WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier - We Are The Mighty
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WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Marvin Rector visiting the Battle of Britain museum shortly before his death. (Photo: Susan Jowers)


Ninety-four-year-old Melvin Rector had one last item on his bucket list: He wanted to return to England where he’d served as a B-17 crewman. So earlier this month he hopped on an airliner and flew across the Atlantic to a place where he’d come of age 71 years earlier.

As reported by Florida Today, Rector was scheduled to visit his former base RAF Snetterton Heath in Norfolk but started the tour at the Battle of Britain Bunker in the Uxbridge area of London that first day.

“He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” said Susan Jowers, 60, who first met Rector when she served as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C.

As he walked out, Rector told Jowers that he felt dizzy, according to Florida Today. Jowers took hold of one of Rector’s arms while a stranger grasped the other.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Rector at his radio operator console aboard at B-17 during a bombing raid. (Photo: Rector family archives)

Rector died quietly there just outside the bunker. When the locals found out about it, they made sure his memory was honored appropriately.

“They just wanted something simple, and when I found out a little background about Melvin, there is just no way that we were just going to give him a simple service,” funeral director Neil Sherry told British ITV Network. “We wanted it to be as special as possible.”

Though no one knew him, the Royal Air Force, U.S. Air Force and historians in London attended and participated in the funeral with military honors.

“He certainly got a beautiful send-off,” Jowers said. “People everywhere, from Cambridge to London heard his story.”

U.S. Army Maj. Leif Purcell told ITV he thought he and a few other U.S. military personnel would be the only ones to attend the funeral, but was surprised.

“The representation from the Royal Air Force and the British Army that I saw here was phenomenal,” he said.

A funeral service for Rector, a father of six, is set for 11 a.m. June 9 at First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay, Florida. Jowers told Florida Today that his remains were being repatriated on May 31.

Jowers, who said Rector became like a father to her after their first meeting in 2011, summed up his passing with this thought: “He completed his final mission.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the 100-year-old veteran who is having the best week ever

Charles McGee is having quite a week. McGee, who was part of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, was one of four 100-year-old veterans to participate in the Super Bowl LIV coin flip on Sunday in Miami. He was also honored Tuesday night at the State of the Union address with a promotion to Brigadier General. And you thought you were having a good week.


McGee, who looked rather spry at the game, walked the ceremonial coin to referee Bill Vinovich for the official toss. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, McGee flew to Washington, D.C. to attend the State of the Union address as an official guest of President Trump alongside his 13-year-old great-grandson who wants to join the Space Force.

Iain Lanphier from Scottsdale, Arizona is the great-grandson of Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee. Iain hopes to write the next chapter in his family’s remarkable story by attending the Air Force Academy and eventually going to space. #SOTUpic.twitter.com/GA6W2whvrV

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Lauded tonight as a Tuskegee Airman, 100 year old retired Brigadier General Charles McGee was promoted to that rank today by President Trump and invited to be his guest in House Gallery tonight for the #SOTUpic.twitter.com/uiIIEtOdRD

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President Trump honored McGee by naming him Brigadier General for his impeccable service. The promotion was included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and passed by both the House and the Senate. Just three days after McGee turned 100 (which he celebrated by flying in a jet), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a press release, “Col. Charles McGee’s service to our country is remarkable and fully merits this distinguished honor. I was proud to fight for the inclusion of this promotion to commemorate his work and his sacrifice … I could not think of a more fitting recognition from a truly grateful nation.”

Lauded tonight as a Tuskegee Airman, 100 year old retired Brigadier General Charles McGee was promoted to that rank today by President Trump and invited to be his guest in House Gallery tonight for the #SOTUpic.twitter.com/uiIIEtOdRD

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McGee is one of the most celebrated aviators in history, having completed 136 combat missions in World War II, 100 combat missions in the Korean War and 173 combat missions in the Vietnam War. That’s 409 total combat missions if you’re not doing the math. Watch McGee’s Super Bowl appearance here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCKmPQ_KJ2o

www.youtube.com

Congratulations, Sir!

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‘Blood Stripe’ defies the Hollywood odds by getting it right for military women

I went to the LA Film Festival to watch a film about a female Marine, expecting to be bored and disappointed. I was neither.


