'You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood' - vet shares message of unity - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

On Feb. 28, 2021, during the NHL Florida Panthers’ Black History Night home game event at BB&T Center, the team honored local war hero Sergeant Willie Brinson, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, with a special ‘Heroes Among Us’ opening ceremony tribute where Brinson shared his personal military story — along with a powerful message about race & unity: 

“In combat, there’s no race, everybody depends on each other. There’s no black and white situation. You get shot, you’ll bleed red blood,” said the retired Army vet in the video shown in the arena during the game. 

WATCH THE TRIBUTE VIDEO:

Brinson enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1964 and served until 1967. He was deployed to Pleiku, Vietnam, and was wounded in combat on the front lines just ten months later while serving as infantry. Brinson, who attended the game with his wife Brenda, was given a heartfelt standing ovation from Panthers fans and players inside BB&T Center.  

Other highlights from the game included donating portions of the night’s 50/50 raffle to the Urban League of Broward County, a community-based organization dedicated to empowering communities and changing lives in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, jobs, justice, housing, and health. Their mission is to enable African-Americans and others in historically underserved communities to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights.

ALSO READ: What it’s like to be honored as ‘Hero of the Game’

Panthers’ forward Anthony Duclair wore custom Willie O’Ree skates to honor the NHL’s first Black player and amplify the message of social justice, equality, and empathy. Earlier this year, the Boston Bruins honored O’Ree by retiring his jersey No. 22 and raising it to the rafters. While he debuted for the Bruins 63 years ago, it was only three years ago that he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame under the builder category.

“I did something for my country but at the same time I look at the guys who gave their life to defend this country and what it stands for,” proclaimed Brinson. 

As part of the Florida Panthers ‘Heroes Among Us’ program, the team honors a military hero during each home game at BB&T Center with a special opening ceremony and dedicated tribute video shown in the arena during the second period. Since its creation by Florida Panthers ownership in 2013, the ‘Heroes Among Us’ program has honored hundreds of local veterans and encouraged unity within the military community.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 badass women who served

It’s Women’s History Month, and we’d be wrong if we didn’t highlight some of the most badass women to serve within the military’s ranks. Throughout American history, the stories of heroes who are women have often been told as if they were asterisks to everyday heroes. They’re not.

They have always been smart and strong leaders. Unfortunately, they weren’t always given opportunities to prove themselves worthy. But boy, have times changed.


There are women in the infantry, Ranger corps, Cav Scouts and Marine combat units. Can you believe that prior to 2013, there was a ban on women serving in direct combat roles? These old regs are revised, and women are climbing to glory!

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

1. Ollie Josephine B. Bennett

Ollie Josephine B. Bennett was one of the first female medical officers in the U.S. Army and one of the few practicing anesthetists in America. She served during World War I. As a female doctor in the early 1900s, she experienced many firsts. She designed her military uniform because there wasn’t a designated uniform for female surgeons when she served. Of course, that wasn’t her plan. Yet, she used the opportunity to be innovative and inventive. Lt. B. Bennett was a leader. She instructed many soldiers to perform anesthesia at Fort McClellan. After the service, she went on to marry, have a child and live a life of service. She died in 1957 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

2. Marcelite Jordan Harris

Marcelite Jordan Harris, another woman of many firsts, retired from the Air Force in 1997. She became the first African American female brigadier general in the Air Force in 1991, at a time when Black women in America were earning less than ,000 a year. Harris was also the first female aircraft maintenance officer. She received a Bronze Star, Vietnam Service Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation. She was appointed as a member of the Board of Visitors for the Air Force by President Obama. Prior to that, Harris served as an aide during Carter’s Presidency. She embodied the definition of a true patriot. She too, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

3. Molly Pitcher

Today, female service members are continuing the tradition of firsts. The pitchers of water they were once only entrusted to carry and serve, now cools them in the heat of battle. Do you see what I did there? If you don’t know, check out the story of one of the baddest females in battle, Molly Pitcher.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

4. Ayla Chase

Ayla Chase, a Captain, currently serving as a signal officer in the U.S. Army, was one of the first females in an infantry class for the Army. She also completed training for civil affairs. Although she was not selected, she continues to train and prepare for another opportunity to prove herself. Chase is committed to strengthening the physical capabilities of America’s armed forces. She conducts routine late-night ruck marches with her troops during her off time, mentors them and helps cultivate leadership skills within the ranks of her unit. She leads from the front. This woman is so badass, she took on a 100-mile race without training. Who does that and survives on their first go-round?

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

5. Janina Simmons

Speaking of first-time go-rounds, Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons was the first African American female to complete Army Ranger school. This accomplishment is colossal not only for Simmons but for Ranger candidates as a whole. A large percentage of soldiers do not successfully complete the Ranger’s course on their first try. Even Fort Jackson’s Commander Brig. Gen. Beagle was impressed by her work, and he’s not easily impressed. He congratulated her, saying, “Outstanding work by one of the best (non-commissioned officers) on Fort Jackson, and now earning the title of U.S. Army Ranger. Always leading the way.” Simmons earned her way to the top as she put her yes on the table, and went for it all. #Goals.

