Here's why Earth-like planets might be common - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

A growing body of research indicates that there are likely billion of Earth-like planets that we haven’t yet discovered.

That’s good news for astronomers seeking alien life. Since Earth is our only example of a life-bearing world, scientists try to pinpoint planets like ours when they search for life elsewhere.

That’s what NASA’s Kepler space telescope set out to do. Kepler scanned the skies from 2009 to 2018, and it found over 4,000 planets outside our solar system. A dozen or so of these planets seem like prime real estate for life.

Kepler’s data has produced a growing body of research that indicates there are likely billions more Earth-like planets that we haven’t discovered.

Here’s why scientists are starting to think planets like Earth might be common.


Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

When astronomers peer across the cosmos for potential outposts of alien life, they look for planets like Earth.

That means a rocky planet that’s roughly the size of Earth. Scientists haven’t exactly defined this size range, since they don’t yet know how big rocky planets can be.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

The habitable zone, or “Goldilocks zone,” around a star is where a planet is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid water.

(NASA)

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

This artist’s concept illustrates the idea that rocky worlds like the inner planets in our solar system may be plentiful, and diverse, in the universe.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

A handful of recent discoveries shows that Earths could be common in the universe.

That means alien life could be common, too.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

An illustration of NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

(NASA)

Most of what we know about exoplanets comes from the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

Kepler, which first launched in 2009, retired last year after it ran out of fuel. NASA passed the planet-hunting torch to the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched in April 2018.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

From the International Space Station, astronaut Scott Kelly took this photo of Earth and the Milky Way. He posted it to Twitter on Aug. 9, 2015.

(NASA/Scott Kelly)

Based on Kepler’s findings, one NASA scientist estimated that our galaxy alone contains 1 billion Earth-like planets.

Astrophysicist Natalie Batalha sent these rough calculations to the Washington Post in 2015. She noted that it was a conservative estimate.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

This artist’s concept of the Milky Way shows the galaxy’s two major arms and two minor arms attached to the ends of a thick central bar.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Since then, further research has indicated that the Milky Way could harbor as many as 10 billion Earths.

In a study published in August, researchers estimated that an Earth-like planet orbits one in every four sun-like stars.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet on Feb. 12, 2019.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)

Those researchers didn’t want to rely solely on the planets Kepler found. That telescope’s method is better at detecting large planets (like Jupiter) than small planets (like Earth).

That means that Kepler data probably underestimates the number of Earth-like planets in the cosmos.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

In this composite image provided by NASA, the planet Mercury passes directly between the sun and Earth. This May 9, 2016 transit lasted seven-and-a-half-hours.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Genna Duberstein)

That’s because Kepler used the “transit method.” It watched for tiny dips in a star’s brightness, caused by a planet passing in front of it.

Larger planets obstruct more of their stars’ light, making them easier to detect. Plus, Kepler’s method was biased toward small, dim stars about one third the mass of our sun.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

A multi-frequency all-sky image of the universe’s background radiation.

(ESA/ LFI HFI Consortia)

So Ford’s team built a simulation of a universe like ours and “observed” its stars as Kepler would have.

The simulation gave the scientists a sense of how many exoplanets Kepler would have detected in each hypothetical universe, and which kinds. They then compared that data to what the real Kepler telescope detected in our universe, to estimate the abundance of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from nearby one of the three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(SO/M. Kornmesser)

The result: up to 10 billion rocky, Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars.

“There are significant uncertainties in what range of stars you label ‘sun-like,’ what range of orbital distances you consider to be ‘in the habitable zone,’ what range of planet sizes you consider to be ‘Earth-like,'” Eric Ford, a professor of astrophysics and co-author of the study, told Business Insider in August 2019. “Given those uncertainties, both 5 and 10 billion are reasonable estimates.”

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

An illustration of the binary star system Sirius. Sirius A (left) is the brightest star in the night sky of Earth, and it has a small blue companion called Sirius B.

(NASA/ESA/G. Bacon)

Many of those planets could be Earth-like in other ways, too. Last week, a study found that 87% of Earth-like planets in two-star systems should have a stable axis tilt like Earth’s.

“Multiple-star systems are common, and about 50% of stars have binary companion stars,” Gongjie Li, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “So, this study can be applied to a large number of solar systems.”

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

The surface of Mars.

(NASA)

That stable tilt is crucial for life on Earth. The tilt of Mars’s axis changes wildly over tens of thousands of years, creating drastic shifts in global climate that could prevent life from taking hold.

Some scientists think Mars’s changing axial tilt contributed to the disappearance of its atmosphere.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

A star like our sun dies by casting off its outer layers of gas, leaving only the star’s hot core behind.

(NASA/ESA/K. Noll)

In an autopsy of six dead stars, researchers found that the shredded remains of rocky planets contained oxygen and other elements found in rocks on Earth and Mars.

The researchers used telescope data to calculate how much the iron in these rocks had oxidized — the process where iron chemically bonds with oxygen and rusts.

“The fact that we have oceans and all the ingredients necessary for life can be traced back to the planet being oxidized as it is. The rocks control the chemistry,” Edward Young, a co-author on the study, said in a press release. “We have just raised the probability that many rocky planets are like the Earth, and there’s a very large number of rocky planets in the universe.”

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

An artist’s representation of Venus with land and water.

(NASA)

Earths might even be common in our own solar system. Venus may have had oceans and a climate like Earth’s for billions of years.

In September 2019, researchers presented the results of five different simulations of the climate history of Venus. In all five scenarios, the planet maintained temperatures between 20 and 50 degrees Celsius for up to 3 billion years.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft took this colorized picture of Venus on Feb. 14, 1990, from a distance of almost 1.7 million miles.

(NASA/JPL)

The researchers think that a mysterious catastrophe about 700 millions years ago transformed Venus into the uninhabitable hothouse it is today.

