Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse - We Are The Mighty
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Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse

Being a military spouse is a job. A job that requires grace and standing on your head while sewing new rank onto your spouse’s 15 sets of uniforms. It’s a job that commands that you hold your head high while certain people question or scoff at the value of your position.


Let me tell you a story that you probably already know a little too well.

A young girl is told by her parents that she can do anything, that she can be anything she wants to be, as long as she sets her mind to it. She works hard in school and graduates at the top of her class. She sets her sights high and has high career aspirations.

In college, she meets the man of her dreams. This young man, too, has big dreams. His dreams involve serving his country and protecting their freedom. As college comes to an end, the young man receives orders to be stationed overseas and the young girl must make a choice – chase after the career that she has been working towards all these years or choose the man that has unexpectedly entered her life and has become her life. She chooses love. Five years later she takes a moment to reflect and decides that if she could go back in time, she would still make that same choice all over again. She would choose love. She would always choose love.

That does not mean that it has been an easy journey. Life as a military spouse has been a bumpy ride – a worthwhile ride, but a bumpy ride nonetheless. In the early days of being a military spouse overseas, I struggled with the transition from being independent to being a dependent. I no longer had an identity other than being a dependent. I had my husband’s social security number memorized better than my own. I couldn’t even pay my own cell phone bill without my husband present or a power of attorney.

I went through various stages of grief. At first I was angry. “Do you have any idea what I have given up so you can pursue your dreams?” Then I was sad. I would ask through tears, “What is my purpose?” After some time, I made it to acceptance. I understand that I am supporting the greater cause. Every choice that I have made until now has led me to this point. I am successful, but in a very different sort of way than I believed in growing up. Before, I thought success was measured in career status and income level. Now I understand that there are different kinds of success. I have a loving husband, a beautiful baby, and a home that we can call our own.

Every day military spouses everywhere are working hard, often in single-parent-type circumstances, to find a way to make our career goals fit into our unusual lifestyle. It’s a cost that’s difficult to comprehend before you experience it.

Giving up the dream job for a PCS.

Finding out your career field is nonexistent at a new duty station.

Not knowing how you are going to balance everything while he’s away this time.

Even though I am in the acceptance phase of my journey, it doesn’t mean that snarky remarks from others don’t hurt. Someone very close to me said the other day, “Enjoy your day at home. I’m on my way to work because I don’t have a husband that supports me.” Others have made comments about how it must be nice to be a stay-at-home wife (and now mom). While they would never say it to my face, I have heard people comment about other military spouses being lazy or not doing anything with their lives. These comments are usually made from a combination of both humor and misunderstanding. It’s time to stop making assumptions based on the surface-level appearance of each other’s situations. Every military spouse has a story and we have all made sacrifices to live the life we are living.

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New York ‘Fleet Week’ kicks off with parade of awesome ships

The U.S. Navy’s Fleet Week has kicked off with a parade of ships, including patrol, destroyer and assault vessels that pulled into New York Harbor.


The U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton military base held a salute to the ships on May 24. The USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship carried out a seven-gun salute to Fort Hamilton, which replied with a 15-gun salute.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
The USS Kearsarge sails into New York Harbor during the Parade of Ships as part of Fleet Week New York, May 24, 2017. The Parade of Ships marks the beginning of the 29th Annual Fleet Week New York. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabby Petticrew)

“New York has always had a close relationship with the military,” U.S. Coast Guard Anthony Giovinco, U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran and chief of staff and secretary of the United Military Veterans of Kings County Memorial Day Parade, said in a statement. “The sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are treated very well here. This is a tradition that is important to me. It brings back fond memories of the years I spent in the military.”

The USS Kearsarge was accompanied by vessels including the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Lassen; the Ticonderoga-class cruisers USS Monterey and USS San Jacinto; and Canada’s Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Glace Bay, among others.

“Fleet Week New York is a way for the general public to view and experience the maritime sea services while allowing us to show our appreciation for our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen,” U.S. Army Spc. Tanner Butler, who is assigned to Fort Hamilton, said. “I feel, that since 9/11, it is really important for the people of New York to experience these things and to remember that our fellow Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are there for us.”

