All About Guns I am so grateful!! Soldiering This great Nation & Its People War

Dr. Dabbs: John Walton—The Walmart Warrior by WILL DABBS

We’ve all wondered what it would be like to be this guy.

What would you do if you came into some serious money? I don’t mean you inherited a couple thousand bucks from crazy great-aunt Mildred. I mean what would you do if you were suddenly just filthy rich?

When I win the lottery I’m buying myself one of these.

We’ve all pondered it. Last week some unidentified person in California won more than $2 billion in the Powerball lottery. Before that guy walked away with all that cash I admit that I entertained myself in quiet moments imagining what I’d do with such a windfall. I’d bless my friends and family, to be sure, but I’d also buy an island along with my own vintage Spitfire. Anyway, considering I have never bought a lottery ticket, the chances of my winning the lottery are pretty small. Of course, the odds wouldn’t change a whole lot had I actually bought a lottery ticket, either. That’s honestly the point.

This is Sam Walton 18 days before he died of blood cancer. Thanks to the dynasty he created, at one point half of the top ten richest people in America were named Walton.

Some folks are born into money. Others work really hard or are just plain lucky. As the second son of a dime store owner from Arkansas named Sam, John Walton wore his wealth well. In great part, this is likely because young John had known some proper suffering before he got rich. Much of that hard experience he got while in uniform.

The Sam Walton family was, by all accounts, a pretty decent mob.

John Walton was the second of four kids born to Sam and Helen Walton. In High School, John was a dichotomy. He was a star football player who also enjoyed playing the flute. After graduating from Bentonville High School in Bentonville, Arkansas, he attended the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. In 1968 he dropped out of school so he could better his skills as a flutist. After reading about the Tet Offensive, John Walton enlisted in the Army.

Sam Walton’s son John (on the right alongside John Meyer) was indeed a steely-eyed warrior. Photo courtesy John Stryker Meyer from his book Across the Fence.

John Walton had good genes and a killer work ethic. In short order, he was a fully qualified Special Forces medic assigned to the Studies and Observations Group in Vietnam. He saw combat in the A Shau Valley as well as in Laos and Cambodia. During his cross-border forays, he was assigned to Spike Team Louisiana operating out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) 1 in Phu Bai. These stone-cold SF warriors would insert via helicopter to monitor movement along the Ho Chi Minh trail and call in air support to interdict enemy formations as the opportunities arose. Such stuff required simply legendary bravery and epic fieldcraft.

SF teams operating deep in enemy territory in places like Laos, North Vietnam, and Cambodia wrote the book on modern special operations. Photo courtesy John Stryker Meyer from his book Across the Fence.

August 3, 1968, was a Saturday. SP4 Walton was deep in the suck in the A Shau Valley alongside five other members of his recon team. His unit was compromised and attacked by a numerically superior NVA force. In short order, the team was surrounded and immobilized. With the incoming fire now utterly overwhelming, the team leader called a Prairie Fire mission for any nearby strike assets. Prairie Fire meant that an SF team was about to get annihilated. Anything with a gun or a bomb was expected to answer the call.

These tight-knit SF teams were formidable agents of chaos.

The NVA knew that Americans had access to overwhelming firepower and that the key to success was to get in close and stay there. With automatic weapons fire and grenades raking their position, the spike team leader reluctantly called in an A-1 Skyraider to drop on their own position. The strike killed one member of the team, severely wounded the team leader, and blew the radio operator’s right leg off. To make things worse an NVA soldier got a clear line of sight and shot the fourth Green Beret four times with his AK-47 before being killed by John Walton, the only team member still intact.

SP4 Walton, shown here on the right, was a natural-born warrior. Photo courtesy John Stryker Meyer from his book Across the Fence.

John was an SF medic, and those guys could do some amazing medicine in the field. SP4 Walton assumed command of the team and went to work stabilizing the wounded while also manning the radio. Amidst everything else, SP4 Walton continued working the Tac Air, calling down fire on the tenacious NVA troops.

The H-34 Kingbee was obsolete compared to the more modern designs operated by the US military. Note the orientation of the landing gear.

