Native American Voices: First Sergeant Pascal Poolaw

His devotion to his soldiers was exceeded only by the love for his family. First Sergeant Pascal C. Poolaw, Sr. was a member of the Kiowa nation and served with the U.S. Army in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He is the United States’ most decorated Native American service member, with 42 medals and citations, including four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts – one for each war.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

Journey of Service

In 1942, Poolaw joined his father and brothers in World War II. He earned his first Silver Star for his actions in Belgium, while serving in Company M, 8th Infantry Regiment. Under heavy enemy fire, he pushed his unit forward and hurled grenades until the enemy dispersed.

During the Korean War, Poolaw earned two Silver Stars. On September 19, 1950, he courageously led his men to penetrate the enemy perimeter and fight hand-to-hand combat. His courage inspired his men to hold their position and allowed the remainder of the company to finish the objective. On April 4, 1951, Poolaw’s platoon was immobilized by the enemies’ automatic weapons and a mortar barrage. In an effort to rescue his men, Poolaw exposed himself to enemy fire, deliberately diverting the enemy’s attention so his men would find more advantageous positions.

After retiring in 1962, he rejoined the Army to follow his son to Vietnam, just like he once did with his father in World War II. He deployed on May 31, 1967, as the first sergeant of the 26th Infantry Regiment’s C Company. On November 7, while on a search and destroy mission during the first battle of Loc Ninh, Poolaw and his unit were ambushed by the Viet Cong. He was killed while attempting to pull a casualty to safety, and posthumously awarded a fourth Silver Star.

“He has followed the trail of the great chiefs. His people hold him in honor and highest esteem. He has given his life for the people and the country he loved so much.”

Eulogy of Irene Poolaw, wife of Pascal C. Poolaw, Sr.

Poolaw’s fighting spirit is honored at Fort Sill, as well as at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 29E, Line 43. Read his remembrance on The Wall of Faces.

Honor and Love: Warrior Tradition

Did you know that Native Americans serve at five times the national average? Despite challenge after challenge, they remain steadfast in their patriotism. As a member of the Kiowa nation, Poolaw was drawn to the warrior tradition found amongst plains Indians. PBS shares more:

Native American Heritage Month is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the rich and diverse culture, traditions, histories and important contributions of Native Americans who have served in our military since the American Revolution. We invite you to join us as we honor their service and sacrifice.

U.S. Marine Corps Stories of Service: Dorrance Kelly

Semper Fi! In honor of the U.S. Marine Corps’ 247th Birthday, Veteran Dorrance Kelly shared what inspired him to join the Marine Corps and how his service helped shaped him into the person he is today.

“Always Faithful:” Celebrating 247 Years of the U.S. Marine Corps

“70 years ago, Army Major General Frank E. Lowe was quoted as saying, ‘The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. Lord, how they could fight.’ That testimonial rings as true now as it did then and will remain so tomorrow.”

-General David H. Berger, 38th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps
First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, USMC, leads the 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines over the seawall on the northern side of Red Beach, as the second assault wave lands, 15 September 1950, during the Inchon invasion.

Semper Fidelis, Latin for “Always Faithful,” is the motto of every Marine – an eternal and collective commitment to the success of battles, the progress of the nation and the steadfast loyalty to fellow Marines. On their 247th birthday, explore the origins of this versatile fighting force and the service members who shaped their heritage.

Origins of the U.S. Marine Corps

The Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775, when the Continental Congress ordered that two battalions of Marines be raised for service as landing forces with the fleet. Marines have executed more than 300 landings on foreign shores and served in every major U.S. naval action since their inception. Read more about the History of the Marine Corps.

Seal of the U.S. Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense.

Stories You Should Know

Portrait of the First Leader of Marines, Maj. Samuel Nicholas. Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps.

Major Samuel Nicholas

On November 28, 1775, Nicholas was commissioned a “Captain of Marines” by the Second Continental Congress, which was the first commission issued in the Continental Naval Service. On March 3, 1776, the Continental Marines made their first amphibious landing in American history when they attempted an assault during the Battle of Nassau.

Sergeant Major Daniel Daly

Daly was one of nineteen men (including seven Marines) to have received the Medal of Honor twice. He is said to have yelled, “Come on, you sons of *******, do you want to live forever?” to the men of his company before they charged the Germans during the Battle of Balleau Wood in World War I. Major General Smedley Butler described Daly as “The fightin’est Marine I ever knew!” Explore his Medal of Honor actions.

Depicted is then-Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Daly, a double recipient of the Medal of Honor. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Pfc. Preston Toledo and Pfc. Frank Toledo, Navajo cousins in a Marine artillery regiment in the South Pacific, relay orders over a field radio in their native tongue. Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.

Navajo Code Talkers

In 1942, 29 Navajo men were recruited and trained by the U.S. Marine Corps. They worked to develop an undecipherable code that would be used across the Pacific. The Code Talkers, as they were called, became Platoon 382 – the first entirely Native American, all-Navajo platoon in U.S. Marine Corps history. Learn more about the Navajo Code Talkers story.

Montford Point Marines

The opportunity for African Americans to enlist and serve in the Marine Corps came in 1942. Approximately 20,000 African American men completed recruit training and became known as the Montford Point Marines. Despite challenge after challenge presented to them, their valor and performance in the Pacific paved the way for an integrated armed force. Hear their stories:

Private Minnie Spotted Wolf

In 1943, Private Minnie Spotted Wolf was one of the first Native American women to enlist in the Marine Corps. She was a member of the Blackfoot tribe and wanted to serve her country after her brother died. Prior to joining the Marines, she had worked on her father’s ranch and was well prepared to be a heavy equipment operator. In 2019, a section of U.S. Highway 89 was dedicated as “Minnie Spotted Wolf Memorial Highway.” Connect with more stories of Trailblazing Servicewomen.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Colonel Gregory “Pappy” Boyington

A Flying Tiger and Marine Corps Vought F4U Corsair fighter ace who led combat missions with Marine Fighter Squadron 214, better known by its nickname, the “Black Sheep Squadron.”

In January 1944, Boyington, outnumbered by Japanese “Zero” planes, was shot down into the Pacific Ocean and captured by a Japanese submarine crew. He was held as a Prisoner of War for more than a year and a half. After liberation in 1945, he received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman.

Colonel John Glenn

John Herschel Glenn, Jr. was a U.S. Marine Corps aviator, engineer, astronaut, businessman and U.S. Senator. Our Museum began with his vision and every day we strive to live up to the guiding principles he set forth: To Honor, Connect, Inspire and Educate. Explore the story of our Museum Visionary.

John Glenn posing in front of his F8U-1P Crusader during the “Project Bullet” record breaking transcontinental flight, 1957. Photo courtesy of the Glenn College of Public Affairs.

Sergeant Jason Dominguez of Lima Company

With more than 177,200 active-duty members and 32,400 in reserve, the U.S. Marine Corps remains an elite fighting force on land, air and sea. Join us in celebrating their service throughout the month of November.

Fishing for Healing: No Bait Needed [Rally Point]

Expand your toolkit with therapeutic fly fishing. For our November Rally Point, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. joined us to explore how they provide physical and emotional rehabilitation for active-duty service members and Veterans. Learn how casting a line can offer physical and mental health benefits, provide a tranquil space for reflection, teach resilience and build community.

Jarod Klucho is a Marine Corps Veteran and alumnus of The Ohio State University. He has been the Program Lead of the Columbus program of Project Healing Waters since fall 2019. The chapter hosts approximately 30 fly fishing events a year for disabled Veterans in central Ohio. 

Jeff Reinke grew up in Central Wisconsin in a region known as the Sand Counties, which were made famous by the naturalist Aldo Leopold. He grew up with an appreciation of nature, hunting and fishing, along with all the other things boys did growing up in a community of paper mills and farms.

In his daily life, Jeff is an Architect who practices in Healthcare and Senior Living with some projects in regional VA’s. He lives in Arlington Heights, Illinois which is a Northwest Suburb of Chicago. He and his wife Deborah Sheehan, who is also a healthcare architect, raised two children who are now adults. When time permits, he and Deb love to travel, fly fish, and enjoy a glass of wine from that region.

Jeff loves fly fishing and starts at an early age (8 years old) on the small lakes in Central and Northern Wisconsin. Once high school was complete fly fishing took a pause in Jeff’s life while attending college and starting his career. It wasn’t until he was 40 years old that he finally “got his feet wet” once again. Jeff fishes for many species in both fresh and saltwater including larger species like muskies (second place in the 2016 Treeland Premier – his first tournament), tarpon, bonefish, and shark, all on the fly. Jeff’s biggest tarpon was 6 foot and 135 lbs.

All of this has led Jeff to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. In 2015 as the Education Chair for his Trout Unlimited Chapter, Jeff took on the responsibility as Program Lead to build a new program for North Chicago. Today this program is attended regularly by 35 veterans during the day and has welcomed 75 veterans through the year in the evenings. These efforts were recognized in 2019 as Jeff was asked to serve as the Midwest Regional Coordinator. In late 2019, Jeff accepted the offer to join the Field Advisory Council and Chaired that Group until October of 2022. Additionally, Jeff sits as Trustee on PHWFF’s Board of Trustees and continued his commitment to TU by becoming Chapter President for the Gary Borger Chapter which sponsors the North Chicago Program. Jeff maintains a seat on the Illinois Council of TU.

Jeff’s is an active listener and a creative problem solver. His approach has always been one of collaboration and his skill with reading an audience has served him well. As he would tell you “When you design a hospital, you must be able to speak with the person driving the earth mover and then meet with the person who just invented the mechanical heart. It takes that diverse group of people and everyone in between to build a hospital.”

U.S. Navy: On Watch for 247 Years

“Don’t give up the ship!” Famous words from Captain James Lawrence after being mortally wounded in the engagement between his ship, the U.S. frigate Chesapeake and the HMS Shannon on June 1, 1813. Today, this phrase lives on as a rallying cry for the U.S. Navy.

Ensign George M. Lowry, USN, and the Perry’s Victory Centennial Commissioners of Wisconsin on board the Centennial Replica Ship, at Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1913. They are holding a reproduction of Perry’s “Don’t Give Up The Ship” battle ensign. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

This year marks the U.S. Navy’s 247th birthday. The central theme is “On Watch – 24/7 for 247 Years,” which highlights the Navy’s enduring ability to remain fully ready to respond to and effectively deter emergent threats on the high seas. Explore with us the origins of America’s Navy and the service members who shaped their heritage.

Origins of the U.S. Navy

On October 13, 1775, a resolution of the Continental Congress established what is now the United States Navy with “a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months….” After the Revolutionary War, the U.S. Constitution empowered the new Congress “to provide and maintain a navy.” Acting on this authority, Congress established the Department of the Navy on April 30, 1798. Read more about “The Birth of the U.S. Navy.”

