America Remembers: How I Got Turned Away From the National D-Day Memorial Events

I thought that arriving half an hour early would give me enough time to park a ways out, and walk in.

People are bad with dates. That’s not just a history buff whining about his favorite event not being properly observed, either. Birthdays, anniversaries, milestones- far too often they are simply missed and either celebrated late or not at all.

As a point of fact, yesterday I had to remind three people, two of which were history teachers, of what today was- it’s the 75th anniversary of -D-Day.

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At that point, I was pretty confident in arriving half an hour before the day’s events at the National D-Day Memorial, and walking in. Heck, maybe I wouldn’t even have to hike.

It occurred to me that this is a massive point of interest for our students, grads, and professional network here at SDI- what’s more, the national D-Day Memorial is actually a little over two hours from my house. That’s a pretty easy way to get folks in touch with a big event. Plus, who is going to be there? A couple of thousand people, max?

So, I started driving. Two hours up, not a huge deal. The trip was uneventful until I got about 3 miles out.

Then things got loud.

I don’t mean that there was a ruckus, I mean that suddenly the backcountry of Southwest Virginia suddenly became boldly, vibrantly alive. Cars were crammed down side alleys, parking lots, and roads shoulders to such an extent that it was causing traffic jams for commuters. Nearly every house had some sort of ornamentation.

Locals wisely parked cars at the mouths of the entrances of their businesses so that tourists could not cram them with  their vehicles, which to me and the thousands of cars suddenly snared in a Manhattan level traffic jam seemed like ungodly dead weights.

I got there half an hour early confident that I could park about half a mile out and walk into the event, but the truth is even though I waited in traffic to get closer for better than an hour, I never got closer than 1 mile of the memorial. When I got that far, I was told that I would have to come back later because they were just too full. Thousands upon thousands of people flooded the area. They were overrun by well-wishers, veterans, and average Americans.

I thought that this country collective memory of one of the bravest national actions would be limited to some enthusiastic locals, and a few hundred milling guests like myself. I have never been so profoundly pleased to feel like an idiot.

It looks like some folks can still remember a few dates, after all.

SDI Mourns: Paul Jackson, D-Day Vet and Namesake of Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship, Dies

Sonoran Desert Institute lost a pillar of our community this week.

While we remember the bravery and sacrifice of so many on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we also mourn the loss of Operation Overlord participant Master Sergeant Paul Jackson, veteran of World War II and namesake of our very own Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship. He passed away on June 3 at the venerable age of 96. His legacy, which currently includes 57 surviving descendants, remains alive and well.

Paul Jackson served in Bravo Co, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment during WWII. Jackson participated in some of the most well-known military actions of the Second World War, jumping into combat during Operation Overlord and Operation Market Garden and fighting in the Battle of Bastogne, where he was wounded. His story ranges from beekeeping to battling to asking General George Patton himself for a transfer — and getting it.

Jackson was born in 1923 in Funston, Georgia. At the age of 17, he enlisted into the United States Army and trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. After serving for a period of time in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Jackson was transferred over to the west coast after the war broke out to ensure the safety of the region.

Serving at Camp Beale, California didn’t sit well with Jackson. He wanted action, and knew where he could get it — the paratroopers. However, his captain didn’t want him to go — he knew a good noncomissioned officer when he saw one, and denied the transfer.

Naturally, then Staff Sergeant Paul Jackson then got General George S. Patton involved.

During his time at Fort Knox, among his other duties Jackson had served as a fill-in driver for the world-renowned general. He had also built hives and managed bees for the American legend, a skill he picked up in his childhood.

The transfer was granted.

As you might imagine, the captain who had stonewalled him was so upset about the incident that he had Jackson stripped of his rank before he left. Staff Sergeant Jackson became Private Jackson.

Jackson returned to Benning, where he got his jump wings.

Jackson made Corporal before taking part in Operation Overlord and the Battle for Normandy, and by the time the 501st participated in Operation Market Garden Jackson had propelled himself back to staff sergeant. It was during Operation Market Garden that Jackson would participate in one of his most legendary acts as a United States serviceman.

