City of Ukiah, California

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The “Urge to Serve”

Last week, President Obama awarded our nation’s highest honor – the Medal of Honor – to Army Staff Sergeant Ty Carter.

Carter received the award for his heroic actions during one of the deadliest battles of the Afghanistan war. He was one of 53 Americans stationed at an Army outpost in Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province. On October 3, 2009, more than 300 insurgents, armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, surrounded and attacked that Army outpost.

During the fierce fight, 8 soldiers lost their lives and 22 were wounded. When the battle started, Carter ran from his bunk to a guard post, exposing himself to gunfire.

"I knew that if I didn't get to that position, to support that position–if a guard position does fall, then the perimeter falls and then the enemy enters," Carter said. 

Carter was wounded in the battle but managed to continue to fight against the enemy combatants under intense pressure. Without regard for his own safety, Carter ran through enemy fire multiple times to resupply ammunition to his fellow soldiers. He fought to protect those around him, and he rendered first aid to fellow soldiers during the intense fighting in this remote mountain outpost.

During the battle, one of the fellow soldiers Carter ran to assist was Stephan L. Mace, who had been significantly wounded and was lying about 30 yards away from the others. Mace was trying to crawl towards safety and crying out, “Help me, please.” Through heavy enemy fire, Carter ran to Mace and brought him back to safety.

President Obama said, Carter “…displayed the essence of true heroism. Not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

I can’t think of a more selfless gift than to serve others at whatever cost, to safeguard our country, or our community.

The Urge to Serve:

I am extremely grateful that we have Staff Sergeant Carter’s example of service, and I am also grateful to live in Ukiah where American flags line our streets and we recognize and honor those who have given us so much.  

We honor military heroes, and we also honor and appreciate the urge to serve in those who make our community a better place in other ways. I see that urge to serve everywhere in our community, and it is one of the things, I think, that makes Ukiah so special. 

People around here serve in all kinds of ways, volunteering in service clubs, church organizations, and community based non-profits (e.g., the food bank, Plowshares and the Boys and Girls Club), youth sports, and community events and fundraisers.

It’s absolutely remarkable what we, as a community, are able to accomplish. Some of my favorite examples are our pocket parks and playground equipment, afterschool education programs and youth sports, 4-H and Boy Scouts, our Grace Hudson museum and other cultural treasures, and our community events like the upcoming Chili Cook Off, Ukiah Triathlon, and Guitars for Troops. Our community has been and continues to be built through our collective urge to serve.

If you have that urge, all you need to do is open the Ukiah Daily Journal each week and you’ll find countless opportunities to volunteer. We sure are lucky to live in such a caring and devoted community as Ukiah.

“The silent cost”

Going back to military service for a moment, I want to bring up an important resource in our community for those whose service has left them hurting or suffering.

After receiving our nation’s highest award, Staff Sgt. Carter said, “The reality of the award is that I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Imagine yourself in the worst possible situation you can think of. We’re talking about you’ve got members of your family being killed in front of you or in severe pain and you have no choice but to try and help them.”

The solider who Carter ran through gunfire to save later died from his wounds. Carter said that left him "shattered."

"The fact that either I didn't get to him in time or I didn't do the right thing made me believe that I had failed fully and completely," he said.

 After that horrific battle, Carter began receiving treatment for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"I don't like the 'D' on the end," Carter said. "I don't believe in calling it a disorder. I believe that it's your body and mind's natural reaction to something traumatic… and if PT, post-traumatic stress is intense enough, it will affect your life. It will remove your ability to be happy and enjoy the company of your loved ones."

"Everyone who cares for you and worries about you in your life is your safety net," Carter said. "At any point in time if I'm feeling stressed or if something is going wrong, I have people I can talk to."

President Obama commended Carter for speaking out about post-traumatic stress and urged us to follow his lead.

"Let me say as clearly as I can…he is as tough as they come, and if he can find the courage to seek help, so can you," the President said. "Nobody should ever suffer alone. And, nobody should die waiting for the mental health care they need."

If you know a veteran here in Ukiah that might need services, our local Veterans Administration (VA) Clinic is an excellent place to start. The clinic is located at 630 Kings Court in Ukiah. The Ukiah VA Clinic provides primary health care to more than 3,200 veterans a year and behavioral health/PTSD care to approximately 900 veterans a year. For chronically homeless veterans or those suffering from substance abuse, the Ukiah VA Clinic helps connect them with housing or treatment services. The clinic also provides daily transportation to the VA Hospital in San Francisco where veterans can receive more specialized care.

As always, our department’s mission is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: 

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Safety · Professionalism · Community Service