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Life Saving Actions

"A hero understands 

the responsibility that comes with his or her freedom...

it is the freedom to choose how you will use your time

on earth.


Gene's legacy of life saving actions lives on through the work of the Foundation "


Michael M.J. Minc


WIKIPEDIA, Gene Arden Vance Jr.
text republished from



Gene Arden (“Buddy”) Vance Jr. (November 30, 1963 – May 18, 2002) was an American soldier, a member of a US Special Forces Airborne Reserve Unit who, despite being critically wounded, saved the lives of two fellow Americans and 18 Afghani soldiers during the War in Afghanistan (2001–14).

Birth name: Gene Arden Vance Jr.

Nickname(s): "Buddy"; "Bud"

Born: November 30, 1963, Frankfurt, Germany

Died: May 18, 2002 (aged 38) Afghanistan  (KIA)

Buried: Morgantown, West Virginia

Vance’s actions, life story, heroism and death were widely publicized in the mainstream media and is featured in several books on the Global War on Terror as well as in the ABC reality series "Profiles from the Front Line"

Vance was the first member of the National Guard of the United States to be killed in direct action since a New Hampshire National Guard soldier was killed in Vietnam in 1969. He was also the first West Virginia National Guardsman to be killed in action (KIA) since World War II and the first U.S. Army graduate of Goodfellow Air Force Base's cryptography training to be KIA while taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom. Vance was the first alumni of The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Presidio of Monterey (DLIFLC) to be killed in combat since the terrorist attacks on the US of September 2001. 

Both federal and state leaders in the United States government have inscribed Vance into US history as a national hero. Two US military intelligence staff buildings, a military camp in Bagram, Afghanistan, a US state bridge, a US based non-profit organization, an annual US citywide memorial day, biometric laboratory, hall of honor, city/ mountain bike path, trademarked coffee label and memorial drive have been named in his honor. He received 17 awards and decorations including the US Army Purple Heart, two Bronze Star Medals for Valor and the Legion of Merit that recognizes exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of sustained, superior achievement.















Early, family and personal life

Vance was born on Nov. 30, 1963, in Frankfurt, Germany. He was the first born son of the late Gene Arden Vance Sr., a retired US army officer and member of the Green Berets who was a magistrate and sheriff of Wyoming County, West Virginia and June Carol Steele from neighboring McDowell County, WV who is a retired registered nurse teaching nursing in the United States. The Vance’s also had two younger children, Gene Jr.’s siblings, David and Jamie.

Vance is a member of a multi-generational US military family spanning four generations of service. His great uncles William ‘Bittle’ Steele, US Army 4th Infantry Division Bravo Company and Clarence 'Buck' England served in the Battle of the Bulge. His father Gene Sr. served with the LRRP and U.S. Special Forces as a Captain in the Vietnam war and then with the Military Police in Thailand. Gene Sr. was described by the media as a lean, well-muscled lawman standing 6-foot-4, and 'ramrod straight'.[9] His uncles William Edward Vance and James Ray Vance served in long term US military careers. Gene Vance Jr.'s younger brother David is a retired non-commissioned officer who served with the 101st Airborne performing two tours of duty in the Iraq War and whose son, Gene's nephew, serves in the US Navy. During his life Gene actively sought to continue his family's military legacy.

Gene A. Vance Jr. was described as a 6-foot-4 inches tall "mountaineer"- an avid outdoorsman and physical fitness, mountain biking, white water rafting, backpacking, kayaking, snowboarding and chess enthusiast. He kept much of his military life a secret from friends and family who believed he led what was described as two lives - a different life than people saw. He loved the Grateful Dead, John Prine and became well known to Dick Dale as one of his fans. He liked to wear Birkenstock sandals and Deadhead T-shirts in sharp contrast to his military life and secret government missions. The reason for Gene's secrecy was believed to be in part due to his modest nature and also to the secretive nature of his elite training as both a cryptologic linguist and a US Special Forces Reservist. Gene had specialty skills in translating intercepted foreign state communications and was honored by the US National Security Agency.