Three rescue helicopters answered the call. The first onsite was an antiquated H-34 Kingbee flown by a South Vietnamese pilot named CPT Thinh Dinh. The H-34 was, by the standards of the day, a piece of crap. Powered by a reciprocating radial engine rather than the jet turbines that drove American aircraft like the UH-1 Huey and OH-6 Loach, the H-34 was woefully underpowered, particularly in the thick hot environment of the A Shau. Despite suffocating ground fire, CPT Thinh bravely brought his aircraft into a nearby clearing and set it there as enemy rounds chewed through the airframe.

SP4 Walton organized his wounded team members and got them onto an evac aircraft under fire.

SP4 Walton dragged his teammates out to the aircraft one at a time until the antiquated helicopter was as heavy as it could be and still fly. Walton, for his part, would have to wait on the next bird. As soon as the young medic was clear CPT Thinh lifted off and nosed over toward the nearest field hospital. Then he heard over the radio that the next two rescue aircraft had turned away due to the overwhelming volume of ground fire. With that, CPT Thinh torqued his overloaded Kingbee around and headed back into hell.

SPC4 John Walton, right, was nearly killed fighting in the A Shau Valley in 1969. Photo courtesy John Stryker Meyer from his book Across the Fence.

Thinh landed his fat aircraft in the same spot and stayed there until Walton could get on board. However, now the old helo couldn’t hover. With enemy automatic weapons fire chewing the aircraft to pieces, the brave South Vietnamese pilot got the aircraft teetering up on its forward landing gear struts. In this awkward configuration, he pivoted the machine around until it faced a nearby draw. He then allowed the helicopter to roll downhill until he could take advantage of effective translational lift and actually break ground and clear the jungle. In this sordid state, CPT Thinh nursed his stricken aircraft to safety, saving Walton’s life in the process. Once the dust settled SP4 Walton was awarded the Silver Star for his courageous actions in saving his team from certain death.

Like all soldiers in a combat zone, SPC4 Walton had big dreams that helped sustain him until he could get home.

In the aftermath of this particular mission, Walton confided to his friends that, if he lived to get home, he planned to buy a motorcycle and travel. Along the way, he hoped to learn to fly and explore Mexico, Central, and South America. For many to most folks, such stuff would never get past the dream phase. However, this was Sam Walton’s son. As we discussed before, he had good genes.

Walmart went on to become one of the most successful businesses in American history.

While John was in Vietnam, his father Sam had been busy. By the end of 1967, he had 24 Walmart stores operating in Arkansas. The following year he opened his first stores in Missouri and Oklahoma. By 1975 Walton had 125 stores and 7,500 associates with total sales of $340.3 million.

John Walton helped revolutionize the way crop dusters operate.

Soon after John got home he was flying for his father scouting out new locations for Walmart stores. In short order, he left Walmart to work six months out of each year as a crop duster. The rest of the time was spent in a VW bus exploring Mexico and places further afield.

Along the way, he co-founded Satloc, a crop-spraying company that pioneered the use of GPS in aerial chemical applications. He then moved to San Diego and founded Corsair Marine, a company that built trimaran sailboats. He also founded True North Venture Partners, a venture capital organization that used money to make even more money. By then he had accumulated some proper resources.

John and Christy Walton threw themselves into philanthropic causes.

Despite his newfound wealth, John Walton apparently remained a really nice guy. He started a philanthropy called the Children’s Scholarship Fund that provided low-income kids with money to attend private schools. Like his dad, John still appreciated a modest lifestyle. While he and his wife Christy split their time between their trimaran sailboat and a historic beach house, he nonetheless drove an inexpensive and efficient Toyota hybrid car.

When a group of former SF guys got together to swap lies in Las Vegas, John Walton made sure the South Vietnamese pilot who saved his life could be there with his family.

In 2003 his old Special Forces team held a reunion in Las Vegas in honor of the pilots who had supported them in Vietnam. By then CPT Thinh, the stone-cold South Vietnamese pilot who had saved his life in the A Shau Valley, had successfully relocated to Fargo, North Dakota.

He and Walton had remained close for thirty years after the war. However, Thinh lacked the resources to make it to the reunion. John Walton flew his jet up to Fargo, retrieved his old friend and his family, and took them to Vegas for the event.

John Walton ultimately did quite well for himself.

