“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster
“The battle at Combat Outpost Keating remains one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. forces since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan — and it is the first battle to produce two Medal of Honor recipients since the Battle of Mogadishu almost 20 years ago. . . .
“At least nine other soldiers from B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colo., have been awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor, for their actions at COP Keating.” MilitaryTimes.com 5 August 2013.
(Clinton Romesha is a former Army staff sergeant and author of “Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor.” He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the defense of Combat Outpost Keating. This excerpt is from Sgt. Romesha’s May 29, 2016 opinion piece in the Washington Post.)
. . .
In October 2009, my cavalry troop was preparing to shut down a remote outpost in Afghanistan when we were assaulted by more than 300 Taliban-led insurgents. In violation of the most basic principles of warfare, our base, Combat Outpost Keating, had been built in a valley surrounded by three mountains. It is almost impossible to hold and defend your ground when the enemy is free to shoot from above while observing every move you make.
Within the first hour of the attack, the insurgents had breached our wire, driving most of Keating’s 50 U.S. guardians into our final defensive formation inside a cluster of three hard-shelled buildings, known as the Alamo position.
It was then that five enlisted men volunteered to join me in a counterattack meant to drive the enemy back beyond the wire, rescue missing comrades and retrieve the bodies of our dead.
During the next several hours, we achieved these goals. But by the time the battle was over, we’d lost eight men. Three days later, we were evacuated, and the outpost was leveled by a series of American Hellfire missiles.
As far as the Army was concerned, that was the end of Keating’s story. But the men who fought saw things differently.
How do you consecrate the memory of your fallen when the place where they lost their lives is off-limits, terrain to which you may never return?
Generally, soldiers don’t like to talk about their most painful experiences. Most combat veterans have shorthand, watered-down versions of what happened to us that we recite, politely and dutifully, when asked. The real stories are almost never shared.
For the most part, we prefer to keep those memories safely locked away.
Why? For one, because language is such an imperfect tool. Anyone who has survived combat knows that words are entirely incapable of conveying the horrors of battle. Soldiers assume that any attempt to communicate such truths will merely underscore the futility of trying. This creates its own kind of defeat, another loss to be added to the balance sheet.
I cannot speak for every soldier. But this has been true for me and the men who fought by my side. And something else I know: Our tour in Afghanistan left a hole in all of us — a hole we weren’t able to identify, much less repair, because the Army had done almost nothing to prepare us for it.
We were given exhaustive training for the tasks set before us as soldiers. But when it came to coping with challenges after we came home, we were provided almost no resources.
This may have been the central insight — dimly realized and barely articulated — that led a group of us to conclude that if there were a path forward through the thickets of grief and loss, we would have to create it ourselves.
And that is how we decided we needed to tell our story.
By “our” story, I don’t simply mean what happened at Keating. The most vital component was building a testament to the men who did not come back. Who they were. How they died. And to the extent possible, measuring whether their deaths held meaning, given that their lives were sacrificed for an outpost that probably never should have been built.
[end of excerpt]
Courage at Keating: Second MoH, 9 Silver Stars for standout B Troop
Army.Mil Medal of Honor Page for US Army SSGT Clinton Romesha:
Army.Mil Medal of Honor Page for US Army SSGT Ty Carter:
Developing list of writing opportunities and resources for current and past military service members at combatresearchandprose.com:
PLEASE NOTE: This website template unacceptably crops the CENTCOM graphic that appears as the “feature image” for this post, resulting in the exclusion of the locations and means by which three more soldiers fell at COP Keating on 3 Oct. 2009. Here’s the complete list: Sgt. Joshua T. Kirk, 30, of South Portland, Maine; Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, 27, of Tucson, Ariz.; Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, 25, Savannah, Ga.; Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, 24, Applegate, Calif.; Sgt. Michael P. Scusa, 22, Villas, N.J.; Spc. Christopher T. Griffin, 24, Kincheloe, Mich.; Spc. Stephan L. Mace, 21, Lovettsville, Va.; and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson, 22, Reno, Nev. And here’s the complete graphic:
Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted, Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.