11:01 | Mike Schlitz tells about the circumstances that led to his injury and all of the life changes that occurred as a result.
Keywords : injury accident IED(Improvised Explosive Device) burning skin damage laceration Iraq desert detonation
Growing up, Mike Schlitz knew that he needed the discipline that being in the military would provide. After he joined up, he knew he had the drive to succeed in the military and move up the ranks.
Right after 9/11, Mike Schlitz remembers the sentiment of excitement among some in the military around going to war. Once they shipped over to Iraq, they went to a special school to learn how to deal with the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army.
Working with the Iraqi Army was difficult because they didn't have the same sense of nationalism as American troops. As the war went on, it got increasingly difficult, especially as the casualties started to mount.
Mike Schlitz tells of his time going back to Iraq the 3 times after his injury and how it helped him through the healing process. He defines what a hero means to him and the impact that his mentors have had on his life.
Mike Schlitz is very proud of being a Ranger and stands by everything that that stands for. At the end of the day, he is glad that he served his country and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Pilot Bill Hanna returned to service for the Berlin Airlift and remained in Europe to provide transportation for the Cold War effort. He remembers a little wine-based detente in Italy when Communists marched on his picnic. Also, he explains why he decided on a career in the Air Force as a result of walking into a clothesline.
Farm boy Bill Morris joined the Air Force Reserve, thinking it would keep him away from Korea, but his tests showed such great mechanical ability that the Army drafted him right out of the Air Force into the Army. They needed maintenance personnel for armored units in Germany, so he never saw Korea, after all.
Doug Heckman had been part of the initial Special Forces leadership in Afghanistan and in 2005 he volunteered for Iraq. He and his men got their combat badges the very first day when an IED hit their convoy. He says the Iraqi people are like people anywhere and were very hospitable to him.
Bill McCowen entered the jet age when he moved from the B-29 to the B-47, which he handled so well he became an instructor pilot for the aircraft. Shrugging off the trouble he caused when he let a 2nd Lieutenant fly in the front seat, he was among the first to regularly fly at high altitude, where he was startled by his first sight of a contrail.
It was an odd return home for Blake Bourne, single and based in Germany. One thing he noticed was the tighter bond with his fellow soldiers who had served together in Iraq. He also encountered the best commander he had ever met, LTC John Meyer.
It was an exotic post, the Pacific atoll Kwajalein. Bob Wylie was an air traffic controller and worked search and rescue as well at the Naval air station there. Then it was back to Georgia for advanced school and further grounding in VFR, Visual Flight Rules. He was assigned to the Philippines just as a massive buildup of forces began in Southeast Asia.
He had joined the Army to go find the bad guys. It took him seven years after 9-11 but Blake Bourne was finally going to be deployed when he got a call from his commanding officer. Instead of a rifle platoon, he was going to command a support platoon. He wasn't even sure what that was, but when he found out, he was mad.
At the end of the Big War, Bill Bates served as commander at two Marine barracks including Lakehurst, New Jersey, where airships were stationed and where a famous zeppelin had crashed. Then it was back to Quantico for amphibious warfare school, where he learned the complex and difficult aspects of landing troops on an unfriendly beach.
The missions were so secret, that when the plane returned from the East with no insignia, our own fighters were scrambled to intercept it. Bob Bruffey maintained that plane and when one of the crew defected to the East, he had to go to Washington for debriefing. He couldn't help but laugh at his intelligence contacts there.
Kenneth Moorefield came out of West Point expecting to go to Vietnam, but instead was posted to the Dominican Republic, where he underwent his first medical evacuation in the wake of a riot. He already had a sense of what he would face once he got to Vietnam from the writing of Bernard Fall.
When Air Force technician Bob Bruffey shipped out to Germany for the second time, he was sent to Libya for air/sea survival training. This involved being pulled through the water in a parachute. When the chute wouldn't release and he was pulled under, he experienced an eerie calm just at the edge of death.
Blake Bourne expected to do cool "guy stuff" involving weaponry and bombs when he joined the Army. He remembered that and laughed when he had to navigate nearly impossible logistics to supply an ice cream social for some Arab sheikhs.
According to Intelligence Officer Bill Person, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a ploy by Nikita Khrushchev to get the United States to remove it's missiles from Turkey, no more and no less. He succeeded but his country was still in the cross hairs of American military might.
He always wanted to fly. In fact, Al Muller was building model airplanes before he could read. This naturally led him to the Air Force and after basic training and a first assignment transporting troops, he entered the Air Force Institute and became an Aeronautical Engineer.
According to Intelligence Officer Bill Person, we had World War III won before it started. That was because he had figured out every Russian target in the United States and the routes of the bombers which would hit them. Then, for good measure, he calculated when and where Russian spy satellites would be looking down.
Bill McCowen enjoyed flying the B-52 and it was a good thing because the Chrome Dome flights for SAC during the Cold War lasted 24 hrs. He describes the strategy for attacking Moscow, including the plan for surviving after the strike. He also circled Cuba during the Missile Crisis and his description of this lends some credence to the tales of the Bermuda Triangle.
His tests showed high aptitude for math and science so Bob Wylie was able to get into the Navy school he wanted, air traffic control. The federal regulations at the time fit on four pages. The contemporary ones fill a book. They also taught him air navigation when he got past the fundamentals.
Returning to Germany after a mission in Somalia, Pilot Fred Mills was off to another important Air Ambulance operation, this time in Iran following an earthquake. Told to protect his passenger, Princess Pahlavi, he nervously felt the 45 on his hip.
Bob Bruffey returned from Korea and continued to work on airplanes, adding the C-47 to his list. Then it was off to Cold War work in Weisbaden, where everyone scattered when he asked what kind of outfit this was. "You were never here. This never existed."
The surge was succeeding but at a price. Doug Heckman liked riding in the lead vehicle but was in the second one the day Captain Shawn English had the lead and took the brunt of the blast from an IED. This altered his view of how high the bar should be set for military commitment.
There was no doubt Mac McCahan was a problem solver. He developed a scheme for bit stuffing that made incompatible gear work together. Should have been a patent right there. Then he encountered a problem that was projected to cost one million dollars and take a year to fix. Would he do it in half the time for half the money? Think again.
Blake Bourne's second deployment to Iraq was more exhausting than his first, not because of more action, but because of less. He spent long night shifts staring at a computer screen, monitoring less and less action as the war wound down. Eventually, he was one of the last soldiers to leave Iraq.
The enemy had learned not to directly engage American troops in Iraq. Their main tactic was the use of IED's, improvised explosive devices of several kinds that were almost impossible to spot. Blake Bourne found one of them when he decided to take a different route one day.
At the Air Force Safety Office on his last assignment, Al Muller worked for two legendary fliers, Robin Olds and Chuck Yeager, each with colorful stories surrounding them. Those two embodied an espirit de corps that Al found lacking when he visited bases in his post-service career.