By MARINE CORPS SGT. MAJ. BRYAN B. BATTAGLIA Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
As we in the U.S. military continue to renew our commitment to the profession of arms, the headline of this article asks a compelling question for everyone who wears the cloth of the nation. Though I believe the question has an easy answer, let us not downplay the significance of asking it at every level of professional development.
Most serving in the armed forces understand the deeper meaning of the question, as well as the commitment to the profession and the American people that go along with it. Therefore, most military professionals would provide the short answer: “No, we are never really off duty.”
Indeed, we are a more effective and a more disciplined force when we live by the high standard of always on duty or never off duty — you choose and use the term that best resonates with you. I prefer the latter as it conveys a more subtle and steady narrative that is less prone to technical interpretations. To others, the short answer of no may not process as quickly. My hope for that particular audience is that by the end of this article, the meaning of the question and resulting answer shall provide a better understanding of why it is, individually and organizationally, advantageous for us all to live by such a standard of ethical, moral and professional behavior. Maintaining a never off duty posture is not a new idea or the result of a recent study. It has been and should always remain an integral part of our total composition as members of the profession.
A disciplined, dedicated and structured military career embodies certain individual traits and attributes, such as professional behavior, integrity, respect and bearing, which collectively provide an internal beacon to guide us. However, living by such a high military standard does not mean we have to sacrifice every aspect of an otherwise normal life, such as obligations to family, exercising appropriate periods of rest and so forth. But it does mean that, regardless of time or circumstance, we are always fulfilling our obligations as professionals, whether during or after working hours.
To be human is to be imperfect, and it is safe to say that none of us is consistently flawless in meeting a pre-eminent standard such as never off duty. We all face temptation and periods in our careers and personal lives where we may be drawn to convenience, greediness, even luxury, resulting in shortfalls. It is an individual decision to take the right or wrong road. When wrongful temptation overrides service members’ decisions (the wrong road), our integrity should be immediately challenged by our better selves, our teammates, our profession and even our nation’s citizens. Depending on the severity of the decision made, significant setbacks can result for the profession, including degradation in faith and confidence with the public, injury and even loss of life. This is where those who act less than honorably tarnish and scar the reputation of our profession of arms. Maintaining a conviction of never off duty instills a disciplined standard of living and will help guide decisions that may help avoid poor planning or bad decisions.
By virtue of qualifying to join the Armed Forces, I strongly consider those achieving the title of Soldier, Marine, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman to have reached a high watermark in their lives. The profession benefits greatly from the diversity, skills and determination toward excellence our service members bring. We all want not only to be good in our service, but also great in our duty.
The majority in our formations do it right. They challenge themselves to live by the moral and professional standard of never off duty. And most believe if this standard is not carried to its fullest, individuals and teams can break down in discipline, morals and ethics, thereby drawing discredit, failure or embarrassment to one’s unit, branch of service, country, family and self. A true serving professional understands the severity of that breakdown and will exhaust every effort to avoid it. Furthermore, I find that service members who truly understand never off duty become exceptional role models and mentors to all others.
At various points along our military career and glide path, maybe even as early as basic training, some key legacy phrases may help as reminders of why one is never off duty: “You get paid 24 hours a day,” “You can be recalled at any time” and the one I think resonates best, “Don’t think the rules stop or the standards drop at 1700 just because it’s the end of the work day; there is no time card to punch.” Each phrase conveys that when we volunteer to serve the nation, it is a 24/7 obligation, and our obligations and responsibilities as members of the profession of arms never expire.
All five service branches have unique cultures and identities, and as such, they define, understand and implement never off duty in different ways that ensure members achieve and maintain standards. But regardless of service branch, duty assignment, geographical location or military occupational specialty, there are commonalities and consistencies for maintaining professional behavior, ethics and proper representation of the nation. Operating in a mindset of never off duty in our everyday lives should prove professionally lucrative. Allowing this operating principle into our professional lives will raise our ability to sidestep temptation and poor personal actions or choices.
