Incredible Military Stories
The Sullivan Brothers

The Sullivan Brothers

Ever since the premiere of "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998, there's been a little bit of confusion around how and why the Army might want to pull one of its soldiers out of a combat zone, even if all of his many brothers were killed in combat.  During World War II, there were very few exemptions to the military draft. Most of the time, potential recruits were rejected for things like medical issues, having jobs critical to the war effort, or religious exemptions. It wasn't until after the war...

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Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1968)

Maj Kurt Chew-Een Lee, U.S. Marine Corps (1945-1968)

Kurt Chew-Een Lee is believed to have been the first Asian-American officer in the Marine Corps, rising through the ranks beginning his career from World War II to the Vietnam War.  Lee was born in 1926 in San Francisco and grew up in Sacramento, California. Lee's father was M. Young Lee, born in Guangzhou (Canton), emigrating in the 1920s to the Territory of Hawaii and then California. Once established in America, M. Young Lee returned to China to honor an arranged marriage. He brought his...

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Famous Navy Unit: VFA-31 Tomcatters

Famous Navy Unit: VFA-31 Tomcatters

VFA-31 (Strike Fighter Squadron 31) is the second oldest Navy attack fighter squadron. Known as the Tomcatters with the call sign "Felix," it is currently based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA. It flies the F/A-18E Super Hornet. "V" stands for fixed wing, "F" stands for fighter, and "A" stands for attack. Chief Of Naval Operations Instruction (OPNAVINST) governs the squadron designation system. The Navy's oldest currently active squadron is VFA-14, and it has been...

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Backtracking in Brown Water by Rolland E. Kidder

Backtracking in Brown Water by Rolland E. Kidder

The market is flooded with books written about Vietnam. Many follow the same path in their storytelling, beginning with their youth, entry into the military, their war experiences, returning home, and how they feel today about that journey. This book does some of that, but it is different in more ways. The author takes us on a voyage spanning his wartime service as a U.S. Navy patrol boat officer in Vietnam's Mekong Delta to his recent return trip to Vietnam and finally, to the most poignant...

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VA Updates: Glad You Asked

VA Updates: Glad You Asked

During Veterans Month, I had the opportunity to brief several companies' Veteran groups about the benefits they earned from their military service. During my presentations, I provided a quick overview of all the benefits and then devoted three-quarters of the hour to answering questions from the attendees. I've found that answering questions enables me to provide more situation specific information and often suggest next steps they can take to receive their benefits. Inevitably, there are more...

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Sgt Jack Riley, U.S. Marine Corps (1966-1972)

Sgt Jack Riley, U.S. Marine Corps (1966-1972)

What personal and professional achievements from your Military service are you most proud of and why?:

Did each of us Marines in Vietnam have an impact on those in our charge? We follow all orders, doing our duty with the usual subordinate complaints of our being singled out again for something others should also be called upon to do. The common expression was being screwed by the green machine again. The platoon leader assigned combat patrols based on his and the platoon sergeant’s assessment of combined squad skills. Chief among those was whether the squad leader possessed the skills to accomplish the mission and safely return his men. “To safely return his men!” During Operation Prairie Three, March 30, 1967, I failed miserably to return with my men safely. Four of my Marines, plus two more who joined my squad on Hill 70, were killed that day and night. Two died from one mortar blast, and four died from bullets and shrapnel. Wounded three times myself, we were all hurting and vastly outnumbered. We never stopped fighting both the enemy and trying to cheat death. At battle’s end, while lying on a surgical gurney at the NSA, I felt like a total failure as a leader. We were victorious at the battle’s end, but six of my Marines did not safely return. More had experienced tour-ending severe wounds. So much for being a squared-away squad leader! I declined a recommendation for valor from my first sergeant. Losing six Marines does not warrant a medal! The guilt of those killed stayed with me for decades. I never spoke of Vietnam to my wife or siblings. I was invited to speak at events and did so only to recognize those brave men on Hill 70. I kept my shame to myself!

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CMSgt Jerry Shelton, Jr., U.S. Air Force (1983-2013)

CMSgt Jerry Shelton, Jr., U.S. Air Force (1983-2013)

What personal and professional achievements from your Military service are you most proud of and why?:

Boots on the Ground. Promotion to the Air Force’s highest enlisted rank, Chief Master Sergeant (one percent of the Air Force enlisted structure), certainly tops my list of professional achievements. But it was not the promotion itself that stands out as my most memorable military moment…well, not exactly. Let me explain. In May 2009, my Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) flight and I reported for duty at Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, headquartered at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where our EOD flight was under operational control. Supporting the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division throughout Wardak and Logar Province, our 16 EOD teams resolved 476 improvised explosive device incidents and 103 weapons cache operations, effectively removing over 21,280 pounds of explosives from the battlefield.