These women have all faced various obstacles in their military careers. But, they chose to jump, climb, crawl and fight their way to being known as the best. Since the first woman enlisted in the United States Armed Forces in 1917, women have continued to break barriers and shatter ceilings at every turn. We see you ladies. Keep kicking ass and taking names.

A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink. -Gina Carey
MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret Foundation announces historic accreditation by Veterans Affairs

The Green Beret Foundation is the premiere benevolent organization dedicated to the Special Forces soldiers and their families. The organization is now poised to do even more thanks to its newly announced Veterans Services Organization accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation by Veterans Affairs is an accomplishment that GBF is extremely proud of. At this time, it is the only special operations charity to hold the distinction. The organization recognizes the deep impact and importance the accreditation offers and leadership states that they look forward to being able to greatly expand their ability to serve. 

“The overall health and wellness of a Green Beret and their family is our priority, and this accreditation is a testament to our expertise and level of support as the premier benevolent organization in the Special Forces community,” Brent Cooper, Executive Director of GBF shared. 

While the GBF has been supporting its Special Forces soldiers with their needs from the VA for some time, its hands were tied with how much help they could give in many areas. With the new accreditation, the GBF can now walk alongside its soldiers throughout the entirety of the VA claims process, which is known to be cumbersome and difficult to navigate even with support.

John Armezzani is the Veterans Services Director for the claims process with the VA. In a statement posted to the GBF website, Armezzani shared that, “This process, which may range from initiating claims to carrying them through VA and Board of Veterans Appeals hearings when necessary, will greatly enhance the capability of the GBF and its Next Ridgeline program to provide unique assistance throughout the life of our Special Forces veterans.”

One deeply impactful way the Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation will help is by being able to more fully support its soldiers as they leave the military. “This [accreditation] allows the GBF to expand it’s Transition Assistance Program from providing general informational briefings on benefits to filing the benefits claims for those separating service members,” Armezzani explained. 

Not only will the organization be doing more to ensure its Special Forces soldiers receive the support they may need as they get out, but it will be able to be there throughout issues of hardship too. “GBF now has the ability to provide benefits assistance to Green Berets with life events such as change of career or in the event of a catastrophic health event. This includes dependents too,” Armezzani stated. 

As the Special Forces soldiers from the Vietnam War era continue to age, their needs will most likely increase. The VSO accreditation will allow the GBF to step in and support these honored veterans by being their voices in the benefits claims process. “Inherent in this accreditation is the ability to provide benefits assistance to our legacy holders from the Vietnam era as they enter into the twilight of their lives,” Armezzani said.

Perhaps one of the most impactful parts of the announcement is the ability for the GBF to now represent its Special Forces Soldiers in the appeal process. “We will be able to represent Green Berets in appellate actions before the Board of Veterans Appeals when they disagree with a VA decision,” Armezzani said. No longer will they have to fight appeals without support, the GBF will be right there with them and will fight to ensure they are heard.

The ultimate goal of this newly-expanded program is to be able to install a representative at each location where a Special Forces Group is located. This will all be made possible through the generosity of donors and future fundraising efforts. 

The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to ensuring that every single Special Forces soldier is not only honored for their service to this nation but also cared for the way they deserve. Although the VA VSO accreditation is an impressive and important feat to have achieved, GBF is ready to do even more. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coastie receives medal for off-duty rescue

A Coast Guard member became the second woman in its history to receive the Silver Lifesaving Medal.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Sector Mobile, received the medal for saving two swimmers off the coast of Long Island Sound, New York.


‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

Vanderhaden received the medal in July. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

“It was 2018 and I had just moved to New York and was trying to hit every beach in the area. I hadn’t been to Fire Island yet but heard the sunset there was amazing. I have the surf report app on my phone and it said it was going to be six feet. There were people and beach deer everywhere. … But I saw two guys pretty far out in the water and it was like a washing machine out there [with the waves],” Vanderhaden said.

She says she slowly grew more alarmed as she watched and heard someone on the shore yelling “ayúdenme.” Although she couldn’t understand the Spanish word, Vanderhaden sensed something was wrong. Turning to the couple next to her, she asked if they knew what that word meant. They did: Help me.

Turning to the couple next to her, she asked if they knew what that word meant. They did: Help me.

Vanderhaden immediately headed to the water, instructing people to call the police and the nearby Coast Guard station. She took off her shoes, sweater and started swimming. The rip current was so strong, it pulled her to the first man pretty quickly. Since the other man in the water was in more trouble being further out, she let the first know she’d be back for him and to try to stay afloat.

“When I got to the next guy, he was freaking out and climbing on me a lot. I was propping him up on my knee, holding him and telling him it was going to be okay. I don’t even know if he could understand me. Finally, he calmed down and I started swimming with him, pulling and pushing him. Then, we got to the second guy and that’s when things got hard,” Vanderhaden said.

When she reached the second man in the water, he began grabbing at her in obvious terror. Managing him while also keeping the other man and herself above water was a struggle. It took about 10 minutes just to calm them down.

“I started pushing one and pulling the other. I couldn’t see the beach because it had gotten dark and the waves were so high. We finally made it to shore and then the guys were hugging me and thanking me,” Vanderhaden said.