Allied armor came under fire from a rocket emplacement, causing serious issues to the armored group. Having already been wounded moments before by a piece of searing-hot debris, Jackson charged up a hill in which a rocket placement was located, and single-handedly killed all five of the German occupants and neutralized the rockets.

Jackson saved lives that day, and for his heroism he was promoted to master sergeant. Jackson continued to serve until the Battle of Bastogne, in which he was shot three times in the hip joint and was hospitalized until the Germans surrendered. He was honorably discharged, a hero in his own right.

Some time ago, we did a video about Jackson, highlighting just what a special man he was. It’s attached below.

A representative from SDI was present at Jackson’s funeral with a floral arrangement dedicated to his memory. It, and the Paul Jackson First Responder Scholarship, are such a small thing we can do to honor a true American hero.

Let’s honor Jackson’s memory together. Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and tag a friend!

Remembering Memorial Day: Posthumous Medal of Honor Recipient Jared C. Monti

This Memorial Day, we though it an appropriate way to honor the fallen by highlighting a posthumously-awarded Medal of Honor recipient, Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti.

To quote directly from the United States Army’s Center for Military History:

Staff Sergeant Jared C. Monti distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a team leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3d Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, on June 21, 2006.

According to the United States Army’s Center for Military History, Monti was leading a mission wherein the team was gathering intelligence and directing fire when suddenly the 16-man patrol was attacked by a force estimated to have numbered around 50 soldiers — tripling the patrol’s manpower.

As one might imagine, the team was very quickly faced with the very real possibility of being overrun. Thinking quickly, Staff Sergeant Monti set the patrol in a defensive position behind rock formation, and called for indirect fire support. That fire support would be accurately relayed by Monti to enemy positions as close as 50 meters from his position.

Still relaying information and directing fire, Monti fought the enemy personally, making use of both his rifle and a grenade to break an attempted flanking maneuver on his men’s position.

That’s not even what made him so remembered for his acts that day.

Monti discovered in the midst of this hellacious engagement that one of his soldiers was wounded, lying on the ground in between his patrol’s position and the advancing enemy. That didn’t sit right with him.

Completely ignoring the danger to his own person, Monti made two attempts to recover the wounded soldier without success. He was unphased. Staff Sergeant Jared Monti made a third attempt to get to his wounded comrade directly in the face of relentless fire of the enemy.

He would not survive the third attempt.

Inspired by their staff sergeant’s nearly-mad scramble to leave no one behind, the remaining patrol members rallied and repelled the attack, still a force larger than their own.

Greater love hath no man than this.

Don’t forget, folks: today isn’t a day to celebrate: it’s a day to remember and honor.

Honor the fallen.

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The 5 “W”s (And 1 “H”) of Visiting Your Local Gun Store, Part 2

The local gun store is a sometimes strange, often wondrous place. It’s an amazing way to get your hands on products you might be interested in but can’t normally reach, and often their used inventory is unbeatable in diversity and price.

Recently, we broke down the “Who,” “What,” and “When” of visiting your local gun store. We’re going to finish our list with “Where,” “Why,” and “How” — maybe we can help you with your next trip!

Where- This can be broken down in two ways:

  1. Is this gun store close enough to merit the drive for whatever deal you’re hoping for? It’s the “local” in a local gun store. It’s silly to drive two hours to save 20 bucks — make sure you’re valuing your own time!
  2. Where do you see yourself putting or using this item? If you’re coming to the store for a specific firearm/optic, you’ve hopefully already asked yourself that question. In this context, it’s a great tool to use for those trips where you don’t have a specific purchasing objective. If you’re raiding the used gun inventory for that one piece to take home make sure that piece has a place once you leave the store — that place can be on the range, on your favorite hunting plot, or even in a display case. Just so long as you’re still content once the euphoria of “Ooh, new gun!” wears off.

Why- Perhaps the most important of all of these questions to consider, it’s essential to take a moment and ask yourself “Why am I going to this particular gun store?”