“Something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and couldn’t be re-absorbed by the rocks,” Michael Way, a NASA scientist and study co-author, said in a press release.

It could have been magma bubbling up from below Venus’s surface, releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That would have trapped enough heat to reach the broiling surface temperatures that average 462 degrees Fahrenheit today.

“It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hothouse we see today,” Way added.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

On the morning of June 22, 2019, astronauts in the ISS captured the plume of ash and gases rising from the erupting Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands in the North Pacific.

(NASA)

Even that susceptibility to disaster is, in fact, quite Earth-like.

A supervolcano eruption or asteroid impact could one day make our planet uninhabitable. That could be the end of life on this Earth, but the research shows there may be plenty more Earth-like planets to spare.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Has anyone seen the Turkmen president lately?

The big news from Turkmenistan in the last few weeks has been that the country’s mercurial president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has been absent from the news for large periods of time.

That’s unusual because he normally dominates the state-run broadcasts.

And the few times Berdymukhammedov has been on television since going on vacation nearly one month ago, his appearances have raised more doubts than offered evidence of his well-being.

While officially on vacation, that has never stopped Turkmen state media from following Berdymukhammedov around in previous years.


But his absence from nightly Turkmen television newscasts and daily reports in state print media have some people seriously considering rumors that Berdymukhammedov is in poor health or possibly even dead.

Berdymukhammedov had already been officially on vacation for almost one week when Aslan Rubaev, identified as the director of the Center for Monitoring Eurasian Problems, told the Russian radio station and Internet news site Govoritmoskva.ru that Berdymukhammedov had died of acute renal failure on July 20, 2019.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

There was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why the president chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.

(Turkmenistan.gov)

The news spread like wildfire across Russian-language media and it was only after a few hours later that the Turkmen embassies in Russia and Kyrgyzstan issued statements rejecting stories that the Turkmen president had died.

Before the end of the day, Rubaev was making a public apology for his remarks, saying they were unfounded.

But Berdymukhammedov had still not been seen and the rumors persisted.

Finally, on July 24, 2019, there were reports Berdymukhammedov had spoken by telephone with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev to wish him a happy birthday.

Later that evening, Turkmen television news aired footage of Berdymukhammedov inspecting plans for a new district in the capital, Ashgabat, without explaining why the president had decided to break away from his vacation to look at drawings of new bus stops.

And then Berdymukhammedov vanished from local news again.

His next appearance in state media was not until Aug. 4, 2019, when state television showed a series of clips of Berdymukhammedov riding a bicycle, exercising, firing a rifle, bowling, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from an attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.

He also appeared on state television on Aug. 5, 2019, holding a video conference call with officials.

On Aug. 3, 2019, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s office released a statement about Medvedev’s impending trip to Turkmenistan to attend the Caspian Economic Forum in the Turkmen Caspian resort of Avaza, adding that he planned to meet there with Berdymukhammedov.

Turkmenistan’s Singer, Race-car Driver, Jockey, Autocrat

www.youtube.com

Not very convincing

That is the proof that has been offered to show Berdymukhammedov is alive and well.

But there are still many reasons to think that something is wrong with him.

Berdymukhammedov’s appearances on state television on July 24 and Aug. 4-5, 2019, were not entirely convincing.

As mentioned, there was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why Berdymukhammedov chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.

And RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, noted that Berdymukhammedov was wearing exactly the same suit and tie as he wore in a May 10 broadcast on state television, which is strange because he never wears the same suit — or even the same clothes — twice in his television appearances.

Berdymukhammedov did not speak in the footage aired on July 24, 2019, for example, to say he had just spoken with the Uzbek president, as was reported.

The Turkmen president also did not speak in the Aug. 4, 2019 footage aired on Turkmen TV, and the clips seem to be a compilation of his usual bizarre antics that are regularly shown on the evening news, and of which there is almost certainly an abundance of archive material from the cutting-room floor.

His hair is gray in the recent appearances, but that only narrows down the time frame to anytime during the last year or so, when he stopped dying it black.

The headlines of the reports seemed aimed at quieting rumors of ill health or worse.

Turkmenistan Aug. 6, 2019’s headline said, “Turkmenistan’s President Dedicates His Vacation To A Creative And Active Life,” and the Golden Age website’s headline read “The Turkmen Leader’s Vacation: Active Leisure, Literary And Musical Creativity.”

The Aug. 5, 2019 footage showed Berdymukhammedov discussing the country’s economic performance, agriculture, preparations for the Aug. 11-12, 2019 Caspian Economic Forum and the Muslim holiday Kurban Bayramy.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

But again, Berdymukhammedov did not refer to any recent event that would have proven the footage was from sometime during the last two or three weeks. The conversations could have taken place several weeks or months ago.

Absent from the video conference was any criticism of officials’ work, or reprimands for shortcomings, which are typical of these video conferences. It was also unclear why he again interrupted his vacation to hold the video conference.

Similarly, state print media had an unusual gap in reports featuring Berdymukhammedov.

News about the Turkmen president has always dominated state media coverage, going back to the early days of first Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.

A July 25, 2019 report about Berdymukhammedov congratulating new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the last news about Berdymukhammedov for more than one week on the Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) state website until a report appeared on Aug. 4, 2019, about the footage shown on state television. The same was true on state website Turkmenistan Today.

The last reports featuring Berdymukhammedov on the Russian-based pro-government website Turkmenistan.ru are from July 25, 2019; one congratulating Johnson and another about birthday wishes for Mirziyoev.

Even stranger, Turkmenistan.ru on Aug. 1, 2019 reported about the CEO of the Malaysian company Petronas, Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, visiting Avaza and meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and gas-and-oil-sector chief Yashigeldy Kakaev.

Berdymukhammedov’s name is not even mentioned in the report.

Petronas has been doing business in Turkmenistan since 1996. Petronas developed and is still working Block 1 in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea, “the first PSA to be awarded by the government of Turkmenistan.”

