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November 11, 2006

Must-see Video At B5

You have GOT to see this video over at Blackfive. If you don't want to donate to the Army after watching this, you're not firing on all cylinders.

Simply outstanding. We've talked a lot about Marine valor this week because we were engaged in a friendly interservice rivalry and because, as the Marine team leader, it was my job to tout my team's virtues. But that doesn't mean I hold the other services in slight regard.

Not by any means. Yesterday at the dedication of the Marine Corps Museum, President Bush announced that Lance Corporal Jason Dunham will receive, posthumously, the Medal of Honor. This is wonderful news for anyone who remembers his story. Years ago there was a great write-up of the story behind his selfless act of courage. I've never forgotten it. McQ was kind enough to write and give me a heads-up yesterday - I apologize for going AWOL on you all, but I was down for the count with a migraine; things just all caught up with me and I was in praying-for-death land for several hours.

Today I'd like to talk about the amazing contributions of our fellow services: the United States Air Force and the Army.

Among the many reasons McQ of QandO is on my must-read list (and it's a short one) is his Project Hero. The mainstream media are just doing a piss-poor job of covering the heroism of our men and women in uniform, but McQ is the go-to place for inspiring stories of uncommon valor that is a commonplace occurrence in our armed forces. I really need to start writing some of these stories up.

One such story is that of Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. A link on McQ's post describes his incredible courage and devotion to duty:

Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, a pararescueman who lost his life in Afghanistan while saving 10 lives and making it possible for seven others who were killed to come home, was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross here Sept. 13.

The Air Force Cross is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of our nation. It is second only to the Medal of Honor.

"We gather to salute his bravery and to reward his heroism," said Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James Roche. "We gather to pay tribute to an airman who, on the field of battle, not only gave his life serving his nation, but also gave his life serving his fellow Americans."

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper presented the Air Force Cross to Cunningham's wife, Theresa. Cunningham's parents, Lawrence and Jackie Cunningham, also received medals from Jumper.

"In the frailty of our human existence we are ill equipped to express the extremes of our emotions," Jumper said. "For in the peak of our love or the depths of our sorrow, we have only feeble words that never truly capture the peaks and valleys of our feelings.

"I stand before you today in the humble attempt to assemble the words to honor a hero, knowing in advance that my attempt will fall short of the tribute that is his due."

Cunningham, a Carlsbad, N.M., native, joined the Air Force's elite combat rescue program and graduated pararescue technical training here in June 2001. He was deployed to Southwest Asia in February 2002.

On March 4, Cunningham was the primary Air Force combat search and rescue medic assigned to a quick reaction force in Afghanistan. The force was sent to rescue two American servicemen evading capture in austere terrain occupied by al-Qaida and Taliban forces.

Before landing, his MH-47E Chinook helicopter received rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire, disabling the aircraft and forcing it to crash-land. Crewmembers formed a hasty defense and immediately suffered three fatalities and five critical casualties.

The citation accompanying Cunningham's Air Force Cross reads, "Despite effective enemy fire, and at great risk to his own life, Airman Cunningham remained in the burning fuselage of the aircraft in order to treat the wounds. As he moved his patients to a more secure location, mortar rounds began to impact within 50 feet of his position.

"Disregarding this extreme danger, he continued the movement and exposed himself to enemy fire on seven separate occasions. When the second casualty collection point was also compromised, in a display of uncommon valor and gallantry, Airman Cunningham braved an intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade attack while repositioning the critically wounded to a third collection point."

The citation continues, "Even after he was mortally wounded and quickly deteriorating, he continued to direct patient movement and transferred care to another medic. In the end, his distinct efforts led to the successful delivery of 10 gravely wounded Americans to life-saving medical treatment."

In remarks that seemed to capture Cunningham's spirit, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald Murray, said, "The former Navy petty officer considered joining the SEALS, but became an Air Force PJ. His reasoning? While other special operators search and destroy, PJs search and save."

What better way to honor his bravery than to make a donation in his memory to the Air Force?

And on the Army side we have PVT Dwayne Turner, combat medic, who continued to render care to 16 injured comrades while himself badly wounded and under fire, until he himself passed out from loss of blood. Of course, he doesn't think he did anything special:

"I moved to (my vehicle) just before the first grenade came over the wall," Turner said. "The blast threw me even further into the vehicle, and I took on some shrapnel."

Ignoring his own injuries, Turner ran to the front of his vehicle and saw a soldier with eye injuries.

"I checked him out, and tried to get him into a building," Turner said. The other two medics established a triage system under the cover of a building while Turner ran back outside to bring more soldiers into the makeshift clinic.

"I just started assessing the situation, seeing who was hurt, giving them first aid and pulling them into safety," he said, downplaying his actions on that day.

Turner, his legs wounded by shrapnel in the initial attack, was shot at least twice while giving first aid to the soldiers.

At one point during the attack, one of Turner's fellow medics told him he was bleeding. "Someone told me, 'Doc Turner, Doc Turner, you're bleeding.'" he said. "I looked down at my leg and saw I was bleeding, and kind of said, 'Oh hell, if I'm not dead yet, I guess I'm not dying.'"

"I don't think he realized how much blood he lost," said Sgt. Neil Mulvaney, from the same unit as Turner.

"After I got the first patient inside the building, I sort of slumped down in the corner," Turner said. "I didn't think there was any way we were going to get out of there, and it would have been really easy to just stay in that corner.

"Then I heard (the wounded) calling for medics," he continued, "and I realized I could let them continue to get hurt—and possibly die—and not come home to their families, or I could do something about it."

Turner chose to do something about it. He continued to give first aid and to bring soldiers in from the barrage of gunfire outside the compound until he finally collapsed against a wall from loss of blood. A bullet had broken his right arm. He had been shot in the left leg. Shrapnel had torn into both of his legs.

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in combat, but Turner does not see himself as a hero.

"Nobody gets left behind," he said emphatically. "We were the medical personnel on hand. You're not relieved from your duty until someone comes. No one else was going to get the job done, so we did."

Although Turner downplays his heroism, the Army believes that at least two of the 16 soldiers he treated would have died had he not been there.

"He risked his life for 16 other men without noticing his own injuries - that's heroism in my book," Mulvaney said.

The Army agrees. Pvt. Turner received the Silver Star.

We snark at each other a lot. We joke and we kid. But when we go into battle all of this is forgotten.

This nation is truly blessed in its fighting men and women. May we never forget that. My two donations today to Project Valour IT were made in honor of Senior Airman Jason Cunningham and Pvt. Dwayne Turner.

I challenge each of you to do the same, even if it's just a small donation. Help the Army and Air Force meet their goal.

Posted by Cassandra at November 11, 2006 10:31 AM

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Great job! We held a regularly scheduled Soldiers' Angels Board meeting yesterday and the excitement over this project was off the scales. Our Medical and Wounded Project is one of our most ambitious programs. Project Valour-IT makes a great difference in our wounded heroes' recoveries. The success of this fundraiser is going to help so many soldiers. Great job and congratulations to Villainous Company and all of your readers. Mission Accomplished!

Posted by: Ricky John at November 12, 2006 10:02 AM

Migraine? Doesn't Imitrex work for you? It works well for my wife, thank goodness.

Posted by: Rex at November 12, 2006 09:41 PM

I'm on a daily medication to prevent them and one of the sumatriptans for when I get them. Most of the time it works, sometimes (like the other day) it doesn't.

Posted by: Cassandra at November 13, 2006 05:10 AM

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