I’m all for supporting local business, but it’s no secret that many online retailers can undercut a lot of prices. Often, they really are the right choice. So, ask yourself — are you looking for expertise? Are you looking for that in-store experience? Do you want a particular product, and just not mind paying a modest markup for immediacy and the local economy? Do you want to see the used inventory that online platforms don’t often have?

You absolutely should support local business when you get the chance — just make sure that you know why you do and what price differential you’re willing to undergo to support your local business, so if you see a major retailer sale three weeks after you made your purchase at a local store you’re still confident in your choice.

How- Last, but not least — how are you going to pay for your purchase? If you’re buying a 50-round pack of ammo, it’s not such an issue, but if you’re buying an $800 rifle, you need to be sure you can — you know — pay for it. If you’re going to bring some kit or a firearm to trade in, make sure you bring everything pertinent to your trade-in with you. Preferably you make your purchase with cash-on-hand, but if you need financing, see if your local gun store does layaway.

As responsibly-armed citizens and sensible shoppers, it’s on us to make smart shopping choices. If you can, use your next time at your local gun store as an opportunity to bring a friend new to firearms into the community!

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The 5 “W”s (And 1 “H”) of Visiting Your Local Gun Store, Part 1

The local gun store is a sometimes strange, often wondrous place. It’s an amazing way to get your hands on products you might be interested in but can’t normally reach, and often their used inventory is unbeatable in diversity and price — I’m a sucker for antiques, myself.

We’re going to take a moment or two and break down the “Who,” “What,” and “When” of visiting your local gun store. Maybe we can help you with your next trip!

Who- Who are you about to be dealing with? Is this a gun store you’re familiar with? A firearm salesman you’re familiar with? If not, have you read reviews on the store or heard about it from friends? This kind of information is vitally important to ensure you get the best for your money without ticking off your local small businessman. I’ll give you an example:

Two of my favorite local gun vendors, William and John, both own small firearms businesses, but operate them in very different ways.

John is an estate sale specialist, often with the majority of his firearms inventory being antiques. He exclusively sells used inventory. He prices his used inventory high intentionally- he’s one of those guys that doesn’t consider a sale a good deal unless he’s haggled for at least a quarter hour.

William is completely different. His inventory is smaller, and tends to be evenly split between used and new inventory, where he specializes in modern, affordable firearms and optics. When William sets a price on a piece of used inventory, he has set it as low as he can while still being profitable. If you bring him cash, he might be able to let you out the door for the tag price — that’s about as good a cut as you can hope for.

Both are perfectly valid ways to run a business — there’s nothing wrong with a little haggling, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with starting your prices low for the sake of your customers. However, if you approach one as you’d approach the other, you’re either going to overpay or offend a small businessman who’s already doing his best. Those are both real people, by the way, and I made the aforementioned mistake both ways before I realized I needed to prepare myself a little better — so there’s no judgment, here.

Homework is going to be your friend.

What- This one’s easy — What do you want? What are you hoping to get out of this trip? Is it ammo? Is it a rifle sling and case? Are you finally able to pull the trigger (ha!) on a new optic? Are you getting a new firearm? Do you want to raid the used firearm collection for a gem? Do you want to just shoot the breeze with the owner during a slow hour?

These are all absolutely acceptable reasons to check out a local gun store, and you can have more than one reason to go — but know why you want to go if you value your budget.

If you don’t care about your financial well-being, well, I wish you Godspeed and good hunting.

When- When are you planning on buying your intended product? Is this an immediate purchase, or are you laying some groundwork for a purchase or two down the road?

If you’re doing some on-the-ground research, it’s often a good idea to mention it to the salesman/owner. They might be able to help you anticipate future sales or updated models coming down the pipeline you may not yet be aware of. Plus, if you’ve got something you’d like to have in a month, you might be able to order it through them, minimizing the threat of whatever item you’re looking for being out of stock.

Have fun, and be prepared! We will be here shortly with the second part of this series: Where, Why, and How!

