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We salute the foul-mouthed Navy vet remembered as 'the most inappropriate guy with the biggest heart'
Per his final demands, Joe Heller was laid in his casket Thursday in a T-shirt featuring the Disney dwarf Grumpy and the middle finger of his right hand extended. He also told his daughters to make sure and place a remote control fart machine in the coffin with him.
"My father always wanted the last laugh," daughter Monique Heller said.
The Essex volunteer firefighter and self-described local "dawg kecher" died on Sept. 8 at age 82, and the off-color obituary written by his youngest daughter has become a nationwide sensation — a lead item on cable news sites, a top story on The Courant's website and a post shared far and wide on social media.
Laced with bawdy humor, the irreverent but loving obit captured Heller's highly inappropriate nature and his golden heart, friends who filled the fire station for a celebration of his life on Thursday evening said.
Kentucky Air National Guard Special Ops Tech. Sgt. Daniel Keller doesn't think his brave dash into the open during an ISIS firefight to help dead and wounded comrades is exceptional.
"It's a given; that's what you do," he told Military.com.
Keller is set to receive the nation's second-highest award for valor, the Air Force Cross, on Friday for his heroism in helping to medevac fallen troops during that battle in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.
"It's a necessary task that has to occur to get your friends the help they need," he said. "Whoever's available, they're going to do it."
A WWII veteran just got an honorable discharge from the Army, 75 years after he was booted for being black
Nearly 75 years after he was forced out of the Army because he was black, World War II veteran Nelson Henry Jr. has received an honorable discharge and has the papers to prove it.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records unanimously agreed in June to change Henry's discriminatory "blue discharge" from 1945 to honorable. It found that an injustice had occurred.
But after fighting for decades, Henry, 96, of Philadelphia, said he would not believe it until the document arrived in the mail. In a family video, Henry struggled for words when his son, Dean, who headed the appeal, presented the discharge certificate to him last week.
Richard Plummer was a 24-year-old soldier training on a forested mountain slope between Randle and Packwood on May 18, 1980.
He hadn't heard much, if anything, about the volcanic activity at Mount St. Helens about 30 miles to the southwest. So when he saw a storm of ash rolling toward his Green Beret campsite that morning, he didn't quite know what to make of it.
But the next 24 hours of his life would be defined by surviving and escaping the aftermath of the most disastrous volcanic eruption in U.S. history.
Plummer and 45 other Green Berets, plus another 64 Army Ranger trainees, were just miles from Packwood when the volcano erupted that morning, directly killing 57 people and ejecting hundreds of million of tons of ash in their direction.
Those soldiers' story, as far as Plummer is aware, has never been published, although he's mentioned it to friends and family. Plummer and his wife, Rebecca Holton, both 63, are now retired after decades-long careers in the intelligence community.
"From what we've seen and heard and read … this story has never been told," Holton said in a recent interview at their Vancouver home last week.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Metzger was awarded the Bronze Star with a valor device for his heroism during an hours-long firefight with Taliban militants that saw him overcome significant injuries from both grenade shrapnel and gunfire to save the lives of his teammates.
Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes presented Metzger, assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, with his Bronze Star on Monday.
In 2012, Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe and his dog, Sgt. Yeager, were patrolling the Marjah district of Iraq.
A Marine had been injured by an IED, an improvised explosive device, so the pair were looking for other bombs in the area.
Suddenly, Tarwoe stepped on a buried IED, and it exploded, killing him.
Yeager suffered shrapnel wounds that took months to recover from and cost him part of his right ear.
Ninety-two military working dogs died in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001-13, according to a study in Military Medicine. Roughly one in four died from explosions, the second leading cause of death after gunshot wounds.
Yeager was awarded a Purple Heart for his injuries after serving three combat tours and over 100 detection patrols.
Now, the 12-year-old Labrador retriever is going to Hollywood, where he will be honored as the nation's top military dog and will compete for the title of American Hero Dog.