Mike Elliot

James Megellas

James Megellas with Mike Elliot, Founder of AVG All Veteran Group

James Megellas with Mike Elliot, Founder of AVG All Veteran Group

James Megellas, born March 11, 1917, is a retired U.S. Army officer who commanded a platoon in Company H of the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. He is "the most decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division," having received a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star and a nomination for the Medal of Honor. Megellas was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and attended nearby Ripon College. He participated in the school's Reserve Officers' Training Corps program and, upon graduation in May 1942, received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

He first experienced combat in the mountains outside Naples, Italy, where he was wounded and hospitalized. In October 1943, while the remainder of the 82nd Airborne departed Italy to recoup before the invasion of Normandy, the 504th PIR remained behind and took part in Operation Shingle. On Jan. 22, 1944, the 504th took part in an amphibious assault at Anzio. The fighting took a heavy toll with Megellas being wounded again. Due to the losses at Anzio, the 504th did not participate in the D-Day Normandy landings, but they did parachute into the Netherlands as part of Operation Market Garden.

Megellas took part in the crossing of the Waal River near Nijmegen, where American forces crossed the river in flimsy boats while under heavy machine gun fire. He single-handedly attacked a German observation post and machine gun nest during the engagement. For these actions, he was awarded the U.S. military's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross, and, in December 1944, the regiment was rushed into the Battle of the Bulge.

On Jan. 28, 1945, Megellas' platoon was advancing toward Heresiarch, Belgium. Struggling through heavy snow and freezing cold, they surprised 200 Germans who were advancing out of the town. Catching the Germans largely off guard, the attack proved to be devastating, with the Americans killing or capturing a large number and causing many others to flee. As they prepared to assault the town, a German Mark V tank took aim at them. Megellas ran toward it and disabled it with a single grenade. Climbing on top of the tank, he dropped another grenade into the tank, eliminating the threat to his men. He then led his men as they cleared and seized the town with no casualties to his team. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the account of his actions was not included in the original battle reports, and he was instead awarded the Silver Star.

Throughout the war, Megellas served with Company H, 504th PIR, which he would later command. In January 1946, he led his company down Fifth Avenue in New York City in the Victory Parade. He left the active Army service that year with the rank of Captain and served an additional 16 years in the Army Reserve. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and wrote a memoir of his wartime experiences entitled “All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe.” Megellas and his wife currently live in Colleyville, Texas. Maggie was nominated for the Medal of Honor seventy years ago, it was reviewed by the Senate on 01/30/2017 and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

Legacy Monday with Mike Elliott and Therapy in the Air

With the launch of our CrowdRise Campaign this week we would like to introduce you to Mike Elliott,  Founder of The All Veteran Group.

Mike Elliott with Former President George H.W. Bush Sr. After Their Tandem Jump on his 90th Birthday

Mike Elliott with Former President George H.W. Bush Sr. After Their Tandem Jump on his 90th Birthday

Mike Elliott’s mission is one of hope and inspiration,  “With AVG, we are changing directions and changing lives. We provide a blueprint to translate aspiration for change into action, and a new sense of freedom. Traditional values of teamwork, effort, accountability, trust and selflessness are the cornerstones of AVG’s Programs.”

95% of the All Veteran Group is comprised of Golden Knights, Mike Elliott himself is a Golden Knight who served a Combat Tour in the Persian Gulf War, Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Mike has completed more than 8,000 freefall parachute jumps, 2,000 tandem jumps and 92 military static line jumps. He is also a military Jump Master, a certified Federal Aviation Administration Parachute Rigger and a Tandem Instructor Examiner and Accelerated Free Fall Instructor. Mike has  jumped with former President George H.W. Bush three times, the last time was on on the former Presidents 90th birthday and we were lucky to attend and gift our Freedom Life Chest to George H.W. Bush when they landed! (Check out our post about this event here)

Mike made a great video which allows you to take a look at his greatest accomplishments and cherished memories, he keeps them inside his Freedom Life Chest and we are honored.

Through creating our CrowdRise campaign and partnering with the All Veteran Group, our goal at The Life Chest is to complement the Therapy in the Air program with the donation of one hundred Freedom Life Chests. 

The AVG program for Veterans, Therapy in the Air is “…[a skydiving program that] helps warriors thrive through post-traumatic growth (PTG). PTG refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. Skydiving has an unparalleled sense of freedom mingled with excitement unlike that of any other sport. Therapy in the Air inspires individuals during rehabilitation, reintegration and during the healing process. They assist with helping individuals realize that they have the power to tell new stories that will help them overcome adversity and move forward. Through telling new stories, warriors are able to rebuild a sense of self—to reconstruct an understanding of who they are, their place in the world and what their expectations of the world are.”

Here are a few other exciting stories from Mike Elliott and the All Veteran Group:

A Jump with Harry Rosen

A Jump with Bob McGrath from Sesame Street

Giving Thanks: Julie Donegan

On Thanksgiving I am Thankful for:

My Dog

Giving Thanks Julie Donegan

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes

Mike Elliott
Mike is truly a Life Chest Lifer! We are so grateful to have gotten to work with him. And what he does through the All Veteran Group is so inspiring and admirable we are honored to be connected with him. We wish Mike a happy, happy Turkey day!

Julie Donna and Mike Elliot

Mark “Ranger” Jones
We met Ranger back in May and have been learning so much since! Not only does he have an impressive personal story of achievement but he does incredible work with the Fisher Foundation. Another Life Chest Lifer we are so grateful for! Happy Thanksgiving Ranger!

Mark Ranger Jones