10 Rules You’ll Want to Consider at Your Local Gun Show

Most of us within the gun industry have been to more than our fair share of gun shows — they’re fun, a great way to pick up that one thing your spouse doesn’t want you to spend money on, and they’re a great way to network with other enthusiasts in the community.

I imagine that most of you have a pretty good idea already what to look for (and what not to look for) when you hit that showroom floor. That being said, recent tragedies among my friends (including one nervously asking me if a Kel-Tec PMR-30 was worth more than $600)  have led me to create a list of rules — dos and don’ts at your local gun show.

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Don’t think of it as “Joey’s Ten Commandments,” rather just consider it “Joey’s Ten Things You Might Want to Consider.”

Please feel free to treat this with a grain of salt. There is, of course, an exception to any rule, and only Sith deal in absolutes.

Without any further ado, let’s dive in:

  1. If you’ve got a gun show that is running over multiple days, go on the last day — if you can, go during the last couple of hours.
    If you’ve got a gun show that’s a one-day affair (I don’t think I have been to one that short-lived personally) definitely go during the last couple of hours. It’s the same rule as a yard sale. Deals get made when the reality of lugging a gun home comes closer and closer.
  2. If you’re coming in with a firearm you intend to sell, either don’t sell to a gun shop or be prepared to accept a whole heck of a lot less than you want for it.
    It’s nothing against gun shops — they just have to make a living! Of course, with any private transactions please consult your local laws so you know that what you are doing is well on the right side of the law.
  3. Know your state laws. Period.
    Same goes for city and/or county laws.
  4. If you’re coming in with a firearm of any kind, you’ll almost certainly be asked to check it. Make sure it is unloaded before you go in.
    Checked it? Good. Check it again.
  5. When you enter, take a moment and breathe.
    Some of the worst transactions made in a gun show are made because people allow themselves to become overly-hyped by all the firearms around them. I can’t blame them — but you want to be a cool customer.
  6. Before making a purchase, look at every single table at the show.
    It might take 30 minutes — it generally takes me about two hours, but I’m pokey. It can save you loads of money, and gives you time to think about your haggling strategy. Plus. Guns are fun.
  7. Use extreme caution when purchasing a new firearm from a gun show.
    Very often, guns will be marked up much higher than in your local gun store or online. Come into the show having done your research on the firearm(s) you want.
  8. Haggle with sellers on used inventory.
    The sweeping majority of gun shop owners will mark up their second-hand wares in anticipation of an offer below their list price. Don’t be rude — just get the best you can for your money. They’re doing the same — it’s the wonder of the haggle!
  9. Do not allow yourself to compromise on a piece of gear that you had your heart set on before you got in just because you want to have left the show with something. Be patient –you’ll be so much happier. That off-brand scope isn’t likely to be the exact same as what you had your heart set on, even it’s perfectly good in its own right!
  10. Someone will be selling jerky. Sample that jerky.
    It will be excellent.

Now, I’m not the be-all, end-all in firearms authority. This might surprise you, but I’m not even the second to the be-all, end-all in the firearms community. So, I want to hear from you: what should be added to this list? What do you disagree with? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

Medal of Honor Highlight: Ed “Too Tall” Freeman and the Battle of Ia Drang

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest, most prestigious decoration awarded to those servicemen and women for gallantry and bravery in combat above and beyond the call of duty. Fewer than 4,000 individuals of the millions who have served between its inception in 1863 and today have received it, and a great many of them received it posthumously.

This is one of their many stories. All information provided in this article is provided by Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier.

Ed Freeman, born 1927 in Neely, Mississippi, was a veteran of three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and more famously the Vietnam War.

Freeman actually served in World War II as a Navy man and the Korean War as an infantryman — at an incredible 6’4″, the man was actually considered too tall to be a pilot.

In 1955, the height limit for pilot school was raised, however, and Freeman was finally able to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

Initially, Too Tall — the nickname stuck — flew fixed-wing aircraft. That didn’t last for long, however. He soon switched to helicopters.

