LTC Aida Nancy Sanchez

2018-3-20 Sanchez

On a September day in 1952, a young woman from Puerto Rico joined the Army. The 20-year-old college graduate attended Army Physical Therapist School and soon found herself serving at Army hospitals around the globe. In 1970, just two years after earning a master’s degree in physical therapy (PT), she was sent to Vietnam. Then a major in the Army Medical Specialist Corps (AMSC), Aida Nancy Sanchez spent a year at the 95th Evacuation Hospital, Da Nang, Vietnam, where she established the first PT clinic.

Sanchez was asked to go on a top-secret assignment. She was only told that she would be required to travel outside Vietnam in civilian clothes.

Before leaving for Saigon, she was informed her assignment was to travel to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, where she would treat Lon Not, the country’s president. He had suffered a stroke and needed intense physical therapy. She was asked to read the president’s medical records, but not take any notes or make any copies. In Phnom Penh, she stayed at the city’s finest hotel and was guarded by seven Cambodians and two undercover US agents.

She worked with the Cambodian president for a year before extending her tour another year. It was during 1972 that she experienced the “horrors of war.” She assisted Army nurses when Vietnamese wounded were brought to the 95th Evac Hospital at China Beach.

We honor you, Aida Sanchez.

(#Repost @The Women’s Memorial and @VFW Magazine)

MajGen James E. Livingston

While thousands of heroes have emerged since the inception of the U.S. Marine Corps on November 10, 1775, James E. Livingston has earned the title, “Leatherneck Legend.”  Growing up in the 1940’s on a 3,000 acre dirt farm in Towns, Georgia, Livingston learned the importance of hard work and determination at a young age.  After college, Livingston received an Army draft card, but instead chose to enlist in the Marines in 1962. Livingston’s career advanced through the ranks of command to Captain, and he was ordered to the Republic of Vietnam as Commanding Officer of Company E, the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, known simply as E Company, in 1968.

With one devastating battle after another in Dai Do, E Company was sent in to assist another Marine company, which had been isolated the night before, when enemy forces seized the village. Skillfully employing screening agents, Livingston maneuvered his men to assault positions.  Despite being wounded twice by grenade fragments, Livingston refused medical treatment, and instead shouted words of encouragement to his men as they continued across the 500 meters of open rice fields, where they destroyed over 100 mutually supporting bunkers, driving the remaining enemy from their position and relieving the pressure on the stranded Marines. Having reestablished contact with the surrounded Marine Company, Livingston then learned of a third Marine Company leading an attack on nearby Dinh To village. Marshalling his resources, Livingston consolidated the two companies and led a support effort to halt the aggressive enemy counter attack from Dinh To. After being wounded a third time and rendered immobile, he remained in the combat zone and supervised the evacuation of these men.

Three days of a relentless battle of attrition with 800 Marines battling 10,000 North Vietnamese soldiers was finally coming to a victorious end for the United States. Livingston was dragged from the battlefield by two Marines as he continued to shoot at the enemy. Only after he was assured of his fellow Marines’ safety did Livingston allow himself to be evacuated.

For his gallantry, bravery and selflessness, he was awarded the Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon in 1970. After 33 years of service, Livingston hung up his service uniform. Taking the expression: “Once a Marine, Always a Marine” to heart, Livingston looked to write the next chapter of service to America through his public service career. He authored the novel: “Noble Warrior: The Story of Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston.” He also serves on numerous volunteer boards and speaks on leadership and service to country.

We honor you, James E. Livingston.

(#Repost @Library of Congress Blogs)

CPT Linda Bray

2018-2-22 Bray

Captain Linda Bray was the first woman to lead US troops into battle, during the invasion of Panama in 1989. In 1982, she joined the ROTC. In 83, she was assigned to duty in Germany, where she guarded the Special Weapons Depot as a military policewoman. After she came back to the States, in 1988, Bray took command of her Military Police Company. In 1989 they were deployed to Panama. While there, she led a force of 30 MPs through a firefight to capture a kennel holding Panamanian Defense Force guard dogs and, it was discovered, a cache of enemy weapons. This groundbreaking event led to a big debate at the time. Congress questioned whether women should be allowed to take leadership positions (or do anything, for that matter) on the battlefield. With Bray’s performance under fire as an example, Congresswoman Pat Schroeder introduced a bill that would officially allow U.S. military women to serve in combat roles. The bill died when top generals lobbied against it, arguing that female soldiers couldn’t handle the physical challenges of combat. But in January 2013, the Pentagon’s prohibition against women serving in ground combat finally ended, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted women were integral to the military’s success.

