Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Every 80 seconds, an American woman dies of cardiovascular disease. That’s more than every type of cancer combined. We live in a society that has put a great amount of emphasis on educating the masses to identify a heart attack in men, but women present differently. Often the symptoms are misdiagnosed as panic attacks.


The documentary Ms. Diagnosed, sheds light on the problem that women’s symptoms are often not recognized because diagnostic testing has been developed to detect how the disease manifests in men. The documentary highlights a large health disparity between men and women in terms of the care they receive in the United States. Cardiologist Sharonne Hayes, M.D. stresses the importance of women advocating for themselves because, unfortunately, no one else is. This disparity of care translates into even further divisions in professions, like the military, whose statistics are male-dominated.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

For one female veteran featured in the documentary, Kelsey Gumm, it took ten years of fainting spells and misdiagnoses to discover her heart condition. Her first fainting spell occurred in boot camp. Prior to that, she had been a healthy, active teenager involved in dance and athletics throughout high school. At the age of 17, when medical professionals told her she was experiencing anxiety and dehydration, she defaulted to trust. After all, she was in the middle of boot camp, anxiety and dehydration came with the territory. It would take ten years of fainting spells and misdiagnoses before she was sent to a cardiologist.

At the age of 27 Gumm’s military career, the only path she had ever wanted, was over. She was fitted with a defibrillator and pacemaker and began her new civilian life feeling defeated, angry, and scared. All of this could have been avoided. Had Gumm received an EKG prior to enlisting the heart defect would have been discovered, and she would never have gone into cardiac arrest. True, she also wouldn’t have been allowed into the Navy, but she would have been equipped with the knowledge to pursue a healthy life with the heart she had. Knowledge and prevention make for good bedfellows. Today she is living a strong healthier life equipped with a viable plan forward based on facts, a passion for bike riding, and a desire for heart advocacy.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Kelsey Gumm

The military does not give the proper test for detecting heart disease when potential cadets go through the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Physical deformities are screened but not the heart. A simple EKG takes only a few minutes. Those few minutes could save countless lives of men and women.

Gumm’s story is one of survival. Kelsey Nobles of Mobile, Alabama, did not have the same good fortune. In 2019, at the age of 18, she died of cardiac arrest during boot camp. Her’s is not the only story. There are other names, other lives cut short. In 2006 a study published by the American Journal of Cardiology found that between 1977 and 2001, the sudden deaths of women recruits, within 25 days of arriving for training, 81% were due to “reasons that may have been cardiac in origin.”

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

When Gumm was asked why military hearts matter she responded by saying, “Our heroes, our warriors, people serving our country deserve the best health care provided to them. They deserve to have their hearts checked. We are in a stressful job and stress is a leading factor in heart disease. In the military stress is so increased yet we default to thinking these men and women are young and healthy so they can’t be at risk. It simply isn’t true. Anyone can experience this. For something that is so easily tested it is inexcusable for heart health to not be provided for all military—for those in processing, for those serving, and for all veterans.”

The solution is simple. MEPS and yearly physicals should include EKGs.

popular

This is how the Titanic was discovered on an unrelated top-secret mission

The RMS Titanic was billed as “unsinkable.” Many conflicting reasons have been proposed as to why but, nonetheless, they were proven wrong. When the RMS Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, she took with her over 1,500 of her 2,224 estimated passengers and crew.

Countless expeditions were sent to go salvage the wreckage, but it wasn’t until 1985 when it was “suddenly” located. For many years, there was a shroud of mystery surrounding exactly how it was found. The truth was later declassified by the Department of the Navy. As it turns out, finding the Titanic was a complete accident on the part of U.S. Navy Commander Robert Ballard, who was searching for the wreckage of two Navy nuclear submarines.


Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
A simple task, but it was far from what Robert Ballard wanted to do.
(U.S. Navy)

 

Ballard had served as an intelligence officer in the Army Reserves before commissioning into the active duty Navy two years later. While there, he served as a liaison between the Office of Naval Research and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

He spent many years of his life dedicated to the field of oceanography. Even before enlisting, he had been working on his own submersible, called Alvin, with the Woods Hole Institute. He’d continue designing submersibles and technologies until he finished his famous craft, the Argo. The Argo was equipped with high-tech sonar and cameras and had a detachable robot called Jason.

