tv Medal of Honor Recipients CSPAN November 7, 2014 8:00pm-9:36pm EST
video competition is understo w open to all high school students and teachers. how the legislative or judicial branch of the government has him proved your community. for a listing and how to get started, go to student cam.org. tonight on cspan 3, it's american history tv in prime time. next a discussion with three medal of honor recipients who servinged in world war ii, 1r5u78 and after stang. that's followed by a formal conversation with nbc "nightly news" anchor tom brokaw, expressing his thoughts on today's news media. next, three medal of honor recipients reflect on their service in world war ii, vietnam
and afghanistan, at a history convention in annapolis, maryland. the program is approximately an hour and a half. good morning. i'm captain west huey, the director director of the division of leadership education and development, or lead, a rather expedient acronym. it's my honor to welcome you to this morning's panel discussion entitled beyond the call of duty, a conversation with medal of honor recipients. there will be an opportunity for you to engage our panelists during the q &, portion of the panel. we ask that if you have a question, use the microphones
provided or you can just speak loudly from your seat and in that case, we'll have the moderator repeat your question. moderating this morning's panel is dr. joseph j. thomas, retired colonel usmc and professor of education and leadership an established warrior, leader and scholar before retiring from active service and joining the lead faculty in 2005, where he has earned a national reputation for excellence in leadership, education and scholarship, was recently named the honorable j.r. johnson, a one-year research professor ship to -- dr. thomas will introduce his distinguished anni eed panelist dr. thomas and the other panelists kindly take their seats on the stage, please.
welcome to all distinguishested guests, the many people who have traveled a long way to be with us this morning. especially the mid shipmen, i think i speak for everyone here that this is a truly unique experience and i feel incredibly privileged to be up here on the panel with these three gentlemen. now captain huey mentioned that we both work at the leadership,
education and development division and the study of leadership is our calling, an advocation as well as a vocation. but before the study of leadership existed as a stand alone field, there are biographers and historians such as plutarck, behavioral scientists added to although some might claim deluded the analysis of leadership as a component of human -- thomas carlyle himself said that heroism is the divine relation, which at alls unites great men to others. and heroism, whether in peace or war is the sheet anchor of a people. as psychologists and sociologists have dissected acts of heroism, we have become accustomed to the treatment of heroes and the heroic, not as
the culmination of human potential, but as a peculiar phenomenon, a curiousoma anomaly. rather than treat our heroes as an anomaly, the underlying theme of this gathering is to treat them as we all aaspire to be. heroes will be treated as they were traditionally, as exemplars of all we could be. so with that, as an opener, i propose we do this morning three things, as an opener to this panel. i'm going to present three artifacts, three pieces of evidence that i think will put us all in a mindset to look at heroism, and acts such as these, and traditional view of the
culmination of human potential. these are three distinct acts from three separate wars, decades separating them, and three unique individuals who distinguish themselveses all in these acts, but all three i think we'll find are connected to what they represent for the rest of us. culmination of huma potential. exemplars of what we all aspire to be. these three artifacts, these three pieces evidence. colonel woody williams. for conspicuous gallantry, in action against enemy japanese forces on iwo jima, volcano
island, november 20, 1945. quick to volunteer services when our tanks were maneuvering to open a lane for our infantry, through a series of pill boxes, corporate williams went forward alone under devastating machine-gun fire from unyielding positions. covered by only four rifle men, he battled for four hours against enemy fire and returned to his own lines to repair democrat in addition lines. struggling back frequently to the rear of hosti40hostil40host. he -- through the air vent. kill the occupants and silence the gun. on another grimly charged enemy rifleman, who attempted to stop him with buyon nets and a burst of flame from his weapons. his unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were instrumental in
neutralizing one of the japanese strong points and aided in enabling his company to reach its objective. corporate williams fighting spirit and devotion to duty sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the united states naval service. ladies and gentlemen, corporate woody williams. [ applause ] >> thank you. . >> in the center of the panel today. the technical director of assistance team, headquarters u u.s. military assistance command vietnam. for cook pi -- while serving as s.e.a.l. advisor, headquartered u.s. assistance -- during the period 10 to 13 april 1972,
lieutenant norris k34r50cleetde unprecedented rescue of three downed helicopter mights. lieutenant norris led a five-man patrol through 2,000 meters of heavily controlled enemy territory, located one of the downed pilots at daybreak and returned to the operating base. on the 1th of april, after a devastating mortar attack, lieutenant norris led a thr three-man team for the rescue of the second pilot. a forward air controller located the pilot and notified lieutenant norris. dressed in fishing disguising, lewis norris and one vietnamese traveled through the night and found the injured pilot at dawn. covering the pilot with vegetation, they began a return journey successfully evading a north vietnamese patrol. they came under heavy machine-gun fire. allowing the rescue party to
reach the fob. for his outstanding display of decisive leadership and undaunted courage in the face of extreme danger, lieutenant norris enhanced the united states military. ladies and gentlemen, lieutenant norris. and finally staff sergeant clinton r clinton third squadron, fourth brigade combat team, fourth enfan try division, combat outpo outpost, afghanistan on october 3, 2009. on that morning, staff management rom me shea,
occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, with rocket propelled grenades, mortars and small arms fire. the staff sergeant returned under intense enemy fire and seek re-enforcement from the barracks. the staff sergeant took out an enemy machine-gun, and the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket propelled grenades. undeterred by his injuries, he continued to fight and relied upon another soldier to aid him. he rushed through the assembly to -- mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle. with complete disregard to his own safety, he -- confidently throughout the battlefield
engaging -- while orchestrating a successful plan, he maintained radio communication at the tactical operations center, as the enemy forces attacked with even greater voracity, he aid identified the poechlt of attack and ordered air support. after receiving reports that woungded soldier -- allowed the injured soldiers to safely reed the aid station. his teams pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of their fallening comrades. his her-ic -- his extraordinary efforts gave bra voe troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the
count ever attack that allowed to troop to secure combat outpost keating. his extraordinary heroism refle reflect -- fourth brigade combat team, fourth infantry division and the united states army. ladies and gentlemen, stf sergeant clint romeshe. >> it's important to understand where we'll go with this conversation. i had a friend a few years ago, he was a former a-6 pilot in the marine corps, turned psychologist. he's been teaching at northern state university for a number of years who has written expensively, researched expensively the concept of
extreme bravery in combat. his name is terry barrett. using congressional medal of honor recipients as case studies, he tried to draw some themes in preparation of these incredible human beings and the lessons may have or hold for the rest of us. for that dr. barrett's work is backdrop, the first question for the panel. the first question we have is, can you provide us some background about your youth, upbringing, reasons for serving that will help us understand you better. >> do i get the privilege of going first? >> yes, sir, you do. >> good morning. well, before i answer his question, let me clear up a couple things, i do possess the medal of honor, it's in my other suit.
