Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

On May 2, 2011, a Seattle-based school teacher shaved his face for the first time in a decade. It was one of those beard-growing events you hear about athletes doing or when people grow facial hair for a good cause. But the only thing special about Gary Weddle’s beard was when he started growing it, and the day he cut it, which all began on Sept. 11, 2001.


Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

The 9/11 attacks were the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil – and the whole country watched.

Gary Weddle was a 40-year-old middle school science teacher during the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Though the teacher, based in Ephrata, Wash., was far from the tragic devastation of the attacks, he was still devastated by the loss of life and the destruction of some of America’s most iconic structures. He told the Seattle Times that he couldn’t eat, shower, or shave in the days that followed. So to work through his grief, he vowed that he wouldn’t – shave that is – until the architect of the attacks was killed or captured.

The day he got to shave his beard came nearly a full ten years later, on May 1, 2011, when President Obama announced to the world that U.S. intelligence had found his hiding place in Pakistan and that U.S. Navy SEALs attacked it and killed the terrorist mastermind in a daring nighttime raid.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

President Obama announced that U.S. Special Operators killed Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011.

After nearly ten years of nothing about Bin Laden, Weddle thought he might be buried with the beard. And he hated it. The facial hair only served as a reminder of the destruction of that day, and the justice left unserved to the man who planned the whole thing. So when he heard about the SEAL Team Six raid on Bin Laden’s hideout, he went straight for a pair of scissors.

The then-50-year-old had begun to look homeless in his long beard. Some even remarked that the graying beard resembled the one sported by Osama bin Laden himself. But after 3,454 days with the beard, having taught some 2,000 students, it took Gary Weddle 40 minutes to emerge from the bathroom clean-shaven. The students he currently taught at Ephrata Middle School were only two years old during the 9/11 attacks, and no one who worked with Weddle ever knew him without the beard.

When he walked into work the next day with his new look, few recognized him – and those who did say he looked ten years younger.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 everyday items with surprising military applications

Necessity is the mother of invention, but combat forces troops to get creative. When your life is on the line, you do whatever it takes to get the job done. Over the years, troops have found some surprising applications on the battlefield for simple everyday items. Here are some of the best.

1. Super Glue

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
Thanks to inventions like helicopters and Super Glue, wounded troops in Vietnam had a better chance of survival than in WWII (U.S. Army photo)

Yes, the stuff that you use to fix broken pottery and then get all over your fingers had a military use. In fact, it was a live saving application. While developing a plastic gunsight and an aircraft canopy in the 1940s and 1950s, Harry Coover invented a new super strong and quick-drying adhesive. Realizing the potential medical application of his new invention, he submitted it to the FDA for approval. Although it was disapproved for use on human tissue because it caused skin irritation, the military sent Super Glue to the Vietnam. Applied with a spray bottle, medics would use Super Glue to close open wounds and stop bleeding in the field. This gave many troops the valuable time needed to be MEDEVACed to a field hospital for proper treatment. Later, Super Glue’s formula was reworked to be used specifically on human tissue.

2. Grease pencil

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
Modern MH-6 Little Birds have more advanced targeting systems (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The grease pencil has plenty of uses in the military. Its ability to write on glass make it ideal for air traffic controllers, especially on aircraft carriers. However, the pilots of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment used the grease pencil as a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem. When the OH-6 Cayuse was adapted into the MH-6 Little Bird for Special Operations use, the Army added two M134 7.62x51mm mini-guns and two 2.75-inch rocket pods to the helicopter. However, the pilots had no way of aiming their weapons. To create a reference, they would fly a few practice gun runs to see exactly where their fire was landing in relation to their windscreen. Afterwards, they would mark the spot with a little “X” in grease pencil and use it as a gun sight. Despite its crudity, the grease pencil gun sight worked remarkably well. Sgt. Raleigh Cash, a member of Task Force Ranger during the Battle of Mogadishu remembers the accuracy of the Little Birds. “These guys hit exactly where you told them to,” Cash recalled, “using nothing but a little X on the windscreen.”

3. Cricket

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
Lt. Winters (Damian Lewis) uses his cricket to challenge an unknown group of men (HBO)

Thanks to Band of Brothers and Jurassic World, most people are probably familiar with this one. The cricket, or clicker, was originally designed in the 1920s as a timekeeping device for orchestra and band leaders. The simplicity of the clicking metal device meant that it was soon adopted as a children’s toy. However, during Operation Overlord, the cricket served a much more serious role than music or playtime. On D-Day, the 101st Airborne challenge and password was “flash-thunder”. If a paratrooper came across an unknown individual in the dark, they would whisper “flash” just loud enough for the person to hear. If they responded with “thunder”, it was another paratrooper and all was good. Otherwise, it was assumed that they were a German. The Screaming Eagles also used a nonverbal challenge and password. Using their crickets, paratroopers would make one click as a challenge. The appropriate response to identify yourself as a fellow trooper was two clicks with your own cricket. The simple cricket has also been used to train animals and has become iconic thanks to its depiction on screen.

4. Silly String

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
Use it for crafts, parties, or room clearing (Wham-O)

A favorite of children and vandals alike, the aerosol plastic string in a can found its way to the battlefield during the war in Iraq. Especially in the early days of the war, U.S. troops were heavily impeded by IEDs. Enemy fighters would rig up crude explosives with simple tripwires that made house-to-house fighting extremely difficult and dangerous. Adapting to this threat, troops discovered that Silly String could be used to identify tripwires that were otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The plastic stream can be shot 10 to 12 feet across a room and is light enough to not set off any potential triggers. If the string falls to the ground, no tripwires. If the string hangs in the air, you know there’s something there. Upon hearing about this application from her son, one Army mom organized a drive to send 80,000 cans of the stuff to Iraq in 2007.

Military Life

6 ways troops deal with hangovers and still make it PT

It’s no secret that troops and alcohol go together like a fine whiskey does with a couple of ice cubes. That’s why it’s not uncommon to hear troops talk about drinking heavily on a work night, even when they know they’re about to PT their asses off in just a few hours.


There’s no magical cure to being drunk. No matter the remedy or superstition, whether it’s drinking coffee or taking a hot shower, nothing can immediately sober someone up — only time and a good night’s rest can do that. But there are ways troops can take the sting out of nature’s reminder that alcohol is, technically, a poison and function at the level required by Uncle Sam.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

Everyone wants to get swoll but forgets that cardio helps you drink more. Don’t forget to balance the two.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)

Get fit

How alcohol is handled by the human body depends greatly on a person’s body type. The larger the person, the less of an effect each drop of alcohol has. The metabolism of a person also determines how quickly the alcohol is cleared through the body. This is exactly why extremely big and fit people, like Andre the Giant, can drink 152 beers in a single sitting and function relatively well the following day.

You, probably, aren’t as massive as he was, but you can still boost your metabolism through rigorous exercise.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

Don’t be that idiot who puts alcohol in their Camelback. You need actual water and the alcohol will eat through the plastic lining.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Gloria Lepko)

Hydrate the night before

To understand why everything hurts in the morning, let’s take a look at exactly what’s happening to your body when you’re hungover. In actuality, it’s the same sensation as doing some extreme training in a hot climate: It’s a bad case of self-inflicted dehydration.

Take a tip from your medic or corpsman and take in plenty of regular, old water before the night begins. It should go without saying, but you should be a one or a two on the pee chart before things get crazy.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

Which shouldn’t be an issue because they’ll probably be on their way to PT and not stopping by Burger King.

(Photo by Patrick Buffett)

Eat a big meal beforehand

As we said, dehydration is the leading reason why hangovers suck. We can continue to mitigate this by making sure our bodies retain as many fluids as possible throughout the night.

Greasy foods with high sodium are common go-tos among troops. While these might not be healthy choices in general, the fats and grease line the stomach, decreasing the amount of alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream.

It should be noted, however, that greasy foods are terrible after someone is hungover because the body will reject it, making nausea worse.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

If you cut it with a bottle of Gatorade or something, it will go down a lot smoother. But seriously, this stuff tastes like ass.

(Courtesy Photo)

Hydration solution formulas

Since hangovers are literally just terrible cases of dehydration, it makes sense that products designed for re-hydration are helpful choices. There aren’t many options for name-brand hydration solution formulas, but if you go into the baby-food aisle at most stores, you’ll find something like Pedialyte.