She found out later they were in the water almost 45 minutes.

Once she finished giving her statement to the police, she called her senior chief who was the OIC of her assigned duty station. Vanderhaden just briefly told them she had to talk to police but didn’t go into detail of what happened.

The police thought she was assigned to Coast Guard Station Fire Island but she was actually part of Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck. For about a week, they couldn’t figure out who she was and the sector jokingly started referring to her as the “Ghost Coastie.” It wasn’t until her mom happened to overhear some of the story that the dots finally got connected back to Vanderhaden.

“It was about a week before anyone knew it was me,” Vanderhaden said with a laugh.

Roughly two years later, she received the Silver Lifesaving Medal, with the presenting officer being a familiar face: her father. Vanderhaden’s father, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden, is the top senior enlisted leader for the Coast Guard. Her brother currently serves too.

“For me, the other military branches making fun of us is one thing but I feel people [the public] think we are just police officers on the water. But it’s so much more than that,” she said.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden with her parents. Courtesy photo.

Vanderhaden’s father has served since 1988, making the culture of the Coast Guard all she’s ever known. She was asked if she thinks she would have jumped in to rescue the men if she hadn’t been a coastie.

“That’s a difficult question, because I don’t know anything but the Coast Guard. In my world and for all of people I live with and work around — all of us would do the same thing,” she said.

Then she added a recent conversation she had with a retired Coast Guard master chief who told her that some people think and some people do. He then said, the people who join the Coast Guard do.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

The best way to defeat annoying ‘robocalls’

Ask the Federal Communications Commission’s Patrick Webre when he last received a robocall, and he’ll quickly tell you: yesterday. “I don’t think I’ve received any today,” he says, “but it’s a pretty regular occurrence for me.”

This, of course, only illustrates the extent of America’s problem with automated phone calls. If the chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which oversees rule making efforts regarding issues including robocalls, is himself a repeated victim, are any of us safe from the annoyance?


The stats back it up: In 2017, there were around 30.7 billion robocalls made. The following year? Almost 48 billion. If you were to do the math, the average American would receive a machine-operated call approximately every other day. But some end up receiving way more. One Florida woman received thousands of calls from Wells Fargo bank, with as many as 23 per day. The state you live in can also have an effect. Living in Georgia; Washington, D.C.; or Louisiana? They’re the three states with area codes that receive the greatest number of robocalls per person, with an average of 55 per day, according to a recent report. “We get more robocalls during the day than we do real phone calls,” one resident said. With the number of calls the average American receives coming fast and furious, the machines seem to be winning.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

(Photo by Alexandre Boucher)

“There’s no silver bullet here,” Webre says, “so we’re taking a multi-pronged approach.”

In the last two years, the FCC has been going hard at these companies, levying over 0 million in fines to businesses found in breach of existing regulations. “It’s not only our top consumer complaint, but it’s also our top consumer protection priority,” Webre adds.

Fatherly spoke Webre on a particularly good day (any day without robocalls is a good day) and he recommended measures everyone can take to reduce the presence of robocalls in their life.

1. Do not pick up

When you receive a call from an unknown number, do not answer it. “Our first guidance is, if you don’t recognize the phone number, you should let it go voicemail,” Webre says. The reason for this is simple: Human interaction can be detected by the computer monitoring on the other line, even if you just hang up after a few seconds. This, however, can start a chain reaction in which your number can be marked for increased calling. By screening for unknown numbers, in the system you’re just another no-response.

 2. Check with Your Phone Provider

“Phone companies are providing blocking tools for consumers both on the landline and on the wireless side,” Webre says. Does your provider have these? Best give them a call and ask. In March 2019, Verizon rolled out free services to its wireless customers, simply requiring a signup. ATT and T-Mobile introduced these services two years ago gratis, while Sprint offers a service for an added monthly fee. To activate, you’ll need to contact your carrier to opt in while also having a device that can shoulder the workload. Still, for many, this should be the first line of defense.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

(Photo by William Iven)

3. There’s an app for that

Third-party app makers have jumped into the game with both feet, and they’re providing more and more sophisticated tools to prevent unwanted contact. The FCC even has a handy list here. While each of these apps has its own special sauce, generally speaking, each scans a mega-database of all reported robocall numbers. What it does from there varies. One blocks calls en masse. Another allows you to automatically send calls to voicemail so that you may manually report them to the FCC at a later date. One even allows you to record your own pre-recorded gibberish to was these companies’ time in a cathartic action of schadenfreude.

4. Add yourself to the “Do Not Call” list

Of course, the preexisting “Do Not Call” list continues to grow, and legitimate telemarketers are required to check it and abide by your decision or face stiff fines. After navigating its multi-step verification process, your information is recorded, which should cut your number of unwanted calls. Furthermore, you can also report additional harassing numbers. But one word of caution for those to whom it seems like a catchall panacea: “Unfortunately it doesn’t work well when you have a scammer trying to reach consumers,” Webre says. “They’re not going to check the ‘Do Not Call’ list.”