i was at a function in past weekend -- >> just like a marine. >> just like a marine. and we can't depend on the navy to help us when we need help. ouch. anyway. i had a function this past weekend and i had my medal in any coat pocket and i changed suits and it's home. i want to also say that i am rather privileged to be a cherry river admiral. in west virginia, we have a cherry river admiral association, we have 36 admirals in that oh. -- and i happen to be one of them.
i think circumstances have a great deal on what happens to us. i am an american because i was born in america. i'm a west virginia because i was born in west virginia. i was in war because somebody told me somebody was trying to take my freedom. growing up in the country on a dairy farm, with no military influence in our community at all, seldom ever saw a person in uniform. but we had a couple individuals
in the community who didn't like to hull corn and dig potatoes and pitch hay and shuffle cow residue. i cleaned that up for you. so they decided to go into the marine corps. they were not related, they went in at different times, but they went in the marine corps to make a living, because jobs were very difficult to obtain during the depression. their enlistment period was six years, that was the only contract the marine corps had at that time. when they came home on their one time a year 30-day furlow, they were required to wear their marine corps dress blues. i'm in my early teens, and we kids would get around them and we wanted to be around them because they would tell us
fantastic stories about battles and all that stuff, that probably most of it wasn't true. but it was entertaining and interesting to us. and they had to wear their dress blues all the time. that was the only uniform they brought home with them. so somewhere in the recesses of my mind, i must have decided if i have to go to the military, and i have no plan for that all, i'm going to be a farmer for the rest of my life. i'm going to be milking cows the rest of my live. but somewhere in the recess of my mind, i said, if i ever have to go or do go, i want to be one of them. they became a local model to me, so when we were told in our community, we had no newspaper,
very few people had a radio. i had one uncle out of five that had a radio. so the information we got was filtered into us by other people. we're talking about after pearl harbor. we're talking about 1942. somebody was trying to take our freedom. i had never heard of the japanese, certainly i had never seen one. but i decided that's not going to happen to me. or to us. i had a schoolteacher who taught us very severely that we were americans, we were free, but we were only that because of what others had done for us.
somebody had provided that freedom for us, so i'm going into the marine corps to protect america. my concept was that all of us going in from all over wherever they were and i had hardly ever been out of west virginia, that we would all gather in the united states of america and just dare anybody to come to our shores and try to take our country and our freedom. when i finish ed boot camp in sn diego, california, they told me i was going to the south pacific, which i had never even heard tell of, it was quite a shock. because i thought i would stay right here. just -- they're not going to take my freedom. that was my upbringing and my teacher is the one, not my parents, my teacher was the one
that instilled in me my love for my country. and that freedom was one of the most precious possessions we could ever have. never dreaming as i was going through the grades, that we would ever be at war. remember, world war i was supposed to be the war to end all wars. so most of us never thought there would be another. i was in the marine corps because of circumstances. i'm proud of my service, i'm proud that i am an american. and i'm proud that i could do what i did to keep us a free people. thank you very much.
