Tag Archives: England

This Month in NCO History: Oct. 1, 1863 — Saving Sherman’s March to the Sea

Sgt. Joseph Keen was severely fatigued and mentally exhausted after having spent nearly a year as a Confederate prisoner of war. When he managed to flee his captors Sept. 10, 1864, near Macon, Georgia, he began his trek back toward Union lines believing his chapter in the story of the Civil War was complete.

Little did Keen know he would earn a place in the grand annals of Army history as a recipient of the nation’s highest military honor.

Keen was part of D Company, 13th Michigan Infantry, when it took part in the Battle of Chickamauga on Sept. 18-20, 1863. The Union offensive in southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia was successfully repelled by Confederate forces and ended with nearly half of the 13th’s 217 Soldiers listed as killed, captured or missing. Keen, who was wounded during the battle, was among those taken prisoner. He spent most of the next year being shuffled between Confederate prisons in Virginia and Georgia before ending up in Macon.

During his time in captivity, Keen kept tabs on the Union’s movements as news poured in from other Soldiers who were subsequently imprisoned with him. He learned that the 13th was actively engaging Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s forces across Tennessee and was poised to join famed Union Gen. William T. Sherman in Georgia.

Keen took that news with him when he escaped near Macon. Some days and many miles northwest after his flight from captivity, Keen observed the movement of Confederate forces led by Gen. John Bell Hood and numbering about 40,000 crossing the Chattahoochee River in an attempt to flank Sherman’s army from the rear near Atlanta. Hood had already ceded the city to Sherman the previous month. Now, he was charged with trying to cut off Union communication between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Keen observed the opening stages of that strategy. That’s when he made a fateful decision.

Alone, unarmed and with scores of Confederate forces between him and the future Georgia capital, Keen began a bold march toward Atlanta. According to his Medal of Honor citation, Keen managed to walk undetected through Confederate marching columns, camps and pickets before reaching Union lines near Atlanta on Oct. 1. He relayed news of the Confederate movement to Gen. Hugh J. Kilpatrick. The development furthered Sherman’s objective as it removed opposing forces in his planned path to Savannah, Georgia. Sherman noted, “If he [Hood] will go to the Ohio River, I’ll give him rations. … my business is down south.”

Instead of marching out to meet Hood with his army, Sherman sent Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas to take control of Union forces in Tennessee and coordinate the defense against Hood, while the bulk of Sherman’s forces, which by November included Keen and the 13th Michigan Infantry, began the March to the Sea — the Savannah campaign that destroyed much of the South’s physical and psychological capacity to wage war.

That effort was spurred along, in part, by Keen’s brave undertaking. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on July 31, 1899, for his actions.

Keen was born July 24, 1843, in Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire, England. It is unknown when he arrived in the United States. He enlisted as a private in the 13th Michigan Infantry on Feb. 1, 1862. He was promoted to corporal Aug. 31 of that year and earned his sergeant stripes April 1, 1863.

After his time in the Army, Keen spent his years as a farmer and an officer of the Detroit Oak Belting Co. He died Dec. 3, 1926, of heart disease. He was 83. Keen is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.

— Compiled by Pablo Villa

WCAP NCO forced to skip last race, but still closes strong at Rio Paralympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks bowed out of what would have been her final race at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

But that didn’t rob fans of seeing her finish her inaugural Games in impressive fashion.

The Paralympic swimmer from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, said Saturday on Twitter that she would not participate in the SM8 200-meter individual medley competition, which was scheduled for that day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, due to an undisclosed medical issue. Her message exhibited the unselfishness that has garnered Marks so much attention this year.

“I didn’t have my best to give, but another girl might,” the tweet stated.

But Marks’ best was definitely on display the previous night.

On Friday, Marks swam the second leg of the women’s 4×100 medley relay. The Americans finished in third place behind Great Britain and Australia. While the finish wasn’t golden, the fact that the U.S. team was able to reach the podium at all was an impressive feat given its difficult start. And Marks began turning the tide.

Hannah Aspden struggled as she swam the opening backstroke leg of the medley. She fell about five meters behind the pace of the leaders and came to the end of her 100-meter swim in fifth place, with sixth-place Japan not far behind. That’s when Marks went to work.

The 26-year-old swam the breaststroke leg, the same event in which she had already claimed a Paralympic gold medal. Marks’ effort during the medley was frenzied. She managed to speed into fourth place past the Netherlands before the turn. From there she closed the gap on third-place Canada to less than 10 meters. Marks did this despite being in the pool with five swimmers who compete in faster disability classifications. She would finish the leg with a time of 1:28.52, not even a half-second slower than her winning time of 1:28.13 in the SB7 100-meter breaststroke the previous weekend, which set a new world record.

