Posts Tagged ‘medic’

Six Boys And Thirteen Hands…

July 13, 2010

The Boys of Iwo Jima
(From the book: Heart Touchers “Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter)

by Michael T. Powers

Each year my video production company is hired to go to Washington, D.C. with the eighth grade class from Clinton, Wisconsin where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall’s trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history — that of the six brave men raising the American flag at the top of Mount Surabachi on the Island of Iwo Jima, Japan during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, “What’s your name and where are you guys from?

I told him that my name was Michael Powers and that we were from Clinton, Wisconsin.

“Hey, I’m a Cheesehead, too! Come gather around Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story.”

James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, D.C. to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good-night to his dad, who had previously passed away, but whose image is part of the statue. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, D.C. but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night. When all had gathered around he reverently began to speak. Here are his words from that night:

“My name is James Bradley and I’m from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called Flags of Our Fathers which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game, a game called “War.” But it didn’t turn out to be a game.

Harlon, at the age of twenty-one, died with his intestines in his hands. I don’t say that to gross you out; I say that because there are generals who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen years old.

(He pointed to the statue)

You see this next guy? That’s Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene’s helmet off at the moment this photo was taken, and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph. A photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection, because he was scared. He was eighteen years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.

The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the “old man” because he was so old. He was already twenty-four. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn’t say, “Let’s go kill the enemy” or “Let’s die for our country.” He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, “You do what I say, and I’ll get you home to your mothers.”

The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, “You’re a hero.” He told reporters, “How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only twenty-seven of us walked off alive?”

So you take your class at school. 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only twenty-seven of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of thirty-two, ten years after this picture was taken.

The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky, a fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, “Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn’t get down. Then we fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night.”

Yes, he was a fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother’s farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Kronkite’s producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, “No, I’m sorry sir, my dad’s not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don’t know when he is coming back.”

My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually he was sitting right there at the table eating his Campbell’s soup, but we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn’t want to talk to the press. You see, my dad didn’t see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, ’cause they are in a photo and a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died, and when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.

When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, “I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. DID NOT come back.”

So that’s the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.”

Suddenly the monument wasn’t just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero in his own eyes, but a hero nonetheless.

Michael T. Powers
HeartTouchers@aol.com

Copyright © 2000 by Michael T. Powers

Write Michael and let him know your thoughts on this story!

Michael T. Powers, the founder of HeartTouchers.com and Heart4Teens.com, is the youth minister at Faith Community Church in Janesville, Wisconsin. He is happily married to his high school sweetheart Kristi and proud father of three young rambunctious boys.

He is also an author with stories in 29 inspirational books including many in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and his own entitled: Heart Touchers “Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter.” To preview his book or to join the thousands of world wide readers on his inspirational e-mail list, visit: http://www.HeartTouchers.com
______________________________________________________________
[Editor’s Note] This story is posted with the permission and courtesy of the author, Michael T. Powers.

(This is not part of the article but was added in the email story that I received) One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC that is not mentioned here is… that if you look at the statue very closely and count the number of ‘hands’ raising the flag, there are 13. When the man who made the statue was asked why there were 13, he simply said the 13th hand was the hand of God.

We need to remember that God created this vast and glorious world for us to live in, freely, but also at great sacrifice.

Let us never forget from the Revolutionary War to the current War on Terrorism and all the wars in-between that great sacrifices were made for our freedom… Remember to pray for this great country of ours and for those still in conflict around the world. Pray also for all our servicemen and women around the world.

God Bless You and God Bless America.

Everyday that you can wake up free, it’s going to be a great day.

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A Christmas Story

December 29, 2009

A Christmas Story

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn’t been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. He had no decorations, no tree, no lights.  It was just another day to him.  He didn’t hate Christmas, just couldn’t find a reason to celebrate.  There were no children in his life. His wife had gone.

He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.  Instead of throwing the man out, George, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the space heater and warm-up.

“Thank you, but I don’t mean to intrude,” said the stranger. “I see you’re busy.  I’ll just go”

“Not without something hot in your belly,” George turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger.

“It ain’t much, but it’s hot and tasty.  Stew.  Made it myself. When you’re done, there’s coffee and it’s fresh.”

Just at that moment he heard the “ding” of the driveway bell.

“Excuse me, be right back,” George said.

There in the driveway was an old 53 Chevy.  Steam was rolling out of the front.  The driver was panicked.