Photo courtesy of U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

Stories You Should Know

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry

Perry is known as the “Hero of Lake Erie,” for commanding American forces in one of the largest naval victories of the war in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, at the Battle of Lake Erie. He is remembered for his battle flag, which read, “Don’t Give Up The Ship,” as well as his note to Gen. William Henry Harrison which read, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Perry’s leadership was one of nine successful Lake Erie military campaign victories; the Battle of Lake Erie was the pivotal win for the West. 

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Rear Admiral Hopper, a mathematician and member of WAVES, was a pioneer in developing computer technology including UNIVAC, the first commercial electronic computer, and naval applications for COBOL (Common Business Orientated Language). She coined the term, “bug”, which refers to unexplained computer fails. Hopper retired in 1986 at the age of 79, the oldest officer on active U.S. naval duty. Explore more stories of Women in Service.

Commodore Grace M. Hopper, USN. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy
Midshipman Jesse L. Brown, USN, Photographed at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, October 1948, while serving as a Naval Aviation Cadet.

Ensign Jesse L. Brown

Brown was the first African American aviator to complete the U.S. Navy’s basic flight training program, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the first African American naval officer killed in the Korean War. Learn more about Jesse Leroy Brown’s Inspiring Story of Service.

Captain John McCain

Before John McCain was a U.S. Senator from Arizona and a U.S. presidential candidate, he served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. On October 26, 1967, McCain was on a bombing run over the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi when he was struck by an anti-aircraft missile. See His Harrowing Story of Survival.

Lieutenant McCain (front right) with his squadron and T-2Buckeye trainer, 1965. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Rear Admiral Robert H. Shumaker

Shot down while flying a bombing mission over North Vietnam on February 11, 1965, Rear Admiral Shumaker was the second Naval aviator to be taken prisoner during the war. Hear his story:

Presidents of the United States

John F. Kennedy

During World War II, he commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his service; he is also the only President to have received the Purple Heart.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson reported for active duty in December 1941, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He worked as an observer of bomber missions in the South Pacific, for which he was later awarded the Army Silver Star Medal.

Richard Nixon

Nixon volunteered for sea duty and reported to the U.S. Pacific Fleet where his unit prepared manifests and flight plans for C-47 operations and supervised the loading and unloading of the cargo aircraft.

Gerald Ford

From June 1943 until the end of December 1944, Ford served as the assistant navigator, athletic officer and anti-aircraft battery officer aboard the Monterey.

Jimmy Carter

Carter graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946, after which he was assigned to USS Wyoming as an ensign. After completing two years of surface ship duty, Carter applied for submarine duty. He served as executive officer, engineering officer, and electronics repair officer on the submarine SSK-1.

George H.W. Bush

In September 1944, Bush and his Naval torpedo squadron, VT-51, were based on the USS San Jacinto fighting against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands. Explore more of his story: This Week in History (September 1-5).

“Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think I can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, ‘I served in the United States Navy.’”

John F. Kennedy, August 1963

With more than 349,000 personnel on active duty and 101,000 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the largest and most capable Navy in the world. Join us in celebrating their service throughout the month of October.

Honor and Fidelity: “The Borinqueneers”

Since the Revolutionary War, Hispanic service members have played a pivotal role in the U.S. Armed Forces. With the outbreak of World War I, Congress urged more Americans to enlist in the military to help support the country’s war effort. Heeding the call, members of the Hispanic community, including newly naturalized U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico, joined the armed forces. The result was the formation of “The Borinqueneers.”

Who were “The Borinqueneers?”

The 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed “The Borinqueneers,” originated from the name Borinquen – a native Taino Indian name for the island of Puerto Rico. Many of the men were direct descendants of this tribe. They were the largest, longest standing and only active-duty, segregated Latino military unit in U.S. history.

“In World War I, they defended the homeland and patrolled the Panama Canal Zone. In World War II, they fought in Europe. In Korea, they fought in mud and snow. They are the 65th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army.”

President Barack Obama

One of the first opportunities the regiment had to prove its combat worthiness arose on the eve of the Korean War during Operation PORTREX, one of the largest military exercises up until that point. They proved themselves by repelling an offensive consisting of more than 32,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division and the U.S. Marine Corps, supported by the Navy and Air Force.

During the Korean War, the Borinqueneers were among the first infantrymen to meet the enemy on the battlefields. In total, they received 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, 256 Silver Stars, 606 Bronze Stars and 2,771 Purple Hearts. Brigadier General William W. Harris shared that the 65th Infantry Regiment was, “The best damn Soldiers that I had ever seen.”

Explore the stories of two of those soldiers:

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

Sergeant First Class Modesto Cartagena

Cartagena was the most decorated Puerto Rican soldier in history and earned the nickname, “One Man Army.” On April 19, 1951, Cartagena left his position and charged directly into enemy fire, single-handedly destroying two enemy emplacements on Hill 206 near “Yonch’on,” North Korea. After taking out the emplacements, he was knocked to the ground twice by exploding enemy grenades. Nevertheless, he got up and attacked three more times, each time destroying an enemy emplacement until he was wounded. His actions prevented heavier casualties within the platoon and his courage and superior leadership were decisive factors in the mission. Cartagena was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.

General Richard Cavazos

Cavazos was the United States Army’s first Hispanic four-star general. During the Korean War, then-First Lieutenant Cavazos distinguished himself during an attack on Hill 142, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. During the Vietnam War, as a lieutenant colonel, Cavazos was awarded a second Distinguished Service Cross. In 1976, Cavazos became the first Mexican-American to reach the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Army. Cavazos served for 33 years; his final post was head of the U.S. Army Forces Command.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

Since 1776, when George Washington became the first Congressional Gold Medal recipient, only 169 other individuals or groups have shared this honor. On June 10, 2014, “The Borinqueneers” became part of that elite group. See the ceremony:

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ruben Hinojosa shared, “Hispanic Veterans have always been, and continue to be, part of the American story.” Join us in celebrating their contributions to our nation’s military, history and culture.

Equine Therapy with Stockhands Horses for Healing [Rally Point]

We traveled to the stables for our October Rally Point! Stockhands Horses for Healing, a Delaware, Ohio, Veteran Service Organization, shared the benefits of the equine experience including how working with horses provides mental and emotional calm, physical freedom and purpose among Veterans and civilians alike.

Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day

Our Gold Star Families are a vital part of our nation’s military community and we are dedicated to honoring their sacrifice.

On the last Sunday of September, our nation observes Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, honoring surviving mothers and families of fallen service members. It is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief and continued healing.

Origins of the Gold Star

The Gold Star symbol began during World War I. At the start of the American involvement in 1917, families hung banners with blue stars representing family members in the services. If the service member died in combat, the family changed the blue star to gold.

Grace Darling Seibold, founding national president of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., began efforts to cope with the loss of her son, Lt. George Vaughn Seibold, by devoting her time and efforts to not only working in VA hospitals but also extending friendship to other mothers who experienced the same loss.

On June 4, 1928, 25 mothers residing in Washington, D.C. laid the groundwork to build an organization founded on delivering “the bond of mutual love, sympathy, and support of the many loyal, capable, and patriotic mothers who while sharing their grief and their pride, have channeled their time, efforts and gifts to lessening the pain of others.”

Hear Gold Star Mother Eunice Eckard’s story about her son Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Eckard who was killed in action while deployed to Afghanistan:

Honoring the Fallen

A newly added display in our Remembrance Gallery pays tribute to the families who have lost loved ones in service to our country. As part of this installation, we honor Staff Sgt. James Moriarty, an Army Green Beret who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in 2021. In a selfless act of bravery, Moriarty gave his life, enabling a teammate to neutralize the enemy on November 4, 2016.

Gold Star Mother Cindy Moriarty shared, “I still have a hard time with the day he died, but we’ve marked it by spending time at his gravesite in Arlington. I have his pictures, medals and awards in our house – and our Gold Star flag – and those things give me comfort. Many will remember him as Staff Sergeant James Moriarty, but to me he was Jimmy, my son.”

These mothers and families have experienced the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and we extend our deepest condolences and gratitude.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Americans have enriched our nation beyond measure with the quiet strength of closely knit families and proud communities.

President George H.W. Bush

Every year from September 15 to October 15, Americans celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by appreciating the community’s history, heritage and contributions. In 1987, Representative Esteban Torres of California submitted H.R. 3182, a bill to expand Hispanic Heritage Week into a Hispanic Heritage Month. In his remarks, Torres noted that supporters of the legislation “want the American people to learn of our heritage. We want the public to know that we share a legacy with the rest of the country, a legacy that includes artists, writers, Olympic champions, and leaders in business, government, cinema, and science.”

Explore some powerful stories of Hispanic American service members who devoted their lives to a cause greater than oneself.

Carmen Contreras-Bozak

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

Carmen Contreras-Bozak was the first person of Hispanic heritage and the first of approximately 200 Puerto Rican women who would serve in the Women’s U.S. Army Auxiliary Corps during World War II. She joined the WAAC and volunteered to be a part of the 149th WAAC Post Headquarters Company, “the first American women’s expeditionary force in history.” It was also one of the most highly qualified WAAC groups ever to reach the field.

Lieutenant Colonel Olga Custodio

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Olga Custodio, the first Latina U.S. Air Force pilot, is pictured as a first lieutenant while in flight training. Credit: United States Air Force 

“Querer es poder” (loosely translated to “where there’s a will there’s a way”) is Lieutenant Colonel Olga Custodio’s life mantra. Custodio became the first Latina to complete U.S. Air Force pilot training and the first to become a U.S. military pilot. Learn how she Commanded the Skies.

Major General Angela Salinas

She was the first woman to command a Marine Corps Recruit Depot, and the first Hispanic woman to become a general in the Marines. The youngest of five children to Mexican immigrants, Salinas was the first in her family to graduate from college. In 2013, Salinas retired after 39 years of military service as the highest-ranking female in the Marines, at the time of her retirement. Hear her story:

Beyond the Call of Duty: Medal of Honor Recipients

Since 1865, 61 men of Hispanic heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor: Two were presented to members of the U.S. Navy, 13 to members of the U.S. Marine Corps and 46 to members of the U.S. Army.

Captain Humbert “Rocky” Versace

As the son of an Army colonel, Versace was no stranger to the military. Upon high school graduation, Versace followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the military.