It was then that the U.S. Navy secretly got in touch with Ballard about finding the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion in 1982. Both nuclear submarines had mysteriously sank at some point in the 1960s, but the U.S. government was never clear on what exactly happened.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
Of course, discovering the Titanic was an historic moment, but the Scorpion and the Thresher could be leaking nuclear radiation…
(U.S. Navy)

 

The approximate locations of the submarines were known, but exactly how well the nuclear reactors were holding up after 20 years on the ocean’s floor was a mystery. They sent Ballard and his team to go find out. To cover their tracks, they said they were embarking on a regular expedition to search for the lost Titanic (which, despite the outcome, wasn’t the objective at the time).

The mission was to take four one-month-long expeditions — two months per lost submarine. Ballard asked if he’d ever get the chance to look for the Titanic while he was out there, a chance to fulfill his childhood dream. The Navy struck a bargain. They said that he could look for the sunken behemoth after he found the two subs, if time and funding permitted.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
His theory about the ship splitting in two was also proven.
(NOAA)

 

He received his funding and set off with the French research ship Le Suroit. Ballard kept most of the crew in the dark, opting instead to stick with his cover story of searching for the Titanic. He’d personally go down in a submersible and check on the status of each nuclear reactor and their warheads. He had a rough idea where to look, but he followed debris trails on the relatively smooth ocean floor to get to each destination.

Once he finished checking on the USS Scorpion and USS Thresher, he had twelve days remaining. Between the two wrecks was a large debris field that littered the ocean floor. This was far from where many experts claimed the Titanic would be.

Just like the two submarines, Ballard believed that the Titanic imploded, leaving behind a massive trail of debris as it drifted to its final resting place. He used what he learned from the submarines and applied the same theory to the Titanic.

First he found the ship’s boiler, and then, eventually, the entirety of the hull.

He knew that his remaining time was short and a storm was quickly approaching, so he marked his exact location on the map and returned to the wreckage the following year. For a year, he didn’t tell a soul, for fear of others showing up and trying to remove artifacts from the ship. He eventually returned on July 12th, 1986, and made the first detailed study of the wreckage.

Ballard would later investigate the wreckages of the Bismarck, the RMS Lusitania, the USS Yorktown, John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, and many more. The story of the Titanic, of course, would later be turned into a film that won 11 Academy Awards — which conveniently left out the fact that the ship’s wreckage was actually discovered due to a top-secret government operation.

Articles

10 beautiful quotes about war from Shakespeare’s literature

Teenagers dread reading Shakespeare’s works because the old English can be difficult at times. In fact, Shakespeare deliberately made up words and expanded the English dictionary by extension. It is not hard to imagine a young mind shying away from his written works. However, Shakespeare did not just write about love, but also war. His take on the art of destruction still echoes today.

The arms are fair, when the intent of bearing them is just.

Henry IV

I interpret this as another way of saying “the end justifies the means.” Men can do great things when they believe their cause is just. However, the most evil men who have ever existed believed they were doing good. In essence, to fight, we must be right.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
Pictured: People who thought they were the “good guys.” (U.S. Army photo)

Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, with Até by his side come hot from hell, shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice Cry “Havoc,” and let slip the dogs of war.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was one of the greatest warriors in the history of warfare. Shakespeare’s depiction of him is equally as epic. This quote in particular is famously quoted across many movies and TV shows.

War gives the right to the conquerors to impose any condition they please upon the vanquished.

Julius Caesar

This one is self-evident.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
Japanese General Yoshijiro Umezu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board the USS Missouri, Sept. 2, 1945. (DoD photo)

In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.

Julius Caesar

We can all think of a war or two that were started by asinine reasons. One war was literally fought over a stolen bucket. Other times trivial causes for war are used to justify military action without being ousted as an aggressor.

Your breath first kindled the dead coal of wars and brought in matter that should feed this fire; and now ’tis far too huge to be blown out with that same weak wind which enkindled it.