“Blood Stripe” is a well-crafted piece of cinematic art that describes bluntly – and accurately – the difficulties faced by the main character “Sarge” (Kate Nowlin) when she comes back home after serving in the Marine Corps. She realizes she has changed, and those around her cannot fully relate to the person she has become. Her circle questions her emotions, reactions, and behavior, oblivious to the trauma she just left.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

As I said, my initial expectations were low. What could civilians know about making war movies, especially war movies about women? I assumed the film would be some “GI-Jane” type of nonsense, a cliché like Jessica Simpson’s character in the atrocious “Private Valentine.” Simpson, clad in a full face of makeup, hair out of regs, clean, and completely un-military is the type of Hollywood characterization that could well make women avoid watching military movies at all. I anticipated a tepid film with a fairytale ending where everyone solves their problems and proclaims “the war is over, let’s all be happy!” In life, especially the military, there is rarely a fairytale ending.

In life, especially the military, there is rarely a fairytale ending. Sarge comes home to the husband she left behind, she gets a job, she drinks a lot of beer; her life may not be great, but it’s okay. Something deep inside keeps nagging at her, memories she would rather forget bubble to the surface. We see a very broken woman, unable to put the pieces of her life back together after an intense military experience. As she slides deeper into alcoholism, Sarge decides to run away from her life and work at Camp Vermillion, the summer camp snuggled deep in the woods of Minnesota, which she attended as a child.

But something deep inside keeps nagging at her, memories she would rather forget bubble to the surface. We see a very broken woman, unable to put the pieces of her life back together after an intense military experience. As she slides deeper into alcoholism, Sarge decides to run away from her life and work at Camp Vermillion, the summer camp snuggled deep in the woods of Minnesota, which she attended as a child.

Sarge is dealing with issues normally portrayed by male characters — dark emotions and feelings not typically associated with women veterans. She is not looking to be a hero nor trying to find a savior; she does not want a parade nor does she want accolades. The war has followed her home, and the tentacles of a vile monster called PTSD are beginning to creep into her life.

The metaphor of running is used throughout the film. Sarge vainly attempts to work out her issues in the typical military manner: She PTs. She does scores of push-ups and sit-ups and tries to literally run from her problems. She can run, but the deep-seated internal turmoil of combat is always there.

The film highlights not only the struggles of most service members to successfully readjust to post-military life but accurately shows the obstacles female veterans explicitly face. One of Sarge’s new friends at Camp Vermillion repeats a line not dissimilar to what many female veterans often hear: “You’re a girl Marine–do they even make those?”

Yes, yes they do. These words demonstrate what females face once they have left the military: disbelief about their military service and treated as if they are not true veterans.

Society has still not fully embraced the notion that women are capable of both giving and taking life; that women can struggle with a war long after arriving back home. Kate Nowlin does an excellent job portraying a woman coming to grips with herself. Her character is both credible and authentic, and alarmingly real. Military women come from all walks of life, they look like your sister or mother or cousin or neighbor; they are unassuming women accomplishing extraordinary feats – although most of them keep their remarkable achievements to themselves.

The war gave Sarge a lot of things: a sense of purpose, pride, strength, and courage. It also took a lot of things away from her: identity, her sense of security, camaraderie.  War changes us, life changes us. In the end, this was a film not merely about war and women, but also the struggles we all face during this unique human experience and a longing to find our way back home, wherever that may be.

 

“Blood Stripe” had its world premiere in June 2016 at the Los Angeles Film Festival to a sold-out audience. It won the coveted U.S. Fiction Award.

Articles

This is how German submarines changed the world during World War I

Prior to World War I, Germany was looking for an edge. They couldn’t take on England’s Grand Fleet in a straight fight – especially with a full naval blockade that was in place at the start of the war.


The submarine really made its mark on Sept. 22, 1914, when the U-9, an older U-boat, sank three British cruisers in about an hour in the North Sea.

The most common of the U-boats in German service was the UB III coastal submarine. According to U-Boat.net, that submarine had a range of over 9,000 miles on the surface, and a top speed of 13.6 knots. When submerged, it could go 55 miles and had a top speed of 8 knots. It had four torpedo tubes in the bow, and one in the stern, and carried ten torpedoes with a crew of 34 men.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
German U-boats in Kiel. U-20, which sank the Lusitania, is second from the left in the front row. (Library of Congress photo)

U-Boat.net notes that Germany built 375 U-boats of all types during World War I. Of those 375, 202 were lost in action during World War I. The German U-boats were quite successful, though, hitting over 7,500 ships. That said, it is arguable that German submarines also hurt Germany in the war overall, as opinion in the United States turned against Germany after the sinking of the Lusitania, and Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare brought The U.S. into the war.