On May 12, 1962, Versace began his first tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam as an intelligence advisor. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) patrol engaged in combat operations in the Republic of Vietnam on October 29, 1963, Captain Versace and the CIDG assault force were caught in an ambush from elements of a reinforced enemy Main Force battalion. Versace was eventually captured and taken to a prison deep in the jungle along with two other Americans, Lieutenant Nick Rowe and Sergeant Dan Pitzer. He tried to escape four times but failed in his attempts. The last time the prisoners heard his voice, he was loudly singing “God Bless America.” On September 26, 1965, North Vietnam’s “Liberation Radio” announced the execution of Captain Versace. His remains have yet to be recovered.

He was the first member of the U.S. Army to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions performed in Southeast Asia while in captivity. Explore more of his Profile in Courage.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez

“If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.” -President Ronald Reagan

On the morning of May 2, 1968 in Loc Ninh, Vietnam, Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in a Special Forces extraction attempt. Despite being wounded multiple times and under intense enemy fire, he carried half of the wounded team members to an awaiting aircraft while administering first aid to the injured of a helicopter crash. Listen as President Reagan shares his valorous actions in combat:

Master Sergeant Leroy Petry

Influenced by a cousin who joined the U.S. Army Rangers, Petry enlisted in the Army in Santa Fe in September 1999. He had a total of eight deployments: two supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and six supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. In all, Petry spent a total of 28 months deployed. On May 26, 2008, he saved the lives of two soldiers when a grenade landed nearby. Hear his story:

Join us throughout Hispanic Heritage Month as we recognize and celebrate the contributions that Americans with roots in Spanish-speaking nations have made to our military, history and culture.

Honoring POW/MIA Recognition Day

“You Are Not Forgotten.” The central phrase behind honoring our nation’s Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) service members.

Every third Friday of September, our nation comes together to pay tribute to the lives and contributions of more than 80,000 Americans who are still listed as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action through National POW/MIA Recognition Day. This special day of remembrance was first established in 1979 through presidential proclamation by President Jimmy Carter.

The proclamation reads: “All Americans should recognize the special debt we owe our fellow citizens who, as prisoners during wartime, sacrificed their freedom [so] that we might enjoy the blessings of peace and liberty. Likewise, we must remember the unresolved casualties of war — our soldiers who are still missing. The pain and bitterness of war endures for the families, relatives and friends.”

POW/MIA Flag

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is the result of a push for accountability by the families of more than 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIAs. The flag was the first part of the movement.

In 1970, Mrs. Michael Hoff, the wife of a service member declared MIA and a member of the National League of POW/MIA Families, recognized the need for a symbol honoring POW/MIAs.

In January 1972, the League of Families Board of Directors approved the design of the flag with the objective of advocating for improved treatment for and answers on American POW/MIAs.

On August 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, which recognized the League’s POW/MIA flag and designated it “the symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation.”

POW/MIA or “Missing Man” Table

A solemn ceremony to honor our missing comrades in arms. The table arrangement includes:

Learn more about the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency whose mission is to recover American military personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action from designated past conflicts around the world:

Veteran Voices: Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley, U.S. Army (Retired)

12th Sergeant Major of the Army Jack Tilley, U.S. Army (Retired) military service spans over 36 years – with service in Vietnam through the start of the Global War on Terror. In March of 2022, he joined us to share some of his reflections on service in Vietnam, his experiences as a Sergeant Major of the Army and how service continues to drive him to make an impact on our transitioning military community and their families.

Tilley is currently featured in the nationally acclaimed book, The Twenty-Year War, which is the basis for our latest exhibition, The Twenty-Year War: Our Next Greatest Generation.

A native of Vancouver, Washington, Jack was sworn in as the 12th Sergeant Major of the Army on June 23, 2000 and served until January 15, 2004. A career soldier, he had held many leadership positions within the Department of the Army and Unified Command environments. As Sergeant Major of the Army, Tilley served as the Army Chief of Staff’s personal advisor on all enlisted-related matters, particularly in areas affecting soldier training and quality of life. He devoted the majority of his time to traveling throughout the Army observing training, and talking to soldiers and their families.

He sits on a wide variety of councils and boards that make decisions affecting enlisted soldiers and their families. A Vietnam War veteran, Jack Tilley has held a variety of important leadership positions throughout his 34 year career including tank commander, section leader, drill sergeant, platoon sergeant, senior instructor, operations sergeant, first sergeant and command sergeant major. His military education includes the First Sergeants Course and the Sergeants Major Academy.

Among his numerous awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star with V Device, Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Vietnam Service and Campaign Medals.After retirement, Jack continued his advocacy for all service members. He is co-chairman of the American Freedom Foundation, a 501(c)3 public benefit corporation. The American Freedom Foundation was organized to honor veterans of America’s armed forces, to raise money and awareness for various veterans’ organizations with special emphasis directed to welfare and educational issues facing those wounded in action, and soldiers killed in action during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has worked tirelessly with the organization managing the annual fund-raising benefit concerts with top named entertainment.

In addition, he is a board member of the Army Retirement Council (ARC) and special advisor for the Wounded Warriors advisory council board. His goal is to raise public awareness and support for military service members and veterans.

Jack has also become a successful management consultant, working with top Fortune 500 companies on a variety of projects and programs that are unique to the military community. He is President/CEO of JTilley Inc., and is part-owner of Oakgrove Technologies.

Their Next Mission: Veterans in the Workforce [Rally Point]

Every day, hundreds of military personnel leave the service in search of employment as civilians. Veterans bring invaluable skills to the workforce, including teamwork, organization, strong work ethics, problem solving, and more.

In this Rally Point, Rachael Jackson, U.S. Army Veteran and Founder and CEO of REV, and Alex Calfee, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and Executive VP of Oplign, share how you can prioritize finding Veterans to fill your open positions and positively impact your company or organization.

Rachael is the Founder and CEO of REV. She graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2003 with a degree in Engineering Physics. She served in the U.S. Army as an Apache pilot. After deploying to Iraq, Rachael faced a medical crisis that forced her to transition from a military career to a civilian career.

After getting out of the military, Rachael worked with SAIC and then as a civil servant with the Software Engineering Directorate at RedStone Arsenal. Throughout her military and civilian career, Rachael recognized the war that leaders are fighting for the hearts, minds and attention of those they lead and serve.

Her purpose is now focused on helping equip, empower and inspire leaders to build up Meaningful Connection in scalable and sustainable ways. The resulting Cultures of Meaningful Connection power individuals teams that outperform all others.

Alex Calfee, Cuba, 1997

Alex make things with computers and use those things to help people and companies connect for higher, better, and faster employment. Alex also spends some of his time working to enhance the attractiveness of Central Ohio to Veterans and transitioning military through volunteer work at the Central Ohio Veterans Consortium.

He enjoys lifting heavy things off the ground, wearing pocket t-shirts, not getting caught in the rain, and helping Veterans and folks getting out of the military (and the people that love them) navigate this crazy, mixed-up Now of Work.

7 Facts You Need to Know

Heading into the Museum’s fourth anniversary, it’s time to highlight a few things everyone should know about the NVMM.

1. Iconic Building Without Columns

Due to the irregular curvilinear design of the building, the Museum was built using a 3D model. Every point was assigned with x, y, and z coordinates, with blueprints being of minimal help. In fact, our design has zero weight bearing columns.

2. Concrete with a Purpose

Allied Works designed our concrete arch structure with 28 million pounds of concrete and a glass curtainwall system. Seeming to rise organically from the ground, our building is a symbol of our nation’s Veterans and how their strength emanates from within.

3. Don’t forget to look down!

Our floor contains over 1 million individually inlaid pieces of White Oak, a traditional American wood species found in hometowns across America.

4. We’re the ONLY Museum honoring ALL Veterans

There’s ONLY ONE Museum in America that honors ALL Veterans – from all branches of service, and from all eras of our nation’s proud history of military service, both peacetime and wartime. We are proud to give a voice to every man and woman who answered the call for our country.

5. Awards, Awards, and more Awards

6. What’s behind the Museum?

Our Memorial Grove is 2.5 acres featuring a grove of trees, water feature, memorial wall, Soldier’s Cross and Purple Heart Monument. All together creating a cohesive space for remembrance, inspiration and recognition of service.

OLIN, our Landscape Architects, utilized 5 species of Elm Tree, a tree that has sheltered Veterans and their families since colonial times. The reflecting pool and three water cascades highlight water as the elemental source of life and healing. Lastly, the limestone wall references regional geology and symbolizes our strength as a nation as best exemplified by the teamwork of our armed forces and the motto, E Pluribus Unum, “From many, one.”

7. Artifacts in our Meeting Room

Our Franklin County Meeting Room contains artifacts from the original Veterans Museum in Columbus.

Back-to-School Essentials

As the only Museum dedicated to honoring Veterans from all branches of military service, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum offers unique educational experiences unlike anywhere else. From in-person field trips to digital resources for the classroom, teachers from Kindergarten through High School will find exciting ways to connect what their students are learning with the personal artifacts, quotes, letters, imagery and powerful films of Veterans telling their unique story in their own words.

The Education Team at the NVMM is proud to offer a variety of learning opportunities for students in grades K-12 across the country!

Field Trips

Come visit us in downtown Columbus, Ohio! Field Trips for the 2022-2023 School Year are now being scheduled and educators can select one of two options:

  • Self-Guided Tours
    • Self-guided visits include an overview by a Museum Ambassador and a scavenger hunt customized by grade level.
  • Guided, Interpretive Experiences
    • Interpretive experiences are led by a Museum Educator and include a deep dive into the Museum’s core exhibition and an educational program that provides a hands-on learning opportunity for your students. These experiences last approximately two hours with time for the students to explore the Museum on their own.

Can’t make it to Columbus? Schedule a virtual field trip led by a Museum Educator. For any option you choose, we provide pre- and post-visit activities to enhance your experience at the new home of the brave.

Museum Robots

While you’re here, you may even run into one of our Museum robots, Deborah or VEC-001, which is sure to leave a lasting impression on your students.

Educator Resources

Throughout the school year we’ll be updating our educator resources page with lesson plans aligned to state and national learning standards, hands-on learning activities, Veteran stories about historic events, and other digital resources that support classroom learning in Social Studies, English Language Arts, and STEM subjects.  

NVMM Reads

Looking for book recommendations that can be used to enhance a learning topic? We’ve got you covered! Each month our NVMM Reads program recommends two books: one for children and one for adults. These are tied to monthly themes, historic dates or Veteran stories being told at the Museum. 

We’re also collaborating with the Columbus Metropolitan Library to create digital storytelling videos that can be viewed together as a class or on your own. Stay tuned for more details!

No matter how you and your students interact with us, we hope you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of the Veteran experience along with the inspiration to serve in your own community in some way. Feel free to contact us at Education@nationalvmm.org with any questions or Sign Up for Emails to stay up to date on what our Education Team is working on.