King John

It’s easier to start a war than to end one. The same goes for trying to control the scope of the war. Things can get out of hand quickly, and stay in chaos for years to come.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
(U.S. Army photo)

I’ll fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked.

Macbeth

Throughout history, countless troops on the losing side of a battle have fought to the last breath. Their stories are often retold as our tales of patriotic heroism.

A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers.

Much Ado About Nothing

This is true. It is much better to cross the wire and return with all your troops, even if there was no contact with the enemy. However, if there is an enemy and there are no friendly casualties in combat, it is definitely double the cause to celebrate.

He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made.

Henry V

Not everybody is cut out for combat. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
)U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña)

Fight, gentlemen of England! fight, bold yeomen! Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head! Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood; Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!

Richard III

Pre-battle speeches are paramount to get the troops fired up. Speaking of war speeches, my favorite film speech is from “We Were Soldiers” delivered by Mel Gibson in his role of Lt. Colonel Hal Moore.

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor.

William Shakespeare

Another that might be self-evident, but carries no less weight. The reason for this warning has played out countless times in human history.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Allies built all-new harbors in a matter of days after D-Day

There was a reason that the Nazis thought the original D-Day invasions were a feint: Aside from the misdirection operations conducted by the Allies, the geography of the beaches made it seemingly impossible to fully supply a large invasion force.

It was seemingly impossible, even with landing ships and Higgins boats, to move enough beans and bullets over the sands.


Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

A line of U.S. Liberty ships deliberately sunk off the coast at Omaha beach to form a breakwater for the Mulberry harbor there.

(U.S. Army)

But the Allies had a secret. They didn’t need to fully supply the invasion for months using only the landing craft, and they didn’t need to race to a port and try to wrest it from fierce defenses. Instead, they had a plan to build their own port, complete with two man-made harbors, in a matter of days just after D-Day. These “Mulberry harbors” would tip the logistics battles in favor of the landed forces.

The inspiration for Mulberry harbors came from the failed Dieppe Raid, which pitted about 6,000 troops against the heavily defended port at Dieppe, France, and resulted in 2,000 Canadians being taken prisoner.

The Allies realized that taking a deepwater port would be a tall order. While the plan for Operation Overload included a follow-on operation against the port of Cherbourg, to be completed in eight days, military planners realized they needed a Plan B.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

A sectional concrete breakwater for the Omaha Beach breakwater is floated towards the French shore, June 1944

(U.S. Navy)

That Plan B ended up being Mulberry harbors, sort of the Ikea solution to deepwater ports. The British needed eight months to build the concrete sections and prepare them for deployment. On June 6, when they got the word that the landing forces were likely to succeed in taking the assigned beaches, a fleet of ships took off towards France carrying these concrete sections.

But the British engineering plan was ambitious. It called not just for a few large piers, but two entire artificial harbors. For those who aren’t familiar with naval activities, this meant that the engineers had to construct what was, essentially, a massive horseshoe stretching hundreds of feet into the ocean to shelter the piers from the worst ocean currents.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

The Mulberry artificial harbor at Arromanches, France, September 1944.

(British Army Sgt. Harrison)

Each harbor had multiple piers with a combined length of six miles. The concrete caissons that made up the piers required 330,000 cubic yards of concrete, 31,000 tons of steel, and 1.5 million yards of steel shuttering.

When the call came to begin construction, the ships took off across the channel and began placing gear in position. Some older ships were deliberately sunk to help form the breakwaters, and the piers were ready to receive supplies a shocking three days after the invasion began.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

But it was hardly a charmed undertaking. The American forces controlled one harbor and the British, Canadian, and Free French forces controlled the other. The British piers were anchored to the seafloor, but the American ones were not, and a June 19 storm demolished the American harbor.

According to an article by Michael D. Hull on Warfare History Network:

The Americans’ harbor was harder hit than Port Winston. The Utah Beach Gooseberry lost several blockships that were torn open, and the Mulberry harbor off St. Laurent was devastated. The breakwaters were overwhelmed by waves, two blockships broke their backs, and only 10 out of 35 Phoenix caissons remained in position. The piers and bombardons were wrecked, and the harbor was eventually abandoned. When the gale finally blew itself out on June 23, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, commander of the U.S. 12th Army Group, went down to the beach to see the damage for himself. “I was appalled by the desolation, for it vastly exceeded that on D-Day,” he said.
Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

This was a huge problem because Cherbourg — slated for liberation on June 21 — was still in German hands. The decision was made to shift what pieces were still functional in the American harbor to the British one and shut down the U.S. effort, doubling the necessity of taking the French port.

