The early 1980s brought us some epic action movies like “Conan the Barbarian,” “Blade Runner,” and let’s not forget “E.T.”
Although these films were fun to watch, they didn’t have the impact on veterans like the movie “First Blood” did.
Directed by Ted Kotcheff, John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) was a former Green Beret who just wanted to visit his Vietnam buddy when things took a turn for the worse and he ended up battling a small town’s police force after an unlawful arrest.
But we’ve always wondered what it would have been like to serve under his command. Here’s our take on how being in Rambo’s platoon would be.
1. Alternate shooting techniques
In most boot camps we’re taught proper weapons handling. But forget all those safety briefs you were forced to listen to when Capt. Rambo reports in as the new commanding officer, because every shot you fire from here on out will be from your hip.
Plus it looks awesome if you can handle the recoil. (Giphy)
2. No bayonets
Having the ability to mount a knife on the barrel of your rifle isn’t enough.
If you were in Rambo’s company, your blade would have to be up to such standards that it can slice a bad guy up and be thrown across the room with perfect precision.
There’s no better place to learn about and remember the service of fellow soldiers and Veterans than at one of the many memorials, military museums and other historic locations found across the United States. AARP has developed comprehensive guides to 10 key sites from Pearl Harbor to Boston.
These sites offer visitors thoughtful, moving portrayals of the sacrifices Veterans made throughout American history. Be sure to take a look before you plan your next trip to one of these great destinations.
The Snow Leopard Commando Unit is the China’s most elite counter terrorism unit, similar to America’s SEAL Team 6. Surprisingly, the unit is a federal police unit and not part of China’s Army.
Tasked with protecting the capital of Beijing, their activities are largely secret. Still, the glimpses the world gets are pretty impressive.
The unit is reported to have been established soon after China’s capital was selected for the 2008 Olympics. From 2002 to 2007, they trained in secret under the name “Snow Wolf Commando Unit.”
In 2007, their existence was finally announced just before a ceremony that changed their name to “Snow Leopard Commando Unit.” That same year, SLCU conducted some flashy training with Russian police.
SLCU continued service after the Olympic’s closing ceremonies. The elite unit is rarely reported on, but they made news in 2013 and 2014 for winning top honors at the Warrior Competition, a sort of combat Olympics held in Jordan every year.
The Chinese police very rarely leave China, but the Snow Leopard Unit does, providing security for Chinese dignitaries. They’ve also been dispatched domestically to stamp out unrest in China’s West.
An Army Howitzer is now firing a 5,000-miles per hour, high-tech, electromagnetic Hyper Velocity Projectile, initially developed as a Navy weapon, an effort to fast-track increasing lethal and effective weapons to warzones and key strategic locations, Pentagon officials said.
Overall, the Pentagon is accelerating developmental testing of its high-tech, long-range Electro-Magnetic Rail Gun by expanding the platforms from which it might fire and potentially postponing an upcoming at-sea demonstration of the weapon, Pentagon and Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.
The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.
Firing from an Army Howitzer, the rail gun hypervelocity projectile can fire a 5,000-mile and hour projectile at enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft,vehicle bunkers and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.
“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet. That is very much a focus getting ready for the future,” Dr. William Roper, Director of the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, told Scout Warrior among a small group of reporters.
Pentagon weapons developers with the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, are working to further accelerate development of both the gun launcher and the hypervelocity projectile it fires. While plans for the weapon’s development are still being deliberated, ongoing work is developing integration and firing of the projectile onto existing Navy’s deck-mounted 5-inch guns or Army M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer (a mobile platform which fires 155mm artillery rounds).
The Strategic Capabilities Office, a high-level Pentagon effort, is aimed at exploring emerging technologies with a mind to how they can be integrated quickly into existing weapons systems and platforms. Part of the rationale is to harness promising systems, weapons and technologies able to arrive in combat sooner that would be the case should they go through the normal bureaucratic acquisition process. In almost every instance, the SCO partners with one of the services to blend new weapons with current systems for the near term, Roper explained.
Part of the calculus is grounded in the notion of integrating discovery and prototyping, being able to adjust and fix in process without committing to an official requirement, Roper said.
Roper further explained that firing the HVP out of a 155m Howitzer brings certain advantages, because the weapon’s muzzle breach at the end of its cannon is able to catch some of the round’s propellant – making the firing safer for Soldiers.
“Its design traits were all based with dealing with extreme electromagnetic fields – that projectile could be fired out of an existing weapon system. Its whole role is to just keep the hot gas and propellant from rushing past. You don’t want it eroded by the hot material,” Roper explained.
The goal of the effort is to fire a “sub-caliber” round that is aerodynamic and able to fly at hypersonic speeds. We can significanly increase the range and continually improve what powder guns can do, he added.
