Tag Archives: Real American Heroes

Real American Hero: John Mihalowski

John Mihalowski, Medal of Honor recipient


The old series which regularly ran here at my website continue to return with this first “Real American Heroes” piece in over four years.

This series normally remembers and honors heroes from the American military ranks. Many were recipients of the Medal of Honor. This is the highest and most prestigious honor which can be bestowed upon a member of the United States military. It is awarded to recognize outstanding acts of valor.

However, the series is not limited to winners of that honor, or even solely to the military. For instance, in April of 2010, I told the story of Brandon Darby, whose conversion from radical leftist to undercover FBI informant saved numerous lives and helped keep America safe.

Thus far, my series has told the story of 10 of these individuals. With this piece, ‘ROH’ will continue regularly into the future.

Today the spotlight shines on late United States Navy diver John Mihalowski for his actions on May 23, 1939. For those who know their history, this places his actions a full two and half years prior to American involvement in World War II.

There have been 3,516 Medal of Honor recipients to date in the history of the award. Only 193 of those honored came for actions performed during peacetime. Mihalowski, who died in October 1993, is the last such living recipient.

Mihalowski also did not perform his valorous actions alone. He was one of four recipients for actions performed that day. The other three honorees, Orson Crandall (1960), James McDonald (1973), and William Badders (1986) all predeceased him. All should be remembered together, and Mihalowski has been highlighted simply for being that surviving Medal of Honor recipient for actions during peacetime.

The events leading to the heroic actions of these four brave men actually began on May 12, 1939 when the submarine USS Squalus undertook a series of test dives off the coast of New Hampshire.

Over the next 10 days, Squalus successfully completed 18 dives. It was then on May 23, while attempting her 11th dive, that things went tragically wrong.

Approximately six miles off the coast at the Isle of Sholes, Squalus main induction valve failed. The sub quickly flooded, and 26 men were immediately drowned. The remaining crew were able to prevent final compartments from flooding, but the sub sank to the bottom in some 243 feet of water.

The submarine rescue ship Falcon was dispatched to her aid with our four heroes on board as part of the crew. Falcon was equipped with new technology, the McCann Rescue Chamber. This device was capable of holding up to eight rescued crew members, as well as two rescuers.

Mihalowski and the three other Real American Heroes were the divers assigned to the actual rescue operation. The men utilized newly developed heliox diving schedules which were designed to help overcome cognitive impairment symptoms that had previously accompanied such efforts.

Using the MRC and the heliox schedules, the four men were able to rescue all 33 remaining Squalus crew members. Mihalowski and Badders, who was the senior member of the dive crew, made one final effort to rescue possible survivors in the Squalus flooded portion.

While no survivors were discovered there, the effort was extremely perilous for those final two divers. As their Medal of Honor citations read, both men were “fully aware of the great danger involved…became incapacitated, there was no way in which either could be rescued.”

Secretary of the Navy Charles Edison presented Medals of Honor to The men are (left to right): Badders; Mihalowski; Crandall; and McDonald.

The four men further assisted in the raising of Squalus itself, a project which took over two months and 628 dives. It required the divers to pass cables underneath the submarine, attach pontoons for buoyancy, and ensure she was raised slowly.

Squalus was reconditioned, repaired, and overhauled. Recommissioned as the USS Sailfish on May 15, 1940, she headed out for the Pacific in January 1941. Sailfish arrived at Pearl Harbor in March, then headed to the Philippines. She engaged in a dozen successful missions during World War II.

As for Mihalowski, during World War II, he took part in rescue and salvage operations on six ships that had been exploded in Pearl Harbor. He also took part in similar actions as executive officer aboard the USS Shackle, during the battle of Okinawa in 1945. 

After the war, he participated in harbor clearance in Japan and in salvage work after the Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests. He transferred to Fleet Reserve in 1948 but was returned to active duty in 1950. 

Mihalowski was reinstated as Lieutenant and assigned to the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C., finally retiring as a Lieutenant Commander in 1958. He passed away at his Florida home on October 29, 1993 at the age of 82

Click on the ‘Tag’ below in order to read the entire series. 

Real American Hero: Ty Carter

There are 80 of them as of today, the living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award that a member of the American military can receive. 11 earned their medals in World War II, and 11 more in the Korean War, while 53, by far the highest number, earned their honors in Vietnam.

