From one gate to another: Nebraska cowboy learns life lessons as a Marine

From one gate to another: Nebraska cowboy learns life lessons as a Marine


Ralph (right) and Kyle Mundy at the Monastery Gate in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Saults
5 Ralph and Kyle Abbey Gate

A ranch kid from Nebraska went from the monastery gate to the chute gate.

Ralph Saltz of Big Springs, Nebraska, served four years in the Marine Corps and returned home last September.

Saltz, who grew up on a ranch and was a high school rodeo athlete, dreamed of becoming a Marine as a child and drew pictures of Marine eagles, globes, and anchors. One of his favorite uncles had served his 17 years in the Marine Corps, and Sorts adored him.



From left: Ralph, uncle Will McBride, and Jate. Photo courtesy of Saltz.
4 Ralph, Uncle Will, Jate

He enlisted in the Marine Corps Infantry in 2019, four months after graduating from high school. For the next year and a half, he underwent rigorous training for deployment, which began in Twentynine Palms, California.

“I’m going to live my life for those who didn’t get that chance.” -Ralph Saltz

Salts received orders to 2n.d. battalion 1cent He was assigned to Ghost Company in the Marine Corps. He deployed with his unit on March 13, 2021 and was deployed on 2.n.d. Battalion, 1cent Marines as riflemen. His platoon flew from Kuwait to Djibouti in Africa, then spent three months in Saudi Arabia, then flew to Jordan.



In April of that year, the United States announced plans to end the 20-year war in Afghanistan that began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban on August 15, and the only way out of the country was by air via Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA). People flocked to the airport to escape persecution by the state and the Taliban.

Ghost Squadron is sent to guard the airport as thousands of people pour into it day and night.

It was two weeks of living hell for Saltz and the U.S. military.

His unit was stationed at the Monastery Gate, one of the gates leading to Kabul airport, and had been ordered to help limp American citizens into the airport for those departing the country.

But the change in government and the fear of people who do not want to live under Taliban rule has led to total chaos.

“Thousands of people were in front of our gate pushing us aside to get into the airport,” he said.

Thousands of people came in waves, trying to push through the gates. They suffered heat stroke, and a young child died, according to a report by U.S. Marine Tyler Vargas Andrews. The crowds were frantic, eager to escape their country, the Taliban, and the torture and murder they would face if they were unable to leave. Just 150 feet from the Marines at the gates, Vargas Andrews said, the Taliban were killing Afghans.

“It was terrible. It was terrible,” Saltz said.

Once the crowd overpowered them, the Marines used flashbangs and stun grenades with blinding flashes and very loud noises to temporarily disrupt the population. “We had to do a flashbang because they passed us and started jumping over the fence,” Saltz said, adding that the presence of people on the runway prevented the plane from taking off.

He and his unit did not sleep for the first 108 hours at the gate. There was no salvation. He said they stood instead of sitting and took a two-minute break because of the amount of trash on the ground and “the terrible sight we saw.”

“We tried to do crowd control and help evacuate as many civilians as possible to the United States or somewhere else where they wouldn’t be persecuted by the Taliban,” he said.

Ten days later, a suicide bomber exploded just 15 yards from the suit.

“I remember seeing a spark,” he said, his voice trailing off. “I remember it hurting a lot.”

August 26, 2021 was the last day the gates would be open for civilians to leave the country by air.

The bomb killed 183 people, including 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. military personnel (11 Marines, 1 soldier, and 1 sailor). Of those 11 Marines, 10 were from the Suit Battalion and 9 were from Ghost Company.

“Nine of my friends are gone,” Saltz said. “I was close to those three guys. I was really close to Riley (McCallum) and I was close to Kareem (Nikoy) and Jared Schmitz.”

Three people were killed: Corporal Page, Corporal Lopez, and Corporal Sanchez. “Those guys were great. Page was great, he was really great. Lopez was pretty bad, Sanchez was pretty bad, too.”

After the bombing, his unit was sent to Kuwait for two weeks to recuperate, then returned to stateside.

Saltz spent two more years in the military, taking an advanced infantry course and becoming a squad leader, before being promoted to platoon sergeant.

He loved training recruits. “It’s great to have a squad under you,” he said. “I helped educate them. They’re 18, 19 years old, they’re away from their parents, and college is different. I’m teaching these young people how to live their own lives, how to be adults, how to be adults. It teaches you how to be a good person.”

After his enlistment ended, Saltz decided not to re-enlist. “I wanted to come back and rodeo while I was still young and while I could,” he said.

“When I got out of the hospital in September (of 2023), I drove straight to Oklahoma to come to school with my brother so we could do the rodeo.”

He and his brother Jate are students at Western Oklahoma State University in Altus. Saltz is pursuing an associate’s degree in farm and ranch business, but he started rodeoing in college last fall.

He competes in tie-down roping, steer roping, and team roping as a header with his brother, and steer wrestling may be added this year.

Although he hadn’t competed since high school, he hadn’t forgotten how to rope. “My skills are still there, just very rusty,” he said.

He hopes to compete in the PRCA next year, roping with Jate.

After college, he hopes to run his family’s ranch and continue rodeoing.

He has no regrets about his four years as a Marine.

“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “The Marine Corps is great for many reasons. I have made some of the best friends of my life, people I consider my brothers and people I would do anything for.

“And I’ve been to almost every continent in the world. I’ve been able to see the world, the best and the worst. I’ve climbed mountains in Patagonia, built igloos, and swam in the Southern Ocean. , I saw the bluest sea in the world at sunset in the Gulf of Aqaba.

He learned many life lessons from his time in the Marine Corps.

“I’ve seen a lot of death in a very short period of time,” he said. “But what really matters in life is family and friends. Because at the end of the day, when everything else is gone, family and friends are all that’s left of you.”

He thinks of his friends who died on that day in August 2021.

“What I learned is to live my life for those who never got the chance. My buddy, Kareem, was a better man than me. Days after he passed away To Mr. Riley, who died before he could meet his daughter, who was born later.For the brothers who didn’t get that chance.It’s hard to explain in words what’s true and what’s true. I found out that it wasn’t.

“It’s the little things in life that are important, like being able to eat a bowl of ice cream, being able to do rope every day, or sitting with your significant other and watching a movie and hugging each other tightly.

“People’s problems are trivial compared to the possibilities they bring.”

In addition to his younger brother, Jate, Ralph has an older sister, Jaycee Schrempf, and a twin sister, Josee Sorts, the 2024 Miss Rodeo Nebraska. His parents are Scott Sorts and Jill Sorts.





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