Regardless of one’s military status — whether taking annual leave or liberty, attending school, appearing at a social function, serving an internship, moonlighting in an after-hours job, shopping for groceries or conducting combat actions against an enemy force — never off duty provides that disciplined methodology to our military lives. It is a behavior rooted in moral soundness and high values, with cause and effect. It maintains a standard and positively impacts professional focus and conduct. It is reachable and sustainable for everyone, every day, every time. We are a much better organization with it than without it. We are never off duty.
Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia is the second senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is the senior noncommissioned officer in the U.S. armed forces. This article originally appeared in issue 73 of Joint Force Quarterly.
Facing almost certain death during an enemy assault in Afghanistan, a gravely injured Ryan Pitts, then a sergeant, fiercely fought on, keeping an observation post and fallen Soldiers around him from ending up in enemy hands.
For his incredible bravery in Wanat, Afghanistan, on July 13, 2008, Pitts will receive the nation’s highest military honor for valor, the Medal of Honor, at the White House on July 21.
During that attack in Afghanistan at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler and Observation Post Topside, nine of Pitts’ teammates were killed. He said his honor is theirs as well.
“This award isn’t about what I did; it’s about what we did as a team,” Pitts said. “It belongs to everybody who was there that day.”
Though he had suffered severe shrapnel wounds and was unable to use his legs, Pitts is credited with preventing the enemy from inflicting further casualties and from gaining possession of the fallen Soldiers.
“The fight was intense everywhere,” said Pitts, who now lives in Nashua, N.H.
At one point in the battle, Pitts heard no sounds coming out of the observation post where he was positioned. The then-22-year-old forward observer came to a startling realization: He was alone; all the Soldiers around him were dead or gone.
He radioed the command post, only to be told that there was no one to send. The fighting raged with Soldiers locked elsewhere in intense battle.
“I wasn’t angry,” Pitts recalled. “I’m not angry about it now.”
The enemy was so close that Pitts could hear them talking. In fact, the Soldiers listening to Pitts’ communications could hear the enemy. This was the end, Pitts thought.
He put the hand mike down.
“I basically reconciled that I was going to die, and made my peace with it,” he said. “My personal goal was to just to try and take as many of them with me, before they got me.”
The attack began just before dawn, at around 4:20 a.m., with a burst of machine-gun fire. It then opened up into a full-scale assault that targeted the base’s key defensive weapons systems and positions.
“It’s hard to feel good about anything that day,” said Pitts, who at the time was serving with “Chosen” Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, out of Vicenza, Italy. Their unit was nicknamed the “Chosen Few.”
“We lost nine family members,” he said during an at-times emotional interview. His wife Amy listened nearby, sometimes in tears.
The fallen were brothers to him, he said, naming each one: Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling.
‘I was going. I had my mind set.’
Pitts, who is from New Hampshire, recalled how as a kindergartener he drew a picture of what he wanted to be when he grew up: a Soldier.
He enlisted in January 2003, even before he had graduated high school.
“I wanted to do something meaningful, and I wanted to serve my country. So I decided to join the Army,” he said. “Everybody supported me but nobody really liked the decision. It was just me. But I was going. I had my mind set.”
Family and friends were “unbelievably supportive,” he said. They wrote, sent care packages, and kept in touch while he was deployed and made time to see him when he was home on leave.
“My grandfather did his own thing. He put a flag up when I joined the Army, and he flew it until the day I was out. He never took it down,” Pitts said.
Pitts, who went on to get a business degree and lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and their one-year-old-son Lucas, keeps the neatly folded, worn flag on display at home.
Service and sacrifice
Receiving the Medal of Honor is a heavy burden; every Soldier that day fought with all they had, some to the death, Pitts said.
“They were great men. But there are service members everywhere, men and women, who would do the same thing that we all did that day,” he said.
The nine fallen Soldiers “fought until their last breath because they cared more about their friends than themselves,” he said.