5. Report every ring

Finally, report any number guilty of harassment, unwanted phone calls, or texts directly to the FCC. Webre says it’s Pai’s most important priority right now, and he’s bringing down a multi-stranded hammer, which includes working with carriers to eliminate the scourge of robocalls from the public experience: “If your phone doesn’t ring, you’re not frustrated, you’re not getting an unwanted call, and we’re all better off for that.”

Featured image by Gilles Lambert.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Blood donation could earn Super Bowl tickets

The American Red Cross and NFL are teaming up this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals – especially those who have recovered from COVID-19 – to give blood and to help tackle the national convalescent plasma shortage.

During this critical time, those who come to donate blood or platelets this January will be automatically entered to win two tickets to next year’s Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.* In addition, those who come to give Jan. 1-20 will also be automatically entered to win a 65-inch television and a $500 gift card.**

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood today with the American Red Cross by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or activating the Blood Scheduling Skill for Amazon Alexa.

“Blood and plasma donors who have recovered from COVID-19 may have the power to help critically ill patients currently battling the virus,” said Dr. Erin Goodhue, Red Cross medical director of clinical services. “With hospital distributions for convalescent plasma increasing about 250% since October, these generous donations are vital in helping to save lives throughout the winter – a time that is often challenging to collect enough blood products for those in need.”

As COVID-19 cases have risen across the U.S., so has the need for convalescent plasma – leading to a shortage of this potentially lifesaving blood product. COVID-19 survivors have a unique ability to make a game-changing difference in the lives of COVID-19 patients. Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 may have antibodies in their plasma that could provide a patient’s immune system the boost it needs to beat the virus.

How those recovered from COVID-19 can help

There are two ways COVID-19 survivors can help – through a convalescent plasma donation or by simply giving whole blood. Plasma from whole blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be used to help COVID-19 patients. Health emergencies don’t pause for holidays, game days or a pandemic – blood is needed every two seconds in the U.S. to help patients battling injury and illness.

Blood donation safety precautions

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. Donors must wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

About blood donation

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

* Terms and conditions apply. Additional information and details are available at https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/super_bowl.html

** Terms and conditions apply. Additional information and details are available at https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/events/super_bowl.html

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army wife competes on NBC’s ‘The Titan Games’

When a locked-down America tunes into the May 25 premiere of NBC’s “The Titan Games”, sports-starved viewers may notice a familiar face competing for the title and $100,000 grand prize: Chantae McMillan Langhorst, the track and field Olympian and nude high-jumper for The BODY Issue of ESPN The Magazine.

“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do “The Titan Games” was its challenges that I have never faced before and will never face again,” McMillan said. “I’m doing obstacles on the show that are strength and cardio all at one time. Each event is over in five minutes, but you’re so fatigued afterward.”


The 32-year-old from Rolla, Missouri knows all about pushing through fatigue. McMillan is not only an elite athlete, but an Army wife to Warrant Officer 1 Devon Langhorst, a helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama and mom to 18-month-old Otto. She is also the daughter of two career soldiers.

McMillan competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a heptathlete and was training for the 2020 Olympic Trials as a javelin thrower when the coronavirus pandemic caused mass cancellations of sporting events. After competing in one track meet in March, organizers of future meets canceled their competitions.

At first, McMillan was unruffled.

“I thought, okay, my next meet will be in May, then trials in June,” she said.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

The Tokyo Olympics and its trials were postponed until 2021. The initial disappointment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” she says.

“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,'” McMillan said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, because from March to June I didn’t know if I could be where I wanted to be, so I was kind of stressed out.”

McMillan lost her 64-year-old father in 2015 to appendectomy complications, right before failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games. She bounced back, becoming an Army wife and mom in 2018 and switching from heptathlon to javelin, one of her strongest events.

She’s still aiming for Olympic glory — just a year later than originally planned. She and her coach, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Kibwe Johnson, are training her body as if she were throwing her way through a normal season.

“A couple weeks ago, coach asked me where my strength is, and I feel the strongest I’ve felt in years,” McMillan said. “I feel very powerful. Now it’s just translating onto the field. I feel so strong.”

That strength has not gone unnoticed by those outside the track and field world. In November, a casting producer for “The Titan Games” asked McMillan to audition for the show’s sophomore season after seeing her training photos and videos on Instagram.

McMillan auditioned alongside thousands of others to be a competitor. She succeeded and spent the first two weeks of February filming in Atlanta. Not only did she get to meet Dwayne Johnson, the show’s host, McMillan also connected with plenty of fellow athletes.

“It was very amazing, being around so many people who are likeminded and striving to be the best they can,” McMillan said. “It has still carried on to this day to motivate me to be better.”

The show’s obstacles, designed for 13 episodes with entertainment in mind, were vastly different than the pure “run-jump-throw” actions McMillan said she is used to in track and field.

“They’re just weird obstacles that challenge you in ways you never thought you could be challenged,” McMillan said.

This season of NBC’s show pits professional titans like Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, UFC fighter Tyron Woodley and “American Ninja Warrior” star Jessie Graff against “everyday” athletes like McMillan. Four of the 36 competitors are active-duty military members.

Viewers can expect to be surprised at who makes it to Mt. Olympus, the show’s ultimate event, McMillan said.