Carter is one of the 5 younger generation of recipients who have earned their honors in the War in Afghanistan. And he is the most recent as well, having received his CMO three weeks ago for actions that he took almost four years ago now in the United States Army.

Ty Carter was born in the beautiful and peaceful Pacific Northwest region of our country, in Spokane, Washington on January 25th, 1980. His family moved to the Bay area of California a year later, but then went back to Spokane in 1991. Ty graduated from high school there in 1998, and in October of that year he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In his Marine service, Ty Carter trained at the Marine Corps Combat Engineer School, served a stint in Okinawa, Japan as an intel clerk, and then in 1999 was sent to Primary Marksmanship Instructor School after showing promise in previous weapons’ marksmanship training. The skill would turn out to be invaluable during his later heroic action.

After serving training deployments in California and then in Egypt, he was finally honorably discharged from the Marines in 2002. He then began a modern day struggle in his personal life. He met a girl while attending Community College classes. They married and had a daughter, but the marriage would not last.

In 2008, Carter decided to get back into the military, enlisting in the U.S. Army as a cavalry scout. From May 2009 through May 2010, he was deployed to serve in the War in Afghanistan with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

During this first deployment in Afghanistan, Carter settled in at Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District of Nuristan Province in the northeast region of the country not far from the border with Pakistan.

On the early morning hours of October 3rd, 2009, COP Keating came under serious, direct attack from some 300 enemy fighters who had surrounded the camp on the high ground at all four sides. The attackers awakened Carter’s camp with a variety of weapons fire ranging from small handguns to RPG’s, machine guns to mortars.

Carter jumped right into action, carrying ammo from his barracks to another battle position under intense enemy fire, then back again across the same open 100 meters of ground where he retrieved machine gun oil and more ammo. He then made the run under fire a third time to get even more ammo.

Injured within those first moments of the battle, Carter continued to fight on, using his marksmanship skills to drive back enemy that had by that point infiltrated the camp perimeter. He crawled to retrieve more ammo, again under continuing intense enemy fire, and reinforced the camp’s main battle position for a 4th time.

Carter then ran across 30 meters of open ground to a wounded comrade, providing life-extending first aid, and then carried the soldier back across that same ground, all while continually being exposed to enemy fire. He then made a run for the camp’s Tactical Operations Center in order to obtain medical care for that wounded soldier, and also to coordinate recon. During that run he saw the body of a fallen Sergeant, and was able to retrieve that soldier’s radio, enabling the camp to coordinate their evacuation with fellow soldiers.

The battle raged all day and into the night, when reinforcements were able to safely land by helicopter. Almost 2/3 of the coalition soldiers at the camp were casualties, with 8 killed and more than 25 wounded, including Carter. The later examination and investigation of the incident revealed that Carter had exhibited heroic actions and exceptional skill that were critical to the defense of their camp, prevented the enemy from capturing their position, and saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Carter, now a Staff Sergeant, received his Congressional Medal of Honor on August 26th, 2013. He has also received the Purple Heart. And in addition, we hope that he has found peace in his personal life as well. He met a woman named Shannon who also had a child from a previous relationship. The two got married, had a child together, and settled down in the town of Antioch, California to raise their mini Brady Bunch.

Specialist Ty M. Carter is not only the most recent recipient of the CMO, but he is also the latest honoree here at the website in the ‘Real American Hero’ series. Begun a few years back, it has been on sabbatical for the last couple of years, but is being revived with this article and will continue in the future.

To see the previous honorees and read their inspiring stories, simply click on the below ‘label’, and remember that clicking on these labels in any story will lead you to other article back through the history of the website which deal with that particular topic.

Real American Hero: Brandon Darby


For the past couple of years I have written a semi-regular series of articles here titled “Real American Hero”, all of the previous entries of which can be viewed by clicking on that ‘Tag’ at the bottom of this original post here at the http://www.mattveasey.com/ website.

Beginning with the very first article whose subject matter was Arizona Senator and former American POW John McCain, each of the entries has highlighted a hero from the American military.

These were people who put their lives on the line, and in many instances laid down those lives, for their country. And except for McCain, every one of them was virtually anonymous outside of their own closest inner circle of family and friends.

But it is not just within the military that we can find individuals whose significant contributions have gone mostly unnoticed, and this article is going to begin the process of incorporating some of those civilian stories into the series as well.

The story of Brandon Darby, a former radical leftist activist who openly called for the overthrow of the U.S. government turned Real American Hero, is a fitting one with which to begin.

