Destroyers, in general, don’t get as much love as they deserve for their contribution to World War II. The USS Aylwin is not different, even though her crew managed to do what few others could, which was to take the fight to the sucker-punching Japanese Navy and naval air forces during and after its attack on Pearl Harbor.
Despite having only half the necessary crew and being commanded by an Ensign, the Aylwin was out on patrols immediately.
The Aylwin was moored at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, with other ships from her Pacific squadron. Like most ships, roughly half of its crew were out on liberty or leave when the Japanese arrived in Hawaii. She had only one boiler going, strong enough to power only a few of the ship’s systems. That’s when the Utah was hit by a torpedo.
Even with only half her crew and being under the command of Ensign Stanley B. Caplan – that’s an O-1 for you non-Navy folks – the Aylwin was returning fire within three minutes of the Japanese attacks. A few minutes after that, her remaining boilers were lit. And a few minutes after that, Aylwin was making her way into the channel and into the open sea. This destroyer wasn’t going to be a sitting duck if she could help it.
As she left the harbor, Aylwin maintained a deadly, continuous rate of fire that would have dissuaded even the most daring of pilots from pressing their attack on the destroyer. Pearl Harbor, at that moment however, was a target-rich environment for both sides. The skies were filled with Japanese planes, and the grounds and harbor area were littered with military targets, planes, ships, and more. Zero after Zero came after the U.S. ship but were chased away as Ensign Caplan and his men fired everything they had at their pursuers. The machine gunners on the decks of the Aylwin claimed to have downed at least three enemy fighters.
Caplan and company began an immediate combat patrol, looking for enemy submarines in the area, as were her standing orders in case of such an attack. An unknown explosion and an attempt to depth charge an enemy submarine were the most notable events of the next few days. For 36 hours, Ensign Caplan knew what it meant to be the captain. The ship and the rest of its crew joined the task force around the USS Lexington and headed to Wake Island by Dec. 12.
The Aylwin would survive the war mostly intact, but with 13 battle stars for her contributions to the fighting at Midway, Attu, and Okinawa, just to name a few.
US military snipers have to be able to make the hard shots, the seemingly impossible shots. They have to be able to push themselves and their weapons.
Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a veteran Marine Corps scout sniper who runs an advanced urban sniper training course, walked INSIDER through his most technically difficult shot — he fired a bullet into a target roughly 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) away with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.
The longest confirmed kill shot was taken by a Canadian special forces sniper, who shot an ISIS militant dead at 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles, in Iraq in 2017. The previous record was held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot and killed a Taliban insurgent from 2,475 meters away.
“There are definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told INSIDER. “Anything is possible.”
Weapons Company scout sniper and Lufkin, Texas, native Hunter Bernius takes a shooting position during field training at an undisclosed location.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tommy Huynh)
Snipers are trained to scout the movements of enemy forces often from very exposed positions, and are also used to target enemy leaders and to pin down their forces. These dangerous missions require they become masters of concealment, as well as skilled sharpshooters.
While 2,300 meters may not be a record, it is still a very hard shot to make.
US military snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters. At extreme ranges, the Marine is pushing his weapon past its limits. The M107 semi-automatic long range sniper rifles used by the Marine Corps can fire accurately out to only about 2,000 meters.
“Shooting on the ground can be easy, especially when you are shooting 600 meters in or 1,000 meters in. That’s almost second nature,” Bernius explained. “But, when you are extending it to the extremes, beyond the capability of the weapon system, you have all kinds of different things to consider.”
At those longer ranges, a sniper has to rely a lot more on “hard math” than just shooter instinct.
Bernius, a Texas native who has deployed to Iraq and other locations across the Middle East, made his most technically difficult shot as a student in the advanced sniper course, a training program for Marine Corps sharpshooters who have already successfully completed basic sniper training.
“When I came through as a student at the course I am running now, my partner and I were shooting at a target at approximately 2,300 meters,” Bernius explained. “We did in fact hit it, but it took approximately 20-25 minutes of planning, thinking of everything we needed to do with calculations, with the readings.”
Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)
At that distance, it takes the bullet roughly six to eight seconds to reach the target, which means there is a whole lot of time for any number of external factors to affect where it lands.
“You have all kinds of considerations,” Bernius told INSIDER, explaining that snipers have to think about “the rotation of the earth, which direction you are facing, wind at not just your muzzle but at 2,300 meters, at 1,000 meters, you name it.”
Direction and rotation of the earth are considerations that most people might not realize come into play.
Which direction the sniper is facing can affect the way the sun hits the scope, possibly distorting the image inside the scope and throwing off the shot. It also determines how the rotation of the planet affects the bullet, which may hit higher or lower depending on the sniper’s position.
“This is only for extreme long range, shots over 2,000 meters,” Bernius explained.
Other possible considerations include the temperature, the humidity, the time of day, whether or not the sniper is shooting over a body of water (it can create a mirage), the shape of the bullet, and spin drift of the round.
“We ended up hitting it,” Bernius said. “That, to me, was probably the most technically difficult shot.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets — more planets even than stars — NASA’s Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life.
“As NASA’s first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”
Kepler has opened our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy. The most recent analysis of Kepler’s discoveries concludes that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars. That means they’re located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water — a vital ingredient to life as we know it — might pool on the planet surface.
The most common size of planet Kepler found doesn’t exist in our solar system — a world between the size of Earth and Neptune — and we have much to learn about these planets. Kepler also found nature often produces jam-packed planetary systems, in some cases with so many planets orbiting close to their parent stars that our own inner solar system looks sparse by comparison.
Artist’s impression of the Kepler telescope.
“When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago we didn’t know of a single planet outside our solar system,” said the Kepler mission’s founding principal investigator, William Borucki, now retired from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that’s full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy.”
Launched on March 6, 2009, the Kepler space telescope combined cutting-edge techniques in measuring stellar brightness with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time. Originally positioned to stare continuously at 150,000 stars in one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the first survey of planets in our galaxy and became the agency’s first mission to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of their stars.
“The Kepler mission was based on a very innovative design. It was an extremely clever approach to doing this kind of science,” said Leslie Livesay, director for astronomy and physics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who served as Kepler project manager during mission development. “There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them.”
Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. The mission team was able to devise a fix, switching the spacecraft’s field of view roughly every three months. This enabled an extended mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2, which lasted as long as the first mission and bumped Kepler’s count of surveyed stars up to more than 500,000.
Artist’s impression of the Kepler telescope.
The observation of so many stars has allowed scientists to better understand stellar behaviors and properties, which is critical information in studying the planets that orbit them. New research into stars with Kepler data also is furthering other areas of astronomy, such as the history of our Milky Way galaxy and the beginning stages of exploding stars called supernovae that are used to study how fast the universe is expanding. The data from the extended mission were also made available to the public and science community immediately, allowing discoveries to be made at an incredible pace and setting a high bar for other missions. Scientists are expected to spend a decade or more in search of new discoveries in the treasure trove of data Kepler provided.
“We know the spacecraft’s retirement isn’t the end of Kepler’s discoveries,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “I’m excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler’s results.”
Before retiring the spacecraft, scientists pushed Kepler to its full potential, successfully completing multiple observation campaigns and downloading valuable science data even after initial warnings of low fuel. The latest data, from Campaign 19, will complement the data from NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April. TESS builds on Kepler’s foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life by missions, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
For the Kepler press kit, which includes multimedia, timelines and top science results, visit:
There are a number of highly polluted sites where the United States once built the worst weapons of war. On six of those sites, where the weapons were once built were some of the most lethal ever conceived by man, new inhabitants are beginning to thrive: animals like bears, ferrets, and endangered salmon. All find safe haven where humankind once threatened itself with extinction.
Mule Deer graze where the US once tested plutonium triggers, outside of Denver, Colo.
Amchitka Island, Alaska is now cut off from the rest of the world, now a part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. This island saw a number of nuclear explosions underground – where a large amount of radioactive material is still trapped. In Indiana, Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge was once Jefferson Proving Ground, where the Army fired off artillery for more than 50 years, including tons of depleted uranium rounds. In Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, the Army once built chemical weapons in the areas where the bald eagle built its nests.
Some of the places that are now protected areas may still be heavily polluted, however. Experts say they’re not all entirely safe for humans. This means some experts believe that 30 or so of the National Fish and Wildlife Service’s more than 560 wildlife refuges have some history with nuclear and/or chemical weapons and haven’t been entirely cleaned up.
It may take centuries for these areas to heal.
Animals used to just warn humans about sarin gas.
Government and private industry have spent around billion on cleanup efforts for the top six most polluted areas, but there is still more to come – much more. Washington state’s Hanford site was once the area where the United States produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. Cleaning up this mess could run the Department of Energy more than 0 billion for this one site alone.
Like Hanford’s contaminated soil and water, there are more sites to be cleaned and protected. Johnson Atoll’s coral reefs suffered under multiple atmospheric nuclear tests. What was once Rocky Flats, Colo. is now home to rare prairie grasses, endangered mice, and other species that once roamed freely across America. Cleaning up and protecting these site will ensure they may get another chance one day.
It’s good to have friends in high places, especially when you can do almost nothing in return. One Afghan family found that out when they asked the CIA for help in rescuing their daughter from the Taliban, just as the U.S. was preparing to invade the country.
So it has nothing to do with the Soviet Union.
The first Americans inside of Afghanistan were teams of what has come to be known as “the Horse Soldiers,” advanced units from the CIA’s special activities division. They were US special operators and CIA officers that were helping coordinate multiple units of anti-Taliban Afghan resistance fighters. The Northern Alliance fighters combined with the direction of the CIA and the support of the U.S. military were able to overthrow the regime without the use of traditional ground forces in many areas.
They were so effective at fomenting resistance to the Taliban and persuading the locals to their cause, they were not only able to capture entire cities and provinces but were also able to transform the lives of individual families. One such family approached a CIA hideout one day, asking for a favor.
Where the first CIA officers in Afghanistan slept.
The smoke had barely cleared at Ground Zero in New York City before the United States sent CIA teams into Afghanistan to coordinate the resistance to the Taliban. But first, they needed the most up-to-date intelligence. The first Northern Alliance Liaison Team landed in Afghanistan on Sept. 26, 2001. They brought everything they needed to sustain them for however long their mission would take – including 40 pounds of potatoes. Sleeping in a traditional Afghan mud hut, they braved the winter as they gathered info for the coming revenge against al-Qaeda.
One day a young boy approached their shack and told them of the plight of his teenage sister. A local Taliban warlord forcefully took her as a bride, and she was no longer able to spend time with the family. Since this was long before politics would enter the relationship between US personnel and Afghan locals, the CIA officers gave the boy a tracking device and told him to give it to his sister, who should activate it when the warlord returns home.
Northern Alliance fighters in the Panjshir Valley, September 2001.
When she did, the team swooped in on the Taliban leader. They raided his compound, rescued this sister and returned her to her brother and her family. The senior Taliban leader was one of the first enemy targets of the coming Global War on Terror.
A precision strike missile was fired on April 30, 2020, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and hit a target 85 kilometers away. (Lockheed Martin)
U.S. Army modernization officials want to field a new mid-range missile that can kill targets at triple the distance of the 500-kilometer-range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM). For context, that’s enough range to fire from Washington, D.C. and hit Florida.
The new surface-to-surface missile that the Army wants — which would be capable of operating between 500 kilometers to 1,500 kilometers, or 310 to 930 miles — could be positioned in strategic areas in the Pacific island chains to deter China, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team (LRPF CFT), said in a recent service news release.
“What a dilemma that would create for our adversary,” Rafferty said. “How we would change the calculus in a second, if we could deliver this kind of capability out there.”
