A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines - We Are The Mighty
Mighty Moments

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

In the 20th century, Cambodia saw more than its fair share of war and conflict. In the United States, we may be familiar with U.S. incursions into the country from neighboring Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but the conflict didn’t end with the U.S. withdrawal. 

The years that followed brought the rise of the brutal dictatorial regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, along with an invasion by neighboring Vietnam. All of them laid landmines as a means of defending their wartime gains. 

Over the course of several decades, the estimated four to six million mines laid in the country have been all but forgotten – except by the people who still live there. 

An estimated 4,320 people were killed or wounded by landmines in 1996. Around 20 years later, that figure fell to just 77. International efforts from the United Nations and Japan work to reduce minefields along the country’s borders, mines remain a threat to those local in remote areas, area where living off the land is part of their daily lives.

Cambodia has set a goal of being free from mines by 2025, and one former child soldier is determined to do everything he can do personally to free his country from the terror of the mines. 

man carrying landmines
Matteis Saet, assigned to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center Dragon team, carries simulated landmines on March 22, 2021 at the Hohenfels Training Area. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Julian Padua)

Aki Ra was born in the early 1970s (he doesn’t know exactly when) to parents who were murdered by soldiers of the Khmer Rouge. Almost as soon as he was strong enough to carry equipment and weapons, he was trained by the armed forces of Cambodia as a soldier. 

When neighboring Vietnam invaded Cambodia, it not only ended the Khmer Rouge’s genocide against its own people, it toppled the government. Aki Ra was captured by the Vietnamese and forced to fight against the dictator’s forces. When the new government was formed, he enlisted as a soldier in the Royal Cambodian Army.

“I had [bad] feelings, because sometimes we were fighting against our friends and relatives,” Aki Ra told the Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction. “I felt sad when I saw a lot of people were killed. A lot of people were suffering from landmines. [But] I did not know what to do, [because] we were under orders.”

He was trained to place landmines along the Cambodia-Thailand border. More than a decade later, Aki Ra found himself attending school for the first time in his life. Now, he was learning to remove mines. When a UN peacekeeping force arrived in the country in 1991, he helped clear as many as he could. 

After they left, he no longer had the specialized equipment they used to clear minefields, but he still had the skills of a minelaying soldier. Using his bare hands, a stick and a knife, he began his work of making the country safe for his people. 

Using these hazardous methods for more than a decade, he finally worked to get accredited international demining training and explosive ordnance disposal certification at the

International School for Security and Explosives. Once he had that, he could establish his own organization, which he did in 2008.

Aki Ra had cleared an estimated 50,000 land mines by 2000, long before founding Cambodia Self-Help Demining. 

The Cambodia Self-Help Demining organization he founded not only works to help remove the mines, it also trains others to go out into greater Cambodia to do more work to that effect. Eventually, he started collecting the detonated and harmless landmines he and his workers have dug up over the years. 

landmines
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 2nd Class Vasya Mstislavski, right, assigned to Task Force 50, sets an improvised explosive device during a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device operation as part of Neon Response 18 at the Bahrain Defense Force.

That collection is now the foundation of Aki Ra’s Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Facility in Siem Reap, Cambodia. There, visitors learn about how the mines got there, how they are removed, and for a small fee for entry, help pay for the removal of even more mines. 

“We must all do what we can to educate our children and make Cambodia a safe country again so that Amatak (his son) and all children can really live forever,” he says. 

Mighty Moments

Fallen Marine’s mother asks for help in showering a 99-year-old veteran with cards

On August 4, 2017 Lance Corporal Cody Haley was killed at Camp Pendleton when a tree fell on him during routine training. He was only 20 years old. His mother Kim is keeping his legacy of kindness alive and she needs your help. 

Cody always wanted to become a Marine. His grandfather, Dave Crowe, was a Marine Corps Vietnam War Veteran and had passed away in a motorcycle accident not long before Cody enlisted in 2015, right out of high school. A few months after graduating from basic training, Cody was deployed overseas with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in March of 2016, aboard the USS Comstock.

cody marine

His family sent Cody many care packages while he was deployed. Kim later found out that he shared a lot of them with other Marines who never received anything. But that’s the kind of person he was, she said: kind. 

While Cody was deployed, his great-grandfather Jesse was celebrating his 95th birthday. Every year his family would throw a big party in honor of him and Cody didn’t want to miss it. So, they waited. On June 18, 2017 he came home for his post-deployment leave and spent 10 days with his family celebrating his Great-Grandfather, “Grandpa Jesse”, who was a World War II Army veteran. 

It was the last time he saw him.

Cody was extremely close with his great-grandfather. He would spend the night at his house all the time, even after he became a Marine. They’d watch the Andy Griffith show and Gunsmoke, laughing together. They’d also talk about world affairs and the issues that plagued the country. “He was developing into a great man…you could see it,” Jesse said. 

The “spit and vinegar” kid and jokester teenager he was known for being was long gone after becoming a Marine. In its place was a young man devoted to serving his country and making his family proud. Although Cody never vocalized exactly why he joined, Kim is sure it was because he was inspired by his grandfather and great-grandfather. It was their courage and patriotism that Cody hoped to emulate, she said. 

At the time of his death, Cody had earned the nickname “fastest gun in the west” after beating out all the other marines in an exercise while deployed. “He was surrounded by the best and he told me that,” Kim said. At his memorial, over 50 Marines showed up enmasse to remember and honor Cody’s life alongside his family. 

“Last year Grandpa Jesse turned 98 but because of COVID we couldn’t do anything. I know Cody would have wanted us to do something because he was one of his favorite people,” Kim explained. She shared an idea to have cards sent to Grandpa Jesse on Facebook and he received 110 from people across the country. This year, she’s hoping they can do it again and get even more cards to surprise him with. This time, for Cody. 

Grandpa Jesse loved receiving the cards and still has them sitting by his chair, he said. Since Cody’s death, Kim has continually tried to find ways to be kind in his honor, something she’s hoping others will take to heart. “Do something intentionally nice for someone else. I just think that the more positive that can come out of this tragedy, that’s what matters,” she said. 

marine
Cody’s last picture with Grandpa Jesse

Here at WATM we hope you’ll start those acts of kindness to honor Cody’s legacy by writing Grandpa Jesse a message to wish him a happy 99th birthday. #DoItForCody. 

Mail your cards and letters to:

Kim Haley

701 11th Street

Eldora, IA 50627

Articles

Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

We’ve all heard the familiar tune being blared over the intercom or performed live bright and early as the American flag is raised for the beginning of the day.


For other troops stationed on a military base, it’s the bugle call that made them dash for cover so they wouldn’t have to stand outside and salute on a cold morning or throw your pillow at the window in your barracks like it’s going to get the signal to stop — you get the point.

But the motivation behind the “Reveille” tune isn’t to just wake us up, but instead is to remind us of those who have served in remembrance.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Airmen salute the flag during reveille at the Eglin Professional Development Center. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Reveille comes from the French word “réveiller” or in English to “to wake up.

In 1812, U.S. forces designated the iconic melody to call service members to muster up for roll call to start the work day.

It appears there is no official composer of the tune, which is used by about six countries like Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden to mark the start of the day.

The notes for each country do vary and they all have written different lyrics as well.

“Reveille” lyrics

“Out on a hike all day, dear

Part of the army grind

Weary and long the way, dear

But really I don’t mind

I’m getting tired so I can sleep

I want to sleep so I can dream

I want to dream so I can be with you

I’ve got your picture by my bed

‘Twill soon be placed beneath my head

To keep me company the whole night through

For a little while, whatever befalls

I will see your smile till reveille calls

I hope you’re tired enough to sleep

And please sleep long enough to dream

And look for me for I’ll be dreaming too”

Click play on the video below and try to sing along.

(United States Air Force Band – Topic, YouTube)Fun fact: Reveille is also the official name of the Texas A&M mascot in the ROTC program — a dog. That is all.
Mighty Moments

Paws of War reunites soldier with stray dog from rotation in Europe

US Army Sgt. Charity Webb was reunited with a puppy named Pup Pup that she had bonded with while stationed as a cook in Eastern Europe last fall, which was first reported by the New York Post. The almost impossible task was made possible by a nonprofit organization out of New York called Paws of War, and this isn’t the first time the group has accomplished such a mission. 

Robert Misseri, the founder of Paws of War, said the operation cost approximately $7,000 total, from finding Pup Pup, completing vaccines and any needed treatment through a local veterinarian, temporary foster care, travel costs, and many other factors. 

“When we arrive, the soldier can play a little role in locating their dog. We have to learn where that dog is [from the soldier]. We have to find that dog,” Misseri said, “and we have to get that dog safely to a veterinarian and then start the process to get that dog to America.”

Read Next: Fred the Afghan: How a Stray Dog Changed a Marine’s Life

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Pup Pup was out of a litter born in the area where Sgt. Charity Webb was stationed, somewhere in Eastern Europe. Photo courtesy of Paws of War.

Locating a dog that a soldier bonded with overseas is no easy task, especially with COVID-19 restrictions severely complicating transport, but Misseri said it’s all worth it. 

“The soldier will feel like a failure, thinking that ‘deployment is up’ and that this dog will think that this person abandoned it,” said Misseri. “And the soldier will always wonder whatever happened to that dog — it’s not like that dog’s going to go into a good home or someone’s going to take over caring for it. It’s going to go back to struggling. So it is so important for both soldier and dog to get back here and reunite.”

Misseri explained that reuniting a dog with a soldier can significantly help a soldier’s mental health when they get home. He said he’d been in touch with soldiers in the past who had to leave their dogs behind overseas, and “it was just something that they could not get out of their head.” The grief from leaving their dogs worsened some soldiers’ post-traumatic stress symptoms, he said, adding that some soldiers experienced nightmares about it. 

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

Webb told the Post that while deployed, she was missing her other dog back home and her family. Pup Pup helped her through all of that. 

“You miss your family, you’re missing Christmas, Thanksgiving, all of that, so it was good to have her occupy my time and my mind and not think about my time away and stuff, so she really did help with that,” Webb told the Post.

Misseri said they have located dogs in areas where locals and/or authorities will shoot them, or capture them and then put them down, or just outright mistreat them in abusive ways. 

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

“For the puppies, they just kill them off because there’s so many strays,” Webb told the Post. “So we didn’t want them to get the puppies because we knew they’d kill them — there was no doubt about it.”

According to the Post, a fellow soldier told Webb about Paws of War, and she reached out for help. A financing issue was preventing them from getting Pup Pup back, but after the Post published the initial story, Misseri said they accomplished their goal of getting Pup Pup back in Webb’s hands on Feb. 24. The dog and the sergeant reunited at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where Webb is stationed. Enough donations came in that there was enough to get a second dog to another soldier.

Misseri said Paws of War has reunited more than 100 soldiers with dogs that they had to leave behind when returning to the states.

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

Articles

After a century of shame and silence, a soldier’s family gets the medals he earned

When Charles Monroe Baucom returned home in 1919 after his third and final tour of duty with the Army, he struggled to cope.


He had apparently been exposed to a mustard gas attack during World War I, and when he began losing his hearing and vision, he worried he’d also lose his job with the railroad.

Baucom died by suicide five years after he returned to his home in downtown Cary, N.C., leaving behind five children and a cloud of silence around his military record.

Nearly a century after his death, Baucom’s granddaughter, Joy Williams, has worked to restore his legacy to the place of pride she believes it should have always held.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Solders during WWI donning gas masks. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Williams, who lives in Dunn, contacted the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that tracks down military histories and awards mislaid medals during ceremonies around the country. Williams, 70, showed the organization letters her grandfather had written and asked what it could find out.

On March 26, Baucom, who served as a lieutenant in the Army, was finally awarded the recognition he had earned. During a ceremony in Raleigh, the Veterans Legacy Foundation gave Williams two medals for her grandfather – one for his service in the Spanish-American War and one for service in World War I.

“Most people get so wrapped up in the day that they don’t appreciate the past,” Williams said. “I wish he could have received these when he was living, but I’m proud to have them now in his honor.”

It was tough in the early 20th century for the military to track down veterans, said John Elskamp, who served in the Air Force for 24 years and founded the Veterans Legacy Foundation in 2010. As a result, many soldiers never received their medals.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
US Victory Medal from WWI. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

For Baucom’s family, the foundation bought the Spanish-American War medal from a private collector and received the World War I victory medal directly from the Army.

Thirteen other families were also honored during the event in March. Some received original medals unearthed from a state government building in Raleigh, commissioned in 1919 for North Carolina veterans of World War I.

“People are curious,” Elskamp said. “They want to know, and it’s their family’s legacy. And we think it’s important for everyone to remember that legacy, that this country was built, in my opinion, by veterans and their families. They did a lot of the work.”

No one in Baucom’s family knew if he had ever received medals from his service. He fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then took part in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. During that effort, the military rescued US citizens and foreign nationals.

He volunteered when he was 38 to serve in World War I.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
District of Columbia War Memorial in West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Williams’ mother, who was Baucom’s daughter, was 9 when her father died. So Williams, a semi-retired insurance agent who moved to Dunn from Cary 25 years ago, never knew much about her grandfather.

“She never spoke of him,” Williams said of her mother.

Her great-aunt told her the pastor at Baucom’s funeral said the lieutenant’s decision to end his own life would keep him out of heaven. Thinking about that still puts a lump in Williams’ throat.

“My mother, that probably affected her greatly,” she said. “Instead of being proud, they were kind of quiet about their father. It’s really a shame. When you die on the battlefield, that’s honorable. But if you die afterwards, it’s not as much.”

Williams saw a newspaper article about the Veterans Legacy Foundation two years ago and decided to reach out to the group. It appealed to her sense of duty to those forgotten and misremembered by history.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Photo courtesy of the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation Facebook page.

She and her husband, Martin, who are white, are part of a years-long effort in Dunn to preserve and maintain an old cemetery where many of the town’s black residents were buried. Until 1958, it was the only cemetery that would accept them.

Her home in Dunn – her husband’s childhood residence – is full of photos, artifacts and heirlooms from her family, which she said has “been in North Carolina since before it was North Carolina.”

“I don’t like home decor,” Williams said. “I like to be around things that have some kind of meaning.”

Among the items are original letters Baucom wrote while stationed at various military bases and while abroad in Cuba, China, and France. Those, as well as letters he and his wife received, have been painstakingly preserved by Williams.

A letter from Baucom’s attorney gives a sense of the former soldier’s state of mind in the days before he died. The attorney and longtime friend wrote to Baucom’s widow in the days after his death, recounting a meeting less than two weeks earlier.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

“He seemed very interested and very much worried over his physical condition,” the attorney wrote of Baucom, “realizing that if he did lose his hearing and his eyesight, that the position he now held (with the railroad) he could not hope to keep.”

Another, from Baucom to his wife, reveals more of what Williams hopes will be remembered about her grandfather – his love of family and pride in his service.

“Tell the boys we will play catch and I will tell them stories when I get there,” Baucom wrote from Camp Merritt, New Jersey, as he awaited a train home to Cary. “Expect to get home in a week or two. Much love from Pop.”

After so many years, Williams is happy to feel pride where her mother felt shame, to have something in her house she can point to as proof that her flesh and blood had something to do with securing the life she now enjoys.

Articles

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

When most people retire from the military, they look forward to spending more time with family, relaxing, and maybe pursuing their hobbies.


Neall Ellis isn’t most people.

After a successful career in both the Rhodesian and South African militaries, Ellis became bored with civilian life. Rather than sit back and relax, he decided to pursue the only hobby he knew — kicking ass.

With plenty of strife and a need for fighters throughout the African continent, Ellis decided to become a mercenary. He wasn’t going to be just any mercenary though. Ellis recruited a team and procured an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Russian Mi-24 Hind.

Ellis’ mercenary work eventually brought him to Sierra Leone, which was in the midst of a civil war in the late 1990s. The government of Sierra Leone, backed by the British, was attempting to quell a rebellion by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Working for the Sierra Leone government, Ellis and his crew were seen as the most effective force against the rebels, even though they were a single gunship. As Ellis put it, “the gunship strikes the fear of God into the rebels. They run into the bush as soon as they see it.”

As the rebels advanced on the capital, Freetown, the British forces remaining in Sierra Leone evacuated. Freetown looked as if it would fall to the rebels.

Also read: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time

Ellis saw things differently. Though the rebels were attacking at night, and he had no night vision devices, he proposed that he and his crew fly out to meet them and try to drive them off. To his crew, this sounded foolish and none would agree to fly the mission. Unperturbed, Ellis, piloting his helicopter alone, flew against the rebel onslaught.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
The city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, was a front for brutal fighting during the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 90s. (Photo via Flickr user David Hond. CC BY 2.0)

In the dead of night, with no crew and no night vision, Ellis fought off the rebel advance. When the rebels came again, Ellis once again flew alone and turned them back from Freetown. Only when his helicopter broke down and he was unable to fly did the rebels finally take the city.

But Ellis wasn’t done fighting. Even though the government of Sierra Leone had lost the capital and could no longer pay him or his crew, they kept flying.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Ellis told them, “I have not been paid for 20 months. I do it because I don’t know what else to do. I enjoy the excitement. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

His staunch defense of Freetown had also drawn the ire of the RUF. His actions had so angered the RUF that they sent him a message: “If we ever catch you, we will cut out your heart and eat it.”

Ellis’ response was epic.

Ellis loaded up his bird and flew out to deliver a message of his own.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Coalition forces release informational leaflets out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter over villages in the Logar province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2014. The leaflets are used to pass along information to the local populous regarding on going operations in the area. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

Arriving over the rebel camp they proceeded to drop thousands of leaflets, with a picture of their helicopter and the words “RUF: this time we’ve dropped leaflets. Next time it will be a half-inch Gatling machine gun, or 57mm rockets, or 23mm guns, or 30mm grenades, or ALL OF THEM!”

And he meant it. Although heavily outnumbered, Ellis kept fighting the rebels.

Eventually, his efforts drew the attention of the British, who decided not only to return to Sierra Leone, but also to provide support to Ellis and work in conjunction with him.

His vast knowledge of the country made him a valuable asset to the British and he actively participated in operations.

Need more inspiration? 4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

In September 2000, Ellis flew his helicopter in support of Operation Barras, a rescue mission of several soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured. He would also flew missions with the British SAS.

Ellis and his crew would stay in Sierra Leone until the defeat of the RUF in 2002.

Ellis’ reputation earned him a trip to Iraq working with the British during the invasion in 2003.

Later, he would also fly in Afghanistan “where, he reckons, he has had more close shaves than in his entire previous four-decades put together.”

At the age of 67, he is currently rumored to be flying against the Islamic State.

Articles

Navy SEAL: Here’s how to stay fit when you have no time to workout

In the mid-90’s, Randy Hetrick was a Navy SEAL deployed on a counter-piracy mission in southeast Asia, holed up in a warehouse, trying to figure out how to stay in the kind of shape necessary to quickly scale the side of a freighter while wearing 75 pounds of gear. He had accidentally deployed with his jujitsu belt, which he combined with some spare webbing from parachute harnesses to DIY a “Cro-Magnon” version of what became the TRX suspension training system. Today, it’s a wildly popular piece of exercise equipment based on the principles of bodyweight resistance.


That’s a great invention story; it’s also directly applicable to a new dad, which Hetrick has been, twice. New dads have to figure out how to maintain some semblance of physical fitness despite a life of chaos. We asked Hetrick how to use what he’s learned when the “warehouse” is your house and the blood thirsty pirate is your sleep-hating little kid.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

The Schedule

Thirty-to-45 minutes spread out over the course of a day is more than enough time to kick your own ass. Hetrick suggests carving out 3 10-to-15 minute blocks a day. “There are seasons in life,” he says. “Be ok saying, ‘I don’t have time for an hour workout, so I’ll just do 10 or 20 minutes.”

Workouts 1 & 3: Perform these at home and focus on the upper body, lower body and core. That’s easy to do, since Hetrick only recommends bodyweight exercises (as opposed to weights), which naturally overlap multiple muscles and joints into single exercises. He also recommends time-based, as opposed to rep-based, sets: one minute of work with 30 seconds of recovery. Since you’re already too tired to do the math: that’s about 6 exercise for a 10-minute workout and 10 for a 15-minute one.

Workout 2: You can do this one at work and it doesn’t require sweating profusely and then going about your day like some gross re-enactment of 4th Grade gym class. Just spend these 10-15 minutes doing “mobility movements” (that’s “stretching” to you) and none of your co-workers will know you’re halfway through a Navy SEAL’s daily workout.

The Exercises

“It’s what you do in life,” says Hetrick of bodyweight exercising. “You’re lunging, you’re squatting, you’re bending, reaching and twisting.” It’s also highly efficient, since it requires more oxygen, pumps more blood and burns more calories than single muscle weight work outs. It turns out, you (particularly you with some very portable TRX straps) are your own best piece of gym equipment.

Exercises Without TRX

Exercises With TRX

With a suspension training system like TRX, it’s easier to go from movement to movement and execute actions that integrate multiple joints and muscles at once. When you buy the system, you get access to various workout tools, but here are a few of Hetrick’s favorites:

  • Squat rows integrate more muscles into the repetition.
  • Atomic pushup work arms and back while burning the crap out of your core.
  • Pledge curls, which use both arms simultaneously across the body — one to the opposite shoulder and the other to the opposite armpit, switching on each rep.

Whether your use TRX or not, the important thing to remember is that keeping your jiggly bundle of joy from turning you into a sad tub of goo doesn’t require a lot of stuff.

Mobility Movements

Most men — and particularly new fathers — need help opening the hips and back. Men’s hips are naturally tight (since they don’t push little people through them), and most fathers’ backs are a wreck due to the aforementioned jiggly bundle of joy being unable to pick itself up off the ground. With these stretches, move into tension for 30 seconds, then ease off for 10 seconds and give each movement around 2 minutes.

  • Hip hinge: Spread your feet, bend at the waist, and let gravity stretch your hamstrings and decompress your spine.
  • Seated hamstring: Legs apart, lean forward.
  • Figure four stretch: Try this one laying down and then try it standing.
  • Cobra pose: The basic building block of hot yoga mom workouts is great for opening shoulders and abs.

The Running Alternative

As a SEAL, Hetrick used to run for miles with a 75-pound backpack. So, lugging a kid in a baby carrier gives him happy little flashbacks. “The kid instantly falls asleep, you’ve got a load hanging off you, and can go off for as brisk a walk as you want. Anyone who tries power walking with a [kid] quickly discovers it’s just as taxing as jogging with no load.”

And even though Hetrick can’t guarantee your kid will actually fall asleep in the carrier (as opposed to, say, screaming hysterically from the moment you put them in one), his main point is that exercising — even with new kids — is within your grasp. “It can be an opportunity to re-prioritize and create a new routine. Replace the 30 minutes of happy hour time with 10 minutes of suspension training or other exercise, and you’ll be better for it,” he says.

After all, “You can’t do happy hour anymore, anyway.”

More from Fatherly:

This article originally appeared at Fatherly. Copyright 2015. Like Fatherly on Facebook.

Articles

This video shows rare footage from an actual Vietcong ambush

A former first lieutenant with the 221st Signal Company in Vietnam, Paul Berkowitz, created a website to help former unit members connect. And one day, he was surprised to receive an audio tape from former member Rick Ekstrand. It was the audio portion of film shot on Hill 724 in Vietnam where a pitched battle followed a highly successful Vietnam ambush in November 1967.


A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting on Hill 823 during the Battle of Dak To. (Photo: U.S. Army)

During the Battle of Dak To, U.S. troops maneuvered against a series of hills covered with thick jungle vegetation, including Hill 724. In this footage from Nov. 7, two American companies attempted to maneuver on the hill and were ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army Regiment.

Alpha Company, the lead regiment, was pinned down and the two companies were outnumbered 10 to 1. Rockets, mortars, artillery, and machine gun fire rained down on the men as the camera operator narrated and filmed. Check out the amazing footage below from the American Heroes Channel:

Mighty Moments

Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

Professional photographer David Jay knows a picture is worth a thousand words, so he applied it to wounded vets.


To comprehend the news he would hear about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Jay visited Walter Reed Hospital to meet with wounded veterans. The visit had such a profound effect on him that he spent 3 years photographing wounded servicemen and women capturing an unadulterated look at their traumatic wounds for his series “Unknown Soldier.”

“We hear about ‘this number of men were killed’ and ‘this many were injured,'” Jay said in a recent interview with NPR. “And we think of them — maybe they got shot — or we don’t really picture what these injured men look like.”

The images are so visually powerful they have been acquired by the Library of Congress to be used as part its Iraq and Afghanistan wars visual documentation.

“You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, ‘Don’t look. Don’t stare at him. That’s rude.’ I take these pictures so that we can look; we can see what we’re not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we created them.”

Jay gave WATM permission to use some of his photos below, but you can see his full gallery here.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Henline. Bobby’s transport was incinerated by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was the lone survivor.

 

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

Army Spc. Jerral Hancock. Jerral was driving a tank in Iraq. A roadside bomb pierced the armor, breaching the interior. It is believed that Jerral was trapped under the wreckage for half an hour.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

Robert was hit by incoming artillery, sustaining burns over 60% of his body

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

Maj. Matt Smith, US Army. On June 8, 2013 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, Matt was shot along with five others by a member of the Afghan National Army. The bullet severed his femoral artery, resulting in the amputation of his leg.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

Marine Cpl. Michael Fox. On November 15, 2011 Michael was on foot patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan when he was injured by an improvised explosive device.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

1st Lt. Nicholas John Vogt, U.S. Army. On November 12, 2011, he was severely injured by an IED while on a foot-patrol in Panjwaii, Afghanistan.

“The only thing that I want to pass on is this: Losing limbs is like losing a good friend,” Vogt said. “We wish we could still be with them, but it wasn’t ‘in the cards’. Then we get up, remember the good times, and thank God for whatever we have left.”

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

Cpl. Christian Brown, USMC

On Dec. 13, 2011, Christian was leading his squad on foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. Both of his legs were blown off- one above the knee, the other below the hip. Just four days prior, under heavy enemy fire, Christian had carried a mortally wounded Marine almost 1,000 feet to a hovering helicopter — an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Silver Star.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

Spc. Marissa Strock. She was injured when her vehicle was struck by an IED buried in the road. She was 20 years old.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris. Shilo was severely burned on February 19th, 2007 by a roadside bomb estimated at 700 lbs. He lost three men out of a crew of five. Only Shilo and his driver survived the blast.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines

To view the entire Unknown Soldier collection by David Jay, visit his website here.

NOW: Here’s What An Army Medic Does In The Critical Minutes After A Soldier Is Wounded 

OR: This veteran artist has some inspiring words for wounded warriors 

Articles

This Marine veteran creates beautiful artwork to overcome PTSD

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines


Art can be an important outlet for people struggling with post-traumatic stress, and one Marine veteran in Oregon is proving it with his paintings.

“I was never creative and didn’t really have an interest in art,” Shane Kohfield, a Marine infantry machine-gunner who deployed twice to Iraq, told KGW-Portland. “I started doing this for something to do and then I felt the raw emotion.”

Kohfield, now a student at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Ore., returned from war with post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury. But he has maintained an incredibly positive attitude: “My head injury didn’t make me weak; it made me stronger than I could have ever imagined and has given me courage in the face of overwhelming adversity,” he wrote.

Kohfield uses an interesting method to create his abstract paintings: He spray paints across his canvas and then uses a spatula to blend the colors. His technique developed out of necessity, since his trembling hand prevented him from using a normal paint brush, according to KGW-Portland.

Fox 12-Oregon has more:

Before too long, Kohfield’s work got noticed. Pegasus Art Gallery in Corvallis now displays several of his paintings. Kohfield has sold three so far, for anywhere from $500 to $2,500, but he also gives many of his pieces away.

“People may have trouble getting to know me, but they have no problem connecting with my paintings. So in a sense, it’s them connecting with me.”  Kohfield said.

Watch the video:

Articles

This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

Master Sgt. Raul “Roy” P. Benavidez was a young special forces linguist and medic when, in 1965, he stepped on a mine in Vietnam and was evacuated to the United States. He was told he’d never walk again. But, wanting to return to Vietnam, he began a nightly ritual of attempting to relearn how to walk despite explicit orders from his doctors.


A year later, his doctor was standing in Benavidez’s hospital room with medical discharge papers. The doctor made a deal with Benavidez that he’d tear up the discharge if Benavidez walked out of the room. Benavidez did one better by walking out of the ward.

Amazingly, this was not the most insane or heroic part of Benavidez’s life. That’s because, after returning to Vietnam, Benavidez volunteered to assist with the emergency extraction of a 12-man special forces team under extreme fire on May 2, 1968. He rode into battle on the fourth helicopter to attempt extraction, the first three having been driven back by withering small arms and anti-aircraft fire. The fourth bird also decided it couldn’t land, but allowed Benavidez to drop out of the helicopter 75 meters from the team.

Benavidez ran the 75 meters and was wounded three times in the process, including once in the head and once in the face. Despite his wounds, he began repositioning the wounded team members so they could lay down fire while also marking the location for aircraft to attempt extraction. When the bird arrived, he ran alongside, providing cover fire, as the helicopter picked up the wounded. Right as the helicopter and Benavidez reached the dead team leader, Benavidez was hit by small arms fire and grenade shrapnel while the pilot was mortally wounded and crashed the aircraft.

Benavidez again recovered the wounded and placed them in a defensive perimeter. He began circuits of the perimeter, distributing ammunition and water. As the enemy increased its pressure on the team, he began calling in airstrikes.

Another aircraft arrived to attempt extraction and Benavidez — despite his own serious injuries — ferried the dead and wounded to the waiting helicopter until he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. He engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the soldier and killed him, but sustained bayonet wounds. While ferrying the last of the wounded to the bird, he engaged two additional enemy soldiers, killing them and protecting the helicopter.

Then, just to prove being wounded 37 times in six hours of combat ain’t no thang, he did a final sweep of the perimeter to ensure no wounded men or classified material was left on the battlefield.

Finally, Benavidez allowed himself to be pulled from the fight. Upon arriving back at the base, he was declared dead by two doctors. As the second one was zipping up the body bag, Benavidez proved he was alive by spitting in the doctor’s face, much like he had been spitting in the face of death for the previous six hours.

It would be nearly 13 more years before Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor, primarily because it was thought that there were no surviving witnesses to testify to his actions. After a team member who did survive, Brian O’Conner, heard Benavidez was still alive and that a witness testimony would allow him to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor, O’Conner provided a 10-page report to satisfy the requirement.

On February 24, 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented the Medal Of Honor. Before reading the citation, he told the crowd, “If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.”

The reading of the citation and Benavidez’s story, in his own words, is available in the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This forgotten soldier survived 4 months in Dunkirk by himself

In 1940, the evacuation of allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk commenced as approximately 338,000 troops were loaded into small boats over the course the rescue.


Also known as “Operation Dynamo,” German forces conducted hellish air raids killing the numerous troops that attempted to flee the area.

In the mix of all that chaos was 20-year-old Bill Lacey, a rifleman in the 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. Reportedly, Bill had already boarded a relief boat but decided to give up his seat to make room for a wounded man and leaped off the vessel.

Back on land, Bill turned around to see that the boat he had exited from was now well underway — without him.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
The British Army evacuation underway in Dunkirk (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

He quickly located a raft and thought he could use it to rejoin the boat that was sailing off in the distance. As he took hold of it, he realized the raft was useless as it had two bullet holes poked through it.

As gunfire erupted in all directions, Bill witnessed German troops rounding up British stragglers taking them prisoner. Unsure of what the future held, he decided to make a run for it and take his chances surviving on his own.

Headed in the opposite direction as the armed Germans, he maneuvered south, hoping to run into other British troops.

Bill made his way into the woods and traveled deep into the hostile countryside not knowing how he was ever going to make it home.

His mission was to stay out of sight, as German patrols were consistently roaming the area.

He got rid of his issued uniform, hid his weapon, and donned clothes he had stolen from nearby washing lines to help blend into the local population. Bill was forced to drink from streams and eat handfuls of straw dipped in margarine.

“I had to learn to stay alive in the same way a wild animal would,” Bill states in an interview. “My only thought was to survive from one day to the next.”

Since he didn’t speak French, he nodded to locals if they attempted to interact with him. Then, one day after four long months of surviving on scraps, Bill finally saw an opportunity to make it home.

Bill spotted a fishing boat that was tied down to a small pier and began to format a plan in his head. After the sun went down that evening, he carefully made his way to the small vessel, slipped off the moorings, quieting boarded, and steered off toward the English coast.

The forgotten soldier arrived at the shoreline near Dover, England, weak with hunger and clad in ratty clothes. Soon after, he was arrested and transported to an Army base where intelligence officers interrogated him — they didn’t believe his traumatic story.

Luckily, they checked many French newspapers and found articles about a British soldier reportedly on the run who stole food from farmhouses. There was also a report about a fishing boat from the pier that went missing.

A former Cambodian soldier has dedicated his life to clearing landmines
Bill Lacey takes a moment for a quick photo op. (Source: Mirror UK)

After proving himself, Bill was recruited into the British special operation division and completed several more years of service — finally retiring in his early fifties.

Sadly, the hero and survival expert passed away at the age of 91, but his Dunkirk legacy will live on forever.

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