Letter from Officer Will McGary Memorial Foundation
Mr. Dodd, sir,
I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I received your note enclosed in the box of Shields of Strength necklaces. I would be honored to share what they mean to me and what I hope they will mean to those to whom we distribute them.
First, please, let me thank YOU for your service to our country. I saw from your signature line that you are a retired US Army Colonel. I am proud to be affiliated with you, sir. If there was anything I ever wanted to do, it was to serve my country. I never got the opportunity to do so, but I am grateful to every one of you who did.
Now about the Shields of Strength. I volunteer for the Officer Will McGary Memorial Foundation which was established in 2013 after the death of 26 year old Officer Will McGary while in the line of duty. Will’s mother is my best friend. I became very actively involved in the Foundation in early 2015.
This past May, I accompanied the McGary family to Washington, D.C. to the annual fallen law enforcement officer’s candlelight vigil and visited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall where we saw Will’s name inscribed for all of eternity along with the other brave officers who gave their lives. It was emotionally overwhelming and touching.
We were registering for C.O.P.S. events that second day we were there when I was handed a thin blue line necklace. I have an instant attraction to anything bearing the American flag, so I was immediately drawn to the necklace. So many things about it grabbed my attention that I stood there for some time looking it over. First of all, it was a dog tag necklace. This, along with the flag, immediately paid homage, in my mind, to our US veteran heroes. The addition of the thin blue line in the flag reminded me that our law enforcement officers are all that stand between good people and the whims of a lawless society. Anyone stepping into the role of law enforcement officer is truly placing himself in harm’s way in this present world and that entitles him/her to great respect from the rest of us. Perhaps the most emotional part of this gift, to me, was when I turned it over and saw that beautiful verse, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” My heart was truly touched by this. Amidst all the loss, the grieving families I was surrounded by, the pain I was bearing with my dearest friend of the loss of her only son, it was like a quiet reminder from heaven that Will died keeping the peace in the greatest country in the world. He was doing what he was passionate about doing when he was killed. He was protecting his fellow man and his fellow officers surrounding the scene of an accident when he was struck by an impaired driver. If it had not been Will that had been struck that night, it is unknown how many other lives may have been lost instead, and if I know Will, he would not have tolerated that.
Will was an especially blessed peacemaker, because he chose organ donation during his lifetime, and we know of three lives who were changed and saved because of this choice. Two teenage girls received his kidneys, and a middle-aged man received his heart. They attend our events as they are able. So you see that this blessed peacemaker never stopped giving, even in death. What a legacy for a 26 year old man! We chose to turn this tragedy into a triumph by establishing the Officer Will McGary Memorial Foundation. We support law enforcement officers and the youth of our community. I hope you’ll visit our website to find out more about Will and about us.
As for those we intend to distribute the Shields of Strength to, it my hope that, whatever their situations, they will be reminded of the same things I was. I know, as patrons of a car show fundraiser event, it is likely that many of them have never been touched by tragedy such as this. I hope that, after viewing the slideshow we will have displayed, they will be solemnly reminded to respect our law enforcement officers and to honor those that have given their lives to the cause of peacekeeping. I hope they will realize that God blessed them by allowing them to be citizens of this country of ours. I pray God will use the scripture on the necklace to speak to their hearts, for we know His Word never returns to Him void, but it accomplishes that which he sends it to do. I believe this.
I gave my necklace to my 16-year-old son when I returned from D.C. and he was moved by it. These necklaces are in every way the kind of item with which we wish to represent our Foundation. They speak of God, honor, and American heroes and that, to me, about sums it up.
I thank you very much for your very generous gift, and I hope that in days to come, we can get to the place that we can afford to regularly purchase these from you as part of our giveaways. I saw a variety of styles on your website that I loved as well and I hope the time will come that we are able to place a nice, big order. Until then, I have prayed that God will bless the work of your hands.
I am attaching a couple photos at the Wall in D.C.
Memorial Wall for Fallen Police Officers, Washington, D.C.
Officer Will McGary Family Members at Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
I will send photos of our event after it takes place in September. God bless you.
M.O.M., a military support group in Mount Pleasant, Texas will include over a thousand Shields of Strength, which Point 27 gave for inclusion in care packages the support group will send across the world to soldiers who will be separated from their families over the holidays.