Pitts, who married Amy two years ago and had a son last year, said he wouldn’t have his family if it weren’t for the service and sacrifice of the Soldiers who fought that day in Wanat. He is alive today because of them, he said. The Soldiers trained and served together, lived together, shared stories, and laughed and joked together. They were like brothers, Pitts said.
“We were a family. We had become a family over the course of 14 months in combat. We trained for a year before that,” he said.
“That day was a bad day for all of us,” Pitts said. He was on his second combat tour of Afghanistan the time of the attack.
Pitts wants his son and the world to know about the men who made the ultimate sacrifice that day — the fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers; the heroes.
Pitts thinks of the lost Soldiers every day, he said. Their names and the names of other fallen Soldiers are inscribed on a memorial table at his home.
“Rest in peace my Brothers, you have not been forgotten,” the table reads.
American troops arrive in Wanat
U.S. forces had arrived days earlier to establish the vehicle patrol base in Wanat, a remote village in Afghanistan’s rugged northeast near the border with Pakistan. Under the cover of darkness, July 8–9, Chosen Company airlifted its 1st Platoon out of the nearby Combat Outpost Bella. The 2nd Platoon left Forward Operating Base Blessing, the main base for their battalion in the area.
For Pitts and his team, the mission was expected to be their last before returning home — they’d already been in Afghanistan for 14 months. The location was selected so Soldiers could be near the people to build relations and foster goodwill, instead of being in a location farther from the village that would also be harder to supply, Pitts said.
“I think our commanders’ intent was to be close to the local populace where we could hopefully help protect them and make an impact and better their lives,” he said.
The location was on a plateau where two valleys met and had considerable dead space, or areas that could not be observed from the base. Roughly the size of a football field, the base was named in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. Kahler, a platoon sergeant, died Jan. 26, 2008, after being shot by an Afghan guard in Waygul, Afghanistan. It was a huge loss for the Soldiers, said Pitts, who was wearing a KIA bracelet in memory of Kahler the day of the attack in Wanat. Pockmarks from shrapnel are visible on the bracelet.
Kahler was a great leader who loved his Soldiers, Pitts said.
“We would have followed him anywhere,” Pitts said. “He was one of those leaders, he didn’t tell us to do things. He asked. You wanted to do it, whatever it was, for him.”
Soldiers worked in the scorching heat in Wanat to establish the new base, which they hoped would become Combat Outpost Kahler. However, that never happened as the Army left Wanat shortly after the attack. The Combined Joint Task Force-101 commander determined that coalition forces could no longer achieve their counterinsurgency objectives there due to complicity in the attack by local government officials, civilians, and Afghan National Police.
The valley erupts in fire
The morning of the attack, Pitts was at Observation Post Topside, a lookout and defensive position to the east of the main base, with eight other paratroopers: Ayers, Bogar, Sgt. Matthew Gobble, Pfc. Chris McKaig, Phillips, Rainey, Spc. Tyler Stafford and Zwilling.
Up before dawn, they noticed suspicious activity in the mountains to the west. Pitts and Gobble were preparing a request for indirect fire (mortar or artillery support), but before they could finish, the “valley erupted,” Pitts said.
“The battle started with a burst of machine gun fire from the north. Then it just opened up,” he said.
An estimated 200 insurgents launched a full-scale assault against the base, targeting the mortar-firing position, the vehicles with the TOW (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided) missile system, and the observation post.
“RPGs on top of RPGs — rocket-propelled grenades — hand grenades, every position was assaulted pretty heavily,” Pitts said.
The paratroopers at the observation post were hit with small arms fire, RPGs and hand grenades thrown at close range by insurgents. Everyone in the observation post was wounded — several were killed — in the first volley of fire. Pitts suffered grenade shrapnel wounds in both legs and his left arm.
Pitts, who was unable to use his legs and bleeding profusely, crawled into positions and used hand grenades, a machine gun, a grenade launcher — any weapon available — to keep the enemy at bay. He fought alongside members of his unit who were defending or reinforcing the observation post.