“Mister can you help me!” said the driver with a deep Spanish accent. “My wife is with child and my car is broken.”

George opened the hood.  It was bad.  The block looked cracked from the cold; the car was dead.  “You ain’t going in this thing,” George said as he turned away.

“But mister,  Please help….” The door of the office closed behind George as he went in.

George went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside.

He walked around the building and opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting.

“Here, you can borrow my truck,” he said.  “She ain’t the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good.”

George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night.  George turned and walked back inside the office.

“Glad I loaned ‘em the truck.  Their tires were shot too. That ‘ol truck has brand new tires……..” George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone.  The thermos was on the desk, empty with a used coffee cup beside it.

“Well, at least he got something in his belly,” George thought.

George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start.

It cranked slowly, but it started.  He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been.  He thought he would tinker with it for something to do.  Christmas Eve meant no customers.

He discovered the block hadn’t cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator.

“Well, I can fix this,” he said to himself.  So he put a new one on.

“Those tires ain’t gonna get ’em through the winter either.” He took the snow treads off of his wife’s old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn’t going to drive the car.

As he was working he heard a shot being fired.  He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground.

Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, “Help me.”

George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic.  He knew the wound needed attention.  “Pressure to stop the bleeding,” he thought.  The laundry company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels.  He used those and duct tape to bind the wound.

“Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin’,” he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.  “Something for pain,” George thought.  All he had was the pills he used for his back.

“These ought to work.” He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills.

“You hang in there.  I’m going to get you an ambulance.”

George said, but the phone was dead.  “Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your police car.”

He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.  He went back in to find the policeman sitting up.

“Thanks,” said the officer.  “You could have left me there.  The guy that shot me is still in the area.”

George sat down beside him.  “I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain’t gonna leave you.” George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding.  “Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through ‘ya.  Good thing it missed the important stuff though.  I think with time your gonna be right as rain.”

George got up and poured a cup of coffee.  “How do you take it?” he asked.

“None for me,” said the officer.

“Oh, yer gonna drink this.  Best in the city.” Then George added: “Too bad I ain’t got no donuts.”

The officer laughed and winced at the same time.  The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun.

“Give me all your cash!  Do it now!” the young man yelled.

His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.

“That’s the guy that shot me!” exclaimed the officer.

“Son, why are you doing this?” asked George.  “You need to put the cannon away.  Somebody else might get hurt.”

The young man was confused.  “Shut up old man, or I’ll shoot you, too.  Now give me the cash!”

The cop was reaching for his gun.

“Put that thing away,” George said to the cop.  “We got one too many in here now.”

He turned his attention to the young man.  “Son, it’s Christmas Eve.  If you need the money, well then, here.  It ain’t much but it’s all I got.  Now put that pea shooter away.”

George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time.

The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry.

“I’m not very good at this am I?  All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son,” he went on.  “I’ve lost my job. My rent is due.  My car got repossessed last week…”

George handed the gun to the cop.  “Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then.  The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can.”

He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop.

“Sometimes we do stupid things.” George handed the young man a cup of coffee.  “Being stupid is one of the things that make us human.  Comin’ in here with a gun ain’t the answer.  Now sit there and get warm and we’ll sort this thing out.”

The young man had stopped crying.  He looked over to the cop. “Sorry I shot you.  It just went off.  I’m sorry officer.”

“Shut up and drink your coffee.” the cop said.

George could hear the sounds of sirens outside.  A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt.  Two cops came through the door, guns drawn.  “Chuck!  You ok?” one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

“Not bad for a guy who took a bullet.  How did you find me?”

“GPS locator in the car.  Best thing since sliced bread.

Who did this?” the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

Chuck answered him, “I don’t know.  The guy ran off into the dark.  Just dropped his gun and ran.”

George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.

“That guy works here,” the wounded cop continued.

“Yep,” George said.  “Just hired him this morning.  Boy lost his job.”

The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher.

The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, “Why?”

Chuck just said, “Merry Christmas, boy.  And you too, George, and thanks for everything.”

“Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there.  That ought to solve some of your problems.” George went into the back room and came out with a box.  He pulled out a ring box.

“Here you go.  Something for the little woman.  I don’t think Martha would mind.  She said it would come in handy some day.”

The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw.  “I can’t take this,” said the young man. “It means something to you.”

