Never forgotten, honored always.

The OEW team with wounded veteran honorees Tito Pineiro and Scott Casmiro are officially out of the starting blocks and on the Ultimate Challenge Mud Run course, 12 APR 2014.

2 Year Army Veteran SFC Tito Pineiro is a 12B Combat Engineer with the 82nd ABN who is Airborne, Ranger, and Sapper qualified. In his selfless career, SFC Pineiro has deployed three times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, two in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and twice in support of tours in Southern Africa. In SFC Pineiro’s career, he has been awarded the Purple Heart five times, and from his combat wounds, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. Tito resides in Fayetteville NC with his wife Nina, his daughter Ashlyn, and his son Tristan. Tito still continues to serve today with the 82nd ABN.

Sgt Casimiro enlisted as a 0331 Machine Gunner in the United States Marine Corps in 2007. Stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA, Norfolk, VA and Camp Lejeune, NC. While conducting combat operations during his third deployment in Afghanistan with 1st Battalion 6th Marines Bravo CO, Sgt. Casimiro was wounded by an IED and awarded the Purple Heart November 10, 2011. Sgt. Casimiro is now retired and married to Rebekah Casimiro, and they are expecting their first child, Harper E. Casimiro in May 2014. Sgt. Casimiro is also employed with the VA in Columbia, South Carolina as a Certified Peer Support Specialist (Counselor) in the Mental Health Department.

SOLDIER STORIES: Farrell’s Fight, Fin.

Farrell Gilliam was buried in Fresno Jan. 21, carried to his grave by Marine pallbearers and friends.

(Article by Gretel C. Kovach, 28 MAR 2014 in UT San Diego. Source.)

He rarely spoke of it. Not to his family or best buddies, fellow Marines or medical staff watching over him. 

But Cpl. Farrell Gilliam had endured far more by the age 25 than most people could comprehend.

The Camp Pendleton infantryman survived three months of combat in 2010 with the “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Sangin, Afghanistan — one of the deadliest battlegrounds of the war.

Amid firefights and insurgents’ bombs, Gilliam saw limbs strewn across the ground. He loaded broken, bleeding bodies for medical evacuation, and grieved for the friends they could not save.

Gilliam’s tour ended early when his legs were blown off by an improvised explosive device, or IED. “Farrell’s Fight,” his struggle on the homefront that his big brother helped him chronicle online, included more than 30 surgeries and three years of rehabilitation.

It was a story of triumph over wounds that would have been fatal in earlier conflicts. A story that was coming to an end, but not how anyone who knew him expected.

Gilliam was months away from a medical discharge from the Marine Corps and a new life as civilian college student. Physically, he had one surgery left to remove hardware in an arm. Psychologically, he was suffering from invisible wounds he hid behind smiles and upbeat banter.

Or so his family discovered on Jan. 9, when Gilliam committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in his barracks room in San Antonio.

Bloodied but unbowed.

Cpl. Tyler J. Southern and Cpl. Todd Love plot a course on the map during the land navigation part of corporals course at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Maryland. These Marines were part of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course.

The graduating class of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Md., Jan. 16.

(Photos by Lance Corporal Daniel Wetzel, 12-16 JAN 2012.)

SOLDIER STORIES: This one not soon forgotten.

Captain Andrew Wagner, a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot with Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, California National Guard, goes through his pre-flight checks before conducting a maintenance mission at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan. The 1st Bn., 168th Av. Regt., is responsible for providing medical evacuations throughout the Regional Command (West) area of operations.

(Photos and article by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer, 8 DEC 2013.)

SHINDAND AIRBASE, Afghanistan – Eight soldiers make their way into a dimly-lit tent on a brisk December morning at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan. This isn’t the first time the eight soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, California National Guard, part of Task Force Nightmare, gathered together, nor will it be the last time they tell the story of the day they met Andy Miller. 

Each has their own perspective and take on that day; each with a different role, a different task – all of which played an integral part in what became a life-saving mission on top of a mountain in western Afghanistan. That eventful day, Sept. 7, 2013, is where the Andy Miller story begins. 

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Andy Miller, an instructor pilot at the Afghan National Army aviation training center at Shindand AB, was conducting his usual pre-flight checks with his student. According to Maj. David Lovett, the commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, and one of the eight story tellers who had never met Andy Miller before that fateful day, this was a routine Miller had been doing for nearly a year – he was just weeks away from going home. 

On this particular day, Miller and his Afghan copilot were to practice landing helicopters on top of small points of mountain ranges, or “pinnacles.” The two aviators set off towards a pinnacle that had been used many times before during Miller’s time in Afghanistan.

Back to the present day, where the eight soldiers telling this story come to a halting point, as the story reaches its own pinnacle. They all turn to Lovett, whose unit is responsible for the medical evacuation of personnel in the Regional Command (West) area of operations.

On Sept. 7, Lovett was just 24 hours removed from completing a training exercise on Sept. 6, working on medical evacuations. Irony, sheer coincidence, or some form of twisted fate had Lovett and his Soldiers putting that training to use less than 24 hours after the exercise was over. Lovett picks up the story, recalling how Miller and his Afghan co-pilot neared the pinnacle, which is where the mission took a turn for the worst.

“What happened next, was something out of a movie, something you just couldn’t believe,” Lovett said.

As the helicopter touched down, it set off a pressure-plate improvised explosive device. The blast destroyed the helicopter, leaving a blazing, smoking frame. Back on base, Lovett received a call of a downed aircraft requiring immediate assistance.

“I got the call and it was just go-time,” Lovett said. “We scrambled together, got in contact with a quick reaction force team and we moved out immediately.”