By 2005 John Walton was worth $18.2 billion. He was the 4th-richest person in America and the 11th-richest person in the world. At 58 he had led a truly extraordinary life. He kept himself fit and healthy and enjoyed skiing, hiking, skydiving, flying, motorcycle riding, and scuba diving.

That the 11th-richest man on the planet died at the controls of such a cheesy little airplane is surprising to me. It’s not like he couldn’t afford anything better.
John Walton made a mistake repairing his little Hawk Arrow ultralight airplane that cost him his life.

On June 27, 2005, at around 12:20 in the afternoon, John Walton lifted off from the Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming in a CGS Hawk Arrow homebuilt ultralight airplane. Walton had performed a minor repair on the aircraft previously and improperly installed a rear locking collar on the elevator control torque tube. This allowed the torque tube to slide rearward after takeoff and produce slack in the elevator control cable. The cumulative result was a loss of pitch control. Walton was killed in the resulting crash.

John Walton was the archetypal renaissance man.

Many folks die peacefully in their beds after a long life lived in obscure anonymity. Others may go out violently or at the mercy of some disease or other. John Walton lived life to the full. Warrior, medic, pilot, husband, father, and philanthropist—John Walton packed an awful lot of living into his 58 years.

Addendum–I draw these projects from whatever I can find online. They are obviously only as accurate as the original source material. A teammate of John Walton’s named John Stryker Meyer reached out about some technical inaccuracies in this piece. Meyer is the character giving the finger to the photographer in one of the previous photos. After a delightful phone conversation I have made the changes. Based upon his personal descriptions, John Walton was clearly a truly extraordinary man.

Meyer authored a book on his experiences with MACV-SOG In Vietnam titled Across the Fence. It is available on Amazon. If the book is anything like he is it is likely a superb read. Thanks, brother.

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Hard Nosed Folks Both Good & Bad I am so grateful!! Leadership of the highest kind Manly Stuff One Hell of a Good Fight Real men Soldiering The Green Machine This great Nation & Its People War Well I thought it was neat!

Pat Tillman: Portrait of an American Hero by WILL DABBS

Behold the face of the real Captain America. Pat Tillman was a genuine hero.

Politicians refer to themselves as public servants. Swamp creatures like Joe Biden will extol their many decades of employment in Washington DC as though they had been some kind of galley slave toiling away on an Athenian man o’ war. I have actually met a couple of those guys. Their idea of selfless service does not quite match my own.

I wouldn’t pee on these guys if they were on fire.

American legislators spend money like drunken sailors. Actually, that’s not true. Drunken sailors couldn’t even begin to burn cash in as profligate a manner as might your typical freshman congressman. They’ve raised wasting money to an art form.

Hanging with a group of US Congressmen for a week back in the 1990s soured me on the American political system forever.

You think I’m kidding. Back when I was a soldier I spent a week as a local liaison officer for a group of congressmen on a fact-finding mission after the First Gulf War. It was amazing just watching them eat. They’d go to the nicest restaurant in town and order one of anything they might be curious about. Then they swapped plates around so everybody got a taste. One of my several duties was to scurry back and forth to the Officers’ Club cashing $500 government traveler’s checks to pay for it all. It was surreal.

I willingly voted for both of these people. However, I don’t trust anybody in Washington DC. If you weren’t broken before you got there, you were after you’ve been there a while.

Everybody in DC has sold their soul to somebody. I’ll champion the folks on my side of the aisle in the vain hope that they might someday just leave me the heck alone, but they are all irredeemably corrupt. The system perpetuates itself. It will never get better.

This is Pat and Kevin Tillman. They were both real public servants.

On May 31, 2002, Pat Tillman and his brother Kevin walked into a local recruiting office and enlisted in the US Army. Pat walked away from a $3.6 million professional football contract and Lord knows what else so he could serve his country in the immediate aftermath of 911. Pat Tillman’s story is that of a conflicted man and a horribly flawed system. However, his is a tale of epic sacrifice and genuine selfless service.

Origin Story

Pat Tillman excelled at everything he touched.

Pat Tillman was the eldest of three sons born to Patrick and Mary Tillman in Fremont, California. By NFL standards, Tillman was not a terribly big man. He stood 5’11” and weighed 202 pounds when dressed out as a safety for the Arizona Cardinals. Pat personified the axiom, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

That is one seriously intense guidon bearer.