Petronas has invested more than billion in Turkmenistan and was a sponsor of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that Turkmenistan hosted. When Berdymukhammedov visited Malaysia in November 2016, he made a point of meeting with Ariffin, as he had met with previous Petronas head Dato Shamsul Azhar in Kuala Lumpur in December 2011. Berdymukhammedov also met with Azhar’s predecessor, Hassan Marican, in Ashgabat in May 2009.

Despite the history of close ties to the heads of Petronas, Berdymukhammedov could not find even a few minutes to meet with Ariffin at a resort area in Turkmenistan.

On July 25, 2019, Afghanistan completed the Aqina-Andkhoi segment of a railway line that is to link Turkmenistan to Tajikistan via northern Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan has been facing hard economic times since 2015 and this should have been good news for the country. Turkmenistan sent a delegation to a ceremony launching the new line that was reported on by Turkmen media. But there was not a word attributed to Berdymukhammedov about the accomplishment and what it could mean for Turkmenistan.

Where is he?

The immediate denials of Berdymukhammedov’s death came, as mentioned, from Turkmenistan’s embassies in Moscow and Bishkek.

But how would they know? Both embassies reacted rather quickly, almost automatically, rejecting reports of bad news about Turkmenistan as they usually do.

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry has not issued any statements denying the rumors Berdymukhammedov is ill or dead. In fact, while Berdymukhammedov has been on vacation it is not clear who exactly is running the country, though it does appear Foreign Minister Meredov is acting as the host to visitors.

And even Berdymukhammedov’s vacation is unusual this year.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov cut the ribbon to open an exhibition.

As the Hronika Turkmenistana website pointed out, he usually only takes two weeks of summer vacation. This year, his vacation is from July 15 to August 15.

Berdymukhammedov has in the past often taken his ministers, or many of them, along with him on vacation. Some of the ministers were at Avaza playing various sports at the end of July, but Berdymukhammedov was never shown among them, which is very unusual, as he customarily is on TV instructing his ministers how to exercise properly.

Again, the media is not following Berdymukhammedov around and showing footage of him frolicking on the Caspian shores or inspecting Turkmenistan’s naval vessels or merchant fleet.

There was some footage at the very start of his vacation of him playing with his grandchildren and some kittens.

Turkmenistan has always been a unique, some would say bizarre, place, but in the last few weeks there is a feeling that things are not right. Established patterns of behavior are being ruptured without any credible explanation as to why.

It seems Berdymukhammedov has suffered some sort of problem, otherwise it would have been easy enough for him to appear on state television and say something — anything — about current events. On the other hand, Turkmen media is now devoting a great deal of effort to convince people that their president of the last 12 years is alive and healthy.

Although the first Caspian Economic Forum should be the focus of attention when it opens in Avaza on August 11, everyone will now be concentrating on whether Berdymukhammedov will make an appearance and, if he does, if he shows any signs of having suffered some illness or physical setback.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army wants to know how a soldier was shot during expert test

Army officials at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are trying to determine how a soldier was shot during training in October 2018 since the incident did not occur during a live-fire event.

The soldier from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was shot accidentally while going through Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) testing at 2 p.m. Oct. 26, 2018, according to Kim Reischling, a spokeswoman for Fort Polk.


The Army did not release the soldier’s name, but Reischling said he is in stable condition.

Infantry soldiers participate in testing each year to show they have mastered their core infantry skills and to earn the EIB, a distinctive badge consisting of a silver musket on a blue field.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Expert Infantryman Badge candidates wait at the start of the 12-mile foot march before the sun rises, April 3, 2014.

The testing requires soldiers to pass a day-and-night land navigation course; complete a 12-mile road march with their weapon, individual equipment and a 35-pound rucksack within three hours; and pass several individual tests involving weapons, first aid and patrolling techniques.

Soldiers are required to have their weapons with them during EIB testing, but there “shouldn’t have been live rounds” present when the soldier was shot, Reischling said.

The incident remains under investigation, she said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.


The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”

Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.

However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.

Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.

However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.

Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”

No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.

But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

upload.wikimedia.org

U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.

Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.

In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

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

popular

This unit received 21 Medals of Honor and 4,000 Bronze Stars while dealing with America’s mistrust

After Pearl Harbor, Hawaii did not see widespread internment, unlike the mainland where there was a great deal of distrust towards Japanese residents in the face of possible invasion from Imperial Japan. The local Japanese population was too key to Hawaii’s economy to simply round up, but there was still deep fears they posed a sabotage threat, especially since the fears of an invasion by Imperial Japan were very real.


These fears extended to military personnel of Japanese descent. More than 1,300 soldiers of Japanese origin from the Hawaiian National Guard were pulled from their regiments and were formed into the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) or “One Puka Puka.” They were sent to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, as much as to remove them as a security risk as to train them.

The 100th performed well in training, and the War Department decided to form a Japanese-American combat unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Nisei men, composed of the children of immigrants who had American citizenship, could sign a loyalty questionnaire and be registered for the draft, though many refused and hundreds spent time in federal prison.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common
(Photo: U.S. Army)

The vast majority of the volunteers came from Hawaii, but over 800 were recruited from the internment camps on the mainland. The 100th and the volunteers joined at Camp Shelby, Miss., and formed the 442nd, designed as a self-sufficient combat unit with its own artillery and logistics.

It was almost a given that the 442nd or any other Japanese-American unit would not see service in the Pacific, since there were still widespread suspicions concerning their loyalty, but many of the recruits were assigned to the Military Intelligence Service. They were then trained in language and intelligence skills, and were assigned as an interpreters, interrogators, and spies in the Pacific theatre, playing a crucial intelligence role.