Yes, it’s technically baby formula. Yes, it’s designed for children with stomach and bowel sicknesses. And yes, it’s going to taste like crap. But if you want a quick hit of electrolytes to help you function as an adult, just drink the damn baby formula.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

They got pills back there in the Aid Station for every situation and ailment and yet the only thing they give us is Motrin… Just saying…

(Photo by Charles Haymond)

Motrin and water

If you really want to hear what your medic has to say, give ’em a visit. They may hook you up with a saline bag (to quickly replenish your fluids and keep ’em in there) or they’ll just toss you some Motrin and tell you to go away.

Now, the Ibuprofen isn’t going to cure your hangover, but it’s going to lessen the symptoms until your body can handle itself. The water, however, is actually going to help, so drink up. You’ll need it if you’re already dehydrated before a big run.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

The world doesn’t give a damn if you’re in pain. So, neither should you.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Villarreal)

Suck it up, buttercup

If you really want to know how your crusty ol’ first sergeant handledtheir alcohol back duringtheir barracksdays —they just stop caring and moved through the pain.

Being hungover doesn’teven makethe list of the top 10 thingsthat bothera senior NCO. They’ve pushed their bodies to the limit for God-knows-how-many years and they seem to be doing just fine. At the end of the day,they know that complaining about it doesn’t make it anybetter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LED therapy ‘worth every second’ for Gulf War vet

Eric Viitala, 49, is an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War who lives in Maine. He experienced low levels of energy and concentration for years after his service. He had headaches, couldn’t finish projects, and was losing interest in things.

“My wife would tell me I left the cupboard doors open and she would walk into them. Or I’d put the recycling in the trash.”

Shortly after the Gulf War, Viitala hit his head in an accident in Saudi Arabia. When he visited the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) in East Orange, NJ, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. At the WRIISC, a doctor referred him to the VA Boston Healthcare System’s light-emitting diode (LED) therapy program.


VA’s Center for Compassionate Care Innovation has been working with VHA staff in Boston to explore the use of in-home LED treatment since 2018.

Last year, Viitala completed a 12-week course of in-home LED treatment while in communication with his VHA health care provider. He still uses the treatment at least twice a week.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

Improvements in memory and energy way up

“There were huge improvements in my memory and concentration. My energy was way up. I’d pop up in the middle of the night and go clean the garage,” said Viitala. “It’s amazing because I have been dragging for years, but now I have the energy to go do things.”

During LED treatment, patients wear a lightweight headset affixed with light-emitting diodes. The arrangement of LEDs is customized for each person. The diodes do not generate heat and the treatment is painless and noninvasive. Each session lasts only 25 minutes. There is evidence to suggest that LED therapy promotes a healing response at the cellular level, due in part to increased blood flow.

When Viitala uses the LED equipment, he simply sits and relaxes with the LED headset on. The equipment was provided by VHA at no cost to the veteran and belongs to him permanently. He went to Boston for one round of treatment at the medical center and to pick up the equipment. But he communicated with his health care provider by phone during treatment.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

“It’s worth every second.”

“That was really helpful and beneficial for her to call and keep encouraging me. She would ask how it’s going. It helped remind me to do it.”

Viitala credits the staff members at the New Jersey WRIISC for validating what he was feeling and referring him to the LED clinic in Boston. He encourages fellow veterans with similar symptoms to ask their providers about LED therapy.

“Don’t be afraid to speak out. There’s nothing to lose with LED. Nothing hurts. They don’t have to go inside your body. There’s no drugs, no side effects. It’s worth every second.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

After 16 years, family of fallen soldier presented with his Distinguished Service Cross

Hundreds of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, Army veterans, Pittsburgh-area officials, and Army leaders recognized U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his heroism April 5, 2019 — 16 years to the day after he was killed in action while serving in Iraq.

Booker’s mother and sister were presented with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor, during a ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood — near the University of Pittsburgh — as family, fellow soldiers, city officials and veterans watched.

“I am so honored … I am so proud of all my son accomplished,” said Freddie Jackson, Booker’s mother. “I didn’t realize how much my son did and how he inspired other people. Steve died for his country, not just for the Booker Family,” she said.


Booker died on April 5, 2003, while serving as a tank commander with Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor of the 3rd Infantry Division. The 34-year-old Apollo, Penn., native was killed in action near Baghdad while serving in Iraq during the “Thunder Run” mission as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Booker attended Apollo-Ridge High School, near Pittsburgh, and enlisted in the Army in June 1987, at age 19, shortly after his high school graduation. He was promoted to Army staff sergeant in February 2001 and deployed in March 2003 to Iraq.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, left, deputy commanding general of Forces Command, speaks in Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, during the presentation of the Distinguished Service Cross to Freddie Jackson, right, the mother of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker for his 2003 heroism while serving in Iraq.

(Photo by Mr. Paul Boyce)

“We’re here to honor his service, his sacrifice and his heroism … as well as his Family” said U.S. Army Forces Command Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson. “He gave his life for something bigger than himself; he gave his life for others. He’s a Pittsburgh hero, an Army hero and an American hero.”

Richardson attended Friday’s ceremony along with 3rd Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas, 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, the 3rd Infantry Division Band and two retired Army generals. Army and Air Force cadets from the University of Pittsburgh’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program participated and attended as well.

Veterans of Booker’s unit also travelled from across the United States to attend the medal-presentation ceremony, organized by the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, based in Fort Stewart, Ga. The Army ceremony honored Booker for his heroic actions, personal dedication, and commitment to his fellow soldiers.

Booker’s platoon led a task force on April 5, 2003, along Highway 8 towards Bagdad International Airport. About 1.2 miles after the line of departure, the platoon came under heavy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from enemy forces. Booker immediately communicated the situation to his chain of command, encouraged his crew, and returned fire with his tank-mounted machinegun.

“When both his and his crew’s machineguns malfunctioned, Booker, with total disregard for his personal safety, exposed himself by lying in a prone position on top of the tank’s turret and accurately engaged the enemy forces with his personal weapon,” according to the award’s summary. “While exposed, he effectively protected his platoon’s flank and delivered accurate information to his command during a critical and vulnerable point of the battle.”

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker.

(Facebook)

Booker’s “fearless attitude and excitement over the communications network inspired his platoon to continue the attack and assured them and leadership that they would defeat the enemy and reach their objective safely,” the award’s narrative explains. “As he remained exposed, Booker identified an enemy troop carrier which was attempting to bypass his tank, but within seconds engaged the enemy vehicle and destroyed it prior to the enemy troops dismounting. Along the five-mile route he remained exposed and continued to engage the enemy with accurate rifle fire until he was mortally wounded.”

Army Col. Andrew Hilmes, Booker’s former company commander in Iraq, said the heroic staff sergeant prepared his crew well for that day’s battle. “His ability to train his soldiers saved a lot of lives. Not just his actions on April 5, but the training he put his soldiers through prior to the 5th of April paid off for the unit.”

Booker’s sister echoed their mother’s comments during a media conference attended by Pittsburgh-area news media prior to the awards ceremonies, which included a plaque dedication in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial’s Hall of Valor. “He’d be very proud. He’d probably be pumping his chest right about now,” said Booker’s sister Kim Talley-Armstead. “It’s a bittersweet moment, but we are extremely proud.”

After giving careful consideration and reviewing the recommendations from the Senior Army Decorations Board, Army officials said, the Secretary of the Army made the determination that Staff Sgt. Booker be awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross. In recognition of their gallantry, intrepidity and heroism above and beyond the call of duty, 12 soldiers recently received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for their valor.

Previously recognized for their bravery by awards of the Silver Star, the Department of Defense upgraded the soldiers’ medals as part of a 2016-2018 comprehensive review of commendations for heroism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Four soldiers are still on active duty; three are posthumous awards; three recipients have since retired and two recipients previously separated from the Army.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Paratrooper fails demonstrate butt-clenching jump ramp errors

Military static line parachuting is safe when practiced correctly, but minor mistakes can quickly turn a jump into a disaster. Take a look at these.

This video appeared on social media early March 2019 from the Flintlock 2019 military exercise in the Sahel region of Africa. Whoever the unit is in the video — and no one is giving them credit (or blame…) — they demonstrate about every aircraft exit mistake a static line parachutist can make short of actually forgetting to hook up their static line.