“And now it means something to you,” replied George.

“I got my memories.  That’s all I need.”

George reached into the box again.  A toy airplane, a racing car and a little metal truck appeared next.  They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell.  “Here’s something for that little man of yours.”

The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.  “And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with?  You keep that, too.  Count it as part of your first week’s pay.” George said. “Now git home to your family.”

The young man turned with tears streaming down his face.

“I’ll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good.”

“Nope.  I’m closed Christmas day,” George said.  “See ya the day after.” George turned around to find that the stranger had returned.

“Where’d you come from?  I thought you left?”

“I have been here.  I have always been here,” said the stranger.  “You say you don’t celebrate Christmas.  Why?”

“Well, after my wife passed away I just couldn’t see what all the bother was.  Puttin’ up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree.

Bakin’ cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn’t the same by myself and besides I was getting a little chubby.”

The stranger put his hand on George’s shoulder.  “But you do celebrate the holiday, George.  You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry.  The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor.

The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists.

The young man who tried to rob you will become a rich man and share his wealth with many people. That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man.”

George was taken aback by all this stranger had said.  “And how do you know all this?” asked the old man.

“Trust me, George.  I have the inside track on this sort of thing.  And when your days are done you will be with Martha again.” The stranger moved toward the door.

“If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now.  I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned.”

George watched as the man’s old leather jacket and his torn pants turned into a white robe.  A golden light began to fill the room.

“You see, George, it’s My birthday. Merry Christmas.”

Fort Hood Account from JAG officer onsite

November 12, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009, 2:55 PM

Email from good friend of Frank Allen’s stationed at Fort Hood.

This is allegedly written by a witness to what went down.

Subject: What happened

Since I don’t know when I’ll sleep (it’s 4 am now) I’ll write what happened (the abbreviated version….. the long one is already part of the investigation with more to come).  I’ll not write about any part of the investigation that I’ve learned about since (as a witness I know more than I should since inevitably my JAG brothers and sisters are deeply involved in the investigation).  Don’t assume that most of the current media accounts are very accurate.  They’re not.  They’ll improve with time.  Only those of us who were there really know what went down.  But as they collate our statements they’ll get it right.

I did my SRP last week (Soldier Readiness Processing) but you’re supposed to come back a week later to have them look at the smallpox vaccination site (it’s this big itchy growth on your shoulder).  I am probably alive because I pulled a ———- and entered the wrong building first (the main SRP building).  The Medical SRP building is off to the side.  Realizing my mistake I left the main building and walked down the sidewalk to the medical SRP building.

As I’m walking up to it the gunshots start.  Slow and methodical.  But continuous.  Two ambulatory wounded came out.  Then two soldiers dragging a third who was covered in blood.  Hearing the shots but not seeing the shooter, along with a couple other soldiers I stood in the street and yelled at everyone who came running that it was clear but to “RUN!”  I kept motioning people fast.  About 6-10 minutes later (the shooting continuous), two cops ran up.  One male, one female.  We pointed in the direction of the shots.  They headed that way (the medical SRP building was about 50 meters away).  Then a lot more gunfire.  A couple minutes later a balding man in ACU’s came around the building carrying a pistol and holding it tactically.  He started shooting at us and we all dived back to the cars behind us.  I don’t think he hit the couple other guys who were there.  I did see the bullet holes later in the cars.  First I went behind a tire and then looked under the body of the car.  I’ve been trained how to respond to gunfire…but with my own weapon.  To have no weapon I don’t know how to explain what that felt like.  I hadn’t run away and stayed because I had thought about the consequences or anything like that.  I wasn’t thinking anything through.  Please understand, there was no intention.  I was just staying there because I didn’t think about running.  It never occurred to me that he might shoot me.  Until he started shooting in my direction and I realized I was unarmed.

Then the female cop comes around the corner.  He shoots her.  (According to the news accounts she got a round into him.  I believe it, I just didn’t see it. He didn’t go down.)  She goes down.  He starts reloading.  He’s fiddling with his mags.  Weirdly he hasn’t dropped the one that was in his weapon.  He’s holding the fresh one and the old one (you do that on the range when time is not of the essence but in combat you would just let the old mag go).  I see the male cop around the left corner of the building.  (I’m about 15-20 meters from the shooter.)  I yell at the cop, “He’s reloading, he’s reloading.  Shoot him! Shoot him!)  You have to understand, everything was quiet at this point.  The cop appears to hear me and comes around the corner and shoots the shooter.