In high school Tillman preferred baseball, but he failed to make the team as a freshman. At that point, he turned his attention to the gridiron. Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Pat was powerfully close to his friends and family. He married his childhood sweetheart just before he enlisted in the Army. He and his brother Kevin enlisted together, trained together, and were eventually both assigned to the 2d Ranger Battalion based at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Pat Tillman really came into his own as a college football player.

Pat Tillman attended Arizona State University on a football scholarship and excelled as a linebacker. An exceptionally deep young man, Tillman was well read and made good grades. He maintained a 3.85 GPA in marketing and graduated in 3.5 years despite the rigors of starting on his college football team.

Pat Tillman had everything the world could offer, yet he gave it all up to serve his country.

Pat thrived in the NFL. Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman named Tillman to the 2000 NFL All-Pro team based upon his stellar performance as a defensive player. He turned down a $9 million offer to move to the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to his Arizona team.

Once he completed his 2001 NFL contract Pat Tillman enlisted in the US Army.

Eight months after the 911 attacks and with the remainder of his 15 games completed from his 2001 contract, Pat Tillman left $3.6 million on the table to go to Army basic training alongside his brother. Pat’s brother Kevin gave up a burgeoning career in minor league baseball for the same path. These two men put their love of country ahead of the sorts of things the rest of us would just about kill for.

There’s really no telling how far Pat Tillman might have gone in life.

Appreciate the details here. I’m a happily married hetero man, and even I admit that Pat Tillman was an exceptionally good-looking guy. Intelligent, articulate, and well-educated, Tillman had the world by the tail. Once his time in the NFL was complete Pat Tillman could have easily parlayed his gifts and experiences into a career on television or in Hollywood. Instead, he opted for the Ranger Regiment.

The Rangers have an undeniably sexy cool mission. However, life in a Ranger Battalion is unimaginably grueling. The Ranger Regiment is the only unit in the Army to have been deployed continuously throughout the Global War on Terror.

I was an Army aviator, but I worked with those guys on occasion. Theirs was an absolutely miserable life. Junior enlisted soldiers don’t get paid beans, and the optempo in the Ranger Battalions is utterly grueling. In less than two years on active duty, Pat Tillman completed basic training and AIT as well as the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. He was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in September of 2003 after which he attended Ranger School at Fort Benning. Once a fully tabbed Ranger, he returned to Second Bat at Lewis and deployed to Afghanistan where he was based at FOB Salerno.

It’s easy to sit back in the comfort of our living rooms and lose track of exactly what this stuff costs.

Up until this point, Pat Tillman was the US Army’s poster child. An American superhero with a face right out of central casting, Tillman’s story could not have been any more compelling had it been drafted by an action novelist. Then Something Truly Horrible happened.

The Incident

Combat is not the clean sanitary thing Call of Duty might have us believe. The reality is vicious, messy, and sad.

Combat is an ugly, filthy, chaotic thing. It is seldom as tidy or predictable as the movies and sand table exercises depict it to be. On April 22, 2004, the fog of war claimed a genuine American hero.

Even today nobody really knows exactly what happened to Pat Tillman’s mounted patrol.

On a forgotten road leading from the Afghan village of Sperah about 40 klicks outside of Khost, Pat Tillman’s small HUMVEE-mounted patrol ran into trouble. Their mission that day was to retrieve a disabled HUMVEE. This tale is made all the more tragic in that we abandoned tens of thousands of these vehicles when we fled Afghanistan recently. The details are fiercely debated to this day, but here is the official description.

Pat and his fellow Rangers moved on foot to support the element they thought was in contact.

Tillman was in the lead vehicle designated Serial 1. Serial 1 passed through a mountainous pass and was roughly one kilometer ahead of Serial 2, the following HUMVEE. At that point, Serial 2 was purportedly engaged by hostile forces.

It was chaotic, and the situation was confusing. The end result was a tragedy.

Upon hearing of the ambush, the Rangers in Serial 1 dismounted and made their way on foot back toward an overwatch position where they could provide supporting fires for Serial 2. In the resulting chaos, the Rangers of Serial 2 lost touch with the specific location of the lead Rangers. In the violent exchange of fire that followed Tillman’s Platoon Leader and his RTO (Radio Telephone Operator) were wounded. An allied member of the Afghan Militia Force was killed. Pat Tillman caught three 5.56mm rounds from an M249 SAW to the face from a range of 10 meters and died instantly.