New York City residents can inspect the vessels while service members are allowed to roam the city and enjoy perks such as free subway rides and baseball tickets. About 4,000 sailors,Marines and Coast Guardsmen are anticipated to participate this year. There will be a special screening of the 1986 film Top Gun in New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air Space Museum.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse

“Fleet Week New York, now in its 29th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea service,” the Navy said in a statement. “It is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. The weeklong celebration has been held nearly every year since 1984.”

In 2013, the Navy canceled Fleet Week due to spending cuts amid a sequester. The event would have cost the Navy an estimated $10 million, while the New York City metropolitan area lost an estimated $20 million in revenue.

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Reagan taught US pilots how to recognize the Zero

Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.


While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.

And yes, friendly fire was a problem in World War II. The P-38 was hamstrung because someone mistook a C-54 for a Fw 200.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.

Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.

Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.

Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.

There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.

So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.

Mighty Moments

The Coast Guard rescued half a million New Yorkers from the 9/11 terror attacks

The U.S. Coast Guard was on scene just over an hour after the first plane hit during the 9/11 attacks. Members of the service evacuated half a million people from Lower Manhattan and stayed on to help clean up New York.


 

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Coast Guard Petty officer Billy Bashaw, from Station Fire Island, bows his head in sorrow onboard his rescue boat Sept. 11. Bashaw has close friends who work in the World Trade Center who are still unaccounted for. (USCG photo by PA2 Tom Sperduto)

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Manhattan was thrown into chaos as more than 500,000 people fled towards the water. They were looking for any way to get off the island and away from the dust, debris, and fire that came from the World Trade Center.

No one on the ground at the time knew for sure what was really happening. What New Yorkers did know is that they wanted to flee to safety, and on that sunny Tuesday morning the Coast Guard took immediate action. The first tower was struck at 8:46, and by 10 AM, more than 40 Coast Guard cutters and boats flooded towards the southern tip of Manhattan.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Coast Guard crewmembers patrol the harbor after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Terrorist hijacked four commercial jets and then crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside. USCG photo by PA3 Tom Sperduto

“We felt the impact of the plane hit the Pentagon as we watched New York on TV,” then-Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral James Loy recalls, “and we knew that it was a large-scale terrorist attack.”

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Seen is an aerial view of Pentagon after a hijacked airline crashed into it Sept. 11. Terrorist hijacked four commercial jets and then crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside. (U.S. COAST GUARD PHOTO)

Loy relied on his junior officers to put into action their exhaustive search and rescue and port security training. Those men and women quickly realized they couldn’t go at it alone.

A radio call to any boats that could help came from Lt. Michael Day, the Chief of Activities New York – Waterways Oversight Branch.

“United States Coast Guard aboard the pilot boat New York,” he called. “All mariners, we appreciate your assistance.”

He went on to ask for any vessels to head for several areas set up by the Coast Guard to help shuttle more than 500,000 people off the island. They also had to recover people who attempted to swim towards Staten Island and Jersey City.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
New Yorkers rushed to the Lower Manhattan water front at Battery Park to try to escape the collapse of the World Trade Center towers September 11. They were later evacuated by ferries and tugboats from all over New York harbor. (USCG photo by Chief Brandon Brewer)

Nearly 80 vessels shuttled supplies and personnel between Manhattan Battery and Jersey City as a part of the relief and clean-up efforts in the days following the attack. Loy also changed the course for every cutter on the Atlantic coast to cease migrant and drug interdiction operations and to begin defense readiness and port security operations.

The Coast Guard continued to stand the ready-guard in the weeks and months following 9/11. The world was unsure of whether the attacks would happen again. The Coast Guard guarded every nuclear power plant on navigable U.S. waters. They worked tirelessly and around the clock for months, a part of the recovering and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center, as well as performing their regular duties.

“You could just see the exhaustion in everyone’s eyes as they worked, unrelenting in trying to just find a survivor,” reflects Senior Chief Machinery Technician Tina Claflin, who served with Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team as a Machinery Technician 2nd Class, on her time working in the clean up efforts.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse

Coast Guardsman were not always in their iconic blue uniforms that morning. Several reservists were in New York as first responders, including Christian Waugh, a New York City firefighter, and Port Securityman 1st Class. Waugh, along with Lt. William Cosgrove, NYPD and Zachary Vause, NYFD, carried the body of Rev. Mychal Judge out of the north tower just moments before it collapsed.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse

The father of the Coast Guard – the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton – is buried in the Trinity Churchyard, just steps away from where the World Trade Center stood. In the wake of the attacks, as Loy and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Vince Patton stood near Trinity Church, they realized how powerful the house of worship stood as a monument.

It sustained only a broken window and was a place of refuge for recovery workers. As Loy looked around the ash and debris-strewn churchyard, he looked at Patton and told him that they had to clean it. Patton first looked at Loy and thought “Has the old man lost his mind?” but realized Loy was looking across the yard at Hamilton’s grave.

Patton spoke with Senior Chief Petty Officer Steve Koll, the Command Senior Chief at Activities New York, and less than 24 hours later was sent back to New York. Patton estimated the job would take nearly 100 people days to finish. Koll, who had just a few dozen on hand, finished the job in less than a day.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Steven Koll and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Vince Patton, adjust the flag placed at the grave site of Alexander Hamilton, the ‘father of the Coast Guard’, Thursday at the cemetery of Trinity Church, a few blocks away from the WTC disaster site. (USCG photo by PA2 Mark Mackowiak)

While the Coast Guard remembered its history, it also mourned the loss of current members. Jeffrey M. Palazzo, a New York City Fire Fighter and Machinery Technician 1st Class in the Coast Guard Reserves was trapped as the North Tower collapsed, his remains never recovered. Police officer and Port Securityman 2nd Class Vincent G. Danz also lost his life in the North Tower, looking for survivors with the Bronx’s Emergency Service Unit. His remains were lost until December 2001.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
The Master Chief of the Coast Guard Vince Patton, reads some of the messages Thursday that have been applied to the first responder fire truck near the World Trade Center disaster site. Patton was visiting the site to pay respects and to visit with the Coast Guard personnel who are assisting in the recovery. (USCG photo by PA2 Mark Mackowiak)

In everything the Coast Guard did in the aftermath of 9/11, the service didn’t forget its core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. As Patton reflected on the efforts in New York, he said: “When we all rallied around honor, everything just fell into place.”

Mighty Moments

Women positioned to make history as Air Force’s first ground special operators

A female Airman has passed Air Force special warfare selection and is now beginning the arduous process of training to become a combat controller. There are currently three other women who are working through the Air Force’s 76-week special operations training pipeline, with one officer potentially positioned to make history as the branch’s first-ever female ground special operator in the near future.

The Air Force special operations career fields are known for their very long—some would say too long—pipelines. The four career fields (Pararescue, Combat Control, Special Reconnaissance, and Tactical Air Control Party) have one of the toughest selection processes in the entire special operations community, with high levels of technical expertise on top of the physical demands.

Right now, the Combat Controller pipeline lasts 76 weeks and has 10 separate steps that go as follows:

  • Special Warfare Preparatory Course (8 weeks)
  • Special Warfare Assessment & Selection (4 weeks)
  • Special Warfare Pre-Dive Course (4 weeks)
  • Special Warfare Combat Dive School (5 weeks)
  • Air Force Survival School (3 weeks)
  • Airborne School (3 weeks)
  • Military Freefall School (4 weeks)
  • Air Traffic Control School (11 weeks)
  • Combat Control Apprentice Course (8 weeks)
  • Special Tactics Training (26 weeks)

According to the Air Force Times, there are four female Airmen currently at various stages of the pipeline.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
(DoD photo)

Sandboxx News understands that last summer, a female officer and Air Force Academy graduate finished the Combat Diver portion of the pipeline, which is arguably one of the toughest parts of the whole selection and training process and is now nearing the end of the tunnel. If she graduates, she will become the first-ever female ground special operator in the Air Force’s history.

Interestingly, the female special tactics officer candidate went through the Army’s Special Operations Underwater Operations School (SFUWO) instead of the Air Force’s dive school. Sandboxx News understands that approximately 15-20 Air Force personnel go through the Army’s combat diver school every year despite the Air Force Special Operations Command having its own course.

“Any airman or recruit aspiring to enter special warfare career fields, regardless of gender, will be accessed and qualified using the current validated standards,” Marilyn Holliday, a spokesperson for the Air Education and Training Command, told the Air Force Times.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
A female Airman recently passed the assessment & selection as a female officer prepares to graduate as the first-ever woman to pass a special operations pipeline in the Air Force’s history (AFSOC).