While Cherbourg would end up being the greater logistics hub for the Allies through the conclusion of the war, it was the Mulberry harbors that kept Allied logistics alive long enough for Cherbourg to fall. At the height of their use, the Mulberry harbors moved 12,000 tons of cargo and 2,500 vehicles a day.

The harbors were designed for 90 days of hard use, but the British installation actually functioned for a full eight months. The American harbor was used, without the broken piers, for most of the rest of the war as well.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Every step of this story is true.

It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.

The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.


Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)

The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.

A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.

The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.

Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.

After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.

It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.

Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.

That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.

He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.

This was the home that American flag had been brought into.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.

Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.

He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.

He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.

He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.

The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.

Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.

The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.

Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.

Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.

With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.

The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.

An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.

A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.

The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.

Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.

That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This cockpit video shows the moment two Navy Tomcats shot down Libyan MiGs

One of the more constant sources of action for the United States Navy in the 1980s was the Gulf of Sidra.


On three occasions, “freedom of navigation” exercises turned into violent encounters, an operational risk that all such exercises have. The 1989 incident where two F-14 Tomcats from VF-32, based on board the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) is very notable – especially since the radio communications and some of the camera footage was released at the time.

 

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Todd Frantom via Wikimedia Commons

 

In 1981, two Su-22 Fitters had fired on a pair of Tomcats. The F-14s turned around and blasted the Fitters out of the sky. Five years later, the Navy saw several combat engagements with Libyan navy assets and surface-to-air missile sites.

 

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

 

In the 1989 incident, the Tomcats made five turns to try to avoid combat, according to TheAviationist.com. The Floggers insisted, and ultimately, the Tomcat crews didn’t wait for hostile fire.

Like Han Solo at the Mos Eisley cantina, they shot first.

 

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
An air-to-air right side view of a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger-G aircraft with an AA-7 Apex air-to-air missile attached to the outer wing pylon and an AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missile on the inner wing pylon. (From Soviet Military Power 1985)

So, here is the full video of the incident – from the time contact was acquired to when the two Floggers went down.

Intel

How numbers stations like the ones in ‘Black Ops’ worked

The 2010 smash-hit video game Call of Duty: Black Ops featured many of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Cold War. While some of them have been proven false, others are impossible to debunk — but a select few are very much true. One such example is the true-to-life way in which the protagonist receives orders throughout the campaign: through a “numbers station.”


In the game, your character, Alex Mason, listens to a shortwave radio station transmitting from a boat off the coast of Cuba that intends to send a message to Soviet sleeper agents in the States. Unlike the more fantastical elements of the game, there is historical precedent for remote numbers stations being used by spy agencies of the time.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG
Even though thereu00a0wasn’t a gigantic,u00a0climactic battle that took place on one… that we know of…
(Activision)

Before the era of radio encryption, anyone with a radio receiver could listen in on any conversation. Single-channel military radios operate much like the radio in your car, just at a much lower frequency — one that car radios can’t receive. To make sure a secret message wasn’t intercepted by a random person with a radio, agencies used cryptic codes. A well-known example of such secret speech is the American military’s use of Code Talkers.

The other, equally ingenious method was the use of numbers stations. At a given moment and on a known frequency, a one-way message was sent. That message could be, as the name implies, just a string of numbers, either simply spoken or hidden within a specific song or Morse code. The listener would then use a cipher to translate what those numbers meant.

An outed numbers station transmission, The Swedish Rhapsody, sounded like this.

Someone could, for instance, turn on their car radio at exactly 12:34 PM and tune to a station that’s normally just static and hear a person call off a string of numbers, which could then translate into something like, “continue the mission.”

In the case of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, this method was used for espionage purposes. The radio station from which these messages were broadcast roamed the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding detection.

