Petty Officer 3rd Class Todd Angell recently received the Silver Star for valor as a Navy Corpsman who was deployed in Afghanistan with the Marines. Now back home with his mother in Newtown, he has only recently returned from Camp LeJeune in North Carolina.
“It’s a big adjustment,” Angell said from the comfort of his mother’s living room sofa. “The best part is not having to shave or get a haircut, but that will begin again when I start my job as a police officer in the fall.”
After seven months in Afghanistan, Angell credits being alive with having always been in the right place. “We took a few casualties,” he said. “Luck of the draw.”
The 22 year old Angell entered the military when he was only 17 years old. Trained as a medical assistant, he lived in a mud house in Afghanistan, where he was the local medic. “We would pretty much act like a doctor. We had only two doctors for about 2000 marines, so they are pretty busy people. We would do anything they needed, see people, prescribe meds, send them on their way.”
Angell earned the Silver Star for many brave deeds, though perhaps the most meaningful event took place after his friend stepped on a mine.
“I was at the big base and down at the smaller base, someone popped a red firework, like a flare. The red means a casualty, so me and about 10 of my marines jumped in the truck. En route to the scene, another red flare popped up. At first, we assumed it was a mistake but when we got there, we found out it was two casualties; it was two amputations.”
Todd said, "I asked who got hit, and it turned out to be Rumbaugh, which was one of my close friends. So I walked over there and had the guys bring him to me, I didn’t want anyone else working on him.”
“He was pretty banged up,” Todd said, “He wasn’t very stable, and there is only so much we can do as a field corpsman. There is only so much gear we can carry. We hope for the best.”
It was especially meaningful to Angell to have his Silver Star pinned on his uniform by Cpl. Brandon Rumbaugh.
Angell’s mother, Mary Angell said she was not surprised her son went into the Navy at the age of 17. “His dad instilled a love of his country, and some people are born with an innate warrior’s sense. Todd was like that.”
When Todd came to his parents and told them he wanted to go into the Navy at only 17, it took them some time to think about it. “Todd was in the ROTC program in Bethel High School, but they were really pushing college. My husband didn’t want him to go into the Navy right away. We had to sign him up because he was so young. It was really hard for us to do.”
Mary talked about how badly he wanted to join the military. "I aways tried to let my kids do what they wanted and he wanted to do combat medicine. I just couldn’t tell him not to go.”
According to Mary, a Staff Sgt. at LeJeune said to her, “When your son was in training, I rode him so hard that when he left, he thought I hated him. I told him he needed to learn this because one day he was going to save a life. Little did I know, he was going to save mine.”
Todd’s family has gone through their own hard times. His mother is a survivor of breast cancer, but her husband was not as lucky in his struggle against pancreatic cancer, and he passed away a year after Todd went into the service.
Of Todd’s two sisters, one is struggling with a lymphoma-like illness while the other works for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Kristen Angell was born twelve years to the day before Todd, and his mother said they are so much alike, they are like twins separated by 12 years.
Kristen said that her work with the charity is ironic in light of her sister’s battle, but she said, “I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and that every cloud has a silver lining.”
She credits the family with having a sense of humor in adversity, and said that her parents have been very giving people in their community their whole lives. “I belong to so many charities, and Todd is like that, too. We have a special bond, and we are from a close knit family.”
“I am so proud of him,” Kristen said about her brother. “The things he has seen and done in 22 years. He knew what he was going to do, from the time he began to talk. His going into the Navy wasn’t a surprise to any of us.”
Humility is often a sign of greatness. The article cited above describes Todd running through a minefield to save lives, yet he dismisses his actions as if they were negligible.
"I dont know why a lot of my guys didn't get awards. If you ask me, everyone who was at D Day should have gotten awards, just for getting off the boat. Everybody at Iwo Jima, that was Navy Cross material. Getting the medal is a big deal but I could not have done it without the guys. I have to give a lot of credit to my guys because a lot of them didn’t get awards. Everything in there was a team effort, I didn't do any of it myself."