>>. [ applause ] >> i guess its my turn now, i'll try to be a little bit shorter than woody. where i grew up, i grew up at the end of world war ii, my father was in the navy, he served in world war 2. he taught me the values that i grew up with and i lived by. and he taught me respect in the love of this country, and what it stands for. though as i was a child, we were no longer engaged in a conflict situation, until korea started, i can remember as a young child in school, we would do air raid drills, which meant every time i a siren went off we crawled under our desk. what good that was going to do,
i don't know, but that was the way you would defend yourself. but we really didn't have much concern about a conflict, korea started happening while i was in junior high school and i had actually pretty much had ended by then, i had some teachers that served in korea who were also instilled in us a great respect for the freedoms that we have. and i had always intended to serve this country, i was brought up to believe that we should at least give back sometime to our country for everything that it's given us. and i did intend to serve. as i went on in schooling, of course the vietnam war happened, vietnam conflict, excuse me, it never was a war. can't quite understand that either. but we knew at that time that we
were probably going to have to serve. it was a draft type situation back then. there were a lot of volunteers as well, certainly, but draft boards pretty much controlled who was going into the service and if you were a student, you were pretty much exempt. when you graduated from college, that exemption ended depending on the board. so i knew i was going to go in and i intended to serve, you know, i wanted to go into the navy, i wanted to fly airplanes. so i enlisted. and the -- my experience in the service had been one of the most rewarding opportunities i ever had, and i was appreciative to be serving in some way. but the things that helped form those opinions were some of the
back grounds that i got through my, not only through my family, but through the various people that i met as i was glowing up. so i wasn't quite in the same classes as woody was, world war ii was probably the war that kept us from speaking another language. the conflicts i was involved in were more or less sustaining actions to try and keep other countries from being overrun or keeping them from becoming democratic type countries. but i fully intended to serve and i went in actually, i volunteered and went in after my college education. and i was proud and still am proud to be a person who served for the great country that we live in. thank you. [ applause ]
>> growing up, i grew up in northern california, where i was born and raised. and i had a history of family service, my grand father was a world war ii, was on the beaches of normandy, battle of the bulge, my father served in vietnam, both my older brothers served in the military. so from an early age i knew it w wasn't a prerequisite to be a part of my family that i was going to serve, it just felt natural. al to listen to my father talk and my grand father talk and my brothers talk with such pride of their comrades they served with, their battle buddies and growing up in this northern california town, it wasn't very big, i like to brag, i'll use a soccer ball to -- i got to graduate the top
14 of my high school class, of the 15 kids that went there and like woody, i didn't want to milk cows anymore or stack hay, so i joined, one as a sense of, you know, family honor, two to get away, to expand any horizons, to travel the world, to go see other things. and i very quickly realized that i joined for one thing, but i ended up serving for another, and that was for my battle brothers to my left and right, that was for, as soon as i joined the military, it was 1989, but my first duty station was germany and within the first week after arriving there in germany, i got shipped off because my unit was already deployed to kosovo, i got to see firsthand what a country looked
like with no freedom, a country that we had to do military escorts for them to get groceries and fueled so they wouldn't get captured and killed in mass genocide, stuff i took for granted as a punk 17, 18-year-old kid, stuff that simple that i have seen afternoon the world isn't given freely, isn't available to everyone. and that's why i actually ended up serving. i was going to do three years, get my family stamp, call it a day, figure out what i was going to do with the rest of my life and continue on. and shortly three years turned into six, six turned into nine and nine turned almost 12 before i finally got out of the military. it's the sense of pride and the sense of honor to understand that the sacrifice set before me, with these great gentlemen here with with all those who had conserved, it was the least i could do to pay back in gift
that i received at no cost, just for being born in this country and i'm so appreciative of it. that's what motivated me to not just join, but to actually serve. >> there certainly is a common thread of heroism in the citations that we heard at the front end and there's certain themes from the comment tear, but we've got three separate wars, as mentioned, separated by decades and in fact three separate services. if you wouldn't mind, take a moment to reflect on your military training, the experiences you had before going into combat and how that prepared you. >> in my day, growing up and there's some here that can fit this picture too.
discipline in the home existed. my father died when i was 9. so i was raised by brothers. i was the last of the litter so i was a runt and i was raised by brothers. when i went into the marine corps, discipline was not a problem for me, because i had lived under that kind of displain at home, so that wasn't a problem. but the thing that i learned in the marine corps, was that the other guy, the other guy besides you on your right and left is
also going to be responsible for you and you for them. i had never had that before. i had never ungd, evening with brother brothers if a brother got into a fight, it was up to him to win his own fight, i'm not going to help him. if he gets beat up, he gets beat up. so that was a complete change to me, that i had to be responsible for that guy on my right and left. but that in the long run is really what saved me. in my citation, had i written that, it would have been a newspaper long. they didn't ask mefully questions, they didn't ask me to write my own citation, i'm thankful for that. but in there, there's one word, he went forward along.
now if i had been writing that citation, i would never have put that in there, because i truly was never alone. i had marines around me that were just as concerned about my life as i was about their live. and i have said since day two, day one, i was so scared i couldn't even talk. but day two, i did get my voice back. and i said since day two. that that medal that i wear does not belong to me. it belongs specifically to two of those four marines who gave their lives protecting mine. so when i wear the medal, i never wear it for what i did. i was only do a job for which
the marine corps had trained me to do. they did more than that. they gave their lives. so i can never repay what i owe. thank you. >> sir. it's hard to keep up with him. >> v. >> it's interesting to hear how your up bringing prepared you for military service. i don't think you can be prepared for military service, you knew a little bit about what it was like to serve in the military. but you had no idea. i had discipline in my family, like woodys did from the world war ii time frame, you learned
to be respectful, you learn to be disciplined and do what you're told, and you had your jobs and duties to do. and you did it, like woody said to the best of your ability. i don't know if any of that prepared me for the expose your i had when i went into the military. i think later we're going to be talking about combat training. but when i first went into the military, like i said, i went into the flight program and for those of you that go into that, you're a new kid on the block and you come into a indoctrination program, and all of a sudden, guess who runs that program, is marines. that's an eye opener right there. that introduces you to the military.
but as far as being trained ahead of time to serve in the military, i didn't have any exposure to that other than stories i would hear when my father would speak of his service, which he didn't do very often. most of the people from that era didn't talk much about what their service was, they served, they came back, they lived their lives and that was it. so, you know, i was kind of unprepared for what i was going to experience when i went into the military, so it was a whole new exposure for me. but like woody said, i was very proud to serve this country. and i can't -- i can't thank enough the experiences that i
had in the military and what they did for me in my later life. and i'm extremely grateful that i had that opportunity and served with the people that i served with, because each and every one of them, we all looked out for each other and you can't -- when you get in combat, the people around you become closer to you than your family. and it's an incredible brotherhood that you are part of and join. and it is something that is rarely experienced elsewhere. but as far as being prepared for it before i went into it. i really wasn't, i just kind of went into it blind and made the best of it as i could. so -- plausz applause.
