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Military Veterans Mourned As Las Vegas Victims, Praised As Heroes
The victims of America’s worst mass shooting in modern history came from all walks of life — and so did the heroes who were praised for preventing further loss of life. They were nurses, special-ed teachers, lawyers, and small-business owners. And some were veterans of the military services.
At present, several veterans at the Route 91 Festival concert have been identified as eyewitnesses and responders to the hail of gunfire that ripped through the crowd on the Las Vegas strip Oct. 1. Two veterans have been identified among the 59 people killed.
"All branches have reported back to us that there have been no active-duty service members killed or wounded in the Las Vegas tragedy Sunday night,” Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Oct. 3.
But, Eastburn added, more casualties were possible once unit accountabilities were taken: “The Nevada National Guard and Reserve Units are currently doing recalls to collect that information, but because the majority of the troops in Las Vegas are part-time guardsmen, it will take significantly longer than the active force."
Here is what we know about the veterans killed in the Las Vegas tragedy, as well as those vets who rendered assistance to their fellow concertgoers. Task & Purpose will update with more information as it becomes available.
Charleston HartfieldCourtesy Walter Lowell via Telegraph
Hartfield, 34, was an off-duty Las Vegas police officer and youth football coach known to many as “ChuckyHart.” Earlier in the summer, he wrote and published Memoirs of a Public Servant, a 208-page account of his policing career.
But he was also a 16-year military veteran. A 2013 Nevada National Guard newsletter identified Hartfield as a sergeant 1st class assigned as staff to the Guard’s 421st Regional Training Institute, after serving with the 82d Airborne Division. He also was a heavyweight co-champion in the Nevada Guard’s first internal combatives tournament, in 2012.
“I don’t know a better man than Charles,” longtime friend Troy Rhett told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. They say it’s always the good ones we lose early. There’s no truer statement than that with Charles. … Our hearts have just been very heavy since hearing the news.”
Hartfield, who leaves behind a wife, a son, and a daughter, asked friend Walter Lowell to take a photo of him in his Army ACUs during a 2015 trip to Hawaii, saying, “I don't have any good photos of me in uniform,” according to Lowell. His friend posted that photo, shown above, on social media as a tribute to Hartfield.
“There’s really no solace to this other than we know Charles, and he was probably doing his best to make sure others were safe and being helped,” Rhett told the Review-Journal. “He was just so special. He’s going to definitely be missed by many.”
Navy veteran Chris Roybal downrange in AfghanistanPhoto via Chris Roybal/Facebook
Roybal, a veteran of the Navy from Corona, California, was a master-at-arms who deployed as an individual augmentee with the 25th Infantry Division in Afghanistan. Last July, Roybal published a post on Facebook answering the old question combat vets are so often asked: What’s it like to be shot at?
“As the fights continue and as they as increase in numbers and violence, that excitement fades and the anger is all that’s left,” Roybal wrote. “The anger stays, long after your friends have died, the lives you’ve taken are buried and your boots are placed neatly in a box in some storage unit. Still covered in the dirt you’ve refused to wash off for fear of forgetting the most raw emotions you as a human being will ever feel again.”
Roybal was in Las Vegas last weekend to celebrate his 29th birthday with mom Debby Allen, 49, she said in an interview with the New York Daily News. They had relaxed poolside Sunday afternoon and planned to meet at the music festival later that night. But when the shooting began, Allen was pulled out of the field of fire by fellow concertgoers before she could find Roybal.
A first responder later told Allen’s daughter that he had tried to save Roybal’s life after he was hit in the hail of small arms fire. "He said he rendered first aid but saw the life go out of my son. I wouldn't believe it, but I got confirmation today. The coroner told me. It sounds like he got shot pretty quickly," Allen told the Daily News. "I feel like I'm living in a nightmare, I want to wake up so badly."
Bearing witness, saving lives
Other veterans survived the onslaught and witnessed — or committed — acts of bravery while the gunfire persisted.
Taylor Winston, 29, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war, stole a truck at the concert grounds to ferry as many as two dozen critically wounded bystanders to a local hospital in multiple trips. “We went back into the gunfire and started looking for priority victims, people with the most serious injuries, to get to the hospital,” he said in an interview with ABC 10 News. You can read his full story here.
