Mexico. Although invented in Mexico, nachos are not Mexican food. They – like fajitas, chimichangas, and ground beef enchiladas – are American inventions. Not to say that Mexicans didn’t have a hand in creating said culinary gems. However, most were invented by Mexican restaurateurs in the southwestern United States to please the “Gringo palette.”
So how did three American women sort of invent nachos? In 1943, a group of American military wives, whose husbands were stationed in Eagle Pass, Texas, did what everyone does in American border towns: crossed the border to the Mexican sister city. When they got to the Victory Restaurant, the restaurant’s cook was nowhere to be found. Well, the maitre d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, was not about to turn away potential clients. So he looked around the kitchen, and as you might have guessed, he got some tortillas, cheese (real cheese, not the kind we are used to now…more on that later), and jalapeños together and BAM! Nachos Especiales were born.
Now, you would think that, as the inventor of one of the most popular foods in America, Mr. Anaya would have become quiet rich. Well, you’d be wrong. He never capitalized on the success of his invention. By the 1960s he saw how successful his creation had become, and he and his son tried to take legal action and claim ownership of the recipe. Lawyers informed the pair that the statute of limitations had run out on the matter.
And what about the cheese? Frank Liberto, an Italian-American owner of concession stands did not want his customers to stand in line waiting for their nachos. So he concocted a secret recipe for the orang-y, gooey, nacho cheese we see today. So secret was his concoction, in fact, in 1983 a man was arrested for trying to buy Liberto’s formula. Little known fact: according the FDA, the cheese used on nachos today is not actually cheese.
Han-Ulrich Rudel was the kind of pilot that every soldier wants overhead. He was a close air support and dive bomber pilot who flew 3,500 combat missions and kept getting into the cockpit even after he was shot down 32 times and wounded five times.
Rudel began his career as a reconnaissance pilot in the Luftwaffe but entered dive bombing training as soon as he was allowed. After graduation in 1941, he was transferred to a Stuka dive bombing unit and flying in German blitzkrieg attacks. He would spend nearly all of his World War II career on Germany’s eastern front fighting the Soviets.
In Sep. 1941 he was sent against Soviet naval units and successfully sank the battleship Marat. In early 1943 he celebrated his 1,000 sortie. About a month later, in Apr. 1943, he took part in an attack against Soviet amphibious landing craft while flying a Ju-87. He sank 70 boats with the bird’s two 37mm cannons.
During the war, he pioneered a tactic where attack planes would hit the tanks from the rear. The primary benefit was that the planes could fire into the relatively thin armor over the tank’s engine, but it also meant that the planes were flying towards their own lines. That made it easier for pilots hit during an attack to make it back to friendly forces before bailing out.
Rudel’s willingness to fly low and slow to take out Soviet targets left him exposed to ground fire though, and he was shot down 32 times by anti-aircraft batteries. He was also wounded both on the ground and in the air.
His worst injury came while chasing a thirteenth tank kill in a fierce battle. After he fired off his final 37mm rounds, his right leg was shot off by anti-aircraft fire. Another pilot had to talk him through a crash landing and pull him out of the plane before he bled out.
Over his career, he destroyed 519 Soviet tanks, a battleship, a cruiser, a destroyer, 70 landing craft, and 11 airplanes. And he was famous for regularly landing and rescuing downed air crews. For his efforts, Rudel was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, the second highest level of the Knight’s Cross. He was the only recipient of the award.
The only version of the award that was higher than Rudel’s was one specially made for Hermann Göring, and Göring basically got it for being head of the Luftwaffe, not for bravery.
For anyone who is feeling pretty good about Rudel and maybe hoping he was a Rommel-type German, the career military men who turned on Hitler when it became clear he was a monster, sorry. Rudel really was a hateful racist. He spoke out regularly in support of the Third Reich and was a member of a one of the most abhorrent German political parties from 1953 to his death in 1982.
The Army has released an image taken by a combat photographer moments before she was killed in an explosion during a 2013 live-fire training exercise in eastern Afghanistan.
Spc. Hilda I. Clayton, a visual information specialist assigned to the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), was killed while photographing a live-fire training exercise on July 2 in Laghman Province. Four Afghan National Army soldiers were also killed when a mortar tube accidentally exploded.
One of the Afghan soldiers killed was a photojournalist whom Clayton had been training.
The primary mission of Combat Camera soldiers is to accompany soldiers on deployments to document the history of combat operations.
“Clayton’s death symbolizes how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts,” the Army said in a statement.
Clayton’s name has since been added to the Defense Information School Hall of Heroes at Fort Meade. The award for the winner of Combat Camera’s annual competition was also named after her.
“The Spc. Hilda I. Clayton Best Combat Camera (COMCAM) Competition consists of five days of events to test joint service combat camera personnel on their physical and technical skills,” the Army said.
The offensive to destroy ISIS in Syria took a big step forward recently with US military advisers, helicopters, and artillery helping position a force of about 500 soldiers near a strategic damn outside of Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital.
The US military, along with Kurdish forces and the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Foces rebel group, have moved to put a stranglehold on Raqqa with shelling, air support, and ground forces at the last route in and out of the city, according to a press release.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the 68-nation mission to destroy ISIS, flew in fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed rebel group, behind enemy lines to a strategic dam.
“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve told the Times.
“Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city,” said the release. But while the US says they’re mainly backing local forces, they seem poised to take on a more active role with conventional forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Raqqa.
The Pentagon has been considering sending as many as 1,000 ground troops to help take back Raqqa from ISIS, which would signal a reversal of the Obama-era policy to fight ISIS via train and equip methods and airstrikes.
The coalition says they’ve conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Raqqa in the past month.
Syrian Democratic Forces with their Syrian Arab Coalition fighters prepare for an offensive to liberate Tabqah Dam from ISIS Mar 22 in Syria pic.twitter.com/2Ho1SQYhL1
Raqqa, situated along the Euphrates river in the mostly barren Easter Syria has been ISIS’ main Syrian stronghold since 2014.
The US, Inherent Resolve coalition partners, and local forces have been involved in a massive air and ground campaign to rid the country of the terrorist group while simultaneously carrying out similar operations in neighboring Iraq.
Syria: Our partners have rolled back ISIS territorial gains to the East, North, West of Raqqah, capturing over 7,400 sq km of territory.
Norman J. “Dusty” Kleiss was a dive-bomber pilot in the United States Navy during World War II. He fought in the Battle of Midway where he was the only dive-bomber pilot to hit two Japanese aircraft carriers and a cruiser.
Kleiss was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Navy Cross. He served in the Navy until retiring as a captain. He lived to be 100 and the last surviving dive-bomber pilot from the Battle of Midway.
Humble Beginnings and Early Career
Dusty Kleiss was born in Coffeyville, Kansas on March 7, 1916. In his diary, he writes that he learned to be a crack shot with a BB gun before he could ride a bicycle. He worked as an apprentice toolmaker while waiting for his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
At an early age, he learned of the importance of airpower. At the age of 15, he joined the 114th Cavalry of the Kansas National Guard. During an exercise at Fort Riley, KS, his unit was wiped out when the opposing force used aircraft to “strafe” his unit that didn’t have any aircraft of its own.
In June of 1938, he graduated from Annapolis. In those days, the Navy required new ensigns to serve in the fleet for two years before attending flight school. The reasoning was that aviators had to know the strengths and limitations of the surface fleet.
So, Dusty Kleiss served on the cruiser USS Vincennes and destroyers USS Goff and USS Yarnall.
At the end of the two years, Dusty went to Pensacola Naval Air Station, FL, for flight training. After 11 months of flight training, he earned his wings on April 27, 1941. One of the more important lessons that he learned was the art of dogfighting, which would serve him well later during the air battle over Midway.
After graduating from Pensacola, Dusty Kleiss was assigned to Scouting Squadron Six (VS-6), the scout-bombing squadron assigned to USS Enterprise (CV-6). Kleiss and the other Scouting Six pilots flew the Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber, a two-seater that had a rear-facing gunner in the back.
The Enterprise headed for Hawaii. There the men began training in earnest for the war that everyone knew was coming. Kleiss earned his nickname just a month later after a landing of his caused an inordinate amount of dust blowout.
The First Engagement of Dusty Kleiss
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, their primary targets, the American aircraft carriers, were not in port. However, the carriers’ scouting squadrons did engage with Japanese aircraft off the coast of Hawaii and lost six pilots and gunners during the battle. On December 8, Dusty Kleiss was fired upon by nervous American gunners over Pearl Harbor who had mistaken his SBD for a Japanese aircraft.