The enemy was close enough to toss grenades at the Soldiers. Pitts started “cooking off” grenades, letting them burn for a few seconds before tossing them, putting himself in danger but not allowing the enemy time to toss them back.
With the remaining paratroopers at the observation post fighting for their lives, Pitts was the only contact between the command post and the observation post — the only person left capable of controlling indirect fire support.
Brostrom and Hovater maneuvered through direct enemy fire from the vehicle patrol base’s main perimeter to reinforce the observation post. Then there was silence from inside the post; suddenly, Pitts realized he was alone. While some Soldiers had moved to other locations, those who remained at the observation post or had come to reinforce the post had all been killed.
Pitts crawled from position to position, seeing fallen comrades all around him.
“I crawled back to the northern position and I’m trying to figure out what to do. It was probably just a couple of seconds, but it felt like forever,” he said.
When he called the company commander at the command post, Capt. Matthew Myer, for reinforcements, Pitts was told there was no one to send.
“And I said, ‘OK, well, you either send people or this position is going to fall.’ And then I just put the hand mike down,” Pitts said, noting at that point he made peace with the fact that he might just die there.
Then he used an M-203 grenade launcher and fired almost directly overhead, so the grenades would detonate just on the other side of the perimeter where the enemy was concealed.
Pitts called on the radio for any Soldier with a sight line of the observation post to begin firing over the sandbag wall at his position, to knock the enemy back if they breached the wall. Sgt. Brian Hissong answered that call, laying down fire directly over Pitts.
Then, four Soldiers — Garcia, Spc. Michael Denton, Staff Sgt. Sean Samaroo, and Spc. Jacob Sones — came from the casualty collect point and the traffic-control point to reinforce the observation post. They found Pitts fighting for his life.
“I heard them and probably [had] never been more relieved in my life then when I heard those guys,” Pitts said.
Sones was initially able to treat Pitts before another round of explosions rocked the observation post, mortally wounding Garcia.
Pitts crawled to Garcia to comfort him.
“Garcia was lying in the area between the north and south position; he was hurt real bad. I think that was the first time that I really just didn’t know what to do,” Pitts said. “So I just talked to him. We didn’t talk a lot. I held his hand, he wanted to try and sit up.
“He said to me that he just wanted me to tell his family and his wife that he loved them. I told him that I would, and I did when we got back,” Pitts recalled. “I don’t know how long we sat there, maybe a couple of minutes, maybe not, might have been 30 seconds.”
Soon after, attack helicopters arrived to provide close air support.
Despite being nearly unconscious, Pitts continued to communicate with headquarters, providing needed feedback to Myer as he called in the first helicopter attack run that engaged insurgents north of the observation post. That strike took pressure off the Soldiers at the main base, allowing a third group of reinforcements from the vehicle patrol base to secure the observation post.
Now, reinforcements from Forward Operating Base Blessing began arriving and clearing enemy positions within the town and hillsides.
Throughout the battle, despite the loss of blood and severity of his wounds, Pitts’ incredible toughness, determination and ability to communicate with leadership while under fire allowed U.S. forces to hold the observation post and turn the tide of the battle.
Without his ability to stay alert and fight while critically wounded, the enemy would have gained a foothold on high ground, inflicted significantly greater causalities onto the vehicle patrol base and could have gained possession of the fallen Soldiers at the observation post.
At approximately 6:15 a.m., about two hours after the assault began, Pitts was medically evacuated, beginning the recovery that soon took him back to the United States.
Feeling he could no longer do what he wanted to do, which was fight, he chose to leave the Army and was medically discharged in 2009 with the rank of staff sergeant.
From the Soldiers he fought beside to the medical evacuation pilots who landed right after the observation post was hit by an RPG — “I honestly don’t understand how that helicopter wasn’t hit,” he said — everyone that day gave everything they had in the fight, Pitts said.
“I’m in awe of everything they did that day — everything that everybody did, not just the guys who were killed,” he said. “There was valor everywhere.”