“I think people will be able to connect with all of us, the way our stories are going to be told,” she said. “It’s not every day you’re around motivated people like that.”

Visit https://www.nbc.com/the-titan-games for information on upcoming episodes of The Titan Games.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

This military family’s dog came back from the dead to rejoin them

It’s hard to say goodbye to a loved one, even if they may not understand what “goodbye” means. When the Harworth Family relocated to South Korea from Fort Bragg, they had to leave behind Zeus, the family dog. Putting Zeus under the care of a family friend, they took off for Asia in 2012 with the hopes that they would see Zeus again.

Just a few months later, the friend told Ben Harworth that his beloved Chow Chow-German Shepherd-Rottweiler-mixed best friend had died. The family was devastated.


‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity
The Harworths’ dog, Zeus.

Time went on and the Harworth’s pain over losing their family friend slowly eased and life continued as it always had — but that’s not where the story ends.

Much after the dog’s reported demise, Laura Williams of Durham, N.C., picked up what looked like a Rottweiler along the roadside. It was thin and gaunt but otherwise looked like a healthy dog. She picked him up and took him to the nearby Banfield Pet Hospital where veterinarians found the canine was microchipped. The information on the chip told them that the dog’s name was Zeus and that he belonged to the Harworth Family.

The Raleigh-based hospital called the Harworths — who were living in Washington State in 2015. When the family found out their beloved Zeus, presumed dead for three years, was actually alive, they were ecstatic.

“We all got chills,” Williams told Raleigh’s CBS affiliate WNCN. “The girl from the vet got chills. I got goosebumps and I almost started crying because, for the past three years, they thought their dog was dead.”

The hospital arranged a Skype reunion between the family and their dog – Zeus’ tail wagged furiously for the entire duration. Sadly, this was the only meeting they could arrange at the time. Zeus was suffering from heartworm and was unable to fly the 3,000 miles to the Harworths’ new home.

But don’t worry — the story doesn’t end there, either.

Banfield Pet Hospital covered the cost of treating Zeus’ heartworm, but the employees there went a step further. Banfield’s practice manager, Rachel Overby, decided to drive Zeus home. She took him nearly 3,000 miles to reunite Zeus with his family after three long years.

Zeus was met by Ben, Melody, and the entire Harworth family (along with a crew of reporters who followed the journey on Instagram with the hashtag #GetZeusHome). Tears no doubt filled everyone’s eyes as Zeus climbed out of the van that made the cross-country trip to get him home.

The only difference in the Harworth family was the addition of Bear, a nine-pound Chihuahua that joined the family after Zeus’ supposed death.

No one is sure why the Harworths’ family friend told them Zeus passed away or even how Zeus managed to make it from the Fayetteville area to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. The Harworths hadn’t spoken to that friend in the three years since Zeus’ alleged passing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Space Medal of Honor is the highest award for astronauts

On Oct. 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter wrapped the Space Medal of Honor around the neck of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon. It was the first-ever of such medals awarded, even though the medal was authorized by Congress in 1969 — the year Armstrong actually landed on the moon.

Better late than never.


‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

Astronaut Neil Armstrong received the first Congressional Space Medal of Honor from President Jimmy Carter, assisted by Captain Robert Peterson. Armstrong, one of six astronauts to be presented the medal, was awarded for his performance during the Gemini 8 mission and the Apollo 11 mission.

(NASA)

The list of men also receiving the Space Medal of Honor that day was a veritable “who’s who” of NASA and Space Race history: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and — posthumously — Virgil “Gus” Grissom. They received the medal from the President of the United States, in the name of Congress, and on the recommendation of the NASA administrator.

Today, as the list of Space Medal of Honor recipients grows, it continues to have such esteemed names joining their ranks, as earning it requires an extraordinary feat of heroism or some other accomplishment in the name of space flight while under NASA’s administration. Just going to the moon doesn’t cut it anymore — Buzz Aldrin still does not have one.

Read: Watch Buzz Aldrin punch a moon landing denier in the face

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

President Clinton presented the Congressional Space Medal of Honor to Captain James Lovell for his command of the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 mission. Actor Tom Hanks portrayed Lovell in the movie Apollo 13 the same year he received the medal.

(Clinton Presidential Library)

Recipients can also receive the award for conducting scientific research or experiments that benefit all of mankind in the course of their duties. In practice, however, most of the recipients of the Space Medal of Honor died in the course of their duties. The crew of the ill-fated Challenger disaster who died during liftoff and the crew of the Columbia shuttle, who died during reentry are all recipients. To date, only 28 astronauts have earned the Space Medal of Honor, and 17 of those were awarded it posthumously.

Though the award is a civilian award, it is allowed for wear on military uniforms, but the ribbon comes after all other decorations of the U.S. Armed Forces.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Wild Gang is a group of seven fiancées who have lost their military partners, and they’re fighting for more awareness

Kathleen Bourque’s life with her fiancée Marine 1st Lt. Conor McDowell, was cut tragically short following a vehicle rollover accident that killed McDowell. Now, Bourque is channeling her grief into awareness about military vehicle rollovers.  

In May 2019, Bourque’s fiancée was killed in a military training accident, days after being promoted, and just three months before their planned September wedding. Her life with her intended was cut tragically short after the accident that happened at Camp Pendleton. 

McDowell and his crew set out on a route reconnaissance exercise with an order to recon Canyon Road at Camp Pendleton in preparation for a division-sized movement. Then McDowell made the decision to move the LAV off-road and drive it into tall vegetation, which isn’t unusual for cover and concealment. Light armored recon Marines are routinely taught that roads are dangerous and should be avoided to eliminate dust signatures. 

The LAV that McDowell and his crew were operating crept slowly into six-foot-tall vegetation, which obstructed the driver’s vision. A corporal stood up and yelled for the driver to halt, but it was too late. The Marines inside never saw the ditch. The LAV plummeted down a 15-foot washout and rolled upside down. A command investigation obtained by the Marine Corps Times detailed that McDowell used his last moments alive to alert his crew that the vehicle was about to roll, actions that might’ve spared others more serious injury. Several of McDowell’s crew were injured. 

The couple met in 2018 after connecting on a dating app, Hinge. McDowell had just graduated from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course in Virginia and was headed to Camp Pendleton for his next assignment. But before heading out west, McDowell took an 800-mile detour and went to visit Bourque in her North Carolina home. They spent just four days together before making the decision that Bourque would move with McDowell to California. Friends and family balked at the choice, but the couple was steadfast that it was the right thing to do.

The couple settled into life as much as they could. As a military girlfriend, Bourque had limited access to on-base resources. She couldn’t shop at the commissary, access fitness facilities, go to the MCX or check out books in the library. In the military, you’re either married or you’re single – there is no in-between. So when McDowell died, Bourque found herself and her status in limbo. She had to fight with McDowell’s chain of command to have her dead fiancé’s things shipped back across the country because she wasn’t listed as the next of kin on McDowell’s paperwork. At his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Bourque was told to “stand back” because she wasn’t considered, in the eyes of the military, “immediate family.”

Now she’s banded together with six other military fiancés who have lost their partners to military accidents, and she’s lobbying for change. As a group, they fight for their relationships to be considered valid in the eyes of the military. Because none of the Wild Gang was married, they don’t receive any Gold Star benefits and are largely forgotten by the larger military community.

Bourque thinks the accident should never have happened and has been reaching out to lawmakers on Capitol Hill to act on military vehicle rollover accidents. McDowell was one of four marines who died in a military vehicle rollover during training exercises in 2019. His death represents a slight uptick in non-combat-related tactical vehicle deaths for the Marine Corps. However, data from the Naval Safety Center shows that Marine tactical vehicle mishaps are at a ten-year low.

That disconnect is part of what Bourque is fighting for. Recognition as a military widow and the fact that some vehicle deaths might go unreported keeps her fighting for McDowell’s memory. She maintains that widows, no matter their official marriage status, should be treated unequivocally with the same level of respect across all branches of the military.

MIGHTY CULTURE

High explosives and low temps: Special Forces in Alaska

Editor’s Note: This is part two of George Hand’s story about his Special Forces team operating in Alaska. Read part one here.

I admit I got some pretty decent shuteye in that Patrol Base (PB). I ate cold food because I just don’t care, plus heating food is such a hassle in the field. I did heat up a canteen cup of coffee, and of course we had plenty of water thanks to the run to the babbling brook.

I took my shift on security which was sitting in a Listening Post/Observation Post (LPOP) a few hundred meters to the rear of our PB for a few hours being quiet, listening, and — you guessed it — observing. It was the usually tearful boredom save for the herd of Caribou that went meandering some 700 meters out. I had binos hanging around my neck tucked just inside my jacket which made for a closer pleasing eyeful of the herd.


When I was relived, I headed back to the PB and helped build the explosive cutting charges to take down the RF tower. We didn’t want to build those forward in the hide sight because it’s bad policy to plan on doing any work in a hide site other than shutting-up, being still, and freezing.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

To cut the cylindrical steel at the base of the tower we built Diamond charges — shaped like an elongated diamond and duel-primed on both ends of the short axis with blasting caps:

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

(Diamond High-Explosive Steel Cutting Charge [photo courtesy of the author])

C-4, in simple block form, made up the two other charges that were to cut the support cables. Our plan was to tie all three charges in together so they would detonate as near simultaneous as possible. I caught a slight whiff of burning time fuse. Another team was calculating the burn time of the fuse. They cut a length of fuse, burned it, and timed the burn so they would know how long of time fuse they needed to give us three minutes to get away from the tower once the fuse was ignited.

Gosh, a breeze picked up and as God is my witness I saw a piece of paper blow by that looked like a page out of cryptography One-Time Pad (OTP)… and it was! I lunged to grab it. Our Commo Sergeant must have been in the process of encrypting his next message transmission to our Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Anchorage.

I moved to his location and sure enough he was shacking up a message:

“Hey, dick… think you’ll need this?”

“Wha… woah — where did you get that??”

“Oh… it just kinda came blowing by.”

“Bullshit! Gimme that!!”

He snatched it up, struck up a lighter under it, and burned it — a thing he was supposed to do before he ever laid it down.

“Here, sign this, dick!”

