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rogSSgt Roger Hamann USAF 1970-1974

“TWS has helped me to connect with those who share the same feelings I have about that special bond that exists between fellow service men and women, no matter what branch of service. Not being one that is comfortable with a large number of people makes this setting easier to deal with. TWS helps me to get some of those pent up feelings out in the open. TWS is good therapy for the soul.”

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“Mad Major” Carpenter Attached 6 Bazookas To His Artillery Spotter Plane And Went Tank Hunting

mad majorCarpenter joined the Army in 1942 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. After completing flight training and receiving his artillery liaison wings, Carpenter flew light observation aircraft such as the L-4 Grasshopper (Piper Cub) and the Stinson L-5 Sentinel. He accumulated considerable flight time while flying training missions in artillery spotting and enemy reconnaissance and observation.

Promoted to the rank of major in 1944, Carpenter was assigned to combat duty in France with the 1st Bombardment Division.Upon arrival he was assigned an L-4H and assigned to fly artillery support and reconnaissance missions in support of the U.S. 4th Armored Division, part of General George S. Patton’s U.S. Third Army. The Piper L-4H was a military version of the Piper J-3 Cub, a small fabric-covered, unarmored two-seat aircraft with a fixed-pitch propeller and a 65 hp (48 kW) Continental O-170-3 engine. One of the few distinguishing differences to the Piper L-4 re-design was the addition of additional plexiglass windows above the wing center section, and behind the wing’s trailing edge to increase visibility for the pilot and observer. With a 150-pound pilot and no radio aboard, the L-4H had a combined cargo and passenger weight capacity of approximately 232 pounds according to Wiki.

By the time of the Allied siege of Lorient and the encirclement of German forces around that city, Carpenter had grown increasingly frustrated at his inability to attack German armor on those occasions when Allied artillery or tactical aircraft were either out of range or were engaged in other combat missions. Inspired by other L-4 pilots who had installed bazookas as anti-tank armament on their planes, and with the assistance of an Ordnance technician as well as support from the Ninth Air Force Service Command, Carpenter first attached two M1 rocket launchers (bazookas) to the underwing struts of his L-4H, which he named Rosie the Rocketer. After some experimenting, Carpenter would later add two more rocket launchers, then two more for a total of six bazookas, three mounted just above each set of lift struts per side, just outboard of the L-4’s jury struts.

The M1 bazooka or rocket launcher itself was a solid, one-piece metal tube 54 inches (137 cm) long, and with an unloaded weight of slightly more than 13 pounds (5.9 kilograms) apiece. Carpenter’s original armament of six M1 bazookas each fired a single M6 anti-tank rocket by means of a battery igniter and a toggle-lanyard control operated from the cockpit. The M6 rocket’s HEAT warhead could penetrate approximately three inches (76 mm) of armor at a 30° impact angle. While the M1/M1A1 rocket launcher was initially less than successful when employed by infantry against the frontal armor of German tanks,

Carpenter found that using the weapon as an airborne armament scheme (in the manner of plunging fire from any elevated position) was fairly effective at immobilizing a German tank with any solid hit against the thinner armor protecting the top of the turret or the hull superstructure, even against such heavy tanks as the Tiger I. Although the M6 rocket had a theoretical range of 500 yards, Carpenter preferred to fire his rockets at a range of 100 yards or less,adjusting the angle and bore-sighting of the launcher tubes so that when his L-4H was aligned with an enemy vehicle in a shallow dive, the rockets would strike the target.Thus armed, Carpenter began attacking German armored forces.

Major Carpenter flew most of his ground attack missions alone, as the additional weight of an extra passenger greatly limited his L-4 Cub’s speed and maneuverability when fitted with bazookas. On those occasions when he took along an extra passenger, Carpenter found that he was forced to fire his rockets from a considerably higher altitude to avoid enemy counterfire, which resulted in fewer hits owing to the effects of wind and range estimation. When attacking, Carpenter’s usual routine was to spot his target at altitude, then spiral down before diving suddenly towards the enemy tank or other objective.

Complete destruction of the enemy tank was not necessary; if the tank was set ablaze, or simply immobilized due to engine, track, or turret damage, the panzer crew generally abandoned the vehicle. Within a few weeks, Carpenter was credited with knocking out a German armored car and four tanks, including two Tiger Is.Known as “Bazooka Charlie” or “The Mad Major” by those in his unit, Carpenter’s exploits were soon featured in numerous press accounts, including Stars and Stripes, the Associated Press, Popular Science, the New York Sun, and Liberty Magazine.

In addition to flying ground attack and observation missions, Major Carpenter served as the personal pilot for U.S. Army General John S. Wood, the commanding general of the U.S. 4th Armored Division.His duties as personal pilot, along with his comparatively elevated service rank (for an artillery liaison pilot) of major, allowed Carpenter to evade most artillery-spotting missions, thus giving him more time to devote to his own private war with German armored units.

Carpenter took part in ground combat as well. On one occasion near Avranches, Carpenter was scouting advance landing fields in a jeep when German forces attacked his position. Climbing aboard a Sherman tank, Carpenter took charge of a .50-caliber machine gun, while calling for troops around him to attack. Led by tank fire from Carpenter’s Sherman, the American forces drove attacking German forces back. Carpenter’s Sherman eventually ran into friendly forces, and accidentally fired on a Sherman bulldozer tank, blowing off the dozer blade. As a result of this friendly fire incident, Carpenter was placed under arrest and threatened with a firing squad until his commanding general came to his assistance. Told to expect a court-martial for his actions at Avranches, the decision to discipline Carpenter was reversed by General Patton himself, who not only stopped the court-martial proceedings but awarded the major the Silver Star for bravery. Carpenter, Patton said, was the “kind of fighting man he wanted in his army.”

During the 1944 Allied offensive in France, Major Carpenter continually improved the armament on Rosie the Rocketer, eventually installing six improved type M9 bazookas using the new M6A3 HEAT rocket, which could penetrate 3.9 inches (99 mm) of armor plate at a 30° impact angle. Each trio of M9 launch tubes was mounted side-by-side atop a plate in the same general locations as the earlier M1 bazookas’ launch tubes had been mounted. Even the heaviest German tanks such as the Pzkpf Tiger Ausf. B or King Tiger, the Nazis’ most dangerous tank, used thinner 40 mm or 45 mm armor on the tops of their turrets and hull superstructure, which the M6A3 bazooka rocket warhead could easily penetrate.