Modernization officials hope to introduce the new mid-range missile sometime in 2023, according to the release. The effort is currently a research project by the officials at the LRPF CFT, Field Artillery School, Fires Capability Development Integration Directorate, and Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.
The long-range precision fires effort is the Army’s top modernization priority and the focus of several strategic-range weapons programs.
The PrSM recently completed a successful April 30 test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The next phase of testing will include four shots, one to be fired out into the Pacific Ocean from the California coastline.
“We’ll go to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and we’ll test it out into the ocean and see how far it will go,” Rafferty said in the release.
If successful, the PrSM will have a maximum range of 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, compared to 300-kilometer, or 186-mile, range of the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) it will begin replacing in 2023.
The Army is also working with the Navy to develop and field a hypersonic missile battery by 2023. The joint-service effort successfully tested a common hypersonic glide vehicle across the Pacific in March. An Army unit is slated to start training on the system without the live rounds next year, according to the release.
But the project is not without controversy, Rafferty said in the release, adding its feasibility is being examined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
“We’re going to get a fair evaluation,” he said. “They appreciate the operation and utility in our approach of a volume of fire with more affordable projectiles.”
Even if the system is not expected to be fielded soon, Rafferty said that science and technology projects such as strategic long-range cannon will ultimately help with deterrence.
“It’s not just moving units around and fielding systems,” he said in the release. “It’s also where our research and development is and where our science and technology investment is. So, we’re having an effect with our approach to this.”
Laser-guided bombs have been a mainstay of the United States military for almost 50 years, but they’re not without their downsides. Yes, they provide great accuracy, but you need to keep the target painted for maximum effect and bad weather makes laser-guidance less reliable.
Additionally, many laser-guided bombs currently in use, like the Paveway II, have a relatively short range and must be used at high altitude, meaning the plane can’t hide from radar. With improved defense systems out there, like the Russian Pantsir, keeping a target painted at close range may spell disaster for a pilot.
The GBU-12, like other Paveway II systems, has relatively short range — not a good thing when advanced air defense systems can reach out and touch a plane.
(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
The Paveway III system was designed to address those shortcomings. It has a longer range and can be used from lower altitudes, but the United States only bought the GBU-24, which is based off 2,000-pound bombs like the Mark 84 and BLU-109. They make a big bang, but as we’ve learned, a big bang isn’t always the best solution.
So, to bridge that gap in capabilities, Lockheed has developed Paragon, which is based off the GBU-12, a 500-pound bomb. Paragon essentially takes a laser-guided bomb and adds a combination of an internal navigation systems and global positioning system guidance, extending range and allowing for more flexibility in how a plane approaches its target.
Lockheed-Martin’s New Paragon direct attack bomb
The Paragon has a larger “launch acceptable region” than many legacy systems. This is, in essence, the area of the sky above a target within which a pilot can drop the munition and hit their target. Older laser-guided bombs have a narrow acceptable region, making it easier to predict a plane’s approach path and fire off defense systems. The Paragon, which is capable of hitting targets on land or sea, allows for more dynamic approaches.
Of course, Paragon is also easy to integrate into the stuff professionals think about: Logistics. It uses the same test gear as JDAMs and laser-guided bombs. Integration costs, therefore, are minimized, and it is a good way to improve operational flexibility on a budget. The Paragon may prove to be a paragon of lethality.
Armored vehicles, like cars, get a makeover from time to time. Improved versions emerge, often as operational experiences and new technologies are assessed. One big proponent of this iterative process is Russia, which pays special attention to its infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers.
For instance, let’s look at the BMD series of airborne infantry fighting vehicles. These vehicles are intended to back up paratroopers with some heavy firepower. The original BMD, the BMD-1, was a hybrid between a light tank and an armored personnel carrier. And, just as they did with as the the BMP, the Russians made wholesale improvements to the BMD with each new iteration.
The BMD-1 featured a 73mm gun and the AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missile as its primary armaments. The BMD-2, however, used a 30mm automatic cannon and either an AT-4 Spigot or AT-5 Spandrel anti-tank missile.
The BMD-2 entered service in the 1980s, and featured a 30mm 2A42 autocannon as its main armament.
Why the shift from a 73mm gun to a 30mm? According to WeaponSystems.net, the reason was that the 73mm gun had… well, performance issues. To be precise, it was simply not as lethal as desired. The 30mm autocannon packed more punch, so it made the cut.
The BMD-2 can hold at least four grunts while packing iits lethal 30mm autocannon and a choice of anti-tank missiles.
(Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The BMD-2 could also carry grunts, just as the BMD-1 did. Sources here differ on the exact configuration, but most say the BMD-2 carried four grunts and had a crew of three. That’s a slight step down from the capacity of the BMD-1, but given the greater lethality of the vehicle, we’d call that a fair trade.
Oh, and the BMD-2 can parachute in, like the BMD-1.
(Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The BMD-2 series got further upgrades to handle the AT-14 Spriggan anti-tank missile, also known as the Kornet. According to most sources, it never was exported outside the Soviet Union — but some say India was able to get their hands on a few.
Learn more about Russia’s upgraded airborne infantry fighting vehicle in the video below!
We greet superior officers, pay homage to the American flag, and show respect to fallen comrades by rendering the powerful, non-verbal gesture known as the hand salute.
Though there’s no real written record of how or where the worldwide tradition started, saluting dates back in history to a time when troops would raise their right hand (their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.
Today, recruits learn how to properly hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate the act countless times before heading out to active service. After a while, muscle memory kicks in and the gesture becomes second nature. But many civilians use the salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so, so wrong.
Although they say a lot, these are six things you’ll never hear a Marine recruiter say:
6. “When you get to MEPS, make sure you disclose all of your medical issues, especially if it’s not already in your paperwork.”
Since recruiters are in the business of making their quotas and enlisting all the people they can, the advice they give also includes finely crafted verbiage that will cover their ass should something arise during your screening.
No recruiter wants to see their next potential “poolee” disqualified for any reason.
“No, I don’t have asthma.” (Image via GIPHY)
5. “We get just as much funding as the Army does, so don’t worry about getting issued any gear that’s outdated.”
You can Google the Marine Corps annual budget. Spoiler: It’s nowhere near what the Army earns.
4. “If a drill instructor ever gets in your face, remind them you’re a big deal and he or she shouldn’t bother you again.”
Good luck with all that. A recruiter isn’t going to set you up for that type of failure.
Never say these words. (Image via GIPHY)
3. “If you want a real career in infantry, you should consider going to the Army instead.”
Although the Army and Marine infantry are similar in various ways, the Corps prides itself on the ground pounders it produces. In fact, they’ll commonly advise youngsters to pursue a job in the MOS followed by, “you can lat move later.”
2. “Every movement you do in the Corps, you’ll do at your once pace. Senior Marines are known for their patience.”
1:23 a.m. It’s pitch black in Ramadi, Iraq, except for the cold moon above.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Major and his squad creep silently closer.
The enemy has already killed and maimed American troops with roadside bombs. Intel says the largest cache of explosives is right here. Major is part of the late-night raid to bring them down. This is where he wants to be.
“I was a junior in high school when the Towers were hit. I knew I wanted to do something then. And when it came time to choose college or something else, I wanted to get my hands dirty. It all stemmed from the Towers. I wanted to do my part.”
He’s in the desert as part of a light infantry unit. As he and his team get closer, the insurgents wait.
“We were two or three blocks away and I watched two squads cross that intersection,” he says.
He’s only a couple feet away now.
“I took like five steps … “
Major steps down with his right leg.
The enemy pushes the remote control.
The bomb explodes with a deafening roar, and fills the air with a lethal mix of fire and shrapnel.
“I was awake for the whole thing,” he said. “I remember going up and facing the stars.”
Major, 22, is blown up and over a steel gate and six-foot concrete wall.
Ryan Major loves rugby because it’s loud, fast and has lots of crashes. He is hoping for gold at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
His team, many with shrapnel injuries themselves, jump into their armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle, smash through the concrete and rush him back to the base camp.
“My guy, he had me laying on the floor and he is covering my leg. I’m losing blood like crazy. Trying to go to sleep. He smacks the p— out of me a couple times. I knew I was in a bad situation.”
“Read me my Last Rites. Tell my mom I love her,” Major says to his soldier.
“No! Wake your b— ass up! I’m not telling her anything! You’re telling her!”
They make it back to base.
“The surgeons and the doctors, they did their thing. Then they induced me into a coma.”
Doctors cut off his right leg and right thumb in Iraq. An infection while he was still in the coma took his left leg, two fingers on his right hand, his thumb on his left, part of his elbow and forearm.
Major wakes up six weeks later, December 26, in a hospital room inside Walter Reed.
“Hey, it’s sports. I’m a competitor. I was competing in the military. I’m competing still. It’s fast and I like to go fast.”
Major whips around with a white ball in his hand. A wheelchair cracks into him from behind and throws him from the chair and to the ground. He gets helped back in and shakes it off. Another chair crashes into him from the side as Major smacks down on his wheel into a backspin and then scores.
He crosses his arms, leans back his head and howls to the rafters.
He makes it look easy, but it wasn’t always this way.
Ryan Major races down the court on the way to a score.
“Dude, it was rough,” he said. “So rough, and I was in a really dark spot. A deep, weird depression. It was a lot of self-doubt and being hard on myself. It’s typical, going from a 100 percent independent man, having to depend on everybody for everything. That took a really big shot to my pride.
“It took me so long. I don’t have my legs. I can’t play football or anything I used to do and love. I used to play football. I wrestled. I did track and field. Now I can’t do any of that.”
Days turned into weeks, months and years.
His mom, Lorrie Knight-Major, said she and his brothers — Michael and Milan — along with Ryan’s friends, rallied to do whatever needed done.
“I credit his brothers, his family and his amazing friends who have been there all the way for him, and for all of us,” Knight-Major said. “To this day, he has a great support system. I wished every veteran and every person recovering had that kind of love.”
Corey Fick, Ryan’s best friend since the 6th grade, visited him almost every day in the hospital and made him get out and about.
“Everybody was crying when we found out he got hurt, but he is a soldier through and through,” Fick said. “He is a soldier through and through, and whatever his cause, he’ll die for it. There’s no fight he’s not going to win. I think he had a 4 percent chance of making it out of Ramadi alive.
“If this happened to anyone but Ryan, I don’t think they could do what he is doing. He has no fear and is living life to the fullest.”
As Major watched others in a wheelchair living their lives, that’s when he knew he had to do it, too.
“I’m watching other vets in my situation who had been hurt for a few years. They’re walking and talking and out having fun and I’m overhearing them. Why am I moping around when you got other amputees going out and having the time of their life?
“It was time for me to get my ass out of this bed and start getting active.”
Besides quad rugby, you can find Ryan Major kayaking and even skiing.
The first thing he did was the Hope and Possibilities handcycle race around Central Park.
“You hear people cheering you and that started to boost me back, but it was easy. I went back to my therapist and said, ‘What’s next?'”
“There’s an Army 10-miler,” the therapist said.
He did it and wanted more. So he did the New York Marathon — 26.2 miles on a hand cycle.
“I went from a 5K to a 10-miler to a marathon all in a year,” Major said. “The best part of a marathon, is all the fans on the side, yelling at you and telling you you’re doing awesome. The worst part of a marathon, in my opinion, are those last two miles. Those last two miles were the longest two miles ever.
“I was hurting bad. My fingers were cramped and locked in place. But I crossed that finish line and said, ‘God, I am a freaking trooper. I am the biggest bad ass in this whole, entire race!”
He hasn’t stopped since.
“I found out I can still do sports. I didn’t ski before I was injured. I had my first skiing experience in Colorado and didn’t anticipate liking that. They had me going down that mountain fast and I fell in love with it. I’m kayaking. I’ll do anything.”
Besides rugby, Major is competing in javelin, table tennis and even bowling this year.
“But I want that gold in rugby,” he said. “That’s the goal. Haven’t gotten it yet. Got close and made it to the final round once. I’ll get it.”
“I am so very proud of him,” his mom said. “I am amazed at the adversity he had to overcome. Ryan has always been a fighter. He wakes up every morning happy, and makes the most out of each day of his life.”
He sometimes thinks back on that day when everything changed, but doesn’t stay in that place too long.
“Those thoughts creep in my head every once in awhile. The what ifs, the woulda, coulda thing. Those are never good,” he said. “There are positives and negatives to every situation. If I wouldn’t have joined the military, wouldn’t have met my brothers in arms, who are a huge part of my life. I never would have had that experience. I never would have traveled. I never would have had those life experiences.
“I still keep in touch with those guys from Walter Reed and with some of the staff. All these years back, and we still talk.”
It’s that brotherhood, he said, that makes these Games so important.
“I like to be loud out there and have fun. Other vets look at me and that makes them proud. They say it inspires them. Well, they inspire me.”
Major just has one request if you see him on the street. Don’t call him disabled.
“I’m an athlete. And I hope when they look at me, they think I’m a good athlete. That’s what they can call me.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
During World War II, there were many ingenious and courageous raids, but only one would come to be known as “The Greatest Raid of All” – the British raid on St. Nazaire.
Since the beginning of hostilities, the German Navy had wreaked havoc on shipping in the Atlantic. With the fall of France, the Nazis had ample facilities on the Atlantic to service their fleet, well away from areas patrolled by the Royal Navy. The British wanted to take this away and force them through the English Channel or the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) gap, which they heavily defended. To do this, they devised a daring raid that would put the port of St. Nazaire out of action.
The plan, codenamed Operation Chariot, was to assault the port with commandos supported by a converted destroyer, the HMS Campbeltown. The British planned to load the Campbeltown with explosives and then ram it into the dry docks where it would detonate. The commandos would also land and destroy the port while up-gunned motor launches searched for targets of opportunity.
The raiding force consisted of 265 commandos (primarily from No.2 Commando) along with 346 Royal Navy sailors split between twelve motor launches and four torpedo boats.
The raiders set out from England on the afternoon of March 26, 1942, and arrived at the target just after midnight on March 28. At that point, the Campbeltown raised a German naval ensign to deceive German shore batteries. However, a planned bombing by the Royal Air Force put the harbor on high alert, and just eight minutes from their objective they were illuminated by spotlights.
A gun battle between the approaching ships and the Germans ensued. At one mile out, the British raised their own naval ensign, increased speed, and drove through the murderous German fire. The helmsman of the Campbeltown was killed, his replacement wounded, and the whole crew blinded by searchlights. At 1:34 a.m., the destroyer found the Normandie dry dock gates, hitting with such force as to drive the destroyer 33 feet onto the gates.
As the commandos disembarked, the Germans rained small arms fire on the raiders. Despite suffering numerous casualties, they were able to complete their objectives, destroying harbor facilities and machinery.
The commandos on the motor launches were not so lucky. As the boats attempted to make their way to shore, most of them were put out of action by the German guns. Many sank without landing their units. All but four of 16 sank.
The motor launches were the means of egress from the port for the commandos already ashore. The image of many of them burning in the estuary was a disheartening sight.
Lt. Col. Newman, leading the Commandos on shore, and Commander Ryder of the Royal Navy realized evacuation by sea was no longer an option. Ryder signaled the remaining boats to leave the harbor and make for the open sea. Newman gathered the commandos and issued three orders: Do the best to get back to England, no surrender until all ammunition is exhausted and no surrender at all if they could help it. With that, they headed into the city to face the Germans and attempt an escape over land.
The Commandos were quickly surrounded. They fought until their ammunition was expended before proceeding with their only remaining option: surrender. Five commandos did manage to escape the German trap though and make their way through France, neutral Spain, and to British Gibraltar, from which they returned to England.
As the Germans recaptured the port, they also captured 215 British commandos and Royal Navy sailors. Unaware that the Campbeltown lodged in the dry dock was a bomb waiting to explode, a German officer blithely told Lt. Commander Sam Beattie, who had been commanding the Campbeltown, the damage caused by the ramming would only take a matter of weeks to repair. Just as he did the Campbeltown exploded, killing 360 people in the area and destroying the docks – putting them out of commission for the remainder of the war.
The British paid dearly for this success. Of over 600 personnel involved, only 227 returned to England. Besides those taken prisoner, the British also had 169 killed in action. The raid generated a large number of awards for gallantry, one of the highest concentrations for any battle. Five Victoria Crosses, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, were awarded, two posthumously. There were a total of 84 other decorations for the raiders ranging from the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal to the Military Medal.
Close up of HMS Campbeltown after the raid. Note the shell damage in the hull and upper works and the German personnel on board the vessel.
The raid infuriated Hitler and, along with other raids by commandos, caused the Germans to spread troops all along the coast to defend against future raids or invasions. More importantly, the destruction of the St. Nazaire port denied the Germans repair facilities for large ships on the Atlantic coast. Due to the daring nature of the operation and the high price paid for success, the action came to be called “The Greatest Raid of All.”
When young service members graduate from basic training or earn their commission, the biggest threat to their financial security isn’t that brand new muscle car for $0 down and a 15 percent interest rate. In fact, the biggest threat is one that targets service members across all ranks and Americans from all walks of life.
In 2019, Americans lost $1.9 billion to phishing and fraud. That year, the Federal Trade Commission received 647,000 complaints about imposter scams which topped $667 million in total losses, making them the number one type of fraud reported to the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network.
*You may be asked to verify confidential information if you call your bank, but rarely the other way around (American Bankers Association)
Imposter fraud most commonly takes the form of a criminal posing as a financial institution in order to scam information from a consumer in order to access their accounts. Every day, thousands of Americans receive calls, texts, and emails from these scammers pretending to be a bank. Depending on how much information the scammers have been able to find about the consumer, they may even pose as the consumer’s actual bank. In order to gain access to your accounts, the scammers need to ascertain certain information from you. Luckily, this information is standardized across the financial industry as information that banks do not ask for.
The other most common types of fraud scams are romance and employment scams. Romance scams will have a scammer posing as a romantic interest online who eventually asks to be sent a sum of money. Employment scams can be more complex and range in form from paid job applications to startup business ventures requiring immediate payment. These types of scams have also become more common due to the fact that many people are now working from home.
The easiest way to protect yourself from fraud scams is to recognize the signs. If you receive a call, text, or email that you believe to be fraudulent, contact your financial institution immediately. “If you even have an inkling that something doesn’t seem right, just call,” said Stacey Nash, USAA’s SVP of Fraud. “We can address the fraud before it becomes a problem.” USAA is a leader in the financial industry at detecting and combating fraud. As a digital institution, the bank has been forced to stay ahead of fraud threats in order to protect its members. “When we are alerted to fraud, USAA engages law enforcement with as much information as possible,” Nash said. “We’re committed to upholding justice.”
USAA’s 24/7 fraud prevention teams flag unusual activity and reach out to members to ensure that there is no possibility of fraud. In cases where a member is buying into a scam, USAA representatives will educate the member on the signs and dangers of fraud to help prevent them from becoming a victim.
Seventy nine percent of adults surveyed in 2019 say they were targeted by fraud over the phone. In total, it is estimated that nearly 50 percent of adults have been the target of an imposter scam at some point in their life. Aside from recognizing the signs of fraud yourself, the best way to combat the threat is to share the information. Among military ranks, it is of the utmost importance for leaders to educate their subordinates on how to protect themselves from scams like these. Though junior service members are not exclusively targeted, they can be a more vulnerable population. “Be vigilant,” Nash said. “At the end of the day, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”