Robert Ledbetter, 42, a former Army Ranger and scout sniper, shoved his wife under cover and set out to find the shooter. Instead, he found wounded fellow concertgoers, fashioning a tourniquet for one man who was legshot out of a bystander’s flannel shirt, he told the Los Angeles Times. As he and his family fled the scene, they picked up his brother, who was shot through the arm and chest, and ferried him to first responders. But Ledbetter denied his actions were heroic. “I’m a retired vet. There were five surrounding me that were combat medics doing the same thing I was doing,” he told the Times. “Army veterans helping other veterans, helping people out.”
Colin Donahue, an Iraq veteran and Army reservist, spent much of the assault pulling people out of the line of fire, he told Fox News. "I just did what I was supposed to do and what I was trained to do, and I was trying to take care of people," he said.
When an anchor asked if he'd ever seen a firefight like the one that unfolded in Las Vegas that night, Donahue replied, "No sir. We had a little, we had a little bit up towards Mosul, but nothing… nothing comparatively. That was the worst thing… words can’t describe what was going on at the time. And there was nothing I could do."
For more on veterans who witnessed the Las Vegas attacks and helped with the response, read Task & Purpose’s full story here, and watch this post for updates.
MONS, Belgium (Reuters) - The United States will send 20,000 troops to Europe next April and May in its biggest military exercises on European soil since the Cold War to underscore Washington's commitment to NATO, a senior allied commander said on Tuesday.
Days after a NATO summit in London at which U.S. President Donald Trump called low-spending European allies "delinquent", U.S. Major General Barre Seguin said the exercises, centered on Germany, will be the largest of their kind in 25 years.
"This really demonstrates transatlantic unity and the U.S. commitment to NATO," Seguin, who oversees allied operations from NATO's military headquarters in Belgium, told Reuters.
Gold Star family members might finally see an end to the so-called "Widows Tax" thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020.
The top Pentagon watchdog has announced it would be investigating all deaths of recruits during initial military training over the past five years, the agency said in a statement last week.
In a Dec. 4 memo, the DoD Inspector General said it was changing the scope of an investigation it had opened on Nov. 18 that was titled Evaluation of Medical Resources and Guidance to Trainers at Recruit Training Centers in the DoD. Its new title, the IG said, would be Evaluation of Medical Protocols and Deaths of Recruits in the DoD.
While its original objective of looking into the medical resources available to recruits would remain the same, the IG said it would now also review all deaths of recruits at military basic training facilities between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2019.
The move comes in the wake of several deaths at basic training facilities over the past year. In April, the Navy announced a safety review after two prospective sailors died at its recruit training facility in Great Lakes, Illinois. Seaman Recruit Kelsey Nobles died after a fitness test that month; Seaman Recruit Kierra Evans also died after the run portion of the fitness test.
In September, an 18-year-old soldier died following a "medical emergency" before a training drill at Fort Jackson, S.C.
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has disciplined more than 20 Marines over misconduct at its San Diego boot camp since 2017, according to The Washington Post. The action came in the wake of a scandal involving the death of a 20-year-old Muslim recruit named Raheel Siddiqui, who fell 40 feet to his death at the Parris Island training facility, where he and other Muslims were targeted for abuse by their drill instructor (the instructor was later sentenced to 10 years in prison at court-martial).
According to the IG, Pentagon investigators will visit all DoD recruit training facilities and interview personnel from each service's education and training commands. They will also speak with personnel at military medical facilities, the Defense Health Agency, and those assigned at the Military Entrance Processing Command, which does the initial intake for civilians going into military service.
The number of substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct against senior Army officials increased this year, according to an Army Inspector General report recently presented to service leaders and obtained by Task & Purpose.
The document, which lays out broad details of IG investigations undertaken in fiscal year 2019, looks at investigations specific to senior Army officials, which includes "promotable colonels, general officers and senior executives," according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz.
Marine Corps senior leaders have begun to express cautious openness to the idea of making the service's boot camps fully co-ed. But if Congress has its way, the service may be pushed toward full integration sooner than expected.
The final conference version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision that would require the service to integrate both its East Coast and West Coast entry-level training facilities within the next eight years.