The use of open radio frequencies meant that more than one spy could listen in at the same time. Although never officially confirmed, many spy agencies from around the world have alluded to using them in such a manner.

Numbers stations are, allegedly, still in use. The confirmed Cuban numbers station, Atención, was at the center of an espionage case in the late 90s. Cryptic messages are still broadcast in Cuba at random times to this day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Weekend safety briefs are on the chopping block and it’s about time

Soldiers of the Army, rejoice! It has officially come down from the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper that weekend safety briefs are freakin’ stupid and should be nixed. I’m paraphrasing, obviously — but they have been put on the chopping block.

For everyone not in the know, a safety brief is held after every Friday afternoon formation (or the final formation before an extended weekend), during which the chain of command will lecture the troops on what to do and not to do over the weekend. In short, it’s just one of those boxes to check so the commander can get a warm and fuzzy before they go relax.

The problem is that simply standing in front of adults who’ve dedicated their lives to being warfighters and treating them like kids any time they’re left alone for longer than 24 hours isn’t going to decrease the frequency of legal incidents. There are countless other, more effective ways relaying lessons like, say, buzzed driving is still drunk driving, to troops without simply, bluntly, and repeatedly telling them not to do something.


Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

If you’re the type of person who can’t be dissuaded from driving drunk by being told it’s against the law and it puts the lives of countless others around you at risk, you have no honor and do not deserve to wear the uniform of America’s finest.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)

The standard safety brief always covers three things that are very serious topics:

  1. Don’t drive and drive.
  2. Don’t assault your spouse.
  3. Don’t assault your children.

These are three objectively terrible things that are unbecoming of a United States soldier. Anyone who commits any of these crimes rightfully deserves to have the hammer dropped on their pathetic ass. The problem is that three issues are addressed weekly to satisfy a requirement and they’re rarely given the gravity that they deserve.

To be completely fair to the Army, there are still safety stand-down days that do far more than a PowerPoint slide. There’s been no word as to whether those will still stay around, but those days actually give the situations proper attention and troops come away learning why it’s a bad idea to be inebriated and operate a 2-ton piece of steel at top speeds through an area with filled with innocent people.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

​As long as it’s not a theater-sized PowerPoint, it’s fine.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

There is one positive aspect of a safety brief, however, and that’s when obscure laws are brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds. For example, one of the only individual safety briefs I personally remember (one that stood out from the repeated, standard, “don’t do dumb sh*t” message delivered by a disgruntled infantry first sergeant) was when someone made the blotter (a list of all the troops in legal troubles for an installation) for having an expired fishing license. I was going fishing with some of the guys that weekend and I didn’t even know fishing licenses were a thing (I’m a city boy. Quit judging me). The odd reminders are good things, and there’s a time and place for those even still.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

The ultimate irony is when the senior NCO, who literally screamed at everyone to get a freakin’ taxi, gets arrested for DUI.

(U.S. Army)

In the face of the Army canning safety briefs, some might expect the barracks to turn into some lawless Hellscape running rampant with drunken bastards committing all sorts of felonies. It won’t. Soldiers already know that breaking the law is a bad thing. Any good soldier will continue to stay in line and any sh*tbag soldier would’ve done it anyways — regardless of whether they’ve slept through several weeks of being told not to.

In fact, for many, safety briefs are a lower-echelon commander’s excuse to a higher-echelon commander should anything go wrong. They can turn to their superior and say, “but I told the troops not to do that! My hands are clean!” In reality, I think we all know it never played a role in keeping troops off the blotter.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

A smaller scale safety brief will probably happen, because old habits die hard. Honestly, these might be more effective.

(U.S. Army photo by SFC Lloyd Shellenberger)

The younger troops will be present at each and every safety brief — no exception. Troops of higher ranks will often find some reason to justify an early weekend and skip ’em. Put plainly, not everyone in the unit ever goes to all of them. When was the last time you saw a CW5 endure a safety brief?

