Journalist Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors and writer for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, (among others) now brings us Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home.
The book’s quick description says it’s “the true story of two decorated combat veterans linked by tragedy, who come home from the Middle East and find a new way to save their comrades and heal their country.” But this book is more than that.
Charlie Mike tells the story of Jake Wood of Team Rubicon and Eric Greitens of The Mission Continues along with those who assisted them and helped build these monumental veterans’ service organizations.
“Service” is the key word in this book, and in the cases of Wood and Greitens, the service is from the veterans. Charlie Mike, as the name implies (Charlie Mike is military speak for “Continue the Mission”) is as much about the needs of communities around veterans as it is about veterans. Like a The Mission Continues fellows says, these are challenges, not charities.
Eric Greitens is a Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, and Navy SEAL whose SEAL service was (unofficially) cut short after exposing fellow SEALs drug use on an exercise in Thailand. He was inspired after visiting injured Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to found an organization which would help veterans heal themselves by continuing to serve, even if they could no longer serve in the military. He founded The Mission Continues with the help of Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL whose story is also covered in the book. The Mission Continues gives fellowships to veteran to help “redeploy” them into their communities.
Jake Wood and William McNulty are two former U.S. Marines who were frustrated with the way disaster relief organizations handled enlisting volunteers in the aftermath of the 201o Haiti Earthquake. They decided to just go and do whatever they could, and with a little help and guidance from Jesuits on the ground in Haiti, doctors they met along the way, and their good friend Clay Hunt, they did just that. Their efforts there became the model for Team Rubicon, an non-profit organization that uses the skills and work ethic of American veterans and teams them with experienced first responders to deploy emergency teams to disaster areas. Wood was one of The Mission Continues first fellows.
These organizations, their founders, and the veterans who staff them are prime examples of the attitude of the post-9/11 community of American veterans. The tales of their lives and how these organizations came to be are ones of integrity, personal sacrifice, tragedy, and brotherhood. Their stories are inspiring, and their legacy is already legendary. They represent the newest greatest generation.
Joe Klein does justice to these amazing stories, and that makes Charlie Mike one of the best military books of the year.
As 1941-America faced the prospect of entering World War II, Looney Tunes made a cartoon that perfectly captured the struggles of Army life. Surprisingly (or maybe not considering the timeless nature of serving), the jokes still work in the modern Army.
There are those annoying times that soldiers playing bummer Army games like “Never-Ending Ruck March” have to walk past a sign for civilian luxuries like trains.
The cartoon, voiced by legends like Mel Blanc, even takes shots at what it’s like to train with tight budgets, something service members dealing with sequestration can understand.
In 1941, the paratroopers appear to have been the most affected by budget cuts and having to use “simulated” gear.
The machine gunners get off easy since they can practice firing in 3 to 5-second bursts using food in the chow hall.
(The whole thing is pretty funny, so check it out below):
The film A Private War follows the real life of Marie Colvin, a journalist who covered stories of war and conflict from ahead of the front lines in places from Iraq and Afghanistan to Sri Lanka and Syria, but its greater contribution may be the light it shines on the human cost of conflict.
Marie Colvin explains a point to her friend Paul Conroy in the 2018 film, A Private War.
Spoiler alert: This article focuses on Marie Colvin and how the new movie illuminates her life and contributions, but it does contain some minor spoilers of the movie, including the nature of Colvin’s death and the accompanying scene in the film.
Colvin was famous for donning an eyepatch and wearing designer lingerie under her body armor, but among journalists, she was known for coverage that saved thousands of lives, telling the stories of those besieged by government forces under tyrants. In coverage from East Timor in 1999, she stayed behind when many other journalists fled, keeping the pressure on Indonesian Forces who were besieging 1,500 refugees in a U.N. compound.
Thanks to the efforts of Colvin and other journalists, U.N. personnel remained at the compound until the refugees were able to peacefully leave.
Now, Matthew Heinneman, himself a documentary filmmaker who has covered conflict in Syria, Mexico’s drug wars, and other places, has made a narrative film that aims to not only tell Colvin’s life to whoever might be interested, but also sheds light on the human stories Colvin worked so hard to tell.
Marie Colvin attempts to surrender to government forces in the 2018 movie, A Private War.
“I really didn’t want to make this film as a traditional biopic,” Heinneman told WATM. “I wanted to make it more of a psychological thriller examining what pushes someone to go to these places, and then show the effect that it had on her. I wanted to examine what she suffered from. I wanted to examine PTSD. I wanted to examine all the sort of ramifications of what she saw and what she experienced.”
