Faces of Strength

[♪inspiring music playing♪] These are the faces of strength, the faces of the Army family. [♪♪] Regardless of where they live or are deployed in the world, they give selflessly to one another and the nation they love. Listen, watch, see why they now and forever are the Faces of the Army Family. [♪ominous music playing♪] Shok Valley, Afghanistan. In the early morning hours of April 6, 2008, an assault team of Green Berets and their Afghan counterparts landed at the base of the fortress-like Shok Valley village. The mission: a daring raid on the stronghold of one of the fiercest insurgent forces in Afghanistan, sitting atop 10,000 feet of jagged rock. They were expecting a 15- to 20-man security detail. What they got was a fierce and deadly ambush by hundreds of Taliban fighters from nearly every direction. The terrain, the enemy massing, and the atmospheres, the environments of the day created a situation where every man in that detachment were literally in a fight for their life, fighting for absolute inches of terrain. The barrage was heavy, sustained, and deadly accurate. The intense firefight continued for over 6½ hours. Our element was trapped on the side of the mountain. We had several casualties; they were bleeding to death. We were extremely outnumbered from an elevated position and under heavy machine gun and sniper fire from nearly every direction. [♪♪] The Green Berets fought to suppress the enemy while moving the wounded, among them Master Sergeant Scott Ford and Staff Sergeant John Walding. One of the most important traits of a noncommissioned officer or a Green Beret is the absolute refusal to quit. He will fight to the death, and he will never leave a buddy behind. And these two NCOs climbed up to our position to help their buddies, putting themselves at extreme risk, putting others’ lives before their own. [gunfire] With casualties mounting, they called in danger close airstrikes to prevent being overrun. Air support rolled in for bombing and fire missions an astounding 70 times, allowing them to medevac the wounded off the mountain. [soldier talking over radio] Roger. I confirm 9 casualties, over. For the several hours that those men were on the ground, they truly displayed what giving every full measure of yourself can be, how dynamic of a difference an individual can make. One good example of dedication to his detachment and personal courage is of Scott Ford. He was probably 10 meters away from me, and we were pinned down and we were working on some casualties, and he was shot in the chest. [gunfire] It dropped him to the ground. He looked down, looked at his body armor, jumped back to his feet, and returned fire continuously until he was hit again and a wound that almost took off his arm. And John Walding–very similar situation. He was fighting, shooting ahead of us, and he was hit in the leg with a shot that amputated his leg. And this guy hit the ground and it’s just amazing that he would even survive such a wound much less continue to fight and carry his own leg down the cliff as we climbed down a 100-foot cliff to get the casualties out of there. [♪♪] Under intense and accurate fire, these men refused to accept defeat, turning the tide of the battle by sheer will, individual initiative, and heroic determination. It is absolutely amazing when you think about the sheer magnitude of 10 Silver Stars, the third highest award for valor that the U.S. Army gives, and all in a matter of six hours. Sergeant Walding–his ability to overcome what would be, in many instances, a debilitating amputation, and now to a point where he is running, rehabilitation, and his question to me yesterday was, “When can I get back to my team?” And he is adamant about displaying to me that he is ready to join his A team and get back to work. Those kind of guys don’t like to talk about it, and they’re not going to brag about it, and they didn’t wake up that morning and say, “I’m going to be heroic today.” They just did what it took on the ground, and that’s when the true nature of our warriors kind of comes out. They didn’t go into the mission looking to make history, but the actions of these men will long be remembered as examples of valor and dedication to their fellow soldiers. You can take my leg, but you can’t take my heart. No sacrifice too big for my brothers. I’m Staff Sergeant John Walding.>>I’m Master Sergeant Scott Ford. [♪♪] Colleen Saffron gave up her career to care for her wounded warrior and found her calling in empowering other military spouses and caregivers. In 2004 her husband, Staff Sergeant Terry Saffron, Jr., was injured in an IED attack in Iraq, and Colleen was thrust into the full-time role of caregiver. My wife was working part-time at the time I was injured, and she had to give up everything that she was doing, including her schoolwork, to jump in and take care of me. Although Colleen could not leave her husband’s side, the family needed a second income. She looked online for job training and career resources but found little out there. So Colleen, along with two other military spouses, created their own online resource. They called it Operation Life Transformed. Operation Life Transformed was started by three military spouses. We formed the organization to provide short-term online training certifications to military spouses, to include the Guard and Reserve, and caregivers to the war wounded, to include family members–moms, dads. It allowed the caregivers that were bedside to learn a new trade, a new career. Operation Life Transformed has been a huge success, helping educate and employ hundreds of military spouses and caregivers. I’ve never seen so many people work so many long hours with so much passion in all my life. These are members of our community that receive either little or no pay, and yet, they seem to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I think they’re very selfless people. It’s something that needed to be done, and they saw that need and met it. Colleen is a piillar of strength. She is a great motivator to the rest of the Operation Life Transformed team. I’ve been very proud to stand next to her and watch this grow and see how Terry’s coped with everything as well. My wife is the greatest woman in the world to me, and she is absolutely amazing. There was no program for military families when my husband was injured in Iraq to support me in employment and education, and it was