Prayer, Honor, Awareness
The M.O.M. organization is an outreach to the country’s military service men and women. The group has set a mission to provide care packages to military members deployed or stationed in the U.S. and overseas, and has stated a commitment for:
praying for the safety and well-being of military troops
bringing community awareness to the sacrifices they are making to preserve freedom
honoring Veterans for their military service.
Kelly Cooper, Marine Mom and Director of M.O.M., loves to share Shields of Strength with her son and other Warriors
Kellye Cooper heads the East Texas M.O.M. group and spearheads the Mount Pleasant Carry The Load rallies.
Cooper’s son serves in the U.S. Marines.
“As a small nonprofit, without Point 27 supporting M.O.M., we could never afford to give out the amount of Shield of Strength Dog Tags that we are giving to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. I honestly cannot put into words how this all makes me feel because I am truly overwhelmed at what Point 27 means for the Mission of MOM,” Cooper said. “Sharing God’s Word with the men and women who are serving and sacrificing is the best Christmas gift we can give.”
Thousands remember the moment the deadliest terrorist attack took place on American soil. That experience was no different for decorated U.S. Army (Ret) Col. David Dodd, who remembers it was a time of high spiritual warfare.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Dodd had no idea that he and his new command, the 86th Signal Battalion, would soon deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and later support Operation Iraqi Freedom, in America’s War on Terrorism.
Shields of Strength Dog Tags
Days before the deployment, Dodd’s sergeant major was in a Christian bookstore where he found some dog tags engraved with the scripture Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“I thought that that dog tag would be something that would encourage our soldiers during deployment,” Dodd told CBN News.
Dodd ordered 500 of them, one for every soldier under his command for that initial deployment to Afghanistan following 9/11, from Shields of Strength, a company founded by Kenny Vaughan.
“Obviously, the Shields wouldn’t stop a bullet, and they weren’t good luck charms, but they were reminders of the power of God’s Word,” Dodd remembers. “My wife Sharon and I would pray for each of the soldiers in my command before we gave them the Shield of Strength and just before they boarded the transport for Afghanistan.”
Dodd said it was one of the toughest experience but knew it was something he was called to do.
Take Fight to Enemy…Pray
“Everybody in that unit wanted to go forward and take the fight to the enemy and away from the United States,” he said.
Dodd’s unit stayed until 2002 and, amazingly, there were no casualties. But he has not stopped praying for the military or the nation.
“I believe there is a determined enemy. There is somebody who has declared war on us, still at war with us. They’re not going to stop fighting us. And for our nation to be safe and to be victorious we need to have God on our side and we need to turn to God and ask for his mercy, his protection, and his grace,” Dodd said.
“I often pray 2 Chronicles 7:14,” he added. “That if we would humble ourselves and turn from our wicked way and pray and seek God’s face that he would forgive our sins and heal our land. It is my prayer still today that we would humble ourselves and seek God’s face.”
Shields of Strength and Point 27
Dodd has shared more than 10,000 Shields of Strength with members of the military and U.S. and international leaders during his active military service.
Now he is building up members of the military, veterans, and families of the fallen soldiers, first responders and families of fallen responders; through a nonprofit called Point 27.
by: Talia Wise
Talia Wise serves as a multi-media producer for CBN News Newswatch, CBNNews.com and social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia attended Regent University where she earned a Master’s in Journalism and the University of Virginia. She lives in Newport News, Virginia.
Thin Blue Line Shields of Strength Dog Tag Necklace and Folded Flag Necklace engraved with scripture.
Thin Blue Line
A Thin Blue Line, comprised of men and women in blue uniforms, stands between good and evil. These brave souls enforce America’s laws and they provide order and security for America’s communities. They face danger on a daily basis, and sadly, many are injured and/or die in the line of duty. Long hours, violence, stress, and criticism challenge even the strongest. In light of demanding and relentless pressure, Law Enforcement Officers and their families need encouragement and support.
Encouragement and Strength
Point 27 is providing encouragement and strength by giving Police Officers and Deputies custom “Thin Blue Line” dog tags produced by Shield of Strength. The design is an American Flag with a thin blue line as the center strip. The back of the dog tag is engraved with Romans 5:9, “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called the Sons of God.” These dog tags are a constant reminder of God’s Word and they hang just inches from the Police Officer’s heart.
