Sunday, March 27, 2011

British Medic Among Those Awarded Medals For Heroism in Afghanistan

L/Cpl Kylie Watson
The article below describes the heroism of Lance Corporal Kylie Watson and Royal Marine Mark Jackson, both of whom were awarded medals for heroism in Afghanistan. I was honored to serve with soldiers from the United Kingdom during my tour in Iraq in 2004. They are an extraordinary group of warriors.

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Courageous Army medic awarded Military Cross

By Brian Brady, Whitehall Editor
Sunday, 27 March 2011

An Army medic who put herself in "mortal danger" to treat a wounded Afghan soldier under heavy Taliban fire has been awarded the Military Cross, Britain's third-highest medal for gallantry.

Lance Corporal Kylie Watson, who gave the casualty medical care in exposed open ground for 20 minutes before getting him to a helicopter, is one of more than 130 servicemen and women commended for bravery in the latest military honours list.

The medic, who also made a 100-yard dash through enemy fire to help another Afghan soldier, was praised for her "immense courage [and] willingness to put her own life at risk".

L/Cpl Watson, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, stemmed the soldier's bleeding despite being hampered by other Afghan troops, and got the injured man to a helicopter landing site 200 yards away.

The incidents were a vivid illustration of the pressures faced by medical personnel on the front line of the battle against the Taliban. Nine months ago, L/Cpl Watson herself gave a graphic account of the casualties she had to deal with, in an interview with The Independent.

"The first time a bullet went through the side of this guy's face and exited on the other side," she said, during Operation Black Prince, which targeted insurgents in Helmand province. "He suffered some injuries to his jaw but nothing more serious. A little later a guy who was standing on a sangar [watchtower] got shot in the arm."

L/Cpl Watson's MC was awarded for her actions during the same tour, when she risked her life under enemy fire to help the Afghan soldiers. In the second rescue, she delivered life-saving first aid to a soldier who had been shot twice in the pelvis.

Her citation said: "Watson's immense courage, willingness to put her own life at risk and absolute bravery saved the life of one warrior and acted as an inspiration to her platoon and their Afghan National Army partners."

Other servicemen honoured include Royal Marine Mark Jackson, awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross after picking up and throwing back an enemy grenade before lying on a comrade to shield him from the blast.

Marine Jackson was on look-out duty at a remote patrol base in Helmand province on 24 August last year when he heard a metallic thud and saw a cylindrical object rolling towards the feet of a fellow sentry.

Immediately realising it was a home-made hand grenade, he grabbed it and threw it back – at the same time leaping on his comrade to protect him.

His medal citation said: "Improvised grenades such as these are notoriously volatile and this one could have detonated at any moment. Jackson was well aware of the risk, his only thought was for the life of his comrade who, had he hesitated for one moment, would have been killed."

The awards were announced as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed British troops working with Afghan police had chased insurgent fighters out of an area of Helmand and destroying a huge cache of their weapons. The MoD said Popalzai Kalay had been cleared by soldiers from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, together with Afghan police. The aim was to pre-empt an anticipated spring offensive by insurgent fighters in the area.

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We are indeed fortunate to have allies like those in the United Kingdom.

Charles M. Grist

Saturday, March 26, 2011

World War II Veterans Meet 67 Years After Serving Together

U.S.S. Ticonderoga in World War II
Two World War II veterans, both who served on the U.S.S. Ticonderoga during the war, recently reunited by chance in a doctor's office in Leesburg, Florida. Ed Watkins, 86, and Larry Ashman, 87, had actually served in the same section on the ship during attacks by the Japanese.

On this particular day, Ed wore his "Ticonderoga" hat to the doctor's office where he was spotted by Larry's wife. Larry had accompanied his wife to the doctor, so the reunion then took place. Both men were flabbergasted that they had found a shipmate of their generation.

Here is a link to a news story done by Central Florida's Channel 13:

I must tell you that Ed is my father-in-law. I recently purchased the hat at the VA clinic in Orlando and presented it to him. Now I'm really glad I thought to do so.

Charles M. Grist

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gift of Painting Melts An Old Warrior

Author Grist with Ashley Lauren
During my tour in Iraq in 2004, my team was honored to meet and escort Doug Besherse who had come to Baghdad as a correspondent.

After my return from overseas, his then fourteen-year-old daughter, Ashley, contacted me periodically with questions about the military. She and her family have been ardent supporters of American troops.

Little did I know that Ashley, who has since become the well-known artist Ashley Lauren, had created a painting of me based on a letter I had written to President Bush that was published in the Orlando Sentinel. That letter had been in response to a critical letter to the president.

Ashley's painting "Dear Mr. President" depicts me in Vietnam as well as Iraq. The reflection from behind the Vietnam wall is me as a young lieutenant. Touching the wall with the letter is me as an old sergeant in Iraq.

I had not known about the painting which apparently was completed four years ago. When Doug, Ashley, and the rest of their family came to Orlando on vacation, my wife Debbie and I met them for dinner. I was flabbergasted when Ashley presented me with the painting.

Needless to say, receiving such an extraordinary gift was a humbling experience. To receive it personally from its gifted artist gave this old soldier a lump in his throat. It is indeed an honor to have such friends. I shall be forever grateful.

I hope you will visit Ashleys website at Her paintings are breathtaking.

Charles M. Grist