As before, a battery of three M9 launchers was installed side-by-side on each pair of underwing lift struts of his L-4, with an overall weight (when loaded with rockets) of some 106 pounds, not counting the weight of the mounting brackets and firing controls. By using an electrical firing mechanism connected to push button controls on a cockpit-mounted panel, Carpenter could fire his six rockets either individually or salvo all six at one time. He once told a reporter that his idea of fighting a war was to “attack, attack and then attack again.”

Initially, Carpenter faced little return ground fire on his missions. German forces were normally reluctant to fire on the L-4 and similar light planes without offensive armament, as doing so would give away their position and cause the plane’s occupants to call in artillery fire or fighter-bomber support. Moreover, as long as the pilot, gas tank or engine was not hit, most small arms fire would not bring down an L-4, since the plane had such a light wing loading (an excess of wing and control surface area for its weight) of 7.5 pounds per square foot.

However, as Carpenter’s bazooka attacks became more well known, German ground fire increased in intensity. Even German infantry would join in, attempting to down Carpenter’s L-4 with rifles and machine pistols. On one mission, as Carpenter banked steeply around a tall tree in order to get a bazooka shot at a German tank, German infantrymen opened up on him with machine pistols, forcing him to turn for cover behind another tree before escaping with several 9mm bullet holes in one wing. Carpenter told a Stars and Stripes correspondent that the “word must be getting around to watch out for Cubs with bazookas on them. Every time I show up now they shoot with everything they have. They never used to bother Cubs. Bazookas must be bothering them a bit.”

One of Carpenter’s longest missions occurred on September 20, 1944 during the Battle of Arracourt near Nancy, France, when German armored forces launched a sudden tank attack on the headquarters component of the 4th Armored Division’s Combat Command A, in the process trapping or pinning down several 4th AD support units. Major Carpenter took to the air with his armed L-4, but owing to a heavy fog which obscured the ground below him, was unable to locate the enemy. Around noon, the fog began to lift, and Carpenter spotted a company of German Panther tanks and armored cars advancing towards Arracourt.

Diving through a barrage of German ground fire in a continuing series of attacks against the German formation, Carpenter fired all of his bazooka rockets. Returning to base to reload, Carpenter flew two more sorties that afternoon, firing no fewer than sixteen bazooka rockets at the advancing enemy. Rosie the Rocketer was later credited with immobilizing two German tanks and several armored cars, while killing or wounding a dozen or more enemy soldiers. Carpenter’s attacks also forced the remaining Panther tanks in the formation to retreat, in the process enabling a trapped 4th Armored water point support crew, who had witnessed Carpenter’s actions that day, to escape capture and destruction. “Some people around here think I’m nuts,” Major Carpenter was quoted as saying, “but I just believe that if we’re going to fight a war we have to get on with it sixty minutes an hour and twenty-four hours a day.”

The Associated Press reporter Wes Gallagher, in a 1945 article in Liberty Magazine, concluded that the major was “a legend in an outfit where reckless bravery is commonplace.”By war’s end, Major Carpenter had destroyed several German armored cars and knocked out 14 German tanks (he would be officially credited with six tanks destroyed, including two Tiger I tanks), and had also participated in several ground combat actions. Never having received as much as a scratch from enemy fire, he acquired still another nickname, “The Lucky Major”. In recognition of his achievements, Carpenter was promoted to lieutenant colonel and awarded the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star, and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.



Incredible Enemy Compassion over Nazi Germany

On Dec. 20, 1943, Second Lt. Charles “Charlie” Brown was desperately trying to keep his heavily damaged plane, a B-17F bomber known as ‘Ye Olde Pub,’ aloft over Germany. This was the crew’s first mission and they had been in the second wave of bombers targeting Focke-Wulf airplane manufacturing plant near Bremen in northwest Germany when they ran into very heavy flak during their bombing run. The anti-aircraft fire blew out the Plexiglas nose, destroyed one engine and damaged two others. There were holes all over the fuselage and the tail was half gone; they couldn’t keep up with the rest of the bombers. Suddenly, they were attacked by a wave of eight Messerschmitt fighters, followed by another seven. His crew fought back and downed one or two of them, but then Brown, who was wounded along with most of his crew lost control of his plane. It flipped over and spiraled down, causing Brown to lose consciousness. The Germans figured the bomber was spiraling to it death and left. What they could not have known was Brown had finally regained control with just hundreds of feet to spare. Of his crew members, one was dead and six wounded, and Brown was alone in his cockpit since his co-pilot copilot Spencer “Pinky” Luke along with two other unharmed men, were tending to the others. Blood of the wounded crew was splattered throughout the plane’s interior. When Brown asked for a damage report, one of the crew replied, “We’re chewed to pieces.” Directly below them was a German airfield.

On the airfield German pilot Franz Stigler, a former commercial airline pilot whose father and brother had both died while serving their country, was refueling and re-arming his Messerschmitt Bf-109. When he heard Brown’s B-17 Flying Fortress roaring overhead, barely 200 above the ground, he looked up, dismayed at how low it was. Oberleutnant (Lieutenant) Stigler had already shot down two B-17s that day and one more added to his total would mean he would receive the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest military award. He took off in his fighter as soon as he could.

Soon after taking off, Stigler located the B-17 and he approached from behind and above the bomber. At that distance he could see the tail was half shot away. Stigler dropped lower, closing, watching for the tail-gunner’s machine guns to rise, meaning he’d been spotted, but they never moved. He got close enough to see that the tail-gunner was dead or dying, his blood running down the gun barrel. Stigler edged his fighter alongside the stricken bomber. He had never seen a plane with so much damage still able to fly. There were so many holes in its fuselage he could see crew members tending to their wounded. Stigler remembered a former commander who, during the campaign in North Africa, told them: “You are fighter pilots first, last, always. If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.” Stigler considered that shooting these men down now would be the same as machine gunning them in parachutes.

