had just come off a 3-year Oregon relationship, skipping out just a couple of weeks before the wedding.  They say you can’t run away from a bummer situation, but I was sure ready to try.   My goal was simple: have a good time with new friends in the land of palm trees and plumeria.   I came to the right place.  Single women were at a premium in Oahu; young men were as plentiful as the geckos. 

   I spent my days bikinied on the beach at Fort DeRussy, usually with one or two new girlfriends and always surrounded by young fellows with buzz cuts and polite manners.  Nights were at local watering holes, dancing to ‘60s music like Louie, Louie and Pretty Woman.   I rarely bought my own dinner or a drink, because guys wanted some female companionship, and there weren’t many eligible gals to choose from.

   What were these young men—just kids I now realize--experiencing in Vietnam?  Usually a humid 90 to 120 degrees in the shade, just wanting a cold drink and something to eat when both were likely unavailable.  Perhaps when quietly waiting out a nighttime ambush, feeling snakes crawling over them and not knowing if they were venomous or not.  Maybe emptying out the burned bodies in a downed helicopter, knowing one of these unrecognizable guys is their best buddy.   

   And here I was, 2 ½ years in paradise, laughing and whooping it up without much care in the world.  The death of President Kennedy stopped all of us for a while, but then the fun went on. 

Did these guys talk to me about their war experiences?  I don’t remember any of that.  They seemingly just wanted to have as much fun as I did.   Good buddies.  

   Looking back as an older adult, I was horrified with myself for not realizing what they must have been going through.  How could I have been so unaware about how fragile their lives were, the stress they were experiencing?  I beat myself up for many years over that…..until.

   …Until someone who’d been there explained to me that my fun-loving attitude was exactly what was needed.  These guys didn’t want to talk it out.  They needed to think about anything else but what they had been through or about the unknowns they had yet to experience.   They simply wanted someone who would swim beside them in the Pacific, be there with them on the anchored raft to bask in the sun on a lazy afternoon.  They wanted to share a good meal in the company of a smiling feminine face sitting across from them.  To have a conversation about their future dreams and aspirations with someone who would listen, laugh with them, without bringing to light subjects they didn’t want flashing through their minds.  For that day in time, this one day of their life, this moment, to have a woman to hold for a slow dance like Bobby Darin’s You’re the Reason I’m Living.  

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Message 27 of 30

Vietman War, 1966-19767

Stormy

By Ron Aiello

 

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I was a dog handler in Vietnam, one of 30 Marine scout dog handlers deployed as a group in 1966. We trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, where I was paired with Stormy, an 18-month-old German Shepherd. By the time we finished three months of training, we both depended on each other.

Soon after we got to Vietnam, during one of my first missions with her we had to search two villages. The first village was all clear, so we started walking down the trail to the next one, with Stormy on a leash in front of me, smelling the air, and the troops following. All of a sudden Stormy stopped and looked up to the right. I immediately knelt down by her side — “What do you see, girl?”— to try to decipher what she was saying. Just as I knelt, a sniper shot at me from the right flank. It went over my head. If I hadn’t knelt down I would probably have gotten shot.

I ran to take cover, and remember I actually had a little smile on face. Because during training you kind of wonder, “This is all great, but does it really work under fire?” Well, I’d just had the question answered: Yes, she just saved my life!

A lot more soldiers would have killed without Stormy and all those dogs leading patrols. They were the lifesavers. And she was my best buddy.

After 13 months, in April 1967, the handlers we told, “Pack up your clothes and get ready. You’re leaving tomorrow because your replacements are coming in.” We were all crying. A number of us had tried to stay for another tour of duty with the dogs, another 13 months, but other Marines were already being trained to take our place.

I don’t know what happened to Stormy. I wish I did. When we were pulling out of Vietnam, they made us think that when the war’s over, the dogs are coming back. I wrote letters to Headquarters Marine Corps to find out when they’d be coming back because I wanted to adopt her. I never got an answer. I found out later they never planned to bring the dogs back. Many were euthanized or given to the South Vietnamese army.
 
I helped create the War Dog Association in 2000 with a group of other handlers who wanted to raise funds to build a war dog memorial at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, N.J. It was dedicated in 2006, and is a statue of a dog — Stormy, in my mind — with her head and tail up, and a handler kneeling by her side. My son posed for it with a dog for the sculptor. I saw him standing there and thought, “Oh, man, that’s me!”

If I had to do it all over again with Stormy I would not hesitate. Other than meeting my wife and having two wonderful children, it was probably the best experience of my life.

Ron Aiello, 73, lives in Burlington, N.J. He’s president of the nonprofit War Dog Association, which sends care packages to dog teams serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, offers free prescription drugs and other health care for retired military dogs, and pays to bring military dogs back to the U.S. and reunite them with their handlers.

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Message 28 of 30

THE BUDDY I’LL NEVER FORGET

AFGHANISTAN – LINDA FERRARA AND SON MATTHEW  

 

 300-buddy-never-forget-matthew-ferrara.jpg

On November 9, 2007 Linda Ferrara’s son Matthew, 24, was a U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant leading his troops after a meeting with village elders in Aranas, in war-torn eastern Afghanistan, when he was killed in an ambush. The four hour battle also took the lives of five other American soldiers and multiple Afghan National Army soldiers.

__________________________________________

 

 

 

I have four boys and a daughter, and all of my boys were in the military. My oldest and two youngest sons are still in. Matt was my middle child, and the hardest of my kids to handle, very smart and very opinionated and confident. If I went to a store with him when he was a little boy, he’d do his best to disappear, and didn’t know why I’d be so worried.