>> kind of growing up for me, like i said, i did have a lot of tradition of service in my family. i really reflect back to my grandfather who taught me so many great life lessons, he always told me, when you tell somebody you're going to do something, you do it. don't talk a lot because when you do say something, people will listen. it was kind of establishing values and not priorities because values are always constant and priorities can always change, kind of helped me along the way. i graduated high school when i was still system and like i said, i didn't really want to stick around that summer and continue to milk cows, so i told my dad i was going to join the army, and he told me right off the bat if you're going to do it, at least pick a job that's not combat mos, be an x ray tech
or something. and i said, all right, well, i'll think about it and then i went down to the recruiter, talked to him, came back and told my dad that i wanted to be on the harbor branch and be on tanks. and he looked at me and said, it mig might be next year, might about the year after that, but we were basically at peace. i will not sign for you to go into the military at 17, your nation will call upon you to do something that will stick with you the rest of your life. before you make that commitment, make sure you understand this, when you turn 18 and an adult in the eyes of the law, you can make that decision on your own. as soon as i turned 18, the next day i signed up and shipped off
shortly afterwards. but i always kept that in the bang of my mind. because like i said, when i did join in '99, kosovo was the big deployment. the war on terror wasn't really thought of in the main stream eyes. and i carried that with me a long ways through the service. nothing will prepare you for what you're going to truly experience when it comes to your first time in basic or boot camp or the first time you do ship to a foreign land that you have never heard of on the map, but to have those values established, to have that base, that foundation that starts off with everything else, i felt really gave me a competitive advantage going forward in life. [ applause ] >> thank you, gentlemen, you help us see through a window that many of us can relate to,
which is life prior to the army or navy or marine corps, you have helped us see through a window that many of us here can kind of see through, which is the preparation, once you've gotten into the service, i would ask that you help us understand that we're not going to see through this window, obviously, but help us understand what you are thinking about in combat, perhaps specifically in the events surrounding the citation that was read, or anything in combat, generally, to understand the process, the mindset required in extreme situations, such as the three obviously that you were involved in, sir. >> leadership is a difficult thing to really define.
in my own case, i have to go back to my childhood, that when i was told i had to do something, then i couldn't depend on someone else to do it for me, it depended on me. and if i didn't do it correctly, then to the satisfaction of the brother that was supervising the farm, was do it the best that you could. when i got into the marine corps, they emphasized very strongly, at least in my boot camp,a you never know when you may have to take over a situation and whether you have
two stripes on your sleeve or captain bars on your shoulder, when those circumstances occur, you have got to step into the breach. it's -- they're going to depend upon you. the day that my commanding officer captain beck asked me if i could do anything about the pill boxes that had us stalled, we had lost most of our marines in my company. we had lost all but two of our officers, we had sergeants operating as squad leaders and platoon sergeants and corporals acting as squad leaders and section leaders because at that
moment in time, somebody had to step in the breach and do something. and that day, when we were gathered in that great big shell crater, that an nco meeting, i'm a corporal, i'm not supposed to be at an nco meeting, corporals are just little less than a private. i wasn't supposed to be there, i was not classified as an nco officer. but i was told i would be there because i had a unit, when i hit the beach at iwo jima, i had six in my ---six demolition operators, we were trained to either blow it or a ---so i am it, i'm the only flame thrower
demolition expert in my company, and when he asked me today, could i do something about those pill boxes that had us stopped, i had to step in to a leadership position. and i had no idea what i said, others said later, after the campaign was over and we got back to guam, somebody said my response to the captain was i'll try. i don't know what i said. but when he assigned those four marines to me that was read in the citation, they became my responsibility. and had i backed off, had i not followed through with whatever little bit of leadership i had, you would have never heard of woody williams.
so whether it is engrained in us, but i think everyone had within us in a moments of time when it's very important that we do something for somebody else, 99.9% will do it. if that's leadership, then thank god. [ applause ] >> a question of leadership is, you know, can be defined in many, many ways. if you take it down to minute actions or to events that you
were involved in, you make decisions -- you evaluate that and hopefully you have enough good judgment and common sense to make the correct decision on how to handle the situation that you're faced with. in combat, some of these decisions are made instantaneously, and they need to be. you're trained, you go through an enormous amount of training before you ever deploy. your people are with you, particularly in my situation, i had an extremely well trained unit that i was part of. all of them are very, very capable people, all of them could be leaders. they were just exceptional units when i -- or individuals when i deployed. and i had been in many, many battles and conflicts.