Pulling in behind the Pub and concerned he would come under fire, Stigler had his finger on the trigger, one eye closed and the other squinting through his gun sight. He took aim and was about to fire when he realized what he wasn’t seeing: This plane had no tail guns blinking. This plane had no left stabilizer. This plane had no tail-gun compartment left, and as he got closer, Stigler saw the terrified tail gunner himself, his fleece collar soaked red, the guns themselves streaked with it, icicles of blood hanging from the barrels.

Stigler was no longer energized. He was alarmed. He pulled alongside the plane and saw clean through the middle, where the skin had been blown apart by anti-aircraft shells. He saw these terrified young men attempting to tend to their wounded. He drew equal to the B-17 and saw that the nose of the plane, too, had been blown away. How was this thing still in the air? He maneuvered toward the disabled bomber’s wingtip.

At first, Brown didn’t notice the small German plane. He was thinking, thinking, thinking. He had six wounded men in the back. Some were strong enough to jump out, but the critically injured would never survive the cold German forest. He’d have to keep flying, try to make it to England, but the others should jump. He then noticed the German fighter.

Flying along the wingtip of the Pub, a relaxed Stigler nodded to Brown but he was in such a state of shock he did not return the greeting. Running through Brown’s mind was how daring the German pilot in flying that close to even a badly crippled enemy bomber. Stigler signaled to Brown to land in Germany. Brown, in pain and still recovering from oxygen deprivation, refused. Stigler reconsidered and then tried to get Brown to swing northeast toward neutral Sweden, only 30 minutes away. He didn’t think the B-17 could make it back to England. Again, Brown refused, sticking to his course. Stigler continued to escort Brown’s Flying Fortress through the skies over Germany???partly because he didn’t want anyone to shoot them down. When they were finally over the North Sea, Stigler saluted and turned away. He didn’t think much of their chances.

Brown himself did not think much of their chances either but a crash-landing was never seriously considered since all pilots of B-17’s were under strict instructions that if a crash-landing became necessary as a last resort, survivors were to destroy the aircraft and activate the explosive charge in the highly secret Norden bombsight. Since it appeared to Brown most of the crew would not survive a parachute jump into northern Germany in the winter, and possibly all of them would perish in a crash-landing, Brown would fly back over land to let any of the crew bale out who wished to do so, and would then try and fly the aircraft back to England. All agreed to stay on board and take their chances.

Brown managed to get his B-17 back to base. For getting his plane and crew back under such conditions, a Colonel told him he would be nominated for the Medal of Honor. However, during debriefing, he and his crew kept talking about the crazy German who had escorted them to the sea. Immediately after, he and his crew’s participation in the mission was classified Secret and ordered not to discuss it with anyone. He never officially received so much as a pat on the back.

Stigler returned to his base and reported that he had shot-down the B-17 over the North Sea. To have done otherwise he would have been court-martialed and possibly shot for letting an enemy go free. By the end of the war he’d flown 487 combat missions and had 28 confirmed kills. He never received the Knight’s Cross. He served through the end of World War II and, unable to ever feel at home in Germany living in fear that he’d be found out, relocated to Vancouver, Canada, in 1953.

Brown served right up until the beginning of the Vietnam War and eventually settled with his wife in Miami. Still deeply traumatized by the incident, he thought about searching for the German until finally, in January 1990, knowing the odds were against him, he took out an ad in a newsletter for fighter pilots, looking for the one “who saved my life on Dec. 20, 1943.” He held back one key piece of information: Where the German pilot had abandoned his B-17.

At home in Vancouver, Stigler saw the ad. He yelled to his wife: “This is him! This is the one I didn’t shoot down!”

Franz had always wondered if the great risk he’d taken had been worth it, if the American had made it home. Brown had always wondered what the German had been planning to do to him, and why he had let him go.

He immediately wrote a letter to Brown.

Brown was too impatient to actually read it. He called the operator and had her look up Franz Stigler’s number, then placed the call immediately.

“When I let you go over the sea,” Stigler said, “I thought you’d never make it.”

“My God,” Brown said. “It’s you.”

Tears were streaming down his face. Stigler had answered Brown’s secret question without Brown having to ask it.

“What were you pointing for?” Brown asked.

Stigler, too, was crying. He explained everything: that he could tell that Brown had no idea how bad the plane was, that he was pointing first to the ground, to Germany, and then pointing away, mouthing “Sweden,” that he was trying to escort them to safety and that he abandoned them only when he saw the gun swing from the turret.

“Good luck,” he’d said to Brown from his cockpit. “You’re in God’s hands.”

They met at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 25 people who are alive now – all because Franz never fired his guns that day. For the rest of their lives, Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler became close friends. Both also felt that they should tell their story to as many people as would hear it, not for money but to make people realize that there’s always another way that the world could be infinitely better than it was. Stigler and Brown both had heart attacks and died in 2008, six months apart. Stigler was 92; Brown, 87.

In their obituaries, each was listed the other as “a special brother.

The complete story can be found in a book written my Adam Makos and Larry Alexander entitled A Higher Call.


The Grim Fate of Korean War POWs

The fury of the Korean War raged all around Private First Class Jack Arakawa on July 16, 1950. In hastily prepared defensive positions outside the South Korean town of Taejon, his unit watched grimly as North Korean tanks raced towards them. Acrid smoke hung in the nighttime air as the sounds of war abounded. The occasional fighter plane screamed across the sky.  Death lurked everywhere.

As the enemy neared American lines at 8 PM, Arakawa’s machine gun squad let out a torrent of fire that pinged ineffectually off the advancing tanks. North Korean troops poured over the beleaguered defenders’ position moments later, forcing the men to flee.

In the chaos, Arakawa – a Japanese-American – found himself staring at the barrel of an enemy rifle. His heart raced as North Korean soldiers brusquely tied his hands with wire. He knew all-too-well that the enemy had executed bound American captives in prior days with a gunshot to the back of the head.

But Arakawa, able to communicate fluently with his captors in Japanese, escaped that fate. While the Korean People’s Army fought its way towards Pusan over the next month and a half, he and other Americans carried their ammunition and food at gunpoint. At night, the bound captives slept next to KPA bunkers, wondering if a midnight napalm strike might send them into an eternal slumber.

