On July 31, 2007, soldiers with the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment at Vehicle Patrol Base Seray in Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan, came under heavy attack.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Upp led a small group of soldiers toward the mortar pit where the platoon’s 120mm mortar was positioned. Because of the weapon’s range — 7,200 meters — and its ability to fire devastating rounds without line of sight, the mortar and the men manning it became targets.
During the attack an enemy mortar round hit near the pit, killing 1st Lt. Benjamin Hall.
As the mortarmen ran toward the firing pit they were forced to the ground more than once by enemy small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Once they reached the weapon system, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby, damaging the mortar’s bipod. Shrapnel from the explosion tore a deep gash in Upp’s left forearm — the wound required 17 stitches.
With the bipod damaged, Upp had to use his hands, and later his shoulders when the weapon became too hot, to heft the 110-pound cannon.
Staff Sgt Christopher Upp, far right, poses with his fellow soldiers at Vehicle Patrol Base Seray in Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan.Photo courtesy of Christopher Upp
According to his Silver Star citation, Upp accurately fired 75 rounds at enemy positions, literally aiming by hand, all while under constant fire. The battle lasted just over an hour and during that time, the enemy launched more than ten 107mm rockets, over a dozen rocket-propelled grenades, and rained down fire from at least two machine gun positions.
"A great officer was killed," Upp told Stars and Stripes during an award ceremony on Sept. 24, 2008, where he received the Silver Star Medal for his actions that day. "This is for him really."
His citation goes on to note that Upp ignored his own wounds and helped carry his fallen commander to the awaiting medical evacuation, refusing to leave the patrol base in order to stay behind in case the enemy attacked again.
According to Lt. Col. Bill Ostlund, the unit’s battalion commander, the most dangerous place on a U.S. compound was the mortar pit.
"They (the mortar pits) were always targets," said Ostlund. "Because they’re what kept [the enemy] off the bases."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to 1st Lt. Benjamin Hall. (4/28/2016; 11:24 am)
NEWPORT — The explosion and sinking of the ship in 1943 claimed at least 1,138 lives, and while the sea swallowed the bones there were people, too, who also worked to shroud the bodies.
The sinking of the H.M.T. Rohna was the greatest loss of life at sea by enemy action in the history of U.S. war, but the British Admiralty demanded silence from the survivors and the tragedy was immediately classified by the U.S. War Department.
Michael Walsh of Newport is working to bring the story of the Rohna to the surface with a documentary film, which includes interviews with some of the survivors of the attack. Walsh has interviewed about 45 men who were aboard the ship when it was hit.
Editor's note: this story originally appeared in 2018
How you die matters. Ten years ago, on Memorial Day, I was in Fallujah, serving a year-long tour on the staff and conducting vehicle patrols between Abu Ghraib and Ramadi. That day I attended a memorial service in the field. It was just one of many held that year in Iraq, and one of the countless I witnessed over my 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Like many military veterans, Memorial Day is not abstract to me. It is personal; a moment when we remember our friends. A day, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth."