The Army has seven core values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. But honor wraps all of them together, Aviation and Missile Command’s Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Dove said, speaking to the Army civilians attending AMCOM’s first Emerging New Leaders Course.
“We honor veterans who have passed away on Memorial Day. We honor living veterans on Veterans Day. And we honor those who were prisoners of war or who are missing on POW/MIA Day. And you honor them every day, because pretty much everything you do at Redstone Arsenal support the warfighter,” Dove said.
Dove talked to the students about how he joined the Army to honor his grandfather.
His grandfather, Miley Dove, and his twin brother, Riley Dove, joined the Texas National Guard in 1940, at a time when the United States was gearing up to enter World War II. Dove’s grandfather and great uncle were one of six sets of twins in the battalion. The Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery deployed from San Francisco, sailing Australia just days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Their final destination, which they reached in January 1942, was Java, an island centered between Australia and Indonesia.
Just a month later, Java was invaded by two Japanese divisions. With the battalion completely overrun, the U.S. Soldiers were ordered to surrender.
For three and a half years, the Soldiers labored as prisoners of war, building the Siam-Burma Railway, between Burma and Thailand. The 258-mile railway included construction of Bridge 277 over the River Kwai, featured in the 1952 book, “The Bridge on the River Kwai” by Pierre Boulle and in the 1957 movie of the same name.
The Soldiers were used as slave labor in what Dove described as horrendous conditions that included trying to fend off tropical diseases. During the time they were held as POWs, the Army nor the families heard any information about the Soldiers, which led to the battalion being known as the Lost Battalion. The surviving Soldiers were repatriated at the end of the war, in August 1945.
While in captivity, 89 Soldiers from the battalion died, but all six sets of twins, including Miley and Riley Dove, survived.
“When my grandfather served, they didn’t have the established Army values. They had the values they grew up with. Those values got them through a terrible ordeal,” Dove said. “Today, we have the Army values, but we also have great diversity. So, we need to be aware of how people from other places have different values.
“It all starts with honor. That’s the reason I’m here today: to honor my grandfather.”
Dove, a native of San Angelo, Texas, has served in the Army for 25 years. He started his career as observation scout helicopter repairer before transitioning to a Chinook helicopter repairer. He has held many enlisted leadership positions, including squad leader, nonrated crewmember trainer, flight engineer, platoon sergeant and first sergeant. He assumed his current position as the AMCOM command sergeant major in July 2018.