during my tours overseas. when think particular mission happened, i didn't get selected for this mission because i was anybody's special, they didn't say, geez, this is the only guy that can do it. but in essence, i was the only guy left. this was at the time frame that the north vietnamese were overrunning south vietnamese country. it's called easter offensive and the only thing that we had to combat them was airpower. and as a result of that, electronic planes got shot down. of the six-man crew, there was only one survivor, and over the course of eight days, both the army and air force tried to extract those people, it cost them 14 lives, two people captured, lost eight aircraft and they got to a position where
they couldn't continue that rescue mission, and ground effort was suggested and at the time the units that were going to run that, i mean i was the only s.e.a.l. advisor that was still in country and could run the mission. you don't really even know what you're walking into, all i knew was that we had three pilots that were on the ground and needed to be rescued and we have an oncoming north vietnamese offensive pushing into south vietnam, had no idea how many were there. found out later that because of the action of another marine, a fellow by the name of ripley, who blew up a bridge, which was one of the few bridges that the armored units could use to cross
the river, neogang river, actually, he destroyed it. that left one other bridge available which was where all these pilots were shot down, and that put all those north vietnamese forces right in the middle of where i was going. i didn't know it at the time, i later found out there was over 30,000 north vietnamese there, i knew there was a bundle because i moved through them every night. we had a get them out of there because there was no other way to do that. and that's what drives you to perform your operations, heroism
is kind of a strange word, i don't -- none of us here believe we were heroes, none of us here believe that we did anything extraordinary. we did we did what we had been trained to do. we certainly don't wear the medal for ourselves. we wear it for those who can't. for all those who served, for those who gave their life in that service. sure, you know, you're not -- you don't ever consider yourself a hero. if you were successful in a certain mission and somewhere later down the chain, somebody thinks, geez, we've got to reword this guy, you don't go after that reward. sometimes you get it whether you want it or not. but it just happens.
you do what you'd been trained to do and thankfully, i was successful enough to be able to rescue those folks. but it's not something that you can train or prepare for. you do your job the best you can and that's all most of us do when we serve. we do the best job we can. and that's pretty much what happened in my situation. >> tommy said it quite well there. i mean, there's no real training that will prepare you exactly for one particular scenario. the training you receive, though, does give you that good foundation and base line to build off from. the thing i've always noticed, though, is the best experience or the best training woes experience and relaying on that,
relying on the guys around you that have been there and done that before. for us, that day before we were going to afghanistan, sergeant kurt was just in that same area, less than eight months beforehand. and you can watch all the powerpoint presentations you want, and all the s2 briefs you want. they don't give it any justice until you get boots on the ground and see it firsthand. we had sergeant kurt who was there for that and we adjusted some of our training to counter that, teaching guys how to do angle fire or shooting straight up and down mountains. but that day, you know, the thought process, i don't know if i'm slow or not, but i don't remember thinking a whole lot that day. it was a 13-hour firefight, and i don't remember have many times i was actually thinking more than i was feeling. feeling the need to do my job, because i knew my battle buddies around me were doing theirs. feeling the need to continue to push, no matter what the odds were.
feeling the need to, you know, and i hope you guys can agree with me, and as you hear these citations, the medal isn't given out off of body count. it's not a status of who killed more that day or who didn't. you look at every one of these citations, we were doing it to save a life. to protect our brothers. to do it because we didn't hate the enemy in front of us. we did it because we loved the men to our left and right and our families that support behind us. that's what motivated the the overall trend of that loyalty will get you so far. that duty will get you guys to accomplish a mission, but loyalty will get them to follow you anywhere. and that day when i walked into the barracks to ask for that group of volunteers, in the midst of getting overran, to come up with a harebrain idea of, let's counterattack. who counterattacks when you're getting overran.
and five guys without hesitation stood up. i wouldn't have done it. at least, i can't imagine if someone ran into a barracks like that and asked for volunteers that i would go. these five guys, no hesitation said, we'll follow you anywhere. because we knew we had guys that are stranded, that were overran and isolated is. and if we were out there, the rest of them would have came and got us. and it was the least we could do to repay them back. just that loyalty to each other, not doing anything more than any other soldier would have done that day, to understand that to save a life, the love for your fellow man is way more powerful and way more motivating than hate toward an enemy. [ applause ]
>> gentleman, before we throw this open to questions from the audience, one more thing i want to ask of you. as you look around, there's a lot of young people in the audience. high school level, certainly a lot of midshipmen have joined us today. if you could share something to build on, some of the nuggets that you've already shared with us, to help them prepare for the service ahead of them, the sacrifices that they'll make in their careers, of whatever stripe they have, what would be that nugget you would share with the next generation? >> i guess i would go back to my schoolteacher. pay attention! i have said many times, i don't think i've ever had an original thought in my life.
but i did this morning. there is a miracle still happening in the world. i came up with an original thought. we even googled it, and we can't find anybody who has had this same original thought. so i think i'm safe. if google doesn't have it, it doesn't exist. do the vice, pay the price. do the vice, pay the price. i guess my advice would be, basically, pick a good role model. somebody that has been successful in their life. you don't want to be like them. i don't mean that.
but that individual had something that you could build on and some basis in which you can pattern your life. we have a 400-bed prison within four miles of my house. there are 650 people in the 400-bed prison. and as i talk to you around the country, do not pattern your life after a failure. if you do, you are going to fail. and those individuals do not make good role models.
so don't follow their pattern, follow that individual who has been successful. because they have characteristics, they have integrity. they have a basis, a ground from which they build and you can build on that very same ground. so i'll say again, pay attention. >> it's kind of an interesting question. a nugget of information that would help people be successful in your careers. i don't think there's any one nugget that you can throw out there. i think, probably, the thing that always helped me was, i always strove to do the best job
that i possibly could. i did listen, i did pay attention. sometimes i ignored it, but, but i evaluated and i made decisions which i thought were -- would help me or help the group i was with to perform the job successfully. i remember when i was in school, in high school, there was a coach that we had, it wasn't mine, but he was a great basketball coach, as a matter of fact, john wooden, and wooden had a couple of sayings that were very -- impressed me by quite a bit. one was, be more respectful of your character than your reputation. because your character is who you really are. your reputation is what people think you are. and that's kind of stuck with
me. and the other thing he had was, winning the game is a result of the rest of the team, not an individual. and that is so true. to be sure that your team is -- you're not going to do things by yourself. you're going to need people to assist you and help you. and when you're in combat, it's the guy beside you, on either side. and you depend on them to do their job. if they believe in the same desire to perform the best they can, you're going to come out ahead. and i always try to use those guidelines when i was going through some of the trials that you go through in life.
and they all served me successfully. and that's what i would try to impart upon you. but i'll tell you, i can't thank the military enough for allowing me to serve for it, because it was an incredible opportunity for me, to gain the wisdom and the experiences that later helped me live through the rest of my life and to all of you that are, you know, now in the service or just starting out, it's a great career. enjoy it and make the best of it. and thank god we have people today that in this country that volunteer to serve and to keep us free and my hats off to you and thank you so much for that.