“At the same time,” he continued, “I also wanted to obviously highlight the work that she did and her effort in shedding light on these stories. I guess in another way, the film is a continuation of her work. Sadly and tragically, what she died covering, the conflict in Syria, has persisted until this day. And I think she would be devastated to know over half a million civilians have been killed since the conflict began. She probably would be in Idlib, or somewhere else right now covering the story if she were still alive.”
Colvin was tragically killed in Homs, Syria, in 2012.
Paul Conroy takes a photo of refugees during the 2018 movie A Private War.
The movie really hits its stride when showing the plight of the vulnerable populations that Colvin covered. While Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dorman do a great job playing Colvin and Paul Conroy — Colvin’s longtime journalism partner — they both fade into the background as victims of government forces or insurgent strikes tell their stories to the journalists.
Heinemann credits this to the people he cast into these “roles.” He didn’t cast actors, he recruited actual refugees to tell the real stories of what they suffered at the hands of Bashir Al-Assad, ISIS, or others. These scenes were filmed in Jordan, a country allied with the U.S., which has accepted large numbers of refugees.
“In the film, [Colvin] is walking into a room filled with Syrian refugees. In real life, the two women that [Rosamund Pike] speaks to are real women from Homs, telling their own real stories and shedding their own real tears.”
Refugees huddle together in the 2018 movie A Private War. The filmmakers recruited actual refugees to play the parts of hunted populations in the movie.
“It’s a really deeply emotional atmosphere on set,” he continued. “In another scene taking place in the hospital in Homs, a man brings his injured son after a mortar attack into the room. He also was from Homs. He was at a protest with his nephew who was shot off his shoulders and bled out in front of him.”
“The grief and the trauma that he brought into that room was almost unbearable. And it really created an atmosphere that felt both incredibly intimate and incredibly real that I think helped give the film the feeling that it has.”
One of the recurring events in the film is that Colvin goes into a combat zone to cover violent events, then heads back home to cities where people want to toast her for her accomplishments. This rapid, hacksaw motion between violent areas and parties is something many veterans can understand, and Heinemann used quick cuts between the two extremes to play up the difference.
Marie Colvin accepts an award for her coverage in the 2018 movie A Private War.
“…those transitions in life are never that graceful, and so, editorially, artistically, stylistically sort of smashing in and out of those two worlds was something that was in the script, but definitely something we played with and discovered a lot in the editor room with our editor, Nick Fenton,” Heinemann said. Quick cuts allowed them to “sort of drop you in and out of these war zones in a way that makes you uncomfortable and disoriented and as it was her experience. As much as possible in this film, I tried to put you in her shoes.”
This focus on Colvin’s experience shifts in the final moments of the film when Colvin is killed by a government airstrike. In the movie, as in real life, Colvin is killed while trying to escape the city with Conroy and a French photographer, Remi Ochlick. Ochlick was also killed and Conroy was severely wounded, barely surviving a massive wound in his leg.
“Dealing with the final moments of her life was something that was quite obviously delicate and something that I ruminated over for many, many, many months.”
Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlick, and Paul Conroy try to escape a Syrian government airstrike in A Private War.
“Through Conroy’s face, we feel her loss so immensely.”
But Conroy’s grief slowly morphs into the grief for a lost city as the camera moves upwards.
“But also as we move away from her and as the camera lifts,” he said. “I wanted to show that she was just one person amidst a sea of devastation, and that yes her death was tragic, but so is all that she was covering.”
“I think journalism and journalists are under attack, obviously, as we’ve seen with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. When Marie Colvin started her career, the traditional dangers of being a journalist were that of being embedded with soldiers. It was being shot or being blown up by an IED or being hit by a mortar. It wasn’t that journalists were being targeted. And this, obviously, has changed over time.”
A Private War had a limited release on November 2. It has a much wider release, meaning it will likely be available near you, on November 16.
Far too many of us believe the things we see in TV shows and movies. Sometimes, the things we watch alter how we look at history or how we live our lives moving forward.
Many fictional stories are so engrossing that we buy into their mythology — it becomes our new truth.
Unfortunately, just because it’s dramatic and holds our attention tightly doesn’t mean it’s true. Rarely, however, do we go back and fact check the medical myths perpetuated by movies.
So, let’s do a little truth seeking.
The beginning of frostbitten hands.
