Honor the History, Share the Experience

We all have stories to tell, special moments that stick with us over the years. TDVA would like to read yours.

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CSM Roland Hienz Simms

Command Sergeant Major Roland Hienz Simms, recently passed away on July 21, 2015. He joined the US Army in 1961 and had 26 years of distinguished military service. CSM Simms served two combat tours in Vietnam. Over his career of almost 3 decades and he proudly served with the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles”’ and with the Army’s elite Special Forces (Green Beret). Among his awards were the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device, Purple Heart Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal and numerous other decorations. He also served as a US Army Drill Sergeant. CSM Simms always beamed with pride from a squared away uniform and spit shined boots and had a sixth sense for spotting excess thread on a soldier’s uniform. His funeral service was held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Helotes, Texas and interment followed at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery with full military honors. Our sincere condolences to his family and a salute of gratitude to our Patriot and friend, (DE OPPRESSO LIBRE) and Gods Speed.

 
Tec 4 Eseban Olaez Jr.

Esteban Olaez, Jr., passed away on Saturday, January 25, in Bergheim, TX. He was born in Leon, Guanajuato Mexico on August 3, 1915 to Esteban and Jesusita Sanchez Olaez, Sr.  A Master Boot Maker by trade, he honorably served in the United States Army as a Tec 4 Orthopedic Mechanic with Medical Detachment 70th Station Hospital. Areas served North Africa, Naples-Fogga, Rome-Arno and Rhineland returned to the United Stated on the Ship S.S. Marine Panther which sailed from Marseille, France on 6 August 1945.  Esteban is the last of his generation.  Immigrating with his Mother, Father and brother Francisco in 1918.  By 1923 they opened a Boot and Shoe repair shop Zapateria Cuauhtémoc located at 1314 W. Commerce near the Market Square.  He remembers the cowboys with their horse’s and wagons.  Often saying business was good.  By the 1950 urban development arose so they relocated the shop to 539 US Old Highway 90 West, now using the Family name Olaez Boot Shop.  Providing Custom made Boots/Leather goods and repair.  Esteban closed the shop in 2000 at the age of 85. Until the closing of the shop he worked 6 days a week. His niece asked him what the secret to life was he responded. Always do things from your heart with love, always work hard and never envy anyone for anything they have and most of all always look towards God no matter what.

 

Esteban was a member of the Texas Disabled Veterans Association.  The family would like to thank Alamo Hospice of Boerne, Texas Shelly, Susan, Bea, Erin and John. Your care and upmost respect for this national hero will always be remembered.  He was preceded in death by his parents; 3 brothers, Francisco, Antonio, and Refugio; and 3 sisters, Carmen Olaez, Esperanza Castro, and Jesusita Medina. He is survived by 5 nieces, Patricia Burton and husband Donald, Rosario Cardenas and husband Thomas, Mary Sue Medina, Linda Olaez, Sylvia Lowry and husband James; 5 nephews, Steve Olaez and wife Martha, Fred Medina, Richard Olaez, David Olaez and wife Elaine, and Robert Olaez and wife Cheryl and numerous great-nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. 

 
HT3 Richard G. Castilla

TDVA member, Richard Garcia Castilla, passed away on July 26, 2012 at the age of 55. He is survived by his daughter Cassandra, sisters: Esther C. Flint and Mary Helen Tarnava and brothers: Daniel, Steven, Anthony, and Manuel. Funeral services were held at Delgado Funeral Home. The internment was held at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery on August 2, 2012 with full military honors. Richard was a U.S. Navy Veteran (Seabee) with six years of active duty service and had traveled throughout the world. He had been an advocate with various Veterans organizations, supporting benefits for Spinal Cord injured Veterans. Despite being a quadriplegic, Richard was very independent and always had a joke and a smile. Our friend always had a deep concern for others that needed help and he was always there when you needed him in a pinch. Richard's positive attitude will be missed by all that had the pleasure of knowing him. You rest now Brother.