When the North Korean drive towards Pusan stalled in early September, KPA authorities transferred Arakawa and his peers to a makeshift prison camp ‘a former school’ in Seoul. There, guards interrogated the prisoners daily, asking the same questions over and over: “do you actually admire Truman and Joe McCarthy?” a common query went.

At the same time, the POWs attended mandatory lectures on the evils of Wall Street capitalism and the righteousness of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). They watched Soviet propaganda films contrasting racial prejudice in the United States with the “ideal’ life” of the Socialist world. (“Free Love” was apparently a common theme.)

Throughout these experiences, Arakawa acted as an interpreter for the other prisoners, imploring the North Koreans for better conditions. The guards, however, responded by demanding that the Japanese-American join the Korean People’s Army since he could pass for one of their own.

If Arakawa would fight for the DPRK, they argued, he would “attain great heights” and “be part of a great machine fighting for the good of all mankind.” In exchange for his service, the guards promised, he would receive a house and servants after the war and “in the immediate future” the “privilege of better food, sake, medical care, parties, better housing facilities, and a woman.” Arakawa- wisely – remained noncommittal.

In the aftermath of the Incheon landing on September 15, 1950, North Korean forces began preparations to evacuate all POWs north of the 38th parallel. On September 26, 1950 as American-led forces seized control of Seoul in brutal street fighting, KPA guards led Arakawa and 375 other men on a forced march to Pyongyang.

Paraded by their captors in villages along the way, the POWs staggered towards the north – many of them with maggot-infested wounds. North Korean guards killed those who could not keep up. From the skies above, American planes frequently strafed the prisoners with gunfire, mistaking them for a retreating enemy column. By the time the Americans reached the North Korean capital, approximately 80 had perished from malnutrition, disease, summary executions, and friendly fire.

After arriving at a schoolyard there on October 10 – with American-led forces advancing rapidly behind them – guards informed the POWs that they would depart soon for a permanent camp on the Manchurian border. Arakawa, and four of his friends, decided then and there on an escape attempt. With the rumble of artillery fire growing louder each day, and the North Koreans becoming noticeably more frantic, the men saved-up their meager rations and fashioned crude knives out of wood.

The opportunity to get away came four days later on the evening of October 14, when guards ordered the prisoners into the street to depart for the refuge of the Yalu River. As the grim POWs lined up outside, Arakawa and his four friends managed to break away and hide in a dark alley. Detection at this point meant certain death.

As the POW column marched away, Arakawa donned a North Korean Army coat and hat – left haphazardly on the ground by a retreating soldier – and proceeded to march his friends through the streets of Pyongyang as his “prisoners.” His ethnic appearance and basic knowledge of Korean helped him get past numerous roadblocks on the way.

On the outskirts of the city, however, the group approached a much larger checkpoint. Arakawa, as he later told an Army investigator, decided that his “limited knowledge of Korean would never get the group past this last barrier.” As a result, he explained: “I proceeded to march the men to the entrance of the main road block at a fast pace. When approximately ten feet from the main gate of the road block, I shouted ‘Air Raid’ in the Korean language, at the same time we charged the gate using the knives we had made, as well as broken bottles.”

After fighting their way through the checkpoint, the men escaped into the night. As the sun came up early the next morning, they hid in an abandoned home. For the next six days, the group survived there on weeds and flowers until dawn on October 20. Following hours of intense mortar fire, South Korean units moved into the area and discovered Arakawa’s group. Within 48 hours, the five men were in Tokyo – warm and safe.

The 180 other Americans that went north without Arakawa and his friends were not so fortunate. Within sixteen days, 70 had died from disease, malnutrition, and exposure while traveling in an open-air railroad car towards Manchuria.

The worst, however, came on October 30 outside the town of Sunchon. There, with U.S. forces just miles away, KPA guards led groups of prisoners from a railroad tunnel to a nearby ravine, where waiting soldiers opened up with gunfire. Sixty-eight men died in the slaughter. Twenty-one others were wounded but survived by playing dead in the piles of bodies.

Three years later, Jack Arakawa – wearing a silver star and the stripes of a Corporal – told his stunning story to an Army Intelligence Officer. Exceedingly aware of how fortunate he was to have survived, Arakawa knew he would never forget the so-called forgotten war in Korea.

The primary source for this article is Jack Arakawa’s Army Counter Intelligence Corps File from the National Archives, Record Group 319.


Capt Burgess Meredith US Army Air Force (Served 1942-1945)

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burgessCapt Burgess Meredith

US Army Air Forces

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Short Bio: Already an established actor, on 27 Feb 1942, Burgess put his career on hold during and joined the United States Army Air Forces, where he eventually reached the rank of Captain. He transferred to the Office of War Information and was involved in making films for GIs.

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LtCol Carl A. Reynoso USMC (Ret) (1975-2010)

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moochLtCol Carl A. Reynoso

USMC (Ret)


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1I was a Navy brat growing up in a number of Naval Stations in the Pacific: NAS Agana, Guam; Pearl Harbor NB, Hawaii; and NAS Sangley Point, Philippines. I always thought that I would join the Navy and be like my dad who was a Senior Chief (DKCS) but as I grew older I started noticing that this other service was also on our bases. They wore different uniforms (khaki/trops/sateens) and carried themselves more professionally than Sailors – turns out they were Marines. I was also into reading history books at the time and read more and more about these Marines and determined that I just had to become one of them too. This really pissed off my Dad! Even though I was the son of a career Navy man, the Marine Corps mystique fascinated me. I always knew the Marines were different, better than Sailors. When I told my Dad that I wanted to be a Marine, he laughed, said I lacked the self-discipline it took to be a Marine. “You won’t last in the Marines. YOU? You can’t even hold on to a job, you’ll get busted!” he often told me. As a teenager I was wild, on the loose, vandalizing, and stealing, (luckily I was too crafty to be caught which came in handy later in my career as a Recon Marine). I ditched school to surf and couldn’t hold onto any jobs. My life was spiralling down in an unhealthy direction. I was a long-haired surf bum, hung out at the beach and although I was an Honor Student, I hated high school, stuff like that. I wasn’t into drugs or anything like that, but it would have only been a matter of time before something like that would have come along.

