It should come as no surprise that battlefields see their share of brave men. Every once in a while, however, they see a man with a special kind of bravery, the kind that borders on suicidal. The spirits of such men can't be cut down, even if their bodies are. In fact, disabling them often just makes them all the more fearsome ...
#5. Stephen "Turbo" Toboz
When someone who is not a cartoon character is called "Turbo," it is usually safe to start screaming bullshit. Not so with Stephen Toboz, who happens to back his nickname up by being a Navy SEAL. In fact, he got it during the inhumanly hard SEAL training, where some of the fittest soldiers in the world drop like flies from exhaustion. Toboz, however, was hyper throughout the training period, ran incredibly fast and actually thought the whole thing was great fun.
"Push-ups in the sand? Fuck yeah I wanna do some push-ups in the sand!"
He made it through the training, naturally, and became a fully fledged SEAL who eventually wound up fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. In March of 2002, Turbo was part of Operation Anaconda (we dare you not to think about G.I. Joe while reading that sentence), one of the first large-scale battles of the war in Afghanistan. He was part of a six-man team that had flown back into an enemy stronghold atop a mountain to rescue a captured teammate. Their helicopter was shot down but managed to land safely -- only to be immediately caught up in an ambush.
"Also, Steve spilled his Slurpee all over the dash."
As the team leader ordered them to withdraw, Turbo was hit by automatic weapon fire that somehow spiraled around his left leg, shattering bones and punching a hole the size of a fist in his calf.
Turbo crawled along with the team on all fours, barely visible in three feet of snow, fighting pain, blood loss and the -20 degree weather. Oh, and he fought the enemy, too. He actually provided cover for the rest of the unit all along, refusing to take any morphine for his near-incapacitating pain to be able to do so.
Winners don't do drugs! Not even when the medical professionals tell them to.
This went on for 18 fucking hours. All under a constant barrage of bullets and mortar fire.
In the end, they made it out alive. At that point Turbo had lost over three liters of blood and was only able to survive because the cold weather froze his wound shut. In the hospital, Toboz lived up to his nickname by getting annoyed at the slow pace at which his leg was healing. So he told the doctors to saw it the hell off and give him a bionic leg instead. They obliged, and Turbo rejoined his unit only nine months later. He still took part on active SEAL combat missions but soon started feeling bad that his new leg only gave him 95 percent ability (instead of his usual 800 percent).
"Is it just me, or is Turbo eating slightly fewer tanks lately?"
And thus ended Turbo's career as a badass SEAL warrior. He is now a badass SEAL trainer, bringing a new element of embarrassment for the recruits by running circles around them with just one good leg.
#4. Henry William Paget
Henry William Paget -- later in life titled 1st Marquess of Anglesey but understandably preferring to be called Lord Uxbridge -- commanded 13,000 cavalrymen and 44 guns of horse artillery while fighting Napoleon during the Battle of Waterloo. While leading his men in battle, Paget was struck, not by a musket, but by a goddamned cannonball.
National Portrait Gallery, London
Thankfully, he kept a spare one in his hat.
Upon noticing that his leg was pretty much ripped off, he decided to inform his nearby superior, the Duke of Wellington, that he was a tad wounded. The exhange was nowhere near as "AarghaarghaarghmylegMYLEG" as you'd imagine, but instead went like this:
Paget: By God, Sir, I have lost my leg.
Wellington: By God, Sir, so you have.
No kidding. They then presumably proceeded to have some tea and crumpets.
Cannonballs. How terribly, terribly droll.
Retaining his supernatural calmness, Paget then retired to the field hospital to have the useless limb amputated. While the doctor was hacking away with all the comfort and convenience 19th-century battlefield surgery could offer, the stoic lord's only reaction was probably a nonchalant, "My god, old boy, these knives seem to be frightfully dull." Immediately afterward, Paget, 47 at the time, joked to his men that it was about time he was cut instead of some youngster.
Those aren't cannonballs. They're scale models of Paget's left testicle.
After he recovered and mastered his new peg leg, Paget was right back in the field of battle, becoming a full-fledged general before retiring in 1852 with the rank of field marshal. If anyone ever asked him whether he missed his leg, he would just give them a puzzled look and ask them, "Who would not lose a leg for such a victory?" The man completely refused to see the point of a mere limb in the grand scheme of things.
Paget was a hardass commander, but that amputated limb of his gained quite a following, too. After the amputation, a shrine was set up where the leg was buried. Over time, it became quite a tourist attraction, and eventually the bones were actually dug up and put on display, to the chagrin of Paget's descendants. We think Paget himself would probably just have had someone cut his other leg off with a rusty spoon and give that to his family so that they would've stopped making that ungentlemanly racket.
National Portrait Gallery, London
"Why are you bickering about legs when there are millions of Frenchmen to fight?"
#3. Claus von Stauffenberg
Claus Philipp Maria Justinian Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was a German aristocrat, an army officer and a multiple-time-winner in the Ridiculous Name Olympics. Stationed in North Africa during World War II, von Stauffenberg was targeted by an Allied plane while driving around in his jeep commanding his troops. Badly wounded, he was hurried to a field hospital where, seeing the condition he was in, they could do little more than hastily amputate a bunch of appendages and patch him up the best they could.
"Just make sure to pose this way for every picture you take and nobody will notice."
Now lacking a right hand, two fingers on his left hand and his left eye, as well as being seriously wounded in the legs, he still had to be evacuated on horrible bumpy roads to the better hospital conditions of Italy, an experience von Stauffenberg himself described as "exceedingly uncomfortable."
German Federal Archive
He described Hitler's handshake the same way. Also, "moist."
Von Stauffenberg spent the following months in Nazi rehab, and also in excruciating pain. The latter was partially because of the seriousness of his wounds, but mostly because von Stauffenberg was a firm believer in "mind over matter." This meant that, just as a matter of principle, the man refused any and all pain medication. Think about that the next time you stub your toe and reach for Vicodin.
While von Stauffenberg was able to successfully tell pain to go fuck itself, the fact remained that he was now severely disabled. So did he just do the logical thing and sit out the rest of the war? Ha, of course not! Instead, having had plenty of non-medicated time to think through the whole Nazi Germany issue, he returned to service as a celebrated war hero and gained the trust of the leaders of the Reich, up to and including Hitler. He then promptly used this trust to become a key figure in a nearly successful conspiracy to kill Hitler.
Yeah. You might have seen the movie they made about him.
This was the reward history gave him.