Kleiss saw his first action during the Battle of the Marshall Islands (February 1, 1942), where he attacked the Japanese base at Kwajalein Atoll. During the airstrike by the Enterprise’s aircraft, Kleiss’s Dauntless SDB dropped his incendiary wing bombs on a parked plane at Roi Airfield and then dropped his 500-pound bomb on the light cruiser Katori. During a second strike at the Japanese base at Taroa Island, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and his rear gunner John W. Snowden was wounded in the buttocks.
Kleiss also took part in the air raids during the Battle of Wake Island on February 24, 1942, attacking the Japanese who had captured the island from American Marines in the first few weeks of the war.
Upon returning to Pearl Harbor, Kleiss was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his attack on Kwajalein Atoll.
The Battle of Midway and Dusty Kleiss Versus the Rising Sun
During the Battle of Midway,the United States had partially broken the Japanese Navy’s JN-25b code and had a good idea of the Japanese plans. This allowed the Americans to prepare. As a result, the American carrier force, consisting of the carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and the patched Yorktown, was already well on its way to meet the Japanese northeast of Midway.
But a mixup and early disaster set the stage for a crushing American victory. The Hornet’s torpedo squadrons attacked without fighter protection and were all shot down. The subsequent torpedo attack by the Enterprise’s antiquated Devastator torpedo bombers, with only six fighters as cover, was also shot to pieces.
However, these two uncoordinated attacks brought all of the Japanese air cover away from the Japanese air carriers that were left without an air umbrella. It was then that 32 dive bombers from the Enterprise, led by Lieutenant Commander Wade McCluskey appeared, overhead. They concentrated on the forward carrier the Kaga. Diving from 20,000 feet, they hit the Japanese carriers which were left without fighter protection.
The Japanese carriers had their decks full of bombs and were preparing to attack the U.S. fleet. Dusty Kleiss was the second pilot to score a direct hit on the Kaga. He and his gunner Snowden lined up on the Kaga and used the red rising sun on the flight deck as their target. His incendiary bombs hit planes parked on the flight deck. His 500-pound bomb hit at the edge of the red circle and went four decks below before exploding, hitting long lance torpedoes. Kleiss nearly crashed into the ocean, barely pulling out of a dive as the Kaga erupted into a blazing inferno. A Japanese Zero immediately got on his tail, but tail gunner John Snowden shot it down.
“Wade McClusky waggled his wings and, in our Scouting Six planes, we followed him into a dive on Kaga, the closest carrier. This was the perfect situation for dive-bombing: no Zeros, no anti-aircraft fire. McClusky and our Scouting Six dive bombers attacked Kaga. Bombing Six planes attacked Akagi. Earl Gallaher scored the first hit on Kaga. I watched his 500-pound bomb explode on the first plane starting its takeoff. It was the only plane on Kaga’s flight deck. His incendiary bombs also hit the gas tanks beside it. Immediately, the aft part of the ship was engulfed in a huge mass of flames. I scored the next hit. My 500-pound bomb and two 100-pound incendiaries landed on the rear edge of the large red circle on the bow of Kaga. The bombs set fire to the closely-parked airplanes below deck, filled with gasoline; a huge fire started. (Note: my bombs hit the target at 240 knots, and exploded 1/100th of a second later!) I had dropped my bombs at 1,500 feet, and I pulled out at 9g, just barely skimming above the water.
A Zero came speeding for us. I gave my gunner John Snowden a good angle, and in two seconds, no more Zero! I sped past numerous ships shooting AA fire at me, so I changed course and altitude every second. I finally made a half-circle, heading towards Midway. I looked back and saw three carriers in flames: many bombs from Scouting Six and Bombing Six had hit Kaga; three bombs from Bombing Six had hit Akagi, and bombs from Yorktown’s dive bombers torched Soryu. Only Hiryu, 20 miles away, was unharmed.”
Dusty Kleiss and Snowden barely made it back to the Enterprise as their fuel was nearly gone. They quickly ate a sandwich, had a cup of coffee, and caught a quick catnap before they went back out searching for Hiryu, the remaining Japanese carrier.