While the rest of the unit trained in Mississippi, the 100th departed to join the 34th Infantry Division in North Africa, which was preparing for the invasion of Italy. After joining the Italian Campaign at Salerno, the 100th participated in the terribly bloody fighting at Monte Cassino in early 1944, site of a famous Benedictine monastery that was destroyed by Allied bombing. The battalion took such heavy casualties that some war correspondents starting referring to them as the “Purple Heart Battalion.” By the time the battalion was pulled of the line, some of the platoons were down to less than 10 men. The 100th later received its first of four presidential unit citations.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Following further intense fighting at Anzio and assisting in the capture of Rome, the 100th was joined there by the rest of the 442nd, though the 100th was still considered a quasi-separate unit due to its distinguished record. Entering combat together on June 26, 1944, they faced a series of bloody actions conquering Italian towns and strong points, including major actions at Belvedere, Castellina Marrittima, and Hill 140. After months of grinding combat, they were sent to Marseilles in southern France, and the most celebrated episode in the 442nd’s history occurred with the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.”

The 442nd was sent north into the Vosges mountains to seize the city of Bruyere, whose surrounding hills had been heavily fortified by the Germans. They succeeded in taking the city after a bloody series of attacks and enemy counterattacks, but received almost no rest before being sent to the rescue of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, originally part of the Texas National Guard. It had been cut off and surrounded by German forces after a failed attack near the town of Biffontaine, and all attempts to resupply it by air or break it out had failed.

Faced with heavy fog, steep terrain, dense forests, and heavy enemy artillery, the 442nd saw their most intense combat of the war, suffering more than 800 casualties before linking up and relieving the 211 besieged survivors of the 141st. After the rescue, they continued to press on to Saint-Die until being pulled off the line on Nov. 17. In a little over three weeks, the 442nd had suffered more than 2,000 casualties. The 100th alone was down from a strength of over 1,400 a year prior to less than 300 men. When the commander of the 36th Division called an inspection of the 442nd later, he grew angry over what he saw as soldiers missing formation, only to be told that those present were all that were left.

The 442nd would go on to see further action in France, Italy, and Germany and scouts from the unit were among the first to locate and liberate the German concentration camp of Dachau. By the time the unit was deactivated after the war ended, it was awarded 21 Medals of Honor, more than 4,000 Bronze Stars, and over half of the 14,000 men who had served in the unit had been wounded, making it by far the highest decorated unit of its size in U.S. history.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Do ‘detox’ juices actually work?

Are juices that promise “cleansing from toxins” or “detoxification” of our bodies considered healthy? Are these products worth it?

Most likely not. If your body has been poisoned, detox juices and herbal products are not likely to help. The toxins they refer to are usually not real poisons like heavy metals or pesticides. They use the word toxin to grab your attention so you think there is something wrong and that buying their product will correct it. It is normal for our bodies produce some of these substances that should not be stored. Fortunately, our kidneys and liver are designed to rid the body of these substances.


Another concern with juice detox products is the sugar content, which may be as high as the content of a regular soft drink. Some might be good sources of potassium and vitamin C, but can leave you feeling hungry later. This could lead to overeating and frustration surrounding your health goals. As an alternative, whole fruits have the same vitamins and minerals as juice, take longer to eat, and have fiber that’s lacking in juice to help you feel more satisfied.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

(Flickr photo by Rob Bertholf)

We can’t talk about cleansing without mentioning the many colon cleanse products that are available. These products claim to remove “toxins” from your colon; however, most foods are absorbed in the small intestine, not the colon. It is important to note that many colon cleanse products contain some otherwise healthy ingredients like probiotics (often called “good bacteria,”), prebiotics (things that help probiotics grow, often called “resistant starch”) and fiber, but there are many foods that contain these same ingredients.

Certain probiotics might also help people with constipation have more regular bowel movements; however, adding probiotics too quickly can also cause the opposite problem — diarrhea. Start with small amounts of probiotic foods (such as low-sugar yogurt with active cultures and sauerkraut with live cultures) and increase serving sizes slowly.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

(Flickr photo by Rob Bertholf)

The best sources of prebiotics and fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Getting the right amount of prebiotics and fiber in your diet might help you absorb a few less calories, feel fuller and allow you to eat less overall. To increase prebiotics and fiber in your diet, start with a couple small portions of these foods and increase the amount slowly so you don’t end up feeling bloated or uncomfortable. Also make sure to drink enough water!

For more information on strategies to make healthy changes to your diet, contact your local VA registered dietitian.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force vet who will kick off USAA’s free music festival

Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana – AKA DJ KA5 – is cooking up something special for his featured guest appearance in the USAA Lounge at BaseFEST this weekend. But don’t expect him to just cue up a list of Top 40 hits and fire them off, one after another. He approaches deejaying the way a trained specialist approaches a mission: he plans, he prepares, he drills, and then, when he’s got you captive on the dance floor, he executes.

Result: the beat drops and you lose your mind.


“I’m always about bringing those vibes that are taking you back to that certain time that was good for you [and] I’m always about trying to perfect my craft. That’s something that the military taught me: you can always do better.”

BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000+ fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for servicemembers, their families, and friends.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common
Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana u2013 also known asu00a0DJ KA5.
(Photo by USAA)

The mission of the festival is “to provide a platform to give back to family programs on base, boost morale for troops and their families, and build strong base communities that are the backbone of our military.” Musical acts like DNCE, Dustin Lynch, Ha Ha Tonka, and DJ KA5 provide a live and lively soundtrack to a wide variety of activities, games, exhibits, and dining.

This year, BaseFEST is back with four dates announced, starting with Fort Bliss, TX on May 12th.

For Arana, playing BaseFEST is a chance to reconnect with his veteran family, to celebrate the military education that helped set him on the path to doing what he loves.

“Deejaying is about creating a vibe and creating a feeling. You’re painting. A different song is a different color and you’re creating a masterpiece. So by the end of the night, you step back and you look at the whole paining and you realize how you did this for somebody else.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why military working dogs are treated just like regular troops

Military working dogs are an essential part of many missions — even sensitive ones, like the raid on the compound of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Oct. 26, 2019. They’re so important, in fact, that they occasionally hold ranks themselves, although it’s merely formal and not official, and they’re always ranked one higher than their handlers.