Fortunately, I liked to read and had spent a lot of time reading 20th century military history. Primarily about the Marines in Korea, Vietnam, and those who landed on Tarawa and Iwo Jima and the other Pacific Islands. I was intrigued by the Corps’ purported fighting spirit, their élan in battle. That picture of the Flag Raising on Mount Suribachi, every time I looked at it chills ran up and down my spine. They still do now. When I saw that photo I wanted to be one of them, to have in some way what they had at that very instance. In the photo you couldn’t even see their faces. They were anonymous as it could have been any Marine in any war and all that mattered was the group, not the individuals. It wasn’t because I wanted to be a hero, or even to be considered heroic. It had something to do with what the picture embodied, a group of individuals working together IWO JIMA FLAG RAISINGas a team for some higher purpose that was more important than themselves. I wanted to be part of that team to become part of a brotherhood that is real and absolute and can be earned only one way: Marine Corps Boot Camp. A daunting challenge where you must first conquer yourself by enduring and surviving recruit training. The Marine Corps is the only experience I know of where you elevate yourself by subjugating yourself, a contradiction. No matter where you come from and no matter what your socio-economic background or circumstances, everyone starts out at the bottom, we are all equally unworthy of the uniform and the title. You turn your life over to the Corps to be torn down, rebuilt, remolded into something better than what you were before. I wanted to be part of that, I wanted THAT experience. There is something quite noble about the desire to join the Corps because it just isn’t like the other military services. I didn’t sign up for a job, the GI Bill, or an education; I signed up to fight! I essentially put my life on the line when I signed that dotted line. I wanted my military service to be tempered by hardship and struggle, something that is hard earned and well respected. And from everything that I’d read and heard, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I wanted to be a US Marine. I stepped off the bus and on to those infamous Yellow Footprints and became part of Platoon 1018, Series 1017, B Co, 1st Recruit Training Bn, MCRD San Diego. After Receiving Barracks, we were picked up by Staff Sergeant Andre Williams, our Senior Drill Instructor. SSgt Garcia and Sgt Safrit were his Junior DIs. I can still see the menacing SDI glowering at us on that first day. He was a tall, well built, dark green Marine who looked like Smokey the Bear in that Campaign Cover which was quite intimidating and impressive all at the same time. I asked myself “What have I gotten myself into now?”


Infantry, Reconnaissance, Aviation. I came up through the ranks achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. I applied for the old Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP only required 30 semester hours back then) and was selected and after graduating from the 128th Officer Candidate Class (128th OCC). I was commissioned a 32ndLt and went on to The Basic School (TBS). As the Honor Graduate of my TBS company (Echo 5-85), I was asked by the Company Commander if I wanted to become a pilot. I figured why not and the rest is history. My original intention had been to go to the Grunts and then hopefully back into Recon.

What still continues to amaze me are all of the many opportunities that were afforded to me and even more so the awesome experiences that were the result of those choices. From a raw Recruit on the Yellow Footprints to a High Speed Low Drag Recon Operator who came out of submarines and jumped out of airplanes, to actually piloting aircraft and flying the President of the United States. From Private to Lieutenant Colonel. I often wonder what my life would have been like had I not enlisted in the Marines. I certainly would not have had all of these wide ranging experiences and lifelong friendships.


MNF Lebanon
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines
Operation New Dawn – Iraq

All were significant to me. Anytime you get shot at it is WORLD WAR THREE! What might be considered a ‘minor’ engagement to the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the 4media is of extreme significance to the guy on the ground or in the air. Even when no rounds are exchanged, the mere possibility placed enormous psychological stress on your mental system in the anticipation alone. It really hits you when you step off the plane in a theater of operations and realize that you could very well die here. My thoughts the very first time I ever got shot at in combat were, “Why is he shooting at me, I’m a pretty nice guy, aren’t I?”

When the flight schedule for the next day’s combat sorties was published and you saw your name penned in for one the flights, the dread began. Quickly I would write what was certainly going to be my last letter home to the family, but never would I let on to them that this was the last one, never would I mention what I feared the most, that I would never see them ever again. No, I would just offer that I missed and loved them so much and couldn’t wait to get home to them. I never told them what I did, they knew, but still it was left unspoken. The pre-flight brief was a formality that usually ended with, “we’ll find out what our real mission is when we check in with DASC.” Followed by drawing our survival equipment from ALSS including our bullet bouncers or “chicken plates” then a swing through Maintenance Control to sign for the aircraft with Sgt Guido Colesanti’s usual jovial self trying to motivate the aircrews with, “Go kick some ass, Sir!” and I would respond with my usual retort, “Guido, you wouldn’t be saying that shit if you were coming with me.” Then reluctantly out onto the flight line slowly dragging all my gear to my plane on what I knew to be my last moments on earth. Dead Man Walking. The Marines working on the planes would stop what they were doing to turn and watch the aircrews and cheer us on with, “Get some, Sir!” or “Kick their asses!” I’d always give each Marine a small wave and what had to be an obviously weak smile. In my mind my thoughts were dark with what each would be saying later, “I saw Mooch the day he got shot down and killed, he smiled at me.” I always knew, just accepted that these were my final earthly moments but still I went and launched knowing full well the inevitability that waited for me downrange. I feared death, but much worse, I didn’t want to be thought of as being a coward and most of all, I could not let my fellow Marines down, especially those guys on the ground. These thoughts tore at me as we raced through the air into the fight; I wanted to live, to breathe, to go home alive, but my sense of duty drove me forward.