Inspiring Stories of Service: Erich Phillips

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Erich Phillips joins us to share his journey in the military, what it means to receive both the Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross as well as how he helps others process their own combat experiences.

Who were the Navajo Code Talkers?

“Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” 

-Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer

Every August 14, Navajo Code Talkers Day is commemorated to honor the contributions of Native American code talkers who served in the U.S. military during World Wars I and II. Code talking was first pioneered by the Choctaw and Cherokee peoples during World War I. The 20 terms created by the Choctaw were utilized in the development of the Navajo codes during World War II. The enemy was unable to decipher a single code talker message in either World War.

Where did the idea come from to use Navajo Code Talkers?

The idea to use Navajo for secure communications came from Philip Johnston, the son of a missionary to the Navajos, World War I Veteran and one of the few non-Navajos who spoke their language fluently. He believed the language answered the military requirement for an undecipherable code because it is an unwritten language of extreme complexity. Its syntax, tonal qualities and dialects make it unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and training.

Navajo Code Talkers, serving with the 1st Marine Division, are commended for their service in the Peleliu campaign by Lt. Col. James G. Smith, Nov. 20, 1944. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps.

In 1942, 29 Navajo men, including Carl Gorman, were recruited and trained by the U.S. Marine Corps. They worked to develop an undecipherable code that would be used across the Pacific. The Code Talkers, as they were called, became Platoon 382 – the first entirely Native American, all-Navajo platoon in U.S. Marine Corps history. Together, they generated more than 200 new Navajo words for U.S. military terms and committed them to memory in a timespan of several weeks.

Thomas Begay, Iwo Jima Hero

U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Thomas Begay was playing football in a gravel pit near his school in New Mexico when someone announced the Pearl Harbor attack. At the age of 17, he had his mother put her thumb print on a paper so he could join. Begay was a member of the 27th Marines of the 5th Marine Division, which was the first to see action in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Hear his story of service below.

From Code Talkers to Scouts and Messengers

The Navajos also did their share of fighting and made good scouts and messengers. The Alamo Scouts, an elite, top-secret reconnaissance/raider unit was assembled in 1943. When assembling the unit, a niche variety of soldiers were hand-picked by Army commanders to carry out covert intelligence missions in the South Pacific. Approximately six percent of the original Alamo Scouts were known to be of American Indian heritage. Many of these men were known as “Code Talkers,” with the ability to send encoded messages in a language undecipherable by the enemy, effectively securing the cover of operations.

Uplifting Veterans through Physical Fitness [Rally Point]

We were in California for our August Rally Point with Nate Boyer, co-founder of Merging Vets & Players (MVP). Boyer is a U.S. Army Green Beret Veteran and former NFL player for the Seattle Seahawks. He shares his life journey and the challenges faced by Veterans and former professional athletes when they no longer have their teams. The power of MVP is bringing Veterans and players together to unlock the potential for their next life mission through physical fitness and peer-to-peer support.

Nate Boyer is featured in our current exhibition, The Twenty-Year War: Our Next Greatest Generation.

Nate Boyer is what many would deem a renaissance man. The former active-duty Green Beret is also a world traveler, a philanthropist and community leader, and a professional athlete as a former member of the Seattle Seahawks.

After joining the US Army in 2005, Boyer earned the coveted Green Beret in December, 2006. He was stationed in Okinawa throughout most of 2007 with 1st Special Forces Group. In April of 2008, Nate was deployed with ODA 0324 10th Special Forces Group to Iraq and served his tour of duty until January of 2009. He then served tours in Afghanistan from April-August, 2013 (Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan) and from April-August, 2014 (ODA 3116 3rd Special Forces Group). In addition to his deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Boyer completed a number of JCET (Joint Command Exchange Training) Missions to Israel (2009), Bulgaria (2011), and Greece (2012).

A five-year player for the Texas Longhorns, Boyer served as the No. 1 long snapper on PAT/FG’s his last three seasons and also handled punt-snapping duties during 2013-14. He played in 39 career games. In 2012 Boyer received the Disney Spirit Award at the ESPN College Football Awards, which is given to the most inspirational figure in college football. In 2013 the National Football Foundation awarded him with the coveted Legacy Award. He was named to the 2014 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among all other student-athletes; was a three-time first-team Academic All-Big 12 choice (2012-14); and was first-team Capitol One Academic All-American in 2013. Boyer was named 2012-13 Big 12 Sportsperson of the Year and in 2012 became the first-ever recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). In January of 2015, he played in the Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, SC.

Boyer has embarked on a wealth of colorful adventures and life-changing experiences: he has backpacked solo throughout much of Europe and Central America, worked for a year on a fishing boat in San Diego, gone fly fishing in Kamchatka in Russia, worked as a big brother and mentor for children diagnosed with Autism, and volunteered at Refugee Camps in the Darfur region of Sudan/Chad border. Recently he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with a wounded veteran to raise money for clean water wells in Tanzania.

Boyer’s belief that “Anything is Possible” has served him well throughout his life and has made him especially fit to speak about finding one’s passions and living with purpose for other people. Nate’s can-do attitude is contagious and his inspirational story resounds with any audience; students, veterans, businesspersons, athletes and people from all walks of like can take something away from his unique story.

Legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers

On Buffalo Soldiers Day, we honor and remember the soldiers of the first peacetime, all-black regiments in the U.S. Army. This date memorializes the action taken by Congress on July 28, 1866, to establish the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, and the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry Regiments.

How did they get their name, “Buffalo Soldiers?”

The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments played an instrumental role in the Indian Wars, protection of national parks and the safe transport of the settlers through the Western frontier. More than 180,000 Buffalo Soldiers served in the U.S. Army up to the integration of the Armed Forces including then-Colonel Charles Young, the first African American Colonel in the U.S. Army. The monuments located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point honor their legacy of service.

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

The 10th Cavalry was organized on September 21, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas with then-Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson as Commanding Officer. As the only white officer who supported the unit, he enthusiastically believed “in the abilities, dedication and record of performance of the Buffalo Soldiers.” The Buffalo Soldiers embodied “How the West was Won.”

Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Buffalo Soldier Monument. Photo courtesy of the Leavenworth Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In honor of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, a 16-foot monument was constructed in bronze depicting a soldier riding on horseback through a water feature. It was dedicated in 1992 by General Colin L. Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time and the first African American to serve in that capacity. The same year, Congress passed a law designating July 28 as Buffalo Soldiers Day.

U.S. Military Academy at West Point

The Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments served at West Point from 1907-1947. The academy utilized members of the Buffalo Soldiers to give instruction in riding skills to cadets.

In honor of this 40-year legacy, a 10-foot bronze statue was unveiled on September 10, 2021. The statue is a likeness to the first soldiers who arrived at West Point in 1907. From horse breed to full-dress uniform, it showcases an accurate depiction of an enlisted soldier and bears the resemblance of Staff Sgt. Sanders H. Matthews Sr., the last known Buffalo Soldier to serve at West Point.

“We can draw inspiration from them now and we will for generations to come. As we dedicate this monument, let us be reminded of the noble service and the sacrifices they contributed so immeasurably to the history of West Point and our nation.”

Class of 1980 General Vincent Brooks, U.S. Army (Retired)
The West Point Buffalo Soldier Monument.
The West Point Buffalo Soldier Monument. Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Soldier’s Association of West Point.

Meet the Artist

Eddie Dixon dedicates his God-given talent to honoring African American military trailblazers. In addition to the two Buffalo Soldier monuments, he created sculptures of Eugene Bullard, Henry O. Flipper, Women of the 6888th and Doris Miller to name a few.

Museum Visionary: John Glenn

John Herschel Glenn, Jr. was a U.S. Marine Corps aviator, engineer, astronaut, businessman and U.S. Senator. Our Museum began with his vision and every day we strive to live up to the guiding principles he set forth: To Honor, Connect, Inspire and Educate. In honor of his birthday, we celebrate John Glenn’s dedication to our community, nation and Veterans.

Take a stroll down memory lane with these 5 Supersonic Facts:

Glenn, Jr. was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio

The son of John Herschel Glenn, Sr., who worked for a plumbing firm, and Clara Teresa Glenn, a teacher. His parents had married shortly before John, Sr., a member of the American Expeditionary Force, left for the Western Front during World War I.

The family moved to New Concord, Ohio soon after John, Jr.’s birth. At eight years old, he flew his first airplane with his father and from there, became fascinated by flight and built model airplanes from balsa wood kits.

Glenn was only a toddler when he met his future wife, Annie Castor

Glenn, Jr. was only a toddler when he met his future wife, Anna Margaret (Annie) Castor. The pair became high school sweethearts and continued dating through college. Castor and Glenn were married on April 6, 1943 and had two children — John David, born in 1945, and Carolyn Ann, born in 1947.

During World War II and the Korean War, Glenn flew 149 missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross six times

Colonel John Glenn joined the American war effort in 1942 by entering the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. The following year, he completed his studies and was deployed as a U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot in the Pacific front of World War II. He flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific. During the Korean War, Glenn continued his service in the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot on 63 missions and as an exchange pilot with the Air Force on 27 missions.

Glenn was one of our nation’s first astronauts

He was one of the Mercury Seven, military test pilots selected in 1959 as the nation’s first NASA astronauts. On February 20, 1962, Glenn flew the Friendship 7 mission, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, the third American and fifth person in history to be in space.

At age 77, Glenn flew on Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-95 mission, making him the oldest person to enter Earth’s orbit

On October 29, 1998, Glenn returned to space as a payload specialist on a nine-day mission. He participated in experiments that studied the similarities between the aging process and the body’s response to weightlessness.

“To me, there is no greater calling. If I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I’ve accomplished something.”

John Glenn

America’s Fight for Independence

“Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom must undertake to support it.”

– Thomas Paine, from his pamphlet series titled, “The American Crisis,” 1776-1783

Two hundred and forty-six years ago, our War for Independence was an experiment in forging a new nation, one free from British rule. In honor of Independence Day, we share some of the Revolutionary War’s major events and key Veterans who helped win freedom for the American Colonies.

This 19th-century lithograph by Henry Pelham is a variation of Revere’s famous engraving, produced just before the American Civil War. Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

March 5, 1770: Boston Massacre

A confrontation between colonists and British soldiers led to a deadly riot killing American civilians including Crispus Attucks, the first person killed in the fight for American independence.

Read more: This Month in History (March 1-29).

December 16, 1773: Boston Tea Party

“No taxation without representation!” — A rally cry from American colonists after the Tea Act was passed by Britain’s Parliament. To resist, demonstrators boarded ships and threw chests of tea into Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773. The Boston Tea Party protest was a pivotal point in beginning the American Revolution.