It was prime position for her teammates Elizabeth Smith and Michelle Konkoly to wrest third-place away from Canada. It also ended up being the end to her time in Brazil. Marks finished the Games with a gold and bronze medal, fitting hardware for a Soldier and competitor who has been in the headlines throughout the year.

Marks gained international attention earlier this year after asking Prince Harry to take one of the gold medals she won at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida. Marks wanted the British royal to give the medal to the English hospital that saved her life. In 2014, while traveling to the Invictus Games in London, Marks fell ill and required a lifesaving procedure at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. She missed the Games that year, but said she was lucky to come home alive. Offering her medal to the hospital was the best way she could say “thank you.” The gesture caught the world’s attention, culminating with her being awarded the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs in July.

Her ordeal in England wasn’t the first time Marks underwent a stint in the hospital. She suffered bilateral hip injuries while deployed to Iraq as a combat medic in 2010. Those injuries are what pushed Marks to the pool in the first place. She has previously stated that she hopes her accomplishments can offer faith and optimism to her fellow wounded Soldiers.

Now, armed with medals earned on the grandest stage in sports, it appears Marks will remain a beacon of hope for quite some time.

Prince Harry returns WCAP NCO’s gold medal to British hospital that saved her life

NCO JOURNAL STAFF REPORT

A Soldier-athlete’s unprecedented request has been fulfilled.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a combat medic and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program based at Fort Carson, Colorado, asked Prince Harry to deliver one of the gold medals she won at last month’s Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, to the staff of the British hospital that saved her life.

Today, the British royal made good on that promise, presenting Marks’ gold medal from the 100-meter freestyle event to doctors and nurses from Cambridge’s Papworth Hospital during a ceremony at Kensington Palace in London.

Marks won four gold medals in the swimming competition of the 2016 Invictus Games. Her final medal was presented by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 25-year-old gave the award back, a grand gesture that made international headlines.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to give the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff.

The BBC reports that the prince told those assembled Wednesday how Marks had described Papworth as “undoubtedly the best place for someone having this condition.”

“From all of us, it’s just a huge, huge thank you to all of you,” Prince Harry said.

A Papworth spokesman told the BBC they were hoping to launch an Elizabeth Marks Fund to help finance the development of equipment and support patients treated at the hospital’s critical care unit where the medal will go on display.

Two months after leaving the British hospital, Marks broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Earlier this year she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division during the first day of the Jimi Flowers Classic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving notice to the world that she will be a force at this year’s Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is currently ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke.

Marks joined the Army at age 17 in July 2008 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Her goal was to care for injured Soldiers as a combat medic, a role she carried out until she was injured.

WCAP NCO asks Prince Harry to give her Invictus gold medal to hospital that saved her life

NCO JOURNAL STAFF REPORT

U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks won four gold medals in the swimming competition during the third day of the 2016 Invictus Games on Wednesday.

Her final medal was presented by Prince Harry, the British royal who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 25-year-old combat medic and member of the U.S. World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, did something unprecedented — she tried to give the award back.

U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, right, appears with Prince Harry on an ESPN broadcast discussing the 2016 Invictus Games. Marks made international headlines Wednesday after asking the British royal to give one of her gold medals to the English hospital staff that saved her life two years ago. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)
U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, right, appears with Prince Harry on an ESPN broadcast discussing the 2016 Invictus Games. Marks made international headlines Wednesday after asking the British royal to give one of her gold medals to the English hospital staff that saved her life two years ago. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)

Marks wanted Prince Harry to give the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff.

“It’s the only thing I could give to thank them for saving my life,” Marks said before sending a message to the hospital. “I will never be able to repay you, but what you are doing is wonderful. I gave one of my medals to Prince Harry and hope it will find its way back to them.”

After her harrowing ordeal Marks immediately went back to work to reclaim her form. Two months after leaving the hospital she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Earlier this year she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division during the first day of the Jimi Flowers Classic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving notice to the world that she will be a force at this year’s Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Marks joined the Army at age 17 in July 2008 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Her goal was to care for injured Soldiers as a combat medic, a role she carried out until she was injured. Despite her altered path in the Army, Marks hopes her efforts continue to help and motivate Soldiers.

“I don’t step onto a block or go into a pool without thinking of all my battle buddies from all around the world who suffer every day,” she said Wednesday. “I never go into a pool to win a medal, just to do them proud.”

The Invictus Games conclude today with various events broadcast live from Orlando, Florida, on ESPN2 and online at ESPN3.com. The United States team included 26 NCOs on its roster.