According to Lovett, Miller had removed himself and his co-pilot from the burning aircraft, even though he had a severely fractured leg. The pain was not enough to keep Miller from applying pressure and three tourniquets to his Afghan co-pilot who was also severely injured in the crash, as well as a tourniquet to himself.

Lovett added that Miller doesn’t remember doing any of this, “Probably because of the pain he was in. He was running on pure adrenaline,” he said.

It was an “all hands on deck” situation, as crews from the 1st Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, Missouri National Guard, who were in the area conducting their own maintenance mission, flew in to provide aerial security, and soldiers from 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery Regiment, Georgia National Guard, provided ground security. 

Miller radioed to whomever he could reach and as the medevac crew arrived, 1st Lt. Thomas Easter, a physician assistant with 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, was one of the first on ground to provide medical attention. As one of the eight soldiers who sat in the room telling the story of Andy Miller, Easter had an up close and personal view of a man he had never met, but saw him like nobody had before. As the helicopter hovered over the crash site, Easter was lowered down to Miller and his copilot, both unable to move due to enormous pain. 

“When I first got down there I saw the burning aircraft, I knew it wasn’t going to be good,” Easter said. “Thankfully, when I came upon them they were responsive and talking to me.”

At that point, instinct just took over for Easter. “I work as a PA in the emergency room back on the civilian side,” he said. “As a medic, you just have so many tasks, and from all the training and experience I have had, it just becomes mechanical.”

Easter, along with a crew, successfully littered the two individuals up, in what Lovett said took only an hour. “We weren’t thinking about anything else, or enemy threat,” Lovett said. “Thanks to the quick reaction force team we had both up in the air and on the ground, we were able to extract Andy and the Afghan pilot quickly.”

He smiles when thinking about how less than 24 hours before the incident, his soldiers were practicing the same exercise. “It was just some weird form of irony that literally the day after we trained, here we are doing this,” Lovett said. “It’s just crazy how things happen.”

Easter, along with the other seven soldiers in the room, echoed that statement. “It was just perfect timing that had happened,” Easter said. “It was fresh in everyone’s minds, everyone knew what they had to do.” 

Fast-forward to present day, and the story still is as fresh as ever. 

“It didn’t really hit me until I saw the first guy (the Afghan co-pilot) get littered up into the bird,” Easter said. “I turned back to Andy and saw him crying, that is how I knew ‘hey this is real – what we are doing, saving his life; this whole thing is real.’” 

Andy Miller was being treated at the Eisenhower Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga., less than a week later. Months later, Miller wrote an email to TF Nightmare’s leadership, which falls under TF Demon of Regional Command (South); Miller took the time to thank people he had never even met for saving his life.

“A ‘thank you’ surely does not sum up how thankful I truly am. Your soldiers, NCOs and officers truly saved my life that day,” he wrote. “And even though I don’t know any of the names of those involved, I am no less thankful to the professionals who rescued me that day.” After enduring 12 surgeries, Miller is now recovering with his wife and kids back home. 

As the eight soldiers who gathered to tell the story of Andy Miller finished, they left the room one by one, reflecting on that very day. The last one to leave was Lovett, who credits his unit’s willingness to constantly train and improve as the reason for success that day.

“We are always looking to challenge ourselves and improve on things,” he said. “Our unit looks to set the standard and be ahead of the curve, and because of that, we were and continue to be successful here in Afghanistan.”

Battered body, undaunted spirit.

semperannoying:

U.S. Army Sgt. Matt Krumwiede was on patrol in Afghanistan in June of 2012 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). The explosion tore away both his legs, damaged his left arm, and ripped open his abdominal cavity. The 22-year-old has since undergone around 40 surgeries and is learning to walk with prosthetic legs. He is keen to re-join the infantry as soon as his injuries allow.

(via weaponsgradegains)

Every scar a beauty mark.

mustlovemen:

Alex Minsky

Afghanistan veteran 24-year-old , Alex Minsky. Alex lost his leg when his truck rolled over an improvised explosive device. Alex journey back to life wasn’t easy. He has overcome some difficult times and come out on top. Now rising model and most importantly an inspirational hero for countless people with disabilities who proves life can continue even after that in all it’s beauty.

[In addition to the obvious amputation from wounds suffered to his right leg in the IED blast, Alex almost lost his right arm (the scars are visible encircling his upper biceps and on the outside of his forearm in the photos) and suffered partial loss of vision. Also visible in these photos are the shrapnel wound to his left abdomen, and the scar at the base of his neck from the tracheotomy performed on him.

His story of rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration is an endless and continual source of inspiration. Check out his Facebook page for links to video appearances and interviews if you want to get his whole story. -R]

(via my-wayward-shawn)

Defining the intangible.

just-ashe:

There is just something profound about him.
I can’t quite pinpoint it just yet.
But I’ll let you know when it hits me, lol.

As for now, I’m just gonna enjoy the view and not over think it. 

[It’s that quality of warrior ethos that becomes etched into the soul, ingrained in the very fiber of one’s being.

Once one has worn the uniform, it is part of the aura’s energy for eternity.

What you see, that you cannot define, is the resilience of the human spirit as it shines through with the belligerent determination of a sheepdog.

Here is a man whose head is bloody but unbowed.

What you see is #invictus# -R]

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance,

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll.

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

~William Earnest Henley, #Invictus

(via jamesuchiha)

OEW’s “Never Forget” Friday Hero: Earl Granville.

Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) helps Earl Granville, former U.S. Army and single leg amputee, complete challenges and obstacles during the Spartan Race, Winnsboro, S.C. OEW is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering wounded warriors.

(Photo by Senior Airman Jodi Martinez, 9 NOV 2013. Check out the entire album of photos from the event on OEW’s facebook.)