Learn more: This Month in History (December 1-24).

Destruction of tea at Boston Harbor. N. Currier, 1846. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.
Signature page of the Olive Branch Petition. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

September 5, 1774: Petition of the King

On September 5, 1774, the First Continental Congress drafted a “Petition to the King” and organized a boycott of British goods. Then the “Olive Branch Petition,” a final attempt to prevent war, was sent by Congress to King George III in July of 1775. Despite attempts to achieve a peaceful solution, the British declared the Colonies to be in a state of rebellion.

April 19, 1775: Battles of Lexington and Concord

The first military engagements of the American Revolution were the battles at Lexington and Concord. About 700 British Army regulars in Boston were given secret orders to capture and destroy Colonial supplies stored by the Massachusetts Militia at Concord. Ralph Waldo Emerson describes the first shot fired by the Patriots at the North Bridge as “The shot heard round the world.”

Explore its impact: This Month in History (April 2-26).

Battle of Lexington. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Declaration of Independence, oil on canvas by John Trumbull, 1818; in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Washington, D.C. Architect of the Capitol.

July 4, 1776: The Declaration of Independence is Adopted

By June 1776, the Revolutionary War was in full swing, and a majority of colonists favored independence from Britain. Inspired by this sentiment, the Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

December 26, 1776: Battle of Trenton

The journey to the Battle of Trenton began on a frigid morning along the edge of the Delaware River. George Washington and his Continental Army felt every bit of the cold as they prepared to transport themselves and their equipment across the frozen body of water. It seemed almost irrational, if not inhumane to attempt this crossing in the freezing cold, on Christmas afternoon no less. However, the Continental Army was desperate for a victory after a series of major defeats and no significant victories.

Read more: Battle of Trenton.

Battle of Trenton, a painting. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.
The scene of the surrender of the British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga on October 17, 1777. John Trumbull, Architect of the Capitol. 

September 19, 1777: Battle of Saratoga

The Battle of Saratoga marked a decisive victory for the Americans. British General John Burgoyne led a large invasion southward from Canada but was never met with additional support. He was surrounded by American forces with whom he fought two battles. The British gained one victory but lost the second due to being outnumbered by American forces. He retreated to Saratoga and surrendered his army on October 17. This won America the foreign assistance they needed for victory in the American Revolution.

September 28, 1781: Battle of Yorktown

A joint American and French force led by General George Washington and Lt. General Comte de Rochambeau arrived at Yorktown at the start of the Battle of Yorktown, the final battle of the Revolutionary War. With the aid of his French allies, Washington planned a strategic assault against the British in hopes that a victory at Yorktown would finally force Britain and other European nations to accept the United States of America as an independent nation.

Check out the final battle plan: This Week in History (September 27-30).

This painting depicts the forces of British Major General Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis (1738–1805) surrendering to French and American forces after the Siege of Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War. John Trumbull, Architect of the Capitol.

Heroes of the Revolutionary War

Paul Revere riding on the night of April 18, 1775, to warn Boston-area residents that British troops were coming. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Paul Revere

Paul Revere was a silversmith, engraver, early industrialist, Sons of Liberty member and patriot in the American Revolution. His midnight ride is forever memorialized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” Revere warned American Colonial militia about a British attack, allowing for a significant advantage in the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

General George Washington

In May 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to discuss preparations for war. One of the main concerns was organizing and supplying the army. The current army was comprised of several militia bands, each controlled by different states. The militias needed a leader, and, on July 3, 1775, George Washington took command of the new Continental Army as its commander-in-chief.

Throughout the war, Washington and his men won only three major battles out of nine. While he may not have been a military strategist, he was an excellent general, keeping his troops together and motivated to continue fighting no matter the hardships they faced. Without Washington’s leadership, the Continental Army may never have defeated the British Army.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Peter Francisco (left) fighting Tarleton’s British cavalry (1814 engraving). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Peter Francisco

A Portuguese-born, American patriot and soldier, Peter Francisco played a crucial role during the Revolutionary War. As a member of the 10th Virginia Regiment in 1776, he fought in the Battle of Camden and was well known as the “Giant of the Revolution” due to his height and strength. He fought with distinction in numerous engagements including the Battle of Brandywine, Battle of Germantown and Battle of Camden.

Throughout the course of the Revolutionary War, approximately 230,000 soldiers served in the Continental Army with an additional 145,000 militiamen. They fought for the promise of freedom. Their grit and determination for independence inspire us to this day. On Independence Day, we pause to reflect on the founding of our nation and the brave men and women who have sacrificed to gain and uphold our freedoms today.

Saluting LGBTQIA+ Service Members

Each June, Pride Month is celebrated to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, which helped spark the modern gay rights movement. It is also a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community through both parades and activism. Prior to 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the official policy on military service for LGBTQIA+ service members. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) shares, “It is estimated that there are a little more than 1 million LGBTQ+ Veterans in the United States. Since the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Act of 2010, surveys have found that more than five percent of active-duty service members identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.” Join us in celebrating those who paved the way for a more inclusive military force.

Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was an openly gay man and former Prussian military officer who played a leading role in American efforts during the Revolutionary War. After an invitation from ambassador Benjamin Franklin and subsequent approval from General George Washington, he helped reform the Continental Army into a disciplined and professional fighting force. Through his impressive use of military drills, tactics and discipline based on Prussian techniques, he was promoted to Washington’s Chief of Staff. During this time, Von Steuben wrote, “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States,” which remained the Army’s drill manual for decades, and continues to influence modern U.S. Army manuals. His contributions marked a significant improvement in the performance of American troops, and he is regarded as one of the fathers of the U.S. Army. Von Steuben was one of four European military leaders who assisted the U.S. cause during the Revolution and was honored with a statue in Lafayette Square, just north of the White House.

Steuben, portrait by Charles Willson Peale, in Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia
Courtesy of the Independence National Historical Park Collection, Philadelphia.
Frank Kameny service photo

Frank Kameny

Frank Kameny, a gay rights movement founding father, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943. After World War II, he completed his studies at Queens College and graduated with a physics degree in 1948. Kameny then enrolled at Harvard University, where he obtained both a master’s and doctoral degrees in astronomy. In 1957, at age 32, he was outed as gay and fired from his position at the Army Map Service. At this time, Alan Turing, a gay British mathematician, had just committed suicide after government persecution, so Kameny decided to fight the system. His case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which was the first time a civil rights case based on sexual orientation was heard. In 1971, Kameny became the first openly gay candidate for Congress.

Harvey Milk

Before Harvey Milk made history as one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States, he was a member of the U.S. Navy. During the Korean War, he served as a diving officer aboard the submarine rescue ship, USS Kittiwake, and later transferred to a naval station in San Diego. In 1955, he resigned from the Navy at the rank of lieutenant, junior grade, and was forced to accept an “other than honorable” discharge and leave the service rather than face a court-martial because of his sexuality. After moving to San Francisco,  Milk became a prominent gay rights activist and community leader. In 1977, he was elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and sadly, just one year later, was tragically shot and killed. On November 6, 2021, the U.S. Navy formally launched the Military Sealift Command’s John Lewis-class oiler, USNS Harvey Milk. All ships of this class are to be named after civil rights leaders. The Secretary of the U.S. Navy Carlos Del Toro shared, “For far too long, sailors like Lt. Milk were forced into the shadows or, worse yet, forced out of our beloved Navy. That injustice is part of our Navy history, but so is the perseverance of all who continue to serve in the face of injustice.”

Harvey Milk. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.
Gilbert Baker in military uniform. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Gilbert Baker

LGBTQ+ activist and U.S. Army Veteran Gilbert Baker is most well-known in the gay community for creating the first rainbow flag. At the height of the Vietnam War, Baker was drafted into the Army. As a native of Chanute, Kansas, he hid he was gay from his parents and the military. He spent two years as a medic and nurse in military hospitals and used his sewing skills to make sure every division or platoon had a patch or emblem. After his honorable discharge in 1972, he joined the Gay Liberation Movement in San Francisco. It is there that he met activist and fellow Veteran Harvey Milk who asked him to create a symbol to represent the gay community. Baker was inspired by the U.S. flag and decided on a rainbow as the unifying symbol. This flag first flew in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza for Gay Pride Day on June 25, 1978.

Lieutenant Colonel Bree Fram, U.S. Space Force

Lieutenant Colonel Bree Fram is an active duty astronautical engineer with the U.S. Space Force who leads space policy integration at the Pentagon. She is the highest-ranking out transgender officer currently serving in the military. Fram came out publicly on June 30, 2016, when then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the Armed Forces was lifting its ban on transgender service members. She also is the president of Sparta, an organization that advocates for transgender service members.

Lieutenant Colonel Bree Fram. Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense.
Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones, Bio (U.S. Air Force photo by Eric Dietrich)

Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones

Gina Ortiz Jones became the first out lesbian and first woman of color to serve as an Under Secretary when she was confirmed as Under Secretary of the Air Force in 2021. Jones was inspired to serve her country as a first-generation American after learning of her uncle’s service in the U.S. Navy. She earned a four-year Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship, allowing her to enroll at Boston University, from which she graduated in 2003 with a degree in East Asian studies and a master’s degree in economics. Jones served in the U.S. Air Force under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and reached the rank of captain. She became an intelligence officer and deployed to Iraq with the 18th Air Support Operations Group. Jones later earned a master’s degree in military arts and sciences at the School of Advanced Military Studies of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. After her time with the Defense Intelligence Agency, she moved to the Executive Office of the President to serve under the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in 2016. After serving under presidents of both parties, Jones returned to San Antonio, Texas, to the home where she grew up and ran for Congress twice before her confirmation as Under Secretary of the Air Force.

During Pride Month, it is important to honor the contributions of our nation’s LGBTQIA+ service members and Veterans. To learn more about Pride Month or find additional ways to get involved, check out the following resources: Department of Veterans Affairs, DOD Pride, GLAAD, National LGBTQ Task Force, and Stonewall Columbus.

Korean War: “The Forgotten War”

“Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” -Korean War Veterans Memorial plaque inscription

In the early hours of June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, beginning a war sometimes referred to as “the Forgotten War.” This three-year conflict was the first military action of the Cold War. North Korea was supported by China and the Soviet Union while South Korea was supported by the United Nations, principally the United States. By July, American troops had entered the war to stem the tide of communism. We invite you to learn more about a few of the brave men and women who raised their right hand to defend our freedoms.

Sergeant Cornelius Charlton, U.S. Army

Sergeant Cornelius Charlton was the second of two African Americans to be awarded the Medal of Honor during the Korean War. When he graduated from high school in 1946, Charlton’s parents allowed the 17-year-old to enlist. He was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, part of the 25th Infantry Division. In May of 1951, Charlton was made platoon sergeant due to his impressive leadership abilities.