And yet, if you take a look at the legal f*ck ups, the ranks of offenders span the gamut. Yes, there are lower enlisted who get locked up by the MPs — Get their asses. They knew it was wrong and did it anyways. Then there’s the senior enlisted who’ve been in for ages and have been present at literally hundreds of safety briefs. I think it’s safe to say that there’s little to no connection between committing a heinous act and the number of times a troop is told not to do such a thing. Simply being told that an obviously terrible something is against the law is not a way to prevent it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

As the United States approaches the 20-year mark of the war on terror, the country continues to lose her service members. But we aren’t losing the vast majority of them to combat with the enemy. Instead, accidents and suicide are inflicting most of the devastation.


In 2019, a Congressional report compiled the data from 2006 through 2019. The results determined that 12,116 of the 16,652 killed in service during that period didn’t die from combat related causes. That’s 73% who weren’t lost due to fighting an enemy during war but instead – most died accidentally or by suicide.

Since 2015, the non-combat related deaths have been outpacing those lost while fighting. According to the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2019, in 2017, almost four times the amount of combat related deaths were attributed to training accidents. The number has continued to grow, causing alarm within the military and government.

These accidental deaths are often attributed to training and safety insufficiencies.

The increasing numbers led many members of the Armed Services Committee to state that America is “at a crisis point.” The committee’s 2019 proposal for funding addressed rebuilding the military so that its members can safely meet the needs of present and future threats to the country. That same proposal called for more training, equipment repair and increased readiness on land, at sea and in the air.
Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

But some of the battles they will face are within their own minds.

Since 2004, the suicide rates for the military have increased substantially. Tragically, 23.2% of all service member deaths from 2006 to 2019 were labeled by the Department of Defense as “self-inflicted.” In 2019, the Air Force’s numbers were trending so high that their Chief of Staff called for a resiliency and suicide prevention stand down, which was unprecedented.

A 2019 historical study within the Army painted a picture for the increased numbers. The data within the study demonstrated that there was a decrease in suicides for the Army during the active combat of the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. But beginning with the Vietnam War, the numbers changed and continued to climb. By 2012, the rates of suicide within the military surpassed the rates of suicide within the civilian world.

Accidental deaths and increasing suicide rates highlight the increased danger that America’s troops encounter a long way from the battlefield. Ensuring that those who raise their right hand to defend this country have effective and safe training environments with working equipment is vital. Their mental health support should also be continual and ongoing, with the stigma of seeking help eradicated from the top down. We owe them all of this – and so much more.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force physician and mom tells her story of heartbreaking loss

Dr. Laura Sidari is speaking out because her family suffered a horrendous loss on Christmas Day 2017.

The Air Force psychiatrist at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and her husband, Dr. Anthony Sidari, a rheumatologist, lost their 4-year-old son, Leon, to complications of influenza. He passed away at a medical facility elsewhere from bacterial pneumonia following the flu, two days following onset of symptoms on Dec. 23, 2018.

Although the Sidari family had vaccinated for the flu in prior seasons, Leon died prior to receiving his flu shot that season, Sidari said. He had been scheduled to be vaccinated Jan. 3, 2018.


“Last year, if I had seen a story like my own, I would have prioritized the flu shot differently,” she said. “As a physician, even I was unaware of the significant risk that the flu posed to my healthy child. Through reaching out to others, including other physician parents, I have discovered that I am not alone in that misconception.”

“Leon’s story places a name and a face — a beautiful and loved and special human being — behind the numbers that are often buried in databases and scattered across headlines,” Sidari said. “As difficult as it is for me as a mother, I share Leon’s story so that someday other families may not have to. As I have devastatingly learned through Leon, flu-related complications are often aggressive and difficult to treat.”

Healthy children may be more at risk for suffering a flu-related death. Research of flu-related deaths provides evidence for the flu shot providing a 65 percent reduction in risk for flu-related mortality in healthy children, and a 41 percent reduction in mortality risk for children with pre-existing medical issues. Approximately 80 percent of children who pass away each season from flu-related complications did not have their flu shot that season.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Four-year-old Leon Sidari passed away from bacterial pneumonia following the flu two days after the onset of symptoms on Dec. 25, 2017.

“Being healthy is a risk factor for rapid death,” Sidari said. “I didn’t even know that as a physician. Compared to other pediatric populations, they die more quickly.”