Darby is a good ol’ Texas boy who grew up to harbor and cultivate anti-government and anti-establishment feelings. He became an outspoken critic of fellow Texan George W. Bush during his presidency, in particular following Hurrican Katrina. It was in the relief response to the Katrina disaster in Louisiana that Darby began to come to some prominence.

As Matthew Vadum tells the story in Town Hall magazine, Darby used $50 of his own money to co-found the group ‘Common Ground’, a supposed relief agency that was in actuality a far-Left political activist organization that included a number of former Black Panther members. It was during and thanks to his experiences with this group that Darby’s social and political viewpoint began to change and mature.

During the process of trying to restore some semblance of order and peace and rebuilding of lives in New Orleans, Darby met and began a relationship with an NOPD commander named Major John Bryson.

At first completely distrustful of and at odds with one another, Darby and Bryson began to see as they worked both together and separately for the rebirth of the Crescent City that not only were each not the other’s enemies, but they were indeed on the same side.

Then in 2006, Darby undertook a trip to Venezuela as part of a group seeking funding from the Marxist government of Hugo Chavez to keep Common Ground in operation. Chavez had been subverting American influence in the region by funneling discounted fuel oil through Congressman Joseph Kennedy of Massachuessettes, whose TV commercials painted Chavez as a friend to America’s poor while portraying President Bush as disinterested at best.

When Darby arrived and began to meet with the Venezuelans it became obvious that helping New Orleans and Americans was the last thing on their minds. What they really wanted was to set up a terrorist network of guerrillas that would operate out of the swamps of Louisiana and begin work towards undermining the American government further.

As Vadum also reports, Darby was further alienated from his original Leftist beliefs when a long time friend from Texas, Riad Hamad, tried to hijack a new relief group that Darby was trying to start called ‘Critical Response’, which would have sent medics into Middle East and African war zones to help civilians who were caught there in cross-fire exchanges.

When Hamad began to suggest that the medics could be sent to Israel and put on motorcycles or in ambulances that could be fitted with bombs to kill Jews, Darby decided that law enforcement needed to be informed and approached the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. This was a radical departure for the Lefty radical who previous to his relationship with Major Bryson in New Orleans would never have trusted law enforcement.

Darby was having the epiphany that many intelligent former Leftist and liberals have when they begin to wake up and realize that the world is not some utopian social experiment, but a real place where real people have to live out real lives, and where the worst power ever wielded has come from Marxist, Socialist and Communist governments. Darby began coming to an appreciation for the brilliance of the American system.

Without letting on to any of his many friends among the Leftist community, Darby began to work with the FBI as an informant in matters relating to these threats from Radical Islam and other segments of the violent underground community.

It was here that Darby took the actions that completed his transformation from radical to right, from revolutionary to American hero.

At the request of the FBI, Darby infiltrated the Austin (Texas) Affinity Group, which had become allied with other radical organizations to form what had become known as the “RNC Welcoming Committee”, a group that planned not to welcome but to completely disrput the Republican National Convention in Minnesota in 2008.

During his infiltration of the group, Darby met with and eventually informed on two individuals, David McKay and Bradley Crowder. These two had manufactured homemade riot shields for use in St. Paul to help radicals block the streets and keep GOP delegates from attending the convention.

Their group also gathered gas masks, slingshots, helmets, knee pads, and even manufactured Molotov cocktails. Thanks to the cooperation of Darby, their plots to injure and possibly kill people at the convention were thwarted.

Darby could have continued to follow his original far-left impulses. He could have taken the Chavez regime money and fully funded his own organization and went along with plans to undermine America.

He could have fully established his medic network in the Middle East and aided plans for attacks on Israel. He could have justified in his own head that somehow he was using the terrorist and Marxist groups himself to help needy people.

Instead, Darby saw what was right. He saw that violence and power and hatred were what these organizations were truly about, not any kind of change in order to help real people. And as he truly compared these foreign groups and governments to his home, he awoke to the beauty of America.

Brandon Darby woke up in time to help save American lives and help keep the American system of peaceful political selection moving forward.

As he said to Vadum: “I started to realize how brilliant and miraculous the American system of checks and balances was…that has been working since this nation was founded. I realized just how hard a task that is.”

He went on to state: “I’m proud of helping people, but I’m ashamed of what I used to believe. Thankfully, I had the honor of serving my country by working undercover with the FBI and participating in efforts to protect the safety and civil rights of others.”