The video has disappeared from social media, but we managed to make a video of the video before it disappeared.

African Jump Errors Exercise Flintlock 19, 2019.

www.youtube.com

The first man looks like he is trying to do a side-door exit from an aircraft, when he’s actually using the tailgate. It’s weird, because tailgating an aircraft — jumping from the rear cargo ramp, is easier than exiting the side door of an aircraft. U.S. paratroopers look forward to the rare opportunity to do a “Hollywood tailgate party”, a daytime static line jump from a rear cargo ramp without carrying heavy combat gear. It’s the safest, easiest jump a paratrooper can make. The first troop makes a safe exit, but his parachute deployment probably had some twisted parachute risers.

The third guy should be commended for his motivation, if not his style. It looks like he is doing a freefall exit, not a static line exit. It likely went OK for him, but the opening shock probably spun him around some, making for an uncomfortable parachute deployment.

The third man out executes a pretty nice exit; feet and knees (sort of) together, relatively tight body position, hands protecting his reserve parachute. The black hat instructors at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning might give this exit a “Go”.

Things really go south for the fourth guy, who face plants on the exit ramp. He may have been hesitant to exit, he may have tripped on the non-skid surface of the exit ramp, hard to say, but he makes an incredible mess of the exit and belly-flops out the rear exit ramp. This is extremely dangerous because falling on your reserve parachute, worn in front by these jumpers, could accidentally deploy it. It may get tangled in the jumper’s main parachute and, at low jump altitudes of around 600-800 feet and sometimes even less, could cause a catastrophic malfunction with way too fast of a descent rate and no way to untangle the two chutes before impact. Expect broken bones at best.

The rest of the jumpers seem justifiably freaked out by this. But the fifth man sucks it up and makes a passable, if messy, exit. His feet are too far apart. Static line parachute jumpers must “maintain a tight body position and count” to insure the parachute does not accidentally deploy between their legs. I don’t have to explain why having the static line become high speed dental-floss deal between your legs would be bad.

Jumper number six just isn’t sure about this whole “Airborne!” thing. He decides to sit down on the exit ramp for a minute and contemplate his participation in the elite parachute infantry. Someone on the aircraft, presumably the jumpmaster, motivates him by shouting “GO!”. After his moment of quiet reflection on the future of his military career, he apparently decides that being an elite airborne trooper is worth a bit of a risk and tentatively tumbles off the ramp. He may have also calculated that leaving the aircraft from the seated position got him about two feet closer to the ground upon exit, thereby presumably making the jump safer.

Jumpers seven and eight both execute fairly decent exits, at least relative to the other jumpers, but that’s a pretty low bar.

Jumper nine defies description. He apparently deduces that using his butt as a kind of braking device upon exit may make his jump somehow safer or easier. Whatever the reason he smacked against the exit ramp on exit, that had to hurt. He also kind of flaps his arms in a bird-like motion. Maybe he doesn’t trust his ‘chute.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

(Video: YouTube via Facebook)

That was it for this stick of jumpers. It would seem as though these guys need to head back to the jump ramp simulator and practice some exits if they are going to continue their Airborne careers. Whatever the case may be, nearly every exit on this jump demonstrates what can go wrong when a static line tailgate parachute jump is executed poorly. For that reason, we owe these guys for 32 seconds of video that is destined to go down in Airborne history as a documentary on how not to leave an aircraft.

The Author of this article was a paratrooper in the U.S. Army.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

popular

This pilot landed her shot-up A-10 by pulling cables

On April 7, 2003, three weeks into the Invasion of Iraq and day four of the nine-day Battle of Baghdad, twenty-eight year-old Captain Kim Campbell (callsign “Killer Chick”) of the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was on her way in from Kuwait on a close air support mission when she got a call for immediate assistance from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.


The 3rd Infantry was attempting to take the North Baghdad Bridge, which was an essential maneuver for capturing the city and cutting off reinforcements, when they found themselves in a desperate Rebel Guard situation.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
Killer Chick and her hog. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Upon receiving the call, Campbell and her A-10 Warthog (no need for “Thunderbolt II” pleasantries here) re-routed and readied the BRRRRT.

