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Rep. Johnson honors local veterans: Combatants recognized for valor on battlefield
The desert's temperature was hot, as usual. Now, so was the action.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Dowd and the sniper platoon he commanded had been spotted by the enemy still precariously defending the city of Hit, in the western Iraq province of Al-anbar. The Marines had been up on a railroad trestle and down behind its 30-foot embankment for several days being "the eyes" of the battalion, spying and relaying enemy positions and combat intelligence about 900 yards from an insurgency position called Traffic Circle One. It was known for a lot of enemy activity.
"We had another company on the other side of the river, and they became heavily engaged with the enemy. And things got pretty hairy," Dowd recalled. "We were probably engaged about nine days or so. But at that particular time, we were up on the trestle and we had front-row seats to IEDs going off and [other] bombs exploding, and the Marines across the river had it going on.
"It was at one point when the bad guys got a bead on us and really laid in on us. I don't know if 'surreal' is the right word, but we could hear bullets crackling overhead, so we were just returning fire. That was when I heard over my radio that a couple of Marines also observing maybe 100 yards to my right got hit. [And] that was when I got my little bit of shrapnel [too]."
Those memories and the many others of his tours of combat in Iraq and Kuwait came flooding back to Dowd during a ceremony on Saturday in Plano, where U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson recognized him and 10 others for their heroic service to America.
Johnson is a 29-year veteran of the Air Force. He conceived the Congressional Veteran Commendation (CVC) in 2010 to formally recognize the wartime efforts and peacetime community involvement of residents of outstanding "distinguishment" of the Third Congressional District of Texas. The CVC is in conjunction with the Veterans History Project sponsored by the Library of Congress and is a nominations-based program dedicated to preserving the personal accounts of veterans for future generations.
"North Texas has a tremendous legacy of patriotism and service," Johnson said in a press release. "And I am proud to know these admirable men and women. We owe it to future generations to spotlight their service and preserve their stories."
The nominations and selections were made by a panel of eight community leaders who advised and assisted Johnson in the process. The honorees were also presented a Congressional Record chronicling each of their individual accomplishments during their military service.
Dowd is now a police officer with the city of Allen. He retired from the Marine Corps following a 23-year career during which he served as a senior drill instructor, water survival instructor, customs inspector, recruiter, interrogator and translator, in addition to being sniper team platoon commander. During his USMC career, Down earned the Purple Heart Medal for those shrapnel injuries he sustained that day in Hit, Iraq. He was also awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation with "V" device (for "Valor"), four Navy Achievement medals, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and Combat Action Ribbon.
"The only thing that comes to mind really is I was out there doing what I wanted to do," Dowd related about the day he was injured. "I knew the wound I sustained wasn't necessarily life-threatening, so I just carried on with the fight. It was only shrapnel and a couple of other Marines had been really hurt, so I was more concerned with how they were. It was easy, really, to care more about them. There was only 13 of us and I could just say that it was awesome to see the courage of the corpsman who acted without hesitation, even though we were still under sporadic fire.
"We had been briefed the night before that there were about 80 bad guys, but when we got there we found out there were actually about 800," Dowd added. "So I told my Marines and asked them if that was a problem. I remember one of them said, 'Well, Gunny, I just hope we brought enough rounds.'
"But, you know, when I got up there [Saturday], it was really hard for me to receive, because the wound I received was really minor. But I was happy to be there and happy to serve.
"Sitting on the stage, though, with the general," Dowd said. "This was a man who he did some stuff, brother, that you and I can't even come close to. So as I was sitting next to him I was just humbled. He is a man that personifies everything that you and I were taught about. He sat in a position that personified what it means to be a Marine."
The "general" Dowd referred to was also honored by Johnson on Saturday. Lt. General Richard E. Carey is a graduate of the Naval War College who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1945 to 1983, when he retired from his post as Commanding General, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, in Quantico, Va. He now resides in Plano.
Through his career as a naval aviator and assistant wing commander, Gen. Carey served in combat operations in Korea and Vietnam. Upon his retirement, Carey had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit with gold star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" and gold star (signifying twice he was awarded the medal), Air Medal with numeral 15 (signifying 15 combat strike medals among his more than 200 air missions), Joint Services Commendation Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with three bronze stars, Navy United Commendation Medal with bronze star, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
Carey, too, had many thoughts of those days of service breeze through his mind while receiving the congressman's commendation.