Clearly, Brandon Darby now gets it, finally. Having traveled the road of anti-establisment liberal to right-thinking American traditionalist myself, I can fully appreciate much of the journey that Darby has taken.

You could have never told me that I would grow to become an American law enforcement officer, just as I’m sure you could not have told Darby that he would ever become an FBI informant. But in his willingness to do the right thing, and in his awakening to a full appreciation of the greatness of his nation, Brandon Darby certainly qualifies as a civilian Real American Hero.

Real American Hero: Jared Monti

Operation Enduring Freedom began less than a month after the 9/11 attacks on America. Designed to wrestle control of Afghanistan from the Islamofascist Taliban regime and install true democratic reform, the military operation has been highly successful in it’s mission to bring and maintain some sense of stability to what has historically been one of the most difficult to manage areas of the world.

It was to this effort to help stem the rising tide of Islamic terror that 30-year old U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti of Massachusetts deployed in June of 2006. A career soldier, Monti loved his country and had joined the army at age 17. His Afghanistan deployment would find him serving as a forward observer with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

Upon his arrival, his 71st Cavalry Regiment, a recon team, was preparing for what was known as ‘Operation Gowerdesh Thrust’ in the Gremen Valley near the Pakistan border. This are had been used for troop movements and as a staging area by enemy combatants, and so it was deemed important to secure.

While the main squadron would move through to clear the Valley, Monti was assigned as a part of their supporting recon mission. His group of scouts and snipers would move along a ridge line above the Valley and provide real-time intelligence as to the enemy’s troop and equipment movements during the operation.

After spending the night of June 20th into the 21st alternating rest with recon assignments, Jared Monti began to prepare for his role as an assistant leader of the 16-man recon patrol that would move through these rugged mountains of Nurestan province in Northern Afghanistan. What the young military veteran had no way of knowing was that it would be his final wakeup call.

It turned out that Monti’s group had it’s original assignment length extended by a few days, and they were already running low on water and food. A decision was made to organize a ‘drop’ of these critical supplies. Monti and another Staff Sergeant led a patrol to pickup the supply drop and return it to their main camp.

During their return, one of the observers for the team left back at camp had believed that he observed an enemy scout pickup Monti’s patrol through binoculars, and thus believed that their position was no longer secure. As dusk began to fall on Monti’s return, discussions began to ensue as to whether to move their position.

At approximately 6:45pm local time, Monti’s group suddenly came under heavy fire from a wooded area to their rear. A group of 50 enemy combatants fired on them with RPG’s, machine guns and small arms and began to move towards them. The ferocity of the enemy fire knocked weapons from the men’s hands and one, Private Brian Bradbury, was wounded.

It was here that Monti began his date with heroic destiny. He organized a quick response and defense, and also called in for air and artillery support. These actions alone kept his small group from being completely overrun early on in the attack.

Then, disregarding his own safety, Monti moved to rescue the fallen Bradbury. On his first attempt he was driven back by heavy enemy fire. Unfazed, Monti waited it out and made another move but was again driven back by heavy enemy fire. Finally, Monti made a 3rd attempt to rush to Bradbury’s aid. This time an RPG exploded nearby, mortally wounding Monti and finally ending his heroic attempts to rescue his brother soldier.

As irony would have it, thanks to Monti’s calls a rescue mission did indeed arrive. But as a Medevac chopper was raising the wounded Bradbury and another injured soldier, a winch cable broke and the two men plummeted to their deaths.

Command Sgt. Major James Redmore stated it perfectly in summing up Monti’s actions on the battlefield that day. “They’re being overwhelmed by an enemy force. He’s calmly calling in fire, which breaks up the enemy force, and he’s going out to try to retrieve one of his fallen comrades. He does it once, twice, a third time. Is it extraordinary? Absolutely. Would every man have the ability to muster the courage to do that? No, I don’t believe they would.”

Staff Sergeant Monti was posthumously promoted to Sergeant 1st Class the next day. He was later posthumously awarded with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award given by the U.S. government. His citation begins with the statement that his honor was “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” The actions of brave men like Jared Monti are what gave America it’s freedom to begin with, and that enable us to remain free and to help extend the opportunity for liberty and freedom throughout the world.

NOTE: this is the continuation of the regular feature “Real American Heroes”, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on that label below this article at the http://www.mattveasey.com website

Real American Hero: Michael Murphy

On October 7th, 2001 in direct response to the 9/11 attacks on America which had occurred less than a month earlier, the United States military launched ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ in Afghanistan to wipe out the bases from which the terrorist al Qaeda organization was then operating.

