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'You Know The Sacrifice Now': 2 Post-9/11 Medal Of Honor Recipients On The Importance Of War Stories
At a remote outpost in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009, a handful of American soldiers held back an assault by as many as 300 Taliban fighters during the Battle of Kamdesh. Though the attack was repelled, and as many as 150 Taliban fighters were killed, it came at a terrible cost: Eight Americans died, and 27 were wounded.
The heroism and sacrifice that took place at Combat Outpost Keating have been chronicled in numerous award citations, articles, multiple books — including one by Romesha — and soon, will appear in two feature-length films.
And on Nov. 9, Netflix launched a new documentary series, Medal of Honor, which includes episodes profiling both Romesha and Carter. The docuseries uses a mix of interviews, combat footage, and cinematic reenactments to tell the stories of eight recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor.
Perhaps the greatest insight from the series, and from past interviews with Carter and Romesha, isn't about what they did at COP Keating, but why they choose to share their stories with others.
"All of a sudden being thrust into the limelight was a lot to handle at first, but then I really kind of realized that we as veterans are kind of doing ourselves a disservice by not sharing our experiences,” Romesha explained near the end of his episode of Medal of Honor.
After Taliban fighters had made it into the perimeter of the outpost, Romesha, though wounded, led a counteroffensive to push them back.
“It weighs heavy, but to sit here and talk about it — to sit here and share it with others, I get to dump a bit of that weight on you, and you get to help me carry it now because you know the sacrifice now," Romesha continued. "You know their names, and maybe have a little more of an understanding of what service to country means.”
"We as veterans are kind of doing ourselves a disservice by not sharing our experiences" — Clint Romesha
Carter expressed a similar sentiment when I interviewed him in 2016.
“By speaking and telling the story, it’s a therapy for me,” Carter told Task & Purpose. “It helps me through my stress and it also chips away from the survivor’s guilt I have. At that position, out of the eight, five were either killed or mortally wounded, so when you watch that and you know what happened all around you, you know what these guys did to help save you, you feel like you have to tell people what these guys did. It’s never a ‘have to,’ it’s always a choice.”
During the battle, Carter repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he attempted to rescue a fellow soldier, Spc. Stephan L. Mace, who tragically succumbed to his wounds.
“I don’t like doing it,” he continued. “It hurts every time I speak about it, but I think it’s necessary. It helps me out.”
Netflix’s documentary series Medal of Honor is streaming online starting Nov. 9.
NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — A Navy SEAL sniper on Wednesday contradicted earlier testimony of fellow SEALs who claimed he had fired warning shots to scare away civilian non-combatants before Chief Eddie Gallagher shot them during their 2017 deployment to Mosul, and said he would not want to deploy again with one of the prosecution's star witnesses.
Special Operator 1st Class Joshua Graffam originally invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege before Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh gave him immunity in order to compel his testimony.
Graffam testified that Gallagher was essentially justified in the shooting of a man he is accused of unlawfully targeting, stating that "based off everything i had seen so far ... in my opinion, they were two shitheads moving from one side of the road to the other."
Spotting for Gallagher in the tower that day, Graffam said, he called out the target to him and he fired. He said the man was hit in the upper torso and ran away.
Graffam, who joined the Navy in 2010 and has been assigned to SEAL Team 7's Alpha Platoon since September 2015, deployed alongside Gallagher to Mosul in 2017, occasionally acting as a spotter for Gallagher when the SEALs were tasked with providing sniper support for Iraqi forces from two towers east of the Tigris River.
Another SEAL, Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Dalton Tolbert, had previously testified under direct examination by prosecutors that, while stationed in the south tower of a bombed-out building in June 2017, he had observed Gallagher shoot and kill an elderly civilian.
"He ran north to south across the road," Tolbert testified on Friday. "That's when I saw the red mark on his back and I saw him fall for the first time. Blood started to pool and I knew it was a square hit in the back." Over the radio, he said he heard Gallagher tell the other snipers, "you guys missed him but I got him."
Former SO1 Dylan Dille, who was also in the south tower that day, testified last week that he watched an old man die from a sniper shot on Father's Day. He said the date stuck out in his mind because he thought the man was probably a father.
Later that day, after the mission, Graffam said he spoke with Dille about the shooting and they disagreed about the circumstances. Dille, he said, believed the man was a noncombatant.
"I, on the other hand, was confident that the right shot was taken," Graffam said, although he said later under cross-examination that the man was unarmed. Dille previously testified that the SEALs were authorized to shoot unarmed personnel if they first received signals intelligence or other targeting information.
Graffam described the man as a male between 40 and 50 years old wearing black clothing, giving him the impression of an ISIS fighter who was moving in a "tactical" manner. He testified that he did not see anything like Dille had described.
Graffam further testified that he didn't see Gallagher take any shots that he shouldn't have on that day or any other.
Although Graffam said he did not hear of allegations that Gallagher had stabbed a wounded ISIS fighter on deployment, he testified that he started to hear rumblings in early 2018. Chief Craig Miller, he said, asked him at one point whether he would "cooperate" with others in reporting him.
When asked whether he would like to serve with Miller again in a SEAL platoon, Graffam said, "I don't feel as confident about it." A member of the jury later asked him why he'd feel uncomfortable deploying with Miller and he responded, "I just wouldn't."
Graffam said he would serve with Gallagher again if given the chance.
Under cross examination by prosecutors, Graffam said he couldn't say whether there were warning shots fired that day, though Dille and Tolbert both said happened. "There were multiple shots throughout the day," Graffam said.
Prosecutors also asked him about his previous statements to NCIS, in which Graffam said of Miller that "he has good character" and was "a good guy." Graffam confirmed he said just that.
Defense attorney Tim Parlatore, however, said those statements were back in January and "a lot had happened since then." Parlatore said Graffam had also said at the time that Gallagher was a good leader.
"That part remains unchanged, correct?" Parlatore asked.
"Yes," Graffam said.
The defense is expected to call more witnesses in the case, which continues on Thursday.
US troops are using dating apps more and condoms less as sexually transmitted infections surge within the ranks
The U.S. military is seeing an increase in sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in part due to dating apps, according to the Military Health System.
"There appears to be an increase in high-risk behaviors among service members; that is, having sex without a condom or having more than one sexual partner," Air Force physician Maj. Dianne Frankel said in a news release.
Three Marines killed in a December plane crash are finally coming home.
Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Hercules and one Marine on an F/A-18 Hornet were killed when both planes went down about 200 miles off the Japanese coast.
A recent salvage operation of the KC-130J crash site recovered the remains of three of the Marines, who were later identified, Corps officials said.
The Air Force is investigating an airman after he posted a video on YouTube rife with homophobic slurs and insults.
A man in an Air Force uniform, identified only by the YouTube username "Baptist Dave 1611" ranted in a recent video, calling gay people "sodomites," "vermin scum," and "roaches" among other slurs, according to Air Force Times, which first reported the story Wednesday.
"The specifics of the situation are being reviewed by the airman's command team," said service spokesman Maj Nick Mercurio, confirming the incident. Mercurio did not provide any identifying details about the airman.
Two U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, defense officials have announced.
Operation Resolute Support issued a terse news release announcing the latest casualties that did not include any information about the circumstances of their deaths.