>> kind of my experience with some of the best officers i ever had as an nco were the officers that came into the platoon and would straight admit, i don't know what the hell i'm doing, and would listen to the experience of the guys around them, for the midshipmen that will be out in our fleets pretty soon, you know, i'm not a fortune teller by no means, but it does look like we are starting to draw down some of our combat experience. and that experience is going to get hard to come by very quickly, and let's not waste the opportunity or pass up the opportunity to pick those guys brains before they're gone, they're no longer available to do that. like i said, i always thought experience was one of the best tools ever. because you never know what you're going to experience in life until you experience, and you never know -- you're never going to know how you react to it until it does happen.
it's as simple as that. and to understand that, you know, don't just make yourself better, but make those around you better. you can be the best at everything you do, but if you're around people that are struggling and do nothing to assist them, the team is weak overall. and a very strong team will beat an individual any day of the week, hands down. it's a proven fact time and time again. that's really, really true. and that's the things i would just like to pass on. is something as simple as that. >> you know, as a young recruit at paris island, a balance commander i'm sorry, and also a medal of honor recipient named james liveston, who was very found of saying that honor and
bravery are passed from one generation to another, and i don't think that i've ever actually seen it on display or could have imagined it on display quite this way, whether that be 1945, 1992, 2009, we get this feeling of the theme that carries down through the decades. and also, once again emphasizes how unique experiences is and how privileged i personally feel. i think we all are, for all of that. so with that in mind, i would like to open it up to questions. we have microphones and some folks delivering microphones. so right here's one. there's a mic, if you don't mind, please.
>> how did you deal with the bridge between your father joining the military? >> there really wasn't friction there, more than just the -- more of a concern of, you know, he had been there, he had been through combat, and it's something you don't understand until you're there. and that was him being a father. i can't thank him enough for giving me that advice. i wouldn't change a damn thing, hands down, i wouldn't. but to understand that he cared enough about me to pass on that from his generation to mine. and i will continue to pass on that to my children, if any one of them come and ask me, you know, dad, i'm going to serve, i'm going to tell them the same thing. you're going to be asked to go and do things you'll never forget and you don't have to do it. we are a volunteer army. and less than half a percent of this nation serves right now. and it's a beautiful thing to watch that. but i'm hoping that i can
instill the values that my family did in me, into my children, because one day of combat isn't defining my life. my life will be defined when my children grow up and they're successful and they continue on. >> thank you. >> down here. >> gentleman, in all of your actions and i'm just so curious how you managed to overcome the fear and feeling of self-preservation and that i know most of us feel in the circumstances you've experienced. >> who would like to take that? >> first firefight does that. you get -- you train and you train and you train and you're exceptionally well trained by the time you go into combat. but, like i just said, you can't
explain what combat is like until you've been in one. you don't have time to be frugal. you're too busy trying to stay alive and keep your people alive that you -- fear is not a factor until maybe you get back afterwards and have a beer and think, how'd i get out of that? you know, it's a -- you're reacting to a situation and you react the way you create. and you're depending on your teammates to do the same. and fear doesn't enter into it. you don't really have time to be fearful. you're too busy trying to save the situation you're in or the people that are around you that need assistance that fear is not
a factor. and i've seen fear. well, let's put it this way. when i was -- during that rescue mission, we got mortared and rocketed every day. and there was a 20-man unit, vietnamese unit there, that was supposed to be a guard force, but they were under orders to leave whenever they felt unsecure. and the first day we got mortared and rocketed and we lost half of that. they just froze. they could not perform. they were seeing their buddies blown away and they could not function. so myself and my -- the other vietnamese officer that was with me, he just went around and started throwing -- trying to get them up and return fire, get them, return fire from where we were taking the assault from. and then started getting bodies
and triaging people and throwing them into cover and trying to get these guys thinking. we've got to fight. my guys were ready to do that. because we'd been trained to do it. but i've seen it. but it never happened with the units that i was part of. because you don't have time to think about that. you have time to think about and react to the situation and that's what you do. so i hope that answers your question. you got anything else? >> could i add to that? >> sure. why do -- why don't we use 65-year-old men to fight wars? >> good idea! if we did, we probably would never win one. at 21 years of age, you're
invincible, number one. number two, you have been pr training to perform. and automation, we had automation in world war ii, not quite as much as we have today, but we had automation because automatically, you'r training took over. and i attribute my accomplishment totally to my training. if i had stopped and thought, hey, if i try and walk out that pill box, other people might kill me, i wouldn't have gone. heck, let somebody else go do that. so my training took over. automation took over and i began doing that for which i had been trained. so, that's my answer to winning
and it's got to be done by young people. once we reach a certain age, our caution, our preservation takes over. and we begin to rationalize. hey, i'm not going to do that. i wouldn't do today what i did then. i'll guarantee you. >> you know, just to add a little more to that, it's -- you know, it's like anything you do in life. the second you think, i can't do that, i'm going to fail, i'm going to lose, if that thought enters your mind before you even start the mission or take on the task, you've already lost right there. you can haven't doubt in your heart. you can't have, you know, fear in your mind. it's not healthy, it's not helping. so why even put that negative thought there? hey, we are the greatest fighting force in the world. we are the movers and doers. there's no obstacle that's going to get in our way.
