The Road to Recovery


By Retired Master Sgt. Daniel Waugh

Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Waugh, draws his bow back during training for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games being held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. , June 19-28, 2015. Waugh is competing in shooting and archery in this year’s games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)

My story began in 2006 the day after Christmas while I was on my third deployment to Iraq as a tactical air control party Airman. My team and I were on patrol in Sadr City, Iraq, completing a blocking operation for a special operations team that was on a mission.

As we provided protection for the special operations team, there was a blast from a rocket propelled grenade launcher that hit my vehicle and knocked me out of the turret. We all were fine, but while my team was EXFIL-ing (removing personnel from a hostile environment), we were hit again. Next thing I know, I woke up and was lying on the ground. I have never really spoken about this.

One of the guys in my truck was killed. My driver lost his leg, and I woke up fine.

So I thought.

After the deployment, I came home and enjoyed life for five months before I was tasked to deploy again. Little did I understand the injuries I had suffered. I sustained a brain injury and a broken back, and I blew out my right ear drum, which left me with significant balance issues (not allowing me to run anymore or walk quickly).

Through a friend of a friend, I was able to meet athletes from the Wounded Warrior Program. I always knew there was a program specifically for wounded warriors, but I never knew the full extent of the adaptive sports program. So I went to see what this was all about.

I thought I had recovered; I thought I was resilient. I mean, I went back to a war zone three times after getting blown up. I thought nothing could faze me.

In February 2015, I went to an Air Force Wounded Warrior camp known as ”Trials,” three months after having back surgery. On day one, I wanted go home as I decided this wasn’t for me.

Although I wanted to leave, I stuck it out for two days, and I made the team. However, I started to realize I hadn’t recovered. It had been eight years since getting injured, and I never knew that I was still struggling with things. Slowly, I eventually began to open up to people on the team. This is when my healing process began.

Robin Hood
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Daniel Waugh, celebrates hitting a “Robin Hood” during his archery practice at the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games being held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. , June 19-28, 2015. A “Robin Hood” is when the archer hits another arrow of theirs dead on into the end of the arrow on the target. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)

Because I made the team, I was able to work and meet additional athletes at a training camp held at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in preparation for the Warrior Games. This is when I met the amazing people of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Program. This is when it clicked.

There are pillars of resiliency, and socially I wasn’t there. I had dealt physically, mentally, spiritually, etc., but socially, I had shut out the Air Force. I began to open up more socially in the Air Force and speak to the other members of the wounded warrior team. I started to hear their stories and get to actually know the other people, realizing I wasn’t alone. That is when I realized how great the Wounded Warrior Program is, and I began to put myself back together.

Now I am here today getting ready to compete in the Warrior Games, and I’m still progressing in my healing process.

It has been a long road to get here. I know everyone has his or her own struggles and road to travel. There are people in different stages; it can take years to really feel like you are there. But I am here, and I didn’t think I was going to be here. But I am happy that I am.

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The Road to Recovery

Marines Blog


Colonel Walt Ford, USMC (Ret)


Who is the Ultimate Marine’s Marine? Each day, we’ll compare two Marine Corps legends across three categories: Service (actions while in uniform), Legacy (how their service continued to impact the Corps and the world) and Motivation (esprit de corps and overall badassery). The Marines Blog will judge initial rounds internally and guest writers will take over for the final rounds. Be sure to make your voice heard by voting in our simultaneous fan bracket here on the Marines Blog. Share your opinion on our Facebook page, or tweet your thoughts with us @usmc using the hashtag: #UltimateMarine

This round is being judged by Colonel Walt Ford, USMC (Ret), the publisher for Marine Corps Association periodicals and editor of Leatherneck Magazine. Leatherneck, started by then-Brigadier General John A. Lejeune in 1917 as the Marine Barracks Quantico newspaper, and becoming a magazine published by the Marine Corps Institute in 1921, was an official publication of the Marine Corps, staffed by active duty Marines until 1972. It’s mission continues to be to tell the Marine Corps story, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Searchable archived articles back to 1921 may be accessed via the magazine’s website.

ViewBracketThe Marine Corps has more than its share of myths and legends, but few Marines are surrounded by less fact and more fiction than Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland “Lou” Diamond and Gunnery Sgt. John “Manila John” Basilone. While these two definitely rate high in the pantheon of Leatherneck Lore as “Giants of the Corps,” and previous bloggers have superbly presented much about each and his legacy, I’ll add a few tidbits for your consideration and, for what it’s worth, give you my take on each, relative to theViewFanBracket established criteria: Service — Their actions while serving in uniform. Motivation — motivating stories/anecdotes/details about them. Legacy — How their actions continued to impact the Corps/world after they left. From that we’ll consider which of these two legends has the more lasting impact on our Corps of Marines.

MGySgt Leland “Lou” Diamond (and not Diamond Lou, who would also make for a very interesting discussion), famously known as “The Honker” because of his loud, often obnoxious voice clearly heard above the din of barroom or battle, was heralded as the master-mortarman of World War II, and certainly was one of the most eccentric Devil Dogs to ever pull on dungarees.

He was a fairly old railroad switchman when he decided to take part in the action in France. Promoted to corporal before deploying from Quantico, the self-confident, cocky Marine cussed and killed the “Boche” from Belleau Wood to the Armistice. Returning Stateside, the salty Lou Diamond was discharged in August 1919. But he quickly found “civvies” didn’t fit him well and came back to his family — the Corps. For the next two decades, America forgot about professional warfighters like Lou Diamond. But Diamond was happy. First he served as an armorer. Then he was in a machine gun company while doing duty with those machine gun artists, the Fourth Marines, in China.