Combat Controllers specialize in air traffic control, joint terminal attack control, and airfield and landing zones surveys, among other mission sets.

According to the Air Force, combat controllers “deploy, undetected, into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance in the joint arena.”

However, they are most often attached to other special operations units. For example, the Delta Force squadron that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, had at least one combat controller from the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron attached to them.

The 24th Special Tactics Squadron is the Tier 1 unit of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and often sends operators as attachments to its Army (Delta Force) and Navy (SEAL Team 6) counterparts.

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

Intel

Recon Marines honor fallen brothers with a grueling 30-mile ruck run

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for troops who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States.


On this day, Americans may be posting tributes on social media or attending events to honor the fallen. For a group of Recon Marines however, their way of honoring fallen brothers is with an intense, grueling challenge over nearly 30 miles.

“I’ll run for him until I retire,” says Master Gunnery Sgt. Christopher May of his comrade Staff Sgt. Caleb Medley, in a new video produced by the Marine Corps. Medley died in Feb. 2013 in a parachuting accident while training in California, according to The Marine Times.

Watch the video below:

SEE ALSO: 12 rare and amazing photos from the ‘War to End All Wars’

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8 new projects that will revolutionize military medicine

Compared to previous American conflicts U.S. military medicine drastically reduced the number deaths due to injury during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that success doesn’t mean the profession is done innovating. Here are eight ways military medicine is trying to improve the ability to save lives:


1. Wound-stabilizing foam that reduces bleeding

Bleeding out is still the number one killer on the battlefield, according to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research. So, DARPA has worked multiple programs to treat this major killer in combat.

One program success is ClotFoam. The foam works by seeking out damaged tissue, especially cut tissue fibers, and binding to it. It forms a scaffold that the body’s natural clotting agents can then latch to as they would with a cotton bandage. Different formulations of ClotFoam have been tested with the best reducing blood loss in mice by 66 percent when compared to a control group. DARPA is now looking to test delivery mechanisms for ClotFoam.

Another DARPA project was originally aimed at studying and accelerating the clotting process, but a project participant created foam that could treat abdominal injuries on its own. Now, DARPA is seeking help testing the Wound Stasis System device and foam in FDA trials so it can be sent to combat medics as well as civilian EMTs. As seen in the video above, the foam fills the abdominal cavity, stops the internal bleeding, and can be quickly removed by surgeons when the patient arrives at the hospital.

2. Remote trauma care

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Photo: US Army

Telemedicine is not a new concept. The civilian medical sector has been working on remote patient care since the late ’70s, and many patients can now see their doctor via the internet when they can’t come into the office. The Army is looking expand its remote medicine options, most notably in the area of medical evacuation.

The Army wants systems that can be mounted inside vehicles and hooked up to existing radios, allowing patient information to go directly to the doctor who will receive them at the hospital. The doctor will also be able to call to the medic, advising on treatment while the patient is evacuated off the battlefield. This could allow for better care for patients en route to the hospital as well as a smoother handoff between the medic and the doctor. Prototypes have already been tested.

3. A chair that monitors vitals

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Photo: US Army Kaye Richey

Of course, beaming the information from patients to doctors with telemedicine is great, but currently it would require a medic to speak or type the information into a computer. The Army is looking to take that task off medics’ hands by adapting the LifeBed into a chair for military air and ground ambulances. The chair would track patients’ respiratory and heart rates and alert a medic if they showed signs of trouble. The medic would be able to spend less time checking on already stable soldiers and more time treating new patients as they evacuate casualties.

4. Active bandages that reduce scaring and improve recovery

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Photo: US Navy MC1 Matthew Leistikow

Navy researchers are looking at bandages that would actively assist in the recovery process. The bandages would contain antibiotics, growth factors, and other agents to reduce scar tissue formation, recovery time, and the chance of infection.

5. Reducing pressure ulcers

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Photo: US Army Spc. Wayne Becton

Pressure ulcers, more often known as bed sores, develop when skin is under pressure or rubbed for an extended period of time. Patients immobilized for transport will likely develop pressure ulcers if restrained against a hard surface like a backboard. The Army is beginning a study to see how to mitigate the infliction.

Service members evacuated from combat are commonly at risk for spinal damage, and so are often immobilized for transport. Understanding pressure ulcer formation will allow the military to reduce the number of ulcers that form and cut down on the resulting infections and discomfort.

6. Better treatments following shock from blood loss

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Photo: US Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin

The exact problem valproic acid therapy treats is kind of complicated, so bear with this very dumbed down explanation. There is a stage of treatment following major blood loss where the return of normal blood pressure leads to major medical complications. Tissue that has been starved of blood and oxygen can quickly inflame and release toxins when blood flow is restored. Currently, this is mitigated by the timing of how blood and other fluids are returned to the body.

Valprioc acid has been shown to reduce the complications as blood flow returns, and the Army wants more clinical trials of VPA treatments sooner rather than later. In a study where rats were drained of half their blood, rats treated without VPA survived only 14 percent of the time while rats treated with VPA survived 87.5 percent of the time.

7. New vaccines

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Photo: US Army Carol E. Davis

The significance of new vaccines is obvious. New vaccines allow humans to be made resistant to more potential killers. The Army currently has three new vaccines in its sights, one each for malaria, norovirus, and dengue.

A proposed malaria vaccine would have cut down on the 198 million cases and 500,000 deaths in 2013. Average people will get norovirus five times in their life without a vaccine, causing diarrhea and vomiting. Dengue is mosquito-borne and starts off as a mild fever but can become severe, sometimes leading to death.

8. Better skull implants

Following brain trauma or damage to the skull, some patients have to have a portion of skull removed and later replaced by an implant made of titanium or polymers. Currently, these implants are prone to infection.

The Navy is looking to reduce the number of infections after implantation by developing new surface materials that have different textures and nano particle coatings that release chemicals to prevent infection. This would reduce the number of follow-up surgeries a patient would need and lower recovery time.

NOW: Here’s what an Army medic does in the critical minutes after a soldier is wounded

OR: This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals

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Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade and saved his best friend’s life

On Nov. 21, 2010 while providing security on a rooftop in Afghanistan, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade to save his best friend’s life, an action he later received the Medal of Honor for.


“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”

The scene was near Marjah, with Carpenter and his squad — supported by engineers, an interpreter, and Afghan National Army troops — moved south of their main base to establish a small outpost to wrestle control of the area from the Taliban. It was Nov. 19, 2010, and as Carpenter told me, they were guaranteed to take enemy fire.

That “contact” came one day later, when their small patrol base came under blistering attack from small arms, sniper fire, rockets, and grenades. Two Marines were injured and evacuated. “The rest of the day it was sporadic but still constant enemy [AK-47] fire on our post that was on top of the roof,” he said.

While the Marines took sporadic fire while setting up their new base over the next two days, it was on Nov. 21 that Carpenter would distinguish himself with his heroism.

“Enemy forces had maneuvered in close through the use of the walls of the compound across the street to the east,” according to Carpenter’s summary of action. The Taliban threw three grenades into the compound.

One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near the post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to him and his friend, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio. He didn’t remember actually jumping on the grenade, but multiple eyewitnesses and forensics showed that was exactly what happened.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse

“The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” the summary reads.

Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. Eufrazio is still recovering from the attack, while Carpenter has bounced back from his devastating wounds in a fashion that’s nothing short of remarkable.

He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on Jun. 19, 2014.

“I mean I would grab that [grenade] and kick it right back,” Carpenter told me half-jokingly, when I asked if he had any regrets. “But besides that … I wouldn’t change anything. We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”

Here’s his full citation, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps:

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse

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This Yazidi boy survived three years of ISIS captivity

Among the Iraqis freed in the US-led coalition’s liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State this month was Emad Mshko Tamo, a Yazidi who was separated from his family and trained as a soldier by the terrorist army for the past three years.


Wounded from shrapnel and covered in dust, the emaciated former captive shook hands with the Iraqi soldiers who freed him. He accepted a bottle of water and held it in his lap, sitting in the front seat of a truck that was to take him to a hospital for treatment.

Emad is 12 years old.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Yazidi refugees. (UK DFID photo by Rachel Unkovic)

While the Iraqi government celebrates its victory over the Islamic State in Mosul, aid organizations report that hundreds of civilians remain trapped in the Old City and the humanitarian crisis in Iraq continues to mount, with 3 million refugees and almost 1 million displaced people from Mosul.