“We’ve been looking at the data and are very pleased with the results we are getting back,” Roper said. One Senior Army official told Scout Warrior that firing a Hyper Velocity Projectile from a Howitzer builds upon rapid progress with targeting technology, fire-control systems and faster computer processing speeds for fire direction.
The Navy is jettisoning its complex ratings system to make sailors’ jobs more understandable and allow them to more easily transfer occupations.
The move, which allows sailors to be addressed by rank, such as seaman, petty officer and chief, aligns the service for the first time with the other three military branches, which address troops by rank instead of job specialty.
“I’ve never heard of a Marine who introduced himself as ‘Infantry Corporal Smith,’ ” Cmdr. John Schofield, a spokesman for Navy Personnel Command, told Military.com. “This is exactly what every other service does; it completely aligns us with the other services. I would just say that it makes complete sense in terms of putting more emphasis on rank and standardization.”
The changes are the result of an eight-month review initiated by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in January in as part of an effort to make job titles gender neutral as women entered previously closed fields.
In June, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke announced that the review was being expanded with input from the master chief petty officer of the Navy and other senior leaders to examine ways to make job descriptions more inclusive, improve the job assignment process, and facilitate sailors’ transition between military jobs or into civilian ones.
A Navy administrative message published Thursday announced that the ratings system that included job and rank information — intelligence specialist first class or chief hospital corpsman — is being replaced with a four-digit alphanumeric Naval Occupational Specialty, or NOS, parallel to the military occupational specialties used by the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force.
Sailors in ranks E-1 to E-3 will be addressed as “seaman;” those in ranks E4 to E-6 will be called petty officers third, second or first class; and those in ranks E-7 to E-9 will be called chief, senior chief or master chief, in keeping with their paygrade, according to the message.
“There will no longer be a distinction between ‘Airman, Fireman, and Seaman.’ They will all be ‘Seamen,’ ” the message states.
The new NOSs will be categorized under logical job fields, similar to the organizational system used by the other services. According to a ratings conversion chart provided by Navy officials, the old ratings of Navy diver, explosive ordnance disposal specialist, and special warfare operator will be classified as NOS E100, E200 and E300, respectively.
Schofield said sailors will be able to hold more than one NOS, a shift that will allow them to collect a broader range of professional experience and expertise while in uniform. Each NOS, he said, will be ultimately matched with a parallel or similar civilian occupation to “enable the Navy to identify credentials and certifications recognized and valued within the civilian workforce.”
“This change represents a significant cultural shift and it is recognized that it will not happen overnight, but will take time to become fully adapted,” the message states.
While the review began with an eye to gender neutrality, the ranks of “seaman” in the Navy and “midshipman” at the Naval Academy will stay, Schofield said. The terms were allowed to remain, he said, because they are ranks, not job titles.
While the new NOSs will largely retain the original ratings titles, some — such as yeoman — may change to become more inclusive or more descriptive of the sailors’ jobs. The updated list of job titles is still being finalized, Schofield said.
The Navy’s message to sailors is that the process isn’t over yet, and it’s not setting timelines for the completion of the ratings changeover.
“Changes to personnel management processes, policies, programs and systems will proceed in deliberate and thoughtful phases that will enable transitions that are seamless and largely transparent to the fleet,” the message states. “Fleet involvement and feedback will be solicited during each phase of the transformation. All aspects of enlisted force management to include recruiting, detailing, advancements, training, and personnel and pay processes are being carefully considered as we move forward.”
Recently, Starbucks, the Schultz Family Foundation and JP Morgan convened in Washington, D.C., to explore impactful ways to empower veterans. This meeting at its core was centered on finding a solution to corporate philanthropy – how can organizations work to produce social change in a chosen area, while still ensuring a return on investment? Across sectors, collective impact has emerged as the answer.
As it relates to the world of nonprofits, collective impact is a framework by which organizations can accomplish more through partnerships with others with shared values, than they can by going alone. Ten years ago this month, I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and in the military, I learned the phrase “one team, one fight,” which perfectly summarizes this concept. Pair this idea of cooperation, not competition, with the generous financial backing of corporate donors, and you have the foundation for real change.
Here is a real world example: To raise awareness for breast cancer research and domestic violence, the Avon Foundation gives grants to nonprofits to strengthen the work they do on the ground. Corporate partnerships are a key component of amplifying the work of nonprofits, but for companies looking to invest in social change, how do you find the right home for your dollars? For those looking to empower veterans and military families, the Got Your 6 campaign has perfected the solution.
Over the last three years, Macy’s has raised $6.7 million dollars for the national veteran campaign Got Your 6 through its annual American Icons campaign. These funds have gone to national programs and events as well as to Got Your 6’s coalition of nonprofit partners in the form of grants, in efforts to advance the veteran empowerment movement.
By vetting each nonprofit partner within its larger coalition, Got Your 6 ensures that corporate funding will go to organizations creating real change in communities across America. From the great work of Macy’s through American Icons, and the generosity of the American people, Got Your 6 was able to give 35 grants over three years to nonprofit partners such as The 6th Branch, a veteran-run nonprofit that utilizes the leadership and operational skills of military veterans to accomplish community service initiatives. Last year, Got Your 6 granted The 6th Branch $93,000, supporting a year’s worth of service to transform abandoned lots in Baltimore into urban farms and safe spaces for youth recreation. Last month, members from team Got Your 6 participated in an urban greening event with The 6th Branch at the Oliver Community Farm in Baltimore; a veteran-created community resource designed to provide fresh produce in response to a lack of healthy food options in the area.
From my time as a cadet at West Point to the 17 months I spent in Baghdad during the height of the surge, I’ve seen first-hand the power of collective impact and how critical it is to success, regardless of the mission. To continue supporting a resurgence of community in America, Macy’s is again working with Got Your 6 on this year’s iteration of American Icons. Veterans will directly benefit the more people know about this: Americans can shop at Macy’s for Got Your 6 Weekend on Friday, May 13 through Sunday, May 15 to donate $3 at the register or online at Macys.com to receive a special savings pass, with 100% of all donations going directly to Got Your 6 and its coalition of nonprofit partners.
I have been leading teams my entire life, in and out of the Army, and I couldn’t be more proud of Got Your 6 as we lead the veteran empowerment movement, leveraging a “one team, one fight” approach. Companies looking to support social change should seriously consider the collective impact mindset. As exemplified by Macy’s and Got Your 6, measurable impact can occur when all parties work together.
Between 2006 and 2010, some 30,000 single mothers had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror. Meanwhile, the number of homeless female veterans doubled in the same time period.
There are now an estimated 55,000 homeless women veterans in America, and they’re the fastest growing homeless population in America.
When Lysa Heslov first heard about how easily female veterans can fall into poverty and homelessness she had no idea just how widespread the problem was. She was at lunch with a friend who told her about the Ms. Veteran America Pageant, which provides housing for female veterans and their children – and why it’s so important.
“I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed as an American, I was embarrassed as a woman,” Heslov told We Are The Mighty. “I couldn’t believe that this was happening. I couldn’t believe that women were coming back and being treated this way. I’ve gone up to many service men in my life, and said, ‘Thank you for your service.’ I hadn’t gone up to one woman my entire life.”
There are many factors that go into a veteran falling into homelessness; a lack of affordable housing, sudden or insufficient income, PTSD, substance abuse, lack of familial and social support networks — the list goes on and on. Suffice to say, it could happen to anyone.
Heslov is a director, producer, philanthropist who founded a non-profit for disadvantaged youth with her husband. She helped a New Orleans family recover from Hurricane Katrina. She decided she would put her skills to work to raise awareness for female veterans at risk of homelessness. In 2015, she filmed the new documentary film “Served Like a Girl.”
“Served Like a Girl” follows five female veterans from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines from around the U.S. as they prepare to compete in the Ms. Veteran America competition.
The women face more than a transition from military to civilian life. As they ready themselves to earn the crown, they describe how they deal with divorce, PTSD, serious illnesses, and sexual trauma they experienced while in the military.
Heslov immediate set out to learn everything she could about the issue. She watched CNN’s “Heroes” documentary on Jas Boothe, the founder of Final Salute, Inc. — the main beneficiary of Ms. Veteran America. Booth is a 16-year Army veteran of both OIF and OEF, a cancer survivor, and author who was once fell into homelessness herself after a series of tragic events.
Her brush with the void inspired her to ensure every female veteran would never be left without somewhere to turn.
“We offer wrap-around services,” Boothe told CNN. “Anything they could possibly need to help get themselves back in a state of independence. We give all the tools that you need, but your success in this program is up to you.”
Final Salute, Inc. also offers interest-free loans, child care, job placement, and more.
“There’s nothing wrong with serving like a girl,” Boothe said, introducing the film at the 2016 Fort Meyer VETRACON event. “Men killed Bin Laden. A woman found him.”
“Directing this was terrifying and exciting and became so much more than I ever thought it could be,” Heslov says. “The women featured in it became more than just subjects in my documentary, they have become my family. I can say I’ve never cried so many tears and I’ve never laughed as hard. My life will never be the same and my hope is, through sharing this film, theirs won’t have to be either.”
“Served Like a Girl” is a descriptive, informative film that thoroughly covers the possible pitfalls and unique challenges for women vets who transition from the military. The women featured in the film are real women veterans, facing real struggles that could undo not only their hopes of winning the competition, but affect the rest of their lives.
The film also features a new song “Dancing Through the Wreckage,” composed by Linda Perry, Grammy-nominated lead of the band 4 Non Blondes, and sung by the legendary Pat Benatar.