To honor family members of Fallen Officers, Point 27 gives Police and Sheriff Departments a Folded Flag Pendant necklace engraved with John 15:13, “Greater Love has no one than this: to down one’s life for a friend.” The pendant is a replica of a folded American Flag presented to family members during funeral service for a Fallen Officer. Point 27 wants to strengthen and encourage these special family members and to let them know we will not forget their Fallen Officer.
National Police Week
In mid-May, Point 27 gave 3,000 Thin Blue Line Shields of Strength to police officers and 600 Folded Flag Necklaces to Families of Fallen Officers during annual National Police Week 2016 held In Washington D.C. The several-day event honored police officers across the nation and recognized the sacrifices they and their families make every day, with special honor to the families that lost loved ones in the line of Police duty.
No one knew then that the summer of 2016 would be one of the most dangerous and deadly periods on record for Police and Law Enforcement Officers.
Dallas Police Ambush
Following the murder of five Dallas Officers, Point 27 reached out to the Dallas Chief of Police to offer Thin Blue Line Shield of Strength Dog Tags for his officers and Folded Flag Necklaces for family members of the Fallen Officers. The officers ambushed on the night of July 7 were: Dallas Police Officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Patrick Zamarripa. The fifth officer killed was a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Officer Brent Thompson.
Point 27 sent Shields that were presented in a brief afternoon ceremony on July 29 at the main headquarters of the Dallas Police Station. The gift would be sufficient to provide every Dallas Police Officer with a Thin Blue Line Shield of Strength. For the families of the officers killed in the shooting, Point 27 sent 50 Folded Flag Necklaces, and offered more, if needed. DPD Executive Assistant Chief David Pughes received the Shields of Strength on behalf of Dallas Police Chief David Brown and the Dallas Police Department.
His head bowed and eyes tearing, Officer Pughes listened to the words of a letter from Point 27 Director David Dodd: “Thank you for your leadership, courage and perseverance in the face of great adversity. We pray for God’s mercy, comfort and strength for you and the brave men and women you lead.” Holding a Thin Blue Line Shield and a Folded Flag Necklace up before the modest crowd, Officer Pughes said, “This means a lot to our officers and the families. We will hold this close to our heart. On behalf of all the men and women in our department. Thank you.”
God’s Word Provides Strength For The Fight
Dallas Assistant Chief of Police Tammie Hughes said many of the officers had seen the Thin Blue Line Shields and were eager to receive the dog tags, and many from the department expressed pleasant surprise at the generous show of support from a nonprofit organization in another state.
That day, when the officers in corner cubicles of the Human Resources Department of the downtown DPD Headquarters – the staff officers who had been charged with helping the families of the Fallen Dallas Officers plan the funerals and memorials for their loved ones killed in the shootings — heard about the Folded Flag Necklaces for the surviving family members, their demeanors changed markedly. Their heads came up, their shoulders squared and the officers instantly sat a little taller. Their faces appeared less weary as their expressions heartened. They said they were eager to give the necklaces to the family members who had lost their loved ones in the nighttime shooting. God’s Word engraved on the necklaces will provide strength for the fight that lies ahead in the days, weeks, and years to come.
Dallas Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell told a Dallas Morning News reporter, following the ceremony: “When you often feel like you’re unappreciated, the support from across the country just leaves you speechless. Going through such a tragedy, there’s no way to take away the pain. But it certainly can ease the pain to know that you’re not going through it by yourself.”
Point 27 salutes Military Families; they are a National Treasure. Military families serve and sacrifice alongside the Warrior who wears the uniform. They carry such a heavy burden and they are often lost within the crowd of “normal” life. When the Warrior is deployed, they fear the worst and pray for the best. Often, neighbors, classmates, teachers, church friends, coaches, and extended family don’t understand, or even acknowledge what is going on in their world. However, these wonderful Americans contribute significantly to the National Defense and freedom all Americans enjoy. By supporting the Warrior so that he/she can focus on the mission, they increase the combat effectiveness of the force. When a Soldier is focused on family problems he is not focused on his combat mission. This lack of focus is dangerous for the Soldier and every member of his unit. When the Soldier knows that his family is doing well, his mind is free to focus 100% on his mission. This peace of mind increases the combat readiness of his unit, the Armed Forces, and it strengthens the Nation. Therefore, when you meet a military family member, thank them for their service, acknowledge their many sacrifices, and thank them for helping to defend the freedom you and your family enjoy. “No Man’s War,” is a window into the life of an army wife, Angela Rickets, who endured years of deployments. For a preview of her book and a glimpse into her life, read on….
