It’s a heart-wrenching job, but Capt. Justin Jacobs diligently works to ensure fallen troops are brought home to their families in noble and respectful measures.
“Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my job is returning our fallen service members back to the states where they can be reconnected with their loved ones,” Jacobs said. “We provide a dignified transfer for every member coming out of the various areas of responsibility, as well as the European theater to include the remains of those recovered in previous conflicts.”
For his efforts to revamp the Air Force’s training on dignified transfers, Jacobs has earned a prestigious distinction — the Air Mobility Command Company Grade Officer of the Year. He also is recognized for his efforts to reduce delivery time of packages to Africa and eliminating unnecessary steps in cargo-processing procedures.
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More than 60 years ago, in a move that would cost her a job, Mildred Poole moved to defend education for all children — regardless of their race.
She opened school doors for black children to join classes on Fort Bragg three years before Brown vs. Board of Education would force integration nationwide.
She was fired a few years later.
“I just did what my spirit told me was right and what I knew I had to do,” Poole told The Fayetteville Observer 33 years later. There’s no accounts of harassment Poole may have faced, but old reports said the general at Fort Bragg received a lot of crude telegrams about it.
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By the time Jim Schmidt was 16 years old, he was a seasoned combat veteran who’d fired dozens of mortar rounds at German tanks before he was kicked out of the Army and the Navy.
Now 90 and living in Fayetteville, Schmidt’s hearing and airborne wing tattoos have faded a little, but not much else has changed. The surly veteran who jumped into Sicily with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II at the age of 14 doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about as he recalls his service.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180307/it-just-makes-me-so-proud-of-what-hes-done-for-our-country
In between lessons on global awareness and civics, Ruby Murray is probably running around looking for cleats or choir robes or whatever else her students need.
She smiles when she talks about how she connected a student who’d never met her mother to a beautician who volunteered to do the girl’s hair. And she recalls frantic phone calls across the region searching for a specially sized dress uniform for a student who thought he’d have to drop Murray’s JROTC class because he couldn’t find a uniform that fit.
“I don’t let them give up on their dreams because they don’t have the material things,” she said.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20180210/meet-jrotc-instructor-ruby-murray
Henry Page, a young Navy gunner’s mate from Moore County, was at the weapons depot when Japanese planes circled overhead at Pearl Harbor.
Within minutes, an unimaginable disaster unfolded around him.
Page, now 96, was among the U.S. service members who diligently searched for survivors and cared for the wounded after the attack 76 years ago today.
It’s hard for him to talk about those memories.
They’re painful snapshots of the day he lost hundreds of comrades, his family says, and he felt helpless.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20171206/76-years-later-fayetteville-navy-veteran-remembers-pearl-harbor
Fifty-three years ago, a young Lynn Weaver walked into his new classroom at West High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, ready for lessons, but honestly more interested in the football field.
He and a dozen other black students were the first to integrate into the school.
“I got stomach cramps every morning just thinking about going to school,” Weaver said. “I stopped eating breakfast.”
The daring move led Weaver to second-guess his abilities. But the 14-year-old student who was constantly targeted by racist teachers and bullies would not only ace his classes, he also became one of the top Veterans Affairs surgeons.
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For six days, Maj. Leonard Clark and five other airmen drifted in the Pacific Ocean as the sun beat down on their bruised and bloodied bodies.
Saltwater stung each time a large wave washed over the side of their inflatable raft. Sharks crept precariously close, retreating only when the battered airmen mustered the strength to swing their boots at them.
The airmen survived a crash and beat away sharks, but it was just the beginning of the horror they would withstand as they became prisoners in Japan during World War II.
Clark, a bomber pilot, flew missions over the Pacific theater during World War II for the 5th Air Force’s 403rd Bombardment Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group, which is the modern-day 43rd Air Mobility Operations Group at Pope Field. He and other members of his squad taken by Japanese forces at Kyushu island in 1945 will be among 31 airmen honored in a new POW/MIA memorial at Pope Field on Friday.
“I think about the freedoms that these men fought for,” said Susan Clark Lanson, the pilot’s daughter. “It’s important to remember and honor these men. We’re not going to forget their sacrifices.”
Read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170907/airmen-missing-in-action-to-be-honored-in-new-memorial
Digging his elbows into the sand and lava rock beach of Iwo Jima, 18-year-old Pvt. Willy Bryan moved methodically, slowly.
He stayed low while just inches above his head, shell casings exploded in the air.
Bryan felt a tug on the heel of his boot. He craned his neck and saw that a fellow Marine crawling behind him had been hit.
Bryan stayed with the injured Marine while he called for a corpsman.
“He was there in five minutes, treating him on the beach,” Bryan said. “I thought, ‘he’s got to be one of the bravest in the Marine Corps.’ They treated the wounded and it didn’t matter what was going on.”
Bryan pushed forward and found a crater in the beach left by an exploded mortar. He paused to catch his breath, and his nerve.
“I could feel the back of my pants flutter from the whizzing shells,” he said.
But he never retreated.
“That’s what I was trained for,” said Bryan, now 90 years old. “I knew that’s where I was going.”
Bryan, a proud “grunt,″ served as a rifleman in the 5th Marine Division’s E Co., 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment in the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. He was among a group of Marines that successfully captured Mount Suribachi.
Bryan, who was shot in the back of the leg on his ninth day of battle on the island, will be among 160 recipients of the Purple Heart attending the Sandhills Purple Heart Dinner in Fayetteville this weekend. He’ll be joined by his wife and several family members, including great grandson Brandon, who has already pledged his desire to become a Marine.
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It’s been 14 years since the United States last fired a Patriot missile, but Col. Joseph McCallion Jr. said air defense soldiers have pressed on with grueling training as they remain vigilant for enemy threats.
“I don’t know when the next missile war is, but I’m confident we’ll demonstrate high lethality,” said McCallion, commander of the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. “Soldiers are well-trained. They do it so much it’s muscle memory.”
Read the full story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170711/mccallion-relinquishes-command-of-108th-air-defense-artillery-brigade
The doodles that fill the pages of Xavier Smith’s sketchbook have come alive in eye-popping designs on the fabric of sneakers.The ideas just flow out when the 20-year-old Smith, affectionately nicknamed “Zae,” sits down to paint. He doesn’t think too hard; just let it happen, he said.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170624/meet-xavier-smith-shoe-designer-adding-flair---even-to-jordans
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.