Before my first combat, before I saw the “Elephant” I often wondered what it would be like to kill another human being – would I be able to pull the trigger, to prosecute a target, to end the life of someone who had been designated an enemy by our politicians? During peacetime training, killing would appear to be something quite straightforward, a simple matter of sight alignment, sight 5picture, breathe, relax, aim, squeeze… or as a pilot on airspeed, on altitude, ball in, gun sight reticle aligned, Master Arm – On… FIRE! And the endless repetitious training, to the point where we could do battle drill: fire and maneuver, CQB, or diving rocket attacks in our sleep. The never-ending repetition had a purpose – little then did we young Marines understand nor care why. We trained ad nauseam so that muscle memory would takeover and our bodies could react without much thinking required, so that in combat, when or if your brain shut down you just went on autopilot. That’s not to say I did not think, I did, even in the middle of an action I thought a lot, intensely so, my mind racing along at a million miles a minute, perhaps a function of my body’s ability to physically do what it was trained to do, it left plenty of time for my thoughts to wander. Time seems to slow way way down when you’re scared and getting shot at as all my memories of combat are in slow motion.  It is like tunnel vision.  Like looking through a fuzzy brown tube and in that memory everything that was bad is now in very close proximity to you, especially tracers and exploding munitions. The unknown, dark and smoke shrouded things or places become sinister and foreboding. I was conflicted. In my head I imagined that I was a giant walking the earth stomping on bugs till they popped and squishing the life juice out of them, only it was real people we were killing and the juice was their blood. My mental picture was quite graphic. I could even hear their bones cracking as I crunched them with my boots, on the bottoms of which they left their stains. One of the thoughts that often went through my mind was that whoever it was we were trying to kill were just like us, who not too long ago was some mother’s baby, who was loved and was raised with high hopes and now he was going to die because of me. The other thought was that I would know well before that mother that her son was now dead.Don’t get me wrong as I never hesitated because the next thought immediately following those were that this kid was obviously raised all fucked up and deserved to die otherwise he wouldn’t be shooting at me, so fuck him! These fleeting reflections and so many more were there along with all my fears, my prayers, my family and an extreme desire to live. So many conflictions rushing through my brain housing group at warp speed during very intense periods of emotional strain while the muscle memory propelled my body into action.


Where it all began – Boot Camp, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. Platoon 1018, Series 1017, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. Those 13 weeks changed me forever. Everything that was beat into me in Boot Camp I carried with me throughout my 34 year career.

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Volunteer of the Month

stuLt. Stuart Dahl
US Navy (Ret)
(Served 1974-1997)
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Lt Stuart Dahl has been a member of Navy Together We Served since Jan 2, 2007. He’s a bit of a legend on NTWS for his dry wit and his “Legendary Thread” of “NTWS Anonymous”.

In 2009, TWS formed the “Volunteer Profile Assistance” (VPA) team and Stu was one of the very first to sign up. Our VPA’s serve as our frontline. They are the ones who reach out to our members when it looks like they are having problems completing their profiles. They answer questions from members on the forums and also man the member help desk.

Thanks Stu for all you do to make Navy Together We Served the best it can be.


The Importance of Preserving Military Memories

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, every day, more than 300 Vietnam veterans, more than 450 Korean War veterans, and more than 850 WWII veterans pass away due to old age, complications from exposure to Agent Orange, and other lasting consequences of war.

If we don’t capture their stories now, most of these veteran’s military service will go unrecorded, resulting in a tragic loss of our military history and the records of the sacrifices made by so many. Fortunately some members are doing something about it.

In the past couple of years a number of members have written about relatives who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. One was made into a Navy VOICES; the other an Army VOICES. Both were written by their sons who are themselves TWS members.

Army member Stephen Curlee wrote about his father, Navy officer LtJG Jack Curlee, who served aboard an LST during the invasion of Okinawa. Another was written by Air Force member Brad Crooks whose father Army 1st Sgt. Leonidas M Crooks served during many of the most important battles in Europe during World War II. Both recalled stories told them by their dads through the years and both did detailed interviews over the past few years knowing there wasn’t much time left.

Following the posting of Brad Crook detailed tribute to his father’s WW II service, Army TWS member, Tom Thompson send us an email on what it meant for him and wrote about his late Uncle Michael Strazanac who served in the Army during WW II.

Here is the insightful piece written by Tom Thompson to Brad Crooks

Thank you for sharing your dad’s experiences in your heartfelt tribute to his wartime memory. A nation of younger people who have never served, may not appreciate the sacrifices of our brave, patriotic “citizen soldiers” who answered our nation’s call of duty in the darkest days of World War II.

One only has to read what happened to nations that the Nazi’s and Imperial Japanese conquered to appreciate what could, would have happened here. Your dad, along with millions of others, quite literally saved the world for us. When they came home, many did not speak of what they saw or what they did, especially out here in the stolid, rural Midwest. You are privileged to have had him share his experiences with you. I too feel fortunate to have had Uncle Michael Strazanac share with me some of his war history before passing on.

Uncle Mike served as a sergeant under General George S. Patton from France in June 1944 to May 1945 when Nazi Germany surrendered and it was only a few years before he died in 2001 that he shared a few memories with me, also an Army veteran (1970-79).

I had assumed he was a ‘rah, rah parody’ of what most Vietnam-era vets assumed WW II vets to be. He was anything but and 50 plus years later he still remembered events vividly. He was also bitter about what he considered senseless death and what he felt were screw-ups “the brass made” trying to look good.

As I read what you wrote about your father coupled with my own experience listening to Uncle Mike, I realize they, and millions of combat veterans like them, shared a common untreated wound. I heard it best described in a color WW II documentary on PBS of troops coming home: elated to make it home they nevertheless brought with them “a well of bottomless sorrow” along with their victory over the Axis. The majority of returnees suffered this sorrow in silence.

Not surprising when one considers that the Army divisions Uncle Mike served in sometimes suffered 125% casualties from D-Day (June 6, 1944) to VE day (May 8, 1945). Since combat divisions are mostly made up of support troops not actually on the front lines, you get an idea of how deadly it was for the line companies and how traumatic such heavy losses were to witness. My uncle’s was hardly impervious from the experience.

My aunt said he suffered nightmares and depression for years. PTSD had not yet been discovered or labeled as such nor would he have admitted he had emotional issues. I suspect he would not have tolerated any treatment or being set out as being unusual or different – a Slavic trait my cousin has said.

I do know he considered the loss of the many American lives he witnessed as inexplicable and senseless. To appreciate the horrors and brutality of the European battlefields, I recommend the non-fiction book “Citizen Soldier” by Stephen Ambrose in which he describes the costly and fierce combat fought by the U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany – June 7, 1944 to May 7, 1945.

Uncle Mike had been in England for months in preparation for the D-Day invasion of Normandy when he got into serious trouble. As I understand it, he was a very smart aleck 18-year-old kid and had angry words with an officer in his unit. Tensions were so high between the officer and my uncle, the possibility of his being sent to the stockade over trumped up charges was likely. Luckily another more level headed officer intervened and had Uncle Mike transferred to the 728th AFA (Armored Field Artillery) Battalion of self-propelled 105 howitzers. So he missed the Normandy landing, or most of it, and the horrors that followed when our inferior armor was chopped to pieces by Panzers and 88mm AT guns in the enclosed hedge groves and shooting galleries on the tight roads leading into France’s interior.

Toward the end of the war Uncle Mike was delighted to find his old unit was just down the road from where he was and excitedly hurried over to visit “the guys.” Imagine his shock and anguish when less than a year after he had transferred out from the unit he had spent a year training with, he discovered only one survivor in the unit who remembered him. The entire unit was virtually wiped out in a week or so in the hedgerows of Normandy shortly after the Normandy invasion. Imagine being that one survivor.

Unfortunately, his children, gifted, sensitive, educated professionals and academics, do not seem to understand the underlying nature of this often angry, driven, prickly man who not physically violent, just explosive and biting in hiscomments. (Photo is Uncle Mike with his oldest granddaughter Samantha less than a week before he died.)

When his disturbed daughter died by her own hand in the late 1970s, the tragedy tore at the heart of this devote Catholic that had already witnessed so much tragedy and devastation as a youngster. He could be very abrupt and rough. He was not a warm and fuzzy individual but I respected him and knew his heart was filled with kindness, just not milk and honey. Neither did I appreciate how deeply scared he was until shortly before he died.

I sometimes wonder if Uncle Mike considered the chance moments that let him survive the war, when the friends he trained with all died or were wounded and evacuated. He mentioned his fondness and bond with the men of his original unit. He described the training as a specialized armored commando as very rugged, “kill or be killed” and physically demanding. I suspect he really did appreciate the moment of serendipity that allowed him the opportunity to survive.

I know he was sickened by all the loss of life, but bore a strong dislike and mistrust of the German people for the rest of his life due to the things he witnessed. He also kept a strongly embedded distrust of the military brass and politicians.

During one of our sessions of hand digging his ponds in the middle 1990s, he gave a vivid account of how toward the end of the war an infantry regiment of war tested veterans was chopped to pieces on a worthless hill occupied by fanatical SS diehards.

Since his Self-Propelled Battery of 105s was in close support at the base of the hill, he witness much of the carnage.

By then everyone knew the war was over and the focus was on making it home. A new colonel (or general) had just been transferred in after spending the entire war in a cushy office at the War Department in D.C. The green armchair colonel/general had this regiment charge with fixed bayonets repeatedly up the open hill. The infantry was charging in lines over open ground and getting chopped up by well emplaced machine gun fire. The smart SS gunners fired low deliberately, horribly wounding and maiming the legs and groin area of exposed veterans who had already survived much of the fierce fighting across Europe. Then they would shoot up the medics and buddies that went out to retrieve them. There were many cycles of this. This hill could have easily been bypassed or reduced by airpower.

He did not tell me how it ended, just that the cycles of death, maiming, and charging the hill in Civil War style bloodbath seemed endless at the time. The senior officer was trying to make a name for himself as an aggressive commander before the war ended so his former stateside role would not impact his future promotions. In Uncle Mike’s way of thinking, the experienced infantry soldiers had survived much of the war just to die or be permanently maimed for a hill no one needed so close to the end.

He told me how he was just talking to one of his friends, an older man, who was shot between the eyes during the battle. As he was gathering his dead friend’s effects, he read a letter from the 10-yr-old daughter of this man. Mike was 19 or just 20 then. He looked at me with haunted eyes, “That letter really bothered me.”  He was not a crier or emotional man at all. He carried this well of sorrow with him always.

I tried to find out more about this “minor skirmish” on WW II vet sites or from members of his unit with no success. Just another nameless hill and Army screw up that did not scratch the sheet of history unless you were there. I wonder if that senior officer got his promotion. This type of idiocy was not confined to this campaign or battle. It is a common thread in the American military. Lives traded for promotions.

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PFC Lee Marvin US Marine Corps (1942-1945)

View the military history of Actor:

marvinPFC Lee Marvin US Marine Corps (Served 1942-1945)
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Short Bio: Lee Marvin was born on February 19, 1924, he served with the Marine Corps during World War II in the Pacific and was awarded a Purple Heart for a wound that he received there. He was wounded (in the buttocks) by fire which severed his sciatic nerve, during the battle for Saipan in June 1944.

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CDR Allan R. Carpenter U.S. Navy (Ret) (1955-1978)

Read the service Reflections of US Navy Sailor:

carpenterCDR Allan R. Carpenter

U.S. Navy (Ret)


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I graduate at the age of 17 from Sanford High School in 1955 and at the end of that summer I enlisted in the Navy on September 27, 1955 with the intent to qualify for the Naval Cadet program as soon as I turned 18.

There was also a family history. My father had served in WWII on the cruiser USS Vincennes and an uncle completed a career as a YNC after serving on SS combat patrols in the Pacific, ultimately as COB.


I went to boot camp at the United States Naval Training Center, Bainbridge with additional training at Norman, Oklahoma, Norfolk and Glynco. In August 1956 I was assigned to Naval Air Station Patuxent River as an Airborne Radar Operator on WV-2s (EC-121 Warning Star). While here I married the former Carolyn Malone (my high school sweetheart) of Sanford, Maine on August 31, 1957.

In October 1958 I went to Olathe, Kansas for Tower and Ground Controlled Approach School then on to Quonset Point for three years shore duty.

I was well into training as an AC (W) and, of course, had developed a bad attitude regarding officers! Made AC1 in 5 yrs., leaving little to look forward to (most Chiefs, in those days, did more admin than ops), so I succumbed to urging from an excellent Division Officer to apply for the Integration Program (“Seaman to Admiral”) and NESEP (Navy Program Seeks Officers From the Ranks). I was selected for both; decided I could always get an education, but it would be my last and only shot at Wings of Gold, so accepted orders to Flight Training, via OCS at Newport.