You may think you know of Too Tall’s exploits from the hit war film We Were Soldiers, and while the movie does an excellent job portraying a large portion of the events surrounding Freeman’s actions, it doesn’t fully capture the context in which he performed what he did.

Freeman flew a battalion to the Ia Drang Valley in 1965 to engage North Vietnamese forces in what would turn out to be the first major battle of the Vietnam War.

Unfortunately for those being transported, after they were dropped off it was discovered that they were wildly outnumbered. Ammunition and medical supplies were drained quickly as casualties climbed at an alarming rate.

The fighting was so fierce, in fact, that medevac helicopters refused to fly in and pick up the wounded. The request was made of Freeman’s 16-helicopter unit for volunteers to extract wounded and bring in supplies.

Freeman stepped up. Freeman’s unit commander, Major Bruce Crandall, stepped up. That’s it.

The two men flew multiple times into a tiny, emergency landing zone created because the original landing zone was compromised.

The emergency landing zone was about 100 yards from heavy fighting, and the lightly-armored UH-1 received multiple hits from small arms fire.

Freeman carried out 14 separate emergency rescue missions and extracted dozens of wounded, many of which wouldn’t have survived without his bravery.

Freeman and his commander kept what remained of the battalion alive. Too Tall was commended for his actions, but did not receive the Medal of Honor until George Bush presented it to him, for his gallantry and bravery far beyond what was required of him, in 2001.

Remember his name.

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Medal of Honor Highlight: Thomas Hudner, Korea’s First Nominee

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest, most prestigious decoration awarded to those servicemen and women for gallantry and bravery in combat above and beyond the call of duty. Fewer than 4,000 individuals of the millions who have served between its inception in 1863 and today have received it, and a great many of them received it posthumously.

This is one of their many stories. All information provided in this article is provided by Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty by Peter Collier.

Thomas Hudner, born in 1924, had no real plans on flying a plane when he graduated the United States Naval Academy in 1946. Not too long after he had entered the service, however, he had both served aboard ship and at Pearl Harbor and wanted a greater challenge. He volunteered for flight school.

He became a F4U Corsair Pilot.

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By late 1950, the young flier was serving over the skies of Korea in the first of the “hot” wars sparked by the Cold War.

On December 4, Lieutenant Hudner was flying his plane with five others on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Korea. Hudner was wingman to one Jesse Brown, who happened to be the Navy’s first black pilot.

While Brown was strafing enemy positions, he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. He was unable to bail out or escape the area thanks to his current altitude and the height of surrounding mountains. Hudner helped Brown attempt a crash landing, and miraculously, Brown survived that landing.

Brown had managed to crash-land his plane, wheels down, in a nearby clearing. However, as one might expect, it hadn’t gone perfectly, and the fuselage was badly damaged, pinning Brown in the cockpit in the frigid North Korean clearing.

Hudner couldn’t stand for that.

Figuring one miraculous landing wasn’t good enough, and knowing rescue helicopters were a significant distance away, Hudner landed his own plane in a hilly area. He left his plane and braved the snow-blanketed landscape to reach Brown.

The news wasn’t good. Brown’s leg was clearly crushed, and Hudner wasn’t able to extract him by himself.

Hudner did the next-best thing — all that he could. Unwilling to consign his comrade to oblivion alone, Hudner continually packed the smoking engine with snow and talking to the struggling Brown as he lapsed in and out of consciousness all the way until a rescue helicopter arrived. Even then, the unflappable Hudner worked with rescue for forty-five minutes desperately trying to extract Brown.

Brown passed in that clearing.

Hudner and the helicopter pilot were forced to return to base camp, and later on the captain of the Leyte, the carrier Brown and Hudner were assigned, ordered the downed plane napalmed so that the body could not be extracted by the enemy, and so that Brown could have a warrior’s funeral.

For Hudner’s acts above and beyond the call of duty, Hudner received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman on April 13, 1951. Jesse Brown posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Remember their names today.

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