How would you like to volunteer for a 30-mile mountain hike in sunny southern California? What if you also had to carry a rifle and 50-pound rucksack? What if I told you there would also be a 1,000-yard ocean swim, along with marksmanship events, underwater challenges, and plenty of other obstacles along the way?
If you answered “yes,” you must be a Recon Marine. Each year, teams of Marines travel to Camp Pendleton to participate in the grueling Recon Challenge to honor their fallen brothers. One of the Marines that participated in this year’s event was Jonathon Blank, formerly of 3rd Platoon, 1st Reconnaissance Company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. In 2010, an improvised explosive device took off both of Sgt. Blank’s legs during an operation in Afghanistan. Nearly ten years later, Blank and several brothers from his former platoon reunited to tackle the event, utilizing a specially made pack to carry Blank. We recently caught up with this highly motivated (now medically retired) Marine who provided some insight into his incredible feat.
CHRIS CARTER: The Recon Challenge sounds like an Ironman Triathlon on steroids. What inspired you and your teammates to participate?
JONATHON BLANK: As Reconnaissance Marines we thrive on challenges and pushing past limitations set down by others. Members of our platoon have competed in every Recon Challenge since its inception. We had talked about it for many years; it was just a matter of getting the team together, working around everyone’s busy careers and private lives. Plus, many members of my former platoon are still active duty Reconnaissance Marines. We knew it would be brutal considering I weighed around 150lbs with all my gear. It sounded like an awesome challenge that would bring us together in a unique reunion. Nothing brings guys together like mutual pain, suffering, and teamwork. Everyone agreed it would be a great time! Continue reading “Double-amputee Marine completes brutal Recon Challenge”
1862: A Union flotilla decisively defeats the Confederate fleet at Memphis, Tenn. and captures the city.
1918: Two battalions of Marines, led by Brig. Gen. James Harbord, advance against four German divisions in Belleau Wood, the site of an old French hunting preserve near Chateau-Thierry. The Marines face withering fire, with over 1,000 casualties in the first day of battle alone. In three weeks, the Marines drive out the Germans, but at a high cost; Enemy machine guns, artillery, and gas attacks inflict 10,000 American casualties. But the tenacity of the “Devil Dogs” at Belleau Wood becomes legend.
1942: Commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku orders his fleet to withdraw from the Battle of Midway. Although the Americans have lost the carrier Yorktown and a destroyer, Japanese losses are staggering: all four of the fleet’s aircraft carriers (whose aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor six months ago) and a heavy cruiser are sent to the bottom. After a long string of defeats, the United States Navy has dealt Japan “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”
1944: Just after 2 a.m., some 13,000 American and British paratroopers and glider troops begin landing behind enemy lines in France. 2,000 Allied aircraft bombard German positions in preparation of the invasion. And five hours later, nearly 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops hit the beaches at Normandy. 1,200 warships and over 4,000 landing ships from eight different navies support the invasion. Losses are heavy for both sides and 4,414 American and Allied soldiers die on “D-Day” – the first day of the largest amphibious operation in history.
1957: Two Navy F-8U “Crusaders” and two A-3D “Skywarriors” launch from the deck of USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA 31) off the coast of California and fly to USS Saratoga (CVA 60), operating off Florida in the first transcontinental, carrier-to-carrier flight. The Crusaders land after three hours and 28 minutes, while the Skywarriors make the trip in four hours and one minute.
1964: Communist Pathet Lao anti-aircraft fire shoots down a Navy RF-8A “Crusader” aircraft flying a low-altitude reconnaissance mission over Laos. The pilot, Lt. Charles F. Klusmann, is taken prisoner, but escapes captivity. The downing of the reconnaissance plane is the first loss of a fixed-wing aircraft in what would become the Vietnam War.