He passed his his burn log for my signature as a witness to the burning of the crypto page. He was the best commo man I ever knew, just had some housekeeping issues. He set to constructing his quarter-wave doublet antenna; in those days we used the High-Frequency bandwidth (3-30 MHz) and bounced our radio signal off of the ionosphere. He needed to cut his antenna length to match the frequency he was going to transmit on.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

(An example of a crypto One-Time Pad [OTP] page [photo from the author])

I find it interesting that the Army has not used the HF band for such a long time, depending on satellites and Internet for most of its communication. Now days, satellites are being targeted for disruption, and the military is actually going back to the dependable HF band for backup communications. It was used during the Russian mercenary Wagner Group attack on U.S. troops in Syria; that battle ended in some 250 dead Russians.

Departing our patrol base, we slipped along tundra quietly to our hide sight. When we got close, we could occasionally spy the RF tower target through openings in the bush. Team Daddy halted us and laid us down while he moved forward with an Engineer Sergeant to have a reconnaissance of the terminal hide area.

He was gone long enough for us to get to freezing again. He lead us into the area where we laid down and established our hides: we stretched camouflage nets out low to the ground. We spread foliage on the top and sides were also covered up. Once inside, there was only enough room for two men to lay prone.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

To our front was an open field of some 100 meters by 75 meters. We were just back off of the edge of the field where the men on watch could see the tower and the support corollary building. It was concrete with a pickup truck parked near the door — someone, likely a technician or maintenance person, was in there.

It was time to be cold for the next 24 hours. I went out with our commo man to help him construct an antenna and make his commo shot. He couldn’t do it from our hide site; we had to push back to the rear a thousand meters and sneak that transmission back to the FOB. It was great to be up out of the hide and moving around.

Twenty-four hours later we tore down our hides and packed up our rucks. Leaving the rucks behind, we took six pipe-hitters — half of our Green Beret detachment — and crept through the field ahead toward the tower. The other six pipe-hitters surrounded the target tactically establishing security for the demolitions teams. One of the security teams was blocking the access road incase the pickup returned, upon which they were to pull him out of the vehicle and detain him until the target was destroyed.

Our diamond charge went on smoothly and I paid out lengths of explosive det cord to the cable teams. All went together without a blunder. We collapsed back to our hide site leaving one man to tie in and fire the charges. Security remained in place. Team Daddy was glancing at his watch often, then finally lifted his hand-held radio:

“Bergie, this is Tango Lima, over…”

“Tango Lima, this is Bergie, ready to fire, over…”

“Bergie, stand by to fire in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one — fire!”

Even from our distance we heard the faint *pop* of the two M-60 fuse igniters fire. After about a nervous minute we witnessed brother Bergie, the trigger man, approaching quietly. He had stayed a little while to make sure he had a good fuse burn. I admired his dedication in that instance. He went to his ruck and laid to wait with the rest of us.

Team Daddy in typical fashion was observing his watch and called over his hand-held to the security teams:

“Standby for detonation in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one…”

And there came an ear-splitting *CCCRRRRAAAACCCCCKKKKK* of high-order C-4 expanding at 24,000 feet per second followed seconds later by a ground-shaking cacophony of steel slamming onto the ground with sheiks and groans of twisting steel.

“Security, collapse to hide site,” Team Daddy called out, followed seconds later by the panting pipe-hitters from the security perimeter. We threw on our rucks and stepped out smartly some 90 degrees from our original target approach azimuth.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

(Destroyed tower [photo courtesy of the author])

Approximately 20-minutes into the walk, our Senior Medic pulled Team Daddy aside for some bad news; he had left his hand-held radio back at the hide — major blunder. How could we possibly return to the target so soon after destruction? We simply had to, that was is just the way it was.

Team Daddy had the men form a PB while he, the medic, and I went back for the radio. The sun had been steadily dropping lower to the horizon. Dark would be to our advantage as we swung around to make our approach to the hide site from the bush rather than the open field.

Doc found his radio immediately once we got there. There were a number of first responder vehicles scattered around the ruined target site with men milling around. We scampered like rabbits back in the direction of the patrol base. With Team Daddy up front and me walking in back, Doc from the middle kept turning around looking with awe on his face.

“What’s the deal, Doc?” I finally had to ask him.

“It’s going back up! The sun is… it’s going back up! It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”

“Well, yee-haw, Daktari… so you saw it too, yeah? You saw the sun not set — was that cool or what??”

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

(“It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”

[photo by Ms. Anne Castle])

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to support homeless veterans

The men and women who serve our country deserve our gratitude and our support, but historically they’ve received a whole lot less. Many veterans in recent decades have struggled to make a smooth return to civilian life, and the programs available to them were lacking. Thousands ended up on the street- a grievous injustice and betrayal to those who deserved our support the most.


The good news is, Americans wanted to do better, and we did! According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless veterans has dropped by 43.3 percent since 2011. Those are some amazing stats, but our work still isn’t done. In 2019, over 37,000 veterans were still without roofs over their heads. The more people who are aware of the problem, the easier it is to fix it. Here’s how you and your family can help bring that number to zero!
‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

Have empathy

We all love to think we’re openminded and understanding, but there’s still a strong stigma against people who have become homeless. Many people in shelters struggle with substance abuse or mental illness. If I give them money, one might think, they’ll just buy alcohol. Why should I fund that? Why should I help someone who won’t help themselves?