“We were originally tasked to target some Iraqi tanks and vehicles in the city that were acting as a command post, but on the way to the target area we received a call from the ground forward air controller or FAC, saying they were taking fire and needed immediate assistance,” she told Women’s History Month Luncheon guests.

With only seconds to identify the enemy location and — friendly troops — in a blazing war zone, she unleashed bullets on the enemy from the 19-foot long GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun strapped to the nose of her A-10, followed by 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets.

She immediately became a target for Iraqi anti-aircraft weapons and she took heavy fire.

Also read: This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

The Warthog’s tail was struck by a missile, impairing both hydraulic systems and sending it spiraling towards the city of Baghdad. Campbell had to react quickly.

She switched the jet into manual reversion (which basically looks like one of those old “Flying Machine” Da Vinci sketches – just a bunch of hand-cranking cables and wires rigged to the flaps and rudders of the aircraft).

She manually wrangled her mighty steed and mechanically regained control like some sort of god d*mn puppet master.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
Yeah. She flew this thing. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Heading back to her base in Kuwait, Campbell had the option of ejecting from the aircraft but decided to manually land the A-10 instead, hoping to keep the rig in one piece.

Only twice before this had manual landings like this been attempted: the first time ended with the pilot crashing to his demise, and the second time the pilot had to be rescued by fire crews after the plane broke in half and caught fire…

Related: 6 awesome photos that show A-10 Warthogs landing in Putin’s backyard

Crash recovery teams surrounded the base as Campbell made her descent, but against all odds, she landed her battered up beast.

“I was impressed,” said Lt. Col. Mike Millen, chief of the 355th Fighter Wing Commander’s Action Group and a fellow A-10 pilot. “Kim landed that jet with no hydraulics better than I land the A-10 every day with all systems operational.”

Despite this near fatal mission, the very next day Campbell was up and running on another rescue mission over Baghdad, completely unfazed by the events that had only just transpired.

“I never really had time to think about the fact that I was going back to Baghdad where just the day before I had escaped a possible shoot down,” she shared. “In my mind, the only thing that I could think about was that I had a job to do. I knew that the search and rescue alert crews were there for me the day before and I was going to do the same for this pilot.”

In honor of her heroic feat, Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross — a medal awarded in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this WW2 pilot take to the skies in his old trainer aircraft

WWII pilot Capt. Jerry Yellin decided to join the military after the attack against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.


I decided at that moment that I was going to fly fighter planes against the Japanese.

And he did. A P-51 driver, he flew 19 missions in total — including the very last combat mission over Japan on Aug. 14, 1945. After the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Yellin said he didn’t think they’d ever have to fly again, but when Japan refused to surrender, he and his wingmen took to the skies.

On Aug. 13, four days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Yellin was ordered to fly a mission over Nagoya, a hub for Japanese aircraft manufacturing and war equipment production. Before takeoff, his wingman, Phil Schlamberg, told Yellin, “If we go on this mission, I’m not coming back.”

 

(American Veterans Center | YouTube)

 

Yellin told his wingman to stay on his wing. They exchanged a thumbs up from their cockpits, but Schlamberg’s feeling proved to be true — he went missing during the mission.

It was the last combat mission of World War II, and according to Yellin, Schlamberg was the last casualty. To his dismay, Yellin learned that the Japanese had surrendered three hours before, but the pilots didn’t receive the message in time.

Also read: This WW2 veteran recalls guarding Nazi POWs and the Dachau concentration camp

This year, Yellin took to the skies again in a Stearman PT-17, just like the one he trained in during the war at the once-called Thunderbird Field II at the Scottsdale Airport. His flight was part of a Veterans Day event to build a memorial to honor early aviation pioneers and veterans.

Having a museum to remind people of who we were then and what we are now is extremely, extremely important.

Check out Capt. Yellin’s flight and hear the inspiring vet talk about what it meant to serve during World War II right here:

 

(Sequence Media Group | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran accuses U.S. of giving ‘false’ account of gulf encounter

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has accused the United States of giving a false account of a recent encounter between the two states’ navies in the Persian Gulf, after Washington blamed Iranian vessels for harassing its ships.