Rubbing cold injuries to keep them warm
We’ve all heard stories of people heading into frigid environments and developing cold-related injuries during to their excursions.
No, we’re not talking about that “cold” that gave you the sniffles; we’re talking about human tissue damaged from exposure to freezing temperatures. Frostbite, as it’s known, has been the cause of many lost fingers, toes, ears, and cheeks among adventurous outdoorsmen. In the brutal cold, the body limits the flow of warm blood to comparatively frivolous areas in order to keep your vital organs up and running. As a result, the distal areas don’t the oxygen they need to sustain living tissue, and they start to die off.
In many movies, you’ll see characters rub these areas together to keep them warm — bad idea. On the inside of the near-frozen human tissue usually lay small icicle-like formations that can act as teeny-tiny razors, cutting the neighboring tissue when smashed together.
The best way to treat cold-related injuries is by covering the affected area with clean cloth and adding a warm compress.
Holding a person’s tongue during a seizure
People with epilepsy are prone to experiencing seizures. We’ve seen them occur time and time again in movies. During the frantic episodes, we invariably hear a character instruct someone to put something in the seizing character’s mouth to prohibit the patient from swallowing their tongue.
The truth is, however, that putting something in their mouth may obstruct the airway, causing further, greater damage. The correct way to treat an epileptic seizure is by clearing the nearby area of any potentially harmful objects, laying the patient on their side, loosening any clothing that may be caught around their neck, and waiting that sucker out.
We’ve seen this awful way of treating a simple nose bleed in several TV shows. Yes, tilting your head back does prevent blood from pouring out of one’s nose. However, the blood doesn’t just disappear. When you tilt your head back during a bloody nose, three things can happen:
The blood enters the oral cavity and the patient spits it out.
The blood enters the oral cavity and the patient swallows it. Yuck.
The blood passes into the windpipe and the patient chokes on it.
Your best bet is to lean the patient forward, catch the blood, and pinch the bridge of the nose to occlude the blood vessels.
Choking happens when an object blocks the trachea or windpipe. This life-threatening emergency needs to be handled quickly and in the right way as you only have few minutes before permanent damage occurs.
Patting someone on the back is one of the worst things you can do. Tapping on a choking person’s back can cause the object to move further down the person’s throat — and that’s really, really bad.
The Heimlich maneuver is the best thing you can do — if you do it properly. Here’s a primer:
Please, never take medical advice from an action movie. We’ve watched both Vincent Vega (as played by John Travolta) in Pulp Fiction and Stanley Goodspeed (as played by Nicolas Cage) in The Rock administer medication via a long-ass needle directly into a heart.
This is a bad, bad idea. You could puncture your lung, collapse it, or, straight-up stab the heart muscle, causing terrible internal bleeding.
A true warfighting professional knows how to be civilized at armed conflict. And what many military greats learned over the ages is that there’s nothing like a friendly animal by your side to keep you calm and centered when things get kinetic. And when it comes to friendly animals, a dog is hard to beat.
Here are three dogs that did their part keeping their masters focused during World War II:
1. Gen. George S. Patton’s American Bull Terrier Willie
Gen. Omar Bradley talking to Gen. George S. Patton as Patton’s dog Willie takes a snooze in his favorite chair. Photo: U.S. Army)
Patton acquired an American bull terrier in 1944 and named him “William the Conqueror,” although the dog proved to be anything but aggressive and was actually scared of gunfire. But in spite of his timid disposition Patton loved him like few other living things on the planet.
‘My bull pup . . . took to me like a duck to water. He is 15 months old, pure white except for a little lemin [sic] on his tail which to a cursory glance would seem to indicate that he had not used toilet paper,’ Patton wrote in his diary.
2. Commander-in-chief Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottie Fala
FDR received his dog Fala from a cousin in 1940 with the idea that a canine companion would keep the commander-in-chief more relaxed during stressful times. The president and his dog became inseparable from that point forward, which arguably made Fala the most famous White House pet of all times.
According to the Daily Mail, the pup was given obedience training before he formally took up residence in the White House in November 1940, where he could be spotted attending press conferences. He even learned how to stand at attention on his hind legs when the national anthem was played.
The adorable Scottie captured the hearts of Americans and became a national symbol as World War II spread across Europe.
3. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Scottie Telek
Like Patton, Ike also relied on a faithful dog during the war. Telek was surrounded by controversy however, as it was rumored that the dog was co-owned by his mistress and driver Kay Summersby.
‘One day when they were driving in the country, Kay mentioned that she wanted a dog,’ according to Dr. Ronnie Elmore, a professor from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in an interview with a school publication in 2004 about Ike’s pet.
Though numerous Eisenhower contemporaries have refuted claims of a torrid love affair, Summersby inherited the Scottie after his departure from Europe, further sparking rumors of the intimate bond between the two.
As NASA scientists aim to cooperate on research with their Chinese counterparts, more communication between the agencies may not be such a bad idea — a partnership that might even bolster space agreements, officials say.
Speaking at a DefenseOne Space, Satellite and Communications briefing Tuesday near Washington, D.C., Brian Weeden, technical adviser to the Secure World Foundation, said the scope of how the U.S. works with China needs to expand.
While space wasn’t a dominant topic in this year’s election, Weeden said both Trump and Clinton campaign surrogates publicized “fairly favorably some sort of cooperation engagement with China.”
Weeden said it’s unknown whether those favorable views toward China in the space realm will translate into hard policy under President-Elect Donald Trump. “But I think there is … a growing sense that having the only interaction with China [be] in a national security, military context — I think is a problem,” he said during a discussion.
Weeden said there needs to be “commercial or civil engagement” to help deal with additional challenges, such as managing space traffic and debris control.
Since 2011, Congress has banned NASA from joint research and technology programs or data sharing with China even though the U.S. and Russia have had a robust association, even in times of conflict.
However, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has been trying to build bridges with China on a space program. In August, he visited China and met with the Chinese Aeronautical Establishment and the Civil Aviation Administration. The next month, NASA announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with those agencies to analyze data from Chinese airports “to identify potential efficiencies in air traffic management.”
“It’s not going to happen during my tenure as NASA administrator,” Bolden said in May while addressing spaceflight and technological agreements with China. “But I think we will evolve to something reasonable.”
The DefenseOne panel also featured Winston Beauchamp, director of the principal Department of Defense Space Adviser Staff and Air Force deputy under secretary for Space; Chirag Parikh, director of source strategies, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and Robert Tarleton, director of the MILSATCOM Systems Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
A Russian Mig-29K assigned to the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier splashed down in the Mediterranean Ocean soon after takeoff during a planned mission to Syria. The pilot ejected and was recovered by a helicopter.
According to U.S. officials who spoke to Fox News, three Russian fighters took off from the ramp of the Kuznetsov to conduct missions in Syria, but one of them turned around. It attempted to land but crashed in the ocean instead.
But the Russian product display in the Mediterranean is filled with old gear and compromises. The MiG-29K is the carrier variant of the Fulcrum and is generally considered to be a capable but lackluster aircraft.
Those short takeoff and in-flight refueling capabilities are vital for Russian carrier-based fighters, since the only Russian carrier is the Kuznetsov which has no catapults. Planes have to take off under their own power with a limited load of fuel and ordnance.
This limits the planes’ range, forcing Russia to keep the carrier close to Syria’s shores for its pilots to have a chance at hitting anything.
This stands in stark contrast to Russia’s big, flashy military display of 2015. Their navy fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria and sent the footage around the world. Even that display wasn’t perfect. Four missiles fell short and crashed into Iran, killing cows.
On Tuesday, April 17, U.S. Navy veteran Tammie Jo Shults landed Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 after her aircraft ripped apart mid-air. One passenger was killed and seven more were injured, but it could have been much worse.
After graduating from MidAmerica Nazarene University, Shults became one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military, flying the F/A-18 Hornet and achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander before separating. After her service, she became a Southwest pilot, joining the 6.2 percent of female commercial pilots in the United States.
“Could you have medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers,” Shults told Air Traffic Control. “It’s not on fire, but part of it’s missing. They said there’s a hole, and — uh — someone went out.”
Cause of the incident has yet to be determined, but BBC reported that, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board, officials found evidence of metal fatigue where a fan blade had broken off
As of this writing, Shults has yet to make a formal statement, but passengers have taken to social media and mainstream news to hail her as the hero she is:
“Tammie Jo Schults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally. This is a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew, ” wrote Diana McBride Self.
You’re 11 years old, standing in the middle of the school lunchroom with your meal tray. As you gaze over top of your sandwich, anemic vegetables, and cookie snack pack, you anxiously wonder who will make room for you at their table.
Whether we’re 11, 27, or 80, our human bodies read social anxiety like a physical threat. Will you be able to find and keep food? Experience physical safety? Find meaning in work and life? Throughout history, all of these things have been made exponentially more difficult without a tribe or group.