The American military worked with a group of coalition forces, and a group of Afghani Northern Alliance forces, and was able to quickly wipe out the abusive Taliban military that were operating in the region and drive them from power. This began an effort which continues today to establish peace and stability in the historically backwards and worn-torn nation.

It was into this continuing conflict that Michael P. “Murph” Murphy from Patchogue, New York entered in early 2005. Murphy was a natural athlete who enjoyed playing football and soccer as a kid, and who became a life guard as well. He went on to attend Penn State University where he graduated in 1998 with degrees in both Psychology and Political Science.

Murph had been accepted to law school, but decided instead to serve his country by challenging himself to try to become a Navy SEAL. He entered the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in fall of 2000, and over the next two years trained with various Army Airborne and Navy SEAL units. He finally realized his goal of joining the Navy SEALS on his deployment at Pearl Harbor in the summer of 2002.

The SEALs are perhaps the most integral part of the Navy’s special operations force. They are experts in special recon and direct action missions. They take their names from the terrain in which they operate: the Sea, Air, and Land. Only an elite few are equipped and able to make it through the rigorous training, and Murph had joined that group.

He was first sent to the Middle East in the fall of 2002, and over the next few years served various roles and missions in Jordan, Qatar, and Djibouti before being assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in early 2005. It was here as an assistant officer-in-charge of SEAL Vehicle Delivery Team One’s ‘Alfa’ platoon that he would make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

On June 28th, 2005, Murphy was assigned to lead a team of four SEAL’s in what was known as ‘Operation Red Wing’, an effort to kill or capture a Taliban leader by the name of Ahmad Shah who himself commanded a group of fighters known as the ‘Mountain Tigers’.

Murphy’s team successfully infiltrated the area, but were stumbled upon by some passing local goat herders. The team had to decide whether to allow the locals to live and move along, or to kill them and ensure their presence remained unknown. They voted to let the herders live. A short time after the locals left, a large Taliban contingent surrounded and attacked the SEALs.

The SEALs tried to escape, but were in desperate need of backup. Murphy’s communications man ran out into the open to try to get a better signal and was shot in the hand. Murphy realized the radios were not working in the mountainous area, and fought his way into the open himself to try his cellphone. This call for help was answered, but Murphy was shot in the abdomen. He returned to cover and continued to fight off the enemy despite his fatal injuries.

Murphy’s call for help was answered by a helicopter with reinforcements, but the chopper was shot down by an RPG killing all 16 persons aboard. The fighting went on for two hours, resulting in 35 Taliban soldiers being killed. However, Murphy and two of his team succumbed to their wounds. In total, 8 Navy SEALS aboard the chopper added to Murphy and his two team members made for the highest number of SEALs killed in action since Vietnam.

The lone surviving member of Murphy’s team, Marcus Luttrell, had been blasted over a ridge by an RPG and knocked unconscious. Some time later he regained consciousness and managed to crawl away, but was so badly injured that he could not signal to the searchers looking for him. He was ultimately found and tended to by some local villagers, who managed to keep the Taliban from taking him before finally getting him back into American hands after a few days.

On the 4th of July, 2005, Michael Murphy’s body was finally discovered by a military search and rescue team and returned to his family for burial in his home state of New York. On October 7th, 2007, President George W. Bush presented the family with his Medal of Honor. His actions had allowed the location of his unit to be made known to American forces, which ultimately led to Luttrell’s rescue.

As has been stated here before, the Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that can be awarded. In his citation, it was stated that Murph had “demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger” and went on to state: “Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force.”

The citation went on to conclude: “In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom.” Michael Murphy thus became the first American so honored for their role in Afghanistan. His father, Daniel, later stated that Murph carried with him a patch from the NYFD’s Engine 53 and Ladder 43 “as a symbol of why he was there and what he was doing.”

Throughout our history, brave men and women have risen to the challenges and responsibilities of repeatedly defending the cause of freedom that is at the very core and nature of the United States of America. Before we came into existence there was never a nation such as ours, and it is only because of the heroic and selfless sacrifices of individuals such as Michael P. Murphy that we continue to exist and thrive today.

NOTE: This is the latest in a continuing series titled ‘Real American Heroes’, all entries of which can be viewed by clicking on the label below this article at the http://www.mattveasey.com website