The mission, commanded by Lieutenant Earl Gallagher, spotted the Hiryu who was conducting evasive maneuvers. But Kleiss knew that as a dive bomber, the key is not figuring out not where a ship is but where it’s going. Again, he lined up on the ship’s red circle, and in another steep dive, scored a direct hit.
“It was a bonfire that could be seen 10 miles away.” Although scoring direct hits on two Japanese aircraft carriers, Dusty Kleiss wasn’t done yet.
On June 5 they missed the Japanese fleet, but on June 6 Kleiss and the Enterprise’s dive bombers attacked the Japanese cruiser Mikuma. Kleiss’s bombs once again were spot on and struck near Mikuma’s smokestack. The Mikuna was a wreck, devastated from stem to stern with multiple bomb hits she soon sank.
Kleiss was the only pilot to score three direct hits with a dive bomber during the Battle of Midway. For his actions during the battle, Kleiss received the Navy Cross in November 1942.
That was his final combat mission. He was sent back to the United States to be an instructor assigned to an Advanced Carrier Training Group (ACTG) squadron stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. He then married his long-time girlfriend Eunice Marie “Jean” Mochon in Las Vegas and was moved on to the training squadron in Cecil Field, Florida.
The couple remained dedicated to each other until Eunice’s death in 2006. “She was three times as smart as me, that’s for sure,” Dusty said in an interview with CNN.
Dusty’s Post-War Years
After attending the Naval Postgraduate School for aircraft design he worked on improving design features for aircraft, carrier catapult designs. He retired from the Navy on April 1, 1962, with the rank of Captain.
He worked as an engineer at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, West Virginia for a few years before deciding to teach mathematics, physics, and chemistry at Berkeley Springs High School for 10 years. In 1987, he and his wife retired and moved to the Air Force Village, a retirement community located near Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.
Kleiss was frequently asked to be a guest speaker or guest of honor at functions regarding the Battle of Midway. Yet, he was not comfortable with being called a hero. He worked on his memoir Never Call Me a Hero: A Legendary Dive-Bomber Pilot Remembers the Battle of Midway. It was published after his death in 2017.
An excellent video interview with Kleiss can be seen here:
Dusty Kleiss lived in San Antonio until he died on April 22, 2016, shortly after his 100th birthday. He is buried alongside his wife at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.
Afghanistan set new records for opium production in 2016 despite an $8.5 billion USD counternarcotics campaign investment by U.S agencies, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) stated in its latest quarterly report to Congress.
The report said that opium production increased 43 percent in 2016, while poppy eradication hit a 10-year low and was “nearly imperceptible.”
It said that the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conduct an annual survey with financial contributions from the United States and other donors.
UNODC estimated that the potential gross value of opiates was $1.56 billion USD — or the equivalent of about 7.4 percent of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — in 2015.
“The latest 2016 UNODC country survey estimates opium cultivation increased 10 percent, to 201,000 hectares, from the previous year,” the report said adding that “the southern region, which includes Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul, and Daykundi provinces, accounted for 59 percent of total cultivation. Helmand remained the country’s largest poppy-cultivating province, followed by Badghis and Kandahar.”
“Deteriorating security conditions, a lack of political will, and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics’ ineffective management all contributed to the paltry eradication results in 2016,” the report said.
Poppy “cultivation remained near historically high levels compared with the past several decades.”
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s “narcotics industry — coupled with rampant corruption and fraud — is a major source of illicit revenue,” the report said.
The “opium trade provides about 60 percent of the Taliban’s funding.”
“Since the collapse of the Taliban government, the opium trade has grown significantly and enabled the funding of insurgency operations. Taliban commanders collect extortion fees for running heroin refineries, growing poppy, and other smuggling schemes,” according to the report.
“Powerful drug networks, mainly run by close-knit families and tribes, bankroll the insurgency and launder money. There have been media reports and allegations of corrupt government officials participating in the drug trade,” it said.
The Taliban is an Islamic extremist group that ruled Afghanistan until the U.S military intervention following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attack in New York and Washington, D.C. that killed more than 3,000 people. The Taliban allowed al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as its training base for attacks against the U.S. and other western nations.
“Traffickers provide weapons, funding, and material support to the insurgency in exchange for protection, while insurgent leaders traffic drugs to finance their operations,” the report said.
Afghanistan “remains the world’s largest opium producer and exporter — producing an estimated 80 percent of the world’s heroin.”
John Sopko, head of SIGAR, recommended that President Donald Trump establish “a U.S counternarcotics strategy, now years overdue, to reduce the illicit commerce that provides the Taliban with the bulk of their revenue.”
Remember when Somali pirates made headlines for seizing an oil tanker? That batch of Somali pirates was pretty smart. Others have managed to be very dumb. How dumb were they? Well, some pirates tried to hijack a pair of U.S. Navy warships.
According to a United States Navy release, on March 18, 2006, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) were patrolling off the coast of Somalia as part of Task Force 150 to deter piracy. During their patrol, they were approached by a vessel towing a number of skiffs.
A boarding party from the Gonzalez was sent to investigate, but noticed a number of people were brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The pirates on board the skiffs then opened fire on the Cape St. George, inflicting minor damage.
The Cape St. George and the Gonzalez, as well as the boarding party, proceeded to return fire, using what a contemporary CNN.com report described as “small arms.” The main pirate vessel was set afire and sank. Two smaller skiffs were captured, along with 12 pirates and one body. A Somali pirate group would claim that 27 “coast guardsmen” had been sent out.
The Virginian-Pilot reported that the wounded were first taken to the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) for treatment. The pirates who survived this near-catastrophic failure in their victim-selection process were eventually released and repatriated back to Somalia.
Four years later, the guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) also came under attack, according to a CBS News report. The BBC reported that five captured pirates were given life sentences for piracy.
Following construction and acceptance trials earlier this year at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Giffords sailed to Galveston, Texas, where she was commissioned June 10.
“Our Sailors are honored to represent the ship namesake, its homeport in San Diego, and the U.S. Navy,” said Cmdr. Keith Woodley, Giffords’ commanding officer. “Every Sailor will continue, through USS Gabrielle Gifford’s service to her nation, to fulfill the ship’s motto, ‘I Am Ready.'”
During her sail around transit from Mobile, Giffords Sailors conducted Combat Ship Systems Qualification Trials events, various crew certification training events, and regularly scheduled equipment and systems checks and transited through the Panama Canal.
Giffords is the ninth littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the fifth Independence-variant LCS. She joins other LCS, including USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), and USS Montgomery (LCS 8), who are also homeported in San Diego.
Giffords Sailors are excited for the future of their ship but also for their own return to San Diego.
“We have put in a lot of hard work over the past nine months,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Lee Tran. “It is going to be nice to have a little down time with friends and family before continuing to work the ship toward its next milestone.”
Family and friends were similarly eager for some quality time with their returning Sailors. Many said they were also grateful for the support and friendships they forged with other families while their Sailors were away.
“Knowing I was not in this alone and that there were more families out there going through it too made me at peace knowing our Sailors had each other,” said Morgan Witherspoon, friend of a Giffords Sailor.
LCS 10 is named after former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus selected the LCS 10 namesake and said it is appropriate that the ship is named for Giffords, whose name is “synonymous with courage when she inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”
LCS is a high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatant designed for operations in the littoral environment, yet fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants. Paired with advanced sonar and mine hunting capabilities, LCS provides a major contribution, as well as a more diverse set of options to commanders, across the spectrum of operations.
People who love military documentaries can never seem to get enough of them. But there are only so many good ones out there.
There’s a reason every new history or military channel on TV turns into “The World War II Channel” for the first two years of their existence. Military history documentaries are awesome. We found six cool docs for the motivated viewer to watch on Veterans Day when the History Channel repeats its programming every eight hours.
And the cool thing is, you don’t have to have that pricey cable subscription to watch them. All these can be found on Snagfilms.com, which presents them completely free of charge.
The President and Magic Johnson celebrate 11/11/11 with world’s first NCAA game on an active aircraft carrier. Filmmaker Steven C. Barber and his entertainment company Vanilla Fire Productions were granted permission to shoot a documentary on the Veterans Day event The Carrier Classic held on 11/11/11 in San Diego, California. Barber funded this documentary and had full access to the Morale Foundation founders and participants in order to show this amazing event and the outstanding work and dedication the Morale Foundation has done with the U.S. military.
Kelsey Grammer narrates this amazing story of the young men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (once known as JPAC) that embed themselves in beyond rugged and brutal conditions in order to bring our fallen service members home. The Battle of Tarawa finally has some closure after 69 years. US remains were flown back in a C-130 with a C-17 transfer back to Honolulu. DPMAA Team members are the unsung heroes that until now have been unrecognized and have worked in the shadows. That is about to change.