Ultimately the U-boats were neutralized by the convoy system starting in June, 1917. At the end of World War I, 172 U-boats — some of which were completed after the war — were surrendered to the Allies.

The video below from the History Channel discusses Germany’s World War I U-boats, and how they changed the shape of naval warfare.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA just expanded private care with a $5 billion spending bill

President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill on June 6, 2018, to replace the troubled Veterans Choice Program and expand private health care options amid a fight between the White House and Congress over how to pay for it.

The bill, the VA Mission Act, would also expand caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans and order an inventory of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ more than 1,100 facilities with a long-term view to trimming excess.


“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?’

“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” he continued, before signing the bill at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”

In his remarks, Trump did not mention that funds to pay for the bill have yet to be identified, or that the White House and Congress are at odds on funding mechanisms. The bill’s projected costs over five years are also in dispute.

At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a key sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the committee, put the total costs at $55 billion, although other estimates have it at $52 billion.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Sen. Johnny Isakson

Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for but said he is working with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to add funding for the bill that would likely balloon the deficit. The White House has argued for funding the bill by cutting other programs.

A White House memo obtained by The Washington Post said that simply adding funding is “anathema to responsible spending” and would lead to “virtually unlimited increases” in spending on private health care for veterans.

Shelby said on June 5, 2018, that going along with the White House would result in cuts of $10 billion a year to existing programs, including some at the VA.

“If we don’t get on it, we’re going to have a hole of $10 billion in our [appropriations],” said Shelby, who predicted “some real trouble” in reaching agreement, according to a Washington Post report.

Critics of the bill have warned that over-reliance on private-care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, but Trump said, “If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple and yet so complicated.”

In his remarks at the ceremony of less than 20 minutes, Trump also noted that it was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when U.S. troops “stormed into hell.”

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944.

“They put everything on the line for us,” he said and, like all veterans, “when they come home, we must do everything that we can possibly do for them, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The issue of funding has plagued the existing Veterans Choice Program since it was enacted in response to the wait-times scandals of 2014 in which VA officials were caught doctoring records to show better performance.

The Choice program allowed veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment to have access to private care, but the program was time limited and Congress has struggled to come up with money for extensions.

The program was again due to run out of funding May 31, 2018, but the VA said there was enough money remaining to keep it in operation until Trump signed the VA Mission Act.

The new bill called for $5.2 billion in funding to keep the existing Choice program in operation for a year while the VA worked through reforms to consolidate the seven private-care options into one system while eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.

However, a Government Accountability Office report on the Veterans Choice Program released June 4, 2018, cast doubt on the VA’s ability to implement the reforms called for under the VA Mission Act.

The GAO said veterans could wait up to 70 days for private-care appointments under the Choice program because of poor communication between the VA and its facilities and “an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers.”

Trump touts ridding VA of corruption, poor performers

Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House put out a statement citing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days in office. Veterans programs topped the list.

Trump “worked with Congress to forge an overwhelming bipartisan vote of support” for the VA Mission Act, the statement said. The vote in the House was 347-70; the Senate vote was 92-5.

The VA Mission Act and other veterans legislation will “bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide our veterans with more choice in the care they receive,” the White House statement said.

In his remarks, Trump hailed passage of the VA Accountability Act, which is aimed at getting rid of poor performers, and lashed out at civil service unions for opposing reform.

“Four years ago, our entire nation was shocked and outraged by stories of the VA system plagued by neglect, abuse, fraud and mistreatment of our veterans,” he said in a reference to the wait-times scandals.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
World War II veteran, Sgt. Maj. Raymond Sylvester.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)

“And there was nothing they could do about it. Good people that worked there, they couldn’t take care of the bad people — meaning ‘You’re fired, get the hell out of here,’ ” Trump said.

More accountability “made so much sense but it was hard,” he said. “You have civil service, you have unions. Of course, they’d never do anything to stop anything, but they had a very great deal of power.

“So we passed something that hasn’t been that recognized, and yet I would put it almost in the class with Choice. Almost in the class with Choice. VA Accountability — passed. And now, if people don’t do a great job, they can’t work with our vets anymore. They’re gone,” Trump said.

The VA has more than 360,000 employees serving the health care needs of about nine million veterans annually. Most of them are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, which opposed the VA Mission Act.

The AFGE said that the act amounts to “opening the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system.”

The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) also initially feared privatization but came round to backing the VA Mission Act as a catalyst for improving care while preserving the VA’s role as the main provider of health care.

In a statement after the signing ceremony, Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW and other veterans service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it.”

Bill also addresses caregivers, excess VA facilities

In addition to expanding private-care options, the bill would also address long-time concerns of the VSOs on the restrictions in the current program to provide small stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.

The program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.

Advocates had argued that caregivers assistance saves the VA money by allowing disabled veterans to remain at home rather than relying on more expensive in-patient treatment.

“The more veterans and their caregivers who are eligible for support, the closer we are to fulfilling our promise to care for those who’ve sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 41,000 caregivers could be added to the rolls under the new bill over the next five years at a cost of nearly $7 billion.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Omaha VA Medical Center

In reference to the caregivers section of the bill, Trump said, “If you wore that uniform, if at some point you work that uniform, you deserve the absolute best and that’s what we’re doing.”

In a statement, Delphine Metcalf-Foster, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and herself a former caregiver to her late husband, said in a statement:

“This new law will not only extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers that severely injured veterans rely on, but also make a number of reforms and improvements to strengthen the VA health care system and improve veterans’ access to care.”

The bill also ordered up a VA asset review in which the president would set up a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, with representatives from VSOs, the health care industry, and federal facility managers.

Opponents have likened the commission to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) at the Pentagon on the hot-button issue of base closings.

The panel would meet in 2022 and 2023 to issue recommendations on “the modernization or realignment of Veterans Health Administration facilities.”

At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Carlos Fuentes, the VFW’s National Legislative Services director, said comparing AIR to BRAC is misleading.

“Under BRAC, DoD moves its assets, including service members and their families. VA can’t force veterans to move,” Fuentes said.

At a panel discussion last month in the House, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the average age of a building at the VA is more than 50 years.

He said the VA has more than 6,000 buildings in its inventory, and about 1,100 “are not even utilized. So we’re paying millions of dollars to keep up empty buildings — makes no sense.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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These are the top military movies on Netflix in October

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
20th Century Fox


Netflix is on a roll this October, leading with “Patton,” which won 7 Oscars and made the case for military valor at the height of the anti-Vietnam protests. Plus a Coast Guard action picture that deserves your attention and an Oscar-winning drama about the man who cracked the Enigma code. Plus “Three Kings” is back.

1. Patton

This biopic about General George S. Patton won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for George C. Scott and Best Original Screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola. Opening with a less profane version of the general’s legendary speech to the Third Army in 1944, “Patton” was an unabashed celebration of the military spirit. Even though it was released at the height of protest against the Vietnam War, the movie was a box office smash and received almost unanimous critical acclaim. (1970)

2. The Finest Hours

Chris Pine and Casey Affleck star in Disney’s action movie about the Coast Guard’s legendary 1952 rescue of the SS Pendleton off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Pine is Bernie Webber, the young petty officer who led what everyone believed was a suicide mission. Affleck is Ray Sybert, the Pendleton senior officer who tries to keep the crew focused in the face of almost certain doom. “The Finest Hours” wasn’t a box office hit, but it’s most definitely worth watching. (2016)

3. The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch plays pioneering computer genius Alan Turing, who led the effort to break Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during World War II. Turing is socially awkward, difficult and brilliant and the film details his struggles to communicate with his colleagues. After the war, Turing was prosecuted under Britain’s anti-homosexuality statues and committed suicide in 1954. (2014)

4. Three Kings

Hollywood loves director David O. Russell these days because of”The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” but this satire about the first Gulf War is his best movie to date. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze (!) and Jamie Kennedy (!!) star as US. Army and Army reservist troops who hatch a plan to steal gold and other goods that Iraqis plundered from Kuwait. Watch it. (1999)

5. Saving Private Ryan

What can you say about this one? The D-Day invasion at the beginning is greatest military action sequence in movie history. Everything good about the entire “Band of Brothers” TV series (which is still awesome) gets distilled down into less than 3 hours. Tom Hanks has never been better and an entire generation learned to appreciate the sacrifices and heroism during WWII for the first time. (1998)

6. Defiance

Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber star as Tuva and Zus Bielski, Jewish brothers who led a guerrilla resistance against Nazi troops in Belarus during WWII. Based on real events, it got a limited release and deserves a much bigger audience than it found in theaters. (2008)

7. Black Hawk Down

Ridley Scott’s drama is based on a real-life 1993 raid in Somalia to capture faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The 75th Rangers and Delta Force go in and things quickly go south, the troops face down enemy forces in a brutal battle and 19 men (and over 1,000 Somali citizens) are killed before the mission is complete. Scott brings a compelling visual style to the material and the cast features a host of young actors who went on to great success, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. Sam Shepherd and Tom Sizemore also play key old-guy roles. (2001)

8. U-571

Sailors from the British destroyer HMS Bulldog really did capture an Enigma machine from Germany’s U-110 U-boat in 1941. Hollywood must’ve though that was boring, so they made up a story involving the U.S. submarine S-33 and the German U-571. Brits were mad about the movie, but if you can get past the made-up story, it’s a fine submarine thriller. (2000)

9. Top Gun

Is Tony Scott’s movie about Naval aviators technically accurate? No way. Is it even dramatically effective? Absolutely not. But Tom Cruise’s Maverick, Val Kilmer’s Iceman and Anthony Edwards’ Goose managed to inspire a generation of young men to pursue their flyboy dreams. It’s hard to imagine that the upcoming sequel will mean as much to people, especially if they ruin the original vibe by shifting to properly staged dogfights. (1986)

10. The Heavy Water War

This 6-episode TV series tells the story of Operation Grouse, the action by Norwegian commandos who blew up a power plant and prevented the Nazis from getting access to the deuterium oxide (a/k/a heavy water) they wanted to use in the nuclear reactors that Germany wanted to build. If you can handle the subtitles, this is yet another example of the amazing untold stories of WWII. (2015)

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The F-35 relies on a $400,000 helmet that’s had its own share of problems

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Photo: Lockheed Martin


The F-35 has become notorious for its stratospheric price tag, along with the plane’s host of mechanical and software problems.

The cost of the US’s fifth-generation fighter has already risen to approximately $400 billion with a projected lifetime operating cost of $1.5 trillion. The Marines are still set on launching the F-35 in the near term despite its incomplete software package.

These problems apply to the F-35’s helmet as well. Each F-35 helmet costs over $400,000, the Washington Post reports. And like the F-35, the helmet has had its own run of development setbacks and cost overruns.

Each visor is designed to function as a heads-up display that will work in conjunction with six high resolution cameras embedded in the skin across the F-35. Ideally, during flight the pilot would be able to see through the walls of the jet as images from the cameras are displayed in real time across the visor surface.

“When the helmet’s tuned correctly to the pilot’s eyes, you almost step into this other world where all this information comes in. You can look through the jet’s eyeballs to see the world as the jet sees the world,” Al Norman, an F-35 test pilot, told The Washington Post.

This enhanced situational awareness would allow the pilot to see enemy aircraft and targets on the ground that the sides of the cockpit might otherwise obscure. The visor also displays critical information about speed and altitude.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

But the helmet, like the rest of the F-35, ran into operational problems.

According to testing from the Department of Defense, turbulence and buffeting of the aircraft could cause significant display issues within the helmet.

The report stated that during basic offensive and defensive maneuvers the conditions negatively effected the display, a problem that could have “the greatest impact in scenarios where a pilot was maneuvering to defeat a missile shot.”

In addition, the Post noted that the helmets suffered from night-vision and streaming issues that caused motion sickness among pilots. Fortunately these problems have largely been resolved, although the green glow associated with the night vision is still a persistent issue.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Air Force family begs for return of infant son’s stolen remains – here’s how to help

A military family had their U-Haul stolen in Georgia during their PCS to Louisiana. Inside the moving van was their infant son’s ashes.

Benjamin and Kassandra Benton were high school sweethearts. When Kassandra found out she was pregnant with baby Wyatt, she didn’t believe the doctor — she was a Neuroblastoma cancer survivor at just seven years old and her entire abdomen was “nuked,” as she called it. “Some people may remember me from Extreme Home Makeover; I’m the one who made necklaces to raise money for kids with cancer,” she shared. 

But she was pregnant and 14 weeks along. Kassandra was considered high risk and went into labor at home unexpectedly at just 24 weeks. Ben delivered baby Wyatt who wasn’t breathing while Kassandra continued to hemorrhage. EMS personnel rushed them to the hospital where they were both saved. But they’d spend five months watching Wyatt fight for his life. 

Ben headed to Air Force basic training not long after Wyatt’s birth. Kassandra kept him up to date through letters. “Some of the bad things I’d leave out scared that Ben would get discouraged and drop out. It was hard,” she said. 

Eventually, she had to call him to come home. Wyatt’s brain shunt was overrun with infection and there was nothing more they could do. “We decided instead of Wyatt living his whole life in the hospital, we’d take him into hospice where he could see the outside … where we could cuddle and enjoy his last days,” Kassandra explained. 

On November 12, 2015 he took his last breath. 

“We held him. We loved him and we made sure he felt that. He was our world and he still is. Because of Wyatt I have my two beautiful daughters,” Kassandra said. She went into labor early with both girls but because of her experience with Wyatt, she recognized the signs and got to the hospital early. Charlotte and Amelia are here because of him, Kassandra said. 

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

The young family was on their way to Ben’s new duty station at Barksdale Air Force Base when they stopped at a motel in Georgia for the night. When they awoke, their U-Haul was gone. Although it was found days later, it was empty except for a few bags of clothes. Wyatt’s ashes, hand and footprints and hand mold were still gone. It was all they had left of him. 

A local nonprofit near Barksdale Air Force Base has stepped forward to help. EveryWarrior is offering a $3,000 reward through the Covington, Georgia Police Department for the return of Wyatt’s remains. The military spouses at the base have also rallied behind the Benton family, establishing a GoFundMe page to support their needs. 

In the end though, they just want Wyatt’s remains returned safely and don’t care about the rest of their stolen things. Kassandra has pleaded through every media interview for the person who took his ashes to please “have heart” and bring him home. For the Benton family, it feels like they are mourning his loss all over again. 

In a Facebook post on March 6, 2021 she pleaded once again. “Keep sharing, keep looking, and keep the hope. I believe, I have to believe Wyatt will find his way back to me. It’s the only thing keeping me going. And a THANK YOU! To everyone who is helping us on this search, and who’s donated for my family, and who is praying for us. You are our village…”

If you have information about Wyatt’s stolen remains, please contact the Covington Police Department at 770-786-7605.

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Navy ratings are back — ‘effective immediately’

The Navy has reversed its decision to remove the 241-year-old tradition of referring to its sailors by their job and rank after months of fierce backlash and petitions.


Previously, the Navy claimed the change was made to allow sailors to more easily cross-train into different positions and to make assignments more fluid. But ratings are a core part of a sailor’s experience and both service members and veterans began asking for their titles back.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

As of Dec. 21, they have them.

Sailors began celebrating early as a draft of the Navy administrative message began making the rounds on social media. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took to Facebook to confirm that while the version being shared was an early draft, the message was right.


According to the U.S. Naval Institute, Richardson acknowledged the role of sailor feedback in the message saying, “We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored. The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”

“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano holds an all-hands call to discuss the Navy’s rating modernization efforts at 3rd Fleet headquarters in San Diego on Nov. 7. The decision to scrap Navy ratings has since been reversed. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis Spencer)

So, “choose your rate, choose your fate,” will still become more flexible than it currently is, but ratings are back.

When the official NAVADMIN is released, it will appear here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudis ramp up oil production to hurt Iran and Venezuela

U.S. President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has told him Riyadh will ramp up oil production in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela.

The Saudi government confirmed the two leaders had spoken about global oil markets, but made no mention of any agreement for Riyadh to increase production.

The June 30, 2018 conversation comes as oil prices have ticked upward following Trump administration pressure on allies to stop buying oil from Iran.


In a post to Twitter, Trump said Salman had agreed to an increase, but did not indicate a time frame for the possible 2 million barrels.

“Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil and disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference,” Trump said in a June 30, 2018 tweet.

Trump added: “Prices to high! He has agreed!”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

An experimental vaccine is fighting the latest Ebola outbreak


The first batch of 4,000 experimental Ebola vaccines to combat an outbreak suspected of killing 23 people arrived in Congo’s capital Kinshasa on May 16, 2018.

The Health Ministry said vaccinations would start at the weekend, the first time the vaccine would come into use since it was developed two years ago.


The vaccine, developed by Merck and sent from Europe by the World Health Organization, is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa in the biggest ever outbreak of Ebola, which killed 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2014-2016.

Health officials hope they can use it to contain the latest outbreak in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo.

8,000 doses needed

Peter Salama, WHO’s deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, said the current number of cases stood at 42, with 23 deaths attributed to the outbreak.