As of Oct. 6, 2018, there have been more than 180 children lost to the 2017-2018 influenza season, according to online information published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of these children died before reaching the hospital.

Sidari is quick to point out that she is speaking only from her perspective as a mother — not a pediatric specialist — who made sure her children received every vaccination recommended. After Leon’s death, she tried to learn as much as she could about influenza in the hope that the Sidari family’s then 2-year-old son, Tristan, and 7-week-old son, Cameron, would not also pass away.

“I really wanted to understand the likelihood that we were going to lose our other children,” she said. “That’s how I found this information.”

The mother, with the full support of her husband, now wants to dispel the common misconception that good health affords protection against the flu, and the entire Sidari family received flu shots at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center immunization clinic the first week of October 2018.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend the flu shot for everyone older than the age of 6 months with few medical exceptions.

The Sidari family faces this holiday season without their first-born, who loved Christmas. His mother remembers him as good big brother who was kind and sensitive, loved cats and gave compliments. Small things are what mattered to him.

“Nothing prepares you as a parent for coming home and having to unwrap Christmas presents for a child who never can,” she said.

“As parents, there are many demands on our time and energy, particularly around the holidays,” Sidari said. “The flu shot can too easily and understandably slip through the cracks due to busy schedules.

“In my experience, it is worth prioritizing this time of the year. This is a necessary appointment. Bringing awareness to the flu shot will not bring Leon back. I do, however, believe in the healing power of connecting with others,” she said.

She also encourages people to explore multiple options if flu shots are unavailable through their usual source.

“It is my hope that Leon’s story can help save lives,” Sidari said. “Especially for children like Leon, I encourage other families to consider making the flu shot a priority, this season and every season. It’s the best way of reducing risk we have. #FluShotsForLeon.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vultures are taking over a Customs and Border Protection radio tower

For a radio tower and surrounding buildings operated by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) near the Texas-Mexico border, vultures are no joke. Around 300 of the carnivorous birds have roosted in its radio tower, and are creating communications issues thanks to their corrosive vomit and feces.

Quartz reports that CBP filed a request for information that includes details about the problems the vultures have created at the radio tower, which is now entirely coated in “droppings mixed with urine” that have also fallen on the ground and surrounding buildings below, where people work and equipment is kept.


Furthermore, a CBP spokesperson told Quartz that workers have anecdotes of the vultures dropping prey from as high as 300 feet above, creating a “terrifying and dangerous” work environment for the past six years.

Vultures regurgitate a corrosive vomit as a defense mechanism that can kill bacteria on their legs but also eat away at the metal radio tower, making it unsafe for maintenance workers to climb it and reducing the tower’s lifespan.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

An adult Turkey Vulture at Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, USA.

(Photo by Don DeBold)

Large groups of vultures also smell like corpses – the species is known, of course, for feeding on dead flesh, or carrion. Undigested bones and fur can be found at the base of where vultures roost.

But CBP can’t kill the vultures, as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act made that illegal in 1918. Instead, the agency is searching for a “viable netting deterrent” to stop the vultures from roosting on the radio tower. CBP told Quartz that it’s working with the Fish and Wildlife Agency, the USDA, environmental experts, and the Texas State Historical Preservation Officer to find a solution that doesn’t harm any of the vultures.

The agency also says there are no nests or baby birds in the tower. There are plans to clean and repair the radio tower before installing nets by August, before the natural heavy roosting cycle begins in the fall.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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Humor

6 things you’ll never hear an infantryman say

If you know anyone who has served in the infantry, then you’ve probably noticed that they have a… unique sense of humor. They have this amazing ability to make everything they say sound super sarcastic. It’s a gift that gets passed down through many generations of infantrymen. It’s what gives them the incredible ability to be seemingly unaffected by the endless stream of bullsh*t that life in the infantry provides.

Other service members (read: POGs) have a hard time understanding just how tough it is to serve in the grunts. Considering the nature of their job — killing the bad guys — life in the infantry breeds some pretty crass humor. The hard-chargers use every curse word in the book and, when “the book” is exhausted, they’ll make up new ones. Although few topics are taboo among grunts, there are a few things you’ll never hear them say.


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“Heading out to the field is my favorite way to start a Monday morning.”

This infantryman needs theirs head checked if this ever spills out of their mouth.

“I think I’ll stay in all weekend to do all my online training.”

The sad thing is that many of the senior enlisted, who were once juniors, try and influence their men to stay in and study. It’s a strange world we live in…

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“No beer’s allowed in the barracks? I’m okay with that.”

Underage drinking is illegal — but is extremely common in the barracks. Getting caught with beer, really, isn’t a big deal. Despite that, we always find ways to hide it before field day inspection on Fridays: we drink it ahead of time.

“Barracks duty on a four-day weekend? That’s what I’m talking about!”

The military requires that there always be a set of open eyeballs lurking around the barracks. Getting ‘voluntold’ to stand duty while everyone else is off having fun is a real b*tch.

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“I joined the military thinking my senior enlisted would truly respect my opinion and that’s exactly what happened.”

Nope! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone care what an E-1 has to say.

“Man, I hope we go on a long hike in the pouring rain.”

Nobody wishes it, but it happens all the time. Even when there’s not a blemish in the sky, as soon as a grunt unit steps off for their ruck march, dark clouds rush in and piss on everything.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane victory that inspired the Confederate army’s only medal

The Confederate Army had better things to do than decide how it would award medals to its fighting men. In that era, Americans weren’t really into medals and ribbons, as it was considered a very European military tradition. The Civil War changed all that. The brutality of the war, combined with the feats of heroics performed by those who fought it inspired the need for such awards.

That being said, the Confederacy had its heroes as well, but aside from a Confederate Congressional “Roll of Honor,” nothing much was ever done in terms of awards and decorations – until the Second Battle of Sabine Pass.


Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Sabine Pass is a small outlet from Lake Sabine that pours into the Gulf of Mexico, bordering both Texas and Louisiana. During the Civil War, it was a lightly defended Western outpost, far from the central fighting of the war. As a result, the shoddy earthwork fortifications at the pass had mostly old smoothbore cannon to defend it, eight guns in total. But then the French installed a pro-French Emperor in Mexico, opening the possibility for Confederate supplies to reach Mexico by rail, then onto Europe under French-flagged ships, completely circumventing the Union blockade and providing the South with crucial money, arms, and supplies.

The Union sent 5,000 troops, 18 transports, and four armed gunboats to capture the pass and cut the South off from French Mexico. Defending the fort were the Jeff Davis Guards, named for the Confederate President, 47 Irish immigrants from bigger cities in Texas, and well-trained and drilled artillerymen. This was the largest amphibious assault ever taken by the United States until this point so you’d think the Union would have come prepared. You’d be wrong. So wrong.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Only the lightest of the Union ships could enter the river, due to the shallow nature of the entryway. Four steamers and 150 Union sharpshooters were to cross the sandbars then take out the fort and its guns so the rest of the Union force could take the town and then move on to Houston. That never happened. Instead, accurate cannon fire from the fort hit one of the steamers in her boiler, disabling another and grounding the USS Arizona. The two ships surrendered, and the rest of the invasion force ended up running back to New Orleans.

In all, the battle last 45 minutes. The Davis Guards fired 137 rounds from their eight guns, dwarfing the Union’s rate of fire and ensuring those guns couldn’t be used for weeks after the battle. The handful of Confederates then went to capture the Union troops on the disabled ships, taking 315 Union troops prisoner. The Union forces suffered a further 19 killed and nine wounded at the cost of zero casualties to the Confederates. It was the most lopsided victory of the war.

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Richard Dowling, commander of the Davis Guards, wearing his medal.

Grateful Texans decided to reward the men for not only staying at their posts in the face of overwhelming odds, but for actually winning. They cast medals from Mexican silver coins, engraving “DG” on one side with a Malta Cross and the date of the battle on the other. It was hung on the uniform by a green ribbon, representing the Irish heritage of the fort’s defenders. In all, 47 were awarded to the men, with two more awarded to their officers, and one struck just for their namesake, Jefferson Davis. Davis ensured the Confederate Congress authorized the medal for wear, the only medal so authorized.

The President had his on him when he was captured after the war’s end.

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