The mortars became Lou’s sweethearts and hundreds of stories began to circulate through the Corps about the amazing accuracy of Lou Diamond’s 81mm mortars. His proficiency with the 37mm cannon and heavy machine guns gained the respect of the Japanese too.

Manila John Basilone — well, he’s documented as coming to the Corps in July 1940 as a “doggie” and didn’t even go to Marine boot camp. Is that important? Over the history of the Corps, there have been a great many soldiers see the light and come to the Corps. Boot camp? While few WWII leathernecks did not complete recruit training, a great many Marines who went to war as part of “The Fire Brigade” in August 1950 had not gone to boot camp — don’t make the mistake of telling one of them he’s not a real Marine!

Both these leathernecks were brave, dedicated to their profession and much loved by their Marines who would follow them to Hell and bring back the Devil if asked. In the case of Lou Diamond, he was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in WWII, but this came years after the fact. Manila John was recommended for the Medal of Honor by the battalion commander of 1st Bn, 7th Marines, LtCol Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, for his actions on the night of Oct. 24-25, 1942. He was awarded the medal during a formation in Balcombe, Australia, in May 1943. Basilone also earned a Navy Cross leading his men on Iwo Jima, and the Purple Heart when he was killed in action on Iwo.

Service: GySgt John “Manila John” Basilone

Both these giants were loved by their Marines as professionals, but also because of their often eccentric personalities.

When Diamond was on liberty, he was known to have a beer bottle in each hand but was no roisterer. Still, he liked his beer. Once at a China station, where the nearest bar was far from the post, Diamond is said to have set up a Chinese man in the bar business right across the street from the Marine barracks. He was known to hold forth with salty tales even after the lights were out.

But Diamond has no edge on Basilone. Basilone’s prodigious appreciation of alcoholic libations was heralded from the Philippines to the States, certainly in New Zealand and Australia, and his homemade “hooch” on Guadalcanal was legendary. Opposite of Lou, Manila John was known as a bit of a brawler on liberty who really could turn out your lights.

Family, well Lou was married to the Corps — right to the end. Manila John — he enjoyed the ladies until a very pretty young hash-slinger in a Camp Pendleton mess hall, Sgt. Lena Mae Riggi, won his heart. They married on July 7, 1944, and shortly thereafter Gunnery Sgt. Basilone was sent back to the Pacific where he was killed on Iwo Jima leading his Marines, Feb. 19, 1945.

She christened the Navy destroyer escort USS Basilone (DDE-824) in 1949 and later helped erect a statue in her husband’s honor at Raritan, N.J. She never remarried, stating, “Once you have the best, you can’t settle for less.”

Lou’s family members were all Marines and the families of his Marines. Many of the Marine children on base at San Diego imagined that the Lord had a scraggly white goatee, a lot of hash marks on his sleeve and a stern visage, just like Master Gunnery Sgt. Lou Diamond.

How did Lou Diamond look? Well, we know from the photo above about his goatee and white hair, but let’s read what Gunny Sgt. Mickey Finn said on that subject:

“One day, coming back from Nicaragua, I got off the train at Quantico, and there was Lou Diamond with his bulldog, Bozo. This Bozo was the ugliest bulldog I ever saw. But, I would say that Bozo was considerably prettier than Diamond.”

Beside Bozo, the homely bulldog at Quantico, Diamond had many pets. At the time the First Marine Division was preparing to leave New River for the South Seas, Diamond was the owner of a particularly ornery goat named “Rufus” and a couple of “trained” chickens whose names were said to be too impolite to print. These were left in New River under the care of a farmer. While he was in the Solomons, rumor had it that Diamond sweated about meat shortages back in the States because he was fearful that Rufus and the educated chickens might be barbecued in his absence.

Basilone? Well, he had no known pets.

Motivation: Master Gunnery Sgt. Lou Diamond

Both Lou Diamond and Manila John were media darlings. Both were on the cover of various magazines such as Time, Life and Leatherneck. In 1949, several million Americans once again re-heard Diamond’s story via the “Cavalcade of America.” Then in a June 1, 1955, television version on the “Cavalcade of America” originally entitled, “The Old Breed,” and later dubbed “The Marine Who Lived 200 Years,” Ward Bond played Lou embellishing the already ostentatious reputation of the by-then deceased “Diamond in the Rough.”

Of course, Basilone is much more well-known today because of the 2010 HBO miniseries, “The Pacific.” Basilone was also featured in the 1995 Iwo Jima documentary, “Red Blood, Black Sand.”

Books, well I don’t recall any on Lou Diamond, but two 2010 books quickly jump to mind on Manila John. One, billed as family-authorized and on the Commandant’s Professional Reading List is, “I’m Staying With My Boys: The Heroic Life Of Sgt. John Basilone, USMC.” Opinion only — a much more balanced, well-presented book on Manila John is “The Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone,” by noted Marine veteran and author, now-deceased James Brady. Both books positively portray Manila John.

Legacy: GySgt Manila John Basilone

Every Marine today is taught of the heroism, leadership and commitment of Manila John Basilone. Lou Diamond is lost in history to most Marines. Bringing him to life again via this blog is fantastic and I’m proud to be part of the effort. But, in overall service, motivation and legacy, the tip of the hat and hand salute has to go to Gunnery Sgt. John “Manila John” Basilone.

— — — — — —

Round One

Daly vs Lejeune

Foss vs Hulbert

Diamond vs Gray

Basilone vs Johnson

Puller vs Barnum

Hathcock vs Mawhinney

Vittori vs Glenn

Butler vs Davis

Round Two

Daly vs Foss

Diamond vs Basilone

Puller vs Hathcock

Glenn vs Butler

— — — — — —

The fan bracket has taken a different turn than the Marines Blog. Today’s fan match is between Gen. Alfred Gray and Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone. Read the first round blog to catch up on Gray and cast your vote below.

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Marines Blog