The Weapon

The original FN Minimi was a fairly revolutionary weapon.

First introduced in 1984, the Belgian-designed M249 Squad Automatic Weapon was an Americanized version of the FN Minimi. An open-bolt, gas-operated design, the M249 was conceived to provide the Infantry squad with a portable source of high-volume, belt-fed automatic fire. The M249 has seen action in every major military engagement since the US invasion of Panama in 1989.

In its most evolved state, the M249 is a mature and effective combat weapon.

The M249 weighs 17 pounds empty and 22 pounds with a basic load of 200 linked rounds. The weapon fires from an open bolt and features a quick-change barrel system. The gun will feed on either disintegrating linked belts or standard STANAG M4 magazines. In my experience, the magazine feed system was never terribly reliable.

This Ranger is wielding a Mk 46 in an overwatch position.

USSOCOM adopted a lighter, more streamlined version of the M249 titled the Mk46 for use with special operations forces. The M4 magazine well, vehicle mounting lugs, and barrel change handle were all removed on the Mk 46 to save weight. The USMC has aggressively supplemented their rifle squads with the HK M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle in lieu of many of their SAWs. These weapons are currently issued at a ratio of 27 IARs and 6 SAWs per rifle company. The Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle program is tasked with finding a suitable replacement for the aging M249’s in the Army inventory.

The Rest of the Story

The sordid circumstances surrounding his death sullied the story that the Army wanted told.

What happened next was a blight on the US Army. To have Pat Tillman, the real live Captain America killed due to friendly fire in a botched combat operation was not the story the Army wanted pushed. As a result, several senior Army officers moved to massage the narrative and outright suppress the story to both the media and the Tillman family. The end result was an absolutely ghastly mess.

Pat Tillman earned a posthumous Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan. He has been rightfully revered as an American hero.

There were allegations that Tillman, by now disillusioned with the war in Iraq, was about to offer an interview with controversial activist Noam Chomsky upon his return from his Afghanistan deployment that would be critical of the Bush Administration.

As Tillman’s death occurred in a crucial time leading up to the 2004 Presidential elections conspiracy theorists even proposed that he had been intentionally murdered. However, interviews with his fellow Rangers verified that Tillman was a popular and selfless member of the team. In the final analysis, it all seems to have been a truly horrible mistake. After several investigations undertaken by the military, three mid-level Army leaders purportedly received administrative punishment as a result.

The bond among these guys in combat is as strong as it gets.

A word on the conspiracies. Soldiers don’t fight for mom, apple pie, and America. They fight for each other. There’s just no way you could get a Ranger to intentionally shoot another Ranger to protect the reputation of a sitting President. This was simply a horrible accident.

Pat Tillman gave his life for his country at age 27.

The sordid circumstances surrounding the death of Pat Tillman in no way diminish the truly breathtaking scope of the man’s patriotism and sacrifice. Tillman was an avowed atheist throughout his life. After his funeral, his youngest brother Richard asserted, “Just make no mistake, he’d want me to say this: He’s not with God, he’s f&%ing dead, he’s not religious.” Richard added, “Thanks for your thoughts, but he’s f&%in’ dead.” It was an undeniably strange end for a genuine American hero.

Marie Tillman has gone on to a remarkable life of service after the death of her husband.

Soldiers in combat will often pen a “just in case” letter to be opened in the event of their death. Pat’s note to his wife Marie said, “Through the years I’ve asked a great deal of you, therefore it should surprise you little that I have another favor to ask. I ask that you live.”

Marie Tillman has ably continued her husband’s legacy of selflessness.

And live she did. Marie Tillman today is Chairman and Co-Founder of The Pat Tillman Foundation. This non-profit works to “unite and empower remarkable military service members, veterans, and spouses as the next generation of public and private sector leaders committed to service beyond self.” The Foundation has sponsored 635 Tillman Scholars and invested some $18 million in philanthropy. Marie has since remarried and is the mother of five children.

I am so grateful!!

To my Grand Readers out there, Thanks!!!!!!! Grumpy

A Victory! I am so grateful!! Leadership of the highest kind Real men Soldiering The Green Machine This great Nation & Its People

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