Bonnell Langford, Seaman (E3)
Bonnell Langford, Seaman (E3), was still a teenager when he fought exhaustion to salvage the USS Stark and the injured on the ship, after it had been attacked by an Iraqi fighter jet. For this, he had been awarded CITATION: COMMANDER MIDDLE EAST FORCE; "For the Superior performance of your duties while serving as an LCM-8 Crewmember on USS LaSalle (AGF-3) dispatched to render assistance to the USS Stark (FFG-31) following the Iraqi missile attack from 18 May to 20 May 1987. Working under dangerous and exhausting conditions, your tireless efforts and attention to detail were superb. During long, arduous hours, you met every tasking in a calm and efficient manner while operating alongside the burning and heavily damaged ship." H.J. Bernsen Rear Admiral, United States Navy Commander Middle East Force.
Bonnell Langford grew up in a close-knit family in Chicago during the 1970s. Although his father had served in World War II at Pearl Harbor, he saw his own future in college. After one semester, in which he worked hard and played even harder, he happened across a recruiting station in Chicago where he was quickly enticed to join the Navy by the promises of seeing the world and sailing the seven seas.
Arriving at the Great Lakes Naval Base for basic training, with a dopp’s kit full of body and health care products, weighing 110 pounds wet, and possessing a silver tongue, the eighteen year old initially did not impress his peers nor his superiors as a military type.
His mettle was tested again and again, occasionally in a brutal fashion, such as when he was forced to run for three miles, plus perform exercises or refuse and risk being set back, immediately after all four of his wisdom teeth were extracted - blood dripping along the way.
Yet Bonnell not only embraced this challenge, he excelled. Following boot camp and his ensuing completion of A School, Langford was one only one of his boot camp group to be selected to the command ship of the Middle East Force, the USS La Salle, AGF-3.
Bonnell's first orders, to report to Norfolk Virginia Christmas day and await further direction to meet his ship in the Middle East. From Norfolk, flew west and eventually landed in Manama Bahrain, UAE (United Arab Emeritus). From that airbase, he was airlifted and delivered to the USS LaSalle while the ship was under way, landing on board. Being immersed in the ships culture, was a shock to say the least. The indoctrination process was relentless on the ship, too, because the new seaman had to prove that he could be relied upon in the event of hostilities and Bonnell rose to the rank of E-3 Seaman.
When they had free time, he and his friends typically enjoyed drinking and socializing with the locals, including with a Bahraini ‘an prince. On one such night, May 17, 1987, the Military Police urgently found a partying Langford and fellow sailors, ordered to return them to their ship. An Iraqi jet fighter had attacked the USS Stark, off the coast during the Persian Gulf Conflict, the ship was smoking and sinking and its men were injured or killed. The crew from the USS La Salle, were desperately needed to save the ship from sinking, so a team were assembled to combat this issue. The LaSalle is an amphibious ship, with multiple types of anti-aircraft guns, as well as two Mike-8 boats, to which Langford was initially assigned.
For three days and three nights without pause, Langford and others collected the dead and human remains and refrigerated them to allow for proper burial. They worked tirelessly to evacuate the injured. They delivered fire fighters and equipment non-stop back and forth. Their devoted efforts succeeded in saving the Stark.
In his memoir, “37 Navy Sailors Murdered: A Search and Rescue mission for the U.S.S Stark, following an Iraqi Mirage Jet Fighter attack on a U.S. Warship in International waters”, Langford describes this and other hostile experiences in more detail.
A few months later, upon the 1st Lieutenant’s recognition of Bonnell’s computer skills and intelligence sent him to A-School to train as a Plane Captain [Jet Engine Mechanic] to work on the F-18 Hornet. His MOS [Military Occupation Specialty] and trains as a Systems Organizational Maintenance Technician AD-8342.
Bonnell continued to pursue an enviable academic and professional career, intellectually challenging, remunerative, involving travel and new horizons. Currently, he works for Fortune 500 corporations on Enterprise Software as a service implementation consultant. He uses military dynamic and applies this process to civilian business narrative.
Nonetheless, in recent years, he recognizes effects of trauma caused by the horrifying and events that he confronted as a very young man, and has rectified his demons. Bonnell found that the conventional means to overcome PTSD do not cut muster, largely because the practitioners have no first-hand understanding of it. He now dedicates his life to helping others who have suffered, which is one reason as to why he wrote his book.