United States Army Sergeant
Cornelius Charlton, Medal of Honor recipient
for actions in the Korean War.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

On June 2, 1951, Charlton’s platoon was attacking heavily defended hostile positions when the platoon leader was wounded and evacuated. Charlton assumed command, rallied the men and spearheaded an  assault on Hill 543 near the village of Chipo-ri. Personally eliminating two hostile positions and killing six enemy combatants with rifle fire and grenades, he continued up the slope until the unit suffered heavy casualties and became pinned down. Despite a severe chest wound, Sgt. Charlton refused medical attention and led a third charge which carried to the crest of the ridge. Observing that the remaining emplacement was situated on the reverse slope, he charged it alone. Charlton was wounded again by a grenade, but hit the position with devastating fire, eliminating it and routing the defenders. He was, however, unable to recover from severe wounds received during his courageous assault. Sgt. Cornelius Charlton was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on March 12, 1952.

Master Sergeant Woodrow Keeble, U.S. Army

Master Sergeant Woodrow “Woody” Keeble served with the famed North Dakota 164th Infantry Regiment. He was a full-blooded member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation, a federally recognized tribe of the Dakota people. As a child, he excelled in sports and was set to be recruited by the Chicago White Sox when his unit was called to serve in World War II. His combat experience and leadership brought him a quick series of promotions to the level of master sergeant.

During the Korean War, he was assigned to George Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. Starting on October 15, 1951, his division was called upon to be a part of Operation Nomad-Polar. For six days straight, they were caught in round-the-clock fighting. On October 20, 1951, Keeble led all three platoons in successive assaults upon the Chinese who held Hill 675-770 throughout the day. All three charges were repulsed, and the company suffered heavy casualties. After Keeble withdrew the 3rd platoon, he decided to attempt a solo assault on Hill 765. He single-handedly destroyed three enemy machine-gun bunkers and killed an additional seven enemy soldiers in nearby trenches. During this time, Keeble had suffered two gunshot wounds to his left arm, grenade shrapnel to his face that almost removed his nose and 83 other pieces of festering shrapnel from a grenade. For his actions, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) on December 20, 1952. In 2008, the DSC was upgraded posthumously to the Medal of Honor.

High resolution image of MOH recipient, United States Master Sergeant Woodrow Wilson Keeble. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Women in the Korean War

After Congress passed the Women’s Armed Forces Services Integration Act in 1948, women were allowed to serve as permanent members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force for the first time in American history. Two years later, more than 120,000 women answered the call for our country. Many women served in Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH), on MEDEVAC aircraft or hospital ships. One of the first mobile surgical hospitals to be set up in Korea was the 8055th MASH, whose team of doctors and nurses sometimes treated hundreds of casualties in a day and routinely performed life saving surgeries. They were pioneers of trauma nursing and care.

U.S. Army Nurse Cathy Drake was one of those pioneers. She was an operating room nurse in the 8055th MASH unit. Read more of her story here: Indiana Nurse During the Korean War Helped Inspire “M*A*S*H’ | Indiana News | US News

Captain Lillian Kinkela Keil was one of the most accomplished women in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, and one of the most decorated women in American military history. Her daughter shares her story: Flight Nurse | American Experience | Official Site | PBS

U.S. Air Force Nurse Grace Chicken shares her experiences transporting the wounded in this video courtesy of the Witness to War Foundation.

After more than two years of negotiations, the fighting ended on July 27, 1953, with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement. It created the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to separate North and South Korea and allowed for the return of prisoners. The Korean War was one of the most destructive conflicts of the modern era with approximately three million war fatalities and a larger proportion of civilian deaths than World War II and the subsequent Vietnam War. Today, it is important for all of us to remember and share the stories of the 40,000 Americans who died and the more than 100,000 who were wounded during this conflict.

Innovator in Aerial Combat: Admiral John Thach, U.S. Navy

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, a U.S. naval victory and turning point of World War II in the Pacific. Six months after the Imperial Japanese Navy’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, they attempted to destroy the remainder of the U.S. Pacific Fleet with a surprise attack at Midway Island. On June 4, 1942, then U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander John Thach, employed aerial combat tactics that fundamentally changed how World War II was fought in the Pacific Theater. His creative ingenuity and leadership paved the way for the future of naval warfare.     

A native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1927 and spent two years serving on battleships, before becoming a naval aviator in early 1930. He spent the next decade as a flight instructor, test pilot and gunnery expert. Thach developed a fighter combat tactic known as “Thach Weave.” This combat flight formation enabled American fighters to counter the superior Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the primary aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy. In early 1940, Thach was placed in command of Fighting Squadron Three (VF-3). On the morning of June 4, 1942, Thach was leading a six-plane sortie, escorting 12 Douglas TBD Devastators led by Lieutenant Commander Lance Massey from Yorktown, when they discovered the main Japanese carrier fleet. They were immediately attacked by 15 to 20 Japanese fighters. Thach decided to use his namesake maneuver, marking its first usage. Although outnumbered and outmaneuvered, Thach shot down three Zeros and a wingman accounted for another.

Lieutenant Commander John Thach. Wearing flight helmet, goggles and inflatable life vest, 1942-43. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives.

After the Battle of Midway, Thach was assigned to instruct pilots in combat tactics. The U.S. Navy often pulled its best combat pilots out of action to train newer pilots, a distinct difference from the Japanese Navy. As the war progressed, the Japanese lost their experienced pilots to attrition while the U.S. consistently improved their fighting abilities. When the Japanese resorted to Kamikaze suicide attacks, Thach developed another defensive technique known as the “Big Blue Blanket” system. This allowed for constant presence of the blue-painted Hellcats and Corsairs over American warships at all hours. During WWII, Thach became a flying ace credited with shooting down six enemy aircraft.

Admiral John S. Thach. Portrait photograph by PH1 E.G. Fredette, 26 February 1965. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Later in his career, Thach commanded both the USS Sicily and USS Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1953 to 1954. He was promoted to vice admiral in 1960 and served as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air in the Pentagon, where he presided over development of the A-7 Corsair II. Starting in 1965, Thach became the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe, where he was promoted to full admiral and then retired in May 1967. During his four decades of service, he was awarded two Navy Crosses, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, a Silver Star, two Legions of Merit and a Bronze Star.

We’re honored to share his story of service and the impact he made developing U.S. Naval combat tactics as well as on the course of World War II in the Pacific. Fair winds and following seas, Admiral Thach.

NVMM Reads: “Never Call Me a Hero”

To honor the World War II Battle of Midway 80th anniversary, we are reading “Never Call Me a Hero” by Captain Jack “Dusty” Kleiss. The last surviving dive-bomber from the Battle of Midway, Kleiss was compelled to tell his story in honor of his comrades. A majority of Kleiss’ memoir is focused his experience aboard the USS Enterprise, the Battle of Midway and his fellow dive-bombers of the Scouting Squadron.

Dusty was born in 1916 and grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas during the Great Depression. His life of service began at the age of 15, when he lied about his age in order to join the Kansas National Guard. He later was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1938. Kleiss became a highly accomplished pilot flying the Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber in Scouting Squadron Six attatched to the USS Enterprise.

Six months after Pearl Harbor was destroyed by Japan’s Imperial Navy, the United States was preparing to counter Japan’s attack through their occupation of the Midway Islands, an area between the then-U.S. territory in Hawaii and Japan. U.S. battle success at Midway fell heavily on a team of dive-bombers to sink Japan’s warships. They succeeded. All in all, Japan sank one U.S. ship while the United State’s team of dive-bombers were able to sink all four of Japan’s ships. Kliess was one of the most successful dive-bombers of the battle, striking three of four enemy warships with precision.

Throughout “Never Call Me a Hero,” Kliess reveals battle events from a first-person perspective. From the book jacket, “Plummeting through the air at 240 knots amid blistering anti-aircraft fire, the twenty-six-year-old pilot from USS Enterprise’s elite Scouting Squadron Six fixed on an invaluable target—the aircraft carrier Kaga, one of Japan’s most important capital ships. He released three bombs at the last possible instant, then desperately pulled out of his gut-wrenching 9-g dive. As his plane leveled out just above the roiling Pacific Ocean, Dusty’s perfectly placed bombs struck the carrier’s deck, and Kaga erupted into an inferno from which it would never recover.”

After arriving back on the Enterprise, Keliss would learn heartbreaking news about his best friend and 24 fellow naval aviators. He would continue, undaunted, to strike two more Japanese ships, earning him a place in history. Similar to many WWII Veterans, Dusty returned home, married, had children, and remained silent about his role in the war for decades.

Captain Kleiss was awarded the Navy Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross in 1942. He was married to his wife, Jean, until her passing in 2006 – more than 60 years. Kleiss planned to release his book for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway in June 2017, but he passed away at the age of 100 in 2016.

At the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, we connect visitors with the Veteran experiences. “Never Call me a Hero” serves to educate and connect readers to the experiences of an accomplished naval pilot in the early era of aviation. Even after persevering through high stakes, hard work, loss and sacrifice, Kleiss humbly asks that we “never call him a hero.”  So instead, we will call him a man who strove for excellence in all he did. We highly recommend reading “Never Call me a Hero” this month to gain a firsthand glimpse into events that shaped our world from an incredible Veteran who was there and chose to share his story in remembrance of those with whom he served.

NVMM Reads: “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging”

Many service members describe their military experience as virtually incomparable to any other aspect of life in the civilian world. The bonds they’ve shared, the difficulties they’ve faced and the communities they’ve built can’t be found in most aspects of modern society. “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” by Sebastian Junger reflects on the military experience, raising several philosophical and biological questions regarding what citizens and service members alike experience emotionally during wartime. To put into perspective the raw psychological effects of war on both Veterans and civilians, our NVMM Guest Experience Team recommends picking up a copy of “Tribe” this summer.

If you’re not familiar with Sebastian Junger, he is a New York Times bestselling author, special correspondent at ABC News and documentary film maker. Among other assignments, he spent extensive time with soldiers at the Restrepo outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley as he chronicled their deployment. This area was involved in more combat than any other part of Afghanistan. Junger also lost his friend and colleague, photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who was killed while covering the civil war in Libya in 2011. While not a Veteran himself, Junger’s experiences allow him to share personal stories and anthropological evidence to explain the reasoning behind the confusing happiness of those who share tragic bonds.

Throughout the book, Junger recalls his own homecoming experiences while expressing his research findings on mental health, both inside and outside combat zones. He explains the deep bonds of our servicemen and women as well as those of civilians who have been in war when people are fighting side-by-side defending their homes, trying to survive or driving out an enemy oppressor. The common thread is the bonds forged through tragedy and hard work together that bring out the best in each person. Upon returning to civilian life, combat Veterans and victims of violence may feel empty or disappointed with the ways people treat one another.