Narrated by four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris, “Return to Tarawa” follows the journey of World War II veteran Leon Cooper. Cooper — a U.S. Navy landing craft officer who in 1943 fought in the bloody battle — returns to the site in 2008 to investigate disturbing reports about the current state of the fabled “Red Beach.”
National Geographic presents “Arlington: Field of Honor,”a portrait of one of America’s most sacred places. Once little more than a potter’s field, Arlington National Cemetery has become a national shrine and treasury of American history. Now, discover how this revered site came to be, and how it serves as the final resting place for both the famous and obscure, from John F. Kennedy to the Unknown Soldier.
One thousand miles from anywhere lay a lonely outpost of coral and sea called Midway. It was here in 1942 where the U.S. and Japan fought one of the greatest naval battles of World War II and changed the course of history. And it is here again where Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard now leads a team of experts and four World War II veterans on the voyage of their lives. They’re on a race against time to do the impossible: find at least one of the five downed aircraft carriers. Join them as they pay their final respects to their fallen comrades.
“Honor Flight” is a heartwarming documentary about four living World War II veterans and a Midwestern community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to ﬂy thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial constructed for them in 2005, nearly 60 years after the war. The trips are called “Honor Flights” and for the veterans, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, it’s often the first time they’ve been thanked and the last trip of their lives. As the Honor Flight trip unfolds, Orville, Julian, Joe, Harvey and others share their stories and wisdom. While the program is meant to give something back to these humble heroes, the goodness they embody and their appreciation for life transforms everyone they meet.
It’s been six years since 1st Lt. Kimberly Colby, a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, made her first visit to a dying veteran as part of the Honor Salute program.
It still sticks out in her mind.
He was a Marine infantryman during Vietnam and had earned the Purple Heart while overseas. He was dying of colon cancer.
During the visit, she and a fellow comrade, both in their service blues, saluted the Marine and thanked him for his service.
“He was stoic throughout the ceremony despite being in immense pain,” Colby said.
When she was about to leave he said, “You know what? That’s the first time I have ever been thanked for my service.”
At the time, Colby was a cadet (midshipman) in the Naval Academy and was one of the first volunteers to sign up as a project leader with Honor Salute, then known as Final Salute. The program began in 2010 at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Pasadena, Md., for young military members at the beginning of their careers to pay tribute to veterans at the end of their lives.
“The program struck a chord with me,” said Colby, whose father and grandfather were in the military. Her grandfather was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and her father served in the Marine Corps during the post-Vietnam era.
Now after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, Colby has become instrumental in honoring San Diego-area veterans as a volunteer with the Escondido-based Elizabeth Hospice and the Carlsbad-based Hospice of the North Coast.
Colby has visited veterans at their homes and in senior living communities across the county and has spearheaded efforts to recruit fellow Marines as volunteers at the nonprofit hospices.
The hospices conduct pinning ceremonies throughout the year to recognize aging veterans and thank them for their military service. Ceremonies are held in dining halls of area senior living communities and at bedside for hospice patients. The ceremony includes a “Final Salute” where an active-duty service member salutes the veteran.
Since 2012, The Elizabeth Hospice has recognized more than 2,300 veterans.
Colby and the other Marines from Camp Pendleton who participate in the ceremonies spend time talking with the veterans. Some patients are able to share stories and some put on their old uniforms for the occasion, while others depend on family members to share the memories.
“It is especially meaningful for those who were never welcomed home or thanked for their service,” said the hospice’s veterans specialist Lisa Marcolongo, whose husband served in the Marine Corps.
“Kimberly’s smile lights up a room as she shakes the hand of a veteran,” Marcolongo said.
For Colby, the best part are the stories and instant camaraderie that can be built. The hardest part is saying goodbye to the veteran and his family and friends.
“Honoring veterans is something I consider a sacred obligation for those of us who wear the cloth of our nation,” Colby said.
Colby’s advice for current service members: “Go out of your way to honor veterans. It is within our lifetime that we will lose all WWII and Korean War veterans. Their stories and sacrifices should be honored.”
The Elizabeth Hospice is looking for veterans and active-duty service members to participate in its veteran pinning ceremonies.