"I had four surgeries as a result of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea [near the Chinese border] where the temperature averaged 35 degrees below zero," Carey began. "I had frostbite on both feet, both of my hands, on my nose and my ears. Fortunately, I haven't lost anything yet. There's a couple of toes that need to come off but I just live with it.
"I spent two tours in Korea," he recalled. "On the first tour, I was a grunt [infantryman] in G Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines with [legendary general] Chesty Puller. I was on our advance team in strike force to take over Seoul. We were riding on tanks when Douglas MacArthur came walking up the road amidst all the bullets striking everywhere. We were in an ambush and I pulled him into our cover, and he fell down. He was in all his regalia so he was kind of ticked off, you know. He said, 'Lieutenant, what do you think you are doing?' I said, 'I'm trying to keep you from being killed.' And he said, 'Lieutenant, the bullet isn't made that can kill me!' And he was right. He never got killed."
Carey served three tours in Vietnam, including during the Tet Offensive in 1967 and '68. Coaxed, he shared a vignette from one of the missions concerning that infamous onslaught.
"The first time I was in Vietnam was during the initial stage when all we had there was special forces and our Marine air squadron with helicopters. And we had a little incident during then that was kind of exciting," he said, chuckling. "I was a squadron commander and I made a night hop up to Hanoi. I was in a F-4 and we lost an engine. We were carrying rockets and all sorts of other ordinance, so we were pretty heavy. We had to make an in-flight refueling maneuver, which was considered impossible, given all the ordinance we were carrying.
"When we got home, the warrant officer with me said, 'Colonel, that was the hairiest hop I ever made!' When he got out he kissed the ground.
"The Good Lord was looking out for me," Carey concluded. "I've had more than nine lives, I can tell you that."
Carey said he shared Dowd's feelings about Saturday's ceremony.
"It was a very honorary thing. I was humbled by it and honored at the same time that I should be recognized."
When pressed about his Silver Star, Carey said, "Oh, it was just this operation where I kept the fight going [in Korea]." Regarding the two bronze stars, he said, "One was in Korea during an attack where I captured a platoon. Me and my platoon did." About his Purple Heart, he said, "Well, that was the same day I got the Silver Star.
"I took a mortar round while I was moving machine guns. It blew me off the hill. It really tore me up in the left arm. My hand was bent backwards all the way back to my arm, about equal to my elbow. I had five months of surgeries. It's perfectly normal now! They did a magnificent job."
Partially as a result of his gratitude, Carey remains very involved with the Veteran's Association of North Texas (Health Care) System.
A third recipient from Allen was John Joseph (Jack) Bick, who served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam as a combat reporter with the 9th Division Public Information Office. On numerous occasions, he doubled as an infantryman when his unit came under fire. For his heroic combat actions, Bick was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with "V" Device, Air Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal with two service stars, and the Army Good Conduct Medal. Bick has gone on to lead a distinguished career in journalism and publishing, including his creation of Inside Collin County Business. He volunteers for the Career Alliance Ministry of St. Jude's Parish, March of Dimes, the Plano Chamber of Commerce, the Collin County Christian Prayer Breakfast, and the Plano and Richardson Symphony Orchestras.
Bick was out of the country on a Catholic Charities mission during the ceremony. His son, John, accepted his award in his place.
11 veterans honored by congressman
John Franklin Bagwell of Dallas served in the U.S. Army, where he faced treacherous combat in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. For his years of service and heroic actions, Bagwell was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star with "V" Device, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Sharpshooter Badge, and Presidential Citation. Bagwell continues to serve his local community through volunteering at the Canyon Creek Baptist Church Prayer Ministry, Interfaith Housing Coalition for the homeless, and his position on numerous boards and PTA President for Forest Ridge Elementary School in Richardson.
Major Scott Edward Barnett of Frisco has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 21 years. Barnett has mobilized for active duty deployment twice to Iraq and recently to Afghanistan. Currently specializing as a civil affairs officer, Barnett is highly decorated for his years of outstanding service. He has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, four Army Commendation Medals, the Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, Department of State Meritorious Honor, Humanitarian Service Medal, and numerous campaign awards. Barnett is currently a firefighter and paramedic for the McKinney Fire Department.