Vance was a student at West Virginia University and a 1981 graduate of Oceana High School (West Virginia) in Wyoming County, where he was voted "most quiet" in his high school senior class. From all accounts he was a strong, shy, selfless, pleasant, gentle and quiet man who loved a wide variety of rock and roll music, and dark roast coffee. 

Vance had a daughter, Amber, from a previous marriage, and was married to Lisa Selmon Vance at the time of his death. Vance's personal communications with his wife during wartime service were featured in a book entitled ‘Behind The Lines’ by author Andrew Carroll.


At the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Vance was living in Morgantown, West Virginia. He was newly married and about to go on his honeymoon. He was also just beginning a new semester at West Virginia University and managed one of West Virginia's largest sporting goods stores in the city.

Among the U.S. Army responses to the September 11 terrorist attacks was the activation of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, (Airborne). Vance served with the West Virginia Army National Guard element of the battalion. Vance cancelled his honeymoon and put his studies on hold to go to war. Vance's Persian language, cryptologic and special forces skills, harnessed at the start of the war in Afghanistan, were rare and distinguished him from the majority of the US Army. 

Vance's skills became vital to operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists. 

Military career

Vance attended Basic and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, Ga., for Communications Systems Circuit Controller in 1983. In 1988, he completed the Primary Leadership Development Course at Fort Ord, Ca. and then served in various active-duty assignments both in the United States and overseas from June 1983 until June 1990.

Vance's military education included:

  • The Communication System Circuit Course

  • The Primary Leadership Development Course

  • The Petroleum Supply Specialist Course

  • The Basic Airborne Course

  • The Special Forces Command Basic Non commissioned Officer Course

  • Advanced International Morse Code

  • The Persian-Farsi Language Course

Vance was awarded his first Bronze Star[28] for Valor for his actions in the Persian Gulf War then joined the Army Reserves as a supply specialist in the 646th Quartermaster Company, Kingwood, W.Va., from January 1992 until October 1992. During this period, he completed the Petroleum Supply Specialist Course. He then joined Company C, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in October 1992. In 1994, he transferred to Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He was later awarded the military occupational skill of voice interceptor in 2001. After the events on September 11, 2001, Vance’s special forces unit was activated.

According to the US Military, Staff Sergeant Vance's patrol was ambushed on 18 May 2002 by Taliban fighters in the vicinity of Shkin, Paktika Afghanistan while taking part in Operation Mountain Lion. Although critically wounded in the initial attack, Staff Sergeant Vance continued to translate battlefield intelligence for Afghan forces in the area, directing them out of danger. For his actions Vance received multiple awards and decorations.


He had also played a critical role in developing his detachment's communications capabilities in the US led efforts to capture Osama Bin Laden.


On May 19, 2002, Vance died from a gunshot wound to the chest according to official military reports and was posthumously promoted to Staff Sergeant. Varied accounts and reports surrounding Vance’s death were widespread in the media immediately upon his death.

On Saturday, May 26, 2002, the day before US Memorial Day approximately 1,000 people including state, national military and government officials, attended Vance’s memorial service held in his hometown of Morgantown, West Virginia. West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty, Jr., bestowed upon Vance an honorary bachelor of arts degree from the university which Vance had attended before his deployment to Afghanistan saying that Vance represented "a potent combination of the ordinary and extraordinary. Former US Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia was in office as the senate intelligence committee chairman at the time of Vance's death. He paid tribute to Vance's service saying that Americans who enjoy the freedoms and comforts their society provides must never forget that they do so because of men such as Sergeant Vance. US Senators, Joe Manchin III and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have paid tribute to Vance by honoring his actions to 'fight terror in the name of freedom'.

Memorials and Tributes




Awards and decorations

Legion of Merit

Bronze Star for Valor (2nd award)

Purple Heart

Army Achievement Medal (for his role in San Francisco's 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake)

Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award)

Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal

National Defense Service Medal

Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device

Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon

Army Service Ribbon

Overseas Service Ribbon

Parachutist Badge

West Virginia Distinguished Service Medal

West Virginia State Service Ribbon

West Virginia Distinguished Unit Award


Warner Bros. and Jerry Bruckheimer Television. "Profiles from The Front Line". Richard Mackenzie.