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh signed a directive last week authorizing more opportunities for women to serve in a wider range of roles within the Army. The authorization results in the opening of about 33,000 positions in units that were once closed to women, said Col. Linda Sheimo, chief of the Command Programs and Policy Division at the Directorate of Military Personnel Management, Army G-1.
“Soon, our formations down to company level will begin having female Soldiers arrive for duty to serve in positions once closed to women,” said Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, deputy Army chief of staff and the Army G-1. “However, this will not happen overnight; we will continue to incrementally fill these positions with Soldiers who have the ability, are qualified, and have the proven performance to complete the mission,” he said.
The 30-day congressional notification required by law before implanting this change in policy was completed April 7, 2014.
As a part of the incremental strategy, the directive states “female leaders will be assigned first to provide a support network for junior female Soldiers and to offer advice to the unit’s male leadership.”
“The decision to open these positions to female Soldiers was made after U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command completed extensive validation studies, including physical fitness requirements,” Sheimo said. “Nevertheless, women as well as men who do not meet the standards will not be allowed into these MOSs (military occupational specialties),” she emphasized, explaining that the standards are fair and transparent.
“This initiative further aids Army leaders to select the best-qualified Soldiers for each position within the Army profession,” Sheimo said. “The Army’s efforts across various spectrums will also ensure all Soldiers have the opportunity to serve successfully.”
The deputy chief of staff, Army G-1 will issue additional personnel assignment guidance and unit training requirements in follow-on military personnel messages, according to the directive.
This change in policy means there are no more units in the Army that are closed to women. A closed unit was one that was expected to see combat. Because of this, women could not serve in those units — even if they served in MOSs that were open to women.
With the change, women can serve anywhere in the Army — even in combat units — within an MOS that is open to women.
The new directive does not include changes to closed occupations in the Army — the 14 MOSs in the Army that are currently closed to women. Those MOSs are: engineer (12B), field artillery (13B, 13D and 13F), infantry (11A, 11B, 11C and 11Z) and armor (19A, 19B, 19C, 19D, 19K and 19Z). Additionally, the new Army directive does not affect the special operations community.
More MOSs could be open for women in the future, Sheimo said. By Jan. 1, 2016, the Army will have completed validation studies for all 14 MOSs that are currently closed to women and will pass its recommendations on to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for review.
The White House announced today that former Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his combat actions during an enemy engagement in Wanat in the Waygal Valley of northeastern Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.
President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Honor to Pitts during a ceremony at the White House on July 21, 2014.
Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. The White House says Pitts and his family will join the president at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.
Pitts served with 2nd Platoon, “Chosen” Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The White House notes that Pitts’ personal awards include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, Purple Heart Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral “4”, NATO Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Combat Action Badge, Pathfinder Badge and Parachutist Badge.
In the summer of 2008, Pitts, then a sergeant, and his team were part of Operation “Rock Move,” meant to transfer remaining forces and capability from Combat Outpost Bella to a new location on the outskirts of Wanat village. The new position was Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler; COP Bella was to be closed.
The mission was expected to be the last for the Soldiers before returning home — they’d been in Afghanistan for 14 months.
On the morning of July 13, at about 4 a.m., Pitts was manning Observation Post Topside, which was positioned east of the main base, and east of a bazaar and hotel complex in Wanat.
Shortly after, Soldiers conducting surveillance identified potential insurgents. They put together a request for fire. But before that could happen, at about 4:20 a.m, Soldiers heard machine-gun fire from the north. After that, the valley erupted in enemy fire.
Soldiers at OP Topside were hit with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades. Pitts and six other paratroopers at OP Topside were injured in the initial volley of enemy fire, and two paratroopers were killed. Pitts took grenade shrapnel in both legs and his left arm.
For more than an hour after, Pitts continued to fight and defend his position and his teammates, despite his injuries.
Throughout the battle, despite the loss of blood and severity of his wounds, Pitts’ incredible toughness, determination and ability to communicate with leadership while under fire allowed U.S. forces to hold the observation post and turn the tide of the battle.