It’s difficult for those of us who have never experienced military life to recognize how often many service members will come home and reflect fondly on the community they built through shared sacrifice, hard work and tragedy. It is not often the circumstance itself that they “miss,” but rather the deep sense of belonging, purpose and companionship that many long to experience again.

Discomfort begets a bond that cannot be replicated or replaced. Throughout “Tribe,” this theory of intrinsic happiness through discomfort is emphasized many times over. Whether you’re interested in anthropology, biology, history, or philosophy, we recommend “Tribe” for  a thought-provoking read.

Transition Talks: Chris and Angie Baker

Take a look behind the scenes of The Twenty-Year War: Our Next Greatest Generation. Hear from Chris and Angie Baker, two U.S. Navy Veterans, on their challenges and triumphs transitioning from active duty.

NVMM Reads: “The Knock at the Door”

This month, our NVMM Guest Experience team highly recommends adding “The Knock at the Door,” co-authored by Ryan Manion, Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Hefferman, to your reading list. As an incredible testament to their fallen loved ones, these women joined together, united through tragedy, to convey their experience so that others may understand. This is a book for all that have received a literal or metaphorical life-changing “knock at the door,” for anybody who has gone through loss and for anyone interested in exploring and understanding love and sacrifice.

“The Knock at the Door” begins by describing a heartbreaking personal narrative of the intense healing processes undergone by the three Gold Star authors. Immediately upon taking their first hopeful steps into adulthood, Ryan Manion, Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan were faced with the ever-feared knock at their door. As quickly as their new lives had begun, it all appeared to end with the arrival of servicemen at their doorstep. In an instant, they were forced to cope with the unimaginable loss of family members; losses which changed the entire course of their lives. Despite their struggles, these brave women describe how their losses could not prevent them from living life to the fullest and helping others understand their grief. It was through their grief that they were bonded in solemn purpose, and the community built through their trauma is a true testament to their respective characters and those of their fallen loved ones.

This book is a sorrowful, yet beautiful reminder that nobody has all the answers. It is not always a beautiful process to heal from such pain. However, there is a light in the darkness. For each person who has experienced a life changing “knock at the door,” communities such as “The Travis Manion Foundation” can give many the strength to carry on and grow through pain.

At the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, we honor and respect those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, as well as their families and friends. Our fallen service members have each directly or indirectly impacted lives through their service, dedication and courage. Travis Manion, Brendan Looney, and Rob Kelly each embodied the phrase, “If not me, then who?” a phrase which has proven to be an important phrase for many in the healing process. They gave their lives in defense of our country and our freedoms so that we wouldn’t have to.

Popcorn throughout the World Wars

Did you know popcorn played a role in the war efforts during both World Wars? During World War I, Americans rationed food so it could be sent to Allied troops, leaving many in need of a substitute for wheat, meats and other food. In 1916, Mary Hamilton Talbot published the book “Pop Corn Recipes” which contained recipes like meatloaf made from popcorn and popcorn pudding. During World War II, sugar was rationed causing an increase in the price of candy. As a result, the amount of popcorn being consumed tripled compared to previous years. Oddly, it was Chicago candy shop owner, Charles Creators, who helped popularize popcorn as a snack back in the 1890s when he invented the popcorn machine. Today, most Americans will eat around 68 quarts of popcorn a year making it one of the most popular snacks in the United States.

Chief Petty Officer Rodrigo Sabanga, a culinary specialist (right) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jade Zimmerman, a hospital corpsman, both assigned to Naval Hospital Guam, ready a bag of popcorn for attendees of the Guam Chamber of Commerce’s 17th Annual Christmas Festival at Skinner Plaza.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Derrick Pillaga, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 3, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, stacks popcorn for a holiday party for service members and their families displaced by current water related health and safety concerns. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher Thomas)

Inspiring Story of Service | PTSD Awareness Month – Josh Sandor

Josh & Emma, 2018 | Mixed media on canvas © Susan J. Barron

Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Sandor was born and raised in the town of West Milford in northern New Jersey. After graduating from high school in 2001, Josh joined the Army at age 17. In August, he attended basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to become a cavalry scout. “I remember my recruiter trying to tell me about all of these great jobs and career paths I could take, and I had to stop him mid-sentence,” Sandor recalls. “I wanted to be a scout. I already knew that was what I wanted to do.”

On September 11, 2001, Josh found himself on the qualifying range for rifle marksmanship when the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center began to unfold. In his words, “Our chaplain came out to our range after a post-wide cease-fire was directed for all range operations. We all felt something was wrong and later, as our chaplain spoke, we knew our time on the range was not just to qualify, but to prepare for war.”

Josh outside a Combat Outpost in South Balad Ruz, Iraq, 2008

Sandor deployed to Iraq in March 2003 with Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle driver, redeploying in March 2004. In October 2007, he deployed again to Iraq with Fox Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. It was during this deployment that Josh served as a gunner in his platoon’s lead vehicle in the infamous Diyala Province. Sandor shares with us the story of how he was injured on this deployment.  “On Dec. 18 late at night, we were returning to our base after a fairly routine mission in a Kurdish controlled area. We were getting close to home when I remember telling our driver to stay left ahead to avoid going over a massive pothole in the road. As he maneuvered the HMMWV (Humvee) around the hole, it detonated. I don’t remember too much of the initial strike. There is a moment of numbness and peace before the chaos sets in during a blast. It all happens so fast that there is no time to react to anything. When I regained consciousness, my eyes were burning so bad I could not see, and my entire right side hurt badly. I went to move, but was told to stay still for the medic. Our crew all survived three artillery rounds that were packed with explosives and designed to detonate together as we went by. A foot-long piece of shrapnel was coming through the inner back wall of the truck but was stuck about a foot away from my back. Had it made it through, I would have been gone. The up-armored HMMWV saved our lives, no doubt.”

Images from the IED blast: “We were the lead Vehicle and heading back to the Kirkush Military Training Base where our Forward Operating Base (Caldwell) was located, IED blast December 18, 2007.”

Josh exited the Army in April 2010 and began his transition back to civilian life. The blast took its toll on him both physically and mentally. He knew his life was changing and day-to-day living became increasingly more difficult. Army doctors diagnosed Sandor with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2009, and in 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs again diagnosed Josh with PTSD and TBI. 

Josh and his daughter, Emma, at the opening of Depicting the Invisible in New York, 2018.

When asked what compels him to share his story and experiences, Josh told us, “Depicting the Invisible has given me a voice and a voice for those who cannot speak or are not ready to talk yet. Being chosen to share my story of service with you at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum is such an amazing moment in my life. I have given myself and my story to Depicting The Invisible. I also volunteer as an outreach officer with Freedom Fighter Outdoors to help Veterans. I keep both close to heart. I was saved because I came out of the shadows where I felt stuck. I want all Veterans to know that if I can find the strength and courage to come forward to get help, so can any Veteran.” 

Family photo of Josh with his wife and daughter, Emma.

Depicting The Invisible: A Portrait Series of Veterans Suffering from PTSD by mixed-media artist Susan J. Barron, is now on view at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum through Jan. 2, 2022. For information about visiting in-person or experiencing a virtual tour of this exhibition, visit NationalVMM.org


In May of 2019, Josh opened his business, Patriot Mobile Detailing in Milford, P.A. He shares, “I am very proud to have started my own business. It is small but growing steadily every day.” Learn more: http://www.patriotmobiledetailing.com/ 

Women Who Inspire: Military Mom’s Spotlight

In celebration of Military Appreciation Month and Mother’s Day, we celebrate, honor, and remember the stories of Military Moms across the country. This week we connect you with a motivated, passionate, and dedicated Military Mom, Amy Cotta, whose son SSG Tyler Zych has been serving in the United States Marine Corps since 2011. Amy is incredibly involved in the Veteran community. Her son’s service has had a great impact on her life and her desire to help Veterans and their families. Amy is the founder of Memories of Honor, a non-profit organization whose mission is to make every day Memorial Day.

Amy with her son and oldest daughter taken at family day – the day before his USMC graduation at Parris Island.

Q:           What was your knowledge of military families and military service prior to your son joining the USMC?

A:           Most of the men on both sides of our families have served, including my father (Army), and my former husband (Air Force). We have had family members fight in just about every war and or conflict since the Civil War.

Q:           What was your initial response or reaction when you learned that your son was planning to serve? Did you anticipate his decision?

A:           I always knew my son Tyler was going to serve. He grew up being the protector of the family. He attended JROTC all four years of high school. He also competed on the Raiders team. He was initially going into the Army, but then came home one day stating he had decided to go into the Marines and had asked for me to sign for him to join. Tyler was just 17 at the time. When we were at the recruiter’s office it was the proudest and most devastating day of my life. I knew too much and too many people who had lost loved ones overseas and here at home. I was speechless as I signed my name. It took everything I had not to completely break down. As I was signing the papers, I wondered had I just signed to send my son off to war. Worse yet, was I signing his death certificate, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if anything were to happen to him.

Q:           What does “Service” mean to you? Was there a difference in the meaning of “Service” once your son decided to serve? 

A:           I’m one of those people who believe that we should all serve our country and communities in one way or another. I also held military service in the highest regards, but something changes when it’s your only biological son… it absolutely rocked my world. In 2011, we were still losing a massive number of service members to the enemy, but that number here at home started being surpassed by the number of suicides. These are things that as a mother, you just can’t ignore and my heart hurt so bad for all these families. My brain couldn’t wrap around the magnitude of their loss and sacrifice. To this day the words of Tyler’s recruiter rings out in my head, “Ma’am it’s not a matter of if or when he will deploy, it’s a matter of where and how often.”

Q:           How did you connect to your son while he was deployed? What aspects about his service have had the greatest impact on your life?

A:           I had gone into a deep depression while Ty was at boot camp – those words of his recruiter rang out in my mind. People talk all the time about the separation anxiety that comes with sending your child off to college. I say take that, pour rocket fuel on it, and light a match. That’s what it feels like to sign for your child to join the Marine Corps during war time. While Ty was at boot camp, I had a pair of Bates steal toe USMC combat boots. I started wearing them everywhere I went, no matter where it was or how I was dressed. The boots gave me some comfort and feeling of connection. About a month into him being gone, there was a 5K down the road from my home, so I decided to lace up the boots and attempt to run in it. I found both discomfort and peace on the course. I met many amazing people along the way and shared many meaningful moments with them. Two weeks later I completed a half marathon in my combat boots, every step I took was a love letter to my son and a thank you note to everyone who ever served.

I quickly realized that my boot running wasn’t only helping me to cope and feel connected to my son, but others quickly followed suit. Through social media, moms all over the country reached out to me about needing a way to feel connected. They wanted to lace up boots along with me. I went from doing 5K to 50K runs – I added a military pack and then weight, and eventually the photos of thirteen fallen teammates of a friend of mine. Those races morphed into half and full Ironman Triathlons – all while wearing my boots, heavy military pack during the running leg of the races – carrying the faces of the fallen with me for all to see, read their names, and acknowledge their sacrifice.

Amy at the half marathon that was inspired by her Boot Running.

Q:           Can you share with us more about how you built this community for yourself over the past decade?

A:           Terra, one of the mothers of the fallen on my pack, had reached out to me and said that her son Anthony had always wanted to do an Ironman, but he was never given that privilege as he was killed in action at only 24-years old. Right then and there, I promised her that I would live out Anthony’s dream for and with him. I would do the inaugural Ironman Chattanooga 140.6 in his honor and memory. Little did I know the date of the race happened to have fallen on Gold Star Mother’s Day – and that one simple act would turn into Memories of Honor. I am beyond grateful for Anthony and though I never had the privilege of meeting him, he has forever touched and changed my life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and his mother, and all of our Gold Star Families. The courage and strength they have to drum up daily is beyond my comprehension. There is nothing that we can do to take away their pain and fill that void left by the loss of their loved one – but we can and we MUST do something every day to try to bring some comfort and peace to them. They have already experienced their worst nightmare, their loved one is gone; now their greatest fear is that he/she will be forgotten. I have made it my life’s work to make sure these men and women are never forgotten and their families know they are not alone.

Q:           Tell us about more about Memories of Honor. How does this organization drive change, awareness, and community for military, Veterans, and their families?

A:           I didn’t set out to start a nonprofit, it was just something I did… I’m the type of person that I will sit and feel sorry for myself for a few minutes, few days, or even a few weeks, then I take a hard look and ask myself, “how can I fix this? What can I do to make it better? What can I do to help someone else?” The nonprofit was 100% organic, and I was just following where my heart and intuition told me to go. The moment I decided to follow that nagging voice, doors started flying open! I knew that I had found my place and purpose in life. I wouldn’t change all of the worry and heartache I experienced back in 2011 with sending my son off to the corps, it made me the person I am today and it gifted me with so many amazing lifelong friends.

The mission of Memories of Honor is simple: to make every day Memorial Day. Long after the casseroles and sympathy cards stop coming and rest of the world has moved on, often surviving families feel alone and isolated in their grief. It doesn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t ever be this way. We must come together and wrap these families in love and support that surpasses all understanding. Memories of Honor honors all branches, all dates, and all loss of life due to service which includes, killed in action, missing in action, training accidents, self-infliction, medical issues related to service, and any loss while on active duty. We have service members in our database going back to WWII, Vietnam, and every war and conflict since. We welcome all surviving family members into our loving and supportive community.

Q:           What would you want non-military mothers and civilians to know about your experience as a Military Mom?

A:           My experience isn’t unique. At some point we have all been part of, or witnessed a life altering experience or event. Choose to use that experience as fuel, do something with that experience to better yourself, and everyone around you. We all have a life’s purpose; we just need to dare to chase it down.

SSG Tyler Zych and his wife SGT Tania Zych with their son – photo from Tyler’s promotion to SSG.

For more information about Amy Cotta and how you can connect with Memories of Honor, please visit: http://Memoriesofhonor.org

Month of the Military Child: Larry Speer

by Larry Speer, Berlin Brats class of ’83

Sometimes military brats have trouble answering the question “Where are you from?” As a 17-year-old freshman at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), I never had trouble with it. “Berlin,” was always my quick answer. Of course, the explanation took a little longer, but it was obvious after I explained I lived in Berlin three separate times growing up. I spent my last three years at Berlin American High School as a member of the class of 1983. Even then we were all aware enough to realize our years spent in the divided city were unique, and our experiences made us just a bit more worldly than the average bear. Being a military brat did not really set me apart at a military academy, but I quickly learned that most kids did not have any idea what it was like to have lived overseas.

The second part of my triple whammy was being a zoomie. Zoomie is a term for a cadet or a graduate of USAFA. Being a zoomie is a strong identity trait and provides for great rivalries with our brothers and sisters from West Point and Annapolis. Being a zoomie and a military brat certainly was not a unique circumstance at the academy or out in the real Air Force. I soon realized I had a third trait that I thought made me one of a kind. I’m also a PK, a preacher’s kid. My dad was the brigade chaplain at McNair 1969-1972. The stereotypical PK is precocious and perhaps wayward. I never thought of myself as that, but being a PK isn’t very common. It wasn’t until 2001 that I met another triple whammy.

As Berlin Brats, we are honored to claim anyone among our own, but Maj. Gen. Rick Martin is one who has met with more success than most. It was a great privilege to share the stage with him at a pinning-on ceremony for Lt. Col. Michelle Estes at the 2012 reunion in Washington, D.C.

Surprisingly, I also paired up with Gen. Martin (his first name will always have to be General to me) on a shuttle ride from the hotel to the airport after the reunion in Phoenix in 2009. It seems we are somehow drawn together by forces greater than ourselves all around the world. The fact that we are also both pilots could make for a quadruple whammy, but I’ll leave it at triple for now.

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Month of the Military Child

The U.S. Enters The Great War

“Gentlemen of the Congress: I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made, and made immediately, which it was neither right nor constitutionally permissible that I should assume the responsibility of making.”

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

This speech by President Woodrow Wilson on April 2nd to Congress would be put to vote two days later, and the United States would officially enter the war on April 6th. Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare initially pushed the United States towards the Entente when 148 Americans died when HMS Lusitania was torpedoed, a violation of American rights as seen by those in the United States. But the scaling back of its use pacified U.S. entrance for the time being. The Zimmerman letter to Mexico, the move back to unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany, and Wilson’s want to shape the postwar world led to this special convening of Congress and the declaration of war against Germany.

To say the United States military was not ready for war on this scale would be an understatement. Within the Army alone, there was only a total of 308,771 troops between the Active Duty and National Guard components in a conflict that ended up averaging 6,000 casualties a day. The armies located in Europe numbered in the millions and were battle hardened after three years of bloody fighting. Vast and rapid mobilization was needed for the United States, with the first troops landing in Europe in June 1917.

It is very difficult to find veteran perspectives of this event. Indeed, what has been digitized seems to have a massive gap between January and September of 1917, with most of the letters that are available coming from those conscripted into the military. Those that have written about April do not mention the declaration of war, which could also have something to do with the passing of the Espionage Act of 1917.

With that in mind, Corporal Edgar D. Andrews enlisted into the Army National Guard before the United States declared war, sometime either late 1916 or very early 1917, where he was placed into a machine gun battalion. His letters begin in January and seem to indicate a good sense of morale by Edgar and the others serving alongside him. There is a gap in correspondence between the end of January and October where his next available letter is about his safe arrival in France, with a note about the censors that will now be combing through their letters. Edgar would survive through the entirety of the US’s involvement in World War I, with a common theme in his letters being that family was his motivation to endure.

Corporal Edgar D. Andrews WWI Veteran
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Resources

Edgar D. Andrews. Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Accessed from https://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.103623/.

Hirschfeld, Gerhard, Gerd Krumeich, and Irina Renz. Brill’s Encyclopedia of the First World War. Leiden, Boston: Brill. 2012.

Jackson, Galen. “The Offshore Balancing Thesis Reconsidered: Realism, the Balance of Power in Europe, and America’s Decision for War in 1917.” Security Studies, vol 21 (3). August 2012. doi: https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ou.edu/10.1080/09636412.2012.706502. Accessed from https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.lib.ou.edu/doi/full/10.1080/09636412.2012.706502.

President Wilson’s Declaration of War Message to Congress, April 2, 1917; Records of the United States Senate; Record Group 46; National Archives. Accessed from https://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/?dod-date=402.

“U.S. Entry into World War I, 1917.” Office of the Historian. Accessed from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/wwi#:~:text=On%20April%204%2C%201917%2C%20the,Hungary%20on%20December%207%2C%201917.

Make Hiring a Veteran a Priority

While hiring Veterans should be an everyday priority for all employers, National Hire a Veteran Day on July 25 provides a reminder for employers to consider hiring Veterans as they fill open positions, especially in our current environment.

The good news is that many employers understand the value Veterans bring to the workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans on the whole are weathering the COVID-19 economy a little better than the general population. In June 2020, the Veteran unemployment rate was 8.8 percent, down from 9.1 percent in May. The comparable non-Veteran unemployment rate was 11.1 percent in June. 

This is just part of the picture. According to a study conducted by Call of Duty Endowment, nearly one-third of Veteran job seekers are underemployed, a rate 15.6 percent higher than non-Veteran job seekers.

Military service is the best on-the-job leadership training in the world. Veterans bring so much to the workplace, but it is important to help them invest in professional development to continue to grow and thrive in their civilian careers.

At the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, we provide experiences that help promote both employment and career advancement opportunities for Veterans.

The first Saturday of each month, we host a virtual Rally Point where we provide networking, resiliency and fellowship opportunities for Veterans and their supporters. Due to the pandemic, we moved this in-person program online and grew our audience by thousands. We recently hosted a Facebook Live event to provide tips on how to job hunt during the pandemic with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Hiring our Heroes Foundation and Still Serving Veterans, a Veterans Service Organization from the Georgia/ Alabama region. This program is still available on our Facebook page.  Join us on Aug. 1 for our next virtual Rally Point on Facebook Live as we explore Vetrepreneurship with Josh Peyton and learn about his amazing journey as the CEO of the Veteran Golfers Association.

In May, we marked the graduation of our first participants in the Certificate in Public and Nonprofit Leadership for Veterans through The Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs. This pilot program was launched in February in partnership with the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. Due to its overwhelming success, it will be offered online during the 2020-2021 academic year, ensuring that Veterans and their supporters across the country can benefit from this continuing education opportunity. Watch our website, Nationalvmm.org, for registration details.

Veterans are proof that innovation and creativity thrive in the face of adversity. Trained and comfortable operating in ambiguous environments, they understand as co-workers, community members and Americans, we are all stronger together. Veterans make a difference because they are hardwired to serve, they want to succeed and they have always been part of a team or unit.

During this transformational time in history, we should look to Veterans and their desire to serve and make a difference as we continue the hard work of economic recovery from this pandemic. Hire a Veteran today. 

Hooah!

Lt. General Michael Ferriter, U.S. Army (Retired)
President and CEO, National Veterans Memorial and Museum

WEDS-SUN 10 A.M. - 5 P.M.
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