 
SSG Louis Langston

SSG Louis Langston honorably and courageously served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in Europe during World War II, Louis was captured 18 April 1944 and held as a Prisoner of War (P.O.W.) at Stalag XVII B in Krems, Austria and liberated by Russian forces on 30 April 1945. He was proud of his career military service. Louis was born July 8, 1918 in Eagle Pass, Texas. He married Elsa Munoz 52 years ago and was a devoted husband, loving father, grandfather, and uncle who led by example in teaching all who knew and loved him so very much to celebrate life and enjoy family heritage. He retired from Civil Service in addition to being retired military. Survivors include wife Elsa G. Langston, Bedford; daughters Starla Langston, Bedford; Darla Smith, Grapevine; son, Joe Langston, El Paso; grandchildren, Austin Smith and Logan Smith, Grapevine; brother Alr ay Langston, Jacksonville, FL; sister Beatrice Aguilar, Jacksonville FL; and many nieces and nephews. Staff Sgt. Langston was interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery on September 29, 2011.

 
101st Airborne Division's, SPC David Bixler
 
Major General John Campbell, Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)/Combined Joint Task Force-101, presented Specialist David Bixler a Silver Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal and Combat Action Badge a few weeks ago when he visited Walter Reed on R&R leave.  SPC Bixler recently wrote the following e-mail, please read the accounts of his actions in combat - I stood proud the day we decided upon that motto, in holding with the traditions of the 101st in setting new standards and upholding the ARMY values that keep us on our feet and hold up the name of "Soldier".  When we deployed to Kandahar province in June 2010, I knew this deployment was going to be different. I felt it in my gut. I knew something was going to happen, I just didn't know what it would be.  Months passed by and we had taken it to the enemy in ways that many couldn't fathom.  We had lost few, and taken many.  We had counted dozens of Taliban warriors fallen, and saw the graves they dug at night while they assumed we weren't watching.  All the while our FLIR cameras were ablaze, watching in amusement at the progress we were making. Months had passed, and we had been in dozens of firefights, without taking a single injury, except of-course our backs from carrying all of the extra weight. Needless to say, the things we carried were meant to save our lives.  A tale was unfolding from that simple fact alone.  I was given a team leader position over 3 ANA.  A grenadier, a rifleman, and an R.P.G.  I had been to school to learn some Dari, and most of them spoke it fluently, and those that couldn't relied on the others to translate.  We did simple dismounted patrols which didn't require many complicated commands.  "Move there", "stay here".  Not too many commands required much translating when I shouted and pointed in a particular direction. One of our soldiers had recently been injured (PFC Macari) and we had no replacement to carry the THOR III so I was assigned to carry it along with the other gear I was already assigned.  We were given an OPORD (Operation Order) to meet with some land owners and possibly some town elders.  So we were on our way to meet them.  We had passed through a somewhat dry potato field, and crossed a canal which was their main water source, as well as their sewage outlet (tasty).  Once most of my platoon had crossed over the canal and climbed the unusually high dirt mound and reached the other side, it was my job to pick up our safety markers showing where we had cleared a path.  I was supposed to be the last person over the dirt mound, and over the other side.  As soon as I picked up the final safety marker, we took contact.  The entire wood line in front of us seemed to explode into a frenzy of AK and RPK fire.  RPK, PKMs, possibly a M249 SAW and RPG fire was hitting all around us.  We were pinned down into a ditch just on the other side of the dirt mound we had climbed up after crossing that canal.  We could only manage to get a handful of soldiers in decent fighting positions.  The rest of us were stuck in that ditch.  My platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Lyon called out "Alright we need to pull back and regroup and get more men on the ground and call in Air Support and an AWT ( Air Weapons Team ) to level these jackasses.  They've got us pinned down here so we're no good.  Get ready to move back!".  I left out most of the less than decent language for plain decency.  We tend to use less than professional words sometimes when we're a little heated.So most of use who were down in the ditch had already fired a few rounds as we were hopping down into cover.  So we swapped out magazines for fresh ones and prepared to move out.  All-of-the-sudden one of my ANA soldiers takes off on top of the dirt mound behind us, on uncleared ground.  I yelled in Pashto first, then Dari, and even English "STOP or you'll get shot!" but he didn't listen.  I would have shot his legs out from beneath him to save him from detonating an IED and possibly getting us all killed, but I had too many friendlies in the way, so I hauled up the dirt mound and grabbed him by the back of the collar of his IBA and threw him back attempting to push him back into the ditch when I stepped backwards and wide trying to regain my balance when I stepped on the pressure plate.  Post-blast analysis determined that it was a pie plate (crush box) tied to two 82mm (millimeter) mortars.  Enough to take out an entire platoon given the proper circumstances, yet here I am, alive with most of my parts, and the ANA only suffered miner wounds, and is probably back in the fight already.  My buddies CPL Fent and PFC Collins had concussions, but that is all. All in all, I believe I made the right decision in my actions.  I saved 4 people's lives in doing what I did (or so I believe) and I give credit to the gear for protecting my faculties.  Eye pro prevented shrapnel from entering my eye sockets and into my brain; the ear pro prevented hearing loss, I still have perfect hearing; and the gloves kept my fingers from getting shredded by the shrapnel being flung all around me.  I did lost parts of my legs and my feet, but judging by the shrapnel they pulled out of the THOR III that was on my back, it was a small sacrifice when it could have been much worse. You could say Angels... I think not... I believe it was the spirit of the 101st that saved my life that day.  To do without being told.  To act without needing prompting.  To sacrifice without remorse.  To be, to do, to act, to train, to become, and to live.  These are what we are in the 101st ABN DIV.  We are soldiers.  I would gladly have given my life to ensure the safety of our families back home.  I will walk again, and I will gladly make the same sacrifice again knowing that my child, and wife have a future.  We keep this madness from reaching our homes, and that's why I did what I did, and I do what I do.  Take it to the enemy, not the other way around. "Everybody Fights", "NOBODY QUITS!" our Battery commander would answer and sound off.  I will hold true to that answer.  I will not quit.  I am proud to be part of HHB 1-320th FAR 2 BCT 101st ABN DIV.  I am proud to be part of the US ARMY.  I will always fight, because it was never about me... it's all about us.  Freedom.

