8 January 2014 A Sad Day For America

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

The modern version of the handcart is the rescue helicopter
The modern version of the handcart is the rescue helicopter.
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Wisconsin –-(Ammoland.com)-  It was my birthday and I was having a great day. I spent the day at the Civil War Museum in Kenosha, WI learning about the mid-western part of the Nation’s impact on that war.

One of the last things you see as you leave the display area, are two manikins depicting wounded but surviving veterans of that bloody war.

One manikin is in uniform saluting you as you departed with the left sleeve of his tunic missing an arm, but the old soldier did survive to come home. Two wheeled handcarts were used in the Civil war to remove the injured from the battlefield. That old soldier could have been removed from his last fight, from his last battle in a handcart.

The modern version of the handcart is the rescue helicopter.

The aircraft swoops onto the battlefield and extracts the wounded and dead, but sadly sometimes these modern “handcart” operators don’t leave the battlefield in control of their aircraft. On 8 January 2014 the Air Force lost a Pave Hawk (read Blackhawk) rescue helicopter and four crew members on a training mission in England.

That same day the US Navy lost an MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopter with two rescued, two confirmed dead crew members and one still missing. I have jumped out of helicopters, repelled out of helicopters and deployed out of them as an Infantry officer. Helicopters are dangerous but we cannot fight a modern war without them. There will always be a need for the “handcart boys” to fly into harm’s way to rescue our battlefield wounded and to return the bodies of our fallen. 8 January 2014 was a sad day in the helicopter/rescue community of the US military. To the families, I am so sorry for your loss.


He's lying in the tree line, blood running down his arm.
Listening for the sound of the Handcart boys, to remove him from this harm.
He flew in on a modern jet that got shot down in this affray.
But he is no different than the wounded at Shiloh, trying to survive, till they safely take him away.

In the dark of the night she waits with so much pain to bear.
Injured in the crash of her aircraft and now this seemly endless nightmare.
Where is the chopper that will lift her from the smoke, the fire and the pain?
Where are the Handcart boys, hurry, her life is beginning to drain?

He was wounded when a round slammed onto the “cruiser's” deck.
Shards of metal are protruding from the right side his neck.
The corpsman has stopped the bleeding; he's been prepared, to be extracted in the night.
The Handcart boys are racing his way, and will be there by first light.

Get in, get them out, and hurry back, to the safety of our lines.
It has been this way since ancient wars, to the battles of modern times.
The two-wheel Handcart is the way the wounded were removed from battles in past wars.
Our modern Handcart has a rotor-blade and sliding doors.

Look at history, look at art work, or at movies if you will.
When it came to removing the wounded off of some war torn desolate hill.
It was a Handcart carrying the broken and the dying with their screams of pain.
It was a Handcart transporting at Normandy in the cold June rain.

Every branch of the service has its modern version of the Handcart boys who respond to the call.
They go out for the wounded and dead, bring them back, get them all.
Some times the Handcart boys are brought back in a Handcart not of their own.
Some times they become the wounded & the dying, and for their efforts, they never come home.

There are also women who work these, latter-day Handcarts and their lives too, are on the line.
It is a dangerous mission, but just as their predecessors they to make that recovery in time.
They move out over the desert, into the night as the sand blows and swirls.
These Handcart operators are our Handcart girls.

I have a two-wheeled wooden handcart with an old worn flag sitting out on my front lawn.
It is not a protest, it's a reminder of our injured, who returned by Handcart, lying there upon.
In order to defend this Nation, we will continue to send the brave & young, our freedom they earn.
And we will always have a need for the Handcarts, for our wounded and dead, they must return.

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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