needed by military families. I am Colleen Saffron. [♪♪] [♪upbeat music playing♪] When Command Sergeant Major Ed Foerstel retired from the Army, he never lost his commitment to selfless service. In addition to being a soldier, a great soldier, and inspiring leader in the civilian community, Ed Foerstel is an avid hunter and fisherman, and during the course of that activity, he became very close friends with one of the game wardens, Greg Harvey, and through sickness with kidney disease, Harvey was having a very difficult time finding a donor to help his plight. Doctors said that Greg Harvey would need a kidney transplant in order to survive. After multiple family members were tested without positive results, Harvey’s friends began to volunteer. Ed Foerstel stepped up to the plate. We were at a cookout at my house, and we were talking about the problem I had and about prospective donors. And Ed says, “Harvey, I’ll give you a kidney,” just out of the blue. And I guess he had been thinking about it, but I didn’t really know if he was serious at the time. Ed was tested and confirmed as a match, and in February of 2007 he gave his kidney to his fishing buddy, Greg Harvey. I was trying to think about something I could do to repay Ed Foerstel, but I don’t know what I can do to do that because if it had not been for Ed Foerstel, I would not be sitting here today. It’s a sacrifice. If it was a military situation, Medal of Honor and things awarded based on a personal sacrifice, and that’s a personal sacrifice that Ed Foerstel entered into by donating that kidney. I can’t describe it. And if you talk about it as far as the Army family, Ed and I were not really what the Army calls battle buddies, but we are battle buddies. You know, you have friends that say they are friends, but Ed Foerstel is a true friend. He stood by me the whole time. Standing by your friends and family, supporting each other through sacrifice. That’s Army strength. In or out of uniform, you’re still part of the Army family. I’m Ed Foerstel. [♪♪] [♪♪] On November 15, 2003, Staff Sergeant Josh Forbess was in a Blackhawk helicopter flying over Mosul, Iraq, when it collided with another Blackhawk. [collision] Two Blackhawks collided downtown Mosul. He was one of the passengers on one of the Blackhawks. They burst into flames and he was a survivor. Of the 22 soldiers aboard the 2 choppers, 18 were killed. Staff Sergeant Forbess suffered severe burns to his upper body and face and was in a coma for months. He was the sole survivor from his unit. He has a tattoo on his arm, and on the tattoo it’s got ID tags–5 ID tags– the soldiers that he lost. That’s his memorial to them. Josh Forbess was battered but far from beaten. After coming out of the coma in 2004, he requested a return to active duty. He could’ve taken the disability and called it quits. He didn’t do that. He wants to stay and help other soldiers, other veterans, other wounded warriors. He is the NCOIC of the Fort Campbell Soldier and Family Assistance Center, and he runs the whole place. Josh is an integral part of the Fisher House family, whether he’s here grilling–we call him the grillmeister–for an event. A big part is his counsels and mentors a lot of our wounded warriors. A lot of soldiers that have been wounded don’t feel comfortable telling their stories. They see him talking about it, and they kind of open up a little bit more. And then once they start doing that, then we can start helping them. My brother was also in a helicopter crash in Iraq. He was killed in 2005, and Josh being in a helicopter crash, he’s been able to help me deal with that. And he is so very strong. He’s a great volunteer, he’s an amazing soldier, he’s a wonderful husband. He’s got some nice motorcycles. [♪rock music playing♪] He has a motorcycle. It’s pretty neat watching him on it. He also rides for Bikers Who Care. He does toy runs as a representative of the United States Army. It’s not for him. It’s not for Forbess. It’s for the soldiers in the Army. I don’t think there’s a speed bump out there that will stop him. He is just one of those NCOs, one of those soldiers, one of those people that is all about taking care of others. That’s just the way he is. His dedication and loyalty to the Army and to the NCO Corps and to being a soldier is second to none, really. In 2008 in honor of his selfless service to soldiers and their families, Staff Sergeant Josh Forbess was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award by President George W. Bush. He’s like the face of Fort Campbell. Everybody knows Sergeant Forbess. To the lowest Private to the highest Sergeant Major, they all adore him. He truly cares about the soldiers, and going through what he has been through, he has made it out of a horrible situation, amazingly, and I think he wants to share that with people to give people hope. When I was in the hospital, a soldier came to visit me and help me out. After I got out of the hospital, I started helping other soldiers out and continue to help them out. I am Staff Sergeant Josh Forbess. [♪♪] [♪triumphant music playing♪] They may be ordinary people, but the simple fact is that they do extraordinary things, and that’s why they are Faces of Strength. [♪♪]

21 Replies to “Faces of Strength”

  1. My husband liked the ACU's(Army Combat Uniform) until he deployed and now he can't stand them because that is what he gets to wier all the time. ACU's and his PT's.

  2. Yes I come from a huge military family. My brother joined the U.S.Army at 17 yrs old. I still miss him too. He is now 21. & he went to Afghanistan & told family so many stories over there, good & bad. But now he is in Belgium & safe on base for the next 3 yrs. I still miss him alot. I am proud of him & my military family & my fiance that was in Marines. My bro is my hero.

  3. no, most homeless CLAIM to be veterans when they are really just pieces of shit that want to guilt trip you into giving them money. Have a real soldier ask that scum what unit he was in. It's funny the answers I get. Now the real veterans I absolutely do respect and try to help. Sadly most just claim they are.

  4. Look, another incompetent human being! Wonderful! Seems like the incompetent population is growing, and this is sad news. Please, for the sake of humanity, and its future, don't reproduce; humanity already has enough of you to deal with as it is.

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