we're always going to win. we're always going to overcome the greatest of odds. and you've got to have that first and foremost in your mind, wherever you tackle on any task. >> commander? >> good morning. i took a few notes so i don't completely mess up my question, but just listening to you all, whether you're wearing the metals around your neck or not, you represent what's best of america and it's been an absolute honor to listen to you, so thank you. some of the things i was hearing from all of you, you learned your patriotism from your teachers, you said that, values over priorities. if you look in the media today, i guess i'm looking more towards the future. the opening speaker said if we don't learn our history, we're doomed to repeat it. and if you look in the media these days, you're seeing that the american flag is not allowed to be shown in apartment complexes at schools, the pledge of allegiance, people are
fighting saying that, the "under god," there are high school students in colorado that are actually walking out of class, protesting a patriotic history curriculum. so i guess learning from your history and your experience, where do you see america going? do you think we're losing the values that have made us great? do you think that we're in danger to call our enemies who they are and to take the fight to them and if you do see us going there, how do we get that back? >> great question. >> i'll take that. >> you know, you always see a cycle in democracy, of tyranny followed by revolution, followed by prosperity, followed by overabundance and back into tyranny. in my opinion, i think we're on the verge of overabundance right now. we've had life too easy for too
long. and we've gotten in a comfort zone and we're, as a country, we've forgotten our values, greatly. we're teaching priorities to kids. we're teaching that there are no winners and losers. everyone gets a damned trophy. but i'll tell you what, life isn't fair. there are winners and losers. you can have the best of everything in life and bad crap will still happen. and we need to make sure we continue to teach this lesson to our youth, because our youth is going to carry this message forward. they're going to continue with it and carry it on. and it starts in our families, to teach our children, don't rely on your teachers at school. it's not -- i mean, yeah, you send your kids off to school for 18 years of your life, or however long you go to school, i wai barely graduated so i forgot. but it needs to be us as an individual, as a family unit, to bring those values back to our children. and then continue to push that. because it's by the education of our youth to never forget the sacrifice of what was given
beforehand. for the benefits we reap now, that are just being forgotten. but there's not enough skin if the game, it seems, that everyone forgets. just not too many years ago, the sacrifices at iwo jima, guys in vietnam, you know, this is paid in blood, sweat, and tears, this america we live in today. and we can never forget that and we must, we must teach our children that. >> i agree. [ applause ] i think a lot of it comes to teaching our kids what this country has gone through to be the country that we are. and yes, you do see examples of what seems to be unpatriotic
activities and unfortunately, they get the news media. i don't know that our whole country is like that. where i live, i don't see much of that at all. and we still have, thankfully, people that volunteer to fight for our country. the sad thing is, the small numbers, referred to it as like 1% of our country, to serve for it. that's sad. that is really sad. but why is that? is it that we do live too well? that we don't experience or see what it's like not to have the things that we enjoy? another statement that clint made, when he was overseas the first time he'd been to a third world country, what it was like to live in a third world
country. every american should see what it's like to live in a third world country. to realize the benefits and the freedoms that we enjoy. but we get more moved away from that. and sometimes i think we think, it can't happen to us. and that's not what reality is. it can happen to us. and we need to reeducate our future kids, men and women in that mind-set. but it needs to come. it's not only going to come from their friends and their classmates, but from their parents. and if their parents don't believe it and try to instill that in their kids, who's going to? and i think that's probably where our -- where it needs to start.
and thankfully, there are those that already are on board and volunteer to serve and to sacrifice. but it should be this whole country that does. and i think that's where we need to start, is in the homes. [ applause ] >> let me say, i don't have a high iq. in fact, i'm not even sure i can find it. but i do feel, maybe this is egotistical, that god blessed me with a little bit of common sense, which i think we have lost in this country. we have lost our common sense.
i believe we become what we're taught. the principle difference between the japanese and the american in the pacific, i can't speak for germany, because i was not over there, but the principle difference between the japanese and the americans in the pacific was, our belief was, we want to survive. and we're going to do whatever we possibly can do in order to preserve that life. their belief was, it was an honor to die for the emperor. which made us total conflict and even though we would try to preserve them, to treat them, to save them, that isn't what they wanted. because to save them and become a prisoner of war was one of the
most disgraceful things that could happen to them. that was their culture. that's what they were taught. and if we in this country do not get back to the basics and teach what our nation has stood for all of these many years and that there are values that you never forsake, you never give up, unless we get back there, i do have fear, it won't come in my time, i've maybe got ten more years, i'm trying to reach it, but i don't think i'm going to make it, but in a few years, we will lose our very basic values of love for one another, helping one another, and surviving.