That “seniority” honors the dog’s role and reminds the handler to be lenient when it has a bad day.

The dog who chased after Baghdadi, leading to his death by suicide, has become a celebrity — even though the dog’s name remains classified. A photo of the dog led to confirmation of its breed (a Belgian Malinois), but little else is known about the good boy (or girl). Disclosing the dog’s name and rank could lead to information about the dog’s affiliation with Delta Force, a classified unit, The Washington Post reports. That unit is still in the field, and revealing the dog’s name could put its handler at risk, although the dog’s possible name and sex have been reported, by Newsweek and the Washington Post, respectively.

Read more to learn more about military working dogs.


Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Chrisman, a combat tracking dog trainer, and Cpl. Ludjo, a military working dog, both with Third Law Enforcement Battalion, Third Marine Information Group, play tug of war at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(Sgt. Stormy Mendez / US Marine Corps)

The bond between a military working dog and its handler is vitally important to completing missions.

A handler needs to be able to read shifts and subtleties in their canine partner’s behavior to gather information about their targets or environments, and even how the dog is feeling.

For example, if the dog doesn’t feel like working, or has deficiencies with some tasks, the handler needs to be able to pick up on this and give the dog the tools, training, and motivation it needs to complete the task.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

U.S. Marine Corps military working dog Allie waits inside a Humvee to go on a mission while being held by her handler, Lance Cpl. Ronnie Ramcharan at the Central Training Center, Okinawa, Japan on Aug. 25, 2019.

(Lance Cpl. Andrew R. Bray / US Marine Corps)

While the military working dog’s rank is a formality — not an official rank like human troops have — it’s meant to encourage handlers to treat their dogs with love and respect.

Handlers have to be able to communicate what their canine partners are “telling” them, and to know without a doubt that the dog will listen to him or her.

“There’s no doubt about my dog: Number one, he will protect me. Number two, he will find a bomb,” Sgt. 1st Class Regina Johnson told the Army in 2011.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Airman 1st Class Daniel Martinez, 355th Security Forces military working dog handler, participates in a simulated narcotic/bomb detection exercise with Darius, an MWD assigned to the 355 SFS, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2019.

(Airman 1st Class Kristine Legate / US Air Force)

Military working dogs whose units allow them to hold ranks are non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

By and large, military working dogs are treated as regular US troops would be.

Unfortunately, there was one period where military working dogs were left behind in a combat zone — in South Vietnam, during US troops’ hasty withdrawal there.

Prior to 2000, military working dogs were also euthanized after their service was finished. Military working dogs can now be adopted to civilians once their service is finished.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

A U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico as part of exercise Emerald Warrior 2011 in this U.S. military handout image from March 1, 2011.

(Manuel J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force)

Cairo the dog, also a Belgian Malinois, earned accolades from former President Barack Obama for his role in killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Cairo secured the perimeter of bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and, should the al Qaeda leader have proven difficult to find, Cairo would be sent in after him.

Upon hearing that Cairo was involved in the raid, former President Barack Obama said, “I want to meet that dog,” according to an account in The New Yorker.

“If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” one member of the SEAL team jokingly advised the president.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

(Department of Defense)

Military working dogs and their partners both require extensive training to keep up with the demands of their job.

Dogs and their trainers go through a 93-day training program to cement their skills and gain practice as a team in real-world scenarios, according to the Army.

Only about 50% of the dogs the military procures to become military working dogs are actually suitable for the job.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Cpl. Ramon Valenci, a dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, orders his military working dog, Red, to search for improvised explosive devices during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 2-17, aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 19, 2017.

(Aaron S. Patterson / US Marine Corps)

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

100th Military Police Detachment, Military Working Dog (MWD) Money, conducts basic obedience drills, June 25, 2019, Panzer Kaserne, Germany. The MWDs and their handlers are trained to provide narcotics and explosives detection keeping the bases safe from threats.

(Photo by Yvonne Najera)

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Callie, a search and rescue dog for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., Nov. 29, 2018.

(Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton / US Air National Guard)

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Timo, 23d Security Forces Squadron (SFS) Military Working Dog (MWD), bites Joe Dukes, Lowndes County Sheriffs Office SWAT team lead, during a MWD capabilities demonstration, March 21, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Timo is trained to attack on or off leash with or without command.

(Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson / US Air Force)

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

(Kevin Hanrahan)

They’re more than man’s best friend. Military working dogs are an essential part of the mission.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Intel

How this Air Force medic became a fashion and fitness model

Charissa Littlejohn was an aspiring model before joining the Air Force, but it wasn’t until she left the service that her modeling career really took off. In this spotlight episode, Charissa tells her unconventional transition story of becoming a fashion model after serving as an Air Force medic.


When all of her roommates in Las Vegas in 2009 were sent to Korea through the Air Force, Charissa was inspired to join as well. She was trained as a medic, a field she enjoyed, and was sent to Tokyo, Japan.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

After four years, she separated and moved back to Florida where her family lived, but on a trip to visit a friend in California, she fell in love with Los Angeles and the Newport Beach area. She also met with some managers at modeling agencies, and her interest in modeling quickly grew.

Modeling became her day job. She did monthly shoots for a local magazine honoring veterans, and wants to remind the people who see her work that veterans are not only defined by their military careers. Once they leave service, they can be whatever they want to be.

She also holds a Masters in Healthcare Administration, further annihilating any stereotypes that might come to mind when you think of the modeling industry.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Now, she’s shifted her focus mostly to entrepreneurship; she runs LittleGat, a holster and apparel manufacturer, with her husband, and holds the title of CEO. It just goes to show that Charissa will make anything happen.