“Our current estimate is we need to vaccinate around 8,000 people, so we are sending 8,000 doses in two lots,” he told Reuters in Geneva.

“Over the next few days we will be reassessing the projected numbers of cases that we might have and then if we need to bring in more vaccine we will do so in a very short notice.”

Health workers have recorded confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in three health zones of Congo’s Equateur province, and have identified 432 people who may have had contact with the disease.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Siah Tamba is an Ebola survivor who now works at the Ebola treatment unitu00a0in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount, Liberia, after losing her mother, sister, and daughter.
(Photo by Martine Perret)

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the supplies sent to Congo included more than 300 body bags for safe burials in affected communities. The vaccine will be reserved for people suspected of coming into contact with the disease, as well as health workers.

“In our experience, for each confirmed case of Ebola there are about 100-150 contacts and contacts of contacts eligible for vaccination,” Jasarevic said. “So it means this first shipment would be probably enough for around 25-26 rings — each around one confirmed case.”

Storage temperature

The vaccine is complicated to use, requiring storage at a temperature between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius.

“It is extremely difficult to do that as you can imagine in a country with very poor infrastructures,” Salama said.

“The other issue is, we are now tracing more than 4,000 contacts of patients and they have spread out all over the region of northwest Congo, so they have to be followed up and the only way to reach them is motorcycles.”

The outbreak was first spotted in the Bikoro zone, which has 31 of the cases and 274 contacts. There have also been eight cases and 115 contacts in Iboko health zone.

The WHO is worried about the disease reaching the city of Mbandaka with a population of about 1 million people, which would make the outbreak far harder to tackle. Two brothers in Mbandaka who recently stayed in Bikoro for funerals are probable cases, with samples awaiting laboratory confirmation.

The WHO report said 1,500 sets of personal protective equipment and an emergency sanitary kit sufficient for 10,000 people for three months were being put in place.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

At the Navajo Nation, an injection of hope

One month ago, RN Terri Whitson was mucking out hurricane-damaged houses in Lake Charles, LA. On Tuesday, she was at the Navajo Nation vaccinating frontline workers against COVID-19.

Making that vaccine delivery was very emotional for Whitson, who retired from the Navy in 2016 and has spent much of the past year volunteering on feeding operations and assisting with hurricane relief with Team Rubicon.

“What I heard more times than not, is ‘it’s the beginning of the end.’ We’re just hopeful that things are going to get back to normal and people are not going to be sick anymore. People are not going to be dying,” said Whitson of her first day providing vaccines. “And, to think that I had a small, itty bitty part in that is pretty amazing.”

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Greyshirt Terri Whitson vaccinates a fellow nurse at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

Whitson, who served in the Navy Nurse Corps, deployed as a volunteer nurse with Team Rubicon at the Gallup Indian Medical Center on December 6 having no idea she’d be there when the vaccine arrived. When she heard it was coming she asked to extend her deployment by another week so that she could help get the vaccine into the arms of people who need it most.

“I feel pretty fortunate to have been involved in this, and to be involved in something that I think is so huge—so huge that it could possibly bring everybody’s lives back to normal again and provide protection for these frontline workers in the hospitals who are just so overwhelmed,” Whitson says, before stopping to dry some tears. She gets a little emotional thinking about the losses Americans, and medical workers, have experienced over the past nine months.

Before the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation, Whitson had spent weekdays at the Medical Center working with employee health services, where she would talk with people about their test results—hard, emotional work in itself given the number of positives and knowing how short-staffed the system already was. On the weekends, when health services was closed, she swabbed noses at the drive-through coronavirus testing site, which is open to the public.

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
COVID-19 vaccine on ice at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

When the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation at 10 a.m. on Monday, Whitson was on the team that began setting up a vaccination space. It’s a place, Whitson says, that people might receive a bit of hope. On Tuesday, she delivered her first COVID-19 vaccination there.

For now, IHS and the team are focusing on vaccinating those frontline workers who have the most exposure to COVID-19 patients, such as people working in the emergency department, anesthesiologists, and hospitalists. The hospital, which has more than 1,300 employees, has received 640 doses of the vaccine.

By the end of the day Tuesday, the team had vaccinated 80 of their fellow doctors and nurses; on Wednesday, they expect to vaccinate another 95 more.

