Tag Archives: Maine

This Month in NCO History: July 20, 1950 — A heroic stand at the Battle of Taejon

From the moment Sgt. George Dalton Libby arrived on the Korean Peninsula with the rest of the 24th Infantry Division on June 30, 1950, the odds were stacked against them. But Libby’s efforts through extreme adversity would earn him the nation’s highest military honor.

The Taro Division was the first American force to reach the Republic of Korea in response to the invasion by the North Korean People’s Army five days earlier. The 24th ID was charged with slowing the advance of the North Korean assault until more U.S. forces could arrive. But that was no easy task.

The division was grossly understrength in the aftermath of post-World War II cutbacks. Its speedy arrival and limited training time in Korea meant the 24th would be, in effect, a strategic bump in the road, meant to hinder the enemy’s advance while 140,000 United Nations troops formed what eventually became the Pusan Perimeter to the south. This translated to setback after setback in the early days of fighting.

Beginning July 14, the 24th ID began a valiant stand against three attacking North Korean divisions during the Battle of Taejon. The North Koreans successfully pushed the Americans back from the Kum River east of the city before beginning an intense urban assault.

On July 20, the remaining elements of the division were attempting to withdraw from the city that once housed its headquarters. Libby was among them as part of C Company, 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion. According to his Medal of Honor citation, he was aboard a truck bound for the town of Taegu when it encountered a North Korean roadblock. Enemy forces ambushed the truck, disabling it. The subsequent barrage of bullets killed or wounded all Soldiers aboard except for Libby, who exited the vehicle and scrambled to a nearby ditch to take cover. As bullets whizzed around him, Libby returned fire, allowing wounded Soldiers to leave the truck and take cover. Twice during the firefight, he exposed himself to enemy fire by running across the road to administer aid to wounded Soldiers and pull them to safety.

Soon after, Libby heard an M-5 Half-track approaching. He flagged down the driver and began helping the wounded aboard. As the vehicle drove off, the enemy directed its fire at the driver. That’s when Libby made the decision that thrust him into history. Realizing that no one aboard would be able to operate the vehicle if the driver was killed, Libby used his own body to shield him. Libby received several bullet wounds in his arm and torso as the massive tractor rumbled away from the scene, his citation states. The vehicle made frequent stops with Libby firing his M2 carbine at enemy forces they encountered as he helped more wounded Soldiers aboard.

Eventually, the tractor came upon another roadblock and was peppered with bullets. Libby, who had ignored requests to receive first aid, once again held himself in front of the driver to shield him. Libby was struck by bullets repeatedly but refused to withdraw as the driver careened through the roadblock and headed toward safety. Libby held his position until he lost consciousness and died. He was 30 years old. His citation states, “Sgt. Libby’s sustained, heroic actions enabled his comrades to reach friendly lines. His dauntless courage and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.”

Libby’s body was returned to the United States. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Aug. 2, 1951.

Libby was born Dec. 4, 1919, in Bridgton, Maine. He served during World War II before his time in Korea. Since his death several buildings and monuments have been named in his honor. Perhaps the most notable is the George D. Libby Bridge, which spans the length of the Imjin River and links North and South Korea.

— Compiled by Pablo Villa

Former NCO, quadruple amputee inspires others to ‘Never give up. Never quit.’

NCO Journal staff report

Staff Sgt. Travis Mills didn’t enjoy the pomp that most individuals revel in during the lead-up to their 25th birthday. Mills was weeks into his third deployment to Afghanistan as part of the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as his milestone date neared.

On April 10, 2012 — four days before turning 25 — Mills was on a routine patrol in Afghanistan’s Ghanzi province when he stopped to set his backpack down. The bag detonated an improvised explosive device and changed Mills’ life forever.

“I woke up for the first time on my 25th birthday to find out that I had no arms and legs anymore,” Mills said last month in a video interview for NowThis News.