John Joseph (Jack) Bick of Allen served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam as a combat reporter with the 9th Division Public Information Office. On numerous occasions, he doubled as an infantryman when his unit came under fire. For his heroic combat actions, Bick was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with "V" Device, Air Medal, Vietnam campaign medal with two service stars, and the Army Good Conduct medal. Bick went on to lead a distinguished career in journalism and publishing, including his creation of Inside Collin County Business. He volunteers for the Career Alliance Ministry of St. Jude's parish, March of Dimes, the Plano Chamber of Commerce, the Collin County Christian Prayer Breakfast, and the Plano and Richardson symphony orchestras.
Lt. General Richard E. Carey of Plano, a graduate of the Naval War College, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1945 to 1983, where he retired from his post as commanding general, Marine Corps Development and Education Command in Quantico, Va. Through his career as a naval aviator and assistant wing commander, Carey served in combat operations in Vietnam and Japan. Upon his retirement, Gen. Carey had accrued the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit with gold star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" and gold star, Air Medal with numeral 15, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with three bronze stars, Navy United Commendation Medal with bronze star, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. He was also well known for strengthening the famous Marine Corps Marathon. Now a resident of Plano, Gen. Carey continues to serve his local community and is very involved with the VA North Texas System.
Joseph Louis Cordina of Parker, an Air Force Academy graduate, served in the U.S. Air Force for 31 years, retiring at the rank of colonel. On a mission in 1972, Cordina's heroic actions that saved 15 lives earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1979, Cordina became an Air Force liaison officer, overseeing more than 40 appointments for cadets to the Air Force. He has also served his community as the mayor of the city of Parker, vice president of the North Texas Association of Mayors, and president of the Texas Small Cities Advisory Council. In addition, Cordina has been a leader in multiple homeowners associations and served as Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 1191 in Richardson.
Timothy Dowd of Allen served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 23 years as a senior drill instructor, water survival instructor, interrogator/translator, customs inspector, recruiter, and sniper team platoon commander. He also served deployments in Kuwait and Iraq. During his career, Dowd earned the Purple Heart Medal for injuries sustained on deployment in Iraq, as well as the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation with "V" device, four Navy Achievement medals, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon. Dowd now serves his community as a police officer for the city of Allen.
Anna Janis of Plano joined the WAVES, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, after the United States. entered World War II. Janis received training in naval accounting, Morse code, and flag signaling before her unit, Company D, Platoon 4, was transported from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor. Janis now serves her community through donation drives for military chaplains and VA Hospital patients, and she works with the Cell Phones for Soldiers program and assists with mission projects through Christ Church in Plano.
Joseph Martin Graves of Plano joined the U.S. Army in 1944 at the age of 16, though he had to lie about his age in order to serve his country during World War II. During Graves' military career, he earned a Purple Heart Medal for injuries sustained in the Philippine Islands, as well as the Combat Infantryman Badge, Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with Bronze Star, Philippine Liberation Medal with Bronze Star, and the Army Good Conduct Medal. Graves is known for his patriotism, as he displays a 25-foot flagpole in front of his Plano home.
JD Gresham of Plano served in the U.S. Army for 23 years. Drafted into World War II after his junior year of high school, Gresham was sent to New Guinea, where he encountered combat on multiple occasions. For heroism in battle and 22 years of distinguished service, Gresham earned the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, and numerous other decorations.
David Hollands of Plano served in the U.S. Army for 30 years, retiring with the rank of colonel. Hollands participated in several combat missions, including a combat parachute assault into Panama during Operation Just Cause and the "Hail Mary" attack against the Iraqi Republican Guards during Operation Desert Storm. Hollands gives back to veterans and wounded warriors through his involvement in the Casey Joyce VFW Post 4380 in Plano and connects wounded veterans with trusted financial planners through a Financial Planning Association initiative.
Gary Dean Sheets of Plano received his commission as a U.S. Air Force officer upon his graduation from the Academy in 1960. Sheets became a forward air controller and flew numerous missions over Laos and completed 80 missions over North Vietnam. For his exemplary leadership and heroism during his lengthy career, Sheets was awarded two Legions of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Defense Meritorious Service Medals, 10 Air Medals, two Air Force Commendation Medals, a Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Readiness Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and other accolades. Sheets served 16 years as a deacon with Prestonwood Baptist Church, making hundreds of hospital visits and participating in dozens of community service projects. Following Sheets' death in September, his wife, Sylvia, stood in for him at the ceremony.