“In the last week of fighting, 12,000 civilians were evacuated, [and] their condition was the worst of the entire war,” Lise Grande, the lead coordinator of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said July 17 during a press conference.

“Many were elderly, disabled. There were separated children. They clearly did not have sufficient water, they hadn’t had sufficient food, and the overwhelming majority of the civilians who came out were unable, even on their own, to cross the front line to safety. They had to be helped,” said Ms. Grande, adding that the levels of trauma in Mosul are among the highest anywhere.

The Iraqi army next will move to liberate the cities of Tal Afar, Hawija, and western Anbar province, and humanitarian organizations are preparing for an even larger crisis.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

Among the concerns are those for orphaned children and those separated from their families. Ms. Grande was unable to provide estimates but said the numbers are large and will require specialized care for months and even years to come.

Emad’s story is a bright spot in an otherwise dark saga, said Dlo Yaseen, an Iraqi-Kurdish translator who helped the 12-year-old while he was being transferred between hospitals from Mosul to Irbil.

Terrorists kidnapped Emad in the summer of 2014 from his village near Sinjar. He was one of thousands of victims of the Islamic State’s campaign of genocide against the Yazidi people — a Kurdish minority whose religious tradition, which mixes aspects of Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism, is regarded as apostasy by the Islamic State.

The militants reportedly executed thousands of Yazidi men and boys and at least 86 women, and kidnapped and sold Yazidi women into sex slavery — among other crimes against humanity. An independent survey and analysis of survivors, family members, and civilians estimates that 3,700 Yazidis were slain or died during the summer assault, and that of the 6,800 who were kidnapped, 2,500 are still missing.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
An ISOF APC among the rubble in Mosul, Iraq. (Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

In Mosul, when the Iraqi soldiers realized that Emad was Yazidi, they called the only Yazidi soldier in their unit, Mr. Yaseen said. The soldier recognized Emad’s family name and was able to locate his relatives in Dohuk, a Kurdish city in northwestern Iraq.

Shrapnel from Iraqi army mortar fire had wounded Emad. Although Islamic State captors tried to treat him, he was still suffering. Personnel at a field hospital decided that he would be transferred to a larger hospital in Irbil for surgery.

In the meantime, five of Emad’s uncles traveled the few hours’ drive from Dohuk to Irbil for the reunion. They also brought news of Emad’s mother, who had traveled to Canada a few months earlier with two of his siblings. Emad and his mother were able to talk via Facebook chat.

Yazda, an international Yazidi aid organization, corroborated Emad’s story, saying his mother was resettled in Canada with the help of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees after the government’s decision to take in Yazidi survivors.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Emad Mshko Tamo. (Photo from Dlo Yaseen via Facebook)

Shortly after Emad’s rescue, Mr. Yaseen posted a photo of him on Facebook: “A Yazidi boy rescued under ISIS and rejoined his relative.”

The photo is striking — Emad is composed, sitting in the passenger seat of the truck, his face turned toward the camera. He is covered in grime — a large and dirty blue T-shirt is the only clothing covering his twig-like frame. His blond hair sticks up at all ends, his face is covered in white dust, but his lips are red and stained with blood. His expression is calm, a slight furrow to his brows as they arch upward.

“I asked him, ‘How do you feel now that you are rescued?'” said Mr. Yaseen. “He said, ‘I’m happy. I’m going to go to my house, my family. I will be happy.'”
Articles

5 Times When Jon Stewart Made A Difference For America’s Veterans

Jon Stewart is leaving “The Daily Show” after 16 years.


A cursory look at the show archives yields an impressive listing of military-related segments over the years, from an absolutely hilarious segment from Rob Riggle at the protests of Marine recruiters in Berkeley, California to Stewart’s fascinating interview with a soldier on what it takes to get through Ranger school.

But you may not know that Stewart has been an advocate for troops throughout his tenure, and has used his show on occasion to advocate for veterans and veteran-related causes. Here are five times in recent years he tried to make a difference:

When he brought on Eric Greitens, CEO and Founder of The Mission Continues, to discuss how returning veterans could transition into service and leadership roles in the civilian world.

When he sent out Samantha Bee to investigate an Iraq war veteran’s benefit claim — stuck in the 900,000 case backlog at the VA — in a segment called Zero Dark 900,000.

When he spoke with war correspondent Sebastian Junger about his film “Korengal,” and how soldiers could positively impact society after they return from war.

When Jason Jones was sent out to speak with Vietnam veterans who were dishonorably discharged due to PTSD who can’t get treatment because they were dishonorably discharged due to PTSD.

The time he blasted President Obama over the VA backlog scandal in an ongoing series called “The Red Tape Diaries.”

Mighty Moments

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.

A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.

“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”


Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out

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The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.

“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”

Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.

Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.

“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”

Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.

“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.

“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”

Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.”
“I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”

When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.

Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.

“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”

Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.

“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.

“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”

Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.

Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.

Intel

This WWII vet says killing his enemy was the saddest memory of his life

Understanding the mental cost of taking someone’s life can be nearly impossible for those people who have never experienced it. In this StoryCorps video, Joseph Robertson, an infantryman who served during the Battle of the Bulge, tries to explain to his son-in-law the guilt he has carried since he killed a German soldier approaching his position.


StoryCorps, which works nationwide to collect oral history, has a veteran specific program, Military Voices Initiative, where veterans and service members can tell their stories.

(h/t Upworthy)

MORE: The 6 scariest vehicles of WWI and WWII

AND: 21 of the US military’s most overused clichés

Mighty Moments

Army holds private BCT graduation for hospitalized soldier

A new Soldier who led his unit on the rifle range and on the PT field got a special BCT (Basic Combat Training) graduation from his command after suddenly taking ill and being hospitalized.

New Pvt. Angel Hernandez began his basic training journey last November with Company B, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment at Fort Leonard Wood. Almost immediately, he set himself apart from the pack and made it clear he was a high performer. By the time training had concluded, Hernandez had earned not one, but two Army Achievement Medals: One for having the highest marksmanship score in his unit, and another for having the highest ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test) score.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

But despite Hernandez’s remarkable effort in training, he wasn’t able to attend his unit’s BCT graduation on February 4th due to suddenly taking ill. After being admitted to General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, he was then transferred to University Hospital in Columbia, where he awaits another transfer to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. While the Army has not revealed what illness took Hernandez out of training, they did point out that he had managed to complete all of his graduation requirements prior to taking ill.

Had Hernandez not fallen sick, he would have been able to graduate with his friends and peers in February. With that clearly impossible, the Army chose to do something a little bit different: They held a private graduation ceremony for Hernandez right there in the hospital he’s staying in. The Army even set it up so his family could watch the ceremony virtually.

Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Pvt. Angel Hernandez, a Soldier assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, receives his Basic Combat Training certificate of completion and two Army Achievement Medals(Photo by Brian Hill)

“He completed all of the graduation requirements; he just wasn’t able to walk across the stage with his peers,” said Capt. Lee Johnson, Bravo Company commander.

“We just decided to seize on the opportunity while he’s here now to graduate him in person and recognize him for his achievements — give him the recognition that he deserves.”

On March 3, just under a month after he would have graduated, Hernandez participated in the private ceremony, which saw Lt. Col. Christopher Scott, Hernandez’ battalion commander, present the young Soldier with both of his Army Achievement Medals and his graduation certificate. Scott emphasized Hernandez’ tenacity during training as he spoke.

“This is really special for all of us to be able to come up here and make sure he knows that he has graduated and is a Soldier in the United States Army,” Scott said.

“He is resilient; he is exactly what the Soldiers of this nation need to be. He’s exactly what the people of this nation deserve.”

Hernandez accepted his command’s praise with a great deal of humility and went on to say that the sort of support he was receiving in the hospital felt as though it was in keeping with how he felt throughout training, thanks to a positive atmosphere throughout BCT.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot during basic training,” he said. “You develop a really close relationship with your battle buddies because you learn to rely on them and they learn to rely on you as well.”

“It feels great to be able to recover … I joined the Army because I want to serve my country.”

Hernandez will be close to home while undergoing treatment at Walter Reed. His family only lives about 30 minutes from the military hospital–But Hernandez isn’t looking to take it easy. He’s already planning on getting back into fighting shape.

“When I come back, I want to come back stronger,” he said.

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

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