 
 
Remembering Paratrooper Steve

 Steve Sellen was born on May 17th, 1962 in Ft. Riley, Kansas. After graduating from New Mexico Military Institute in 1982, Steve served in the California National Guard until graduating from UCLA. His first active duty assignment was with the 3-47 Infantry at Fort Lewis Washington, and his unit served with the Multinational Force and Observes in Sinai, Egypt from April – Oct 1988 (“Mung Ho!”). His next duty station was with the Big Red One, 1-16 Infantry Regiment, Panzer Kasern, in Boeblinging, Germany. He became the Commander of D Company and deployed to the first Gulf War. Upon his return he was assigned to the 3-325 Airborne Battalion Combat Team, at Caserma Ederle, Vicenza, Italy and was immediately sent to Operation Provide Comfort in Northern Iraq. His remarkable relationship with the Kurdish children attracted the attention of reporters, and CPT Sellen became the positive highlight on local and national news in America. He later became Company C ommander of CSC, and organized the 49th anniversary of D-Day, and parachuted, with 60 other soldiers, into St. Mere-Eglise, Normandy. During his five years in Europe, Steve trained in many nations with NATO and Allied soldiers, travelling for the Army and for pleasure. He was always eager to interact with the people of the over 25 countries he visited including the Czech Republic, Romania, Austria, Greece, Belgium, and Turkey. When he returned to The States in 1994, he worked at Concepts Analysis in Bethesda, Maryland, and earned a Master of Science Degree at George Mason University, Virginia. His last assignment was as S4 at HDQ, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Div., Camp Hovey, Korea. He resigned, and was Honorably Discharged, from the Army as a Major on Feb 21, 1997. His military accomplishments include completing the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle Commander Course, and Combined Arms and Services Staff School. He earned the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Paratrooper Badge, The Air Assault Badge, the Ranger Tab, Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation Award, along with the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, and numerous service medals and ribbons. Steve went on to a successful career as a District Manager with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, and in his spare time built a beautiful candy apple red dune buggy from a heap of rusted and dented parts. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008 and passed away on April 19, 2010. Steve lived a life of compassion, strength, humor and courage, and he leaves behind a legacy of good friends, a grateful wife and family and lots of laughter and love.