An Army Wife Charts Her Struggles In ‘No Man’s War’
Excerpt: No Man’s War Sometimes when you wake in the middle of the night it’s only for a slippery moment, a moment to re-cozy yourself, to remember with a flash of panic that forgotten appointment from the day before or to get up to potty. Potty is a word mothers begin using from the moment they give birth and never leaves their vocabulary until death. Sometimes what wakes you is a long-forgotten memory, the thing you tried to put behind you.
Once or twice in a lifetime you wake up and just know it: You are dying, even though three hours ago you were watching Dexter and fluffing pillows on the couch and wiping down the kitchen countertops because you never know what the night will bring. And because a perfectly neat home masks the other mess that spins beyond control.
I jerk awake and move the empty wine glass to see the time on the digital clock. Two something. I should remember the precise time on the clock, but I am a date person. Dates I remember; times, not so much.
In the silent house with a staring cat and three sleeping children and again without a husband present, I struggle through sleepy, disoriented eyes to remember where I am. A sweet artificial stank hangs in the air; oh yeah, the Yankee Candle I blew out before I slammed the last gulp of wine. Nothing looks familiar as I go back and forth in my mind; which issue is more pressing, the crushing pain in my chest or where the hell I am? The glare of the streetlight shining into the window reminds me I’m home, home for now. This is our third house in less than two years, and it takes me a minute to remember where I am. Fort Campbell. Just across the Tennessee border, but with a Kentucky address, surely the result of a political fight over which state got to claim ownership of the home of the 101st Airborne. I’m back in the familiar zone I like to think of as Grey Street, a favorite Dave Matthews song about a woman who feels numbed and paralyzed by her life. Like her world has spiraled beyond her control. Where colors bleed and overlap into only gray. The vibrancy of each color not lost, just absorbed into a blanket of grayness. The gray of autopilot. The gray of another deployment, of a home with a man of the house who wouldn’t know which drawer held the spoons. He’s the man of the house in concept alone. He is three months into a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan, with no need to even own a house key.
But in this two-something wee hour, these ideas are just whispers under my blankets and inside my skin. My feet nudge around looking for the children who sometimes wander half asleep into my bed. As soon as I move I feel it, the thing that startled me awake. It isn’t a dream or a memory or a forgotten appointment. It’s pain, the physical kind. What frightens me in that moment isn’t the gripping pain in my chest, but a wave of incomprehensible terror for its newness and unfamiliar nature. A twisting stab in my back pushes me out of bed and to my feet. I feel sweat roll down the back of my neck, but it’s almost Thanksgiving and I allow the chill from outside to come into our home at night. I prefer the insulation of blankets and flannel pajamas to warm air.
Oh hell. It’s a panic attack. My body is at long last going on strike, revolting from the stress of eight long, intense deployments. That’s what I’ve been warned of, anyway, in the “resiliency” workshops and briefings army wives sit through during deployments. Well, before deployments, during deployments, and after deployments. So all the time. Whatever you face or feel, surely it’s addressed in a binder somewhere. The army’s philosophy is that just by virtue of identifying and labeling an issue, it’s 95 percent fixed. At each available opportunity, we are reminded to pace ourselves and manage stress. I picture the PowerPoint slide: “Panic attacks are a terrifying but normal reaction: It will feel like you are going to die, but here are coping tips … Remember, we are army strong!” But what were the tips? Dammit. Breathe. That’s surely one. I do feel like I’m going to die.
I grab my cell phone off the dresser and wander through the upstairs of our quiet house. Joe is almost a teenager, a stack of Call of Duty: Black Ops video games just inches from his sleeping head and a game controller teetering on the edge of the bed. The violent video games that Jack allowed because they are a reality of his job. Jack argued that the video games are disturbing with their accuracy and not gratuitous in their violence. The line between good guys and bad guys is clear, at least in the game.