Oliver North. pg. 53a American Heroes in Special Operations. Fedelis Books. ISBN 0805447121.

City of Morgantown, West Virginia. "2015 Gene Vance Day"(PDF). City of Morgantown, West Virginia.

Luis Loza Gutierrez. "Honoring two great American Soldiers". Goodfellow Air Force Base.

BINKLEY, CAMERON (2011). THE DEFENSE LANGUAGE INSTITUTE FOREIGN LANGUAGE CENTER A PICTORIAL HISTORY (PDF). Presidio of Monterey, Monterey, California USA: U.S. Army. p. 158. Retrieved 5 March 2017.

HON. Sam Farr. "In Honor of Gene Arden Vance Jr." Sunlight Foundation.

"Special Forces Airborne". Information from, ABC, AP Wire and US Air Force News.

Quintin Dale Vance; Wanda Rizpah Green; Edna M. Horne (1986). David Vance and family - Page 120. Q.D. Vance. Retrieved 1 June 2016.

JULES LOH (February 15, 1987). "Supposed Link to Poverty Disputed by Sheriff : Crime Minimal in Rural W. Va.". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 27 April 2016.

William R. Archer (2013). Legendary Locals of McDowell County. Arcadia Publishing North Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4671-0036-6. Retrieved 1 June 2016.


 "Slain commando led 2 lives, friends learn". Tribune news services. May 22, 2002. Retrieved 28 April 2016.

Vernon Loeb; Mary Beth Sheridan (May 21, 2002). "U.S. Victim in Afghan Firefight Was Veteran of Secret Missions; Special Forces Sergeant, a Newlywed, Managed Cycle Shop". The Washington Post. The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 April 2016.

FAYE FIORE; ESTHER SCHRADER (May 21, 2002). "Fallen soldier kept elite training secret". Charleston Daily Mail. Charleston Daily Mail.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE, FORT BRAGG, NC 28310 910-432-6005. "Staff Sergeant Gene Arden Vance, Jr. Operation Enduring Freedom" (PDF). U.S ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND.

Steve Twedt (May 27, 2002). "W.Va. honors guardsman, casualty of Afghan fighting" (Local News). PG Publishing Company. Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved 1 June 2016.

"SSG Gene Arden Vance Jr.". Inc. Retrieved 1 June 2016.

Rachelle Bot (May 27, 2002). "At Memorial, Sgt. Gene Vance Jr. Honored for Service to State, Nation". Charleston Gazette. Charleston Gazette. Retrieved 1 June 2016.

Gene Vance Jr. Foundation. "A powerful opportunity to help severely wounded soldiers achieve the extraordinary.. pg11"(PDF). Gene Vance Jr. Foundation. Retrieved 1 June 2016.

Andrew Carroll (May 10, 2005). Behind The Lines (Hardcover ed.). Scribner Book Company. pp. 206, 207. ISBN 0743256166.

 JEFF YOUNG (May 21, 2002). "Profile: Friends remember National Guard soldier killed in Afghanistan". BOB EDWARDS. NPR Morning Edition. Retrieved 27 April 2016.

Rick Steelhammer (June 18, 2003). "Spy agency honors fallen Guardsman". The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV). The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV).

"Monday, May 21, 2007". Crossfit Watertown, CT. Retrieved 28 April 2016.

West Virginia University. "We Remember The Victims of September 11". West Virginia University.

"2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)". Retrieved 3 June 2016.

Mike Krause Office of Governor Bill Haslam. "Remembering Those We Lost" (PDF). The Tennessean.

Natela, Cutter. "Landmark buildings at DLIFLC" (PDF). Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. Retrieved 11 April 2016.

Jake Stump (May 22, 2002). "Gene Vance gets medals, second bronze star". Dominion Post. Retrieved 28 April 2016.

Fort Bragg, NC 28310 910-432-6005. "Staff Sergeant Gene Arden Vance, Jr. Operation Enduring Freedom" (PDF). U.S Army Special Operations Command.

"Operation Mountain Lion (US) Operation Ptarmigan (UK)".

Maria Glod (27 May 2002). "Memorial Day Hits Home". Washington Post.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV. "The Death Of Sgt. Gene Vance In Afghanistan". Sunlight Foundation.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. "Tribute To Sergeant Gene Arden Vance And The West Virginia National Guard". Sunlight Foundation.

Delegates Browning and Staton,. "HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 204". State of West Virginia Legislature.

"CAMP VANCE". Wikimapia. Wikimapia.

"SCANG personnel officer leads joint effort in Afghanistan". Air National Guard 169 Fighter Wing. Air National Guard. Retrieved 1 June 2016.

"Camp Vance, Afghanistan". Rally Point Networks, Inc.

"Camp Vance Memorial Day service". DVIDS.

US National Security Agency. "Memorial Wall/ Vance" (PDF). US National Security Agency.

JR Petsko. "Appalachian Classic - WVMBA #6 (iPO Event Id#: 10027)". iPlayOutside, Inc.

"Mon River Rail-Trails". Mon River Rail-Trails. Mon River Trails Conservancy © 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2016.

Anonymous (2005). Hunting al Qaeda (Hardcover ed.). Zenith Press. p. 78. ISBN 0760337365.

"pg. 23 DLIFLC GLOBE" (PDF). Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and Presidio of Monterey.

Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "pg. 5 and 59 C.A.R.E. Summit 2013". US Dept.of Defense Dept.of the Navy, Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA.

"Operation Total Restoration". Gene Vance Jr Foundation.

Naval Medical Center San Diego. "Gene Vance Jr. Foundation Operation Total Restoration". Gene Vance Jr. Foundation.

Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "pgs. front cover 3,5-9,12-27,29,30,33,35-39,43,45,48,49,52-54,59-62 back cover C.A.R.E. of Summit 2013". US Dept.of Defense Dept.of the Navy, Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA.

"Gene Vance Jr. Foundation". Gene Vance Jr. Foundation.

 Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "C.A.R.E. Summit 2012". US Dept.of Defense Dept.of the Navy, Naval Medical Center San Diego, CA.

"Invitation to Attend. Program 2012" (PDF). Gene Vance Jr. Foundation.


"NEWS". Gene Vance Jr Foundation.

"DoD Biometrics Task Force dedicates Camp Dawson Building to Guardsman". Biometrics Identity Management Agency. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2016.

The HON. Mayor Jenny Selin. "PROCLAMATION" (PDF). City of Morgantown.

Honorable Senator Jay Rockefeller. "United States Senate"(PDF). Gene Vance Jr. Foundation.

Joe Manchin III. "Greetings from Joe Manchin III, United States Senator" (PDF). Gene Vance Jr. Foundation.

 MG James Hoyer. "Notice" (PDF). Gene Vance Jr. Foundation.

"Morgantown WV Observes New Day in Honor of Nation’s Heroes" (PDF). City of Morgantown.

 US Fed News Service, Including US State News (May 7, 2012). "USPTO ISSUES TRADEMARK: BUD'S BOLD BREW COFFEE SUPERIOR QUALITY B". USPTO. Retrieved 28 April 2016.

Hudock, Megan (May 22, 2016). "The City of Morgantown Pays Tribute to Fallen Heroes on Gene Vance Jr. Day". 12 WBOY. ABC affiliate. Retrieved 26 May 2016.

Further reading

  • "p29 Biography of Michael M.J. Minc". US DoD Dept. of The Navy.

  •  Drew Schlosberg (11 September 2012). "Community Spotlight Show w/ Michael Minc" (September 11, 2012). San Diego Union Tribune.

  •  Drew Schlosberg (20 December 2013). "The San Diego Union Tribune COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT W MICHAEL MINC" (20 December 2013). WsRadio.

  • Jump up^ "Biography of Michael M.J. Minc".


  •  "Michael Minc". Front Page (Daily). Die Burger Newspaper. DIE BURGER Newspaper. 21 August 1968.

  • Virginia Anderson (19 August 1996). "Achievers'vision creates vital forum - GUIDE BOOKS Official Program for the 1996 Summer Paralympics designed by Atlanta artist Michael Minc". Atlanta Journal Constitution Newspaper.

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