“We advise Americans to follow international regulations and maritime protocols in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, and avoid any adventurism and false stories,” the IRGC said in a statement on its official website on April 19.

The force warned that any “miscalculation will receive a decisive response.”


The U.S. Navy had said that 11 vessels from the IRGC made “dangerous and harassing approaches” toward U.S. naval ships in the Gulf on April 15.

The U.S. ships were in international waters carrying out exercises at the time of the incidents, according to the U.S. 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain.

In the IRGC’s telling, its forces were on a drill and faced “the unprofessional and provocative actions” of the U.S. ships.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

Close interactions with Iranian military vessels have occurred in the region in the past, drawing warning shots from U.S. Navy ships when Iranian vessels got too close.

Tensions between Iran and the United States increased in January after the United States killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq.

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

Lists

6 planes the Air Force should bring back

We’ve talked about some planes that the United States Navy would probably want to have back in service. Well, the Air Force has a few planes they’d probably want back as well.


Let’s take a look at a few of them.

6. F-117 Nighthawk

The first operational stealth fighter was really more along the lines of a light bomber. They were retired in the mid-2000s as the F-22 Raptor came online. F-22 production, however, was stopped at 187 airframes by the Obama Administration. The Raptor has been called on to carry out attack missions in Syria and Afghanistan — F-117s could do those jobs instead.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
F-117s on a flight line in Saudi Arabia after returning from a strike mission during the Persian Gulf War (U.S. Air Force photo)

5. A-37 Dragonfly

It’s interesting to see programs, like OA-X, that are arguably trying to re-invent the wheel. The A-37 was a good counter-insurgency plane that carried a decent payload and was used as a forward air control plane. Equipped with some modern weapons, like the AGM-114 Hellfire, it’d do the job of a Light Air Support aircraft, and the RD costs will be lower.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
OA-37B Dragonfly, the FAC version of the A-37. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. F-111 Aardvark/FB-111 Switchblade

The Air Force has a small bomber force: 76 B-52H Stratofortresses, 62 B-1B Lancers, and 20 B-2A Sprits. Having only 158 aircraft for a job can result in a force being spread very thin. Thankfully, there’s be an option for supplementing that force. The F-111 and FB-111 didn’t have the long range of these heavy bombers, but they can carry one heck of a payload — just the thing to deal with a horde of Russian tanks.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
General Dynamics F-111F at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

3. MH-53 Pave Low

The V-22 Osprey is a very nice aircraft and marked a huge leap in technology. That being said, the MH-53 Pave Low had its own advantages as well. The Air Force had 41 of these helicopters, and currently has 46 CV-22 Ospreys. The Osprey was introduced to replace the Pave Low, but maybe it would have been better to have as a complement. We know this technically isn’t a “plane,” but it’s hard to deny this fantastic airframe.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
A U.S. Air Force MH-53 Pave Low. Thomas J. Task flew a similar helicopter within 30 miles of Baghdad to rescue a downed pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo)

2. A-7D Corsair

This little-known Air Force variant of a Navy attack plane could also be used to free up existing long-range bombers. The A-7D can carry up to 15,000 pounds of bombs and a M61 cannon with over a thousand rounds of ammo.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
Three USAF A-7Ds in formation. Air Force Corsairs flew thousands of sorties with only four losses. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1. OV-10D Bronco

If you think the OA-X program brings about good planes, take a look at what the OV-10 Bronco can do. It can carry four machine guns and 3,600 pounds of ordnance. Plus, it had a top speed of 244 knots and a maximum range of 1,200 nautical miles, according to Boeing.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade
OV-10G+ operated by SEAL Team 6. (U.S. Navy photo)

Which planes from the Air Force’s past would you like to see make a comeback?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military caregivers file lawsuit against the VA

Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.

In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.


According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.

In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.

In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.

The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.

Wilmot had been injured during a 2009 deployment to Mosul, Iraq, when the Humvee he was riding in came under small-arms fire and crashed. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured portions of his back and pelvis and nearly lost his left arm. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder and memory loss.

The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.

Then came the dismissal.

“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.

The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”

Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”

According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.

They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.

The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.

The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what it was like to be marooned in the age of sail

Marooned. Left on a sandbar or other island in the middle of nowhere with just a little food, water, and a loaded pistol to end your suffering. In the world of pirates, it was a punishment for breaking the pirates’ code – and was usually fatal. But the real-life Robinson Crusoe survived his marooning and lived to tell the tale of life on an island in the middle of nowhere, completely alone.


Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

Not a Wilson in sight.

Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish sailor with William Dampier’s second expedition to circumnavigate the globe while privateering; legally pirating Spanish ships. Selkirik was aboard a 16-gun ship named Cinque Ports, a ship that was rather unseaworthy. When Selkirk repeatedly complained to Dampier and the captain of the Cinque Ports, the men decided to maroon him on an island off the coast of Chile.

Selkirk didn’t die there, however. While the Cinque Ports later sunk with almost a total loss of her crew, Selkirk survived and was rescued by English privateer Woodes Rogers… four years later. All that for wanting to make repairs to the ship – a ship he was right about needing repairs. The crew that did survive the ships founding off of Colombia were captured by the Spanish and imprisoned.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

Which, historically, does not end well.

The islander spent much of his time at first at the shoreline, scanning for ships and eating seafood. But eventually, the sounds of mating sea lions drove him further inland. Despite suffering from crippling loneliness, he managed to domesticate the island’s wild goats and cultivate the local vegetation. He was eventually attacked by the island’s wild rat population, but simply domesticated feral cats to stave off the attackers. He even built two huts from the trees that grew pepper plants.

He soon began to hunt by hand and spear, as his gunpowder was in limited supply anyway. He also began to make new clothes from the skins of his goats. The only ships that stopped on his island were Spanish. Not only did he not get a rescue, he had to hide lest the men torture and imprison him. But eventually, he was rescued by British seamen.

Why this schoolteacher grew a beard for a decade

Which, historically, does not end well.

The British sailors were astonished at the life Selkirk made for himself. He had survived an accidental fall from a cliff, learned to hunt and clean the wild animals of the island, and was the picture of physical fitness. Selkirk was even able to address the ships’ illnesses and clear its sailors of scurvy. Selkirk was able to maintain his sanity because the captain of the Cinque Points left him a bible to read and entertain himself. By the time the English came for him, he was still of sound mind, able to command a prize ship and even returned to privateering against the Spanish.

Selkirk was even one of Daniel Defoe’s inspirations for the title character of Robinson Crusoe. The story of the marooned sailor just goes to show no matter how tough things might seem, a little perseverance might see you through. Alexander Selkirk became a national hero while the people who marooned him died tragically, despite his warnings.

Articles

This Corpsman saved a Marine suffering from a sniper head shot

On Oct. 18, 2006, Justin Constantine was deployed to Al-Anbar Province, Iraq when a sniper shot him in the head.


He had just stepped out of his Humvee to warn a reporter about the sharpshooter operating in the area when the enemy took the shot.

“He [the reporter] told me later that based on that [Constantine’s warning] he took a big step forward and a split second later a bullet came in right where his head had been and hit the wall between us,” Constantine, who retired a Marine lieutenant colonel, said in the video below. “Before I could react, the next bullet hit me behind the left ear and exploded out of my mouth, causing incredible damage along the way.”

Related: This is how a military death can affect generations of families

Constantine’s original prognosis was “killed in action,” but thanks to a quick-thinking 25-year-old Navy Corpsman, he lived.

“Even though blood was pouring out of my skull in what was left of my face, George was somehow able to perform rescue breathing on me, and then he cut open my throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy so that I wouldn’t drown in my own blood,” he added.

The Corpsman’s first aid was so perfect that Constantine’s plastic surgeon at the Naval Hospital thought another surgeon had performed the procedure.

He retired from the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.

Despite his recovery challenges and PTSD, Constantine has led an inspiring post-injury life, helping veterans and civilians overcome adversity. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and others.

He now shares his wisdom and life-saving resiliency lessons he learned in the Corps with all Americans via his “Veteran Calendar” and uses a portion of the proceeds to support the Semper Fi Fund, The Medal of Honor Foundation, and The PenFed Foundation.

Watch Constantine tell his incredible story in this TED Talk video:

Justin Constantine, YouTube