We honor you, Linda Bray.


LTG Julius Wesley Becton, Jr.

2018-1-06 Becton

Military Officer and federal government administrator Julius W. Becton, Jr. was born on June 29, 1926 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania to Julius Wesley and Rose Banks Becton. He joined the Army Air Corps in July 1944 and graduated from Infantry Officer Candidate School in 1945. While on active duty, Becton graduated from Prairie View A & M College in 1960 with his B.S. degree in mathematics and the University of Maryland in 1966 with his M.A. degree in economics. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College and the National War College. Post his military service, Becton has received honorary doctorate degrees from Huston-Tillotson College, Muhlenberg College, Prairie View A & M University, The Citadel, Dickinson College, and American Public University System.

Becton joined the 93rd Infanry Division in the Pacific at the end of World War II and was separated from the Army in 1946, but returned to active duty after President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 to desegregate the military in 1948. Rising to the rank of Lieutenant General in 1978 he commanded the 1st Cavalry Division, the United States Army Operations Test and Evaluation Agency, and the VII Corps – the Army’s largest combat corps in Europe during the Cold War. Becton also served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and retired from the U.S. Army in 1983 after nearly 40 years of service. However, his public service career was far from over.

From 1984 to 1985, he served as the director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in the United States Agency for International Development. He then served as the third director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1985 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan. In his mid-sixties, Becton began a new career, that of education administrator. From 1989 to 1994, he was the fifth president of Prairie View A & M University, his alma mater – becoming the first graduate of Prairie View A & M University to attain flag rank in the military. In 1996, he became the superintendent of the Washington, D.C. public school system.

We honor you, Julius Becton.

(#Repost @The History Makers)

Col Gail S. Halvorsen

2017-12-25 Halvorsen.JPG

Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, or, “The Berlin Candy Bomber” served as a catalyst for this operation. As America geared up for the looming world war, Halvorsen was awestruck with the planes he saw flying while he labored on his father’s sugar beet farm in Tremonton, Utah. With a dream for flight, Halvorsen applied for and was accepted into a pilot-training program. The attack on Pearl Harbor prompted him to join the Army Air Corps, and he trained on fighters with the Royal Air Force. Reassigned to military transport service, Halvorsen remained in the service at war’s end. He was flying C-74 Globemasters and C-54 Skymasters out of Mobile, AL, when word came in June 1948 that the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin.

During the 15-month airlift (Operation Vittles), American and British pilots delivered more than 2 million tons of supplies to the city. But it was Halvorsen’s decision to airdrop candy to children (Operation Little Vittles) that clinched an ideological battle and earned him the lasting affection of a free West Berlin. Today, Halvorsen is affectionately known by Berliners and many around the world as as the Candy bomber (“Rosinenbomber”), Uncle Wiggly Wings (“Onkel Wackelflugel”) and the Chocolate Pilot.

As an aside, I had the privilege of being honored with Gail at the Utah State Capitol for the Cold War Victory Medal on August 29, 2017.  Gail’s first reaction when this photo was taken as his signature was to do a “thumbs up!”  So, that’s what we did!

We honor you, Gail Halvorsen.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson and #Repost @wigglywings)

Lt Col George J. Laben

2017-12-02 Laben

In seventeen months stationed in India and Burma during World War II, George Laben flew 245 missions in a C-47 transport plane, an aircraft he still praises for its maneuverability and general ease of flying. He dodged Japanese planes by flying low enough to the ground to be mistaken for ground cover, and never lost a plane or a crew member, even though the overall losses in his squadron were enormous. Occasionally, he flew night missions undercover for the OSS, dropping off men (in parachutes) and supplies, and on one memorable flight, a half-dozen unauthorized bombs. Laben readily admits he never took off without feeling some discomfort, though he always believed he would make it back home from every flight.

We honor you, George Laben.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

PO2 James Nappier Jr.

2017-11-10 Nappier

James Nappier’s persistence and devotion to serving his country resulted in the improbable scenario of a man in his 40s with a grown child enlisting in–and being accepted by–the Navy’s Seabees. By virtue of his six years in the Marines beginning when he had dropped out of high school, Nappier’s real age was knocked down to just under the upper limit for eligibility. This was in 2000, when no one had any idea of military deployments to a war in the Middle East. In Iraq, Nappier kept volunteering for the most dangerous missions, figuring he was saving one younger man with young children from harm’s way.

We honor you, James Nappier Jr.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)