NOW: Here’s how a combat wounded veteran got his dream shot at college football

OR: The best and the worst Air Force recruiting slogans of all-time

MIGHTY CULTURE

These ‘pet therapy’ pics will make you wish you were overseas

Petting man’s best friend brings instant joy to most people. Especially those serving overseas, thousands of miles away from their loved ones.

American Red Cross dog teams navigated the corridors of Freeman Hall to help 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division soldiers unwind during their busy day, March 28, 2019.

“The unexpected dog visit helped me feel less homesick,” said Capt. Catherine Felder, Strongsville, Ohio native, engineer officer, 2ID/RUCD. “I’m serving an unaccompanied tour and have pets back home in the states, so it was definitely refreshing to pet the dogs.”


There are currently 11 dog teams at Camp Humphreys who bring love and comfort to Warriors.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Makai (front), a three-year-old Portuguese water dog; Kelly Doyle (left), Leavenworth, Kansas native and handler of service dog, Beau, a four-year-old Boxer; and Laura Wilson (right), Fort Polk, Louisiana native, handler of Avery May, a two-year-old English Springer, all American Red Cross dog teams, navigate the hallways of Freeman Hall to bring joy and comfort to soldiers during the workday, March 28, 2019.

(Photo by Chin-U Pak)

“The intent of the dog visits is to boost morale, mental health, and relaxation at the workplace, hospitals, wellness center, all around post,” said Michelle Gilbert, Portland, Oregon native, animal visitation program lead, Camp Humphreys American Red Cross. “Having dogs around is so relaxing that we are also involved in a weekly program at the library called ‘Read to a Dog,’ where every Saturday between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. children find it easier, and less stressful to practice reading to dogs.”

Any dog that’s older than one-year-old and passes a behavior test is eligible to serve on a Red Cross dog team.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Maj. Alicia King, Liberty, Mississippi native, military intelligence officer, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, hugs Selah V., a two-year-old Hungarian Vizsla and member of the Camp Humphreys American Red Cross dog team at Freeman Hall, March 28, 2019.

(Photo by Chin-U Pak)

“In order to be a member of a dog team, the handler needs to possess an AKC (American Kennel Club) canine good citizen certificate for your dog, which serves as a baseline for behavior, and then we assess your dog to see what type of events your dog qualifies to attend,” said Gilbert, the owner and handler of a three-year-old Portuguese water dog named Makai.

The pet therapy program is a part of the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces program. Other SAF include emergency communications, linking members of the armed forces with their families back home, financial assistance in partnership with military aid societies, as well as programs for veterans.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Capt. Catherine Felder, Strongsville, Ohio native, engineer officer, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, pets Avery May, a two-year-old English Springer, and member of the Camp Humphreys American Red Cross dog team at Freeman Hall, March 28, 2019.

(Photo by Chin-U Pak)

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disaster; supplies approximately 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.

For more information or to request a dog visit, please email SAFHumphreys@redcross.org or visit them on the Camp Humphreys Red Cross Facebook page.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

One vet’s story about coming back from the brink of suicide

In 2017, I left the military after 14 years of service as an Army military policeman. I came to Texas with a debilitating back injury, PTSD, little financial security and Hurricane Harvey was looming in my future. Like so many that are in pain, I started to abuse alcohol and prescription drugs.

Then Hurricane Harvey hit: the catalyst that tipped the scales. With my savings already gone and no assistance from FEMA, my family was left living in a hotel room. Feeling like I couldn’t provide for my family only worsened my PTSD. But I couldn’t go to anybody – I told myself that other people need help more than I do and that my problems weren’t “that” bad. So I tried to deal with it on my own, but I was in too deep.


Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

(Military Families Magazine)

So deep, that in October 2017, I drove to the hotel I was living in, parked the car and pulled my pistol out of the glove compartment. I didn’t see any other options. At that moment, my fiancée came outside. I couldn’t let her see what I was about to do, so I put the gun away and followed her inside. There she handed me a check and I learned that somebody applied for a grant for me from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). It wasn’t necessarily the money that brought my head above water so that I could reanalyze the situation and take the next step forward — It was the fact that somebody cared enough about me to notice I was struggling and offer help.

From that point on, I knew that I wanted to help others. For those that know somebody who needs help, don’t sit by. Everybody has the power to make one small action that can change somebody else’s life, and in a time with so much uncertainty and fear in the world, we should all aim for that.

How can you help those in need?

So here are five small things that you can do today to help somebody in your life that may be struggling.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

(Military Families Magazine)

1. Notice changes.

In our fast-pace culture, its common to rush by people, even those you love, and not really notice how they are doing. Have they become quieter and more withdrawn or perpetually angry? That is often a big signal that they are struggling with something. Other top signals include changes to their hygiene, sleep, appetite and focus. But did you know that even positive changes are often indicators of mental or emotional turmoil?

Trust your gut. If somebody has become more social all of a sudden and they seem “fine” now, they probably aren’t really fine. Really taking the time to notice people in your life and be aware of any personality changes is the first step to being there for somebody.

2. Avoid giving advice and silver linings.

Once you start noticing the people in your life that may be struggling, it’s tempting to want to talk to them. But avoid giving advice and silver linings, as it can tend to make somebody shut down even more. You want to create space where they can open up to you, so check in often and just be there to listen – even if they don’t want to talk.

If they do want to open up to you, make an effort to hear the story from their perspective. Even if their struggle doesn’t make sense to you, avoid saying “it could be worse” or listing the reasons why they should be happy. Fight the urge to try and “fix” their problems. Sometimes, the best fix is to just lend a listening ear and to know when to refer your loved one to a professional.

3. Be proactive.

If you notice that somebody in your life could use a little tangible help, be proactive and offer it, rather than saying “let me know if you need anything.” While that may be a socially acceptable phrase, it puts all the pressure on the other person to reach out to you. We are often conditioned to see asking for help as a weakness, so the odds that they take you up on the offer are small. So if you notice a mom on your kid’s soccer team is constantly late for pickup, offer to drive her child home. If your sister’s health is poor, but she can’t afford to eat well, drop off a healthy meal once in a while. Apply for that financial aid for somebody. Your gesture doesn’t need to be big — It’s often the little things that help people the most.

4. Suggest volunteering.

Today, I travel around speaking and advocating for PTSD and suicide awareness. While sharing my story provides hope to others, it also continues to heal me. I have found that each time I recount my experiences, I release more of the burden of these stories. That’s why I continue to serve, and because of my service I have been named a spokesperson for the VFW’s newest campaign, #StillServing, which aims to bring to light the continued service of America’s veterans.

Remind your loved one that volunteering and serving others is a great way to foster their own healing. Invite them to go with you to a food bank or animal shelter as a way to get out of your head for a few hours.

5. Remember to care for yourself as well.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure to take care of yourself as well. Do not blame yourself for not “doing enough” or not feeling comfortable talking to somebody about their experiences. Even following just one of the tips above can mean the world to somebody. It did for me.

I still don’t know who applied for that grant for me, but it changed my life. Today, I am in school working toward becoming a family law attorney, I speak on and advocate for PTSD and suicide awareness and I am a spokesperson for the VFW’s #StillServing campaign.

Chris Blevins is a veteran of the US Army, serving 14 years as a military police officer with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, he is an advocate for post traumatic stress disorder awareness and suicide awareness. He attends the University of Texas San Antonio where he is pursuing a degree in politics and law with the goal of becoming a family lawyer. He is a spokesperson for the VFW’s newest campaign, #StillServing and lives in San Antonio with his wife and four children.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


popular

7 of the most important survival skills you should know

Whenever you’re planning on going outdoors for an extended period of time, it’s always good to have a practiced survival skill or two up your sleeve — you never know when you’re going to need it.


There are a lot of different survival products on the market, but most of them are for convenience. The truth is, with some ingenuity and clever thinking, you can sustain yourself using little more than what nature provides.

All you need to survive in some harsh conditions is some basic survival knowledge — which we’re about to lay down.

 

Starting a fire

To some, this might sound pretty difficult. But, in many cases, starting a fire in cold conditions is almost as easy as rubbing two sticks together. Sound too simple? Check out this video:

Making a signal fire

In a bad scenario, your a** might get lost deep in the woods or marooned on a deserted island. If you want to get help, smoke signals can be seen from freakin’ miles away. It’s an excellent way to call for help in a desperate situation.

 

Tying a few good knots

Most people can tie their own shoes, but we’re talking about more complicated knots. When push comes to shove, you’re going to wish you learned how to tie some hardy knots — especially for building stuff.

Knowing how to construct a bowline knot properly is invaluable when you’re out in the boonies and want to tie some shelter together.

You can make rope from thin and bendable branches.

Building some shelter

You don’t need to construct a suite from the Four Seasons, you just need a little overhead coverage and something to block cold winds.

To learn how to build shelter, check out the important video below. The key thing is not expending too much of your energy. It might just save your life.

 

Making a homemade compass

There are various ways to make a field compass, depending on which materials you can gather. Hopefully, you have, at least, a radio containing a pin, a battery, and some wiring. Using these simple tools, you can construct a lifesaving, primitive GPS.

 

Treating injuries

Getting hurt in the wilderness happens. Since there probably isn’t an emergency room nearby, you’re going to have to use what Mother Nature provides to treat the wounds.

Here are a few handy hints:

 

Finding food

As humans, we have to eat in order to live. Unfortunately, the great outdoors doesn’t have a 24-hour Starbucks or McDonald’s. So, you should understand what it takes to build fishing and hunting traps to capture local wildlife.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 23 years, soldier meets his father for the first time

The soldier nervously scanned the hotel lobby. Suddenly, his eyes lit up and a broad smile immediately filled his face.

“That’s my dad!” he said, and rushed to the hotel door. The soldier embraced his father, and it was clear he didn’t want to let go. Who could blame him?

This was June 24, 2019. He had waited 23 years for this moment.


Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., nervously awaits the arrival of his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Leaving Guatemala

Spc. Brandon Paiz, remembered the day he learned he was going to leave his home.

“I was little, about nine and eight months,” Paiz reflected. “My mom said, ‘Hey we’re going to move to the United States with your stepdad, Roger.'”

Paiz, now a tall, muscular masonry/carpentry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company, talked about the apprehension he felt as a small child leaving his birthplace, Guatemala.

“It was a culture shock,” Paiz said. “The first thing I noticed about the United States is that is was really clean, the streets were really clean. It sounds weird, but they handed me a fruit — a banana — and I was like, holy cow, this thing is huge!”

Paiz said he was quick to adapt to his new home, starting with a new-found love of bacon. He also quickly learned to speak English from an unlikely source.

“Spongebob was my favorite cartoon when I was little,” Paiz said. “It was in Spanish, but when I came to the U.S., I kind of remembered the lines, what they were saying.”

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, sweats during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He took three years of English as a Second Language classes and, with the help of Spongebob, didn’t need any more classes. Still, it was not easy for the boy.

“There were times I just wanted to go back and see my friends again,” he admitted. He had some scattered memories, such as living in a tall apartment building in Guatemala City, where he would go to the roof and play soccer alone for hours. He remembered buying chips from a lady named Dora, and huge celebrations each March in Guatemala City where people would carry massive statues of the saints down the streets.

“I would make rugs for the celebration,” Paiz said. He spoke quickly and with excitement when recalling his tight-knit community.

Paiz first lived in New Jersey, where he had to re-adapt to being part of a new community. He said while he was learning English, some of the neighborhood kids didn’t want to involve him in activities. However, just as he had used Spongebob to improve his English, Paiz used another tool to make new friends: kickball.