While in training I flew the T-34, T2A, F9F Cougar, and F-11 Tiger – how’s THAT for dreams come true!!

I next went to Naval Justice School at Newport, then on to the A4 RAG, VA-43 at Oceana as a Fleet Replacement Pilot. I completed RAG training in June 1964 and immediately reported to my new squadron, VA-72 at Oceana, flying the A4E Skyhawk. I became the squadron Legal Officer and Landing Signal Officer trainee. Significant cruises were in the Mediterranean in the fall of 1964 and in the Western Pacific in 1965, both on the USS Independence.

I finished the 1965 cruise as a fully qualified LSO. I finally dropped my legal duties and moved the family to Jacksonville, Florida in January 1966. After a few more training cruises, I shoved off for Vietnam again, this time aboard the USS Roosevelt.


In May 1965, I made my first combat cruise aboard the USS Independence (CVA-62). The ship was deployed for more than seven months, including 100 days in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam, the first Atlantic Fleet carrier to do so. She also was the fifth U.S. carrier to operate off Vietnam. We participated in the first major series of coordinated strikes against vital enemy supply lines north of the Hanoi-Haiphong complex, successfully evading the first massive surface-to-air missile barrage in aviation history while attacking assigned targets, and executing the first successful attack on an enemy surface-to-air missile installation.

During this cruise I lost my roommate to hostile fire. On September 13, 1965, LTJG Joe Mossman launched in his Skyhawk (“Scooter”) attack aircraft as the number four plane on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. Only the month previous, two A4E’s had been the first Navy aircraft to be shot down by surface-to-air missiles (SAM). They claimed so many American planes in the duration of the war.

When the flight was over the target area near the city of Dong Hoi in Quang Binh Province, Joe’s aircraft was hit by small arms fire. No ejection was observed. The aircraft crashed approximately 12 kilometers west of Dong Hoi, near Route 101.

Search and rescue (SAR) was flown over the crash site but no signs of survival were spotted. Joe was initially placed in a status of Missing in Action which was later changed to Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered in 1973.

On November 1, 1966, I was leading a flight of three F4s on a missile suppression mission in support of a vital photo reconnaissance flight in the Haiphong area. It was my 107th combat mission. Flying over a missile site I was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Almost immediately my plane caught fire and my controls began difficult to use. As I had been trained to do, I headed for open water where I lost complete control of my plane. I punched out of my crippled plane suffering severe injuries from the high-speed ejection and fell into the ocean below that was filled with many North Vietnamese fishing boats.

It was the second time I had been shot down. The first was on August 21, 1966 and that time I had been rescued by our ship’s rescue helicopter. By the time I hit the water, I was immediately pulled onto a fishing junk that took me to the beach and into the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”


My six years and four months as a P.O.W., for mostly obvious reasons, the first of which was the realization that I was so fortunate to serve in the company of heroes, to survive, and to have served my Navy and my country with honor!

Also during all that time the feeling that my wife and children needed me home, safe and sane, and the firm conviction that the United States of America would never abandon its prisoners of war, sustained me whenever I got to feeling particularly blue.

In early 1973, we started hearing rumors that the U.S. and Vietnam were conducting peace talks that could lead to our release. That rumor became a reality beginning in February when we learned all 591 American prisoners of war still held by North Vietnam were going home. A few days later, I touched American soil for the first time since the mid-60s when my plane home landed at Logan Airport in Boston. After receiving the proper medical attention I returned to my hometown of Sanford Maine to be with my family and to start life anew. This photo was taken of me with my family at the Sanford airport moments after my return after six years of captivity as a POW of the North Vietnamese.

Since that day, March 4, 1973 has gone into my personal history as the happiest day of my life to date and one that will be celebrated as my “Re-birthday” from here on out.


Three Silver Stars – first for leading the Iron Hand, SAM suppression flight (my flight of 3 destroyed the SAM site) on which I was shot down and captured; 2nd and 3rd for enduring severe torture sessions in prison; Legion of Merit and 2 Bronze Stars for particular actions while a P.O.W.; some of my 11 Air Medals and four Navy Commendations for individual, noteworthy, combat flights.


Two: My Division officer Quonset Pt., LT Jim Yates (now deceased), for prodding me into applying to officer procurement programs, and CDR Edward P. Stafford, veteran of WW-II combat ops in the Med and Pacific, Patrol Plane Commander of our VW-15 flight crew, and grandson of RADM Robert E. Peary, discover of the North Pole, for being a tremendous role model. I recommend reading his books:”The Big E”, “Little Ship, Big War”, and “Subchaser.”


My final assignment in the Navy was as an instrument flight instructor in Virginia and where I retired from the Navy in late 1978. We remained in Virginia living on a tributary on Chesapeake Bay. Every summer we would return to Sanford to visit our friends.

I worked as a small marina owner; marine railway operator; ultralight aircraft sales and service; and aerial photographer.

Finally, fully retired!

In 2007, I returned to Vietnam with my wife and two of our daughters. I must admit I traveled there with some trepidation, but ended up having a wonderful time. We found no evidence of hatred or dislike or violence there. While Vietnam is still a communist nation, I noticed that the country has changed dramatically and that capitalism has made tremendous inroads.

We even toured the Hoa Lo Prison, which is now part of a museum. We went into the room where I and the other POWs were held captive more than 30 years earlier. It brought back memories it had taken me years to forget but I glad I made the trip.

I continue to act as guest speaker at events where POW/MIA issues are discussed.


Nam POWs: a matchless fraternity of love, respects and support.


I thoroughly love and appreciate every aspect of my Navy career. I am very proud of my enlisted service, from AA to AC1. Those years gave me a basis, understanding and appreciation of ALL of us – enlisted and officer – that would serve me extremely well throughout the rest of my career – from squadron Legal Officer to X.O.


Always serve with pride, and honor, never forgetting that you are ambassadors of our country, and the protectors of our freedom and the U.S. Constitution!


For me, TWS is a chance to connect with old friends, make a few new ones along the way.

I’ve enjoyed putting my profile together and telling a bit of my story.

I know it will be well taken care of long after I am gone.

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