Stress hormones surge when you’re feeling lonely or rejected, and when they’re elevated too long, you may begin to have difficulty communicating, displaying empathy, or engaging in high-level thinking. This makes connecting with others even more challenging, and your isolation can easily become self-perpetuating.
The good news is, you can increase your health and performance at work and home by finding or building a tribe.
The strange but true fact is that there’s nothing more important to your physical health than community. This is true even if you’re an introvert. It’s true even if your tribe embraces unhealthy behaviors like smoking, high rates of divorce, alcohol abuse and more.
In the military, your tribe is easy to identify. Your tribe may be your branch of service, unit, platoon, or even fireteam. From the first day of training, you and other members of your tribe are working to overcome challenges together. Camaraderie continues as you train, deploy, and socialize together in the coming years.
In Gates of Fire, his epic novel about the Spartan 300, Steven Pressfield writes:
“War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love…There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods.“
For many, military service offers the kind of community they’ve never experienced. In this community, we may find purpose, self-knowledge, identity, and so much more. Challenged by our tribe, we grow stronger, faster, and ideally into better leaders.
However, when we inevitably leave the military, we may find ourselves unmoored – adrift in a sea of isolation and alienation that threatens to sink us into depression, stress, and declining performance at work and home.
Crossing the Chasm
In the age of an all-volunteer military, we often hear about the military-civilian divide. It’s not just a divide, though – it’s a chasm.
If you’re a male veteran, only about 12 percent of peers in your age group have served in the military. If you’re a woman who served, that number drops to 3 percent.
When you leave the military you’ll likely struggle to find people who have a deep understanding of your service, experiences, and the unique culture and traditions of military life. Data shows us that alienation – or feeling out of place – is strongly correlated with PTSD and other stress injuries. Finding or building a tribe is critical to good physical, relational, and mental health.
When you’re part of a group and have a deep sense of belonging, a relaxation response takes place in your body and brain. In fact, every system of your body works better when your relaxation response firing. For example, when you’re relaxed and eating a salad, your body absorbs 17 percent more iron than when you’re stressed and eating a salad. Being part of a community results in a positive cycle.
So how do I find a tribe?
As you begin your search for a tribe, one of the most important things you can do is stay humble. Don’t let your veteran status, and all the good things that come with it, become a limiting factor as you build new relationships. Build relationships with veterans and civilians alike.
On the veteran front, give yourself permission to be around people who understand what you’ve just lived through. A great starting place is any post-9/11 veteran organization – they’ll get you connected with veterans who are in a healthy place.
Team Red White and Blue’s entire mission is to build social community at the local level – to bring people together. Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues can help you discover purpose through service.
Purpose is also key. Ask yourself what your passion, ideal volunteer work, or dream venture looks like, then get to work. You may find your civilian tribe doing volunteer work, as part of a faith group, or while living your purpose-driven life.
Finding your tribe may feel tough at first, but like most things it gets easier with practice.
CHECK OUT THESE TRIBES
Volunteer with Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response nonprofit, to rebuild communities around the nation after natural disasters.
Meet up with civilians and fellow veterans for a hike, run, or yoga class with Team Red White Blue.
Put your unique skills to use for a local non-profit, and get paid doing it, as part of The Mission Continues.
Check out a faith community of your choosing
Sign up for a local sports league or class
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
The US Missile Defense Agency just issued a bold request for proposals for a missile defense system that could change the game and act like a silver bullet against North Korean missile launches.
The MDA asked for proposals to build a high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upwards towards the sky.
While the laser system sounds like something out of science fiction, and is something the US Navy has struggled to field for over a decade, Ricky Ellison of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance told Business Insider that this drone could be the perfect application of the technology.
“What it can do is intercept missiles in the boost phase, therefore you don’t need to have billion dollar radars all over the world to intercept with 80 million dollar interceptors,” said Ellison.
Ballistic missiles fly high into earth’s atmosphere before breaking apart, often releasing multiple reentry vehicles, countermeasures, and decoys. This makes them a nightmare for traditional missile defense systems which track the launch and then fire interceptor vehicles to smash them apart upon reentry.
Another possible design for the laser interceptor. Photo from missilethreat.csis.org
Even the top-of-the-line THAAD system, recently sent to South Korea, would struggle to destroy a large salvo from North Korea, and the price of installing and using the entire system, interceptors included, would cost into the billions. Additionally, THAAD’s high-powered radar capability makes China extremely nervous, as they believe it could limit their ability to respond to a nuclear strike from the US.