Our two daughters, Bridget, who is ten, and Greta, five, are curled together in Bridget’s room across the hall. Using the term our is an effort on my part. “My children” comes more naturally; I have to make an effort to remind myself that these are “our children.” I’m not alone in parenting, at least not in theory. In reality, yes, I am alone.
In this moment of defining chest pain I am alone.
From No Man’s War by Angela Ricketts. Copyright 2014 by Angela Ricketts. Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint Press.
July 15, 2014 3:01 PM ET
No Man’s War Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife
People often expect military wives to be strong and stoic. But in her new memoir, No Man’s War: Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife, Angela Ricketts writes about the difficulties she faced during her husband’s deployments – including the stresses it put on their marriage and on raising their three children.
She also writes about the toll of always bracing herself for the next goodbye.
“After the first really wretched, wretched deployment, each one after that you become a little more removed – a little more numb to the feelings,” Ricketts tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “That kind of blackens your soul. We joke about that. Army wives say, ‘Channel the black soul, honey.’ ”
Ricketts’ husband was deployed eight times – four of them to Iraq or Afghanistan. He was a lieutenant during his first deployment to Somalia in 1992. Then he became a battalion commander. Now, he’s a colonel in homeland defense, and they live in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Ricketts, who has a master’s degree in social psychology and human relations, grew up in an Army family.
“We are a culture that does lend itself to perpetuating Army brats who either become Army spouses or soldiers themselves,” she says. “So as much as … I wanted to be rebellious and I wanted to do something different, as I got into college … and saw what life outside the little Army bubble was like, the more I realized that I really enjoyed Army life and wanted to be an Army wife.”
Ricketts’ book explores the culture at home on the military bases, the responsibilities of being an officer’s wife, and the relationships she formed with other infantry wives. Interview Highlights
On the six years of their 22-year marriage her husband was deployed
He went to Somalia right after we got married, and that’s actually where he got his combat patch. And I measured every deployment after that against Somalia, because that was really intense and really scary. Angela Ricketts, whose husband deployed eight times over 22 years, says she had to get over resentment around parenting their three kids alone while he was gone.
And we didn’t have the technology that we do now with emails and immediate news. I had Christiane Amanpour, who I just hung onto her every word on CNN back then – that was all I knew. And [I had] the few letters that I got from [my husband]. So, to me, that was truly a deployment.
After that, he went to Macedonia, he went to Bosnia, he went to Kosovo, and those were each six months. Then he did two about a half-a-year deployments in Afghanistan, then a 15-month deployment to Iraq, then a year in Afghanistan.
On her ROTC basic training at Fort Knox and realizing why she didn’t want to be a soldier
It was the rules and the structure. I [always] wanted to know why.
Every time they told me to do something, I just really wanted to say: “That’s really stupid. Who cares if there are water droplets in the water fountain?” That was my job in the barracks was to make sure there were no water droplets in … the drinking fountain. I thought that was really dumb. It did not work for me at that kind of a level.
I think that when you’re a soldier, you definitely fit this sort of mold where you can take orders and you don’t need to know why – you just do what you’re told.
On her husband’s last deployment to Afghanistan
This last deployment, our oldest son, Jack … he was in sixth grade, so he was just getting to the point where he really missed his dad. And he was angry that his dad was gone because he knew that his dad had volunteered for that last year in Afghanistan, and that he didn’t have to go. It’s a really weird mix of pride and also some anger, too … definitely a feeling of being a second priority.
On the emotional difficulty of saying goodbye
The “black soul” is the numbness that you reach a point after the first few deployments – it just rips your gut out when you say goodbye. And you’re just left in this puddle of tears and emotional and weepy for days. That can only happen so many times. Just like they say you can really only have your heart broken once. …
I’ve become kind of stoic in general. People cry at movies, and I look at them and say, “Really? You’re really crying at this movie?” Because I just feel very unfazed by a lot of things that should faze me.
On getting over the resentment of parenting alone
I was resentful, and that’s where counseling came in for us. That’s where our therapist really showed us that he had a right to feel the way that he felt, and I definitely had a right to feel the way I felt, but that we had to move on from that. Especially now that he’s transitioned away from the infantry and likely will not go back to that, he just really appreciates every moment with our kids a lot more [than] what I’ve seen [in] regular families – dads who haven’t been gone the way he has, they sort of take the time with their kids a little more for granted, I guess. …
He really does a great job at making up for what he’s missed. That takes away a lot of the resentment for me. Every now and then, though, it’s hard for me to say “our children.” It does much more easily come to me to say “my daughter, my son, my whatever.” If he’s there, he’ll correct me and say “our daughter, our son.”
Point 27 salutes Air Force Master Sergeant Delorean Sheridan who was awarded the Silver Star Medal for his heroic actions while fighting terrorist in Afghanistan. His actions saved the lives of other members of the Armed Forces. He is an American hero, role model, selfless servant, Warrior, Father, Husband, Leader, and friend. Read about his incredible acts of valor, courage, and selflessness.
By Jennifer H. Svan Stars and Stripes Published: June 12, 2014 Air Force Master Sgt. Delorean Sheridan was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan on March 11, 2013. Sheridan, a combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Army Airfield N.C., helped thwart an inside attack at a small compound in Wardak Province that could have killed scores of U.S. and Afghan forces. COURTESY U.S. AIR FORCE Silver Star When the shooting started, it didn’t take long for then-Tech. Sgt. Delorean Sheridan to sort out what was happening.
Puffs of smoke, followed by the sound of gunfire. Bullets striking, men to his right and left falling.
His quick and courageous reaction to an insider attack — an ambush from close range that wounded many and could have killed scores — earned the Air Force special tactics airman a Silver Star, the U.S. military’s third highest award for bravery in combat.
The events of March 11, 2013, unfolded inside a small forward operating base in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, where Sheridan, an Air Force combat controller on his sixth deployment, was part of a team of Green Berets and Afghan forces.
That morning, the group huddled together while standing in a gravel lot, the base’s motor pool area, discussing the day’s mission.
The U.S. soldiers took turns briefing their Afghan counterparts, a mix of Afghan Special Forces and Afghan National Police members. They were almost done when gunfire rang out.
At an awards ceremony in January at Pope Field, N.C., where now-Master Sgt. Sheridan is assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, he recalled seeing puffs of smoke before he heard the machine gunfire.
“Initially, everyone starts to look to see what’s going on,” Sheridan recalled in a phone interview in May. “We’re accustomed to shooting, so our first instinct is, ‘OK, what is the person shooting at?’ I turned and looked back and I saw this guy shooting at me and the light bulbs hit: It’s some guy trying to kill us.”
The shooter was an Afghan National Police officer — or a man posing as one — attacking with a truck-mounted machine gun from about 25 feet away.
The gunman, described as being new to the police force, was sitting by himself in a truck parked somewhere behind the huddled men. Sometime during the U.S. soldiers’ briefing, he slipped unnoticed out the driver’s side door, climbed up onto the truck’s bed and began shooting.
At about the same time, heavy machine gunfire erupted from just outside the base, where 15 to 20 men were shooting as part of a coordinated attack.
“The way our base was set up, there was a compound directly adjacent to our exterior wall with a window that could look into our motor pool,” Sheridan said. “From there, people were shooting also. Later on we found out there were people maneuvering around the compound trying to get a way in.”
Men around Sheridan dropped to the ground. Bullet fragments hit Sheridan’s chest armor in the initial burst of gunfire.
Those who could ran toward a nearby cluster of five large military trucks to take cover.
So, too, did Sheridan, but he didn’t stop running. He kept going, toward the shooter.
“The only response to a near ambush is to turn and return fire,” he said. “That’s what popped in my head: ‘Hey, you’re in an ambush. I need to close the distance and put fire power on.’”
Sheridan darted between vehicles and leapt in the back of an armored vehicle with an open hatch parked closest to the gunman. Armed with a Glock pistol, Sheridan needed a good angle and close range to take him out.
“I pulled out my pistol, popped up through that hatch and started to shoot at him from there,” he said.
He fired off two rounds from his pistol, put it down and resumed shooting with a loaded M-4 rifle he found in the vehicle, firing a total of 11 times until the gunman lay motionless.
As his adrenaline pumped furiously, an odd thing happened.