 

He told me one time, “I want to experience everything. I don’t want to just have good experiences, I want know what bad things feel like and what good things feel like.” I said, “Why would you ever want to have bad experiences?” He said you learn more from bad experiences than good ones.

 

I visited him a couple times during his year in Vicenza, Italy, where he was sent with the 173rd Airborne before his deployment to Afghanistan. One day he was talking about going to New Zealand, where he has cousins, after his time in Afghanistan. I suddenly had a flash feeling that he wasn’t coming back. It was such a horrible thought to come into my head. I’m going, “Why would I think that?” It was just a feeling I tried to never think about again.

 

He would call us from Afghanistan, but never told us anything, ever, about any of the conflicts they had there. He’s say to me, “Oh, it’s really beautiful in the mountains.” I’m sure I would have been a lot more worried if I knew what was really happening there. In August of 2007 they had a major attack on their outpost in Aranas, and Matt actually was recommended for a Silver Star for his actions that day. But we didn’t find out until he was killed, because he hadn’t told us.

 

The pain is maybe not as raw ten years later as it is ten days later. The shock is softened a little, but it’s not like it goes away. I still think of him all the time. On Matt’s birthday the family always has dinner together, and we have chili and pumpkin pie because those were his favorites. We blow up balloons and the grandchildren write messages on them and we send them up to him. He’s still very much in our lives. Even though we can’t talk to him, we can talk about him. I feel like he’s around here somewhere.

 

 

Linda Ferrara, 67, lives with her husband Mario live in Torrance, Calif., where they run a commercial bakery. Their two youngest sons, Damon and Andy, were each deployed three times to Afghanistan in the years after Matthew was killed.  

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Message 29 of 30

We are sharing a few great ones we have received - please share your story here!

 

CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS, October 1962

Lieutenant Joe Drew

by Captain Arthur Sturm as told to Garrett Schaffel

 

300-buddy-never-forget-arthur-sturm-joe-drew.jpg

 

In 1962, an American surveillance mission revealed Soviet ballistic missile facilities on the island of Cuba, bringing the tensions of the Cold War to their apex. Air Force Captain Arthur Sturm, a B-47 navigator, and his copilot, Lieutenant Joe Drew, were stationed in Morocco; their plane would be one of the first to engage in a retaliatory strike if the U.S.S.R. attacked the U.S. The crisis lasted 13 days, ending on October 28. It is the closest the United States has ever come to entering into a nuclear war.

 

In 1959, I was moved to Kansas as a navigator in B-47 bombers. And I needed a copilot for my crew. I was asked if I’d be OK with a “Lieutenant Drew.” They said, “Did you know he’s black?” I said, “No, how did he do in his copilot training?” They said, “He came in first.” I said, “That’s good enough for me.”

Joe was a great pilot and he was honest. He was a real big guy, 6 feet 4 inches and 240 pounds. But when he and his then-wife, Myrna, tried to buy a house, they were turned down, even though they could well afford it, because they were black. They eventually found this trailer in an open area. He had to use wooden planks from the street to get to it. You’re walking on these boards and you can’t walk side by side, you have to walk one at a time, over the mud. I didn’t really begin to understand how he felt until I walked on those boards.

The same thing happened when we moved to a different base in Kansas. Sometimes it leaked into our military lives. One weekend we were on alert duty, playing nickel poker. Somebody said to one of the other players, “Are you in for a quarter?” And the guy says, “Of course I’m in for a quarter. I’d give a quarter to see a n----r plow a field.” Joe stormed out of the room.

In the end, Joe never let that get in the way of his duties. In October 1962 we were at our base in Morocco. Joe played a lot of sports, and had broken his leg. And then it happened: One night we got word from the command post that President Kennedy had raised the DEFCON level to 2, the last level before nuclear war. So we’re thinking, I guess we’re going to war.

We didn’t sleep at all that night. In the morning, we’re eating breakfast and the klaxon goes off. We race out to the airplane—Joe is hobbling there with his crutches.

We get in the plane, which was loaded with nuclear missiles, and it’s incredibly intense as we sat in the plane on the runway, awaiting the green light. Nobody is saying anything, because we don’t want to interfere with any messages coming in. I’m thinking, well, goodbye to my wife and kids. And Joe is thinking the same thing—he’s got two girls. And our blood pressure and pulses are rising uncontrollably. Someone with a weak heart would have had a heart attack.

But then Gene, the pilot, got the code that it wasn’t a go. So we brought the plane back to the parking station. We were extremely relieved that nothing happened, and it was much easier to help Joe down the ladder than it was to lift him up.

I eventually moved on to Intel school in Colorado and lost touch with Joe, who went on to fly C-130s in Vietnam. Years later, after I retired, I was in line at a fast food restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland, and two lines over, there he was! He told me he had blood poisoning from Agent Orange in Vietnam, and from then on we stayed extremely close, until he died from it.

It was a big funeral. He was in an open coffin. I went and I sat by the coffin for a minute or two and remembered what we had gone through. I didn’t care if there were people behind me or not.

I think of Joe Drew all the time. A young man who came into the Air Force so full of enthusiasm, only to be kicked in the butt because he was black. But a kind person, and a friend, and we endured that missile crisis together.

 

Arthur Sturm retired from the Air Force as a major in 1972. Now 85, he lives in Maryland with his wife, Harriet. Joe Drew died in 2007 at the age of 72 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Message 30 of 30

Spending time at war with someone creates a deep connection.  We have gathered some great stories and know you have some too!  Share your's here!

 

 

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