“You can feel an excitement, and people were joking and laughing,” says Whitson of her time administering the first shots. Everyone also wanted to either have a picture taken or be videotaped making history. “It was joyous. It was such a good feeling.”

That joy was a lift for Whitson, too. She’d spent the prior week hearing codes called in the hospital and hearing ambulances come and go, and knowing for herself just how devastating the pandemic has been in this community.

“It was a good day. It was a really good day, and it felt really good to give people … to hear them say, ‘you know, this is the beginning of the end’,” Whitson says, stopping to clear her throat. “You know, we were giving them an injection of hope.”

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Greyshirt Terri Whitson prepares for a day of vaccinating frontline medical workers at Gallup Indian Medical Center.

This article originally appeared on TEAM RUBICON. Follow TEAM RUBICON on Twitter @TEAM RUBICON.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 17 photos from ‘The Mirror Test’ capture the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in vivid detail

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

“Kael Weston’s The Mirror Test is essential reading for anyone seeking to come to terms with our endless wars…. A riveting, on-the- ground look at American policy and its aftermath.” – Phil Klay, author of Redeployment


John Kael Weston spent seven years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan (2003-2010) as a State Department political advisor to Marine Corps generals. From Sadr City and Fallujah in Iraq to the Khost and Helmand provinces in Afghanistan, Weston was often the only non-military presence alongside our armed forces.

After returning home, he grappled with the aftermath of these wars. How, and when, will they end? How will they be remembered? And how do we memorialize the American, Iraqi and Afghan lives that have been lost and changed by more than a decade and a half of war, while reckoning with the unpopularity of the conflicts themselves?

In “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Knopf, May 24), Weston recounts his travels from Twentynine Palms in California to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the American hometowns of Marines who fell during his watch. Along the way, he introduces American troops, Iraqi truck drivers, Afghan teachers, imams, mullahs and former Taliban fighters, all while grappling with the larger questions these wars pose.

Hailed as “the conscience of our wars” (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post), Weston weaves together these American, Iraqi and Afghan stories and offers them as a national mirror, asking us to take an unflinching look at these wars and where they leave America today. As he writes, “It’s past time for this kind of shared reckoning … When we look into that mirror, as uncomfortable as it may be, let’s not turn away.”

 

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Cpl. Sharadan Reetz (left), 21, from Indianola, Iowa, and Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, 21, from Millingport, N.C., an assaultman and a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, rest next to Blue, an improvised explosive device detection dog, after clearing compounds with Afghan National Army soldiers during Operation Winter Offensive in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Lance Cpl. Tom Morton, a team leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment hands an Afghan child a toy during a security patrol in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 25, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
An Afghan boy petitions Lance Cpl. Christopher Bones, a rifleman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment for candy after receiving a water bottle from another Marine during a security patrol in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 28, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Cpl. Garrett Carnes (in wheelchair), a squad leader with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, jokes with Sgt. Kenney Clark (right), a fellow India Co. squad leader, during a motivational run on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, May 29, 2012. Carnes lost his legs in an improvised explosive device attack Feb. 19, 2012 while supporting combat operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Lance Cpl. Kyle Niro, a scout sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment places the dog tag of fallen Pfc. Heath D. Warner on a battlefield cross following a memorial run on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, June 1, 2012. The run was held to honor the sacrifices of 116 men from 3rd Marines who died during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Warner, a 19-year-old native of Canton, Ohio, died Nov. 22, 2006, while conducting combat operations with 2/3 in Al Anbar province, Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Lance Cpl. Phil Schiffman, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment waves to Afghan men on a motorcycle after searching them at a vehicle checkpoint in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 28, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
A Marine Corps mortuary affairs team using a grappling hook to ensure dead bodies are not booby-trapped, Fallujah. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Marines scanning the irises of Fallujans returning to the city after Operation Al Fajr (New Dawn). (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston, the Mirror Test)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Fallujah city center during Operation Al Fajr (New Dawn). (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Marines paying displaced civilians $200 as they return to Fallujah. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Dilawar of Yakubi. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Kuchi (nomad) children along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
PRT project, near Pakistan border, Khost. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Memorial for 31 Angels, Anbar, February 2, 2005. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

U.S. KIA, Fallujah, 2006–2007. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

 

 

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Gravesite of Brian D. Bland, KIA, Newcastle, Wyoming. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier
Family home of Nick Palmer, KIA, Leadville, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of J. Kael Weston)

See more about “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” here.

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