Sheridan could not hear his own gun shots or the incoming gunfire from the outside attackers. He was experiencing “auditory exclusion,” a temporary loss of hearing that can occur in high stress situations, where the brain begins to shut down any senses not deemed essential to the task at hand. Later, Sheridan noted that his ears weren’t ringing, despite shooting his weapon without earplugs.
Sheridan knew what was happening to him, and why, an awareness which helped him stay calm, he said.
“Part of our resiliency training is talking about the way the brain reacts to stimulus and to fight-or-flight near-death situations,” he said. “I was aware of it and it wasn’t a big deal.”
The next thing Sheridan remembered is seeing three bodies on the ground, near the spot where his team was huddled only moments earlier. “I’m sure there were others,” he said. “My mind was only processing those three people.”
Sheridan ended up darting back out into the firefight three times to retrieve each of the fallen men, pulling them out of the line of fire to a place where they could receive medical assistance.
Two of the men died in the attack: Capt. Andrew Pedersen-Keel and Staff Sgt. Rex Schad.
Pedersen-Keel, 28, a Green Beret from Madison, Conn., and a West Point Academy graduate, had recently volunteered to step in as the team leader after the previous one had been wounded, Sheridan said. He was warm-hearted and smart, Sheridan said. “It takes a certain level of intelligence and humility to work with partner forces and not come off as arrogant or brutish, and he did it flawlessly.”
Schad, 26, the infantry squad noncommissioned-officer-in-charge “involved himself with his guys on a very personal level … and they loved him for it,” Sheridan said.
Sheridan’s team sergeant also lay on the ground that day. He regained consciousness when Sheridan and another soldier began moving him.
“He said, ‘How’s my face look?’” Sheridan said. Relieved to hear his team sergeant speaking, Sheridan couldn’t help but answer the question with some humor. “’Ah, your face looks great, man. You look awesome,’” Sheridan responded. “Especially in a moment like that, a little bit of levity can help you get through to the next thing.”
The next thing was requesting aircraft for medical evacuation and close-air support, a job that fell to the combat controller.
“I climbed up into a truck, got on the radio and said, ‘Hey, we’re in trouble. We need help,’” Sheridan said.
Multiple aircraft showed up shortly, he said. It took five Blackhawks to pick up 23 wounded U.S. soldiers and Afghanis. Sheridan assisted with the litter transfer of injured personnel while directing close air support and surveillance aircraft.
“With the medical evacuation complete, Sergeant Sheridan located and directed aircraft to engage insurgents maneuvering towards the friendly location, resulting in four additional enemy fighters killed,” his Silver Star citation reads. His “complete disregard for personal safety and extreme calm under pressure despite grave danger to himself and others directly resulted in saving the lives of 23 critically wounded personnel.”
Sheridan can recall the ebb and flow of his emotions and his thoughts throughout the battle, of how the adrenaline eased up after he radioed for medical evacuation, his body relaxing ever so slightly.
“My brain kind of settled down,” he said. “Your body kind of flushes.”
That’s when the awful reality of what had just happened began to sink in. “I’m there and there’s wounded teammates all around. I’m like, ‘This is a bad day.’ It doesn’t feel good. You’re watching people around you die.”
Days like that serve as a reminder of why combat controllers undergo some of the most rigorous training in the Air Force, Sheridan said. “It’s got to be tough, because when there’s bad days, the combat controller, that Air Force guy, can be the guy that sinks or saves everybody.”
Sheridan comes from a long line of military men, starting with his paternal great-grandfather. His dad retired from the Coast Guard, and his grandfather fought in Vietnam. A great uncle was a member of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the nation’s first all-black parachute infantry team.
Sheridan almost joined the Army, his sights set on becoming an Army Ranger, until a high school friend told him he could do almost the same thing in Air Force special tactics –- “but they’re going to treat you better because you’re in the Air Force,” the friend said.
Sheridan signed on in 1999 right after graduating from high school. He was a tactical air control party airman for six years before retraining into combat control in 2005.
Only 33, he was given a STEP promotion to master sergeant. Earlier this year, he received one of the Air Force’s most prestigious awards, the 2013 Lance P. Sijan USAF Leadership Award, in the junior enlisted category.
Sheridan says he doesn’t think often about his Silver Star.
“If this Silver Star helps bring light to what combat control does, to what special tactics does, great,” he said. “But for me, buy me a cup of coffee. We’ll call each other even.”