Mills bookMills is one of five surviving quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His story is told in the new book, Tough As They Come, released by Convergent Books on Oct. 27. Mills co-authored the book, available in hardcover, on Kindle and Audible, with Marcus Brotherton. It chronicles Mills’ journey from being a high-school star athlete to suddenly being forced to reconcile with the fact that he no longer had arms or legs. Mills is also the subject of a documentary, “Travis: A Soldier’s Story,” released by Fotolanthropy in 2013.

A medic reached Mills moments after the blast and affixed tourniquets to his 6-foot-3 frame to keep him from bleeding out. Even under extreme duress, Mills could only think of others.

“I was yelling at him to get away from me,” Mills told the Associated Press. “I told him to leave me alone and go help my guys.

“And he told me: ‘With all due respect, Sgt. Mills, shut up. Let me do my job.’”

The medic saved Mills’ life. His limbs, however, were lost. Mills knew at that moment he faced a drastically different future. He would never again be able to lead his squad, hug his wife or pick up his infant daughter.

“I guess the last thing I said was, ‘My baby girl, am I ever going to see her again,’” Mills said in the documentary. “I was really worried about what life was going to be like afterward, you know, like with all this.”

Mills struggled during the painful and anxious early days of rehabilitation. He could do nothing for himself. He questioned his self-worth. He implored his wife to leave him so that she wouldn’t be burdened by his condition. His demeanor changed when his six-month-old daughter would crawl on his chest at the hospital.

“(She) didn’t realize anything was different about me,” Mills said. “So, at that moment I realized I had to make sure that I pushed forward and took care of my family like I was supposed to do. … So, I just decided to take physical therapy and occupational therapy as a real job.”

The road was long and arduous — doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center told Mills his rehabilitation and transition to prosthetics would take three years. Through tremendous willpower Mills completed his rehab in 13 months. He said paperwork added four months to that period.

Today, Mills has focused on being a living embodiment of his personal motto, “Never give up. Never quit.” Referring to himself as a “recalibrated Soldier” rather than a wounded warrior, he can not only walk on prosthetic legs, he can run, drive, snowboard and ride downhill on a mountain bike. In 2014, he took part in a jump with the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team.

In tandem with the book he recently completed, Mills has also been building the Travis Mills Foundation, which he founded in September 2013. The nonprofit supports combat-wounded veterans and their families by developing and maintaining long-term programs that help wounded Soldiers overcome physical obstacles, strengthen their families and provide adaptive recreation.

“We try to bring in people that have been wounded overseas that are now recalibrated warriors,” Mills told NowThis. “They’re no longer wounded. But they might need help learning how to kayak, canoe, boat, swim, fish. Get, you know, their confidence back where they can go back out in public and do whatever they need to do. I want people in my situation to know that it’s OK the way you look, it’s OK to struggle. You’re going to fall down. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Just get out there and keep going at it.”

Mills currently lives in Manchester, Maine, with his wife, Kelsey, and daughter, Chloe, in a 4,000-square-foot house laden with technological amenities designed to help Mills with day-to-day activities. The home was a gift from a foundation established by actor Gary Sinise and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a nonprofit named for a firefighter killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is a comfortable setting for Mills to continue his work to help himself and others.

“I put personal friends in body bags. They’re not here. I am,” Mills told CNN last year. “How selfish would it be if I gave up?”

Gen. David M. Rodriguez, left, and his wife, Ginny, second from right, met with Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, foreground, and his wife, Kelsey, right, during the 2012 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition. Mills was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from life-threatening injuries sustained during his third deployment to Afghanistan. Mills, a quadruple amputee, and his wife were honored guests at the AUSA Eisenhower Luncheon. (Photo courtesy of Army News Service)
Gen. David M. Rodriguez, left, and his wife, Ginny, second from right, met with Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, foreground, and his wife, Kelsey, right, during the 2012 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition. Also pictured is Mills’ brother-in-law, Staff Sgt. Josh Buck. Mills was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from life-threatening injuries sustained during his third deployment to Afghanistan. Mills, a quadruple amputee, and his wife were honored guests at the AUSA Eisenhower Luncheon. (Photo courtesy of Army News Service)