Without his ability to stay alert and fight while critically wounded, the enemy would have gained a foothold on high ground and inflicted significantly greater causalities onto the vehicle patrol base, and the enemy could have been in possession of the fallen Soldiers at the observation post.
Nine Soldiers — Spc. Sergio Abad, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, Cpl. Jason Bogar, 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom, Sgt. Israel Garcia, Cpl. Jason Hovater, Cpl. Matthew Phillips, Cpl. Pruitt Rainey, and Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling — were killed in the battle.
As a combat medic, Staff Sgt. David Bruce Bleak was already a hero to the scores of Soldiers he treated after they were injured on the battlefield.
But what he did on June 14, 1952, near Minari-gol, South Korea, elevated him to a status deserving of the nation’s highest military honor. Bleak was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions after his patrol came under heavy fire from Chinese soldiers. Despite being wounded, Bleak killed five enemy soldiers — four of them with his bare hands — before assisting the wounded and shielding one of them from a grenade blast, according to his Medal of Honor citation.
Bleak enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 1950 in his native Idaho Falls, Idaho. During basic training at Fort Riley, Kan., the towering 6-foot-5, 250-pound Bleak was selected for medical duty. He was assigned to the 223rd Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard, which deployed for the Korean War in January 1952, the same year Bleak was promoted to sergeant.
On that fateful June day, Bleak volunteered to be part of a 20-man reconnaissance patrol looking to capture Hill 499 in northeastern Korea where Chinese soldiers were known to be operating. As the patrol slogged up the hill, it came under heavy machine-gun fire from multiple positions. Bleak sprang into action from the formation’s rear as several Soldiers were wounded during the opening volley.
The patrol split into two groups — one continued up the hill while the other attempted to go around to flank the enemy. Bleak was with the group ascending the hill when it came under fire again. According to his citation, Bleak witnessed a wounded Soldier fall and then proceeded to rush the trench where the gunfire originated. He fell on top of Chinese soldier, breaking his neck. He then grabbed a second soldier by the neck, fatally crushing his windpipe. A third Chinese soldier happened upon the scuffle and Bleak stabbed him with his combat knife.
Bleak emerged from the stronghold and resumed treating his wounded comrades. While administering first aid, he witnessed a live grenade bounce off a fellow Soldier’s helmet. Bleak scrambled to his feet, tackled the Soldier and shielded him from the blast, which, miraculously, resulted in no injuries to either Soldier.
After stabilizing all the wounded he could, Bleak was attempting to return to the position of his patrol when he saw three more of his fellow Soldiers get hit by a hidden machine-gun nest. As he ran toward them, Bleak was wounded in the leg. He disregarded his injury and treated the downed Soldiers, allowing two of them to retreat to safety. The third Soldier was badly injured and immobilized. Bleak hoisted the semi-conscious Soldier onto his shoulders and trudged toward a safe position.
As he made his way down the hill, two Chinese soldiers confronted Bleak armed with rifles and bayonets. The combat medic placed his wounded patient on the ground and charged at the surprised enemy duo. According to the citation, Bleak smashed their heads together with such force that he killed them and possibly even fractured their skulls before he gathered his fellow Soldier and continued on to safety.
Eventually, all 20 Soldiers returned to friendly lines. A third of them were wounded. Bleak was credited with ensuring that the entire patrol returned alive by treating the wounded and neutralizing enemy threats. After retiring as a staff sergeant, he received the Medal of Honor from President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Oct. 27, 1953, in a ceremony at the White House.
Bleak returned to his native Idaho after his military career. He married Lois Pickett Bleak and had four children. He died March 23, 2006, in Arco, Idaho. His remains were cremated and scattered in Idaho. A cenotaph in his honor sits at the Lost River Cemetery in Butte County, Idaho. Bleak’s family donated his Medal of Honor to the Idaho Military History Museum, where it is displayed today.
— Compiled by Pablo Villa
The official magazine of noncommissioned officer professional development