i believe that. >> do we have time for one more? midshipman, you've got the honor of the last question. >> gentleman, what were your prospectives like immediately following your medal of honor experiences? did you stay in your service and why and how did you eventually have a chance to leave your service? >> i can do that one. that's easy for me. i was already retired. i was wounded fairly severely about six months after the operation, in an operation up in the north vietnam. got shot up recovering my guys in a firefight and i had five guys. the others, i had a another s.e.a.l. with me who rescued me, he received a medal of honor for
that action. but i'm a nice guy. everywhere i went they shot at me. i don't understand that. but at any rate, the navy retired me as a result of those injuries. thank goodness we now evaluate people who have been injured and wounded and give them the opportunity to stay in if they want to. but -- so i was retired when i received my award. if -- the question of how it affected me after that is -- was that part of your question? you know, wearing this medal is i think more difficult than it was to receive it or earn it. you do your job to earn it, but, wearing it is, people put you on
a pedestal. people think that you're somebody special. and you don't feel that way at all. you're humbled. you're -- you don't feel that you should be placed in that position, but you're very proud to have been presented it. and it certainly opens a lot of doors that you otherwise would never have had open to you. certainly wouldn't be sitting in front of you if i didn't have it. and it opens a lot of opportunities that you have to utilize those and remember that you're a representative of -- excuse me, of this country. and those in uniform that have
served this country. and what you do and the choices you make reflect upon that. because people look at you as an example. you need to have a very careful about the actions you take and what you do. so it was -- it's both a wonderful benefit to be able to wear that honor. but it also has a lot of responsibility that goes it. and it's something that you need to always remember. this medal doesn't represent you. it represents all those that served and gave their lives in
serving this country. so it's quite is a responsibility to carry, believe me. but it's quite -- it's an honor and you're -- as much as it sometimes becomes a burden, it's also a responsibility and you only hope that you can carry it with honor and with dignity. [ applause ] >> i'm going to be last. >> you're not 35 anymore? >> for me, i was going to get out of the military or before i even went on my last deployment to afghanistan. me and my wife decided that we'd
done enough, it was time to grow up and figure out what i was really going to do with my life. the decision was already made before even going overseas and immediately, after that day, the thoughts were never, you know, i did something to receive something. my big thing was to make sure that the guys with me got acknowledged, and more importantly, i was proud of that moment walking into the barracks and having five guys volunteer to go on a counterattack, while i was so impressed with the true grit and just the willing bs to continue on. because we had nine more months left in country after that day. it wasn't you get done and get a free ride back to the states. you have to pick up the pieces. and to watch my platoon reconstitute after so much loss and recorporate after the
replacement guys and bring them into the fold just like kicker and mace and heart, and take them and have them step right into their shoes and finish the mission and when i got out in early 2011, i had no idea. it wasn't until almost a year later that i had gotten a call from a colonel out of the pentagon, asking if i'd come back to d.c., i don't have enough vacation days, i'm not going anywhere. and what did i do wrong? to finally being brought out to understand what my actions were, were getting recognized with but
like tommy said, it is a responsibility to wear this little blue ribbon of silk around your neck. just the caretaker of it. this represents every man and, every marine, airman, sailer, coast guard, air force, every aspect of our military. past, present, and future. this is their reward. we're just selected to wear it. and every time i put it on, i think about the eight guys we lost that day. what would they think of me with this decision i'm about to make? would they appreciate it? or would they turn in disgust? and that's how i continue on and continue forward. [ applause ] >> well, the medal of honor
certainly changed my life. when i got home, they started giving me $10 a month for it, i thought, boy, i'm rich. i was a country boy that was very shy and bashful. you don't believe that, do you? but i was. but probably the best thing that happened to me was receiving the medal of honor. i'm talking about psychologically. we didn't have ptsd in world war ii. we had psychoneurosis. so if you were diagnosed with psychoneurosis, you were a psycho, and nobody wanted that connotation associated with
them. i had a brother that cracked up, we called it, in the marine core and that was the diagnosis and when he came home, he would not permit to file a claim with the va for psychoneurosis, because that would mean that he was a psycho. when i received the medal of honor, i had no choice. from the second day on, i became a public figure. i didn't want to be that. i wanted to go back to the farm and dig a hole and get in it. because i had a lot of whatever they term now ptsd, but in those
days, as i said, it was psychoneurosis and we had no treatment facilities. we had no psychiatrists, we had no psychologists. we had no va facility that we could even go to. and being forced by the public to talk about what happened to me was the best therapy i could have received. i couldn't pin it up, i couldn't hold it in, i had to let it go. and that helped me tremendously to adjust back to civil life. you guys, all of you in the military know that when you grow up and your folks are teaching
you things you ought to know, one of those things they teach you very firmly is, you do not kill, period. there is no exception. and then you go into a combat situation, where you have to reverse that completely. if you're going to survive, now you must do that which you have never been permitted to do and taught not to do. and our case in world war ii, i was in the for the duration. and when the war was over, they handed me a discharge and said, we're done with you. you've done well, but just go home in 24 hours and revert to
where you were three years ago. almost an impossibility. because the brain doesn't stop working. it keeps going. we have similar problems here today, with individuals who have the ptsd. fortunately, our facilities, our treatment methods, our knowledge and information about it is so much greater and more accessible than it's ever been in the history of this country. and we all can be very proud of that. i am. i was a veterans counselor for 33 years and in the early part, we had no answers. we had nobody to go to. nobody to talk to, except each
other. i'm grateful that somebody had the wisdom and the foresight to establish the situation that we have today, because it is so much more beneficial to those coming home than we've ever had. i'm grateful to my nation. thank you. [ applause ] >> yesmgentleman, i want to ext thanks once again. this is a rare, in fact completely unique opportunity to hear the prospective across generations like this. and i can't say how privileged i feel and i know we all feel for this opportunity. so with that said, captain, would you like to bring us home? >> so it is with great regret
that i have to bring this panel to a close. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking our distinguished panelists for their extraordinary service at the moment of crisis and for their extraordinary humanity ever since. thank you, gentleman. [ applause ] >> it's also my privilege to present each of our panelists with a book, entitled "the accidental admiral."
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