He goes down.  The cop kicks his weapon further away.  I sprint up to the downed female cop.  Another captain (I think he was with me behind the cars) comes up as well.  She’s bleeding profusely out of her thigh.  We take our belts off and tourniquet her just like we’ve been trained (I hope we did it right…we didn’t have any CLS (combat lifesaver) bags with their awesome tourniquets on us, so we worked with what we had).

Meanwhile, in the most bizarre moment of the day, a photographer was standing over us taking pictures.  I suppose I’ll be seeing those tomorrow.  Then a soldier came up and identified himself as a medic.  I then realized her weapon was lying there unsecured (and on “fire”).  I stood over it and when I saw a cop yelled for him to come over and secure her weapon (I would have done so but I was worried someone would mistake me for a bad guy).  I then went over to the shooter.  He was unconscious.  A Lt Colonel was there and had secured his primary weapon for the time being.  He also had a revolver.

I couldn’t believe he was one of ours.  I didn’t want to believe it.  Then I saw his name and rank and realized this wasn’t just some specialist with mental issues.  At this point there was a guy there from CID and I asked him if he knew he was the shooter and had him secured.  He said he did.  I then went over the slaughter house…the medical SRP building.  No human should ever have to see what that looked like, and I won’t tell you.  Just believe me.  Please, there was nothing to be done there.  Someone then said there was someone critically wounded around the corner.  I ran around (while seeing this floor to ceiling window that someone had jumped through movie style) and saw a large African-American soldier lying on his back with two or three soldiers attending.  I ran up and identified two entrance wounds on the right side of his stomach, one exit wound on the left side and one head wound.  He was not bleeding externally from the stomach wounds (though almost certainly internally) but was bleeding from the head wound.

A soldier was using a shirt to try and stop the head bleeding.  He was conscious so I began talking to him to keep him so.  He was 42, from North Carolina, he was named something Jr., his son was named something III and he had a daughter as well.  His children lived with him.  He was divorced.  I told him the blubber on his stomach saved his life.  He smiled.  A young soldier in civvies showed up and identified himself as a combat medic. We debated whether to put him on the back of a pickup truck.  A doctor (well, an audiologist) showed up and said you can’t move him, he has a head wound.  We finally sat tight.  I went back to the slaughterhouse.  They weren’t letting anyone in there not even medics.

Finally, after about 45 minutes had elapsed some cops showed up in tactical vests.  Someone said the TBI building was unsecured.  They headed into there.  All of a sudden a couple more shots were fired.  People shouted there was a second shooter.  A half hour later the SWAT showed up.  There was no second shooter, that had been an impetuous cop apparently.  But that confused things for a while.  Meanwhile, I went back to the shooter.  The female cop had been taken away, and a medic was pumping plasma into the shooter.  I’m not proud of this but I went up to her and said “this is the shooter, is there anyone else who needs attention…do them first”.  She indicated everyone else living was attended to.  I still hadn’t seen any EMTs or ambulances.   I had so much blood on me that people kept asking me if I was ok.  But that was all other people’s blood.  Eventually, (an hour and a half to two hours after the shootings) they started landing choppers.  They took out the big African American guy and the shooter.  I guess the ambulatory wounded were all at the SRP building.  Everyone else in my area was dead.

I suppose the emergency responders were told there were multiple shooters.  I heard that was the delay with the choppers (they were all civilian helicopters).  They needed a secure LZ, but other than the initial cops who did everything right, I didn’t’ see a lot of them for a while.  I did see many a soldier rush out to help their fellows/sisters.  There was one female soldier, I don’t know her name or rank but I would recognize her anywhere who was everywhere helping people.  A couple people, mainly civilians, were hysterical, but only a couple.  One civilian freaked out when I tried to comfort her when she saw my uniform.  I guess she had seen the shooter up close.  A lot of soldiers were rushing out to help even when we thought there was another gunman out there.  This Army is not broken no matter what the pundits say. Not the Army I saw.

And then they kept me for a long time to come.  Oh, and perhaps the most surreal thing, at 1500 (the end of the workday on Thursdays) when the bugle sounded we all came to attention and saluted the flag.  In the middle of it all.

This is what I saw.  It can’t have been real.  But this is my small corner of what happened.


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