Before you go any further, imagine a day in their shoes. Imagine you don’t have a job, and you can’t afford a haircut or clean clothes, so no one will hire you. You might not have a degree, either. You spend most nights alone, cold and shunned from the society you swore to protect. Statistically, 90% of homeless veterans are men, and only 2% are part of a family. In other words, if you’re a homeless veteran, you probably came back from war to no job, no family and no support. Considering substance abuse is closely tied to low income and lack of emotional and social connections, is it any wonder these veterans are struggling? Then, factor in conditions like PTSD and chronic pain, and well…that would push ANYONE to the brink.

Understand that being homeless doesn’t mean a person doesn’t care about getting back on their feet. It means they need help to do it. An easy way to show your support is by offering bottled water, nutritious food or a warm coat. These are small acts of kindness, but they help.

Speak out

Reach out to your local government officials to discuss what your city is doing to help reduce the number of veterans in shelters each night. Push for plans that include affordable housing for veterans, treatment programs for substance use and employment programs. If they don’t have plans in place, ask how programs like that can be launched.

If no one’s listening, make them

If there’s a marked lack of support for homeless veterans in your area, consider starting a coalition. Gather people you know who support the cause and work together to make a difference. Start a canned goods drive, a coat drive or a meal train. Plan a peaceful march to boost awareness. The more visibility your group has, the more city officials will listen.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

upload.wikimedia.org

Volunteer your services

If you happen to be a lawyer, why not use your powers for good? Visit local shelters to help veterans apply for benefits and housing programs that they may not know are available to them. Medical professionals can also help by treating minor injuries and illnesses.

Hire a veteran

If you own a business and need more employees, consider hiring a veteran! While their individual skillsets and qualifications may not match every industry, they’re likely to be hardworking, quick learners, and a great fit for most entry-level jobs.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

Donate

Not everyone has time for hands-on involvement, and we get it. If that’s the case for you, just donate! Organizations like DAV, U.S. Vets and Volunteers of America are great charities to donate to at the push of a button.

And remember, if you see a veteran, whether at a family reunion or on the street…say thank you. A little appreciation goes a long way.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why Neil deGrasse Tyson deserves to be the first Space Force Secretary

There is no living astrophysicist to have a place in the hearts of as many space nerds as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Hell, he even holds the honor of being named People Magazine’s sexiest astrophysicist in 2000, before making his mainstay in the public view with his works to promote scientific advancements and way before he helped declare Pluto the dwarf planet it actually is. ( It has an orbital pattern similar to a comet, it’s beyond the gas giants and lies in the Keiper Belt, and has a surface area just slightly bigger than Russia. Fight me.)

But he has also been a vocal supporter of the Space Force. Once you tear away all the jokes, fantasies, and memes that the internet’s generated the Space Force, you’re left with a very serious take on how to to best look into the future. If or when the Space Force becomes a reality, there’s no single human being better suited to become the first Secretary of the Space Force than Neil deGrasse Tyson himself.


‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

Though he never served in the military and, obviously, not in the Space Force, but that’s never been a disqualifying factor for many of the armed forces’ secretaries.

(NASA photo by Bill Ingalls)

Tyson is no stranger to serving with the United States Government on issues regarding space. In 2001, he served on a government commission to help determine the future of the U.S. aerospace industry. He again served on the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, where he helped cement America’s commitment to once again be the pioneers of the final frontier.

He’s also no stranger to working with both the Air Force Space Command and NASA, the main two predecessors of the proposed Space Force. His work in the American Astronomical Society also places him as a top contender for the role.

‘You get shot in combat, you bleed red blood’ – vet shares message of unity

It’ll be perfect. Tyson could help prevent the film ‘Gravity’ from being a reality. Well, he’s also got plenty of choice words about the film’s scientific accuracy, but that’s beside the point.

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

His appointment would also bring legitimacy to the often-joked-about branch. The true gravity of the Space Force’s responsibility seems to be lost on much of the internet community. In response, Tyson has been making the rounds on the late-night circuit and internet talk shows to showcase the various, great benefits of maintaining a such a force.

As much as we all want to be the first space shuttle door gunner (and trust me, I’ll be the first in line at the USSF recruiter’s office if that job is announced within my lifetime), there are a million other things that the Space Force would realistically be doing.

Treaties bar any overt acts of war in space, but there’s a clause in there about defensive measures. If anyone were to launch a missile at any of the countless military or civilian satellites in orbit (a capacity both China and Russia have both bragged about possessing), there needs to be a way to stop them. Some kind of defensive force.

The Space Force would also act in situations where astronauts become stranded in space, much in the same way the Coast Guard does on the water. This isn’t a problem right now, seeing as there are only six people up there at this very moment, but when space travel becomes more of a reality for many people, it will become one.

There are no officially released statements that outline the details of how the Space Force will be created other than the briefings that say it will happen. Tyson has also never officially shown any interest in heading the Space Force outside of giving it his approval, but when the eventual shortlist of candidates surfaces, we’re hoping Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson tops it.

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