“Served Like a Girl” is in theaters in Los Angeles and New York. It will open in other areas soon.
To learn more about the Ms. Veteran America Competition or donate to fight female veteran homelessness, visit their website.
With more than 6,000 ships and 150,000 troops involved, along with nearly 12,000 aircraft, D-Day stands as the largest amphibious assault in history. The Allies pulled together every resource available to breach Hitler’s Fortress in Europe, but they had to do so without America’s experts in amphibious warfare. The U.S. Marine Corps was busy pushing back the Japanese in the Pacific, island by island. Here’s how Eisenhower and his generals did it.
Planning for D-Day pits allies against each other
The demands of D-Day caused fights for resources. The Americans and British fought over when to make Normandy the priority while the Army was pitted against the Navy for resources, according to historical essays from “Command Decisions.”
The stress between the American and British leadership centered on an American belief that the British wanted to spend more time consolidating gains in the Mediterranean rather than pivot to France and open the new front in the war. The Americans thought that British leadership wanted to spend more time in Southern Europe to gain political power there, while British planners thought the focus should remain in the area a little longer to force Germany to move more reinforcements away from Normandy.
For the Army and Navy, the fight was over how shipbuilding assets should be used. The Army wanted more landing craft while the Navy needed shipbuilders focused on repairing and rebuilding the deepwater fleet that had been diminished by Pearl Harbor, submarine warfare, and escort duties for convoys.
Both problems were settled at the Cairo-Tehran conferences in 1943. British leaders assured the U.S. that they were committed to crossing the English Channel in 1944. The issue of new landing craft was settled due to two factors. First, the Navy had reduced need for new ships as German submarines were sinking fewer craft. Second, Churchill decried the shortage of landing craft, pledging his country would focus on constructing ships for the landing if the Americans would increase their effort as well.
Heavy German defenses force the Allies to do the unexpected
The obvious points for an Allied force to invade Normandy in the 1940s were the large port at Pas-de-Calais or the smaller ports at La Havre and Cherbourg. German defense planners reinforced these zones to the point that invaders would either fail to reach the beaches or be immediately pushed back upon landing. Instead, the Allies created a plan to land at a beach instead of a port.
The final plan was to land between Le Havre in the east and Cherbourg in the west. The invading forces would spread from there while airborne troops would jump ahead onto key objectives, securing bridges, destroying artillery, and wreaking havoc on the enemy communications. The plan faced numerous challenges, though two stood out.
This would leave the Allies with relatively lightly-defended beaches, but a huge logistics problem once they had landed. Large ships would have no deepwater piers to pull up to and no cranes to remove supplies from cargo holds.
The Allies would ultimately get around this through the construction of “Mulberry Harbors,” prefabricated, floating piers protected by sunken World War I ships and caissons. The first piers were operational by June 14 and allowed vehicles and supplies up to 40 tons to drive from deepwater ships to the shore.
Weather delays D-Day but also saves it
The movement of supplies and soldiers to Britain had taken place over two years, culminating in a massive troop buildup in 1944. But the day of the invasion had to be set for small, three-day windows centered on proper tides and moonlight. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, set the invasion date for June 5, 1944 and trusted British Capt. James Stagg to make the weather decision for proposed invasion dates.
Stagg and the British meteorologists found themselves in disagreement with the Americans as to the weather for June 5. Stagg recommended delaying the invasion due to storms the British predicted, while the Americans thought a high pressure wedge would stave off the storms and provide blue skies. Luckily, Eisenhower only heard directly from Stagg and accepted his recommendation. D-Day was pushed to June 6.
The Germans, meanwhile, also predicted the storms but thought they would last for at least a week or more. With this weather forecast, the German high command went ahead with war games and pulled its troops away from the coastal defenses so they could practice defending the coasts. The head of German land defenses, Gen. Erwin Rommel, left to give his wife a pair of birthday shoes. The beaches would be more lightly defended and lack key leadership when the Allies arrived.
June 6, 1944: D-Day
Though the weather wouldn’t clear for hours, Stagg recommended to Eisenhower that he go ahead with the June 6 invasion. Just after midnight, the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe began.
Prior to the beach landings, 23,000 American, British, and Canadian paratroopers dropped through heavy cloud cover to begin securing what would become the flanks of the main force at the beaches. They also struck at key logistics and communications hubs, allowing for the eventual push from the beach while also weakening the Germans’ ability to organize their counter attacks. Allied bombers struck targets on the beaches, preparing the objectives for the main force.
The landings on the Normandy coast began at 6:30 a.m. with the 8th Regimental combat team under Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt at Utah Beach. Soldiers at Utah experienced a successful, relatively light invasion. Over the next few hours, Allied troops were landing at Gold, Juno, Sword, and Omaha Beaches.
“As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down, I became a visitor to hell,” said Pvt. Charles Neighbor, a veteran of Omaha Beach. By nightfall, the other four beaches were held with forces pushing between two and four miles inland. At Omaha, Allied soldiers continued to fight against pockets of resistance.
D-Day cost the lives of 4,413 Allied soldiers and between 4,000 and 9,000 Germans. The remaining pockets of resistance on Omaha Beach were conquered on June 7, and the Allies began the long push to Berlin. The War in Europe would rage for nearly another year before Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945.
On an especially cold winter afternoon in 2016, in the dark depths of the Syrian war, Yazen was quietly playing in Al-Bab, Syria, when a bomb ripped through his family home.
More than 80% of his tiny body caught flame and melted, including his lungs, propelling the child into a coma, from which he did not awake for six months. Yazen lost his ability to speak and requires a machine to help with his breathing.
But it was the traumatic plane ride from Istanbul to Los Angeles several years ago that gave Yazen and his mother, Kawthar — a schoolteacher from the Syrian city of Homs — their first glimpse into the generosity of America’s front-line medical workers.
The breathing machine voltage was not compatible with the aircraft. Thus, very quickly, Yazen’s tracheotomy filled up with fluid and he could not breathe. The airline staff made an emergency announcement appealing to any doctors on board. An American anesthesiologist came forward, and a Jordanian nurse volunteered to translate to the petrified mother. The doctor requested that the deeply distraught Kawthar move to a different part of the plane so she could not see the horrors that soon unfolded.
The doctor put a tube in Yazen’s trach hole and sucked all the saliva himself and spat it out continuously so that the boy’s airway would not be blocked. He did this for the entire 13-hour flight, as the passengers prayed and cheered for the child in his fragile fight for life.
“The way we were supported, immediately I knew that we were in the right place,” Kawthar said softly. “People are kind to us when we walk in the streets. Nobody stares at my son like he is different.”
Like many Syrian war survivors, Kawthar requested that only her first name be published due to security concerns.
As Yazen was immediately whisked away to a hospital upon landing, the heroic doctor remained anonymous. Social media posts by the Burnt Children Relief Foundation (BCRF), which brought Yazen and many others to the US for emergency surgery, have fallen on deaf ears.
Yet this doctor remains akin to an angel. He saved Yazen’s life. Dozens of surgeries later, the 10-year-old boy — doll-like with his delicate features and wide ebony eyes — is full of light and wisdom. Without a voice, he makes a heart shape when asked about his experience so far in the US.
Then there is Hamama, who came to the US for a second lease on life in 2016.
The first thing you jarringly notice is her face — roasted raw, unrecognizable. A gaping hole where her nose used to be; prosthetic eyes that cannot weep when emotions engulf her. But what you remember most is the softness of her hands — a glimpse of the innocent girl that existed before a bomb descended on her family’s home in the Homs countryside around five years ago.
In an instant, Hamama’s entire family, her memories, her eyesight, and her face were gone. But since coming to the US several years ago, the former shell of a human being has learned to put back together the pieces of a broken existence — one shard at a time.
Under the guidance of US-based, all-volunteer advocacy group the Burnt Children Relief Foundation, or BCRF — with the support of the US State Department to maneuver the visa complexities — more than a dozen Syrian children have had the opportunity to come to the US for lifesaving surgical care. Some live in Texas where they are treated at Shriners Children’s Hospital in Galveston, and others reside on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Each child is a window into a world of front-line medical workers and a kind of generosity that they never knew was possible.
BCRF was formed in 2014 as the war in Syria escalated to unfathomable levels. Hospitals became the target of the bombing campaign led by the Bashar al-Assad regime and his Russian counterparts. According to the nongovernmental organization Physicians for Human Rights, there have been at least 595 attacks on more than 350 separate medical facilities. Some 930 medical personnel have also been confirmed killed in the brutality. And the bloodletting continues inside the once beautiful country — the so-called “Cradle of Civilization.”
This March marked 10 years since pro-democracy protests filled the streets of the southern Syrian city of Daraa. Those initially peaceful demonstrations, and their demands for democratic reforms, rapidly led to a harsh and violent crackdown by the regime. Outside agendas also swarmed into the theater of war, igniting one of the modern world’s worst humanitarian crises: a dire situation further exacerbated by the international community’s inability, or unwillingness, to act.
The past decade has been characterized by cruelty, death, destruction, displacement, and poverty. Chemical weapons have crushed medical facilities and civilians. Sexual violence, torture, and war crimes have permeated almost every inch of the wracked land.
But as so often with wars, it is civilians — especially children — who are most tragically caught in the crossfire. Indeed, terrible burns have become analogous with Syria’s conflict as bombs indiscriminately target schools and homes.
According to the UN, the war has either killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of Syrian children. UNICEF reported that the number of children showing manifestations of psychosocial anguish doubled last year as they continue to endure the shock and horror of combat, and living amid tangled buildings and the tattered tents they now call home.
For most Syrians, who were merely trying to get by and feed their families when adversity struck, there is a painful sense that they will never see justice or accountability for what was done to them. International tribunals are notoriously arduous, bloated bureaucracies that seldom prosecute. Yet coming to America for critical surgery marks a small victory against the tyrants that tore their lives apart.
Manal, now 14 and undergoing a multitude of surgeries in California, views herself as one of the lucky ones.
“I didn’t feel anything until I woke up,” she recalled. “And then everyone told me I was burned.”
But if given a choice to turn back the clock and not be caught in the hail of bombings that ravaged her homeland, Manal said she wouldn’t do it.
“I’ve learned a lot. It is making me more brave and made me feel other people’s pain, a feeling only people in this situation would know. I feel their pain and I want to help them,” she said politely, her body stoic and erect. “This has made me more determined to achieve my goals in life. I want to be the voice for other people. I want to be a doctor to help the society.”
But it is when she starts to reflect on the calamity that is Syria that Manal’s resilient face gives way to a plethora of deep-rooted angst. She weeps for the children left behind who can’t get the help she has enjoyed; the burned stumps where her hands used to be scoop up tissues as the weeps turn to guttural sobs.
“There are so many children like me,” Manal continued, grief catching in her throat. “And no one is helping them; please help them because they deserve a better life.”
Her mother, Nisreen, cries for what this war has become.
“I used to want to stay in my country,” she whispers between silent whimpers, her body trembling. “But I don’t want to be there anymore. I am so happy to be here. No one could help us in Syria. But whatever I can say now about my country, it means nothing. It is a drop. The situation is a disaster and no one can help with that.”
While unfathomable numbers of children have been horribly seared in Syria, BCRF can only accommodate the most relentless burn cases. And of the severe, the file is large — more than 1,650 linger on the list. Not a single day passes in which BCRF chairwoman Susan Baaj isn’t flooded with new cases, desperate pleas, and requests.
“I used to watch all the videos and images of the bombs falling and hospitals decimated,” recalled Baaj, a Syrian American businesswoman and philanthropist in Southern California. “I just started to feel helpless, and I am a results person. I need to see results, and I wanted to see something happening here.”
And Musa, whose charred face is wrapped in a plastic shield and his skin sheathed in a suit and gloves, appears far too tiny for his 8 years. He speaks in a tempered staccato, the elastic moment of silence in between sentences punctured by the haunting sound of this small child’s heavy breathing.
“I like America better,” he said. “There are more toys here.”
Musa was just 4 when he was hit from the skies in the Syrian city of Raqqa; his skin cooked in such a way that doctors have since questioned if the bomb was laced with some form of phosphorus or a similar chemical. Musa’s baby sister was immediately killed. According to Musa’s mother, Sabrine, the boy’s injuries were a result of an old diesel heater exploding as the bomb landed.
“The situation for children in Syria is very dire,” Sabrine said, her eyes darting to the heavens as she speaks. “We’re all just very tired of this.”
Still, Musa wants to go home someday. He wants to go back to school, which was reverted to online learning at the outset of the global pandemic more than a year ago. And he already knows what he wants to be when he grows up.
“A policeman,” Musa enthused, a smile contorting his flushed face.
Similarly, Anwar — who is also 8 — wants to be a police officer. He highlights that he met some men in blue in Texas. Anwar, who hails from the once ISIS-ridden parcel of De-Azor, was just 3 when his body was blistered into oblivion. He has no memories of Syria or the beloved siblings he left behind in the throes of conflict.
“I am a burn victim,” he uttered when asked what he wants to share about himself. “And thank you to the American people.”
Baaj also views BCRF’s visa policies as an important model, especially during a time of large-scale debates over immigration, refugee numbers, and Americans’ needs.
Contrary to most other resettlement programs, the foundation permits only one family member — which must be a woman — to travel with the burned child. The US government does not grant them permanent residency, only a visa for the needed treatment period — which usually ranges from six months to two years. After the visa expires, the child must be repatriated with their surviving family abroad, most often to Turkey or Syria.
Yet for the mothers who accompany their children for treatment, the journey still comes at a high personal cost — leaving behind their loved ones and the rest of their children for months, sometimes years.
In the case of Anwar’s mother, Khatoon, she has seven other children with whom she has had to part for an unknown period. But she vividly remembers the morning her baby boy was burned. She remembers leaving the house on a frosty morning to attend a funeral, only to return to find the house a mere pile of smoldering ruins.
Her husband had already rushed the injured Anwar to the Turkish border, and for three months she wandered the war-wracked streets until they were reunited.
“He used to cry a lot, and he wasn’t able to look at himself in the mirror. Sometimes he still gets sad, but he never complains,” Khatoon said, her eyes wet. “I miss my other children, but I had to come here for Anwar. I would tell any parent in this situation, don’t give up on your children.”
The mothers leaned in, quietly confessing that culturally there is still a lot of stigma surrounding severely wounded children in their homeland. Sometimes they are deemed too costly for struggling families, and abandoned. Then there is the fear of ostracizing due to their appearances — which many of them shared when coming to the US. But they experienced the exact opposite.
“I thought it was going to be weird and scary. At first, I was scared with everyone looking at me,” noted Ayesha, who just turned 9 and was scorched when she was just 4 in Idlib. “But I learned here, never judge a book by a cover. Be kind and don’t judge.”
Ayesha’s memories of Syria are fractured. She relives a feeling of constant exhaustion, of feeling unsafe, and then those moments before the injury. Her thoughts shift to the aftermath, the vision of displaced persons flooding over Turkey’s border and back into Syria, even while the conflict peaked.
“Never give up,” she added while scrolling through her toddler photographs — evidence of the life “before.”
“Even when you think hope is lost, it is going to be back in you.”
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.
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.
“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.
Remember the greatest scene in Iron Man in 2008? No, it’s not when Tony Stark says “I am Iron Man” and it’s not when he first tests the suit. It’s the part when Jeff Bridges yells at that random dude: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!! With a box of scraps!” And now that bizarrely specific diss has created the entire evil scheme from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Pretty much everyone — including the audience — misses Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Iron Man, the world’s premiere superhero and young Peter Parker’s mentor, sacrificed himself to save the world at the end of Avengers: Endgame and the new Spider-Man film sees Spidey, along with everyone else, dealing with a post-Blip, post-Iron Man world. However, there are some characters from Iron Man who make appearances in Far From Home, including one character whose inclusion is much, much more surprising than Happy Hogan or Nick Fury’s — especially once you realize who plays him.
The big twist in Far From Home comes when Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals that he’s not actually a superhero from an alternate dimension. Instead, he’s a disgruntled ex-employee with a grudge against Tony Stark. He’s aided by other former employees, including a face who only appeared once in the MCU, 11 years ago, but it was a very, very memorable and meme-able moment.
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave…with a box of scraps
Yes, it’s the “Box of Scraps” guy, or to be more accurate, the guy that Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane was screaming at because he couldn’t miniaturize Tony’s Arc reactor in order to power the Iron Monger suit. William Ginter Riva was a scientist at Stark Industries in 2008 when Stane, growing increasingly power-mad, ordered him to do what Tony did.
“I’m sorry I’m not Tony Stark,” Riva squeaks back.
That one scene was all viewers ever saw of Riva, whose name they didn’t even know at the time, and chances are, nobody expected to see him again. That’s why it was such a shocker that he appeared by Mysterio’s side, having also adopted a grudge against Tony Stark.
Perhaps more than anybody except for Beck, Riva was responsible for Mysterio. Beck’s hologram technology — which Tony rechristened B.A.R.F. to Beck’s dismay — provided the illusions and visuals, but Riva’s drones provided the destruction. It was Riva who programmed most of the provided choreography for the Mysterio fights, and it was his drones that actually destroyed parts of Mexico, Venice, Prague, and London. For a character who appeared in one minor scene, Riva is incredibly important to Far From Home, and the MCU at large.
Stark Foundation Presentation | Captain America Civil War (2016) Movie Clip
Riva is clearly a bad guy, which means he should be getting coal for Christmas. That’s a tragedy since the character is, amazingly, played by Peter Billingsley, who is best known for playing Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Yes, the kid from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story grew up to become a Stark Industries employee, and later, a weapons designer who aided a supervillain in killing and deceiving people.
In the real world, Billingsly has been acting here and there in the decades since his most iconic role (Christmas movie fans might recognize him as Buddy the Elf’s superior in the Will Ferrel-led Elf), but he’s mostly moved behind the camera. Billingsley has numerous production, writing, and directing credits for film and especially TV. He was actually an executive producer for 2008’s Iron Man, which might explain why he popped in for that small little role. (He’s not listed as a producer for Far From Home, however).
So, there you have it. A minor character from one of the MCU’s most beloved moments 11 years ago appeared unexpectedly more than a decade later to be a surprisingly important villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and he was played by the Christmas Story guy a whole time. Heck, he almost shot Spider-Man’s eye out!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Five years ago, I watched in the Situation Room along with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the President’s national security team to see if U.S. Special Operations Forces could deliver the justice that every American had been waiting for for a decade.
In the three-plus months leading up to the operation, the White House’s National Security Council staff organized over two dozen inter-agency meetings to oversee preparations and consider all of the attendant issues: the evaluation of the emerging intelligence, possible operational courses of action, the consequences and implications of both success and failure.