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LCDR Curtis Smothers, U.S. Navy (1962-1986)

LCDR Curtis Smothers, U.S. Navy (1962-1986)

What personal and professional achievements from your Military service are you most proud of and why?:

My proudest achievement during my 24 years’ and 6 months’ service in the U.S. Navy was my Presidential Meritorious Service Medal award. The award recognizes my performance as an Administrative Officer on the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) before and during the 1983 change of home port and around-the-world cruise. The Coral Sea was an older aircraft carrier dating back to about 1948. Duty on this proud ship could best be characterized as arduous and challenging. We had a fully deployed complement of the ship’s company and embarked squadrons consisting of about 5,000 officers and men. This was before the age of computers, email, and social media, so we had to do everything on paper and mostly by the seat of our pants.

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CDR Denise McCallaCreary, U.S. Navy (1973-2000)

CDR Denise McCallaCreary, U.S. Navy (1973-2000)

What personal and professional achievements from your Military service are you most proud of and why?:

I retired with the rank of Commander, United States Navy. During my career, I garnered medals, friendships beyond my wildest dream, and a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School and Navy War College. While these achievements are extremely meaningful to me, what I am most proud of was being elected in 2019 by my peers to the position of National President — making me the first female National President of the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) in 50 years. As a 15-year-old teenager arriving from Kingston, Jamaica, landing in the cold, freezing city of Chicago, Illinois, my dreams were small. After being taken out of my high school in Jamaica, when I was set to graduate, I knew I would need my diploma to succeed in a new country. Failure was not an option. I would have to graduate and go to college. As for what college or vocation I should have strived for, I had no clue.

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Cpl David Mulldune, U.S. Marine Corps (1967-1969)

Cpl David Mulldune, U.S. Marine Corps (1967-1969)

What personal and professional achievements from your Military service are you most proud of and why?:

Military Training Develops Life Skills. The day before graduation from boot camp at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) San Diego, all the platoons gathered on the parade deck to do final drills in front of Major General English, CO of MCRD, and Colonel Boress, CO of the Recruit Training Regiment. We wanted to look sharp and make our DIs proud. Did we ever! Everyone performed flawlessly. Our boots all struck the deck at the same time. It was amazing that so many guys were in complete unison and moving as one. I was feeling so much pride when we did an “eyes right” as we passed General English’s stand and the Marine Corps Hymn started playing. Chills went down my spine, and I felt like my chest was going to pop the buttons off my shirt! I will never forget it.

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CAPT David Edling, U.S. Coast Guard (1969-1999)

CAPT David Edling, U.S. Coast Guard (1969-1999)

What personal and professional achievements from your Military service are you most proud of and why?:

I’m proud I didn’t crash the ship that day in May. Being proud of something you didn’t do may not exactly be on point with the assigned question, but given the circumstances (and my relative inexperience), I’m still proud I didn’t crash the ship that day. Some old sea service sayings: “It’s been a good day whenever you don’t have a collision at sea or don’t run aground,” and “A collision at sea can ruin your whole damn day.” As a 22-year-old Navy Ensign (O-1), serving aboard the destroyer USS Duncan (DD-874) in the waters off the coast of Vietnam in 1970, I had finally qualified as a full-fledged Officer of the Deck Underway (OOD) in April. The following month (May 1970) was our first rotation on the gunline. The Duncan was a “well-used” WW2 naval vessel that had seen action in WW2, Korea, and, of course, Vietnam. Her main armament was three 5-inch/38 twin mounts. The primary tasks assigned to our ship were Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) and plane guarding with the aircraft carriers operating in the South China Sea.

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Joining the Braves by Winique Payen

Joining the Braves by Winique Payen

"Joining the Braves" is a must-read for anyone considering joining the military, especially young Americans and immigrants who want to give back to the United States, as author Winique Payen comes from both backgrounds.  About the Author of Joining the Braves Today, he is a non-commissioned officer in the United States Army who has served multiple deployments overseas and is currently stationed in Tennessee. But Payen started his life in Haiti, where he was born and raised. He came to the U.S....

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Soldier and Writer
Lt Col Michael Christy (USA) Ret.

Many articles contained in this Blog were written by Together We Served’s former Chief Editor, Lt Col Michael Christy, and published in TWS’s Dispatches Newsletter.

Lt Col Christy’s military career spanned 26 years, beginning in 1956 when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Following two years active duty, he spent another two years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. In 1962, he joined the Army National Guard and in 1966 was called up for active duty with the U.S. Army. After an 18 year distinguished Army career, Lt Col Christy retired from military service in 1984.
Lt Col Christy saw action in Vietnam with Special Forces Units, including the renowned Delta Force, and was awarded two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars (three with Valor), and two Purple Hearts.
As a military consultant and accomplished writer, Lt Col Christy has contributed to several TV military documentaries, including those found on the History Channel, plus significant military history publications, including Vietnam Magazine.