Peter MacDonald is one of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers. The former chairman of the Navajo Nation recently sat down with VAntage Point staff to explain what made the “unbreakable” code so effective, and how it helped save lives and secure victory in the Pacific.
“Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima,” he said. “That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the war in the Pacific.”
The Unbreakable Code
Code Talkers used native languages to send military messages before World War II. Choctaw, for example, was used during World War I. The Marine Corps, however, needed an “unbreakable” code for its island-hopping campaign in the Pacific. Navajo, which was unwritten and known by few outside the tribe, seemed to fit the Corps’ requirements.
Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to develop the code in 1942. They took their language and developed a “Type One Code” that assigned a Navajo word to each English letter. They also created special words for planes, ships and weapons.
Understanding Navajo didn’t mean a person could understand the code. While a person fluent in the language would hear a message that translated into a list of words that seemingly had no connection to each other, a code talker would hear a very clear message.
Here is an example:
Navajo Code: DIBEH, AH-NAH, A-SHIN, BE, AH-DEEL-TAHI, D-AH, NA-AS-TSO-SI, THAN-ZIE, TLO-CHIN Translation: SHEEP, EYES, NOSE, DEER, BLOW UP, TEA, MOUSE, TURKEY, ONION Deciphered Code: SEND DEMOLITION TEAM TO …
In addition to being unbreakable, the new code also reduced the amount of time it took to transmit and receive secret messages. Because all 17 pages of the Navajo code were memorized, there was no need to encrypt and decipher messages with the aid of coding machines. So, instead of taking several minutes to send and receive one message, Navajo code talkers could send several messages within seconds. This made the Navajo code talker an important part of any Marine unit.
While the F-35 has been in the headlines and the F-22 is perhaps the most dominant jet in the sky, there are some other advanced jets in the air that are not from the U.S., Russia or China. Two of them are the French-designed Dassault Rafale and the multi-national Eurofighter Typhoon.
The Rafale is a purely French design. The French did face the challenge of coming up with a fighter meant to not only replace older Mirage fighters for the French air force, it also had to operate from the French navy’s aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, replacing aging F-8 Crusaders and the venerable Super Etendard.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Rafale has a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, a range of 1,150 miles, can carry almost 21,000 pounds of ordnance, and is equipped with a 30mm cannon. Among the ordnance it can carry are Mica air-to-air missiles, the ASMP nuclear cruise missile, the Exocet anti-ship missile, laser-guided bombs, rocket pods, and various dumb bombs.
The Eurofighter Typhoon, on the other hand, is a joint design primarily from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Those same countries teamed up to create the Panavia Tornado, an aircraft that had air-defense, strike, and “Wild Weasel” versions. The Eurofighter team was a bit larger as this time, Spain joined in.
MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Typhoon has a range of 1,802 miles and a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour. It can carry 16,500 pounds of ordnance, and has a 27mm cannon. It carries a very wide array of weapons, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM, the AIM-132 ASRAAM, the IRIS-T air-to-air missile, the MDBA Meteor air-to-air missile, the S-225 air-to-air missile, the Brimstone anti-tank missile, the AGM-88 HARM, the ALARM, laser-guided bombs, dumb bombs, and even land-attack missiles like the Storm Shadow and KEPD 350.
Perhaps the only thing the Eurofighter can’t carry is the kitchen sink.
Which plane is more likely to win in a head-to-head fight? Given the wider variety of ordnance, including long-range air-to-air missiles like the S-225 and Meteor, the Eurofighter has an edge – at least when it comes to land bases. The Rafale, though, can operate from an aircraft carrier, and that gives France a very potent naval aviation arm.
Check out the video below to see how these planes stack up.
“Thousands of our post-9/11 veterans carry the invisible burden of post-traumatic stress, and there is an overwhelming need to expand the available treatment options,” DeSantis said in a statement. “The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs.”
The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act is a five-year, $10 million program to give post-9/11 veterans with a service dog and veterinary health insurance. The veteran must have been treated for PTSD and have completed an established evidence-based treatment. They must remain significantly symptomatic, rating a 3 or 4 on the PTSD scale.
Service dogs are known to be effective in treating veterans with anxiety disorders, physical pain, and other limitations. The animals are proven to give new life and independence to recovering veterans.