What struck me most about that process was the absolute attention to operational security, discretion, and secrecy. Very few individuals beyond the most senior officials were involved in the policy piece of this operation. Extraordinary measures were taken to limit information flow, and those involved maintained an incredibly high degree of discipline.
All possible options and potential courses of action were considered, analyzed and debated at the very highest levels. All of the potential issues were reviewed: impact of an operation on our relationship with Pakistan and with our other allies, possible reaction by al Qaeda and the potential for retaliatory action against U.S. interests, steps needed to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks, and next steps in the wake of an operation whether it was successful or unsuccessful.
Reflecting on the lead up to the raid, Director on National Intelligence Clapper said:
“As is always the case in intelligence, it wasn’t complete. Right up until the last minute, we couldn’t confirm he was there. Some argued we needed more time.” Nonetheless, he never doubted the advantages of a raid compared to alternatives, “At least with a raid, you’d have people on the ground who could make judgments.”
It was apparent that the President’s paramount concern was the safety and security of the operators. On a number of occasions, the President provided very pointed guidance to the Department of Defense and to Admiral Bill McRaven to make that very clear.
On the day before the operation took place, Saturday, April 30, President Obama placed a secure call to Admiral McRaven. The President was in the midst of his preparation for his scheduled appearance that evening at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had the privilege of staffing the President for that phone call, which the President conducted from the Oval Office. When I came in, the President’s speechwriters were asked to step out.
In that call, the President inquired if McRaven believed the force was ready to proceed and if they had everything they needed to carry out a successful operation. McRaven affirmed that they did, and the President wished McRaven and the forces under his command Godspeed.
A very brief call, but one that would prove historic.
During the raid itself, I clearly recall the role that Admiral McRaven played from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In addition to carrying out his command and control function with his team, he was piped in via secure video conference (SVTC) to provide updates to the CIA and the assembled officials at the White House Situation Room, including the President. As the Department of Defense operators would move down their checklist, we heard McRaven’s voice as each operational or geographical mark or milestone was hit.
As Director Clapper said:
“There was a lot of tension, and then as it became clear that we were reasonably sure that yes, it was Osama bin Laden, there was, if I can use the phrase, not only emotional closure, but functional closure, in that the operation illustrated the effectiveness of what an integrated intelligence and operational community could accomplish.”
The amazing part to me was that McRaven’s voice — at least to my memory — never changed inflection, never conveyed concern or excitement or any sense that there was something dramatic happening, and never intimated anything other than calm professionalism. That included those incredibly tense moments when things did not go according to plan with the helicopter assault. You would never have known that anything was amiss if all you were going by was his voice doing the play-by-play.
Even when U.S. Special Operations Forces successfully took out Osama bin Laden.
President Obama delivered the news to the nation on May 1, 2011.
After the operators safely returned to base, McRaven noted that one way in which they had potentially confirmed bin Laden’s identity was by determining that he was in fact as tall in stature as we in the Intelligence Community knew him to be. He told the President they had had one of their taller SEAL operators, about 6’3″, lie down on the ground in the hangar at Jalalabad next to the remains and they assessed he was roughly the same height as the recovered body.
The President then noted over the SVTC with McRaven that they had all those millions and millions of dollars of Defense equipment but they didn’t have a tape measure, which obviously got a good laugh from all around the table and on SVTC. And when McRaven ultimately did visit the President in the Oval Office some days after the raid, President Obama did in fact “gift” McRaven with a tape measure from Home Depot mounted on a ceremonial plaque in case it was ever needed again.
I was recently down at Fort Bragg and saw that the gift remains prominently displayed in the Commander’s Conference Room at the Joint Special Operations Command.
When it was all over, I still remember my shock and surprise when I walked outside of the West Wing basement across the street to return to my office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly after the President had concluded his address to the nation.
I was amazed to see (and hear) the streets surrounding the White House complex were filled with what seemed like thousands of people celebrating the fact that justice had finally been done, even though it was after midnight on a Sunday night — normally about as quiet and peaceful a time on the streets of Washington as you would ever see.
Director Clapper noted the enormity of the situation:
“It is hard for me to recall a single vignette that carried with it so much importance, and so much symbolism for this country. As an intelligence professional that has spent 50 years in the business, I cannot remember an event that would approach that raid and its success in my memory.”
The most meaningful moment came days later, when President Obama visited Fort Campbell to meet with some of the operators involved in the mission. A number of senior staff members, including myself, were privileged to attend a meeting and briefing with members of the assault force. The President heard firsthand many of the details of the operation and offered his admiration and gratitude for the work that had been done.
The enormous degree of respect that the President had for the Special Operations Forces was apparent to anybody who attended.
The bravery of these men, the justice they delivered, and the legacy they leave behind — that will be remembered by all of us.