“I was really good at soccer, so when I started playing kickball, then the kids finally started talking to me,” he said with a laugh.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, listens to the morning safety briefing before starting construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He was curious about his father. He didn’t know too much about him other than his name was Jorge and that he had seen some occasional pictures of him on his aunt Lorna’s Facebook. He didn’t understand why he had not been there, but he forgave him.

“People make mistakes,” Paiz said. “His mistake was he wasn’t really around as much as he should have been. I’m going to continue to build our relationship, because I can tell he regrets it. I don’t want to give him a hard time with more of the guilt he feels already, I’m just excited to get to know him more.”

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, hands construction equipment from a connex to Spc. Pierre Mebe, a plumber, also with the 358th, before beginning construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Joining the Army Reserve

“I joined the military for opportunity and education, but above all, I wanted to give back to the country that opened up the doors for me,” Paiz said. “I wanted to do it for the longest time, but I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to do it — whether I wanted to be a cop, but I wanted to do something to give back to the community, so I decided on the military.”

Paiz said he didn’t want to leave his mother, who had at this time divorced from Roger, so he decided on joining the Army Reserve. He didn’t realize it yet, but Paiz was about to join another tight-knit community.

He enlisted as a masonry/carpentry specialist and joined a rowdy group of construction soldiers from throughout Pennsylvania, the 358th Engineer Company, located in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Joining the military proved beneficial in many ways. First, Paiz, who works as a sales representative for a cable company, was able to get the sense of service and giving back to his country as a soldier.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, plays with some dogs outside a medical clinic construction site June 21 in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Secondly, Paiz was re-united with a friend from high school, Spc. Pierre Mede, who just like him, had migrated from another country — Haiti — to the United States as a child. The two quickly went from friends, to inseparable best friends.

But most of all, although Paiz didn’t know it yet, the tiny unit from Pennsylvania was about to bring him back to Guatemala. The unit’s annual training mission was in support of Beyond the Horizon, an annual training partnership between U.S Army South, and one of the nations in their area of responsibility in Central and South America. As it so happened, this year’s rotation was in Guatemala, where the 358th Engineers would be building a medical clinic in the mountain village of Tojocaz.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Homecoming

Paiz knew his unit was going to be traveling to Guatemala. He knew that he would be flying in to Guatemala City where he would meet his aunt Lorna, who he had not seen in several years, but had been very close to growing up. But Paiz was not prepared for what would happen next at Guatemala City Airport.

“Obviously I recognized him, because I had seen him through photos,” Paiz said. “When I walked through the door … my heart just dropped. I knew this was the moment that I had been envisioning in my head for years — I just didn’t think it was going to be that day.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

“I hugged my aunt first, then my other aunt, and a family friend. Then it was his turn. I was really nervous when I finally met him.”

It was a moment he said had rehearsed in his mind countless times.

“I was really shocked, nervous, overwhelmed,” he said. “I had practiced what I was going to tell him for so many years, but it wouldn’t come out. I didn’t cry or anything, but I was glad that I finally closed that chapter in my life, and as it so happened, the military has done that for me.

“My heart was racing, and when I finally hugged him I was like, this is happening. This is real. Twenty-three years later I finally got to see my father.”

One of the soldiers snapped a photo of the brief, impromptu meeting. Paiz would carry it with him as he worked on the clinic with his friend Mede. It was a brief moment, but the two planned a second visit from Paiz in August.

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, checks the level on a block during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

The clinic

Paiz’ story affected his new brothers in the 358th. It provided the extra bit of motivation the soldiers needed on their construction rotation. Three weeks is not a long time, but if you ask the soldiers, three weeks high in the mountains of Guatemala, sweating and grinding in the hot sun for more than 12 hours every day can be very long. To add to it all, the 358th fell into a situation where they were already several days behind on the project.

The soldiers would leave at 5 a.m. every morning, and come home dirty, sweaty, sore and tired after laying brick until sometimes well after 8 p.m. But though they acknowledged their fatigue, none complained. Because of Paiz, this mission meant something more to them.

His non-commissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Pearce probably said it best: “We respect each other as people. Knowing the fact that one of the soldiers is originally from Guatemala, and that we’re here to help this community and this is his native country, I think everybody has pulled together to say ‘We want to do this.’ We are motivated to make this happen so we can say look what we did for this soldier’s native country.”

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Goodbye, for now

After waiting 23 years, Paiz had met his father and could look forward to the trip in August. As it turned out, he would not have to wait that long.

A couple weeks later, when some of the military leadership learned of Paiz’ unique situation, they arranged for him to hop on a helicopter that was already going from the base the soldiers were staying at with their Guatemalan counterparts in Huehuetenango to Guatemala City.

The flight was picking up some high-ranking officials and flying them back, so Paiz would only have a few minutes to see Jorge. They met for coffee at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City. Once again, his aunts were there and his cousin too. When everyone sat together at the table, it was as if the family had been together all along. Laughter filled the air.

The talk was of pride. Paiz’ cousin, Celia told him, “I am so proud of you that you became an American soldier. I am proud that you and the other soldiers work with the people here on this mission.”

Here’s why Earth-like planets might be common

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., poses for a photo with his cousin Celia taken by his aunt Lorna, June 24 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

There was more laughter, and then the room became quiet. Only Jorge spoke, and though he tried to remain composed, his son’s face brimmed with emotion. His father was apologizing.

“I’m very proud of you that you are an American soldier,” Jorge said. “I’m very proud that you are a good person and you make the right choices. You could have gone another path, but you chose the life of a soldier. That’s because you were raised well by your mother.”

He went on to say that although he had a family of his own, he still thought of his son even if it he felt as though he could not be there.

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t love you and I hope we can maintain strong communication moving forward. I’m grateful that life gave us an opportunity to reunite.” He went on to say that when he saw him now, even as a strapping 23-year-old man, he pictured an 8-year-old boy.

“My son. My blood. A good boy. A good son.”

Finally, Brandon Paiz had gotten what he really needed from his father.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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