Meanwhile, a solid state laser can be fired continuously for dollars a minute, about what you’d pay for electricity in your home. Though building the platform would cost millions in research, development, and testing.
Traditionally, while boost-phase interception looks more attractive on paper because it hits the missile in a more vulnerable stage, it’s been impractical because the interceptor has to be close to the projectile.
So there’s just no way the US could intercept a missile fired from central Russia or China in its boost phase. With a small country like North Korea though, US drones right off the border could melt down missiles with a light-speed weapon in the cloudless upper atmosphere.
“This would be far more efficient to have boost-phase intercept capability over that territory at that height to handle that,” said Ellison. “As North Korea develops countermeasures, decoys, multiple reentry vehicles, and all the things that will continue to evolve, you have a great opportunity to eliminate all those advancing technologies before all that gets dispersed.”
The MDA hopes to field this technology by 2023, at which point most experts agree North Korea will have perfected an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.
The deal being announced May 11 could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been largely stalled since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.
The Hill deal followed a fresh warning from the VA inspector general’s office of continuing patient safety problems at another facility, the VA medical center in Washington D.C. After warning of serious problems there last month, the IG’s “rapid response” team visited the facility again on Wednesday and found a patient prepped for vascular surgery in an operating room, under anesthesia, whose surgery was postponed because “the surgeon did not have a particular sterile instrument necessary to perform the surgery.”
The team also found “surgical instruments that had color stains of unknown origin in sterile packs,” according to the IG’s letter sent Wednesday to the VA. The IG again urged the department to take immediate action to ensure patients “are not placed at unnecessary risk.”
The new accountability measure, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., softens portions of a bill that had passed the House in March, which Democrats criticized as unfairly harsh on workers. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the top Democrat and the Republican chair on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, agreed to back the new bill after modifications that would give VA employees added time to appeal disciplinary actions.
House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Phil Roe, sponsor of the House measure, said he would support the revisions.
“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio told The Associated Press.
It comes after Trump last month signed an executive order to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, with an aim of identifying “barriers” that make it difficult for the VA to fire or reassign bad managers or employees. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged the Senate to act quickly to pass legislation.
The GOP-controlled House previously approved an accountability bill mostly along party lines. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., argued the House should embrace language instead from a bipartisan bill by Isakson from last year with added due process protections for workers.
The Senate bill to be introduced Thursday adopts several portions of that previous Isakson bill, including a longer appeal process than provided in the House bill — 180 days vs. 45 days, though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees for discipline. The Senate bill also codifies into law the VA accountability office created under Trump’s order, but with changes to give the head of the office more independent authority and require the office to submit regular updates to Congress.
Conservative groups praised the bill.
“These new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America, pointing to a “toxic culture” at VA.
The agreement comes in a week in which Senate Democrats are standing apart from Trump on a separate issue affecting veterans, the GOP bill passed by the House to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., warned the House measure would strip away explicit protections to ensure that as many as 8 million veterans who are eligible for VA care but opt to use private insurance would still receive tax credits.
Many veterans use a private insurer if they feel a VA facility is too far away, or if they don’t qualify for fuller VA coverage because they have higher incomes or ailments unrelated to their time in service, said Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war. A group of GOP senators is working to craft their own health bill.
“Trumpcare threatens to rip health care out of their hands,” Duckworth said at a news briefing this week. “The question left is what will Senate Republicans do?”
Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on an accountability bill after the Phoenix VA scandal. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional.
Critics have since complained that few employees were fired for various VA malfeasance, including rising cases of opioid drug theft, first reported by the AP.
The Royal Marines apparently hold unarmed combat displays to engage with the public on “Poppy Day,” the British Commonwealth version of Memorial Day. And the display the Marines put on is pretty impressive.
This 2015 demonstration was held at the Waterloo station in London and featured four Marines fighting and a few announcing, answering crowd questions, and collecting funds for Remembrance Sunday.
The Marines showed how they could sneak up on armed guards and take them out:
They displayed a masterful and nuanced way to kick someone in the chest:
This probably didn’t hurt. Especially not when his head landed off the mat and on the tile. (GIF: YouTube/Ministry of Defence)
And, of course, they choked a dude out and then took a selfie with him:
See more of the Royal Marines’ awesome moves in the video below: